2013 Year in Review

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I saw this on the blog Rage Against the Minivan and thought it would be a good way to reflect and move forward….enjoy!!

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Went on a vacation with my husband that was purely about spending time together, visiting friends and doing what we felt like doing [which pretty much consisted of eating at all of our favorite places where we used to live!]. This was full of awesome on many levels, including the fact that we live close enough to our extended family that our time together gets to be more regular and not a vacation!!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Um…no comment :). Seriously, I could have done better. I need to do better, and will this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No one super close, but I did get to meet several new babies in 2013!!!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

We said goodbye to my last living grandparent (my grandma on my dad’s side) in September.

5. What countries did you visit?

Some people refer to where I live as the People’s Republic of Duluth – but no other countries!!

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

More confidence. More self-discipline. A thinner body.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

July 18 – a milestone anniversary (15 years married to the most awesomest man on the face of the earth); and October 19 – celebrating said anniversary at the Josh Groban concert in Minneapolis.

August 31 – the day my grandma went to heaven.

August 12 – the day I said “yes” to God without really knowing all the details.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

NEAC growing by leaps and bounds – way beyond where I thought we’d be by the end of the year!!

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not getting my novel edited. Really no excuses other than my own laziness.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing major; just sinus and allergy issues.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A Ninja!!! Now to use it to create healthy meals and snacks to achieve that thinner body that I want.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Food. More specifically, restaurant food. Something that needs to change this year, both for the checkbook and the waistline.

13. What did you get really excited about?

New directions for life and for NEAC!!!

14. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Obviously, What Does the Fox Say? Love it or hate it, it is a catchy little tune!!

The cast recording of The Book of Mormon.

Let It Go, from the Frozen soundtrack.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Happier; excited for the future
– thinner or fatter? A little fatter; but that will change!!!
– richer or poorer? About the same….

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Write. Spend more time outdoors during the summer and fall in this amazing city of mine. Connected with friends and made new ones.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Spent less time online and less time mindlessly watching television.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With my husband, my mom, and my brother and his family, chilling and relaxing over brunch and the wonderful chaos that is a three year old and five year old opening presents.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

I am a Gleek. Also slightly obsessed with Nashville. True Blood (only I’m a year behind on that one, since I don’t have cable). And of course, my beloved Gilmore Girls, which I watched through 2-3 times this year.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

And who’s making that choice, Sophie? Read a lot of great books this year…

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Mumford and Sons. Josh Groban. Broadway musicals. Josh Groban. Celtic Woman. Josh Groban. And so on….

22. What was your favorite film of the year?

We have been on a really good movie streak as of late – can’t think of any I saw that I didn’t like!!!

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 37. I spent the day working and then setting up for Family Fun Fest at our local community center.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Editing my novel and at least getting it sent out to agents.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Kind of stuck in my graduation year (1994). In need of Stacey and Clinton to slap it out of me.

26. What kept you sane?

My husband. My dog. Jesus. Lots of coffee.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

“Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go.”

What’s Going On…..

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What I’ve been reading…..All kinds of awesome!  Besides the delightful unexpected random fiction I’ve picked up [almost everything lately has been a winner!!], some recent notable titles include:

Radical by Michelle Rhee. I have always been fascinated by this woman – the former superintendent of Washington D.C. public schools who came in with metaphorical guns blazing because she felt the students deserved better. Agree or disagree with her methods, you’ve got to admit she’s got bucket loads of passion. And I personally love that in a person. Michelle, if you happen to stumble upon my humble little blog, can we please be friends???

15 Minutes by Karen Kingsbury. Love me a little Karen!!  I’m a little sad whenever I’m  reading books by her that are not about the Baxter or Flanigan families [and it's not exactly "literature" in the snobby English major sense of the word], but her books are excellent “curl up with a fuzzy blanket and a warm beverage and relax” kinds of books!

I am also currently reading or about to read…

Start by Jon Acuff

Allegiant by Veronica Roth – no spoilers, please!!!

When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman [the advantage of being a Minnesota resident; our libraries tend to order books by Minnesota authors!]

Tons more books on my list…I have it organized by “books I can find at the library” and “books I will need to order on half.com.”

On the idiot box…

We are having conversations in our house on how to use this particular appliance a whole lot less, but I am currently loving:

Glee, Nashville, Once Upon A Time, Modern Family, The Middle and being a year behind on a few assorted HBO series on DVD.

In my life…

Making lots of plans for 2014 – continuing to be discreet as I make said plans, and will have a full report here [hopefully!] soon. No, I’m not pregnant. Just getting that out of the way….

Wishing all who are reading a very Merry Christmas or a Happy [whatever holiday you happen to celebrate at this time of year!], and resolving to do better with the blogging in 2014….

But I guess that’s sort of what You were going for….

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To paraphrase the “Joseph Smith death scene” in the musical The Book of Mormon:

“But now I am going to die without ever showing the people the golden plates and people are just going to have to trust…but I guess that’s sort of what you were going for…”

[Again, this is a loose paraphrase, meant to make a larger point!]

This is something that my husband and I have been saying to each other a lot lately in regards to a step of faith that we feel God is asking us to take.

“But we have no idea how it is going to work out or how we will make enough money to live on, only that we really feel that God wants us to do it. But I guess that was sort of what He was going for…”

Through tears, when, as the late Rich Mullins sang, “the mountain seems so big, and our faith just seems so small.” I guess that is sort of what He was going for.

When one of us is feeling panicky or anxious about what we feel God is telling us, whoever is feeling stronger that particular day reminds the other one, “I guess that is sort of what He is going for.”

Be strong and courageous.

His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

My God shall supply all my need, according to His riches and glory.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

If the writer of Hebrews were alive today and writing in our vernacular, he probably would have said it something like this: “Faith is sort of what God is going for.”

Lord, I believe.

Help my unbelief.

 

Jesus + Feminist = Me

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[This is for a synchroblog in honor of this week's release of Sarah Bessey's book Jesus Feminist. Disclaimer: I have not read the book yet, but if her blog is any indication of what I can expect from the book, I am looking forward to a wonderful read!]

Fact: I have always loved Jesus. At least as long as I remember.

Fact: I have always believed in the radical notion that women are people, too.

I guess that would make me a Jesus Feminist.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a denomination that has ordained women and recognized their calling to preach from its very inception. There was no debate; it was just a given. I was also fortunate enough to be raised in a family where my being female was never allowed to be used as an excuse for anything. Not for bad behavior [as in, "Sorry I am being such a _____ - it's my time of the month!"]. Not for doing poorly in math and science. Yes, I was horrible in those subjects, but “Girls are just not good in these areas” was never allowed to be the reason.

My first encounter with someone who believed differently when it came to women’s roles in the home and in the church was in high school. A friend of mine felt that the verses about women remaining silent in the church were to be taken literally, at face value. We argued constantly. It was frustrating, but it did make me read my Bible more, and figure out why I believed the way I did.

I have pretty much coasted through life believing in equality and gift-based calling as opposed to gender based calling. My marriage has always been egalitarian in nature. Our snappy answer to, “But who is the spiritual leader in your household?” is “Jesus – isn’t he the leader in yours?”

In other words, my being a Jesus Feminist has been something I have sort of taken for granted. Of course women are equal. Of course they can be pastors. Of course biblical submission is mutual and the “women must be silent” verses are best understood within the culture they are written to.

What made me realize, though, that this is “for real” was when, about a year ago, we were looking for a new church to attend. Some good friends of ours suggested that we try out theirs. It sounded like a great church – almost exactly what we were looking for, except….

My husband answered, “We’ve thought about it, but there was one thing on the website that we weren’t quite sure about.”

The female half of the couple said, “It’s the part about not being egalitarian, isn’t it?” [Just for the record, it is pretty groovy to have friends who know you that well, and with whom you can have a fantastic relationship with, despite not agreeing on every. single. thing.]

Yup. That was it.

A few weeks later, when we were still getting nowhere in our search, we started to falter a bit. Maybe we should try that one out…we already knew people there. It was right in our neighborhood. It seemed almost like a perfect fit.

Except.

No, I just couldn’t do it. As I explained, it wasn’t that I wanted to go to the church and climb to the top and become the senior pastor. I just cannot support a church that would not consider a woman for a leadership position simply based on the fact that she possesses the wrong anatomy.

I tried not to make it “my” issue and to just do what God has called me to do. Which I have. But the issue is too big to just ignore. We are silencing half the people that God wants to use to make a difference in this broken world based on someone’s bad interpretation of a handful of verses.

Would I feel differently and struggle more with that stance had I not grown up taking equality for granted? Probably.

But I am proud to have been raised  to be a Jesus Feminist.

Liberal…conservative…blech!!

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We did a Halloween event yesterday. It was based on a fictional story that we wrote that ended in a mystery: did the family disappear because of unsanitary conditions in the kitchen, or were they bumped off on purpose by the servants [for a more complete back story, please feel free to check it out here.

One of the elements was that kids (and adults!) had the option to vote on what they think happened. Before they entered, they were given a voting token to drop in their desired basket. My husband went out and picked up some shiny little hearts and little army guys for the kids to choose. Having worked with kids for 2 decades now (decades??? wow!!! I feel old!), we realize that there are some boys who are not going to give up their street cred by voting with a shiny little heart. On the flip side, we also know girls and pacifists who would not be super thrilled with an army guy.

One of our volunteers looked at the two bowls of tokens and said, "What about a third option for kids who identify in a different way?"

Seriously?

Yup. Our other board member and friend Matt explained, "It's a UMD (our local college) thing - at gatherings when you introduce yourself, you are asked to say your name and how you identify."

I replied that this was just bait for my sarcastic side. "Hi, I'm Leanne and I identify as an alien." Or a plant. Whatever.

And I realized that I am apparently not as open-minded as I thought I was.

At the same time, the very fact that I was sponsoring a Halloween event without calling it a euphemism such as "Harvest Party" or "Hallelujah Night" and not ending the evening with some sort of gospel presentation makes me incredibly liberal in the eyes of some of my more conservative friends.

Have I "crossed over without taking the cross over?"

Am I just a conservative fuddy-duddy because I think that a person who was born with a penis is a man and a person with a vagina is a woman?

If I want to be committed to social justice and serving my community, is it really necessary to add marriage equality to my agenda? Do I have to abandon elements of my faith that I personally feel are important?

If I want to keep those elements of faith, do I need to make defeating marriage equality part of my agenda?

Look, to be totally honest, I really don't care what a person does in their bedroom or who they do it with.

I tend to side with Billy Graham, who said [paraphrased], “It is the Father’s job to judge; the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin, and our job do love. We dare not get these roles mixed up.” If it’s good enough for Billy, it’s good enough for me.

I am me.  I am not any label that one would try to slap on me. I am here to do the work that God has called me to do, and if it does not correspond with someone else’s agenda of who I should be, that is just too darn bad.

I do not have to embrace or agree with everything an author or speaker says in order to admire some of the things they say.

I do not have to run my beliefs past anyone [other than Jesus!] for their approval.

Call me whatever you must, if it makes you feel better.

I’m not playing.

What love is [and isn't]: a TMI post

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After 15 years of marriage, I can safely say that…

True love is not the fact that my husband can still say that my bum is sexy [or that I have kept it toned and in shape so that he can continue to say that...because I totally have not!].

True love is his being willing to examine said bum to check for hemorrhoids.

And running out to buy the appropriate medication to make them go away and relieve the pain in the meantime.

And pretending that the medication is actually for him when he asks the pharmacist for advice because you are too embarrassed to ‘fess up to it.

And texting you throughout the day to check in and make sure you’re doing okay at work [when you have to be sitting all day].

And suffering through high-fiber recipe experiments disasters while you try to improve your diet so that this horrible, painful thing doesn’t happen again.

And not arguing or protesting when you say through the haze and fog of pain that maybe a future pregnancy isn’t for you if this is one of the things that goes along with it and maybe investigating the foster-to-adopt program would be a great idea [For the record, we are considering this as an option in addition to or in lieu of "homemade" kids, but not for that reason!].

Now that I’ve made you sit through this lovely dissertation on how my week has been…the point is that true love is so far removed from the hot, airbrushed perfectly toned images we see on t.v. Love is so much more than the fluttery feelings [although he still makes my heart skip a beat, too!]…more than the sex [believe me, there has not been much sex-having up in our crib as of late!]…more than fun, romantic dates and dressing up and looking pretty.

It’s the nitty gritty of life. It’s preferring one another above ourselves. As two very strong-willed artistic type people [Don't ask me how it works for two artists to be married; and don't take us as the norm!], we do have our “moments.” But our commitment to each other overrides the moments, and we know that we are in this for life.

So…when looking for that ideal man, ask yourself this: Is he man enough to buy you Preparation H? If not, you may want to reconsider a lifelong commitment to this person!

Created to be…..?

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“Lots of love for this beauty :) i enjoy every minute. created to be 1st a wife and 2nd a mother.”

This was the Facebook status of a friend/acquaintance of mine. I used to go to church with her,  I am more than a decade older than her, so when I started serving at that church, she was 18 years old; just beginning her college career after a lifetime of being home educated.

Fast forward 7 years. She is now married, having given birth to her daughter within her first year of marriage [and since she and her husband were living apart for the first several months while he finished his military obligations, that is a pretty impressive feat!]

Nothing wrong with marriage.

Nothing wrong with motherhood.

Nothing wrong with homeschooling.

There is, however, something fundamentally, theologically wrong with the above statement that she posted just yesterday on Facebook.

“Created to be a wife first and then a mother.”

No. No, no, no, no, no.

I want to scream this at her from across the miles – I want to comment on her post, but it would fall on deaf ears as she scrambles back to her family and/or her narrow view of the way the world should be, as expressed by the countless conservative gurus whose feet they sit at to glean knowledge.

You see, they believe that this is God’s design for all women. Marry young and start having as many babies as possible, stay home and limit your creativity as it pertains to your own home. Again, nothing wrong with this – if that is your true calling or vocation.

According to Scripture, though, the thing we were created for was to worship and have fellowship with God. Scripture also points to countless examples of women who did other things besides just marry young and pop out babies. Deborah [who, incidentally, was serving as a judge BEFORE a man refused to step up and lead the army, so the argument that she was only called because a man was not available is completely unfounded!]. Priscilla [who is listed before her husband, and is shown not only making tents, but actually assisting in spiritual leadership and discipleship]. Lydia [seller of purple, and a leader in the early church]. The Proverbs 31 woman [however you interpret this chapter - whether about one woman or several - it is pretty clear that there is some "career having" going on here!].

I could go on.

What about those who do marry young….and don’t have children? I do not presume to ask why they do not have children; it is a highly personal and intrusive question to ask someone, whether they are unable to conceive or have chosen not to become parents for whatever reason.

What about those who do not marry until later in life? A family friend of ours did not find the love of her life until her late 30s; giving birth to her one and only daughter at age 45. Should she have just settled for the first man who came along in her early 20s so that she could start doing “what she was created to do”?

We were created to give God glory. Period. How He chooses to gift us, equip us and assign us to do so is HIS business.  How one woman (or man!) glorifies God is not a blueprint for how every single one of us needs to do it. He did not create each man uniquely and then run out of imagination when it came to women.

All we need to do is look at the Bible to see all the different ways that God is glorified – sometimes [MOST of the time!] through extremely imperfect people who were not following some sort of formula.

What if all the books and websites were taken away and we only had the Bible to rely on for how to live – for what we were created for? What do you think we’d find?