Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Feminism, Theology, and Amish Cowboys

Several weeks ago, my older sister asked me to look into a couple different authors for her, read some of their stuff, and give her my response to them. She also asked me to figure out why Christian romance writers are so obsessed with cowboys, pioneers, and the Amish. In my last blog post before I start my 31 Day series, I'd like to give a succinct answer to both of these requests. I'll keep it short because it's late and I've spent the day juggling small children, walking up and down big hills, and eating an ungodly amount of sea salt and almond dark chocolate.

So. I just finished reading Rachel Held Evans' The Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master. I mean, literally "just finished" because I was scrambling to get to the end before October started and 31 Days writing takes over my life.

When Amanda asked me to look into Rachel Held Evans' writing, I told her that I'd read some of Evan's blog posts before and that while I liked some of her stuff, I didn't always agree with her theology. At the end of her book, I would probably still say that, but with the accompanying statement: if we read books (and engage in conversation and listen to speakers…) only for the goal of achieving "right" theology, we miss out. I am guilty of this more than I care to say. I want to be right. I want the correct answers. I want to "win" debates, theological and otherwise. But that is not the most important thing.

The most important thing is whether or not we are being drawn closer to Jesus. So when I read books (or engage in conversations or listen to speakers…) it would be more appropriate for my goal to be a closer walk with Christ than a better grasp of abstract theological tenants. That is not to say that good theology will not draw me closer to Christ. My hope is, of course, that it does. But theology without a heart for Jesus is just words and ideas without any heart.

Evans spends a year trying out various aspects of womanhood as gleaned from the Bible (and yes, some of them are more out there than others). There were times that I found myself bristling emotionally as well as moments I felt encouraged and empowered, but I agree with what Evans' concludes at the end of her year of experimentation: "the Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth…. As much as we may long for the simplicity of a single definition of 'biblical womanhood', there is no one right way to be a woman, no mold into which we must each cram ourselves…."

This brings us directly to the other topic of tonight's post. Why is it that so many Christian novelists set their fiction in either the past or Amish country? And I think the answer is that a lot of us don't know what to do with the way womanhood has been addressed by both the Bible and the Church. It is easier for us to take the stereotypical "Christian woman virtues" and fit them into another time and place because it simplifies things for us. We don't have to grapple with what it looks like to be a woman of God in the real world.

The truth is that most of us would be happy with a check list of virtues to achieve so that we can feel good about ourselves (even if our check list of virtues has us getting back in touch with our own Laura Ingalls Wilder and not really engaging with who we really are). We want to read the Bible and know exactly what it is we need to do. If we can interpret Scripture in such a way that it tells us exactly who we need to be then we can have the right answers and live the right life and move on with things.

The problem with this is that it leaves us without Jesus.

Christ's teachings are both complex and challenging. Sometimes they seem to make better sense if we put a little distance between us and them (like setting them back in the 1800s). But I think the challenge of what it means to be a woman following after Christ in this day and age is a worthwhile one. So while I may not agree with all of Evans' conclusions, at the end of her book I found myself wanting to dig deeper into the Bible to find out more, to pray more fervently for the issues that she raised, and more than anything to draw closer to Christ as I grapple with what His desire is for me, as a woman.

At the end of the day, I'd just like to say this. Church, let's enter into conversation with each other about the hard issues (yes, I'm talking about feminism and theology and Jesus). Let's stop posting our ideologies on Facebook as dogma, and instead sit down over a cup of coffee and the Bible with someone who sees things differently than we do. Let's pick up books that we wouldn't normally read and engage with them, holding them next to the Truth of the Bible and learning something. Let's develop friendships with people who may not always agree with us but might just make us think.

Christ told us to the love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Let's use those minds to draw closer to him. He also told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means opening our hearts to others, even people we don't necessarily agree with or understand. That means listening. That means worrying less about being right and more about being Christ to others.

And at the end of the day, we may not get to ride off into a pioneer sunset with an Amish cowboy, but we will experience the fullness of joy that only following Jesus brings.

PS Somebody remind me in November (maybe) to write about that word "liberated"… I just
might have a few things to say.

PPS I lied. This wasn't short at all.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Quick Frenzy

I'm sitting on the couch having just finished watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. From this you can deduce a few things. 1. We are moved in! 2. We unpacked the couch! 3. We have a freaking awesome view!

Tiny is very happy to be home.
Or is he just happy about the chocolate ice cream he just downed?

Actually, we've unpacked a lot more than the couch. We even have pictures on the walls! Sure, the twins' room is still in boxes, but since they're the only ones incapable of whining about it…no one really cares! We're getting to them tomorrow, promise. Mostly because they both hit growth spurts over the last month, and I've got to dig through the boxes and find them clothes that actually fit. Bruiser had an inch of tummy showing with the shirt he was wearing today--and matching bare wrists. That kid knows how to rock a belly shirt.

Bruiser makes the Man's hat look good.

With all that said, it's been a busy few days. Compounded by the fact that the twins decided to add over half a dozen teeth between the two of them over the last few weeks. I may be behind on phone calls and emails and blogs and running and stuff like that, but we've found new playgrounds and taken sunset walks to look for elusive deer and spent time at the beach and checked out the aquarium in town and reinstated Pizza-Smoothie-and-a-Movie night…and moved into a house. So, on the whole, I think we're doing pretty well over here.

Bee has loved every moment of unpacking.
Here she is pretending this box is a rocket ship.
I know. She told me.

With all that said, I mostly wanted to just check in and show you guys a few pictures of the kids before you think we've all fallen off the face of the earth. And also to give you a heads up that there are only a few more days of September left, and do you know what happens in October?

The big boys wish they could drive in real life.
The Man and I are relieved this is still several years away.
Judging by the look on Littles' face here,
speeding tickets are in his future.
My parents come to visit! But that's not that important to you (unless you're my parents, in which case it is an epoch in your life).

Bruiser is so happy in these pictures.
Unfortunately, the happiness doesn't always translate at 2am
when the teething has kicked into full gear.

But for real: October means the start of another 31 Days series, and I do have a plan geared up and ready to go. So get prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time reading scatter brained blogs written in between the chaos as I try to get back in the swing of things over here. And then, if I survive October, maybe I'll just decide to stay on the crazy train and write the next great American novel for NaNoWriMo. Kidding. Even I'm not that insane.

Swinging is Bee's favourite.
Everything is Bee's favourite.
But especially the Man.
So much so that her first word is now officially "Dada".
Closely followed by "yay!"
What happened to "Mama"? Huh?!

And on that note, I'll post this and go get something to eat because all the calories I consumed earlier were already burned up by shoving food in the twins' faces at dinner. Did I mention growth spurt? And teeth? And unpacking? And sun setting into the Pacific? Okay, good. Let's move on.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Bunch of Beach Blurbs

I think there must be something about PCSing that dictates that the moment all the kids' clothes are organized, sorted, and packed, everyone will immediately hit growth spurts. We've spent most of this trip looking at strips of bare belly and exposed ankle, but no more. Yesterday we ran by the store and picked up some clothes for the kids so they will no longer look homeless, even if technically they are.

I stole this picture from the Man's phone
so you can see Oswald and Trigger bonding in their time of need.
Oh the love brought about from the mutual trauma of PCSing.

I say "technically" because while we are currently in lodging, rumor has it that there is a house with our name on it (a yellow house on top of a hill facing the ocean, no less). It is hard to not be annoyingly excited, but I am doing my best, while making copious notes regarding how I plan to arrange the furniture for the floor plan that we may or may not get.

Trigger wasn't quite sure what he thought of the ocean.

In the meantime, there is the ocean and sanity and fresh air and cool weather and hills to run and did I mention that it is so hard to not be excited?

Tiny was at his sand throwing best yesterday.

The most fun thing about this PCS, though, has been seeing how the boys respond to everything. I forget that they have spent most of their life in a small town in Oklahoma. Every white van MUST be maintenance. The Grand Canyon, according to Tiny, was made up of sand castles. And, this is my favourite, every time they see any amount of water there must be exclamations of surprise and ecstasy. "Look! Water! Water! Look, Mom!" A drainage ditch is just as exciting to them as the Pacific Ocean.

Bruiser was too cool to gaze off into the distance with me.
His face says it all: "Mom, why are you so weird?"

I know I should write more about this transition, but I think mostly I wanted to share our first pictures with you. I realize that there are several stops worth of pictures that also deserve their day in the sun, but that may or may not happen. Our time right now is taken up with maintaining a regular schedule for the kids, getting back into good exercise habits, exploring Monterey, figuring out which restaurants are way outside of our budget, and waiting. As much as an extended stay in lodging isn't anyone's cup of tea, it's nice to have the extent of my housework be making beds and washing dishes. It leaves lots of time for playground exploration.

Littles preferred the "hot sand" farther from the surf.
Okay, just finishing out this blog...

Endless happiness.
The Man: what are you doing? Just taking a bunch of pictures
and hoping one of them turns out?
Me: pretty much
See all the pretty pictures? Yay.

Living here is not going to get old fast.
Also, I got the seagull in the frame in one shot.
Eat that, Mom.

Alright, then, hurray, we're here! And hopefully getting settled soon. More to come later. Maybe.