2016 Gift Guide: Girlfriends!

I *think* I’m done with Christmas shopping, and that’s mainly thanks to online gift guides. I don’t know why I can’t figure out what to buy people, BUT if you’re in the same camp, here are some fun gifts for your girlfriends/sister/mom!

PS: All of these gifts are under $75!

1. The Leather Pouch Wallet from Madewell

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This is SUCH a classic gift to give, and you can even go a step further and get it foil-pressed monogrammed. This is 100% on my Christmas list.

2. Beautycounter Winter Warmth Palette

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This is a great option for two reasons: 1) women love makeup and 2) this makeup brand is totally SAFE and free of harmful chemicals. Getting this for your girlfriend/sister/mom shows that you not only understand their love for beauty products, but also that you care about them and their safety.

3. Threshold Art from Target

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Getting someone art is such a unique gift. It’s a bold statement that will provide a lasting reminder of your gift-giving skills. Plus, this is a huge piece of art for only $70 (with free shipping!), so you’ll look like much more of an impressive gift-giver with this luxurious piece.

4. “Thankful” Print by P + Co

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Show your lady how thankful you are for her with this “Thankful” print by P + Co.

5. Beautycounter Band of Beauty Membership

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This gift takes it a step further with the makeup deal, because your lady friend will get some serious perks just for buying (safe!) makeup and skin care. For $29, she’ll get:

  • 15% product credit with every order
  • Free shipping on orders over $100
  • Complimentary gift just for signing up
  • Special offers exclusive to members

 

PS: Want help picking out makeup/skin care products for your girlfriends? Email me at amanda.p.redinger@gmail.com and put “Gift Guide” in the subject line!

 

xo, A

Gay Marriage & The Bible

Note: This is 100% my opinion. Not fact. Just opinion. 

I wasn’t going to write this post. But then I realized: that’s exactly why I have to write this post.

Last week the Christian world got so jealous of this ridiculous election scandal that they had to have their own dumpster fire saga. Enter the Jen Hatmaker interview with Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service. I strongly, strongly encourage you to read the entire interview, but here’s the bombshell:

You mention faithfulness and God. Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?

JH: I do. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.

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You guys, I almost cried when I read that. I can’t believe I even clicked on a link from “Religious News Service,” because, eye roll. But I was jaw-dropped, praise-hands, teary-eyed reading Jen’s honest words.

She knew the backlash that would happen, but she couldn’t stay silent.

She goes on to say that she and her family did not arrive at this opinion flippantly. They studied the scriptures, prayed, and sought wise counsel.

And yet, BACKLASH from the Christian community.

Let me say this: I am so hurt by the horrendous words said towards Jen and Brandon Hatmaker. I’m angered by Family Christian bookstores pulling the Hatmaker books. I’m sickened by people using God to shame and judge others.

And for that, I now refuse to call myself a Christian. | Jesus? YES ALL DAY LONG. | “Christian”? Heck no pass the peas please.

I’m so grossed out by the way Christians have behaved themselves in the last year. Not because they’ve behaved poorly, because we all have, but because they’ve done so in the name of God.

And, to my Christian friends who are already getting miffed by this post, you should just stop reading. Because this post isn’t for you.

It’s for the people who aren’t sure about Jesus.
It’s for the people who have been hurt by the Church.
It’s for the people who have, firsthand, experienced the hatred, bigotry, and condemnation that comes from our current Christian culture.
It’s for the atheists who say “There’s literally no way I could believe what you believe, because your actions are so insanely hypocritical and different than your Savior’s.”
It’s for my LGBTQ friends who are hurting and confused because they’re finally starting to feel accepted and then they meet a Christian who claims that we “love” them but “hate” their sin.

You know what? I’M OVER IT. My internet-soul-sister KT who is a lesbian says this: We are not offended by your theological stance, we are brokenhearted by the rejection of our person. And one can write emphatically about love, but LGBTQ people cannot feel love and the condemnation of their person, simultaneously.

I’m sticking with Jesus (#4lyfe), but ain’t no way I’m sticking with Christians if this is how y’all act.

Yesterday, one of Jen Hatmaker’s BFFs and another Christian leader that I love, Jamie Ivey, released a statement along with her husband. I was shocked at her words. She prefaced about how much she loved Jen and Brandon, but then went on to say, “God’s Word is clear and consistent when it addresses the practice of homosexuality, and it’s also clear and consistent on God’s intent and desire for marriage between a man and a woman, to represent Jesus and His Bride, the Church. To disagree with that requires such a degree of bending and distorting the original languages and contexts of the Old and New Testament.” (emphasis mine)

Basically, she is saying that Jen and Brandon have bent and distorted the scriptures.

AND THAT MAKES ME MAD.

Because, and here’s where I get so many Christians to get their panties in a bunch, I do not believe the Bible can be literally interpreted. (Go ahead, prepare the stakes and fire. I’ll wait.)

And that is my opinion.

And that was Jen and Brandon’s opinion.

And Jamie and Aaron are sharing their opinion (even though they believe they’re presenting fact, and that Jen and Brandon are not presenting fact and they’re just wrong but Jamie and Aaron are right.)

Looking back on Jamie’s statement about how the bible is so clear about homosexuality: IT IS NOT. It is not clear. It’s ambiguous at best. Christians who want to argue differently are grasping at straws, ignoring historical context, and misinterpreting language translations. (Again, freaking calm down, this is my opinion.)

Here’s something I want to be really clear about to those of you who are reading and are unsure about this whole Jesus thing: There are two (actually, probably a million) different camps when it comes to biblical literalism. One camp believes that the bible should be interpreted literally, word for word, and will always be exactly, specifically true. In fact, this is the camp most Christians fall into.

But then there’s the (smaller, less popular) camp that I’m in: those who believe that the bible is a beautiful book of legacy, history, poetry, storytelling–written over 2,000 years ago by eye-witness testimonies. AKA: men. This camp is much more liberal when it comes to interpreting scripture, mainly because we realize the following issues:

  • Historical context
  • Multiple translations over multiple languages
  • Cultural context
  • The unreliable nature of eye-witness accounts (y’all, my own diary isn’t 100% accurate ok?)
  • Many other things

I believe the main themes of the bible: a just and loving God, an omnipotent God, a Savior who was crucified and raised from the dead, and the promise of eternal life for believing in God. I believe that the men who wrote the scriputres were truly inspired by God, but that God did not come and inhabit their bodies, put them into a trance, and write the Bible himself. I just don’t believe that–but you totally can.

Past those general themes, things get a little sticky for me.

Many Christians want to jump in here and tell me I’m a heathen, that I’m literally costing people their eternal lives by not convincing them the bible is 100% accurate and true.

But alas, I disagree. I think that, put to the test, we’d each come up with different interpretations of the bible–even members of the same church. It’s the same as if we both read Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities–we’d get different things out of it.

Why?

Because we’ve all had different experiences; all valuable, all important, all influential on how we perceive things.

And I truly believe that the same is true for scripture. Our experiences color how we interpret things.

It’s easy for Jamie to come out against Jen’s stance on homosexuality, because Jamie isn’t gay (and neither are her children–yet).

It’s easy for a Christian to cast stones at a person who had premarital sex because they waited for marriage. (Forget that the person who had premarital sex was sexually abused as a child, distorting their view of healthy sexuality, but ya know, the bible doesn’t cover that part.)

It’s especially easy for a Christian to dismiss the bible’s claims that divorce is a sin, because, well, they got a divorce.

It’s especially easy for a Christian to dismiss the bible’s claims about lust and adultery being a sin, because, well, they’re lustful and adulterous (even if just in their mind & with their eyes #saysPaul).

We all play fast and loose with scripture, it’s just that some of us admit it.

To wrap this up, and to address the looming issue of gay marriage’s “holiness”:

I don’t pretend to know whether or not gay marriage is holy. No one should. But here’s what I do know: My marriage isn’t holy. Your marriage probably isn’t holy either (actually, let me help you: it’s not.). If I went up to God and was like “OMG look at how holy my marriage is!” God would literally LOL and slap me upside the head with the Book of Life. Because it’s not.

So what does it matter if gay marriage is holy if NONE OF OUR MARRIAGES ARE HOLY? Nothing. It doesn’t matter. Isolating and ostracizing the LGBTQ community is done only so that we can get the spotlight off of our own lives and onto others’. “Ohhhh but they’re going to go to hell! Stop sending them to hell!” Well, Karen, if they’re going to hell because what they’re doing isn’t “holy”–THEN SO ARE YOU.

Bless.

xo, A.

 

 

Power in Weakness?

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Matt and I have been going through a roooouuugghhhhh season (thankfully, not with each other!). It’s times like this that what I said still reigns true: Marriage isn’t hard, LIFE is hard. And I’m so glad that I get to have a hard life with a sweet husband.

With that being said, I’ve been insanely mad at God over the last few months. I feel like he has let me down. And that he isn’t helping me. And I feel really distant from him.

We’re taught to turn to Scripture for everything, and I usually turn to a verse like 2 Corinthians 12:9 in times like this:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

That’s cute. Real cute. And it’s a verse that is hard to actually understand. We kind of take verses like these at face value, saying/reading them to appease our need for a reason, a why for something bad happening.

But sometimes, glossing over verses like this is just taking the easy road, and it doesn’t actually help us. It’s like me being in a tough situation and someone saying, “But Amanda, the sky is blue. So blue.”

And I’m all, “Yes, sister. PREACH. The sky is blue. I’m so comforted that the sky is blue.”

Eye roll.

So let’s dig in here, and start by figuring out what this verse is not saying.

It’s not saying that God needs us to be weak for him to be strong. Because guess what? He’s already strong. He’s the definition of strong. He has ALL the power. He doesn’t even need us to be weak for his power and strength to be perfect. Because he’s already perfect! This isn’t yin and yang, where we’re playing some fun balancing act where when our weak meter goes up, God’s goes down and he gets more powerful.

This is important. Because some people interpret this verse to mean that we have to suffer for God to be made perfect, and that’s just not true. I know it helps to think about us having a reason for our suffering, like somehow we’re helping God here by suffering and being weak. But nope. That’s not it.  He loves us, but he doesn’t need us to be perfect. He doesn’t need us to be strong. And, he doesn’t need us to be weak, either. We WILL suffer–that is guaranteed–but it isn’t for God to gain power or to somehow perfect his power.

So what is this verse saying, then?

We know that God has perfect strength and power. Already. Without us. And here’s where it gets beautiful: God’s power is in us, and when we become weak, WE experience the perfectness of that power. It’s already perfect! But when life is good and we’re stubborn and don’t need God, his power isn’t living up to its potential in us. It’s just kind of waiting for its chance to shine. So when we hurt and we are weak, the perfect power of God radiates in us, whereas we don’t normally let it.

 

So, let’s kind of re-write this verse (I know, I’m a heretic, get over it): My power, which is totally perfect and complete, lives in you already. If you’ll just lean into this pain you’re feeling, you can experience my power, too. It’s there already, and it’s already perfect. You have a hard time seeing that when life is hunky-dory, so now that we’re in the trenches together, let’s explore. You’re hurting? I have stuff for that. You’re weak and can’t keep going? GREAT! I have perfect power, so I can help there. In fact, it’s your weakness that’s making my perfect power shine in your heart! Lean into it! Don’t you feel better already?!

God’s perfect power is like a backup battery for your heart. If you have a backup batter, but you’re also plugged into the wall, you think there’s no use for a silly battery. You’re all, “But I’ve got the electricity! I don’t need a battery!” Until the power goes out. And then you REALLY need a backup battery. And that’s how this verse works. You don’t need the battery (which works perfectly, even when not in use) until you literally. shut. down.

So here’s to having a lifelong, everlasting backup battery. Lord knows we need it.

xo, A.

Thoughts on ‘Stranger Things’

SPOILER ALERT. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Let’s just jump into this with my thoughts on Stranger Things, as well as some questions we need answered. Again, and for the last time, SPOILER ALERT. Would love to hear your thoughts. (I’m writing this before reading any other fan theories so these thoughts are all my own!)

  1. Clearly, Eleven is still alive.
  2. And, almost certainly, so is Papa. (Since we didn’t actually see him die.)
  3. Will…oh Will. You can’t survive in the Upside Down for a week and not have some kind of emotional trauma. So maybe that’s what he was experiencing at the end of the final chapter? Or maybe he was impregnanted with the Demogorgon’s spawn and he is just a host. This could be possible, but since Joyce/Hop saw an egg (that clearly did not need a host) in the Upside Down forest, it’s unlikely.
  4. How was Will the only one who survived? Yes, he was ‘good at hiding’ but this takes it to a whole new level, considering that everyone else had been eaten. My theory: Will was the first one taken. At that point, the Demogorgon might’ve been new at hunting, or a baby, or both. Either way, the “non-Upside Down” world was new to the monster, so he might’ve been confused and unable to hunt at his peak, allowing Will to run. Either that, OR, the monster was focused on spawning, not hunting, and needed Will alive.
  5. Does Papa love Eleven? Well, if he does, it’s clearly in a tormented way. But I think there’s more to their story than just Frankenstein and his monster. As with Mary Shelley’s work, the relationship is obviously conflicted, but there is deep emotion there. I think we might see more of this in Season 2.
  6. Where did Hop go with the bad people at the end? What exactly were the terms of the agreement between him and Dr. Brenner? Is he in cahoots with them now? Clearly he’s feeding El, but what happened when he went back to Hawkins Lab? My theory: This is all an elaborate mind game (see #8) and this is all a drug-induced psychosis. Hop is now having to help Hawkins clean up the mess they made, AND make sure they have follow-up data. Hawkins (Dr. Brenner) needs to know what happens to the people after they’ve returned to a “normal” state, and Hop is responsible for reporting that data. But, what about El? Hop knows the deal here, and he is NOT about to return that girl to Hawkins. She’s likely living in the woods with….who? Who are we missing? No one. That means that Hop isn’t the only one in on this. Mike probably is as well, and maybe Joyce and Jonathan. They’ve probably built up “Castle Byers” for her to stay in.
  7. Nancy and Steve….oh Nancy and Steve. Classic. But I’m glad it ended that way, because it would be unrealistic for her and Jonathan to get together.
  8. Have you seen Shutter Island? I’ve had a feeling that this is going to turn out in a similar way. That all of this is in their heads, likely due to the “LSD hippie crap” that Hawkins is/was testing. If so, that gives the writers a LOT of freedom on where they can go with this.
  9. The acting in this series is SILLY GOOD. I mean incredible. I was constantly in awe at how realistic and natural El’s facial expressions were.
  10. IF Eleven were to be dead, I’d be angry. She should’ve lived over Will, because the emotional trauma Will will suffer from being in the Upside Down will never be repaired. Eleven gets my survivor vote.
  11. Who are the other ten? This is a stretch, but we know that El’s mom Terry willingly participated in the clinical trials. I think Dr. Brenner was sleeping with his patients (read: Terry Ives), impregnating them, and then taking the babies to do further research on. Therefore, Eleven is Dr. Brenner’s eleventh child with his patients. It seemed that he also had a “normal” son, since the person who originally goes into the Upside Down @ Hawkins Lab was referred to as “son” just before he enters (and dies).

So, to wrap all of that in a bow, here’s my fan theory: The Demogorgon, and everything related to it, is a hallucination, brought on by the “LSD hippie crap” that Hawkins is testing on their residents. Could also be mind-control drugs, but either way, there is no “Upside Down”. Heck, even El might be a figment of their imagination (that would be sad). Hop made a deal with Hawkins to collect follow-up data, but he’s actually part of the study as well–he just doesn’t know it. Dr. Brenner is obviously still alive, because the Demogorgon isn’t real, so he didn’t get eaten, and he is still running the study, and will continue to run the study. But Steve saw the monster, too! Yeah, and Steve had some pretty serious blows to the head before that. Seriously, the guy should’ve gone to the hospital. Then what happened to Barb and the others? People die in drug studies. She was a casualty of war. Or she’s locked up at Hawkins, still being tested on. BUT ELEVEN! I know, she’s my fave too! But, likely, a figment of their imagination. Since Hop is a part of the study, he still thinks she is real, which is why he continues to feed her. But what if she IS real!? Well, then, I believe she does have the powers we’ve seen. However, I think she is a messed up little girl. If you ONLY listen to what El says, it doesn’t necessarily equate to what happened. She says like twenty words total, and a lot of them are “bad” and “monster” and “friend”. That could mean A LOT OF THINGS. But we saw her flashbacks! Yep, and none of them were her with the actual monster in the Upside Down. She was in a dark place, likely hallucinating. Don’t you find it strange that the “Upside Down” that El went to was different than the one that everyone else went to?

Anyway, that’s where my brain stops for today with this. Would love for you to challenge my theory!

A

Loving through hate

This morning, MTR and I watched the news and learned about Dallas. One day after learning about Philando Castile. Two days after learning about Alton Sterling.

I was standing, watching. My mouth was agape*. I was in shock, and so confused and hurt. I had to walk away, and a few minutes later, I was crying in our closet, MTR praying over us and over our world. For Jesus to show us how to love and how to love through the hate. I just wept.

I have too many thoughts and too many feelings, but since I am a verbal processor, I’d like to try and get some of it out of my head.

I wish I had good news. But the only good news here is Jesus. I think about the evil in our world, and know that this will not be resolved until Jesus comes. There are many days when I am confused why He hasn’t come yet. I would’ve–but that’s why I’m not God.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Black lives matter. This will not change. We must acknowledge institutional racism for what it is. We have to humble ourselves and see how we’ve added to the problem, even if unknowingly.
  • Blue lives matter. This also will not change. I’ve seen a lot lately about “all lives matter,” and yes, that is true, because we are all made in the image of our Creator. But when we make statements like that, we minimize the issue. We cover it up because it makes us uncomfortable. So let’s call it what it is. Black lives matter because hatred and bigotry and racism has caused this violence to happen. Statistically, more black males are in prison. But let’s be truthful when we answer this question: Are more black males in prison because they commit more crimes? Or are more black males in prison because of stereotypes and racism and profiling? That hurts to answer, right? Blue lives matter because retaliation is not okay. Grouping cops into a collective mass of black-hating murderers is doing THE SAME THING that we are trying not to do with blacks. Such narrow-mindedness is what led us here.
  • Prayer matters. It’s easy to think that saying a prayer and asking God for help is futile. And that is exactly what the Enemy wants us to think. One of the most powerful things I’ve read is from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape, a minion for the Enemy, shares this, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…” Let us not be so idle to betray Hope. And when we are confused and don’t know what to pray for, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Romans 8:26, MSG)
  • Love matters. May we not see these types of violence and think that all cops or evil, or that all blacks are evil. That type of thinking is what got us into this mess. God calls us to do TWO things: Love God, and love our neighbor as we love God. That’s it. The first part is easy, the second part is hard. Especially when we know “neighbor” to mean literally anyone other than us. We need to LOVE our black friends. We need to LOVE our police force. We need to LOVE those who are confused and don’t do either of those two things. One of my first reactions after hearing the news this morning was “Do NOT get on Facebook.” Because I knew that amongst the pain and grieving, I’d find hate. More vicious, disgusting, spewing hate. And I was scared that I would go off on them. That I’d call them what they were, and yell at them and use hateful words. And quite frankly, I still want to do that. But that does NOT help. That draws a deeper line in the sand. And if we continue drawing lines, we will have more violence. That’s history, folks. So, show up. Say kind words. Don’t voice hate. Let’s ONLY show up with love in our hearts. As hard as it is, let’s let go of anger. Let’s let go of retaliation. Let’s only show God’s love…for after all, He is the ultimate Judge. We add nothing to our lives or the lives of others through hatred.

My heart hurts equally for the wives/girlfriends/daughters/sons of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the five officers shot dead. The pain is equal. May we all feel that way.

via @amyckeeney on IG

via @amyckeeney on IG

* Agape…how interesting that my mouth was agape. “Open wide, especially with surprise or wonder” is how it’s defined. But if you type in those five letters… A-G-A-P-E, how interesting that you see clearly that it is the same word as LOVE. Agape, or “Christian love.” “Unselfish love.” or, the best one: “The love of God or Christ for humankind.” My mouth was agape, open. And when we are stunned into silence like I was this morning, the only thing that has room is Christ’s love–agape. How hauntingly beautiful.