Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I had an I-94 moment today.  

There is a point on Interstate 69 in southern Michigan where you reach I-94, a major east/west highway. You can take a left for Detroit, or a right for Chicago.  Both, clearly, vastly different cities, vastly different outcomes, different directions. One takes you to the Motor City, one the Windy City.  Life is full of I-94 moments, where your choice takes you one way or the other. We face them in careers, we face them in relationships, we face them in friendships. Today was a friendship I-94 moment.

My day started at 5:30am, with a long work schedule. One of my friends texted, asking if she could come visit. I had an hour break for lunch, so it worked. She came over, vented a little about life, then started asking some questions and giving some unsolicited opinions. She shared with me how it makes her uncomfortable to see me do what she considers to be "man chores." She thinks its odd that I mow the lawn, wash my own car, chop and stack my own firewood, etc., etc., etc. And it went on from there. With a lot of......advice.

I try to be a person of tolerance, but I was annoyed. At that moment, my close knit neighborhood felt far too close. And even though she is retirement age, and I should give her the age-get-out-of-everything-free card, I didn't want to. I wanted to tell her all the things she didn't have a clue about. That I like to work. That if I don't do those things, frankly, they won't get done. That I choose my situations because I have thought everything through and am doing what is best. That I do some things that aren't my favorite thing to do instead of bitching about them. That I am essentially alone here, in ways she can't imagine, without family support. That my life, quite honestly, is my business and no one else's. That I'm doing the best I can.

And I probably would have been fully justified in saying all of it. 

Except for the outcome of that conversation would have sucked.

I could have said all of those things. And we would no longer be friends. At least, not to the degree that we are right now. I would feel better in the moment, but unhappy with the permanent result.

I have a lot of long term friendships. I am still friends with people from high school. And elementary school. And pre-school.... Maybe its part of growing up in a small town.  Regardless, there is one thing I have learned about long term friendships:

They require grace. A tremendous, unbelievable, ridiculous amount of grace.

The longer you know someone, the more of that person you see.  You get to observe their responses. You get to know their strengths and their flaws. If you listen, you hear their history and why they are the way they are. And at some point, their flaws, their insecurities, their snarkiness, their pain or shortcomings will be directed at you. Its inevitable. And that is where the I-94 moment comes in. It happens in every long term friendship. The moment where pedestals and rose-colored glasses cease to exist. We can be taken aback by the abruptness, the sting, the utter humanness of the other person. We can mentally step back and walk away from the friendship, deeming them undesirable. Or we can choose to forgive. To acknowledge our own shortcomings. To give allowances and grace. To push through the discomfort into something far more authentic and honest.  Its the moment where the friendship becomes real. Where the particles begin to solidify into something long lasting.  Something that is tough, if not impossible to break. Something incredibly valuable. 

I'm not saying every friendship should be saved. Some marriages are unhealthy and irreparable. Some friendships are as well. But some friendships are worth the work.  

And most people are worth, at the very least, our respect and kindness. And my friend definitely was. And is. 

So I made a choice to hear the heart behind the words. To hear her statements as care being expressed the only way she knew how to express it. To value and respect her opinions, not be offended by them. To embrace humility with the knowledge that I need to receive grace as much as I need to give it. 

She and I are going out to dinner Saturday night, and she's coming this weekend to a bar to hear me sing. Life goes on. 

But life goes on with us knowing each other a little bit better, and being better people for it.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How To Be A Miserable Human

How To Be A Miserable Human

With so many “how to” articles currently flooding the internet, (How To Have An Amazing Marriage, How To Succeed In Life, How To Have Your Perfect Body etc.) I thought I would add one more to the selection. 

I call it, “How To Be A Miserable Human.”

There are many ways to be miserable, should you choose that path.  But here are some ways, I have found that are foolproof….and work. EVERY. TIME.

1. Function under the delusion that the people in your life exist to serve you and your happiness.

Be incredibly, wholly focused on yourself, your needs, your circumstances, your stress, your pain. Be COMPLETELY oblivious to those around you, and unaware of the fact that they too have a story, and it might be worse than yours. Especially the ones closest to you ~ your family, your co-workers, etc. Never, ever lay aside your own priorities to give time and attention to someone else. Conduct yourself with the attitude that YOUR life is the most important. To do otherwise would prevent you from tunnel visioning your own stress and problems, and lead to less stress and happiness. Be selfish. Behave as though you are a privilege. Behave as though everyone in life owes you.

2. Be unappreciative.

Remove “please” and “thank you” from your vocabulary. Treat workers in the service industry like they aren’t even there. Never give notice or praise for a task well done. After all, “its their job,” and “that’s what they’re paid to do.” Don’t discover the joy and meaning that comes from being the one person to brighten the day of a stranger. And by all means, don’t make this a daily habit wherever you go, coffee shop, gas station. etc. ~ this could make people look forward to seeing you. 

3. Be critical.

View everything through the lens of negativity. Judge. Judge a lot. Judge people who dress, drink, listen to music, cope, eat, sleep differently than you. Refuse to try new things - and make fun of people who do. Judge everything that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. Allow for zero diversity in your circle of friends. Make boxes for everyone, and be annoyed when they don’t fit inside of it. This makes you narrow minded and eventually walls you off from everyone. And above all, judge intensely when someone sins. Assume that you yourself are perfect, and above any mistakes. Reject humility. Never allow yourself to think, “that could easily be me.” Refuse to see yourself as flawed. This will stop you from cultivating compassion or mercy, and it will distance you from humanity.

4. Hold Grudges.

Hold them tightly. Remember them every day. Be angry every time you see the person who wronged you. Forgiveness is the only way to peace, so refuse it. Never decide to become a person who forgives quickly and doesn’t keep score. Keep score of EVERY misstep in a relationship. If you were badly hurt in the past, carry it like a banner. Never come to a point where you decide to lay it down and move on with your life. And by all means, refuse reconciliation. Forgiveness is a hard path, and one that creates unbelievable personal growth and capacity for greatness as a human being. Choose to view the one who wronged you as an evil, horrible monster, and not ever as a human being who makes mistakes like you. Always view people in extremes.

5. Suck The Life Out Of Your Significant Other.

This one is especially important, as, in doing this, not only does it make you miserable, but another human being as well ~ which doubles your unhappiness. Expect your significant other to meet your needs. Every. Single. One. Never take responsibility for your own happiness. Never develop your own space, identity, hobby. Place that burden on them. And then whine, complain, accuse and demand when they don’t meet it. Make them wonder why on earth they chose you in the first place. Remove humor from your relationship. Use sex as a prize. Being a fun girlfriend or wife would double your happiness and make him want to be around you. Don’t bring him a drink and a hot kiss when he’s watching the game. Stand in front of the tv and dispense guilt trips. Dump all your problems on him instead of your girlfriends. And then be super annoyed when he doesn’t respond like a girl. Be jealous. Always. Believe the worst of him. And make sure you check his phone obsessively and assume he is cheating if he doesn’t answer your text within 10 minutes. This makes you a jealous, insecure, unhappy person instead of a confident, sexy, fun human being that you can be proud of. Never say you are sorry. And if you are in an unhealthy relationship? Stay in it and complain instead of taking the unbelievably hard steps to get out of it. 

6. Refuse To Find Joy In The Small Things.

Ignore your senses. Its just a flower, after all. Just a sunset. Just a cold beer and a belly laugh with friends. Its just a crazy awesome lightning storm. Just the kiss or touch of another human being. Its just a really great movie. Just the sweet scent of a baby in your arms. Its just the ability to hold another human being and cry with them when their world has fallen apart. And giving them the assurance that they are not alone, therefore discovering that you are not alone either. Its just a place to lay down at night. Its just a cup of coffee. Its just an incredibly delicious dessert. Its just fresh cut grass. Its just doing your job well. Its just health. 

Because recognizing, and being thankful for all these things and more, will cultivate gratitude. It will cause you to feel pieces of joy all day long. It will feel good to be alive. It will help you to realize that life, though painful, can eventually go on despite unspeakable tragedy. 

7. Above All, Never Figure Out Who You Are.

Never pause to think about what kind of person you are, and what kind of person you want to be. Never decide that you want to be someone of value. Never choose to live your life in a way that makes people grateful to have met you. Never choose depth. Never think about what makes you feel alive. 

Never figure out what really matters.

Because what really matters cannot be bought. Its not superficial. And its not selfish. Its not money, looks, sex appeal.  Its not a doctorate, its not a house, its not youth.  

It is connecting with each other. Its finding faith. Its true worth. Its acknowledging the pain, uncertainty, tragedy, loneliness, joy, love, and sorrow that is this life. And its choosing to live it with others. Its choosing to become a person of depth and character. Its choosing to be someone who sees the good in another when no one else does. Its choosing to be a person of hope and second chances. 

Its choosing to live life to the absolute fullest degree in our souls.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I Want Out

I really wanted to stop being a Christian yesterday.

There were many factors involved. I was exhausted. I was sick. I got into a ridiculous, yet big to me argument with The Cute Sound Guy. But the main reason I wanted to quit was my following of the evolvement of the Matt Walsh/Yoga Pants/Chicks on the Right thing, the Jarrid Wilson modesty thing, and the amazing #christiancleavage thing. (If you are unfamiliar with any of these, check them out and you will know what I’m talking about.)

The gist of it is a large spike in what has been an ongoing debate about modesty. I read numerous blog/comment responses. Definitely more than I should have. Because it just makes me angry. (In case you’re wondering, I fall squarely into the camp of personal responsibility, whether you are a man or a woman.)

Yes, as a woman it bothers me. For a million reasons. 

But the thing that bothers me the most is not that someone doesn't think women should wear yoga pants, or show cleavage or kneecaps. Its not that there are people who believe that women are a submissive gender. Its not the alcohol vs abstaining that bothers me.

Its the incredible, incredible, troubling lack of empathy.

I grew up in a conservative church environment my entire life. When your dad is a minister, church is not a place that you go to on Sundays, its your family’s ENTIRE life. To say you “live in a bubble” is quite possibly the biggest understatement ever. Since moving away from my home town, I’ve had an opportunity to step back and take a little bit more of an objective look at things. To form my own opinions, to discover what I truly believe ~ not just what someone has told me. I’ve left my parent’s denomination. I’ve had hundreds of new experiences. I've fallen and gotten back up. And for the first time in my life, a huge part of my social circle are people who are not Christians. At least, not in the way I was always familiar with. 

So, I tend to view church and Christianity through the eyes of my friends ~ through the eyes of a potential individual, whose only experience or knowledge of Christianity is what is media portrayed. And I wonder, often, what we as Christians look like to them.

And I finally understand why Christians have the reputation of being self-righteous jerks.

And I think the thing that bothers me the most, is that the ones who earn the reputation of being self-righteous jerks….don’t really care. In fact, it is often displayed as a badge of honor. Of “standing up for the truth” and “defending what’s ‘right.’” They are proud to debate, be the first to call someone or something wrong. And they seem to not care in the least that they look like arrogant assholes.

And you know what? They should care. If they gave one thought to the people they take such a strong stand against….THEY SHOULD CARE.

If we, as Christians, are here on this planet to love God, and love others, they are missing the main point. And all they are doing is building walls and turning people off. And it boggles my mind that they flippantly DON’T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT IT.

There are things in Christianity that are the basic black and whites.  And there are many things that are gray. There are many interpretations. There are many denominations. Rarely, will you find 2 people that agree exactly the same on everything. 

And I like it that way.  I like the colors of patchwork quilts. I like that I can go on Pinterest and find 376 different variations of the same recipe. I like that there are countless genres of music.

And I like that there are people who believe differently than I do.

And I’m finding out that not a lot of Christians feel that way. Or, rather, are secure enough to feel that way. And they certainly don’t like it. Nor can they show any measure of respect for an individual holding a belief that is different than theirs.

The stupid, ridiculous, childish and frankly EMBARRASSING yoga pant debate underscored that like nothing else. 

Once, just once I would like to see Christians stop talking. Just stop talking and pontificating and spouting your opinions for one. Damn. Second. 

And listen.

Listen to the story of another. Listen to their life experiences. Ask them how it felt.  And then imagine yourself in their shoes and how you would feel. And realize that you ARE in their shoes. You are flawed. You are existing on the same scary planet that they are. You are not on the high platform of “having arrived,” reaching down to the poor lost dregs of humanity, trying to pull them up to where you are. You are in the same waters that they are in.  Its not an “us vs them” situation. 

Its just “us.”

At least, that is how I feel. And I am constantly confused at the Christians that constantly feel the need to try and change me and make me just like them. Instead of encouraging me to seek Christ for what He has to say to me about becoming like Him.  Actually, its not confusing at all, when I think about it.  Its because they think they are 100% right. Especially in things that have little, if any, eternal significance. 

See, there are a million things that have nothing to do with the Gospel Christians can - and do - make issues of. Even the Christians who try to be cool and not legalistic. “I drink, I smoke, cuz God is fine with those things. But let me argue arrogantly with you about eternal security. Cause YOU”RE WRONG.”

Just. Shut. Up. Please. Because the fact of the matter is this: people really don’t want to hear your opinions about things that don't really matter. And the ones that do, will ask. Trust me. Or your life example of love and being a decent person will want to make them want to explore the God that is a part of your life. 

I’ve met a lot of Christians who love. Truly love. And who are safe. And I go to a church that is a safe place to be real with your pain. And your sin. And your doubts. And your fears. And to know that you are not alone. Its is a church of “us.”  But I know that’s rare. And I wish the media platform that is given the Driscoll’s and Walsh’s of Christianity could be given just for a short time to the safe Christians. So society could be given a different picture of Christianity than the one that has been painted. The often angry, hateful, compassionless spewing. The one decrying the wearing of yoga pants, when there is so much pain and suffering going on. The amazing message of the Gospel is reduced to childish bickering. It saddens me that we know the Healer, and yet all we often offer is opinions and rules.

And that’s why I wanted to stop being a “Christian.” Because the cruel self-righteousness is embarrassing. And its not something I ever want to align myself with. I want to be a person who invites, not shuns. Who cares, not publicly shames. And with every person I interact with, I want to be damn sure that I don’t have an agenda. Other than to love. And if I need to disassociate God from Christianity in my mind to stay sane? So be it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Someone Like Me...

  I was at a post Christmas party last night, hosted by a homeschooling family, and attended by mostly home school families. I was fighting a sore throat and cold, so I did alot of listening. :)  One of the ladies mentioned a prominent leader in the home school movement, who had apparently had a moral failing, with considerable fallout.  I wasn't homeschooled, and therefore had no idea who she was talking about, but googled the leader's name.  And that's where the rabbit trail began.
I was introduced to a ministry whose core beliefs seem to center on "The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy."  (This, in itself, is rather fascinating to me. I tend to think that a ministry should be based on the Gospel, and its message of hope and salvation.  But whatever.)  Biblical Patriarchy was a completely new term for me, but I am familiar with the lifestyle and system.  And I was about to be exposed to the extreme version.  I stayed awake for quite awhile last night, blowing my nose and reading the rants of a sect of Christianity who seem to associate salvation with wives submitting unquestioningly to their husbands, families homeschooling large numbers of children, and being extremely separated from the world.  I read instructions this leader gave to husbands on how to "discipline" their wives for not having the dishes quickly washed after every meal - and how to bring in the elders of the church to administer addition "discipline" if she continued to slack.  I read how college was only acceptable for sons, and how the daughters were to remain at home, under their father's authority until a suitable husband was found (via courting) and then she would transfer to the new husband's authority.  (A new phenomenon known as the Stay At Home Daughter.)  Never employed, never educated. And I read how the church elders trump all of THAT authority, and the entire family needs to submit to church elders. And how this is God's way, and any other way is sin.  

I read.  And my heart actually felt physically heavy.  

And then I perused Mark Driscoll's new book on marriage.

Although he has always struck me as an obnoxious "bully for God" of sorts,  I really did try to be open minded.  But many aspects of the book made me feel physically sick.  Vashti (of the Queen Esther story) was criticized for not submitting to her husband (apparently she should have just gone along with the whole 'parade naked around my drunk friends' idea.)  His own wife is portrayed as "sinful" because she cut her hair. (Forget the fact that she had young children at home and needed a hairstyle convenient to working her ass off taking care of everyone.)  But don't worry.  She repented of this sin, and he "forgave" her.  

I read.  I read how the secret to a good marriage lies in a wife submitting to her husband. How the key to marital bliss is her continual and unquestioning servicing of his sexual needs, and how he is to be pitied if she doesn't eagerly do everything that he sees in porn. I read how women should never be in leadership, as they are weak and gullible. And I read that all of this is "God's way" for a marriage and family. And His plan and purpose for women.

I read.  And I felt sick.

Were there good parts of the book?  Yes.  Are there nuggets of truth? Probably.  But are the above things the key to a happy marriage?  Maybe a marriage where only one side is happy.

I read.  And I honestly thought, "If this Christianity, please count me out."

It unlocked and opened the trunk of church memories.  Where wives who didn't submit were labeled "rebellious" and "Jezebel."  Where an elder could abuse his children, cheat on his wife and still be a respected pillar of the church.  Where men who committed adultery were "being guys - and guys are tempted you know, and maybe his wife just wasn't meeting his needs."  And women who committed adultery were toxic whores who were excommunicated.  It brought up memories of a system of fear.  Afraid of God, afraid of authority, and most of all, afraid of hell.  A system that communicated the underlying message of, women have decidedly less worth and value to God.

Then I remembered something that happened between God and I a few years back when I left my parent's church to attend another. It was definitely time for me to leave, and I tried to do it as graciously and quietly as possible.  But those types of things rarely turn out as simple as you would like them to.  I received a phone call from an out of state pastor that had been a long time family friend.  He informed me that I was "in sin" for leaving.  That when God calls a pastor, He calls the whole family and therefore I was flouting the "call of God." That I was leaving the "covering" and therefore opening myself up to a host of calamities, sickness, tragedy, etc., because God would no longer protect me. And that was the NICE part of the conversation.  

I hung up afraid.  Confused.  Hopeless.

I said, "God, please help me."

And immediately a verse that I had memorized as a child came to mind. "Come unto me all ye who are weary and are heavy laden.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul."  And I realized the fear tactics weren't from God.  God was gentle.  He was humble.  He offered rest.

And in this journey I'm on of questioning what marriage looks like, what family should look like, what spiritual authority should look like, what gender roles should look like, and when I see people like the homeschool leader and Mark Driscoll, condemning and mocking everything that is different than them.......I keep coming back to that verse.  

And I keep coming back to what Jesus is like. And when I read the Bible through independent eyes, I don't see Jesus angrily defending His gender and demanding that women know their place.  I see Him loving women.  I see Him eating with sinners.  I see Him reaching out to the adulteress.  I see a kind person.  I see compassion.  

And honestly He is my hero.  

I don't have everything figured out, nor do I really know what a healthy and Godly marriage looks like. I'm beginning to think it looks different for every couple.  But I do think that women matter to God just as much as men.  I don't think God sees women as less, or gullible, or something He only created to satisfy the needs of a man.  And I don't think a woman's worth lies in her relationship with her husband, boyfriend or father.  I think those relationships can be awesome  ~ and conducting ourselves in those relationships in a healthy, Godly way matters a great deal.  But ultimately, the worth of a woman doesn't lie there.  It lies in the love that she has for God, and that God has for her. And I'm beginning to think that no human being can ever take the place of that love.  And that in order for ANY relationship to work well, I (and all girls) have to have the God part figured out first.  

And to figure that part out, you have to think for yourself.  Loving and being loved by God isn't something that an authority can force on you, shame you, or terrify you into.  Its gentle.  Its humble.  It welcomes questions. It values uniqueness.  It offers safety and rest. 

And that is something I know.  Its where I land when I fly off the handle, frustrated and hurt at all the wounding and pain that is done in the name of God.  I know that God sees me, hears me, and loves me.  And loves women.  He knows grief and carries sorrows. And He is never ok with injustice.  And I don't have to prove my worth in God to anyone, Christian or otherwise.  Its enough to know it, and experience it.  He loves the broken, the fallen, the man, the woman, the sinner.......He loves someone like me.