I hate Christianese

Maybe hate is too strong of a word. Perhaps we can think of it in the sense that Biblical Hebrew uses hate: as a phrase that indicates turning away from instead of the harsh emotion associated with the word in English. In that sense, I turn away from Christianese.

What is Christianese? Any time you hear a phrase that doesn’t occur outside of Christian circles, you have encountered Christianese. For example:

  • Doing life together
  • Intentional/being intentional/intentionality (I hate this bunch most of all)
  • Digging into the Word
  • It’s just not God’s timing
  • Quiet time
  • Singleness is a gift
  • Anything involving discernment
  • Set on fire
  • Washed in the blood (in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb–you know)
  • Fellowship
  • God is sovereign
  • Living in community/anything about community
  • Get saved

And so on. You get the idea. The point is, Christians, especially in the evangelical realm, have their own language. And it’s really weird.

I have been a Christian for 20 years, since I was 7. I spent 16 of those 20 years in Baptist churches and attending a Southern Baptist university, so I really got an earful of the particular dialect occurring in American Christianity. So, in the interest of saying how I really feel… STOP IT.

Christianese is pretty ridiculous, if you think about it. On the one hand, it tries to distill disciplines and complex doctrines into pithy one-liners. On the other hand, it’s cliché and confusing to anyone outside the Church. Shoot, it’s confusing to people in the Church. The heck does “doing life together” even mean?

(This is inevitably the point where someone gets their feelings hurt and pushes up their glasses and goes “Well actually…”)

Here’s the thing about Christianese, though–my real point, not ragging on Baptists or evangelicals or whatever else: Christianese is an excuse not to talk about difficult things.

When you reduce complex topics to a one-liner, you’re basically saying “I don’t understand this enough to discuss or explain it, so I’m going to brush it under the rug and hope you don’t notice.”

It feels dismissive: “I don’t know how to respond. Here is a generic answer.”

It feels distant and uninvolved: “I don’t want to take the time to give a well-thought-out response, sorry.”

It feels cheap.

I don’t think people do this on purpose, though. I don’t think Christians are being purposefully rude or shallow when they use Christianese phrases. Many times, I think they don’t know any better. It is so ingrained in American Christian culture that getting away from it can feel next to impossible, like breaking any slang habit. But I propose that we re-learn how to speak with clarity. We need to try not to hide behind safe phrases. We need to speak with purpose.

Words are cheap because we as humans use so many in a given day, but words are also incredibly powerful. Christians of all people should exercise caution with their words. Christianity is already a foreign language to people who are unfamiliar or unexposed to the gospel, and Christianese is like using slang on someone who doesn’t speak the speaker’s language.

Let’s just go back to purity and clarity of language. Let’s not hide behind easy one-liners anymore.

Let’s all hate Christianese.

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

New name, new look!

You know those times that you go to the store, and you’re on the cereal aisle, and your favorite brand updated their marketing? New look, same great taste! Only you’re not sure you really believe them?

This is kind of like that. (But hopefully I am more trustworthy than a box of cereal.)

You can see I’ve got a new name! From Into the Void to Into the Wilds. “What’s the significance?” you wonder. Glad you asked!

Into the Void was always a distant, somewhat sorrowful title–and purposefully so. When I started this blog as a personal rant catch-all, I envisioned it as shouting into the abyss just so I could get it out. I could keep a diary–and I do (sometimes)–but it was more helpful to me to have a semi-public platform, abyss though it was.

Into the Wilds is borrowed from a quote in The Fellowship of the Ring (movie). It’s as Aragorn and the hobbits set out from Bree. Aragorn tells them he’s taking them “into the wilds.” The phrase is enigmatic, intriguingly devoid of details. Will it be a good adventure? A scary one? It turns out to have lots of good and bad in it, but ultimately that doesn’t matter because the hobbits are safe with Aragorn. They are following the king, and he protects them.

In this, I think of Christ. He is the King leading me through scary and good adventures, and I follow through the wilds, despite swamps and Nazgul and everything else. Hence–my blog title.

It also speaks to the fact that my mind veers all over the place like an off-roading four-wheeler. Following Jesus; following my meandering trains of thought.

I am hopeful that rebooting the blog will cause me to keep up with it more. I doubt I have any more of an audience than I did last week, but I like to pretend I have one to write for!

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

New and old gears

Greetings, world. It has been quite some time since I last wrote here. I make no excuses for my absence, only an explanation: when your life is crazy from job changes and mental health issues, keeping a blog goes right to the back burner.

But I’ve decided to switch gears with my blog. When I started it, it was a semi-private place to rant about anything and everything. I want something more from it, though–something more substantial. I would like to be a little more public with my thoughts, for one thing. I would also like to cover more theological topics and do book reviews. I’ll still happily write about mental health and my cats as well.

I like to rant about things, but I want to do so constructively. When it comes to topics of faith, sometimes I have sermons come to me. Well, I have no pulpit, so this will have to do.

It’s my hope to change the name and imagery of the blog soon. Into the Void will become something a little less depressing (?) and will, I hope, reflect what I want the updated blog to be. (It’ll be a hot minute; I need to ponder and pick a really good name.)

I hope you’ll stick around for the new and improved thoughts of Stephanie. I can’t promise it’ll be a thrill a minute, but I hope you will enjoy, learn something, or be encouraged.

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

Discontent with singleness

My alma mater’s student newspaper published an “honest round-table discussion” on singleness, particularly as it pertains to Christian folk, and all I can do is roll my eyes so far into my head that they hurt. There were no perspectives from single men, and noticeably missing from the discussion is the viewpoint of single Christian women who really freaking hate being single.

My viewpoint.

Evangelical Christianity presents single persons, especially women, with conflicting teachings:

  1. Marriage (the covenantal union of a man and woman before God)–and, by extension, sex–is the greatest physical/material gift humanity can enjoy. It is a gift given by God for the mutual edification and pleasure of men and women. (Yes, edification is the official term.) Men and women should desire to marry (and raise children).
  2. Single persons, particularly women, who desire marriage are vaguely and unhelpfully told to “wait on the Lord” and “be content.” They are told that singleness is “a gift” and should be cherished. Desiring marriage and sex is a dirty thing, indicating the young woman does not prioritize God.

Whether purposefully or neglectfully, Christian women like me are plagued by these teachings from a young age, especially growing up in evangelical/Southern Baptist circles. If you feel confused, sad, angry, dirty, or some combination of the above, and not at all encouraged or discipled, then congratulations! You understand how it feels to be a product of evangelicalism’s Purity Cult, as I call it.

It’s such a bizarre thing. I am expected to present myself as this asexual being of “godliness” who wants nothing to do with boys until one day, somehow, I manage to find and marry one, at which point I am expected to be wholly enthusiastic about sex. But in the meantime, if I express a desire to date and marry, it’s because I’m not focused enough on God. Huh?

Look, I believe fully that God holds all things. He makes everything beautiful in its time and gives good gifts to his children. But he also gives us desires and dreams for a reason. To some of us, he gives the unrelenting desire for marriage because that is what we are meant to have. For others, he takes away that desire, because a life of celibacy is what they are meant to have. And I swear, if I hear one more person intone “Be content!” as if they have a single damn clue what it feels like to be hungry for the companionship of a mate while having no dating prospects, I will scream.

Because they keep saying be content with singleness. I am not.

They need to say be content in singleness. I am.

I am content in singleness because I am confident in my identity as a person. I do not rely on any human, friend or romantic partner, to give me meaning. My value and identity come from Christ and from exploring the unique traits and personality he has given me to bring diversity and beauty to his kingdom just by existing.

I am content in singleness because going to a restaurant or movie alone doesn’t scare me; in fact, I quite enjoy the time with my thoughts. I am content in singleness because I enjoy a great deal of flexibility in my schedule and activities.

But singleness as a noun, an object, rather than a descriptor of my romantic life? No. I am not content with that. I am not content with singleness because I know there is more for my life than just me.

I am not content with singleness because I have begged God to rip the desire for a husband out of me, and he has not, because it is a desire he gave me. I do not want a celibate life. I want a life partner, a companion, a mate. I want someone to make a home with so we can open our home to others in the way that a single woman finds it more difficult to do, such as hosting those without a home.

I am not content with singleness because I desire the joy of the marriage relationship–not merely sex, but singing songs in the car, going to church together, sitting on the porch during a rainstorm. I am happy to do those things alone or with friends, but there is something special and desperately desirable about sharing one’s life with a mate.

Genesis tells us that when God made Adam, Adam was lonely. He desired a companion. Having a pet from among the animals didn’t cut it. Having a best friend wasn’t going to cut it. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” said God, and he made Eve. The soul-deep ache for opposite-sex companionship that Adam experienced is exactly the pain that I know so well, too. Adam is recorded as delighting over Eve, exclaiming, “Now at last this is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!” He might as well be saying, “Yes! This is what I was looking for! Another person to share my life’s adventures with!”

That’s all I want. As yet, God has not granted the desire he gave me, though not because I sat around on my hands doing nothing. I’ve tried dating apps and websites. I’ve tried getting out and meeting people at church and other social opportunities. So far, nothing. I have screamed at him and begged and sobbed more than I can count. And then I see articles like the one I mentioned earlier that essentially blame me for being single because I guess I don’t trust God enough? “It’ll happen when you stop looking for it!” they all say. “Be content!”

Oh, I can be content in singleness, because I belong to a God who is faithful and good and molds our desires to his when we ask. He sees my grief at having no mate, and he knows the bitter pain of my untethered heart. And even though I don’t know when or where, the good man I’ve prayed for almost daily for ten years has to be out there, or else God would have taken this longing by now if it didn’t come from him.

But do not ask me to be content with singleness, because I desire something else. Not more. Other. Do not shame my desire to marry by suggesting I haven’t trusted God enough. Do not insult my fellow discontent sisters by elevating marriage as something to be desired and then tut-tutting us for wanting it. Don’t break our hearts by insinuating our singleness is our own fault based on assumptions about our spiritual journeys. Do not ask us to sit on our hands and do nothing to meet men or learn how to date well and healthfully.

My current status quo is not my status always. Do not ask me to be content.

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

The Tiniest Feline

In a moderately frustrating turn of events, it’s looking more and more likely like Princess Pumpkin Spook will either A) become a forever foster at my house or B) become a foster failure. All my co-workers who expressed interest have rescinded said interest. (She was found in a generator at work, hence why my coworkers had first dibs.) I tried to offload her onto a friend who fell in love, but she can’t take her. I still have a shot at convincing my parents they need a kitten, though.

I’m not opposed to keeping her, mind you. It’s just I tried really hard to convince myself I wouldn’t. But then, maybe Feline Fate has something different in mind. The other night, I was convinced she had chosen me as her human. She crawled up in my bed in the middle of the night and fell asleep on top of me. And I woke up enough to realize she was there and thought “Well, shit.”

She is the most precious nugget though. My friends came over last Friday and she cuddled with them for a solid four hours straight, not even pausing to go eat or use the litter box. None of the FLBs have ever done that with anyone, not even me. So maybe she is destined to stay with me and cuddle with everyone who comes into my home. I don’t know.

I took her to the vet yesterday to get her checked out and get her first round of shots. She weighs 2.4 pounds and is 9 weeks old–3 weeks older than I expected! My vet assigns a probable birthday to every kitten they age, so Pumpkin and my dad almost share a birthday; hers is August 28, and his is August 31. She is FIV negative, which is AWESOME. Unfortunately, she does have a spot of ringworm on her toe and keeps licking off the medicine. I think she’s going to need a cone of shame for that. I freaked out last night because one of her eyes was weeping badly and I quarantined her from the boys in case she had an upper respiratory infection. I cried and cried to think of her alone in the spare bedroom, but it was better to have one potential URI temporarily sad than to have four. I did a little reading online, and it turns out that some cats have an allergic reaction to the feline leukemia vaccine. I checked on her this morning and her eye seems much, much improved, so I think that’s all it was. I’m not overly concerned with her passing on ringworm to the boys (or to, uh, me) because she’s under treatment for it now and the big boys don’t really bother her. Thor likes to tackle her, but I might be able to ward that off if I put the cone of shame on her.

Whew. Pet ownership is hard work but so incredibly worthwhile. I can’t imagine not having them in my home. This is all such a far cry from when my roommate and I adopted Winston right after college and I cried the next day with adopter’s regret. I wouldn’t trade him–or any of the others–for anything. They really are family to me. Plus, it’s a joy to come home to soft nuzzles and purrs. They always cheer up my sad days.

Get yourself a pet if you have depression. It’ll change your life.

Per aspera ad astra,

Stephanie

The Furbabies

Today, I wanted to keep the mood of the blog pretty light. I mean, it’s Friday, my doctor gave me the blessed news “Nothing is abnormal” regarding some feminine wonkiness, I’m wearing a really cute sweater, a coworker bought me a Diet Dr. Pepper when I had no money for one…

So yeah, let’s look at my cats!


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“Gimme dat feather toy!”

Name: Winston
Age: 3 years
Sex: Ball-less Boy
Color: White/orange tabby
Personality: Lord of the manor; standoffish and aloof; dislikes everyone but me; if he shows you attention, it’s a high honor; can be really particular and demanding when it comes to food; will not hesitate to whine and meow for attention
Likes: Sitting on high things to survey his domain; tackling his brothers; treats
Dislikes: Being petted without permission; vacuum cleaners; his baby brother pouncing on him
Nicknames: Winsturd, Winstoner, Buddy, Asshole, Venti Cat, Beeg One

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“Go away, I’m trying to sleep.”

Name: Trinket
Age: 2 years
Sex: Ball-less Boy
Color: Black like the night
Personality: Quiet and shy; doesn’t come out much; will snuggle me for hours if he has his way; subservient to King Winston
Likes: Cuddling with Mom; sharing wet food with Thor; sleeping in the recliner; quietly observing from afar
Dislikes: Loud noises; lots of activity and people; being tackled when he’s trying to chill
Nicknames: Trink, Trinkydink, Trinket Buddeeeeee, House Panther, Void Cat, Grande Cat, Snugglebug

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“How YOU doin’?”

Name: Thor
Age: 5 months-ish
Sex: Ball-less Boy
Color: Gray tabby/white
Personality: A punk; extremely hyper and playful (“a spazz”); very sweet and loving when he settles down; curious
Likes: Nursing on Mom’s arm; sleeping in his tower (pictured); chasing toys; chasing his brothers; biting his brothers; drinking out of the sink faucet; wet food
Dislikes: Being kicked out of bed; toes moving under blankets; not having wet food
Nicknames: Thundercat, The Baby, Punk, Lil’ One, Tall Cat, Doorstop, DIY Cat


That’s my babies. I love them all. All three are rescues from organizations here in town, and I have raised each of them from kittenhood. Having cats is the best thing I’ve ever done to myself. It might be expensive and a little messy, but they bring me such joy. Winston meets me at the door every day when I come home from work. Thor wouldn’t let me out of bed one day this week because he wanted to cuddle. Trinket squeaks rather than meows to greet me. There’s nothing like a living creature who loves you and relies on you for survival to make you feel special. 🙂

Per aspera ad astra,
Stephanie

Funky Brain Wiring

By now, you’ve probably noticed that “funky brain wiring” is a phrase I use pretty regularly to try to describe what is going on in my squishy pile of neurons. It is a phrase I use to express that, for better or worse, my brain is wired differently than other people’s. I don’t like the words neurotypical or neurodivergent. To me, they smack of Tumblr-esque political correctness, no matter how accurate a description they may be. Those words just make it sound like there’s something wrong with me, and while that may be the case from a neurologically normal standpoint, I have adapted well-ish to both depression and ADD.

ADD is a tricky beast. I do not have a formal diagnosis from my doctor because I do not want to be medicated, but I have completed enough reliable self-evaluations that it’s pretty clear. I think people have a certain wariness regarding self-diagnosis, which is generally wise, but when trustworthy articles on ADD and self-evaluations keep saying the same thing, over and over…

Besides, women with ADD, especially adult women, tend to face a bit of stigma and resistance in getting a doctor’s formal diagnosis. ADD is a “boy’s disorder,” and its stereotypes are of elementary-age boys who will not shut up in class. I could go on all day about how there are different types of ADD, and some people have hyperactivity while others do not, but that just seems exhausting and, to be honest, a little boring when so many good sources already exist on that.

What does ADD look like for me?

  • Extreme difficulty starting or finishing projects. I’m fine in the middle. It’s the stuff at either end that just feels so insurmountable. I have struggled with this since childhood.
  • Contributing to a conversation with something seemingly unrelated because in 5 seconds my brain went from the topic to something it reminded me of to this thing over here to that and then over there and finally out of my mouth. It’s like my brain plays “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” all the freakin’ time.
  • Becoming distracted mid-conversation and just completely not hearing the other person.
  • Panic at the prospect of large tasks/inability to break it down into chunks.
  • Executive Function Disorder
  • Impulsive behavior, such as buying. I impulse buy like a fiend. It has had serious and negative results on my finances before.
  • Difficulty expressing emotions in healthy ways.
  • Doodling on my notes during meetings/appearing inattentive despite trying to listen.
  • Speaking too quickly OR getting lost mid-sentence and speaking too slowly/trailing off.
  • Impatience when someone is taking too long to get to the point.
  • Struggle to see the big picture when I don’t understand my part in it.
  • Improved ability to focus and communicate after drinking caffeine.

It’s a difficult thing to live with sometimes, like when I’m playing D&D every week and there’s so much to focus on that I can’t focus on anything, so I get more and more antsy and talk more and more and get louder until I realize that I am being completely beyond annoying to myself (and possibly to those around me)–

Agh.

I think I’ve always been like this, to some degree. I think my family and I always just brushed it off as “childhood” or “immaturity” or “just needs improvement.” And while all that is true to some degree, it occurs to me know that this is the way my brain is made, for better or for worse. I feel like it does have its perks, which is why I do not want to be medicated. I do not want to lose the joyous parts of my wiring.

  • I can make connections really fast, like anticipating the conclusion to a story.
  • I always have lots of dreams and things I’d love to do, even if I struggle to make it happen. (Go big or go home.)
  • I can be detail-oriented (in a good way, not an obsessive way).
  • I can read people well. (Not sure if this is an ADD thing, but it’s something I like about myself.)
  • I have very vivid dreams. (Again, not sure if it’s ADD, but I love it.)
  • I can usually think quickly and come up with witty remarks or puns, so I am really funny.
  • I can bounce from task to task with ease because I like novelty.
  • I am spontaneous and fun.
  • When I latch onto a project I love, I can focus on it and sail through to completion.
  • I am creative and vibrant when given the mental space to be so.
  • Sometimes when I get distracted, it’s really just that something has attracted my interest. It means I’m very curious and love to learn.
  • Most ADD people have something they are super good at. For me, that’s academics! I love school. I’d go to college forever if I had the money for it. There’s just something exciting about taking classes and learning new things.

This is really why I call it funky brain wiring instead of neurodivergence. Yes, I’m “abnormal,” but there are a lot of beautiful things about the way my neurons fire. I don’t want to wallow in my ADD and let it be an excuse for bad behavior–though it is a valid explanation for when the negative aspects rear their ugly heads–but I also do not wish to be “cured.” I wish to harness what I can do and live a good life, a thriving life. I don’t think I need to be medicated for that.

(Now, being medicated for the depression is a whole other topic of conversation. I am very glad I take something for that.)

I may not always feel it, but deep down I believe I am an interesting and unique person. I have something vibrant and beautiful to offer the world just by being me. Describing myself as neurodivergent or whatever just makes me sound like I stick out, like I don’t belong. But if I say funky brain wiring, it indicates that something “isn’t right,” but according to the dictionary it also indicates that something is “passionate, soulful, authentic, stylish, exciting.”

As long as I’m living a good life and doing no harm to myself or others, just leave me and my brain cells alone in our weird tango of shifting attention spans.

Per aspera ad astra,
Stephanie

Greetings & Salutations

Good morning, world. It’s me, Steph.

From where I sit at my desk today, it is 10:08 AM. I have started this blog more or less on a whim (as you do), to force myself to write more frequently. I am the sort of person who feels many things very deeply, and often I find it difficult to put those things into words. I’m also the sort of person who is terrible at journaling because my brain runs faster than my hand can write, but typing can keep up, for the most part. It’s to help me channel the feeling of screaming into the void into something more productive. Hence the name.

I do not know where this blog will go. Right now, I can think of a thousand different topics I’d love to cover. I can imagine it will be something of an eclectic mix, a window into the hubbub of my brain.

While I’m thinking about it, a bit about me:

  • 26 years old until January
  • Administrative assistant in higher ed
  • MBTI type: ISFP
  • Enneagram: 4 (that alone explains why I have lots of feelings)
  • Servant of 3 fine felines, affectionately called the Furry Little Bastards (FLBs)
  • Obsessed with flowy clothing, tea, candles, and incense
  • Giant dork/nerd/geek (gnerk?)
  • Anglican (more on that later, if I remember)

On a much more personal note, I’m sure this blog will touch on my mental health battles at times. I was diagnosed with moderate-severe depression and mild-moderate anxiety in October 2012 after 3-4 years of living with it undiagnosed. Sometimes it kicks my ass. Sometimes I kick its ass. But I’m still here, so that’s a victory.

I also have Adult ADD, which is just nifty. AD/HD and depression/anxiety are frequently comorbid disorders, which just explains… so much.

Anyway, just wanted you to know what you’re getting into with me as I process and learn to take better care of myself and express my emotions in a healthy way that doesn’t involve me bottling them up until I explode and melt down. That is an unsustainable practice, and conquering my demons (so to speak) requires sustainability.

Hopefully my ADD brain doesn’t take over and make me stop blogging once the novelty wears off.

Anyway, these are two of the FLBs. Winston is the monstrously large orange/white, and Trinket is the black one. Thor wasn’t part of the family when this picture was snapped. I’ll have to add him soon.

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Winston and Trinket enjoying a nice breeze.

Thanks for coming along on this insane roller coaster with no real plan. It’s like a game of The Sims where you just put them on auto and let them ruin their lives while you laugh maniacally. But hopefully less maniacal laughter.

Per aspera ad astra,
Steph