The constant chase of a meaningful life

So, there’s this fallacy of thought common amongst Christians of a Certain Age (generally under 35 or so) that if our everyday life is not filled to the brim with Deep Meaning and Dangerous Acts of Bravery then it automatically doesn’t count as a life. I’m sure we’ve all bought into it in some way or another, or at the very least, had the idea shoved down our throats half a million times over the years. This is, at the very least, a horrific misunderstanding of the truth.

We live with our parents past the age of nineteen-and-a-half and we consider ourselves Losers Who Live With Their Parents. We don’t have a job filled with Selfless Acts or that Makes a Difference. We may or may not finish Higher Education and may or may not know what to do with our Very Important Diploma once all is said and done. Everyday looks mostly the same as the last, and we’re told at every possible moment that our boring, unfulfilling lives can change in an instant if only we take a chance! learn something new! let go! jump into the abyss with Kierkegaardian abandon!

The problem I have with this line of thinking, particularly among Christians, is that it 1. exhibits an inherent distrust of the sovereignty of God and 2. is, quite frankly, usually selfish. I’m sure there are those out there who want to be World Shakers and live Exciting Lives purely for the Lord…but, if we’re honest, most of us want that sort of excitement because it will make us feel like we’re worth something, like we matter. Instead of taking the Lord at His word (that He loves His children, that we are called according to His purpose, that He has chosen us not on our own merit but because of His steadfast love), we want the comfort of knowing that we matter on our own terms. And that attitude is selfish.

The fact of the matter is that you and I are not mistakes. The Lord created each and every cell in your body. He has you in the place that most glorifies Him and His purposes. That place may be boring; it may be unpleasant; but it is purposeful. When we long for something else, something that was assume ascribes meaning to our short existence here on Earth, we also assume that the Lord’s purposes aren’t meaning enough. We assume that only out idea of Meaning Something counts. That is prideful beyond belief.

The Lord may have you in your parents’ house or in that dead-end job or in that state you hate because He plans for you to connect with those around you. He may have you there for some other reason. But one thing is for certain: He has you in the place that brings Him the most glory and that will sanctify you as His child.

He loves His children. And that alone makes our lives worth something.


Hard Things or: How I’m Learning to Stop Whining and Love the Process

I have a general tendency to make myself do hard things even when there are easier ways just because I like to see if I can do them.  I once (rather proudly) hand beat meringue instead of going out and buying or borrowing a mixer.  When my car broke down and I needed to go to the post office, I (somewhat stupidly) walked three miles there and three miles back when there were rides readily available. I participated in and completed NaNoWriMo during my senior year of high school which was by far the most academically demanding year of my life (it involved writing for 8+ hours a day during nearly every day of Thanksgiving break, but I did it).  I’ve (absolutely stupidly considering the number of people who got malaria on our team) slept tentless while in Mozambique, tried everything that was fed to me in India, and forced myself to eat foods that my eating disorder deemed frightening.  If a friend is in need in some form or fashion, I’m accustomed to doing whatever I can for them and still managing to get most everything I need to get done accomplished by staying up late or getting up early (this is not so much something done for the sake of doing hard things, but more because I love my friends dearly).

I’m used to focusing on something and willing myself to complete it.

I can’t do that any more.

So, about 18 months ago I was diagnosed with this autoimmune disorder that runs in my family.  It basically causes my body to attack my thyroid.  Theoretically, if I’m given the proper medications, I’ll be fine: my hair won’t fall out by the handful, I’ll actually want to eat food, and, best of all, I’ll have energy.  The dosage of medicine I was on worked really well until about March of this year and then things started to go awry.

It may have been stress, it may have been my body just deciding (as you do) to launch a massive attack on my thyroid, it may have been some other third thing that I don’t know anything about. Regardless, I have been just exhausted for months, excluding some short-lived energy spikes I had a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure how to explain it to people who have never experienced an autoimmune disorder.  Basically, imagine that you are getting adequate nutrition and sleep and you wake up every single day feeling as if you’re about to get the flu. And sometimes, you wake up and want to cry because you’re so tired and you can’t get out of bed but, unfortunately, laying in bed all day doesn’t pay the rent, so you have to.  And other times, you have to choose between being there for a friend and being even 80% present at work the next day. And still other times, you have to decide if you will be social or have a clean house this week because you really can’t do both.

Quite frankly, I’ve had a really sucky attitude about all of this the past few weeks.  I just want to be able to do everything I was able to do before, but I really can’t.  I like being independent, I like being able to feel like I can accomplish things and, most of all, I really like thinking that I can will myself to do anything and everything I like as long as I’m determined enough.  That this has taken such a high priority in my life is not okay.

I’m realizing more and more how much of my worth I place in how much I do.  I like the idea of always having a clean house, visiting with everyone I love, and helping out my friends who are having a rough time — and in the past, I’ve been able to do all of that.  But, now that I can’t (at least until I hit some sort of sweet spot with my medication)…I’ve felt entirely helpless and sort of worthless.

I’m reminded often by dear friends that Christ loves me no matter what and desires my sanctification.  I know that what I’m going through is neither out of His plan or His grasp.  And I know that this whole thing may very well be the answer to some pleading prayers asking to be further sanctified.  It’s really hard, and I really haven’t even been trying to keep focused on the Lord.  This is totally wrong of me and I want to change that.  I know that what I’m going through or what my friends or family are going through are all apart of God’s plan…and I know that both myself and my fellow believers are being sanctified through circumstances and His Word.

I just want to be able to keep that perspective when things are hard.


For those who think that those participating in the #YesAllWomen tag are being dramatic

The facts are these:

Every woman I’ve ever met and probably every woman you’ve ever met has been harassed or at least feared harassment on a regular basis.  We all learn pretty quickly to carry pepper spray, to splay our keys out between our knuckles while we walk through parking lots, to download panic button apps, to think of several options for escape if in an elevator with a man alone, to check stairwells, to never, ever, ever go outside alone at night, etc. Men, interestingly enough, are not taught these things no matter how many of them are harassed because, while the physical intimidation and harassment of men is seen as an unfortunate anomaly, it is accepted as something every woman must prepare for. It is, in fact, normal, and something we more often than not simply resign ourselves to putting up with.

And put up with it we do. We don’t yell at the guys who whistle on the street or make lewd comments at the gas pump. We often don’t report inappropriate behavior at work for fear of retaliation. We avoid direct conflict with overly aggressive coworkers and customers by wearing fake engagement/wedding rings. And, for those who don’t understand how often this type of stuff happens, let me be clear: this happens a lot – sometimes daily – to women who leave the safe confines of their homes.

We are treated – not by all men, but by some – as objects .  Not people with thoughts and opinions and value. Objects. We’re told to smile on command even at times that seem illogical (Who smiles at their computer monitor while working on spreadsheets at work? Who walks around the grocery store just grinning up a storm at random strangers? Wouldn’t it be weird if we naturally did this?), we’re verbally told that any attention from men no matter how unwanted is flattering, and we’re told by the actions of those around us that the word “No” doesn’t mean a thing to some people.

And, I don’t even mean “no” in the context of sex.  I mean, “Stop touching my arm. Stop. Stop.” I mean, “No, I’m not interested in a date. No. No. Still no.”  I mean, “There was no reason to put your hand on my waist. No, really, there was no reason for you to do that; why are you arguing with me?”  To those who see us as objects, our words don’t actually have value because we simply exist to be manipulated at will, to give that guy an ego boost, to affirm his manhood or ability to flirt or some other thing that apparently needs validating.

It’s wrong and it’s dangerous and, though I know that it will never stop completely given the fallen and sinful state of our world, I do think that it’s an important conversation to have. So, here we go.

Women are not prizes awarded to the nicest guys.  Women are not opinionless automatons who lack any preferences beyond wanting a Nice Guy.  We do not owe anyone affection.  Even as a Christian, while I am expected to love my brothers and sisters in Christ and the world at large, I am not required to show romantic affection to anyone.  It doesn’t matter how nice you are, how much you bend over backward for someone, how much you sacrifice for her: she doesn’t owe you anything, and denying you romantic interest does not inherently make her shallow or unfair or anything other than a woman with preferences.

The reason this is important in light of the Elliot Rodger case is because Elliot saw women as objects.  Granted, the boy had many other issues. However, the reasons he gave for attacking and killing 6 people were eerily familiar; familiar because many, many women have heard self-proported “nice guys” whinge about being “Friendzoned” by women who have “terrible” boyfriends (who the women in question seem to be perfectly fine with most of the time, interestingly enough) while they remain the superior choice. These women have, in the minds of those crying “Friendzone”, been reduced to objects: medals to be pinned on the chests of the Nicest Guys.  This is dangerous dehumanization, and I’m personally glad to see the discussions that are occurring around the subjects of the objectification and safety of women.

I know quite a few men (particularly those identifying as Men’s Rights Activists or MRAs) and some women as well appear to be offended that people are using this instance to springboard conversations about objectifying women in general. They are claiming that those involved in the #YesAllWomen discussion view all men as rapists or threats or women objectifiers.

For those, I’d like to explain something.  Heck, I’ll explain it to you in zombies:

Imagine with me for a moment that you are in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.  You’re doing pretty well, hanging out with your friends in the bunker of your choosing, making do.  Late one night you wake up briefly and see a zombie bite someone’s leg.  You can’t see whose leg it is and shortly thereafter, you’re knocked unconscious so you aren’t able to see who was bitten.  The next day, everyone is accounted for and seems okay.  Everyone is wearing long pants, though, so you can’t see the zombie bite, and asking people if they were slowly being turned into an undead being seems rude, so you decide to wait and see who turns.

Obviously you’re cautious around everyone in your group now as you aren’t sure who might be dangerous and who might be safe.  You live every day in fear that you will be attacked, but you aren’t sure who to expect the attack from.  You keep a cautious eye on everyone when you go to the bathroom, to get a snack, to take a walk. You have a hard time sleeping at night knowing that it might not be safe. You constantly plan escape routes to use in case your friend-turned-walker corners you.

Now imagine the same scenario, except there is an unknown number of zombies in the world and they all look like people you trust.  That is essentially what it is to be a Careful and Responsible Woman.  We don’t see every man as a threat, as a rapist, as a predator; but every unknown (and sometimes known) man has the potential to be a threat.  They, unfortunately, are not clearly marked for us, so we have to be careful. Every. Single. Day.

We are all objectified by men. Not all men do this.  But, #YesAllWomen most certainly do experience the effects of objectification on a regular basis.  And it’s something that we need to be willing to discuss.


Approximately one million (or maybe fifteen) statements about food I’m tired of hearing (and my mental responses)

1. “Did you see how many calories are in that?”

No, I didn’t. Because I chose not to look. For many reasons. Please stop telling me.

2. “There are no such things as healthy carbs.”

Please take a nutrition class. Any nutrition class. Here, I have a catalog for our local community college for you.

3. “Ohmygosh you can’t eat gluten?! That must be so hard!”

The hardest part for me personally is trying to convince others that life without bread is still worth living and that I rarely have to think about how horribly deprived I am of all the apparent gluten-filled wonders that the culinary arts have to offer.  Well, that, and not being able to eat Lebanese food.

4. “Eat this thing it’s really good. No, really, have some. No, really, you have to try some. My personal worth is apparently attached to whether or not you decide to eat this thing. Have some.”

I have said “no, thank you” like three times at this point. This could be for a variety of reasons including: I’m not hungry, I am allergic to it, I am trying to cut back on sweets, I already know I don’t like it, or I just plan don’t want to.  Please stop harassing me about this.

5. “Yeah, I ate a whole pizza, but I’ll run it off later.”

This is not healthy. Food is fuel. Exercising in order to eat is not okay.

6. “But the calories!”

Like, do you even know what calories are?

7. “I’ve been really good all day, so I can totally eat _____________.”

Food choices are not moral choices nor should food be a reward; it’s fuel for your body. Sometimes we put in premium, sometimes we put in questionable low-grade fuel from that weird gas station down the street. But it is all just fuel.

8. “This has zero calories, so I’m good!”

You do realize the absence of calories means that your body does not recognize this thing as a food source, right?

9. “Juice detox!”

STAWP.

10. “You have to be on the exact diet that I’m on in order to live life to the fullest.”

What. No. Just, no.

11. “CALORIES.”

Just…go read something about calories that didn’t come from SELF magazine. Please.

12. “There are toxins that stay in your body for thousands of years and to get rid of them you just have not eat food for a month, drink only a mixture of water, cayenne pepper, powdered inulin, and take this new wonder herb from the Amazonian rainforest that absorbs all of the toxins in your small and large intestines and–”

I honestly do not understand where we got the idea that our bodies cannot take care of themselves if we give them proper fuel. What is happening.

13. “This is a healthy fudge brownie because it’s sugar-free and fat-free!”

For something to be healthy it must contain actual nutrients from actual food sources that are actually benefitting your body in some form or fashion. Being sugar-free and fat-free does not magically pack a recipe full of nutrients. Technically, using this logic, I could just eat spoonful after spoonful of Splenda and call it healthy.

14. “Ugh, fat!”

Fat is actually good for you in proper amounts and is entirely necessary for many functions of your body.

15. “BUT CALORIES.”

Aaaaaand we’re done.


Weight loss worries: I’m done with the status quo

I realized early this morning that I have spent more years in my life being worried about my weight than I have spent years not being worried about my weight. This troubles me. I like the way I look right now. I like the way I eat (though I probably have a few too many sweets…). There are a few small changes I need to make for my health’s sake, but not necessarily for my weight’s sake (they are, contrary to popular belief, not always the same thing). So, why am I still constantly concerned about what I eat and what pant size I wear?  When does the worry end?

I know that as a woman in a Western country, I am technically expected to obsess about weight gain for the rest of my life.  The above realization about spending over half my life worrying about weight is hardly a unique one.  Most women (and many men) in America and other countries as well seem to feel as if the desire to lose weight is something to default to.  A few years ago, I was in a basic college PE class. There was a questionaire at the beginning about personal habits and such. One of the questions that I was required to answer was, “Are you committed to losing weight during this class?” Not “Do you want to lose weight?” or “Are you at a healthy weight?” or “What does you doctor say about your current weight?” but “Are you committed to losing weight…?” because the assumption is that we will always want to lose more, that our lives will be a constant fight against physical expansion.

Photo courtesy of Adpearance

But that seems so horrifying.  We must be constantly vigilant lest the numbers on the scales and on our clothing labels creep upward in the night.  We can’t think about food or exercise without ascribing moral implications to it.  Eating vegetables is “being good”; eating sweets is “downright sinful”.  Exercise addiction is the only addiction I can think of that is actively applauded despite the fact that no addiction is healthy.  Eating fresh food items is considered “eating clean”, which means that anything not in that category is dirty, right?

Too many people go through life feeling as if they have to earn any food they ingest. Too many people think that it’s okay to exercise or starve in order to eat this or that and that’s just tragic. Let’s get this straight: you deserve to eat food when you are hungry. Even if you just ate an hour ago. Even if you skipped the gym for an entire week or month or decade. Even if you look in the mirror and you hate what you see. You deserve to ingest nutrients; you deserve to treat your body with respect and to feed it so that it can continue to pump blood, breathe air, move, and heal itself.

I know that these concerns about eating and weight gain are considered natural and even healthy at times.  And I do think we should be mindful of what we are putting into our bodies. But mindful is not obsessive; mindful is not feeling as if you’ve sinned if you eat something with such-and-such calories or sugar or whatever; and mindful is certainly not feeling as if you have to make up for eating a cupcake by depriving yourself of food or by running for an hour.

Cherry red summer apple isolated on white

I know that as an American woman, it would not be unusual for me to spend the rest of my life battling it out with calories and weight gain and fat and cellulite. I’m supposed to fight this battle paying no mind to the fact that I look healthy, eat well, am strong and, with training, am able to do nearly anything physical that I want to do.  I’m not even sure what I’m battling the calories and the fat for any more.  Is it in a quest to feel good about myself? Is it in a quest to make someone else happy? Because obsessing about what I’m doing or not doing in the areas of food and exercise will not accomplish either of those things, and it certainly won’t make me any healthier as a person.

I know I’m supposed to worry about this until I reach an old age.

But I don’t want to any more.

What are your thoughts on the issue of weight loss obsession?

As an aside, I highly recommend this spoken word piece that’s been making the rounds on the Internet. Lily Myers speaks about this issue with eloquence and raw honesty:


Clothing, Lust and Christianity

Okay, I’ve written about Christian ladies and modesty before, but I’d like to touch on something again.  What sparked this was this blog post from A Quill and an Inkwell.  I was particularly troubled by this section:

#1 Myth of Modesty: ‘It’s His Job Not to Look’

It’s true, lust is a sin, and men shouldn’t entertain it.

But if we give them nothing to look at, how often do you think they would be tempted to lust after us?

The article I mentioned earlier said women have been unfairly singled out concerning modesty. While men are responsible to honor us with their eyes and minds, when we dishonor ourselves by what we wear, the real unfairness is to the men. Do we really expect to wear whatever we want and then tell them not to look at us? Do we really expect to fit in with the latest (often sexually promiscuous) trends and NOT be viewed as an object of sexual desire?

It is not just his job not to look: it is our responsibility to provide nothing provocative to look at. We cannot blame men for what we instigate, and it is time for women of God to start acknowledging our responsibility in this matter, taking up our cross, and honoring God with our dress.

Now, I would just like to clarify before I go into this that I do believe it is a Christian woman’s duty to dress modestly.  If we love our brothers in Christ, then we certainly don’t want to make their struggles with lust any harder.  If one of the simple ways we can make things easier for them is to dress modestly, then we need to do it for their sakes.  It’s a matter of laying aside our desires to dress a certain way in order to help our brothers out much in the way we might refrain from throwing a wine-tasting party for a former alcoholic’s birthday.

However, if a man lusts, it is 100% his responsibility.

The fact of the matter is, even if given nothing sexually enticing to look at, men and women will still lust.  Why? Because we’re sinful. We are born into sin.  Through the power of Christ’s work on the cross and his continual sanctification, we can certainly see victory over issues on an individual level.  But even if every woman in the world dressed in a burka, there would still be men who had lustful thoughts.

I know this because, otherwise, children would never be sexually abused.

I know this because, otherwise, sexual harassment in the workplace would be incredibly rare considering most business’ dress codes.

I know this because sin is a part of our very nature and, without Christ, we love it.

The aforementioned blog post crosses a dangerous line.  It’s the same line that is often crossed in courtrooms when rape victims have to justify the clothing they were wearing when they were attacked.  It’s the same line that allows and even encourages men to be passive in their fight against lust because, dang it, if only she hadn’t worn that halter top, lust wouldn’t be an issue.

This is like a reformed kleptomaniac blaming the shopkeeper for putting items on display.  He can’t possibly not steal them when they’re sitting out. Absurd, right?

Let me make something really clear:

Men: You are responsible for your sin.  I do not care if a woman is prancing down the street in lingerie, it is your responsibility to run to the Lord with your temptation.  If you lust, that is on you.

Women: With lust being such a common problem, we should dress modestly out of love for our brothers. But, once again, you are responsible for your own sin, they are responsible for theirs.

I’d like to wrap this up with the words of Jesus regarding the issue of lust.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right handcauses you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

Jesus clearly holds the individual responsible for his own sin here.  He doesn’t say that it’s okay to lust if a woman is dressed in a certain way, nor does he blame shift.  The one who lusts is the one at fault and is the one who needs to resist temptation. Period.


My love for children’s literature (or why I’ll choose Lemony Snicket over Stephen King any day of the week)

Well-read people are less likely to be evil.

-Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

I used to be labeled as somewhat bookish and fear I carry that title without the reading history to back it up.  It’s true, I spent most of my time in childhood reading.  I was homeschooled for part of elementary school, nearly all of middle school, and half of high school, so I would often finish my work fairly early in the day which left me with the rest of the day to read.  I burned through books like crazy quite proud of the ratio of read-to-not-read books on the little bookshelf at the end of the hall.

However, I always wanted to be one of those people who loved classic literature.  After quite a few school assignments and several attempts at reading classic novels on my own, I have come the conclusion that many of those books are not really my thing.  I can read them, but I don’t enjoy most of them and usually find myself trudging through in order to check the book off on Goodreads or something.

As I am sure you know, when people say ‘It’s my pleasure,’ they usually mean something along the lines of, ‘There’s nothing on Earth I would rather do less.’ [...]

-The Penultimate Peril

Over the past few years, I haven’t read very many books partially because I have felt the crushing weight of adulthood telling me that I must grow up and learn to enjoy Chaucer and Plath and Tolkien and leave the children’s books behind.  My standard response has been to pick up a few children’s books here and there and read through them while stifling the pressure I feel shoving me toward books intended for adults.

I don’t exactly know where this pressure comes from.  I remember my mother telling me in high school that, “A good book is a good book no matter who it was written for.”  I think perhaps it comes from the constant struggle to feel more like an adult because I am 26 and I have a full-time job and a 401k and a food dehydrator, but I still feel as unsure of my future and my understanding of the way I think things should be as I ever have.  Maybe I think that adopting the reading habits of a Grown-Up Person will cement the fact that I am also grown because I like media that is made for adults.  I’m not sure.

What I have realized recently is that I like children’s literature for reasons more complex than it being easy to read.  I, like many adults out there, don’t have life all figured out.  I’m still experiencing new things, I still feel like a baby every once in awhile, and there are a lot of things about life that I simply don’t understand.  I also have a really difficult time expressing myself through any means other than the written word (and even that is hit or miss).  Many times, an attempt to discover why I am upset about something will result in a friend and I literally repeating the same conversation two or three times before I can figure out why I feel a certain way.  I don’t understand my own emotions sometimes (which, I gather, is somewhat common amongst adults).

I think this is the reason I love children’s literature as much as I do. Children’s authors are often able to pluck the words from my very emotions and plaster them on a page.  It’s the reason, in the wake of my friend’s death last year, I referred so often to Lemony Snicket.  Because, try as I might, there was no better way to explain what was going on, especially as I’d never had to process through real grief before.

It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it.
-The Bad Beginning

Literature intended for children has to stop to explain the way the world works because the intended audience hasn’t learned that yet.  Authors must carefully weave tidbits of wisdom between layers of action and emotion because children are still trying to figure everything out.  Books intended for adults often leave some of this out, assuming that the readers have a grasp on the realities of life, that they have it somewhat together.

But, I’m still trying to figure a lot of stuff out. Stuff like…

Oftentimes. when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.

-The Wide Window

Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make — bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake — if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble. Making assumptions simply means believing things are a certain way with little or no evidence that shows you are correct, and you can see at once how this can lead to terrible trouble. For instance, one morning you might wake up and make the assumption that your bed was in the same place that it always was, even though you would have no real evidence that this was so. But when you got out of your bed, you might discover that it had floated out to sea, and now you would be in terrible trouble all because of the incorrect assumption that you’d made. You can see that it is better not to make too many assumptions, particularly in the morning.

-The Austere Academy

One of the greatest myths in the world – and the phrase ‘greatest myths’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘big fat lies’ — is that troublesome things get less and less troublesome if you do them more and more. People say this myth when they are teaching children to ride bicycles, for instance, as though falling off a bicycle and skinning your knee is less troublesome the fourteenth time you do it than it is the first time. The truth is that troublesome things tend to remain troublesome no matter how many times you do them, and that you should avoid doing them unless they are absolutely urgent.

-The Ersatz Elevator

Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.

-The Beatrice Letters

So, I think I identify with children’s literature a bit more than adult literature.  Not because I’m childlike or naive or immature; but because I know myself enough to know that I don’t fully understand everything that happens in the world nor my own reactions to such happenings.  And sometimes, having someone else put into words thoughts and emotions that are fairly common is comforting.  Because who wants to feel alone in their reactions to the craziness of the world around them?


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