Two Prayerful Songs

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As a singer, I find my prayers often come out best as songs. Music adds a dimension of the soul words and emotions cannot. These two songs come to mind the most when I’m trying to express my heart to God.

The other day found me flopped on the couch, discouraged, depressed, and searching for proper Christian emotions. I ended up singing “Worn” as a prayer (again). Tenth Avenue North sings of a Christianity that resonates with me. So basic white evangelical, I know, but I love them.

I’m tired, I’m worn, my heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing.
I’ve made mistakes, I’ve let my hope fail.
My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world.


When I’m not humming “Worn” to myself, I’m constantly singing Audrey Assad’s “I Shall Not Want.” This song gently reminds me that all my sin comes from fear, hurt, and a desire for wholeness. It targets my most besetting sins and my deepest pain. I sing it as a confession, a comfort, and a battle-cry all at once.

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me, O God!

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me, O God!


Do you have any “go-to” songs you sing as prayers?

// A prayer and a book for when you don’t feel the least bit spiritual

PC: Audrey Assad from “I Shall Not Want (Live from RELEVANT)”

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When to Exit a Discussion

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The other day I got some Facebook feedback on my post, “Maybe Men’s Problem with Christianity Is Masculinity.” One man grasped my point and thanked me for it. Another man rather sarcastically and bluntly questioned me, eventually mocking me and mansplaining how ignorant I was of the basic issues and church history. As a Christian studies major, I LOLed, ended the conversation with a cheerful, “Well, okay then. (smiley),” and went on with my day.

It’s always a gamble, starting an internet conversation. Sometimes, even an originally hostile conversation can turn into something productive, with both parties walking away enlightened. And sometimes, things go south really, really fast.

I learned a little trick to discover if a conversation, even with a slightly hostile tone, is worth continuing: If he starts explaining or questioning your motives, leave now.

It’s called manipulation, and it’s not productive.

“You’re just saying that because you’re ignorant.”

“If you really understood the historical context of this….”

“You clearly don’t have the Spirit of God in you.”

“You’re just bitter.”

Everyone, on all sides of all issues, has probably done this at one time or another — especially on the internet.

The situation often goes like this. The manipulator will ask you a question or make a statement, inviting your response. Your conversation will seem fairly normal, he asking clarifying questions, you explaining your position, maybe even reaching some sort of civil understanding or disagreement, and then bam, he hits you with a load of you-statements and opinions about your character, intelligence, spirituality — your motives, basically.

He doesn’t want to talk about the gender crisis in the church or offer true help and guidance for your doubts. He just wants you to know why you’re really feeling, thinking, and believing the way you do. He wants to enlighten you of your own ungodly or bigoted motives. You clearly have no self-awareness, but fortunately, he can read you like a book.

For what end? I’m not sure. I just know, personally, it’s easier to tear someone down than engage in conversation with them. It’s easier to believe that everyone who holds differing viewpoints is stupid and immoral and rude and misguided than to hear and understand what those people have to say.

But whatever his true motive, it’s prudent to just walk away from someone accosting your motives. That conversation won’t go anywhere. Don’t defend yourself or throw a zinging insult in retreat. Just close the conversation and move on with your life. The only way to beat manipulators at their own game is walking away, completely unscathed by their assessment of you.

Have you run into these manipulators? How did you handle them?

// More advice on dealing with obnoxious people

Praise She Can’t Deny

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I rue the day somebody told me I was the best — the best singer, writer, young Christian they knew, and just an all around awesome girl. When I got to college, I lost my reputation as the best at anything — and along with it, all of my self-worth.

At college, praise made me cringe because everyday moments and other awesome people made me feel like a loser. I’m smart? Lolz. I use Wikipedia for research sometimes. I’m such an inspirational person? You wouldn’t say that if you really knew me. I’m kind? I just bit my boyfriend’s head off two seconds ago. I dress cute? Dude, I wore leggings all of last week. The same pair. 

You’ve probably experienced it too, when somebody gives you a sweeping praise: “You’re so [insert any adjective].” Your heart sinks. You protest. You never believe it. You feel awkward: Do I accept this lie, or do I set them straight and look like an insecure wimp? Oh, wait, I am an insecure wimp. Thanks for reminding me. Now I feel awful. 

All of this, because nice people give nice compliments.

We all know the sting of poorly-given criticism, but we don’t recognize the destruction of poorly-given praise.

The latter can hook us on perfectionism or people-pleasing, social drugs that sap self-worth faster than anything. More praise, please. Tell me more about how good I am, how wonderful I am, lie to me, anything to hide the pain.

Praise wears off more quickly as you get older and make more and more mistakes, and then you’re stuck going into the shock of facing a world without people’s approval, or you start asking your friends for canned assurances of your greatness. How idiotic did I look? You still love me? Do you like me too? 

Praises like “I’m so proud of you” link our accomplishments to other people’s pleasure, not our own self-esteem. “You’re so good” gives us a vague image we must maintain (or make up) to feel good about ourselves. “You’re the best” sustains our self-worth until that person who’s inevitably better than us just crushes our little egos. It sparks jealousy, resentment, and meltdowns every time someone does something better than us.

We’ve seen it. We’ve done it. It’s ugly.

It’s impossible to form a healthy, independent sense of self when we feel bound by people’s evaluations, even positive ones.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, in How to Talk So Kids Can Learn (p.s. every parent, teacher, and person alive should read this book), insist praise ought to be descriptive, not evaluative.

When your friend finishes a piano recital, nix the gushing, “You were so good!” and say, “You could tell how much work and joy you put into learning and performing that piece.”

When your little sister shoves yet another scribbled picture in your face, don’t beam, “I love it! You’re such an amazing artist!” Say, “The colors make this picture pop! It’s kind of you to give me this picture!”

When your friend loses her volleyball match, don’t lie and say, “You were perfect!” Say, “Sure, you messed up the last set, but dude, that one dig you got in the second match? That took guts!”

No evaluation. No comparing. No good, better, or best. Just straight up description of what stood out to you.

Descriptive praise takes more thought. It shows you are engaged in the other’s life. It doesn’t place any burdens on her to maintain her “perfection” throughout every moment of her life. Rather, it directs her to positively evaluate her accomplishments on her own: “I really did work hard on this piece. I’m really good at picking colors! I really did make an epic dig.”

Positive self-evaluation sticks. The next time she feels down about her game or her drawing, she can remember a time she did something well — objectively.

And best of all, when you lay out the facts, she can’t deny it. No more awkward moments.

How Headship Complicates Marriage

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Out of all the patriarchal and complementarian wife material I read, I don’t remember reading much about any of the actual challenges I face or the most helpful solutions I use in my marriage today.

I read little about good communication, lots about keeping a happy smile on your face when hubby comes home. I didn’t hear about conflict resolution that much, aside from learning to swallow your pride when hubby makes a stupid decision. I didn’t know about the dynamics of individual personality, just the dynamics of stereotyped gender roles. I never heard the words “consent” or “mutual” until recently.

I don’t think that’s accidental.

When you’re busy trying to impose an artificial structure on something organic, when you focus on something tangential or even harmful to real marriage, you gloss over all the real problems and solutions.

I mean, of course, the patriarchal and complementarian obsession with male headship as a formula for marital success.

Let me point out that many complementarians focus on the main directive of Ephesians 5: loving, laying down one’s life, and seeking unity above all. Even if they accept an idea of male headship, they encourage men to love as the primary objective of that headship. Those complementarians understand marriage and basic exegesis. Good on them.

But the vast majority of complementarians, for better or worse, focus on a descriptive clause (“the husband is the head of the wife”) and make it the main action verb, the takeaway, the “go and do this” for husbands. They stress that this descriptive clause makes or breaks a marriage, that male headship is essential to a happy marriage, that it, combined with the wife’s unconditional submission, solves or prevents most of today’s marriage problems.

This leads to abuse, at worst, and at best, complicates marriage.

Male headship is entirely unnecessary to a happy marriage. Any sort of hierarchy in an intimate relationship is entirely unnecessary. The only vaguely convincing reason complementarians give for the necessity of headship is when husband and wife can’t come to an agreement and somebody needs to be the tiebreaker.

When somebody argues this, I want to peer at them and say, Have you never tried picking out a movie with siblings? Did you not grow up debating the merits of every movie in your movie cabinet, parsing the moods and opinions of eight other immature, selfish people, and keeping in mind that three-year-olds can’t watch most of the movies your heart desires? 

In every case, with more people, more subjectivity, and more nuance, we all came to a compromise.

I imagine the ludicrousness of my brother standing up and saying, “Well, I, as male, have heard all of your opinions, which I value, but we’re going to go with mine, because I decided it was the best.” Everyone would have called that out for what it is — presumption, pride, stupidity — even if it was our oldest brother trying to call the shots.

I can only imagine this, because never, in my life of big or little decision-making, did anyone consider this a good idea, much less a necessity, for problem solving or the relationship itself.

In my egalitarian marriage, Erich and I make all sorts of mutual decisions that initially started as our biggest spats, problems we thought would break us, problems with no immediate compromise. Making those tough decisions together, without giving either of us the final say, forced us to mature and love in unforeseen ways — you know, the point of marriage.

Intimate relationships don’t need hierarchy. They need understanding, patience, and lots of time and energy to come to an acceptable compromise.

Many women in complementarian marriages, even those who voluntarily grant their husbands the right to exercise veto power in decision-making, instinctively feel the unfairness and betrayal of intimacy when their marriage becomes more about the husband’s headship and less about love, trust, and good communication.

“Whenever he made a final decision that disagreed with my opinion, I cried,” women tell me. “I know he’s doing it for our good, but I feel like I’m making all the sacrifices in the relationship and I have no control over my future.”

“I cried all the time when I first learned to submit,” one complementarian said in the course of trying to convince me of “Biblical headship.”

I am appalled at the number of crying complementarian wives and the inefficacy of their tears to signal even to themselves that something’s badly off about this “Biblical marriage advice.”

These are not women in abusive or even dysfunctional relationships — just normal complementarian women with normal complementarian husbands who aren’t purposefully going out of their way to hurt their wives.

This pain and sorrow stem from relying on male headship and female submission to arbitrate the relationship.

A complementarian gloss on these women’s pain is, “Well, she needs to submit more.” Any competent marriage counselor will tell you, “No, they need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better solution.”

I fear many complementarians miss everyday moments to grow in basic relationship skills because they are forever talking about this binary of submit more and lead more, be more masculine, more feminine, be more entrenched in distinct roles, and then your complicated relationships will work

In reality, the couples need to take a Gottman class. They need to read some books on good communication. They need to get marriage counseling. They need to get real, tangible help and real, practical solutions beyond the shaming advice to be more of a leader and more of a follower.

This is a marriage, allegedly the most intimate relationship on earth, not a government system.

Good communication skills will solve problems — not the male veto. Speaking exactly what’s on one’s mind will result in greater intimacy — not tiptoeing around the male ego. Pushing back against a husband’s normal selfishness and pride will result in sanctification — not giving him the final say over everything. Reaching a compromise acceptable to both parties will strengthen the marital bond — not stopping the conversation short and making a decision, anyway.

When men are told to love and sacrifice for their wives but also be the man, the leader, and the dude with the power over his wife, that complicates marriage.

When women are told to be free, open, and intimate with their husbands but also shut up and put up once he gives the final word, that complicates marriage.

When spouses must worry about maintaining their “masculinity” and “femininity,” their roles and duties, in addition to addressing their individual and collective sins and hurts, that complicates marriage.

When spouses must worry about maintaining a structure easily tilted towards selfishness or abusethat complicates marriage.

Marriage, as I’ve found, is hard enough without unnecessary, harmful structures, expectations, and roles. Whatever is meant by headship in Scripture, I think it’s prudent to err on the side of loving, loving, loving unconditionally, mutually submitting to one another out of love for Christ.

Teaching Spirituality to Kids

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What was your experience with Christian spirituality as a child? When I was a kid, I thought having a relationship with Jesus meant sharing the gospel with my friends and never sinning. Once, I decided to not sin the entire day. I was nice and good and didn’t get into trouble once…and then decided it was too much work and never tried it again.

When I got older, I thought having a relationship with Jesus meant learning, using, and sharing the “Christian worldview” (i.e., all the opinions a certain group of Christians have about contemporary issues).

Of course, I knew that’s not what a relationship with Jesus was, and everybody knew that’s not what a relationship was, and we all acted like it was, anyway. I spent my whole life frustrated with the lack of actual spiritual formation in much of Protestantism. “Read your Bible and pray” was the clearest directive, but unhelpful, because nobody clarified what that meant or how that affected your spirituality. Protestant spirituality was a constant battle between head knowledge and emotionalism.

As I’m about to teach a class of kindergartners in a few weeks, I’m thinking hard about how I want to present spirituality to them.

It started with a mediocre Bible curriculum. My biggest complaint with it was that it seemed just like a Sunday school curriculum — the highest of insults. Sunday school curriculum relies on flannel boards and puppets, things I don’t like. They use boring worksheets and stilted storytelling language. You never know whether to read directly out of the curriculum, make it up as you go along, or read it straight out of the King James Bible. What do you want from me, curriculum?

Worst of all, they retell the same stories, with the same lessons, over and over and over again. As a children’s church worker, I always felt compelled to come up with the craziest illustrations and skits to convince the kids Bible lessons weren’t as boring as we all knew them to be — and I wasn’t doing that five days a week for two semesters.

I figured out why these Bible lessons were boring: they all follow the same recipe for disaster. First, interrupt the story at every other sentence to hammer home that the Bible is true and God is good and was Jonah obeying God? Nooo. Second, interrupt the sentence to explain what “Ebenezer” or “saith” means. Third, moralize the story and emphasize obedience.

Voila! You’ve killed the Bible.

Old Testament literature in particular fascinates me, and I felt it intellectually dishonest and spiritually shallow to teach the Bible as if it was one long repetition of, “Obey God, obey your parents, disobedience is sin, so obey.”

The Bible is fabulous literature. It tells an amazing story about God’s faithfulness. For part of the year, I’m ditching the Bible curriculum for Sally Lloyd-Jones’s The Jesus Storybook Bible. We’re going to talk about it like it’s one of our read alouds, not a book of morals or systematic theology.

Basically, I want to introduce students to God and his scheme of redemption, and that grand narrative sweep them up into a relationship with him, rather than an altar call.

But I’m most excited about our Mondays. We’ll learn about a foreign country and the children who live in it, and then we’ll pray all week for a particular child in poverty.

When I taught preschool to my youngest siblings, they loved praying for our Compassion International child, Manda.

“Dear God,” they would pray, eyes squeezed shut, “please help Manda to get a roof and milk.”

It melted my heart to see kids, only two- and four-years-old, excited about praying for someone in need. (We prayed for Grandpa’s bad back and Caroline’s sore thumb and Mr. So and So’s friends friend who needed a job, too. We prayed about everything.) That’s the love of Jesus, right there. That’s loving the least of these. That, more than any Bible knowledge, will keep them on the straight and narrow.

Love, radical love, is the nature of God, and Christian spirituality is about becoming like God. I will encourage love, through prayer and human interaction, as the central tenet in our kindergarten spiritual formation.

How did you learn about Christian spirituality? How would you go about communicating that with kids, your own or the Sunday school crowd?

Maybe Men’s Problem with Christianity Is Masculinity

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The Art of Manliness is publishing a series on Christianity and masculinity (here and here). I wrote my senior thesis on the question of gender and spirituality, particularly as it relates to the so-called “feminization” of the church, and then I wrote a long Facebook comment about it, so, obviously, I’m qualified to share my opinion.

To get you up to speed, there is a crisis (again) of men failing to come to church because the church is too “feminine.” Men aren’t interested in touchy-feely small groups and ooey-gooey worship songs. Women (apparently) are. Therefore, men don’t come to church because it’s too feminine, and that’s a problem.

Of course, I sympathize. Singing “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss” might make anybody squirm on a Sunday morning.

But might I point out, manly men, that a man penned those lyrics? That, in fact, many men write the most notorious of sappy worship songs? And that many male worship leaders choose to sing these songs? And that, also, many women cringe and walk out on emotion-driven sap (been there, done that)?

Despite anatomical differences that lead to hard lines between “masculine” and “feminine,” men and women share overlapping personalities, convictions, and preferences.

As an intelligent, educated, strong woman who likes her Christianity meaty, I take issue with the Art of Manliness and any other book, ministry, or blog even asking questions like, “Is Christianity Inherently Feminine?” — and then equating “feminine” with everything weak and cheesy.

Don’t blame my girlfriends and me for the ooshy-gushiness of some churches. We hate it just as much as any man.

The ultimate problem is not “feminization,” and the ultimate solution (sorry, John Piper) is not “masculinization” — especially if your idea of “masculinization” means playing more Skillet songs at the men’s conference.

The problem with sappy churches is that they’re just that — sappy, trivial, dorky, and irrelevant. And that has nothing to do with women. Women are not the problem. Sappiness is. So stop being sappy.

But there’s still a gender gap, even in churches that aren’t sappy. How do we explain that gender gap?

I hypothesize that so-called masculinity might be the problem, not femininity or Christianity itself.

When Christ walked this earth, he targeted the opposite of the culture’s masculinity — women, children, the poor, the weak, the uneducated. He did not glorify the Roman culture of masculine brutality; he said to turn the other cheek. He did not show any interest in elevating the rich and the privileged; he lifted up the downtrodden. The rich, both materially and spiritually, and the powerful were told to be as little children.

Yes, Jesus flipped tables, and one table he flipped was patriarchal and hypermasculine. No wonder women, children, and the poor — the oppressed and subservient — flocked to him, while the rich, powerful, and spiritually literate wanted him dead.

All that to say, the social constructs of gender can play a role in who goes to church when that social construct stands antithetical to Christianity and when an individual internalizes that social construct. In other words, maybe men don’t want to go to church not just because of sappy worship songs and kumbayah circles, but because core tenets of Christianity and its spirituality fly in the face of what’s considered “masculine.”

Real men don’t cry, remember? Real men are tough, proud, independent, and dominant, so maybe they don’t want to lay down their lives, turn the other cheek, or stand strong for embarrassing virtues like chastity.

The fact is, many good churches preach the gospel, hold to sound tradition and practices, and offer meaningful human interaction — and still some men won’t come. Still some men will interpret virtue as girliness.

The solution isn’t making the church into their hypermasculine image with whatever passes as “manly” today — Skillet and ripped jeans or whatever. The solution, insofar as the church has any control over this, is breaking Christianity out of these silly gender games and remaining true to the God who created both male and female in His image.

True spirituality targets humanity, not masculinity or femininity.

And you know what? I know for a fact many women dislike the sappy status quo in churches too — the women’s ministries and the dorky romance worship. Women as a whole might stay in a sappy church because they’re raising their children as single moms and need support, or they’re the primary caregivers and want to give their kids an opportunity to learn about Jesus.

Women as a whole might feel uncomfortable in a touchy-feely group situation, but more comfortable than men, because our society allows women to hug, cry, and emote in public.

Women as a whole might be more attracted to church because certain gregarious personalities tend to be associated in larger numbers of females.

Women as a whole might associate sappiness with Christianity because they’ve never seen Christianity without sap. For instance, I, as a woman, closed my eyes and raised my hands and tried to cry during worship, because I thought all spiritual people did that. I quickly abandoned that after I knew better.

But churches, as a whole, might be marketing a “hyperfeminine” spirituality to women because they think that’s what women want — even when we’re all gathered in the back after service wishing for better sermons and fewer scrapbooking retreats.

So women, as a whole, might be more inclined to attend church. But women as individuals? We attend and we leave church for a variety of reasons, many identical to men’s — we’re sinful, Christianity’s challenging, people are awkward, and we hate the worship music too.

Your thoughts?

Church Hunting

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Let me tell you about our church hunting so far.

Sunday 1. We got up for an 8 AM English service at a Serbian Orthodox cathedral. Stunning sanctuary. Literally the most gorgeous church choir. I could go on for hours in wordless rapture over how gorgeous this choir was.

But nobody was there, except maybe six people. And nobody sang anything, which is problematic, since the entire Orthodox liturgy is sung. When I turned around toward the end of the service, plenty of people had filled up the back pews — but out of the original six nobodies and the plenty of people, only four people received communion. Four.

For that, and the mumbled, long, preachy sermon, we said adios. I mean, збогом.

Sunday 2. We found ourselves at my parents’ house, several hours away from the church we wanted to visit. I set an alarm for 5:30 AM. We woke up at 7:30 AM.

The alarm never went off.

So, obviously, we just went back to sleep.

Sunday 3. We attended wedding number 4 of 6 out of state, mistakenly considered a Saturday wedding mass as a counts-for-Sunday mass, and again slept in on Sunday morning.

Sunday 4. I stripped the sheets off Erich’s face. “Let’s go, babe. You have twenty minutes.”

Accustomed to his lesiurely life of churchless Sunday mornings, Erich mumbles, “Do we have to go to church?”

I say yes, of course. What are we, heathens?

He said, “I’m going to follow the example of our Lord and rest,” then pulled the sheets over his head and went back to sleep.

Regardless, we made it to a Greek Orthodox church on time. The website advertised itself as English-speaking, and that was…somewhat true. There was most definitely Greek, Greek everywhere. And sometimes English. But mostly unintelligible speech that could be either Greek or English.

A greeter whispered instructions to me over my shoulder as I kept flipping between pages, trying to locate which of the hundreds of Kyrie eleisons we were all stumbling through.

And then the priest preached on the icon of St. John the Baptist in Chicago and how recently it began dripping healing myrrh with two chemicals a scientist couldn’t identify. Aren’t God’s miracles amazing? Erich, a chemist, was not impressed. Lord shoot me down for my unbelieving heart, but I wasn’t, either.

Since we’d visited a whopping two churches, I felt it appropriate to dissolve into an existential meltdown. How hard was it, I wanted to know, to make me okay with any of the millions of denominations that speak in the English language and don’t have dripping icons?

I texted my friend an anguished confession: I feared I would be forced to join the Catholic Church, after all. She said, “Keep visiting churches.” Meltdown over.

Sunday 5. We pulled through a maze of one-way streets to a little church smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood. We walked past a rummage estate sale.

“What’s a rummage estate sale?” Erich asked.

“Like a rummage sale,” I said, “but the creepy guy out front tricks you into going into his house.” (I made that up.)

We were late, but few people were there, anyway. A ten-year-old boy showed up later than we, made a hurried bow to the altar, and got into his altar boy robes before parading in the second procession with a candle. A third altar boy, even later, showed up out of nowhere with the cross.

In front of me, a baby clutched and unclutched his fist at me, staring. Then he broke off his mother’s beaded necklace. Beads bouncing everywhere on the hardwood, parishioners and Erich hunted them down, and the best part was, the young mother didn’t look embarrassed. The choir of young women and a tall bass kept singing.

The reader, a short, nervous woman who kept tabs on everybody who walked through the church doors, whispered the reading. Then a short African man read the same passage aloud in a language I’d never heard before — Ethiopian, maybe, if the music was any indication.

A nervous deacon gave the homily in a fast monotone, pausing to shuffle each handwritten page. It was the worst sermon delivery I’d ever heard, but Orthodox sermons are short and not the point of liturgy. Plus, I learned a thing or two about the Transfiguration.

People kept coming in — black people, white, Hispanic, Asian, head-scarfed and bare-headed, homeschool-dressed, professorial. No young men Erich’s age, I noted.

By the time we got to the Lord’s Prayer, there were enough representatives of each culture for four different people groups to recite the prayer in their own language, after we all sang it in English. I didn’t recognize any of the languages, but I almost cried, anyway.

During the Eucharist, people kept coming up to us and giving us fellowship bread, a sign of goodwill to those who cannot receive communion. They gave us smiles and kind words too. And they invited us to coffee hour (i.e., an Orthodox combination of the two things I dislike most: black coffee and socializing).

Being introverts, we declined and escaped back out to the sidewalk with the rummage estate sale sign. But I think we’ll go back next week, and we might even stay for coffee hour.

What are your funny and inspiring church hunting stories?

Staying Hydrated

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In my pursuit of being a human, I’ve started drinking the daily water requirement.

Normally I don’t drink anything. Anything. (I don’t know how I managed to stay alive this long.) But that changed after months of chronic exhaustion and a Google search that found dehydration to be a cause of fatigue, moodiness, headaches, and confusion.

So I downloaded an app called Plant Nanny (yes, I regulate my life through apps), which tracks your water intake through the growth and wilting of an adorable plant.

Meet Wibble Wobble, a dandelion (?). I planted him a few days ago. The app sends me reminders every few hours or so to give me and my plant a drink. The depressing sad face of a wilted Wibble Wobble has guilted me into drinking 62 ounces of water per day.

That’s ten times more bathroom trips than I’m used to taking, but I think this hydration thing works. I feel more energetic and focused in these past couple days than I have in the past few months.

Do you drink the proper amount of water? Does it boost your energy levels and mood? And if you’re nannying a plant too, give me a ring. Wibble Wobble needs a playmate.

How to Be a Good Wife

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For my birthday, mother-in-law gave me this snippet allegedly from the May 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly.* I read it out loud over homemade Neapolitan ice cream cake, and we all got a good laugh out of it — except Erich, who made sure to remind me when I wasn’t speaking in a “low, soothing, and pleasant voice” and is now taking advantage of his right to disappear from home whenever he wants to. (I’m kidding, in case it wasn’t obvious. I would never marry a man with 1955 expectations.)

Notes: Bold phrases = me ROTFLOL, and I am not responsible for the lack of Oxford commas.

The good wife’s guide

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
  • Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
  • Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
  • Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. [<<< Favorite line.] Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
  • Be happy to see him.
  • Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
  • Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
  • Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
  • Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
  • Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
  • Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

  • Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
  • Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
  • Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

  • A good wife always knows her place.

Well, that escalated quickly.

Tell me your favorite “good wife” advice!

*Snopes claims the Housekeeping Weekly reference was fabricated, but the bullet points still accurately reflect the worst of the 1950’s. Read more on the Cult of Domesticity here.

How to Vote During the Worst Presidential Election Ever

vote

Let me lay out all my cards on the table: I’m a moderate, small government, pro-life voter, and I find a Trump presidency scarier than I do a Clinton presidency.

I know, I know — the SCOTUS nominations. The email scandal. Benghazi. The pro-choice platform. Hillary Clinton herself. But at the end of the day, after hearing everybody’s reasons for why Clinton’s scary, evil, and destined to wreck our country, I am unpersuaded that she, a crooked politician, is worse than an ignorant, bigoted, sexist bully who resorts to Twitter and insults. What is this, middle school?

This election blows my mind. Fifty-four percent of voters dislike Clinton. Fifty-eight percent dislike Trump. The Republican party doesn’t like Trump. Many Democrats don’t like Clinton. How is it possible, with all the disgust and horror thrown at these two candidates, we nominated them as the major candidates for president? This is not a rhetorical question: where are these people who voted for Trump and Clinton, and why didn’t the 54% and 58% stop them? 

This is all a great mystery. In my mind, you can’t go wrong and you can’t go right in this election, however you vote. You know that ethical dilemma where you’re at the helm of a train hurtling down a track, and you can chose to either hit the one person or sacrifice all the people in the train?

That’s this election. Morally impossible.

All that to say, I started a constructive dialogue on my personal Facebook page about voting in general and for whom to vote, specifically. Though all my friends fall into different categories (bite the bullet and vote for Trump, vote Johnson and shake up the system, vote Clinton because Trump’s worse, vote the third party of your conscience), the conversation essentially boiled down to this:

Is voting ultimately a representation of your personal convictions, or is voting ultimately a pragmatic move? 

With such truly awful candidates, many Christians argue that it’s unconscionable to vote for any of them. Matthew J. Franck makes a powerful case for just that: “It is wrong to think of a vote not cast for Leading Contender A as a de facto vote cast for Leading Contender B.”

Vote as if your ballot determines nothing whatsoever—except the shape of your own character. Vote as if the public consequences of your action weigh nothing next to the private consequences. The country will go whither it will go, when all the votes are counted. What should matter the most to you is whither you will go, on and after this November’s election day.

This sounds tempting to me, and I leant toward it for a while. It’s far easier to vote for a third party candidate who won’t win than to step into the larger two-party mess. I couldn’t confidently say I voted for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, couldn’t proudly say I voted for an increasingly pro-abortion platform or a self-destructive, anti-everybody reality star.

Then one of my former professors challenged me on that view: that’s a romantic idea, but is that the purpose of voting?

Is it? Is the purpose to express myself and my views? Or is the purpose to make the best decision possible in this worst case scenario? Is personally expressing myself in this election, of all elections, throwing up my hands at the helm of the train and doing nothing?

Or is the purpose of voting pragmatic — sticking with the reality of the two-party system and playing the political game to protect those with the most to lose? Is expressing myself via my vote constructive and democratic? Is it benefiting those around me, my fellow citizens, especially those more effected by whoever rises to power?

That is the dilemma for many of us. We need to figure out what exactly our vote means before we figure out which of the evils we vote into the office. That’s given me some clarity in this election. (Some.)

Personally, I’m leaning toward pragmatic voting, which means I need to figure out the worst that can happen and then the “best way” to prevent it from happening. I’m convinced Trump is the worst thing that could happen to this country. Of course, he could be gridlocked by a Congress and Senate who despise him. If I that seemed likely, I would vote for him — but I’m not granted that assurance, not with his penchant for lashing out at people he dislikes and cozying up to our enemies.

That leaves me with two options: voting for Clinton, which makes me die inside, and voting for Johnson, in hopes that the Libertarian party collapses the two-party system.

But that’s just me. I am not certain voting pragmatically is the right way to go, much less the specific vote I cast. But the train’s hurtling toward a lot of people, and we’ve got to make a decision — pragmatism or personal expression?