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Jan's Blog

transformation, grace, women's issues, Christianity, publishing

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)  
 
 

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!
 

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.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sometimes she simply raises an eyebrow

“Sometimes she rages, sometimes she simply raises an eyebrow.” 
 
 
And so it begins.
 
 
Since posting a blog titled Beauty Trumps Bitch, I have been relieved at the response.  As I mentioned, I was nervous.  So far the people I have heard from are grateful, and appreciative of a glimpse into the content of the book Beauty and the Bitch. Well, this is from the people I heard from, anyway. 
 
 
If you struggle with the title, I get it.  There is a plethora of reasons to struggle.  I did.  I really don’t want the title of the book Beauty and the Bitch, to get in the way of people reading on, reading in, to the true message of the book, found in the subtitle:  Grace for the Worst in Me.   My publisher asked me to answer a few simple questions, which might help flesh out my writing process, and the motivation behind this book.  Here are the questions, and my responses:
 
 
1.  Why I am writing the book
 
 
I stood in the bathroom, drying my hair one day after a disheartening few weeks in my marriage.  I felt so ‘less than myself,’ discouraged that I couldn’t quite find any sense of beauty as I tried to shake off a hardness that felt so, well - justified.  I had not been raging, at least not in obvious ways.  But I had been cold, withholding myself, like a little girl who tucks a treasure under her arms with a not for you look on her face. 
 
 
I love my marriage.  I’m a marriage counselor; and one who works toward inner transformation rather than from tips and techniques.  I work with women’s hearts – married and single - all the time.  I live in a community that values living authentically, from a whole heart.  For over thirty years I’ve been given the most exceptional resources Christendom can offer.  I’ve been mentored by the best, believed in and known by really great leaders, and I am grateful for a trustworthy, true reputation.
 
 
Blah, blah, blah. 
 
 
As I stood before that mirror, I knew I was being a chronic bitch. 
 
 
It wasn’t obvious this time (like the time I threw a cup).  But it doesn’t take rage to make us ugly.  As I have said to clients and friends, “Sometimes she rages, sometimes she simply raises an eyebrow.” 
 
 
I literally put the blow drier down on the counter with the realization that, if other people could view how I was being in my home, I would not be thought of as beautiful.  If a video of some of my recent behavior was played on 20/20, the viewers would think to themselves, “What a bitch.”   This realization made me sad.  It was at that moment that Jesus said to me, “I don’t think my love has changed. Is there grace for the worst in you?”  It was so kind.  So simple. It melted me. In that moment I knew I would write this book.  I was certain other beautiful women become discouraged with the dark underbelly of their lives. I wanted to disarm the shame.
 
 
The reality is:  True beauty comes and finds us and laughs that we were looking the other way.  We as women have brilliant ways of looking the other way.  Control. Fear.  Rage. Pride. Addiction.  Deadness.  These giants rise in our hearts perpetually, surfacing in sophisticated ways when we are able to hide them and in humiliating ways when we can’t.  And generally those tendencies get augmented by our stories and the scenes we have lived which make living from these unlovely and destructive places seem more than justified.
 
 
The good news is:  Fear can be trumped by love, pride trumped by the hilarity of God, shame trumped by mercy, deadness trumped by creativity, rage trumped by kindness, and the demands of addiction trumped by gratitude and rest—if a woman discovers grace, and its power to release her truest beauty.  Beauty will win if she can be caught off guard by Jesus, who celebrates her even though she doesn’t trust him.
 
 
 
2.  Why you should read Beauty and the Bitch:  Grace for the Worst in Me
 
 
If you are a woman, you should read this book if you love being beautiful, but are weary of trying hard to get there or maintain it.
 
 
If you are a man, it is not likely you will give this book to your wife or girlfriend as a gift.  “Honey, I really love you and would love for you to read a book about how you are so much more than the bitch you become” probably is not the greatest avenue to intimacy (smile).  I can tell you, though, that the greatest proponents of the book so far have been men.  Men – all men – live with hard women sometimes.  Even the most glorious, godly, compelling women disintegrate into sullen, controlling, unlovely beings sometimes.  It seems good to admit this, to remember that the deeper things can’t be eradicated, even by the worst season of bitchiness or the worst effects of long-term hardness born of unhealed places.  There’s hope for the women in your life because Beauty – the Life of Christ – is always accessible, waiting there to love her and release her back into who she really is, if she is willing to stumble home.
 
 
3.  Why I am writing for Bondfire Books:
 
 
Oh my, this has been a process.  I wrote a good portion of this book a few years ago, and my publishing agency (Alive Communications) was excited about its core message about the Life of Christ being inextinguishable in the heart of women whose lives have been ransomed by the love of God.  Our zeal took a hit, though, when we received the same response back from just about every Christian publishing house:  “We love the book, we love your writing, and we think this is an important message, but we can’t move ahead with this title.”   I was in a dilemma, because I did not want to die on a hill named ‘bitch.’   We played around with different titles for a while “A Woman’s War,”  “Beauty and the Beast” – no, wait, that’s been taken - ! - , “Beauty Wins”  All the titles we played with were fine, but there a sense that we were trying to placate, to convince ourselves that reality isn’t as bad as it can be.  It remained true: there is just no other word for who we become.  There no other word, at least, for the meaning it has taken on in our culture (not the tender original moniker for female/mother animals).  And there is no greater hope than knowing that the worst of us, the ugliest realities, can’t erase the deeper good stuff God wants to surface in us, despite ourselves.
 
 
The Christian publishing world is driven strongly by the acceptance of books into certain bookstore chains, which would not carry a book with this title.  The shelves are filled with what I call ‘Christian culture books.’  Lots of books about ‘how to live a Christian life.’  But I have needed an internal transformation, change from within, not something pressuring me to become a better me. We need honest conversations, about our honest need.  A ‘christian culture lifestyle’ isn’t attractive to most folks not familiar with the gospel of the beautiful kingdom of Jesus Christ.  A heart changed, transformed and grateful to be in that kingdom – that is attractive.   In addition, I have a strong visceral reaction to censorship which has the label ‘Christian’ slapped on it and is therefore sanctioned.  I weary of the word Christian being used as an adjective.
 
 
So I kept looking.  Truly not wanting to push the title, but also believing the content of the book holds life.  Thankfully, Patton Dodd and Bondfire Books were unflinching with the title, and responsive and encouraging about the content.  I’m grateful for the ethos of Bondfire – one that is author driven, very engaging and respectful of their process.  They give room to both the author, the writing process.  They desire to let the book become what it wants to become, not forcing it into a certain template, length, or tone.  Beauty and the Bitch:  Grace for the Worst in Me needs that kind of freedom in order to be written well.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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