Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The violence that erupted at the hands of an angry, entitled individual in California last week is disturbing. We cannot know what caused him to act this way, but the Twitter response #YesAllWomen has been both heartbreaking and important, as it sheds light on the prevalent mentality that men have a right to women's bodies.

And, so I bring you my hash tag here, to the blog, because it was simply too much to choose from before posting to Twitter.

#YesAllWomen because I can name four close friends who were raped, and none of the rapists were held accountable.

#YesAllWomen because in the workplace, a women who is aggressive and business-like is called a b*tch, while her male counterpart is called a leader.

#YesAllWomen because you can be called "too sensitive" for calling out sexual harassment in the workplace and find yourself out of work, while the offender gets promoted.

#YesAllWomen because in my church growing up, I was taught that women were responsible for men's lustful thoughts by not dressing modestly enough.

#YesAllWomen because in my church growing up, a female couldn't so much as read the announcements, since women couldn't have "authority" over men.

#YesAllWomen because it wasn't until I taught a self-defense class in college that I realized what my parents did to me was physical abuse.

#YesAllWomen because to this day, my father believes he is my "authority" because I am unmarried.

#YesAllWomen because birth control pills are a class one carcinogen, and we are fed them like candy by ignorant doctors.

#YesAllWomen because every boss I've ever had has been a white male.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I've been reading a lot of books in preparation for marriage (and I read a lot in general), but it occurred to me that as much as I desire a great marriage and worry about things and think about our future married life together, I don't consistently pray for my fiance.

Wait, what?

Yeah, for real.

I realized that I tend to pray when I'm in church, whether for mass or eucharistic adoration.  I tended to go to adoration a LOT more last year before my new workout routine took the place of that on my daily commute this year, and during the rest of the day/week, I tend to pray in desperate moments or occasionally in moments of thanksgiving.  I might offer up a halfhearted Our Father as I drift off to sleep, and I often listen to religious broadcasting (podcasts, radio, etc.), but basically, my prayer life sucks.

I have operated under the assumption that G-d knows my heart, less is more, and that I keep G-d in my mind and heart without having a set schedule/routine of prayer.  I guess I thought it was working for me.  

But, lately, I started to realize that maybe that's not the best way.  I'm not a "spiritual, but not religious" type. I'm spiritual and religious.  I see the value in religion, and I love my Catholic faith.  In other areas of my life, it doesn't work for me to have zero structure.  I have to plan when and how I work out in order to exercise at all.  I have to set an alarm clock to get up and go to work.  I plan each week and put it on my calendar that I will go to mass.  Even my fiance and I set regular date nights and regular "work on the relationship" nights (different from dates).  I plan and cook my meals for the week in advance so I'm encouraged to make healthy choices.  So, why did prayer slip into the nebulous area of self-governance?  Or an internal matter of the heart only?

I think I still have a lot of residual rebellion.  Part of it is my prideful and selfish nature.  Part of it is the inherent rebellion of Protestantism that remains (no offense to Protestants, this is just something I'm still unraveling in my own experience).  I feel like I can take matters into my own hands and be just as well off.  I feel like I can be my own authority and be great.  I feel like my wisdom outweighs the wisdom of 2,000 years of Church wisdom and authority from Christ Himself.  And (news flash), it doesn't compare.

It is important and necessary to have a personal relationship with G-d, but that does not mean a relationship without structure, format, or follow-through.  A relationship of simply good intentions really doesn't do much in the "real world," and I doubt it does much in the spiritual realm either.  I love the liturgy of the Church.  Why am I so reluctant to apply some liturgy/structure/a plan to my own prayer life?

Well, after reading some marriage preparation books and thinking about all this stuff, after surviving yet another mediocre Lenten season, I have become really convicted and aware of how much I do not pray for my fiance.  I have all these hopes, fears, expectations, worries.  They come through my mind as fleeting thoughts or disastrous, panicky thoughts.  I might pray in that moment, but why am I not consistently praying for him?  The Bible talks about "when you pray and fast", not "if you pray and fast..."

So, I really believe the Holy Spirit is revealing to me that I am called to pray for my future husband.  Not in a fleeting, passing, mediocre way, but in an intentional, consistent way.  In fact, I need to fast and pray for our marriage, and for other needs of the world and my family.  The more I realize the self-sacrificing love that marriage requires of me and my fiance, I am convinced that is the life I am called to, but I am also terrified.  When I see threats to our relationship, whether internal or external, I realize that I could have done more on my part to pray for him and us, not just put out a fire as it happens or become overtaken with anxiety.  I know that prayer isn't a magic fix for everything, but I do believe it works.  It is powerful.  It involves G-d, not just me.  And at the very least, I can die a little bit to myself as I pray for these intentions.

So, I may have been Catholic now for eight years, but I'm just now figuring out that maybe I need to pray in a more Catholic way.  I've got a prayer book, and I may buy a Liturgy of the Hours book (we will see how well this goes first before I take that leap).  But each day, I'm going to say prayers - written prayers by others, or reading the Bible in the form of Psalms or Proverbs as prayer.  I'm going to say prayers in the morning and at night.  I'm going to mention my needs, intentions, and requests by name, and I'm going to fast each week for our marriage.  Fridays, perhaps?

I am excited about this because I know it's the right thing to do.  I'm also a little worried that I'm behind.  Why didn't I think of this already?  Why haven't I been doing this since before we even dated, or since we got engaged?  I'm too selfish to do this on my own.  It's taken years for G-d to make me aware of this area of neglect.  I want to be a supportive wife, and one way I can do this is try pray, pray, pray for my husband and marriage.  (And other needs.)

It's been a journey with G-d.  While I've been Catholic now for about eight years, it wasn't until I began going to the sacrament of reconciliation consistently and also until I stopped committing mortal sin consistently that I have finally heard G-d's voice in my life and grown deeper and deeper.  I still have a long way to go, but staying close to G-d in the sacraments has finally gotten through to me.  Confession is powerful.  It has brought more grace to me than anything.  Once I got honest and agreed with G-d about what is wrong and what is right, doing the right thing became so much easier because I had the grace to do it and I had confessed my sins.  More on that another time.

Pray on!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Benefits of Fundamentalism – Part I

Just writing the title of this post is enough to make me twitch a little bit.  Benefits, you say?  Benefits of THAT?  That which I have been through and lived to tell the tale?  Yes.  Benefits.

You see, it wasn’t just fundamentalism I grew up with, it was Calvinism, fundamentalism, abuse, being a pastor’s kid, and, as my therapist has helped me recently see, mental illness.  If all of that sounds overwhelming and toxic, believe me, it was.  It has taken decades to get to the point of untangling the web of exactly what we were dealing with.  However, there are some things that happen to me, and I think, if it weren’t for my background, I couldn’t have done that.  Yes, there are some benefits to fundamentalism.  Here they are, in no particular order, and with caveats thrown in for good measure:

1) The ability to put with discomfort, pain, awkwardness, etc. for FAR too long.  (Caveat – this is not always a benefit.  This ability has also allowed me to put up with abusive relationships or inappropriate situations because that was “normal” to my messed-up mind.)  However, all things being equal, I am able to live in uncomfortable circumstances and just DEAL.  Just deal with it, live with it, function as if nothing is wrong.  This is not some valiant self-sacrificing/taking up your cross type of martyrdom, this is just a leftover coping mechanism to the sh*tstorm that constantly swirled as a child.  Ignoring, carrying on, and enduring whatever pain may come was basically the only choice I had.  Now days, I can take a shot like a champ, I can endure pain without medication far longer than I actually should, I can power through a situation and do without certain luxuries, and I can ignore huge giant red flags and warning signs and carry on as if it were the best of times.  Again, this is not necessarily healthy, but every now and then, you *do* have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and just get through something.  Fundamentalism helped me do that, a little too well.    

2) The ability to talk to a huge variety of people.  Our church was a magnet for freaks and geeks, no offense to those in attendance (myself included).  We took pride in not being “mainstream” because, of course, none of those “mainstream” churches had the real truth.  They were just Baptists, Methodists, etc. going through the motions of their man-made traditions each Sunday.  They probably weren’t “real Christians,” didn’t know or read the Bible.  They probably just went there because their parents or grandparents went there, or because it was the closest church to their house.  Not out of conviction, like us.  And don’t even get me started on those Catholics.  Anyway, so when your church is the “frozen chosen,” “all white and uptight” community of “true believers” (lots of “ “, sorry), and you believe that you are the ONLY way, you tend to attract those on the fringes of society or rejected by the same mainstream that you reject – single parents, recovering addicts, the extremely poor, socially awkward, conspiracy theorist types – who are looking for a place to belong, who are looking for something to latch onto.  There is nothing wrong with ANY of those labels I just listed.  In fact, I hate to even define them.  Christ draws (and His Church should draw) all these people to himself.  But, when the Savior and the Church you’re seeking for healing just gets you stuck in a different way that the wounds that got you there, that’s not true freedom.  In my opinion, that’s what our fundamentalism did for these people – a whole lot of nothing.  Anyway, all that to say, Sundays (or any time we were in church) were a time in which we were forced to speak to these awkward people with very different experiences than our own.  There were very few kids our age.  (The ones that were there eventually left due to wanting a youth group or to minute doctrinal squabbles between the church and their parents).  There were very few people that were highly educated.  We had to speak with adults in complete sentences, we learned not to bat an eye at people’s weird quirks or whatever may be brought up in conversation.  We learned that these same interesting individuals may even be sharing the feast with us at the next major holiday, so it’s best to pretend that everything is great and normal.  Now, by nature, I’m an extreme introvert.  But, growing up, I was forced to make conversation with all types of people, mostly adults.  As much as I *hated* it at the time, I’m able now to try to relate to almost anyone I meet.  I’m not saying I’m great at it.  Small talk is still against my nature, but I have learned over the years that others are sometimes just as uncomfortable, and it’s usually best to try to make them feel welcome without forced conversation or prying, but with a few statements that reach out to them.  I also get annoyed at other introverts who can't get over themselves or come out of the damn shell for just one moment and make conversation.  So, overall, fundamentalism for the win.  I learned to relate to freaks and geeks.

3)  The show must go on.  10,000 caveats again.  When you’re dealing with parents for whom outward appearances are everything, this gets really out of whack really fast.  Now, I went into a career in the performing arts for a while, and this is the cardinal rule of performing.  The show must go on.  So, anything from a little rain on your commute to the electricity going out in the middle of a show, or any number of disasters on stage or in real life, always remember, the show must go on - preferably with a smile as if nothing phased you.  This is closely related to #1.  Deal with it, no complaining, and act like nothing’s wrong.  Now, again, this is not always healthy.  It can lead to making you callous or cold to the sufferings of others.  It can put you in dangerous situations because you think you *have* to get to work, regardless of the risks or that you *have* to finish X, Y, Z tasks regardless of the toll they might take on your health.  It can make you not take concerns, pains, or hardships seriously and not listen to yourself or your instincts.  But, every now and then, that ability to carry on comes in handy, just take it with a giant boulder of salt.  

So, I've come up with three potential benefits of fundamentalism.  I'm sure there are more, and I'm sure these things are just as much a warning about fundamentalism as they are a benefit of fundamentalism.  In my effort to see my childhood with honesty - I am listing the good along with the bad.  Lord knows I've analyzed and rehearsed the bad in my mind for YEARS.  I also need to see that there were some benefits.