The Fear That Makes Us Judgy

The Fear That Makes Us Judgy

 

Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks that in many areas our culture has gone bananas with the harshness.

You know what I’m talking about. Trump makes a nasty comment about Fiorna’s looks. People say negative things about Beyoncé’s thighs after her Super Bowl half-time performance. (I mean really. Body-shaming BEYONCE? Are you insane?) Somebody posts a picture of the gorgeous slice of cheesecake she got, and several folks weigh in below, commenting on her weight and the importance of a healthy diet.

Think of all the Mommy Wars stuff. Breast-feeding or bottle-feeding? Vaccinate or don’t? Public, private, religious, or home schooling? To spank or not to spank? Should your teenagers get jobs or do extracurriculars? Pick the wrong answer and you’ll be summarily shot. (Spoiler: there will always be somebody who thinks you picked the wrong answer and is willing to tell you all about it.)

It’s everywhere. If you drive a Land Rover, you must be an entitled snob who doesn’t give a rip about the environment. If you have a Kindle, you are trying to take down the publishing industry. If you serve your kids box mac and cheese, you are contributing to childhood obesity. If you are comfortable in your skin, you are a mean person shaming anyone who doesn’t look like you – who isn’t your body type or shape or size or color. If you say Black Lives Matter, you clearly think all the other lives shouldn’t. If you are a Republican, you want to oppress the poor; and if you’re a Democrat, you are clearly a communist, and lazy to boot.

We are so quick to jump to judgmental conclusions about each other based on tiny amounts of data – like our choice of vehicle or where our kids go to school. And I think what it all comes down to is that we are afraid. We are afraid that if someone is doing something different from us, one of us must be wrong. 

There certainly are plenty of wrong things to do out there, and I’m not saying that we should just let those go. (That is often more appropriately done in private in the context of a friendship, not Tumblr, and especially not to someone you don’t even know.) But when we keep the main things as the main things, and stop making everything else so doggone black and white, we’ll start to see things differently. Breast- and bottle-feeding parents are both lovingly feeding their children.

If you’re a Christian like I am, then there’s another layer we can see going on here. God calls different people, different families, to different things. Maybe the Hoopers are buying that big house for the kingdom, planning to use it to serve their community as they host events, house missionaries on furlough, and become family to foster children. Maybe the Maxwells are sending their kids to that pricy private school with a missional mindset – private school families need Jesus too, after all.

People who are shopping at Whole Foods are just trying to feed their families well, just like the folks shopping at Kroger and HEB and Walmart and Central Market and the farmers’ market. And sure, there are people blindly buying  – and you can share cool articles about avoiding preservatives and or eating organic. That’s great. But hopping on somebody’s Facebook post about the amazing deals they got at Walmart to lecture them about the evils of “cheese products” smacks of a harshness and judgment that we have way too much of right now.

That podcast I’m really into, Sorta Awesome, celebrates the idea of “sorta.” We can’t do everything, y’all. We can’t raise chickens AND read the classics to our children AND work full-time AND run the community garden AND have a profitable Etsy shop AND be PTA president AND take our kids to all the national parks AND sleep 7-9 hours a night AND run marathons. So we figure out what works for us, and we do that as best we can. We do sorta. For me lately, that looks like embracing the fact that eating an apple is better for my body than eating a box of Mike and Ikes, even though there’s obviously sugar in the apple too. It looks like trying to move my body more, even if I can’t really pull off a proper “workout” most of the time.

Would it be so hard to give other people the benefit of the doubt? To assume that they have actually thought about these things? Do we really so desperately need to be right about every little decision to the exclusion of all other options that we are a bunch of meanies? Is Mean Girls our new model for adult behavior, but instead of keeping nasty comments in The Book, we publish them far and wide?

Our quickness to condemn others shows our fear of condemnation. It doesn’t smack of grace, y’all. It doesn’t even smack of justice. Instead of wanting to assess the situation for what it is, this disposition is actually looking for faults, hypercritical, and often hypocritical. Word Hippo (my favorite thesaurus) brings words like censorious, carping, hair-splitting, persnickety into the conversation.

I’m not okay with being persnickety, and for a person who has been given immeasurable grace, it’s exceedingly unbecoming. Remember Jesus’s parable about the servant who owed the king an obscene amount of money and, when he pled for mercy, saw his debt forgiven? But then he went and got a colleague who owed him a comparable pittance thrown into debtor’s prison? And the king found out and revoked his debt-forgiveness program? It is a warning to us.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That should to reorient our hearts and make us gracious. If the Gospel is deep in our hearts, then it will ooze out of us. So if you, like me, recognize this harshness in yourself, the answer is the Gospel.

The answer is always the Gospel. Drive it deeper into your heart.

My Favorite Cookbook

My Favorite Cookbook

Registering for cookbooks is a shrewd move if you know which ones to ask for. My favorite is The Bonne Femme Cookbook. I have never made a recipe out of this book that wasn’t excellent, which speaks both to the clarity of the instructions and the deliciousness of the results. I am a decent cook, but I’ve been known to holler for help when I am taking way too long to chop the onions or mince the garlic and get behind the cooking. This cookbook helps me get behind less – I am better at staying on top of things when I have a good sense of what is going on, and this certainly helps.

As you can see, we have many recipes left to try. It’s not a short cookbook, clocking in at 405 pages before the index. That’s one of the things that make it such a great investment. P1000004

Perhaps it’s really the effortlessness of the casual French cook that has rubbed off on me through this book. The writing is almost as delectable as the food. And look what I wrote about the Any-Day Chicken Saute. Just look. “Divine.” Because it really is so easy you could do it any day, and it really is so delicious you might want to.

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Trust me, people – this is wedding-registry worthy. 

Sandra McCracken Is Awesome

Sandra McCracken Is Awesome

I have been a fan of Sandra McCracken since 10th grade – that makes 15 years as a Cracken-head. (I just made that up. Pretty terrible, isn’t it?)

I found Sandra around the same time I found Indelible Grace music and RUF music in general, which Sandra has been a part of for years. I fell hard for hymns and theology proper in 7th grade, and Sandra’s non-church music still comes from that . I haven’t seen any other act in a bar as many times as I have Sandra McCracken – she and I seem to think similarly about the fact that, while Jesus is a really glorious and worthy subject to sing about, He’s not the only subject worth singing about. So she has plenty of songs about friendship and love and angst and fun things and grief and history, not just Jesus.

I used to see her perform whenever physically possible, occasionally taking trips for the purpose. But after I left Charlotte in 2009, it never worked out for me to see her play. Until last Friday. And y’all, it was incredible.

Sandra McCracken has been through a lot of life changes in the last few years. She produced and released an incredible album called Psalms a year ago, and we sing a lot of the songs she wrote for it at church. I love them. She talked about how these are songs she has lived and breathed and eaten and slept for the last few years. Personally, I can sympathize: many of her songs – including more than half of the ones on that new album – have become huge, essential parts of the soundtrack of my life, the liturgy of my heart, and an incredible tool in clinging fast to Jesus.

So the concert was fantastic, musically. But it was amazing to see her play again after 6 years and appreciate how far she’s come as a performer. She is much more confident, skilled at leading people in singing, and, more than anything, free. I can’t explain the winsomeness of the free way she handles herself and invites the crowd to relax and be where they each are individually. It was beautiful. The Gospel is stamped all over this woman and the way she exudes grace.

In Which I Am Super-Jazzed About Life

In Which I Am Super-Jazzed About Life

This week is all about new things for me – I’m in the process of establishing new habits and routines with some inspiration from the Sorta Awesome podcast, which, more often than not, is also keeping me entertained while I do my thing. I’ve also binge-listened to Serial, knocking out the first season in the last three days, which has made all the laundry and dishes and cleaning and organizing and putting away and throwing away a LOT more bearable.

Other than podcasts, here are some of the things I’m excited about right now.

  • Bullet Journaling – This seems SO up my alley. I am actually over the moon about giving this a try. I may or may not have
  • Intuitive Eating – I’ve been able to look back on my college experience and identify some disordered eating for quite some time, but only recently have I realized that my issues with food have been evolving and persisting throughout my adult life. It kind of hit me over the head a few months ago – I am not able to stop eating those Hershey’s nuggets with the toffee and almonds. I am drinking obscene amounts of Dr Pepper when I’m in pain, because emotionally it’s like Linus’s blankie. That was not okay with me, and I’m trying to figure out how to heal that. Intuitive eating is something I’m exploring as a possible way of restoring a healthy relationship with food and my body. [Incidentally, I gave up DP in November – not the first time I’ve done so – and have pretty faithfully stuck to my guns, drinking the occasional beverage that’s fresh and real (like fresh-squeezed lemonade), tea, alcoholic beverages, and LOTS of water. And I feel fantastic. Better than I’ve felt in a long time. So even if I had a DP every now and then (which is honestly not even tempting at the moment), I think the water drinking is here to stay.]
  • I’m reading a brief biography of John Chrysostom (that someone mysteriously gave me, along with a couple other, less random books, as a wedding present), and I’m really fascinated and encouraged. I think the whole biographies of awesome people bandwagon might have something legit going on.
  • Waking up! I am not a morning person AT ALL. Except I’ve started to get up in the mornings with my husband – and if I need a nap, I need a nap, no harm done – and I’m LOVING IT. What on earth??
  • Tea – I got a tea kettle as a wedding gift – actually, we got several tea-making items, but I’m talking about the classic tea kettle I got from my sweet friend B – and I have been using it and LOVING it. When you’re drinking water, water, and more water – cucumber water, lemon-lime water, regular water, fizzy water – tea, even black tea without any additions, is so luscious. I’ve started drinking a cup or two a day. My go-to is peppermint tea, but sometimes I also will drink some decaf Earl Grey (I know, I know – it’s still got caffeine, but it’s Earl Grey, people! It’s worth it!)
  • My husband refused to buy me a Squatty Potty for Christmas, so I used the Amazon $$ his parents gave me to buy one for myself, and it arrived today, and I am actually beaming with excitement, which is super weird.

Well, that’s what’s floating my boat these days. What are y’all into? I’d love to know what’s making you buzz like a bee!

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.