A Book Review of Sorts | When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman

Jul 22, 2014

I don't remember how I came across Addie Zierman's blog. I read a post, then another, then another, and found myself somewhere between holding back tears and wanting to yell out. In relief from reading the truth that I've felt for so long but couldn't put into words, in anger over a somewhat similar past and the pain I've experienced and had to work through as a result. When I found out Addie was coming out with a personal memoir, I knew I needed to read it.

Having grown up in a super "evangelical-on-steroids" Christian culture, Addie's faith was measured by the steps she took, or didn't take. Every decision was molded by cliche religious terms and lofty ideologies that made going through heartbreaking experiences something a strong enough faith should be able to handle. She writes about first love, living her teenage years under the expectations of someone else, having her heart broken by a boy and by so much more, and finding herself among the unraveled mess of it all.  The chapters are broken down, rightly so, into four stages: Obsession, Disillusion, Rebellion, Redemption. Thus has been her journey.

The book arrived at a time in my life when I'm working through some similar things. Analyzing just how much the past has influenced my present, how I can't go back but need to at times, trudging through the collapsed walls of my faith as I try to hold on to some semblance of the foundation, all the while doubting the foundation was ever truly solid to begin with.  As I read the pages I felt my heart rise to my throat more times than I could count. I grabbed a pencil, underlined, starred all the sentences that stopped me in my tracks. 

A recent road trip allowed me to devour the book in two days. I'll be honest, I had a little wake up call after I closed the book and set it down. I had arrived at the last page and felt slightly disappointed at first. Disappointed because there wasn't a quick answer for me. There wasn't a 10-step guide to continue my own journey through this struggle of redemption and reconciliation. And as quickly as that disappointment came, I saw just how strongly the culture of my own had disillusioned me into thinking that's all it would take.

Thankfully, my eyes have been opened to the possibility of Freedom. As I shake off the chains of expectations, of preaching points that I had allowed to shape my every move, of the heaviest of heavy feelings that I could never be good enough for anyone, I see glimmers of light. To read about this sort of redemption in such a beautiful way in the words of someone else invites more light to come. The light that I don't have to be good enough because Someone Else is, that the truth is complex and can't be summed up by cute little phrases, and that my definitions of holiness and prayer have been stuck in a tightly sealed box.

I don't want to review chapter for chapter or discuss too much about the book. I'd like for you to find all that out for yourself if you're interested. But I would love to share some of the things that stood out to me, the sentences I was compelled to underline. They are thoughts and feelings I haven't been able to string together on my own, and this book will forever be one of my favorites for that reason. 

//  "...his faith had become an axis of rotation around which no one could freely turn." (pg. 91)  

//  "If I had it to do over again, I would have danced like Buenos Aires. I'd be a helicopter leaf, a snowflake falling, I would have stayed there spinning wildly and lovely across the dark, lonely sky" (pg. 91) 

//  "I didn't know where; I just knew that I would go. I had claimed for myself an extraordinary future; I had done it years ago as I sat on a swing and stared up at the wide, starry sky. I was meant to leave this all behind". (pg. 98)

//  "When she said, "How's your walk?" I heard suspicion....I remember this moment so clearly because of the response it evoked when I felt my faith being questioned, felt myself slipping down the spectrum.... I wished she could touch my hand and see my history unfold in a quick succession of images... I wanted her to feel what I felt, to understand that I had been fighting so long to prove myself and I was tired. I was just looking for a little rest." (pg. 111)

//  "...the memory of even the most extraordinary act of God can so easily slip away in those moments of your endless hunger....Maybe if I'd been able to stand up and talk about the darkness, it would not have consumed me." (pg. 129)

//  "It's the knee-jerk reaction of the evangelicals that gets me. In one swift motion, an entire faith community has moved into a defensive pose, as if to say, "I dare you to challenge me on this, the core of my faith". It almost feels like a taunt." (pg. 140)

//  "Once I'm aware of their faults, I can see nothing else, and I hang on to slights- real or imagined- with a firm grip. I want to let go, but I can't stop seeing them for who I wish they were. For who they're not." (pg. 144)

//  "I have been that girl; there is always the chance that if something hadn't gone awry, I could still be her." (pg. 146)

//  "I don't think Depression. The word seems categorically reserved for the truly broken, and I have no good reason to be depressed. There has been no blunt trauma to my life, nothing I can point to and say, "Here- this is why I'm so sad." People go through tragedies every day and bear nobly up under enormous amounts of pain. I have nothing like this, but somehow Depression has found a way into my life through a different door: loneliness." (pg. 154)

//  "You understand that your journey now will include unlearning this. It will be about creating a new picture of prayer to hold in your hands." (pg. 186)

//  "But when we go [church], I feel myself snap shut like a steel trap. Andrew drapes his hand across my back as we sit in the back row, and we raise our eyebrows pointedly at each other when anything feels off. Something trite is passed off as gospel, and I squeeze his hand desperately."

//  "Yes, faith is like being born again. But it is also not like being born again. Unlike the newborn infant, the new Christian has memory, memory that spans back into the darkness from which he came. He is not so much born as waking...every moment to new realities. To a new way of looking at humanity. To grace and to peace and to love." (pg 212)

//  "You tell the Church People you are lonely, and they say, "Let God be your friend" or they say "What a friend we have in Jesus!" And what you hear is that you don't have the right to be lonely, that if your faith was stronger than this, bigger than this, you would be happy." (pg 213)

//  "And it occurs to you that the real work of faith has nothing to do with saying the right words. It has to do with redefining them, chipping away at the calcified outer crust until you find the simple truth at the heart of it all. Jesus." (pg. 213)

//  "You are beginning to understand that even the best goals and intentions can be corrupted. That the blind devotion to any Mission can turn dark. You have learned that it is impossible to divide things neatly, and that the second you begin to define something, you limit it. There is no such thing as "cut and dried" in a world of broken humanity. Gray bleeds into gray bleeds into gray, no matter how you slice it." (pg. 220)

//  "The future will be a mix of both of these things: The devotion and the cynicism. You have to find a way for them to coexist within you. Let them destroy each other, and your fragile faith may shatter entirely". (pg 234)

//  "If you read the Bible at all, it's in fits and starts. In many ways, you find yourself still trying to recover from the ways it was hurled at you all those years, the way you hurled it back at others. There was a Way you read the Bible in those high school days. There was a Way you turned the words into cliche, into their own special language, and now a certain amount of baggage remains lodged in the thin pages. You are trying to work through it, but you're not quite there." (pg. 224)

Interested in reading more? You can find a copy here.

Did anything come up for you as you read through the quotes? Any familiar feelings as you read a little bit about her past with a legalistic Christian sub-culture?

Bebe Two | 25 weeks

Jul 17, 2014

I haven't written as much about this pregnancy as I did when I was pregnant with Noah. I've been saving up most of my energy to make it through this move for the past couple of months. Now that we're settled, and are settling more each week, I wanted to jot down a few details before "pregnancy brain" takes over and I forget it all! 

Maternity Care
Noah's birth was wonderful (you can read more about his natural birth here and here). I received care from a group of midwives in Nashville and the task of finding a good fit for me here in Chattanooga was daunting. Thankfully, after joining and consulting all kinds of women via local Facebook groups, I've found a wonderful midwife here. She and I meshed right away and I felt instantly at ease. I can't tell you what a relief it is to have someone whose standard model of practice is the exact kind of care we are looking for.

The first few months of this pregnancy weren't easy. All I had was some nausea, but my energy level was at an all-time low. I know some of that was due in part to the stresses of relocation, but most of it had to do with my appetite and overall nutrition. I wasn't eating much of anything substantial (lack of appetite!) and it was affecting me terribly. Headaches, terrible nausea, extreme fatigue, the list goes on. Once we moved in to our new house I knew I had to get it under control. 

With some research, and the encouragement of my midwife, I started a modified version of the Brewer's Diet (basically getting enough food and lots of good proteins, fats, and carbs). I also began taking a  food-based iron supplement and Cod Liver Oil on top of the supplements I was already taking. I can't tell you how much better I have felt! I have energy when I wake up, I'm able to do normal tasks throughout the day with ease, and most importantly, keep up with an active toddler. It's amazing how much better our bodies function when we feed them correctly! 

Overall, I've been feeling excited. We can't wait to meet our baby and as crazy as some of you mamas may think I sound, I'm looking forward to giving birth again. Although the pain was out of this world intense, there is nothing like the empowering feeling of birthing a child and holding him in your arms that first time. I can't wait to do it again. I do still find myself struggling with some depression and anxiety and find that it's heightened during pregnancy. In some ways I think it's better than it was with Noah because I'm taking care of myself much better than I did then, and I'm thankful for that knowledge.

All About Bebe
If you don't follow me on IG, I made this corny little video announcing that we're expecting another boy! I knew within seconds of the image coming up on the screen and said something before the technician had time to tell us. I'll be honest, I had such a strong feeling baby was a girl that I was a little surprised when I saw otherwise. Noah is going to have so much fun having a little brother and knowing they both have such a good example in their dad makes it all the more precious.

As of today I'm 25 weeks along. Baby's grown quite a bit and my belly is now obvious. According to my Ovia app, baby boy is the size of a cabbage, around 14 inches long, and weighs almost two pounds! I've been feeling kicks since 14 weeks, but since then they've gotten stronger and visible from the outside when I'm laying really still. The ultrasound showed a healthy baby for which we are so thankful. We have a few names floating around but don't feel hurried to settle on one this time. Although, it will be fun when we do choose one because we can start calling baby by his name rather than just "baby".

With only around 15 weeks left, we've got the normal tasks to accomplish- getting Noah's baby clothes out and organizing them for his little brother, getting all the packed away baby items out and ready to use, and making a space for baby in our room. We're also remodeling Noah's room and hope to have that done, along with the hallway and our master bedroom, before baby comes.
We're so excited to meet this little boy!

Moving | Five Ways to Get to Know Your City

Jul 2, 2014

Well, we're here in Chattanooga and pretty much settled! It's been a crazy month with one week in a hotel and the next week trying to unpack as much as we could so we could get back to somewhat of a normal life and routine. It's an amazing feeling to get rid of all the boxes and packing paper and be able to find things again!

When we moved to Dickson shortly after we were married, I did a terrible job at getting to know our town and finding fun things to do. Because of that, it was a hard and boring transition and I was determined not to do that this time around. It helps that we're in one of the coolest cities in Tennessee now with plenty of things to do! I came up with a fun little list of things to do to kick-start your first month in a new place, help you get to know what the area has to offer, and make it feel a little more like home.

1. get active: find your local nature park
 We try to stay active by doing fun things (I'm SO not a treadmill kind of girl!). Michael loves to mountain bike and I enjoy walking with Noah. Michael found Enterprise South Nature Park,  a 2800-acre ammunition plant turned nature park with miles of mountain bike trails and walking paths. It's less than ten minutes from our house and perfect for going as a family when Michael gets home from work.

2. eat up: check out the local grub
Lupi's Pizza Pie is one of our favorite restaurants in Chattanooga. To be honest, it was our favorite before we even moved here. I knew that anytime we traveled here for a business trip, we wouldn't leave without having their amazing pizza. The restaurant downtown is fun, a little psychedelic, and we love that they try their best to buy local and organic. Another restaurant we love is Tupelo Honey Cafe, located in the beautiful Warehouse Row downtown. Thanks to some mommy groups I'm now a part of, we have a full bucket list of restaurants to try!
3. community fun: take in a local sports game
This past weekend my dad came to visit and we decided to head to a Chattanooga Lookouts game. None of us had been to a minor leagues game in years! They really are a fun way to spend the evening: people-watching, fun music, and indulging in stadium food. We baked in the sun for the first hour (and of course, this mama forgot sunscreen and hats!), but it was the perfect evening once the breeze picked up and the sun went behind the mountains. Noah climbed the stairs the entire time and fell asleep before we even left the parking lot.

4. support local: check out the farmer's market
We try to buy as much of our food from local, organic resources as possible. We found the Chattanooga Market and it's now one of our favorite weekend spots! There are many organic farms to choose from, even more local artisans selling their craft, anywhere from twenty to thirty food trucks, and a never-ending supply good music and atmosphere. We stock up on farm-fresh eggs, organic veggies and greens, and hope to find some good meat resources soon!

5. for the kiddos: play time!
As a stay-at-home-mom, I have to have good community resources for Noah and me. Parks, playgrounds, splash pads, library events, kid-friendly events, and other fun places and things are invaluable and key to making sure we don't become homebodies! We found Imagination Station, a huge playground and park with a walking trail and a fun caboose for kids to climb on. Noah loves the swings and the smaller kids' area is perfect for him to play more independently. We also LOVE all the water play options that the riverfront area downtown has to offer. There are water stairs, splash pads, and a little mini river that flows between the aquarium buildings.

Making time for fun has been vital in making this city feel like home. Moving is never easy, especially when family and friends are still quite a distance away. It can get lonely and somewhat boring if you don't get out there and explore, and we're looking forward to exploring our city more up close and personal!