There are a lot of issues troubling and dividing the Christian church in Western culture, but if I had to name one (among many) that I believe is heaviest in my heart, it is the treatment of singleness. As someone who has been single for all of her almost-30 years, and a Christian for approximately two-thirds of those years, it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, reading, and talking about.
As I’ve alluded in previous posts, the modern church is in great danger of idolizing marriage–if it doesn’t already. Marriage and family is now the foundation of the faith for many, with defending “the family” more important than defending the faith. Jesus and His other teachings (such as being willing to suffer for Him, visiting prisoners, caring for orphans, and not being anxious) are almost secondary. Getting married–and only having sex after that–and raising children is considered the most important thing you can do in this life, and it’s what everyone should aspire to. Granted, not all churches and Christians subscribe to this attitude, but it is there.
Another matter more volatile, and definitely more talked about, is the church and homosexuality. I think that the two issues are more closely linked than it may appear at first.
Homosexuality might be less of an issue in the modern Christian church today (not that I am proposing to solve the issue completely) if today’s Christian culture idolized marriage less.
Heterosexual singles have essentially been fed the idea of, “Just hold out until you get married, and then you get to be visible and of value to the church community. And you get to have sex and make babies.” Which incorrectly assumes that everyone will get and stay married. Single women who enter Christian bookstores to find advice for their lifestyle meet only an endless selection of books on what to do while waiting for that Prince Charming/Boaz/Mr. Darcy.
Meanwhile, if church doctrine says that Christian homosexuals can’t get married, then what are they waiting for? What are they supposed to do with themselves? Are they even wanted in the church community? How do they serve God from their unique positions? It’s the same questions that most Christian singles face, particularly in churches that do not require singleness/celibacy in certain roles.
If the church treated single and married members with more equal grace and welcomeness and purpose, it would matter less whether the singles were gay or straight. Right now, there’s an attitude among many heterosexual church leaders that is almost greedy, saying “We all get to have this thing, and you can’t, and you just have to deal with it.” But if the church treated both marriage and singleness as equally possible, valid, noble lifestyles that worship God and serve His people in unique ways, then perhaps it would be less of an “us vs. them” attitude—either between homosexuals and heterosexuals, or between singles and marrieds. Perhaps fewer people would feel as though they don’t matter in the church community unless they were married.
What does this look like? As usual, I’m not as good with the practical application, but some ideas I’ve tossed around with my friends include better, wider acknowledgement in the church that marriage is still a flawed, human institution, that it is not the ultimate goal of a Christian’s earthly life. More churches should be willing to give their single members greater authority and leadership and participation in church matters. Honoring God and nurturing community should be central to even the most casual church events, without reducing them to mere matchmaking opportunities.
Don’t assume that all women like or want children. Don’t hold up sex as the greatest gift from God and the greatest experience and goal of Christian living, or as a bribe. Don’t assume that everyone wants to get married, will get married, or will stay married. Hold more open, mature, appropriate discussion of sexuality in the church, among people who will ask and answer tough questions. Sermons should focus on both the abundance of the grace that saved us from our sins, as well as the seriousness of those sins.
None of this, of course, will solve every problem in every church, but I think it is a cultural attitude change that is desperately needed.
(By the way, this post was written under the assumption that homosexual marriage is and should be forbidden in the Christian church. That itself is a topic for heated debate, but I am writing from that assumption because it is 1.) my own belief, 2.) the current stance of many churches, and 3.) simpler for my argument. If any readers want me to elaborate on my beliefs and the reasoning behind them, I can write a separate post for that.)
I returned on Monday from an extended weekend in Colorado Springs, gathering with college friends to catch up and sample the local culture. (No, none of us consumed marijuana.)
Colorado features a variety of activities and beautiful sights, but one of the most bizarre is Bishop Castle, an architectural marvel for which mere photos and online descriptions could not prepare us. When we decided to check out the … structure … nestled on a piece of private land surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest, all we knew was, “Some guy tried to build a castle in the middle of Colorado.”
Online descriptions of Bishop Castle include gushing admiration for its fulfillment of the American Dream and the determination required for such an endeavor, as well as praise for the grandeur of the structure itself. Based on these accounts, I was expecting something on par with other New World ‘castles’ I had visited, like Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio, or Casa Loma in Toronto.
Much like Game of Thrones‘ Sansa Stark, I found my dreams of castles, knights, and dragons crushed under a heaping dose of reality. Instead, I stood amidst trash bins and portable toilets and looked upon a tower of iron and stone that could only have been conceived and executed within the mind of a lunatic. It was the Tower of London’s meth-addict cousin.
My disappointment quickly gave way to mirth and bewilderment as we began our exploration of the place, and to sheer terror as I defied my acrophobia to join the Saturday masses scaling (part of) the asylum’s heights.
There were a few times where I felt nauseated and my legs felt like Jell-o because of the heights, and I was too focused on not falling from the ironwork or tumbling down the stairs to stop and take my own pictures of the scariest parts. There were some spots with very narrow metal spiral staircases, like in the picture above, but without railings–just a long, loose piece of rope to hold onto. While trying to maneuver around crowds of fellow visitors, without falling.
Other weird parts was that the castle is technically still a construction site, but there is no place in the building that you look at and say, “Oh, that is clearly going to be a bathroom” or “That looks like where the kitchen is going to be.” It’s just big open “halls,” rickety balconies, and narrow stairwells.
As you can imagine, a man who tries to build his own castle on almost-federally-owned land, using his own materials and methods and not really caring if anything is up to code, is going to have a few clashes with some form of the government. Visitors to the site can clearly see that Bishop responded appropriately:
In the end, I felt a bit torn. Sure, it’s admirable that a guy would design and build his own castle, and I’m all for mocking the government at every possible chance. But the shoddiness and haphazardness of the design and construction, not to mention the many, many angry rants scrawled on plywood all over the site, is more than slightly terrifying. The recent legal disputes surrounding the ‘building’ are also fascinating.
Still…it has its pretty spots.
On a recommendation, I recently borrowed The Science of Sexy from the library. Essentially, it’s a book of fashion advice for women. Some advice is general, but most of the book involves taking measurements to determine your body type and what looks best on you.
Half of the advice I already knew: “V-neck cuts are most flattering” and “dark, boot-cut jeans make your thighs look slimmer.”
But then it got personal, and I spent the other half going, “Screw you dude, I WEAR WHAT I WANT.” Example: short women shouldn’t wear tall, dark boots. Eff that.
According to the book, I am an Average Plus Rectangle: Average height (because 5′3″ is on the bottom end of ‘average,’ I guess), plus-sized, and rectangle-shaped. Unfortunately, none of the book’s suggestions for outfits involve Tshirts, my wardrobe staple–a privilege I claim as someone who works from home. The “must-have” for my shape is an empire-waist dress, which…no. No, thank you. I get enough people thinking I’m pregnant as it is.
Each body type has a list of “blessings” and “curses.” For mine, the first “blessing” is broad shoulders because apparently that makes one look taller. Oh, good. And the first “curse” is that I “lack curves in the places that make a feminine body.” Awesome.
To quote the book, ”As a plus-sized woman, your rectangle shape turns into more of an oval, as you carry more weight in your stomach. This means you have double the work when it comes to dressing sexy.“
Translation: Wear jeans and Tshirts all the time, because f*ck it.
Now, I don’t have a problem with people who really do want to use advice like this. Some people don’t want to bother thinking about fashion, and they’d rather have someone else tell them what to wear. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to do.
As for me, I don’t like other people telling me what to do, and that includes clothing. “I DON’T CARE IF YOU THINK THIS PRINT IS TOO LOUD FOR MY SHAPE, I LOVE IT AND IT WAS ONLY $4 AT GOODWILL SO SCREW YOU.”
Another friend reminded me of a quote floating around online: Your body type is not a problem that needs to be solved by strategic clothing choices. “Life is way too short to wonder if ‘other people’ are going to find your clothing attractive, flattering, etc.,” she said. “If it makes you feel confident and pleased about your appearance, wear the thing!”
And that’s what I’ll be doing.
I recently purchased Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, and although I am excited to try the chana masala and walnut-kale pesto, I had to try the recipe for gluten-free sandwich bread ASAP. Sandwiches have been one of the most difficult things to give up. I found good recipes for GF naan and GF pizza, so those haven’t been much of a sacrifice, but sandwiches have been a killer.
I said that this wasn’t going to become an exclusively GF blog, and I stand by that. But I have to share today’s semi-victory, because I am just so pleased, AND there are pictures!
Just as Gluten-Free Girl promised, GF baking means you have to let go of expectations. This bread dough is more like pancake batter than the kneadable dough I was used to (it’s the gluten that makes dough stretchy; it’s why you knead dough in the first place).
But! This dough still had yeast, and it still rose. Unfortunately, I had not read the recipe carefully enough, and I let it rise too high before I put it in the oven.
So as the bread baked at 450F, it rose further only to drip down the sides, so it wasn’t quite the high, poofy loaf I was hoping for.
But like many things in life, appearances weren’t everything, for inside, I found…
Since it was made with a combination of flours that included rice, millet, buckwheat, oatmeal, and potato starch, it had a good flavor, and the texture was just like ‘real’ bread! I celebrated by having a slice topped with butter and raw, local honey I got at the farmer’s market.
Maybe this will help put an end to those traumatizing dreams I keep having about accidentally eating gluten. ;-)
This morning I was sitting on my couch, at work, when I looked up at the door to my porch and saw this:
This fuzzy guy (or girl) sat there for about 15-20 minutes, blinking lazily and occasionally closing its eyes. Eventually it stretched and yawned (I’m not overly fond of squirrels but it was SO CUTE) and shifted to get some more sun.
I threw some nuts out onto the deck, but apparently it wanted a nap more than food, because other than watching me warily, it did not respond to the offer at all.
That was my first delightful encounter with nature today, but it was far from the last.
It was a perfect day so I went for a walk in a local nature preserve. There I saw, in the following order (you will have to just trust me because unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on hand):
- two mallard ducks fighting over a female
- a woodchuck climbing a tree, which I didn’t even know they did, but yep, they do. I learned something new today.
- what I later identified as an eastern ribbon snake (I literally prayed that I would see a snake today, because I am a weirdo)
- two deer grazing in a meadow
- a vulture circling
- a great blue heron fishing
- AN ACTUAL BLUEBIRD
I think I might qualify for Disney princess status now.
So, I know it has been too long since I updated this blog, mainly because a lot of personal stuff has been going on that I figure most of you wouldn’t be interested in. Not a lot of brilliant spiritual insights or new tips for INTJs or even any unique thoughts about Age of Ultron. A few things, though: I am going to Colorado in one month, and planning a possible small-scale road trip to geek out at some historic sites in Pennsylvania later this summer, and I may be going to Chicago in a couple weeks, so perhaps there will be photos and stories to share from one or all of these events!
Some personal updates, in case you are actually interested: I started going to a new church that I like very much, I am taking an antidepressant that is doing amazing things for my mood but worsening my insomnia (so some tweaking is needed), and going gluten-free is still working out for me even though I keep having stupid dreams about accidentally eating things with gluten in them. One dream involved a cupcake, another a pretzel, and the most recent one involved a Chicken McNugget, though how I ate one of those accidentally I have no idea.
One reason I hate small talk is that it’s repetitive–and I hate repeating myself. I like my job, but after nearly 7 years, I’m so tired of answering the “so…what do you do?” question. I’ve gotten a lot of different reactions to “I’m a writer,” and have run into people who make some interesting (often wrong) assumptions.
1. All writing is the same.
My “day job” in writing (helping produce e-newsletters) is an odd mix of creative and journalistic techniques.Writing a novel involves creative writing, as does keeping up a blog, plus lots of research. But sometimes I get people asking me if I do, or would consider, technical writing. That’s a whole different ballgame, involves little writing writing, and may require a special degree/additional training and education. People may assume I’m a technical writer because it’s the only type of writing they’ve heard of that actually pays enough to live on. It’s not.
2. Any writer will automatically be BFFs with another writer.
“Oh, you’re a writer! My niece/brother-in-law/cousin’s third wife is a writer too! I should introduce you!”
“Writer” is a very general term for many different types of work. Two people who are “writers” do not have more in common than any other two people on the planet. A person who writes technical manuals for DVD players might not share the same experiences as a person who writes for the sports section of their local newspaper.
It’s also highly likely that the writer is an introvert who will not be pleased to be thrust into an awkward social encounter with a total stranger.
3. All writers are “word nerds” with huge vocabularies, who are really good at Scrabble and crossword puzzles.
Some of them, yes. Not me. I hate Scrabble and crossword puzzles; I suck at them. My vocabulary is average–maybe slightly above-average, at best. And I mostly care about words themselves only insofar as they can be used for conveying stories and ideas, which are of greater importance to me.
4. All writers are sticklers for grammar and spelling, and they are constantly criticizing your speech and your emails with the air of a stern schoolmarm.
This both is and isn’t true in my case. I do sneer at people who regularly confuse their/there/they’re and who write “should of” instead of “should have,” and I get frustrated by frequent misspellings, because what do you think that squiggly red line is for? I admit that I have zero patience for constant, willful ignorance, but that goes far beyond grammar. Still, people make mistakes. I’m not taking a red pen to your emails. I am much more articulate in writing than speaking, so I don’t fault someone for not realizing the proper way to pronounce a word. Aside from the mistakes I mentioned above, and the fact that I would defend the Oxford comma to the death, I am quite ignorant in grammar. I don’t know how to diagram a sentence, or what a dangling participle–or any kind of participle–actually is.
5. Being published = famous.
P.S. Being published also doesn’t = quality. For reference, see: Meyer, Stephenie; James, E.L.; Sparks, Nicholas
6. If you actually make money as a writer, your work is widely accessible and visible.
“Ooh, you’re a writer? Anything I’ve seen?”
“Maybe? I don’t know your life.”
The e-newsletters I help create are for niche targets–specific trade associations, nonprofits, and medical groups, usually. Unless you’re one of their members, it’s unlikely you’ve read what I actually get paid to write. And the portions that I write may get mixed in with the work of other writers at that company, and that’s after it’s been edited and approved by still others. At the end, it’s hard to tell what’s mine.
You might have seen my blog, but it has a few hundred followers, so odds are that you haven’t.
And my novel currently ranks something like #3,562,009 in sales on Amazon, so you probably haven’t read that, either.
7. Writers will either read anything, or only read the most highbrow works.
Much like Albus Dumbledore, I am tired of people always getting me books as gifts, when I would really love to get socks. And just because I like to read, that doesn’t mean I’ll read just anything. At the same time, being a literary-minded person doesn’t mean I have hoity-toity taste. Yes, my favorite novels are Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but I also have Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating and The Disaster Artist, a hilarious book about the making of one of the worst movies ever made. And do you know why I think that Twilight is absolute garbage? Because I’ve read it for myself.
8. Writers are totally willing to divulge any and all details about works in progress.
People are usually joking when they ask “So how does it end?” That’s fine. I might even tell them, if I know they weren’t going to read it anyway. But I hate being asked “what are you working on now?” because if it’s actual paid work, I probably forgot about it the moment it was finished. If it’s for my blog, just read it for your freakin’ self, jeeze. With more creative endeavors, it is actually detrimental for me to tell people much about a work in progress. (Plus, it’s probably fanfiction, and that’s conversational territory I don’t traverse with just anyone.) Creative writing is very personal; asking about a work in progress is not unlike asking a couple for details on how they’re trying to get pregnant.
9. One writer’s technique/system/path to “success” will work for any others.
I’ve already said that different types of writing and writing-based jobs are…well…different. One person’s method is not another’s, even within the same field. It’s almost physically painful when someone asks me for advice on how to get a job in writing (especially working from home), or how to get published. In publishing, I’m about as far from a success story as you can get. I decided to self-publish just because my odds of getting an agent and accepted by a “real” publisher were already slim, so I decided to fumble my way blindly on my own. I’m not pleased with the results, but I’m not sure I’d do it much differently.
As for my current job? I found it on Craigslist. After moving to D.C., intending to work in a non-profit. I worked in the office for a few years, by which point they knew they could trust me to get the work done from home when I moved back to Ohio. Things kind of fell into place, but I’ve never had specific career “goals” or a five-year plan. Absolutely nothing about my post-college life happened “by the book” or in any way that could be deliberately replicated.
10. Writers do nothing but write.
Writing is a major part of who I am, and if that were completely wiped away, God forbid, I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. But it’s not everything about me and what I do. I love books and movies, and some music. I like to travel, and go to museums and festivals and zoos. I like jewelry and cooking and sites of historical significance and makeup and Myers-Briggs and putting together bookshelves. I have even *gasp* gone an entire day without writing anything. (Unless you count email or texts.)
The short version: You may have your own ideas about who writers are and what they do, but you could be wrong.
It’s been more than a month since I adopted a GF lifestyle. Although it can take many months and even years for the body to adjust to such a change, I thought I’d post an update on my progress so far.
There have been some agonizing moments. I miss Chinese food and fried chicken and hearty sandwiches and crusty sourdough bread. Sometimes I sit around hungry because I can’t have the only thing that I’m hungry for. There was a family gathering a few weeks ago where I had nothing to eat but coleslaw (which I don’t even like) because everyone who was in charge of the food either didn’t know or forgot that I was GF now, so I went home crabby and famished. I’m tired of trying to figure out the best way to eat a bunless Five Guys burger, and bitter that I have to pay the same amount for it.
There have been some victories. The other day I made not only the best GF pizza crust I’ve ever had, but possibly the best pizza, full stop, that I’ve ever made. I successfully replicated my mom’s chocolate-cake recipe with a GF all-purpose flour mix that I put together based on Gluten-Free Girl’s mix. The GF pretzels at the nearest grocery store cost twice as much as regular store brand, but they taste better. I made Yorkshire puddings that tasted just like my old gluten recipe.
I’ve had to make unexpected adjustments. I’ve realized I’d been in the habit of feeling crappy because of gluten. I tried a GF naan recipe that was okay but, after eating it, I got inexplicably anxious. I was waiting for the stomachache, for the heartburn, for any other symptoms that would send me in a mad dash to the bathroom–a waiting that had become second nature. When the symptoms didn’t come, my brain didn’t know what to do; I almost psyched myself into a stomachache. I made dragon noodles with brown-rice pasta, expecting to feel discomfort from the spicy, buttery sauce, but all I felt was a burning tongue and a full belly. But that’s another weird thing: I don’t always feel as full anymore after a meal now–and I’m wondering if I have gotten so used to nausea and bloating after a meal that I mistook the feelings for satiety.
And physically? I feel better. I can’t say that I’ve felt less depressed, or more energetic, or that I’ve lost weight. My depression has been less severe, but that could be the change of seasons. I haven’t been sleeping well, but part of that has been daylight savings time. But digestion-wise, yes, there is a noticeable difference. It’s at the point where the prospect of eating a regular sandwich fills me with dread, however sorely I am tempted.
So there’s my update. The short version is that there have been a lot of difficult moments, but I am exploring and sometimes having fun, and it is worth the effort.