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Praise and Endorsements for Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me
On Breaking Bad, Boxer, and Beauty in Dry Bones
What is Beautiful?

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Beauty and the Bitch book, control, redemption, restoration, femininity

Praise and Endorsements for Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me

Promotion (especially self-promotion) is dissonant for me... but not enough to keep me from being thrilled with the thoughts and responses to the book!  Especially by so many for whom I have such great respect.  I love that these folks have read the book and took the time to endorse it! 
 
                                                          ******* 
 
"Every failure of love, cruel word, broken loyalty, withdrawal of care arises from the war within.   We live out the war of our divided self and the debris casts a shadow over every relationship.  Jan Proett has lovingly and graciously allowed us to enter her world to see not only the harm but the hope.  The more we tell the truth about our war the more the healing our heart is open to receive.  And the hope is always the beauty we have been made to be in the light of the true beauty of Jesus.  Beauty and the Bitch pushes the envelope of language and invites us to consider the depths of what inflicts not only a woman's heart but a man's as well.  I winch with the B-word and how it may be used by a man against a woman or by a woman with cavalier contempt.  Jan is a courageous woman to name her inner war with that word, and she is aware as I am that it is never the prerogative of any man, ever, no matter the depths of sin, to use that word against his wife or any other woman.  May your reading invite you to the face of beauty you are and the one you are to become."   
 
     ~Dan B. Allender Ph.D.
       Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President
       The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology   
 
"Jan's words will heal and minister life to the broken places for so many women. Instead of resorting to armour or performance, Jan encourages us to embrace the dignity and identity found in Christ. It's an honest and timely book for many women." 
      ~ Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist.   
 
There is Life found in Jan’s words.  Light and life.  Fearless truth.  Vulnerable honesty.  Soaring hope. Fiery love.  The kind that changes a person in the way one longs to be changed. I have been seen and not rejected but understood.  Not only have I been understood but I’ve been invited to see myself, my life, my way  through the eyes of Love. The invitation extended in “Beauty and the Bitch” is to not turn our face away from ourselves but to take a fearless look.  A grace-filled look.  A look that we are safe to take because we do it while securely held in the embrace of our loving God who has already shamelessly, flagrantly decreed that we are beautiful.   In this stunning work, Jan shares intimately her journey, her failings, her pain, her story– and the steady restoring presence of Love throughout.  It is overflowing with wisdom and hope; winsomely, brilliantly and honestly written. Read it.  Take the risk.  Choose to come more alive.  Awaken. Increasingly come out of hiding and be found by the One who has always been pursuing you. 
 
     ~ Stasi Eldredge, author of Captivating and Becoming Myself.  
 
 
The title of this book obviously grabbed my attention. But I'm so grateful I didn't stop with the cover for what oozes from the chapters and paragraphs and lines and words is very good news, and heaven knows we need more of that. Author Jan Meyers Proett practices midwifery here. By confessionally sharing the pangs of her own story Jan encourages the birth of something in you and me: beauty - not as the world defines but as God desires. This process is not pretty, but the world doesn't need more pretty. The world needs more beautiful.  Thank you, Jan. 
 
      ~ John Blase, author of Know When To Hold 'Em and All is Grace (with Brennan Manning for Brennan’s memoir)  
 
 

On Breaking Bad, Boxer, and Beauty in Dry Bones

 
On Breaking Bad, Boxer, and Beauty in Dry Bones
 
The word ‘beauty’ is weary; limping along from overuse, and disappointed from being misunderstood (grant me the anthropomorphism – I’m convinced the poor word is actually suffering).
 
But beauty is the only word to describe something that caught me off guard, not long after my nephew Ryan died suddenly from an overdose of heroin and methamphetamine.  Indulge me in the story?...
 
Many of us watch the destruction that can come from the angel-like experience of drugs on Breaking Bad. But Ryan was a brilliant young man with a broken heart and unnamed pain – he, in actuality, found drugs from dealers in Albuquerque.  Those drugs took his joy.  Those Albuquerque drugs took his life.  Let me know if Hank Shrader is able to prosecute Walter White – our family needs to know.
 
Ryan and I were close. There was a sweet affection between us born in his childhood.  He called me his ‘second mother.’  I write in the book about what happened immediately after his death:
 
“The words “Ryan is dead” tumbled like an avalanche of heavy stone into my center, crushing it. My nephew Ryan’s face, his essence, was immediately before the eyes of my spirit, scenes from his life flickering past in rapid succession, landing on a walk I had with him by the Rio Grande in warm winter sun just three weeks prior. I envisioned my sister’s eyes, and I crumpled to the floor. I will not describe the words pouring from my sister’s heart. They are sacred words, words of passionate affection, longing, and knowledge of her son. They cascaded from a heart shattered like glass. And I cannot describe the words that rose up in me to meet her words. Our cry rose to heaven, with him. The holiday party Steve and I were about to host, the feast, the preparation, the pleasure, vanished into a fog. The room was swallowed up in shock. The warming oven, the bubbling cider, stopped. It did not dare move. Ryan was gone, and the rest of the world went silent.
 
Ryan’s face was all I could see. I saw his wry three year-old face, certain even then of his attire, down to his choice of socks. I saw the slight tilt of his head, as his twenty-five year-old penetrating gaze quietly inquired of me, curious about Steve’s software, my counseling work, our family. I felt his creative soul, saw his paintings, heard his writing. I saw the familiar, familial pain deep in his eyes, the cost of bearing a sensitive spirit in a harsh world. I saw his glimmering smile. How handsome.”
 
(Jan Meyers Proett (2013-07-15).Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me (Kindle Locations 1559-1562).Bondfire Books. Kindle Edition.)
 
Many (truly) beautiful things happened for our family in the midst of that horror. If someone you love has been snatched away, you understand the beauty that is a mystery too great for telling.   But today I want to try – I want to tell you about a man named Boxer.
 
Four weeks after Ryan died, in the heavy fog of grief, I realized that I had something on my calendar.  A Saturday had been set aside for a tour given to all the volunteers for an organization called Dry Bones – folks who befriend and assist homeless youth in Denver.  I was brought into the goodness of what these folks do when they asked me to counsel some of the girls who had been brought into prostitution.  The tour was to give all volunteers a clearer glimpse into the underworld underneath Denver.  I had been anxious to take this tour; I wanted to understand a bit more of the stories of the girls (14 – 22) with whom I’d have the privilege of being.  My step-daughter Sarah and I had planned to take this tour together, as she has deep heart for those forgotten in this world.  Sarah loved Ryan – a lot.  In our shared grief-born weariness, we decided to stick to the plan.
 
So we went.
 
The tour began on the 16th Street Mall, by Jos E Banks, jewelers, and restaurants.  We then began, over three hours, to slowly descend.  The Dry Bones guys asked us to pay close attention to the architecture, and how things changed each time we went down a ramp or a flight of stairs. Slowly the world changed.  Somehow we were under the city we all know and love, in a world rarely seen and acknowledged.  There are close to 12,000 folks without homes who live on Denver streets, estimates are that 6,000 of them are teenagers (kids who have fled abusive homes, completed the foster system with nowhere to go, etc.).  This was their world.  A world where mattresses are crammed into spaces beneath railroad tracks (meaning the trains run ten feet above their heads all night long); a world of homemade families, a tight camaraderie of courage- and a world filled with bottles and needles.   
 
Okay, so you are still listening for what is beautiful.  Hang in there – it is coming.
 
The tour ended in one of the largest tunnels under the city.  Our Dry Bones friends went ahead of us to check to make sure we would not be interrupting anyone’s ‘home.’  The glare of low winter light hung just at the end of the tunnel, just enough light to reflect on the wrappers and discarded needles strewn around my feet.  My gaze fell on a dollop of fresh blood, just near my feet, the vibrancy of life still in its clear red gleam.
 
My head started to spin.  Ryan. All I could think about was Ryan.  Sarah grabbed my hand, tears in her eyes. 
 
Suddenly the outline of a man, not in our group, unexpectedly appeared at the end of the tunnel.  Anyone at the end of a tunnel is going to look angelic.  He was outlined in light, and he seemed earnest.  He rested one forearm on the top of the tunnel, and held his hand to his forehead.  The Dry Bones guys explained, “This is Boxer, and he has something he wants to say to us.”  Boxer shifted slightly, cleared his throat and began what I can only describe as a guttural soliloquy to the horrific beauty of life on the streets. 
 
“My name is Boxer, and I am a heroin addict.  Where you are standing is our place.”  He was not chiding; he just wanted us to know.  “I want you to know that each and every one of us that has been in this space knows exactly what they are doing.  We’re not bad people.  Some of us have just given up.  This place has been a place where we have found God by the enjoyment of being together.  Some really bad things have happened here.  I have found a few of my friends dead in here…”
 
Then Boxer did something - and I am convinced that what he did, he did for me without knowing.  “I want to ask if we could hold hands and say a prayer together.  None of us who have given up would ever make it if God didn’t find us.  God came and found me, and now I am working to know our Lord.  I would like to say a prayer to honor those who have died from heroin.”  Once again I was light-headed.  Did he just say that? 
 
It all happened so fast.  I knew going in to the day that my eyes would be opened.  To what, I did not know.  I did know that I liked the group that was taking me there – to the streets – because their ethic is so strongly one of respect, to break down the us/them mentality that somehow those without homes ‘need me’ or that somehow I won’t be given to or need them just as much.  They were taking me in to these tunnels to show me how low some of us are forced to go because ‘up there’ does not welcome us, and we don’t have the heart or healing or resources to get ‘up there.’   To remind me of how low we all go. 
 
But I did not see it coming.  Sarah and I were given the gift of honoring Ryan on this day - the gift of remembering the one who I loved so deeply, one for whom there are a hundred irreconcilable questions, one for whom my heart hemorrhaged for frustrated vision for his life. There was a sacred acknowledgment of the evil behind the angel drug, the drug that without question brings a false taste of the divine to those who gather in the tunnel without loved ones, without family.   I wanted to scream, “But Ryan did not die here in this filthy tunnel!  His death may be from the same drug, but he did not die here.” 
 
But my protest got washed away with Boxer's message.  He was sad that drugs had taken his friends’ lives.  Well, I was sad, too.  It wasn’t about the tunnel, or a nice warm apartment.  It was about all of our hearts, and those ‘giving up’ places in which we don’t know what to do.  It was about how we get trapped, get caught, taken by something for which there is no margin for error.
 
It was unexpected communion; one I could not have thought up in a million years. And yes, it was beautiful. Beautiful – a word resurrected, new flesh on its bones.  And truly, resurrection is the only beauty that matters.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What is Beautiful?

 
Between the new book and being part of an event next month called Brave Beauty, my mind has been filled with thoughts about beauty.  I adore the subject, partly because I spend a lot of my days plowing around in the underbelly of lives in the counseling office, and party because I love how unpredictable beauty is.  For example, I could never have predicted the laughter waiting for me after a long counseling day, when I witnessed a squirrel jump on – no, JUMP ON – one of our chickens.  This ambush was one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen.  That fuzzy-tailed scoundrel rode that bird like he was in a rodeo until the poor traumatized fowl could shake him off.  It was beautiful.
 
Beauty is one of the most mysterious and misunderstood realities in life.  Of course it is - beauty entices our hearts back, and beyond.  It beckons us back to the original intent (which invites us to grieve what  is missing), and beyond to a place which transcends the mess.  Simon Weil was dead on when she wrote that beauty and affliction are the two things which can pierce our hearts.  It is what loneliness, a turquoise Lazuli Bunting bird, and Hatch Blue Corn Chile Enchiladas all have in common:  they consistently draw me to life.    Beauty pierces us as much as everything that invades beauty – both invite us to a level of courage we never knew we had. 
 
Beautiful courage is seen in a woman who carries the secret shame of touch from an uncle, who tends to her garden but also fights legislatively for the rights of those caught in slavery.  It can be found in a woman who has left evangelical culture, holding a deep sorrow for the pressure she found there when she knows it was to offer her abundant life. Equally it is seen in the woman who chooses to join a church because she wants to understand the bible better - she just wants to know God.  It shows up in a woman who is discovering the healing that comes from blessing every part of her body, thanking it for all it has suffered and experienced. And in the woman who laughs uproariously during a good movie, playfully slapping her embarrassed son.  It is in a tired mother of three who climbs into bed next to a man with whom she holds piercing disappointment, who climbs out the next morning to greet the sunrise with sun salutations in solidarity with her tender ache.  In the woman who schemes a special getaway for her husband. The woman who holds her tongue.  The woman who speaks her mind. 
 
Beautiful choices and brave living are as unique as fingerprints – but we recognize them if we have an eye for them; if we cast off our judgments of another woman’s path and turn with kindness in acknowledgment of all we don’t know of her; if we turn with kindness toward our own frailty. 
 
As I wrote recently in the new book:
 
"Beauty shows up in a family tradition, a spontaneous song on a quiet morning in bed, or when we laugh at the sight of a hummingbird’s bomber-like descent only to come to rest on a spindle of a blossom. It appears as we feel the elbow of the Spirit in our ribs as we catch ourselves in our most practiced prideful arrogance. It tips its hand as we weep sweet tears when we remember an exquisite grace granted to us during a lonely time. Beauty is different for everyone. It also lingers in the bottle-filled room when a woman allows herself to admit the alcohol is not big enough to hold her heart, or as a friend said recently, “I’m just out of stuff that works.” It pushes its way through the pulse of techno-music and comes to rest in the thoughts of the girl who realizes that the guy’s thrusting toward her on the dance floor was more about her body and fantasy than it was about a genuine curiosity about who she is. She drives home alone, aching but beautiful."
 
It goes on to say:
 
“I have tried hard to be beautiful. I’ve tried to talk myself into the truth that I am beautiful. I have tried to rouse my heart, to cheer lead myself toward something good. May I say it again? It doesn’t work. My beauty— the original glory placed in me like a fingerprint— has to be restored. As we will explore, there’s much at war within you— many things that combat the glory of God. Our beauty has been ignored, mocked, violated, manipulated, and harmed. And in turn, we betray our own beauty— we attempt to erase, diminish and even abuse our own beauty. You can’t change your heart through sheer will. We must allow the original image to be unveiled, allow the original glory to rise, again and again.Thankfully the image of God within you refuses to ever be completely erased,and thankfully the stunning grace of God when you are brutal with yourself and those you love never dies. True beauty comes and finds us and laughs that we were looking the other way.”
 
Jan Meyers Proett (2013-07-15). Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me (Kindle Locations 130-137). Bondfire Books. Kindle Edition.
 
When do you feel most beautiful?  We (my publisher and I) are going to gather responses to that question so that we can all see the myriad ways beauty shows up in our complicated, difficult, precious lives.  Be thinking about it.  We’ll gather the responses the week of September 16!
 

Endorsements and Praise for the Book

Promotion (especially self-promotion) is dissonant for me... but not enough to keep me from being thrilled with the thoughts and responses to the book!  Especially by so many for whom I have such great respect.  I love that these folks have read the book and took the time to endorse it!  
 
                                                       *******
 
"Every failure of love, cruel word, broken loyalty, withdrawal of care arises from the war within.   We live out the war of our divided self and the debris casts a shadow over every relationship.  Jan Proett has lovingly and graciously allowed us to enter her world to see not only the harm but the hope.  The more we tell the truth about our war the more the healing our heart is open to receive.  And the hope is always the beauty we have been made to be in the light of the true beauty of Jesus.  Beauty and the Bitch pushes the envelope of language and invites us to consider the depths of what inflicts not only a woman's heart but a man's as well.  I winch with the B-word and how it may be used by a man against a woman or by a woman with cavalier contempt.  Jan is a courageous woman to name her inner war with that word, and she is aware as I am that it is never the prerogative of any man, ever, no matter the depths of sin, to use that word against his wife or any other woman.  May your reading invite you to the face of beauty you are and the one you are to become."   
 
~Dan B. Allender Ph.D.
Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President
The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology 
 
 
"Jan's words will heal and minister life to the broken places for so many women. Instead of resorting to armour or performance, Jan encourages us to embrace the dignity and identity found in Christ. It's an honest and timely book for many women."
 
~ Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist.
 
 
 
There is Life found in Jan’s words.  Light and life.  Fearless truth.  Vulnerable honesty.  Soaring hope. Fiery love.  The kind that changes a person in the way one longs to be changed. I have been seen and not rejected but understood.  Not only have I been understood but I’ve been invited to see myself, my life, my way  through the eyes of Love.
 
The invitation extended in “Beauty and the Bitch” is to not turn our face away from ourselves but to take a fearless look.  A grace-filled look.  A look that we are safe to take because we do it while securely held in the embrace of our loving God who has already shamelessly, flagrantly decreed that we are beautiful.   In this stunning work, Jan shares intimately her journey, her failings, her pain, her story– and the steady restoring presence of Love throughout.  It is overflowing with wisdom and hope; winsomely, brilliantly and honestly written. Read it.  Take the risk.  Choose to come more alive.  Awaken. Increasingly come out of hiding and be found by the One who has always been pursuing you. 
~ Stasi Eldredge, author of Captivating and Becoming Myself.
 
 
The title of this book obviously grabbed my attention. But I'm so grateful I didn't stop with the cover for what oozes from the chapters and paragraphs and lines and words is very good news, and heaven knows we need more of that. Author Jan Meyers Proett practices midwifery here. By confessionally sharing the pangs of her own story Jan encourages the birth of something in you and me: beauty - not as the world defines but as God desires. This process is not pretty, but the world doesn't need more pretty. The world needs more beautiful. 
 
Thank you, Jan.
 
~ John Blase, author of Know When To Hold 'Em and All is Grace (with Brennan Manning for Brennan’s memoir)
 
 
 

It is all in a name...

 
The act of naming anything is a sacred endeavor –a baby, a company, a pet, a town, a book.  Though I (and those I trust) wrestled with the name of the Beauty and the Bitch:  Finding Grace for the Worst in me, its title came to rest as the only thing accurate enough to display the wonder that we are never able to fully erase, eradicate or hide the beauty of God, no matter how hard, cold, mean or dismissive we may become. This baby’s true name is Beauty, after all.  The bitch in me or anyone else simply mars the beauty.
 
Because language means everything, I’d like to offer some thoughts around the title of the book.
 
1.      The word has been hi-jacked.  The word bitch in its unadulterated form, in its pristine meaning, is preciousas it is the moniker given to various female animals as they care for and tend to their young.  When you envision a little den of foxes with babies nestled up to their mother to nurse,I am guessing that the word bitch doesn’t even come to your mind - such is the regrettable abduction of language.  The word has new meanings now in the cultural vernacular – and we all know the majority of the meanings are derogatory. Very sad, but true.
 
 
 
2.      The word ‘bitch’ is a word that we should only use about ourselves, and not to describe anyone else.  Compare a wife saying “You don’t have balls” to “My love, I know you have more courage than you are displaying .”  The first is not merely disrespectful; it is a contemptuous attempt to make a man feel small.  Similarly, when a man (or another woman for that matter) says, “You are a bitch” - it is never okay, in any cultural situation, and regardless of the transgression. It crosses the line.  Compare the contempt with a loving invitation, “My love, your attitude and behavior are abrasive(or cold) (or sullen) (or mean) (or manipulative), and I don’t think you want to be thought of in that way.”  What a gorgeous alternative.  The person can even say, “Please – I don’t think you want to sound so bitchy” and those words would not have the same shameful impact because they specify the behavior or attitude, and not the woman herself. 
 
 
 
It is the proclamation of “This is who you ARE” which crosses the line into diminishment and harm. Anyone who works in the realm of domestic violence can trace abuse back to this kind of shaming. 
 
 
 
I can call myself a bitch.  But even then it must not cross the line into self-condemnation.  It can be said in honest self- assessment, but it must not become banter.  It is too precise of a word to be used frivolously.  When I am a bitch, there is no other word for it, and I use it to call a spade a spade.  But if I toss the word around as though it is a word to be played with, I fall into the trap of coarse jesting and talk that just isn’t helpful.
 
 
 
3.      I have, of course, paid close attention to various contexts where the word is used, and – wow - it has been a cultural education.   For example, in the show Breaking Bad, the culture of suburban Albuquerque and the culture of gangs and street drugs collide.  In the suburban culture, the word connotes a hard, cold or whining and complaining woman. In the street culture, the word is bandied about almost as a term of endearment – a rusted form of ‘hey, buddy.’ It is used so often by Jesse, one of the main characters, it almost disappears into the haze of his desperation as a young man; the conflict he feels as he produces Crystal Meth.  He uses the word a lot, and uses it to address just about any person of any importance in his life.  It is a fraternal word, one that seems to say, “We are both bitches to the world (we are the lowly and degraded ones), but we are together.”   It is simply a common greeting on the streets.   For some young women I know who have lived on the streets for some time in Denver, the same is true – it is a part of their vernacular. It is a term of endearment, a collegial, ‘you’re in the group' expression of speech.
 
 
4.      And then there are the ways the word is used in the book Beauty and the Bitch:  Finding Grace for the Worst in Me.   I write from three categories – fear and control, pride, and addiction.  These three tendencies shroud beauty, and make us into someone who manifests the contemporary moniker of bitch:  cold, complaining, sullen, defensive, harsh,inaccessible, guarded, and braced.    
 
 
The good news:  Beauty trumps bitch - in language, and in our hearts.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here she is.

 
 
 
 
Here she is.
 
I was thrilled when I received the artwork back from Charles Peters, who designed the cover for Beauty and the Bitch:  Finding Grace for the Worst in Me.  The design captures well the secondary message of the book.  There is a tenacious hardness inside of us – a bracing that shrouds the powerful life we can offer – and it disappears when we let go and relax.  Check out the woman’s face.  She has a stunning and majestic jawline, exquisite skin, full and pouty lips, eyes that could be brilliant if they weren’t … well, inflicting the damage of dismissal.  Her posture says it all:  I wince to be in your presence; I disdain having to participate in relationship with you, I am above you, I am inaccessible, I am cold as ice.  I am in control.
 
But if we could crawl inside her heart, in the deepest place where her story is held, we would find whispers of the primary message of the book:  the beauty of God cannot be destroyed.   Embedded in the place where God’s fingerprint resides is the indestructible longing for the beauty of God to show itself.  Even in our most intractable and hardened state, this beauty rises without apology, and consistently knocks on our stubborn door to be let out.   As it says in the book:
 
    “Beauty shows up in a family tradition, a spontaneous song on a quiet morning in bed, or when we laugh at the sight of a hummingbird’s bomber-like descent only to come to rest on a spindle of a blossom.  It appears as we feel the elbow of the Spirit in our ribs as we catch ourselves in our most practiced prideful arrogance. It tips its hand as we weep sweet tears when we remember an exquisite grace granted to us during a lonely time.  It is different for everyone.
 
    It also lingers in the bottle filled room when a woman allows herself to admit the alcohol is not big enough to hold her heart, or as a friend said recently, “I’m just out of stuff that works.” It pushes its way through the pulse of techno-music and comes to rest in the thoughts of the girl who realizes that the guy’s thrusting toward her on the dance floor was more about her body and fantasy than it was about a genuine curiosity about who she is. She drives home alone - aching but beautiful.”
 
 
The fingerprint of God – the merciful, elegant, strong, fierce, wise, warm, inviting, welcoming, comforting image of God was held in the person of Eve (the original Eve, before the descent into suspicion and control).  We carry her, and the memory of her ways and her essence, in the deepest place within us.  No matter how much our beauty has been maligned, assaulted, ignored or violated – no matter how much we have hidden our loveliness or tried to shut it down – the original design of God refuses to be erased.  Again, from the book:
 
     “Our genetic heritage comes seeping out – we may have never visited, but our hearts have rehearsed the stories of our homeland countless times without even realizing it.  Even if we live in the heart of the city, or have a life dedicated to the slums, our hearts are beckoned back to Eden beauty even by a lonely butterfly landing on a trash can.”
 
      
Envision for a moment how the face of the woman on the cover might change if she risked letting go of her own control - if she listened to her deepest heart?  Imagine her posture, her stature, her eyes, as they were originally intended.  What does your face look like today?  What is your posture?  How is the beauty of God rising in you today?
 
 
 
 

Addiction: The Passion Killer

When resignation comes and whispers the message, “This is all there is.  There will never be anything more than this for you” – that is the moment we are most prone to flee into our addictions. 
 
 
In Beauty and the Bitch:  Finding Grace for the Worst in Me, we explore three major ways in which we shroud the beauty of an open heart :  Control, Pride and Addiction.  Here is an excerpt from the chapter on addiction:
 
 
 
"We kill desire by finding M&Ms and consuming forty of them without really tasting one.  We shut down our hearts by downing an entire six pack of microbrew alone, rather than enjoying one or two bottles slowly, with a friend, over an honest conversation. We take flight into an obsessive relationship, believing that without the person’s presence or affirmation, we will die.  We hoard a man’s compliments like a secret stash of manna.  We appear free of addiction, but are steeped in it as we have a long conversation over lunch with a friend -   the entire time discussing another woman’s marriage, ’out of concern’ for her – gossip addiction sanctified.  We turn our face from our true desire and  find a few solitary hours with porn – either actual websites, or three of the latest InStyle or Vogue – or even better, Men’sHealth - magazines. Rather than trying on a new outfit and purchasing but one piece of the ensemble - dreaming of the time we can complete the package –we max out the credit card and buy all the new styles of the season at once.  We commit ourselves to three volunteer activities when we really only have a heart for one, and might not even have time for that. We watch The Bachelor, or read through a morning liturgy – mindlessly. Most women I know are too busy to even fantasize about having an affair, but the overextended calendar can serve a similar purpose.  Goodness, often it is an affair – a tryst with adrenalin or work.  Of course sometimes the drive to success is truly out of necessity to provide and sometimes a love of career -  but sometimes we fight an enemy that isn’t even there. Often our successes come from a detached willingness to carry a weight far too big for our shoulders, especially when carried along with the management of a home and family.  Same can be said for how often we dive in to too much church activity, to feel the strokes from a church culture which lauds overextended women.
 
 
Staying Alive to Desire
 
Madeleine L’Engle wrote,   "When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable."  Leaving our addictions means we will feel naked.  It feels crazy to give up our addictive covers – especially those the bitch inside of us holds on to with bleeding fingernails.   But our forays into anything that numbs or overindulges are attempts to mitigate our ache, to create for ourselves a space where there is no disappointment, loss or aloneness.  We refuse to bend under the weight of the fall, and feel, along with Eve, “you will have an unmet aloneness in every arena ofgiving life, and you will have a fierce demand to be certain of your husband’s desire for you, and way with you, but you will be disappointed and as he is his own person (my paraphrase of Gen 3:14-16).”   Oh, no – we will not suffer like Eve, we say.  Our addictions are our attempt to rise above the fall; to answer the dilemma ourselves. Rather than admit our vulnerability in our loneliness and our lack ofcontrol - rather than allow the fall to draw our hearts to our true safety inthe heart of God - we refuse and create our own shield of defense. 
 
 
Now, before this is  misinterpreted as too complimentarian, conservative or old school – please know I could  write a parallel paragraph about Adam – that he would do anything to avoid the futility of life, or the shame of exposure, so he grabs the fig leaf of competence or blame shifting.  It isn’t that our heritage with Eve carries any more misaligned power than a man’s heritage with Adam.  We both have to learn to bend, humble ourselves, and admit our need.  Our needs just look different, that’s all –at least a smidgen - but that smidgen is significant.  And therefore our addictions tend to have a male/female flavor to them.  If you scan through your addictive tendencies, I am guessing they have a relational ache at their core.  If a man does the same,there is likely a longing for impact at the core.  For both men and women - our addictions create a world where we don’t have to ask, seek or knock; we don’t have to come with a child’s heart and desire; we don’t have to wait; we don’t have to suffer.  Women tend to suffer just a bit more in the loneliness department; men tend to suffer a bit more as they feel the impact of futility and pressure.  These are not static, rigid categories; but they are fluid realities which I have seen fleshed out in my work with people, across cultures. There is great power in casting off our respective fig leaves (sounds downright arousing, doesn’t it?).  Actually, it is quite sensual ,because it us the allows us to receive God’s covering of our shame; and then the power to love, equally.  I love how Sarah Bessey puts it, “We submit to each other and because we follow Him, we both practice playing second fiddle.”  Vulnerability and mutual submission are great– albeit risky – aphrodisiacs. 
 
 
By way of contrast, the world of addiction, we create reality as we want it. We are tempted to say that it doesn’t work, but the reality is, most addictions are effective – for a while. If you don’t want to feel the longing for motherhood when you’ve been trying to get pregnant for months, chronic TV watching will work for a while to get you out of the dilemma of desire.  If you are weary of hoping for the job you really want, several fast food stops is a great help.  If you are longing for a deeper relationship with your daughter and she is intractable, there are plenty of prescription drugs available through the internet to assuage the ache.  But most importantly, if you don’t want the energy of real love to be stirred in you, choose your addiction du jour.. it is a sure passion killer."
 
We're getting excited about the release of the book, which will be available mid-July through all major book vendors.  Stay tuned...
 
 

Beauty Trumps Bitch

I threw a cup. 
 
 
There, I said it.  Actually, I think I had better say it again, because I do not believe it as I read the sentence.  I threw a cup.  It was my momentum veritatis, and the milk splattered on the wall was witness to this truth, my foolishness.
 
 
And Steve was witness, of course.  He was both witness and object of this hardness.  I looked up and saw in his eyes something that, truly, I would never want to see.  His eyes, though angry from our argument, held a bewildered disappointment.  He was in disbelief.  It killed me to see it.  This was not the woman he married.  I was not the woman I am.  I was an absolute bitch.
 
 
There's no other word for it. I could call it childish, I suppose, but that is too anemic.  I could say I was ‘wound up’ or that I lost my temper, or I could find myriad other ways to tone down the abject meanness of it, like we do, when we want to hide.  The fact is, I was in a hot rage.  I can tell you that it was a triggered moment for me (which is accurate, and a fairly important concept, by the way, for any of us who have known trauma – that would be all of us).   But the fact remains:  all through that day, through a long series of exchanges with Steve, I had been picking, prodding, complaining.  And bitch upon bitch hours in a day cascade into class five rapids of bad.
 
 
Thankfully Steve remembers who I am.  I don’t want to tread on that, of course, but  - hush - hallelujah.   He meets my controlling nature with strength, while still remembering who I really am.  Life with Jan includes crazy cup moments simultaneous with drinking deeply from the admiration I extend to him, in my unconditional acceptance of him.  He loves the lighthearted but intentional nature God has crafted in me.  He watches, he says, with delight as people come to drink of the beauty Jesus has grown in me.   As he tells me this, we delight in it together.  I blush a bit, but can enjoy it because we both know how it can disintegrate, even with the raising of an eyebrow. 
 
 
Somehow Jesus makes the fragile treasure of beauty in our hearts unshakable.  Oh, cultivating it takes Conviction.  Change.  Intentionality.  Choices.  Turning from Self.  Resisting Temptation. But Jesus is the one who is most committed to surfacing the treasure.  He loves to surprise us with his personality, his nature.  And he loves to show up in my eyes in kindness, surprising me, after I’ve found myself so far from home.
 
 
We are not always beautiful. So oh, when we are, all heaven and earth collide to say Amen. And we intrinsically know that the Amen cannot be forced. We grow weary of trying to either “manage the beast” – trying to make her good, or trying to repeat mantras of truth to make her go away. It doesn’t work.  Something else has to come and wash over our beast, calming her and eventually replacing her. Unless a woman’s beauty, the very life of Christ within her, rises, then the beast will rise and cause her to feel like there is no beauty in her at all. The wonderful surprise is this: His beauty will always rise.
 
 
I love it when I’m there.  Can I say it this way: some days I feel like I am the most beautiful woman in the world, and Steve relishes what he receives on those days.  But the hidden truth is that on bad days I am also the woman who harps on him over many things he does and the choices he makes about how he will spend his day.  I never thought I would be ‘that’ woman, but I am that woman on steroids.  I am tempted, as I tell you this, to laugh about it, to make light of it.  But I can’t.  I am just beginning to see the impact my controlling nature, better said my controlling choices, have on Steve’s heart.  If he was not the man he is, loving and strong enough to stand in my way when I’m like that, he would end up feeling only demeaned, emasculated and condescended to.  He should.  I treat him as if he needs me to think for him.  Not exactly what causes a man, or anyone for that matter, to come alive.
 
 
You wouldn’t be able to discern it if you came to our home, but I have left a little bit of that splattered milk on the wall.  It is a monument of sorts; an Ebenezer, my pile of stones, to the impact of a hard heart.
 
 
If all of this sounds too confessional, I understand.  But it seems important for us to remember the full story.  Our restoration is daily.  And our surgeon is skilled at pinpointing the cancer in order to remove it, with kind precision.
 
I’m writing this as we head into Advent.  In fact, I had the privilege of facilitating an Advent Day for a group of women yesterday.  It was lovely, a good time, because something bigger, greater, more powerful always rises.  The Spirit of Christ, the coming and coming again of Jesus.  Without this convicting, releasing, healing power, we’d be a group of plastic Christians, singing songs of joy while our hearts remain sullen, manipulative and fearful.  But the true life of Christ comes, so we find ourselves, surprisingly, beautiful.  And we wait for even more.
 
 
I just read the above to Steve, asking him for his permission to tell the world what he lives with.  He said, “Yes, but that is not who I live with.”  That’s the point, isn’t it.  There’s more beauty there than we know.  What good news:  Beauty Trumps Bitch.
 
 
It is this good news that has me working on a new book, Beauty and the Bitch:  Grace for the Worst in Me.  It will be published by Bondfire books early next year.  I’d be lying to say I’m only excited about it.  I’m nervous (not entirely sure I want you to know the truth)!  And I struggled with the title, just as some publishers did.  But there is just no other word for what we can become.   Exploring how the deeper thing, Beauty, always wins…well, I look forward to that.
 
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