On Easter Sunday morning I went to the Episcopal church near my apartment in Santa Barbara (I moved here from Portland about 6 weeks ago.) Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows while a choral procession wove its way through the aisles with incense and banners, singing Christ the Lord is Risen Today.
I’ve loved that song since I was a little girl, especially the line, Made like him, like him we rise.
But that morning, the line brought tears to my eyes. Because I’ve been in a personal slump since I moved away from Portland, feeling lost and directionless and lonely.
The paperback version of my book The Invisible Girls just launched, and while it’s been wonderful to see people resonate with the story, I can’t help but wonder what’s next for me. I wake up early in the morning and my brain is already racing with questions. Is that the best I’ll ever write? I signed a second book contract, but what if the words don’t come? Is the best part of my life behind me? What now? What next? I’m single and I spend a lot of time in solitude. If no one else is experiencing my existence, does my presence on this planet even matter? The questions are so emotionally and mentally exhausting, that some days I feel depleted (and defeated) before I even get out of bed.
By my count, my book The Invisible Girls has 3 f-words in 272 pages. And because of that, a well-known Christian radio
station cancelled a radio interview with me last week. I woke up on the morning of the interview to an e-mail from my publisher that the station cancelled because the executive producer read the book and said, “[the profanity] goes against our guidelines for both the broadcast and for listener giveaways.”
And so, because of those three words, thousands of listeners didn’t get to hear how God providentially took me when I was a cancer patient and intersected my life with a family of Somali refugees, and used us in each other’s lives to bring healing and redemption. And the radio station listeners didn’t hear an invitation to buy a copy of the book to support a college fund for those Somali girls.
Seriously? Isn’t that kind of missing the forest for the trees?
I moved to California last week, and this past Sunday I went to a new church for the first time. Apparently the pastor’s been preaching through Hebrews, and on this particular Sunday he preached on Hebrews 13.
His message covered verses 1-7, but my eyes stayed on verse 3 which says, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison…”
Continue to remember those in prison…
I’ve read Hebrews 13:3 many times before, but I always took it to mean going to visit people who were incarcerated — whether because of persecution or because of a crime they’d committed. I grew up as a middle-class white girl in Amish Country, and I never personally knew anyone who’d been to prison and so, because I didn’t have any connection to incarcerated people, I always thought the verse didn’t apply to me.
I have news for you.
Before you get too anxious or excited, NO, I’m not pregnant or engaged, I didn’t win the lottery, and my book is not (yet) on the New York Times bestseller list.
The news is — I’m moving from Portland, Oregon to Santa Barbara, California at the end of this week.
In honor of The Oscars, I thought I’d compile some of the funniest movie reviews I’ve read over the past year. Enjoy!
“Endless Love lives up to its name. It’s purgatory.” David Edelstein, Vulture
“Endless Love didn’t have to be this godawful.” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“This movie has no idea how letters of acceptance work, how airports work, how relationships work.” Alonso Duralde, Linoleum Knife
This week Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to customers on religious grounds. The bill was proposed in response to businesses in other states that have gotten into trouble for refusing to sell cakes, flowers and other goods to gay couples who are getting married.
The law was vetoed because it violated people’s civil liberties, and also because it was really vague. Though the bill was mainly supported by business owners who wanted the right to refuse service to LGBT customers, especially those who were getting married, it could’ve had broader (and, I would add, disastrous) consequences.
I was relieved that the bill was vetoed, though a lot of my Christian friends were disappointed. I respect others’ views, but I’m convinced for many reasons that Governor Brewer made the right decision.
Two caveats before I tell you why. The first is that I’m not talking about religious institutions here (synagogues, churches, mosques, etc.) I think that’s an entirely different matter, and deserves a separate conversation. The second is that I welcome dissenting opinions, but please be thoughtful and kind in your comments.
That being said, here’s why I agree with Governor Brewer’s veto.
Construction on the bridge that spanned the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance from the Pacific Ocean into the San Francisco Bay, finished in 1937. It was the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time, and it was beautiful. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “a 35 million dollar steel harp.”
At the end of construction, the only decision architects and engineers had left to make was what color to paint the bridge. Everyone had a different opinion about what color the bridge should be, but the one thing they all agreed on was this: the bridge could not be blue.
A blue bridge would too easily blend in with the sky above and the water below, which could be disastrous for planes and large ships. So the initial answer to the question of what color the bridge should be was “Not Blue.”
This weekend I read the story of Jamie Coots, the preacher who refused medical treatment after being bitten by a rattlesnake, and died later that night, because he thought handling snakes was as serious a command as “thou shalt not commit adultery.” And if you didn’t get bit by the snake, or if you survived the snake bite without medical care, it proved your faith in God and His approval of you.
The story struck a chord with me because when I was in high school, I spent a few summers at a camp in the heart of Appalachia. I met kids who came out of churches like that. Their preachers not only handled poisonous snakes, but also taught the kids superstitious theology, like if you stared into a fire too long, it meant your soul was going to hell.
The girls from these churches all wore ankle-length dresses and could not wear anything else, even when they were going swimming. I watched them jump into the pool in long dresses that ballooned up like parachutes when they hit the water.
When I read about the preacher who died this weekend, my heart sank. Not just because it’s asinine to pick up a rattle snake and dare it to bite you, but because of all the other implications this theology has on people.
When I was in college, the single girls in my dorm had nicknames for Valentine’s Day. The pessimistic ones called it S.A.D., which stood for Singleness Awareness Day. Optimists like me preferred to call it Independence Day.
In college, and then in grad school, I thought it was only a matter of time before I met the man I would marry. However, here I am at the age of 35, still single. I have lots of friends who are single, too, wondering if and when they’ll ever get married. They watch shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Platinum Wedding, longing for the day when they’ll get to walk down the aisle to the strains of Here Comes The Bride.
One of my best friends got married right after we finished college, and now has three children. She was recently mourning that her middle child can’t stand vegetables, and it’s a challenge to get him to eat them. This week we were talking about a study I recently discovered.
I frequently travel to speak at events, and afterwards I shake hands with a lot of people. One of the most common things they say is, “Why’s a pretty girl like you still single?”
I know they mean well, and in a way it’s sort of a compliment that they think I’m good marriage material, but it drives me crazy. Because the real answer to their question is not, “I don’t know” or “There’s a shortage of good men out there” or “I’m too busy for a relationship right now.” The real answer is, “Because you’re not setting me up with anyone. Sixty-three percent of married couples meet through mutual friends, so if you haven’t introduced me to anyone, I’m probably still single because of you.”