tiny daily gratitudes


I had my first session with a new therapist yesterday. Afterwards, I felt incredibly tired, as though I had traveled a thousand miles on foot, in the snow, uphill, while dragging something heavy. (Is that not what happened?)

My therapist said that studies have shown that people who make time to write down a list of things they’re grateful for at least once a week are 25 percent happier. (How do they measure these things? Who’s in the control group, and who’s in the test group? Is anyone from the study unemployed, or terminally ill, or recently divorced, or grieving the death of a loved one, or trying to salvage what’s left of their life and their home after a natural disaster, or living in poverty, or any of the other daily tragedies that can one hundred percent negatively impact one’s sense of happiness?) Anyway, I’m skeptical, but I’ll give it a try.

Things I’m grateful for today:

  1. All of the people who have reached out since I was laid off to show love and support: friends, family, colleagues. I know that I’m not alone, and it means a lot.
  2. My severance package. I’m unemployed, but I’m not facing immediate financial panic. A privilege I will never not be aware of and grateful for. I’m so fucking lucky. 
  3. Time. It sucks being unemployed, and I hate unstructured time especially when it isn’t something I’ve chosen. But, I’m grateful I have time to look for my next opportunity, time to grieve the loss of a great job and a great team and work I enjoyed, time to reflect on what I’ve learned, time to rest. 
  4. Books. I’ve read a lot in the past few weeks. My favorite was Lindy West’s new book, “The Witches Are Coming.” She’s so brilliant and funny. Her anger comforts and inspires me.
  5. Daily walks with my dog, Samson. I don’t ordinarily have time for this every day when I’m working, but I’ve made a habit of it while I’m unemployed and more than anything else it’s grounded me. It’s good bonding time for Sammy and I, and it helps me feel connected to the world and to my body.
  6. The ivy plant in my bathroom. It’s thriving in its little corner. I’ve counted three new leaves in the last week—a gentle reminder to be hopeful and committed to my own growth.

Skip the Greeting Card, Call Your Senators.

This weekend is Mother’s Day. And other than the fact that my mom died five years ago so this holiday is already hard, there is this other thing I’ve been struggling with in the last few years, and I’m sharing about it now because it’s weighing really heavily on my mind this week.

Matt and I want to start a family someday soon, but we don’t have the financial stability or the adequate insurance and benefits to make this possible. People who love me say all the time, “honey, people have babies with no money all the time” or “if you’re waiting until you have all your ducks in a row, you’ll never have kids” or something similar. It’s not that what they’re saying is untrue or ill-intended; I know these people love and care about me and they want me to stop worrying so much. It’s just that the sentiment is really naive. I don’t know, maybe we haven’t been clear enough about just how much financial stress we continue to endure.

But it seems like people assume that money, insurance, and healthy pregnancies are a given for everyone. They’re not.

I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning, and I heard this report about the rising statistics of maternal deaths in the United States. Among several heartbreaking stories, one man describes watching his wife, 9-months pregnant, die suddenly in their own home due to an undetected heart condition. I was crying by the end of it.

I mean, read this:

“The ability to protect the health of mothers and babies in childbirth is a basic measure of a society’s development. Yet every year in the U.S., 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes, and some 65,000 nearly die — by many measures, the worst record in the developed world. American women are more than three times as likely as Canadian women to die in the maternal period (defined by the Centers for Disease Control as the start of pregnancy to one year after delivery or termination), six times as likely to die as Scandinavians. In every other wealthy country, and many less affluent ones, maternal mortality rates have been falling; in Great Britain, the journal Lancet recently noted, the rate has declined so dramatically that “a man is more likely to die while his partner is pregnant than she is.” But in the U.S., maternal deaths increased from 2000 to 2014. In a recent analysis by the CDC Foundation, nearly 60 percent of such deaths are preventable.”

And now think about this: the version of the American Health Care Act that the House of Representatives passed last Thursday would eliminate essential health benefits. This means that states can apply for a waiver to opt out of most of the regulations and consumer protections that were included in the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies in those states wouldn’t have to cover maternity care if they didn’t want to. Or they could make the premiums for maternity care extremely high, higher than they are now.

So imagine this scenario:

I, a healthy young woman of child-bearing age, want to have kids, but:

1. we have $60K in student loans
2. we have no savings (see #1)
3. we have limited financial assets, and we rent our housing (see #1, #2)
4. we’ve only just started investing in life insurance and 401K’s
5. the AHCA gets passed, and suddenly maternity care is a luxury for the wealthy

If anything goes wrong, what do you think would happen to us? If my pregnancy wasn’t healthy, if I or the baby developed health complications, how would we be able to deal with this financially? If I don’t survive, what would happen to my husband, especially if he suddenly found himself a single father?

What would this scenario be like if we were talking about a woman who has even less of a safety net than me, she and her family are living in poverty, and because of the AHCA, she doesn’t even have access to reproductive care from places like Planned Parenthood?

This is the shit that keeps me awake at night. 

Here’s an idea: if you’re willing to contribute to someone’s GoFundMe when they suffer from preventable pregnancy complications, then you can deal with socialized healthcare. Because that’s basically what a functioning healthcare system is: crowd-sourced healthcare on a macro-level. We take care of each other, because we value human life. It doesn’t prevent death, but it dramatically decreases the likelihood that we’ll die of something stupidly preventable. But the reason some people can’t accept this is because socialized healthcare is available to everyone, not just the people whom they deem worthy because of their skin color, their economic class, their body type, their respectable lifestyle.

This weekend people all over this country will be celebrating their mothers, their wives and partners, their sisters and daughters and saying, “Happy Mother’s Day, we literally wouldn’t be here without you and we owe you everything.” Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington believe that men shouldn’t have to contribute to women’s prenatal care. They’re deliberately trying to create a healthcare bill that will make it harder for families to care for mothers and babies. And for some families, it will cost them their loved ones and their livelihoods.

If any of this matters to you, then please call your senators and tell them to reject the AHCA. Do it in honor of the mothers who gave you life. It’s better than a greeting card.


P.S. Read this beautiful post by D.L. Mayfield on her son’s second birthday, and then listen to her podcast interview about their traumatic birth story.

SheLoves Mag : “It Starts with a Seed.”

Today I’m over at SheLoves Magazine, sharing my first post with them. Starting next month I will be their Thursday editor (which I announced over on my Facebook page last month and I forgot to share here, oops.)

Those of you that frequent this space regularly (or at least when I manage to post!) know that this year I chose Thrive as my One Word for 2014, and that last month I announced that hubs and I are moving to Nashville (in 5 DAYS. But I’m not panicking or anything…!!!) My post for SheLoves today is a reflection on that decision to thrive in a new place. I hope you’ll read and leave a few thoughts of your own in the comments!

It started with a seed. A question: what if we moved?

It fell on hard ground the first time my husband asked it. It was winter, I was grieving the death of my mother. I felt frozen, numb, empty, barren. I couldn’t look around at my life and see anything for what it really was. I couldn’t know for sure whether the bare branches were hibernating or lifeless. So we waited, the possibility of what could be suspended somewhere in time.

Still, it was a small seed of hope, a tiny kernel of faith, that question. (Read more here.)

No Really, #TakeDownThatPost : An Open Letter to Christianity Today & Leadership Journal

[TRIGGER WARNING: Intense abuse and rage apologia.]

People are always asking me why I engage social media the way that I do – posting links to articles and posts about issues of feminism, rape and purity culture, especially as they relate to faith. I’ve been accused of being combative and argumentative, of being ungracious and unloving. I’ve been told that publicly criticizing spiritual leaders and Christian organizations could prevent me from making the kinds of professional connections that will help me find work as a writer. But you know what?

I believe that each of us are called to critically engage our culture and community, especially when we see harmful narratives being perpetuated.

I believe that we are responsible for seeking and sharing truth in our own spheres of influence.

I believe that we are called to advocate for the abused and the oppressed with our education and our gifts.

I am a Christian and a writer; to stay silent on these issues is itself a clear message that I only care about my own voice and my own privilege. I am not okay with that. And I am done being quiet. After the conversation I had today, I am so beyond disgusted and upset that I have to post about this, though I can barely type without shaking.

This week Leadership Journal, an imprint of Christianity Today, published an article written by a convicted and imprisoned rapist in which he recounted his choice to groom and sexually abuse a minor. He was a youth pastor who developed a relationship with one of his students and then pursued her sexually for years before his wife discovered it and promptly outed and left him. The article, as it was originally written, never once uses the terms “groom,” “molest,” “abuse,” “rape,” or even “crime” to account for his actions, but instead uses “extramarital affair” and “relationship” and “friendship” and pronouns like “we” to describe his “fall into sin.” He lists the consequences of his actions only as they relate to him:

And yet he never once accounts for how his actions affected his victim, his wife, his ministry, his church, or his community. In fact, he doesn’t even acknowledge that she was a minor until page five of the article. It is a stark, horrifying display of abuse and rape apology, and it very clearly centers the voice of the abuser over that of the victim.

It begs the questions :

How can a rapist be repentant for his crimes if he cannot even call his sin what it is?

How can a rapist be repentant for his crimes if  he cannot even acknowledge the pain he caused others?

Answers: HE CAN’T.

This post was not repentance; this was justification for his actions, and some critics have even gone so far as to say that this rapist is grooming readers for his return to the pulpit. I agree with them.

There has been an enormous backlash on social media this week, begging Leadership Journal and its parent company Christianity Today to #TakeDownThatPost. Until this afternoon, these pleas were met with flippant response from multiple LJ and CT editors, and blatant radio silence from the organizations’ official twitter accounts. This afternoon they posted an editor’s note “due to the backlash.” To put it bluntly, their action was way too little, way too late. It not only keeps the rapist’s voice centered, but their minor edits to the language he used makes the story in passive voice as Dianna Anderson explains, and totally ignores the harm already done.

I am outraged and horrified by Leadership Journal and Christianity Today’s ironic lack of leadership in this circumstance. They seem to be operating under the false impression that the ramifications of this post will be water under the bridge in due time as the angry twittersphere moves on to other outrages.

I beg to differ. Why? Because of conversations like this that I had today via twitter:

Brandon is a self-identified abuse victim and youth leader who himself admits that he does not understand that minors cannot give real, authentic consent when sexually propositioned by an adult authority figure.

He has tweeted with me and several other people today in direct response to the piece published by Leadership Journal, questioning whether the rapist was solely at fault for the abuse, whether the victim wanted it, and whether having sex with an adult authority figure would “really” ruin her life. This is the kind of real, tangible harm perpetuated by LJ’s article: it lets readers (i.e. “leaders” in LJ’s target audience) question what should be concrete concepts like consent and abuse. If they don’t know the difference between an “extramarital affair” and abuse of a minor, are they fit for leadership?

Why else does it matter? Because you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse. And when you remain silent on this issue, or when you let yourself believe that “maybe they wanted it,” you silence victims and make yourself an unsafe person. Silence on these issues actively perpetuates real harm by allowing abusers to think that their actions are justifiable, even normal.

The concept of consent is Healthy Sexual Ethics 101. And if even our leaders in our churches, leading our kids, do not understand this, then no wonder sexual abuse is a rampant problem and no wonder people are leaving the pews. No one feels safe.

Leadership Journal, Christianity Today,

What more proof do you need that this article perpetuates harmful narratives among people who do not understand consent and abuse? What more proof do you need that instead of a self-justifying “cautionary tale” written by the rapist himself, we need to be listening to the victims and teaching people about consent and rape culture? If you care about victims, if you care about Christian Leadership, TAKE DOWN THAT POST.

Readers, please join me and others in imploring Leadership Journal and Christianity Today to take down this post. Samantha Fields offers several ways that you can participate in changing this situation :

Please e-mail the editors of the Leadership Journal and ask them to remove the post (LJEditor@christianitytoday.com). Ask them to replace it with an article from the victim of a youth pastor, and then another from someone like Boz Tchividjian that offers church leadership an actual education in child sexual assault, clergy abuse, statutory rape, and how it is impossible for a pastor gain consent from a parishioner because of the power he or she has.

If you use twitter, tweet along with #TakeDownThatPost and at @CTmagazine and @Leadership_Jnl.

If you use facebook or other social media, please share one of the following articles :

Because Purity Culture Harbors Rape and Abuse, What Kind of Leadership Blocks Dissent and Privileges Predators, Christianity Today?,  by Suzannah Paul

On How the Church Discusses Abuse: Denying the Endorsement, A Further Update on #TakeDownThatPost, by Dianna Anderson

My Innocence Was Stolen, at Redemption Pictures

Leadership Journal, Christianity Today, and #TakeDownThatPost, by Samantha Field

An Open Letter to Christianity Today, by Elizabeth Esther

Christianity Today Publishes a Rapist’s Story, by Libby Anne

Because it’s Time to Take Down That Post, by Tamara Rice

Why did a Journal for Christian Pastors Give a Platform to a Sexual Predator?, by Hännah Ettinger and Becca Rose

Christianity Today, Church Rape, And Why We Still Don’t Get It #TakeDownThatPost, by Benjamin Corey

If you are like me and you are still trying to learn the basics of feminism, rape and purity culture, and how these issues intersect with the Christian faith, I highly recommend reading Dianna Anderson’s series Back to Basics. She dissects ideas and terms very thoroughly. Educate yourself!