Monday, June 25, 2012

Still Crying: Childhood Memories

(This post was originally published on my old blog: Enigma. I am re-posting it here to kick off the "Still Crying" project)

I couldn't stop crying. That was the problem. I was hot and cold all over, shaking and crying so hard i couldn't breathe. My skin was stinging, throbbing from the punishment that started almost an hour ago. My chest rose and fell in sharp jerky motions with each hickup, with each choking breath i tried to take. "control yourself" he said softly. His voice was sad, almost gentle. Almost.
He was so disappointed in me. I knew it, and now time was running out again. "Are you going to stop?" His grip tightened on my arm. Panic surged through my body, threatening more tears, I bit down on my lip. "God please make me stop! Help me control myself!" My mind screamed out to God, but nothing happened. No sense of calm. I should have expected this, God doesn't answer bad 6-year-olds. My little body shuddered and i started to sob again. Failure. Dad pulled me back over his knee and hit me three times with a wooden spoon. Pain blossomed up the back of my legs, my bottom. I cried. Loud. I was completely unable to control myself and i was dizzy from trying. Dad clamped his hand over my mouth. "silence" he hissed. Now he was frustrated as well as disappointed. What was wrong with me? Why was i too weak to just say "yes sir" and shut my mouth?
My foggy little mind understood why this was happening. I needed to learn to be silent when i was punished and Daddy was helping me. If i was allowed to be loud and mellow dramatic, the neighbors might get the wrong idea and tell the cops that we were being abused. The cops weren't Christians, and they wouldn't understand. They might get a judge to split up our family, and it would be all my fault. Daddy was just protecting our family. I mustered all my strength and stood very still. I sucked in as much air as i could, held my breath and waited. "are you going to control yourself now?" I nodded. Not too fast. "Do you understand why i had to spank you?" I'd forgotten actually, but I nodded anyway. I was running out of air. "Are you sorry?" I nodded again, waited. My vision began to go dark around the edges. I didn't dare draw a breath and ruin this long awaited silence. "Alright, come here" My father took me in his arms and I slowly let out my breath. It was over now. My body was still shaking but my lips were clamped shut. "What do you say Sarah?" he asked. Still no gentleness in his voice, but the anger was gone. I cautiously opened my mouth, terrified that my body would betray me again. I wiped the tears and snot away with the back of my hand and whispered: "Thank You"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stop Telling Me What I Need

Women need to be protected.

Women long to be told they are beautiful by the men in their lives.

Women are gentle.

Women are born to nurture and support.

Women need to be led.

Women are easily swayed by their wayward emotions.

Women want a knight in shining armor.

Women want to be treated like princesses.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these phrases (and others like them) coming from a man behind a pulpit. Back when I was still steeped in fundamentalist Christianity, these claims made me uncomfortable because even then I did not fit the mold. I was used to having other people tell me who I should be and what I should want, so I internalized these messages and tried to assimilate myself to this ideal of a woman. It never worked.

When I hear these types of sermons NOW, I am more than uncomfortable, I am angry. How many spirited young girls are sitting in this church, losing their identities while taking notes on how to be a “better” woman? How many innocent young boys are being programmed for misogyny because of the ignorant babbling of a pompous man?

When did the church become the authority on personalities and relationships? What makes them think they know what every woman wants and needs? What makes them think they can solve everyone’s marriage problems with the same list of rules and regulations? When are people going to realize that the church is NOT qualified to be giving out relationship advice? It’s great to incorporate your morality into your relationships, but faith does not replace experience.

For Example:
Professional Dating Advice: “Find somebody who “gets” you, someone who makes you happy. Don’t waste time on people who aren’t honest with you, or who don’t treat you respectfully.”

Church Dating Advice: Make a list of must-have criteria for a potential spouse. If you are a man, wait until you are ready to provide for a family, then seek out a woman who is chaste, modest, and godly.

Professional Relationship Advice: Take the time to learn about what your partner likes, wants, and needs. Every person is different, so don’t assume you know everything about your partner. Be open and honest about your own likes, wants, and needs as well. If your spouse seems upset, don’t assume you know what’s wrong, talk to him/her and make sure they know you are there for them. Good communication is key! If you want to have sex, be sure you know what your partner is comfortable with and talk about your expectations.

Church Relationship Advice: Men, be sure to always treat your girl like a fragile princess. Anticipate that she will always be more emotional and weak than you. Don’t bother her with discussion of sports or anything like that. Be sure to assert your manliness as much as possible. If she ever seems upset, it’s because she’s either hormonal or self conscious. This can be cured by telling her how pretty she is and giving her a box of chocolate. P.S. Avoid sexual contact at all cost, it will destroy your relationship.

Professional Marriage Advice: Be sure to talk through everything with your spouse. Talk about your expectations and feelings regularly. Marriage is a partnership, and you two are a team. You are both unique individuals, so only you can know what works best for you. If you ever feel like you can’t work through something on your own, there’s no shame in seeking a little help. Marriage counseling is good for even the healthiest couples because it facilitates better communication, which is key to a happy relationship!

Church Marriage Advice: God created you two to perfectly complement each other. Your marriage will be happiest and healthiest if you adhere to your god given rolls as men and women. If there is contention in your marriage, it is because one or the other of you is not obeying God’s directives for husbands and wives. If you feel like you are facing a challenge in your marriage that you cannot overcome, there is no shame in seeking a little help. Speak with your pastor or an elder at your church. They can pinpoint who is making what mistakes and help you get back on track towards fulfilling your marital rolls. Once you are, through the grace of God, doing everything required of you in your marriage: all else will follow!

The dating, relationship, and marriage advice I received from my church and parents did major damage to my relationships and eventual marriage. They made me think that there was some kind of heavenly blueprint that applied to every man. They made me think there was a list of does and don’ts that applied to every relationship. I was taught to “prepare” for marriage, but the problem is that there is no way to prepare for a relationship between two variables. There is no way to prepare for a future with a person you’ve never met.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the church shouldn’t be handing out false expectations about relationships. They shouldn’t be going around telling boys what girls are like, and telling girls what boys are like. They shouldn’t be claiming to know why you’re struggling in your marriage. No two boys are the same, no two girls are the same, and no two relationships are the same. There is no cheat sheet. There is no heavenly blueprint. Nobody knows what you want or need except you. And believe it or not, nobody knows what I want and need except me (and my husband, because i tell him.)

So, Mr. Pastor Man behind the pulpit, you can keep your false expectations and stereotypes to yourself. The fact that I am a woman tells you literally nothing about me. Stop telling boys that all women are the same. And please stop telling me what I need.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Still Crying: The pain of corporal punishment doesn’t end when the spanking is over

Last year, in the early stages of my first blog: Enigma, I wrote a post about my experiences with being beaten (spanked) as a child. I wrote about “spanking” through the eyes of my childhood memories, and it really resonated with people. I have experienced years of painful repercussions because of my parent’s choice to “spank” me. I wonder if they would have made a different choice if they had been able to see the harm they would cause.

 One of the main reasons I blog is to try and make a difference for children who live like I once did. Statistics show that in the US, 90% of children are still “spanked” by their parents. I hope a young parent somewhere will read my words and think twice about heading down the path to corporal punishment.

This week I got a bright idea. I want to compile a collection of stories from victims of spanking. I want parents of young children to be able to see the issue from words that could someday belong to their child. People who want to participate can write a short post, about 100-300 words in regards to the issue of spanking, and I will post them one at a time into an album on my blog.

You can write your post in a number of different formats.

1.)   Letter to your parents: Write a letter to your parents. Tell them how their choice to spank you has harmed you. Tell them about how it affected you then, and how it continues to affect you now. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)
2.)   Letter to parents of young children: Write a cautionary letter to parents. Tell them why and how the practice of spanking affected (and continues to affect) you. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)
3.)   Letter to parents of young children (2): Write a letter explaining why you as a parent chose to stop spanking your children. Include your experiences and the factors that most made you change your mind. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)
4.)   Informational piece: Write a few paragraphs on why you believe spanking is damaging for children. Include any personal experience, or just some facts that made you come to your conclusion. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)
5.)   Creative: If you find it hard to express yourself with just words, please feel free to submit a more unique commentary. I will accept drawings, photos, videos, art work or poetry to this project as well. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)

You may include citations if you use any sources other than your own experience. You may also request to post anonymously if you chose, or if you feel your experiences are too personal to share under your real name. If you are a blogger, (and you give me permission,) I will link your submission back to your blog when I post it.

Whether you are contributing or not, please feel free to share this project on your blog/facebook/twitter/ etc.  I would like to get as many voices on this project as possible, so get the word out!!

Please email me with any questions. Submissions for the initial post are due by July 8th, however, I will continue to accept contributions indefinitely to add to the collection.

1.)   Email Sarah at with any questions, and to let me know that you are interested in contributing.
2.)   SHARE this project with anyone you think might be interested. The more voices the better!
3.)   Write your 100-300 word post (or create your artistic submissions) and email it to me at by July 8th
4.)   Keep an eye on my blog and Facebook for your post, and posts from others like you!
5.)   This project will remain open-ended, so feel free to share or submit AFTER July 8th

Friday, June 15, 2012

1 year of blogging!

Hello Friends :)

This morning I realized I've been blogging for an entire year now. I've had my blogger ups and downs, but things are running smoothly again. If you haven't friended me on facebook yet, please do! There are some exciting things going on over at my new blog and I would love for you all to be involved.

If you don't have facebook but you would still like the URL to my new blog, feel free to email me at Thank you all for your encouragement and support. It means the world to me!

So much love,
-Sarah <3

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Why I Am Certain I Will Never Be Good Enough

I got a text this morning from someone who knew me as a devout evangelical Christian. Our relationship isn’t as close now, mainly because of my faith questions. The text read,

Praying for you this morning and God asked me to share this with you. ''I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness'' Jer 31:3”

I stared at the text for about 15 minutes before responding. “Thanks, have a great day!” I’m sure this person meant for the text to be uplifting and encouraging. But all it did was bring me down. The verse itself is nice; I like the idea of unshakable, unconditional love. What irked me was the reference to this person’s morning prayers. Apparently, she got a message directly from God in which He guided her to a verse and asked her nicely to share it with me.

Really? Did the invisible, silent, and intangible god of the universe ASK YOU to share a verse with me? Not just a nudge, or a well planted idea, not even a chance breeze that turned the pages of your bible, but GOD himself physically ASKED YOU to share this verse with me?

This is how I know I will never be a good enough Christian. I was a biblical literalist, fundamentalist, God-fearing evangelical Christian for the first 18 years of my life, and never ONCE in all that time did God physically speak to me. I used to plead with my invisible, silent God for some kind of personal guidance. Everyone around me was claiming miracles and clear callings, and I just stayed home, begging “here I am Lord, send me.” And nothing.

My husband says that God doesn’t talk to him either. He gets his comfort and strength from God, he gets his moral compass from God, and then he goes about his business just like everybody else. No supernatural intervention needed. The less time I spend around evangelicals, the better I feel. I start to think that maybe God really is just an enormous force of unexplainable love that cares about people and inspires them to greater joy. I start to think that maybe I don’t need to compete with the God-whisperers. Maybe I can carry on in my quiet hopeful faith, and live side by side with other Christians, no questions asked…

And then I get texts like this one. They remind me of the Christian rat race I used to know. Everyone wants to know about your “walk” with God. Haven’t heard God’s voice lately? You’re doing something wrong. Haven’t seen any miracles lately? You must be letting sin blind you. Pray harder. Live better. YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The God-box

Are you anything like me? Have you ever stood in front of the mirror, half horrified, and wondered who on earth is staring back at you? Who is that person with dark green eyes and lazy posture? What does she love?
                                                      What does she dream about?
                                                                                                           What does she want?

It used to be that I silenced those questions with the only answer I had ever learned: God. He was all I had been taught to want, all that I was allowed to need. I learned how to fold up my confusion, neatly like a napkin, and tuck it away in a box entitled: God. My hopes and dreams soon lived there too, stacked and dusty, next to ashes of my undeveloped identity. For 19 years they sat there, all the precious parts of me, ignored and forgotten. I walked around as a shell of a person, with the God-box strapped on my shoulders.

How did it happen? How did I come to the place where I was nothing but a shell? It started slowly.

At 8 years old I wanted to be a singer.

My first dream.
“Theatre is not a safe place for a girl. The world is full of evil people. Trust in the Lord, he will show you how to use your talent for His glory!”
From that point on, I knew. God was the only acceptable answer to every question.

Emotions? God. 
Relationships? God.
Self worth? God.
Aspirations? God.

One day, the God-box got too heavy; so I threw it off. As it hit the ground, it shattered into a million pieces, taking part of me with it. I was told that the God-box was the perfect investment. I thought it would make me complete, I thought it would tell me who I was; I thought it would teach me to be happy. I had invested everything in the box, and it had failed me. I do not know who I am apart from God; all I know is that I should know.

And now here I am, standing in front of the mirror again, trying to guess at who is staring back at me. Every day I learn a little more, and the guilt of leaving the God-box lessens. Every day, as I pick through the rubble of my identity, I find old sparks of things that make me smile. I invite you to come along with me as I learn who I am. I am hoping to find that I am worth more than a title.

I am hoping to learn that I don’t belong in a God-box.