October 23, 2017

Her Identity

Editor’s Note: If I tried to express all that is in my heart on this matter, the words would overflow. This is my  for-now follow up to “The Facebook Playbook.”  Lord willing, I will continue to write on this subject matter, as I feel a deep burden and love for my sisters in Christ.

Before I formed you in the belly I knew you. Jeremiah 1:5

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13


A girl, about 15 or 16. She consistently posts images of herself (meant to garner likes on her physical attributes alone)  and captions them with Scripture and inspirational quotes.


Her younger sister watches her as she preens in front of the mirror, gets her hair just so, takes about 100 shots before she finds one she likes, and then hunches over her phone screen as she waits for likes to roll in. This is what it means to be a big girl.

She could be 12-23. She takes a group picture after a wonderful weekend or evening with friends and it gets posted online. She’s complimented, to which she responds, “girl, don’t even lie. I look awful. My face looks like a squashed toad.”
Or, she beats the compliments to the punch and comments, “excuse my face, but yay for beautiful friends!”

 

She spends hours trying on outfit after outfit for the church youth weekend. She still doesn’t get it right. It’s never quite right. But her friends look flawless and amazing and she just doesn’t know how the other girls do it.

“I’m so ugly,” she says to Younger Sister as they brush their teeth in the morning. She stares at her freckles or her legs or her eyes. Younger sister was thinking about how much fun she was going to have learning new things at school, but now she looks a little bit closer at her own face.

“Let’s take a sister picture!” Younger sister’s eyes gleam, for she feels very special when Big Sister includes her in such an important rite. She gets a little tired when it takes Big Sister 5 minutes to take a picture that meets the standards.

Younger Sister silently pads into her bedroom and practices posing in front of the mirror. One day she too will be initiated into young womanhood and she too will obsess over her selfies, sexualize herself in a world that has done that enough already (from both so-called conservative and liberal agendas) and publicly degrade her body as if her body is her total worth. An aching mix of self-idolatry and lost identity.  That is what being a young woman in the church is all about. 

Or at least that’s the memo. That’s the message a heartbreaking amount of my young (and sometimes not so young) sisters in Christ seem to follow. I used to, too. Maybe slowly, over time, I’ll share my redemption story with you. 

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, which you have received from God? Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. I Corinthians 6:19-20

I am the vine, you are the branch: [She] that abides in me, and I in [her], [she] brings forth much fruit: for without me [she] can do nothing. If a [woman] abide not in me, [she] is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them/her, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  John 15:5-6, paraphrased for sake of subject matter.

Strength and honor are her clothing. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Proverbs 31:25-26

Receive (accept) one another as Christ also received (accepted) us. Romans 15: 7

For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace. Isaiah 55:12

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3

October 5, 2017

The Facebook Playbook

Droves of millennials rely on Facebook to keep their romantic spark alive. The following playbook outlines crucial steps for modern romantic success in just one week. 

Sunday: Post church selfie.
Males: Lean against a stall door. Burn your smoldering eyes into that water-splattered mirror. Carelessly stuff one hand into a pocket. You’re a lean, mean, lady-chasing machine. Head back to church. Wait for likes. After 10 minutes and only 27 likes, feel slightly peeved.
Females: Invite your seven-girl entourage into the phone’s camera frame. Smile like a Cheshire, pucker like a duck or stick out your tongue like you’re Gene Simmons from KISS. Apply appropriate filter. Examine for five minutes. Shuffle into service as the first notes of “To God Be the Glory” begins.

Males, refer to second section of book for further instruction. Females, see below.

Monday: Rise and shine! It’s #mancrushmonday time. Your relationship has not been validated in 1.75 days. Time for another selfie with Mr. Man. Upload flattering image of yourself…. and him. Facebook Collective now knows the two of you are still a thing. Sigh in relief.

Tuesday: Class at 10 am. Wake up at 5:25 am. Blow dry hair, straighten hair, curl hair. Stare into closet for 15 minutes. Try on seven outfits. Apply makeup. Realize your makeup game is rocking. Whip out your phone. Post accordingly.

Wednesday: Tell Mr. Boyfriend through a Facebook post that you deserve a date. Tag him. The real point is to tell your 795 Facebook friends and his 781 friends so he’s held accountable. “Did you take your girlfriend on a date, yet?” his mom’s great-aunt asks. After all, it’s her business to know. You made the post “public.”

Thursday: Your sister-in-law shares a Missouri University study about Facebook and relationships. It’s something about high levels of Facebook use and high levels of relational conflict. Boring,

Friday: He didn’t take you on a date. You broke up with him. He doesn’t love you enough. If he did, he’d post a #womancrushwednesday every week and send you flowers every Monday and pen you love letters. Publicly. On Facebook.

Saturday afternoon: Rant about the horrors of singleness. See article titled, “What I learned from being single.” Read phrases like “strength” and “personal growth.” Who wants that? Shiver in horror and think, “I’m doomed.”

Saturday night: Your ex-boyfriend posts a “single and ready to mingle” selfie at 9:43 pm. Scramble off the couch, turn off Netflix and throw away your chocolate ice cream. Post a “where my single ladies at?” selfie at 10:30 pm. Translated, this means, “Everyone, look at me!”

Saturday, later that night: Flash that stale desperation and sloppy bar grin for the camera. Upload, tag yourself.

Sunday, early morning: Post picture of you and your new flame. Caption it, “He gets me like nobody ever has. I’ll love you forever.”
As long as you don’t outshine my glittering selfies and only if you call me your #womancrushwednesday every week and only if you buy me expensive jewelry on the regular and only if you tag me in a minimum of 16 posts a month on Facebook.

~

You have reached the end of week one. Refer to first Sunday and repeat. However, there is a second option, though not for the faint of heart. 
Press and hold the Facebook app until all apps wiggle under the pressure of possible death. Push the “x” on Facebook. Confirm “yes.” Watch the blue square disappear.
Astonishingly, the world will not end.

~

Coming soon: “Snapchat Chitchat,” a life guide written by best-selling author of “Facebook Playbook” will be on stands soon. Enjoy this brief excerpt.

“Head to the gym. Take picture of yourself singing to music as you drive 70 mph down the road. Take picture of yourself standing on the treadmill at the gym. Take picture of yourself before you jump in the shower. Forget there’s a mirror behind you. Take picture of yourself in bed. Tell yourself and fellow Snapchat ghosts goodnight. Wake up and take picture of yourself. Caption it, “I can’t even.” Snapchat 283 more times before lunch.”

~

To be continued over a bowl of shallow relationships and a side of self-absorption.

– – –

I penned this satire last April as a feature column assignment piece for my college writing class. It was fun to write, though a bit disheartening as it was inspired from real-life posts I read and see on Facebook.  🙂 

I plan to follow up with a more serious, in-depth discussion on self-respect and social media and the implications of trying to “catch” a guy or girl using online tools such as social media outlets and dating services.

September 28, 2017

Children: Light of the World

Lindsey Gellenbeck

When I became a mother, it was a mind-blowing experience to realize that the tiny life for which I was responsible was a mixture of my husband and myself. There were pieces of the man I love and pieces of me in the little face I so lovingly stroked. Now, 3.5 years and another baby later, it is even more mind-blowing to realize that these precious babies I love so dearly are more God’s children than my own.

That realization, or perhaps it was a whisper from God, dawned on me when I looked at the peaceful, sleeping face of my eldest son after battling him for an hour and a half to take a nap. I was gazing at his face, my eyes still damp from tears, my body tired, and my mind discouraged. I was feeling the burden of motherhood. I thought, “I’m not only responsible for nourishing the body, teaching the mind, and caring for the health of this child, but his soul is in my hands. God has entrusted me with his spiritual life until he reaches accountability. I have to teach him what is right and wrong. I have to steer him down a path that will lead him to God. I have to make sure he is soft and pliable in the hands of his Creator.”

At that moment, I almost despaired of succeeding as a parent. “I can’t do this, God!” I cried. “I’m too weak. I get too frustrated. He’s too strong-willed and I’m too tired. How am I supposed to lead him to You when I can barely make him take a nap?!”

It was in that moment of discouragement that I felt a truth seep into my soul. It was as if God told me, “Lindsey. Don’t despair for the life of this child, for he is MY child even more than he is yours.”

That thought has comforted me more times than I can count. What a relief to know that the ultimate care of my precious little babies is in God’s hands! And how amazing to realize that, even though these little faces and personalities are parts and pieces of my husband and myself, they are even more a reflection of their Creator. 

Of course, I always knew that we humans are created in God’s image. It says it right there in Genesis 1:27. It was just a fact that I had known forever–there was no real dawning of it in my mind until I had children of my own and realized just how much my existence is tied to theirs. It wasn’t until I realized I would spend the rest of forever being their mother that I understood God’s love. Just an infinitesimal fraction of it, of course.

All of these truths have slowly imprinted themselves on my mind since day one of motherhood, I realized again today what a blessed gift my children are. I treasure them deep in my heart. I do my absolute best to be the kind of mother that pleases God. I give my greatest effort to loving them even when they try my patience to the very ends of the earth, which seems like every day with my eldest son. But another dimension to the complex world of Christlike parenting presented itself to my mind today.

What if God wants me to be as generous in sharing my children with others as He has been in sharing His children with me?

“What on earth does that mean?” you’re probably thinking.

When Jesus was giving His great commission to His disciples, He gave them a lot of instructions. Smack in the middle of it all, He said, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) Freely ye have received, freely give.

God placed my children into the fallible, pitiful human care of my husband and myself, knowing that He will care for them far better than we ever could. Despite the fact that He genetically engineered me, as the mother, to be the caretaker of my children and despite the fact that He called me to a life of parenthood, I am woefully incapable of being a good mom. That thought crosses my mind often, usually stated more along the lines of, “I literally cannot do this.” But still, He has entrusted and gifted these children to me. He has freely given of His dearest and most beloved creation.

As Christians, we have the privilege of knowing from whom our children come and what they represent–unbridled joy, unquestioning faith, untainted purity, innocence, and beauty, and so much more. They embody the best attributes of God. When God created children, He allowed the absolute best of Himself to be represented through them, and He calls us to be like them in our faith. If all of this is true, surely people will be drawn to children. And they are!

I can walk through the grocery store with my two boys and see quick evidence that people, especially elderly folks and women, are drawn by some unseen magnetism to the occupants of my shopping cart. When my sister begs me to bring my boys to the nursing home where she works, it is so obvious that the days of those ladies is made by the pudgy grin of a slobbering baby. Even a man from inner-city Portland, who has obviously lived through some of the worst life has to offer, still grins at the antics of the toddlers racing around the feet of their parents.

A moment of honesty? When my sister asked me to bring my son to the nursing home the first time, I really didn’t want to (Sorry, Nicole). My thoughts ran along the lines of the fact that my newborn’s health was fragile. His immune system had not fortified itself against the germs and bugs that surely permeated the very air of a hospital or nursing home environment. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to bring joy to the elderly people my sister cared for. It was more that I wasn’t overly thrilled to expose my child to potential harm. My maternal instincts fired up at the thought that something could happen to my baby. Mothers go to extreme, supernatural lengths to ensure the safety of their children. And I was pretty sure this situation could be potentially harmful. 

But I went anyway. And oh, the joy on those aged and wizened faces. What a light that fresh, untouched beauty was in their worlds. Their wrinkled, worn hands would reach out and stroke the silky skin of his cheek and I could see the fulfillment it brought to some ancient, instinctive need inside them. To connect with a life that is still pure and untouched by the terrible real world we live in. To remember that innocence and loveliness still exist in humanity.

I was reminded that a lot of elderly people miss having the warmth of an innocent young life near them, especially if they are estranged from their own family or never had any children of their own. I realized that just because someone has grown into adulthood and suffered the ware of hardships, pain, grief, time, and even sin in their own lives and bodies does not make them any less precious in the eyes of God. Not that long ago, they were the beautiful, chubby, enchanting embodiment of all that is good and innocent. THEY were the ones that attracted the eyes and attention of a stranger.

Freely I have received. Am I freely giving?

When a stranger approaches me and begins interacting with my children, my first instinct is to remove them from the situation. Said stranger could be dangerous, ill, or even harmful but well-meaning. Don’t talk to my children. Don’t touch him! No, I’ll pick the pacifier up–who knows where your hands have been. But thank you.

Oh, God, give me your impulses! Allow me to see these elderly people, grocery store strangers, and hopeless homeless men through your eyes!

Obviously, I’m not saying forget common sense. I’m not saying ignore your instincts. I’m not saying let Joe blow off the street kiss all over your baby’s cheeks. There is a place for social boundaries and respect of parental preferences. And there is a way to stay firmly in control of your children’s safety while still allowing others to enjoy their God-given powers of enchantment.

I’m saying trust God to take care of your children because they are His more than yours. I’m saying let the beauty and innocence of your children shine like a beacon, for it is a reminder of our Creator to those who may have few reminders otherwise. I’m saying believe in the Divine gift of childhood and the power it has to bring joy to everyone it comes in contact with.

My prayer is that I will take my own words to heart and allow God to lead me in the way I raise my children. They are God’s gift to me and they were God’s gift to the world.

– Lindsey Gellenbeck

Editor’s Note: I am delighted to welcome Lindsey, sister/cousin and confidant, to One Cup Carver. She has agreed to come on board as a contributing writer, and she adds a Mommy dimension that expands this blog and our audience. 

September 10, 2017

My Crown Wears A Crown Called Monat

Words like multilevel marketing and direct sales trigger mental alarms.
I was a senior in high school. Naive and bright-eyed. I thought it would be a way to make some side money.
Instead, it was cringe-worthy.
A shady manager, pushing a classic direct sales approach, literally expected me to also push (hard) my family and friends to buy the product. The product itself is high-quality and a household name. That wasn’t the problem. It was the company culture and aggressive marketing approach.

When he desired to lie to his superiors about my age to make money, I swallowed my pride and fled to my Dad. He helped me swiftly remove myself and rectify the situation. 😉
Since then, I’ve told myself I would  never, ever ever get involved in anything remotely similar.

Today, I’m eating crow. Swallowing a big mouthful of pride is comparable to my childhood attempts of eating lima beans. But the dessert that follows is good. Real good.
Ever heard of Monat? Yeah, I know you want to click the “x” in the corner of your screen. But humor me.

If you’re a skeptic, you’re internally (or externally) shaking your head and thinking, “By the power invested in social media and peer pressure, I hereby pronounce you deceived.”
Surprised that I read your mind? Yeah, it’s because I’ve had similar thoughts about other people.

However, I’d like to focus on my experience with the product than on the fact that Monat is a network marketing company. For now.

Backstory:
I first heard about Monat on Facebook. I’d scroll past the posts. Quickly.

My hair was OK before I moved to Texas, but our water here has high chlorine. A tub of bathwater makes our apartment smell like a pool. I actually requested a water quality report and realized that the level of chlorine in our water supply meets the chlorine requirements for swimming pools. And I’m not talking about an inflatable pool in your backyard.
My skin itched, my occasional bouts of eczema (most likely seborrheic) turned into full-time scaly patches around my ears and hairline, and my hair was dry.

Now, I grind vitamin C tablets into powder for bathwater (this neutralizes the chlorine) and we have a vitamin C shower filter.
The filter helped my hair for a while, but then my scalp started itching again. Gross wet dandruff, parched hair strands and scary shedding (even for me). My hair was everywhere.
I tried T/Gel shampoo. Didn’t work. Head & Shoulders shampoo. Didn’t work.
Clarification: They would help for a few hours, but I didn’t want a Johnson&Johnson Band-Aid.

Early this summer, I noticed my sister had Monat samples. At the end of my rope with my itchy head and bad hair, I asked her what she thought about the product. She couldn’t say enough good things. Her curls were more defined. Less frizz. Soft hair.
My heart shone with hope. … and my brain shouted Retreat!

Then, an overwhelming need to scratch reminded me that I looked like I had lice and a glance in the mirror confirmed my hair was a paradox of sandpaper and grease. My brain ran out of options, so exhausted was she. Sending  repetitive “Scratch!” signals to my fingertips was getting old. Feeling dirty even after cleaning wasn’t on my short list, either.

I’ll attempt to make a long story a little shorter.
I contacted a friend who sells Monat and requested some samples. If I didn’t like the samples, I wasn’t out a dime. Or my pride.

Can I just say that after the first use, my scalp itchiness went from primal scratching levels to barely noticeable? Take that, T/Gel!
I later found out that Monat products contain capixyl. This blend contains red clover extract and is meant to reduce scalp inflammation, hydrate the scalp and strengthen hair. Monat products do not contain parabens, sulfates, or ethanol’s (among many other questionable ingredients) that most hair care products do contain and do cause irritation.

Cosmetically, my hair was soft. Like really soft. My husband raved about how good my hair looked, randomly and without me asking him if he noticed a difference. That got my attention. 😀

I went back and forth with my options. Read reviews. Sought out negative reviews. Read positive ones skeptically. Asked my friend a LOT of questions. She gave me detailed, descriptive, HONEST feedback. I really appreciated the transparency. I think that’s what tipped the scales. I didn’t feel like I was being pressured.

I originally planned to sign up for Monat’s VIP program, which provides product discounts and enables customers to purchase an entire hair system or mix-and-match products.

But after stewing and calculating and thinking and discussing with Colin and thinking some more (I’m telling you, my skeptic game is strong), I decided to sign up as a Market Partner.

This gives me the ability to sell Monat products, but I signed up strictly for the deeper discounts than the VIP program. Until now.

After consistently using Monat hair care products for the past two months, I don’t want to use anything else on my hair. That’s a sturdy statement coming from brand-loyal suspicious me. Well, I am quite loyal to my Apple phone, but that’s because I adore a clean, minimalist interface. Google Pixel, I am sure interested in you, though. 🙂 Other than that, I really don’t care what title is printed on the fabric or bottle as long as I feel comfortable using or wearing the product.

Back to Monat. Yes, I have the ability to sell Monat products. Originally, I was not planning on trying to sell. You know, too cool for network marketing and all that.
I’m still scarred from that horrid experience five years ago, and I’ve been hesitant to sell products directly.

But then, last month, I had the opportunity to talk with a high school friend after she posted on Facebook that she was looking for someone who sold Monat products. I realized how exciting it was to share with someone my own excitement. She’s using Monat now. 

In the past two months, my scalp irritation is a ghost of the past. My eczema still pops up every once in awhile around my ears, but my hairline and scalp are free and clear. I’ve always had baby hair, but I’ve got way more now. One of the greatest changes I’ve experienced is a reduction in my hair loss. I still lose hair, but the amount is negligible compared to my old shedding. I rarely lose hair now when I’m not brushing or washing. Before, my hair consistently shed. (Procataline is another ingredient in Monat products. It helps reduce the hormone DHT which contributes to hair loss.)

Back to you, skeptics. I realize it’s “just hair.” I do. But remember the word picture I painted about greasy roots and itchy skin. As I write this, my hair is soft and my scalp calm. I know the world would still spin even if I didn’t use Monat. I’m not clueless, ok. (I could hear your voices and figured it was time to acknowledge your concerns again.)

This post isn’t to detail what exact ingredients are in the products. It isn’t to provide an in-depth review of said products. That will follow. And it’s not even to convince you to try Monat, though I’m obviously open and willing to talk if you are. (Please, contact me if you’re interested and I will happily tell you more!  I have samples and they are meant to be used. The post office is like 10 minutes away.)

This post is about me admitting I’ve found a really good, quality product (sold through network marketing) that I’m happy/excited to talk about. It’s about me dutifully eating my spoonfuls of crow, because I’ve been quite vocal to friends and family about my skepticism for multilevel marketing business.

Make no mistake, I’m still skeptical. But I’ve slid off my high horse. And it’s been a valuable life lesson, reaching deeper than my hair roots.

There’s a lot I could still say – ingredients, testimonials, network marketing, the awesome Monat culture, price points. (Skeptics, looking at you again. Point-blank stare.)
But this post wasn’t about that, as I said earlier.

However, as with all my blog posts, I encourage you to comment, message/text/call me, with your questions, concerns or thoughts. My blog is a creative outlet, and I welcome dialogue.

Well, enough for today. Except for this fun fact.
I’ve found a few white hairs mingled with the dark brown ones. Imagine the Heart/Brain comic strip for that one. My (Great) Grandma Betty Smith went white in her 20s. I would have loved to know her, and maybe this is Fate’s way of drawing me closer to my enchanting great-grandma.

At least I’ll be white with Monat. 🙂  Cheesy grin.
So long, blogosphere. Until next time!

 

-K.Carver

 

August 17, 2017

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

In my mental Utopian world, the recent events in Charlottesville never happened. Racism doesn’t exist. People don’t march for equal rights in one breath and abort a human child in the next. North Korea’s leader isn’t possessed. Little girl’s aren’t taught to dance like strippers and little boy’s aren’t told they can’t cry.

But guess what. I live in a very real, sinful world. And no matter how much I’d like to escape to soft sunsets and starry nights, I can not.

As much as I wish racism were dead, I can not change the fact that it’s alive and well. 

As much as I wish journalists would stop tarnishing their reputations, many of them don’t care. I live in a world of sensationalism and clicks. So the fires will be stoked and the people misrepresented, depending if the news anchor, the journalist, the talk show host leans one way or the other on the political spectrum.
(This is a particularly sore spot for me, because writing is kind of my thing and I understand the power of the written word. And it hurts me to watch great talent fall.)

As much as I wish Nazi swastikas and Hitler salutes and the KKK and violence and bigotry and hate didn’t descend on Charlottesville, Virginia last week, it did.

And it is WRONG.
But it also is predicted. And it’s our faults.

You know why? Because we live in a spirit world. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. We wrestle against principalities (political rulers,) powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (religion). – Ephesians 6:12

That’s why. Because of sin.

The moment we push(ed) the God who created this Earth out, that is/was the moment we create(d) a vacuum for evil powers to reign.  And that’s exactly what happened and is happening today.

These are the moments I desperately wish for the book with the fairy tale ending. And while that fairy tale ending won’t look like a Disney princess tale where the country lives happily ever after, I take comfort in the verse that follows the one I quoted above.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:13

This is the evil (last) day. We are facing a dangerous cocktail of mind manipulation and warfare.

Ex: News outlets are extremely biased. Talk show hosts rant all day long. It’s a wonder they don’t all keel over from heart attacks. Children, teens, adults spend their free time glued to screens, quenching their ability to think.  
“Well, I read it on the Internet. I heard it on the radio. I saw it on TV. It must be right. Right?

People, of all colors, refuse to walk a day in a different perspective. The spirits of ignorance, hate, malice, selfishness, greed, laziness, superiority, deception reign.

BUT. Take on the WHOLE armor of God, offensive and defensive, and in this evil day YOU WILL STAND.  I encourage you to look into the following verses and ask “what is the whole armor of God?”

The answers to our questions are in the Bible, the living word of God. If you truly have an obedient, willing heart, the Holy Spirit will reveal truth and answers to your hungry soul.

His pen will forever be mightier than humanity’s swords.

To every oppressed, hurting soul: I love you, I hurt with you, and through our Lord Jesus Christ, we will stand. Together.

– Karissa Carver

I’m linking to Adam Clarke’s notes on these verses here. Very applicable, encouraging and challenging.