Friday, March 30, 2012

Grace Indeed by Dianna Anderson

I haven't known Dianna for terribly long, but I'm so thankful to have met her! She has a wonderful sense of humor that she uses to write about deeply non-funny things. As someone considerably older, I admire how she uses her voice to help women. And today I'm happy to be able to share her story about some cross-gender friendships that she's had.

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When I was a kid, my best friend was a boy named Phil whose backyard was kiddy-corner from mine. This wasn’t a friendship of convenience, though – he wasn’t my best friend because there was no one else in the neighborhood. In fact, there were three or four girls around in the same few block radius. But for some reason, I never got along with them – it may have had something to do with them making me pay them a dime in order to go on a walk.

As a little girl, I did not conform to gender roles. I was much more interested in climbing a tree than playing with dolls. My hair was cut short because I refused to comb it. And, most obviously, my best friends were boys.

I never understood why my friendship with boys was a reason for teasing, but there was teasing nonetheless. My two best friends in fourth and fifth grade were Curtis and Tyler, and every day when walking home, my classmates would tease me, “Hey Dianna, do you liiiiiiike Curtis? Are you guys going to do iiiit?” (In fourth grade, we barely knew what “it” was, other than that it was something people who liked each other in that way did).

Now, as a 26 year old adult, I have some sympathy for those kids who teased me throughout elementary school. It’s pretty clear that they were just parroting the belief that men and women can’t be just friends – that there will always be some kind of sexual tension or problems there. And you especially cannot be friends with a married man if you are a single woman. Because so many others before us have made mistakes, have committed “emotional adultery,” cross gender friendships are problematic. This is a fact that has always been a reality in my life, from seven years old all the way into adulthood. I’ve always gotten along better with the males of our species, and I’ve always had to defend that choice of friendship.

But when I hit college, something changed. Girls, instead of thinking me weird or odd for being friends with boys, were jealous. Because of a lifetime of being best friends with guys, talking to them was easy for me. It wasn’t hard for me to sit down in the lunchroom and start a conversation with a man I didn’t know, and it wasn’t hard for me to develop close friendships that weren’t plagued by “does she like me in that way? What if she does? Oh no!”

Of course, there were boundaries and sometimes confusion – as any cross gender friendships will have. But in my choice to defy norms and develop friendships with boys at an early age, I set myself up for easier friendships as an adult.

In the church, we do a major disservice to both men and women when we discourage cross-gender friendships, when we warn people off of getting “too close” with a member of the opposite sex, when we instill fear instead of grace into our relationships. I truly believe that my cross gender friendships throughout my life have helped me to understand grace, mercy, and love on a deeper level. Because I am not afraid of the what-if and what-would-people-think, each of my friends fills their role as David, as Josiah, as Jim, as Sam, as Chase, and James. Rather than being just “men,” they are each, uniquely, my brothers. And that is grace indeed.

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Dianna Anderson has a day job as a radio producers on the south side of Chicago. By night, though, she takes to the internet as a caped crusader of feminism! Which means that she blogs about feminism and theology and how people should be allowed to say "vagina" without cringing. Her blog can be found at: http://www.diannaeanderson.net

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This post is a part of a series of guest posts about cross-gender friendships in preparation for the Sacred Friendship Gathering in April. For more information about the gathering, check out the website. I hope to see you there! 

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My SEO Prowess (or I'm Sorry Your Search Lead You Here)

My bloggy friend David Nilsen (who I get to meet in exactly one month - SQUEEE!) has done a few "searches that led to my blog" posts. Below I will shameless rip off this idea. Thanks David. If you had sent your guest post to me in a more timely manner, perhaps this could have been avoided. (Probably not.)
  • "hymnal crafts" - Since the church I attend hasn't been around long enough to use hymnals, I don't think I have the materials for these crafts. Sorry.
  • "filipino mathematicians" - I'm not Filipino. I'm even MORE not a mathematician. And this is something, because I'm not Filipino in the least. If you go visit Jessica Buttram's blog, you could probably convince her to do a little math with you.
  • "i hate things that are tacky" - Preaching to the choir, my friend. 
  • "mojo jojo gay" - I'd like to state for the record, I have never made that connection.
  • "how do i start kissing husband goodbye" - I suggest a peck on the cheek. You go much further than that and he may decide that he'd just rather stay home. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • "kids love pictures with coffee" - I think my blog might be a little more adult themed, but if the kids want pictures while they drink their coffee, I'll try to provide.
  • "nothing but butts" - This is a fairly regular one, and I always feel bad for these folks, because a picture of a giant ass-shaped rock is probably NOT what they were hoping for.
  • "funeral message for a young person who overdozed" - The post that this no doubt landed on is not funny in any way (though Caleb is a great writer and has no aversion to humor), but this search is one of my favorites. When I saw it, all I could think was, "No funeral needed - just spray them with a water gun!" Though maybe I can use it as a threat to my 13 year old when she over-sleeps...
Regardless of how you got here, I'm glad that you've stopped by! 

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If you blog, what's the best search that has landed someone at your site? If you don't blog, have any interesting phrases that we might see checking your search history?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review: Building a Life Out of Words by Shawn Smucker


Shawn Smucker has a fascinating story. Fortunately, he is a wonderful story-teller, so that works out well for him.

In his new e-book Building a Life Out of Words, Shawn shares the story of becoming a full-time writer. The first thing that you should know about this book is that it is not a how-to book. If you're reading this to find out how you can make a living as a writer, this is not going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to achieve that goal. However, any time someone shares their story, there will be events that you can learn from if you want to follow in their footsteps.

Through the chapters, Shawn tells us a bit more about his journey. His fears, his failures, his successes, his resolve. I really enjoyed reading about he and his wife Maile navigated the challenges of not knowing what was in front of them, but how they worked together to follow their dreams. Each chapter offers one main ideal that Shawn shares in bold. Again, because this is not a how-to book, these are not action steps or anything like that, but rather larger forces that work against you when you choose to pursue your dream (which also makes them applicable for a wider audience, not simply for those interested in writing).

One other element in each chapter is a contribution from someone who either makes a living as a writer or is on their way to making a living as a writer. I was already familiar with nearly all of the authors in this section, and while each piece was well-written, I felt like this could have been an opportunity to offer a bit more how-to advice and it seemed too scattered for my taste. I'm sure that part of that is just that what works for one person may not work for everyone, but I still felt like these stories could have been a bit more practical. Because they didn't all follow the same format (practical help or more ideology based), they felt a bit disjointed.

That said, this is still a great book and I would easily recommend it to someone interested in pursuing work as a full-time writer. At no point is the journey made to look glamorous (unless living in your parents' basement has a certain cache that I'm of yet still unaware), but it does look like something that is attainable. I always enjoy the honesty found in Shawn's writing and this is no exception. If you're interested in pursuing a path different from the one that you are currently on, this book is for you. And if you're simply looking for a good story about someone who is doing what they love, this book is for you.

Head over to Shawn's site for information on how to purchase this book!

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Shawn blogs (almost) daily at http://shawnsmucker.com. He is currently traveling the country for four months with his wife and four children in a big, blue bus named Willie, looking for service opportunities as well as other writers to meet up with. You can find him on Facebook (Shawn Smucker, Writer) and Twitter (@shawnsmucker).



Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Building a Life Out of Words for the purpose of review and am in a drawing for a $100 gift card. However, all opinions are 100% my own. 

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Pro-Compassion

'Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Pro-Peace' photo (c) 2005, benuski - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I received the following letter from a friend of mine who is a nurse with Planned Parenthood. I asked her if I could share it with you and she agreed.
I worked at the Planned Parenthood clinic in one of our most affluent communities in Texas today. It is the only clinic that we have protesters at in the Dallas area.

In the 15 years that I have worked for Planned Parenthood, I have never seen this much protester activity. There were between 15 people when I got there to about 30 people when I left out on the small area of grass between the sidewalk and the street, shouting at cars driving by, holding up signs and calling me personally a baby killer when I walked into the clinic this morning. They are not allowed on the parking lot or to engage us in any conversation and will be arrested for trespassing, so I did not feel threatened as I walked in, but they can certainly find out about me from the plates on my car. I don't feel that I am in any danger or that my family is, but it is making me more uncomfortable than I have ever been in the past.

Despite all of this I had a great day at work! I saw people with medical problems or who wanted a well woman exam and/or contraception and one young women who was there for a pregnancy test. A planned pregnancy, we celebrated with her. She said that the protesters told her we would try to convince her to have an abortion and she was nervous but needed a form for Medicaid so came in anyway. She was surprised that abortion was never even mentioned and we were celebrating with her. It is only mentioned when someone asks for the information, we do not give it to everyone. We do not do abortions at any of our clinics, we do not even have an abortion clinic that is a part of our affiliate. There is another affiliate in Dallas that does perform them but it is separate from us.

The amazing part of my day though was the many people who stopped by the clinic to thank us for being there. To find out where to donate time or money to Planned Parenthood to make sure that we stay here for the community. The men and women who offered to watch the parking lot to make sure we were safe and who offered to buffer the patients from the protesters. The people who wrote letters that they have brought in thanking us.

This is why I work for this organization, I know that I make a difference for these individuals. I am doing an important job and I get to hold my head up and ignore the disrespectful crowd and remember why I am here.

It feels good to say that this afternoon. Thanks for listening.
Growing up, I was fully immersed in the pro-life culture. I marched on Washington with my sign. I watched Silent Scream. I took pictures of carved up fetuses and showed them to my elementary school classmates. If my kids mentioned someone like this in their class today, I would be appalled, but back then, it was completely normal behavior.

Of course I hated Planned Parenthood.

The thing is, I didn't know anything about Planned Parenthood. There wasn't one in my town. I didn't know anyone who had visited one. I certainly didn't know anyone who worked at one.

My anger and hatred was borne completely out of my ignorance. I chose only to listen to one set of stories, rather than to all of the stories.

Things like abortion and the discussion between a woman's right to choose and a fetus's right to be born are difficult to sort through. I would love for there to be simple answers to these questions, but I've yet to find them.

In the absence of answers, I want to seek out ways to be compassionate. Compassion for the women who are forced to make difficult decisions. Compassion for unborn babies who are seen as burdens. Compassion for doctors and nurses who help women receive the care that they need.

When we choose compassion, we choose life.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

Feeling a bit better this week than last, though this is one long-lasting cold. But we've had stunning weather this week AND I got to spend some time with great friends AND my husband is back from Wisconsin, so despite this persistent cold, I'm feeling pretty good.
  • This week my friend Tamara Lunardo wrote a story about her time as a foster mom. I love that Tamara is so generous with her writing (I regularly link to posts she's written somewhere other than her blog), but even more than that, I love how generous she is with her heart. 
  • Loved this post from Erika Morrison about interacting with people online and how we treat one another in a virtual environment.
  • This week Rachel Held Evans wrote about her fight over the word "vagina" in her upcoming book. There have been a number of responses to this, but my favorite was from Karen Spears Zacharias. I found myself nodding my head pretty much non-stop through the whole thing.
  • David Hayward always makes me think. His prayer from the cell panel last Sunday was particularly thought provoking.
  • Caleb Wilde became an adoptive father recently (yay!). His post about being all in as a parent when your child could be taken away is absolutely stunning. 
  • It seems that Janette over at Catalog Living had a rough week
  • Have you taken a second to like my page over on Facebook? I would really love it if you'd head over there and give it a like. I promise, I won't spam your feed.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link it up in the comments!

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Finding Friendship with Women by Kellen Freeman

The prevailing wisdom tends to be that women think they can be friends with men, but men are always looking for a little "something-something" if they can get it. I'm so happy to host Kellen Freeman here today to help break that myth. I love how he talks about what he gained from his friendships with women and how they were a place of safety, not danger. Thanks, Kellen, for sharing your story today!

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In high school, my closest friends were guys. We shared similar interests, favorite music and movies, and were even in a couple bands together. But when I left for college, that began to change. I found my circle of friends mainly shifting to women. It was a situation not entirely familiar to me, but it was one I’m absolutely thankful for.

When I first arrived at college, my only friend on campus was a female friend I had only spoke to over AOL Instant Messenger. She invited me to a campus ministry that she went to on Wednesday nights. Within that group I was adopted into a group of girls that met together every Sunday night to watch the shows on ABC, Grey’s Anatomy, Extreme Home Makeover, and Desperate Housewives. While I have to admit that I didn’t always enjoy the shows, I enjoyed the company. They cared about me and were interested in who I was as a person. That first year I didn’t have too many guy friends. It wasn’t because they weren’t around, but because they were already in solid friendships and I didn’t see much of them. I met with some guys for a weekly Bible study, but that was about it. The girls were around more often and I valued having their opinions and their friendships.

These girls even helped me to accept my past as a part of who I am. Four years earlier my father had died, and two years earlier I was hospitalized for major depression. It was a story I didn’t tell people because I didn’t like to share it. But after letting out a tiny bit of that story one night, these girls gathered around me, bought a pizza, and listened as I told my story. It was one I had never told from start to end before. The best part was, at the end of it all, they didn’t accuse me of not being a Christian, they didn’t say depression was a sin, they didn’t say anything corny or cheesy about the death of a loved one. They just loved me. They listened to who I was with the only purpose of seeking to know another. It was the best situation to open up to. Since then, I’ve managed to tell my story without hesitation because these girls have helped me to realize that this is not something to run from, but it is who I am.

When I graduated from college and left for seminary, I arrived at my new dorm room in a state away from any friends I had before. I gravitated toward the guys that I had class with because we would play video games together and that helped build camaraderie among us. But usually when I was looking for a solid conversation, I would walk down the hall a few doors to a female friend’s room. We would share the hard struggles we had and our problems in ways I didn’t usually talk to my guy friends about. For some reason I just felt her company was a better fit for the deeper discussions of life than my guy friends were.

As college went on, I met a girl, and as seminary was in full swing I would marry her. Because of the lifestyle two full time students possess, my wife and I are each others primary friendship. We haven’t found too many friendships in our town, so most nights we just spend at home together. This proximity has led to some great conversations, fun board games, and way too many hours spent on NetFlix. In that time, she has become my closest friend. One that I can share anything with, and one that seeks to better know me, help me to become a better person, and one that puts up with my desire for theological discussions at 1 in the morning.

Though we have drifted a part because we are no longer in school together, I think back to the friendships I once had during college and remember how they helped shape me into who I am today. That is something I’m incredibly thankful for, and wouldn’t change, even if I could.

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Kellen is a recent graduate from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. He lives near Akron, OH with his wife Rachael. He blogs regularly at www.kellenfreeman.net and has a new food blog starting today at www.aheapingtablespoon.com. You can find him on Twitter @kellenfreeman. Call him a hipster because of the v-neck if you must, but he’ll fight you about it until his last breath.


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This post is a part of a series of guest posts about cross-gender friendships in preparation for the Sacred Friendship Gathering in April. For more information about the gathering, check out the website. I hope to see you there! 



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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Camp Happy

It's been a really long time since I've had a sleep-over. But today my best friend Tina is coming for a visit and she's spending the night. We did this a few years ago at her place when we went to see TMBG together, but that was a while ago and all of our visits lately have been a couple hours over coffee or in a grocery store or getting my iPod replaced. Always awesome, but regrettably short. So time to hang out, go to the midnight premier of the Hunger Games, and just catch up in person instead of over the phone is something that I'm deeply looking forward to.

But sleep-overs also remind me of Camp Happy.
I can't remember who was Gilligan

Camp Happy was pretty much the pinnacle of awesomeness when I was in high school. There were six of us that were close, so a couple times a year, we would pile into our friend Cece's gigantic Suburban (this was in the days before SUV's owned the roads, so it seemed positively enormous) and drive the hour or so out to her family's get-away in the country. I honestly don't remember what it was called for real, but we called it Camp Happy, and that's certainly good enough for me.

I have so many great memories from then. Trying to get through every card, and every column on the card, in Scattergories. Recreating an episode of Gilligan's Island and filming it. Filling out Cosmo quizzes. Dyeing my hair black for the first time. Trying to figure out if we could smuggle some alcohol there, not to drink, but so we could make a flambe.

I remember these things, not because they had any real bearing on the rest of my life, but simply because they were fun.

We forget about having fun too much when we're adults. We have more important things to do. Business to attend to. Work that clamors for our attention. Difficult decisions to make

It's true. As grown-ups, we have legitimately important things that we need to address. There are people who depend on us being responsible, and I'm not advocating that we neglect those tasks.

But we need to inject fun into our lives. We need to find time to do things that energize us. We need to look for ways to let our hair down and relax. We need to accept that we have a responsibility to carve out space in our lives for joy.

We need to find our Camp Happy.

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What fun things have you done lately? Do you have any Camp Happy-type memories to share? Let me know in the comments!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Best Neighbor

Head here to read the full article. Huge thanks to my friend Gini for sharing this with me.
Fred also told each child, "You are special". Fred understood that God endows every person with unique gifts, and it was his personal mission to nurture both the gift and the child's awareness that she or he did indeed possess the gift. For Fred, life was all about bringing out the best any individual has within them -- within them, but oftentimes not yet fully realized. Not-fully-realized is obviously the case for preschoolers, whose development is still very rudimentary in comparison with what lies ahead for them in their youth, adulthood, and maturity. 
But not-fully-realized is an adult condition as well, and Fred lived out his mission not only through "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" but in his everyday adult encounters with friends, family, colleagues, and so-called strangers. He used each engagement with another person, no matter how fleeting, as an opportunity to impart a blessing of attention and affirmation on the other. He rarely failed to part from another person without leaving them feeling better about themselves and their possibilities.
And probably my favorite Fred Rogers quote comes from this video (mentioned in the above piece); "All of us have special ones who has loved us into being."



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Please share your favorite memory of or quote from Mister Rogers. 

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Memories of Faith

1984 - We sing a lot of songs at my Christian school. Songs to help us remember the books of the Bible, songs that have silly motions with them, old hymns that Mrs. Montag likes to teach us. We're getting too old for this to be cool, but when she allows us to sing Pass It On, I still get a little teary when we sing "the Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on." That summer I'll go to Creation Fest for the first time and find out that people sing songs like this in their actual church services. Every week.

1986 - I'm in trouble for wearing hot pink tights under the acolyte robe at church. I love that I get to serve the church in this way. I love the ritual of lighting the candles in a particular order. I love the symbolism in the robe and the knotted belt. But it's the 80's and the dress that I'm wearing has bright pink tights that go with it, so that's what I'm wearing. After I find out that I'm in trouble, any Sunday that I'm scheduled to be the acolyte, I worry about my clothes. On weeks when I'm not serving, I wonder why it's okay for the boys to wear ratty sneakers, but not okay for me to wear my hot pink tights. Reverence is replaced with resentment.

1987 - I'm standing in the hall with my teacher. I'm one of the girls in trouble because of the party we had at Nikki's house that weekend. We drank beer that I didn't like, Fuzzy Navels that I did like, and made prank phone calls. But we weren't very good at being bad, so we called people we knew and they figured out it was us. I cry because I feel bad about letting down my parents this way. I cry because I know that as a Christian, this isn't how I'm supposed to behave.

1988 - I've just graduated from my Christian school. I have gone through my confirmation class and for the first time, my faith feels like something that I've chosen, rather than something that I inherited. I am sitting on the side of a hill in the woods of a farm in Mt. Union, PA, listening to Roger Cooper speak about a night he spent with his father, connecting to one another in a more loving way than they ever had before. I had been on the verge of that kind of relationship with God that whole year, and this talk sealed the deal. Tears streaming down my face, I stand when Roger gave the call and I ask Jesus into my heart, not just because I'm supposed to, but because I want to.

1993 - I'm in college and I'm meeting people who aren't just like what I've grown up with my whole life. I haven't been to church in a couple of years, other than when I go home. I worship in the stairwell of the music building, improvising music with my best friend long after the rest of the students have vacated the premises. Instead of candles and incense, it smells of sweaty college students and old pizza. We don't say words, but the notes of our prayers echo in the stillness.

1998 - The internet is new and the world is suddenly much smaller. I meet my first real atheist. I meet Christians who are gay. I meet people who think that the only real Bible is the King James Version. My views about faith are twisted around and shaken up. Doubts that have always played at the edge of my mind grow larger. My new husband and newer baby girl are reminders that there are things that are very real.

2000 - My faithfulness is questioned not by me, but by someone on the outside. My heart breaks as I second-guess my intentions. I think I'm just doing what I had been called to do, but if my pastor believes that I am idolatrous, maybe I am. The part of me that worships primarily through my instrument mostly shuts down for the next three years.

2009 - My husband and I sit crying together in our living room. He has told me that he no longer believes in God. It's the perfect moment for me to abandon the faith that has produced pain and anger and questions. But I know that pain and anger and questions will never stop. And my memory takes me to a girl singing about a spark, and I know that the Lord of love still lives in me.

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This is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted byPeter Pollock. You can read more submissions and add your own here.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

It's morning! I'd say "good" morning, but I feel kind of yuck this morning, so you'll just have to be content with knowing what time of day it was when I posted this. Anyway, I hope you're feeling great and are ready to dive in to some fantastic posts.
  • My friend Kristin Tennant has a wonderful piece at Huffington Post about ways the Church can be supportive of those who have been divorced and how we might actually help prevent divorce. Absolute must read of the week.
  • My top picks for the March Movie Madness over at Clay Morgan's are both female heroines. I absolutely loved this post by Trish Loye asking where we can find new female heroines. Some fantastic questions asked here. (It also reminded me of this post from David Nilsen back in August.)
  • Rachel Held Evans reminded me (yet again) why she is, hands down, my most favorite blogger with her piece about her involvement in the Christian Industry
  • Jake Harriman, CEO of Nuru International, had a phenomenal piece in the New York Times about the link between terrorism and extreme poverty. So thankful for the work that this organization continues to do.
  • Lauren Dubinsky wrote a really fantastic piece about modesty. It's a bit long, but I highly recommend taking the time to read this. 
  • This one is a week late, but I forgot to include it last week and I don't want anyone to miss it. Shanda Sargent wrote a gorgeous guest post for Tamara Lunardo about grace and gratefulness. Stunning.
  • And I loved the wrecks Jen and John found for Pi Day. So great.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Drop me a link in the comments!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Post at Provoketive.com

I was born near the end of second-wave feminism. As a result, as a young-adult, I had all kinds of powerful female role models and I was very complacent about the rights that I had as a woman.

This was a mistake.

Today at Provoketive, I apologize to the feminists that went before me for not being more vigilant. Head on over to read my piece.

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Smelly, Annoying Boy by Amber Wackford

I discovered Amber's writing when she guest posted for Rachel Held Evans about being a single woman in the Church. She is a beautiful writer and a lovely person and this summer, she may be the first in the virtual village to ever see me play in my band. I was so excited when she told me that she'd like to share about her cross-gender friendship. I'm thrilled to share her post with you today. My friendship with a smelly boy is far younger than hers, but I hope to have a similar tale to tell in another ten years or so.

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Matt and I have a friendship that is sixteen years old. We met in youth group as middle schoolers, and I was good friends with his sister and I didn’t pay him much attention because he was friends with my brother and they were more than a little annoying. Most middle school boys are, I suppose. And they smelled, like lunch meat and feet, which did nothing to elicit a want for relationship. So, in middle school, Matt hung with other smelly, annoying boys and I hung with his older sister and held up my nose because I was too young to know that it is entirely possible to gain a whole lot from being friends with a smelly, annoying boy.

The more time I spent hanging out with his sister, though, the more time I spent hanging out with Matt. And with each movie we watched, each card game we played, each dinner we had, and each prank we pulled on his sister, Matt and I became friends. Like, real friends. The kind of friends who become the first line of defense when the world feels like it’s waging war against you. The kind of friends who stay in driveways long after everyone else has gone home after a movie talking about the movie, and God, and our families, and our church. The kind of friends who bring frappucinos and an empathetic ear when first romances end. The kind of friends who stay connected through phone calls and dinners together over breaks while in college. The kind of friends where I’m now best friends with Matt’s wife and “Aunt Amber” to their son and have a key to their house. The kind of friends who consistently show up for each other, over years, in such a way that being friends starts to look a whole lot more like being family.

I think as a teenager somewhere along the way I was given the message that having a friend like that who was a boy was bad. It could give people the wrong idea, don’t you know. And I’d guess that some of the little old ladies at church did get the wrong impression, but I think that happened because they weren’t willing to look past their assumptions to see what was really there. If they had, they would have seen a brother and sister in Christ taking care of each other in the best ways we knew how at twelve, and then at sixteen, and then at twenty, and now at twenty-eight.

 My friendship with Matt remains as honest, simple, and innocent as it was when we were twelve and we were shooting spit balls at each other at the dinner table. He will always be the guy who can make me laugh when I don’t feel like laughing, and who pesters me for the pure enjoyment that he gets out of it. He is the person who anyone I date has to get along with or I won’t be dating him for long. 

And after sixteen years, he’s still my first line of defense when it feels like the world is waging war against me. After sixteen years, I’m old enough now to not only recognize the benefits of being friends with a guy – who is still smelly and annoying – but, to treasure the gains in the deepest places in my heart. However, I think those gains come not from the fact that Matt is a guy, but from the fact that he is Matt, the one person who has been constant in my life for nearly two decades.

That’s what I hope the little old ladies and other people in church are seeing now when they see Matt and me sitting in church together, with his wife and his son. I hope they’re seeing the kind of connection and closeness that can only be earned by caring for each other over so many years. I hope they’re seeing the pay-off of people who’ve grown up together, in every sense of the word. I hope they’re seeing us individually become better versions of ourselves for the sharpening and challenging that comes from our friendship with each other. More than anything, though, I hope that when they watch us, all of us, Matt, his wife, his son, and me sitting together that they’re seeing, really seeing, what being brothers and sisters in Christ looks like. Because I think it looks a whole lot like loving each other for a really long time.

Eternally, even.

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A military kid who's heart shares space in Michigan and Maryland, Amber is someone who loves loving people and believes that God shows Himself uniquely in the moments when people are enjoying enjoying each other. She writes about the ideas of intentional relationships and community at her blog. Be careful if you become her friend - you'll probably end up in a blog post. But, be her friend. Or at least find her on Twitter: AmberWack.

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This post is a part of a series of guest posts about cross-gender friendships in preparation for the Sacred Friendship Gathering in April. For more information about the gathering, check out the website. I hope to see you there!

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Knox McCoy is Wrong

When it comes to The Bachelor, Knox McCoy is pretty much the best source of how it relates to the Christian faith. If you're watching The Walking Dead, Knox is your man for amazing recaps. And if you want to count to ostrich, look no further than Knox's Manifesto for this information.

Knox is awesome. I mean, he's the freaking mayor of Awesometown, so of COURSE he's awesome.

Normally, whatever Knox does, I encourage you to support it.

But not today.

Clay Morgan is hosting the second annual (First annual? Since the first time wasn't annual yet?) March Movie Madness. He asked us to pick a protagonist from a film and then created a bracket for all 64 of the choices.

I chose the incomparable William H. Macy as The Shoveler for my protagonist. If you've been around here for a long time, you know that I love that character. He's a good dad, a good husband, a good friend, a good hero. I crush on Macy anyway, and I heavily crush on Macy as The Shoveler.

But goodness and crushes aside, I'm up against Knox McCoy in the challenge. And more importantly, my dear, dear Shoveler is up against Jack Sparrow.

Now, I've got nothing against Captain Jack (even though he's not even the right Captain Jack). He has a pretty good hat (though The Shoveler has a better one). But come ON.

The Shoveler is all about honesty and serving the greater good. Jack Sparrow is just focused on himself. Anything that benefits anyone else is simply a happy accident, but it's never his intention.

The Shoveler knows that one really fantastic movie is enough. Jack Sparrow continues in unending sequels that just keep getting more elaborate (read: annoying) as they go along.

The Shoveler is inspiring. He is able to rally an entire crew of terrified super(ish) heroes to take down THE super villain using just an egg salad sandwich. Jack Sparrow gets eaten by a Kraken.

I love Knox, but today he is wrong. And you need to let him know that he is wrong by heading over to Clay's site right now and voting for The Shoveler over Jack Sparrow. The world doesn't need another sellout, mainstream, rockstar protagonist winning again. Help the under-dog and go vote for The Shoveler.

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Who is your favorite movie protagonist? Feel free to say something nice about Knox if you'd like, but make sure you vote for The Shoveler

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

In our huge basement clean out, we stumbled up the following picture. It was taken about 3 minutes after I gave birth to our youngest daughter and about 2 days before I was pregnant with our fourth. The time-line on that might be a little fuzzy. Things are kind of a blur from those days.

Anyway, I'd love for you to tell me what was going through the brain of absolutely anyone in this picture.


Enjoy. Not everyone gets to have a family melt-down captured on film forever. (For the record, we did not have to pay for this picture. Imagine - we got this for FREE. Jealous much?)

ETA: Reader Michael Mock sent me the following. I am HOWLING!


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Monday, March 12, 2012

What I've Been "Do"ing

'do' photo (c) 2011, Jason Taellious - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
This year is already nearly a quarter over and I realized that I hadn't updated on my one word. I chose "do" as my word to shape 2012, and it's been interesting to keep that in mind as I go about my days.

I would say that thus far, I have had mixed results.

In the arena of personal health, I got back to running. I kind of slacked off during the first part of the school year, only getting out on the rare occasion to put feet to the pavement. I joined a local fitness center so that my whining about outside conditions can be thwarted as soon as they pop into my brain.

I have not been nearly as justice minded as I feel that I should be. There are places where I need to become more personally involved. Donating money is good, but I feel like I need to be getting my hands in the mix a bit more. This is an area that could use significant improvement and I'll be tackling it a bit more aggressively in the coming months.

As far as writing goes, I feel as though I've been making some good choices. I've been posting a bit less than last year, but I've also been trying to be more pointed with my writing. In addition to the blog, I've also been working on some other projects that I'm excited about and I hope to be sharing more about that in the coming weeks. (By the way, don't forget about the Not Afraid book - submissions are due this Friday!)

Musically, this has been a very interesting year. I followed up with an opportunity recently that presented itself, so in that regard I feel as though I followed through with my desire to "do" this year, however, I ultimately turned it down. This leaves me feeling a bit conflicted. There's no question in my mind that I made the correct decision, however it feels a bit like a failure to "do." On the other hand, doing just for the sake of doing does not seem to be in the spirit of the one word.

With regard to making some virtual connections more human, this hasn't happened yet, but it's very close. Next month is the Sacred Friendship Gathering, and I'm very much looking forward to meeting several folks out there. If you're in the Chicago area during the last weekend in April, let me know and we'll see what we can work out. And of course, be sure to check out the conference. I recently got a look at the itinerary for the weekend and it's going to be an amazing time. I'm also working on a trip to visit some friends in the Ohio area. So while that hasn't happened yet, it's in the works.

As I said, mixed results.

It can be easy to look at the areas where I have yet to really apply my one word and obsess about them. But I need to remind myself that "obsess" was not my one word, and continue to do where I have begun and look for ways to do in the areas where I have not.

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Are you participating in this year's One Word? How is it going? What have you learned so far? How can I encourage you? And if you're not participating, please enjoy this Homestar Runner video that I think of every single time I say the word "doing."

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

I don't like springing forward. Especially when I was up altogether too early the day before. And couldn't sleep because I wasn't in my bed even though I was exhausted. But never mind that. On to the links!
  • Leigh Kramer has been one of my best teachers about life as a single adult. She wrote about what her This Is How We Met series has taught her. This post (and so many others that she has written) reminds me to be mindful of how I write about things like marriage. 
  • I'm a sucker for the importance of story. Ben Emerson, over at The Whole Dang Thing highlights the importance of story when laying down commands. The guy is nearly done with the Pentateuch. You'd better get over there and start reading now.
  • A great piece by Kara Gebhart Uhl about the judgments we sometimes make as parents.
  • Some straight up exquisite writing from Shawn Smucker about the castles that we build. I cannot wait for his family's big, blue bus to roll up into the Dub Vee.
  • Loved, loved, loved this letter from Paul to his three daughters. Amazing thoughts here. He's a new addition to the blogroll. Check out his stuff - really, really good.
  • Another great post for International Women's Day was by Kathy Escobar. Lots of fantastic thoughts wrapped up here.
  • Gary and Elaine have been busy over at Catalog Living. It looks like Gary is going to have to have a difficult talk with Phil soon.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Leave me a link in the comments!


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Thursday, March 8, 2012

BlogHer Book Club Review: Diary of a Mad Fat Girl by Stephanie McAfee

Stephanie McAfee's Diary of a Mad Fat Girl was originally released as a self-published e-book. Just a few months after she put it out there, it debuted at #31 on the New York Times bestseller list. She stayed there for 12 weeks, got an agent, and got published.

It's an impressive story.

I just wish I liked the book as much as I liked the story of McAfee's road to publishing success.

First, I just felt like the book was overwhelmed with pop culture references. If the book was about pop culture that would be one thing, but they just felt like they were put in for no real purpose. They didn't add to the story, they didn't flesh out the characters. If I picked up this book five years from now, I just think these would make it feel dated and irrelevant.

As for the characters, I felt more like they were caricatures than characters. They felt like they could become something interesting, but there just didn't seem to be any depth to any of them. Lots of things happened, but I didn't feel like any of the events had any kind of impact on the characters. They didn't grow, they didn't change, they didn't evolve. They felt almost like they were in a sit-com where everything would reset at the beginning of the next day.

I also get that this is light reading, but she also wrote about really difficult situations. And it's hard to write about something like domestic abuse as a beach read. The tension just felt off to me the whole time.

I think that Stephanie McAfee has a promising career ahead of her. She has all of the makings of a good book here and obviously a lot of people enjoyed it. But personally, I'd give this Diary of a Mad Fat Girl a pass.

For more discussion about this book, stop by the BlogHer page for Diary of a Mad Fat Girl.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Diary of a Mad Fat Girl by Stephanie McAfee for the purpose of review and was compensated for my review, however, my opinions are 100% my own.

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To My Sons on International Women's Day

Dear, dear boys,

It's International Women's Day, so it would seem to make sense that I would write to your sisters today. But when have I ever done what makes sense?

No, my sons, I'm writing to you because you will be the ones with the power and privilege and you need to know how to use that to make the world better for your sisters and for all of the women that you meet.

You both already have such tender hearts and I love you for that. It makes me proud that you recognize the humanity in the people that you interact with. I wish you'd keep your room cleaner, but this is pretty good too.

Some day soon, you're going to hear another boy in your class say mean things about a girl. Not because she was mean first, but just because she's a girl. And you're going to have to make a decision about how to respond.

You can join in, you can be quiet, or you can ask them to stop. That last one is hard to do. Standing up to your peers can be scary and can leave you in the place where you will be teased or called names as well. I really do get that.

But you have more strength than you know. When you stand up for girls, you are helping other boys make that choice. It might take a while for you (and them) to see that, but it's what you're doing. You're paving the way for others to stand up against negativity when they see it. You're allowing them to know that they don't have to be negative themselves.

As you get older, people are going to tell you that men and women are already treated equally and that feminism isn't something that you need to concern yourself with, especially as a man. In a lot of ways, we are seeing equality. And I hope that as you're older, that will be even more the case.

But when you happen upon inequality, I hope that you'll notice. If you don't notice on your own (and it's okay if you don't - we can't all see everything), I hope that you'll pay attention if someone points it out to you. And I hope that you'll do what you can to change it. It might be something small, it might be something big. Know that making the effort is far more important than the size of the effort.

I know that being 8 and 11 year old boys, you're not thinking about what today means. That's okay. Enjoy what you love. Play Minecraft and Zelda. Run around outside. Stay up too late talking in bed. Be boys.

And when the time comes, remember your power and use it well.

All my love, Mom

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I'm a Slut

'2/52  Thats what they tell me at least' photo (c) 2010, Beautiful Insanity Photography - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

In November of 1996, I began taking oral contraceptives. And in December of that same year, I started having sex. I don't remember the exact date, but I do know that it was the first of many times.

I'd messed around a lot the two and a half years prior. Lots of pushing the envelope as far as it could go without crossing over to sex, and at least a little bit of pushing beyond even that. The only thing that kept me from just going ahead having intercourse was a deathly fear of pregnancy. I was not going to be an unwed mother, so I didn't have sex. But I was sure as hell sexual, and I got as good as I gave.

I've had one sexual partner in my life. And I'm married to him. In the two and a half years before we were married, we were completely faithful to one another. He was the first and only person that has shared my bed.

It can be easy to read those first few paragraphs and call that woman a slut. She was sexually active outside of marriage. She engaged in sex as soon as the threat of pregnancy was removed. She was an active and enthusiastic sexual partner.

I knew all of the reasons why I should wait. I even agreed with them. And before I met Jason, there was never any question that I would wait. I wanted to be with someone that I loved and who loved me back. I wanted to be with someone who was fully committed to me. I wanted to be with someone that I intended to spend my life with.

Jason was all of those things.

But he was all of those things for two and a half years before we were officially married.

And this is where the word slut is problematic to me. Not only because it demeans women, but because it is generally used about women who aren’t ashamed of being sexual. Women who say, “Yes, I want to have sex and I want to have an orgasm when I do.” Women who don’t have sex coupled with regret.

When we use this phrase, whether loudly on the radio or in whispers in church, we wrap sex, and particularly the female enjoyment of sex, in a huge blanket of shame.

When we teach our daughters “don't be a slut,” we aren’t simply teaching them to be faithful to their future husband. We aren’t simply teaching them to respect themselves. We aren’t simply teaching them to value marriage and fidelity and oneness.

When we use that word they may hear those lessons, but it comes with extra baggage. When we say "don't be a slut," we’re teaching them that if they do have sex outside of marriage, they had better feel terrible about it. They can never admit to enjoying it. And they should never, ever, ever be the one to pursue it.

These messages stick with you, regardless of your sexual activity. Whether it becomes something that you fear or you pursue recklessly, sex loses that which makes it truly sacred - the ability of two to become one.

You may consider my past behavior to be slutty. You may consider my current behavior to be slutty.

All I know is that I want the same thing today that I have wanted every day since the first time Jason kissed me, and that's to be curled up naked with him.

If that makes me a slut, then I'm a slut.

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Today I'm linking up with Joy in this Journey for Life: Unmasked, where we share life openly. Click here to see the other posts and to leave your own.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What To Do With Madness

'Angry Eyes!' photo (c) 2008, Alan Bruce - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I read a sexist comment from a prominent pastor and I get mad.

I hear blatant lies from a Christian organization and I get mad.

I see fear being used to score political points and I get mad.

I discover another layer of depravity among my fellow humans and I get mad.

Every day, there are things that happen that contribute to my madness. Sometimes I feel like the only viable response to all of the hatred and falsehoods and injustice is anger. Shake my fist at the sky and scream obscenities. More often than I'd like to admit, that is my lone response.

Madness doesn't have to be my only option. It may be the first stop, but it by no means has to be the destination.

Instead, I can take that anger and allow it to fuel something better, something less mad. I can use that emotion to find my way to action.

I can remind my daughters that they are lovely young women who have much to offer to those they meet.

I can share truth where lies have prevailed.

I can spread peace where there was previously dissent.

I can seek out the layers of kindness and compassion that humans have for one another.

I can do these things and replace my madness with happiness.

Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you.
God's Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others.
Now make me completely happy!
Live in harmony by showing love for each other.
Philippians 2:1-2a (CEV)

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What kinds of things make you mad? How can you turn that anger into something productive?

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This is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. You can read more submissions and add your own here.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Sorting Through the Trash

'Tuesday Stroll  #13' photo (c) 2007, Alan Stanton - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/This Saturday, Jason and I spent the afternoon cleaning out our basement. In the eleven years that we've lived here, I don't know if we've ever cleaned out our basement. Bits and pieces maybe, but no serious cleaning. Heck, we're not great at keeping the parts that people DO see in great shape. Places that no one ever goes? Not a priority. But we want to get a new furnace in sooner than later and that means the basement has to be cleared out.

Despite the hugeness of the task, we're both very motivated to have central air put in before the summer hits. Me, because I hate being hot, and Jason, because I hate being hot. So we braved the mess and started the task of sorting through our history together.

I've got to be honest, a lot of this stuff we've carried with us since we were first married, four residences ago. Some of our more interesting discoveries:
  • a 3.5' floppy disk with baby pictures of our oldest (I guess we thought that format was coming back?)
  • also on 3.5' floppy, start up disks for Windows 95
  • a brilliant Awkward Family Photo (I'll post that soon, I promise)
  • an electric typewriter
  • a checkbook from 1997 for a bank that closed several years back
The curb outside our house is now piled high with old college papers, AOL disks, and Christian heavy metal cds. After years of holding onto stuff, we're finally just throwing it away.

But in the cleaning, we also found some things worth keeping.
  • pictures of my grandfather with our kids
  • a cd of Edward Elgar piano compositions that I haven't listened to in years
  • old letters from when Jason and I were dating
  • a quilt that my great-aunt made for us when Jason and I first got married
  • a Bible that my parents gave me as a birthday present in 1981
Sorting through all of those boxes and bags and piles was a lot of work. You don't easily go through 11 years of accumulated junk with ease.

It's dirty. Our basement isn't finished, so dust is regularly falling from the ceiling. When it rains really hard, there's some leakage, so some water gets in, so there's some mold. The "ick" factor for this project was pretty off the chart.

It's embarrassing. Seriously, eleven years is a long time to not go through some of this crap. Once it piles up, it can feel absolutely overwhelming and you just keep putting it off, because really, who is going to the basement? It can be hidden, so it's easy to ignore. But not really.

It's tiring. Spending the day bent over boxes leaves your back aching. Walking up and down the steps with heavy garbage bags is exhausting. Throwing in another load of laundry to wash things before you take them to the mission is repetitive. The whole day just left us feeling beat.

It's sad. There were some sentimental things that we've been holding onto that we had to let go. For some things we had to ask ourselves, "Is just having it enough of a reason to keep it?" And for some items, the answer was no. 

It was hard work. It took us a lot of time and there's still a lot more to do. We've got a lot more ahead of us. But the end result will be worth it.

Put everything to the test. Accept what is good.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

The weekend. Time for catching up on home projects, relaxation, and a week's worth of blog posts.

  • Absolutely loved this post from Joy Bennett about when she and her husband found that their daughter would need a heart transplant on leap day, twelve years ago. Joy's honesty never ceases to amaze me.
  • Tamara Lunardo rocked it with her poem about personal responsibility
  • Also rocking the poetry was David Nilsen with his piece, St. Lucie
  • Jeff Goins has some really good words to share about finding your passion, and some of the lies that stand in the way of you recognizing that.
  • Mason Slater asks some interesting questions about sacred spaces. I will definitely be looking forward to seeing where that discussion goes.
  • This post may be hard to read, but Caleb Wilde addresses the topic of abortion as an act of mercy. Difficult stuff to sort through, but another look at an issue that can seem very black and white.
  • Last night I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch "8", a play about the Proposition 8 trial out in California. Dustin Lance condensed the trial transcripts and an all-star cast got together for this staged reading of the play. The trial parts are directly from the transcripts - they aren't embellished or made up. David Boies, lawyer for the plaintiffs said last night, "We put fear and prejudice on trial and as you can see, fear and prejudice lost." If you've ever wondered why the word marriage matters to a gay or lesbian couple rather than just being in a domestic partnership, I encourage you to watch this. The words from the testimonies of the plaintiffs are incredibly poignant. You can catch the whole thing here.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link it up in the comments!


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday Evening Blog Post: February 2012 Edition

Elizabeth Esther is hosting her monthly link-up of posts once again. I always find at least a few interesting posts there. I recommend taking some time to click through to some of the posts.

For this month, I've linked up the post We're All Stories. I've taken this week off to work on an e-book, and it deals with this idea as it relates to friendship. I look forward to sharing it with you!

In the meantime, head over to Elizabeth's place and link up your favorite post from last month. And feel free to leave a link here as well, just in case I miss it over there.

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