Thanking God

Today I was exhausted after work, but still had to go to the university where I'm doing my credential work to try to jump through some hoops and check on my application, etc. Every time I go there people are totally unhelpful and unprofessional, so it's not usually my favorite thing to do--but it's a necessity. So today I went, and after sitting in traffic and taking about 30 minutes to go 4 miles, I got to the parking lot where I park and go to the vending machine to buy a daily permit. They are so cheap--only like a buck for a couple hours...but then I realize...I have only 25 cents. So, just as I'm getting totally frustrated, and realizing the office might be closed by the time I get back with the money for the permit, a guy who's leaving asks if I'd like his permit--since it's an all day pass. And I was so grateful, and thanked God profusely. There was no doubt in my mind that it was God helping me out, and providing that person at the right time to bring me some light and a reminder that God is taking care of me. It was really great.

So then I started thinking about how God can seem so odd. I mean, I have been in frustrating situations (and much more frustrating) and there is no deus ex machina that happens that makes everything okay. And I just wonder what kind of weird logic God is using to decide when to work these little miracles on my behalf, and when to let my frustration and pain and sorrow grow. Because those times when the miracle happens aren't always necessarily the times I think I need it the most.

I sometimes wish I could be the one to decide where the miracles need to happen, and where I can do things myself. Because sometimes I feel like God is helping me out with something and I'm like, "Wait, no--this is under control, what I need help with is this thing over here!" But, alas, I am not God. And in the end (and in the beginning, for that matter), even if I sometimes may wish it were otherwise, this is decidedly a good thing.


Back to school...

So, tomorrow is my first day back at work (teaching high school special ed at a public special ed school, in case anyone isn't up to date). I took a new position this year where instead of having the same students all day long, I'll get a different group every period. It will be fun to try something new, and if I don't like it, I can just go back to the other position. There are some pros and cons to this new job, but here's one of the beautiful and significant pros that helped me make up my mind:


Transition Time

Tonight is my last night here, before I move back up to L.A. in the morning. Then on Tuesday I report back to school (though the students don't come until next Tuesday--I come early to set up my classroom and go to faculty meetings and stuff). It's funny how even when I feel really good about a decision, and am excited about a new chapter of life, right around this time--right before the actual transition begins--I'm just a complete sobbing wreck. Doubts and questions abound. Such is life.

Prayers and good thoughts and well-wishes of all sorts would be much appreciated. Especially for a good Christian community in L.A. I have lots of friends there, and several really close friends, but no cohesive and regularly gathering community (other than church on Sunday morning). So that's something I'd really like prayers for, if you have a free moment.

And as a reminder to myself, and to anyone else who needs a reminder: God is good.


"Naturally" Feminine and Masculine

On my other blog, which posts just the same stuff as this one, I typically get a lot more comments from a wider range of people. My post 2 posts ago (something about Pursuing) sparked a little bit of debate about gender roles--there are a couple of more socially conservative (for lack of a better term) folks who occasionally comment on there, so it just raised a couple issues. This post was mainly in response those comments.
My entry about men and women, and whether it's important who does the initiating in a relationship, seems to have sparked a bit of a conversation about gender. This is something the Church has been struggling with since its inception, and continues to be a dividing line. Thank you to everyone who commented, and even though I am about to disagree with some of what was said, know that it's in a spirit of honesty, grace, and just wanting to witness to some of what I have come to believe about gender. One of the questions that I think is vital to beginning a conversation about this is how people come to the conclusion of what is "naturally" feminine or "naturally" masculine.

I assume when Christian people say "naturally" they mean that it is both pre-programmed into our gender's biology, and that it has been programmed by God, our Creator.

Often when I hear Christians engage in this conversation, they do it by observation. They say things like, "Well, men I know are like this..." or "Women usually do this..." and then make the leap to saying that must mean these are our God-given attributes based on our gender. This is just faulty logic, since there are lots of things that could cause women or men to act in a certain way (e.g., the brokenness of our culture, sin, the way the media portrays gender roles, the way the conservative church has lifted out only specific Bible verses that emphasize certain things, etc.) and we can't just assume that because a majority of women or men might act in a certain way, that it is how God ordained us to be. It could actually be a manifestation of brokenness, rather than a beautiful work of the Creator.

I could go on about this all day. We could throw Bible verses back and forth (there are plenty of examples that fly in the face of so-called "traditional" gender roles), and while maybe that would be helpful on some level, I grow tired of doing this. Especially when there are plenty of books out there on both sides of the topic, and if people really wanted the biblical case for one side or the other, it would be easy to find a book that "proves" that side biblically.

So let's just focus on one of the aspects of this that I find frustrating (and that came up in the comments). It is the assertion that women are "naturally" more nurturing than men. This is frustrating to me on a few levels:

1) It doesn't take into account the myriad of ways social convention and power of culture form people's character.
2) It gives men an excuse to not develop a nurturing character, because that's just not what God intended for them (though, let's look at Jesus--he was biologically male, and is one of the most nurturing people in all of Scripture).
3) It creates relationships between women and men where women have to be the emotional centers, instead of it being emotionally equal, where both parties are emotionally aware and mature.

Anyway, I hope this clears up some of what my thoughts on the matter are. Obviously, to go into all of my thoughts on gender and where they come from this would take at least a book. But this is just a little snapshot.


Raising Suspicion

Less than a week until I'm in L.A.! Can't wait.

On another note, I've been reading a book called The Obesity Myth which I found by accident when I was in the library looking for a book I could use as a mousepad while I was online (their tabletops for some reason render my laser-mouse ineffective). I glanced at it, and it seemed an interesting read, so I checked it out.

The main premise of the book is that people's level of fatness is not really something that affects health as much as we are led to believe. Rather, that people's activity levels and fitness levels are much more important in being healthy. This obviously flies in the face of everything we hear in the media on a daily basis, which is that "obesity" will kill you, and if anyone wants to live a healthy life, they have to be thin. There are some interesting points the book makes to contradict this claim, and while I don't just read a book and buy everything it says--it definitely makes me more skeptical about the way scientific studies are presented in the media, and about how the research is done and who it's done by (and funded by).

Here's the thing that really got me thinking: The weight loss industry is a $50 billion industry...so if it turned out that what really mattered to health was that people lived more active lives (and tried to eat healthfully, without having to be psychotic about it), whether or not this led to any kind of dramatic weight loss for everyone, well, a lot of people would lose a lot of money.

Or, at the very least, people would have to admit that the reason they want to lose weight is not actually about health (if it is indeed true that fitness and healthy living matter far more than weight) but about aesthetics--about wanting to get certain jobs, have certain friends, and fit a certain image. People use the guise of "health" to talk about weight, when that often isn't really what they're talking about at all. Yes, by all means, exercise and eat healthfully--but that doesn't guarantee a slender physique.

Anyway, this is just a friendly reminder for everyone not to believe everything you read or hear in the news. That's not really a new lesson any of us, right? But then, I don't know why I never applied that same hermeneutic of suspicion to the media coverage of America's fatness and the "obesity epidemic." I'm not at all saying everything they say in the media is totally wrong, but when a 50 billion dollar industry is invested in certain beliefs being propagated, I think it's worth being a little skeptical, and trying to hear more than one side of the debate. (It was news to me that there even was a debate.)


Pursuing and Being Pursued

The countdown is ON!!! 10 days left before I move back to L.A....

Last night I saw Little Miss Sunshine for the second time. I adore that movie. It goes into wide release this weekend. So folks, get on it. (There is bad language if that is something that offends you, just fyi.)

After the movie, my friend (who shall remain nameless) and I were talking about all sorts of different things. One thing she mentioned was a guy who said he's into the "biblical" model of gender roles, and how that was a turn-off. And we talked about how that is so lame, because if you look at the whole Bible, and not just a select 3 sections, you will get a very different perspective than the typical conservative Christian culture definition of gender roles. So we threw around some pro-egalitarian biblical stuff for a while, and talked about how we thought relationships should be organized around who has what gifts, not by who has what biological organs.

That's not the point though.

So after we had this nice pro-equality discussion, she said something about how men need to be the pursuers and show interest initially. And I was like, wait a second! How can we say we are pro-equality, and then turn around and say we can't initiate, and have to wait to have men initiate dating with us? That seems weird, right? But she didn't think it was incongruent at all. But why isn't it?


I LOVE Opinionated People

Today I feel the need to write how much I love opinionated people. Especially since many times, people with strong opinions (particularly women) are written off as domineering, aggressive, or bitchy (I'm not saying no one ever is this way, but people love to throw around these words when talking about opinionated women, and do so often when it is not fitting). So this is my post honoring all you people, women and men, who have strong convictions and opinions and are not afraid to share those with the world.

I'm not sure this has always been the case, but over the past several years I have found that I especially gravitate toward the loudmouth, opinionated types of people. Before, when I was younger, I didn't enjoy their company as much--mostly because I was still coming into my own, and was intimidated. But as I have become more of myself, and have my own strong opinions and convictions, I love being able to interact with people who can push back and contribute their own side to the dialogue. While I enjoy the company of all types of people, I find that I especially learn from and benefit from friendships where people are willing to express their thoughts and feelings about things. How can I learn to see different viewpoints if people don't stand up and share them? I mean, I can find them out on my own, but I love people who are willing to share. Because it's a risk to step out with your thoughts and feelings--and I salute and applaud the people in my life who are willing to do that.

This is ESPECIALLY true when they disagree with me.

I was talking with CMUG the other weekend, and really appreciated how she was willing to disagree with me, and to push back against my ideas. It gave me stuff to think about, and I just realized how much I love that quality in people--the willingness to have strong opinions and to share them. And my good friends Danny and Rachel in Atlanta--they are some STRONG women. And I have learned so much from them, and I love them.

You might think that interacting with a strong, opinionated person would make me feel squashed, or less able to express my own thoughts and feelings. But the opposite is actually true. (Sure, there are some people like that, but I think it's very possible to be loud and opinionated without being arrogant about it.) Because they freely express themselves, it makes me feel free to express myself too. I am free to be as strong, loud, and adamant as I want to be, and I don't have to worry about them just adopting my opinions to appease me, or making me feel like having strong opinions is a bad characteristic and makes other people feel bad. No way.

So, to all of you out there willing to take risks and believe in things, and then speak out and share your opinions with the world--I salute you. Thank you for putting it out there. Thank you for all I learn because of you expressing your thoughts and opinions. Thank you that you help me feel free to express myself as strongly as I want. Thank you for being the strong women and men God has made you to be.


Question Time!!

So, here's a question that I've discussed with various people over the years, in various permutations. I want to throw out to the xanga community, just to see what kind of diversity of perspective is out there. So if you're reading this, then state your opinion!!! You can be as detailed or non-specific about your answer as you'd like to be.

Question: Say there is a woman (it could be a man, but it works better as a woman) who is 35 years old and unmarried. She has a very large nose, and really big ears that stick out (even when she tries to cover them with her hair, they stick out a lot), but is a really great person and has good friends and a pretty enjoyable life. However, she really does feel a sense of loneliness for romantic companionship, and wants to get married. But because of her freakish face, no guy will marry her (much less date her). Over the years she has grown to accept herself though, and to even see beauty in how she looks, even though it is not what is conventionally accepted as beautiful. But she also has experienced rejection after rejection, with men always stating her nose and ears as their reasons for not wanting to date her. So, what do you think she should do? I will list a few options:

1) Get plastic surgery on her nose and ears, so that she will be able to find a man who will want to date and marry her. Though they may not have wanted to date her looking how she looked before, she understands the world is broken and needs to fit in if she wants to find love.
2) Say "F them all" and stay the way she is, and decide that it's not worth dating a guy who won't accept her for how she is, or who can't see beyond conventional norms. She can hold out hope for a guy who will accept her, but it is probable she will be waiting for someone who never will come.
3) Marry a sleezy guy who knows what a louse he is, and who thinks she's ugly and wants to hold it against her so he can use her for his needs in life.
4) Create your own option.


Everyone is Disabled

Yes, most of the time I do not love doctors. For so many reasons, some of which I have written about in the past. Today I had to go get my health forms filled out for the school district, and the doctor I had was a COMPLETE jerk. Now, I'm used to the stereotypes they throw at me, like that I don't exercise and only eat junk. And I'm used to having to say, "No, actually, I exercise almost every day, and try to live pretty healthfully." And I'm used to them not believing me. Whatever. I have learned to stick up for myself. But TODAY was beyond that. Not only did I get those stereotypes thrown at me with gusto, but he totally started devaluing the lives of students with developmental disabilities.
Since I was getting the physical for the district, he asked what kind of teacher I am. I told him I taught special education. He was like, "Oh, the special ed kids." He said that with a tone and look on his face as if he was talking about cow manure. Then he said, "I used to teach special ed, kids that were barely trainable, when I first got out of college." Yes, he said this with the same look of disgust. I think he was expecting me to join him in ribbing on the students with disabilities, and talking about how sad and unbelievably low-functioning they are. Obviously, I did no such thing. I desperately wanted to say, "Well, for the sake of those kids, I'm glad you became a doctor," but I didn't. I just said, "They're good kids. It's a good job."
And it made me realize what I really hate about doctors is how they are obsessed with HEALTH--I mean, that is their job after all, to make people's bodies as healthy as possible. They love bodies that are perfect, healthy, and well-functioning. They can also tolerate bodies that are broken in some respect, as long as they are fixable. But people with disabilities are not in this category--they are going to have limitations in their physical and mental capacities, and will never not be disabled, no matter what the doctor does. So they are not able to see the amazing GIFTS of people with developmental disabilities, because they can never get past the fact that their bodies and minds are "beyond repair."
It makes my heart so sad. What especially disturbs me is the artificial distinction between "people with disabilities" and everyone else. As if there is anyone in this world who is free of limitations and disabilities of their own. We all have gifts, but we are also all broken and flawed, and in profound need of the grace and love of God. But the thing is, people with physical/cognitive disabilities have their disabilities out there in the open, for everyone to see. Whereas people without those types of disabilities can pretend that they are not broken, and that they do not have profound flaws and limitations. And then, these so-called "normal" people can look on people with developmental disabilities with disgust or with a feeling of superiority, when all along they are more disabled than someone with developmental disabilities will ever be.