The Change of Plans.

The time has come, friends.

I am forced to eat my words. Every time I declared I wouldn’t to my professors, my pastors, my family, myself, even God. Every single one was a lie.

 

I’m going to grad school after all.

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On Death, Red Lipstick, And My Affection For Communion Wine, Part III

Originally, this post and the two that precede it were supposed to be one post. I forgot that I am, in fact, very long winded and thus the three parts to this post are split over three different posts. For the previous posts, you can go here and here.

Part Three: Tony Jones wrote a blog post about Evangelicals and their disapproval of alcohol. Like most things Tony writes, it made me think.

Just a side note: Tony and I go to the same church, and I still haven’t gotten up the courage to introduce myself to him. He’s just so…awesome, and one of my superheroes, and I can’t just walk up and say “Hi, I’m Denika. I think you’re awesome and you’re one of my superheroes.” So, if you ever go to Solomon’s Porch, I’ll be the one hyperventilating and freaking out because one of my superheroes is right. freaking. there.

Tony, if you’re reading this (which I sincerely doubt), I’m sorry if that’s creepy.

Anyway.

I grew up Lutheran, and my church used kosher wine for Holy Communion. My pastors often went out for drinks with one another–one of them was even a bartender. The concept of Christians drinking was not at all foreign to me. The only restriction that was given was that all things were to be enjoyed in moderation.

That seemed simple enough, and it didn’t contradict what I read in the Bible.

Now, when I went to school (at a Baptist university), I was informed that alcohol is wrong and we should never let a drop of it touch our lips. This went so far that the school covenant, which, if you wanted to go to that school, you had to sign whether you agreed with it or not, banned students–even those over 21–from consuming or even possessing alcohol during the school year. One of my friends actually got written up because she had an unopened bottle of Bailey’s in the trunk of her car, which was a gift for her 21st birthday.

And for a while, I believed this. I decided that I would never drink, not even once I was old enough, because it was somehow wrong. I didn’t have solid theological or even moral backing for this. There was no concept of “drinking in moderation” or just having the occasional drink every once in a while. You either abstained from drinking and were therefore holy, or you were a drunkard and were going to Hell.

When my now-husband and I got engaged (at my ripe old age of seventeen), my mind began to change. We were discussing our wedding and whether or not we wanted to have  alcohol at it, and we got into an argument about alcohol as a whole. I stated that I didn’t even want to have it in our home, and even less at our wedding. I still find this funny because he’s the one who grew up Baptist, and I was Lutheran. He wanted to know what was so wrong about alcohol.

I really didn’t have a good answer.

He’s so much smarter than me. Bastard.

(Love you honey (: )

So he began to change my mind. When we decided to do Communion at our wedding, things got more interesting. See, my tradition uses kosher wine and unleavened bread for Communion. This is important to me, for no other reason than it is a sacrament, and thus a ritual, which makes the elements significant, and get off my back, I like my one tradition. When we informed his parents that we would be doing communion in this way, they, being good Baptists, decided they simply wouldn’t take Communion.

Awesome.

(Don’t worry, we ended up having a chalice of white grape juice too.)

At that point, I became an all-out advocate for Christians drinking. I wanted to break down the so-called “piety” that my school held so tightly because it simply seemed nonsensical to me. I had conversations with fellow students and with professors about this, and we all agreed that it was pointless.

The thing that got me, though, is that I no longer felt comfortable partaking in communion at my school. They would do it occasionally in chapel with grape juice and white bread. I just couldn’t reconcile that with the need I felt to hold to my tradition and my ritual, to keep Communion a sacrament. I felt like an outsider because my tradition was not only seen as invalid, but sinful.

Both I and my university had decided that the other side was wrong. This isn’t how we should do things.

Fast forward to a few months ago. My husband and I started going to Solomon’s Porch. That community is great for many reasons, but perhaps the best being that they form the practices and the beliefs of the community around its members. Instead of telling you what they believe and saying that, to be a part of that community, you have to agree, they ask what you believe and work to incorporate your unique theology into the community as a whole. One way this gets fleshed out is in their Communion. They have multiple stations throughout the gathering area, some with grape juice, others with wine, even one station with a common cup. They make it possible for all believers–however they celebrate this ritual–to do it as they wish, as a community.

It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s something we all need to start doing.

If you have friends who don’t drink because of their beliefs, ask them why. Make sure they know the reasons behind their decision. If you have friends who drink, ask the same questions. Try to understand their beliefs. And make sure to understand yours, too. We don’t need to wage wars for or against alcohol use in the Church–we just need to understand each other.

Now, if I can just get the Porch to start offering matzoh and temple wine…

On Death, Red Lipstick, And My Affection For Communion Wine, Part II

Originally, this post, the one that precedes it, and the one that will follow it were supposed to be one post. I forgot that I am, in fact, very long winded and thus the three parts to this post are split over three different posts. For the previous post, you can go here. For the next installment, check back tomorrow, provided I remember to post it.

Part Two: I read a blog post recently that stated that every woman can wear red lipstick well. As a person who has never really been into wearing a lot of makeup, especially lipstick, and being very pale, wearing red lipstick never seemed like something I would try.

Added to this, I think the idea that women need to wear makeup in order to be beautiful is simply wrong. I wear makeup most every day, yes, but very little, and I have been trying to wear less (or, at least, not feel like I need to wear it constantly). That mentality objectifies women and creates a gender binary that is not only unnecessary but can also be damaging.

So, for most of my time in college, I was the girl who lived in t-shirts and jeans and limp, straight hair with an almost indistinguishable amount of makeup on. Part of this was that I was a theology major–it’s sort of a boys’ club still at my university, which is stupid, but I wanted to be one of the best in my class and to do that, I couldn’t be too concerned with my appearance. However, it was mainly that, as a feminist, I didn’t want to fall into the trap that my beauty could be bought from Sephora.

But I was intrigued by the concept of red lipstick. So I decided to give it a go.

And I really did feel so much more confident. I also dyed my hair from its previous washed-out-cedar color to a striking walnut (why are all of my colors wood?) and bought jet-black eyeliner. I raided my closet and pulled out a couple more fashionable outfits that did not include a Target v-neck t-shirt, my staple of the last three years.

It’s all beginning to make me think that, just maybe, looking good and feeling confident, or even (God forbid) sexy isn’t such a bad thing. Because now I feel like people don’t look at me and see some college kid, but a woman, and one worth respecting and listening to. And I’m pretty sure it’s because I feel like I look like one, and so I act like one.

And maybe, just maybe, having confidence in my appearance might help me to have confidence in myself.

On Death, Red Lipstick, And My Affection For Communion Wine, Part I

Originally, this post and the two that will follow it were supposed to be one post. I forgot that I am, in fact, very long winded and thus the three parts to this post are split over three different posts. For the next two installments, check back tomorrow and Thursday, provided I remember to post them.

Strange times have been afoot in the Anderson household…er, apartment-hold?

To begin, husband’s paycheck was supposed to arrive in the mail last Friday. It did not, and we had 90 cents to our name until Monday. This wasn’t a huge change, mostly just frustrating. But it made for a very stressful setting for a couple weeks. In the midst of all of this, I’ve been reflecting on a few different things that have come up recently as I tried to make sense of our increasingly hectic lives. I’ve divided these into three parts, for your reading convenience.

Part One: Last Sunday afternoon my husband received a call from his mother saying that his paternal grandfather had had a stroke and was not doing well. This was a shock, as he was in excellent shape and, with the exception of poor hearing, didn’t have many health concerns. He passed away Thursday evening. We went up to Alexandria (where he lived) on Sunday afternoon for the visitation; the funeral was on Monday. So, this is all very recent, and unexpected, and thus my thoughts aren’t really gathered yet.

However, I’ve come away from the experience with one observation. I don’t find myself very emotional at funerals, and especially since I had only known Lloyd (my husband’s grandpa) for about two years, his death didn’t hit me as hard as it did his biological family. Instead of mourning, I observed. I watched how people dealt with death. I watched some people laugh at memories of him; I watched others cry over the loss of a beloved family member; I watched others still sit silently, unable to process what had happened (whether intentionally or otherwise). As a person who has a marked difficulty reading people and understanding emotion, it was a good learning experience for me.

However, the person I watched most was Lloyd’s wife, Vi.

She was, in my opinion, the most real person at the funeral. Which is impressive, considering that the first step in the grief process (according to Kubler-Ross, at least) is denial, and I would have expected her to hide behind a facade of “he’s in a better place”s and “I’m fine”s and fake smiles.

She didn’t.

At some times, especially when she was talking with groups of people (she’s the biggest extrovert I know), she was smiling and laughing. She loved hearing all the stories people told about him. Other times, in more secluded moments, she would complain about how tired or stressed out she was; she isn’t SuperWoman, after all. When she looked at pictures of Lloyd, or at the casket (particularly his body), however, she would break down and weep without notice.

All of this taught me an important lesson about death and grief.

First of all, Kubler-Ross wasn’t wrong–the five stages show themselves in most people who are in the grief process. But, at the same time, she was. Because we don’t really go through these five stages in order, and we don’t visit each stage only once. We go through the whole process a number of times.

Second, the people who simply say “he/she’s in a better place” or “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away” or any other cliched, pithy sayings like that do no justice to the grief process, nor do they honor God. God does not expect us to be optimistic and stoic at all times, especially while grieving. Jesus himself shows a wide range of emotion in the Gospels; who are we, as humans, to assume we have to be happy all the time?

Third, the (western) Church as a whole does a horrible job with grief. We’re happy to encourage, to bring meals, to send flowers, and even to crack a few silly jokes, but we are much more hesitant to sit with the grieving and mourn with them. We don’t know how to deal with weeping or rage. We don’t know how to sit in silence and simply be with the lonely. We don’t know how to step out of our lives for a few minutes (or hours, or days) and stop to grieve. Sending flowers or making a meal takes some time, yes, but it doesn’t take commitment. It doesn’t require us to be anything more than physical beings. And, as a group that tends to ignore (or even despise) the tangible in favor of the spiritual, we don’t know how to provide for the emotional and spiritual needs of the grieving. We’ll gladly recite a litany of Bible verses about God’s goodness, but not those that deal with anger or grief. At best, we know how to distract, but not how to really dive into the mire of grief. We don’t want to get our hands dirty. So we bake a lasagna instead.

I don’t know how, but this needs to change. We need to embrace grief as a part of life. We need to learn how to deal with all parts of it, to stop pretending like pain doesn’t happen, or that it only happens behind closed doors, and to bind ourselves to those who are grieving as they process. We are one body, and we are called to celebrate and mourn together.

It’s time for us to be real.