magic.

where do i even start?

with my grandmother’s death after five months fighting brain cancer? with the fact that she, after rachel, was the second in a string of deaths close to me that now numbers eight or nine in about five months? with dealing with compound grief while trying to study for the gre so i can go to school to help others deal with their compound grief? with having so many things turned upside down that i don’t know which way is up anymore? with the deconstruction of my faith, the ripping apart at the seams of systems i never thought to question and beliefs that have long upheld oppressive structures designed to choke out life in the name of giving it? with how i’m trying so hard not to let “mourner” become my identity, because no one likes to be around the sad girl who can’t stop talking about how many people around her keep dying all the time? with my fears? with the fact that somehow, through all of this, there is joy? and that i feel guilty as hell about that joy sometimes?

where do i even start?

i think maybe i’ll start with magic.

this may not be a provable fact, but there’s a part of me likes to believe that there really was something to all of those stories of magic recorded in the lost annals of history. those little quirks in reality that couldn’t quite be explained were explained as “magic” and resulted in the torture and deaths of those thought to be perpetrating satan’s work (i don’t buy the argument, but whatever). and maybe just maybe, the magic didn’t disappear with the last of the accused witches. maybe that small, every day magic just went underground and sometimes manifests itself in small ways that lets us know it’s still there.

i think my maw maw had a touch of that magic. she could take any ingredients in her kitchen at any given time and throw something so wonderful together you couldn’t think straight for a minute. but when you would ask her how, she would say “i don’t know, i just threw together …. then i … and that was it.” she’d shrug like it was nothing, make sure we liked it, and be content. “i don’t know.” i think i know. i think it was a little fairy dust sprinkled somewhere in the kitchen, or maybe just over her.

she didn’t cook as much these last couple of years. her fight with breast cancer in 2015/2016 left her more exhausted and prone to getting out of bed long enough to eat before going back to her room to take a nap. my paw paw, aunt, and mom picked up the slack (especially my paw paw). on special occasions, she would sit in her recliner in the living room and shout instructions into the kitchen. if something looked fishy, she would come in, tell someone they weren’t doing something right, fix it, and go back to her chair. she had spent her reserve of energy fixing the thing, but it was fixed. all it took was her touch. isn’t that how magic works?

maybe my magic is in words. so i’ll try to use them to explain a few things here, in spaced out posts because i’m not going to even try to get all of that into one post.

the kitchen hasn’t been the same since she died.

i made her cheese ball last night. aside from too much ham, i just about got it right. maybe just maybe, i got a little bit of that kitchen magic from her. that would be alright with me.

m

 

Because of RHE.

Hi, there. I know I haven’t been around for a while, and I could try to play catch up, but tonight I don’t have the strength nor the energy. What I do have is sorrow and grief and hope.

Rachel Held Evans died today at thirty-seven years old. She leaves behind a husband and two little ones. It happened rather suddenly. We were all Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber in wishing her to “heal, dammit, heal.” We prayed for her healing, for the doctors to find some way to save her, for a miracle. We say that our God works miracles, and we begged for one for Rachel. I suppose that God saw fit to give us what we needed instead of what we wanted, although right now God and I don’t see eye to eye on this particular matter.

I never met her in person, but we followed each other on Twitter. She encouraged me and countless others through her tweets and her writings, and right now the world feels a little more black without her in it. She gave us the words to describe the tension we felt with our evangelical upbringings and the God we came to know. She held our hands as we fought and reckoned and rumbled with God to make sense of whatever the hell this world is right now, cheering us on and rumbling with us and making stands whenever the occasion arose. She sat with us in our despair and our questions and she made us feel safe when even the Church no longer felt safe. She was the light on the hill, the beacon, and advocate for the questioners and those of us hanging on to our faith by our bloody and torn fingernails.

I will try, the best I can through the pain and the sobs, to tell you how Rachel Held Evans kept me in the Church and saved me from myself. How I will forever be eternally grateful that we walked the earth at the same time, and how without her wisdom and grace and courage I would not be where I am.

I am, first and foremost, the preacher’s daughter. The daughter of an exceptional preacher who has always done his best to make sure that before I knew anything else of God’s character, that I knew his grace and mercy. A pastor, who, when preaching on Revelation, focused on the beauty and renewal instead of the judgment and brimstone. A preacher who has always had women’s backs when it comes to women teaching men in the church. A father who has, for the most part, been as close to an earthly example of God’s love as is humanly possible.

I was saved at eight years old.

I didn’t know what to do after that.

For crying out loud, most days I still don’t, but that’s for later.

None of these factors have stopped my own rumbles and fallings out with my faith. All those nights when the depression sank in and I couldn’t get relief, and I would lie there mentally screaming at God at the top of my lungs to just make it stop. Those nights when the fears that maybe I wasn’t saved after all would take over and it was all I could do not to shatter into a million pieces from the fear of eternal damnation that started at age thirteen. Those days when all I can see are how terrible humanity can truly be and I don’t understand how a loving and gracious God can allow such things to exist.

Those moments when the Church hurt me more than anyone else ever could. Those moments where I watched the Church rip my family to shreds because everyone knows that you can find the meanest people in the church pews. Those nights I cried for my dad because I just wanted them to leave him alone. Those Sunday mornings I watched those shady old men hit on my mother like she was nothing more than an object to be consumed. Those times I thought to myself, “If I could, I would leave this whole broken dump in the dust and get on with my life because if God is real this wouldn’t be happening in His house.”

But Rachel Held Evans wrote a book called Searching for Sunday. It’s her struggle with the Church. How she watched her LGBTQ+ friends rejected from the communion table for their sexuality. How she watched how women were treated and regarded as being good for nothing more than children’s ministry (a noble calling, but women are so much more than just caregivers). How she left the Church and called it quits because she just couldn’t take being a Christian anymore even if God is real and we’re supposed to congregate. How she was drawn back by the Episcopal faith and an open table where all are reaffirmed in their dignity and glory in Christ. How broken and bruised, she found God again in the sacred ritual that has bonded Christians for thousands of years, and she came home.

A paragraph in the opening reads as follows,

“This book is entitled Searching for Sunday, but it’s less about searching for a Sunday church and more about searching for a Sunday resurrection. It’s about all the strange ways that God brings dead things back to life again.  It’s about giving up and starting over again. It’s about why, even when I suspect all this talk of Jesus and resurrection and life everlasting is a bunch of bunk designed to coddle us through an essentially meaningless existence, I should still like to be buried with my feet facing the rising sun.

Just in case.”

My dad gave me a copy, and I sped through it, eating up every word she offered as if I’d been starving in the desert and was just offered my first piece of bread in forty days. I drank it all in, once again feeling the magic and hope of my salvation bringing me to life like the blood of Christ I will drink tomorrow as part of our own communion service. She brought me in, held me close, told me that I was safe in my doubts and fears, and gave me the strength to keep walking through the doors every Sunday. She reminded me that God is big enough to carry not only our joys but our sorrows, our doubt, our pain, our grief.

So tonight, even though I feel a crushing weight on my chest and I can’t stop sobbing to save my life, I carry on. I don’t know why God decided that she needed to go now. I don’t understand how a God who can work miracles, bring the dead to life, cast out demons, feed over five thousand people with just a couple of loaves of bread and some fish, cause the rise and fall of nations, create the entire universe, be born of a virgin, killed by the Romans in the most brutal way imaginable and come back to life three days later- wouldn’t work a miracle for one of the strongest, bravest, voices of this generation of evangelicals- a woman who fearlessly and faithfully called out leaders and footsoldiers alike, owned up to her mistakes, and supported and uplifted the marginalized until her dying day. She was a force to be reckoned with. She was a warrior, a mother, and a giver of hope to everyone whose life she touched in her life, and will continue to touch even in her passing.

Glennon Doyle, in her foreward to Searching for Sunday, wrote, “Whenever I want to scare myself, I consider what would happen to the world if Rachel Held Evans stopped writing.” Unfortunately, we are about to find out. Don’t get me wrong, I am scared and despairing right now. And my God, do I miss her and her bravery already.

But nonetheless, I, like so many others in her honor, will carry on. As she wrote in her last blog post on Ash Wednesday, “Death is a part of life. My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Although this is not the reality that any one of us would have chosen, we know that she has not left us alone, and neither will the God that she and I and countless others have rumbled with. Because the fact remains, now more than ever, that we worship a God who can not only create the universe, but hold and make space for the entirety of its existence- the good, the bad, the ugly, the sorrow, the pain, the grief, the joy, the hope, and everything else that is to come.

Because of Rachel Held Evans, I am not afraid to express my struggles with my faith. Because of Rachel Held Evans, I am not afraid to admit that somedays this Christian thing feels a little flimsy. Because of Rachel Held Evans, I have hope that it is, and that is why I should still like my feet buried facing the rising sun.

Just in case.

My Favorite April Fools

Look, I was a kid once. I remember bandaging up an ankle and trying to convince Mom and Dad that I’d hurt myself, only to gleefully yell, “APRIL FOOLS” at the top of my lungs. Then I got older and April Fools just got weirder with fake pregnancy announcements all over Facebook and all other manner of April Fools things one finds on the internet without searching too hard (if you’ve been on the internet- you know). In the last few years though, April 1 has just been another day.

Not today.

I won’t mince words here.

Since the last time I wrote, I figured out that I was in the middle of a depressive spiral unlike anything I’ve experienced since I was fourteen. For what feels like the millionth time, innocents have been slaughtered under preventable circumstances. The media is being attacked, and was recently forced to attack itself (re: Sinclair Broadcast Group). We might be entering a trade war with China or NAFTA (I can’t keep up anymore). Facebook sold our data. Russian bots are everywhere. The notion of a civil society where ideas are discussed without vitriol is dismissed as a pipe dream and instead spewing bitterness online from behind a screen (phone, computer, iPad, take your pick) has become acceptable and, dare I say, encouraged.

That’s not even counting the day to day drama that happens just by living as a human being on this ball of water suspended in the galaxy.

By April 1, 2018, your girl is just plain tired. She’s not up for April Fools jokes of any shape or sort. Except one.

The greatest, the ultimate, the impossible April Fools joke.

It’s AD 33. The Romans have just killed a Jewish carpenter? prophet? king? thief? blasphemer? maybe even a Messiah? I don’t think anyone really knew why they were killing him, but they did. He’s dead. He was crucified so everybody knew he was dead, because he was crucified by the Romans and as a history major let me tell you, the Romans knew how to kill people. They quickly took his body down from the cross and stuck it in a freshly hewn tomb that some Pharisee let them use since they must bury the man before Passover.

That was a couple of days ago, Passover has passed, and now two women know what they have to do.

Two women must go and properly prepare the man they believed to be their Lord and Savior for his official burial. Burial spices in hand and probably scared out of their minds (how were they going to get past the Roman legionnaires stationed there. Cookies wouldn’t have been enough to bribe these guys), and also wondering how they were going to move the several ton stone from the entrance of the tomb, the women make their way to a garden with heavy hearts and burdened minds.

They get to the tomb to find- nothing. nobody. No legionnaires. The stone has been moved.  They make their way into the tomb and the body that is supposed to be there ain’t there.

Can you imagine? Having everything ready to bury the man you believed would save your eternal soul, only to get to his tomb and not find him? I’d be freaking out.

So these women take off running back to the disciples and I imagine it went something like this:

Women: *burst through the door gasping* HE ISN’T THERE.

Men: *look up; concern on some faces, terror on others, several rolling their eyes* okay, ladies. calm down.

Women: NO. HE ISN’T THERE. WE LOOKED. THERE AREN’T ANY LEGIONNAIRES. THE STONE HAS BEEN MOVED. HE PHYSICALLY IS NOT THERE. COME ON WITH US IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE US.

Peter and John: *stand up* We’ll go- just to humor them you understand. *immediately take off in a race to see who can get there the fastest*

-John tells us he got their first, but Peter was the first one in tomb.-

I imagine people stunned into silence. Several seconds of panic because what if the Romans have him? what if they let the Pharisees have him? The women saying, “See? We told you…” in hushed tones. Tiptoeing around the tomb, gingerly holding the cloth that went over the man’s face, everyone holding back tears.

Then they leave and head back to wherever they’re all staying, praying that they won’t be found and martyred, but ready to die if need be. Where they’re all sitting together in their grief and it’s uncomfortable and hopeless but somehow also holy. Where they’re trying to process what this life even means now that this holy man is dead. Where they’re trying to remember to eat and drink and sleep and do basic human tasks through the weight of it all.

But one.

She stays. She takes one last look into the tomb.

Then two angels appear to her and want to know why she’s crying, probably after they tell her not to be afraid. This is where I imagine her thinking something to the effect of, “The Lord. He is dead. Aren’t you angels supposed to know this?”, but saying instead that someone has taken her teacher’s body and she just wanted to bury him properly but now he isn’t here and she doesn’t know what to do and she doesn’t know where he is and who would do something like this?

Then she hears a man. The gardener, because it’s still early and it’s hard to see and who else would be here at this time of morning? He wants to know why she’s upset and who she’s looking for. Again, I imagine her maybe thinking something like, “didn’t you hear a word I just said?!” But John records that she asks him where the man in the tomb is. She doesn’t care if this gardener moved him, she just wants to know where they put her Lord so she can take care of him. She will handle everything, she just needs a location.

Hang in here- this is the best part.

The woman’s eyes are downcast, puffy from crying, her throat probably raw. She’s exhausted, and this feels like one more sucker punch because the Romans and the Pharisees have no notion of mercy to the grieving.

The man’s eyes are on her. Only her. And he says,

“Mary.”

Mary Magdalene freezes. No. It isn’t possible. It can’t be. She watched him die. She watched him die brutally at the hands of the Romans, some of the most efficient killers in history. She watched them bury him three days ago. There is no humanly way he is the one calling her name.

But she looks up anyway.

When she does, she locks eyes with her Teacher, with her Lord, with her Savior.

There may not be a humanly way Jesus survived the crucifixion, but there is a heavenly way, and just like that Jesus pulled the greatest April Fools joke on death and hell and sorrow and corruption and pain and grief that the world has ever or will ever see.

We know that she said, “Rabboni,” or “teacher” in Aramaic (thanks, John), and we know that Jesus told her not to cling too tightly to him because he was going back to his heavenly Father soon. We know that he entrusted her with the sacred knowledge that he lived- that the prophecy about the destruction of the temple and its rebuilding in three days was about him and it was true. We know that he told her to run and tell all his friends, now his brothers, that he was alive.

We know that she did.

We imagine that she ran as fast as she could, the burial spices forgotten somewhere on the side of the road, and that exhaustion turned to holy elation as she carried in her soul that her God was alive. We imagine her bursting in, once again, and yelling, “HE’S ALIVE. HE’S REALLY ALIVE. THE PROPHECY. IT WAS ALL ABOUT HIM. NO ONE MOVED HIM. HE’S ALIVE. I HAVE SEEN THE LORD.” We imagine Peter and John grabbing her a chair, telling someone else to get water, and tell them everything exactly. Don’t leave anything out. What exactly did he say? Did he say when he would visit? Are you sure it was really him? I mean, Mary, people don’t just come back from the dead.

They would be right. People don’t just come back from the dead. But that’s the key word, isn’t it? People don’t just come back from the dead. Jesus isn’t exactly people. 

Christians are those who proclaim Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected on the third day. In the moments, minutes, however long it took Mary to get from the garden of the grave to the house of grief, she was the first and only member of the Church. Our Christ entrusted his most holy resurrection to a woman when women weren’t allowed testimony in court. Our Christ entrusted his most holy resurrection to a woman when women are even now seen as objects, untrustworthy, inherently sinful, vile temptresses, Jezebels, too weak, too strong, too much everything and too much not enough. He chose a woman to be the first member of his Church.

It could have been Peter. It could have been John. He could have appeared to all the disciples and not even bothered reappearing at the grave to Mary. But he didn’t.

He appeared to Mary.

The Church has spread from there.

The Church is broken, bloody, and bruised- and it’s done its fair share of breaking, bloodying, and bruising- but we continue in our Christ given mission because of a resurrection. Because of the greatest April Fool’s joke of all time.

“Oh trampled death, where is your sting? The angels roar for Christ the King. Oh, praise the name of the Lord our God. Oh praise His name forever more. For endless days we will sing your praise. Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord our God.”- Hillsong

All my love and joy,

ME

 

Nuance: Why It Matters

Hi, there! I’m a Christian and I believe that you can be both pro-choice and pro-life.

But before I talk about that, I want to talk about alcohol.

😀

I’ve been in a food studies class this semester, and I have learned some fascinating things. For instance: vegetables suspended in gelatin taste disgusting, there is such a thing as cricket flour, beer is actually really close to bread in terms of calories (I think that’s right), and that temperance didn’t start as “absolutely no alcohol.”

That’s right!

Temperance in America actually started as a movement against hard liquor: whiskey, bourbon, Scotch, gin, etc. It initially had nothing against beer (because it can be as filling as food) and wine because it takes a lot more of both of those to get drunk. *A lot more*.

Then came a man named Lyman Beecher. He realized that when you’re talking to large crowds about things like temperance- inherently nuanced things that require a smidge of thought- that it’s much easier for people to understand and digest “No alcohol at all” instead of “No hard liquor, but beer and wine are okay.”

The phrases that stick with human brains are often simple and catchy and easy to remember. They don’t require extraneous thought, they don’t run the risk of giving you a headache, and without a doubt, they always give you a tangible enemy- *and I’ll say this a little louder for those in the back* EVEN IF THERE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE AN ENEMY.

One more time: THEY ALWAYS GIVE YOU A TANGIBLE ENEMY EVEN THOUGH THERE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE AN ENEMY.

ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS.

Another feature of these is that where an enemy is involved- there is no room for grace. Not a single shred. Because everything is black and white! Grace makes grey areas, and people don’t like grey areas. For that, I must pass on a piece of wisdom from my high school creative writing teacher: “Welcome to the gray area. 99% of life is lived here.”

That brings me to the pro-choice, pro-life debate.

*deep breath* I know that what I am about to say is probably going to have people asking for my head. Or to have me burned at the stake. There’s a very good chance I’ll get called a baby killer. All I can tell you is: welcome to being a woman with opinions on the internet.

Pro-fetus does not mean pro-life. Pro-choice can mean pro-life.

Now, to understand this, you’ll have to put your thinking caps on. I am going to require you to think, to examine yourselves, to have empathy and put yourself in another person’s shoes. It will not be easy. It will be massively uncomfortable, you will probably squirm, and there’s a good chance you might see the log in your own eye.

I know I’m staring down my log as I type this.

I’m not going to get too heavily into the science on this, because frankly I’m a history person, I haven’t studied it, and I don’t totally understand it.

What I do understand is being a woman. I understand that very very well (it helps that I’ve been one for twenty-two years).

I get terrible cramps during my period. If that’s TMI, I can’t help you. This isn’t middle school. Anyway, I do. For years, I was taking multiple 500 mg of naproxen for at least three days a week once a month. Say I took three naproxen per day, for three days, twelve times a year, for seven years (I started birth control at 20, so that’s roughly about right). Do you know how many milligrams of pain medication that is? If i did my math right, that is 378,000 mg of pain medication for something (usually) biologically inescapable. From the time I was thirteen years old to the time I was twenty, I was taking enough pain medicine to take out a horse.

Then, I decided to go on a mission trip to Paris. I did not want to be drugged up on naproxen while I was there, I had started getting nausea with my periods, and I did not want to be miserable in Paris (preferably not anywhere, but especially not Paris).

So I went for birth control.

It has totally changed the game. I rarely get cramps, and my period doesn’t disrupt my life anymore. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Granted, I don’t use my birth control for sex. I ain’t got time for that. As a matter of fact, most women on birth control don’t use birth control to prevent pregnancy. They use it for a range of medical problems, including but not limited to: polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, lack of periods, cramps, PMS, acne (if you have moderate to severe acne and no other medication has worked, the hormones in birth control can help to balance that out), and many others. Benefits of birth control: lowered risk of anemia because you don’t bleed as much, lower risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and ovarian cysts.  I found my info here.

In other words: birth control is really helpful and taking it does not inherently mean that you’re sleeping around.

Another thing: I got little to no sex ed. I don’t really remember it. I remember seeing horrifying pictures of STDs in 10th grade health, but that doesn’t count (no, it really doesn’t).

One last thing: I don’t like abortion. I don’t. In a perfect world, only those who were ready and willing to support a child would get pregnant and there wouldn’t be a need for abortion.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

We live in a world where young teenage girls get pregnant by rape from their family members.

We live in a world where sexual violence against women is something women expect– like the death of a loved one. You never know when it’s going to happen, but you know that statistically speaking it will, so it’s only a matter of time. Some women get blessed and never experience it. Most women don’t.

We live in a world where women have to get police escorts to their cars and even then are still terrified because what if the policeman is a predator. 

We live in a world where woman go everywhere in groups (even and especially to the bathroom); where we stay on the phone with our sisters and daughters until they’re locked safely in the car- even if it’s broad daylight, even if it’s only a block; where a group of men loitering and talking is a potential threat (ask my mom about the gas station incident a couple of weeks ago); where we even have to carry our water with us everywhere we go; where we check our backseats before starting the car because what if there’s someone crouching back there with a gun; where we keep all the lights on when we’re the only ones home so that a potential intruder thinks the house is full of people; where for the love of all that is good, a racist, rapist pedophile almost won your state’s Senate seat because people refused to believe the women who finally mustered the courage to speak out against him; where men believe they have a right to touch, use, and abuse us as they please because we are not people, we are objects to be enjoyed and discarded.

Imagine a world where you are afraid of everything around you.

WELCOME TO WOMANHOOD.

Where “innocent until proven guilty” may apply in court, but it certainly doesn’t apply if you’re seen leaving a boy’s house the next morning (even if the only reason you slept over was because you were locked out of your apartment and you stayed in a separate bedroom on another floor of the house- I know someone this happened to), but *sarcasm because some people won’t pick it up* thank the Lord it applies to predators.

Where “innocent until proven guilty” applies to all men in every situation, but “guilty until proven innocent” has always and forevermore applied to all women in every situation.

Where “grace upon grace” is heaped upon white “Christian” men, but completely withheld from literally everyone else in society, and in Church.

*deep breath*

Pro-choice candidates have time and time again voted to for healthcare, voted for birth control, voted for more comprehensive sex education, voted to raise the minimum wage, voted for stricter gun laws, voted for pro-life policies.

Because you see, there’s more to “pro-life” than “pro-fetus.” If you’re going to be “pro-life,” then you better be ready to support people womb to tomb. You better be ready to do what it takes to lower abortion rates, even if that means more comprehensive sex education and offering free and reduced birth control, because that’s what lowers abortion rates. You better be ready to pay people enough money so that they don’t have to work three jobs to support their families. You better be ready to lock down those gun laws because your right to a firearm has never and by God will never trump another human being’s right to live. You better be ready to offer safe abortion services for those mothers who want a baby more than anything in the world, but who can’t afford it; for that scared pregnant teenage girl who gets no support at home; for that pregnant prostitute who was driven to sex work because she couldn’t find another job and she’s been told by society her whole life that her body can make money; for the pregnant girl raped by her father; for the women who wanted to have sex and did and got pregnant because they skipped one night of birth control.

Because here’s the thing: you don’t get to discriminate and decide who deserves what in this world. Everyone deserves death, and it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that we don’t get it, and our Savior and Lord does not discriminate who can receive that, and if He doesn’t, you most definitely don’t have a right to either.

In a perfect world, all sex would be consensual and there would be no rape, no predators, no pedophiles, no need for locked doors, no need for guns, no racism, no sexism, no misogyny, no misandry, none of that.

But we don’t live there.

We don’t live in a black and white world.

We live in the gray area. In the mess. In the filth and the muck and the beauty and the sorrow and the sunshine and the rain and the broken and the whole.

We live in a world where our Christ offers grace upon grace to all who ask for it.

So who are we to deny His Creation, and deem what He has called “righteous”  filthy, ugly, deserving of their consequences?

You deserve to die. You deserve eternal damnation. You deserve in Hell.

But God’s grace, you don’t have to. You won’t.

You know what that means?

Pro-life cannot and must not mean pro-fetus.

Pro-choice can and must mean womb to tomb pro-life.

You can’t judge the pregnant teenager, and I can’t judge everyone who voted for Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

You can’t judge the prostitute, and I can’t judge those people who stand outside abortion clinics calling those women murderers.

That’s hard for me. So hard.

Because there are a couple of things that are black and white: rape is wrong. sexual assault is wrong. pedophilia is wrong. murder is wrong. genocide is wrong. grace is for everyone. Christ loves the lowly and unlovely (of which you and I are one). the Church is to love wholeheartedly and indiscriminately regardless of the circumstances. the Church’s job is to rehabilitate, not condemn.”innocent until proven guilty” is only for the court of law, like “close” only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Being pro-choice doesn’t mean “baby killer” and pro-life doesn’t mean “ignorant.”

Nuance. It matters.

 

 

I don’t know if this is a letter to my younger self, or a letter to my future daughter. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

This whole thought system came about when I was discussing the church youth group dating culture we were raised in. We were told to “date to marry” from a ridiculously young age, and the longer we talked, the more damage we realized that well-intentioned phrase caused to us and probably to our past relationships.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about women- their rights, their perception in the media, their perception in society, their natural and unnatural roles. Namely, how those roles apply to me and the women I love: my mom, my grandmothers, my aunt, my younger cousin, my best friends, and even the girls who I sit in class with everyday. How do all of these things affect all of us, and what can I do to make sure my daughter or goddaughter doesn’t fall into the same traps I have?

Here’s what I’m coming up with. Without further ado.

Hey, sweetheart.

Did you have a good day? I guess the real question is: did you spend most of your day feeling inferior or not?

That’s kind of the real question, isn’t it? Were you bombarded with less messages of your submissive, inferior role than usual today? I hope you were. I hope tomorrow, there is none of that mess.

That’s what it is, you know. The mess trying to covering the mess that is our broken society and fallen world, it doesn’t target you specifically because it isn’t designed to. The strokes that would fell you are not broad enough to fell all women; love, that’s why your best friends and mother and sister and all the generations of women before you feel the same pain.

Honey, you alone are not responsible. You are not a mistake. You are not a walking sin. You are not a piece of meat to be put through the grinder into a more palatable substance.

You are fire, earth, air, and water all rolled into one. Your soul can expand to hold the galaxy, your eyes hold the fire in the center of the earth. Your body can incubate life and your tears can heal wounds, child. You cannot be a mistake and you cannot be a walking sin when your very existence has been ordained and blessed by God Almighty himself.

They will tell you to “date to marry,” but don’t. They mean well. They’re trying to prevent you from wasting your time and making mistakes, but what they don’t understand is that telling you this will only set you up to fail.

It will creep into your mind in the dead of night, and when the feelings for that boy keep you awake you will think to yourself, “He must be the one I’m going to marry. Why else would God give me these feelings?”

It will push you to fall fast and hard into those feelings, and if the boy reciprocates, you will throw everything you have into it, because you are working for a marriage at fourteen. You will say, “I love you,” three months in and have your heart shattered the next week when that marriage falls apart.

Time will pass. The dead of night will pop back up repeatedly, but you will become convinced that you are not worthy of that kind of love that a marriage requires, so you will not date. You will force yourself to grow up. Instead of having guy friends, you will shove them all away with both hands if they ever start to like you or you start to like them because you can’t see yourself marrying them- so why should they hang around? It’s all a waste of time, right?

Then one will come along who will fit all the boxes and the little God coincidences and because you’re eighteen and can technically marry, this has to be it. You think he shows you that you can be loved, but it’s all over before you can blink.

You will scream, wail, lament- for an entire year. You will invite the boys in only to push them out because there’s no way that God would allow something so perfect to fall apart. He even told you that you were the one who showed him that he could be loved in spite of all that he’d done. Why else would God give you this boy to date if He didn’t mean for you to marry him?

Three years and a half years later, and I’m sure that boy’s married now, but not to you.

Three and half years later, and you’re just now starting to learn from those mistakes, baby.

At least ten years, and you’re just now learning that there’s more to life than being a grownup with marriage on the brain.

See, being told so young that you’re supposed to marry to date, that steals something from you. That steals innocence and purity because no young relationship can be innocent when the rest of your life is at stake. Trivial things that shouldn’t bother you send you into a tailspin, and you get into a screaming match with a boy at fifteen because he won’t open up to you, and if he won’t open up to you now, how will he open up to you when you’re married?

I know I’m hammering this, but it’s only because I know what society and the Church has told you.

That your value lies in your ability to get married and have babies.

Honey.

Darling.

Love.

You are worth so much more than that. Those are good things, but those are not the only things available to you.

As much education as you can afford is available to you. Plane tickets for last minute adventures are available to you. Best friends who will eat fried brownies and way too much sushi with you are available to you. Best friends who will buy you a gift certificate for a massage for your birthday are available to you. The universe is available to you.

Your value lies in what you do with the education that you are given. Your value lies in how many children and elderly people you make smile on the other side of the world. Your value lies in how tightly you hold that best friend after the breakup of a lifetime. Your value lies in how you went to the hospital to be with that best friend after a car accident, even though the injuries weren’t serious and thank God she and her husband are okay.

Your value lies not in your ability to make life. Your value to this world is in your ability to enrich the lives of those around you. In your ability to love them, be with them, hold them close, kiss their heads, and not leave them. In your ability to make stupid faces so that you get a natural smile on camera, lick whipped cream off your arm faster than the other bridesmaids at your best friend’s bachelorette party, and stand beside her on her wedding day. In your ability to haul out of bed at 6am twice a week to go to the gym with her for like four weeks (if that) because let’s be honest, that’s too early for anyone to be working out.

So. All that to say. Don’t listen to things or people, even yourself, who boil down your life to a simple formula.

Date to marry. Cut out everything that isn’t efficient or convenient. Don’t eat bread because carbs are bad.

That’s all crap.

If you find a boy with whom you might see things working out, go on a couple of dates. Don’t take it too seriously at first. Let the first little bit of time be about getting to know each other at a comfortable and reasonable pace. Don’t expect marriage from the get-go because that will kill everything and then you’ll fall into the cycle and don’t do that to yourself. You’re too young for that.

Life is not always efficient. Dropping everything to go to a funeral or hold a friend while she cries is not efficient and it certainly isn’t convenient. But it’s what matters. Your presence matters, and if you can provide comfort and support, who cares about what else you could be doing. You’re doing what you should be doing. The paper can wait.

You don’t need anyone in your life who tells you carbs are bad. Period.

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

Take it easy on yourself, kid. If you don’t feel like wearing makeup everyday, don’t. If it means you spend more time getting ready when you’re already late running to see your god sister you haven’t seen in months, skip it. You don’t need it. Like that tumblr user said, “Pretty is not the rent you pay to exist in the world.” Go be there.

Always be there.

All my love,

Your 22 year old self who just might be getting the hang of this… it’s about freaking time.

 

I’m Sick of This

I am a child of 9/11. I mean, yeah, I’m a millennial, but a child of 9/11 is more accurate. The changing of the millennium didn’t radically alter my life. I don’t even remember Y2K.

I do remember 9/11, though. Every aspect of my life has been altered because of 9/11. Airport security, cyber security, the omnipresent threat of terrorist attacks, the fact that the Department of Homeland Security exists, and so many others that I probably don’t even know of because I wasn’t old enough to know they had changed. I hear older generations freaking out about terrorist attacks, and I can’t bring myself to freak out because it’s all I’ve ever known. My country being at war is all I’ve ever known.

Violence with the purpose of inciting fear is all I have ever known.

Sure, the methods have changed somewhat. Planes aren’t en vogue anymore, now it’s vans. Guns didn’t start cropping up until recently, but now it’s so common that I barely blink when I see a mass shooting.

Terrorism doesn’t frighten me. How desensitized I’ve become to the violence does frighten me. But honestly, if you don’t become a little desensitized to it, don’t you run the risk of driving yourself up the wall with worry and fear? Isn’t it almost a defense mechanism at this point, as god-awful as that is?

Sunday night, a man had way too many guns. He snuck them into a hotel room, knocked out the windows, attached a legal device to his rifle that allowed it to shoot way more rounds than it should have in a matter of seconds.

This isn’t the first time.

I have zero confidence that it is the last time this will happen on American soil.

Why in God’s name do we let this keep happening?

Why do we keep saying, “there’s nothing we can do?” Why do we keep putting the right to own a gun above the right to human life? Why do our leaders allow the NRA to dictate legislation making it easier for the mentally ill to obtain firearms, make silencers more accessible, and repeal legislation that bans assault rifles from civilian hands?

No civilian should have the right to own a gun that is only designed to inflict maximum damage, yet by jumping through the right hoops, you can get your hands on an M-16.

Europe has been hit with more foreign terror attacks in the last few years than America has, and honestly I’ve felt safer in Europe than I do here.

What’s to say my university won’t be the site of the next mass shooting? There’s nothing to say it won’t be. I am in the middle of gun country in Alabama, and god forbid, but we could be next.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the American government doesn’t care for civilian life.

If it did, it would shut the NRA down and do its job: protect its people.

The Day After

If you haven’t seen the last blog post and you want to, please shoot me a line and I can give you the password. Before you ask, however, please know that it is gritty and tough and not for the faint of heart. There are mentions of dark things that were pieces of my reality for far too long. If you still feel up to it, again, just let me know. If not, that’s totally okay. Maybe this can give some clarification.

Last night’s post was a real time view into shaking the devil off your back. I took a journey while writing it. A journey of just explaining what a song meant to me that culminated into me burying the demons once and for all. For putting them in their place and ensuring that they don’t see the light of day again.

Today has been full of first-in a whiles.

The first-in-a-while day that I had hard time not smiling.

The first-in-a-while day that I woke up with praise on my lips knowing that it couldn’t be snatched away again.

The first-in-a-while day full of hope that could not be shaken.

The first-in-a-while day of not being so stuck in my head that I couldn’t concentrate.

The first-in-a-while day that I am comfortable in my own skin- all of it. Rising pimples, split ends, bad hair days and all.

The first-in-a-while day that I didn’t obsess over basically every little thing.

The first-in-a-while day that I let myself believe that people could grow and love and thrive again, and that that could happen for me, too.

In all honesty, these days were non-existent for about four years, and in the last three they’ve occurred, but it’s always felt like they’ve been on the edge of a cliff and just out of reach.

But today.

Oh, today has been so beautiful I’m almost in tears again.

I could walk to my car in 90 degree heat and not be in a terrible mood the whole way there!

I could listen to a friend of mine tell me about his new girlfriend and how excited he was without not wanting to gag or be like, “yay, you, that’s never gonna happen for me.” I could be genuinely excited for him and them and all of their possibilities.

I can plan on going to things that take me out of my house and not worry that when the time comes to leave, I’d much rather sleep through it than actually go. Like church on Wednesdays. Oh my goodness, I can go to church on Wednesdays again and not be terrified the whole time leading up to and through it that I will have a massive panic attack and make a scene and have everyone think I’m the crazy girl.

It’s like- y’all, it’s like I can have a life again. A real life. A good life. A happy life.

A life that doesn’t have to be lived in a constant state of anxiety or fear that something could happen again. A life that can thrive.

What do I do first?

Do I cry with happiness? Do I dance around? Do I cry and dance and carefully hold a cup of tea all at the same time?

I don’t know. For the first time in a really long time, all of my options are wide open.

This is what they mean by freedom in Christ, isn’t it? This is what they mean by an unshakeable hope and joy for the future.

Oh, thank God. Thank God for the pain and the grit and the sorrow because this couldn’t be so sweet without it. Thank God for rescue and answered prayers and hope.

Oh.

Thank God.

Thank God for the day after.

All of my love,

ME

Dear Mr. President,

Can you with good conscience say that you honestly care about me? Do you care about all of America, not just the ones who praise you and worship the ground you walk on? Do you care about not just white Americans, but African, Asian, and Latin Americans, immigrants, the poor, the struggling middle class, the entrepreneur who started with $50 in their bank account and health insurance from Medicaid because they couldn’t afford private insurance? Do you care about the heterosexuals and the homosexuals, the transgender community, the non binary community, the queer community, the intersex community, and all of the communities in between? Do you care about the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Pastafarians, the Wiccans, the atheists and agnostics as much as you claim to care about the Evangelical Christians? Do you see the homeless people in the street, or are you so blinded by your own privilege that you can’t see that it’s only by the grace of God that that isn’t you? That had you been born into different circumstances and in a different time, you could have been a poor father barely making enough money to feed his family? Do you understand how blessed you are that none of your children are addicted to drugs? That you have never had an injury that put you out of work and that you ended up addicted to painkillers?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you do not deserve the office you hold. You are the leader to all of these people, and more. As of last year, you are the President to 323.1 million people of all races, creeds, and religions.

You are the President to men and women who fought German Nazis. To families who lost their loved ones to German Nazis. To black families who lost their loved ones to white supremacists hellbent on destroying an entire race. To Asian families who lost everything in WWII because white people were so afraid that every Japanese person they saw was secretly the enemy.

Yet you cannot find it in yourself to say fourteen words: “I condemn Nazis. I condemn the KKK. We do not stand for white supremacy.”

Why?

Is it because they voted you into office and you want to stay seven more years instead of three? Is it because you agree with them? Is it because you dismiss them and think they are just harmless blowhards who like fire and swastikas and symbols of the blackest time in American history?

Why?

Mr. President, I will say this in the most respectful way I know how: you are not the President of the American people.

A President of the United States of America understands the gravity of the office he holds, respects that office, and would never dare to equate George Washington (the first man to hold your office) with Robert E. Lee. A President of the United States of America does not wait until he “has all the facts” when the facts are that Nazis are marching on American soil and because of them three people are dead and nineteen others are injured- those are the facts, and you had them from the beginning and you could have released a statement moments from when it happened. A President of the United States of America unites our country in time of crisis, he does not further the divide with meaningless platitudes and disingenuous condemnations. A President of the United States of America is just as fast to condemn a white terrorist as he is to condemn a terrorist of any other race or religion. A President of the United States of America does not cause chaos and make bombastic empty threats to push the world to the brink of nuclear war. A President of the United States does not require a file full of good things said about him to be brought to him twice a day because his ego is so fragile that he cannot handle criticism. A President of the United States is a stalwart symbol of justice and freedom for all, not a coward who mocks past presidents for playing too much golf when he has played more golf in eight months than the previous president played in eight years. A President of the United States of America is a person who owns up to his mistakes, a person who is not so blinded by his narcissism that he cannot see that race relations have not improved since he took office, if anything they have deteriorated since before he was elected.

Barack Obama is not to blame for this.

You are.

You are the one who has made it possible for these disgusting and heinous ideologies to be brought back into the light as “acceptable.” You are the one who has refused to condemn this disgrace with “fire and fury.”

You are the one to blame for this.

Dear Mr. President, for the love of God and country, wake up. Care about something more than yourself. Understand that you have been granted the highest of honors and that that means something.

If you can’t, resign.

Maybe America doesn’t deserve better than this since she put you in the Oval, but maybe given the chance again we’ll understand that you never intended to make America great “again.” You’ve only shown that you have the capacity to make it worse.

Regards,

Morgan Elizabeth Alexander

Dear London,

I didn’t get to see enough of you. Because of plane delays and missed flights, all I saw of you was Paddington Station and Heathrow Airport. It wasn’t enough to fulfill my dreams of a historical London tour, but it was enough for me to catch a quick glimpse of your love every time you reminded me to mind the gap between the train and the platform.

I left you on a sunny Thursday morning. I was exhausted and ready for my bed, but seeing you in daylight instilled an insatiable need to come back. To see more. To explore London in all its glory and splendor as the center of the world.

Your security guards were kind and your security dogs were adorable. I believe they were spaniels, and it was one of those times when I knew that dog could kill me but I wanted to pet it anyway. Cafe Nerro had a croissant and a bottle of water waiting on me as my last meal on British soil. It wasn’t a quintessential English breakfast, but it was enough.

I came home after 2 am Friday morning Greenwich time, and crashed into bed.

Saturday night, three men decided that they should take their place in the thousands of events that have tried to break you over the centuries.

How silly of them.

London, you have endured fires, the Black Plague, Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, George III, and two World Wars. As if three men with machetes could break your soul.

American media said you were “reeling”.

How silly of them.

The things that send you reeling are: people who make tea in the microwave, having to scroll to the bottom of a drop down list for the United Kingdom when the United States is at the top, having no milk for tea, foreigners not knowing the Great Britain is actually four countries, when all the fish and chips shops are closed, torrential downpours, when you have two consecutive days over 25 C (77 F) with no thunderstorms, not saying “thank you” to a bus driver, and so many other things that simply aren’t terrorism. As one person on twitter put it, “You’d have to express your emotions first if you’re going to be ‘reeling’ from something. Not very British.” (@MrEE_Man)

I know that your heart is broken, but know that you give us hope when you refuse to stop your lives for people who think that terror is a weapon that can be used to destroy an entire way of life.

London, show the world what it means to be immovable. Remind the world that you have stood for millennia and you will continue to stand long after we are gone. Show us how to keep calm and carry on with grace and stoicism without forgetting to go back and pay our bill the next morning.

Thanks for everything, darling. You’re fantastic and glorious and you mean the world to so many. Stay strong, and mind the gap.

All my love,

M.E.

P.S. I hope America grows up to be like you. xoxo