I'm going to write about Harry Potter soon; meanwhile I'm still trying to win that MacBook Air.

I haven't had a computer of my own in 18 months. So heck, yeah, I'm entering the Sparkling Review MacBook Air giveaway.

God Has Entered Chronos

This is probably obvious if you've read much of my blog, but I'm addressing this from an explicitly Christian perspective, and on the assumption that Melton shares at least some of that perspective. I think, though, that any secular Aristotelian could do mental language changes and probably still resonate.

My internets blew up a few days ago with links to Glennon Melton's piece, Don't Carpe Diem, over at HuffPo. A great deal of my internets consists of other moms in the trenches, and it seems like they almost all resonated very strongly.

So did I. Melton's objective, to release us from The Guilties over not enjoying every minute of screams and dirty diapers and stress, is one I wholeheartedly support. Our cultural discourse about motherhood is filled to the brim with blame language and mother shaming, and anything that helps us move away from that is awesome.

This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life - while I'm raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I'm not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong.
Boy, do I hear that. A great deal of motherhood, especially in the early years, is just...boring drudgery. Ecstasy inducing it is not. Melton draws a comparison, a good one, to climbing Mount Everest:
They try because even though it hurts and it's hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers -- "ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU'LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN'T!" TRUST US!! IT'LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!" -- those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Haha! Yes. Parenting is basically the hardest thing ever. And I strongly resonated when Melton asked,
Why is it that the second a mother admits that it's hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she's not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn't add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it's so hard means she IS doing it right...in her own way...and she happens to be honest.
I agree: the whole "If parenting is so hard why are you having more kids?" line is irritating and specious. You don't not do good things just because they're hard. So far, awesome.

But.

Minor quibble coming.

From here Melton draws out two ideas of time:
Chronos time is what we live in. It's regular time, it's one minute at a time, it's staring down the clock till bedtime time, it's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it's four screaming minutes in time out time, it's two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.
She offers some examples:
And then I look at my cart and I'm transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I'll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world's mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos. 
Gratitude for provision. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Good, good.
Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos. 
Again-- humble gratitude is so very important.
Like when I actually stop what I'm doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can't hear her because all I can think is -- This is the first time I've really seen Tish all day, and my God -- she is sobeautiful. Kairos. 
Appreciating your kids for the glorious, unique little humans that they are: also incredibly important. The attitudes that she's cultivating in these moments are critical, emotionally, for having the stamina to get through the crappy days.

But here's my caveat:

My problem with Melton's definition of kairos is that she has reduced it to moments that are about feelings, moments that are the inconsistent and unpredictable irruptions into our consciousness of the reality that is always present. And the hard, messy, deeply real work of parenthood? Is about so much more than just our feelings and awareness.

See, God's time is not limited to kairos as Melton defines it. God has entered chronos. God entered chronos in the person of Jesus who worked, healed, preached, suffered, died and rose.

God has also entered chronos in the very mundane, messy, frustrating, squalling bits that make up most of life for the parents of young children. Parenting is sanctifying, humbling, character-building work. It's among the messes and frustrations--not the warm, fuzzy moments--that God does the work of redeeming and renewing us as human beings. They might not be enjoyable, but this job is not about our enjoyment, and we can be grateful for things that we do not necessarily enjoy. That flood of chronos moments is where we get to practice the kind self-sacrifical love and self-denial and unselfishness that form us into better human beings.

So I think we should be cultivating gratitude for all of that mess--intense, overwhelming gratitude.

Every minute of the day.


Have I mentioned how much I would LOVE to win the MacBook Air that Sparkling Reviews is giving away? A LOT, is how much.

Oh, HO. Sparkling Reviews is giving away a MacBook Air!

Pretty vs Human

Oh, look! A man has an opinion on why women should strive to be "pretty" and not "hot." I seldom try to respond to things like this anymore, but this was just so...wrong.

Let's start with Archbold's definition of "pretty." He calls it "a mutually enriching balanced combination of beauty and projected innocence."

Projected innocence. Projected innocence.

Once upon a time, women wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different in the back then. First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty.
Reality doesn't matter, then? It's all about show? No matter what I'm really like, or what my experiences have been, I need to project innocence? I need to pretend?

Now, I would like to pause a moment here and interject that I am in some ways a great fan of hypocrisy. This is because actions are formative. It's by acting like the people we wish we were that we become them. We habituate ourselves into a certain way of being. A frivolous example: The first time I tasted Guinness, I almost spit it out. I really did not like it. But I kept drinking it--because, sigh, I wanted to impress a boy--and after a while I found that I appreciated it, and then I found that I actively enjoyed it, and now I love it. Character works just the same way. You can start out a jerk, but if you repeatedly do good things you will become a good person. So, I'm all for aspiring to be better than I am, and trying to behave as if I'm already there, because that behavior is part of what gets me there.

But innocence--and this is a big problem--cannot be acquired; it can only be lost. Merriam-Webster defines innocence as "freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil," which is certainly the usage I'm familiar with.

Friends, once you've known evil, you can't forget it.

Furthermore, as a Christian who believes in original sin, let me tell you this, men: If you are looking for an innocent, pure woman, you can quit now. She doesn't exist. If you think you've met her, you've met someone who's excellent at dissembling. And that's why I find this particular form of hypocrisy so pernicious: it doesn't cultivate innocence. It cultivates lies.

Why aspire to this version of "pretty" in the first place?
By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.
Lest ye forget, ladies: it's our job to civilize those beastly, hairy, icky men. We are somehow responsible for their behavior. We have to inspire them to protection and defense because of our pretty.

Silly me, I thought the best inspiration for defending someone was self-sacrificial love, or perhaps a strong sense of justice. That shows what I know. (Also, how is defense of the innocent the domain of men?)
Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot.
Know what I prefer to be regarded as? Smart and honest and loyal and kind. But I've always been weird that way.
Hotness is something altogether different. When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way...
And we all know what that certain way is, don't we?  Sexual beings. Newsflash: most of humanity had that whole women-as-sexual-beings thing figured out way before the 21st century Western cultural concept known as hotness.
and consequently men view them differently as well.
Because, you know, if a woman is a sexual being she can't be pure. Is it just me or is this a skip and a jump from the kind of "she must have been asking for it" victim blaming that goes on in rape cases?
It is ironic that 40 years of women’s liberation has succeeded only in turning women into a commodity. Something to be used up and thrown out.
When in doubt, blame feminism! Besides, the above statement can be proved to be true by the fact that prostitution, pornography and sexual slavery did not exist before women's liberation. Oh, wait.
Once upon a time you would hear girls talk about kind of women men date and the kind they marry. You don’t hear things like that anymore.
Thank goodness!

I am not even going to spend energy on articulating all the issues with assuming that a woman's entire focus should be on getting married. Let's just assume for the sake of rant that we are only talking about the subset of women who do want to get married some day. Men date and marry exactly one kind of woman, and as it happens it's exactly the same kind of man that women date and marry: the fallen, sinful, messy, fully human kind.
Our problem is that society doesn’t value innocence anymore, real or imagined.
Given the number of women and children victimized in the international sex trafficking industry every year, it's difficult for me to argue with this statement. But to ask women to cultivate a projection of innocence at the cost of personal integrity, just for the sake of your oblivious and misinformed nostalgia, is selfish and wrongheaded. It will not suddenly decommodify and humanize the bodies of women.

How about, instead, we cultivate an appreciation for our fellow humans of whatever gender, in all their imperfections and flaws and goodness?

If you would like to see the beauty in every woman you see, sir, you need to do just one simple thing: look for the image of God in her. Unless you willfully blind yourself, you will find it. It is there.

Still Challenging

Two years later, this definition of tolerance still challenges me deeply.

Another Reading Challenge

Oh, hey! I'm doing the L.M. Montgomery reading challenge, too.

Feels kind of like cheating, since I'd be reading them all anyway. :)