Count it Joy

This is where I should say “though I am weary, I will trust in the Lord.” Or perhaps, “Count it all joy!”

But I won’t.

Because, sometimes life is just hard or frustrating. And that’s okay.

The evangelical in me wants to dismiss my frustration by some forced worship of God in knowing that He works all things for good for those that love Him. But that’s a very easy thing to say. And a very unhealthy way to dismiss my own frustration.

I’m in a period of life where I find myself in limbo. I’m ready to move to start my life with my love. The American government, however, has not yet given me that go ahead. So we wait.

I’ve been patient for much of this. But at this point, I can tell you: this sucks.

It doesn’t make me any less of a Christian for acknowledging this. It doesn’t make me an ungrateful daughter of God to complain about a situation that is stressful. It makes me honest. It makes me sincere. It allows me to go to God and say, “you know what? This is hard and it sucks and I hate it. I don’t want to do this anymore. ”

And I know my prayer is heard.

All we have to do is open the book of Psalms to understand that complaining about hard situations and feeling the pain in the midst of that is actually okay. Good, even.

Evangelicalism has a problem when it comes to emotions.

We like to pretend that negative emotions do not exist.

If we’re sad or depressed, we’re not trusting God enough.

If we’re angry, we have a spirit of bitterness that we need to repent.

If we’re anxious, we have lost sight of who we are in Christ.

If we’re afraid, we’re allowing spirits of fear to oppress us. Because there is no fear in love.

Can I just say to all of that: bull. Shit.

God is a Being filled with emotions, including the so called “negative” ones. He created us in His image to have emotions also. Emotions are good!

I think, very often, evangelicals lack tools to help build tools for emotional health. We’ve been trained to see big feelings as having some sort of spiritual significance.

This is especially true for those of us who grew up in the James Dobson/Focus on the Family era, where children are seen as inherently sinful and need to be broken to be fit to serve Christ.

So when a young child, who lacks the ability to regulate emotions, experiences big “negative” emotions, her behaviour is automatically seen as sinful. She is punished in what is seen as an appropriate way (usually in some physical way such as spanking) to help drive home the point that she is bad for feeling her feelings.

A child who grows up in a home with these values will, inevitably, have problems understanding his or her emotions in a helpful way. He or she has been taught from the beginning that his or her hard feeling come from a bad place. These feelings must be crushed and flipped into a worshipful attitude towards God.

That is not healthy. This only compounds the problem.

It’s like if I told you just now: do not picture in your mind a pink elephant because God said that’s bad. What did you just think of? The elephant, I’m assuming. You can try not think of it, but it’s there all the same.

When we suppress our emotions, they don’t actually disappear no matter how badly we may want them to. They get buried, and they turn into bigger problems leading to things like anxiety, depression, anger*. All of which will fester and deepen as long as those feelings remain unresolved.

These negative emotions, if not dealt with, also lead to physical health problems.

But doesn’t the Bible say to “count it all joy?”

Let’s look:

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,a whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1

Notice that James is not denying there are actual hard things happening here. He’s not telling his audience to ignore that. He’s telling them “yes, shitty thing happen, but you might find comfort in knowing that God is using this time to strengthen your faith. Keep going.”

He’s not telling deny their own emotions or encourage a false sense of joy. He’s attempting to encourage them that God has not forgotten them.

For me, I’m in a stressful period of my life. But I know it won’t last forever. I know a year from now, this will all be worth it because I’ll be home with the love of my life – and it gives me hope to look forward to that.

But for now, I get stressed and I get frustrated. I don’t want to be dealing with it and I want this part over with. That’s a very valid way for me to feel. And I will be honest with God that I feel this way.

But I won’t feel joyful because it’s somehow more holy than feeling frustrated.

*To be clear: I am not attempting to discuss mental illness, which can have a big impact on how and why emotions are felt.

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Damaged Goods: The Book

Damaged Goods by Dianna E. Anderson is my latest read.

Oh. My. Lanta. You need to read this now. All of you. Stop what you’re doing and hop over to Amazon and get a copy. Then come back to finish reading this, please.

This is the book I wish I’d read before I started dating. This is also the book I’m so glad I read before I had children because there are so many things in here I want to teach any child I have. Anderson does an amazing job of addressing purity culture and the conservative evangelical views on premarital sex (and sex in general).

Anderson begins her book by showing, in detail, the cultural events that led to the modern day evangelical views on sexuality. And then immediately tackles the Scriptures used by the church to enforce a very narrow ethic of sexuality. She goes into the historical context of each passage and examines them to see if they are, in fact, teaching what the church says they are.

She talks about abstinence only sex ed, and how it’s failing kids in multiple ways. She talks about consent, and how poorly understood it is within conservatism. She talks about how people within the evangelical community, particularly women, are woefully uneducated about their own bodies – which leads to big problems when sex finally enters the picture.

Anderson goes beyond all of the nitty gritty of the actual physical side of entering into a sexual relationship, and explores the idea that it is important to give oneself permission to explore their own sexuality in order to determine their own sexual ethics.

The book also addresses how emotional intelligence is absolutely essential to understanding one’s own sexuality; in order to understand your own desires more fully you must also understand your emotions and where they spring from.

Finally, Anderson does not simply leave the discussion at the harm inflicted upon straight white folks. The book also focuses on how people of color have been impacted by the purity culture. Damaged Goods also devotes space to discuss the erasure of LGBT experiences within the evangelical church and in the entire purity topic.

Anderson’s overriding message in this book is not to give her readers a whole new rule book on sexuality to replace purity culture. Instead, Anderson encourages her audience to question and to push back. She wants to see people developing their own personal ethics based on their own study and understanding of what Scripture says, rather than toe the line because that is what the culture demands of us. The reader is encouraged to wait for marriage, if that is one’s conviction, or to explore safe and consensual sex however they choose. Anderson encourages her readers to trust their own minds and their own feelings as they wrestle with these ideas.

If you are dating (or about to start dating): buy this book. If you are waiting for marriage: buy this book. If you are sexually active: buy this book. If you are married: buy this book. If you have, or hope to have, children and you want to empower them to have agency over their own minds and bodies: you got it! Buy this book.

I simply cannot recommend it enough.

The Gaslighter

Mike and Sharon are having a disagreement.

Sharon: Penguins can’t fly.

Mike: Of course they can. That’s why they have wings.

Sharon: Not all winged birds can fly. Ostriches don’t fly, and neither do emus. Penguins also cannot fly – their wings evolved to be able to swim. Not fly.

Mike: Yeah. That’s what I was trying to say. They have wings to be able to move better like all other birds. Only they “fly” in the water instead of the air. You just misunderstood me.

Sharon: …

This is an absolutely ridiculous conversation, and a completely made up one. I’m pretty confident, however, that any woman reading this can relate to having had similar conversations with men.

These are the discussions that leave us scratching our heads and asking ourselves, “what the hell just happened?” One minute we’re confident that we are in a disagreement and the next it’s been flipped around on us so that we are now in the wrong for disagreeing with a man who was “right” all along. We feel the feelings of shame and embarrassment that come along with that – all so that the man we’re talking to can preserve his ego.

There’s a term for this: gaslighting. This is when someone is attempting to take control of a person with subtle (sometimes overt) lies that distort their perception of reality. The gaslighting victim cannot trust their own senses to tell them what the truth of the situation is, and must now rely on the person gaslighting them to interpret reality for them.

It’s a big red flag of abusive and destructive relationships. Both men and women can be guilty of doing this to one another.

But it is also a tool that men, who are still drinking the koolaid of the patriarchy, often use on the women around them. They do this because of the lie that men are smarter and must teach women – not the other way around (this is also the root cause of the phenomenon known as mansplaining). To be proven wrong by a woman is to be emasculated.

I had a similar exchange just yesterday with a man who claims to be egalitarian. He was slut-shaming Hollywood actresses for not dressing more modestly. When I pushed back on it and called out the sexism of his views, I was met with the line, “that’s not what I meant. You misunderstood me.”

He had lost the upper ground and his sexism was beginning to show which made him, a self-proclaimed egalitarian, look bad.

(The conversation continued with him eventually doubling down on the slut-shaming. Apparently, I didn’t misunderstand him)

Women, be on the alert for this manipulation tactic by the men around you. If you feel safe to do so, call the gaslighter on it. Push back on it. It’s inappropriate for any discussion. We do not have to tolerate it in our lives.

Men, you also need to be aware that this is a common occurrence for women. We need you to hold other men accountable when you witness them doing this to us. We need you to call out each other when men attempt to manipulate us. Be our safe ally. Stand with us. Fight with us.

Let’s work together to make this sort of nonsense a thing of the past.

Feelings Are Not a Threat to Our Spiritual Safety

The heart is deceitful. We can not trust our own emotions. We must use reason above all else because God gave us brains and He intends us to use them.

If you’re like me, these are all things you’ve likely been told during your entire experience with the conservative evangelical church. We’re told to fear our own senses and emotions. Especially when our emotions are negative and/or are in response to something to do with church. In extreme situations, such verses can even used as a safeguard to prevent people from seeking help for mental health outside of the church and the Bible.

We’re taught that the devil uses our emotions to deceive us and lead us into sin. That we cannot truly rely on what they are telling us.

But is this really the case? Is this the picture that Scripture presents?

From what I have studied, I would have to say “no”.

I want to take a quick look at some examples of emotion used through Scripture.

I think the most prominent example that springs to mind immediately is the David – the man after Gods own heart. He was a highly emotional human being. He loved his friends deeply (1 Samuel 18, 1 Samuel 20). He felt great joy (2 Samuel 6:12-15, Psalm 9:1-2). David felt the emptiness and sting of abandonment (Psalm 22:1-2). He felt compassion (1 Samuel 26:7-12, 2 Samuel 9). He felt helplessness (Psalm 35:17). He felt fear (Psalm 69:1-5 Psalm 70). He felt anger (2 Samuel 12:5-6, Psalm 109:1-20). He felt depression (Psalm 22:1-19).

And not once does Scripture indicate that David was in sin because of his emotions.

There’s a reason that the Psalms are so beloved by so many, including the unreligious. They resonate with us. David was expressing the deepest emotions of his soul. He did not filter out his feelings or repress them out of concern that they might lead him away from God. He used his emotions as a way to connect with his God. He knew that his emotions were not inherently bad. He knew they were natural. He did not fear them.

Perhaps this was because he knew, having such an intimate connection with God, that the Creator of Heaven and earth is also a Being filled with emotions. And he knew that this God would understand his feelings. Because God not only created us to feel feelings – God Himself experiences the same emotions that we do.

God understands joy (John 15:11). He understands sadness (Genesis 5:5-7). He understands rejection (1 Samuel 8:7, Isaiah 1:2-4). He understands compassion (Psalm 145:9, Zechariah 10:6, Revelation 7:13-17). He understands longing (Matthew 23:37). He understands anger (Psalm 78:56-59).

And never once does Scripture indicate that God is a sinner.

If He is allowed to feel and express His emotions. Why do we actively try to stop ourselves from feeling and expressing our own?

“Counting it all joy” does not mean that we do not feel real pain. It does not mean we do not feel deep hurt and sadness. It does not mean that we don’t suffer. If the Bible commands us to mourn with those who mourn, we have to take that as a command to not only embrace our own hard feelings as real and worthy of our attention to properly process, but it’s something we must actively encourage in each other.

Science backs this up.

Mary Ainsworth’s work was instrumental in discovering the necessity for secure emotional attachment between infants/children and their caregivers/parents in the 1960s and 1970s. Research since then has shown the tragic impact on mental health for infants who do not gain that secure attachment to help them learn proper tools for their own emotional regulation.

Dr. Gabor Maté wrote an entire book on the very physical need to understand and process our emotions (When the Body Says “No”: The Cost of Hidden Stress.) Brené Brown has devoted her career to researching emotion and why it is necessary for us to understand our feelings.

And all of this starts with allowing ourselves to feel our feelings. It starts with learning to label our feelings. It starts with learning to understand where our feelings come from and why.

It starts with learning to accept that our feelings are very real parts of ourselves that demand and deserve to be known.

Feelings are not a threat to our spiritual safety. They are the key to our emotional and mental health.

Originally posted on Christian Post: Voices

Erotica for Punjabi Widows

Someone suggested this book in a Facebook group I’m in a couple of months ago. From the title alone, I assumed that it was another “50 shades of grey”-esque novel. But after seeing others recommend the book, I finally put it on hold at the library. I picked it up on Wednesday and finished it today.

Oh. My. Lanta.

It’s nothing like what I was expecting.

There is spice, as the title suggests, and you should not read it if graphic depictions of sex bother you. But it is so so so so much more than that. The spicy passages are less than ten percent of the actual book, I’d say.

The actual story has so many levels to it.

It’s about a young Sikh woman named Nikki who had more or less drifted from her Sikh community. She defies her family’s expectations of her by dropping out of university. She is living on her own and working at a pub in London, which is all sorts of scandalous in her family’s world.

In need of work, she accepts a job at a Sikh temple that is supposed to be teaching creative writing to widows. But language barriers mean crossed wires, and she actually ends up responsible for a class filled with widows who don’t know the basics of reading and writing.

Somehow or other, things get further confused. The class quickly becomes less about learning to read and write, and more about coming up with stories that allow the women to discuss and explore their sexuality – something they’ve never had the freedom to do before this class.

They have to ensure that no one discovers what they’re actually doing in these classes, or face the consequences in their community of indulging in what is considered filth.

The book brings us into the lives of several widows. Some aged. Some young. Some extremely conservative and loyal to the honour of family and community. Some open to quietly challenging the boundaries and limitations of belonging to an honour-based society.

Topics such as child marriage and honour killing are discussed. We also see a difference in approach to finding life partners: arranged marriage versus love marriage. We learn about the politics of navigating a culture that is built upon fulfilling expected rules and honouring the family and community at large with your life’s choices.

Balli Kaur Jaswal, who wrote this marvellous book, did an excellent job of capturing the tension that Nikki feels in attempting to live a so-called “modern life”, while still being attached to her Sikh roots and what it means to juggle the two very different cultures in her life.

I feel like my eyes have been opened to a whole new world in reading this book. I have so many more thoughts left that I have to process. And I may come back later with a new post to discuss further.

But for now: go read this book.

An Apology to the LGBTQ+ Church

Current status: I’m sitting on a Bolt Bus waiting at the US border to continue my journey to see the love of my life and get a much needed break from work and life.

And I just finished Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. The more I see from this woman, the more in awe of her wisdom I stand. Her words tend to clarify thoughts and feelings I’ve had, but in a much more articulate way than I could ever express.

And tonight I had a moment as I read through this book. I’m not quite sure how to truly describe this moment. Perhaps retrospective repentance could be a good term.

She describes the moment that World Vision made the decision to allow those in same-sex marriages to work for them. And the fallout they experienced.

She goes on to describe the “gut punch” she felt when word reached her that World Vision had reversed its decision and all of those boycotters returned and asked for their sponsor kids back.

I must confess that I remember when this happened. I remember the outrage coming from what I considered to be my community then: the conservative Christians. Those who adamantly opposed same sex marriage because it was viewed as a threat to the gospel. For some reason.

By the time I cared enough to look into what was going on to any extent, World Vision had already reversed its decision. And I was left thinking, “well that was a waste of emotional energy from Christians.”

It was lost on me at the time that there was an entire community of Christians, and their allies, who would be hurting deeply by this.

All I cared about was that the status quo had been maintained. And when I saw that all was well on that front, I paid no further attention to what had happened.

To those who were hurt by World Vision, I apologize for not caring more for what you were experiencing. I apologize for not seeing beyond my own limited corner of the world. I apologize for being unable to empathize with you.

I now see that entire situation through fresh eyes. When Rachel described her pain, I felt it too. I wanted to cry for the pain that had been caused. I wanted to cry because I saw how I was part of the problem. And if it wasn’t for people like me, there’d be a hell of a lot less hurt done in Jesus’ name.

Forgive me, dear LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Forgive me for how I let you down and left you to shoulder your own hurt and pain for far too long. There is no excuse. I loved my cishet church culture too much. I listened to the wrong people. And I ignored those I should have been listening too.

To the rest of the church: let’s end the hurt and the pain. We need to tear down these artificial walls we’ve constructed that separate us from our brothers and sisters. We need to end the pharisaical approach we’ve adopted that lets us think we have any right to judge who can be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Because that transgender woman? She’s perfectly capable of serving along side you at church.

That gay man? God hears his song when he worships on Sunday morning.

That non-binary teenager? They’re watching you to see if you are serving them with the love of Christ or pushing them away with hate in God’s name.

For the love of God: let them see Christ in us. Not hate for their supposed sin. Not hate for them. Just Christ: loving them. Accepting them. Serving them. Befriending then. With no agenda.

Someone’s life very well may depend on it.

Thoughts on “Dating and Waiting”

Wait for your spouse. Delight yourself in the Lord, and become the person you need to be – then you will be ready for your spouse. Do not take dating into your own hands, because that is equal to playing God. Have faith, and God will deliver your spouse.

This concept came up in a discussion earlier. And it made me cringe. A lot.

This is a concept I was raised to believe. At one time, I felt like quite the little rebel for signing up to a dating site. I made sure I told absolutely no one, because I didn’t want people to think I actually wanted a relationship. Even if I did.

And I did.

No. I was supposed to wait. I was supposed to wait for my Prince Charming to notice me and pursue me passionately.

I was supposed to be like my parents who met at church – when my father was engaged to another woman (no, they didn’t start dating until long after that engagement ended. Their story sadly lacks drama).

I was supposed to be like my former pastor who met his wife at Bible college and became her shy secret admirer long before he worked up the nerve to ask her out.

(Fun fact: during a period of extraordinary bad health that forced me to put my own Bible college plans on hold, I was told that the reason I couldn’t go was because my future husband wasn’t ready for me. Because you know… that’s why God wants educated women: so we can find husbands)

(Yes, that last sentence ^^ was sarcasm)

I certainly wasn’t supposed to meet a man because I was looking for him. How forward! A man can’t lead if his woman takes initiative!

So I secretly and rebelliously proceeded to take my dating life into my own hands.

Nothing real ever came out of it. I met a bunch of guys who mainly wanted a subservient wife (my favourite was the KJV Only fundie who specifically said he wanted a complementarian wife to bear him six children and homeschool them all. And this was after I put in my profile that I was a feminist. And that I was only interested in dating feminist men).

I met guys who were legitimate jerkwads. Like the guy whose first question to me was, “so what specifically about my profile made you think you would be a good match for me?”

And the guy who told me, in response to my saying that I didn’t feel like things were working out, “well that’s okay. You’re not spiritually mature enough for me anyway. But if you give me a chance, I can mentor you to a place where you could actually deserve me. What do you say?”

(My response was wordy and long and best summed up by two specific words: one of which started with a capital F.)

I met sweet guys that would be great catches for other women. But not matches for me.

None of these turned out to be “the one”, but it all was good for me in that I learned from these experiences. I learned what my boundaries were. I learned what I didn’t want in my life (and what I did!). I don’t regret ever once taking control of my own dating life.

I’ve confessed my interest to my crushes. I’ve asked men out. I don’t actually do the waiting thing very well. Because waiting is maddening and painful.

The year my fiancé and I started dating was the year I decided to start dating again after a long hiatus. I had fallen into a rut where I stopped taking control of my own life. I had started waiting for my great love to show himself. I began to invest romantic hopes in someone I shouldn’t have nurtured those sorts of feelings for.

But when I started to develop feelings for my fiancé, something inside me woke up. I wasn’t going to be that girl again. I wasn’t going to wait for him. I wasn’t going to invest in him that way. I was going to start dating other men and see who I might meet. And what might happen.

I only dated three men that year.

One was a pilot in training who loved classical music. He was a nice guy, but not the man for me. He was always going to be more like a buddy than a true love.

One was in school to become a doctor. And we bonded over our shared interest in music, Star Wars, and traveling. Also a nice guy, but our needs in a relationship were very different.

One was the man to whom I am now engaged.

And you know that line about needing to become a certain person before you meet your spouse? Yeah. That’s BS. I did grow and I changed a lot before my fiancé and I started dating. But I still have a lot of growing to do. I’ve changed since we started dating, and I’m still growing and changing. And I will for the rest of my life. And so will he. Only difference is that now we can do it together.

Don’t sit around. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for someone to show up on your doorstep. Because God is not interested in doing your work for you. And don’t wait for that crush to get it together and ask you out.

If the person you like isn’t available, don’t invest in them as if they were. Be kind to yourself and let yourself see that there actually are lots of fish in the sea.

And date. Date for the sake of dating. Date to learn how to date. Date to learn about yourself.

Don’t stop working on yourself. Don’t stop growing. And don’t use your season of growth as a reason not to date.

And if that dating leads to forever love, that’s amazing. If not – if you choose to remain single, or perhaps your love actually is sitting in the pew in front of you on Sunday mornings – you’ve given yourself new experiences to learn from.

And hopefully you’ve created good memories to make you smile and adventures to make you grow.

How We View Our (Future) Children Matters

My worldview on childcare has shifted quite dramatically over the last 5 years. In no small part due to my professional work with children.

Before I started working with children, I had a very conservative understanding of childcare, child development, what it means to be a parent.

I wanted 5 children. I couldn’t wait to get married so I could fulfill my life’s purpose and become a wife and a mother. I believed in raising children to train them to behave a certain way. I believed that spanking was an essential part of discipline (worse, I believed it was commanded by God), and I looked down on parents who refused to use corporal punishment on their children for spoiling their children.

Now I’m horrified by my old beliefs.

Now I am a strong advocate of children’s rights over parents’ rights. I believe in the power of positive discipline over authoritarianism. And how I view my role in my future children’s lives has completely changed.

Shame-based punishments are no longer things I can support.

I believe spanking, as an example, is inherently harmful to a child.

There are studies that can link the use of physical punishment to mental health disorders/illness. This is largely in keeping with what we know about stress effects on developing brains leading to mental illness and chronic pain disorders.

What I’ve found to be more helpful for both the child and the relationship is what is referred to as time-ins. This is when you take the child out of the environment where the unwelcome behaviour was triggered. You help them calm themselves – sit with them. Offer distractions. Sing to them. And when they are calm, you can discuss what happened. You can discuss what tools the child needs to avoid a repeat and you can discuss if consequences are necessary to help the child learn (perhaps too much screen time is triggering? Time to cut down or put the ipad out of reach for awhile, etc…).

The goal is never: how can I make the child feel bad for their behaviour? But rather: what is the cause behind this behaviour and how can we learn from this situation and help this child/parent/caregiver grow (sometimes parents/caregivers have to acknowledge their own roles in triggering an upsetting situation too).

I used to associate having children with my own personal fulfillment and happiness. And while I still believe that I would be happy if I do one day choose to become a mother (it likely won’t be to five kids!), what that happiness means to me has changed.

Just like any other relationship (romantic, friendship, professional, etc…) there is a boundary as to what constitutes a healthy attachment. If that person’s existence is linked to your happiness, there’s likely an unhealthy balance of some sort.

If that relationship is something that adds to your happiness and shares in it rather than being the direct cause of it, you’ve likely found a healthy dynamic.

This is where a study on attachment theory can come in handy (Google has all the good links if you search for them).

What I anticipated having with my children, unknowingly, was an anxious attachment with my emotional needs being met instead of the children’s. I wanted kids so that I could feel needed, happy, wanted, fulfilled, valued, etc…

I’ve noticed this is exceedingly common, especially for those of us raised in conservative backgrounds where gender roles are emphasized (also true for romantic relationships, but that’s a topic for another post and another day).

If you are told that your value comes from having and raising babies, you’re going to hold tightly on to that role. Your value is not found inherently in yourself, it’s found in your little people. And that’s going to be a very unhealthy relationship where boundaries are likely to be lacking, and children will likely be taught they can’t and shouldn’t have agency. Because, after all, they exist for your happiness and your sense of value.

And if a child is not allowed agency, that can lead to all sorts of problems that can range from relationship problems, to low self-esteem, to vulnerability to predators.

What I’ve since learned in my work with children is that, if I were to become a mother, my life will have to be about my kids, not the other way around.

My job will be to teach them how to grow into the best people they can be. To give them the tools they need to grow to become thriving and functioning adults. My job will be to teach them to be independent and assertive so they can care for themselves. My job will be to give them to tools they need for emotional intelligence and regulation. My job will be to teach them to be caring and empathetic people so they can have healthy relationships. My job will be to meet their emotional needs first and to model the behaviour I want to see in them.

If I believe, as my conservative culture raised me to believe, that my job is to break my kids so they will learn to be submissive and to honour myself and their father and bring us happiness… that image is flipped. In that situation, the children exist to meet my needs and their father’s needs: ease of parenting, ego, affirmation of being a good parent, etc…

They become little more than things to be molded as I see fit. And not people whose autonomy is to be respected.

This is problematic.

I’m sure some may read this post and think “she just works with kids. She doesn’t have any of her own. She’ll be singing a different tune when she’s a mom.” And yeah, you may be right. I’m quite certain that my views on child-rearing will change and evolve with my work and if I should ever choose to become a mom. As they should. We should all be opened to being challenged and accepting that we may need to learn something new. Right now I follow where science and studies have led.

And I follow where my own experience has led which is: the gentle and empathetic approach that assumes the best of a person will always be what gets through to people – big and small – over the authoritarian approach which assumes a person is inherently bad and demands unquestioned obedience from her/him.

Braving The Wilderness with Brené

I just finished this book mere moments ago.

Wow.

I feel like this is the book I should have read about 15 years ago. When I didn’t understand the difference between fitting in and belonging. I didn’t understand boundaries. I didn’t even know who I was, really.

This is the book I should have read 5 years ago before I walked into the wilderness in my life and I suddenly had to stand on my own two feet. I found myself without a tribe to belong to, and that’s a very lonely and scary feeling (Jen Hatmaker even contributes a few words in this book on her experience in the wilderness which made me tear up and go, “omg – she’s writing my exact life story!”)

Brown discusses what it means to truly belong to yourself. This means you don’t fold on your convictions because the world stands in disagreement. It means you don’t change yourself in order to find a tribe you fit in with.

She talks about owning ourselves, the meaning of which she sums up with the acronym, “BRAVING”:

She discusses issues of polarity that plague our society – specifically politics. And how to respect others in order to find common ground. This means knocking down the walls that divide us. This means we cannot “otherize” those who disagree with our beliefs. Yes, that means you’ve got to start seeing that Trump supporter or that Liberal as a human being with feelings, thoughts, and inherent value in this world – just like you. They aren’t the enemy.

(She was preaching to me hard on that topic)

She even touches on the gun debate, but you’ve likely seen some of her words on that floating around in light of the Parkland shooting.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

Go to your local library and reserve a copy today.

Books, books, books!

(Title to be read, obviously, in Becky’s voice from How I Met Your Mother as she cheered for “boats, boats, boats!”)

So last year, I gave myself the goal of reading 100 books.

I failed epically. I ended up cheating towards the end of the year and amending my GoodReads goal to 50. I made it to 40 books finished.

This year, I was going to be smarter. I created the goal of reading 60 books in 2018. And so far, I’m doing okay. I *just* finished book #6.

Before I get to that one, I’ll just catch you up real quick on what I’ve read:

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Excellent. I read it in about 24 hours. And I ugly cried multiple times. My fiancé tried asking me about the book when I finished and I was very emotional in trying to describe it. Apparently I screamed in his ear 🤷🏻‍♀️

2. The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Alicia F. Lieberman

Also excellent. It’s a really great book for understanding the world that our littles live in. It describes everything from attachment theory to how littles understand their bodies and sexuality (spoiler: that transgender phase you’re worried about? Normal and part of healthy development. Let your little man wear your heels and pearls). I’d highly recommend it to anyone who works with littles and any parents/those considering having children.

3. Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

I love Sarah Bessey. She’s a leader within the Christian feminist movement. She’s done so much good in ensuring that Christian women know that they have value within the Christian community. And that we can do so much more for our faith communities than remain limited to the roles that we’ve been taught since birth are reserved for us and us alone.

This particular book is about her deconstruction from modern evangelicalism and how she pieces together her faith again. I identified with her so very much. And it was healing to know that someone I truly respect has been there and come through the other end in good shape.

4. When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté

Oh. My. Lanta. Such a good book on the link between stress/improper emotional regulation/expression and illness. I’d highly recommend this one to everyone.

5. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

This was… okay. I was highly intrigued by the plot (a world where abortion and IVF treatments are made illegal and punishable by length prison sentences). I was only disappointed because I felt the ending was unresolved and would have loved to get to know the characters better. But the book itself was great for the provoking of thoughts.

6. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker. My latest accomplishment.

This was a really really great read. I’ve been following her on Facebook for awhile. I’ve come to really respect her views on life and faith. But I’d never actually picked up one of her books. Until now.

Her writing style is very disarming. A chapter on her life. A chapter on her thoughts about God. A chapter of recipes. A chapter on how tos with great advice on this like “how to ruin your toddler’s life”, “how to grow an insanely long chin or neck hair when you’re thirty-seven”, and “how to get uninvited back to a home décor store.”

It reads more like a print copy of her blog. Which is great. It makes for quick reading and it helps to absorb the deeper things she’s saying when the whole book is about alllllll kinds of different things.

I’d highly recommend this book 👍🏻 in fact, stop what you’re doing now and order a copy.

While you do that, I’ll be over here getting started on book #7.