When You Want To Be More Than Just Pro-life or Pro-Choice

Two pink lines slowly came into focus and my heart began to seize up inside my chest. Where there should have been excitement, all I could feel was dread and fear that threatened to choke the very air out of my lungs. While my husband chatted excitedly over breakfast, I fought back tears.

Tears that I wasn't thrilled at the news, when so many women struggle to get pregnant.

Tears that this was the end of pursuing a career that gave me a sense of purpose.

Tears that I would lose my identity as a woman in the never-ending role of a mother.

Tears that I just wasn't ready. I wasn't ready for the change this would bring, for what I would have to give up, for how hard I knew this would be.

We run from what is unknown, from what seems impossible because we cannot imagine that we will come through unscathed.

But what if the thing we dread most, the thing we think we cannot endure, is the very thing that will shape us and break us into the person we've always hoped to become?

Two years working at a pregnancy clinic showed me that most women don't choose abortion because they see it as their best choice. They see it as their only choice, a dead-end decision because of their situation, their circumstances, their reality. It isn't empowering or liberating. It's heartbreaking, defeating, and painful.

Now comes the news that what is many a woman's most dreaded moment is being turned into a profit for others. That the over $500 million tax dollars that Planned Parenthood gets yearly isn't enough to line the pockets of their Medical Director's Council President who still wants a lambourgini. That a woman's agony in losing her baby can be turned into a "line item" in the budget if Planned Parenthood can just manage to get the baby out intact, instead of in pieces.

I have the luxury of bringing little girls up in a home that is safe, with a husband who loves me and will never leave me.

I'm not a teenager, terrified of how to tell my parents.

I'm not a single mom, wondering how I'm going to feed another mouth on an already tight-budget.

I'm not running for my life in the Middle East, wondering if it's worth it to bring a life into my daily hell, nor am I the victim of Boko Haram whose body bears the child of my kidnapper.

To be a woman contemplating an abortion is to be a women in a hard place, a difficult place, a broken place. A place I can never fully understand nor try to explain.

It is a moment where not one but two lives hang in the balance.

Knowing that, I refuse to be classified by stark, yet incomplete labels such as pro-life and pro-choice. I am for a woman knowing that she is making the best choice for her and that child, rather than feeling pushed into a corner with only one way out. I am for women making a choice based on support, community, and resources rather than on fear, isolation, or desperation. I am for the life of the woman who is trying to chart a way forward with dignity, courage, and hope.

But I am not just for the life of the woman outside the womb. I am also for the life of the woman inside, the little girl who has yet to step forward into the life set before her.

The little girl who deserves as much of a choice in her future as the woman carrying her deserves for her own. The little girl who never ceased to be a human with rights and privileges simply because of her size, her conception story, or her location.

Headlines blaze and people scream for justice when a 13-year-old lion is killed in Zimbabwe. But where is the outcry for the little hands and legs spread out on a petri dish, sorted through by a medical assistant who cries out, "It's another boy!"?

Where is the outcry at an organization claiming that they alone provide desperately needed life-saving services for women, yet have so little respect for the life of a baby that they welcome the profits from its organs? Rather than be a beacon of light and hope, they have become the darkness that swallows up women and children, thriving on destroyed lives. Since 1973, 60 million have been snuffed out before taking their first breath, with 1 in 3 women bearing the scars of abortion.

Lives not just gone, but cut to pieces, sifted and sold. We mourn the loss of an animal but remain silent on the carnage happening daily in clinics around this country, the sacrifices being offered up in the name of independence, security, and a limited understanding of choice.

Where is the anguish for the women who feel so abandoned, so alone, so without choices that they end one life in the hopes that it will somehow uplift theirs? For if a woman is being driven to kill her unborn baby, then we bear a responsibility for her feeling so isolated, so desperate, that death is the best answer.

What if we put our time, our money, and our unique talents into creating options for women, rather than simply sending out some Facebook rants and cleverly tweeted articles?

What if we committed to walking with single moms and single dads through the long journey of raising children, rather than simply complaining about what a burden they are to the welfare system?

What if we changed the way we teach our young people about sex, from a conversation rooted in fear or damage control, to a holistic, life-giving radical perspective?

What if we trained up our men to be leaders, men of character and integrity who treat women with respect and reverence, rather than constantly telling them how much they aren't needed or how replaceable they are?

What if we stopped emphasizing individual happiness as the most important right and admitted that our choices impact those around us, that we bear a responsibility to the greater community in how we live?

What if we wrestled away the money and the power from those who so carelessly trade in human lives, both of the unborn and the women who carry them, and instead gave the millions to organizations working not only on the immediate crisis, but also focusing on long-term family and cultural stability?

What if we moved from clearly-drawn battle lines and well-rehearsed arguments to actions of love, grace, and humility, bending low and spending time to walk with those caught in the cross-fire?

We can never erase all the hurt, pain, and evil in this world. But it would have a dramatic, life-saving effect on pushing back the darkness, snatching a few more women and their future children from the broken edge. We could turn the death tide and see generations given a voice, a chance to choose life for themselves and those to follow.

To make a change is not easy. But what if the pain and hard work we are avoiding is the very thing that will not only transform us, but bring to life an entire generation? The generation that is and the generations that they will bear.

We can never bring back the 1/5 of our country that is missing. But could we pursue a way forward that embraces the life of the woman outside the womb and the one she carries inside? Can we offer choices that lead to a better future for both the living and the unborn?

A generation with a voice can be a powerful thing. They can change a nation, even the world. All they need is a chance.

When You Do The Impossible

I did it.

I thought it would be sheer agony, that I would be clawing at my skin. I was afraid I would be forgotten, get left behind, that the weight of isolation would be crushing.

I didn't know if I had it in me to see this through to the end, but I had to prove to myself that I could do it. And I knew I would be the better for it.

I stayed off of social media for ONE MONTH.

What, did you think I ran a marathon? Spent a month in a convent? Don't be ridiculous.

To be honest, the first few days felt a little like the scene in Trainspotting when Ewan McGregor’s character is first coming off heroin. There were nervous twitches and paranoia. The world around me seemed to shrink and distort. How many pictures of beautiful cups of coffee was I missing out on? What life-shattering news about someone’s lunch was I oblivious to? What if we were invaded by Canada and I was the last one to know because I wasn’t on Facebook?

And most importantly (ridiculously), was my day to day living nearly as exciting or colorful if I wasn’t broadcasting it to the world?

One of my favorite bloggers says you have to unplug in order to plug into your purpose. So for one brief month that’s what I did. It was eye-opening and refreshing.

Focus is a skill that requires practice

Every time I hit a snag while writing or found myself wrestling with where to take a new presentation, the urge to refresh my Instagram feed was right there. At first, that was about every two minutes. Eventually I worked up to ten minutes.

Facebook and Twitter didn't help either. Like leeches, they thrive on the blood of wasted time. Suddenly emails started showing up to tell me how many missed notifications were waiting for me, what was trending or what my friends had posted.

Get behind me Satan!

As I learned to silence the itch for distraction, I found that I not only created better work more quickly, I was more inspired about future possibilities. What had been a creative desert for a few months was suddenly blooming with potential projects and ideas.

Temporary road blocks in the creative process turned out to be seeds for future possibilities. But I would have missed them had I quickly run to the internet at the first sign of difficulty. Pushing through built in me the habit of better focus and silencing the daily noise in order to better connect to the more important things around me, whether family, friendships or purpose.

Everyone is trying to sabotage you

Okay, not really. But are all those pictures of beautiful coffee cups, lazy Wednesday mornings and effortlessly sheik Friday nights really helping me to do anything? Unless you count feeling bummed about my life, stressed to live up to filtered awesomeness and wondering how everyone but me figured out how to make coffee shops and brunch a full time job. Then, mission accomplished.

It also just made me secretly wish their coffee would spill all over that perfectly hipster outfit. 

Or is that just me? Bueller….Bueller….Bueller

My time on social media had made me cynical, frustrated when I knew a picture was filtering out the hard truth of real life or when it all felt a little too perfect, contrived and slightly manipulated. That is the struggle of social media, is it not? Being authentic while still having healthy boundaries, expressing the beauty in your life without photoshopping the truth away, or bleeding out on everyone’s feed.

The people I want to follow inspire me to live more fully in the present, to run harder towards the race put before me, to love people more extravagantly, or be brave in the face of the difficult. A challenge I want to live up to in my own feed for those that choose to keep a pulse on my little corner of the world. 

Friendships do much better when you stop "liking" them

Instead of lazily liking a friends update or creepily staying updated on someone by scrolling through their pictures I actually had to reach out to them

With a text message and everything. Sometimes I even called or wrote a letter and PUT A STAMP ON IT.

I know. Who did I become??

I quickly realized which friendships had depth and which were surviving on wall updates and feed refreshes. Not that it’s a bad thing to have varying degrees of closeness in friendships! The beauty of social media is that it allows us to stay connected to more people than we normally could.

But most of those connections are surface-level. In the race to gain more followers, friends, and find everyone from our 5th grade class, we fail to cultivate deep connections. 

We lose the ability to take our online friendships offline and invest with purpose and intention. Wouldn’t you rather have a handful of people that really know you than thousands that only “like” you?

Stop living life through your camera phone.

And actually start experiencing it. I found myself those first few days wanting to Instagram the life out of, well, life. That fire we built in the fireplace when it was a cold 63 degrees outside. (We live in LA. That's our winter and spring all rolled into one). The biscuits I made for book club. Or my daughter doing pretty much anything.

If you don't Instagram/Facebook/tweet it, did it really happen?

The world might not bear witness to the glorious meal you just had, but you, and whomever you shared it with, will remember the conversation, the atmosphere, and whether or not that dinner actually tasted as good as it looked. It will be like a special secret shared only by the few of you who were privileged to actually live the moment. 

Staying on the wagon

I’m now back on social media, though without the same frenetic drive. And I’ve put some guidelines in place to try to stave off the beast.  After 5 pm I’m social media free and each weekend, I delete the apps from my phone to keep me from checking until Monday. Some weeks, I don’t even load them back on! 

I’m also joining Lara Casey’s #FruitfulSummer challenge of cultivating friendships. All that time I might have spent in the black hole of Facebook is now being poured into a few relationships that I want to grow more deeply. Consider joining me?

Social Media is here to stay. And I am grateful for how it allows me to catch a glimpse into the lives of long-distance friends or find inspiration and encouragement from people I have never met. But I want to follow those that are real, that are not afraid to show life beyond the filtered picture. It’s not easy and I’m the first to struggle with how to be authentic and yet not emotionally bleed out all over everyone’s feed.

I’m sure there will be relapses and I’ll have to keep fighting the creep of social media take-over, but I’m encouraged that there can be a healthy relationship with it.

Okay, now you may go check your Instagram feed to see if you got any more hearts.

 

What steps might you take this summer to be more present and intentional in your daily life?

When You Need A Little Encouragement To Keep Going As A Mom

Since having our daughter, my husband has watched me wrestle with the struggle of being a mom and yet feeling like I should do 'more.' This Mother's Day he wrote me a beautiful poem that I wanted to share with other Christian Mothers in the hopes that it encourages and fuels us to continue the hard but holy work of raising souls. 

 

A CHRISTIAN MOTHER

I am a Christian.

I am a Mother.

I am a Christian Mother.

But,

I live in a culture that says I should do more, be more.

I hear you loud and clear when you ask what it is that I do.

I see the way you look at me when I say I am just a mother.

I am even convinced I should do more, be more.

But,

The problem is,

I just don’t have the time.

I am up at dawn to prepare for the day before my little ones rise.

I am making breakfast, brushing teeth, dressing squirming bodies, driving to play dates, park dates, story times, community groups, doctors, dentists, grocery stores.

I am putting children down for nap, making lunch, mending clothes, doing laundry, making dinner, I am wiping tears, teaching prayers, singing songs, reading books, giving hugs and kisses, building confidence, putting on band aids, disciplining, saying “no”, saying “yes”, saying “great job,” saying “it’s okay,” saying “tomorrow will be better,” saying “I love you.”

With my remaining moments I am prepping tomorrow’s meals, making a to-do list, reconnecting with my husband. I have a half moment to text or call a friend and, if I’m lucky, I have a moment to drink a tea that has not gone cold or read a chapter of a book before falling asleep so that I will have the energy to rise and do it all once again.

You say,

Get someone to help. Hire a Nanny.

Go to work. Pursue your dreams.

Another salary, even a part time job, could mean a dream vacation, a newer car, a bigger house.

But,

Hiring someone is not the issue.

I am a Christian Mother.

While you are thinking of your morning staff meeting,

I am praying for wisdom in the responsibility of raising the lives placed in my trust.

While you are on conference calls with clients and sending emails,

I am striving to impart the virtues of love, patience, and kindness to fragile new souls.

While you are taking business lunches, shaking hands, making deals,

I am building the foundations of faith, confidence, and discipline.

While you are congratulating the team on hitting the deadline,

I am applauding first words, first steps, first prayers, and all the things that follow.

While you are working late, bringing home take out, finding the babysitter,

I am the nagging voice that brings everyone to the table every night because I believe that communication, conversation, time with family is too important to miss.

While you are busy at work, pursuing your dreams, taking that vacation, buying that new car, moving into that bigger house,

I have been doing my best to be an immovable rock in the tumultuous waves of growing bodies, developing minds, and blossoming souls.

But,

Most importantly,

I have been busy serving the King of the Universe.

I wish that I could do more, be more.

Maybe when my children are older, when they know right from wrong, when they are sure of who they are or who they want to be. When I know I have taught them all there is to know about faith, love, kindness, and hope. When I am certain they are modeling Christ for others, maybe there will be time.

But for now,

 I am just too busy.

I am a Christian Mother.

 

-Andrew Hyatt, 2015. ©

Guidebook for Navigating Your Twenties

They say your twenties can be the most confused, start-and-stop, eclectic decade of your life. And by “they,” I mean pretty much anyone who has lived through it. I myself am a poster child for millennials with a resume that look like a collage of Craigslist jobs, working in a field that has nothing to do with my major, and a pro at making a dollar stretch into two. There is no shame in eating PB&J for multiple meals.

In the midst of some of the more trying times of my twenties (I’m almost out of the woods), I could be found gripping the steering wheel of my trusty little Honda yelling “What is happening??!” Relationships, jobs, apartment changes, you name it. That phrase pretty much covered it all.

Oh, that I had had Paul Angone’s latest book, All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!, to assure me that in fact the confusion and slightly out of control feeling I had was shared by most other people my age, a painful next step in the process of becoming * gulp * an adult and sorting out who I am and how to build my life.

All Groan Up is Paul’s follow-up to his wildly successful (and hilarious) book 101 Secrets for Your Twenties, a book I wrote about for Verily Magazine. You can read that full interview with Paul here.

What I have always enjoyed about Paul’s writing is how genuine it is. He does not shy away from saying what we are all secretly feeling about this pivotal decade, asking the questions that scream in our head and pointing out all of our wildly unrealistic expectations. Like thinking college graduation is going to bring clarity, prosperity, and immediate, if not eventual, fame.

If you still think that, call me six months after graduation when you’re barely scrapping by at Starbucks, drowning under a mountain of debt. I’ll treat you to a coffee and a pick-me up talk.

In All Groan Up, Paul gives us a front-row seat to his painfully awkward, often hilarious and incredibly relevant personal journey of his twenties. He does not try to whitewash his mistakes or trump up his accomplishments, choosing instead to lay it all bare for an audience he may never meet.

The result: a book that will leave you looking with excitement to your own possible future rather than weighed down by your past failures.

Since I cannot reprint the whole book in its entirety in this post, here are some of my favorite quotes. Because they’re true, especially #1.

  1. Twenty-somethings looking for a job is like the Hunger Games without the cameras or any interaction with Jennifer Lawrence.
  2. [Referring to how our twenties feel] I am fighting an enemy I can’t see, with an objective I don’t understand, expecting anything and everything to kill me at any second.
  3. Wounded people love bleeding on each other.
  4. The road to faith lost is full of small, “who gives a crap?” compromises.
  5. …[W]hen the weight of the world combines with the weight of your mistakes, there aren’t many options but down on your face.
  6. God gives us ledges of grace to land on…He won’t let us fall all the way to our deaths.

Most of us will find our rock bottom at some point and will struggle with massive amounts of self-doubt (No? That’s just me?) but in All Groan Up, we are given a guide to find the way back up and encouragement to dust off those dreams we stuffed in our closets and get back to pursuing them.

All Groan Up releases April 21st but you can pre-order it now on Amazon, (All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! ). With college graduations coming up, this is a GREAT book to get for everyone you know about to jump into the deep-end of real life. I know it’s on my gift list for new grads.

This book was sent to me for review, but no compensation was given and the review is completely my own. There are affiliate links from which I get a teeny tiny percentage if you purchase. Enough to buy a poor college grad a much needed cup of coffee.

A Response to The Economics of Sex [Video]

Last month I had the privilege of speaking at a conference put on by my friend and fellow speaker, Rowena Rodriguez. She's a dynamite communicator and I cannot recommend her or her work enough. To learn more about her, click here.

Below I'd like to give you a first look at the talk I gave that day, which was based as a response to an excellent video from the Austin Institute that I've posted before, The Economics of Sex.

This is a new talk that I will be offering as part of my speaker series, but I hope you enjoy this free viewing. All form the comfort of your home! So pop some popcorn and make it a date night.

Romantic, I know. You're welcome.

Where Russell Brand Gets It Right and I Want To Cheer

It's not often that Hollywood and I are on the same page when it comes to our attitudes about sex. And even rarer that I would wholeheartedly agree with Russell Brand, the actor and comedian who has made a reputation of a man with a ravenous and unbridled sexual appetite.

This week, though, I am applauding and cheering on Brand for his latest statements on sex. The video below are his thoughts on the affect of pornography and erotica on our individual sexuality, as well as our cultural attitudes. I could not agree more. By the time the video gets to 7:30 I wanted to start applauding. I may have cheered a little at the end.

I encourage you to watch it and share this with your friends. When Hollywood (or anyone, for that matter) is willing to boldly speak truth, we should be the first to encourage them in that moment.

What in this video resonates with you and what might have been shocking?

Sometimes Evil Creeps, and Sometimes Evil Screams

Photo by Georgie Pauwels, Creative Commons

Photo by Georgie Pauwels, Creative Commons

Question: What R-rated movie holds the record for the biggest international opening of all time, at nearly $250 million dollars?

Answer: Fifty Shades of Grey

The book, and subsequently the movie, have sparked massive interest and even larger controversy. Tagged as "mommy porn," defenders claim it is merely fantasy, a harmless and enjoyable escape from the every day life. The writing isn't even that good, so how could it go so far as to be "dangerous" and "depraved" as some critics have claimed?!

In an interview, EL James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, makes clear that, "What I wanted to demonstrate is that I do not look at the world in terms of black and white--and I find people who do rather scary. I think it's all shades of grey."

That may sound innocent enough, for who are we to say that one person's choices are better or worse than another's? Without clearly defined standards of morality constricting us, we seem to be free to move within the fluid space of grey. Each of us can create relationships and life according to what we "feel about everything."

So we allow and even promote to teens and young women that the best romance is jealous, erotic love with ropes, torture and physical brutality.

Even while in our own nation and abroad, women daily experience this horrific reality in sex trafficking.

We applaud consensual bondage and domination as a way to reignite passion, while simultaneously outraged that woman are treated with anything less than equal respect and dignity outside of the bedroom.

Sometimes evil creeps and sometimes evil screams.

When it creeps, evil masks its poison in shades of grey and claims of freedom. The destruction is so slow and undetectable that we are nearly gutted before we realize we have been invaded.

Ask any woman who started reading erotica for fun only to find herself addicted, dissatisfied with life, and pursuing relationships and behaviors she would have never accepted before. Or the young teenage boy who stumbles upon a picture of a naked woman, only to watch pornography sabotage all his best efforts at healthy relationships and authentic intimacy for years to come.

Yet when evil screams, it demands to be noticed as nothing less.

While Fifty Shades was experiencing its blockbuster opening, another film was released, this one online, lasting only a few short minutes.

It featured 21 men in orange coveralls kneeling in the sand.

Behind them stood 21 men covered in black from head to toe, ISIS, with a message for "the people of the cross."

And right there you see those 21 men in black brutally behead those 21 Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits. Their blood mingles with the receding tide and the horror of it all punches the air out of you.

The problem with a life seen in shades of grey is that we are left helpless against behavior that makes us uncomfortable or worse, appalled. When we are confronted with evil in its most glaring form, we have no way to label, challenge, or destroy it.

How can you destroy something that does not exist?

Choosing to believe that right and wrong, good and evil are only harmful constructs of an oppressive, regressive society leaves us untethered, without any way to defend ourselves or elevate and applaud what is noble and true while punishing the opposite.

The danger is not in seeing the world as black and white but in failing to see that black and white very much do exist.

For while we may choose to embrace shades of grey, others will continue to push a very dark version of black. Some in their personal relationships, behind closed doors and in back alleys, others as an assault for the world to see.

Sometimes evil creeps and sometimes evil screams.

Book List 2014

January is nearly spent, but so long as it is still the first month, I can squeeze in one more post about last year, New Year, and goals. In this case, it's my yearly Book List post. This is my third year doing this, and if you're curious about it's inception, read Book List 2012.

Looking back at what I actually picked up and finished is a telling indicator of what my year was comprised of and what I found interesting. Historical and non-fiction still top the list (they probably always will). There are a surprising (embarrassing?) number of novels that tell me I wasn't up for much hard reading this year. But then it may have also been all the late nights with a toddler and flying around the country that had me grabbing for some light reading. As long as Twilight never makes the list, we're ok.

If you can only add a few books to your list, check out the Non-Fiction Issue Specific section. Every single one of those was eye-opening, thought provoking and some of the best books I read in 2014.

Non Fiction Historical /Memoir

Non-Fiction Issue Specific

Fiction

Parenting/Marriage

There are affiliate links in this post. Purchasing product through them give me enough money to buy half of a protein bar.

What did you read last year that you would recommend I put on my list for 2015?

My New Year's Tool Box

One week down in 2015, 51 to go.

How are your new year's resolutions holding up?

Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

I didn't make any resolutions this year. But I am working on making some thoughtful goals to move me forward this year personally, professionally, relationally and spiritually.

That's what our resolutions are intended to be, attempts at improving our lives. But so often I find that they are more of a grab bag of generalities thrown together in desperation, only to be forgotten or abandoned a week later.

Goals however, are meant to be specific, with bench marks for completion and thought out enough to be realistic yet still a bit ambitious. They require some reflection (who has time for that?!) over the last year, the year to come, and the general trajectory of your life.

Sounds daunting.

That's why I am going about it with some helpful tools from others.

1. Lara Casey Goal Setting Series [Free]

I did Lara's Goal Setting series last year and while it is a bit time intensive, it's worth it. You'll unpack what worked last year, what didn't work, what fires you up, and what to pursue this year that ultimately advances your long term vision. The goals you end up with are thoughtful, purposeful and best of all, attainable. As Lara says, "There's nothing magical about January 1," so don't let today's date keep you from starting.

 Click here to begin the series.

2015 Goal Setting.jpg

2. Ann Voskamp's Real GRACE Plan [Free]

Ann's writing is like a cool drink of water to my soul. It might also have to do with the whimsical music that plays on her site, but someday I hope to enjoy a cup of tea with her on her front porch. Until then, I'm content with reading her stunning writing. This post in particular was just what I was looking for to make each day intentional without allowing the to-do list to rule my life. There are some free downloads in here, including a great day planner print out for everything from meals, to tasks and friend focus. 

Click here to visit Ann's site. 

3. The Sacred Year [Book]

This is my one recommendation that isn't free. But it's on sale on Kindle for $3, which is practically free! I've just started reading this book, so it's possible that the end will be a total bust. But from the opening pages I'm confident that it won't be. Michael writes about his spiritual struggles with an honesty that is both refreshing and challenging. Living life as a Christ follower is difficult, fraught with deserts and dark valleys of the soul. If you're struggling with that and wanting this year to be a year of meaning and renewal, consider joining me in reading this book?

Click here to read see the book on Amazon. 

The Sacred Year.jpg

I'll probably end up picking up a few more tools along the way, as I'm a bit of a nerd for learning and organization but this is what I am working with today, not including a few apps and software. I'd love to know what you're finding helpful or if you check out one of these tools, what you think!

What tools are you using to get 2015 off to a solid start and make this a year lived well?

There are affiliate links in this post. Purchasing product through them give me enough money to buy half of a protein bar.

Where I Come Out of the Closet

Photo courtesy of Brad Montgomery via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Brad Montgomery via Flickr

As Christmas approaches, I've been thinking of what to put down in this space. There is the Ugly Sweater Family Picture (which my husband would never allow), the practical guide to having "The Best Christmas Ever!!" (which I would never allow).

One of the biggest reasons I avoided blogging was the fear that whatever you put on the internet would stay there forever. Just because you delete a picture or an article does not mean it is gone. People have their ways!

Confession: I am not as bold or brave as I would like to be.

As you read this post, many of you will feel a sense of solidarity with what I write. Then there are others that may shut their ears to what I have to say. Many of you have been hurt by people who proclaim to be from the same group as I am. You shake your head in disgust at what you've read in the news about those people. It is a risk to throw my name in so publicly with such a group and I know there could be fallout from it.

As a public speaker and author, I communicate a message that is not always popular or mainstream. But I seek to know my audience that I might better communicate the truth, to be relatable without compromising.

Yet I fear that what I am compelled to share about myself will cause many to cease listening to what I say, to view me as no longer credible or be lumped in with "those" people. Silly, I know. But we have reached a point in our culture where dialogue across different positions rarely exists. We only read that which we agree with, only listen to news that fits our political perspective (that news is clearly so politically biased is another loss) and avoid engaging with the other.

We label with any manner of stereotypes even while we decry discrimination. We demand tolerance and yet become angry when anyone dares to live a lifestyle or hold beliefs that differ from ours. Some of our hurt and anger comes from seeing extremes and assuming they are the norm, from personal wounds inflicted by people that themselves are hurting and scared.

But to keep quiet is to risk a far greater fallout, the fallout of denying my devotion to my Savior, Son of the Living God, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Is Joanna Hyatt a Christian? Yes. I AM.

I do not follow a church, or a man in robes. They can help inform me how to follow Jesus but they are not the ones from which I take my life cues. I follow the one who 2000+ years ago gave up His glory and power, making himself into the most helpless of all, a baby. He became nothing so that one day, He might give everything in order that I could have hope in this life and eternity in the next.

I follow the one who scandalously chose to become like His Creation, so that they would know how much He loves them.

That is the most important message you should hear this Christmas: God Loves You.

It is a thing too great to understand when you consider that so many others teach a God who cannot be known, a God who is terrifying or vindictive or so removed that to seek Him is to spend a lifetime (or more) grasping at the unattainable.

Not Jesus. Jesus knows me and He desires to know you (actually He loves you, even if you don't know Him or even hate Him. That's the kind of love He has for us). He wants to bind the broken places in your life, bring healing where there is only pain, and hope where you see only despair.

When I say I am a Christian:

It does not mean that I have all the answers, only that I know The Answer.

It does not mean that I love perfectly, but that I know the source of Love.

It does not mean that I am better than others, but rather that I know the depth of my flaws and brokenness.

When I say I am a Christian:

It means I have found the One who can offer me the extravagant grace which I desperately need.

It means that I live my days trying to walk as closely behind Jesus as I can, that I might model Him and reflect Him.

It means having hope in the midst of struggle, joy in the valleys, and peace when my world is in chaos.

And it means that sometimes, I am lumped in with people who do not act and represent the Jesus I know.

The harder truth is that many times, neither do I.

The longer I live, the less certain I am about most things. I want to see the world as black and white but I am learning that much of life is lived in the gray.

The only thing I am becoming more certain of is Jesus.

This Christmas, as you buy presents and get together with family, I pray that you will take the time to listen to the still quiet voice of a baby in a manger who calls all of us to new life, renewed hope, and offers true peace on Earth.

Is there a time for you when the risk of keeping silent outweighed the risk of speaking out?

The Night My Brother Took Three Girls Back to Their Rooms

The Night My Brother Took Three Girls Back to Their Rooms

I have five brothers, one of which is a freshman in college right now. He went to his first college party this last fall, and as is sadly typical, there were a lot of drunk people. 

Specifically, he noticed all the drunk girls. 

So he went up to one, began talking with her and then when she asked if he wanted to go back to her room, he accepted. On the walk back, she offered to have sex with him.

Drunk girl offering sex to a bright eyed college freshman. There are many who would have gladly accepted.

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Five Kernels of Corn

Five Kernels of Corn

Growing up, the first course at Thanksgiving was always the same.

**Five kernels of corn.**

Five little kernels that served as a reminder for where this day of feasting began. During their first winter in the Americas, the Pilgrims were reduced to five measly kernels of corn a day. Many of them did not survive, and had it not been for Squanto, a Native American Indian who taught them how to grow food, none of them would have made it.

Since my family is related to William Bradford, one of those founding Pilgrims, we probably would not have made it either. Thank you Squanto.

My brothers and I would sometimes roll our eyes at the corn illustration while dad would repeat for the umpteenth time the story of that first Thanksgiving. That’s what teenagers do; we give attitude, only to admit later that our parents were pretty brilliant.

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How The Church Should Talk About Sex

This week I'm posting over at Relevant magazine. It's easy to criticize the Church for all the ways they fail at talking about sex, but how do we go about improving the conversation?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please leave a comment and let's keep the conversation going.

There are no lack of posts these days about how the Church has misled entire generations when it comes to sex. It is a stark example of the best of intentions gone wrong. What began as a reaction to an increasingly sex-obsessed culture has unraveled into an avoidance of the obvious (at best) or a guilt-laden, shame filled diatribe (at worst).

Plenty of articles have been written to expose those lies in an effort to help us let go of misguided thinking. Until you understand where your beliefs have gone astray, you won't see the need to change them.

But then what?

Here are a few cornerstones that need to shape the way the Church should talk about sex going forward.

Click here to keep reading.

Sex Week: Should Colleges Be Promoting This?

Sex Week.

Do you know what it is?

If you’re not in college, you might mistake it for a week of, well, having sex. As though this is the week when the calendar is cleared of all other appointments except “Business Time.”

Flight of the Conchords performing their song "Business Time."

I first heard about “Sex Week” from Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad, a book by Nathan Harden. I met Nathan and his wife Jen when he attended Claremont McKenna College before transferring to Yale. We fell out of touch and the next thing I heard, he had written a book.

It’s a must read for anyone entering college (or having just moved their child into college) for an idea of what you may face on campus. Or if you’re interested in what passes for higher level education in those hallowed halls and what is being taught to future generations of entrepreneurs, teachers, writers, politicians and world shapers.

Even if you are in college, Sex Week may not have yet come to your campus. But don’t worry! If this can get approved on Ivy League campuses rich with a reputation for educating future presidents, CEOs, and diplomats, while costing parents a small mortgage to send their students there, then it won’t be long before other colleges and universities are clamoring to follow suit.

The latest school to host a week aimed at “teaching students how not to get hurt [but] teaching them how to have safer and better sex,” is the University of New Mexico. They’re doing it through such academic lectures as “How to be a Gentleman AND Get Laid,” “BJs and Beyond with Reid,” and “Reid’s Negotiating Successful Threesomes.”

Because THAT is why everyone attends college. To learn how to successfully negotiate a threesome so that “everybody’s needs are being met.” The Center for Disease Control reports that over 100 million people in America have a sexually transmitted disease, with 20 million people getting a new one each year, and yet valuable education dollars are being spent on how to help college students expose themselves to more people, more quickly?

More condoms, more sex tips, and more ways to negotiate hook-ups are not going to build a culture on campus that encourages safety, respect for the other person or concern for the well being of the whole person, not just their body. Neither does viewing and analyzing pornography, discussing sexual positions for optimal orgasm or handing out free sex toys equip a person to successfully navigate and build a lasting relationship.

If colleges exist to shape and equip individuals to excel in the marketplace and to influence their surroundings for the better, what values are being taught during Sex Week? And how will these shape this up and coming generation of future parents, husbands, and wives, not to mention teachers, politicians, artists, writers and culture makers?

There are affiliate links in this post, the proceeds of which give me enough money for half a cup of coffee. Without cream.

Where You Can Find Me This Fall

Where You Can Find Me This Fall

I hope your summer was a-MAZING. Ours was spent enjoying the lake up in Idaho with my family, sweating through a heat wave in Los Angeles, and escaping said heat wave by going to the desert where it was about 10 degrees cooler than Hades. Makes total sense, I know.

But it's finally Fall! And while that means we're still wearing flip flops and hiting the beach here in Los Angeles, it also means I am back to speaking at conferences, galas, and in classrooms. If only it also meant some cool new school supplies...

Here is where you can find me over the next couple of months. If you're in the area (and the event is public), I'd love for you to join me! 

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Why Magazines Are Failing My Daughter

I'm posting this week over at Huffington Post Parents on the frustration many of us feel towards magazines and their messages about women. BUT there are some magazines doing great work and are worth supporting with our dollars and our readership.

The Time Warner customer service agent told me the store would open at 8:30 a.m. When I arrived at 8:40 a.m. with my toddler in hand, only to find the doors locked until 9 a.m., I panicked.

Toddlers do not wait patiently. Especially not for 20 minutes outside of closed strip malls. Normally I have enough toys and snacks in my purse to entertain a whole preschool, but today I had left in too much of a hurry. Thankfully, the CVS across the parking lot was open and guaranteed to have plenty of bright, shiny objects for her to pull down.

Thinking we would hit a double win for both of us, I headed towards the magazine aisle. She would be in awe of the glossy covers, which would buy me time to read an article or two. But rather than a relaxing meander, I had to fight the urge to grab my daughter and run out.

For the rest of the article, click here.

The Most Intimate Date

The Most Intimate Date

My husband and I host a monthly young married's group. Not because we're brilliant at our own marriage, but because we believe healthy marriages are critical to our culture's survival. So we want to do our part to strengthen, encourage and instruct. If another couple can learn from our mistakes and struggles and avoid half the trouble we went through, even better.

While preparing for this next month's meeting, I came across this great list of questions to ask any potential spouse. By potential, I don't mean once they've already proposed and you've said yes. These are questions best asked before the ring but after the first date. Though by no means does this exclude the married or engaged! You can always keep learning about your (potential) spouse.

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You Don't Have to Try

Have you seen Colbie Caillat's new music video, "Try"?

Fed up with the photoshopping that happens in media, Caillat wrote this song as her way of encouraging women to be themselves, rather than trying to make their hair, face, or body fit a particular image.

This goes right along with a great article that Darling Magazine printed a couple years ago called "Photoshopping Our Souls Away."

Whether you are male or female, you are most stunning when you are your unique self, rather than another carbon copy of a fake image. The world needs you to be you.

S.H.E Summit: The Global Women's Leadership & Lifestyle Event

This weekend, June 5-6, is the annual S.H.E. Summit in New York. Offering over 20 speakers and 60+ workshops, it's going to be quite the event for women!

If you're in the NYC area, grab a ticket and check it out. You are sure to be challenged and inspired by the line up. If heading to the Big Apple isn't a possibility for you, don't worry! I'll be live streaming the even right here. You'll get the same great content from the comfort of your home or favorite coffee shop.

For the full speaker line-up, click here.

To watch the live stream, click on the "Follow" button below.

Join the global conversation by following along and sharing your favorite moments with #SHESummit. What a way to kick off the summer!