Introducing the Newest Member of Our Family… Genevieve the Refrigerator

Nov 20 2017

Dearest, dearest friends,

Please believe me when I say this comes as much a surprise to me as it does to you.

Please do not feel as though I’ve withheld information.

Please do not feel as though I’ve been keeping secrets.

I think by now you and I have Built Trust in such a way that you’ll believe me when I say secrets are my worst thing. I mean, I rock the heck out of keeping Other People’s secrets, but I have very few left of my own. I pretty much tell you All the Things, or, as Greg likes to say when he’s being Particularly Complimentary of my writing, “She’s not inaccurate.” Like, I have two secrets at this point, tops, and one of them is that I put Cadbury Mini-Eggs in my bra so they get partly melty before I eat them. The shell is PERFECT for that — thick enough to hold in all the gooey chocolate without smashing, thin enough to shatter in my teeth when the chocolate’s properly prepared. Now, yes; one could technically hold the mini-eggs in one’s hands until they get warm-but-not-too-warm and accomplish the same purpose, but the bra speeds that process right up, and everyone knows the More Melty Mini-Eggs, the Better. 

So I’m down to one secret now, and withholding information about adding to our appliance family is Not It. This was not part of the Plan, but life so rarely proceeds according to Planm right, friends? I’d like that on a bumper sticker, please: LIFE = Not Plan-Friendly. While sometimes the surprises are difficult and challenging, though, sometimes they’re AWESOME. Amazing. Serendipitous. And Just Delightful. This surprise is one of the latter, which is why I’m ecstatic to introduce the newest member of our family…

 

Genevieve the Refrigerator

Born in 1949, sweet Genevieve is a Hotpoint Super-Stor refrigerator, a behemoth in her day — top of the line, baby — and now a petite little darling. 

I found her on Craigslist in a moment that can only be called Divine Inspiration. 

Now, listen: it’s been a month, friends. A hard, long, amazing, awful, invigorating, life-draining MONTH. Situation Normal, in other words. Still, we’re TIRED. We’re very, VERY tired. In part because we’re made out of human, and as fallible and fabulous as that implies. In part because our kids who experience disability are in the midst of massive transitions to adulthood with all the angst and agony and triumph and sighing and paperwork one might expect. In part because OMG, AMERICA MAKES ME WANT TO FACEPALM TIMES INIFINITY. And in part because the Great Church Disintegration of 2017 continues to be laden with grief. There’s nothing quite like the heartbreak, friends, of watching my husband and young son curled around each other, sobbing because we’re no longer welcome at the camp we once thought was a safe place to learn and live and love each other well. And there’s nothing quite like the fierce joy of releasing things that were never really ours so we can pursue a wider grace and a deeper mercy and a love that knows no bounds. It’s all very Both/And around here these days. Loss and Longing and Love commingled. A month full of Neverending Tasks and Life Lessons and Clinging to Each Other and Really Big Feelings. 

So I did what anyone in my position would do. I went online. I scrolled through Facebook. I read articles. I watched every Michael McIntyre video I could find. I drafted Christmas lists. I decorated for Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas, which is just one holiday now instead of three because I do not have time for 3 holidays in less than 2 months. There are pumpkins on my porch and stockings over the fireplace. The tree is up and fully decorated. I planned a living room remodel I’ll never execute, and then I planned two more. I ate 37 bowls of cinnamon rice crispies and made 3 giant pans of lasagna. I started selling furniture we’ve stored in our garage for far too long. And I shopped Craigslist for things I don’t need. 

Which is when Genevieve appeared.

And the heavens parted.

And light shone down.

And Jesus said, “DO YOU SEE HER, BETH? SHE’S ONLY $300, AND SHE MUST BE YOURS.”

I agreed with Jesus except the part about $300 — sometimes Jesus doesn’t understand Craigslist pricing — so I offered $200 and bought her for $250. 

Then I told Greg our Good News; that we were replacing our Much Larger, Modern, Functional, Ice and Water Dispensing Fridge with a Much Smaller Fridge from 1949 that Probably Works and Has a Tiny Freezer and No Ice Maker and Will Need Defrosting! ALSO, SHE’S SO PRETTY AND MATCHES OUR STOVE. 

Greg was ecstatic.

Then I told him he got to drive two hours in the middle of his work day to deadlift it into our truck, but not to worry because I also volunteered my father and my spindly little 11yos to help with the lifting, and — BONUS — my pretty princess self to supervise. 

He was over the moon.

And so Genevieve has joined our lives and our hearts. And I am love-loving her all the livelong day. 

Please join me in welcoming this newest addition to the Woolsey home.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. Little Ms. Genevieve lived the first 68 years of her life in beautiful old craftsman house here in Oregon. She shared her space with a wood and oil burning stove. When the house was purchased recently, the new owners decided to remodel the kitchen. God knows why. 😉 Thus the need for G’s rehoming. Our research says she may run quite happily for another 30+ years. Or she may crap out next week, in which case she’s getting a new compressor and becoming the world’s raddest kegerator. This is what we call a classic win/win. 

P.P.S. As you may already know, given our crowd-sourced kitchen remodel project of yesteryear, Ms. G joins Betty the stove (1956) and Bud the Wiser, our bear beer bottle opener (2016). Betty, of course, is named for my grandmother, Betty June, who wanted Everything to be Fancy All the Time, and Genevieve is named for my great, great aunt, Betty June’s older sister. Bud is named for Budweiser because beer. We’re all doing well and settling in together, and so far Bud and Betty haven’t smothered Genevieve in her sleep, so I assume they adore their new sister.

P.P.P.S. Not to brag too, TOO much, but Genevieve is the easiest and quietest and prettiest little fridge that was ever born, and I loved her the moment I laid eyes on her. 

P.P.P.P.S. Greg asked if he gets to have a 1950’s housewife to go along with Betty and Genevieve. I think Greg might be trying to commit suicide. Kind of like Death by Cop, except this is Death by Wife. Betty, Genevieve and I are still offended. Also, we three cuss like sailors. 

THE END

Except that I JUST POSTED THE 2018 RETREATS. I would love (love, love) to hang out with you at the gorgeous Oregon Coast in 2018. Check out the link to learn more about the 4, small group retreat we’re offering this year — a retreat for book lovers, one focused on food and wine, one on writing, and one on mindfulness. If you’re looking for rest, respite and relaxation in a warm, welcoming community, these are the retreats for you. If you’re offended by stories about stuffing Cadbury Mini-Eggs in my bra, on the other hand, you might want to skip these. 😉 

Quick Life Tip

Nov 6 2017

Dear friends,

Just a teeny, tiny quick tip for you today.

If somebody says, “Hey! You look really nice today,” maybe just say thank you.

Thank you is enough.

Thank you is not as awkward as Other Options.

Thank you is socially appropriate. And, sweet friend, you actually do not need to offer an excuse for looking nice.

Maybe, for example, do not say, “Yeah, I would’ve worn my usual jeans except I put them on last night to go out, and I realized they smell like butt. I suppose I should’ve expected that since I can’t remember the last time I washed them, but it still came as a surprise. I sprayed them with perfume, which, as you might suspect, made them smell like Perfume and Butt. It really wasn’t an improvement over Just Butt, but at least it’s the smell of I Tried, you know? I wore them anyway because I was already running late, but I vowed I would not wear them again until I actually wash them because I have standards. Eventually. I have Eventual Standards. So, because I’ve put on, like, 30 pounds over the last couple years, I only have the one pair of jeans right now, which means the inner thighs are practically see-through and in imminent danger of ripping and presenting a serious social hazard. This dress is the only other thing that fits. So, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, that’s why I look nice, I guess. My butt-smelling jeans are on the fritz.”

Maybe do not say that, because then the complimentor will look at you, and you will look at the complimentor, and there is no where to go from there.

In conclusion, YOU MAY SQUIRM at compliments. They may make you itchy and uncomfortable. But I assure you — and TAKE THIS FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS FROM RECENT EXPERIENCE — it is way, way less awkward to just say thank you.

Repeat after me: JUST SAY THANK YOU.

Your Friend,

 

 

Gun Rights AND Gun Control: What If We ACTUALLY FOLLOWED the Second Amendment?

Nov 5 2017

I can start this blog post one of two ways: I can either tell you I’m the proud daughter of a Marine who responsibly owns guns, in which case you’ll think I’m a proponent of Gun Rights, or I can tell you I’m a pacifist Quaker married to a conscientious objector, in which case you’ll think I’m a proponent of Gun Control.

You’d be right.

Yes, I am.

I’m also, quite frankly, BAFFLED by the conversation about guns in the United States of America, and if I could just take one minute to Piss Off All the People, I’d  like to propose a solution.

It’s just, I have this idea, after 1,000 conversations with my gun-toting father who floated it first, and after 1,000 more chats with my peacenik friends… that we could do this RADICAL THING in America and ACTUALLY FOLLOW THE SECOND AMENDMENT.

Usually, public conversations on guns go like this, “I HAVE A RIGHT TO MY GUNS BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION SAYS SO,” and then, “BUT PEOPLE ARE DYING,” and then, “BUT GUN RIGHTS,” and then, “BUT GUN CONTROL,” and I realize I may be being simplistic here, but the Second Amendment LITERALLY ALREADY SOLVED THIS PROBLEM.

Have you read it recently? The Second Amendment? It’s only 27 words long, but I rarely see it quoted in articles debating gun rights and gun control. It goes like this:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In other words, yes; Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. And yes; that right shall not be infringed. AND ALSO, these rights are to be exercised within the parameters of a well regulated militia. TRAINING, in other words. ORGANIZED. Within a COMMUNITY of people that supervises and monitors the use of said weapons. 

Listen; I get it. I understand that there are Originalists and Textualists constantly debating what Militia means… what well-regulated means… what exactly is “necessary to the security of a free State”… and whether any of those refer to individual rights, community rights, states’ rights or all of the above. But regardless of how you interpret any of those definitions, it remains that our Founders set parameters and presumed some type of coordination, administration and management of our arms-bearing citizens. And it remains that we currently have none.

I’ve heard my friends and I’ve seen the memes that if we did nothing after Sandy Hook, we never will. I’ve felt the same hopelessness watching the innocent die month after month, year after year, and I doubt that today — the day 26 more Americans died in a mass shooting, this time while sitting in church in Texas — will be the reason we finally act. But although I give in to despair for a time, I refuse to dwell there. I refuse to stop talking about it. I refuse to stop pushing for solutions that both protect the fundamental American right to bear arms AND the fundamental human right to basic safety.

Maybe we could start by actually following the Second Amendment. Or maybe that’s far too practical. I’m curious what you think…

Me, too. But I didn’t realize it for 25 years.

Oct 16 2017

Have you seen #MeToo rolling around social media? It goes like this,

Me too.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “me, too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Copy and paste.

#metoo

So first I want to say, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you’re not alone. Me, too.

Second, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you should ONLY copy and paste this as your status if YOU ARE READY TO DO SO. Because not only need we not feel shame for being harassed and assaulted, we also need not feel shame about when we’re ready to talk about it. Some of us are ready. We have processed enough of our stories and/or trauma that we can say it out loud, even to the world wide webs. Some of us haven’t. Some of us aren’t ready. Some of us, by sharing now, would be retraumatizing ourselves and making it worse, not better. Pretty please, dearest friend, share when YOU are ready, not when the world decides you should be. OK? OK. Glad we had this chat.

And third, this is my story.

[Trigger/Content Warning: Sexual Assault]

I didn’t let my teenage daughter have a job in high school. Instead, I paid for dance tuition — usually hundreds of dollars per month we had to scrimp and save — so she could dance 20 hours each week and participate in conventions and competitions that cost hundreds more.

I was alternately embarrassed and relieved by this decision. Embarrassed because we were choosing to live a rather elitist lifestyle, pouring money into our child and not requiring her to earn it. Relieved because she wouldn’t be dry-humped and felt up by her McDonald’s manager in the drive-thru like I was at age 16. 

Oh, sure; dance taught Abby a hard work ethic, physical fitness, goal setting, and time management. It was a fantastic part of her education, and she was grateful, but still; LOTS OF MONEY and rhinestones and my kid graduated high school without ever working a job beyond the occasional babysitting gig. This was not at all how I was raised, nor is it how my husband was, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we were setting her up for a lifetime of entitlement. After all, we hear all the time about today’s teenagers who are “too good” for honest, hard work at less glamorous places like fast food restaurants. But every time I thought she could at least work a fryer during the summer and pursue dance, every time I tried to convince myself that just because it happened to me didn’t mean it was going to happen to her — every time I thought of her alone, closing the restaurant at midnight with a man bigger and older than her, my hands got sweaty, and my heart pumped faster, and I knew I was never going to ask her to apply to grill burgers. Not ever. I couldn’t do it.

Which is how, at age 40ish, I finally realized I was sexually assaulted. 

It wasn’t that I’d dismissed what happened to me working swing shifts at McDonald’s. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten. It was simply — and this has come to be even more terrifying to me than assault amnesia — that I believed my experience was wholly unremarkable. As normal as tripping over a curb or missing my seat in 6th grade math class and crashing to the ground. Which is to say, an experience that is memorable and uncomfortable but not anything out of the ordinary or worth commenting on.

THAT is how ingrained sexual assault is in our culture. THAT is how embedded. THAT is how common and mundane. That 16-year-old me thought having a man push me into a corner and rub his erection on me while trying to grab my boobs was just another, normal, unfortunate work condition. A bummer of a surprise like seeing how much of my paycheck went to taxes. A meh, whatever, shrug-it-off situation. Something we girls bitched about in the work room while we ate our $3.49 of free food per shift. But also something none of us even considered reporting. Not because it wouldn’t do any good, but because clothed sexual assault didn’t seem to rise to the “Must Report” level. Any ejaculate was contained in his pants, after all, and, if we said no and pushed him off enough, if we smiled at him so he wouldn’t be mad, he left us alone for the rest of the shift.

I read that now, and I go, DEAR GOD. I mean, DEAR LORD JESUS IN HEAVEN, WHAT THE HELL? It seems impossible to me now that I didn’t see it then. But it’s still true.

I didn’t tell my parents. The same parents who were always so good about telling me no one has the right to touch me in the bathing suit area and that I could talk to them anytime about anything which was true. I didn’t tell them because it didn’t cross my mind. I didn’t tell them until they, too, wondered why Abby wasn’t doing time at a local burger joint. My dad pumped gas as a teen. My husband washed cars at his dad’s used car dealership. I flipped burgers and worked a cash register. Shouldn’t Abby learn the same way? I didn’t tell them until we were having the conversation in my kitchen, and I answered casually, “I just don’t think I want my kid to be dry-humped by her manager.” I said it casually because I still felt casual about it. But as soon as it fell from my mouth, I did a mental double take. And ever since, I’ve been realizing how very ingrained assault is in our culture, our communities, and our lives as women navigating an unfriendly world.

My story is unbelievably common. Unbelievably normal. Obvious assault and harassment experiences we didn’t see as obvious or as assault because we are subconsciously, insidiously trained not to recognize it. One of my girlfriends posted this yesterday, “I was just about to post how extraordinarily lucky I feel to have never been a victim of assault as a woman. Then I remembered the time I was drugged in a bar and (thank goodness) passed out while still in the bar, spending the night in the hospital. I guess that’s another “me too.””

We are trained not to see it, and we are trained to belittle it when it happens to us.Well, sure; I’ve felt unsafe hundreds of times around men, but it’s not as bad as what happened to ____.” Or “He only felt on top of my clothes so I wouldn’t say it was assault, exactly.” Or “It wasn’t technically rape, so… Or I knew better than to go to his room alone.” We have unlimited excuses and dismissals, really. I know I did. Until I had to decide what was OK for my daughter. It turns out what happened to me is definitely Not OK if it happens to her. Which means it’s Not OK that it happened to me. This particular assault was Not OK, and neither are the other times I was grabbed and groped; neither are the dozens of times I was sexually harassed with words and actions. Who knew? 

I’m telling you this story, friends, for specific reasons, which are these:

1. I refuse to be ashamed or embarrassed about this, and I will absolutely do my part to name the things that are Not OK — the things that Must Change — so our world has to face it and do better.

2. Not everyone can share her story. Not yet. Maybe not ever. And I want you to know, whether or not you are able to declare your “me, too,” I still see you. And so do countless others. We know you’re there. We know that for every person who can share, there are myriad more who can’t. We see you. We’re waving in the dark. You’re not alone.

3. You’re also not alone if you, like me, have suddenly become aware. You’re not alone if you realized belatedly you were assaulted. You’re not alone as you reluctantly claim membership in this club. You’re not alone as you realize how widespread this problem is and how brainwashed you were not to see it earlier. You’re not alone as you grieve your discovery of both your own experiences and of our culture as it actually is, rather than as you thought it was. And you’re not alone as you wonder what in the world we might actually do to change it.

Me, too, friends. Me, too.

With love, always,

 

 

 

 

We’ve Fled America. You Come, Too.

Sep 20 2017

Greg and I have fled America which seems Very Logical at the moment and perhaps something we all ought to consider what with Rabid Isolationism, Fear of the Other, and OCD-Level Pontius Pilate Handwashing out of control in the U.S. right now. Not only will we Let No One In, we’re also set on Kicking the Vulnerable Out, but only after ensuring we’ve Absolved Ourselves of All Responsibility. ‘MURICA! We’re great again now, right?

Unfortunately, due to an overfondness for Harry Potter, Jamie Fraser, and chocolate digestive biscuits, we’ve fled to the United Kingdom, which is preparing to implement Brexit, so I’m not exactly sure we’ve traded up on the segregationist front. On the bright side, at least we’re in Scotland where there’s a whiskey distillery at literally every highway exit so we feel more prepared in case of Utter Apocalypse. I mean, there are worse things than being stuck in a country that knows how to make food from animal innards, fries everything in beer batter, and has hard liquor releases planned for the next 10-25 years. Yes? Yes. Scots for the win.

We’re here on holiday with our two youngest for their Ten-Year-Old Trip, a coming-of-age tradition started by my grandmother for her grandkids and carried on by us.

When our eldest was 10, we took her to Vietnam, the country of her birth, so she could see with a child’s eyes how beautiful and special the country is, how warm and kind its people.

We did the same for our second daughter when she was 10, to Guatemala.

We didn’t for our eldest son, who abhors travel with every fiber of his being and who begged not to be made to suffer with torture devices like airplanes and hotels. Instead, we waited until he was 15 (and until I was done thinking he’d surely change his mind and his whole personality and suddenly be capable of traveling to Guatemala, as well) and bought that kid an XBox so he could finally, violently slaughter outer-space aliens in Halo — as cross-cultural an experience as he wants, and certainly in keeping with American Values. His eyes still sparkle when he talks about it — how HE got an XBox which lasts YEARS while his poor, stupid siblings had to endure TRAVEL which lasts mere WEEKS. Then he giggles with glee at his superior choices. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now that our youngest are 10, we’re visiting parts of our ancestral homes, in Scotland and England, a trip for which we’ve been preparing for months, and we’re having every Formative, Educational Experience you might expect.

We’ve learned not to jostle the seat of the Rather Cranky Lady in the seat ahead of us on the plane, which is truly a Life Skill.

We’ve learned to be Very Quiet in the car while Mommy figures out how to drive on the left without crashing.

We’ve only yelled at each other a few dozen times, and Greg and I only made one of the children cry twice, so we’re clearly mastering Patience, Kindness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

We’re learning about other languages and cultures; our children, for example, have renamed all the sheep of Scotland “Pre-Haggis,” except when it’s raining, and then they’re temporarily called Soggy Haggis, because obviously.

We’ve done the Very Best Thing in All of the United Kingdom by riding the Hogwarts Express. And, to date, although we’ve been on Loch Ness, to Culloden Battlefield, to famous castles and forts, hiking in the Highlands, and to the Scottish Museum, we’ve also discovered the Second Best Thing About International Travel which is getting pillows and blankets on the plane. “PILLOWS, Mom! This flight is SO FANCY! They hand out PILLOWS and BLANKETS to every single person, and we don’t even have to pay to rent them!” Not to brag, but this is how to parent, friends. Set the expectations and standards bar so incredibly low that the ability to borrow a rigid, synthetic pillow product is EXCITING.

In short (too late), I’ll be coming to you from Scotland and England over the next couple weeks, and you should consider fleeing here, too. Unless you’re already here, in which case, BRAVO.

Thinking of you (but mostly of Jamie Fraser because I’m in Scotland and so JAMIE FRASER),

 

 

 

P.S. We pose for Happy Family photos like this:

But really, we mostly look strung out and exhausted, listening to audio books in pubs because Mom and Dad refuse to let us sleep, like this:

#Reality

 

Why I Write Anyway

Sep 11 2017

My kids went back to school this week, hooray and praise the Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and School. The college student is colleging, the high schoolers are rocking the hell out of their special ed classes, and the tinies, who aren’t tiny at all at 10 years old, but who I insist on thinking of as my sweet babies, are busy making me alternatively grateful we’re taking a year to travel and homeschool, and also making me question my sanity.

Our house is full of joy and laughter and yelling about whose turn it is to do the dishes. (NOT MINE, FYI.) We’ve been running the usual ragged race and then stopping everything — refusing to budge from the couch because we are EXHAUSTED and we CANNOT DO IT ALL and DAMN IT, NO ONE CAN MAKE US ADHERE TO THESE UNREASONABLE CULTURAL NORMS — back and forth in rapid succession. RUN. Collapse. RUN. Collapse. RUN.

Our family is very Both/And this way. Both high achieving and total quitters. Both kind and utter assholes. Both content and uneasy. Both sure we are living life to its fullest and failing at All the Things.

And threaded through this mundane, magical life this week — my dog will not quit barking at the fence — I’ve been reading the responses to my last blog post, How I Became a Heretic.

It’s always a strange thing when a piece of writing gains wide traction and that’s the snippet of life where people enter the story. Always a strange thing to welcome people to my online living room mid-conversation. But that’s how this space works, like an open house where people come and go, leaving grace and grime in their wake, because they’re human like me, and we humans are nothing if not muddled and magnificent.

And there has been grace. SO MUCH GRACE and solidarity and gentleness and “me, too’s.” But there’s also the grime that comes hand-in-hand with saying what we really think out loud…

“You won’t change anyone’s mind.”

“You’re just shouting in the dark.”

“You’re so bitter.”

“I feel sorry for you.”

“Satan has deceived you.”

‘Well, at least when I disagree, I have the courtesy to keep my mouth shut. I don’t go spreading it around on the internet.”

“I just wish there was ONE place on the internet I could count on seeing no political posts and no religious posts. ONE PLACE. I guess your blog isn’t it. Unfollowing.”

And, my personal favorite, because I think it’s supposed to scare me, but I find it the most comforting of all, “God will judge you,” because God’s other name is Love, and I’m 100% good with Love as my judge. 100%.

I’ve heard all those comments and more this week. And lots of you dear friends have rushed to my defense. I love you for that; I do, but I need you to hear this: It’s OK. Those comments are fine when they’re directed at me. They’re inevitable when I post about faith and doubt and learning to breathe free. People who adhere to the rules and behavior guides tend to feel very threatened when others challenge and break them. I think that’s understandable. I think it’s a sympathetic position. I think we can nod and feel sad and move on. And I think we can direct our attention where it needs to go, which is not into arguing a theological position, but into loving our neighbors as ourselves and figuring out who our neighbors really are.

I grew up in a conservative culture in which silence is revered. Even if we disagree, we would never be so impolite or impolitic to say such a thing out loud. That would create conflict. Unnecessary arguments. Division when the church should breed unity. Besides, ours was a patriarchal culture where men were the heads of households and women were submissive. Surely, as a woman, I wouldn’t challenge what a man told me.

And so, in order to be an upstanding member of the community, I was quiet. And even if I didn’t understand why a rule was the way it was, or thought perhaps we were going about reading the rule all wrong, I knew not to question it. Or, rather, I was allowed to question all I wanted, for a very brief time, as long I was also willing to accept, immediately and wholeheartedly, the authoritative answer and explanation. Doubt was absolutely allowed as long as it was shortly followed by Belief and Adherence.

I didn’t want to lose my people. I didn’t want to lose my community. I didn’t want to lose my childhood friends or my college friends or my young adult friends and camp friends. I didn’t want to lose my fellow parent-friends. I didn’t want to lose my family. And, since those groups were all anchored in the church, I was quiet. I didn’t want to be cast out. I didn’t want to be unwelcome. I didn’t want to be shunned or “released” from the only body of people I knew.

Interestingly, I was never worried about losing Jesus. Never. Not once. I was always confident in that guy, although I get why many of my fellow heretics can’t buy the whole Jesus/God thing. #YouDoYou

So I was taught to shush. To accept the parameters as defined for me, not by a higher power, but by those who assumed authority over me, complete with their iron interpretations of the Bible. I was taught to fly under the radar. I was taught to swallow my discomfort. And I lived that way for years and years and years and years.

Until I realized all of that was about me. All of my worries about “I.” All of my fears about my own loneliness. All of my dread focused on what I might lose. And none of it — none — about those Jesus asked us to love.

During my years of silence, I never worried for my ostracized neighbor. I never worried for those the church had already lost. I never worried for the people of color who were largely absent from our midst or considered why the church was so very segregated. I never worried for gender and sexual minorities. All they had to do, after all, to be part of our community was to enter the church and do what I did — be silent and accept the truth as it was defined for me.

It took me years, though, to see. Years to listen well and hear. Years for comprehension to dawn that the church was keeping me from loving my neighbor as myself. Years to recognize my silence was complicit in their suffering. Years to turn away from trying to keep a false peace in favor of championing the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the hurting, and the lonely. Years to reroute my concern for myself to asking my neighbors how I can love them better. Years to believe what my vulnerable neighbors told me.

That’s why I’m no longer quiet. That’s why I write anyway. That’s why the criticism doesn’t matter, and neither do the efforts to shame or shun or muzzle me back to silence. Because it’s not about me at all. It’s not about worrying about making the in-crowd uncomfortable. It’s not about worrying about being labeled a Trouble Maker or a Deceiver or a Loud Mouth or Talking Out of Turn. Not anymore.

Finally, it’s about the people it should have been about all along. It’s about the people who need to know they’re loved. It’s about fighting to make them a safe space. It’s about clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry, and comforting those who grieve. It’s about creating a new community when the old locks its doors.

So, to the critics, it’s fine. Say what you like to me. (Although if you direct it toward others in this space I’ll shut that shit straight down. My house, my rules.) I’m a big girl. I know who I am. I know what I believe. I know why I believe it. And I know who it’s for.

With love,

 

 

How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me)

Sep 6 2017

I wasn’t always a heretic. I used to be as Religious Right as they come, raised as I was in the 70’s and 80’s in a conservative, evangelical, James-Dobson-loving, Christian home.

I went to Awana and learned Bible verses for candy and badges when I was little.

I know the Four Spiritual Laws by heart, and I attended Evangelism Explosion training so I could lead people away from the Fiery Pits of Hell where their souls were bound if I failed to witness, and I learned to shove them into the arms of JesusChristTheirPersonalLordAndSavior (one word).

My parents became missionaries, so I lived with pagan tribespeople in the jungle, sacrificing for Jesus, and I went to missionary boarding schools where I took Old and New Testament classes and memorized Scripture because it was a shield against the Devil.

I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992, my first American presidential election as an eligible voter, because he was the Only Godly Choice. I was appropriately, emotionally destroyed when Bill Clinton, that Lackey of Satan Who Proved He Was Evil Incarnate When He Squidged on Monica Lewinsky’s Dress, was elected in his stead.

I went to conservative Christian colleges — two of them — and I majored in Church History. I know the nuanced differences between the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, and I’m geeky enough to have an animated conversation about them.

I bought books at the Christian bookstore about the dangers of Drug Culture, Hedonism, and Sex, and I hid those books deep in the couches of my nonChristian friends so they’d find them eventually, read them, and be saved. Coercive Couch Conversion, YEEHAW!

I was sure to tell my friends to Never Have Premarital Sex with their boyfriends (I didn’t even consider they might have girlfriends) and to remain pure so they didn’t transform into Chewed-Up Gum; used and wrecked and never able to pristinely fit back in their box. I knew, after all, that being Outside the Box was the Most Dangerous Thing that could happen to us. I didn’t mention to my friends, of course, that I was having premarital sex, because saying so would’ve meant I was deliberately doing it, which I was definitely not doing, since what I was doing was falling on my boyfriend’s penis — accidentally — over and over again.

All of which is an extremely long way to say I have street cred, man. I was a good Christian once. I meant well. I was very sincere. I have all the training. I prayed all the prayers. I asked Jesus into my heart at least 46 times, and I meant it every one of them. I was baptized twice, once as an infant and once as a teenager, so I have all the baptismal bases covered. I’ve studied Scripture, and I’ve committed it to memory so it is writ upon my heart, and I love Scripture still. I believed All the Things about Hell and how to scare people away from it, even though very few of those beliefs were based on the Bible. And I was extremely scared to hit the “like” button on questionable Facebook posts, sure I’d be found out for giggling at swearing, or loving the gays, or Being Political, or Thinking My Own Thoughts, which is, of course, the Worst.

I am, in short, not the person you would’ve picked to become a heretic. Not the person you would’ve picked to abandon Republicanism and the theological giants of the 1980’s. Not the person you would’ve picked to believe marriage ought not be confined to one man and one woman. Not the person you would’ve picked to deeply doubt a Literal Hell. Not the person you’d think would come to believe others’ salvation doesn’t depend on me at all.

But I did become that person. I became that person in spades, and I’ve given a lot of thought to where conservative Christianity fell apart for me. To where I became a heretic, off grid from the theology I was taught was Higher Ground. Away from the theology that was supposed to keep me Safe and Protected, as though those are the goals, and, instead, found me walking a ragged path through the wilderness rather than the well-trod highway I was told was the Narrow Way.

Here’s where it came apart for me:

When I was 7, you told me in no uncertain terms that the Smurfs were Satanic — something about arch demons and Papa Smurf as Karl Marx in disguise. I mean, I could buy the bit about He-Man luring me to Hades — after all, he called upon the Power of Grayskull and was practically, deliciously naked — but the Smurfs were a little harder to believe. You didn’t know it yet, and neither did I, but you started to lose me there. Even my 7 year old self knew the most evil thing about the Smurfs was that wretched theme song.

When I was 14, you told me to trust you, and you were my youth pastor, so I did. You said weird things about sexuality and girls’ bodies which led men to sin, and I felt uncomfortable around you always, but I was taught to trust you more than myself, so I shoved down my own discomfort, and I didn’t question you. Nothing awful happened. Not to me, anyway. But I learned what men said to me was more important than the Holy Spirit or my gut or my conscience. And you lost me.

When I was 15, we were out to save the world. You said we were doing God’s own work, though my soul squirmed at handing out trite tracts on the city streets and saying as many sinners’ prayers as possible instead of feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and finding medical care for the mentally fraught. And so you lost me.

When I was 29, and my gentle, compassionate, kind friend from our missionary high school wrote our entire class to tell us why he couldn’t come to our reunion and why he’d never see us again — because he was gay, so he’d had to choose between God and not killing himself — and, well, in the nicest possible way, said that we could go fuck ourselves because he wasn’t dying for any of this crazy, conservative Christian bullshit, you lost me. You lost me like my friend never did.

When Christianity became an In-Club with its own subculture and language rooted in white, middle class America — when Christianity was bought and sold to the Republican Party through the efforts of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and fears about the Supreme Court — you lost me. When James Dobson and Franklin Graham took up their hypocritical banner, you lost me again.

When you taught me that blasphemy and taking God’s name in vain meant uttering the phrase “oh my God” — as though avoiding those three words completely fulfills one of only ten commandments — as though “oh my God” said in horror isn’t the deepest prayer for help — you lost me. When you buried the idea that blasphemy is spreading lies in the name of God, in favor of a simplistic phrase — when you didn’t look deeper — your vapid explanation lost me.

When you told me drinking wine was different in Jesus’ time — that the alcohol wasn’t as potent so it was OK that Jesus drank but it’s not OK to do it today — that Jesus didn’t really mean “do this in rememberance of me,” like his goal wasn’t communal worship over wheat and wine — like his first miracle wasn’t turning water to wine for a party that had already drunk its fill — you lost me.

When you told me God created the world 6,000 years ago — when you said, specifically, during college chapel that believing in evolution was the same as disbelieving in God — when you denied science the way the Church in Galileo’s time denied the earth revolved around the sun — you lost me. As though God is too small to set evolution in motion. As though evolution isn’t a miracle all on its own.

When you told me you’re certain your interpretation of the Bible is the only interpretation — when you said the meaning of the Bible in whatever English translation you prefer is clear — when you said homosexuality was a “lifestyle choice” and an “abomination” and changed your mind to “orientation” when the science became clear — when you still insisted that our homosexual and transsexual and bisexual and pansexual and polysexual and queer and questioning and human neighbors may exist but may not practice their sexuality within the parameters of Godliness — when you said the theology on sexuality is different than our former, historical theological justifications for slavery or women remaining silent in church or the sun revolving around the earth — you lost me. When you said you believe in a static understanding of the Bible outside of context and history and oral recitation and science and poetry and translation — when you ditched the beautifully mysterious and mystical meanings of God’s Word who was made flesh in Jesus Christ — when you denied the Holy Spirit has come with fire to be an ongoing revelation to God’s people — you lost me completely.

When I watched people suffer and become more disenfranchised than ever because of your interpretation of Scripture and your imposition of that on their lives, so very unlike Jesus’ response to the marginalized, you lost me.

When you became more concerned about protecting our borders in the isolationism sweeping the globe than protecting the most vulnerable who are trying to flee to us, crying out for help — when you didn’t say like Jesus, “let the little children come to me” — you lost me.

When you told people to come as they are, and I knew it really, secretly meant “come as you are so we can change you, and if you fail to conform in time, you’ll have to leave” — when I berated myself for thinking that was uncharitable, and it ended up being true — you lost me.

When you told me after my miscarriage to examine my life for sin, and you wished I’d bothered to listen to the tapes on how to have a Christian pregnancy, and if only I’d tithed more to the Church so I didn’t lose my first born like the cattle of the Israelites, you lost me.

When you told me my genitalia affects who I’m allowed to teach and which platforms I’m allowed to take — whether I can preach, which men can do, versus “bring a message,” which women are allotted — whether I can be in leadership or must submit to those with different genitalia — you lost me.

When I brought home my precious baby girl from Vietnam and you said, “At least she’s not black,” you lost me.

When I spoke what I believed in earnest — out loud and in public — and you punished and shunned me and told me you’d probably forgive me eventually but you couldn’t say when, you lost me.

When Jesus’ example was to make wine for drunk people at a wedding, to break the Sabbath to pull an ox and its farmer’s livelihood from a ditch, to bodily block the stone throwers, to furiously upend the tables of people cheating the poor from inside the Temple, to eat with hookers, to abandon the rules in favor of loving his neighbor — and you wanted to monitor the length of my skirt, and which words I could utter, you lost me.

When I finally realized you taught me to be polite and quiet because it upheld the power structure and made those oppressing others more comfortable, rather than upheld Jesus’ radical example and God’s great love of every person, you lost me.

When you told me my virginity was my most precious gift, you lost me.

When you told me premarital sex would wreck my life and relationships forever, and you were wrong, you lost me.

When you told me with every word and every glance and every action that my micro-behaviors and submission to our Christian patriarchical subculture were more important than my aching, expansive heart and desire to see God’s Love sweep the planet, you lost me.

When my gender and sexual minority friends found no sanctuary or succor with you — when you insisted you loved them while they committed suicide at alarming rates in even larger numbers inside faith communities and you did nothing other than spout Bible verses, nothing to save their lives, nothing to set aside your cold recitation of culturally-proscribed, modern, fundamentalist theology — you lost me. You lost me, you lost me, you lost me, and, more importantly, you lost them.

When I watched you actually believe you’re as hurt, as victimized, as terribly sad, as those who’ve been perpetually and systematically disenfranchised and abandoned by the Church, you lost me.

You lost me.

Jesus won me. Love owns me. And you lost me. Which is fine.

I live now in a place where I’m called a heretic regularly. Where I’m told I’m leading people astray. Where my convictions are not welcome in the church I chose once upon a time. And it’s a strange gift. Because I’m free. Free to love others fully. No longer restrained by false parameters. And I’ve found, as many who’ve wandered in the wilderness, that nothing — no one — no theology — no church — can separate me from the Love of God. Or stop me from spreading that Unlimited Love-of-God heresy to others.

And so I bid you good night. And send love. And Love. And wave in the dark, always and forever.