By 15 cubits

This year I decided to read through the Bible in a year. As with past attempts I have fallen quite behind, whatever . . .

The last few weeks, I have been slogging through Leviticus and Numbers. Anyone who has read through these books can tell you that they are very boring, and seem for the modern-day reader very pointless. (Also I hate math, numbers. Most of my math classes, except Geometry felt like, as Mike McClintock from Veep would say  “math prison, where they rape you with numbers.”) Leviticus is 27 chapters of ancient Jewish law detailing all the gory details of sacrifice and cleanliness. (I swear I read 19 chapters about unclean skin diseases.) And Numbers, well, it deals a lot with numbers: censuses, some history, and details of boundary lines.

Today, I read the last chapters of Numbers, chapters 35-36, and honesty, rejoiced that I was on my way to more interesting material, but one thing came to mind as I was reading about how many feet a town should be from a wall, and the protocol for someone who accidentally murdered someone: I was reminded that God is in the details.

It seems through these boring books that when God told the Israelites to do something, he gave them all the information that they would need to complete the task that he was giving them or carry out a moral judgement. He didn’t leave them hanging; he thought of everything!

So how does this apply to us today who don’t have to make blood sacrifices (Thank, God . . . literally.), or build an ark big enough to carry every specie and three months of their poop (maybe they threw the poop overboard?)?

I think we can conclude that God will tell us all the necessary information (which is usually less than we like) that we need, to do what he tells us to do; though, we will probably have to proceed with some questions unanswered, and faith that God knows what he’s doing.

When I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure what to do so I prayed about it. I felt like I didn’t really hear from God, but some lovely friends asked me to be their roommate in West Hollywood, and so I thought, “why not?” I never heard a “no” from God so I proceeded with my plans. After almost a year of struggling financial, being a fresh-out-of-college English and Film grad, I started to wonder if I should stay in L.A. or if I should move home to Colorado. I prayed and God answered me twice: first he said, “what do you want?” and I was like “I don’t know, I asked you?”and then he said move home to Colorado.

Then fast-forward a year later, I hated my job that I had found after moving home to Colorado, and wanted to quit, but I felt in my heart that I shouldn’t yet. A few weeks later, I was talking to someone who I saw at work regularly, and was able to show someone kindness who really needed it. Afterwards, I felt God telling me that it was time to quit. I didn’t have any job lined up, but I trusted that God was going to provide for me. A few days after my last day, a friend told me about a job opportunity that had just become available, and that I needed to move fast if I wanted it, because the employer wanted a replacement pronto. I got the job, which has been in so many ways, perfect— just what I needed; a place of creativity, where I could show my individuality, and make some really great friends. God didn’t just give me a job that satisfied my financial needs, but also my personal needs.

To be honest, God sometimes seems a bit vague, but then later I find out that he had all the details in mind, but didn’t need to tell me because I needed to learn to trust him. Or that he wanted me to use my brain that he gave me or my experiences to make a decision. Then looking over my life it has seemed like he has had a unique and specific plan (or story, as I like to think about it) for my life.

So regardless if you’re a fresh graduate or a ninety year-old cat lady, God will guide you: if he calls you to build an ark, he’ll tell you where to put the animal poop (like I said, throw it overboard?), or guide you to someone who knows about boats and sanitation. He cares about your sense of smell and the other little things in your life.

 

Live Free, Die Hard

Helloooooo . . .

I promise I’m not dead, I’ve been busy working, and doing life, and have been burnt out on blogging.

But I’m back.

And I’m unemployed. And I’ve never been happier.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been working a retail position, a vendor at a grocery store. The job had it’s perks and was good for a season, but during the last few months, I felt like I’ve rather jump off a cliff, than go in one more day to work. Many things added to my general frustration, but the main aspect that I’ll mention here is it was boring, and I was depressed.

And I didn’t notice how depressed, and how much I was being affected by it, till I quit. The job was available when I needed I job after moving home, I met a friend who has helped me find my way, and it was what I needed for a season. But that season is over and it’s time to move on.

The moment after I emailed my two weeks notice, immediately I was relieved, and my whole outlook on life changed. I’ve been the happiest that I’ve in a long time. I finally feel like myself, and I can finally be creative. Though creative work is very much work and not just done when “inspiration” hits, I had been completely dried up. I’ve found myself saying my inner creative baby is dead, mummified, or in a coma: not completely gone, but pretty close.

I’ve finally been able to write poetry! Something that I avoided for a time because of feelings that I didn’t want to deal with, and then eventually just couldn’t do it. I have been overwhelmed with creative ideas, and thoughts in the past feel days, freaking out because I don’t know where to start.

But the greatest thing about quitting, is not just that I’m returning to my happy, creative, excited self, but that quitting was my decision, not something someone suggested, and I quit without another job lined up, confident in God’s provision, and confident in myself, that I am good enough to find something else. I didn’t care what the consequences might be, I wanted to quit and so I did it: I took the risk.

Granted the amount of risk is lessened by the fact that I live at home with parents who already help me financial, so I definitely have a huge safety net that I’m resting in. But still, I do have expenses that I need to pay for that will become a burden if I don’t have my own income, and I also recently became convicted that I need to tithe, but that’s a thought for another time.

All of this happening in the last few weeks, has caused me to come to a few conclusions, and to be reminded of some of my core values.

Never settle. Settling, to me is synonymous with death, because settling is not really living. It’s living in fear, and I can’t live like that. For some settling is fine, it’s safe, but I don’t want safe. I want the best, and I want to live life to the fullest that it can be.

Negativity sucks, be positive even if it hurts. One of my defense mechanisms is to cut myself down with negative self talk, because then I will have beat other people to the punch, no pun intended. But I know the power of words. I’ve seen how repeating truth and positivity can change my outlook on life, myself, and I’ve become aware how much negative thoughts affect who I am, and I become someone who I hate: bland, boring, quiet when I’d rather speak.

I would rather look like a fool, and I’d rather fail in positivity, passion, than to never try and live life halfway.  I hate failing, and I hate looking like an idiot, so this is a big deal.

Dream. I second guess myself, my ideas, my talent all the time, oh, and I over think a lot of things. I stress myself out, because I’m trying to think of all the outcomes of my decisions and thinking twelve steps ahead, when I really should just be pondering the next three steps. My goal is to dream and just go for it even if, I fall on my face.  Many who have created something extraordinary or made a difference failed or was told “no” many times before they found their yes. I can’t create without positivity and without dreaming. I plan to just go for it, and see what happens.

My life is MINE. Though my decisions do affect others, and I am financially dependent, my life is ultimately my own creation. I sometimes find myself waiting for life to happen or I seek out everyone else’s opinions instead of just doing what I want and making my life what I want. No one has ever lived mine or your life before. Why let everyone else dictate what it should be? A quote that has been floating around my head lately is this:

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the greatest feelings of freedom I have had is the result of taking control of my life. I will probably be fine even if I don’t find another job soon. But taking a risk when there is minimal possible negative outcome is practice for decisions with bigger risks. And making a decision for one’s own self is always a beautiful thing.

I’m still insecure in many ways, but making this decision has given me confidence. I’d rather crash and burn doing something I decided then be unhappy doing what everyone else wants me to do.

Today I came to the conclusion that I would rather die alone, than die anything but free. The renewed sense of my dreams has also brought me to the idea that I don’t care if I never marry, as long as I’m living the life I want, and following after my dreams. But don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to be alone. I really want to get married, and I hope that I can one day marry someone who is also following their dreams and will want to live life’s beautiful adventure, together.

So I’m feeling pumped. I’m excited for the holidays, excited for the future, and excited to see what is over the horizon.

I hope what I’ve said encourages you to live the life you have with all your might, with all of your love, while enjoying the ups and downs of the adventure. I hope that you too will discover the freedom in taking a risk, and living your life in such a way that makes you happy.

I believe in God and I believe his promises that he has good plans for me. I struggle sometimes to really trust that he does have good for me because of some of the things that have happened to me, or because I seem to fail in the same areas over and over again. But if I doubt and live less than I can, how can God really give me all that he wants for me? How can I say that I trust him, his word, that he loves me, and cares about me, and that he has a good life for me if I don’t live life fully?

What risks have you and/or do you want to take? What was the result? What are you afraid of?

I Confess, I Drank the KoolAid

I started writing this a few weeks ago. I cringe at the thought of posting this, because somehow this topic feels more personal and makes me feel incredibly vulnerable, but I hope with sharing this, that others will be challenged to be more than a body. I hope that this will encourage others to remember that they aren’t alone in the crippling fear and discouragement of a skewed body image. I feel like I have made some progress in the last few weeks, but more on that later. Here is my struggle.

I’ve realized lately that I have been short-changing myself. I have limited myself down to a pretty face and a perfect body.

Actually, I’ve limited myself, because I don’t have a perfect body, and I don’t feel pretty.

I’ve realized that all I have been thinking about is how to develop my body so it will be better, and I guess, my version of perfect. And I’ve been spending a very limited amount of time thinking about my inner beauty and my art.

If you’ve read any of my writing before, you would probably know that I preach being more than a body, and being a strong, purposed woman. But as with nearly everything, it is easier to know what should be and impress others to do that, and struggle to apply the same principles to yourself.

I want to have a perfect body for several reasons. First, I express myself through the clothes I wear and don’t want to be limited by my dress size. Also, it’s summer — swim suit season. . . .  Second, I want to be desirable to a guy.  And lastly, I want to reach my weight loss goal. I’ve been seeing a nutritionist for health and weight loss reasons for a year, and I just want to reach my goal, a.k.a. win!

But I wonder when I reach my goal, will I be happy? Will I be satisfied? Or will I have become a more attractive girl on the outside, with a sad, ugly, and probably lonely heart?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone could convince me that I’m good enough, not guys, not my friends, and most certainly not my parents. Though it doesn’t hurt when a guy looks my way, or a friend compliments the way I look, I think this is a battle that I will have to fight and win on my own.

So, I don’t have the answers as to how to be satisfied and confident in outward “imperfection,” because I’m not at the conclusion, but I do have a few more thoughts and reflections on the matter.

The other day, I was hiking with a friend. It was only the second time we’d hung out, and the inevitable question popped up: Are you dating anyone? I said no and talked a little bit about my circumstances and then confessed that I sometimes feel like I needed a better body in order for someone to want me. (Even as I type this I squirm a bit in my seat. I have definitely drank pop-culture’s KoolAid.) My friend answered that if he’s the right kind of guy that he won’t care, and that guys like “real” girls. This concept makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know why.

I know what she said was right, but I still can’t seem to shake my conviction that I have to be perfect— that I have to weigh about 20 pounds lighter, get rid of the love handles and cellulite.  The bottom line is that I am uncomfortable with my body, and the thought of someone else touching it and feeling of all it’s imperfections, freaks me out, even though it is something I definitely want.  And how could a guy like me just the way I am?

Desiring to be healthy and to reach a goal, to fulfill a commitment to oneself is not a bad thing, but I don’t know how to be okay with what I have.

I have tried to tackle this subject before. I started writing another blog post which started like this:

There’s this girl. She’s about 5’6″, 160 lbs. She wears a 36D bra, a medium-large shirt, and 10-12 pant size. How many of you know who this girl is? You actually have no idea who this girl is, because these measurements are clinical. What if I were to describe her as having a bubbly extroverted personality, but with introverted self-reflective tendencies. She loves rock music and loves anything creative. She wants those that she comes in contact with to feel like the special person he/she really is. She wants to change the world. Now do you know this girl?

Many of us girls, if we’re honest sometimes think about our pant size more than we think about who we are. I was in group therapy for a few months that focused on beauty and body image issues. The group was all girls, all of whom at the time were smaller than me. One session we were to bring in pictures of what we think is beautiful and how we see our body. Nearly all of us dissected our bodies, complaining about our “thunder” thighs, pudgy stomach, or our fat shoulders.

 “I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s a lot of things that can be wrong with our body.” ~Cady from Mean Girls

I have a physical condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is a complicated condition, but one of the aspects about my case is that it makes my body gain weight easily. Sometimes when I’m beating myself and my body up for not being what it should, I remember other people whose body doesn’t function, who may die, or can’t walk, and then I stop the body bashing party and say a thankful prayer for a body, that allows me to run and explore the world, and other than the PCOS is very healthy.

As I said, lately, I have spent more mental energy thinking about my body and planning to make it better than I have on becoming who I am supposed to be and about my art. The other day I thought about how sad would it be if I died tomorrow and had spent all the time I had on earth working on my body when the next day my body would be useless and would be thrown into the ground to rot and be forgotten. At funerals, I have never heard someone talk about how fat someone was: I’ve only heard them talk about who the person was and what he/she did.

A few nights ago, my mom asked if I wanted to watch the latest episode of a TV show that she and I have been watching together. I agreed excitedly that we would watch it as soon as I got home. As I drove home I remembered that I hadn’t worked out and that I really should right when I got home, because there really wouldn’t be time later, but then I wouldn’t have time to watch the show with my mom. I opted to watch the show with my mom, because I decided that in this instance, spending time with my mom was more important. I guess I am making progress.

As with all skewed thinking, I know that I will have to play the mental game of arguing with my unhealthy convictions and thoughts. And over time, I will have a better thought process. I know that I will have to make right decisions to eventually naturally have the right priorities. And I know I can do it, it’s just going to take time, and probably some tears, and risks.

But it will be worth it.

I’m not going to stop working out, weighing twice a week, or trying to eat right, because I should take care of my body and stay true to my goals and to myself. But it is my hope that as I work toward my goals that I don’t neglect the other important parts of life, and lose what’s most important.

Are you struggling with a similar issue? What helps/helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and about your experiences.

Waiting for the Fog to Fade

I wrote this a few weeks ago . . . a reflection on feelings and reality.

Today I thought about suicide. Calm down. Several years ago you would have needed to be concerned. Not today.

Today I was reminded of a 7th grade girl who I knew from association who took her life a couple weeks ago. She became a Christian six months ago and fought hard to have hope, but could not win over her circumstances. As I listened to the speaker talk about this girl, I gripped the cup of iced coffee in my hand and started to shake. I was broken, sad for her. She had not had the chance to experience that life does get better.

On a surface level, I understand how she felt. At such a young age, I remember I hadn’t experienced the ebb and flow of life and the in between. I hadn’t had the chance to really have hind-sight.

At that age, I hadn’t had the chance to know that I would make new, better lifelong friends I could count on, that I would lose the weight that I could never seem to lose, that I would find myself and figure out that I don’t have to fit in. I wouldn’t have had the chance to see the Northern Lights while traveling half-way around the world. And I wouldn’t have figured out that the way I was feeling was partly physical, well felt pain, misconceptions about life, and part of who I am.

Though I have moved out of danger of taking my own life, and now know how to handle my depression, and discouragement better, I still feel hopeless sometimes. Sometimes, I feel like no matter how hard I try that I will never get some of the things I want, and that I will never escape the crushing pain of loneliness. And even though I have learned to look past the way I feel today, I do still wonder if things will ever get better.

Especially, when the PMDD hits. PMDD stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and affects women in a variety of ways. For me, my emotional situation prior to the menstrual cycle determines how the sever the PMDD will be. Usually, I become extremely melancholy, sensitive, and lonely and in the past before I got help, I would become very suicidal.

Even though I know when my period will be and that PMDD is a part of it, sometimes the despair I feel hits me like a freight train out of no where. I wonder why I feel so down and why my insecurities of my body and my relationship status seem to be hounding me. Then I finally remember, or someone who knows me well reminds me that “it is just that time of the month.” Though I know these feeling are just part of life, I still become frustrated. I know that I have to be careful— get enough sleep, take care of myself, and “ride the week out.” Other times I just want to sleep the week away and feel as though nothing is ever going to get better. I feel like I am in a fog unable to think clearly until the week is over.

What hope do we have? What do we have to cling to when we feel like we don’t matter, that we are stuck in a cycle, that it seems like life never changes, when no seems to believe in us?

Colorado (where I grew up and am currently living), has each of the four seasons. And by the end of winter, I can’t wait for spring and summer. I am tired of being cold. Then in July and August when the scorching heat comes, I can’t wait for coolness of fall and the coming of the winter’s joys including the feeling of sipping a nice hot cup of Starbucks, snuggled beneath a warm scarf, while the crisp cold licks at my cheeks and nose. At the end of each season we wish for the next.

And life, how we take it for granted. And just like the end of winter, we wish for what comes next after life, because we don’t have to put up with what the current conditions. But even when it seems like life is crushing, there are “little hopes” to keep us going along the way like the beauty of nature: the sunrise or sunset; silly little animals like birds or their beautiful song; the stars against a blue-purple sky in summer. And people . . . the random kindness of strangers, the unexpected mercy and grace or thoughtfulness of someone close to you.

Being a stubborn, competitive, ornery sort of person, I relish the fact that I’ve made it this far, that I can say to those who have doubted me, to the Enemy who has repeatedly tried to get rid of me, to those who have treated me badly, I have won. I am still here and I am stronger because of all that I have gone through. And I mean to, no matter what, dig deep and stick it out to the end despite it all.

And what I feel doesn’t determine or show the reality of life. When I feel lonely, I know that I have many people who care about me. When I feel like I never am going to be successful, I know how far I’ve come and how I’ve worked for it. And when I feel like I will never be good enough, I know that I am a work in progress: and there is One and others who like and love me just as I am.

The fog will fade: life will get better.

You just have to be willing to give it a chance: life may (probably will) surprise you. Don’t check out early, because you will miss out on life, its small pleasures, and you never know how your life might change. You may miss out on life-long friendships, on meeting that special person who you never thought existed. You may find out that you were never meant to fit in, that someday there will be a group of people who will accept you for who you are, beauty and bristles. You won’t have to hide anymore. You just have to wait it out. You just have to dig deep and vow that you will make it to show them, the world, yourself that your flame will not be put out that easily.

I almost killed myself in high school and I have no regrets for not following through. I still get discouraged, and I still am frustrated, but the joy, the beauty of life that I have and am experiencing is worth sticking around for. And I know now that even when I feel like my life is spiraling down into darkness, that spiraling feeling is just a feeling, it’s not reality.

And I believe the same for you. I beg you to try a little longer. Life is so full if we make the effort to see all that it encompasses. And if you’re young, know that elementary, middle school, high school, and college are just blips compared to the length of your life and do not determine the way your life will always be. You do have the power to press on, to make changes, to tough it out, and you will be rewarded, for character and strength are the result of hard fought battles.

Just wait and see.

Psalm 23 in New Light

I wrote most of this a few months ago, but didn’t finish it. I hope it reminds you of the promises, we can find peace in as we start the new week.

So these last couple of days I have been reflecting on Psalm 23. The verse came to me as I was writing to my Compassion child. Though Psalm 23 is usually a chapter quoted for it’s comforting words, it had become overly familiar to me growing up in a Christian home, going to church, and attending Christian schools first grade through college. Even as I read the verse to myself, my mind would wander off and I would have to force myself to concentrate.

But, as I said, lately it seems familiarity has worn off and this chapter has meant a great deal to me. Here are some of my reflections on the chapter and why Psalm 23 is meaningful to me once again.

Since I graduated college in May 2011, my life has felt like a canoe in which I’m paddling standing up: I’m perhaps getting somewhere, but it’s slow progress and I feel like I’m going to fall in many times. I’ve realized that “the way life is supposed to be” is a fiction, and I am more okay with not knowing exactly how my life is going to be and enjoying the ride. Anxiety about the future still sometimes overtakes me, and that is especially when I crave the peace that these verses give.

Psalm 23 begins “God is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. . . .” Recently, I have struggled to understand our and God’s role in our lives: how much has he determined versus how much do I make happen. Honestly, I haven’t figured it out, other than I need God’s wisdom to help me pick the right direction in life, and I also need to take action as well. Since moving back to Colorado, I have struggled at times to understand why God directed me here. Certain things have happened that I am excited and happy about, but yet I am at times I am very unhappy and lonely.This verse reminds me that God is good and leading me to have a fulfilled life.

“he restores my soul.” I think this can also be read, ” he mends and heals my heart.” Since the summer after graduating from high school, God has been healing my heart of several deep wounds. I prayed to him that he would heal my heart and he has been doing exactly that through a variety of means. I believe that God has long term plans to restore my heart, but he also encourages me or sends encouragement in the moments I feel discouraged, hurt, or forgotten.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Sometimes I accuse God of letting bad things happen in my life, because he is unfair and “poor me, this always happens to me.” Then I end my pity party by remembering that life sucks sometimes and bad things happen because bad things happen in life. God doesn’t lead me down paths to ruin. Why would he? It would reflect badly on him, not to mention that he doesn’t want that for me, because he loves me: he delights in me.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . ” Right now in my life, there are times when I feel as though I’m floundering. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to be. But I feel that God is somehow directing my life so I get to where I need to be. About a year ago, I almost died read about it here. At the time, I had been angry at God and was giving him the silent treatment. He still saved my life and when the smoke of the accident cleared I saw that he had been with me the whole time, even though I thought I was alone.

“your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” If I recall correctly a shepherd’s rod was used for discipline. Though I don’t enjoy discipline— who does really— God disciplines those he loves, as a parent disciplines his/her child to keep them away from harm or to make them into a better person. Sometimes the shepherd would gently lay his staff on the back of his sheep to let them know that he was near. I remember many times when I felt the warm presence of God wash over me and tell me that he loves me. He also shows me that I am loved through other people, their affection and encouragement.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” So, I really like this part. It speaks of justice. There are a few circumstances in my life that I am still angry about, because they seemed unfair. God has given me more tenacity and a thicker skin to defend myself, but I also have greater faith that he will bring justice where justice is due, whether in this life or the next.

“You anoint my head with oil . . .” God has given me a purpose. During the biblical times, anointing was a sign of setting apart for a specific and holy task. God has given each of us a purpose for our our lives, as well as, the general purpose of loving him and loving others. My name Kristen means “anointed one” and I feel a great sense of purpose. I am a dreamer and desire to change the world or do something great, but am not always sure what I am to do. I believe that he will reveal what that purpose is.

” . . . my cup overflows.” Sometimes life looks bleak, but when I “count my blessings,” I see his providing and that trumps the things I don’t have. He has given me more and better than I have asked for.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. . . .” This verse spells good fortune for me in the future, that God will be with me all the days of my life. An old friend had a dog named Goodness. I remember that dog when I read this verse and think of the warm, loving, and forgiving way in which a dog follows his master around.

“. . . and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” This is so comforting to me, that no matter what happens in my life that I will eventually be with God forever. Though at times while I’m on earth, I run away from him, or I distrust his intentions towards me, I can not fathom being separated from him: it terrifies me. Though I want to live a long life here on earth– I have lots of dreams and life to live– I also can’t wait to be with my Savior, my God.

Selfish Art = Bad Art

Last night I was watching Part 1 of the Project Runway Finale and realized there may be such a thing as selfish art. For this episode, each of the finalists came back to New York with a 12 look collection. Only three designers could show at fashion week, and so there is a mini show for the judges featuring three looks from each designer. Afterwards, the designers talk about their collection and about each piece, and the judges critique.

Designer Michelle brought her A-game and had a compelling story for the collection that was clearly illustrated: the collection was centered around a lone wolf who has lost her pack. Patricia also had a theme, a modern twist on native American culture. When Stanley and Daniel described their collection, they seemed to lack inspiration and Daniel’s in particular seemed to be more about him: he described his looks as pieces that showed his variety of strengths and briefly mentioned that nebulas inspired him.

I understand that in a competition like Project Runway, a person must show what he or she can do, but as I heard Daniel comment about being eliminated, from what he said it seemed that his being successful was more about him than about making good art. I don’t know Daniel personally so this assessment might not be correct, but that is just what I observed.

Daniel wasn’t the only designer on the show this season, that seemed to have the same perspective. He and the others that fell into similar ways of thinking seemed to have weaker points of view and ultimately not create the best pieces.

The times that I have created something, or pursued a creative endeavor caring more for myself than the work at hand seemed to be the times that I lacked inspiration, and in many cases, did not create up to my potential. And inversely, when I have created for the sake of the piece or the sake of a person or cause, I feel that I have been inspired and have created something beautiful, and I worked closer to my potential.

The arts are incredibly competitive and so we must be concerned with ourselves, and show our strengths in our art. Also, there is such a thing as therapeutic art— art created for the sake of the artist. And I know we must be marketable and commercial, but perhaps when we step back, take our eyes off ourselves and create, would we create something really good that naturally shows our skills versus our forcing our skills upon the work? Would we be more innovative? Would our art be more fulfilling? Would we be more successful?

Just some food for thought.

I’m Back from South East Asia

Hey so some of you may be wondering where I went for almost two months, or maybe you’re not, but regardless, you’re going to find out.

March 1st I left for southeast Asia and was there for about ten days, was very sick for another two weeks, and then had to catch up on work.

I had never been out of the country other than Mexico and Canada. And after a day of travel I left like I was in a completely different world. I had been to third world Mexico, but what I saw in Asia blew my mind in it’s beauty and poverty. I was part of a medical team that held clinics at several schools. I helped run the children’s program that occurred while the children’s families were seen at the clinics.

This experience has given me so much perspective. One perspective that this experience gave me, really had nothing to do with being in a third world country, but everything to do with showing me how big the world is.

I have trouble sometimes being myself. After getting a glimpse of the vastness of people and cultures of this planet, I thought to myself, “how sad would it be to not be myself, and cater myself to a group of people, that in perspective of the world, are a tiny blip? Why do I do this? And why do I do this, when I’ve experienced love and acceptance from some of those people that I struggle around?” Many of the communities that I have been a part of have changed, and looking back I can see how much energy I wasted on trying to fit in or be approved, by everyone else. Some of those people I don’t talk to anymore and may never see again.

Paramore’s song “Anklebiters” off their new album says “Fall in love with yourself/because someday you are going to be the only one you’ve got/someday/why do you want to please the world/ and leave yourself to drop dead?/the same day you’re going to be the only one you’ve got.”

Just some food for thought.

I have a question. And I want your answers!

My question is “How separated, or how not separated from the world should Christians be?”

I am working on a piece about this topic, and would like to hear your opinions. Probably all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike have heard the phrase “not of this world,” at least as the slogan for the clothing company that makes Christian clothing with fashion forward graphics. Some Christians seem to pride themselves on how not like “the world” they are, where as others pride themselves on the very opposite. Is there a black and white margin of separation or non-separation, or is it a gray area? What would Jesus’ attitude be towards this idea and the ways Christians uphold it?

If you aren’t a Christian how do you view Christians who talk about “not being of this world” or say or do things in the name of this idea?

If you are a Christian or of another faith, how far is far enough “separated” or how far is too far? What does this phrase mean to you and your faith?

This is How I Love You: Dispeling Myths about Marriage

Today, my friend Sanna Haynes shares the importance of thinking for oneself , especially when considering “Christianese”: Christian cultural beliefs that has little basis in scripture, or has taken truth found in the Bible to an unhealthy extreme. She dispels three “truths” about how marriage “should” work and instead shows how  she and her husband have shaped their marriage together.

Remembering to examine accepted ideas and cliches is pertinent to discuss this month, the month of  “love.” I have been discovering that the ways relationships work or are started today are on a case by case basis instead by the a set of unspoken ideas or by rules that can be considered to be unrealistic and archaic in our fast world.

 

Read more of Sanna’s work, check out Tall Girl and the Cricket videos and keep up with her acting career here  . And follow her on Twitter @SannaHaynes.

 

I was 19 years old when I got married. Fast forward to today, many people who meet me do not immediately consider me to be “the marrying type.” I will admit that I changed quite a bit over the past seven years. Many of my secondary beliefs have been challenged and replaced based on my experiences and reexaminations. However, the core of who I am has remained the same; I am still the same person at heart.

And, I still love my husband.

When I married Matt, I remember being very influenced by etiquette. I was very concerned about how to treat our guests on our micro-budget wedding. I consulted family members, friends, and loved ones in order to make sure I was doing “the right thing” for every aspect of our wedding. I remember freaking out over the fact our homemade invitations did not have the customary piece of tissue to separate all the parts of a traditional wedding invite. Today, websites like Pinterest can deem all of my worries to be completely irrational — traditional wedding etiquette seems to be less and less a valid concern, as creativity is the dominant force in weddings. Not to mention that the wedding industry preys upon the dreams of women to make a buck — or a few hundred thousand. But, I digress.

My wedding planning story serves as a very clear indication of the kind of person I was when I was nineteen. I was affected by the core beliefs of others, taking them on as my own (even though I very often did not try them on to see if they were practical or realistic). The purity of this tale resides in the fact that I fell in love when I was young (some used to say “too young”), and even though we have been through some tough times, I am still in love with my best friend.

Just like my wedding, there were many other aspects of “getting married” and “staying married” in which old wives tales, scripture taken out of context, or even strange extreme ideas about gender identity were preached at me by good-willed friends and family members. Some of these notions were spawned by years of functioning adequately by adhering to them, and others were brought to my attention out of bitter and broken spirits. Here are a few that I was (very) happy to find out did not work for us:

1. “Extreme Modesty for everyone else except your husband. Be a slut for him.”

Ok, before you get all weird on me, I am not suggesting that anyone should be publicly indecent or dress in a way that could get you arrested. Nor am I suggesting that you shouldn’t try to do your very best for your husband(or wife) in the bedroom. Having said that, the modesty/purity movement in the Christian church seems to have gotten a bit out of hand. I  think it may come out of a desire to control — by indoctrination of sorts — our men and women by stifling our sexual natures. Don’t get me wrong. I signed the “contract thingy” when I was sixteen, got a purity ring, yadayadayada. Do I think it added anything to my marriage? No. In fact, I think it merely taught me to stifle that side of my life. And modesty? Don’t get me started on that one.

Ok, so I have never exactly been a target of the modesty police. Even after I — um, developed, I still had the figure of an eight year old boy. Or a bean pole… whichever is more straight up and down. The modesty movement in the church always seemed to target girls who couldn’t help their sex appeal. If you have double D’s, that is going to be evident even if you wear a turtleneck. Most of my beef with the modesty movement is for my sisters who are more well endowed.You’re telling me that they can’t dress like a normal human being because God has created them with curves? Even with my “bean pole” figure, I remember the one time when I distinctly felt this prejudice — oddly enough from a male friend.

It was the first day in a long time when warmer weather had appeared after a cold(ish) winter(what can I say? I always pick warm climates for where I live). I thought it would be cute to emulate my favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn, in my outfit that particular day. Audrey is someone who is not revered for her sex appeal — rather her grace, beauty, and striking fashion. No problem, right?

I walked into my University student council office wearing a pair of cute black shorts, minimalistic ballet flats, and a button up top(which was buttoned to nearly the top button). A male peer looked me up and down and said coyly, “wow, you are looking summery” — implying what he meant only from the tone of his voice. It was the first time I felt a direct criticism from a Christian male — obviously nitpicking at my black shorts(which were far from being anything resembling “booty shorts”). And, strangely, it felt different from any man ogling me in a public place. I can deal with that. Douche bags will be douche bags. But a friend, whom I trusted?

It was around this time that I stopped caring about what my bible believing peers think about modesty. Of course, I still will glance at myself in the mirror to make sure I look decent, but I don’t stress about the amount of inches my neckline lies below my collarbone, anymore. I enjoy fashion. I love it for the art that it is — silhouettes and beautiful lines, clothing made for girls with gorgeous curves, or straight lines like me.

“But, you are causing your brothers in Christ to stumble.” For any man–Christian or not– to pin his sexual failings on the way a woman is dressed — or worse, inherently built — is tragic. For anyone to blame a woman for a man taking advantage of her, is, at best, a barbaric argument. It is also an argument that represents the dark side of the modesty debate.

Thankfully, My husband has always supported the way I choose to dress. In times when I have become anxious in regards to peer judgment, Matt has always reassured me that there I have never harmed anyone by wearing normal clothing such as a v-neck t-shirt or skinny jeans. I am so glad that Matt has served as a voice of reason for me, when my self confidence has been damaged.

2. “Take time to ‘cleave’ to your husband.”

I understand the basic sentiment behind this argument. The premise lies behind the scripture in Genesis 2:24 — “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” I agree! However, I disagree with a misuse of the scripture.

When Matt and I got married, many people told us to “cleave” to each other. On one hand, yup, we did some, uh, “cleaving.” We had an awesome honeymoon and really enjoyed spending time arranging our house together. Being married is fun!

On the other hand, many people found it strange that, after we returned from our honeymoon, we immediately wanted to see our friends. A couple people in our life suggested that we should possibly spend more time with each other, and less time with others. However, we wanted to spend time with our friends and share our new life with them. To this day, we still spend a lot of time with friends. We dislike the notion that a married couple should stick to themselves. Ironically, many of our friends are single — only because it is so damn difficult to get marrieds to come hang out!

Yes, of course, we spent time alone. We even moved away from our families, as opportunity knocked for us soon after getting married. Moving away from family was one of the healthiest ways that we could “cleave.” We learned how to operate our own way — without large amounts of advice many like to endow upon young marrieds.

Regardless, close friends have enriched our lives. We intend to continue being “enriched” by our cool diverse group of friends (located all over the world) — marriage will never make us “too busy” for that. End of story.

3. “Men need respect. Women need love.” 

This one is a hot topic. Not to mention, it seems to be so brashly unopposed in the evangelical Christian community, that it is difficult to get a theological word in edgewise.

The basic idea of this statement is rooted in those couple scriptures in the New Testament. “22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:22-28) The “love & respect” argument is merely a more “modern” way to rephrase the submission argument in terms a twenty-first century audience can stomach.

There’s the key — this was not a 21st century group of people. In fact, each epistle was intended for a certain group of folks. In that particular day and age, women were a step above slaves. Men also married women decades younger than them — many of the women barely old enough to be considered a teenager.

However, even though I do consider myself an egalitarian (and my husband would also tell you he believes in equality, not hierarchy), I feel like there are many other bloggers out there who do a much better job arguing this subject from a theological stance. Rachel Held Evans, in particular, is a good place to start. I, on the other hand, am going to go about this by way of personal experience.

Yes, I am a woman. Heck yes, I need love from my man. However, I am very aware of when I feel disrespected by my husband. And, my husband would also tell you he is very hurt when he feels unloved by me. I personally believe that these aspects of human emotion, of human decency, are not distinctive to gender — unless, of course, your husband is your ruler. Then, yeah — lack of respect would throw things off, now wouldn’t it?

When we got married, we both accepted what we thought a “biblical” model of marriage should look like. Matt would be the boss, I submit to his . . .  boss-ness.

However, as we went on, we found that we just didn’t operate that way. We naturally gravitated towards that of a team effort — not a hierarchical household. Over the course of this time, I discovered my love for my career, and Matt played with the idea of possibly someday becoming a stay-at-home Dad for little while. Do these things make us less of a woman or man? On the contrary. In my opinion, femininity and masculinity are not defined by what society deems worthy or true. I can be a feminine career woman, and Matt can be a masculine stay-at-home Dad.

And then, I remember Jesus. How he talked to women in public (*gasp*) even though that was scandalous in greco-roman and Jewish culture. How he created friendships with women and saw them as equals. Jesus was redefining the gender roles (of his day) all over the place!

To sum it all up.

Marriage is a process, and regardless of what people will tell you, there are many different sides of marriage that you need to discover for yourself. Asking “why” whenever anyone tries clumsily to give you marriage or relationship advice will serve you well. Asking “why” helped me learn more about being a woman, about body image, and gender roles. And, if we didn’t ask “why,” our marriage may have not made it this far.