Back in Black

Back in Black

Well hello there, gentle readers!

It’s been far too long since I wrote on here, but the truth is, I have a lot to say. A lot of questions to answer?

Like, what should one do with the garlic parsley escargot in oil from Whole Foods?

Why is my Williams-Sonoma quarter-sheet pan the #1 kitchen item I wish I had more of?

Is the complementarianism vs. egalitarianism debate actually a false dilemma?

Is Breckenridge Brewery really that great?

Why did I not remember that Mama Day mostly takes place in New York City, and why does it always make me cry?

What are the three most beautiful places I’ve been, and why are they not the same as my three favorite places?

What is the enneagram teaching me?

Stay tuned, friends.

One Day More (Till the Election)

One Day More (Till the Election)

adapted from “One Day More” from the musical Les Miserables

[Random American Citizen]
One day more!
Another day, another destiny.
This never-ending stream of baloney;
I can’t believe it’s come to this;
It makes previous elections feel like bliss!
One day more!

[Hillary Clinton]
The Feds exonerated me today.
Will American voters even listen?

[RAC]
One day more.

[Hillary & Huma]
Tomorrow America decides,
And then we’ll know if we have blown it!

[Donald Trump]
One more day left to campaign –

[Hillary & Huma]
I’m pretty sure we have a shot.

[Donald]
– One more day to be a jerkface –

[Hillary & Huma]
I was born for this career.

[Donald]
– On an international stage –

[Hillary]
And I swear I’m Presidential!

[Donald]
– This is going to be yuge!

[Evan McMullin]
One more day before the storm!

[Paul Ryan]
This is so embarrassing.

[Evan]
At the barricades of freedom!

[Paul]
Can this please be over soon?

[Evan]
We’ll save the country from disaster.

[Paul]
What am I going to do now?

[Evan]
Will you take your place with me?

[ALL]
The time is now, the day is here.

[RAC]
One day more!

[Third-Party Voters]
One day more till the election,
We will never be ashamed!
We watch an unfolding crisis;
The parties have themselves to blame!

[RAC]
One day more!

[Gary Johnson & Jill Stein]
Watch ’em run amuck,
Catch ’em as they fall,
Never know your luck
When there’s a free for all,
We may get a blip
We may get a bunch
You never know with voters
And their brains are mush !

[Political Commentators(2 Groups)]
[1:] One day till Trump’s people riot

[2:] Perhaps the GOP will split!

[1:] Everyone will be at odds

[2:] Everyone will be at odds

[1:] There’s the old way for the losing

[2:] It is going down in flames

[ALL]
Do you hear the ballot box ca-ching?

[Hillary]
My place is here, please vote for me!

[RAC]
One day more!

[Hillary & Huma]
The Feds exonerated me today.

[Donald]
One day left to campaign!

[Hillary & Huma]
Will the voters even listen?

[Evan (overlapping)]
#NeverTrump and #NeverClinton!
We will not give up the fight;
We’ll be sure to cause an upset,
It won’t be over tomorrow night.

[RAC]
One day more!

[Hillary & Huma]
I was born to this career.

[Donald]
I can’t wait to be the Big Boss!

[Hillary & Huma]
And I swear I’m Presidential!

[Third Party Voters (overlapping)]
One more day till the election;
Will we finally be heard?
Couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton

[Jill & Gary (overlapping)]
Watch ’em run amok
Catch ’em as they fall
Never know your luck
When there’s a free-for-all!

[RAC]
Tomorrow night we’ll finally know
Which way our country’s fall will go

[ALL]
Tomorrow we’ll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store!
One more dawn
One more day
One day more!

A Few Thoughts on Internet Dating

A Few Thoughts on Internet Dating

As you may well know, gentle reader, I met my favorite person on okCupid. Before our fateful first date that Friday in September 2014, though, I did quite a bit of internet dating. There were four main phases in my internet dating history: several months 2007-2008 (one meet-up in person, which led to my own first panic attack – and not remotely because the guy wasn’t great; it turns out I was a wreck); spring of 2012, which led to a few dates (then I got horribly, horribly sick for a year, which cut that short); fall 2013 (kind of a lot of dates); and then late spring 2014-September 2014 (a LOT of dates). Even the one-off dates (of which there were many) were a pretty positive experiences. Internet dating did me well – obviously.

This is not a post about whether or why you should be online dating. It’s not about what I think of all the sites I was on at one time or another (in addition to okCupid, I did Christian Cafe, eHarmony, Christian Mingle, and Match). It’s not about the cultural impact of this new way of forming romantic connections (check out this article if you’re curious about that). It’s also not about my stories (although I have some good ones).

What I want to talk about is how to do this thing. I learned a couple of lessons I think are worth passing along – maybe you will find something I learned useful.

When you’re on a date that isn’t going anywhere, be charitable. One of my friends used to talk back in her single days about helping awkward guys learn some dating skills if she found herself on a date with them, just by being a good date herself. She didn’t do this over multiple dates – she wasn’t leading them on or anything – but she chose to see each dead-end date as a different kind of possibility than romance, not a waste of her time or energy. I found that sometimes that chemistry just wouldn’t be there face-to-face, or something would come up in discussion that made it clear we weren’t a great match, and it was tempting to abruptly end the date, be a bitch, or regard the fellow with animosity. But not once was he actually a bad dude with nefarious intent; he just wasn’t the right guy for me. And that is not his fault. Not once would my antagonism have been warranted. I really think kindness is clutch here.*

Another way to think of it is this: especially with the way you end things, whether you’re just chatting online or have been dating for awhile, try to be a positive experience that will encourage good men and women to go out and try again. Putting oneself out there is tough and scary work; be the kind of person who makes others feel it’s worth their effort – and that they have something to offer – even if you didn’t turn out to be “the one.”

Don’t lie. I never struggled with lying until I started getting “maybe we could do this again sometime” from men I didn’t want to go out with again. I am totally ashamed to say I had a terrible habit for awhile of saying, “sure,” and then emailing or texting “Actually, I’m so sorry, I was nervous and I lied; you’re great but I’m not interested.” It was a huge step for me to learn to be honest to men’s faces. Just being frank without being mean is plenty for most people – you don’t need to “make a statement” with your “no thank you.”

When you get super-judgy and cynical, you might need a break. I felt my heart hardening in the spring of 2008. I noticed I was trending toward this nasty attitude when I caught myself looking at profiles and thinking, “Not cute enough for me…Not godly enough for me…Not smart enough for me.” That is not the person I wanted to be, so I quit online dating for 4 years. And when I came back, it was completely different. For me, a big part of guarding my heart was keeping myself from becoming mean and cold and hard.


* I do want to note that having boundaries is important, and you might be justifiably “rude” by putting your foot down and insisting on being left alone, etc., when you’re being pursued past the point at which you said “no thanks.”

Book Review: The Envy of Eve

Book Review: The Envy of Eve

I ran this review on my old blog over four years ago, but since it became relevant again this past weekend at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conferences 2016 in Indianapolis (which was awesome, by the way), I thought I would repost it here. 

When I started seminary, I was in a bit of a unique position – I was the only full-time female student in the entire school. My professors were rather fantastic about the gender-thing (as well as everything else), but obviously, there are just some things women need other women for. As it happens, one of the women who really shaped my seminary years is married to my favorite seminary professor (who also happened to be a pastor at my church). Right about the time I left Charlotte, Melissa was hired as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator at our church.

I’m sure the wisdom of Melissa Kruger will come out in various and sundry contexts on this blog, but today I just want to flog her new/first book.

The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World is a convicting, challenging book. Melissa guides us to look unflinchingly at the sin in our hearts, unwaveringly at the Savior Who redeems our hearts, and hopefully to the Spirit Who heals and sanctifies our hearts.

The Envy of Eve argues that there is a consistent pattern in the way that coveting affects people: we see, we covet, we take, we hide. Sounds like Eve, right? She sees the fruit, she wants it, she takes it, and then girlfriend is sewing up fig leaves and ducking behind bushes. This pattern is all over the book, and I’m pretty sure it’s all over my life too. Melissa spends the first half of the book discussing the pattern – what it looks like, where it comes from, and how it meets its end – and the second half demonstrating how this pattern works itself out in our coveting of different things. This “see-covet-take-hide” thing is not Eve-specific, and Melissa makes sure we can’t deny its effect in the men and women of the Bible and in our own lives. I, for one, would not have done such careful self-examination if I had not been led through it; thankfully, I can flog this book with a metaphorical steak over my metaphorical black eye and tell you gleefully that the beating is totally worth it.

One particularly helpful point for me was that we can “take” because of our coveting in a way that has nothing to do with obtaining the actual thing we are coveting. In other words, coveting rarely will goad someone like me to steal the thing I want, but boy, I sure can steal from what I owe or am called to give others when I am under its influence. Here’s a snippet from the chapter entitled “Coveting Seasons and Circumstances” that really kicked my butt:

…[We] take because we are unable to love our neighbor as Christ loved us. When we simply view our neighbor as a means of measuring ourselves, we will never care for him or her well. We will fixate on what is easier in that person’s life and fail to sympathize or support what may be difficult for him or her. Our prayers will be centered on our own cares, instead of on those around us. (210)

Though this book is easily applicable to all kinds of Christians, Melissa specifically is writing for an adult female audience. The only way you can really tell this is her examples – her exegesis, analysis, and systematic theology are top-notch, and her frank, straightforward tone is refreshing. I feel like I have to say this, because the assumption is often that books written for women are “theology-lite.” Maybe some of them fit that category, but this book is not one of them.

One of the best things about this book is that Melissa does not aim it at single women, or married women, or married stay-at-home moms with kids, or empty nesters, or any particular subset of women who belong to Christ – I was made to feel the communion of the saints in a new way, because women 50 years older than me and 6 life-stages away were addressed alongside women like me. We really do all have the same problems, and in the same Savior we find the redemption and restoration for us all.

 

Just Say ‘No’ to Trump as President

Just Say ‘No’ to Trump as President

Last night’s debate was a freaking circus, and the clown was indubitably in center stage.

Donald Trump was clearly in peak condition. He was a jerk to the three lucky folks* who got to ask the questions. He was the King of Excuses. He was arrogant and annoying and awful. When he would go on and on about how smart and likable he is, how great he’s doing in the polls, my friend kept saying, “Oh my gosh, STOP. TALKING.” I wish he had.

We was at a debate-watching event hosted by the local Young Republicans…and Telemundo. So the whole anti-Telemundo rant he went on seemed especially absurd. But the whole thing was absurd, way more SNL segment or sitcom debate than real life, especially whenever Trump was on screen. Which was practically all the time. I get that that makes for great ratings, but this is the future of our country. The presidency is not a role for a comedian.

There are a lot of reasons I don’t want Trump to be President. Here are some of them.

Looking at Trump’s past, I see little reason to believe he is an honorable person. To quote Anglican priest Thomas McKenzie, “this is about his character.” (Read McKenzie’s article “This Isn’t Funny Anymore: Why I’m Voting Against Donald Trump” here.) People make decisions – and conduct themselves – out of who they are at heart. Character is relevant, especially when we’re considering someone’s candidacy for President. That role demands so much of a person, all the time. What is inside them will come out. What is inside Trump is bad news.

Now, if Trump were saying he’s put his past behind him, if he were saying he’s changed his mind or grown somehow, and if he were acting in a way that might suggest that. But the man doesn’t feel like he should apologize. Nor has he, according to him, ever. Even to God, at least in the last few years. The fact that he thinks that way – that he’s unfamiliar with being sorry – would be very comforting… if he were perfect. But he’s not, and that means he is incorrigible. Literally.  Three year olds are incorrigible. In case you hadn’t noticed, three year olds aren’t so great at being told things they don’t want to hear. They aren’t good at accepting advice. They are stubborn like proverbial donkeys. They use whatever resources they have at hand – teeth for biting,ˆ feet for kicking,˜ voice boxes for screaming bloody murder. Trump, he has bombast and money to throw around. Do you want an incorrigible man to be President?

There’s also the fact that the Christian life is one of repentance, and without repentance, sinners don’t have access to God. Trump doesn’t think he’s got anything to be sorry for, so why would he need someone to save him from his sins? I don’t have a problem with someone who isn’t a Christian running for President, but I do have a problem with someone claiming a religion they don’t really believe in to win votes. (This is an interesting article about this.)

With all the garbage things he’s said about non-white people, Muslims, and women, I think it’s not overstatement to say he’s a sexist xenophobe. I think that is a extremely big deal. He treats women like we should be pretty wall hangings or fun playthings, rather than recognizing us as actual human beings with minds and hearts and personalities and capabilities (this article gives some examples in its fourth point, but I’m sure you can think of plenty yourself – including the dismissive, insulting way he treated Maria Celeste last night). His insistence that illegal immigrants are the dregs of humanity, and that “the Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the US. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.,” a claim which is factually untrue (see this Washington Post article from last summer) suggest a bias that defies reality. The same can be said about that awful post he retweeted last year full of false crime stats. Trump is doing what so many have done, which somehow seems to gain some popular support every time – playing to our fears by making everything about “us vs. them,” making the “them” out to be some specific group, which by necessity has to be a minority group. The “outsiders” are to blame for our problems: illegal immigrants are stealing our jobs; black people are killing “us” (because “us” is just white people?? what??). This way of thinking is disastrous. And as you may recall, a certain infamous regime in the last century used the same tactic, blaming their Jewish citizens for their economic problems. We all know the evil that came from that.

Trump also has a disturbing tendency to throw money at all problems, especially people problems. He buys influence. He buys friends. Heck, he bought the Clintons’ attendance at his wedding. That’s really concerning to me. I don’t want America to be a place where you have to bribe people to get what you want. (I do think it’s cool that he is self-funding his campaign. But that is such a minor thing compared to all these bigger issues.) Money talks, sure, but our country is designed to give great weight to ideals and principles, like freedom, justice, and the equality of all people.

And then there’s the whole international relations thing. I could go on and on about his arrogance, his self-serving approach to life, his bluster. Trump’s foreign policy goes like this: make Mexico build a wall, and “I’m gonna get along great with all those people.” I mean, really?? I think President Obama crossed a line when he bowed to foreign dignitaries – America was founded on the principle that nobody should bow to anybody – but Trump will go so hard going the other way. We expect him to advocate for women’s rights in Iran? We expect him to negotiate with Putin in a way that doesn’t start Cold War II or bomb the heck out of Russia? I don’t want Trump speaking for my party, let alone my nation. And he would be our face everywhere.

Super Tuesday is coming, and if you’re voting in the Republican primary, please vote for someone else. President Trump would be a huge disaster. Do your part to make that not happen.


*That was sarcasm. At this point I think that job is more burden than privilege.
ˆIf you’re dealing with this in your child, let me recommend Teeth Are Not for Biting.
˜There’s also the excellent Feet Are Not for Kicking, if your three year old is up to that.

Changes in Reading Habits

Changes in Reading Habits

If you followed me over to this blog from its predecessor, Theology in Heels, you probably know how very much I love to read. Indeed, my sister Katie, who is two years younger and more extroverted than I, grew up jealous of reading because I spent so much of my time doing that instead of playing with her. (I think she finally got over her grudge after college; she reads to her kids every day.)

Just a couple years ago I was clocking about 120 books a year. Most of them fell under fiction (including a large dose of children’s fiction) or theology/Christian living (which I think we should call practical theology – that might remind us enough not to get all weird about things, making up extra rules and such nonsense). I still managed to watch a decent amount of tv, hang out with friends, and needlepoint in my spare time. My, how times have changed.

Perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that I am now reading a LOT more online…and keeping house…and make dinner most nights…and have to drive for quite awhile before I get to most of the places I go (like the grocery store)…and have access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and so forth…but y’all, I finished 24 books in 2015.

Apparently, meeting Stephen caused a disturbance in the Force. In 2014, I read 72 books before I met him…and 3 books after.

And that includes international flights to Italy then France then back to Texas.

He was on them too, of course. And there was so much talking to do – we were getting married and had to plan everything from the playlist for the reception to the times we would have the party change floors. (We got married in a science museum. It was a progressive reception. It was absurdly fun.)

ANYWAY, the bottom line is that my reading habits have changed drastically. I am currently attempting to change the rhythm of my life – at least for the low- or no-pain days. Part of that is getting up with Steve and blogging (!) and eating breakfast (!); part of it will incorporate regularly scheduled reading. I’m not sure how all that will go; I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here’s my “finished” list from 2015.

  1. Blood Work by Michael Connelly – Fine but forgettable.
  2. Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter Book 1) by Thomas Harris – Classic of the genre.
  3. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – Apparently, if you assign each of your daughters roles from Shakespeare plays and refer to them constantly as such, and quote the Bard all the time, your daughters may memorize a lot of Shakespeare and be super dysfunctional. I did enjoy this quite a bit, but it was weird. (Not trying to be cute – I don’t think there’s a more appropriate word, if you use the modern colloquial meaning.)
  4. The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney – A Romany disappearance is hard to solve, even if you’re half Romany yourself.
  5. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi – Absolutely riveting, endlessly fascinating, especially in light of the whole Making a Murderer fascination here in the US right now. This true crime book is referenced by Thomas Harris quite a bit in the Hannibal books, so I had to check it out. I did a ton of online reading after Red Dragon, and this book came up like 400 times, so I knew it was coming in the later books. Tied for best book of the year.
  6. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Wolves Chronicles Book 1) by Joan Aiken – While I heartily approve of the use of the dastardly scoundrel from Sense & Sensibility‘s name (pretty sure I just punctuated that wrong) as a name for a dangerous place, this children’s book was too dark for me. And when you consider the other books I read this year, you’ll probably concur that that is quite a statement.
  7. Innocence by David Hosp – I mean, I have a copy if you want it. I don’t need it anymore. It was forgettable. But if you’re bored… maybe can I send you Sense & Sensibility instead?
  8. Redwall (Redwall #1) by Brian Jacques – Read on hubby’s recommendation, though it was on my list for years. Enjoyed it as much as I enjoy any anthropomorphic tale involving battles.
  9. Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey No. 1) by Dorothy Sayers* – Delightful.
  10. Clouds of Witnesses (Lord Peter Wimsey No. 2) by Dorothy Sayers* – Not quite as delightful as most of the rest of the series, but still miles more interesting than Innocence.
  11. Love or Die: Christ’s Wake Up Call to the Church by Alexander Strauch
  12. The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan – Enjoyable foray into a new fantasy world. I’m certain at least Book 2 will be on my 2016 list.
  13. The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers edited by Michael Haykin with Victoria Haykin – This was a very kind wedding gift, and I really enjoyed it. Also, it’s sad that letters have, for the most part, gone the way of bears in England.
  14. The Hundred-and-One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – Smith is one of the few authors I’ve come across who has pulled off books in different genres and styles that are pure delight for entirely different reasons. I love JK Rowling and all, but her Cormoran Strike books just aren’t as much fun as Harry Potter. And The Casual Vacancy was good for my soul much the way breakfast is good for my body- I’m glad I ate it, but boy did it take a lot of slogging through.
  15. The Counterfeit Heiress (Lady Emily Book 9) by Tasha Alexander – On the one hand, this book is rooted in a fascinating history that Alexander found inspiring. On the other hand, I think I’m done with Lady Emily. Despite the lack of their presence on my 2015 list, I prefer Julia Grey and Charlotte & Thomas Pitt for my Victorian mysteries.
  16. The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter Book 2) by Thomas Harris – Takes classic to a new level (imho).
  17. Hannibal (Hannibal Lecter Book 3) by Thomas Harris – What goes up must come down I suppose. This wasn’t nearly as convincing as the other two, especially at the end.
  18. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey – I would love to know what actual artists think of this book. I appreciated it a lot, and think Pearcey is really onto something with her multi-storied explanation of reality, but I’m a philosophy-theology-history-literature person, so it hit me right on a lot of levels.
  19. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris – Sedaris might be funny. I’m not sure. This book certainly isn’t. She does have a good piece of advice about just making decisions when a host asks for your preference, because “I’m sure whatever you decide is fine” puts pressure on them rather than making it easier for them, which is probably what you intend by saying that. Now that I’ve told you that, you have absolutely no reason to read the book. You’re welcome. [PS – I don’t think pictures of women in their pantyhose are funny. I mean, nobody really looks great in just a dress shirt and pantyhose with the shirt half tucked in and wholly awkward. But it’s not like it’s comedic fodder either.]
  20. Hannibal Rising (Hannibal Lecter Book 4) by Thomas Harris – I totally get why Harris wrote this book, and I think criminal psychology is fascinating, but…it just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s too explanatory, too self-consciously justifying all the twisted evil Harris had shown in Lecter in the other three books.
  21. For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker – Unlike Sedaris, Hatmaker is indubitably funny, and good for the anxious, perfectionistic, overly busy soul. While I will admit that this book doesn’t fully address the Gospel, 1) that’s not because she tried and missed, but because this book didn’t set out to fully address the Gospel, 2) I think that’s okay, and 3) this book is mostly about giving grace to ourselves and each other, and not just for sins – Hatmaker points out again and again how we create these standards (like I have in my head of the “ideal wife”) and then treat them like Law, expecting ourselves and others to meet them or “face the consequences.” Hatmaker is telling us that this is bogus. I think she’s totally right.
  22. The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry – It’s like if The DaVinci Code saved up its obnoxiousness till the last 100 pages of the book.
  23. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones – I’m not sure what exactly was going on in this book – magical realism, psychological thriller, study of human psychology (especially pack behavior), and a twist on the typical Downton Abbey-esque, manners-driven British story are all in play. It was good, it was disturbing, it was saddening, it was unexpected.
  24. The Savage Garden by Mark Mills – This book was SO FUN. It ties The Monster of Florence for best book I read in 2015. Interestingly, it also takes place in Italy and is a murder mystery. There’s lots of fun art history and classical myth (connected, of course) involved, and the characters are vivid and believable. I’m excited to read more of Mills.

My most obvious reading achievement of 2015 was Thomas Harris’s Hannibal books, but Saving Leonardo was no mean feat (I believe I started it in 2012?), and I think reading the first Wheel of Time book (clocking in at over 800 pages) is a notable accomplishment as well.


* I am an incredibly huge fan of Dorothy Sayers and her gentleman-sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey. (I thought about naming my dog after him, but my father rightly noted that hollering “Lord Peter!” into the backyard would be a bit strange.) I decided last year that I would reread the entire canon, this time according to internal chronological order, including short stories, which I am color-coding by order in my copy of The Complete Stories. I derive great pleasure from this. (I will note that I intend to skip the one I read for the first time most recently – The Nine Tailors. I know it’s widely regarded as brilliant, but I regard it as exhausting and dull, probably due to the insufficient amount of Lord Peter in it.)