Move.

Attention subscribers: my website has moved. You can find my blog at liveyourhopes.com

Subscribing is a little different there, you may need to figure out RSS feed information. I am figuring out how to do this well still.

Thank you for reading!
Carly

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gentle hands are shaping

i wish that i had words that fully communicated what is happening in my soul. it is a confluence of factors, creating a perfect storm that i hope is leading to growth and depth.

but right now i am just tired.

i am exhausted, because soul work is draining in the midst of normal, everyday life and work.

i am tired of saying goodbye. the danger of falling in love with people is that sometimes they leave and that hurts. there have been too many goodbyes already this summer.

it feels like God is doing some very big and deep work in my life right now. i am glad for that. and i am learning that i am not crazy. at some point, i hope to learn what existence in this world looks like with these changes taking root in me, because at the moment i wonder if it is even possible.

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better late than never

every year, i list out the books i hope to read over the summer. every year, i fail miserably at checking them off. no doubt this year will be the same…so here is my list!

Redeeming Mulatto – Brian Bantum
The Lord of the Rings (all) – JRR Tolkein
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith – Barbara Brown Taylor
The Naked Now: Learning to See as Mystics See – Richard Rohr
Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God – Eugene Rogers
Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others – Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky
Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues – NT Wright
The Anatomy of Story – John Truby
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human – Jonathan Gottschall
The Road – Cormac McCarthy

completed.
in process.

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holding and losing

i am writing this post right now because i am trying desperately to finish finals, and i can’t seem to concentrate. i am hoping if i can get some of this out, i will find enough focus to make a dent. i can’t say any more than has already been said about the wonderful community of people connected to SPU, so that is not what this will be. this is my own process, it will not be eloquent.

june 5 with be a day that i mark from now on. it will be remembered as the day there was a shooting at my school. i have experienced a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts. i was not on campus, and a part of me hurts whenever i tell someone that because it seems to be received with great relief, like somehow that makes it okay.

i spent the weekend hanging out with some of my favorite seattle kids, which was great fun, but meant that i had no space to think and to process this event until sunday morning.

i made the choice to worship outside of my church home on sunday, because i wanted to be with a group of people that wouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth of the event and to make space for the pain that we were in.

so here is the truth: i am wrecked, i am a mess. the world seems to have moved on, to not notice the SPU sweatshirt i have been wearing every day. i can’t hold a thought in my brain. i can’t focus on anything. i feel sick to my stomach. there is too much freedom in my schedule this week, there is nothing that i have to hold it together for. so i am not holding it together. i am not really holding it together.

i am tired, i am cranky. i can’t remember what it is i need to get done this week. i am not myself. what is more, i don’t even feel like i have the space for this to be okay because i have finals and summer classes and a new job starting next week. i can’t really afford to lose it right now.

so to sum: i am not holding it together, but i can’t really let myself lose it. follow that enigma.

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we’re all in this together

this week has served as a profound reminder for me. entering into celebration with friends embarking on a new adventure together, and sitting in pain with friends faced with unexpected grief.

it is no surprise to me that joy and grief are so closely experienced. however, i have been processing this with a new perspective recently. i have learned more about myself, and begun to understand why i am so sensitive to these two emotions in particular.

but moreover, as we enter Holy Week, i am reminded that these two emotions, joy and grief, are at the heart of our faith.

during this week we walk with Jesus through his Passion.

we are faced with the reality of our own brokenness as we betray him with Judas, deny him with Peter, and call for his crucifixion with the masses.

then his body moves to the cross, and we realize our mistake. that the one we have crucified is the One who has so profoundly identified with us, performed our existence in such a way as to invite us to fullness and freedom.

and we must sit here. for a time. this is Good Friday. grief. pain. we must must sit in this space for anything that takes place next to have any significance.

so we sit in a place of grief. we wonder how to move on. we wonder how there could possibly be any hope left. we wonder how God could have forsaken us. this is okay. this is part of the rhythm.

because then, in the midst of our grief, we go to the tomb…only to find the stone rolled away and the funeral clothes unwrapped and empty. we turn back, confused, and there he is. he is alive, he calls us by name, and he tells us there is more. there is hope. there is joy.

it strikes me that this is the essence of the human experience. the invitation of Holy Week is to experience the fullness of what it means to be human, with the One who shows us exactly what that means. we walk the road together, you and me, bound up and together in the life of Jesus.

grief. joy. these are the reality of humanness. they are true of every experience and iteration of what it means to be human. grief and joy are what bind us to each other and what bind us to Christ. because in this one man, the particular and the universal are made one. our differences are at once honored and done away with.

because we are all in this together.

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my own nakedness

i have been avoiding this post like nothing else. i think i was hoping something would come over me and i would change my mind about the necessity of writing it. sadly, that hasn’t happened. it didn’t help that i started this post almost two months ago and lost the draft…all of that raw and vulnerable work down the drain. so, this post probably wont be exactly like i first intended it to be. but that will have to be okay.

i have talked about sexuality being bigger than simply the physical act of intercourse.

i have talked about how we are made in the image of God and noted that sexuality is deeply related to what it means to be human, but not limited to the act of having sex.

with this post, i plan to confess. i want to explore my own issues with the act of sex. i want to confess the ways that i have sought to understand my own sexuality in unhealthy ways. and i want to confess the way that i have judged others based on their expressions of sexuality.

—–

i have baggage when it comes to sex. imagine that. my baggage has nothing to do with my own sexual experiences, however, because i have none. rather, and perhaps somewhat self-centeredly, my baggage comes from the way other people’s decisions regarding sex have affected me. these experiences have worked together to form my perspective that sex is bad. i will flesh that out as i go.

my parents are divorced, and have been since i was four. both had relationships with other people while i was growing up. i was a savvy kid. i knew what was up. i knew that when my parents and their significant others disappeared for a little while, i was to keep myself occupied. i can remember this sometimes lasting for entire weekends, my brother and i left to our own devices, sometimes without even a response to our requests for interaction. this, at the very least, i perceived as emotional neglect. sex was more important than me to my parents.

as i grew up and hit high school, friends around me started having sex. boys that i liked started hanging out with the girls who were prettier, flirtier, and would “do stuff.” girls who i called friends started having sex and doing other things with guys that they knew i liked. while all i wanted was to be around people who also wanted me around, it seemed that most of the people around me were usually just trying to have sex.

writing these things out they seem trivial and superficial. i was never sexually abused, and i was not raised with pervasive shame associated with religious purity movements. i feel almost as though these experiences aren’t big enough to have resulted in the perspective i have held for so long. but, i am here now, and somehow i have developed the mindset that sex is the most important priority, men only want sex, and as a woman if you are not having it there is something wrong with you.

—–

this next bit is a little awkward. i am calling it confession, because i feel shame and because it feels like parts of it have been unhealthy. but on another level, part of this is normal self-exploration.

i have seen a lot of pornography, as early as when i was 13. along with masturbation, it started as a desire for knowledge and understanding, and became a way of coping with my own low self-image and loneliness. this is the point at which i believe it became unhealthy. it became about using what should be intimacy shared between other people for my own selfish devices. pornography and masturbation became a means to separate my body from my spirit, for a moment to ignore the brokenness i felt by covering it with physical pleasure.

and now, the piece that i regret is that there are images that will always be in my head. images that i wish were not there. images that i will probably compare with whatever future sexual experience i have. the thing about pornography is that you can’t ever undo your exposure to it.

—–

lastly, for this post at least, i have to confess my own judgment of others. i am limited in my own perspective, and i have realized lately that while i may eventually come to a place of grace and openness, often my initial reaction to people who have made different sexual decisions than me is judgment, or even disgust. i am far from proud of this.

the thing is, i don’t necessarily think that my choices are the best choices, though i think i am following my own path. i don’t want to presume to know what are the right choices for someone else. my hope is, however, to be able to love others. to help people realize the presence of both physical and spiritual elements of sexuality, and perhaps our actions should consider this (which isn’t necessarily to advocate for one set of choices over another).

—–

i am not sure what is next from this point. perhaps it will come from conversations that arise from this post. perhaps it will come when i start my human sexuality class in a week. but i know there is still more to be said.

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having sex and being human

to start at the beginning of this series, go here

i think my next step in this conversation is to think some more about what is at stake in this conversation.

here are a few true things about me, for some context:

– i am female.
– i am twenty-seven.
– i am single.
– i have never had sex.

these things color my perspective and my perception, so i feel it is necessary for me to name them before i go much further. this is where i am speaking from, take it or leave it.

————–

everyone has sex.

false.

as a christian, i believe that we – all humans – are created in the image of God. this statement is loaded, with different meanings for different people. i think there are a lot of things that we can say are “normal” elements of human experience, but there are few core things that are common to all. i don’t believe having sex is one of them.

certainly, having sex is a normative human behavior, an experience that most people have within their lifetime. but there is an inherent danger in saying that everyone has sex. saying this makes it something that is essential or foundational to personhood. but…

what about people who choose not to have sex, who choose to be celibate?
what about people who die before they have sex?

does not having sex take anything away from them being human? no. they are still fully human.

when someone tells me everyone has sex, it holds with it the implication that not having sex puts me in another category, takes away from my humanity somehow because i don’t. does this seem like a big leap? let’s reason it out for a second:

every person has sex.
i do not have/have not had sex.
therefore, i am not a person.

this argument is valid, the logic checks out. but i think it is unsound. i reject the conclusion as false, and have to reject the first premise, because i know the second premise to be true.

this is the danger in saying everyone has sex, in universalizing an experience. this is the danger in making the physical act of intercourse something that is essential or basic or fundamental to being human.

i don’t think this means that sexuality has nothing to do with our personhood, with what it means to be human. i just think we can’t limit our understanding of sexuality to simply having intercourse. sexuality is about much more than the act of sex. it is about how we relate to each other, how we connect with one another, how we treat each other, how we love each other. and this, this capacity for relationship, for connection to another person, this is part of what it means to be human. sex is just one manifestation of this capacity for relationship. friendship is another.

a person can be sexual without having sex, because it is about relating to and connecting with another person. a sexual relationship and a friendship both involve interest, vulnerability, intimacy, care for the other, and so much more. those things, whatever the context, evidence our humanity.

—————

aside from our capacity for relationship, another piece of what it means to be made in the image of God is that somehow, mysteriously, we are a union of body and spirit. sometimes we try to exist within each of these elements separately. we don’t realize that maintaining physical health, eating right and exercising for example, actually impact our spiritual health, and vice versa. because we exist as a mysterious union of body and spirit, they are connected…always.

having sex is not just a physical decision. what we do with our bodies is spiritual. sex is spiritual. to see sex as a purely physical act is to deny its impact on us as spiritual beings. it is to create an unholy and dualistic notion of what it means to be human. it tears us in two.

…more on this later.

—————

freedom.

most people would say that all humans have (or should have) freedom. however, most people think of this as free will, or the freedom of choice. meaning, i have the right – you have the right – to do whatever you please. some people caveat this with an “as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s free will.”

but lets think about freedom in terms of the image of God. God’s freedom does not come from God’s ability to do whatever God pleases, though God certainly can. God, in God’s infinite freedom chose to create: the entire cosmos, the earth, the animals, and us. God is free for us. God created a special little space for us, and when something happened to separate us from God, God came in after us. God, in God’s infinite freedom, chose to be for us by becoming one of us.

so by possessing the image of this God who was so free that he chose to be for us, we too are free. not free to do whatever we want whenever we want. but free for God. free to be all that God made us to be. free to be for the others around us who bear this image as well.

our freedom is related to how we approach sex as well. if we understand freedom in terms of free will, then sex becomes something purely about us – we do it whenever we want, with whomever we want, however we want. but if freedom is a freedom for what we were created to be, freedom for God, and freedom for others, then sex is a culmination. an ultimate act of union, consideration, and honor. it is something to be respected and not engaged in lightly.

————

sex is a meaningful, common experience. not everyone has this experience, and that is okay. i am okay. while having sex is not what it means to be human, it is still connected to our humanity, to our personhood.

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