Monday, December 29

Of Gingers, Tribes, and Pancake Breakfasts

I don't think there are any words to say how much I'm going to miss The Roomie. The words are sticking behind the lump in my throat, have been for weeks. Oh, that sassy ginger!

She makes me laugh so hard I snort sometimes. She saved me. When I was at the very lowest point, she scooped me up. Gave me a place to start breathing again after the wreckage.

She is brilliant and fascinating to talk to. She is one of the most tenderhearted people I know, even though she protests and says her heart is black. She gives great advice (wanted OR unwanted); and is mostly right, most of the time. She lets me alone when I need it, which is often. I would say she mocks me unmercifully, but I know she does show mercy... She's great to just hang around town with, and great to quaff coffee on a Pancake Saturday with.

She is my friend and my goddaughter, and my life would be wholly incomplete had I not known her.

Because I have not gotten married, I have had five or six friend groups that functioned on the level of a family for years at a time. (Five or six different tribes?) Being friends and living with The Roomie is the last incarnation of a pattern I have lived many times due to moving, but she is amazing; one of the very best.

People that started dating their spouse in college were just never really single. Singleness is a completely submersive experience where you learn to make family of non-family. More importantly, you learn to make family of yourself. (And even in this, I know I'm wrong. Heather started dating her spouse while she was in college; and she's definitely a tribeswoman!)

Living in tribes is an experience like none other.

I am going to miss being single.

There are certain rights and privileges that go along with being single in the style I've been accustomed to:

* I got to keep up with all my college friends better than most because I had more time and because I stayed in my hometown. When people would come home to see their parents, they would see me, too.

* Time to read.

* When I lived alone, it was easy for me to think I was a pretty great person. For instance, if I got tired or a little grouchy, I could just withdraw and go home. It is harder to realize you are tired or grouchy when you are alone. You can do just what you want when you are with yourself. It's easy to think you are pretty easygoing, fairly virtuous, non-temperamental.

* I love sleeping alone.

* I love sleeping with my Hannah Kitty. A decade-long bed partner is a precious thing.

* Unlimited Mermaid Time!

* I had time to go to all the college I wanted, cherry-pick a religion for myself, help start a school, travel and see even MORE friends, more parts of the world...

* Having true heart fellowship with those friends who become family because you know that you HAVE no family of your own. To see others rise to the occasion of loving you up tight is humbling beyond words; and to get to return that favor? Salvific.

* Time to sit around with the aforementioned friends and be terribly, terribly witty due to all the time, books, travel...

I have always said that when people change marital status in life, they are really just trading problems. It just helped me keep track of the fact that even though I sometimes got frustrated or tired of my single girl problems, changing status would not save me from problems.

So I'm going to get married now. I am going to trade problems.

Some of my friends that got married (not most, a few) figured out how to keep me in their tribe.

I hope I do that.

When my friend and former roomie Heather got married, she missed her tribes. I think it was hard for her to move away from me. She always kept me as part of her tribe. Saturday Morning Breakfast. It became the cocoon of time and space our friendship existed in.

It is hard, so hard. It is harder than I knew it would be to move away from The Roomie. My only solace has been that Heather knows how it feels, has done it, has set a good example for me.

So I will lose old problems, gain new ones...

I hope not to lose the memory of this beautiful life I've had.

I hope to keep my tribes.

And I hope that I always, always have Saturday Morning Pancake Breakfasts.

Tuesday, November 25

tin foil

I fed my roommate and fiance' last night.

(That fact in itself is a blessing; worth a thankfulness, a pondering.)

As I packed up the leftovers, I went to the pantry and discovered it: New Tin Foil. It was a brand new box of Reynold's Wrap that my roommate must have gotten, as she has a habit of Bringing Home Useful Things.

New Tin Foil made my heart sigh a little; a loss. An emptiness.

You see, years ago my Granny Goo moved from her duplex into Assisted Living. As she did so, she bequeathed Old Tin Foil to me. Scads and scads of it. I swear, the woman gave me at least five or six boxes.

Most of it was the wide kind and extra heavy-duty. It has saved me from baking pan cleanup for years now! I thought I would never run out.

But Old Tin Foil is gone. Suddenly, irrevocably. And it's nothing, nothing... Tin foil doesn't even function on the level of a kitchen utensil. Let's be honest: it's not even a gadget!

But I still have a wet eye. Old Tin Foil is gone.

It just makes her more gone. Granny Goo.

A little farther away from her bacon-wrapped maple green beans. Farther from our Christmas Eve Ham Sandwich Rolls. (Or as we call them, "...those ham sandwiches. Do we want to have them?")

Yes. Yes, and forever yes.

Old Tin Foil passes away and New has come to take its place, in many ways.

But I will keep Old Tin Foil in my heart. In the duplex. Making sandwiches.


Friday, November 21

Fifty Days

I have sixteen minutes to write, so I will.

I used to think that brides fell off the face of the earth for a year because they were so drastically in love that they couldn't see straight; that they couldn't be bothered with friends. I now know it is because they had tasks to do. So many tasks.

I re-ordered the bride shoes last night; I got it wrong the first time. I bought voluminous petticoats and carefully considered bras. (The ability to breathe? ALWAYS in fashion!) The bridal updo trial salon appointment, made. A second appointment for alterations, booked. It's almost time to order the crowns, order the flowers, make sure the rings are engraved.

It's almost time.

I hope that everything turns out as good as my intentions.

I hope everyone will have a good time at my party. 

I hope the marriage turns out as good as it can be made; can be built.

But at this point, all I want is to take him in my arms at the reception

And dance

The first


Sunday, November 2

Sixty-Nine Days

The wedding registry keeps me informed; I don't even have to think.

Sixty-nine days. Sixty-nine days until I change my life forever. Humorous. 69.

In her book The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion complains, "Was it only by dreaming or by writing that I could find out what I thought?"

So here I am, writing. To find out what I think.

I've been too busy to write.

I've been too private to write.

I remember how annoyed I would get at Wide Blue Eyes, how she would always IMMEDIATELY put forth every single thought that crossed through the transom of her mind, every single thing she thought she heard from God. She would proclaim it to us as if it were hot news, news that was somehow now law that we had to abide by. The spiritual whims of the that clan became the stick by which all our spirituality was measured.

I don't want to be that.

But I do need to know what I think, so I will write.

I remember once a confirmed bachelor explaining a married friend's irresponsibility by saying, "Our generation all wants very much to be married AND to not be married." I think there is truth there.

What if I don't like being married?

What if I am not good at being married?

What if it changes me in a way I don't like; that I lose myself?

Sometimes I think this line of questioning is wholly disingenuous. These thoughts arise from times I am alone, not times I am with him. With him is contentment. With him is home. With him is an acceptance and security I've not had before. I've not ever worked so hard or consistently on a project as I have our wedding. There's nothing I've ever wanted this much.

Other times I realize: We're so busy. I'm barely reading. I'm not writing. He's not taking photographs at the rate he normally does. I like the artist in me, in him. Are we changing for good? Once the wedding and all the hoopla is over, will we get back to being the people we fell in love with?

And then there is this: I WILL change; I already have. I am less accessible to my friends. I will be less accessible to my friends.

But that hasn't ended my friendships with Heather, with Natalie, with Kerry. It need not end all friendships.

I am no longer in a howling well of need. I probably will never go without a square meal or hot water again. I don't lack for hugs or cuddles or encouragement. Not needing, will I somehow lose my edge? Lose my keenness for the spiritual side of life? Prayer? Praise? Reflection? Wonderment?

How much of me has come from my dearths as much as my assets?


So much I can't know.

What DO I know?

I know he and I are honest and of a goodwill to be the best we can be for each other. I trust his heart in this as much (possibly more) than I trust mine.

I know that God is good, and honors all that we give to Him as a gift; the ins and outs of all our days.

I know that marriage is the mystery in which Christ shows for His love for the Church. That I am in awe of the chance to get to play out my days inside that mystery... that somehow I lucked out and got a ticket for the grand theatre performance!

I believe (but do not know, have not yet experienced) that "any two people can have a good marriage if they just make up their minds to!"

I know that my whole life, it is in my nature to take the next adventure. And that this is it. That if I don't take the next adventure, my soul will stagnate and die. So to be the truest to who I am, I must offer my heartsoul up. Offer it to be loved. Offer it to be changed. Offer it up, though I am afraid.

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way"

~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Saturday, September 20

The Essential Answer

Watching two people in love make a commitment to each other, I got the answer wrong again, as I had for months.

He had asked me over and over, "Will you be with me for the rest of my life?" We were getting married, no question. I had the ring, the dress, the happy glow.

Ever the old maverick, the crusty old bachelor-girl, I had loved him in my heart and said: "I don't even know what that means, "For the rest of life." Here's what I DO know: You are like the treasure in a field that the man sold all he had to possess. I sell everything, all I know to be with you, because YOU are the treasure."

It was a good answer, a response born out of the sweet pang that love and longing bring. I meant it with every fiber of my being. He is my treasure. THE treasure of my life.

But it was still not the right one. 

As we watched the people in love struggle and stammer their way through saying their love, he leaned over and whispered to me: "I think you WILL be with me for my whole life."

Not even then did I realize. It was two hours later; then I knew. No ring-wearing, plan-making, field-buying will answer the question. Only one thing will.


Yes, I will be with you our whole lives. All of it.

And count myself lucky and blessed just to be by your side.

I am sorry that my mind is so slow to process what my heart already knows. The answer to your essential question?


Saturday, September 13

What We Signed Up For

It was tougher than I imagined it would be, you know.

My handsome Presbyterian man took his boys up to the Communion cup (juice, not wine *sigh*), and I watched, pew-bound. I am Orthodox Christian. We will share our lives in every way imaginable, but we will not commune together.

It's what we signed up for.

I was always the lone wolf, I never had to think of anyone but myself. In four months, I will marry, and that will all change. It is already changing. I've known myself very well, I know "who I am." I think that knowing who we are has allowed my Handsome and I to awake easily inside the smile that we fit together, that we are good.

I will be learning to live in a wolf den, not alone. It will be full of the soft coziness of other fur and the warmth of other breath. But there will be a sharp tooth once in awhile, an accidental claw scrape on the skin. I don't know who I am with others, with these SPECIFIC others, because families are unique as fingerprints.

It's what I'm signing up for.

And I think that "signing up for" seems simple. You do your frightened best to hold your heart out like a flower toward the other, to be honest about who you really are. If you're lucky, if you're lucky... they will take it with joy. They will ask to hold your heart forever.

But the years go long, and even through honest, brave means, sometimes even a clear-eyed "what I signed up for" can seem too heavy to be borne. I've seen it in other wolf packs. I've seen it in some of my favorites.

I've even started to see it in me. During Communion. During moments where my baggage springs out of its clasp, and everyone has to deal with the dirty old laundry. It seems that laundry THAT old should have vaporized by now, become inapplicable to every current situation. But no.

I don't know how to do this. I don't even know how to write, so elemental to me, because the writing no longer involves just me.

And I'm not sure that knowing how to do this is an appropriate prerequisite, anyway. I certainly muddled my way through single life; maybe it is the same in a wolf pack, muddling the way through. I think the prerequisites here are bravery, honesty, grace, and purposeful, tenacious love. The kind of love that figures its way through the muddling. The kind of love that really only God's grace can give us on loan to give to others.

So friends, be strong in what you signed up for, if you can. I will meet you on the plain of common experience, I and my wolf pack, you and yours. Under the harvest moon, we will run and romp, cavort and wrestle, nip and play.

We will howl the howl of lonely togetherness.

It's what we signed up for. 

Thursday, July 24


I hope for you this:

A friend. The Friend. She calls, and you immediately confess over the hundreds miles.

"I'm not okay."

"I thought so. That's why I called."

She listens, asks the most important and seemingly unrelated question:

"Have you grieved yet?"

And nothing else matters. Nothing matters but just that. Because of being heard. Because of being loved. Because of having the history for The Friend to know that this time, the problems aren't really the problem.

And it doesn't fix a darned thing. But it changes everything. It is everything. To be known.

Nothing is fixed, but everything is different.

I breathe deeply

And move on.

Sunday, July 20

The Last Kleenex

One of the best things about when your grandma dies is that she leaves a lot of Kleenex for you to cry into. Granny Goo died eleven months and four days ago, and I just ran out of Kleenex tonight. It IS true that I have been parceling it out a bit lately, wanting to make each use worthy.

(Imagine. Trying to make worthy snot. As if I don't have enough other things to do!)

I used her last Kleenex tonight. Tonight at another funeral. This funeral was for a man from my church who I love in my deep heart. His name is Donald. He and his wife triaged my life when I was in close-to-the-bone need. I owe them for giving me back to myself when I had lost my way. And I am not the only one that owes them that same debt; they are the type that looks for the lost ones out in the highways and byways.

The two funerals couldn't have been more different, save that they were Christian. One was at a non-instrumental Church of Christ, and the other at an Orthodox Christian Church (also non-instrumental, but they don't make a big fuss over that).

Because they were both Christian, they were very similar in the way that they comforted the grieving; "Because of Jesus Christ, your beloved ones are with God." But I don't know that that assurance ever made me cry less.

People, even Christians, have have gotten into the lazy habit of saying that death is a natural part of life. But you and I know that is bull hawkee!!! (Bull hockey?) We freak about death because as people, we innately know that death is NOT natural. How can they take such a vital person and do them the indignity of putting them in a box? Death is not part of the true natural order, it is part of the fallen brokenness of this world. We were made to live forever, soul AND body. 

In the almost-year since Granny Goo died, the thing that has bothered me the most is that she is just never around. She always used to simply love having me with her, my presence, even if we were not talking, even if I would just stay to nap at her house. She liked it.

So many beautiful things have happened to me this year, and I haven't gotten to tell her. Although I still sometimes feel sharp stabs of grief, the main problem comes in merely by her grey absence, casting a pallor over everything. To nap at her house one more time... but her house just isn't around anymore. It is a deeper mourning, a more lasting kind.

Even though I cry buckets over these lost, and even though missing her sometimes seems like a tic that I've just gotten used to, the thing that makes both of these funerals so distinctly Christian is that I still have hope.

I don't always go in for "pie in the sky" theology... I became a Christian expressly because I don't know how to deal with the in and outs of each day without the template of grace Christ offers... Even so, I AM comforted that Granny Goo and Donald are with God. I AM comforted that Christ has trampled down death by death, and that He will raise us up out of our graves on the last day.

But the hope I am holding onto tonight is the hope of the last Kleenex. The so-mysterious book of Revelation talks about the new heaven and the new earth in this way: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”

The old order of broken and fallen things WILL someday pass away, and we will be once again in our natural states: with God. Presence. And to be with each other, with Him, will truly be the last Kleenex. 

Friday, May 2


The Basics 


The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in nests of other species. A female cowbird quietly searches for female birds of other species that are actively laying eggs. Once she has found a suitable host, the cowbird will sneak onto the resident bird’s nest when it is away, usually damage or remove one (or more) egg, and replace that egg with one (or more) of her own (watch a cowbird laying an egg in a Northern Cardinal nest on NestCams). The foster parents then unknowingly raise the young cowbirds, usually at the expense of their own offspring. Cowbird eggs require a shorter incubation period than most other songbirds and thus usually hatch first. Cowbird nestlings also grow large very quickly. These advantages allow them to command the most food from their foster parents, usually resulting in reduced nesting success of the host species.

The Complicateds


My handsome boyfriend is a good man, I've known this for many years now. He's a dad, an ex-husband. When I hear the story of how his marriage ended from he and his friends... it is painful. Sometimes I literally cry to hear of it, to think of it.

This is the man I love, and to think of him having suffered this pain is anathema, it is accursed. I wish he had never felt that way; I want to hold him to me and erase the hurt, I want to be a balm.

But if his pain had never happened, I would not be holding him to me. If his marriage had not been sabotaged, he would not be mine. I would not care for him so. If he had not been hurt, I would not have received the amazing gift he is.

Years ago, I read of second spouses that they'd "have to be pretty cold-hearted to not realize that their happiness is built on someone else's broken dreams." I benefit from his loss. I am a cowbird.

Some days, I wish I'd never read that.

Yet at the same time, it is a truth that constantly confronts me. I would have dealt with this discomforting reality whether or not I had seen it put so aptly, so succinctly.

I'm sure that many second spouses, step-parents, partners of previously married people feel this way.

The Difference

 Though these things are unavoidable truths, there is a difference between me and the thieving, sneaky, brown-headed cowbird.

I didn't break anything.

This is the thing that all people that surround, but are not involved in, a divorce have to remember. (It is the same when I think of my parent's divorce.) For me to feel guilty for participating in my boyfriend's life would be the same as me taking ownership in my parent's divorce.

Marriages get broken. Sometimes there seems to be no blame. Sometimes there is plenty!

A cowbird, much like Satan (that ruiner of hearts), comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have arrived after the destruction. Someday I may lay in a bed that previously belonged to another. But I did not usurp it like the little brown lay-er of eggs.

The Invitation

Have you seen the videos that warm the cockles of the Internet, the ones where mama animals of one species adopt babies of another? It's the exact opposite of the instincts of our brown-headed cowbirds, and it is heartwarming! (Check out a sample here; a new mama cat nurses some ducklings. You read that right. Nurses. Ducklings.)

In order for second spouses, partners, or step-parents to not spend their time feeling like cowbirds, I think there is only one solution.


The difference between the cat in the video and the cowbird was invitation. The cat invited the ducklings into her box without eating them, destroying them.

I was invited into my boyfriend's life after a time of destruction. And I was invited. This is how we all tromp around in each other's lives, in each other's hearts, regardless of the type of relationship. Invitation.

The truth is that access to anyone's heart is By Invitation Only.

Some invitations of relationship are formal. (Party invites, gifts, proposals.) Most are not. And all are incremental. We invite each other into our hearts at varying speeds and on varying subjects.

During my time with my boyfriend, he has invited me into parts of his life, and so have his boys. But in all situations, attention must be paid. Am I acting the cowbird, or the contented mama cat?

We proceed with caution into each other's hearts.

And when we do, we do not break. We are a balm.

This is love.

Monday, April 28

Falling into Real

This weekend, I will meet his family.

And he will meet mine.

This is new to me. I am an old lady (41!), and I have never wanted someone who wanted me the same way, at the same time.

This is not new to him. He has been down the "meeting family" road before.

I have always been alone. I have lived a certain kind of life, an alone life. I am the one who has been with me through all of it. I have many beautiful friends and family that have been in my life, loved me good and hard for years. But they go home at the end of the day. It has been an alone life.

I am of a certain type of woman; Miss Independence. I have many comrades who are the same.

It is strange to think of leaving their company, of beginning to live another kind of life entirely.

I feel apologetic.

I know how many friends I lost to marriage. Each wedding was like a little funeral. Only some friends came back to me once the initial haze of marital bliss was over to still be my friend. Only some still found me valuable; others had no use for me; never came back to me.

As I grow into the idea of leaving behind my alone kind of life, I worry that I will lose all my friends as I was lost as a friend. Illogical, because I am aware. I can make choices for friendship.

But he will take up time, his boys will take up time. I will be like a sidecar on a family that was already there and functioning long before I arrived.

And I so want my time taken up. He is amazing. He is comfort, love, sustenance.

What do I still want to do as a singleton that I have not had already? I got every degree I wanted. I traveled continents. I helped start a school. Who gets 40 years of selfish freedom and then gets to trade that on the chance of marital bliss to the best man she ever met? Who gets to be a childless grandma?

But it still is a hard work, a daunting task, to trade in one kind of life for one altogether different.

So although Miss Independence drags her feet and fears, another part of me knows.

It's already too late.

He has changed me.

He has raised my expectation of what is possible. My idea of love possible in this life is widening, deepening. To a beautiful landscape I thought was already assembled, he is adding hue, texture, and depth.

He has given me part of his heart, and a little more, and a little more...

If he were to be gone from my life, it would leave a gaping hole. It's too late. I am changed, and although I am scared to go forward, going back is also unimaginable.

After this weekend, after we meet families, after I road trip with the boys...

It will be much more real.

It will be more nestled in community, in family.

It will be larger than us.

It always was, but I will have faces, conversations, laughs, relationships to add to the mosaic.

This weekend, I will meet his family.

And he will meet mine.

Saturday, March 22

joking with the dead

One day during the last year of her life, Granny Goo and I struck up a conversation about potatoes. When I peel and cut potatoes, I will sometimes sneak a crunchy, wet, starchy slice: water chestnuts without the intrigue of being put into some Oriental dish. A friend had protested my practice, it was grosser than gross.

Granny Goo assured me that eating slices of raw potato was usual in our family, telling the story of her brothers who would snatch bites while Omie was peeling potatoes on the back porch. "What do you think I'm doing??? Cooking for the public?" she would bark in objection. Granny Goo chuckled at the memory.

Since then, and more since she died, I recite it to myself when I prepare some Irish goodness. And I chuckle to myself. I suppose it is my way of joking with Granny Goo; as remembering the event was her way of joking with her mom and brothers.

Each person's humor: unique as a fingerprint. My roomie returned last night from a week away and we are at it again: joking with humor we create together, one that is our own. Wordplay and feigned earnestness, we find these funny. More than unique for the individual, humor is unique to the relationships of the people it inhabits, just like lovemaking.

I was given the opportunity to live in Brazil for a summer. Once there, I found humor the toughest of my language studies. I still am not sure what is funny about "a wooden face." Differences of culture and language render humor less translatable. You know for a fact that Jesus was telling SOME kind of knee slapper when he made his sad joke about rich men and camels and needles, but I still don't get it. Do you? Miles and time make the absurd less funny.

 "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." ~Thomas Campbell

Mercifully, the heart pays no mind to miles and time. These people and these moments, they are yours. The people who you laugh with today will go, but the smile will still be there in your heart.  Which is how I know that I have to keep Granny Goo alive, close to my heart and alive. Because I don't want to live without the jokes we made together. Having watched her after she lost so many, I know I don't have to. My whole life, she had a plaque with Campbell's quote on her living room wall. She typified its wisdom.

That is why much to my friend's chagrin, I will eat raw potatoes. I will eat them now more than ever. And I will whisper to myself the intergenerational joke:

"What do you think I'm doing??? Cooking for the public?"

Wednesday, March 19

since feeling is first by e.e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Sunday, March 9

Thank You for the Bracelet and the Reminder

Dear Tween Girls at Dusk,

1. What do you think you are doing, ringing doorbells of strangers and giving out bracelets? I am scared for you; my heart is in my mouth. There is no TELLING what kind of crazies hang out behind suburban doors!

That said: 

2. Thank you so much for the Rainbow Loom bracelet! Blue and green really ARE my favorite colors. I put it on and called my mom right away after you left, because I think you are an example to me. You touched my heart.

When I was about your age, Granny Goo had cause to say to me, "If you're bored, you're BORING! This world is too big and too good for you to go around saying that you are bored." Rather than succumb to tween boredom, you chose to create. You chose to give... for free. It does not benefit you in any way to give to strangers, but you did.

Thank you for the example. I often need to be reminded to consciously bring beauty into the world, to create. I need to remember to give without thought of reward. I need to remember that "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." ~Max Ehrmann

With Gratitude,

A Formerly Bored Tween

Saturday, March 8

Christian Schism and International Women's Day

"(Modern) feminism is misogyny in drag." ~Joshua Sturgill

It's International Women's Day!

I've been intending to write about women since Tony Jones called for a new schism in the Church over women's roles in November 2013. The subject of women is so huge that the pages and pages I was writing about in my mind imploded on themselves, and I ended up writing nothing... yet.

In his manifesto, Tony Jones states:

"The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:
  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders."
When I hear that it is International Women's Day, or that people are ready to schism over women, I get very ambivalent about the subject. I know that there is inequality, injustice, and abuse directed at women specifically BECAUSE they are women. (Sex trafficking, child brides, illiteracy, rape, portrayal in the media, etc.)

But shouldn't we be actively fighting against those things not because women are women, but because women are... PEOPLE?

I grew up in a home where my mother and father played out extremely traditional gender roles. There was a bit of misogyny thrown into the mix of my home and church life.

After I grew up, I trained for evangelical Protestant ministry; my B.S. is in ministry. I did not go onto a church staff, I went on to train and become a elementary school teacher.

But as you can see, on paper, I should be right there with Tony Jones. Down with the misogyny inherent in the system! Let's rend asunder the Bride of Christ again!!! (And again...)

Since that time, I converted from evangelical Protestantism to Orthodox Christianity. I've heard evangelicals speak badly of liturgical and sacramentally oriented churches, because only men are allowed in the altar. We're so repressive.

Remarkably, for a woman who can smell misogyny from 1,000 paces, for someone who would be first to defend the place of women as ministers of Christ, I just can't manage to feel repressed in my church.

In the first place, I have the suspicion that men in the altar has not to do with gender but to do with apostolic succession. The priests of the Orthodox (and Roman Catholic) churches can trace their ordinations in a direct line back to any one of the specific twelve apostles. And I don't care how you slice it, NONE of the apostles were women.

In my church growing up, women (even the "directors" on staff) have no vote in the governing body of the church, the board of elders. At my current church, women have places and votes on the parish council.

In the married relationships at my church, I don't usually catch whiffs of "you must submit to me, woman!" There is an attitude of mutual respect and support. If people are jerks to each other, it is because they are being individually crappy people, not crappy because I am a man and you are a woman. The relationships that have a tinge of that seem to be comprised of converts that come from a background of more misogynistic dogma.

Most importantly, I have been allowed and encouraged to do more ministry since I have become Orthodox than ever before. I don't think the priests of the church even realize that my original training is in ministry, yet both of them have encouraged (and sometimes even asked) me to write, serve on committees, run small groups, etc.

It is important to note that I never have felt like they have asked or allowed me to do this with any consideration that I am a woman. They have asked or allowed me to to these things because I am... a person. I am made in the image of God. I have the aptitudes that will enable me to fill these ministry roles.

Isn't giving someone a microphone or leadership role or place to write because they are a woman itself misogynistic? It has been so freeing to feel as if I am viewed beyond my demographic and seen for what I actually am.

To be clear: inequality, injustice, and abuses everywhere must be addressed. NEED to be addressed, because they are wrong.

More thoughts occur on why the problem in the Church has become what it is, but I will let this blog post suffice as a beginning of my thinking on the subject.

What say you, women? What say you, priests and ministers of Christ? Isn't it misogyny to give someone a place because they are a woman? As if you are doing her a favor, giving her a leg up because she is somehow less than? Please discuss in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.

For a high-quality, absolutely invigorating perspective on feminism and the Church, I give you Angelina Stanford's What Is Woman?: A Reexamination of Feminism and the Church

Friday, March 7

Lent by Jean W. Watt

Lent is a tree
without blossom, without leaf,
Barer than blackthorn
in its winter sleep,
All unadorned unlike Christmas
which decrees
The setting-up, the dressing up
of trees,
Lent is a taking down,
A stripping bare,
A starkness after all
Has been withdrawn.
Of surplus and superfluous,
Leaving no hiding-place,
Only an emptiness
Between black branches,
A most precious space
Before the leaf, before the
time of flowers; Lest we should
See only the leaf, the flower,
Lest we should miss the stars.

Jean W. Watt

Monday, February 24

Dear Protestant Boyfriend: (On Fasting)

Dear Protestant Boyfriend,

Just a note about fasting for Orthodox Christians. The Orthodox fast because:

1. Christ expected it to be normative in Christian life. (Matthew 6:16, "When you fast...")

2. It strengthens a Christian's self-will to look beyond what he/she wants and see what is good for others, for what God wants. It acts as the ultimate anti "my god is my stomach," literally.

3. In order to have money to give to the poor as we save on food costs.

4. We fast so that we CAN feast... If a person never goes without something, you can't add that thing back in with joy when it is time to celebrate! :-)


I've heard it said (though not from a priest) that Orthodox married couples are expected to abstain from sex during fasting periods. (I Corinthians 7:5) I think a case could be made for sex on Sundays during fasting periods, but I'm not sure. Also, married couples are NOT expected to abstain from sex during their first year of marriage. It is thought that the first year of marriage is so hard that couples very much need sex to strengthen their bonds and give joy.

There are actually four fasting periods a year (they vary in seriousness and length). Not everyone fasts at these other times, but most Orthodox take a stab at fasting during Great Lent. 

Please expect me to be bad at fasting. This happens. Part of abstaining from things for this length of time is seeing your own frailty and dependence upon God. Also, more important than the fasting itself is prayer, both individual and corporately in the services of the Church.


Saturday, January 18

The Value of Confusion

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." ~Pablo Picasso

Lately, someone said an insulting thing to me. She said, "If you ever got your life together, you'd probably have nothing left to write about!" 

I took this year off from teaching. I needed to know if I still wanted to be a teacher. These days I sub, tutor, and write. 

One thing I didn't bet on when I chose subbing for the year: I am tired of pompous, tired of ironic, tired of sarcastic... tired of adults. And I am one of them. I miss earnestness, curiosity, and honest confusion. That is kids. I knew I'd miss kids. I didn't know I would miss them in this way, too.

It's a safety measure, I think. We adults: our pompousness, irony, and sarcasm. We think we need to know. We think we need to be certain of ourselves, our surroundings, the world. And when we don't know, we think we need to seem that we do. 

The truth of the matter is that I don't know ANY adults who have "their life together." To use that phrase is a falsity. I have come to think that true adulthood is when you feel comfortable  in knowing you will never "arrive," that attention always must be paid to being balanced in life. Adulthood is peacefulness in our own skins while charitably coaching ourselves to the next "new normal" in our lives.

Not so with childhood.

There are less self-coaching skills, less ability to be patient between the now and the not yet.

In childhood, everything seems huge. It is the first time things have ever happened, that changes have occurred. The feelings and disorientation can seem overwhelming. The first vaccinations, the first day of school, new friends/old friends, the first love... the part where your heart swells and you can't quite breathe because HE walked in the room. These are the normal changes, but they are a milestone, each a giant leap away from the world they used to know. For some children, they have had to deal with cataclysmically abnormal changes: death, divorce, moving schools, moving cities.

ALL changes are disorienting. ALL change takes us from paradigm to paradigm. It's confusing.

Whether we are adults or children, confusion is a clash between the heart, the head, and changing realities. Confusion means your heart rises up, wanting things. Wanting to be safe. Wanting to be brave. Wanting to chase what feels beautiful, feels free.

Your heart rises up, and gets itself tangled in the brain: How do I take care of my responsibilities? Can I find my way to a both/and point of view? Can I move on from this anger, from this grief? Do I want to?

A storyteller named Tommy Oaks once said, "Sometimes I think the best way to get well is to go ahead and be sick." This is what adults miss out on with all our sophistication. We think we need to know, so we pretend to. But confusion itself is beautiful. Confusion leads to action, forward movement. Allowing ourselves to be good and confused... to really NOT KNOW things leads to crying out for comfort, for wisdom. We cry out in our hearts, our heads. We cry out to friends for support. We cry out to God. Sometimes only letting ourselves feel the humility of being totally confused is the thing that will lead us to answers. And there will eventually be answers.

But before the answers, there is value in the mere questions, the confusion. There is a brightness in loving and wanting so many things at once. There is earnestness in being bent down to our knees and crying out. There is a connection to our own frailty that is precious. There is life.

So, fellow adults: When confusion comes, let's not smother it. Let's not pretend to have it together. Let's not shellac it with false confidence, irony, sarcasm. Let's let the moment be, as it is.

Let's be alive.

Friday, January 10


When I was a little girl, I had two hearts. One was a pink stone, shiny and swirled with white. The other one was a prism.

Tonight, I watched "Ragamuffin" for the first time. It's a film by David Leo Schultz, which had its premiere in Wichita. Wichita is where I am. Wichita is where I'm from.

Wichita is where Rich Mullins and his motley crew lived for about a decade, and they still live here. In us. The film is about him.

After the movie, some did not know what to think. Some said it was dark. And it was. Months before the movie, Kathy Sprinkle (an old best friend of Rich's) had made a point of telling me that it is more a story of brokenness and redemption set against the background of Rich's life than a biographical piece.

If you were to take the story of anyone's life, you could tell it in a multiplicity of ways. You could do this for any person, even for a single day. The story that is told here IS one of brokenness and redemption. Because of my long old years of friendship with Sprinkle, I knew the backstory, knew of Rich's darkness and brokenness, and that his story could be told this way, this redemptively.

When I was sixteen, I lived across the street from Rich. In an effort to scare up some fun one blank, eventless afternoon, Rich invited me to go watch a VHS. Rich said the show was a Broadway production, and had fantastic music. Five minutes into the show, he got a call and had to leave. Finish the show, he said. It's amazing.

I sat there for two hours and my sweet, innocent, sixteen-year-old face melted off while I watched "Sweeney Todd."

Today, my adult self will grant you that it is a riveting story with astounding music.

But my sixteen year old face did not understand at all. It is a story of gore, of evil. It is horrific.

I trekked to Sprinkle for my answer, an explanation. She told me something that seemed true at the time, but grows more true with every passing moment of my own frailty, my own weaknesses. She said that there are some people born that have unique aptitudes for the spiritual. These people are able to transport others to heights, they show God in cleansing, breathtaking, unimaginable ways... that they are able to scatter Light all around.

But that these same people, by virtue of their spiritual aptitudes, are capable of the same amount of dark as they are light.

And in the intervening years, I have learned so much about darkness and Light. A window is a fine thing. Clean, clear, straight shafts of light shine through glass. A bedroom I used to have had a sun room attached to it. Even in the numb-frozen winter, the light from the windows allowed me to feel soothed and warmed. A window's light is a fine thing.

But in order to scatter the light, that glass has to be cut.

Only when the glass is cut, only when it lies on the table shivering, wounded, can it be lifted up. It can be lifted up, and those straight lines of Light break. They rainbow and shimmer and dance and sing. 

The cut glass scatters Light.

Christ IS the light, in Him is no darkness at all. In the dark, if we allow ourselves to be cut, He subsumes our darkness. He takes it on Himself and makes done with it. Our cut, wounded facets start to glow.

And so it was with Rich. And so it can be here, now, in us.

When I was a little girl, I had two hearts.

One was a prism.

Thursday, January 2

My (Book) Love has Left Me

I can't read anymore.

In five months, I've only finished one book.

This is beyond disturbing. I spontaneously started to read before I was in Kindergarten; my brain was just wired to revel in the printed word. For my entire life, I have fed my imagination, mind, heart, and soul with words.

 My book loves have been highbrow and low art, epic and long-lasting, quickies in the bath. If I were to list the genres or titles, they would seem a mere list to you. But reading. My whole life, reading...

My laughs, entertainments, wonderment, and deep anchors for my soul have been found in all these book loves. The only thing I love more than reading is traveling. Yet all the places I go without moving an inch... books give me that.

And I can't do it anymore.

It could be the impact and grief of Granny Goo dying.

It could be not having a consistent job; just subbing and tutoring. There's a less clear delineation between work time and leisure time. If I don't have a consistent job, maybe I feel as if I can never really rest.

It could be living with a new roommate. I spend more time being social without leaving the house.

Whatever the cause, this has never happened before.

Oftentimes in my life, I break faith with my body. I don't take that walk. I don't drink that water or eat those veggies. I don't listen to my muscles, needing to stretch; my tiredness, needing to sleep. I don't give my body what it needs.

Sometimes in my life, I have broken faith with my God. I find myself unable or unwilling to pray. To breathe. To cry out. To become still. 

But I have never broken faith with my books. I feel as if I am without my bearings.

During the fall, I mentioned to a friend who is a similarly inclined that I am not able to read. He told me of a time in his life that he had the same experience. He was depressed, he said.

But I don't know that I am depressed. I'm pretty sure I'm not, actually.

In all things, I believe that sometimes you have to lie fallow. As a teacher, pray-er, and writer, I have had to stop and wait to feel my creativity, vibrancy, interest to return. I have to fill back up in order to experience these realities anew.

But reading has always been a way that I have used to fill up. Is it possible that I need to lie fallow... from books?

How do I travel? Laugh? Be entertained? Find wonderment? Give my soul the deep anchors it needs?

My only guess is to involve myself in the other things I sometimes break faith with. To pay close attention to my body, give it what it needs. To go outside. To revel in relationships with others. To anchor my soul back again and again into God. To literally travel. To garden. To sing. To dance. To gaze at the sky, the stars.

It might be like having lost a sense, for my book sense is a profound and much-used one, indeed. If I have lost that, might my other senses become more acute?

I hope and pray that my book love returns. But I will wait. And as I do, I will move myself deeper into life, into the things that bring me back to myself. Even if books are lost, I am not lost.

I hope.

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