Meat Your Ethics (Instagram follow up)

You made it! Wow, I can’t believe you’re here. Thanks for coming.

If you linked via Facebook, for context, this is a follow up to the conversation on my Instagram around the question: “what is your ethic on hunting?”

I wanted to put this as my story, but 3 minutes into it, I realized that perhaps the topic was too loaded for me to just talk at a camera. So here goes:

Yesterday, a friend and I went kayaking, which is great because kayaking is one of those soul warming things for me, and it only gets better on a peaceful river in the Michigan fall.

Anyway, my friend is big into duck hunting, so naturally, on the second day of duck season, she wants to know if I care if she hunts while we’re out on the river.

I’m fine with it, and we head out. An hour into it, it’s pretty great. The sun is shining, the air is gorgeous, I’m kayaking behind her so I’m not in the way, it’s all going as expected.

But then it happened.

And the sound was like thunder.

And the sound ripped the air in half.

The ducks fell from where they once flew and tumbled to the water, as if a suspension cable were cut.

My friend is super stoked that she caught dinner for Monday night and I’m like, sitting in this kayak trying to shake out my thoughts on hunting and death, which is kind of a lot.

So, knowing that I have a lot of friends on Instagram who come from many different walks of life, I turned to you guys–and the answers were pretty varied:

“Hunting is one of the most humane ways to consume meat if you’re going to, and the most environmentally responsible.” was one.

A few of you said hunting for food was fine, but hunting big game for sport was “rich man’s game”.

As well as a “How can someone claim to be pro life while harming God’s creation?”

And the profound:“Compassion towards animals is so natural to us, that only through conditioning could we become callous towards their suffering and death.” – Tolstoy

Okay, so this is more controversial than asking about soy milk. Fair enough.

Personally, hunting has never really been my thing. I grew up in suburban California in a generally Bay Area family culture. We didn’t really hunt. We just kind of went to Raley’s.

So that being said, I realize my perspective is inevitably colored by my upbringing, and I want to clarify now that I think one’s ethic on hunting is a personal decision, and my view of you, no matter what you said, has not changed.

Anyway, so I’m sitting in this kayak with this metaphorical can of worms, like:

Why does watching an animal die when I eat meat regularly bother me so much?

Does someone’s attitude towards hunting affect how the process death?

Why does fishing feel less like hunting than shooting a deer?

But again, as I turned to Instagram, so many if you guys said that hunting was a means of survival.

Another factor I thought was fascinating, though, was the connection of hunting, tradition, and family.

“My dad, grandpa, and uncles literally bought a game farm and built our homes on it.”

Or, “well, dad is literally gone all hunting season, so mom jokes that she’s a single mom October through February.”

This is obviously more than a blog or a question on Instagram to some of you guys–it’s fabric, culture, and livelihood.

Oddly enough, though, at the end of the day, I looked at the tupperware container of duck meat and was like,

Dang. That used to be a bird.

And then my subconscious was like,

Dude, that is a bird.

Which brings me to my ethic on hunting. And…I don’t know. I wouldn’t say I’d be a participant, mostly because watching things die sends me down an existential and psychosocial rabbit hole. (Obviously.)

But I’m also not really planning on going vegan any time soon. And I think that’s okay.

I have understood that it might be healthy to contemplate why you do what you do, even if it means acknowledging that you benefit from the death of a living thing. Ultimately, I think it’s your own call to make.

So yeah. Good talk.

Friendly reminder:

It’s okay to be vegan.

It’s okay to eat meat.

Cool, well, it’s 7:00 am so I’m gonna like, go back to sleep now I guess. Thanks for reading a kind of unusual blog!

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You, Me, and the Void

Sometimes I think we break our backs trying to figure out what will make us feel like we’re doing what God wants us to do. I know I felt that way, at least.

Anyway, I’m moving to Grand Rapids this December, and I feel more peaceful than I think I have since I got back from Hong Kong last summer.

So yeah.

(!!!!!!)

Okay, so I wrote that first bit last night, but I feel like maybe there’s a greater explanation to be given.

A lot of you guys know how I feel about Moody. Over the past year and a half I’ve moved from on board, to hesitant, to skeptical, to angry.

I came to Moody because I could not bear the thought of leaving CTI, a place where I had a beautiful community handed to me, and being pushed out into the world on my own. I felt like that guy in Interstellar, floating through a void alone. So in need of structure, I chose Moody, despite some of my reservations.

And truthfully, it hasn’t been all bad. I think of teaching English in Chinatown all last year, and the friendship I built with Yan Li, my first student. I think of driving to Connecticut with Glory, Evan, and Lynette over a weekend and breaking a windshield in Ohio. I think of getting my thoughts on absolute truth thrown out the window by Dr.Rim, and the value for human dignity I see flowing from co-workers at Argo. I think of biking down state street and running to the Sedgewick stop in the snow after writing a paper and thinking how amazing it is that I live somewhere with snow.

Chicago has not treated me poorly.

However, I can’t ignore that dropping out of college was on my mind the day I moved in. I like learning. Writing a good paper–I’m being totally serious–makes me feel alive and purposeful.

But there is a homesickness for a place I had always felt unsure of that I cannot seem to get rid of when I’m here. The policies I thought I could live with became oppressive and seemed only to exist for donors. I ignored the voices of my friends outside telling me that I was unhealthy. I let myself think I could suck it up for my undergrad. But I can’t. I really just can’t.

So I applied to other schools. I even got in to what I would call a dream school with an incredible psych/human services program. Even though I told the world I was going, there was a voice inside me chuckling, “no, you’re not.”

So I looked at CTI again, camps, internships, universities, gap year programs, whatever. I had to find the next big thing.

Eventually, I decided to stay at Moody. I felt sort of okay, until I realized my restlessness was because I had settled for something unhealthy, Grand Rapids popped into my head.

Although I was doubtful, I made the pros and cons lists. I asked my friends. I prayed through my teeth, knowing that I genuinely didn’t know if God gave a damn about where I went or what I did.

I let it all get bad, and if you’ve let it get bad you know what I mean. Without school, I felt like my life would go to the void. I knew I couldn’t stay in Chicago, but the fear of a life without structure left me paralyzed.

Anyway, I went to a house show last Tuesday after one of my worst weeks, and I felt the goodness of my own life wash over me, and for the first time I think I felt grateful for my pulse. Which is nuts. I think I understood that life was worth living, and not just surviving, and to do that I needed to make the decision to step out of my circumstances and risk existing in the void for the sake of my own sanity.

I know it’s easy to associate quitting something with being a coward, but I assure you, I believe this may be the bravest decision I’ve ever made. I know the person I am outside of here is capable of more kindness than I am while I’m here.

So for you, I guess, maybe ask yourself if your health is suffering because you’re afraid of changes. I don’t know, you might not be. Or you can just be with me in this.

If you’ve gotten this far, oh man, you’re too kind, remind me to buy you coffee and give you a hug for being so kind to care about my happenings.

PS, here are some FAQ’s I’ve gotten as I’ve told people in passing about moving:

1. What’s so bad about Moody?

Moody’s admin and doctrine perpetuates and benefits from structures that harm and oppress PoC and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. That’s the biggest one and the only one I’ll mention now. It might not bother you, but it’s been breaking me for quite some time now.

2. Okay, but I like Moody?

That is totally okay, and I am genuinely happy that you are having a positive and healthy experience.

3. Will you keep doing school?

Maybe! I want to. I consider myself to be pretty academic and I think it would be pretty neat to get that PhD someday, but I want to get it for me, in healthy timing.

4. Wait, explain the void thing.

Okay, so my whole life I’ve been a part of a structure. I.e., school, family, then CTI, camp, Moody, etc. I’ve always had community readily available. I’m seeking Independence and to remove myself from relying on a structure for friends.

Where you gonna live? Do you have a job?

Hahaha I’m not sure yet. I have a lead or two on roommates and some jobs, but truthfully, it’s not been long since I made this decision specifically to Grand Rapids, so we’ll see what pans out.

Let the Light In

I grew up in Northern California in a house built in the 1980’s. It had the sickest brass light fixtures, teal carpet, and faux wooden everything a kid could ever hope for. In the kitchen was a teal and white checked linoleum, and above it on the ceiling was a panel of fluorescent lights.

For the most part, we kept fluorescent light in the kitchen off—every time one of us kids found reason to turn on the enormous kitchen light, my dad would flick off the light switch and turn on three smaller, warmer lights instead. I even remember asking my dad: “So you would rather sit in the dark than have that light on?” I would raise an eyebrow at him, because kid Maddie loved raising one eyebrow. “Yes.” He would huff childishly as a joke.

It’s funny, but now that I’m older, I completely understand my dad’s aversion to fluorescent lighting. I distinctly remember sitting in my first college dorm nearing complete darkness as to avoid turning on the dentist office-esque lights. “Are you sitting in the dark?” my roommate would say as she came in. “Yes.” I would say, far less proud than my father was.

I have since invested in lamps and Christmas lights as to avoid living in a cave-like environment. Our room is typically pretty clean, but the other night, I remembered that I had meaning to vacuum for a while. So I rolled the vacuum into the room and, for the sake of cleaning, flipped on the actual room lights.

And oh my God, y’all.

I knew the floor was dirty, but I didn’t know, you know?

And it was so funny, because I think I realized that the light, however unflattering it might be, was not the problem. All the light was doing was showing me how gross our carpet had gotten over time.

I think we’re the same way. I think in our personal lives we throw metaphorical Christmas lights and décor over our circumstances and leave the fluorescents off.

The light is not the problem.

The dirt in your carpet is.

The light is not the problem.

The trauma you have refused to process because you feel to busy is the problem.

The light is not the problem.

The circumstances you have been immersed in creating you to, fear and ultimately hate the light are the problem.

It’s easy to go existential when I’m cleaning, I guess, I don’t know, it was weird day.

I realize the metaphor has a biblical flavor to it, but on a practical level, I urge you to turn on the light.

When I turned on the light, I found a room full of things I’ve used to cover up the loneliness of being a city I hate. I found dirt and skeletons and boxes of things I love that I hadn’t touched in months because I have lost the motivation.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to do with it all.  Grieve over it? Maybe. Try to blow the dust off of it all and go back to the way things were? I guess, but that doesn’t feel feasible.

I’m not an expert, I’m just someone who writes about personal experience on a webpage. But if you’d like, let this be your check point. Go to your breath, and imagine the light coming in. What do you find? Are you satisfied with it? Are you afraid to look?

No matter the outcome, I do feel sure of this—healing begins when we let the light in.

Only Green Lights

Yes.
I’ve realized I say it a lot.
“Yes, I can play for Sunday.”

“Yes, I’d love to get coffee.”

“Yes, I can make time.”
“Yes, I love my school.”

“Yes, it’s hard, but you know, I like it.”

“Yes.”
“Yes.”

“Yes.”

There are millions of ways I say it, with my words, sure. But I’m realizing that my “yes” is becoming present simply by the absence of my “no”.

I was sitting around the table with friends, when the bashing of LGBT people came up, I said yes with my silence. When I smile and nod and pretend to be a good fundamentalist, I’m saying yes with my silence. When I let others believe I am only who they perceive me to be, I say yes.

Maybe you do, too.

A lot of you guys know I’ve been planning on moving to British Columbia in January.
…a lot of you guys also know that I’ve been planning on staying at Moody.
And maybe one or two of you know that I actually have no idea. Because, as my friend Charis pointed out:
Saying yes to one things means saying no to another.

Yes to debt, and no to seasonal depression.

Yes to ideas I don’t believe in, no to debt.

Yes to another transition, no to potential friendships in Chicago.

And, as you may have guessed, I’m not great about saying no to things.

Growing up in and out if Sunday school, I heard this phrase a lot:
God has three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait.

It leaves no room for uncertainty, yet it seems to breed uncertainty and anxiety in my heart.

Perhaps, that’s why we don’t know when to say no.
Maybe, we just want to cover all the bases.
Maybe we end up in over our heads.

So I guess, this is me asking you to pray for me. That I can learn to trust that God actually cares about me enough to provide money for college. To give me clarity. And strength to say no.

Underwater

Six years ago, I was standing on the curb in front of my house in the California summer heat. “Well, you love Jesus don’t you?” My best friend asked. “I mean, yeah,” I hesitated. Who doesn’t love Jesus? Come on. “I don’t think I need to prove that in front of people.”

“Well I don’t know why you’re waiting to get baptized if you love Jesus.”

“I do love Jesus.”

“Then just do it!”

I inhaled. “Fine.”

So I did, in some oh-so-modest basketball shorts and camp t-shirt combo in front of the youth group and with eight other kids, got baptized because of peer pressure. Weird, right? It left a bad taste in my mouth. Actually, I became an atheist about three months after my evangelical dunk tank baptism.

Today was a normal day. I did laundry, had coffee , checked my email.

It was on a normal day where I had even wondered God, are you even up there, or is this something I do so I can justify my circumstances?

Six years ago I had not been baptized into a faith with room for doubt or questions. I was baptized into black and white, and capital T’s, and pithy truisms–I was baptized into culture.

No wonder it was so easy to leave.

Tonight I got baptized into being met where I was.

Into family.

Into doubt and faith and the flowers that grow in that tension.

Into gray areas and God our Mother, God, our linguistically transcendent and mystic, Creator.

Into Love.

It was salty and cold and embodied and gorgeous.

And there will be more doubt tomorrow and more walls to tear down, but I am betting that Love will come in anyway. It always does.

Oregon State of Life

When I first built this blog, I imagined myself writing insightful blogs sharing my reflections on Christian culture, and the brain, posting weekly, etcetera. Three months and eight states later, I am just now making the time to write a life update.

So let’s begin: You might have noticed I’m working at a conference center out in Oregon. (It’s like a family camp) When I applied, I thought I’d be in as a high school group leader. I had my vision laid out: outings with students, mentoring teenagers, being able to listen and see them as they were, breaking out some of those Studying and Teaching the Bible techniques (where you at, Moody students?)–my expectations were definitely high.

Fast forward to May—I had just driven in from Portland after a four day road trip, and it didn’t take long for me to realize I had definitely not been hired on as a high school leader. Actually, I was the conference photographer and back up help for other age groups.

What?

That night, for what felt like the thousandth time in my life, I sat down on the floor of an empty room where my things would live for only a season. I should quit, I thought. My brain can’t take another transition. I’m done moving around for good. I’ll move back to California and stay there.

I don’t take transition well. God’s working on it.

The next day felt worse. I skipped breakfast because I left my appetite and guts to talk to new people in Portland. Later that day, after orientation, I found myself assigned to trim the excess fuzz off of flag football belts. Again, the thought echoed: What am I doing here? Why am I not at CTI? How is my presence here useful to me or anyone else?

The last…twenty-one years or so of my life have been about me. My life has revolved around surviving childhood, leaving my hometown, CTI, life after CTI, college, and looking forward to years of grad school.

But there, trimming excess fuzz off flag football belts…I assure you that I was still making this about me.

The days pushed forward, and instead of taking photos, I was filling in where extra help was needed. That meant helping in middle school, y’all. That meant housekeeping, planting flowers, organizing bins of wigs, and doing all these things that I knew were being done in the background—and it drove me crazy. Why am I not at CTI? Why am I here? The thoughts continued to echo.

It’s been three weeks since I pulled my car into Cannon Beach, and I’m babysitting three sleeping kids while their parents have a night with their friends.

…And it feels good.

Which is weird, because if you know me, you know that little kids are not the crowd I’m best with. But as I’ve settled in and started working as the conference photographer and floater for all of the age groups, I’m realizing that this experience isn’t going to be about me. And that’s okay.

This change definitely didn’t come from me, though. I genuinely believe that this has been Love changing my heart and mind…and it’s kind of great. Don’t get me wrong, there are perks. Little kids calling you by a camp nickname, smelling like campfires, and making some incredible friends (to name just a few).

But the point of this long post isn’t only to tell you that working with kids has made my heart grow three sizes. Mostly, I just wanted to share that I’m realizing that I don’t expect God to be good to me. Call it faithlessness, call it the result of childhood, call it what you want. But I know that I went into this summer like I’ve gone into almost every season of life: gritting my teeth and trying to get through it.

But I’m wondering: Do you expect God to be good to you? Or are you gritting your teeth, thinking: wow, this is going to suck, I can’t wait to get through this.

If you do, I think you know pretty well that it’s not a healthy way to live.

Listen to this: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 6:7-9

Maybe it’s not about receiving what you want after asking for it. Maybe it’s just about having the guts to ask a Creator that’s a lot bigger than you and trusting that It’s going to give you something necessary for you in your spot in life.

That’s all I’ve got, you guys.

Grace and peace be with you,

Maddie.

Seafoam Dreams

This room has always been mine. From the second my parents moved us out of the apartment and dropped boxes here 1998. The seafoam green carpet was hideous and iconic at the same time. It was full of pet hair and paint stains from the childhood my dad gave me. I moved my bed into that alcove once because I hated keeping my room the same way for more than a week. My mom and dad painted the walls purple when I was five. My dad and I painted over it when I was ten. I remember lying on my bed in the 105° heat listening to my first Copeland CD on a radio. Yeah, a radio. I used to look at my map dreaming about places that weren’t Modesto, dreaming of how I would move somewhere exotic, far-off, mysterious lands like Pennsylvania.

The carpet got ripped out, though. My great grandma who used to sit in that sweet floral chair died, my possessions that aren’t with me in Chicago are boxed up in a closet. I got older. The world got smaller. Things aren’t the way they were. They’re good and bad and different and wonderful in a way that I don’t always understand. Leave your hometown long enough to fall in love with the dichotomies your roots are.

Beautiful.
Awful.
Free.
Claustrophobic.
Yours,
But not quite yours enough for time to free it from its hold.

You are loved,

Maddie.