Tag Archives: love

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.


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?


FYI (if you’re a Christian human being): a response to the response to Mrs. Hall’s blog entry on modesty

So, there was this blog post I saw going around on Facebook.  And then I noticed that there was a large amount of backlash, frontlash, and sidelash surrounding it.  So, I thought I’d add to the noise.  This is sort of a response to the response to the blog entry with a few sidenotes based on my own observation of the way the Church at large handles the issue of modesty.

Christian ladies: You don’t dress modestly because that’s what Pastor Bob says, because it’s what your mother told you to do, because not doing so makes Aunt Marge cringe, because that’s what Good Girls do, or even to Respect Yourself.  You dress modestly out of love for your Christian brothers.  Just like you, most guys struggle with maintaining pure thoughts.  And just like you, they don’t want to have more issues in this area than already naturally occur.  You wouldn’t wave a mimosa in front of a recovering alcoholic at brunch and then tell them not to think about it, so don’t prance about in clothing that you know will give guys trouble and expect them to have an easy time of it.

Christian gentlemen: That being said, we ladies are not responsible for your sin.  We cannot know everything that causes issues for each individual guy.  I’ve had several married friends tell me things like, “I was always taught not to wear __________, but my husband says it’s not a big deal.” And I have other married friends who express the exact opposite.  Everyone is different and there is no possible way to cater to the triggering factors of others.

I am in the long process of recovering from disordered eating (this relates; I promise), an issue I’ve had off and on for at least five years.  Recovery from something like this is slow and arduous: first I look for good days, then good weeks, then good months.  Thankfully, I’m in the good months area of recovery at the moment.

There are a lot of things in the good days and good weeks stages that can trigger disordered eating thoughts for me.  Some of those things are easily avoidable; some are not.  One of the most ridiculous triggers for me (on a bad day) is someone I am close to just mentioning changing their own diet to lose weight.  If, upon hearing this information, my brain jumps to thoughts of starving myself or of how much weight I need to lose, it is not the other person’s problem.  Many times, this sort of conversation doesn’t phase me, but it occasionally does and is something I have to learn to deal with.  I can’t ask the entire world to stop talking about weight and food and exercise; I can take my thoughts captive, as the Bible commands, and ask God for help in this area.

My point is, we can’t know every issue you have.  Even my friends who are very familiar with the ups and downs of my eating problems can not possibly guess what may cause issues for me on any given day; sometimes, I don’t even know.  It is my responsibility to be prepared to shut down those thoughts as they come.  It’s the same for anyone dealing with any ubiquitous, unbiblical thoughts.

Christian parents: Okay, this is probably a tad presumptuous of me as I’m not a parent myself.  But there are kids in my life who I want to protect, and I do want to have kids and often think about how I will approach difficult issues with them.

First off, yes, it is your right and your duty to protect your kids.  Insulate them in whatever way you feel is necessary. But you also need to train them.  Train your daughters to dress modestly for the sake of the men in their lives.  Train your sons to treat women with respect and to consider them something other than sexual objects.  They need to be able to react to the world around them with biblical understanding.

Years ago, when I was knee-deep in disordered eating, I remember reading a blog post concerning eating disorders.  One thing to note for the uninitiated is that most ED support sites will have ***TRIGGER WARNING** plastered all over various posts in order to let those who are easily triggered know what they’re getting into.  However, the woman writing this post was somewhat against labeling everything with the warning — not because she didn’t care about how her writing affected others, but because she recognized the deeper want held by many recoverers of complete isolation from all triggers.  She essentially said, “I can put trigger warnings at the top of each post and you can avoid them and avoid the pro-ana sites and the fashion magazines.  But do know that there will come a day on which you are walking down the street and you will look up and there will be a giant billboard with a stick-thin model on it.  And you have to be able to deal with that.”

I can insulate my (hypothetical, future) children from every evil I have control over.  But there will come a day when my sons see a less-than-modest photo or even just have a friend who starts dressing less modestly.  And they need to have the tools and understanding to address any unbiblical thoughts that arise out of those issues.  They will only learn how to deal with such temptations if my (hypothetical, future) husband and I teach them to understand their human weaknesses and run to the Lord and take their thoughts captive.  They won’t learn that just from being isolated from instances of immodest, immoral, or unethical behavior.

Finally, (a slight deviation from the topic at hand) to every Christian out there: the issue of sexual purity isn’t just a man’s game.  I have run into far too many women recently who have told me something to the effect of, “Growing up, I didn’t think other women struggled with lust.  I thought I was the only one.”  Just as you men are responsible for your thoughts, we women are responsible for ours.  But don’t think that none of us understand the struggle you face and don’t think that we are beyond temptation in that area.  And please, please don’t neglect to teach your daughters how to handle that temptation.

Well, those are my thoughts.  I would love to hear the opinions of others on both the blog post I linked to and what I’ve expressed here.  Thanks for reading!


Random thoughts from one of the most emotionally wearing weeks of my entire life

  • The amount of times I’ve had to tell myself, “It’s really none of your business; you don’t have to have an opinion on everything.” in the last week is astounding considering the fact that I am, in fact, a 26-year-old woman who manages to keep old friends, make new ones, and maintain a decent relationship with most of my coworkers and family members.
  • Really the fact that any one of us puts up with the rest of us is the common grace of God in His understanding that His creation needs companionship.  Because, really, we’re all such self-centered messes.
  • I trust people’s philosophies way too much and their motives way too little.
  • I would really, really like a dog.  A great, big, floppy dog who I will name Theodore or Remus or Paddington or something.
  • I absolutely have some of the most devoted, kind, loving, patient, wonderful, and dear friends in the entire world and I’m very glad the Lord has placed them in my life.
  • I find my brain to be buzzing more and more with useless and absurd imaginary conversations simply because I’m so used to thinking constantly. This week has been so crazy that my brain wants to be quiet but habit dictates that I fill the void with something.  These aren’t even conversations that I expect or want to have; they’re more like A Word from Our Sponsor filling the space between thoughts.  I think maybe I need to learn to sit quietly, mind included.
  • I’ve had such sweet conversations this week despite the tossing and turning of my mind.  It has been quite wonderful, really.
  • Sometimes, sleeping on a giant pillow and a giant stuffed bear really does make most everything better somehow.
  • Astoundingly, I don’t have to continue to feel as if I’m responsible for the actions of others.  I’ve known this for awhile, but it’s just now sinking in.
  • I have a friend who has two sisters and the three of them are essentially best friends and it’s really the most lovely thing.  I wish I saw that sort of sibling affection more often.
  • The Lord really does come through with His promise to progressively sanctify His children.  He equips, He chastises, He encourages, He loves.  Utterly phenomenal.

My thoughts on the Myth of the FriendZone

So, say you’re a guy and you like some girl and you express your like for her and she responds with, “I’d rather just be friends.”

Uh-oh.  You just got FriendZoned!

Or, maybe not.  I’ve been thinking about this the last couple of days because I hear/read complaints about it fairly often.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the FriendZone doesn’t actually exist.

It seems that being FriendZoned equates to one of two things.

Take Scenario A:

You’re a guy and you like your friend Julie.  You and Julie aren’t super close, but you know her well enough to know that you’d like to go out with her.  You ask her out and she turns you down, adding, “I really like you as a friend.” You have been:

a. FriendZoned.
b. rejected.
c. none of the above. If I keep trying really hard, Julie will finally realize she’s interested in me romantically.

If you answered b. rejected, you’re correct! I know it’s hard to admit and sometimes difficult to handle, but Julie has not, in fact, put you in some sort of undefined social Zone that exists to torture you and you alone.  She has been honest with you; she isn’t interested in a romantic relationship with you and that’s that.

Now, I can’t speak for all women, but I can say that when I’ve said this to guys it’s been because they expressed romantic interest in me and I wasn’t interested for whatever reason and wanted to break the news in a nice way.  It wasn’t because I wanted the guy to act like one of my female friends or because I’m just cold-hearted and didn’t appreciate how nice he’d been to me or whatever.  (Sidenote: if you’re nice to someone with the expectation that being nice will eventually earn you the right to demand their romantic affection, you’re doing it wrong.) I think this may be where the disconnect lies in these scenarios: the woman doesn’t want the guy to think she’s rejecting him as a person or that she thinks he’s a loser or something, and she can’t give him what he wants, so she offers the best thing she can give him, which is friendship.  She’s being honest, but tries to spin it toward something positive.

At this point, the best thing for you to do is to put that hope for romance with her to rest.  If you can remain friends with Julie without a huge amount of discomfort to yourself, please do.  If you find that you need some distance from her, you should communicate that.  It’s really terrible and confusing to the other person if you just slowly creep away from the friendship when they didn’t do anything other than express their feelings honestly.

Scenario B:

You’re a guy and you’re really close with Lauren.  She texts you all the time, tells you about all of her problems, has you drive her places, etc.  You wouldn’t normally do all of those things with such consistency for someone, but you like Lauren and you want to do things for her.

It takes a few months…years…decades, but you finally mention to Lauren that you’d like to date her.  She responds with, “Oh, but I just like being friends with you!” What does your relationship consist of?

a. all I can see around me is…The FriendZone.
b. absolutely no understanding of boundaries, terrible communication, and a woman who (probably unwittingly) thinks she can have all the benefits of a boyfriend without the commitment and affection.
c. none of the above. If I keep on doing everything she wants, she’ll eventually fall in love with me. She has to.

Once again, b is the answer. (Though I did touch on c briefly above, let me say it again: you should be nice to people in general. You should not be nice to someone in order to try to earn the right to their affection. That’s less being nice and more heinously manipulative.  This goes for both genders.)

Okay, first of all, communication is key always and forever.  If you thought Lauren was interested in you because of something she did or said, it’d be good to bring that up.  You can even use fancy phrases like “mixed signals” to drive the point home.  This gives Lauren a chance to explain her point of view concerning the situation.

Second of all, if you’re doing a bunch of stuff you generally reserve for a girlfriend…even if that “stuff” is something as simple as seeing Lauren multiple times a week, it’s probably time to explain that, too so that boundaries can be set up.  You don’t have to say, “I only do this for someone I’m dating,” but be honest about what boundaries you need to set up for yourself so that your relationship is clearly defined.

And, to the Laurens out there: if you’re using a guy as a fill-in for a boyfriend, stop it.  It’s confusing for both parties and is an abuse of the friendship in general.  Guy friends aren’t the same as your best female friends and they certainly aren’t just like a boyfriend without the commitment.

To sum up: using the term “FriendZone” to describe any guy who has unrequited affection toward a girl who wants to remain friends is skirting the issues at hand. In my experience, said guy needs to accept the rejection that he’s been handed or both parties need to strive toward clearer communication and healthy boundaries within their friendship. I’d really love for the term to go away completely, but as it won’t, I think I may just start calling people out for using it.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this issue.  I’d love to hear yours as well.  Do you have a different definition of FriendZone? Is there an area that I’ve gotten totally wrong or that I need a different perspective on? If you think so, comment away!


Dear Manic Pixie Dream Girl Stock Character

Dear Manic Pixie Dream Girl Stock Character,

We need to talk.

You have a problem, and it’s a rather serious one.

For years, I was blind to your issues.  In fact, I have dedicated a large chunk of my life to attempting to be just like you.  Not just like Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown or just like Natalie Portman in Garden State, but just like you, the ultimate combination of all of the characters who fall in your spectrum.  I wanted to be the girl who appreciated life more than the people around her did, who relished nature, who approached difficult and awkward circumstances with Reckless Abandon.  I wanted to be the girl who lived carpe diem rather than just spewing it forth like the cliche that it is, who danced in parking lots, in the rain, in the woods, in the middle of walking her dogs just to prove to myself, friends and the world around me that I was unique and surely loved life.

And, more than anything, I wanted to change The Boy.  It doesn’t really matter which Boy, because, as you know, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, your shallow, hollow shell of a character ultimately fulfills her own purpose by changing whatever Tortured Soul is thrown her way.  The Boy is often complex, confused about his place in the world, possibly depressed, and has emotions beyond those of Wild Abandon.  And you change him.  You show him the error of his ways.  You show him how to love life – every minute – by appreciating small things and forcing him well outside of his comfort zone.  You are, in effect, his saving grace in what seems to be a bleak, monotonous situation.

The problem is that you shouldn’t be expected to change anyone.  Of course, people change people.  That does happen.  But the weight of The Boy’s eventual happiness often rests entirely on your tiny, Shins-loving shoulders.  And this is a problem.

The Boy doesn’t truly find his way in life.  He finds you, Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  You are responsible for changing him, you are the one in whom he finds his fulfillment, and if you have an off day, he will be detrimentally affected.

The above reasons are why I have decided to stop attempting to follow in your footsteps.  While I want to appreciate the life that has been given to me, I don’t want to force actions just so others think I’m appreciating life (when I don’t even enjoy dancing in parking lots most of the time).  I don’t want to feel the pressure of always having to be upbeat and quirky, even when I’m having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and really just need a hug and some prayer.  And I cannot change The Boy, whoever he happens to be.  I cannot be the agent of change or the steady bedrock upon which his entire appreciation for life rests.

I’m abandoning trying to copy your ways, and I really hope you abandon your ways as well.  You have been a token character in American media for far too long.  Your message is dangerous, your personality lacks depth and, while your love of life is admirable, your other qualities seem unhealthy, and I no longer desire them.

Sincerely,

Chelsea