the problem with purity books.

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{for le blog aesthetic // not mine}

As some of you may know, I started re-reading Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally last year. It’s taken me a long time to get through it, and I’d wanted to finish it before I wrote this post, but I have too many thoughts on it (and other purity books) to wait.

Plus, why SHOULDN’T I rant about why I always felt so alone on Valentine’s Day today?! These books are one of the main reasons I felt so single on this day of every year as far back as I can remember!

Buckle up, because these thoughts have been festering in my mind for years and I’ve just learned how to express them over the last several months (and they’re all over the place so bear with me).

If you grew up in a conservative bubble like I did, you grew up hearing about, reading, and being heavily influenced by these books. You looked up to the Botkins sisters, secretly wanted to be Jasmine Bauchum, wanted to marry a Harris brother, and maybe even traveled several hours to a Bright Lights conference. (Check off all of those for me.)

I grew up entrenched in this system. My parents had their legitimate and valid reasons for encouraging this mindset. I don’t regret anything I learned while in this phase of life because it shaped me into who I am today, but I do still have some scars and even struggle at times with the lasting consequences that I continually have to deal with as a result of this mindset.

The biggest thing that influenced this purity trend in conservative Christian circles were the books written, starting with I Kissed Dating Goodbye and lasting through newer additions such as It’s (Not That) Complicated and Joyfully At Home.

These books are written mostly by young women who had no personal experience with the real dating world. (And still, in their mid thirties, have no experience. Still unmarried, still living at home. Jasmine is the only one who has some semblance of a normal life. She’s my hero and my hope.) The only things they know about it come in the form of horror stories from older people who want to keep them away from it for one reason or another. Starting a book with only this knowledge is a major recipe for disaster. Well-intentioned, of course. But still a disaster.

These books started an “us against them” mentality – courtship versus dating, Christians versus non-Christians (or better Christians versus less enlightened Christians). They made it a fight, with strong feelings on each side. Anyone who thought differently than us was wrong, with no exceptions. Saving yourself was obviously the best way to go about this, and thus would yield the best results (right???), so why shouldn’t we be confident that we’re right and our everyone else down?

In reality… courtship is not the only way and it absolutely will not guarantee a perfect (or even great) marriage. You can’t make a blanket statement and say something like “all dating is evil” because you also can’t say that all courtship is good. And that’s the kind of mindset that these books encouraged.

I also think it’s such a tragedy that these books shamed girls into being afraid of their feelings – that, just because they have a crush on someone, they’ve given away bits of their heart. So not only are girls afraid to admit that they have crushes, but they feel like they’ve already lost.

I’m sick and tired of the notion that purity is something that can be irrevocably lost.  These analogies about sticky notes, chocolate cake, suckers, and roses – they’re all incredibly and horrifically wrong.  The whole point of the Gospel is that Jesus took what was dirty and made it clean.  Period.  He took the broken and made them whole, and all that remains is a beautiful, flawless testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness.  That testimony isn’t “ruined” by mistakes made.  Once repentance is reached and forgiveness is given, it’s done.  Over.  The mistakes we make are lessons to be learned, not something to be held over our heads for the rest of our lives.

I’m also sick of this thriftstore Jesus Who is somehow bound by what conservatives say about Him and about grace and about purity – that you’re damaged goods if you didn’t immediately jump towards and end up with the first thing that came towards you. That girls are supposed to sit around and wait for guys to come along so we can fulfill our ultimate purpose as a wife and mother. (Hooo, boy, better stop that train before it leaves the station. That’s another post for another time.)

Listen. It’s okay to have feelings. It’s fine to feel disappointed and even sad that you’re not in a relationship. More than that, it’s completely normal.

Just don’t stay there.

Being single is hard. I know. (I was there for twenty-two years before a guy showed interest in me.) There’s no way around that. But being married is hard, too. Every season of life has hard parts. But faking a smile, ignoring the feelings, and saying, “It’s okay! I’m single because I’m waiting for someone God has for me!” is neither productive nor honest. And it’s about dang time someone takes an honest look at relationships – dating or courting or whatever the crap you want to call it.

I’ve toyed around with writing a purity book, but I wouldn’t even seriously consider it for a while because, even with a lot of guy friends and my current dating experience, I don’t think I have enough knowledge – even though it’s a lot more than these girls can say. (For that, go to Leslie Ludy. She has the experience to back it up – and the marriage to prove that it can work and last!)

If I were to write a purity book, though, I’d say this – stop. being. so. serious.  Yes, this is one of the most important decisions of your life and yes, it should be seriously thought about.  But you don’t have to stress over every single facet of your relationship the entire time.  It’ll only bring added stress. Bringing this full circle to what I started to rant about, as the writer of one of a new favorite blog says, “The average neurotic [conservative, quiverfull/courtship] adherent … has been taught that everything is a sin and that they are corrupting every male simply by being alive.”

Don’t be so intent on “finding the one” or “staying in God’s will” that you miss out on actually living. Because there’s so much more to life than someone’s hand to hold.

Precious girl, you’re worth more than that.

{Bonus thoughts: Someone who views everyone as a potential spouse is someone to be wary of. We should look to see everyone as a potential friend. If a guy only saw me as Wife Material and didn’t want to be friends with me first, I’d run. FAST.}

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what christians get wrong about mental health.

There’s been a lot of talk about mental health in recent years, usually in reference to those dang millenniums and their diddly darn safe spaces.

To people who don’t understand, it seems like people with mental illnesses are just coming out of the woodwork.  Suddenly, there are all these people with self-proclaimed PTSD and anxiety and depression.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  It’s almost – almost – as if people are figuring out what’s wrong with them so that they can help.

And then people who don’t understand get all offended for some reason, as if that’s a bad thing.

Listen, I get both sides of the argument.  Completely.  But lately, I’ve been siding more with the people who are finally finding labels for the unknown monster that’s been plaguing them.  Because wouldn’t taking tests to find out if you have cancer be better than shoving down the symptoms and pretending like it isn’t there?

And yet people still keep denying it.  It’s almost as if they’re saying, “You don’t really have cancer.  You’re just overthinking things.  You need to be more chill.”

Now, I know that cancer is on a completely different plane than a mental illness.  But I think the reasons why the two should be treated differently are rapidly deteriorating.

A lot of Christians like to wave off the issue of mental illness with an admittedly well-intentioned “If you’re really suffering from (anxiety, depression, insomnia – you fill in the blank), pray and God will make it all better.”

There are two things wrong with this – first, that they’re ignoring a problem, and second, that they’re assuming that, if it’s a real problem, that God can just take it away.

Sure, God can take it away, but sometimes what even Christians forget is that God is not a vending machine, nor is He a wish-granting factory.  We don’t understand why He allows us to go through trials that He has the power to take away.  Sometimes it’s to better us, sometimes it’s simply to teach us how to rely on Him for strength.

And to assume that mental illness is something that God can and will just take away with a simple prayer is blatantly and horrifically wrong.

I can go into all the reasons why mental illnesses shouldn’t be ignored – from chemical imbalance to issues resulting from childhood trauma – but I’m sure you have people in your life who you can talk to, because the fact remains that one in five adults in the US suffer from a mental illness.  The statistic is the same for children, and for teenagers aged 13-18, the statistic is almost one in four.  (See NAMI’s statistics.)

Even if these statistics weren’t true, your response to your friends dictates how you actually feel about mental illness.  It’s one thing to lovingly care for your friends and ask what you can do to help – it’s a completely different thing to essentially tell them that they’re lying (excuse you?), that it’s “not that big of a deal” (just because it’s not a big deal to you doesn’t mean that it’s something they’re daily affected by), or that it’s “just in their head.”  (“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with people trying to find out what’s going on inside their heads.  How else would they figure out how to deal with it?

Instead of arguing with their findings, I’d challenge you to be a good friend and help them with whatever they’re going through.  After all, God loves us all equally despite all of the reasons we think He shouldn’t, so, since we’re called to be like Him, why should we act any differently?

on body image.

I was never a clothes shopper. It’s true – ask anyone who knows me.

(I was never a shopper, period, but I did buy books. A backbreaking amount of books, as I learned after moving them all to our new house. #noragrets)

Growing up, I usually just wore whatever my mom got me for Christmas or my birthday. I didn’t have many new clothes, and I couldn’t care less.

In this inability to care less, my appearance suffered. My go-to outfit in my teen years was a t-shirt and jeans, with a skirt if we were going to church. Before our Skirts Phase, that is. Aka The Dark Days. Then, it was t-shirts and skirts. Denim skirts.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to look put-together – I did. It also wasn’t that I didn’t have many clothes to wear – I did. It was just that… I didn’t care.

For a long time, I was uncomfortable in my skin. For most of my teen years, I had an undiagnosed medical issue that caused weight gain. I didn’t know why I didn’t look good in certain things anymore, and, more than anything else, I wanted to cover up. Plus, it’s not like I had anyone to impress. (Moving two states away right when I was supposed to start liking guys made sure of that.)

It was only recently that I started buying clothes that I wanted to wear, with money that I’d earned.

Looking back, the only discernible thing that had changed was my outlook. I stopped viewing my body as an enemy or something that I shouldn’t put too much pride in. God gave me this body, dang it, and I should be happy with it – proud of it, even!

I didn’t start losing weight until I realized this, and accepted my body for what it was – mine.

If you’re struggling with what you look like, please know that it’s okay. We’ve all been there. Some of us are still there, sometimes.

Today, I was there. I needed clothes for a temp job next month, and I felt all the lies I’d believed about myself come screaming back as I looked at myself in the mirror. But I didn’t let the thoughts take root. Instead, I just left. In another store, I put on a cute outfit and danced to Katy Perry and Ben Rector in the changing room. Needless to say, the thoughts were gone. (Totally because I knew I looked super cute.)

It’s okay to hate your body sometimes. Just please… don’t stay there.

It’s okay to love your body. It’s okay to put clothes on it that are inspired by a style that is uniquely yours. It’s okay to be proud of it. It’s okay to love it. And if you don’t, you’ll get there someday.

I’ve heard that the way to get over a crush is to focus on one of their flaws, until you can’t see why you liked them in the first place. Today, I challenge you to do the opposite. I challenge you to find something about your body that you love. Maybe it’s your nose or your legs or your elbows. It can be big or small – just something that either you love or something that others have complimented. Tomorrow or next week or next month, find something else. Keep doing this until your list reaches from the top of your pretty head to the bottom of your adorable heels (yeah, the same heels that are encircled in yucky dead skin sometimes). Whenever you look in the mirror, repeat these things over and over again. Soon, your perspective will change. If not, keep working at it. And hopefully, you’ll soon realize that you’re a beautiful, unforgettable, unique person made in God’s image, for His glory, because He delights in you.

coffee session | some things i’ve learned recently.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know the drill.  Grab a cup of coffee, listen to some music, and let’s have a chat.  (My side of the conversation is below; feel free to share yours in the comments!)

*sips coffee*

So my sister got some toffee nut syrup from Starbucks a few weeks ago and y ‘ a l l.  It’s so good.  Makes her mad when I “borrow” it, but it makes my coffee soooo yummyyyyyy.  (Why yes, I am drinking it right now – why do you ask?)

*sips coffee again*

I have a coaching call in literally one minute but I’m here writing out this post and if that doesn’t say something about my time management skills, I don’t know what will.

What’s a coaching call, you ask?  WELL.  CollegePlus – Lumerit, SORRY – is a distance-learning thing, and the thing the company does to keep you on track is give you a coach that calls you once every two weeks to chat about your life and your schooling and how it’s all going – and, most importantly, how you’re handling it all.

{musical interlude while I do my call}

Anyway, my coach is amazing and I love her to death.  She’s my fourth coach because I had three coaches in a year and let. me. tell. you. – that was not fun.  But she’s an angel and I think I love her best out of the three.  If I pass my last two courses (fingers crossed because they’re a little harder than I thought they’d be), I’ll be finished in March and that’s kinda sad because I’m going to miss talking to her every few weeks!  Plus she’s getting married, so that’s pretty dang exciting.

*sips coffee*

(it’s actually the next day and i’ve got coffee again and… yeah.  me in a nutshell)

So the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack came out the other night and oh my gosh.  It is all kinds of wonderful.  Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve related to a musical so much.  It’s so needed, too.  Such a beautiful, beautiful thing.  Listen to it.  If you’ve only got time for one song, listen to this one.  And really listen to it – turn it on, put headphones in, close your eyes, and just sit for a minute.  It’ll make you day a million times better.

I stayed up ’til after 1am listening to it when it came out, first laughing and dancing and dramatically lip-syncing in the bathroom and then sobbing while curled up in my bed with the blankets over my head.  Because that’s just the kind of musical that it is.

*sips coffee*

Like I mentioned before, college is hard.  I knew that going into it, and all the courses I’ve done have been different kinds of difficult, but… dang, these last two.  I’ve cried more over these than I have over any other course in my entire four years of college – which is kind of a lot because I don’t get stressed too easily.

I’ve always been super hard on myself, and have always had high expectations for myself, beating myself up inwardly if I didn’t meet those expectations.  I’ve always known that it’s probably not best for me to do that (LOL) but I’ve always let it slide because how else will I do anything well?

WELL.  All of the stress – courses, moving, trying to finish a freaking novel – came to a head over the last two-ish weeks (hence why I haven’t posted anything in a while – sorry, guys).  And it was bad.

Because I used to not get stressed too easily and then I was stressed literally all the time, I had to figure out how to take care of myself.  Definitely not by lowering my expectations for myself – because how stupid is that – but by not beating myself up in addition to everything else that’s putting pressure onto me.

SO.  While I certainly do. not. have. the. answers. (as evidenced by the fact that I still get stressed easily and will most likely cry over these courses again next week – looking forward to it), here are some things I’ve learned.

First and foremost, ask God for help.  Literally, this is the best thing you can do.  I think worrying is just being blinded by your own incompetence, so it’s a great idea to lean on the One who is good at everything, right?  Ask God for help and He’ll guard your heart with His peace that passes understanding.   Approach His throne with boldness and He’ll give you grace.

Second, figure out what’s giving you the most stress and see if you can relieve some of the stress.  Is your room a wreck but you don’t have time to clean it?  Do it in steps: Make your bed one day, take five minutes to pick up all the clothes the next day, spend ten minutes on it instead of on Facebook the day after that (which should be the first thing because we all need reasons to stay off Facebook these days).  Family member making you stressed?  Get out of the house, if only just to spend some time in the backyard or something; use headphones to shut it all out for a little while; or, better yet, encourage them to get out of the house.  (There’s almost nothing better than having an entire house to yourself.)  School giving you trouble?  Find someone who can help, work on it in spurts, set deadlines for yourself, reward yourself.

Which brings me to my third idea, the one I’ve been learning the most about recently:

SELF. CARE.

This is literally one of the best things you can do for yourself.  I’ve found that it’s mostly talked about in the realm of people who have depression, mental illnesses, self-harm issues, or other issues like that, which is kind of a shame because everybody could use it.

I’m so glad I started to learn about self-care personally, because it’s changed how I cope with things.  Instead of just bottling up the stress and pushing forward and never giving myself a break, I know how to deal with it in a better way now.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned how to reward myself when I’ve done my best by taking breaks after a long study session and curling up with a good book or guilty pleasure show.  (I’m halfway through the second season of said guilty pleasure show and halfway through the book I’ve been rewarding myself with.)  I set aside a day a week to work on my novel, which is a good idea because it needs to get done, it’s part of my massive final project, and it’s getting me into a good routine for when I’m done with college and can focus solely on my writing.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t work hard anymore.  Far from it, actually.  I’ve found that making myself take breaks has made me work even harder – and better.  My writing has improved, my focus has improved, and my general attitude towards life has improved.

Plus, it’s always nice to have unexpected blessings, like spending the day with a good friend or your mom surprising you with gluten-free cupcakes.

All in all, my life has been pretty crazy lately, but mostly in good ways.  I’ll probably be here less, but I’ll come back when I can.

Have some laughing babies.