Author Archives: elizabeth

God, why have You abandoned me? Oh, wait. Maybe I’m asking the wrong person…

photoPeople are going to do what they want. There is nothing I can say or do to change that.

The only control I have is over my own actions. And as my current weight can attest, even that is minimal.

Still, I’m often convinced that my problems lie outside myself and therefore, so do the solutions.

But this is not true. I can no sooner change others or get them to do what I want than I can change the color of the sky. And besides, other people do not exist merely to provide solutions for me and my life.

 So, why do I try?

Because I’m angry. And underneath the anger I am hurt. And underneath the hurt I have an unmet need. And that need has been crying out since childhood.

It’s understandable why, in the face of my urgent, unmet need, I assume The Answer lies outside of me. As a helpless baby, the solution to my needs DID lie outside myself. I was totally dependent on others to meet my needs. And when my need wasn’t met, it grew bigger and bigger–eventually becoming the permanent baggage I carried with me into adolescence and then adulthood.

I was always looking for Somewhere Else/Someone Else to fill that need. And similarly, always scanning the horizon for People Who Would Hurt Me More. So, I was always either fighting people who were supposedly “out to get me” or fleeing to somewhere else/someone else who would finally make it all OK. I thought this was my only choice in life.

What other choice did I have? Just living with these unbearable feelings? No way. Trying to SIT with all those horrific, unmet, needy feelings was out of the question. No way. I’d rather distract myself, find a new hobby, a new church, a new friend, have a baby, take up crocheting, get addicted to substances or people—anything other than sitting with my unmet needs.

But the more I sought, the emptier I felt.

Sometimes I would say: “God, why have you abandoned me?”

God didn’t answer me.

At least, not until I sat down and was still. God didn’t answer me until I stopped trying to Fix Everything. Probably God was talking to me all the time but I was too busy staying busy to hear anything.

The truth was that God never abandoned me. I abandoned myself because I believed I was inherently unlovable, unworthy, wicked and broken. I didn’t believe I deserved to have my needs met.  All I deserved was the leftover crumbs tossed to me by someone else.

I’m changing that, now.

I now truly believe I am lovable, loved and loving. I deserve to be treated with kindness and gentleness. But I’m not waiting for Someone Else to give that to me. I’m learning to take care of myself. I’m learning to give myself the care I need.

And as I began caring for myself, tending to my needs and yes, learning to love and appreciate myself–well, that’s when I found God was right here all along.

 

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I am Martha. I slay dragons.

St MarthaI am Martha and anxiety is my dragon. I am constantly worried by All The To Do Lists. I fret. I hurry. My Anxiety Dragon barges around the house, nagging at children, tossing together lunches, keeping everyone on-task and on-time. Hurry up, get dressed, get going AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES ABOUT LIVING AN ORDERLY, CHRISTIAN LIFE?!

In the Gospels, we are told the story of Martha who scolds her sister for not helping with household chores. But Jesus praises Mary’s choice to simply sit and listen to Him. The interpretation I heard growing up as a Protestant was that Martha needed to repent. Get her priorities straight. Quit being so anxious.

Essentially, the message I heard was: Hey, Martha, be more like your sister, Mary!

Today I found a particular glee in learning that the Catholic Church gives Martha a feast day and not Mary. Neener-neener.

Forgive me Father, for I am gloating.

Because honestly, Mary has always kinda annoyed me. She reminds me of those useless, mystical types floating around composing spiritual poetry while utterly oblivious to the fact that there are DIRTY DISHES IN THE SINK. Which is to say, Mary reminds me of me–when I’m not Martha, that is.

Most of the time, I’m Martha. Most of the time I’m trailing chaos and to-do-lists and then when my husband, for example, tells me to just “relax,” I feel like screaming: I WILL RELAX AFTER ALL THE CHILDREN ARE PROPERLY RAISED AND OUT OF THIS HOUSE.

Ahem.

What gives me hope in times like these is that the Church is quite tender toward Martha. She is not remembered for her human mistakes but rather for her mettle, grit and courage. Yes, she had her very human moments of Bossing Her Sister. But that wasn’t what defined her. The Church honors her she spoke up. And she went on to do great things.

There’s even this ancient legend that claims she was a dragon slayer. Yeah. St. Martha The Dragonslayer.

During the persecution of the Church shortly after Jesus’ ascension, Martha came across a village that was being terrorized by a dragon. The villagers said they would convert if she was able to slay their dragon. So, she did.

Oh, this makes me chortle with glee. St. Martha The Dragonslayer. Because OF COURSE SHE IS. That bold, brave woman who spoke her mind to Jesus went on to kick some dragon-tail. Yeah, she did!

I mean, I don’t really care whether it was a literal dragon or not. The point is, Martha wasn’t narrowly defined by her human mistakes. This is QUITE a different view of Martha than I ever learned about during my Protestant upbringing! And I DIG it.

Because I have my own dragons, oh yes I do. And despite all my fumbling human mistakes, I take heart in knowing my story isn’t done yet. I’ve slain some pretty serious dragons. I’ve crushed them under MY FEET. I’ve broken chains and sundered vicious cycles of pain. And yes, even when I fail and make mistakes, I can still go on and live a victorious, dragonslaying life!

I may be Martha, cumbered about with much serving. But I shall yet slay dragons!

Learning to play by heart #EENotesofEncouragement

I’m trying something a little different on the blog today. I’ve spent a lot of time deconstructing the harmful belief systems of my fundamentalist childhood. But what have I done to rebuild? Well, I haven’t shared much of that with you. The truth is that I often “preach to myself,” meaning, I write little encouraging notes. To myself. I remind myself what is true and good in my life TODAY. I’d like to share some of those with you. Maybe it will encourage you, too? xo, EE.

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One of the consistent corrections my ballerina receives is that she needs to relax. Loosen up. Stop overthinking. Especially when she gets on stage, I can see the strain in her neck muscles and in her quivering fingertips. She is trying so hard to hit those turns…but the thing is, she’s already practiced that dance thousands of times.

She doesn’t need to try anymore. She needs to relax and trust the dance she already knows. She needs to simply dance by heart.

Work is important. Making plans is prudent. But many of us work too hard. Many of us hang our entire happiness on everything working out according to our plan. If something isn’t “working,” we try harder and harder to make it work. What’s really needed is letting go of anxious thinking and learning to play life by heart.

Easier said than done, I know. I have a hard time letting go, too. I’m convinced that if I just work harder and longer–then the desired results will happen. If I just deny myself a little more, if I just try a little harder…

Here’s the thing, though: the outcome is entirely out of my control. I can do my part. I can work. I can try. But the way things work out is not up to me.

I can make plans. I can be prudent. I can do All The Right Things. But even then, things might not work out according to plan. What I really need is to be OK on the inside–no matter what happens on the outside.

I need the inner calmness that comes in knowing I did my part. I was a good steward with what I was given. I learned my lessons. I can let God handle the outcome.

I’ve learned my lessons and practiced the piece a thousand times. Now, it’s time to play by heart.

Today’s Affirmation:
Everything is happening exactly how it should happen.
I can rest. I can play my part by heart.
I can let God handle the outcome.

#TreasuryofSmallBlogs for July 2014

photoMy very favorite pastime is reading. I read voraciously–at least 2 books a week. But while I love reading books, I also love reading blogs. Writing-centric blogs, that is. Not lifestyle blogs. Not advice blogs. Not political ranting blogs. I want to see your heart. I want to feel something. I’m a sucker for tear-open-your-soul writing. And I’m convinced that kind of writing? That best true-life writing? Is happening today on blogs.  And sometimes, on blogs that rarely get read.

I want to see those blogs. I want to read them.

So, yesterday, I put out the call on Twitter, asking for submissions from smallish bloggers (“small” being defined as less than 1,000 FB likes on blog fan page or less than 1,000 daily pageviews). I got a bazillion responses–ok, maybe it only FELT like a bazillion. There are SO MANY wonderful writers out there!

So. I spent ninety minutes reading as many posts as I could. (Confession: I couldn’t read ALL of them–which means, try again next month! My call for submissions to #TreasuryofSmallBlogs will go out on the last Friday or Saturday of the month).

Then I picked out my top ten favorites and edited a small clip of the post to share with you today.

I so enjoyed curating this list of #TreasuryofSmallBlogs. I’ll continue showcasing small blogs next month. In the meantime, keep writing! Be sure to leave an encouraging comment on these Top Ten posts and follow them on Twitter!

(If I didn’t pick your piece, don’t give up! And please, don’t take it personally. Just keep writing! Use this next month to dig deep, write more, write more loosely and with wild abandon. I have lots of fun plans for #TreasuryofSmallBlogs. Look for my next call for submissions on the last Friday or Saturday of the month.)

 TREASURY OF SMALL BLOGS, TOP TEN FOR JULY 2014

 Most Emotionally Honest:

I need to be loved, not fixed. I need people around who won’t shame me, won’t tell me to get over it. I need to know that I am not alone, that people will actually come to me, not just expect me to be capable enough to come to them. I need the presence of other people, helping me stay out of the endless night of my head and hurting heart.–Cultural Savage, “When It’s Not Enough” Twitter: @CulturalSavage

Best Observation:

I have no doubt that God can redeem everything. But it’s a little problematic to spend so much time making sex look evil, the damage so traumatizing and then squeeze the redemption message into the last two minutes of the show. –Sarabeth Capllin, “Undoing the Damage Cause by ‘Purity Culture’”  Twitter: @SbethCaplin

Best Questions:

At the moment, it seems to me like there’s not much left of what used to be called ‘the emerging church.’ And the thing that goes on under the second name ‘emergent’ doesn’t feel the same to me. It seems like the whole emergent scene (and sometimes whatever ‘progressive Christianity’ is supposed to be too) has just become some very American kind of theological liberalism 2.0. –Bram, “Why is there no occult-mergent?” Twitter: @Brambonius

Most Inspiring Dad:

From before you were born, I have dreamed of you, my precious daughters. The Lord has given me a dream, my girls, and in this dream, you – women, daughters not only of myself, but firstly of the King – are received in the Body of Christ in mutuality and equality. –Brandon Chase, “A Father’s Dream for Daughters in His Church” Twitter: @ZoePerissos

Best Explanation of Why We Write:

It isn’t simply about letting go of fears or even conquering them. It’s not about caving into comparison or pretending to be the Holy Spirit, either. It’s about generating beauty in defiance of fear. It’s about telling stories. It’s about joining the human chorus of stories, regardless of how they are told. I just so happen to use a keyboard, most of the time. I write to live. For me, then, I write to be human. –Sabrina Peters “The Writing Life” Twitter: @SabrinadPeters

Best Description:

Yes, the day you gave your life to Jesus was the best day of your life. On the day you gave your life to Jesus, whether you were four or fourteen or twenty-four: here is what happened: you walked down the aisle of your life covered, like me, in the rags of brokenness and shame. Thousands upon thousands of angels looked on and celebrated–God Himself, in fact, celebrated your steps. You looked at the Man waiting for you there–the One who had been wooing you and had finally won your heart over months and years, the man who paid for your life not in diamonds but with his own blood. –Ann Swindell, “The Best Day of My Life was Not My Wedding Day” Twitter: @annswindell

Most Thoughtful:

We need to value each other more than our agendas. Do we know how much we need each other? I’m afraid we don’t. And the reason why I think we don’t know how much we need each other is because I hear more shouting than meaningful discourse. I see more protests than meetings of minds. And that is why my heart hurts. –Jennifer Clark Tinker, “The More Different We Are, the More We Need Each Other” Twitter: @deaconessjen

Best Solution For Broken Hearts:

What do we do when the world seems to be spinning lopsided and sends us all tumbling into hard places where everything seems to shatter around us? How do we respond? We clean up the messes we can. The ones that are near. We sweep up the shards of brokenness from our own home, our own community, our own hearts. We reach as far as we can to get as much of the mess as we can. We make it safe for those we love to walk in the hard places. –Colleen Mitchell, “On Shattered Glass and Broken Hearts” Twitter: @colleencmitch

Most Elegant Explanation of Why She Stayed in Church:
Sometimes I wonder if there are others like me in the church; people who have heard enough words and really just want to see Jesus. And that is what I love about communion: it is so clearly about Jesus. In spite of my cynicism, I couldn’t deny Him when faced plainly with the truth of His sacrifice: His body, broken, His blood, spilled.  It is Christ, and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2). –Callie, “What Kept Me In Church was Communion” Twitter: @calliecannata
Most Heartfelt:
I don’t want grace with conditions. I don’t want to spend Easter listening to a proclamation of grace that’s watered down with subtle rules and behavior modifications. I want to know that Jesus lives for and loves the worst of us ~ the ones who can’t lift their heads because the weight of guilt is too great, the ones who bear the burdens of failure, the ones who suffer in silent shame, the ones whom the religious people stone and discard. –Rebekah Gilbert, “Easter: In Search of Grace” Twitter: @4gilbert

 

 

Religious PTSD & fighting the darkness with acts of love

photoThe world events of these past two weeks have triggered a significant PTSD event for me. Growing up, our End Times eschatology was closely tied to whatever was happening in Israel. The details of what we believed are fuzzy to me now, but one thing remains: whenever Israel goes to war, I go crazy.

This usually means scanning the news for “clues” about whether this is THE END, desperate urges to stockpile food and emergency supplies followed by an urgent compunction to put my affairs in order lest Jesus return and I have no clean socks to wear because OBVIOUSLY.

Sometimes my PTSD is mild and manifests itself through detailed housecleaning (this past week I powered through all the laundry AND cleaned my room from top to bottom–which was not an entirely bad thing, ha ha). But sometimes, my PTSD goes viral.

This past week, it did just that when, on the same day, I had a devastating conversation with my father (he called me a self-centered and self-indulgent woman) and then I heard the news that Israel had invaded Gaza and also, a passenger plane had been shot down.

Winner, winner, chicken dinn–OH GOD THE SKY IS FALLING.

At first, I was stunned. I continued my morning routine in a daze.

But two hours later, my body broke down.

When this happens, there is nothing I can do but hang on and ride it out.

First came the blinding migraine that felt like an anvil had smashed into the center of my forehead. This was followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. I have not cried that hard in a long time. I was balled up on the bathroom floor just hanging on for dear life.

I took Excedrin for Migraine and the headache eased just enough for me to go to work that night. Yep, no matter what is happening, a Mama’s gotta keep going, am I right? So, off to waitressing I went.

I could only hope that the PTSD wasn’t going to last long.

Well, that night, the nightmares and obsessive thoughts started. I dreamed of dead babies and my grandfather roaring at me to repent. When I woke up, the question running through my head over and over and over was: Why doesn’t my father love me? Why doesn’t he love me? WHY? Why doesn’t he….?

It wouldn’t stop. During the day, the anxiety was so severe–everything seemed like a threat–that I got a second headache.

Then the mean voices started: You’re a horrible person. You deserve Hell. Your own father doesn’t love you, how could God love you? Your book is pathetic. You’ve ruined your chances of becoming a “real” writer. Look at how fat you are. You’re disgusting.

I have a friend who once told me: “Send those voices straight back to Hell where they belong.”

The only way I know how to do that is to fight the darkness with acts of love. Burrowed under the covers, I could see that I had two choices: 1. I could let the lies poison my heart and fill me with hatred or, 2. I could choose love–which meant, ACTING from a place of love.

In my experience, love is the only thing powerful enough to conquer my darkness. I was feeling so physically ill, though, that I couldn’t get out of bed. So, I started with words:

First, I spoke these words into the darkness:

“The Lord my God illumines my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28)

Then I prayed this:

“Mary, pray for me.”

Then I said:

“Jesus, have mercy on me.”

I had to say it a bunch of times before I started believing it. It seemed laughable that mere words of love could break the shackle-hold the mean voices had on my brain. Then, I opened my journal to the place where I’ve copied kind words from readers.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your courage and clarity
to tell the world the truth. –Amanda

I hope you come to realize what a help and encouragement your book has proven
to be for people like me. Your book is so beautifully written, so relatable and so
so discretely enlightening. –Lisa

You are a passionate, creative, generous, beautiful soul designed by God to tell your story,
your truth. Do not let mean words steal away your spirit. And don’t let mean words
create hatred in your heart. I wish I could tell you in person all the beautiful truths about you. –M.

After reading these words, I asked God to give me an idea for a way to fight the darkness with an act of service. I wanted to do something pure and good.

That afternoon I got the idea to start a ballet fund for my daughter. This gave me something tangible to do and it got me out of my racing, obsessive thoughts. As of today, you’ve donated $1,288 to Jewel’s YAGP prep fund. Thank you!

When I’m feeling this badly about myself, I try to keep a list of all the good things I’ve done each day as a way of reminding myself that I am, in fact, a good person. [I also put together a list of things I do as PTSD self-care. I will share that list with you in the next post.]

And then, there’s this: spontaneous love-gifts from my children. “Mama, we picked this lab-ender for you and tied it up with ribbons. Also, this card. We made it.”

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So, this. THIS is what saves my life: this mothering, this being of service, this being loved.

My children are my reason for living, their health and well-being are my daily motivation to fight the darkness and to make the world a better place. I love them with all that I am. Even little things like a trip to the library or cuddling up on the couch watching “Sophia the First” heals me and gives purpose to my life. Their joy helps me find MY joy. They teach me how to live. They teach me how to love. Motherhood saves my life every single day.

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Mary heard my prayer. She sent my children to comfort me.

Bombs and Missiles and…. Ballet

My Ballerina, Jewel. Follow her on Instagram: @dancing_machine

My Ballerina, Jewel. Follow her on Instagram: @dancing_machine

Planes carrying babies and children are being shot down from the sky. And terrorists shell Israel. And Israel invades Gaza. And babies are dying, bloodied and burned from missiles and rockets. I don’t know what is happening in our world except it’s all so wrong, so wrong, so wrong oh Jesus, hear our prayer. For peace in this world, we pray to the Lord…..

And yet, still there is Beauty.

A ballerina dancing at the unprotected edges of passion, pain and determination. There is blood and battle and the incongruity of war. But there is also beauty and music and dancing.

This is my ballerina. This is how hard she's worked to achieve Beauty in this ugly, broken world.

This is my ballerina. This is how hard she’s worked to achieve Beauty in this ugly, broken world.

Some members of my fundamentalist family have scoffed at her pursuit of classical training…”For what?” they say. “And why? A dancer’s life is short-lived. Where is the eternal value?”

And to this, my daughter has answered only through dance. To practice, practice, practice. To spend the hours–the years–disciplining herself to perfect an art form which will never make her rich, which will probably not pay the bills….and why?

Because Beauty. Because this desperate, aching, broken world is crying out for Beauty. Because there are bombs and blood and dying children. And yet—there is still Beauty. Beauty which resonates of Heaven, which whispers in our ear of Hope, which tells us there is Something Better, that even here, in the midst of unanswered questions and wailing grief–there is Hope because there is Beauty.

And so she dances.

She dances even when we can’t afford to send her to American Ballet Theatre or Ballet West–companies which both offered her spots in their intensives this summer.

She dances even when she pulls a hamstring and can only dance on one leg while the other one heals.

She dances even when she has to stay up until 1am doing homework because after school she goes straight to ballet and dances until 9pm.

She dances because God gave her the body and the legs and the facility. God gave her the gift of dance.

And she intends on using that gift.

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She dances until she is good enough to compete at the international level at Youth American Grande Prix–the most prestigious international ballet competition in the world.

This past week, Jewel’s teacher granted Jewel permission to dance “The White Swan” variation from Swan Lake. Jewel is now mature enough dancer to handle the artistic expression that is Odette, the White Swan. This is the variation she’ll be dancing:

But are we able to handle the cost? I don’t know. “The White Swan” means more private lessons, a new tutu and new pointe shoes twice a month.

And so, I come to you.

My husband and I clean Jewel’s dance studio in lieu of partial ballet tuition. I work as a waitress to help pay for costumes and entry fees. And lest you think being a published author makes one rich…well, allow to say, there’s a reason why there’s such a phrase as “starving artist.” ;-)

And honestly, I’m fine with that. I wrote the book because I knew it would help others. I wrote the book because I had to speak, to share my story. I would have written that book even if I never got paid. (Also, I STILL haven’t gotten a royalty check!)

And yet, Beauty.

There is a small window of time for a dancer–a small window when a dancer has the chance to make it. Or not. And Jewel is in that window of time. This year she will compete in the senior category at YAGP–the most prestigious, international ballet competition in the world.

I come to you today not for myself, but for my daughter. For my ballerina.

If my writing has helped or inspired or touched you in any way, would you kindly consider giving a donation to help Jewel prepare for YAGP? All donations will go directly toward new costumes, pointe shoes, private lessons, entry fees and physical therapy (to keep her strong & healthy).

This upcoming year, Jewel will be performing TWO on-pointe solos and TWO ensemble dances at YAGP. Every little donation helps. Thank you for loving me by supporting my daughter, my ballerina.

I love you all so much. xoxo. EE.

DONATE TO JEWEL’S YAGP FUND HERE:

 




 

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The privilege of a white, Christian fundamentalist childhood

I often view my childhood through the lens of abuse. But recently, I’ve been challenged to examine it through the lens of privilege.

This is uncomfortable. It’s hard to to see the privilege when you’re being spanked everyday. Stockpiling for the Apocalypse. Pretty much living in terror.

But last week I also got to listen to a friend give a lecture on social theories, especially as they pertain to education. My friend is a professor at a local college. Twice she’s invited me to come speak to her classes about my book; specifically what it looks like when religious fundamentalism frames the whole of a person’s existence.

Before I gave my talk last week, I listened to her lecture.

And this was my epiphany: in many ways, my fundamentalist upbringing WAS privileged.

In order to staple down my ADD brain, I made a list explaining why:

  1. We Read Books (lots of them): on the radio in SoCal right now, there are PSA’s about the importance of reading to your child for 30 minutes a day. When I heard that, I laughed. THIRTY minutes? That’s IT? As a fundamentalist, it was more like 2-3 hours per day. I read SO MUCH as a child–and still do, as an adult. I never realized it–but the fact that I read so much (and had parents who reinforced the importance of that) afforded me a huge leap ahead of other children my age. My extensive childhood reading directly contributed to my ability to write well. THAT is privilege.
  2. Family Dinners: We ate meals together almost every night. Homecooked meals. With proper table settings, candles and cloth napkins. At the time, I resented having to “wash and dress” for dinner. But now I realize how those meals afforded me the privilege of learning proper table manners, the art of conversation, the ability to ask questions and disagree while remaining civil.
  3. Limited exposure to TV and commercial advertising: To this day I still don’t know the popular TV shows of the 80′s. But I can remember my favorite heroes and heroines from books. I remember long, quiet hours of sustained concentration while completing an art project. Instead of TV, my parents took me to classical music concerts and ballets. I developed an appreciation for art, music and dance. THAT is privilege.
  4. Slow Things Mattered: I absolutely hated the hours spent practicing the piano or learning proper penmanship. But looking back I realize that I can still read music (which counts as a second language). I have beautiful handwriting. I know how to sew. Even though I don’t like cooking, I can put together a well-balanced meal without really thinking about it. I can just DO these things, rather easily. THAT is privilege.
  5. Critical Thinking: As a child, I chafed under Scripture memorization, copying long passages into my journal, breaking down Scripture passages into “chapter summaries” and then writing reflections on what we’d read. But now I realize that these exercises helped develop my critical thinking skills: examining, investigating, processing and synthesizing what I’d read. Ironically, these skills helped me think my way out of fundamentalism and into Catholicism. The ability to think? THAT is privilege.
  6. Socialization & Conversing with Adults:  the average American kid is socialized with kids her own age. Not me. Our “one room schoolhouse” afforded us interaction with children of all ages. Additionally, there were lots of BIG families (4-10 kids per family) and this meant I was in constant contact with babies, toddlers and little ones. I knew how to expertly diaper, feed and care for little ones by the time I was 8. And because we had so many people living with us, I spent a lot of time talking with adults, hearing their life stories and engaging in discussion with them. All this interaction meant my world was actually BIGGER than most American kids my age. I also knew how to do my own laundry, cook, clean, care for babies and speak with adults. THAT is privilege.
  7. Travel: even though our travel was “for the sake of the Gospel,” I still got to visit almost every state in the nation. And also traveled to Canada, the UK and Mexico. I saw and talked with all different kinds of people. Hiked the Grand Canyon. Snorkeled in San Diego kelp beds. Kayaked among sea lions in Northern California. Spent a sweaty summer in Lincoln, Nebraska. Toured the old mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. Visited all the national monuments in Washington, DC. Even though most of my travel was limited to the United States, I still got to see and experience much more than the average kid my age. THAT is privilege.

I have childhood friends who say their view of my life was one of privilege. More than once I’ve been called an “Assembly Princess” because my family was the founding family, the “royalty” of our church. I used to be surprised (and rather offended!) when I heard this.

I mean, my life never felt privileged to me as a kid. It felt terrifying and abusive. I suffered every day.

But perhaps it was BOTH.

I never “felt” rich because we didn’t have the typical markers of wealth: owning homes, luxury vehicles or boats. We didn’t have stocks, retirement or savings accounts. But we did rent homes in nice neighborhoods and drive new cars (paid in full cash through “gifts” from Assm. members). I also had access to life experiences (travel, exposure to the arts, extensive reading, piano lessons) that are typically inaccessible to the poor.

Is it possible for a “princess” to live isolated and abused inside her ivory tower? Is it possible for someone to be both privileged AND deprived? Yes.

My privilege came at a high personal price: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse. I still struggle with the effects of a cult upbringing.

But I also have tools available to me that I wouldn’t have were I not privileged: the ability to read, write, express myself. I am white. I speak fluent, “privileged” English. I have good health. I have a college education. THAT is privilege.

What are some other areas of privilege within fundamentalism? Or American evangelicalism?

Do you think it’s possible to live a “privileged life” while also experiencing abuse?

Do we have a responsibility to examine our privilege and seek ways to broaden our viewpoint and develop empathy for those not as fortunate as ourselves? WHY?

How should we exercise our freedom? I’ll let my 14 year old ballerina answer that…#HappyFourthofJuly

photo4th of July is my all-time favorite holiday. Because freeeedom!

Last night as I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across my 14 y/o daughter’s most recent post. I literally sank down in my chair and wept–for all the right reasons.

Parenting is not one of those jobs where you get pats-on-the-back or positive reviews or awards. But sometimes? Just sometimes you catch a glimpse that maybe, somehow, in spite of everything, miraculously—you’re doing SOMETHING right.

What she wrote? THIS is what we use freedom for: to love others. Thank you, Jewel, for reminding me of that. I love you so much. I’m so proud of you.

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To my USA friends, Happy 4th of July!
It was for freedom that Christ set us free….xoxoxo. EE.

Gonna live like I’m dying–a list of what I’d do/not do if I my time was almost up

 

My ballerina dances like how I want to feel

My ballerina dances like how I want to feel

Growing up at the end of the world (read my book about it HERE!), I kinda hate the whole “live like you’re dying” thing.

I mean, I’ve been living like that since I was a kid and all it gave me was PTSD.

Still, I can see how important it is to seize the day (or, as I said in my book: carpe ALL the diems!) because we humans seem prone to getting off track, getting distracted, procrastinating, letting time slip through our fingers—and then we sorta “wake up” one day and say: “Where did the time go?”

I like summer because life slows down. I have a chance to pause, catch my breath. Do inventory. This summer I’m taking stock of my life, asking myself if I’m really LIVING the kind of life I WANT to live. 

So far in my 37 years I’ve survived a cult, overcome a lot of pain from my past, rebuilt a new life, had five kids, wrote a book…now what?

Oddly enough, thinking about what I would do/not do differently if I knew I was gonna die soon is actually putting things into perspective. Last night I started jotting down a list of things I would do/not do if I knew I only had a short time left.

I like lists. They help staple my ADD brain into one place.

What I Would Do/Not Do If I Knew I Only Had a Short Time Left to Live:

  1. Listen to live music more; go to concerts
  2. Take my dogs to the beach at least once a week
  3. Exercise at least 4x a week (I know, right? Who wants to exercise if they’re gonna die anyway? Well, I do. Because exercise makes me FEEL better!)
  4. Spend more one-on-one time with my children and write down what we talked about or did.
  5. Try to be more accepting of my Dad and think of ways to engage him that will let him know I love him
  6. Write funny stories and perform them for the kids
  7. Teach catechism to 2nd year faith formation kiddos
  8. Preach on the love of God
  9. Go to Paris, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Greece
  10. Meet Pope Francis
  11. Host dinner parties more often
  12. Run more 5ks
  13. Run outside more often, find new trails
  14. Journal every day
  15. Pray the Rosary every day + Adoration
  16. Have friends over at least once a week
  17. Play cards with friends
  18. Print pictures instead of keeping them hidden on my hard drives
  19. Send my nieces & nephew birthday presents more consistently
  20. Text my sister encouraging words
  21. Stop seeking affirmation from people who can’t/won’t give it to me; affirm MYSELF more often
  22. Let go of obsessing about all the ways I’m not perfect. Just let things be what they are.
  23. Quit worrying about my weight, my body, my stretch marks. Love and appreciate my body the way it is.
  24. Hand write an encouraging note to a friend at least twice a week
  25. Keep my gratitude journal up to date with at least 5 “gratitudes” per day
  26. Work on my Spanish
  27. Take piano lessons again
  28. Learn how to cook Greek food
  29. Be intentional about saying kind, encouraging words to my husband
  30. Get a pig, a goat and a miniature horse.
  31. Build a “writer’s cottage” in my backyard
  32. Become an NYT bestselling author
  33. Use Charmin toilet paper exclusively
  34. Get my graduate degree in English so I can teach at the junior college level
  35. Write more inspiring books
  36. Memorize more Catholic prayers
  37. Floss every day
  38. Stop imagining worse-case scenarios
  39. Allow others to love me
  40. Lay off the self-deprecating talk
  41. Drink more good wine
  42. Be gentle with myself
  43. Weekly massages
  44. Stop apologizing for things that aren’t my fault
  45. Surround myself with people who make it safe for me to say “no”
  46. Let go of pursuing friendships with people who just aren’t interested
  47. Plant a vegetable garden
  48. Adopt more rescue dogs
  49. Go on picnics
  50. Spend time in the woods.

What about YOU? What would YOU do if you only had a short time left to live?

Agree with SCOTUS? Well. You’re a “far right” conservative whackaloon/anti-woman rape apologist who should “call it a day” and shut up about religious liberty already, amen.

It’s been a weird month. Two weeks ago when I called for a sexual predator’s post to be taken down, all the progressive Christians were like: YES! and PREACH! And “thank you!” and #Solidarity and #Sisterhood.

Today when I tweeted that I agreed with the SCOTUS ruling, suddenly I became an anti-woman rape apologist. Because of COURSE.

Among a plethora of bossy, angry tweets, I was accused of believing “that raped women should just live with it.” Another progressive Christian dude suggested I should “call it a day.” Because as long as he’s progressive, there’s nothing sexist about a man telling a woman to shut up, am I right?

To his credit, the guy apologized. But the women? Not so much. Here lies #Sisterhood, she died on Twitter.

Well, maybe the Internet just needs a nap. And a glass of wine.

Still, I gotta take responsibility. Twitter is a difficult place for in-depth discussions. Pretty sure nobody walks away from a Twitter argument and is all: Wow, that TOTALLY changed my mind. So, in that regard, I kinda asked for it because *I* engaged on Twitter and *I* argued on Twitter and *I* tweeted lots of stuff.

So MEA CULPA, MEA MAXIMA CULPA.

But now that we’re here on my nice, comfy blog, I can discuss in depth. Mwah-ha-ha!

So. FIRST THINGS FIRST.

A handy little Hobby Lobby Kerfuffle Timeline (all quotes from SCOTUS found in today’s majority ruling available HERE)

1.
ObamaCare becomes law

2.
ObamaCare requires contraceptive coverage. But Congress did not specify which types must be covered (generally speaking, for-profit companies must cover the 20 kinds approved by FDA)

3.
Owners of three, closely-held, private for-profit corporations believe that life begins at conception and thus, mandatory coverage of 4 types of contraception (which, according to current FDA labeling, may have abortifacient properties) are a violation of their religious beliefs.

4.
They sue HHS.

5.
They are denied, courts claiming for-profit companies cannot “engage in religious exercise.”

6.
10th Circuit Court reverses that decision, saying that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, the government is prohibited from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion. Under this act, Hobby Lobby qualifies as a “person” due to it being a closely-held, privately-owned, family company.

7.
The Supreme Court agrees with the 10th Circuit court, noting that since HHS conceded that a for-profit company “can be a ‘person’ under RFRA” so can a for-profit company. In other words, just because a company MAKES MONEY doesn’t negate its “person” status when seeking judicial protection from the substantial burden of, in this case, the HHS contraceptive mandate.

8.
The Supreme Court further noted that “protecting the free exercise rights of closely-held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.”

9.
The Court made clear that this ruling is for contraceptive mandate only and “should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.” In other words, THIS case is concerned with the contraceptive mandate and is not intended to set a precedent for other religious beliefs, which should be dealt with separately.

Reasons Why I Commend This Ruling:

1. I believe in religious liberty. Religious liberty is the source from which all other freedoms flow. I support religious liberty for EVERY religious group, not just the ones I happen to agree with theologically.

2. I grew up in a cult and I have a severe allergy to ANYONE–government included–telling me which religious beliefs I’m allowed to exercise and which I am not. Mandatory ANYTHING gives me hives. Also, my husband owns and operates a small business. We have employees. It would take me like five hours to explain how freaking DIFFICULT it is to own a small business in California. How insane it is to do taxes, pay 8 billion fees, insurances, coverages, workers’ comp, liabilities, etc etc. etc. We comply. But damn. Government makes it HARD. Our country was founded on the principles of small government and I still believe small businesses are the backbone of this country. Therefore, I’m just philosophically opposed to unnecessary government intrusion.

SIDEBARS, CAVEATS & DISCLAIMERS!!!!

A. Do I think Hobby Lobby is hypocritical for removing coverage of these contraceptives only AFTER ObamaCare is passed? Sure. Doesn’t change my opinion about this ruling. SINCERITY is not a qualifier for religious belief. It just needs to BE the belief. Our Courts are not in the business of determining whether someone’s beliefs are SINCERE or not. There is no litmus test for Sincerity. If there was, I’m pretty sure we’d ALL fail. Because nobody is a Perfect Believer. Amen and amen.

B. Should companies be required to cover blood transfusions and vaccinations despite holding contrary religious beliefs? YES. And again, THAT issue is NOT what this case was about.

C. Am I a crazy Tweeter? YES. But I love this stuff. I realize I’m totally just an armchair Constitutional scholar. I like to read. And I read a lot. I like big books and I cannot lie.

D. Let’s all go drink wine. Or not. If that’s against your religious belief. Kool-Aid will do. KIDDING! KIDDING! OH MY WORD, kidding!

E. Lastly, in the immortal words of my husband: “What have you been talking about all day? Handy-Dandy?” #NailedIt

P.S. MY HUSBAND SAYS YOU REALLY NEED TO READ MY BOOK! :) CLICK HERE! BUY! SHARE! LOOOOVE! :)