9 books finished in 2015: Real Sex

9 books finished in 2015

Oof. This whole “talking about books I read” thing feels far more vulnerable this year than in years past. I literally had to ask myself, before downloading this book, whether I really wanted to read it. Even though you’ll have to admit it to the blog?

Because books with “SEX” in the title are taboo in some circles. But what this book is actually about – chastity – is probably taboo in all the rest of them.

One of the main takeaways from this book, for me, is that sex should be more public. Not that we should be doing it in the streets*, but that married couples should talk about the mundane reality of monogamy and the work that goes into sustaining the marriage vows, and dating couples should be more honest about temptations they face and should be recruiting help from their community. So really, it’s more about the Christian community being more willing to talk about sex and our bodies and the choices we are making.

*The only guideline she had around physical boundaries for dating couples is that anything they’d feel comfortable doing in a public space is acceptable. But she was also very clear that these boundaries depend on the two people in a relationship, their histories, their scars, their fears…which means honest conversations about what we each bring to the relationship (and how we can trust God and care for each other) is more important than having a list of Acceptable and Unacceptable behaviors.

Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to practice what I learned in this book – my boyfriend and I broke up in the past month, which is one reason the blog has been somewhat silent. We still respect each other, and hope to be friends eventually, and I am thankful that we made the hard decision to end things now instead of months down the road when it would be more difficult to untangle ourselves from the relationship. (Oh hey, I didn’t mean to blog about this, but everything I said is true, so I’ll let it stand.)

Another interesting tidbit, which I’m probably going to butcher in the recounting, is the ineffectiveness of the True Love Waits initiatives, and other attempts to restrict/repress the teenage libido. Okay, the ineffectiveness isn’t all that surprising to me, but something else WAS effective, though unintentionally. Apparently, young women who participated in team sports were the most capable of maintaining a commitment to chastity (presumably the subset of women who had made this moral commitment). It was because they had “better things” to do with their bodies than have sex, and they had a positive body image – being strong and capable – because of their athletic achievements.

I’ll wrap this up with a quote from the author – taken from this interview that helped persuade me to read the book.

[T]here is a pervasive Gnosticism that continues to dog the church—the sneaking suspicion that our bodies are bad, or that they just don’t matter very much. The screen on which the contemporary church works out its anxieties about bodies is sexuality. Too often, Christian’s aching discomfort with bodies gets transmitted into how we do sex; our anxiety about bodies morphs into a anxiety about, or repugnance of, sexual desire and sexual acts. If we fear our bodies because they are undisciplined and contingent, messy and willful, we then get especially freaked out about sex, which is one of the places where our bodies are most willful and messiest. When the body becomes something to escape from, the sexual body becomes something to vilify. This anxiety about bodies runs counter to the radical embodiment of the Christian story–which unequivocally proclaims that we were created with bodies, that God called our bodies good, that Jesus came as a body, and saved us with His body, and He and we both will be resurrected as bodies.

(I have no haiku for this book because, despite my best efforts, I kept trying to include “this is how we do it,” and there was no way to take myself or the haiku seriously after that.)

a list of sorts

Once upon a time, my blog was full of lists. Of course, this was back in 2002-2003, when my blog was a xanga site and my life was consumed with questions about what I wanted to do with my life (zomg graduating from college) and what I needed to accomplish on any particular day (aka: Learning to Adult). It was literally nothing but lists.

There are a few lists living on this version of the blog, but most of them, if I’m honest, live in email drafts to myself. Millions of emails to myself, over the years. Lists seem far too mundane to share with other people.

[Speaking of mundane, I’ve already said “lists” so many times that it is an nonsense word. Lists, lists, lists. LISTS! (No wonder I only post things in strictly structured formats – my unfiltered thoughts veer into absurdity.) (And interruptions.)]

But I love reading the mundane things on other blogs. I love being invited into their processes, instead of being presented with a fully-formed creation. I want to learn how to think alongside other people, to think about things the way they do, to try on their brains for a moment and figure out if my brain could benefit from their practices.

So, here’s a list of things that I tend to talk about with myself. And a vague intention to talk about some of them (speak up if you have any preferences) on the blog.

[I’ve done this vague intention thing before, perhaps around a New Year (yep), and I don’t believe much developed from it (nope). The blog isn’t the boss of me, but merely, to quote my old tagline, “the thoughts that fall out of my head.” So let’s just see what happens.]

-Budgeting! You guys, I am OBSESSED with my budget, and in the most surprisingly positive way! I can’t stop talking about my budget, and how fun it is, and how freeing it is, and how EMPOWERED I feel now that I finally have the tools to be in charge of my money. And…I never ever EVER thought I’d be this person. I used to be the person who “focused on money stuff” maybe a few times a year, and felt so much sadness and confusion and shame and…just avoided it. Always. Thinking about money brought up feelings of inadequacy and shame that I wasn’t doing better. So I want to let everyone know, in more detail, that YOU TOO CAN BE EXCITED ABOUT YOUR BUDGET. If you don’t want to wait for me to get my act together and talk about this more, check out this awesome software, sign up for their 9-day email course (which explains their budgeting guidelines, and sets you up to understand the software more intuitively), and try the software and app for a 34-day trial if you’re not entirely sold. Once you’re mildly convinced that it is awesome and will change your life, use this referral link to save yourself $6 on the software (I also get $6 in my pocket for sharing). Oh man. I could keep talking about this right now. I could go on. MULTIPLE friends have experienced my gesture-filled ravings about how much this software has changed my relationship with money.

-Budgeting. That rant wasn’t really what I’m emailing myself about. It’s more, like, ideas for how to maximize what I earn, how to keep focused on my priorities, how to motivate myself to save and to talk myself out of impulse/comfort purchases. So, life planning goals-type lists. Those are the content. I’m just stunned that I feel confident enough with my baseline budget (after only a few months using YNAB) to make adjustments like this.

-Capsule Wardrobes. I know! This is all over the internet lately. It’s very much the trendy thing to do. Please allow me this hipster moment, to mention that sewing bloggers have been thinking and talking about it for the past year. Maybe longer. I might finally have some thoughts worth sharing. (One of them – spoiler alert – is that planning a capsule wardrobe is VERY SIMILAR to planning for a multi-week vacation. My Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe is eerily similar to my June 2014 in Europe Packing List.) Though really, now that I think about it, aren’t Capsule Wardrobes just a variation of Wardrobe Remixes? Do we have to find new and interesting approaches every few years? I don’t know if I want to blog about something so trendy, but I should at least admit that I’m thinking about it. A lot. And trying to use those concepts to direct my sewing plans.

-Obsessive research on the confusing interpersonal dynamics of romantic relationships. Wait. No. I’m NOT going to share that publicly. Unless, you know, I happen to read a BOOK on the topic and have to admit it to the blog. (But maybe if you want my advice or some resources, know that I love trying to think my way out of a complicated relational scenario. And then we can talk about how maybe thinking about it isn’t nearly as effective as discussing it with whomever you’re in a relationship with.)

-Sewing! Things I’ve made. Things I want to make. Things you want me to make? Patterns I own and reasons why I should get rid of them. Patterns I own and reasons why I should get over my fears of buttonholes and just make something already. Maybe this is the rationale I have for talking more about capsule wardrobes. Maybe I should remind myself that clothing doesn’t have to be frivolous, but is a valid art form, and a very real tool for expression of self. And it’s totally Pioneer Bad-Ass to make your own clothes, and isn’t Pioneer Bad-Ass one of my personal benchmarks for whether something is worth pursuing?

Okay, that’ll do. And since I hate text-only posts, here’s a photo of what I look like this week.

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I know! My hair IS getting long! I’ve been growing it ALL WINTER!

a list of existential thoughts

(compiled in the middle of the afternoon on an uneventful day)

Who am I?  Why?  How does that express itself?  Are any of these expressions unhealthy?

What am I doing?  Do I want to be doing this?  Does that matter?  What else would I be doing?  Could I?  What’s standing in my way?  Is it merely fear of failing?

What other fears are holding me back?  Do I really want to ask that question?  Can I take it back?  No?

Why can’t The Internet entertain me sufficiently?  What is this big gaping hole I feel in my heart right now?  Is it supposed to be there?  Or is it leftover from something?  Did I put it there?  Did someone else?

Can’t I just take a nap?

8 books finished in 2015: The Meaning of Marriage

8 books finished in 2015

I did not intend for this to be the Winter of Tim Keller, but here we are with three books by him in a row (…ish). Thankfully, he quoted Jane Eyre in the final chapter, so I already know what I’m reading next. (JANE EYRE! REASON TURNED TYRANT! That wasn’t the section he quoted, but the section he did quote is equally disciplined, and he named yet another reason she is THE BEST and I LOVE HER THE MOST and then I spent the moments before sleep recapping, for myself, in dramatic fashion, the plot of the book, and IT IS SO DRAMATIC AND GOTHIC AND MY EVERYTHING!) (This is going to kick off a Spring of Bronte, since one of my friends is currently reading a Charlotte Bronte biography, AND I realized there are works I haven’t read available free for my kindle!)

Ahem. Back to this book. It has sparked so many good conversations and intellectual side pursuits in the past two weeks that I have been referencing it constantly! I couldn’t avoid talking about it if I tried.

Though, can we have this conversation with a dose of humility (on my side) and…ummm…restraint? I don’t miss the irony of finishing and posting this near Valentine’s Day. And I was reminded just yesterday, by a dear friend, that I’d REFUSED to consider reading this book last fall, even though my church community was reading and discussing it, at first because I was single and didn’t want to get caught up in a conversation about marriage, and then because I was starting to date someone and didn’t want to get caught up in a conversation about marriage. (Is there an echo in here?) Now, a few short months later, I’m seriously dating someone (here’s where the restraint comes in, folks – please refrain from winking and joking, because this is a vulnerable place), and realized that any idea I had about how that might look was totally off base, that this is a lot more work and vulnerability than I expected, and that I need a point-of-reference more comprehensive than Not A Chick Flick. (Because I will eviscerate a chick flick swiftly and mercilessly – apologies to housemates for whom I’ve ruined the viewing experience – but rightly naming something as shallow doesn’t necessarily mean you understand depth.)

“It is hard to get a good perspective on marriage. We all see it through the inevitably distorted lenses of our own experience.”

Welp. This book was awesome. I appreciate SO MUCH that Keller attacks our common idols – he points out all of the ways that society and culture and the church have wrongly viewed marriage (both historically and in the present), and he brings us back to the Bible, to what God says, to what Jesus says. It’s so refreshing that he acknowledges these influences but doesn’t necessarily engage with them, or pick a side, but instead offers a third choice.

I should definitely pull quotes from this. [Update: I tried.] Especially about the work of, the commitment to, the reasons for marriage. So level-headed. So realistic. So much more sustainable than romantic notions. [Yes. All of this. I tried to pull quotes, but realized that anything taken out of context was going to sound incomplete. And I don’t think it’s appropriate, or legal, to transcribe entire chapters onto my blog.]

“In this book we examine the Christian understanding of marriage. It is based, as we have said, on a straightforward reading of Biblical texts.”

That’s a fairly thorough summary. If you’re interested in that, I highly recommend this book.

Marriage haiku, based on the lessons of this book:
not a fairy tale.
no consumer transaction.
it’s tough, but fruitful.

7 books finished in 2015: The Return of Sherlock Holmes

7 books finished in 2015

Sherlock is not dead!
So many mysteries solved.
Watson asked to hush.

I’m so intrigued by this serialized storytelling, and the ways it relates to television shows today. I can think of so many shows that close a season not knowing whether they’ll get to return – so there are false endings and momentary resolutions that keep us wanting more. That’s the way it feels with these Sherlock mysteries – constantly referencing Sherlock’s retirement or his requests that Watson stop sharing stories.