Sunday Specials: Sex, The Pope, Food Stamps & Mothering

*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention. 

Young Men, Sex, and Urge Ownership (And Why It’s Not The Girl’s Problem) by John Pavlovitz

I know you’ve been led to believe that it’s the girl’s fault; the way she dresses, the shape of her body, her flirtatious nature, her mixed messages. I know you’ve grown-up reading and hearing that since guys are really “visual”, that the ladies need to manage all of that by covering-up and keeping it hidden; that theyneed to drive this whole physical relationship deal, because we’re not capable. That’s a load of crap.

What the Pope’s Popularity Says About American Culture by Jonathan Merritt

What is happening across culture is, per usual, more complicated than some assume. Americans are not intrinsically allergic to Christians, but rather certain expressions of Christianity. The pope’s popularity helps us understand exactly which types of Christianity people resist.

This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps by Darlena Cunha

Using the coupons was even worse. The stares, the faux concern, the pity, the outrage — I hated it. One time, an old, kind-looking man with a bit of a hunch was standing behind me with just a six-pack of soda, waiting to check out. The entire contents of my cart were splayed out on the conveyor belt. When he noticed the flash of large white paper stubs in my hand, he touched me on the shoulder. I was scared that he was going to give me money; instead he gave me a small, rectangular card. He asked me to accept Jesus into my heart so that my troubles would disappear. I think I managed a half-smile before breaking into long, jogging strides out of there, the workers calling after me as to whether I still wanted my receipt.

Composite Mothering by Christine Canty

Please share with us what caught your attention this week.


Featurette: The Little Kite Runner


Photo by Krista Law

It was one of those Chamber of Commerce  autumn days in Colorado – the kind that makes you know God loves you so much to allow you to live here.  The skies were crystal blue and there was a slight chill in the air.  The park near our house had a big open field and I thought it might be perfect to try out the new kite my 4 year old son had gotten from his Dad.  So I bundled up my son and his 2 ½ year old sister and we headed to the park, a short walk from our house. 

Having arrived with everything , I proceeded to explain to my son that he had to run real fast so the wind would catch the kite and the it would lift it high in the air.  The work of running had to be done first to get it to catch on the air.  This required help so after watching him try so hard to create the lift, I began running beside him and letting the tension of the string loose at the right time.

Finally, the kite caught on the air and up it went into the heavens, circling and dipping on the air currents.  A little thing brought such great joy to the little boy.

The perfect day was even better as we 3 watched the kite sail.  With a little persuasion from me, he even relinquished the string long enough to allow his little sister to hold it.

It’s funny how certain times stick in your brain and bring a smile to your face, 34 years later.  As I watched him continue to hold the end of the string and look with wonder at the kite caught on the breeze, God brought a thought to my mind.  My little boy was the kite, I was the string holding on to the kite, and God was the wind that lifted it into the air.  It was very necessary for God to hold my little boy up, to help him grow into a good man.  Running alongside him that day, I realized we were a team, God, me and the little boy.  What a joyful thought!

Psalm 127:3:  Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

Submitted by LaRue Fleming


Sunday Specials: Bathsheba and Sex Trafficking

*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention. 

With Krista here for a visit on Colorado soil, your 3 therapists are about to have a day of exchanging many many words (people…you I wish I could have a word count on our conversations), creative ping-pong-like sessions, enjoying some scrumptious food and celebrating loving each other face to face. But before I head out for this day, a day I have been looking forward to for weeks, I wanted to share my Sunday Specials.  So without further ado, here’s what caught my attention this week:

Bathsheba and the Myth of Unconscious Seduction by Kate Schell

So King Peeping Tom summoned Bathsheba. This wasn’t considered criminal at the time, because the king had the legal right to claim any woman. But today, if Secret Service agents abduct a woman and take her to the White House for sex with the president, that’s called kidnapping and rape. Call in Liam Neeson, because she’s been taken. In this situation, Bathsheba could not say no and therefore, by definition, could not consent.

If you have been following our posts on Facebook you may have noticed that I have been tracking with a team of four bloggers who recent returned from a trip with an organization called Exodus Road. I’ve selected a favorite post (out of what they’ve published thus far)  from each of them as they reflect on their experience:

A Million Ways to Say it Wrong by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

This is the part where we each stare at a blank page on a computer screen for too many hours trying to find the right words to say all the things we want to say and share the things we want to share. This is the part where we desperately try to do justice in what we write to the things we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard, for all the hands we held, and eyes we met, and the hearts and souls we felt keenly connected to over one week across the world. This is the part that means life or death for a blogger trip, yes, but far more important, this is part that can bring new life to victims of human trafficking and sex-slavery. Let me just say this out loud; No one wants the trip we “survived” to matter in tangible ways more than we do. No one wants to share about the things we witnessed while preserving the privacy and dignity of the victims we saw more than we do. No one wants to help you feel a deep connection to the good work happening in the world more than we do. And no one is more afraid of saying it all wrong than we are. No one.

Oh no, dooce found Jesus by Heather Armstrong

On the last day of our trip I was talking with the founder Matt Parker who articulated exactly what I had witnessed the previous four days. He said, ‘If you read the Bible, if you study the person that Jesus was when he walked the earth, you’d understand that there was never a trade or a cost for his service. He fed and he clothed and he healed because he loved. He didn’t require anyone to accept a message or make a promise before he administered any help. He served because that is what good humans do for other humans.’

 What I learned about sex trafficking from an evening with two prostitutes by Kristen Howerton

In that room, I think we all felt an overwhelming sense of empathy and connection. I fought the urge to try to fix things, and instead to just sit with them and empathize and listen. We reiterated that we felt it was not fair that such disparities exist based on where we were born. They seemed relieved to hear us acknowledge that. I think we all sat in that room feeling that we are so much alike. I couldn’t help thinking that it is women who really need to rise up and help one another. These girls are our sisters, born into different circumstances, and doing what they need to do to survive.

Delicate/Brutal by Roo at Semi Proper

I cried with a sex worker. I rode on the back of motorcycle taxis. I reviewed pedophile cases, and now I can’t get the images out of my head. I watched an undercover investigation happen from the back seat of an SUV and ducked every time I saw headlights. I questioned God. I met a baby elephant. I watched horrible things unfold but I sat on my hands and smiled – as instructed – so as not to cause suspicion. I met people who have devoted their lives to rescuing victims and prosecuting evil people. I laughed with my friends in the back of a pickup truck and rubbed at the pain under my sternum by myself in the shower. I danced on a rooftop. I visited a Buddhist temple. I sat and talked with girls identified by the number pinned to their bikini bottoms. I connected with them. I felt a deep love for them. I wanted to rescue them. I left them behind.


 *Please feel free to share any links to posts that caught your attention this week in the comments below!


Biggie Smalls

As we round out the month of June, I’d like to piggyback off this month’s Feature Story (Part 1 and Part 2) as well as Shauna’s most recent post “Body Talk”.  For today’s Happy Hour post, I’d like to share my current dilemma with body image through a series of vignettes that like bullet points cannot stand alone, but as a cluster will make my point.

  • For those of you who know my daughter, you know that Lucy takes after her father and has always been in the 90th percentiles for height and weight.  She has stood in the back of every class picture.  She has always worn a clothing size bigger than her age.  And at 10 years old, I just bought a pair of shoes that I knew would fit her because they were the same size as mine.
  • When I was pregnant with Lucy, my mom came to one of my doctor’s appointments to see the ultrasound. The technician commented, “This baby has long legs and big feet!”  My mom thought she sneakily discovered the sex of our baby because a girl couldn’t be thus described.  So, when I gave her a boy outfit and a girl outfit to take home and wash in a special laundry detergent and bring back to the hospital after we discovered the sex upon delivery, she almost just cut the tags off the boy’s outfit, washed, and brought it, that convinced she was that our baby was going to be a boy.  It didn’t help matters that Lucy was born on April Fool’s Day.  So, when Karl exited the hospital room to tell everyone the good news, that our baby was girl, they thought of course he must be joking.
  • This week, we traveled from Seattle to Denver for our summer vacation.  We were excited to get back to my hometown to see family and friends.  Once, when we were all discussing the trip at dinnertime, Lucy said, “I just know everyone is going to look at me and say ‘My, you’ve gotten so big!’”  And she was right.  That has been the common reaction when people see her.  Even a boy she and her brother met in one of the hotel swimming pools said he couldn’t believe she was the same age as him because she was so much taller than he.

I am fully aware that our appearances are often the first things people notice and therefore comment on.  However, my dilemma presents when people expect, or rather demand, that someone either act or know or be what it is they look like.  So, someone who is tall and beautiful should be a model.  Someone who has an athletic figure should be an athlete.  Someone who has the exact opposite kind of hair that you have should be grateful.  Someone who is overweight shouldn’t be running marathons.  Someone who is tall for her age should act older than she really is.

Oftentimes what is expected of Lucy is that she must behave more maturely than she does.  I am as guilty as anyone in assuming something like because she can reach the top shelf in our kitchen, she shouldn’t need my help.  Or because she is bigger than most of the people in her 4th/5th grade class, she should know more than she really does.  And most importantly, there is a pressure or demand that she grow up emotionally – that she not get her feelings hurt so easily, or make such a big deal over small injuries.

Can we name that we do indeed draw conclusions that are likely stereotypical and often plaster our values on someone else’s appearances?  Knowing is half the battle, right?  And how do we suspend the assumptions about what it is we see long enough to allow room for curiosity, difference, mystery to fill the gap between what we think we know and what is really true of another human being?

I certainly have more questions than answers.  But one thing I know to be true today.  My daughter is big.  She is also small.  In a phrase – she is Biggie Smalls.


Body Talk

My oldest daughter is on the verge of turning 14. Every now and then I have these moments where I wish I could crawl into her mind and reside there for a single day. I know this must sound Freaky Friday-ish, but I can assure you my motives are strictly maternal. You see, the two of us have survived most of the waves that typically come to shore with this transitional time in female development. As my daughter has been transforming from a little girl to a young woman, our relationship has remained relatively intact. We have even survived the ups and downs of middle school friendships and boy-ships. The only lingering concern of mine is the category of her relationship with her own body. I wonder if, in the midst of all that has changed in her physical appearance and in the social landscape of her world, whether or not she has been able to cling to the truth that her body is for her and not for the world around her.

As a therapist who works predominantly with adolescent girls and women, I am all too familiar with the shift that an individual’s relationship with her own body can take in those tumultuous and formative pubescent years. Seemingly strong and confident girls can become increasingly insecure and extremely body-conscious. I find it hard to believe that the female brain is uniquely wired with the likes of a ticking-time bomb set to ameliorate any semblance of the girl’s previous sense of selfhood once breasts begin to form and hips begin to expand. I realize that hormones are a powerful force, but I tend to believe they are a force meant for our evolutionary and individual good as opposed to our psychological destruction. Regardless of the purpose our hormones serve, the pervasiveness of this pattern of self-abnegation in female development is undeniable. As a mom to four girls, the fighter in me is determined to do everything in my power to help write a different story with my own daughters.

There is at least one problem with this maternal desire: I’m not entirely sure how to fight this fight. There is a large body of evidence pointing toward a culture that persistently sexually objectifies women and girls as the primary culprit or instigator of female body image issues. Without making media the sole villain in this predicament, it is worth noting that one need only glance at a nearby television screen to identify endless images and messages (both overt and subtle) portraying women as objects and men as subjects. It seems that media is more often than not simply a reflection of the dominant set of values and beliefs, at least among those privileged with the power to influence such messaging.

Psychologists have long believed that we have a propensity as human beings to internalize the messages we are repeatedly told, especially during early stages of development and throughout childhood. Rather than this psychological tenet sending me on a cynical and disempowered downward spiral into a puddle of helplessness against this great and powerful cultural monster, it actually opens up my capacity to hope for change. I know that I am only one voice, albeit a rather significant voice, in the lives of my daughters, but nonetheless I do have the power to deliver a counter-cultural message. I can speak a different message to my girls, but I can also choose to model what it looks like to cling tightly to the truth that my body is for me and not for the world around me. I can learn how to reclaim my agency and reject the invitation to live into being an object of pleasure for others.

In recent years I have become increasingly encouraged by the peppering of some new messaging emerging in media, literature and film. The popularity of children’s movies like Brave, Tangled and Frozen as well as the young adult genre with books being made into films like The Hunger Games and Divergent, is reflective of a broader acceptance of female subjectivity and agency. Not only are there female protaganists present in each of these films, but the characters exude an ownership of their own lives as opposed to the narrative simply happening to them. Could this shift be the rippling effect of third-wave feminism? I certainly hope so because that would reaffirm that this fight extends beyond the walls of my own household.

In theory, all of this sounds doable. In the day-to-day, however, I am painfully aware of how difficult it is to live counter-culturally. Excavating the messages that I have internalized is at the center of this battle. When I hesitate to leave my house without makeup, I am reminded of the deeply embedded message that my beauty is dependent upon wearing a mask. When I read the story of a woman who recently underwent a preemptive double mastectomy and I automatically presume she’ll undergo reconstructive surgery, I am reminded of the deeply embedded message that our breasts are one of our greatest physical attributes. When I opt out of jumping in the pool to play with my clan of all girls because a swimsuit reveals the ways my body has been impacted by the birthing and nursing of the ones I’m lucky enough to call my children, I am reminded of the deeply embedded message that my worth is defined by my culturally-deemed desirability. These are the messages I am working so hard to unlearn and push against. Perhaps if I do enough excavating, my daughter’s will have a chance at internallizing an entirely different set of messages.