Goldilocks Syndrome, Church, and Lazy Thinking

So, my mother got mad at me the other day. She accused me of purposely adding Kung Fu for the kids on Sundays so that I could have an excuse for her not to take them to church with her. She’s wrong. I don’t want her to take the kids to church because I think her church is crazy.

To clarify: I don’t think ALL churches are crazy and I don’t think all churches are bad. I don’t even think that her church is bad. In fact, I consider myself Christian – just not currently attending church. And if I thought her church were less weird, then I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with my mother taking the kids.

Here’s the thing. I know I am having a hard time finding churches because none of them meet my ridiculously long list of things that I want these churches to have. I know I’m looking for a Unicorn church and quite frankly, I used to feel really guilty about not taking my kids to church. But since I’ve started to cut out guilt, I’ve decided that right now, church is NOT a priority to me.

I don’t usually feel bad about my new state of actively not taking my kids to church (versus passively just not getting around to it). However, the other day while we were driving, Cookie Monster asked, “Why does Ah-Ma really like imaginary things?”

I paused. “Do you mean things like Jesus?”

“Yeah!”

I nearly died laughing (or I would have if I allowed myself to laugh out loud).

Alternatively, Gamera likes to insist that Jesus is a watermelon. It’s even funnier when she insists in Chinese.

Another contributing factor to me not attending church is that when I do attend church, it usually pisses me off. It’s either the message that pisses me off or the fellow attendees. Obviously, this says a lot about my own character. However, it is also indicative of my fellow attendees.

Now that I think about it, it’s not usually the church services that annoy me so much as the small groups, Bible Studies, or book studies.

I find that I usually cannot have any sort of religious conversation with people I do not have a personal relationship with. The only reason I can have conversations with people who I am actually friends with is because I can remember they are human – and if they say something I disagree with, I can usually recall how to be a kind person. But if it is a stranger or an acquaintance, I have far less compunction and I’m afraid my inner asshole shows a little too often. And who wants to be that person?

But the reason why I have a hard time having these conversations (and I have had this problem since childhood) is because most of the conversations are superficial and cliché; rife with lazy thinking and shitty theology. Nothing pains me more.

A few years ago, I ranted about Sunday School and how woefully inadequate it is in preparing our children for the hard questions we ask of God and the Bible and of Jesus. I would posit that this is also my gripe with grown ups.

Am I snob? Am I asking too much of people?

Look, I know that just because someone believes something doesn’t mean that’s how they apply their theology. And I get that I can be a dick and treat people with contempt because I find their thinking derivative.

But truthfully, I’m so tired. I’m so tired of the church being silent and irrelevant on things that matter to me. Yeah, yeah. My eternal soul matters. But my life here and now matters, too.

You know what I want?

I want to see churches have hard conversations about race and sex and money and suffering. I want to see churches have honest repentance for their complicity in racism and misogyny and abuse. I want to see churches be real and take responsibility for the ways they have contributed to the status quo.

I know that there are some voices in the desert, calling out to the rest of the US church for repentance. But mostly, they are slapped down and silenced.

So my solution is to not have much to do with the church in my day to day life. As a result, my children think Jesus is imaginary. Clearly, my method is working out just great.

We Are Not Things

A few weekends ago, my friend and I went to go see Mad Max: Fury Road and my brain exploded from the sheer spectacle, non-stop thrill, and unspoken weight of the movie. I admit, I only went because I was so intrigued from all the hype about it being a “feminist” movie. I hadn’t seen the original trilogy and I don’t plan to because I’m lazy and because seriously, how can any of them compete?

I have not been able to get the movie out of my head. (Mild Spoilers ahead.)

Fury Road is set in a post-apocalyptic world where water and gasoline are scarce commodities. Immortan Joe is a cult-leader/warlord who rules over his “people” with an iron fist by severely rationing out water. He has an army of Warboys, young men who believe dying in battle is the key to entering Valhalla. He also has a harem of sex slaves he uses for breeding and future milk producers.

The movie is centered around the flight of these women, aided in their escape by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). In one of the rare semi-still moments of the movie, Immortan Joe runs to the women’s quarters/prison, only to find graffiti reading, “We are not things” and “Who killed the world?”

I can’t get that phrase out of my head.

We are not things.

I can’t even remember if anyone ever says that outright, but throughout the movie, you get the point. Not only in reference to the self-liberated, pregnant women who are valuable commodities, vital for their wombs and milk, but the Warboys as well who are disposable cannon fodder. Even Max is a thing – a living blood bag.

We are not things.

I heard it as a battle cry. A desperate plea. A demand. A fact. A declaration.

We are not things.

Yesterday, I ran across a vile article, 8 Steps to Confront Your Wife’s Sexual Refusal (h/t Pastor Ken Fong) from an anonymous white man who calls himself a Christian.

Here’s the tl;dr version: The guy equates a wife’s refusal to have sex with sexual immorality. Furthermore, continued refusal on the wife’s part is tantamount to religious apostasy. The way to “confront” her is to stop being “nice” to her and no longer take her out on dates and treat her with basic human decency because she’s probably really mad at him now. And finally, he recommends changing bank account passwords and ATM codes and cutting off all money if she continues to refuse.

This is classic abusive behavior and incredibly dangerous.

Women, if a man does this to you – if anyone does this to you – RUN. This person does not care about you as a person, with your own wants and desires and thoughts and personhood. This person only treats you as a possession; an entitlement.

I just. How is this real? How can someone believe this load of shit and call it Christian?

And yet, we get milder versions of this nonsense everyday from churches that tell us women aren’t fit to be leaders (except over other women and children). Most definitely, this is part and parcel to all body policing of our daughters, telling them what to wear and how to wear it. (I wrote a post about this last week.)

Or if you want to be more extreme, the folks of the Modesty Culture and Quiverfull Movement. Really, if you follow the “benign” misogynistic teaching to its logical conclusion, you end up with the entitlement of Rape Culture and the idiot who wrote the above article.

In fact, I see pornography and Modesty Culture as two sides of the same coin. After all, in both viewpoints, we women are just things.

We are just holes (although, perhaps the Christians only allow women to be the one hole).

We are just vessels.

We are just a means to slake a man’s lust and desires. (Oh, those poor, poor, uncontrollable men with their lusts and desires!)

Where are the Christians decrying this type of dangerous teaching? I find it highly hypocritical when Christians call upon Muslims to denounce a few extremists who want to destroy America/Christianity/Women when they brush off the extremism in our own midst. Or even worse, when Christians boost that insidious evil and vomit it out of their own pulpits.

No wonder Christians are hemorrhaging members. Short of a few vocal pastors (again, I credit Pastor Ken Fong and author, Rachel Held Evans), I mostly only see silence or a few minor protestations followed by lots of nonsense about God’s mercy and forgiveness and other blather reinforcing and justifying bad behavior.

No wonder we are seen as hypocrites; immoral.

Why does it even need to be said?

Women are not things.

We are not things.

We Are Not Things.

WE ARE NOT THINGS.

courtesy of unwinnable.com

courtesy of unwinnable.com

If you or someone you know are being raped, abused (sexual or otherwise), please please please call or contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies

img_8142Author’s Note: This topic is highly sensitive and there may be some Trigger Warnings of rape, sexual assault, and incest. There are no graphic descriptions, merely the mentioning of such occurrences. My commenting policy will be highly enforced both on this site and on Facebook. Also, if you are a long time reader, I’m sure this is not necessary in the slightest, but there is liberal application of the swears in this post. For reasons which will prove obvious.

I remember we were in our church’s bathroom, talking about our week. My friend casually mentioned how she had snuck out of her house to meet a boy at the park where he proceeded to rape her. We couldn’t have been more than fifteen at the time.

I remember another friend, telling me how over the weekend, she was with a fellow student and they were making out and next thing you know, he was having sex with her and she was frozen and couldn’t move. She just couldn’t move to stop him and though her mind was screaming, her body just passively went along with it. I think we were maybe nineteen or twenty.

I remember at a sleepover in junior high, asking a friend who I vaguely understood was having problems with her dad if she had ever had sex, knowing full well that the odds of her having sex were slim to none. Only to find out later (again, in a vague sort of way) that she had been sexually abused by her father for years.

I remember how hard it was for another friend to tell me that a family member had repeatedly sexually abused her when she was a child. How she felt so dirty and used and that she must have asked for it.

I remember how one day, I did a quick mental count of all the women and men I knew who had been raped and sexually abused and I realized that in less than five seconds, I could rattle off at least ten people.

And yet, consider this: When I found out my friends had been raped, in some cases repeatedly abused, my immediate concern was that they were no longer “virgins” and not the fact that they had been raped. In fact, I was so disappointed at their loss of “virgin” status that immediately after their telling me, it never occurred to me to inquire of my friends’ health, emotional state, or encourage them to go to the police.

That, my friends, is SERIOUSLY fucked up.

Even now, when I hear of people moving in together or of celebrities having babies out of wedlock, my immediate reaction is disappointment in their sexual choices. As if that is all of who these people are.

Of course, I now dismiss my gut reactions as ridiculous at best and dangerous at worst, but years of indoctrination from the Cult of Sexual Purity and Virginity is hard to silence entirely.

I consign myself to living with this unfortunate side effect of a mostly Christian upbringing. You know, where sex before marriage is the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person.

I remember my first year in college, after having several of my first sexual experiences with guys who happened to be best friends (not at the same time), I felt like I could no longer even answer to my name – which means “virgin” or “maiden.” I felt as if I were no longer “pure.”

I remember when the second guy found out I had fooled around with his best friend, his first reaction was, “Damn! He got there first!” I was never a person to them. Just a walking vagina in which they could potentially stick their penises.

I remember feeling “convicted” that I had to ask my father (you know, the man who committed adultery multiple times and is a serial liar and cheat) for forgiveness because of my “scandalous” ways. I felt convinced that if he knew the truth about my sexual history, he wouldn’t love me anymore. When he found out, he said he was relieved and had been worried I was frigid. To this day, part of me still believes that he used my confession as justification for his later infidelities.

I remember in high school, my mother holding me and rocking me in the dark, weeping, praying, begging me to stay pure for myself and my future husband. Even though in retrospect, I know she wanted to protect me and was reacting to my father’s behavior, this feeling that I was failing my mother followed my sexual experiences.

I remember lying to my parents for years when I was living with Hapa Papa in “sin.” It didn’t matter that I was a grown woman. I did not want my mother to think less of me.

I remember when Cookie Monster was born, and ever after, that people would constantly comment on how attractive he was. That he would “clean up” in high school. As if it was a good thing that my son would just casually fuck his way through all his female classmates.

I remember the distinctly different tenor a few years later when people would comment on Gamera’s beauty, telling us, “You better tell Hapa Papa to get a shotgun.” “You’ll need to lock her up.”

I remember a talk the leader of our chapter of InterVarsity (an on-campus Christian ministry) gave to only the women about wearing bikinis and clothing that caused our “brothers” to “stumble.” I am pretty sure the leader only had the best of intentions, but in retrospect, that was an incredibly sexist and offensive talk. I seriously doubt there was a similar conversation going on for the men, telling them not to take off their shirts or not to wear tailored three piece suits or other nonsense in case they should happen to cause their “sisters” to “stumble.”

I remember one time, I had an orgasm with my Christian boyfriend and he was immediately angry and accused me of trying to use and corrupt him. And when I asked him why he never got angry when he had an orgasm, he then turned it around on me and asked me why I wasn’t angry when he did. That if I loved and cared about him, I would be more upset when he came.

In the years that we were together, I’ve lost count how many times he came in our relationship. (We never had full on “sex,” but had sexual experiences.) I only had that one. And yet, I was the one made to feel filthy.

I have been sitting on this piece for a long time, never quite knowing exactly what I wanted to say nor how to say it. And then, the shitstorm of the Duggars and Josh Duggar came out last Friday and I just can’t stop thinking about it.

I titled this piece, Policing Our Daughters’ Bodies, because so much of our culture, and I would daresay Christian culture in particular, is about women’s bodies. What are they wearing? Is it too revealing? Or not sexy enough? What’s with her hair? Is it feminine? Too masculine? What type of shoes? Are they CFM shoes? Ruining her feet? She’s running for president, but let’s talk about her pantsuits. She was sexually assaulted, well what was she wearing? Was she drunk? Did she scream? Did she say, “No”?

Originally, I wanted this post to be a logical take down of The Cult of Purity and Modesty Culture, but quite frankly, that is not what my post turned out to be. Instead, for an amazing and step by step take down of the insidiousness of Modesty Culture, I refer you instead to the blogger Diary of an Autodidact’s excellent post on The Duggars as well as his series on Modesty Culture. (H/T Pastor Ken Fong and SF.) Much of what he writes is horrifying – especially how the proponents of Modesty Culture blame survivors of sexual abuse (even if they are only babies).

And now, I’m not exactly sure what I want this post to be.

Only that I will do everything in my power so that Cookie MonsterGameraGlow Worm, and any future children, will never have to have memories similar to mine.

I want my children to know that they are not commodities; they are human. With the full spectrum of human desires, feelings, and emotions.

I want my daughter and my sons to know that sex is neither the pinnacle of the human experience where they have to grab or steal or trick their partners into having it nor the worst “sin” they could possibly commit (unless they are married, of course).

I want to be the type of mother who, if some shit of a person snapped my daughter’s bra, I would respond in similar fashion. Always supporting Gamera, and never ever asking her what she was wearing to possibly deserve that type of behavior. Shoot, I want to be that type of my mom for my sons, too.

I want to be the type of mother who teaches her sons to see women (and men) as people and not just possible penis receptacles. And that just because their hormones may be raging or a woman might be wearing something attractive, or revealing, or nothing at all, that they are people who can exercise self-control and self-respect and are more than their base desires. I suppose this applies to my daughter as well.

I want all my children to know that it is normal and fine to have desires. Yes, even sexual ones.

I want my children to have fantastic as well as boring, comforting, and all-sorts-of-adjectives sex. I don’t care as long as they and their partner(s) can and do consent.

I want my children to have healthy, full, and fulfilling sexual lives. Shoot, lives in general.

I want my kids to be confident in the knowledge that should they ever be sexually assaulted or violated that it is not their fault; they are precious, perfect, and not despoiled or dirty chewing gum.

Actually, I want them to know that regardless.

I want my children to understand reality, and then know that they can and deserve better.

I confess. I am terribly dissatisfied with this post. It is nowhere near what I want to say, yet I cannot find the right words. Only, I am afraid if I keep postponing, I will never get it out.

And truly, as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a mother of daughters, a mother of sons, and most importantly, a human – a person, I want to convey that policing our daughter’s bodies, as protecting as it seems, just reinforces the lie that the problem is with our daughter’s bodies and not the men and women who choose to violate them.

And that yes, I would prefer my children always and only make wise choices. However, even if they make foolish choices (be it drinking alcohol, wearing the “wrong” type of clothing, whatever), that they still aren’t asking for it.

And with that, I leave you with this iconic image:

Still-Not-Asking-for-it

*All stories used with permission. Names and details have been withheld or changed due to privacy.

If you or someone you know are being raped, abused (sexual or otherwise), please please please call or contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE.

The Right Philosophy Won’t Save You

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I’m sure many of you have realized by now, I am a Control Freak.

I know. It caught me unaware, too. (I kid, I kid!)

And I am this way, a grasping, clamoring, rigid, inflexible, unreasonable person because I am afraid. I try to control everything because I am controlled by fear.

I find it most prevalent in my parenting. I’m sure it shows up in other ways, as Hapa Papa has surely experienced personally, but I notice it most in my parenting because strangely enough, my children happen to be little humans and do not obediently truck with everything I demand of them. (For me, this is the single, most infuriating and crippling thing about parenthood.)

I think I would have far fewer full on nuclear standoffs with my children if I just saw my belief systems as what they truly are: a way to order and control my children. (In fact, I believe this to be true for all belief systems – whether they be religion, political affiliations, even science. They are our methods to order and control our worlds.)

Instead, I fool myself into believing that what I’m imposing on my children is a life or death battle – the key to them growing into upstanding citizens and good people. I draw these ridiculous lines in the sand wherein if they don’t finish their yogurt for breakfast I am going to let them starve to death and never feed them again or if they don’t put on their helmet I’m going to throw away their scooter and all their other fun ride on toys and never let them go to the park again.

I do so because deep down, I am convinced that if I just make my kids do XYZ, then they’ll get into Harvard (or UCLA) and then they’ll become a doctor or something and be successful and have a good and happy life. Yes. All this from eating their fucking yogurt.

Until I had children, I never realized just how superstitious I was as a person. After all, wasn’t I an enlightened and educated person? Didn’t I believe in a God who was bigger, more powerful, and more merciful than even my education and religion? Didn’t I also believe in science (albeit, less powerful but still pretty awesome)? (And no, I do not find God and science to be mutually exclusive.)

After I had Cookie Monster, I used to pray over him when I nursed him to sleep at night. I would start out praying for Cookie Monster to have one or two traits that I thought would be key to him being a good person – but then, I would just keep adding to the list – and then qualify the entries with other “must haves.”

I wanted him to be happy, but not too happy. Suffer, but not too much suffering. Just enough to give him character and compassion for others. Be smart. Work hard. Have enough money but love the poor. The list kept growing longer and longer and more and more qualified, until I realized several things:

1) My laundry list of things was indicative of my True beliefs – the REAL desires of my heart. They were the things that I thought made a good life and would make Cookie Monster happy.

2) I have NO idea what makes a person happy or have a good life. Plus, my prescription for what I thought a good life entailed may well have turned Cookie Monster into a horrible person.

3) Ultimately, I want Cookie Monster (and all my children) to become people whose desires are after God’s own heart. And to beg God to allow me to be unbroken enough to recognize it when I see it.

But let’s be real. That last prayer is terrifying. God is not safe. God takes who you are and changes you. And that change usually hurts. A lot.

It’s hard to admit that having the right philosophy about child rearing or race or sex or religion – all that good stuff and the stuff of contentious culture wars – all that stuff won’t save us.

No matter how great our theory, we still have to go through the messiness of life. Kids still get cancer. Spouses still cheat. We might lose everything. All sorts of shitty things still happen – and we have no control over any of it.

I am owed nothing. Tomorrow isn’t promised. It is not guaranteed. God isn’t obliged to me. Doesn’t need me. Doesn’t even maybe care about my elaborate prayers or rituals or must haves. I mean, he probably cares WHY I do these things – but the things themselves? May as well be empty gestures. Superstitions.

That is what I find the most maddening. Isn’t that why I subscribe to these various thoughts? These various dogmas? To guarantee my kids won’t be drug addicts, will get into Harvard, won’t be teenage parents, and won’t be sick or poor?

But what’s the worst that could happen? (Well death, I suppose. But if I truly believe in Heaven and the goodness of God and how this life is just a preview, then though I be grieving, is it really the WORST?)

I can’t even open myself up to these “worst” possibilities because my overactive brain will continue to spin out of control and next thing you know, I have barricaded my children inside of our home and only allowed Hapa Papa to go out to work because some risks are acceptable in order for me to keep the lifestyle to which I’m accustomed. (Jokes! Them be jokes!)

Times like these, when fear threatens to overwhelm, I can’t even turn to God.

Why? Because God doesn’t promise me that life I want. He doesn’t promise me that everything will be smooth sailing and easy. He just promises to be with me. And what’s the use in that if I didn’t get what I want? (Of course, I bury these thoughts deep, deep down. You know, as if it were actually a secret from God. Mercifully, God has done little to shatter my illusions thus far.)

No, instead, I turn to statistics. Cold, hard numbers. The odds are ever in my favor and that is enough to comfort me for a little while.

Here’s the thing about my small, fearful heart. I do not believe that God is really that good, let alone that God is actually enough. I don’t believe it and I NEVER want to be tested and taught that is so.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

Truthfully, even if I had the “correct” theology, it won’t save me. No philosophy or religion will.

Or even in the narrow scope of parenting, no matter how perfect I am in my parenting (be it Attachment Parenting, Free Range Parenting, I Don’t Give A Fuck Parenting), my kids could still end up a drug addict, in prison, homeless, or dead in a variety of ways.

All my tightly clenched fists have done is unravel me. I am falling apart. My words on paper seem together, but I am not. I am a hot mess right now.

I feel as if I’m coming apart at the seams. As if something inside me has shaken loose and won’t play ball and go back to its proper place: hidden.

Change is hard, my friends. I confess, since my last breakdown back in November/December, I’ve gotten into a more placid place and evened out a bit. I had deluded myself that 4-5 months of therapy was all I needed and BOOM! I am healed!

But, no. The things that drove me to therapy just got ably pushed down and buried after the first few weeks. I have been deflecting and skimming the surface of what I am now for the past few months, mistaking candor for vulnerability.

They are not the same. And I am not very vulnerable.

I feel cracked. And I fear I am cracking like a mirror to be shattered rather than an egg birthing something new.

I really want to be made anew.

 

Longing For Grace

For those of you who know me in Real Life, you know that I freak the fuck out and go from 0 to 60 in a eye blink. One second, my MIL is asking Gamera if she has a boyfriend (FFS, she is three years old) and the next thing I know, Gamera will be a stripper who needs men for attention and will be a strung-out junkie with a pimp.

Totally within the realm of plausibility, folks. Totally.

It is possible, perhaps, that my reaction was not in keeping with reality. That my MIL’s one off-hand comment will not forever alter the course of Gamera’s life. But that’s the way my brain works, people. I never said it was pretty.

I blame this all on a sermon I heard once (I think, anyway) about how all the choices we make in life can either keep us on the path of righteousness or diverge and take us away from that same path. Minor bad choices are actually slippery slopes. Like how an acute angle in geometry starts off at a minor angle, with the lines minutely apart, but if we go further out in time, at some point, the lines will be infinitely apart. I am plagued by the idea our choices in life are like these two lines, and if we make the wrong choice, no matter how small in degree, at some point further in time, the distance between the Path of Righteousness and the Path of Ruin will be infinite and they will NEVER MEET AGAIN. One misstep and you will NEVER get back to the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

After all, the way of the Lord is narrow. And Hard. And difficult. And the way to Hell is broad and easy.

But what a terrifying way to live. What a stifling and constraining and graceless way to live.

I feel like this is my life. Graceless. Constant self-condemnation and judging. And fear. OMG, THE FEAR.

But the truth is, life is not an immutable straight line. There are infinite chances and opportunities. Infinite opportunities for “course correction.” And who is to say that there is only ONE correct way to live? I mean, just given the evidence based on 7 billion lives on this planet, and the 7 billion unique-ish situations these people find themselves in, I know that is not true.

Stated in a positive way, the idea that there is only ONE way to live, that it is the One Path to Rule Them All, is FALSE. A horrible, pernicious lie. (A lie that I hear often in churches, but let’s face it, comes in any and all directions. Just take your pick: organic, liberal, conservative, you name it, it’s got it.)

True love drives out fear. And if I truly believed that God offered perfect love, the kind of love that drives out fear and offers freedom, why do I buy into this pack of lies? (And it is a worthless pack of lies; a twist of the Truth to pervert and poison and obfuscate who God is.)

I long for freedom. I long for grace. I long to live a life as if it were okay to fail and to fail spectacularly.

I long for my kids to experience true freedom.

My heart breaks that even though Cookie Monster is so small and so young, (too small and too young, to be honest), he is already hampered by fear. He is already so afraid to fail. To look foolish. To be rejected.

I see it in the way he doesn’t want to try new things at preschool (mostly physical activities). I see it in the way he hovers on the edge of groups, the desire and yearning to join in on whatever activity the group is doing so painfully etched on his face, but him being too afraid to ask to play with the kids because they may say, “No.” I see it when he refuses to ask me for something he wants and instead makes a negative statement like, “I can’t play Halo” so that he has already rejected himself before I can dash his hopes.

I see it in the way Gamera will lie just to get my approval. And the way she cries and clings to me when she thinks that I disapprove of her.

It breaks my cold, dark heart.

I am devastated.

If only I could live my life the way I live my writing.

When I was in high school, I used to resent having to write first and second and final drafts. I found it the height of stupidity and a fucking waste of my time. I would literally have to “fake” a rough draft so that my final drafts looked sufficiently different and altered from the original. I mean, what was the point of writing a first draft? My first drafts were perfect. I would edit as I wrote so there really was no need to go back and change things. I mean, isn’t that what computers were for?

Then, in my twenties, I decided to write a book and that is where my perfect first drafts became my downfall. I would write a section and then edit. And then edit some more. And then edit some more. Then read my perfect words. Then edit some more. Which is great and all, to have a perfect set of 1,000 words, but 1,000 words does not a book make. Most books have about 65,000 words (a little more than your typical NaNoWriMo at 50,000 words), but either way, I was 64,000 words short.

So, I read about writing (because when writing, nothing is more useful and productive than reading about writing) and all the blogs and books I’ve read since then universally agree: you have to write. Just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, utter shite. Nothing is harder than a blank page. You can’t do anything with it. Just write. Accept as a truism: You will write crap. A lot of crap. It doesn’t matter; that’s what editing is for. But you can’t edit what you don’t have, so you have to write.

That’s the beauty of writing: once you have stuff written down, you can delete it, you can write more stuff that is good/bad/meh, you can move entire paragraphs, you can do whatever you want when editing. Whole worlds are created and obliterated during editing. And then you can edit some more. But at some point, you will have to stop and move on. At some point, your writing will be good enough (or, sadly, as good as it will ever be).

Move on.

Accept that there may never be the perfect sentence. Just a bunch of good enough sentences.

And that, I find, is my perfect analogy for life. (If only I could buy into this theory in practice – and not just believe it only of my writing.)

You are never done until it’s done. (Even then, who is to say that is a permanent state of being – well, I suppose, for the sake of this argument, you are done in this plane of life.) There are few permanent mistakes (the laws of physics not withstanding) from which we cannot recover.

Most of life is a rough draft. We can edit and delete, but ultimately, we move on. We accept grace and forgiveness and try our best and we move on until we Move On.

So this morning, I wish you grace upon grace upon grace. Grace enough for parenting fails, for work fails, for life fails. Grace enough to cover a lifetime of sins, real and imagined.

A Crisis of Identity

One day last week, after walking my two older children to preschool, my youngest son and I walked past a house two doors down and saw a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. On a whim, I took a flyer from the box and when I finally got a chance to examine the specs, I immediately contacted my realtor.

Currently, we live in a home about a five minute walk from this new place. We love the area and particularly enjoy how close we are to all the fantastic schools and parks. We also love the home we are currently in (we bought it when I was pregnant with Cookie Monster) and hadn’t thought to make any changes until I saw this particular house.

The place we’re considering is almost double in size and with three growing children and perhaps one more in the near future, this home would more than comfortably accommodate our family of five (hopefully six)! Other than what my mom considers a bad feng shui front door (it leads to an outgoing street), this house would be an amazing environment in which to raise our kids. Not only would our preschool be two doors down, (I mean, I could leave Glow Worm napping at home and pick up the kids with no problem), but our kids are familiar with the neighborhood and the park down the street.

Obviously, anytime you look at a house double your current one in size and amenities, what’s not to like? With that said, I am in love with the built-in bookcases on the top floor. I love the large rooms, the extra surprise spaces like the office and the bonus room, the lovely built-ins in the kitchen and the office, and the great natural light in all the rooms. The backyard is the perfect size (ours currently has a giant, useless slope in it) and with the spa (or as Cookie Monster calls it, the “comfy comfy”), so much fun. Plus, we are big fans of the third garage space where we can stow all our crap (I mean, essential kid stuff). What a luxury!

What then, is the problem?

(Also, a little too late since we made an offer Friday afternoon.)

Well, here’s the thing. I always considered myself a simple person. I told myself when we moved into our current place that we wouldn’t ever upgrade – even if we did have four children. After all, people live in much smaller spaces all the time. I don’t believe kids have to have their own rooms (and even in the new house, they’d share) or require a ton of space. And when I just had Cookie Monster, it didn’t seem necessary. In fact, even with the three kids right now, our house seems just right. A lot of it is due to the way my house is laid out – it seems much bigger than the actual square footage. But now that the kids are getting bigger and the age range of toys is getting larger, I feel as if our house is just stuffed to the gills with stuff.

I suppose I could just get rid of more stuff (gasp), but let’s not get crazy.

But let’s cut line, here. A huge house with double the mortgage and expenses is NOT a simple lifestyle. A house this size is completely unnecessary and it seems somewhat wasteful in terms of space (oh, the glorious space!), resources, and monetary outlay. We would have to significantly alter the way we spend money (oh, ok – the way I spend money), and we most likely would not be able to have extra classes for the kids (eg: martial arts, dance, piano, etc.), at least, not for awhile. Plus, not only would our mortgage increase a LOT, it would take us thirty years to pay off the house whereas with our current house, we will likely be done by the time Cookie Monster starts college.

It seems to be a giant pain in the ass. But the HOUSE!! It’s BEAUTIFUL! And HUGE! And the built in bookshelves!! (My inner nerd longs for an actual library in my house – complete with a wheel-mounted ladder!!!)

You see my conflict? I almost want the sellers to counter with an offer we absolutely can NOT afford because then the decision is made for me. No moral and existential debate and discomfort. Just a definitive, “No.” But if it works out, then I have an internal crisis! Am I one of those people now? (I mean, we are already, but it is significantly easier to hide when your house is smaller.) Will I be flaunting wealth?

I know. I know. This is totally a 1% problem. But it is still my life and my problem!

Is it moral to have such a large house with its accompanying expenses in a world of such great need? Is this the right type of environment I want to provide for my children? What will I be teaching my children if we move to a bigger house? Is it even as big of a deal as I’m making it? I mean, plenty of people live in big houses and are good, moral, generous people. (I really don’t mean to imply that they are not. This is clearly my personal issue.)

But even more than that, is a bigger house really going to make me happier? Is it worth having to be a lot more careful about our spending habits (which we really should anyway, but right now, there is significantly more wiggle room) and sacrificing an easy lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed? Is this going to be a habit of mine where I am constantly trying to upgrade the outer trappings of our lives? Is my house going to look awesome on the outside but have no furniture on the inside?

Ultimately, I just worry that I’m being sucked into the American lie – that bigger is better at any and all cost. I worry that I am traversing a slippery slope and soon, I will become a person that my college self would find anathema. I worry that this is a step closer to being out of touch with what is the norm and that my “happiness baseline” will gradually increase until I require ever more and more. I worry that I will choose more and more to turn a blind eye to injustice and inequality because it will threaten the way I choose to live. I worry I will become the rich young ruler and that it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for me and my children to enter the Kingdom of God.

I worry that I am being unfaithful and that at the end of days, Jesus will look at me and say he never knew me. That he was hungry and I gave him nothing to eat.

Am I over-thinking things? Or worrying about that which has yet come to pass? (Especially since we don’t even have this house.) How do you resolve such dissonance in your own life? Let me know in the comments.

The Gatekeepers of Heaven

As I’ve gotten older and more life experience (as well as met more people with different life experiences), I’ve become more and more liberal in my theology and thinking. (Oh gracious, I’ve become more and more hippie-like and this disturbs me.)

I feel as if there are fewer and fewer lines of distinction on what it means to live a “Godly” life. Evangelical Christians would have you believe that you have to do XYZ and look a certain way before you are “Saved” but really, I think that’s just bullshit. That’s just the new Pharasaical order.

If you think about it and consider the patriarchs of the Christian/Jewish faith and their lives, they really don’t fit into the nebulous “Christian standards” very neatly. Or at all.

For instance, what about Abraham? He married his SISTER. Ok, HALF-sister, but still. EW. He whored her out repeatedly to other kings (I don’t believe for a second that she always remained untouched). On top of that, he had a concubine because his wife was barren.

What about Lot and his daughters getting him drunk and impregnating them? That’s right. daughtERS. Plural. How drunk do you have to be to not realize you’re having sex with your DAUGHTERS?

What about Israel (aka: Jacob)? He had two official wives and at least two concubines and at least thirteen children (of course, we only know the names of his twelve sons and the one daughter who was raped).

Or Judah, Jacob’s son? He visits a prostitute – who turns out to be his widowed daughter-in-law, by the way – and impregnates her. When he tries to turn her out for being a whore (hypocritical, much?), she sends him proof that it was he who did the whoring.

What about Joseph? He married an Egyptian and had two sons and I’m pretty sure they weren’t brought up in his religion, etc.

Or King David? With his hundreds of wives and concubines, he commits adultery and murder. He may have been a great artist and a man after God’s own heart, but he sure messed up his kids and condoned the rape of his daughter. (Well, perhaps condone is too harsh of a word. But definitely doesn’t do a damn thing about it.)

Or Paul? He told people that it was better to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God than to be married because then you could devote passionately to the gospel. Somehow, I have a feeling that Christianity would’ve died out if that were the case.

Please note, I am only bringing up the “faithful” in a long line of “faithful” servants. They were deeply flawed human beings – and yet, God still spoke to them and favored them. They were polygamous, murderers, incestuous, adulterers, and really, just a product of their times.

And yet, Christians constantly like to draw boundaries and lines of who belongs and who doesn’t. Okay. Let’s be fair. This is not a problem or distinction known only to Christians. This is a human problem.

If I am honest with myself, I, too, have my own ideas of who gets to be a “Christian” or not. For instance, I have a hard time believing that racists, sexists, misogynists, and hateful people can be “True” Christians. Or really, I have a hard time believing many of the vaunted Biblical heroes would be considered “Christian” by today’s standards. They were some deeply troubled and fucked up people.

John the Prophet? CERTIFIABLY INSANE. I mean, Revelations is one crazy work of fiction, right?

My point isn’t to nitpick people and be the Heaven Police. It is merely to say that God seems to cast a wider net than we do. Case in point: the parable of the vineyard workers.

Here’s the tl;dr version. An owner of a vineyard goes out at 6am in the morning to find workers at the local Home Depot. He picks up a bunch of folks and sets them to working, telling them he’ll pay the full day’s wage at the end of the day. He goes back to Home Depot at 9am, noon, 3pm and again at 5pm. At 6pm, the end of the day, he lines up everyone and starts paying the folks he hired at 5pm. He gives them the full day’s wages. So, the people hired at 6am fully expect to get paid their wages and then some. But when it comes to their turn, they get paid the same full day’s wages. The 6am (and perhaps the 9am workers, too) start grumbling about how it was completely unfair. They should have gotten more wages. What the heck? Was this guy a commie?

The owner gets wind of the complaints and asks the 6am workers, “Hey, did I neglect our agreement? Did you not agree to work the full day for this set amount of wages? Did you not think that was fair at 6am? Then what’s it to you if I am generous and choose to pay the later workers the same amount?”

I love that parable. If not because really, who are we to complain if God is generous?

It’s because we feel entitled to certain blessings and good things and “wages” that we start drawing lines around who deserves what and why. But in reality, who the fuck are we to decide who gets in and out of Heaven? When did God say we were the gatekeepers? And who is to say that God isn’t being generous with the wages in the first place? When did we become so fucking awesome? The appropriate response would be gratitude.

I also love it because clearly, I’m also on the benefiting side of the “last minute” workers – and let’s face it, all they really do is show up for an hour – if even that! It’s awesome. To receive unexpected and undeserved blessings. (That’s what I consider privilege: like, what sex/class/race/orientation/ability/etc. that I’m born into.) The appropriate response, again, would be gratitude.

Anyhow, my point really is that God lets in who He wants to let in and that culture is constantly changing. The only true criteria seems to be you have to be human (this is not to be species-ist) and a sinner. There is no way we would let in Abraham into the holy Church circles as he was. I mean, come on! What we consider appropriate changes with time. Are we wrong? Do we have to go back to Old Testament times? When if a woman was raped, she was given to the rapist as a wife and all the guy had to do was pay a donkey?

I am SO thankful that I do not live in Biblical times. Or any other time other than now. I am also deeply grateful that the pillars of faith were sometimes execrable human beings. That means I may have a chance at Heaven, too.