Persuasion Podcast

So here’s a bit of news. Erin Straza and I will be hosting a new weekly podcast on the Christ and Pop Culture Podcast Network called Persuasion. In some ways, this is a departure for me–moving beyond the written word–but in another, it feels very natural. When I mentioned the opportunity to my husband, he asked, “So basically, they just want you to give your opinion about cultural and theological issues?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Oh, you’ll nail that. That’s what you do all the time around here anyway.”

The larger goal of Persuasion is to offer feminine insight on issues of culture, theology, and everyday minutia–without reducing it to a podcast about “women’s issues.” This is easier said than done, but it’s something that Erin and I believe is worth pursuing.

The full name, Persuasion: Fine Ladies, Rational Minds, and the Best Kind of Company, comes from two Jane Austen quotes:

I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.


“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”
‘”You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company, that is the best.”

We’re still getting our feet under us, but here’s a clip from the first episode in which Erin and I talk about how it easy it is to define ourselves based on other peoples’ lives. Erin works full-time and does not have children while I am a SAHM. We explore the temptation of each of us to define our work in terms of the marketplace and/or domesticity. What are the dangers when we try to live our lives by comparing ourselves to others? How can we avoid it?



The full podcast, including a discussion of what exactly we hope to accomplish on Persuasion and an interview with JR Vassar about his new book, Glory Hunger, is available here and on iTunes.

A Love Worth Celebrating

belonging to the marriage
“There are, however, still some married couples who understand themselves as belonging to their marriage, to each other, and to their children… To them, ‘mine’ is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as ‘ours.’ ”     –W. Berrey

A couple of weeks ago, my husband asked me “Just so I know and there’s no confusion—what exactly do you expect from Valentine’s Day? Do I need to get you flowers? Candy? Because I’d much rather get them some other time and not pay what they’re asking for them.”

I paused a moment, trying to be honest with my own feelings. Growing up, I don’t remember my parents celebrating Valentine’s Day, at least, not in the sense that we expect couples to celebrate it.  Some years they went out for dinner—if they could find a babysitter and had the money—and other years they did not. They always gave us cards or small gifts, but I never remember Valentine’s Day being an exclusive event for them.

So I told him, “Honestly, I don’t care.”

Now, there are some days that I do care about. Birthdays are meant to be celebrated On. The. Day. With tremendous rejoicing. (And if possible, a state-wide moment of silence.) Anniversaries are very important and Christmas and Easter are pretty significant, too.

But Valentine’s Day? Meh. Take it or leave it.

I think my feelings toward Valentine’s Day are connected to how we’re told to celebrate it. For a day that ostensibly celebrates love, we’re told to embrace the exact opposite of love.

Instead of love being about what is “ours,” we say “Be mine.”
Instead of love drawing us into communion, we isolate ourselves.
Instead of love making us creators, we become consumers.

The love that my husband and I share is not our love alone. It has been given to us and as we cultivate it, it overflows to bless those around us. It draws us into communion with the rest of the world, starting first in our own home. It makes us productive and life-giving. It makes us flourish.

This year, our family will spend Valentine’s Day recovering from a stomach virus. I predict doing laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, and sanitizing every hard surface in the house.
We got started when my 5yo woke us up at 6:30. He was crying because his brother didn’t want to get up and make valentines with him. As I dragged myself out of bed, I knew that his real problem was that he hadn’t eaten well for several days and just needed a good breakfast.

But somehow I don’t mind. Love has been productive in our life. It has done its work. It has united us to other people in bonds of commitment & service. And that, I suppose, might be worth celebrating after all.

Mattie Chatham, My Kind of Woman

Someone once asked me where I got my vision for womanhood, and I honestly (if not curiously) told him that it had come from times and places I’d never been. It came from wherever good women worked alongside good men civilizing the land, caring for their families, and loving their neighbors. It came from all the true daughters of Eve that have existed in history, literature, and life.

Women like Abigail Adams, Hannah More, Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael, and Ma Ingalls. Women like Lizzie Bennett, Anne Shirley, Caddie Woodlawn, and Katharine Mary Flannigan. Women like my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. And yet, until my friend asked me that question, I’d never realized how much these Eves had shaped my understanding of what it meant to be a woman–how they modeled what it meant to be fully alive, participating in God’s great work.  

This week, I found another name to add to my list: Mattie Chatham from Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow. She isn’t the central character of the book, but it isn’t a stretch to say that she is its heroine. Bound in marriage to an unreasonable and foolish man, Mattie displays the kind of maturity that separates the women from the girls. The kind of maturity that makes me want to be a better woman myself.

…Mattie Chatham never looked like a woman who was put upon and divided in her loyalties and having a hard time; she didn’t look as though she would have welcomed sympathy, or as thought she needed it. She was not her parents’ child for nothing. She was going about her life, taking her pleasures as she found them, suffering what was hers to suffer, doing what she had to do. She had no air of self-pity or complaint. And this could only have been because, in her own heart, she was not pitying herself or complaining. It was as though her very difficulties had confirmed her sense of herself and her capabilities.

I knew Mattie Chatham a long time, and I never knew her to falsify or misrepresent herself. Whatever she gave you–a look, a question, an answer–was honest. She didn’t tell you everything she knew or thought. She never made reference even by silence to anything she suffered. But in herself she was present. She was present in her dealings with other people. She was right there. She was, to my eye, a good mother who liked and enjoyed her children, leaving them free within limits that both she and they understood…

Mattie Chatham, as time went on and the older women [of the church] became less able, had a way of being involved and seeing to things. Her way was quiet and unobtrusive–and effective; she got things done. She was never bossy (as, for instance, Mrs. Pauline Gibbs always was) but was just simply and quietly kind. She certainly made nothing special of me. But when she asked me to do something, she asked clearly knowing that she was putting me to trouble. She would say, “Jayber, would you mind?” And she always thanked me. She was considerate. That was one of the reasons I remained aware of her…

She had come into her beauty. This was not the beauty of her youth and freshness, of which she had had a plenty. The beauty that I am speaking of now was that of a woman who has come into knowledge and into strength and who, knowing her hardships, trusts her strength and goes about her work even with a kind of happiness, serene somehow, and secure. It was a beauty she would always have. (pp.189-191)

How to Debate Vaccines* and Still Come Out a Christian

(*organic food, essential oils, education, health care, immigration, soteriology, eschatology…)

“Baby’s First Shot” Richard Sargent, The Saturday Evening Post, March 3, 1962

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that there have been several outbreaks of measles across the United States recently. Not surprisingly, this has led to vigorous (if not often, one-dimensional) debate about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccinations. And all I have to say to CNN, FOX, NPR, and every other news outlet that is now covering this story: Y’all are late to the party. We mamas have been debating this for years.

I remember the first time I realized that the questions surrounding vaccines were more than theoretical. I was visiting a friend when she opened her freezer to get some ice. There, sitting next to a chub of frozen hamburger, was a tray of lab vials. When I asked about them, she casually replied, “Oh, those are my kids’ vaccines. I ordered them from XYZ instead of the standard ones. My doctor said he would administer them if I bought them and stored them myself.”

Since then, I’ve watched the vaccine debate play out on blogs, Facebook feeds, and in the corners of church nurseries. And I’ve learned a few things—mostly, that we don’t debate well and that we tend to have an unhealthy relationship with the certainty of our own choices. So in the interest of making the next few weeks easier on all of us, here are some suggestions about how to debate vaccines and still come out a Christian:Continue Reading