Saturday, September 20, 2014

Karate-Chopping Shame


Oh, haven't I mentioned I began mother-son Karate with my oldest child? That's right.

I had a friend tell me about it, and now the two of us are rocking the roundhouse kicks with our kiddos.

It's actually much harder than I imagined, and most of the time I'm worried the Sensei (yes, he's a sensei) will be able to tell I'm sweating in the nether-regions. I'm looking forward to getting  my gi (those karate outfits) in order to hide the aforementioned sweat.

What does this have to do with shame?

Well, you can imagine that I, getting up there in my thirties, look pretty hilarious as I snap kicks and punch pads. Especially while the other kids' parents, who are not taking the class, but are watching the class, are watching me. (Not that they care what I do.)

But, you know, it's definitely out of my comfort zone.

I'm trying to do one new thing each week to either fight against shame for myself or on behalf of another person-locally or globally.

So, for me -- I'm stepping out of my comfort zone and karate-chopping my shame in half.

For others -- I'm tweeting "at" the people who can make some noise about fighting against human trafficking--"putting on the pressure in order to make some change," as my friend Shayne Moore, author of Refuse to Do Nothing, suggests. 

Join with me and tweet some journalists and politicians this week. Such as @NickKristof @StateDept @Ariannahuff @CNNFreedom. You can direct them to smaller, but awesome, organizations such as Free the Girls and Women at Risk, International.

Also, if you've been following the NFL's recent situations, here's an interesting article by Dottie Lamm at the Denver Post, Why does it take shame to make violence against women an issue? 

How are you fighting shame this week?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Chicago Half Marathon and Fighting Shame

On Sunday Kevin and his grandpa, along with some other friends and family, ran the Chicago Half Marathon in honor of Kevin's cousin Mitch, who died tragically in 2004.

Kevin's grandpa is 87 and won his age bracket in the race!
(He also happened to be the only one in his age bracket!)

Recently my pastor talked about Lance Armstrong, who as we all know, "won" the Tour De France for seven consecutive years, only to be retroactively disqualified and banned from the race for life.

Can you imagine getting to the end of your race just to admit you'd been a fraud the whole time?

Shame wants us to believe our brokenness disqualifies us from helping others, from being used by God, from ministry. The truth is, it is IN our weakness--not in spite of it--when God is most strong.

We fight against shame by being vulnerable; by showing the world who we really are-- brokenness and all--rather than hiding behind a false self.

We also fight against shame by choosing to stay in the race, fight the good fight, and live the grateful, worshipful life, even if we're the last ones standing.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Miss Maria Marcello, 10 Things The Internet Told Me About My Rape...and Some Things I Believe. (Warning: this post may trigger some readers, so please read with caution.)

If you've been following the story of Maria Marcello, the pseudonymous blogger who recently wrote about her rape at Oxford, you've watched as the internet offered her great support, while simultaneously ripping her to shreds. 

I reached out to Miss Marcello today and she's allowed me to republish her blog post on 10 Things The Internet Told Me When I Wrote About My Rape. You can read some below and you can find both complete stories here.  

I don't know Maria. I imagine we are very different in many ways. But, I stand with her as a sister. I am so tired of and outraged by this rhetoric which blames the victim. 

There is a war against women.
It's as old as Adam in the garden blaming Eve for his own sin. 
It's as old as Aristotle, who believed women were "deformed men." 

It's ancient but also very modern. 

It's a war that is local and global and real. 

I know I might sound like a wierdo here, but as Chris Caine said recently, "The things we Christians believe are weird anyway, so why not believe all the weird things?"

Here's what I believe: the devil knows the impact, influence, and inspiration women can be and have in this world. Therefore, he is doing whatever he can to stop us. 

Did you know that one-in-every-four women is the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault? I've sat in rooms where I've wondered if it's not closer to one in two women. 

Did you know that every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted? 

Did you know that 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported and 97 perfect of rapists never go to jail? 97 percent! 

Did you know that only one in 100,000 sex traffickers in Europe are ever convicted? 

There is an absolute evil happening to women and girls all over the world. 

But, here's the other thing I believe: This war will be won.  

We have a shame-remover, champion, and victor in Jesus. 

Isaiah 54, says, "Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated...For your Maker is your husband--the Lord Almighty is his name."

No matter what has been done to us, in Christ our fear, shame, and humiliation are removed. They are replaced with His dignity, love, and courage. 

Let's join together in his name, under his banner, and fight like hell. 

How can you fight? 

-Join with others and pray for Maria. Pray for the victims of rape, assault, and trafficking all over the world. Pray for justice. 

-Join The A21 compaign and find out how you can support victims of trafficking. You can even send care packages to them through A21. 

-Share this post. Social Media Awareness makes a difference. Spread the word.

-Show Maria your support by sending her an encouraging tweet. (Even if you don't agree with everything I'm saying or she says), at least make sure voices of hope speak louder than the negativity she is hearing. Show her the love of God through your support @missmarcello.  

-If you need help, or if you could use guidance sorting out some confusion you may have about your own or someone else's sexual assault, please call the National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Here's a bit from Maria's post: 

"On Friday I wrote about my rape. I can’t believe the response I got.Thank you so much to everyone who has read, liked and shared it. In just three days, it has had over 18,000 hits — not including those on sites which have republished it.
There are a few things I would like to clarify.
1) My case is in no way related to Ben Sullivan’s, in spite of the impressions of some readers.

2) To those who blamed my “upper class, Oxford educated” background: I went to a state school in a deprived area.
3) Some people said if I was drunk, I couldn’t identify my attacker. The guy was a friend of a friend. I had previously been aware of his existence, but had never had a conversation with him until hours before he raped me.
Although the majority of responses to the piece were very positive, many weren’t.
Rapists have a defective gene, [so] keep your wits about you” was definitely high up there; others I could make little sense of. I am still trying, to no avail, to understand one user’s recommendation I should sue myself because I was drunk when attacked.
Some commenters informed me I should expect no less at a mixed sex university. “It’s so obvious what the outcome of going to a co-ed college [is] that I don’t even know why people are calling this rape”, said one. “She shouldn’t have gone to college with men if she didn’t want to get raped” said another. Yes, that’s verbatim. These are as offensive to men as to me.
The rest focused on themes like my age, my university and what I should be allowed to do as a woman. I have compiled a list of them below.
My favourite remains one person’s statement that being “full of the upper crust”, I felt I was “entitled to everything” (not being raped, for example).
I’m not sure what “full of the upper crust” means, but I love it. Perhaps it could be Oxford University’s new motto....
The implication women should be encouraged to behave a certain way and that rape is a form of teaching them how is disgusting. Being raped is not a mistake the victim makes, and it is not something they need to learn from. That suggests whatever they were doing previously was the wrong way to behave and that the rapist has taught them the right way.
Nor is rape a natural hazard women should be wary of. Rapists are responsible for their actions and capable of changing them.
Women in this situation should not blame themselves. They should blame the rapist..."
You can read the rest of Maria's post here

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

While I was Away...and a question for book research, would love your help!

Happy Start of School/Fall Madness (even though it is eerily humid in Chi-town this week)! 
I've spent the summer doing some mad-writing and will continue to, but wanted to rejoin the blog world once more. I've missed you! 

While I was away, here are some things which have been on my heart: 

1) This wonderful article by Trillia Newbell, Ferguson and My White-Looking Son 

"I find myself mourning the loss of a young man I’ve never known, grieving over the police and the looting and the racist undertones of comments found throughout social media, and thanking God that in time he will make all things new.  And I’m processing this issue for young black boys and my young white-looking boy." 

How have you been responding to/with Ferguson?

2) Reading Christine Caine's book, Can I Have (and do) It All Please?  in which she addresses that elusive phrase, "Calling." She writes, "You'll find your purpose is normally aligned with your gifts, talents, and heart's desire." Pretty simple. 

I wonder if that's been true in your life? Do you feel a sense of "calling?" 

3) Not sure where to rank this in things I've been excited about this summer, but it is definitely up there:

4) Finally, I need your help for the book-- I've been thinking a lot about our "false-selves"-- those roles we play because we feel we need to, or because we learned at an early age we were more accepted when we played them. (You know...all those ways in which women "should" all over ourselves.) 

Here's an example: I'm a pastor's wife, but I panic whenever someone at church has a new baby. I'm thrilled for them, but I feel intense pressure in my role as pastor's wife to prepare a home-cooked and hand-delivered meal. I'm just terrible at it. I'm sooo not a domestic goddess. So, I learned to let go of that self-expectation. I began purchasing restaurant gift cards or healthy takeout for new parents. It's a small thing, but I've let go of that pressure and haven't lost any pastor's wife street cred (that I know of.) 

Do you have an example of  a role you've felt you had to fill in a certain way? Tips on how you shed that skin? I'd love to hear your story. 

As always, may you live shamelessly! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Three Princess Fiona's and a Dream Come True

The Three Fiona's 
There's a scene in Shrek, the Musical when three versions of Princess Fiona are singing from her/their castle tower--the young girl, the adolescent, and the grown woman--longing for her dreams to come true. I love the musical; as you can imagine, it's pretty funny. Beyond the humor, this image has remained with me.

It poignantly depicts the fact that there is still a little girl in each of us, a high school student, a young adult, waiting for her dreams to be fulfilled. In fact, a couple of nights ago, I spent some time with a few twenty-something women, talking through and praying about what it means to wait on God's perfect timing for our dreams, while also living in the present He has given us. It's a holy tension.

With that said, I'm so excited to finally announce that one of my lifelong dreams (oh, the hours I spent writing in diaries as a young girl; the seasons, as an adolescent, I poured myself into really terrible tortured poetry; the calling I've felt as a grown woman) has come true.

My first book on overcoming shame will be published with none other than Zondervan (See HarperCollins Christian Publishing) in October 2015.

I'm as giddy as a little girl, pumped as a teenager, and the grown-up in me is ever so thankful to God for this great blessing. Most of all, I cannot wait to see how He brings healing and hope into the lives of SO MANY women who are suffering from shame.

This book is sassy, serious, and, of course, shameless. It's about developing a theology and identity of overcoming shame in Christ-- both for the big traumas of life and for those mundane-shames we all deal with (at the grocery store, the gym, while watching E! news, etc).

If you want to know more about the book, this was my proposal promo (starring The Sunday's and some of my lovely friends) and put together by the incomparable Megan Cody:


A special shout out to:
Heidi Mitchell at DC Jacobson, my fabulous literary agentess.
My amazing Redbuds.
Shannon Ethridge, for writing my foreword and for encouraging me along the way.
(Wow, I feel like I'm making a big speech right now... one more to go....)

At the top of the list is YOU, the faithful men and women who read this crazy blog. I am honored that you'd spend even a few minutes of your week with me, and I can't wait to share my heart with you through this book. My prayer is that it's a gift from God to the readers.

You may see less of me online the next few weeks, but I'll be back soon to update you as things progress. For now, I'd value your prayers as I write, write, write.

As always, live shamelessly!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stephanie and Alexa, On Being the Sisters of a Child with Autism, and How They Remain Grateful...

The winner of Shannon Ethridge's Veil of Secrets, with the most shares, likes, and tweets is Renee...but I have several Renee's who read this blog...So, if the woman who commented and tweeted and liked could identify herself to me, I can send you your copy! :)  

Thanks to all of you for reading, liking, and sharing. I'm so thankful for each of you! 

I'm excited to share a new blog with you today. Sisters, Stephanie and Alexa Ruffino, are siblings to a brother they adore, Anthony. Anthony was diagnosed with West Syndrome and Autism at a very early age. The sisters, who love their brother deeply, decided it was time to be a voice for the voiceless and offer a sort of online support group for other siblings of Autistic children.  They write about life with Anthony at Life Doesn't Have to Be Ruff.

The Ruffino Siblings
1.    Tell us a little about Anthony's Story.
While Anthony was born completely normal, he developed an idiopathic epileptic syndrome (meaning no reason, no cause). It was called The West Syndrome. MANY failed medications later, we were introduced to the Ketogenic Diet in hopes to “cure” his disorder. Ultimately, the diet failed to work and took a great toll on Anthony's body.  

Our family turned to the one place in America we knew could help out: the Mayo Clinic. Although we had absolutely no money to think about hopping on a plane, we had to do it for Anthony. We are so thankful to the Mayo Clinic for all that they have done for our family. Unfortunately, the West Syndrome set Anthony far behind "normal" standards. 

When you’re focused on curing a seizure disorder, the normal day-to-day progressions, sadly, go unnoticed. With the help of the Mayo Clinic, the seizures lessened from sixty a day, to twenty, ten, and finally to zero. However, Anthony’s gross, fine, and cognitive delayed motor skills became apparent.

At the young age of five years-old, Anthony showed characteristics of being Autistic. This was another obstacle our family had to overcome. Another disorder; another thing we had to educate ourselves on.

If there is one thing we are completely educated about, it’s that without our family’s strong desire to fight and never give up, we would have never made it out of the lowest of lows.

2. What is it like being the sister of someone with Autism?  
Being the sister of an autistic sibling is far from being easy. At ages nine and twelve we felt a strong sense of responsibility to mature and educate ourselves to a new level of understanding. This was not just our parents' issue. In some way we (our oldest brother included) became for each other what our parents could not be. 

We provided emotional support and well-cooked meals for each other. It (both willingly and unwillingly at times) became our duty to care for our parents the way they had for us, pre-craziness. For those of you who have never experienced a situation like this first-hand, our parents never stopped loving and caring for us. Anthony had just taken over a great deal of their focus and responsibility.

When things get too tough to handle, we remember that someone out in the world has way worse issues going on. We’ve been through a ton, but we've made it out more grateful than most. Anthony is our world and giving up on him or our family has never been an option.

3. Why did you decide to start your blog? 
We wanted to share our story and inspire others who are in the same situation. We didn’t have anyone outside of each other to turn to, especially anyone our own age who truly knew what we were going through.

4. If you could offer one piece of advice to other siblings of kids with Autism, what would you say?
Things get tough, without a doubt. However, don’t turn away from your family. Instead, embrace the fact that you are growing stronger every day. You may find your story is different than others, but know you’re not alone. One day your story will change lives for the better.

5. What are your dreams for Anthony? 
We have many dreams for Anthony. The list is infinite. He may be different, but he is not less. We pray for his happiness and to one day find independence.

6. What are your dreams for yourself? 

Stephanie: I currently work as a hair stylist at a wonderful salon and spa, with hopes to one day travel the world while helping others find their own happiness. I aspire to write a book that encourages many others.

Alexa: I am currently living my dream by fulfilling my love fo​r writing at Columbia College in Chicago. By studying Journalism with a specialty in Broadcasting, I hope to one day inspire those around me with my words.

Be sure to encourage the girls with comments below 
and check out Life Doesn't Have to Be Ruff

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Can a Woman Face and Forgive Her Own Painful Past...?" Shannon Ethridge, on her new novel, Veil of Secrets, and Another Summer Giveaway

Congratulations to Victoria Derybowski, the winner of Kenneth Ortiz's book, Redefined! 

Thanks to ALL of you who shared the love! I appreciate you!

This is turning out to be the summer of book giveaways, because I have another one for ya this week!

Shannon Ethridge, bestselling author, speaker, life coach, and advocate for healthy sexuality, has published a brand new novel, Veil of Secrets (Thomas Nelson, 2014). For any woman who has experienced pain in her past and residual shame, this book will minister to you.

Here's what Shannon has to say about the novel:

"Over the past 20 years of ministry, I've recognized a 'pendulum swing' effect among women. Some swing too far to the left--acting out sexually in ways that leave them walling in remorse and regret, guilt and shame. Others swing too far to the right--shutting down sexually and insulating themselves from potential pain or rejection. Either extreme is unhealthy. I know, because I've lived both extremes--extremes that have been vividly characterized in the new novel, Veil of Secrets, co-authored with award-winning professional fiction writer Kathryn Mackel.

Like one of the lead characters, Sophie Connors, I was hungry for attention and affection from older men due to a lack of connection with my father. Like Melanie Connors (Sophie's mothers), I gravitated toward abusive relationships and promiscuity--until I put a wedding band on my finger. And then my pendulum swung hard in the other direction as I withdrew sexually from my husband.

With the help of a counselor (like Beth Sierra, Melanie's therapist), I learned to face my sordid past...assign responsibility to the abusers..accept responsibility for my own choices...find the serenity to accept the things I couldn't change...and muster the courage to change the things that I could.

Through this process, I was able to forgive everyone--most importantly myself--and reconnect with my husband.

Now, I play the role of "Beth Sierra" to many other women and couples through my coaching practice. It is such a JOY to help others understand the psychological reasons behind their sexual history, make peace with their past, and find a healthy sexual balance where they can experience connection instead of isolation, pleasure instead of pain!

My hope is that this powerful tale will truly inspire both married and single women to make peace with their sexual past, and thrive in their current (or future) relationships! Thank you for sharing this hope with me, and for your prayers for this project."

To help spread the word about Shannon's book and enter to win a copy, Tweet, Like, Share and Comment! And as always, Live Shamelessly!