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Friday, December 8, 2017

Books I read in 2017


I'm so proud of how much I've read this year!  I would love for this hobby to grow to a discipline, but I'm still so pleased that I was able to make the decision to value reading more often in 2017.  Celebrate the little things!

As is tradition for me, I've written up a collection of the new books I've read along with mini reviews.  Have you read any of these, too?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  You'll notice a good deal of spiritual books, but I was able to spend plenty of time with plain ole enjoyable books, too.  If you have any recommendations, I'm all ears!


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The Space Trilogy Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Instant favorites.  I've always loved The Chronicles of Narnia, but The Space Trilogy is a whole 'nother ball game.  The creativity, the wonder, the suspense, and the delicious storytelling had me on the edge of my seat.  I especially loved the realness of describing new worlds.  Reading Perelandra, especially, was a spiritual experience, and I'm so glad I got to share these books with Caleb.  These three books we read aloud together, and they made for a great joint reading adventure.

RedwallBrian Jacques

Caleb read this one growing up as a kid, and he convinced me to add this to our joint summer reading list.  It was light fun, but I got on my soapbox when we got to the end when one of the female mice was given to a warrior as a reward (c'mon...).  We laughed a good deal at some of the silly kid parts and the out-of-nowhere gruesome rate death parts.  I thought it was okay, but Caleb kept insisting the book was great, and that middle school boys love this stuff.  In the end, Redwall ended up being a good exercise in the realities of gender differences and preferences.

Bread & Wine, Shauna Niequist
A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

I started by borrowing this highly recommended book from my friend Tim, but just a few chapters in (at the risotto chapter, to be specific), I realized I had to have this book.  I relished the honesty, the mess, the moving forward, the feminine experience, and the food Shauna shared.  The chapters are easily digestible and don't follow a plot stream, so it's easy to pick up and put down as you need to.  This was a breath of fresh air to read, and it was a treat to spend time with Bread & Wine.

Finding God in the WavesMike McHargue
How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science

Another recommendation from Tim, I listened to this one in audio form this May, during the beginning of my faith deconstruction.  I appreciated Mike's transparency, his respect and care for people questioning God and faith, and his welcome to not having everything figured out.  He shared his own story of growing up Southern Baptist, finding baffling inconsistencies in the Bible, trying to hold onto his understanding of God, but coming to a heartbreaking realization that God didn't exist.  He plunged himself into science (neurology and astrophysics) for a few years before something happened that didn't fit into the boxes science gave him.  The final section of his book builds bridges toward God, the Bible, Jesus, prayer, and meditation, the same bridges he took on his way back to the God of the Bible.  This was a captivating read, and it brought me a lot of peace in my struggle.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in Christianity or suspicious of Christianity and also to Christians who would like to better understand unbelievers.

The Real North KoreaAndrei Lankov
Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia

I've just noticed this year that I've read a book about North Korea once a year three times in a row.  This one is the first nonfiction piece, and it is excellent.  If you're curious about North Korea, The Real North Korea does a great job of laying foundations for a solid understanding of the history of the country, the split, the government regime, the human rights violations, and what it might look like if the South and North were to reunify.  The author grew up in the USSR, studied abroad in North Korea, and has interviewed many North Koreans, both inside and outside the government.  Basically, he has a broad perspective that he shares very well.  He doesn't shy away from the heavy and hard topics, but his writing style makes it easy to understand.  It also makes for a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.

Cult Insanity, Irene Spencer
A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement

I picked this one from the library shelf on a whim this summer.  Irene tells the story of living within a murderous polygamist Mormon cult in Mexico.  Very early in the book, I felt weird about reading it.  It reminded me of the times I felt guilty for being fascinated by the Holocaust.  I kept going, though, through the wild twists and shocking events.  Cult Insanity cautioned me to take my spiritual journey with care and discernment, and it shouts out a warning against taking people at their word.  It's also very easy to read and incredibly entertaining.

What Is the Bible?, Rob Bell
How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything

This book was the first step in restoring my relationship with the Bible and, probably, also with God.  Bell sheds so much light on so much context in the Bible, making it come to an entirely new life.  I wrote a bit more about this book here in the section about the Bible.  I think it should be more recommended to Christians than it is.

Sex God, Rob Bell
Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality

I figured hearing some more of what Rob Bell had to say would be interesting, and turns out he has a lot of beautiful insights about what sexuality and interacting with other humans is designed to look like.  The book is not about sex, by the way, but more about what Rob describes as sexuality: vulnerability, respect, intrinsic human value, intimacy, and love.  It's not the definition I would have used, but it works.  I wish I had read this book when I was growing up.  Instead, I read books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Preparing for Adolescence, which didn't cover topics like "Hey girl, you don't need no man to be valuable" or "Good sex is awesome, lust is real, you have carnal desires and the strength to make wise decisions about your body."  I wish this could be required reading for everyone, but especially adolescent Christians.

Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell
Repainting the Christian Faith

One more Bell book!  I was still trying to find a renewed connection with God when I picked this one up.  It was helpful in understanding a bit more about faith in general.  What does it look like, is it okay if I don't have answers to everything, what kind of ramifications does faith in Jesus have, what ramifications does it not have, things like that.  I was reading this book during an incredibly sore point in my job hunt, and providentially, the chapters I was in at the time were very encouraging and uplifting.  As always, Bell pulls from historical context, making faith and Jesus richer and more dazzling to me than they were before.  I love that.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible Eugene Ulrich


This is another book I reached for during my faith crisis, and it was a great follow up to What is the Bible?  This one is more technical and scholarly in nature, but was still incredibly interesting.  Turns out there are plenty of variations among the hundreds and hundreds of versions we have of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The author explains the kinds of differences (additions, absences, spelling and expositionary nuances) and why the scribes would have included these changes.  The story behind why is helpful to me as a hopeful Christian in need of more research.  There were plenty of parts in the book that went completely over my head, though, like the parts that were entirely in Hebrew.  There's plenty of jargon in the book, but I was able to glean a good deal of information, especially in the first 2-3 chapters, which I'd recommend to anyone interested in the Old Testament for any reason.

Honorable mentions: The Princess Bride, William Goldman and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I'd read these two comedies before on my own, but Caleb and I read them together (his first time) this year, and they were both a total blast.  They made us laugh out loud, and I wanted to put these in the list in case you're interested in reading together with someone, too.  These are excellent candidates for lighthearted stories.  However, I'd forgotten what a terrible person Buttercup's character is... valued only for her looks, referred to as property and baggage, and dumb.  The author makes sure you know she's not at all smart.  I was very annoyed, but if you can swallow that for the duration of the book, you'll be great.  It was still a good time.

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Next up for me is a fiction piece about a boy who becomes a monk, a collection of stories and sayings from the ancient desert mothers of Christianity, and Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James.  I'll probably need some more just-for-fun reads soon, so send them my way!

This post contains affiliate links, by the way.  If you choose to purchase from these links, I'd get a small cut.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Recommended with December



Happy December, friends!  Once again it is time to break out the festive music, the warm drinks, the evergreen trim, and the lights.  (There are never enough lights.)  For me, this is another busy holiday shopping time as I work at an outfitter in town.  We're in the business of selling cold weather clothing and gear, so it's going to be hopping.  I'll be traveling to Charlotte at the end of the month for a family gathering, and I've already started planning how to enjoy the meantime.  I'm expecting (hoping!) to drink a half pint of eggnog by myself, make baklava with my mother-in-law, bask in the beauty of advent at church, and spend as much time snuggling with Caleb and Mako as possible.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday, whichever and however many you celebrate!  May these links add a little extra happy to your first day of December...

Winter cuteness

Let's not forget the most precious holiday commercial ever.  I'm not crying, you're crying!

Beautiful!  Snowflakes under a microscope

Remember to take extra care of yourself, including your mental health, during the wintertime.  Here are 8 toxic beliefs people often think are normal to look out for.

I found this podcast episode on the egalitarian themes in the relationship between Mary and Joseph, which I found very interesting.  It doesn't say everything there is to say, it's very focused and biased, but if you've been a part of the Christian church at any time, I think you'll appreciate the new perspective.  Plus, it's only 15 minutes long!

If you're still hunting for some gift giving ideas, check out this Myer's Briggs-themed guide for the people in your life.  I'm an INFJ (sometimes I test as an ENFJ, though), Caleb's an INTJ, and I think this is pretty spot on.

Related: If you're leaning more toward minimalism this gift-giving season, join the club and take a peek at these two inspiration guides.  (Some of the most appreciated gifts I've given have been butterfly earrings from here, by the way.)

But of course we all agree on what the very best present is...

When I visited Norway last December, I saw a lot of winter decor that looked like this and this, and I hope I'll get to try something like this in my home this year.

And a question for you - what are your favorite songs for holiday times?  What should I add to my playlist of music to taste this month?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Owning my spiritual shifts, Part 2



Thanks for joining me again as I share about the deconstruction of my faith and where I am now.  Here's Part 1.  I'm not interested in debating any of the topics I share today, but you are always welcome to reach out via email or Facebook message.  Here we go!

I've had many, many religious beliefs uprooted in my heart and mind this year.  I wouldn't say that I believe something opposite for most or any of these things, but I've very solidly landed in a place where I just don't know the absolute answer anymore.  Or rather, I now believe that I can't know the absolute truth of everything, and putting an answer in the place of that mystery is not something I'm comfortable with.  Basically, I hold a whole lot of the traditional American conservative Protestant beliefs with an open hand at this point.  This may change in the future, but I'm currently comfortable with the understanding and lack of understanding I have.

Here's a selection of some of the very big things my mind has been changed on.  This is lengthy and scandalous a long time coming.

Creation without evolution and Adam and Eve as the first humans
I went to a creationism camp in middle school, watched videos from Ken Ham, and I have a fear of the ocean thanks to the belief that dinosaurs still live in the sea.  To branch off from the literal 6-day creationism belief has been a pretty big deal, but this was one of the first belief layers to fall off when I was trying to find my way back to God.  The biggest difference-makers was the podcast episode from The Liturgists about Genesis & Evolution.  As Lissa puts into words near the end, however God chose to bring this world into being, it is magnificent and it doesn't change His awesomeness, creativity, and worthiness of our worship and adoration.

Inerrancy of the Bible, God compelling the exact writings of the Bible, and literal interpretations of the Bible
When everything had been stripped away from my faith, I was left with great mistrust of the Bible.  How could I know if any of this was true?  I was pretty sure Jesus was a legitimate historical person, he had been verified by 5 independent sources as my husband was quick to remind me, but what about the rest of this?

The Liturgists talked about the Bible, too, and the episodes about it gave me hope that my relationship with scripture could be restored in some way, but it wasn't until immersing myself in Rob Bell's book What is the Bible? that I realized, no, my relationship with scripture would never be the same.  It would be something wildly different and immeasurably better.  Something vibrant, exciting, alive.  Something so absolutely desirable.  I can't help but get excited telling you about it now, and I can't express how much different my perspective and my value for the Bible is here in 2017.  I have so much more wonder and expectation for this library of books, more than I ever had in my entire life, which is truly saying something.  (You may remember I attended private Christian schools from 4th grade to the end of college, I completed 5 books in Awana, and I've loved Jesus since before I can remember.)  This is a really. big. deal. and I'm so, so happy about it.

If you're interested in checking out the book, go ahead and listen to the podcast episode where Rob talks with the guys from The Liturgists.  You'll also enjoy this illuminating episode with Peter Enns, a professor and writer who is where I want to be when I grow up, in regards to Bible knowledge.

I can't believe I used to think I knew everything about this book!  There is so much more that I don't know yet, but I am positive that the scriptures in the Bible were not meant to be a science book, a sex ed book, or an owner's manual, and I hope I never treat it as such again.

The existence of a physical hell
I have one real-life friend nearby who's going through deconstruction, and he absolutely shocked me with this one.  Probably around June or July, while I was starting in my own dismantling, He told me he wasn't sure there was a hell anymore, and for a second I thought this guy had for-real gone off the deep end.  But then I started hearing more from other Christian traditions' interpretation of the scriptures, more about how the scripture authors' understandings expanded and changed as history went on, and then my Orthodox sister-in-law told me that, "yeah, even C.S. Lewis considered the concept that the end of time where God's glory fills all things would feel like hell to people who rejected him."  What?  Right now, I have no definite on this one, and I just have to leave it at that until something changes.

The understanding of God as male or as only or mostly male
I don't think I ever heard any sermons about the masculinity of God, and I never heard any pastor or teacher explicitly say God is male, but even as early as last year, I was noticing how few people were talking about the feminine side of God.  For a long time I've believed that, since man and woman are created in God's image, of course, this means God has all of the masculine and feminine characteristics and traits.

I know what you may be thinking.  Back in college, I was scandalized when I read The Shack.  How could someone write about God as if God were a woman?  How could the author buy into such blasphemy?!  I'll tell you why!  Because God is as much our mother as God is our father.  It's a bold thing to say, yes, but this is one of the rare things I am absolutely sure of.  It's also brought me great comfort and even honor when I remember how God's image is reflected in my and my character.

God's full, not-only-masculine nature is sometimes a hard thing for me to remember, especially when my default pronouns for God have been He, Him, Him for 29 years, but I am trying to move toward whatever direction my understanding is taking me.  This often means referring to God as "the divine" instead of "Him," which has already caused some disturbance with at least my husband, but it feels more accurate for me to say that.  "The divine."  Saying "Her" would feel antagonistic at this point, though the internal thought of Her doesn't frustrate or disturb me like it did even two months ago.  The verbalization of this one will take some time, but I'm really, really happy and excited about where I'm at.  There's so much more beauty in God when I see Him/Her now, even if the lens is only a touch cleaner.
Female images of God suggest something different [from male images]. God is the one who gave birth to us and all that is. God wills our well-being, as a mother wills the well-being of the children of her womb. God is attached to us with a love that is tender and that will not let us go. And like a mother who sees the children of her womb threatened and oppressed, God can become fierce. 
- from Marcus Borg in Radical Grace via Richard Rohr and the CAC
What comfort there is in that paragraph!  What pure comfort.  I am so glad that I have a God like that.  (And, of course, there's a podcast episode to check out if you're interested in having your perspective challenged head-on.  I'm not kidding, this one is disruptive.)

Complementarian to Egalitarian Marriage
From what I've been learning about women in the church, God's perspective on women, and the writings of Paul and Peter, I think that the best description of a "biblical marriage" or "Christian marriage" looks like mutual submission, not the wife submitting to her husband only.  What changed my mind wasn't modern feminism (looking at you, Sutton boys).  It was noticing more and more how Jesus treated women in the face of how the people of His time and culture treated women.  It was noticing that Ephesians 5:21 comes immediately before the household standard written by Paul.  It was learning more about why household codes were important in this time period and how radical Peter's and Paul's codes were when compared to how the Romans and Greeks treated each other in marriage.

My favorite resource on this is a debate between Rachel Held Evans and Owen Strachan on the Unbelievable podcast.  Rachel shares cultural and historical information that brings this topic and my response to it into a completely different light.  For information on women in the church, I'd recommend checking out The Junia Project.  I also hold women teaching and preaching in the church with an open hand.  It's not something I disagree with at all anymore.  In fact, I'm starting to think that I'd really like to find a female preacher and hear what she has to say.  I've only heard male perspectives from the pulpit, and I know for darn sure that males aren't the only ones God reveals His truths to.

Meditation is awesome.
Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition, I knew that yoga was demon worship and meditation was emptying your mind, which allowed space for evil forces.  But here I am now, thankful for how well yoga maintains physical health, flexibility, and blood flow in my body, and I can't tell you what a difference meditation has made in my mental awareness.  It's not about emptying your mind, by the way, it's about focusing your mind and allowing everything else to fall away.  So often we are distracted by the millions of things clamoring for our attention.  Even our own selves distract us with what's next or what's past.  So rarely do we really experience the moment of now.  This leads to not being able to recognize how we feel, how healthy our bodies are, or how we're processing and reacting to issues and problems.  We are disconnected from ourselves, and meditation can be the bridge that stands in the gap.

The form of meditation I use is mindful meditation.  Its goal is to cultivate awareness.  It involves slow mental body scans to encourage you to really feel what you're physically feeling.  It involves noticing sensations and emotions that come up and practicing only noticing them instead of responding in grasping or aversion.  It involves prolonged focus, usually on the breath, which promotes focus and attention in daily living, as well.  In fact, the whole goal of meditation isn't to be a good meditator, it's to be a good liver... I mean, a good person who lives.  Okay, I clearly don't know how to say this well, but meditation has helped me live and think and notice better.

Meditation is proven to, over time, build gray matter in the brain, make people less likely to get angry, anxious, and stressed, and it builds compassion for the self and for others.  When I meditate regularly, I've noticed a heightened awareness of my reactions and emotions.  One example would be noticing that, "ah, I'm starting to feel angry... let me take a step back and consider why this is and what I should do about it."  Before meditation, I would have been unaware of what was going on in my heart and mind until after I'd already hurt someone or made a bigger mess of things.

Meditation.  10/10 would recommend.  Science Mike (from, you guessed it, The Liturgists) shared a ton of information about the kinds of meditation, including prayerful meditations, and its benefits in this information-packed episode.  If you're interested in meditation, download the Calm app and go through their 7-day trial.  (Apple app store / Google play / Desktop version) It does a great job of and explaining mindful meditation and laying the foundations of how to meditate.  The sessions last around 20 minutes each, and it can be really difficult to sit still and rest and focus for that long, but I encourage you to stick with it and see how it can change your thought processes for the better.

For the record
I still believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that He died, was buried, and rose again three days later.  I have experienced God's grace, forgiveness, and healing in my life, and I've seen it in the lives of others.  I believe God will redeem all things by the end of time and that I will spend eternity with God and the people who love God in some really awesome place I like to call Paradise.  I don't know what all that will look like, and a lot of times my belief looks much more like faith than certainty, but it's still a faith worth having.  And even though my story is still changing and fluctuating, it's still worth telling.  So is yours.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Owning my spiritual shifts, Part 1



You may remember my post from late August where I opened the door on some of the spiritual upheaval I've had this year.  It's been ongoing since April, actually, and it's been the most terrifying, thrilling, and enlivening experience I've had in a long time.

I'm in a more peaceful place than I was in August, a more excited and eager place, too.  But the calm came as a surprise.  Just this past weekend, I was introduced to The Deconstructionists podcast, and after listening to just one episode, I realized "deconstruction" was the word for what I've been going through.  This in itself, the move from "spiritual crisis" to "deconstruction" has been huge for me.  It's like "going into labor" vs "delivery."  The nuance in these words make such a big difference, and the adoption of "deconstruction" normalized my situation for me.

The Liturgists, the first safe space I found for my doubting and growth, they use this term a lot.  A deconstruction of faith is a tearing down of what you once believed.  Deconstruction can go so far as a complete excavation of every shred of faith and religion, which is almost what happened with me, but then it also often involves the relayering of new foundations and beliefs once the old is peeled away.  

The Liturgists community and The Deconstructionists community both enter into this process and its uncertainty with more questions, very few answers, and a ton of grace and acceptance.  Once I admitted that, yes, that word fits me, too, it felt like I finally belonged.  I had found my tribe, the people who knew what I was going through, the people who didn't judge me or force me to decide what I believe or defend myself.  Instead of sympathy, there was empathy.  Instead of isolation, there was "I totally get that, here's how I dealt with this, remember to have patience."  It was amazing, and it's made all the difference in my acceptance of where I am and in my emotional well being.  It's also made a huge impact in dispelling the last shreds of fear I had.  I'd been so worried, back in the summer, that I wouldn't find the truth.  Accepting my deconstruction showed me that I'll never know the whole truth.  I'll never have all the answers.  And, praise all that is good and holy, I'm so glad I'm now in a place where I find that freeing!

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Now that I have less mistrust and aversion in my relationship with God, the most unpleasant part of this journey has become interacting with some of the Christians around me who don't accept where I am or who don't understand.  In fact, for months I've been afraid of being "found out" by my parents, or worse, my mother-in-law.  Two days ago, though, I got to speak with my dad and brought up The Big Topic.  After explaining what I'd been going through and where I am now, my dad caught me off guard by saying he was proud of me and that, of course, it makes sense, and "now you're learning to figure out what you believe, Lindsay, not just what we told you to believe.  And we probably only believed what we told you to believe because someone told us to believe it."  Oh, it was such a relief.  I felt so loved and known, and gosh I'm moved as I remember the moment now.  My mother-in-law, too, while I haven't gotten to share with her the breadth and depth of really any of this, reminded me recently of how much she loves me and also how she doesn't expect me to conform to the traditional way of thinking.  I hope we'll get to chat soon, and I'm pretty sure it will be hard for her to hear, but I know she'll still be with me and she'll still support me.

Some other folks, though, haven't taken to my changes so nicely.  If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me lamenting the fact that someone told me I definitely was NOT a Christian last week.  Yes, he used all caps.  He was also an internet stranger in a conservative worldview Facebook group who I'll most likely never meet, but it still hurt.  It was very easy to feel offended and self-righteous and, are you kidding, do you even know who I am?  Thankfully we had miles and screens between us, and I also completely understand where he's coming from.  Had our roles been reversed and were it 2015, I would have responded the same way he did.  It's a very scary thing to see someone in your Christian circles stepping away from a belief you place so much value on.  I totally get that.

This interaction forced me to recognize that I'm now on what most American Christians would call the fringes of Christianity, the edge, or maybe even beyond the edge.  It's an odd place to be, especially considering how much of the Christian faith I do ascribe to.  I knew all the songs at Vacation Bible School and memorized the Roman Road (one of Christianity's main tools for evangelism, taken from Paul's writings in the book of Romans), and I can tell you that I most certainly am a Christian, if anyone was wondering, but I'm not the same Christian I was before.  I either disagree or don't agree with quite a few things most American Christians take as gospel.  This has brought tension to many conversations with Caleb, who doesn't know how to best respond to having his wife go through deconstruction yet.  This has become the most uncomfortable part of my journey.  To not have my best friend know and understand where I am.  We haven't talked about it, not really, and in my own home, at least, I am still isolated.

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If you know someone going through deconstruction, please let them wade through the marshes.  Let them doubt and question and challenge.  Let them be angry and distraught and sorrowful.  Just don't let them go through it alone.  Don't try to fix them or their problems.  Don't try to answer their questions for them unless they explicitly ask.  Hug them.  Let them know you're available if they'd like to talk things out or if they need a soundboard.  This is a struggle, and they have to struggle through it.  This is a time of fluidity and testing and there is no magic solution you can offer, but you can offer acceptance, a safe place free of condemnation and pressure, and unconditional love.  If you're afraid that your friend is going the wrong direction, whether you say so or not, remember the trust you have in your God and the Spirit inside your friend.  If you pray, pray for them.  Chances are you believe that, in the end, it's God's sovereignty and truth that will win all things.  Take heart in that, find support for yourself if you need it, and release yourself from the expectation to make things right.  That's not your role, it's Gods.

A few things to ponde that will hopefully encourage you about your friend's journey and show you more of how they're heading in a healthy direction:

"If a person thinks that God is impressed by how certain you are and remaining certain, well you're going to have a phobia of [...] anything that might lessen your certainty, that might throw you into doubt.  So you insulate your faith."  - Greg Boyd via The Deconstructoinists podcast (41:51)

"People think that your faith is as strong as you are doubt-free, and so [they] make a virtue out of not doubting.  That sets so many wrong things in motion.  If you have that model, then you're going to try really never to doubt the rightness of your beliefs, which makes an idol out of your beliefs.  You [then] get life from your rightness, and that's your salvation.  And if you begin doubt too much, then you lose your salvation."  - Greg Boyd via The Deconstructoinists podcast (32:10)


If you're going through deconstruction yourself, know that you are not alone.  There are thousands of people like you who are right now dealing with some of the biggest questions they've ever faced.  You're not the first one to have these doubts.  It's okay to have these doubts.  In fact, faith needs doubt.  Since the Enlightenment, logic and reason have been so highly valued by society and even the church that we've become almost obsessed with having all the answers, but faith was never meant to have all the answers.

"Faith is clearly learning to live without knowing and [to live] trusting that God knows.  We've turned it around 180 degrees to mean people walking around who are certain about everything." - Richard Rohr via The Deconstructionist podast (12:36) 
^ (This whole episode s 100% gold.)
Chances are you'll come through this with a different understanding than you had before.  Chances are what gets left behind needed to get left behind.  As we grow, our relationships change, and it makes perfect sense that our relationship with God would change, too.  This is normal and healthy, and it's quite common for Christians from conservative circles, especially when they reach their 30's.  Where you are is okay.  You're not a bad Christian.  Doubt isn't sinful, and you don't have to be afraid of it.  As Science Mike says, doubt has the power we give it, but that's the only power it has.

"If there's a God worth believing in, it's a God big enough to handle this sort of thing.  To handle uncertainty." - Mike McHargue (aka Science Mike) via The Liturgists podcast (23:30)

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I know I don't often talk about my faith on my blog, but these big changes have been worth writing about.  I'm going to be publishing another post about some of my beliefs that have shifted this year, so keep an eye on this space next Friday to see how much of a heretic I've become (tongue in cheek, friends, tongue in cheek).

Friday, November 10, 2017

The perks of being an adult

The perks of being an adult


What silly, frivolous ways do you do adult things, like buying pizza and hot chocolate because you feel like it and it's raining and what other late time second dinner could be more perfect for this dreary weather?

Here are some of my indulgences, made possible only by being an out-of-the-house adult with my own paycheck.

  • Ice cream with breakfast.  Sometimes.  Just because.
  • Spoiling myself with routine at-home face masks and skincare
  • Buying organic as much as possible
  • Staying home with a good book, a good tv show, or a good homemade meal instead of going out
  • Applying to work at companies you love because who knows what could happen
  • Taking a class on something new (I love Homestead Atlanta for this.)
  • Cooking up a super fancy dinner at home with wine to drink and king crab legs to eat (because it's cheaper to buy and prepare it yourself and I'm still mostly frugal)
  • Brunch!
  • Buying the cute comfy underwear because why settle for anything less anymore?
  • Choosing to drink tea for its health and calming benefits, but mostly because it feels luxurious, especially when paired with fancy mugs
What about you?  I'd love to hear how you treat yourself.  Share in the comments below.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Balance is fleeting

Balance is Fleeting
While listening to my mother-in-law one day, she dropped a serious truth bomb that came at the very best time.  She was talking about a young woman she's mentoring and about a conversation point they'd been focusing on.  Balance.

I don't think I'd known of the concept of life balance growing up.  My life was pretty well planned out, after all.  Wake up at 7:30, ride to school, classes all day, violin practice or volleyball practice, go home, dinner, piano practice, then read until bedtime.  It may have been a busy childhood, but I don't remember it ever feeling that way.  I remember things starting to feel hectic and out of control once I reached college and my schedule was completely in my own hands.  Between student government, volleyball, and class obligations, there was a boyfriend and friends to hang out with.  Before long, research papers were being completed the night before they were due, bedtime became a nebulous concept, my planner became invaluable, and stress was constant.

I think I crave balance so much because I know how hard the low times can be.  There's no time for what I really want, maybe even what I really need.  Dinners aren't homemade anymore.  Relaxing looks more like scrolling through Instagram.  Sleeping in becomes the ultimate luxury instead of long walks in the woods, brunch with friends, or flowers from the market.

The truth bomb from my mother-in-law was this:  Balance is fleeting, and as unpleasant (and unhealthy) a lack of balance can be, it's not something to be idolized or chased.  Heck, with the chasing comes even more stress!  There will always be an ebb and flow of chaos and tranquility, and when we look back on all our years, we'll see that the mountains and valleys would have come our way no matter how hard we tried to strive against the inevitable.

At the moment, I am in between jobs.  This year I've had more stress, depression, heartbreak, and numbness than any other year before.  When I first started writing this post, however, it was the early in 2016.  I'd like to leave you with  one of the paragraphs I'd written then:

I am currently in a fairly peaceful season.  I've been working part-time for a month and a half.  I've been enjoying staying at home with my dog most days, listening to music out loud, and catching up on reading.  It doesn't seem fair for me to be telling people to relax, but trust me when I say I've been there and when I say that balance is something that should be held with an open hand.

I know that something new will come soon that will require me to adjust.  My schedule will get fuller, and my life margins will get smaller.  Once more I'll have to shift all the pieces of my life again to make everything fit on the calendar.  I know now that prizing balance so highly could force me to compromise and miss out on valuable experiences, lessons, or opportunities to share with others.  As hard as it is, we have to make sure that we're able to roll with the punches.  The hair-pulling alternative never helped anyone, I promise.


Monday, October 16, 2017

When you live with BIG emotions





I don't know why I haven't written about it yet, but as a rule, my emotions are strong and many.  I've been described as tenderhearted and as sincere by folks who just met me.  My joy has been rambunctious and contagious (causing embarrassment for others at least once).  My compassion has stopped me in my tracks and kept me from eating.  Along with great feelings comes great heartache and despair.  When I have dark days, they're really dark.  More than once, I've been frustrated with God, at the end of my rope, and incessantly questioning Him about why I'm like this.

My husband is on the opposite end of the spectrum, by the way.  His story and experiences bred mistrust toward emotions in general, which translated to incredulity, frustration, and sometimes fear when I would come to him upset.  Needless to say, we had a hefty share of misunderstandings, hurtful words, and harmful actions between us.

For a few years now, I've gone to counseling, not because big emotions are bad or something to be fixed, but because I needed help handling them.  The process took me to a strange place of trying to place boundaries.  The boundaries helped me separate my emotions from reality and refrain from demanding my husband match my feelings when something was wrong.  The boundaries helped me stand up for myself, too, and kept me from ignoring my feelings and allowing them to be invalidated by others.

Talking out and winnowing down my thoughts into Facts and Feelings columns has helped me see where I might be giving into emotions when I don't have to.  Counseling gave me breathing room and a safe space to lay out and think about all the pieces of a situation instead of having to leap to my own defense against someone with a different perspective.  Both counseling and meditation have given me the tools to recognize and regulate my emotions, which means they overwhelm me less, and as cheesy as it sounds, the workbook Don't Let Emotions Run Your Life has also been really helpful.

For the religious among you who believe humans are created images of God, you'll appreciate how each of us reflect His character in a unique way.  I've found some relief in that belief: "If I hurt this much over the evil in this world, surely God hurts even more.  If I experience such happiness over good things, surely God is even happier."  Understand I'm not comparing myself to the divine, but normalizing my experiences.  Essentially, this is how I'm supposed to be.  Gaining a better grasp on my emotions so they don't blindside me so often is helpful for me and those around me, but the fact that I have such a broad and deep range of emotions is not bad or wrong and does not need to be changed.

Another thing that grounds me and brings clarity is the fact that emotions are the best means for connecting with others.  When I tell you how it hurt me when you made that comment, or when I share my elation over getting to meet a puppy, you get a sense of my experience.  This leads to understanding, and understand and communication are foundations of what relationships are, and I believe relationships will change the world.  If I can be a small part of that, then I'm all in.

So.

I feel much, and I feel it strongly.  Thank goodness I've made peace with who I am.  Double thanks for how my husband has also grown in his acceptance (dare I say, appreciation?).  Here's to emotional intelligence, to growing in understanding, and to being fully human and unafraid.

Allow yourself to be compelled.  Tenderness moves us to action.

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Further reading: Living with big emotions by Sara Tasker