Most Raw, Vulnerable Posts of 2013:
Most Read Posts of All Time:
Most Helpful Recovery Posts of 2013:
Most Loved ENFP Posts:
Most Raw, Vulnerable Posts of 2013:
Most Read Posts of All Time:
Most Helpful Recovery Posts of 2013:
Most Loved ENFP Posts:
“You don’t even have channel art? Or a PROFILE PIC???? MOM!”
So, I let him crop and upload and do a bunch of stuff that my old brain couldn’t figure out. And now? He says YOU, my dear readers, really MUST subscribe AND watch at least 2 videos tonight. So. You know, SUBSCRIBE HERE!!! The Management (aka, James) thanks you.
Do you like my new blog design? I’m super happy about it. Simple. Clean. Fresh. Many thanks to Micah Murray who was willing to work for me despite my heretical opinions, my offensive appearances on Fox News and my being Catholic. Also, I like dogs and he likes cats. Clearly, he should not associate with the likes of moi. Oh, wait. I’m making that part up. I actually have no idea whether he is a pet-lover or not. Because. When I ask someone to re-design my blog I don’t CARE about their opinions on pet-ownership, beer vs. wine, infant baptism vs. “age of accountability,” Democrats v. Republicans, YOLOSwag v. SwagYOLO or whether cookie butter is better than biscoff. [Note: Cookie Butter is WAY better. But I digress].
The point is, I just want GOOD work. And I liked what Micah did with his blog. So there.
Micah did a great job for me and, after being rejected by another designer who refused to work for me because she Disagreed With My Opinions, I’m especially grateful for friends like Micah–and YOU, dear reader–who stick with me through my admittedly lame, blundering, often-fraught, sometimes whimsical, messy process. This is my process, yo. Welcome to the beautiful mess.
A few months ago, I had an embarrassing incident with some wire hangers in my closet. I had set out to organize! cleanse! make all things new!
But the wire hangers, they were acting all privileged. Hogging too much room. Patriarchal, really. Wire hangers, as we all know, are EFFING MISOGYNISTS, AM I RIGHT????
Ahem. Forgive me, this will all make sense momentarily.
The Wire Hanger Meltdown was followed by The Pool Chair Incident. Because, obviously, Pool Chair is just another way of saying Cult Leader–especially when it refuses to properly recline and instead crashes down, landing your ass on the cement pool deck.
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
“BECAUSE THE EFFING CULT LEADER THREW ME ON THE GROUND!”
“You mean the pool chair?”
“No. I mean THE CULT LEADER.”
And that is what we call “My Rock Bottom Moment.” Clearly, I needed help. Probably this came as no surprise to anyone but myself.
I’d been getting emails. Messages. Tweets.
I don’t like your tone, Elizabeth. You sound different. You sound angry. Not all churches are cults, Elizabeth. Not all men are cult leaders. You’re being unfair, unkind, preposterous. Sometimes you have good things to say, Elizabeth, but your tone is so harsh. Why are you so bitter? Why can’t you just move on? Stop being such a victim, Elizabeth. Maybe you should write a disclaimer before you share your experiences because your abuse is not the norm. –Signed, A Caring Reader.
I mean, enough people tell you the same thing and you finally gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Which I did. I checked myself right into an Online Timeout. I’ve been quiet lately.
Back to the story. I was angry. Very angry. Mostly, at God. And pastors. And churches. And apparently, pool chairs. Little League. Citibank. Wire hangers. Cult leaders. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start with the anger.
Anger is exhausting. I think I read that in the book of Revelation. Which is to say, when you’re angry, you view all of life through an angry filter. It was like I put on my angry glasses each morning and went hunting for Bad Pastors, Bad Churches and Bad Theology.
This is an exhausting way to live.
I don’t know whether my rock bottom was burnout, anxiety or generalized hysteria but I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all three. The Interwebz can you make you batshit cray, this we know.
Point is, I put my ass in timeout—oh, wait. I’ve already said this. This, you see, is what happens when you’re angry: you forget you’ve already said things and then you start repeating yourself over and over until people are like: yeah, yeah, we GET IT. YOU WERE ABUUUUSED.
I’ve been working a 12 step program. This is uncomfortable. Mainly, because at some point you have to stop talking about All The Ways You’ve Been Hurt and start taking responsibility for the ways you hurt others.
This is annoying. Also, profoundly difficult. I would really rather skip this part.
But I won’t. I’m gonna work it.
I’ve been wrestling with questions:
At what point does the victim become the abuser?
At what point does my anger no longer serve me?
I read this article about survivors of the Holocaust. The researcher was trying to find out why certain survivors went on to live meaningful, productive lives after all they’d endured? I can’t remember the details, but basically, it was that the survivors who lived long, meaningful lives maintained a deep faith and an optimistic spirit. They didn’t just define themselves by their awful experience, they proactively sought ways to make the world a better place for others–even if it was just their families.
A whole person cannot be solely defined by what she stands against. A whole person must stand for something, too.
I have lashed out, criticized, deconstructed, questioned and chided the religious powers that be. This was an important part of my journey and I honor it. But I made mistakes along the way and despite my good intentions, I have hurt people. I hurt myself.
I set out to organize! set right! cleanse! make all things new!
But I got entangled somehow. The weapons that were used against me I used against others.
The problem was not so-and-so-pastor or so-and-so-church. My mistake was playing whack-a-mole with every suspicious church or pastor that came across my radar. Sure, I can react, react, react all day. But then what?
In other words, what am I doing to build up the Church? What am I doing to edify and create new, healthy culture within the Church?
Criticism is necessary but it’s not enough.
I can’t build a culture of love and peace using weapons of hate and warfare.
I don’t have all the answers, here. But I want you to know I’m taking time to examine myself, to check my motives and sincerely seek to understand how I can use my words to effect positive change. Thank you for being patient with me…..
I don’t claim infallible sight. I’ve never claimed to be on a mission from God. What I do claim is the mandate of freedom to see what I see and say what I see.
Some call it truth. Others call it lies. Some call it courage. Others call it cowardice.
Some say I’m leading souls to Hell. Others say I’ve led them to freedom.
I think the truth–whatever it is–probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Ultimately, what people think of me is none of my business.
If I am overly invested in approval OR disapproval, I give others power over what I see and what I say.
I give myself permission to make mistakes, change my mind, apologize, wear a headscarf, wear a bikini, state an opinion, recant an opinion, experiment, ask questions and find answers wherever I find them.
I believe in a Big God who is able to handle my mistakes and if I’ve gone off track, well, God is big enough to let me know that, too.
My loyalty is not to my popularity. My loyalty is to knowing myself.
And who I am is ever changing. Growing and changing is scary but I ask God for the courage to change.
There are many things I cannot change and I acknowledge them:
I cannot change others, save others or wait for others to change before I change myself.
I can’t wait for others to take care of themselves before I take care of myself.
I can’t wait for circumstances to change before I take ownership of my own happiness.
I can’t wait for others to recognize my talent before I start exercising my gifts.
I can’t wait for someone to rescue me before I save myself.
I can’t wait for others to join me before I embark on the journey.
I believe in having fun. I don’t take myself too seriously.
I trust myself to make the decisions that are best for me and my family without seeking prior approval from others.
I make an effort to own my side of the blogosphere and keep it pretty.
My side of the blogosphere is damn awesome and I don’t need to let batsh*t crazy come crap all over my pretty lawn.
When I protect myself, I protect you. When I don’t waste my time, I don’t waste yours, either.
When I refuse to engage the crazy, I prevent the spreading of crazy.
I see what I see and I say what I see.
I am a woman of valor.
I believe in freedom.
When I was growing up, the Christian misogynist wore a suit and tie, poured on enough cologne to slay an elephant and toted a Bible the size of an encyclopedia. This pastor boomed Biblical pronouncements from the pulpit and quoted lots of Scripture to defend his abusive, anti-woman teachings.
You know, I kinda miss the Old School Misogynist. At least he was obvious. At least he didn’t pretend to be all pro-woman.
These days, the Christian misogynist is far more subtle. He probably wears hip clothing and may even use feminist jargon to disguise his underlying sexism.
These are the pastors who tweet and talk endlessly about their smokin’ hot wives. These are the “Christian comedians” who write dating manifestos about why Christian “girls” don’t have boyfriends. Apparently, reading your Bible at Starbucks is NOT attractive to these men. Maybe you should try wearing white shorts to a prayer meeting.
What makes me ill is that these are men are my peers. These guys are not my Dad’s age. These guys are not my grandfather. These men should know better.
It’s even more discouraging when you call their views offensive only to be told by their yes-men, “Hey, can’t you take a joke?”
This is the New Misogyny: when huge bloggers like Jon Acuff claim that sexist jokes about women help “clear away the clutter of Christianity so we can see the beauty of Christ.”
This is the New Misogyny: when bestselling Christian authors tell “girls” how to live a better love story by being a supporting character in a story a man is writing. [Note: Don Miller took down that post, but I never heard him recant his harmful view of women.]
This is the New Misogyny: when Prodigal magazine publishes sexist articles under the guise of satire and “truth telling.” Oh, yes. John B. Crist believes his sexist humor is excusable because he’s JUST TELLING THE TRUTH.
[Note: Prodigal removed that post w/o explanation]
This is the New Misogyny: when a popular author of many books on Christian ministry and spirituality asks women why they don’t comment on his blog and then he dismisses their answers.
This is the New Misogyny: when a woman engaging theology blogs under a male pseudonym is treated with greater respect than when she comments as her female persona.
This is the New Misogyny: when “Biblical Marriagists” claim they’re empowering women while defending the very theology that oppresses them.
You guys. What is happening, here?
It’s not that I doubt the sincerity of all these Christians. In fact, it’s their sincerity which troubles me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my years in an abusive church, it’s that the most dangerous abuse apologetic comes from a sincere heart and good intentions.
And the most subtle form of spiritual abuse is cloaked in messages of empowerment.
I guess when you’re hip and sincere, nobody suspects you of misogyny. You can tell the same lies about women that have been told for thousands of years and all anybody will see is the sincerity of your heart and your precious nerd glasses.
*due to an anti-feminist website sending an influx of trolling commenters, comments for this post are now closed.*
I gave everything I had to the first two drafts of my book. And now, I must give more. This has shattered me. Because it is true. I must give more.
And yet, giving more is not what I thought it was. Giving more actually means letting go more. Loosening more. Freeing myself more. I’m still hanging on. I’m still second-guessing. I’m still afraid. I’m still writing in half-measures. The first draft was all fight and victory. The second draft was all victim and being acted upon. The third draft is a marriage between victor and victim. The third draft erases the dichotomies and allows all of it to co-exist together: the rage, the victory, the soulfulness, the sorrow, disappointment, the pain and joy.
The third draft requires nothing less than everything.
I am reminded that nothing less than everything is also what love is. A true, fully splendored love is not a love of half-measures. It is not only victor. It is not only conquest. Love is also a servant. Love is also gentleness, surrender, receiving, giving.
I went to bed for two straight days. I was depressed as hell. I tore down parts of my blog, slashed and wailed and screamed. I have been keeping back half my heart from you. And I don’t want to give it because I know what will happen: rejection.
Yes, rejection. This is love’s risk: rejection. That I will hand you my vulnerable, breakable heart and you will stamp it out on the ground. Or, maybe you’ll accept it, but I’m still scared because: I HAVE REJECTED OTHERS’ HEARTS.
Oh, God! I am part of this Internet culture that despises and mocks and finds fault and blames and accuses and is So Very Outraged. I am the chief of all rejecters!
I lay in bed and I wept for my sins. How did I come to this place? How did I come to be the arbiter of grace, the gatekeeper of grace, the decider of who and who should NOT be the recipient of grace?
I have come to this place because I have built a habit of self-righteousness, a habit of outrage that is, actually, a habit of cowardice. How many times have I taken the cheap shot? How many times have I engaged in the rank futility of online arguments? How many times have I exchanged the open-hearted grace of Christ for the quick thrill of Being Right?
This is my sin.
And it has shown up in my book. I am incapable of writing a book that is complex and poignant and transformative because I rely on HASTE. My writing instincts have been shaped by blogging. I know how to go for the gut appeal, the conversation-starter, the provocation.
But this does not work in books. At least, not in the kind of book I really need to write.
I must wean myself off the addiction to feedback, approval, going viral, punchy tweets. I must SLOW DOWN in order to really give.
I must give nothing less than everything.
I have all these fears: you will leave, you will forget me, you will walk away, I will become irrelevant, I will miss an opportunity, I will miss my deadline, people will not be reading books by the time mine is done (yes! I’ve actually thought that).
And then I look at these fears and see them for what they really are: egocentric. It’s all about me. And all about MY career. And MY ideas of what it should be. And MY hopes to be like ___________(fill in the blank great writer).
I have to give up. Again. It’s a daily thing, this giving up. This is what faith is. It is a giving up. A letting go of outcomes, of plans, of hopes and dreams. It is a letting go of haste and hurry and convenience. It is a letting go of thinking it was All Up To Me.
It is a letting go of thinking that I can just hammer this thing out and produce a brilliant manuscript because I AM A GIFTED WRITER.
I am a sprinter (bloggers usually are) but writing a book is a marathon. If I’m going to make the transition to truly writing a book I can be proud of, I have to let go of blogging. I really do. I’m not going to make any hard and fast rules, here. But blogging is short-form writing and what I’m trying to do right now is long-form writing.
Two drafts later I realize I SUCK AT LONG FORM.
But! There is hope! Because I’ve already reworked the first four chapters and I have to say: they are pretty kickass. My editor agrees.
If I can give nothing less than everything, then the book I will put into your hands will be a damn good book. I will serve you, the reader, by giving nothing less than everything.
I will serve you and I will risk giving you my broken, vulnerable, breakable heart.
Because that’s what love is. Love gives nothing less than everything.
There is a price to pay. It’s called letting go.
This is me.
This is me casting myself upon nothing less than the mercy of God.
kyrie eleison, christe eleison.
Got an email this morning letting me know I made the spring edition of “Top 200 Ministry Blogs.” I came in at #82. They misspelled my name, though. My name is Elizabeth Esther, not Ester. Well, I guess that’s better than being called by my usual name: Elizabeth Heretic. (update: just got another email saying they’ll fix the typo within the next day).
This is my first time making ANY kind of list, so that’s sorta cool. But it also feels weird. There are only 5 women in the top 100, including me. That feels like a skewed ranking system. There are so MANY wonderful women blogging about ministry and theology.
Is writing and talking about theology still primarily the jurisdiction of men, if only because they are rewarded and recognized for it far more frequently than women? It feels that way.
[Sidebar: OMG. I just used the word "feel" three times. NO WONDER I DIDN'T MAKE TOP 50! ]
But things are changing. And I’m grateful for that. YOU are part of this change. So, thanks for reading, friends. We are becoming change together.
NUMBER 82, people! WHAT UP.
A couple days ago, I was sad about the loss of my scrapbooking hobby. Today, I had another thought.
I stopped scrapbooking because I started telling my own story.
In the scrapbooks, I told my children’s stories. I told our family story. Everything was pretty and organized. I highlighted all the precious memories.
Scrapbooking was the first thing I did after leaving the cult of my childhood. Scrapbooking was a way for me to build a new family identity–one that was our very own, separate from the church.
Scrapbooking was my doorway to writing. The first blogs I read were scrapbooking blogs. I followed Ali Edwards religiously. I read scrapbooking magazines. I was fascinated by the idea of creating a beautiful story with words and pictures.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was suffering from PTSD. Leaving the cult really rocked my world. But scrapbooking was my therapy. It soothed me. It made me happy. I loved creating beauty with my hands. I especially loved the storytelling. And my children loved seeing the books I created for them.
Yes, I stopped scrapbooking but I didn’t stop storytelling. I started a blog thinking it would just be about my kids and scrapbooking. Instead, it became my story. I found my voice. I found my courage.
The more I wrote, the less fearful I felt. The more I opened up, the more others opened to me. I fell in love with blogging. I fell in love with this community. I found Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey and Jennifer Fulwiler and Ann Voskamp. I found Sarah Mae and Sarah Markley. I found Kristen Howerton and Suzanne Broughton.
I found myself.
Slowly, I began to realize that writing was my true calling. Writing–especially with emotional honesty–was the gift I’d been given. I secretly dreamed of writing a book.
I stopped scrapbooking because I started following my dream.
I still plan on preserving our family memories but I want to find an easier way. Maybe a pretty box for each child? Maybe I can fill it with simple photo albums and mementos?
I’ll find a way. I know I will.
I don’t know about you, but I messed up a lot in 2012.
Last night I couldn’t fall asleep and I was lying there thinking about all the ways I screwed up, missed opportunities or settled for second-best. I was nearly overcome with regret. That regret threatened to drown all the success I’ve had this year.
I finally drifted off to sleep and when I woke up today, I remembered something my editor told me: God not only gives us second chances, He also gives us Second Firsts.
“Second Firsts” is the anti-thesis of “Second Best.” Our human economy tells us we’re all competing for a limited supply of ‘firsts.’ But God isn’t bound by human economics, is He? A truly good, limitless God is capable of giving His children second chances and second firsts–no matter how badly we’ve screwed it up.
I love the idea of Second Firsts. It gives me that little thrill of possibility. It’s a pure shot of hope. It gives me a more expansive view of God.
Second Firsts is my word for 2013. Or, rather, it’s my driving idea, my Prime Mover, my catalyst, my springboard.
Last year, I took the phrase Relentless Optimism to heart. I can honestly report that living my life with relentless optimism resulted in a huge mental shift, which led to a tangibly positive result in my life. For example, I stuck with an exercise regimen for the WHOLE YEAR. I ran two 5ks, lost 12 lbs and felt better than I did at 21.
This year, I’m drawing close to the idea of Second Firsts. I believe that God is capable of redeeming things in my life far beyond my expectations. I don’t want to live my life narrowly. I want to live with open arms and open heart.
I believe that with God there are no leftovers. A good Father knows how to give good gifts. I want to live from that place. I believe all is redeemed. I believe God makes all things beautiful.
I can’t wait to see the Second-Firsts that will happen in my life this year!
Do you have a word or phrase for 2013? Share with me!
And be sure to check out the One Word 365 community.