My Literary Sins: Audiobooks

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I have decided to start a series on the blog. This started out as a bit of a joke between my sister and I. We make an event of spending time together once a week and that time is most often spent at the library. We like to commiserate on the (insert eye roll here) woes of that bibliophile life. Sometimes these lighthearted talks are nothing more than jest, but we have had our share of “me too!” moments as well.

I give you: My Literary Sins. All lovers of books have them. We do come in all kinds of varieties, with different values and systems that rule us all.

This year has been the year of the audiobook for me. This takes me by surprise because I used to have weird rules about audiobooks. I was against them for the most part and considered it to be lazy reading or for people with no attention span or imagination. Maybe my aversion for audiobooks started long ago. When I was in Kindergarten, every Monday in music class my teacher, Mrs. Hickey (you don’t forget a name like that) would have all of the students either lay down on the floor or across 3 chairs and close our eyes and listen to an audio cassette recording. The one that stands out the most to me was the famous ghost story of The Golden Arm. If this was their attempt at nap time for 5 year olds, these people had to be sadists. Every Monday was a terror. And the chairs were awful.

As I got older and my various English teachers would have us read along with a tape providing narration on the books for our class, I would just get annoyed at the narrators. I learned to tune them out and just read ahead on my own, which would then result in chastisement from my teachers.

Tisk. Tisk. Naughty. Naughty.
No reader left behind.
Groan.

As adults we tend to rather enjoy creating our own systems rather realized or not in which we navigate and manipulate our world. As such, I did the same for the prospect of audiobooks. I came around in the sense that I no longer utterly disdained audiobooks, but felt that I needed to maintain some integrity. A girl has got to have standards! So I reasoned that I would be okay with listening to audiobooks, provided that the book in question was one that I have already read on my own in the purity of my own mind. In some bizarre sense I felt that my imagination would be corrupted if I listened to an audio version before reading a book on my own.

My imagination is not maimed by the fact that other people have put their imagination to work in the art form of spoken word.

The change in my rigid thinking began in 2015 when I heard the brillant audio that accompanied Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is DeadAlthough I had read the book before listening to the audio, this was totally different. It was more than just listening to a book. It became an experience. Listening to this audiobook brought me back to my senior year of high school when I decided to try Oral Interpretation instead of a 4th year of Theater.

I started to see audiobooks through the same lens that I would view an Oral Interp performance. Every audiobook is just another interpretation of a written work. My imagination is not maimed by the fact that other people have put their imagination to work in the art form of spoken word. These days, I tend to seek out audiobooks from certain sources because of the fact that I do value their interpretation. This is especially true of authors who narrate their own works with great skill.

You guys. At the time of this writing, 22 out of 49 books I have read so far this year have been audiobooks. I think it’s safe to say that I have progressed on my narrow ways of thinking. I have gone from abhorring them → to being okay with them → to loving them. I used to feel so guilty about not being able to get more reading done because of my ever growing to-do list, but now that I have embraced audiobooks, I can have it all! And so can you!

♥ MM

Resurrection When You’re Reconstructing

Good morning, friend. We’ve made it to Easter. Resurrection Sunday! Jesus is alive! This is a day of rejoicing and celebration, the mother of all Christian holidays. But this year is different because I am different. This year at Easter I find myself for the first time that I can remember being without a church “home”, or rather a four walled building that I frequent week to week. This is my first Holy Week since I broke up with Evangelicalism, and I feel fine.

In years past, I wouldn’t have even given a moment’s pause to Holy Week– it was all about Resurrection. If anything Holy Week consisted mostly of hustle and bustle and anxiety to get ready for the big day on Sunday. There was no time to reflect on the Christ! If anything, we would pull out Isaiah 58 to use as a quip against our brothers and sisters who participate in Lent, leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

There were tasks to be done, lines to learn, programs to rehearse for, outfits to plan. Easter was one out of two days a year that we would target C and E Christians (those heathens who only attend church on Christmas and Easter) and make sure that they feel the proper amount of guilt for their presence  welcome in the house of God and sense the anointing of the Lord calling them back to the fold.

Since leaving the evangelical machine, I now have room to breathe. I feel like I am finally paying attention now that I’m not forcing myself to go through the motions for what feels like the first time in an eternity. I have given myself permission to reflect, question, doubt, and dream. I have cast aside a theology that romanticizes self hatred as sanctification. I have pushed back hard against my own self sabotage and am allowing myself to just “be loved” by God and extend that love to my neighbor. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I am curiously pondering if this is what it is to be real. Not having to force myself to transform into a Stepford Christian every Sunday and Wednesday is like a cool breeze on a hot day.

There is power in being okay with not being okay.

I know I am not alone. There are Christians everywhere who are square pegs so desperately wanting to fit into a round hole, but the Machine’s dogma won’t allow it. So we have created a community of misfits where our difficult questions and unconventional selves are welcome to the table, where all of our pegs fit. We are deconstructing every piece that has ever been given to us about this Man Jesus, so that we can reconstruct our beliefs board by board.

I don’t want to hang my hat on a set of bylaws, just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Until the Church no longer should be a place where space is made for all people and their questions, but actually is, I am happy finding Jesus in the small, unexpected places. What I am willing to do is bet the farm on the person Jesus. In all of our wanderings, he remains central. Resurrection when you are reconstructing is no solo project, but rather Jesus alongside you in your mess, your doubt, your crises.

Just breathe. Just remain. Just be. 
Hope is alive.

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.

♥ MM

Celebrating an Autism Diagnosis 

Today is aflutter of St. Paddy’s day excitement and all the buzz of the new Beauty and the Beast movie premiere, controversy and all. In the midst of the celebratory excitement and chaos, we have a celebration of our own going on at our house.

March 17th marks a special day that is all our own– more specifically all my son’s own. This year marks his Three year autism diagnos-a-versary. Today, we choose to celebrate.

Three years ago our family was overwhelmed with brochures, charts, graphs, and “it’s a rough road ahead” dispositions. We were primed with all the classic fearmongering that is piled on thick by the go-to “autism awareness” organizations that are presented with such bright colors in the diagnostic process.

As newbies to the “parents of a disabled child” circle, we did ascribe to some of these leanings for a time– before we knew better– although it never really sat right with us.

All the resources put in front of us were so much about making us, the parents, feel comfortable and had little to nothing to do with our autistic child. It was as if he was an accessory to our lives that we could mix and match as we see fit to achieve a perfect look.

In this third year in autismland, I must say the best thing we have done for our son as neurotypical parents is to listen to the voices (or writings) of autistic people.

We must move from awareness and even acceptance to celebration. In Amethyst Schaber’s moving keynote linked below, she describes how autistic people don’t need to just be tolerated or seen as acceptable, they need to be celebrated.

And frankly, the idea of celebrating autism as a neurotype causes a lot of upset in some people. The able bodied majority has created a culture that sets up disabled people for internalized ableism. It’s gotten to the point that the only context we allow ourselves to even see disabled people is through inspiration porn colored glasses. Why is it that we are okay with erasing disabled lived unless they are objectified for our inspiration?

I believe this is why celebrating autism is so offensive to able bodied people. For some reason we think that to celebrate is to diminish struggle, difficulty, and even despair. What life, disabled or not stays on one side of an extreme? I love this except from an article by nonverbal self-advocate Amy Sequenzia who writes:

I celebrated being Autistic and disabled, with everything that comes with my disabilities, epilepsy included. Even though autism and epilepsy are two separate things, they are part of me and I cannot celebrate my life with one, and not another.

To celebrate any life, is not to erase or sweep our struggles under the rug.

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I Tried to Act Normal. Worst 10 Minutes of My Life.

Walking through the chaos, without exception, we celebrate everything that makes you our churrito!
Happy diagnos-a-versary, monkey!

♥ MM

Take a Moment

In the spirit of the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, I wanted to share about this nifty app I started using at the beginning of the year that has helped me stop wasting time and get my focus back where it belongs. As an introvert, my relationship with social media is a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, I social media with intention, being that I enjoy the life-giving communities that I am a part of online. As a matter of fact, I even met my husband through social media, so it’s not uncommon for me to feel a closer kinship to my online friends than some of the people I associate with IRL. On the other hand, too much screen time can overstimulate me and start the anxiety ridden FOMO cycle when I feel especially engaged in online dialogue (or as is often my case, a good round of oversharing).

The struggle is real, folks.

As awe inspiring as this technology that allows us to connect with humans, information, and data is, moderation is important. I know I am guilty of being run-run-run from the moment I wake up till the clock strikes 3:00 and it’s time for me to round my kiddo up from the bus. My day revolves around to-do lists, budget making, bill paying, meal planning, therapy scheduling, checking in with my loves on social media (of course!) and more, but rarely do I take a moment to check in and see how I’m doing. For the most part, my days run like a well oiled machine that is hardly self-aware of how close it is to the edge of burnout.

At the end of the dumpster fire that was 2016, I definitely felt the toll of taking on too much with too little self regard, when I heard about the Moment App. Sometimes I would find myself longing for a time machine to transport me to 1999 when the only phone I had was my hot pink cordless landline. I don’t want to regress in the advancement of technology, but sometimes the soul could use a good refreshing a la late 90’s.  If you are wanting a self assessment of how you are using your iPhone in hours and minutes of time wasted I would start here. For android users, there is a similar app called Quality Time that I would check out.

So how does it work?
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The app primarily runs in the background, you don’t have to think about it too much, depending on your settings. You can set daily limits  and goals for your phone usage. You can even exclude certain apps from counting towards your daily phone usage. For example, I exclude my reading and productivity apps since I use them to get things done throughout the day, plus it only counts time where your phone is unlocked. So if you are are like me and listen to music (or audiobooks) in the background while getting things done, it will only count the time where the app is lit up on your phone. The only engagement that you have with Moment once you have personalized your settings is a simple screenshot of your battery usage the first time you pick up your phone each day. This allows the phone to make a report of how many hours and minutes you are on your phone and specifically how much time you are spending on certain apps.

There is a feature of the app called Phone Bootcamp, which takes things to another level and really makes you conscientious of your daily habits regarding your phone. This feature is a 2 week program with 14 challenges. The challenges aren’t progressive, meaning you don’t necessarily have to keep following previous rules with each day, but I think it is beneficial if you do. Some challenges were more difficult than others, while some challenges seemed like a no brainer to me.

Like this one.

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I mean no judgement, but really? Ewww. Even if not for the gross factor, the graphic below makes a good point for the loss of precious time when you have your screen time on the crapper.

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(source)

The most bizarre challenge, also raised a very good point about what we are saying with our phone usage.

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This one was pretty eye opening as to how often we use our phones when we are around other people. It reminded me of that scene in Kate and Leopold where Leopold stands up “when a lady leaves the table”. I think the only exception to this would be if you are having screen time together. This definitely made me more aware of how often we are apt to pull out our phones even when trying to spend quality time with the people we love.

For me, the most beneficial challenges were the ones that involved altering my morning and evening routine and rituals.

Evening Routine

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I noticed that I had more energy in the evening when I gave my phone a “curfew”. Usually after I finally get my kid to bed I feel too exhausted to finish whatever items are left to be completed on my list, however without the encumbrance of keeping my phone on me in the late hours, I had a surge of motivation. Since I am an introvert, I do tend to live in my head most of the time. I’m constantly thinking about things that were said, plans that need to be made, connections between things that have happened in the day to other meanings– my brain is a busy place. Being able to slow down at the end of the day helps me slow down some of that busyness so that I can ease into the morning without going a million miles a minute.

Morning Routine

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Nothing stresses me out more in the morning than having to look at a screen upon hearing an alarm, still blurry eyes from the remnants of sleep and dreams from the night before. My mornings are busy enough with coaxing my five year old out of bed and getting him out the door for another day of school without the added chirps reminding me that my phone demands my attention in those early hours. Not feeling pressured to check in at the crack of dawn made making Day 11 a ritual rather than a one time challenge much easier. Writing is my thing. As much as I live in my head, self reflection doesn’t come so naturally to me. I have to be intentional about thinking about how I am feeling about certain situations or how I am feeling about myself. Being able to make a habit of getting alone with my own thoughts, working them out through writing has brought so much peace to my life and is a wonderful way to start the day, not to mention a great segue to morning devotions or prayer.

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The very last day of the challenge was to go completely off the grid (well, with 2 minutes grace anyways). This was a little unnerving since it was during a school day and I was a little nervous about my son’s teacher trying to contact me, but other than that it was pretty liberating to party like it’s 1995 even if just for a day. I have started trying to go cold turkey once a month on a day where I know I don’t need to be contacted for emergencies. It’s a nice little way to reset each month and refocus on what really matters and where I stand with the current goals/dreams I am trying to reach at this stage in my life.

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So if you are feeling the Daylight Savings Time blues today, I would consider giving Moment a chance and you just might find some extra minutes, if not hours in your day!

♥ MM

*Disclaimer* I do not work for the developer of the Moment app and am not being paid to promote their service, I just really love it and think you will too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Elephant I Can No Longer Ignore 

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Today I want to write on a topic that I am embarrassed to say I have never addressed in this space before. I think that there are a lot of Christians – Evangelical or otherwise, who don’t know what to do about the LGBTQ+ conversation, which has become the elephant in the church. So many times I have heard people whom I respect tremendously side step the issue by saying things like, “I’m just not called to that issue” or “My ministry is just really focused on XYZ right now” or “I don’t want to close ministry doors by speaking on something I don’t know much about.”

We reduce our brothers and sisters to an “issue” or a “lifestyle choice”. I’m not talking about your alt-right, Westboro Baptist Church types either. I’m talking about people that are near and dear to my heart who love Jesus and fight for equality in the church but who are strangely silent on this particular demographic. Even in our politics or current events we can somewhat acknowledge in a rather roundabout way “Oh what a shame.” when we here of another report of LGBTQ+ violence. Some are even bold enough to admit (usually behind closed doors) that it doesn’t seem right that same sex couples don’t have the same legal advantages that straight, married people do, although we aren’t quite sure if it’s okay to be okay with same sex marriage, and are definitely not bold enough to say something about it. It usually ends with a fleeting moment of sympathy and then back to our regularly scheduled programming.

It’s as if we have taken the places of the Pharisees, trying desperately to reason among ourselves, what are we going to do about all these LGBTQ+ people? They have turned our theology upside down and are really causing a ruckus! And instead of setting a place at the table to have a conversation or even humbly admit,

“I don’t know where you are at or what you are going through, but I want to.”

we either don’t acknowledge them or quickly turn to blanket statements that offer little more than a facade of superficial Christian love. And you know what?

I’m guilty too.

2016 was a year that revealed some dark places in my heart. It has always been my nature to seek harmony with my fellow man and see equality and justice in the church and in the world. However, how many times have I sought a cause where I wasn’t the one who could stand to benefit? The 2016 election cycle made me see that it wasn’t until I was a single, pregnant mom that I could truly empathize with women who find themselves at the door of Planned Parenthood. It wasn’t until I was a single parent working and in school full time with an infant, struggling to put food on the table that I could empathize with those “welfare moms” seeking government assistance. It wasn’t until I found out my child was autistic that I truly cared about advocating for the disabled. It wasn’t until I married a DACA recipient that I truly cared about immigration issues and reform.

There is power in simply giving a damn. The sad thing is that most of the time, the only person we care to give a damn about is ourselves. 

So how did I get here? Me! The one who cares deeply about social justice and equality, but who is practically privileged in every way? Why should this white, straight, cisgendered millennial, ever give a second thought to LGBTQ+ issues, let alone acknowledge that these are Christian issues too?

To quote retired Bishop Gene Robinson,

I’m one of those sappy religious folks who actually believes in the Holy Spirit.

It’s true.
I believe with all that I am that the Holy Spirit orchestrated what happened next.
And it all started with this shirt.
Sort of.

I got a new shirt!

A post shared by Matthias Roberts (@matthiasroberts) on

To this day, I don’t even remember how I came across this picture, but I am sure glad that I did. Honestly, I probably never would have clicked on his website if it wasn’t for the fact that his name is Matthias, the same as my sweet 5 year old. At first glance I wasn’t really sure what I thought about “LGBT Christianity”, but there was this magnetism – this joy in his writing that let my guard down and piqued my interest.


For some time before this, I was in a season of studying the bible to see what it had to say about Egalitarian theology, specifically regarding what it had to say about gender equality in the church. If you are a Christian woman in the church with a fire in your belly and a mission in your heart, you are likely to be met with resistance in the form of what are commonly referred to as the “difficult passages” that Complementarians use to justify silencing women in the church. Knowing the heart of Jesus, yet wanting to be true to His word, I took to looking at the historical-cultural context of said passages and held fast to my Christian Feminist leanings.

As passionate as I am about Feminism, I can’t help but notice the double standard when Christian Feminists feel slighted when Complementarians condescendingly state “the bible clearly says” in regards to the difficult passages that are used against women from preaching, teaching, leading in the home and in the church, but who will use that same sentiment towards the “clobber passages” that are used as weapons against the LGBTQ+ community. But hey, I let it lie. Most of the Christian community was silent on this issue, why not me? 


And that’s when this delightful thorn in my side came along and wrecked everything. It took less than 140 characters to offend me out of laziness and into conviction, prayer, and study. I couldn’t sweep it under the rug now. I was that “straight, well meaning Christian” who was sympathetic enough to feel sorrow at the plight of LGBTQ+ people but wasn’t quite sure where I stood or what the practical steps were to even begin to think about entering this world, let alone what I could do to help – if I even should.

But really, see the entire thread ^.

Now let’s shift gears for a moment for a flashback sequence to 2009. At this point I had just started my second year of bible college and was of the mind that I was going to end up in Vermont in some sort of ministry capacity. And what was Vermont known for in 2009? The Marriage Equality Act, a bill that allowed Vermont to recognize same sex marriage for the first time. I immediately started trying to figure out how to reach these troubled souls with the gospel. As a part of my “research” I rented the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So which features (now) retired Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop to be consecrated by the Episcopal Church.  I was literally sitting there trying to come up with a strategy for how one goes about proselytizing to “those people”. I was so blinded by my narrow, unstudied view on what the bible says about homosexuality that although I was moved, grieved even, by the tragedy and divide in this film, I was nonetheless convinced that they were wrong and I was right.

Ride’s over. Back to 2017.

So I began to seek out LGBTQ+ voices and just listen with an open heart and mind for probably the first time in my life. I didn’t engage too much, in fear that my apathy would show. I had heard about the Gay Christian Network when I read Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans last year, but never really looked into it. It’s practically an accident that I ended up stumbling across the link to access the livestream for the GCN conference on the first night of the conference. I wasn’t sure if this was for me, but I was ready to listen and learn.

I was nervous thinking about how complicated my theology was about to get if it turned out that Jesus was okay with all of this, but I couldn’t deny that God was there. And I couldn’t push Him away or ignore the elephant in the church this time. Love kept drawing me in. 

In July, my family walked away from the Evangelical Church for a trial separation after seeing that the justice and equality of Jesus didn’t seem compatible within the rigid framework of the Evangelical machine. It’s been a sabbatical of sorts, finding Jesus in unexpected places and truly examining why we believe what we believe (Thanks Scot McKnight). So you can imagine my jaw hitting the floor when it turned out that Gene Robinson was a keynote speaker – whose story I first heard 8 years prior, when I was trying to systematically forge a plan of action to reach “the homosexuals”. It turned out “those people” ended up reaching me. After almost 6 months, I finally “had church”. And it turned out that the ones that I marginalized for so long were my people.

After that conference was over, I felt a fire inside of my bones like I had not felt since I began my journey studying Egalitarianism as it relates to women in the church. I finally felt alive, like for the first time I was giving a damn about something that was not serving my own interests. I felt completely consumed by love as if the weight of apathy was melting right off of me. The regrets I have of slighting the LGBTQ+ people in my life in the past are many. Humility has come back for me in 2017. I choose to move forward with the resolve that I don’t want to one day say with regret, “It wasn’t until my son or daughter came out that I started giving a damn about LGBTQ+ people and issues.” I choose today. I choose now. You can set people free with the sound of your voice (or the signs from your hands). In the words of Ling Lam,

“Every time you speak up you are chipping away at the conspiracy of silence.”

Apathy, be damned.
It’s time to let love in.

♥ MM


For further reading, see:

http://www.thekevingarcia.com/resources/
http://matthiasroberts.com/resource-list/
https://www.gaychristian.net/
https://gcnconf.com/
http://www.reformationproject.org/resources
http://www.faithfullylgbt.com/

2016 Bookscapades

Pile of Books
CB068378” (CC BY 2.0) by Raoul Luoar

Hey there.

I wanted to try and sneak in one last post before 2016 is graciously no longer upon us.

There were some pretty exciting literary moments for me in 2016. Last year I put myself up to the epic quest of visiting every single SAPL Public Library in my great city of San Antonio. This year, I had the pleasure of experiencing the reopening and renovation of the Collins Garden Branch and the launch of the Potranco Branch.

[January 30th]
Grand Reopening of the Collins Garden Branch Library

[November 4th]
Grand Opening Potranco Branch

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Believe it or not, libraries are some of the most difficult places to take children to, especially if your have kids with sensory issues. We started out our trip struggling, but by the end of it, my son was having a blast.

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As you can see, he even transformed into Raphael! Being touched with a sponge full of paint is sensory territory my son would normally never entertain. I love it when my son loves his visits to the library. These memories mean the world to me.

Another one of my goals was to visit all of the Half Price Books locations in San Antonio. I ended up surpassing that goal. I visited all 5 San Antonio locations, one in Round Rock, one in San Marcos, one in Corpus Christi, and all 5 in Austin.

Why this madness?

Earlier this year I decided to recollect my favorite series as a kid, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids. There is just such fun in the hunt for the books you loved as a kid. I only have 9 left (of 51) to collect.


No matter what I resolve to accomplish from year to year, I am never disappointed in deciding to never stop reading.

Happy New Year, bibliophiles!

♥ MM