Monday, December 17, 2018

The misinterpretation of loving your enemies.

When I was in high school, at the beginning of the year, my biology teacher had us fill out a questionnaire about ourselves as a “get to know you.” One of the questions was something along the lines of what is something about you that many people don’t know? And I was blank. What on earth was there to say about me? I struggled similarly when people asked me what I did for fun or what my hobbies were. If I had answered honestly, I would have said, “Hanging out with my friends, getting good grades in school, and being alive.” Perhaps in that order. The truth was, I did not have any energy left in my life but to do the bare minimum of what was required of me and…survive. In reality, I was surviving gross emotional abuse at the hands of my parents (the physical abuse was always secondary in frequency and impact and barely worth mentioning). The amount of energy left for knowing who I was or what I liked was just nonexistent.

But now that I’m older and have seen the effects of that abuse play out over time, I’m beginning to wonder what was worse, the abuse? Or the bologna that was fed to me by well-meaning Christian people around me about “being the bigger person” and “loving your enemy?” Telling a child who is being abused that he or she should shut up and tolerate their abuse is… also a form of child abuse.

I tried countless times to make peace with my abusers. To see their side of things. To give grace. To respectfully disagree. But all it got me was more abuse.

That’s the problem. You cannot tell someone who is under the authority of their abuser to be the bigger person, love their enemy, or whatever hogwash people try to tell you. It. Does. Not. Work. And it heaps extra harm onto an already barely-surviving person.  

I have been living in literal, physical freedom for 17 years, but it’s taken all that time and more to recover what was lost in me. And I have internalized this idea, as a result of being raised in a Christian environment, that I was supposed to love my abuser. Give in to my abuser. Give them the benefit of the doubt, even as I was given none such luxury myself. This is harmful! So, so, so harmful!

I deserve just as much love and affection and value and justice and freedom as anyone else walking the face of this earth. And the effect of these teaching is that I didn’t believe that about myself. So not only was I hearing “you aren’t worth much” from my abusers, I was also hearing it echoed by some people who I should have been able to trust to help me.

THANK GOD that many people have come along side me on my journey and told me, “No. This is wrong. You don’t deserve this.” Or “You are valuable. You are worthy of respect and dignity.” Or, “Your emotions are valid, and I will make space for them.” I’m still trying to believe these things. Unfortunately, believing these things are true, and knowing them deep in my soul, are just two different things and it takes a lot of time. And a lot of quiet tenderness from trusted friends.

This is just one personal manifestation of this complete heresy. It doesn’t take much to see how this mentality keeps abused women (or others) in dangerous situations, oppressed people in their “place,” and continued disillusionment of people with Christianity.

Here’s the thing, “loving” your abusive enemy DOES NOT APPLY to cases where the less powerful person is also the victim of abuse. I will work, imperfectly, to love those around me for whom I find it difficult to do so. But if that person is in some kind of authority over me? The love your enemy business is off the table. I will give them basic human respect (or try), but I will not give them any space whatsoever to continue their abuse. Giving them space to abuse is not love anyway. In my opinion, the most loving thing you can do is get yourself out of the situation and remove the ability for that person to hurt you (they are dehumanizing themselves while they dehumanize you…so best for everyone if you cut off that supply). I will love my enemies who are equal to me and who have less privilege than me. I will do so at my own expense if the situation calls for it. But I will not love, at my own expense, the person who has authority over me and is using it to harm me. It is WRONG to ask a victim to love their enemy. If they want to show love to their oppressor because they themselves choose so out of the security they have in that, that’s fine. But no one and I mean NO ONE should be telling them how they should approach that person. Ugh. The effect of this toxic belief in my life cannot be overstated.

I don’t talk to my parents for the most part. And this is a somewhat recent phenomenon. I wasted so much time, so much of my heart, trying to repair things with them. And I think a big reason why I kept pressing on towards reconciliation is that I thought it was what God wanted me to do. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.  I thought that if I loved them just the right way, that they would someday see the light. That they would someday want a healthy relationship with me where they respected my dignity. But the truth is, it is very unlikely I will ever get that. And they will have to work on themselves in a way that I can’t be a part of for that to happen.

So much of what I had to offer the world was lost in my continued attachment to harmful people. If I had felt the freedom to let go of those relationships at 18, who knows what energy I would have had for the world that so desperately needs it. But instead, it was smothered by a seemingly endless amount of emotional labor to try to fix things with people who didn’t care for it to be fixed.

I go back to this podcast by Rob Bell again and again when I need a reminder that it’s okay to have boundaries that protect me: 

“You are a sacred, precious resource that we all want unleashed in the world. And if someone is constantly taking shots at you, part of your responsibility is to protect yourself.”
“You can love someone from a distance.” 
“Refuse to participate in anything that degrades your humanity.” 
“You can have bottomless compassion and love and yet very firm boundaries. You can be open and loving and have a heart as wide as the ocean for humanity and yet be very clear on what you participate in and what you don’t.” 

Wow. I didn’t have those words when I was younger, but I do now, and I don’t plan on wasting them.

I really wish I could have told my younger self that I was being abused (even just naming it has healing power). I wish I could tell my younger self that I didn’t need to be the bigger person. That I had every right to fight for my own dignity and never stop. Lord knows, I would have continued fighting anyway, but it sure would have been nice to feel validated in that instead of feeling like not only am I letting down everyone around me, but also God himself. Long, slow shrug.

Now if I had to answer for myself about who I am, I would have so much to say. I have a family that loves me and values me. I love taking care of my family. I love my friends. I love sewing. I love hiking. I love biking. I love running. I love reading. I love learning and being curious. I love helping people. I love eating. I love traveling. I love trying new things. I could go on, but you get the point.

Monday, June 5, 2017

We're here!

Hey! This blog post is coming to you from the great, beautiful state of Colorado! Woo hoo! We've been here nearly three months, and I'm still floored every time I see the mountains. (I've been told this feeling doesn't go away either!) I'm just so, so happy to be here. Such a long-held dream come true.

Its been such a funny experience to adjust to Colorado culture. For probably over a year before we moved I had been following Colorado and Denver new sites and pages that talk about it, looking for any information to help me know what to expect. Moving to the South had a lot of unexpected things about it that I wish I had known from the get-go because it would have made the transition easier. But the internet was not what it is today, so it didn't occur to me to look there back then.

Its dangerous to use only the internet to find information about a place though. Based on my info-gathering, there was/is a divide among "native" Coloradans and "transplants." Basically, the Denver population has surged in the past decade or so, and the natives are pissed that they have to share space with all of us newcomers. I was kind of nervous that I wouldn't be as accepted because of my "transplant" status. But the other side of me knew if it was such a problem, then there'd be plenty of other transplants like me to befriend, and it'd be fine. (And yes, that is the case).

The saying "don't read the comments" couldn't be more true. I developed an idea that the average native Denverite was totally enraged about outsiders and that being from out of state would be something that people would have to forgive me for. The fear was further confirmed when Chuck and I flew out in February to scout out areas and apartments to live in. We saw many, many cars on the road with "Native" bumper stickers.

I can't pretend to understand the motivation to put that sticker on your car. I'm proud to be from St. Louis, but I can't imagine getting angry about it if it started gaining popularity with outsiders. And I can't imagine putting a sticker on my car to brag about something I had zero control over. So maybe people are just proud of where they come from. That's fine. But after reading nasty internet comments, I had to wonder if the people with these stickers are also the jerks on the internet telling everyone to go back to where they came from.

Anyway, I consider it a sign that I've made lots of progress in this area because now when I see these stickers on cars, instead of feeling a little insecure, I now just kind of inwardly giggle at the absurdity of it and move along.

Another big change I've had to adjust to is how differently people interact with one another on a day-to-day basis. I've had nothing but positive experiences with people I'm developing friendships with or see regularly. But the chance encounters with strangers are just totally different then they are in Georgia. And the funny thing is, in Georgia, it took me a long time to get used to everyone greeting everyone else all the time, stranger or friend. When you have kids, its even more intense because usually lots of people want to stop and chat with the kiddos or fawn over how cute they are. Of course, this is great, but as an introvert it could sometimes be exhausting. Sometimes I just want to get in and out of a place, talking to as few people as possible. But I didn't realize how much I had adjusted to that and started to actually enjoy the attention people gave us, because after moving I was like, how are we ever going to make friends if people don't stop and talk to each other all the time?! Why aren't people smiling at me? Can they tell I'm a transplant?? lol.

Its nice to see how far I've come in three months. I've met some really great people who I feel like I've known forever. So the fear of not fitting in has lifted. It also helps to have found a church community that we actually like and feels authentic. I think I've been a kind of spiritual nomad my entire life, never fully fitting into any church I attended. I don't feel that way with the one we found (and we found it on our first try! no church shopping at all! yay!) Until recently church has felt like such a stale, boring place where you go just to get hurt by people you trust. And don't dare discuss your political views or have theological beliefs outside the mainstream. It came to a point where it all felt like a waste of time. Why show up to a place where you kind of have to pretend to be somebody different just so you can not get in an unnecessary argument? Or where you feel like you're hearing the same thing said over and over, just in different ways, where it gets to the point that no one is interested in taking chances or trying new ways to live out the Gospel?

I'm at a point in life where I just don't even care what people think about my faith. No one's disapproval is going to stop me from being who I am before God. God isn't concerned with the minutia of my belief system. He cares whether I'm loving him and loving others. And if loving him and loving others is more easily done while rejecting patriarchy, fatalism, and Bible studies, then so be it. And I feel like that approach is accepted in my new place. I feel like I'm actually learning new things at church instead of just going so that my kids get some kind of outside spiritual formation and I get to check the box marked "Well, I tried" on my imaginary spiritual to-do list.

Well this kinda went off the rails. Everything comes back to either Jesus or the church with me (for better or worse!) I think one of the deep longings of this move was to find a Christian community where we didn't have to guard ourselves quite so much and I think we've found it. Hallelujah!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The music is still around but it's just underground

We've been living without cable TV or regular TV for a couple years now. We gave up the cable out of financial necessity while Chuck was in nursing school, and we eventually gave up the regular TV because it just seemed silly to have to pay for it through the cable company (we tried a digital converter box, but we live near the bottom of a hill and just can't get a good enough signal with it).

At first it was an uncomfortable adjustment. It was hard to give up watching those endless episodes of Deadliest Catch and it's hard to stay current without a news channel. But once we got used to it, it actually turned out just fine. You can eventually stop missing something you don't have and never really needed in the first place. We have Netflix when we want to watch something or I need to play a kids show to get a moment to myself.

All in all, a good call for our family. The only time I truly wish it weren't the case is when there's a storm and I can't get current weather coverage. (I don't know how long they've been doing this, but I was able to live stream the local news during the recent snow storm, so maybe that'll be the solution in the future).

Anyway, it's been particularly good for me to not be quite as exposed to all the news. The news that makes me question my faith in humanity. The news that makes me almost literally hurt at the thought of because of all the suffering people I am powerless to help. And the news stories that make me wonder how on earth I can align myself with the same people who picket people's funerals, who blame hurricanes on the sin of a marginalized people group, and who preach patriarchy as God's chosen system for the world.

Because the visible church is sometimes just noxious and vile. It's not just the "liberal media agenda" painting a picture with only the most damning of stories. Ridiculous, unloving ideas, policies, and behaviors just pervade the American Church. And that's power. Give power to any human or people group over someone else, and things are going to get ugly. The more power the Church has in society, the more ugly it seems to become.

And I know pretty much 99.9% of Christian Americans would be horrified to hear me say any of this. They would say we are being persecuted for our beliefs. That if they don't hold the line on certain issues, that our whole country will go to crap. But I think they are emphatically missing the point.

Because as long as the invisible Church is still going strong, it can't be stopped. And it is truly the most beautiful thing to behold. The boldest acts of love and mercy and grace and forgiveness all happen outside of the public eye. Outside of the traditional walls of the church. If all I knew of the Church was what the media said or what the leaders of the Church were saying (with the exception of this current Pope), I would run as far away as possible as quickly as possible. But what keeps me there, what keeps me compelled to stay present and engaged, is the underground Church. The Church you can't see and never will see unless you are part of it. Unless you've been graced with it's love.

It's the mercy and kindness of a woman who took me into her home as a much-needed safe haven from my parents when I was a teenager. It's the hospitality of another woman opening her heart and home to me while I was away in college. It's yet another woman, again, opening her heart and home to me and my daughter when I just couldn't seem to find my place in the world (or the Church!). It's the group of young moms bringing each other meals when another has had a baby, or lost a family member, or gotten sick herself. It's the moms who make extra breastmilk for a baby they don't even know whose mom is suddenly in the hospital. It's the husband who forgives, yet again, and over and over. I could spend all day every day this week recounting all the ways I've been loved on by the Church and still not get to the end of it. That's Christianity. That's the Gospel. Love God and love your neighbor. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. That is a beauty that can't be walked away from. The human heart was made for it.

So take your politics. Take your picket signs, your agenda, your liberal media bias. Take your power. You can have it all. Give me Jesus. Give me love.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thirty Years

Some of the bloggers I read write posts like "What I Know About Marriage After 16 Years" or "37 Birthday Pearls."

I turned thirty earlier this week and I think I'm going to write "What I Don't Know After 30 Years of Life"

I mean, I could definitely come up with some pretty important lessons that I've learned over the years. But recently, I've been humbled (again...sigh). I don't know why I bother having such passionate, strong opinions, because I frequently end up having to change them. It's normal to go about life thinking you're right about most things. Its really remarkable when people are willing to engage the thought that they might be wrong about something. Oh, I try.

Anyway, I've been reflecting back on the past 30 years of my life. There are certainly an abundance of happy memories and wonderful blessings that have brought me to where I am today. But really what I think about when I look back at my life is the massive amount of grace that is woven through every fiber. Like. Everything. I think about the seasons of deep and profound pain that I have been through. And like many people, I have had many. My early childhood seemed "normal" to me in that I just assumed parents fought like mine did. I didn't realize what I was living in was very abnormal and unhealthy. And when I was shaken out of that fantasy when my dad initiated a divorce from my mother, I was then thrown into a complete wreck of a siblings and I became the pawn in my parents battles against one another. Needless to say, it was traumatizing, tragic, and completely disorienting and disillusioning. Yet, even in those dark, hopeless, barren times, I was being gently held in God's hands. I went to a school that was a safe place among the turmoil. I had incredible friends, whom I now appreciate even more because I realize how much less trouble we got into as teenagers than we could have. And if there was ever an "at-risk" teenager, I was one of them. As I've grown older and become aware of some of the things kids typically encounter, especially when they aren't receiving what they need at home, I am completely baffled that I didn't get mixed up into all sorts of harmful things. And I am in no way bragging about it. I really believe if it weren't for God's grace, I would have chosen any number of things that would have ultimately harmed me greatly. It had nothing to do with me or my good choices. It was simply the profound mystery of God at work in my life.

And I couldn't even calculate how improbable it was for me to meet Chuck. The fact that I ended up going to school at Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, GA took a whole series of miracles upon miracles. I mean, I know this is how life works, each decision or outcome effects the next one which effects the next one and so on and so forth. But I could trace back the improbablity all the way to like, my parents choice of schooling...for my older brothers and then me. And all those things almost HAD to happen for me to have even crossed paths with Chuck's.

It's probably the pessimist in me that, when looking back at my life, I usually think first of the hard times. My parents divorce, struggling to keep relationships with my parents amidst all the wreckage of their divorce, choosing to go against my family with several of my decisions (like religion, choice of spouse, college choice, ya know...really trivial stuff), my church and family just utterly failing me while I was going through postpardum depression and Chuck's parent's divorce (I sometimes wonder if it was the chicken or the egg scenario because I don't know that the depression would have come out if I hadn't been so poorly supported by these groups in the first place).

Anyway, I can compare myself to others and think I've got it easy. And still with others, I would seem like I've really had a hard time at life. It doesn't really matter. I have my one life and no one else's. At the end of the day, I can easily trace back countless numbers of things that are profoundly good, but that never would have happened if I hadn't been through those painful, barren times.

Some of the very best things in my life would, could, never have been available to me if I hadn't slogged through the tumultuous times.

And here's where we get to the part where I still haven't learned anything. After I had some distance between me and my parent's divorce, I had a much clearer vision of how God can still be present in your life even if you don't feel him, see him, or hear from him at all. That he can be cradling you in his arms all the while a hellscape is swirling around you. And I held fast to that realization. What a gift to finally feel like I saw God's hand at work in my life. Until another storm hit. And if it's a mediocre one, I'm fairly okay with holding on to my faith and at least conceding that God is still at work and hasn't abandoned me. But when things are really, really messy, well, that's when I jump ship. Like I start thinking that that idea I had about God taking care of me and being inherently good was a cute thought, but clearly it's not true or he wouldn't be allowing me to feel this way or face this challenge. Some troubles just cause you to question almost everything you thought you knew.

And that's the beauty of this grace thing. He keeps taking me back. He keeps holding on to me even when I shake my fist at him and curse his name. He doesn't leave.

That's why I'm a Christian. No where else can you find this kind of love. This love that has no parameters. No conditions. No limits. All I have is crap to offer. And God receives me anyway and calls me his beloved.

And when I'm on the other side of the mess, all I can do is thank God for bringing me to it and carrying me through it. Because it gives me another chance to see him and feel his love. And when you have that, you realize you'd go through anything to hold onto it.

Until the next catastrophe, that is! (Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner...)

I'd love if someday I could say that, yeah, I went through some really profoundly dark time and didn't question God. That'd be great, but seems impossible. I'll probably be writing about this same thing when I turn 40, 50, 60. I don't think I'll ever learn.

I've embedded songs through Grooveshark here but it seems like a lot of times it works for a while and then the link breaks. Hopefully that won't be the case here. It's a song by Plumb called, "Need You Now" and it really resonates with me. Listen! Be changed!

Need You Now (How Many Times) by Plumb on Grooveshark

Friday, January 10, 2014

Music Matters

I always found the evangelical battle between traditional and contemporary worship music to be strange. And it's probably because I grew up going to Mass every week, where contemporary things seem to fall away the moment you walk through the doors. Contemporary music just feels ill-suited for a traditional mass. (Though some places make it work...I went to a "Teen Mass" during high school where they played more upbeat, modern still felt weird though).

As a teen, I had heard many stories from evangelical friends that so-and-so's church was splitting up over which music they played during the service. Or they were making two services, one for traditional music and one for the contemporary. I also heard plenty of people passing judgments on it, saying it was a terrible reason to split up a church (and I think there is still a bit of a split when you separate into different types of services...but its certainly better than calling the whole thing off).

And I agreed. And still do to some extent. It seems that American Christians will split up or leave a church for so many reasons that you could essentially live your whole life bouncing from one church to another because there's just never going to be one that satisfies every physical, theological, and emotional need that you have.

But lately I've kind of felt a bit of empathy for those who find worship music to be an integral part of their church experience.

I have always believed that music is a Big Deal. Not in a church sense, but in a I-need-it-to-keep-living sense. Music has spoken to my soul at times in my life when a real-life person just couldn't. And reflecting on that makes me realize how precious it is to have music at church that speaks to you. Sometimes the sermons are going to just fall flat compared to whatever life circumstances you find yourself in. Sometimes you are facing something so profound or unique that its asking too much for a pastor to speak directly into it. Or you may find yourself a church that feeds your soul in a million other ways, but the preaching isn't doing much for you at the moment. That's when you need good music. Music can fill the void when other things can't. Music can be God's voice speaking directly to you when it feels like people around you just can't seem to give you what your soul needs.

And like all my posts lately, this one ends abruptly because the baby has awoken. :)

Friday, November 22, 2013


Sigh. You can track my blog posts because they perfectly align with the rare times when I manage to get the house in some semblance of order, get the baby to her nap, and the pre-schooler to her nursery school. I have an hour or so completely to myself. Guilt free--even better.

So November is when everyone on Facebook lists all the things they're thankful for, one for each day of the month. Some of them seem a little braggy to me (my issue, not their's). A blog post seems to be a slightly better place to write some things that I'm thankful for. So here are some of them.

1. The night sky. Have you looked at it recently? Because it's beautiful. And also, it's a pretty stark reminder of how painfully small we are. Like incomprehensibly small. I always have this profound realization when I'm flying in an airplane and see how small everything looks just from up there. But when you consider the night sky and how teeny tiny the earth is compared to the universe....well, it's certainly very humbling. But also a huge relief. In the grand scheme of human life, I don't matter all that much. I'm not trying to be self-disparaging. It's just that no one single life is all that big of a deal. And for some reason that kind of takes the pressure off. There's some part of me that believes that I have to do something really important with my life. But look at the sky and you realize no one person is capable of all that much. So calm down already.

2. Coffee. I. Just. Love. Coffee. It defies words.

3. Winter. I would never have called myself a winter person until I moved to Georgia. But when it comes around, it like adds new breath to my life. I feel like a part of me wakes up that was dead the rest of the year. Chuck calls me a cold lizard because the heat of summer makes me sluggish and tired, but once it cools off outside, I get about twice as much energy and a little hop in my step. Also, fall/winter clothes are the best. Cable knit sweaters? Corduroy? Scarves? Mittens? Snuggly blankets? These are what heaven is made of.

4. Not traveling. This one is the opposite of what I'd usually say. But have you been travelling with a baby recently? Because if you think its a good idea, it must be that you haven't done it recently or possibly ever. Cora is a great baby. But even so, travelling with her, especially nine hours in the car over two days alone (with Ivy) is simply not fun. We got to travel to STL to see my grandma before she passed away. And it was the kind of blessing you can't put into words. But the traveling we had to do to achieve that awesome trip was nothing short of a miracle. I can't overstate how glad I am that Chuck and I decided to stay put for the holidays. I'm gonna miss the family, but next year will be much easier and more enjoyable for everyone! :)

5. Said family, for letting us stay in Nashville with them overnight so I wouldn't have to drive nine hours straight.

6. Books. I don't know how this happened, but I've read 18 books so far this year. That's probably a record for me. And the great thing about living in the twenty first century is that I will never get to the end of the list of books that I can read. There are SO many books out there and publishing technology is such that I have access to pretty much anything I want. I usually limit myself to what I can get for free at the library. But still. That collection alone could keep me going forever.

Well, Cora has decreed naptime to be over early. And when the Baby has spoken, the Baby has spoken. It was fun while it lasted! :)

Friday, September 6, 2013


Do you hear that? It's called silence (or as close to it as I get these music is playing to keep the little one asleep, but I can almost tune that out). 

Forgive the stream of consciousness writing...I'm just refamiliarizing myself with the voice in my head. It's just not used to being able to finish a thought or even half of one. 

I've learned part of why "grown ups" are a little bit crazy. It's from us. The kids they raised who provided a constant barrage of questions and requests for, I don't know, 10-18 years straight. It wears on a person's brain. 

I know it'll get easier when little one is older and can sit by herself without getting soul-suckingly lonely after 30 seconds. 

When Ivy was a baby people told me to soak it up; these are the best times of your life. Enjoy them while you can, it flies by, etc. My internal response at the time was: "Really? Good, I'm kind of done with this baby business. In fact, I'd call this one of the low points of my life." Because nothing can prepare you for a colicky baby. Nothing. And I can look back, now that I've had a regular baby, and just feel sorry for myself back then. I had no compass, nothing to judge how bad it was by. I felt like the biggest failure of a mother because I just couldn't comfort my baby. And there is never a shortage of seasoned mothers who will tell you exactly what worked for their kid and so it will *of course* work for your kid too. 

But I wasn't a failure of a mother. In fact, I look back and think what an amazing job I did considering the circumstances. Because there were a lot of other not insignificant issues I was facing at the same time. 

It is so freeing to just let the crap blow off my back now. When people want to say or imply that I'm making some mistake or another, I just ignore them. Or at least 90% of me does. Because the first time around I tried to listen to what everyone was saying. Try this. Try that. And it just made me frustrated when it didn't work and I felt judged that people thought I just wasn't doing it "right". Now I have the perspective. Now I have a beautiful, smart, empathetic, kind, silly, brave, wondrous 4 year old to show for all those tear-filled nights. All those desperate prayers. All those feelings of inadequacy. I must have done something right is all I'm saying. I think she just didn't like being a baby. And who can blame her really. Being a four year old is much cooler.

There you go. I get a few minutes to myself and what do I do? Talk about my kids. #mom