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.)

 

Podcast Fever

Podcast Fever

You know how Serial was like the hugest deal ever last year? I totally stuck my head in the sand while friends – especially those who enjoy a good mystery like I do – lost their collective minds over it.

Podcasts just weren’t on my radar. It’s kind of funny, thinking back to all the driving between Dallas and Houston I did while we were dating and engaged, but I steadfastly stuck with my radio stations on those drives, or maybe Tim Keller’s marriage sermon series coming out of the puny little speakers on my iPhone 6 plus. (I understand that that sermon series, which is amazing and was so helpful to us in premarital discussions and how we decided to go about figuring out what Lauren and Steve look like married, is basically the same content 20+ years earlier as can be found in Keller’s far more recent book The Meaning of Marriage. I haven’t read it yet, but we have it and it’s just a matter of time, both because I love Keller and because I’ll take all the help I can get.)

2015 did, however, see me get really into the beautiful world of closed Facebook Groups; although I was only really involved in one (an NFP group, which, for this new FAM user, was mighty handy), it was SO helpful to be able to reach out and ask questions and get quick answers from people with more experience than me in reading charts and such.

Then a friend mentioned a group on Facebook, and I joined. Due to positive peer pressure (all the cool kids were doing it!) started listening to the Sorta Awesome podcast (which is what brought the group together, of course – it is the Sorta Awesome Hangout group). Y’all, I love it. It’s amazing. It’s giving me such a sense of freedom to listen to these women – Megan Tietz, her cohosts, and her special guests – share from their lives. I am trying really hard to figure out this housewife thing, and how to do it well with the health problems I have. It is so refreshing to learn how different women handle even the most mundane things like whether or not to have a cleaning routine. I am being inspired to try new routines and tactics; I am being challenged to think of things differently (like vacuuming your swept-up piles of dirt instead of busting out the ever-frustrating dustpan); and I am being given the freedom to create with my husband whatever works best for us. Tim Keller talked about that in his sermons, but I feel I am finally starting to figure out how to do it.

The group is amazing, too – where else can you get feedback from over forty women about the most appetizing ways to eat cottage cheese in less than 24 hours? It’s all women, but not at all prissy or frilly. People post about all kinds of things – books and getting your kid to stop picking her nose and everything between. I am so jazzed about it.

One of the presents my husband got me for Christmas is a fabulous bluetooth speaker. So it’s quite convenient that I’m now 1) cleaning a lot more and 2) thus have at least double the podcast listening time, right when I have a fabulous way to listen to it all over the apartment. I’ve hopped on the podcast bandwagon. I’ve downloaded a bunch of podcasts, and I’m about to jump into Serial head-first.

The era of the podcast has begun.

The Ninth Day of Christmas (on Cooking!)

The Ninth Day of Christmas (on Cooking!)

I am a terribly lucky girl. (Well, as lucky as a Presbyterian can be.) I’m sure in time I will blog about many of the reasons my husband is amazing and just the right man for me, but today I’m going to focus on one in particular: he likes to cook. And he’s really good at it.

Take for example, this. This is what my amazing husband made for our lunch today.

IMG_0246

Now, when I say he made this for our lunch, I mean he 1) made the pesto, 2) brined and pan-fried the chicken, 3) made the bread from scratch, 4) toasted the bread and put the sandwiches together.

Y’all. I took down and packed away all the Christmas decorations while he MADE BREAD FROM SCRATCH. I mean, I don’t even know. He’s unbelievable.

We enjoy cooking together, so, since we were spending Christmas Day alone with the dog, we agreed to cook something rather exotic. This turned out to be duck.

Neither of us had ever cooked a duck before, which was part of the adventure. And for all they say about how greasy duck is, ours wasn’t at all. It was delicious – simple and juicy and marvelous. We made it in one of my Christmas gifts – a cast iron skillet, which I’ll be reviewing sometime soon, as it very well should have been on our registry.

IMG_0886

My husband thought this would go well with green bean casserole and twice baked potatoes. So there were no complaints from me. We tag-teamed on the duck, and he made the rest of dinner on his own. (You see how outclassed I am on the whole cooking thing?)IMG_0888

Since I am in love with Trader Joe‘s wine, it’s no surprise that we drank this lovely, slightly fizzy white with our dinner.

IMG_0890

It was so good, y’all, and so fun to try something new. And since we had all day, there was no rush to our cooking. It was marvelous.

IMG_0898

I am so spoiled.

(P.S. Duck – at least of the Pekin variety, which is what we eat in the US – has a very thick layer of fat under its skin. And y’all, you stack that fat on your fork with a big chunk of meat underneath, and you put it in your mouth, and it’s like the heavens are opening. It’s SO GOOD.)

(P.P.S. I got more than a cup of duck fat, which apparently keeps a long time in the fridge, and more than 10 cups of duck stock out of the carcass.)

The Sixth Day of Christmas (because I skipped the fifth)

The Sixth Day of Christmas (because I skipped the fifth)

So here’s the thing about endometriosis/PCOS/pelvic pain – at least the way it manifests in my life –  it totally derails your plans sometimes.

If I could have picked something to be an advocate for, I would have had one hell of a list to choose from. Black Lives Matter. Ending abortion. Adoption. Good theology. Good theology of sex among Christian women (especially single Christian women – purity culture has had its drawbacks). The sufficiency of Scripture. Discipling women. Mission work with Bedouins. Freeing people from slavery. Streetwalking with Jesus. Making dangerous streets safe again.

Instead, I get to talk about disorders and diseases of the female reproductive system.

Now, don’t get me wrong, those other things matter to me a great deal. Hopefully I will be able to help on some of these fronts at least. I can write about them a lot – and I’m sure I will. But with my illnesses, I feel that I bear responsibility for raising awareness and talking about what it’s like to live with chronic pain. I’m trying to figure out how to value Jesus in

This isn’t what expected 31 to look like for me. But here it is. And you know, it’s beautiful, even in its brokenness.