Book Review: Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint By Nadia Bolz-Weber

I don’t know when or exactly why I stopped reading the Huffington Post. But at some point, I did. I can almost guarantee it wasn’t out of malice. HuffPost, for the most part, has long been right up my alley when it comes to journalism. I read them a ton when I was younger. There was even a time when Recent College Dropout Me fantasized about writing for them. But then she got busy raising babies and started reading TMZ between diaper changes. Her brain slipped a bit and those hopes slipped away. Younger me made some poor decisions (TMZ obviously, not the babies). Somehow, other than the passing hashtag on Instagram, I had almost completely forgotten about the publication. That was until one of their headlines ended up on my Facebook timeline.

And oh boy, was it a good one.

This Pastor is Melting Purity Rings Into a Golden Vagina Sculpture

I mean, how could you see that and NOT click on it?

The article talks about how Nadia Bolz-Waber, the lead pastor at Denver’s House for All Sinners and Saints and all-around kickass progressive Christian author and theologian, is working with artist Nancy Anderson to reclaim the idea of the purity ring. Their project asks people to send in the purity rings they were given as young people so they can all be melted down together to form a golden vagina sculpture. People who sent in their rings by the dead received a silicone ring of impurity and a certificate to boot.

In case you missed it, purity rings were part of some Evangelical circles back in the 1990s to the early 2000s. I even covered this topic in the early days of this blog with The Problem With Purity Rings. Basically, they were a yet again another gross way to try to force further control over young women’s bodies and sexualities. Bolz-Waber and Anderson wanted to use art to try to not only change but also recover from that. And that is pretty fucking awesome.

The article left me not only with an overwhelming sense of “Fuck yeah Girl Power!” for the day, but it also left me with some questions about this Nadia Bolz-Waber lady.

Lutheran pastors can have tattoos? There’s a queer-inclusive church in Denver called House For All Sinners and Saints? There are church people who are down with women having the right to have control over their own bodies and make their own decisions? And who are cool with art that has vaginas in it?

Obviously, I must learn more. Regardless of the differences in our beliefs, Nadia Bolz-Waber sounds like a freaking interesting person with a whole lot of interesting stuff going on.

So I did what anyone would do in our era, I googled her.

Then I bought two of her books.

The first one I read is the one I’m going to finally get around telling you about after this exceptionally lengthy introduction.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint was released in 2013 and is a wonderful blend of autobiography and living mission statement. The book chronicles not only Nadia Bolz-Weber’s struggles with her church and faith but also talks about how she got there.

The book opens with the definition of what a pastrix actually is. And for someone who didn’t actually grow up in the church but did grow up in the thick of the Bible Belt, it was as hilarious as it was helpful. (Have I ever told you about my great grandma’s sister who was am untrained female Southern Baptist preacher? I saw her anoint someone with vegtable oil once. That’s not really related to being a Pastrix but I felt the need to share.)

Following the opening definition, we are introduced to The Rowing Team and told about Bolz-Weber’s early days of sobriety and stand up comedy. The chapter sets the tone for the entire book because it shows exactly how open and transparent Bolz-Weber is with the audience. I was taken aback at just how real her writings were. For whatever reason, it felt alien to me to see a person in the business of holiness not having a completely polished and perfect image. I grew up in the land of Jim Bakkers and Tammy Fayes, Ted Haggards and Jimmy Swaggerts. We have megachurches here. We also have tiny churches with pastors who act like they have a megachurch. I am not used to people in religious authority being so open about their own dirt and more importantly, their own humanity. I’m used to overdressed and made-up plastic doll “people” not actual human beings full of faults, flaws, and four letter words. Bolz-Weber is an actual human being. Four letter words included.

The rest of the book continues with the same candid, honest communication as the first chapter. Bolz-Weber just does not sugar coat a damn thing. And it’s so fucking refreshing. Even coming from a Pagan standpoint, there are times where spiritual books get a little too saccharine for me. That does not happen here. Bolz-Weber is candid and honest with her struggles and never tries to paint them in a positive light. She does often find the cord that ties them to certain spiritual meanings. And I feel that is important. She finds God in the cracks, not just in the sunshine. That’s how I’ve often found connection with my path too. It’s never been the Goddess coming down and making flowers bloom on the path in front of me while moonlight perfectly reflects off some charging crystals lying on the ground. It’s been finding a connection to The Craft in the middle of the mud and gunk of life.

Speaking of, one of the chapters of the book even features a brief visit into the time Bolz-Weber spent with God’s Aunt, the Goddess. It’s about the few years she spent hanging around the Wiccan religion while she took some time off from Jesus. There is no talk of the evils of witchcraft, no talk of damnation, no talk of Hell. I’m not sure if that’s just the Lutheran way or not, but holy balls, it’s awesome to see.  It’s just her pleasantly remembering how much love was present and how awesome the female companionship was of the group was. There was nothing but acceptance and love towards group she was attached to and the people she knew. While I’m not a Wiccan, it did make my Pagan heart happy to see so much love for us Pagan folks.

Some of the stories in the book are so honest, you kind of feel like you’re reading a diary. What’s great about a lot of them is that Bolz-Weber isn’t always the one that ends up being the hero at the end. You can see her as just a real person, someone who, even though she is the pastor of a church and leader in the community, is looking for the answers too.

Nadia Bolz-Weber does not shy to share where she is cracked, or when she has dirt under her nails (there’s a talk in there about Jesus that will make you understand the reference in that sentence). She is open with readers about her struggles and questions and even the doubts she once had about the whole thing. She is equally as open about her belief and devotion. She doesn’t just pay lip service to being a person of the cloth. She lives her faith. The good parts, the easy parts, the rewarding parts, but that’s not all. She also proud lives the hard parts, the unsure parts, the sad parts, the bitter parts, the tiring and painful parts. And she’s not afraid to share it all.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to not only seeing the melted down purity ring vagina sculpture but reading the author’s other books in the future. Just because we don’t follow the same path, doesn’t mean we don’t take some of the same steps. I really feel that Nadia Bolz-Weber is an amazing woman who has a lot of world-changing ability. Also, we curse about the same amount, so that makes her writings really relatable and enjoyable to read.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If the mood strikes you, definitely pick up a copy. And since, like always, I am late to the party, totally check out the other books she’s written. I plan to.

And just as a funny add-on, there are a lot of mentions of places in the Denver, CO area in the book. Mr. ConjureandCoffee is a born and bred Denver native, having moved away from Colorado when he was around 10. So pretty much everytime a location came up, my South Carolina self would ask him “Hey babe, do you know where so-and-so is?” He quickly tired of my spur of the moment geography quizzes. I’m not sure why he puts up with me but I’m sure glad he does. 🙂

~Exciting News~

I’m so excited to share something with you Dear Readers!

But first, a bit of backstory.

Since before I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. Like I talked in a previous post called I Remember, I grew up thinking that I was going to be a songwriter. I spent most days jotting lyrics down in spiral notebooks. I was so sure I was going to move to Nashville once I graduated high school and get a job writing for a living.

Then the fact that I couldn’t sing or play guitar kicked that dream in the teeth.

Soon my brain put together that lyrics and poems weren’t that much different. Around the same time, I entered the dark swampland of being a teenager and had a lot more to write about. I spilled every drop of my soul I couldn’t express out loud on paper. I invested myself in stories and poem. It sounds cliche but they were my escape. So I wrote a lot.

My writing got me into Advanced Placement courses in high school and won me a few awards. Then my home life took a nose dive and I had to get a job. It was a rough time with very little room for writing. Finally, I graduated, went to college and did okay. I’d sit in the cemetery near campus and write. (Yes, I know, I’m a walking cliche) It seemed I was finally in a place to expand and explore writing.

Then I dropped out of college and into a domestic life.

It’s been a struggle getting back to what I love doing. Almost like a Lifetime movie, I had to strip away the layers of being a mom and find the woman inside. (See, I was totally not joking about being a cliche.)

That’s why what I’m about to tell you is SUCH a big deal.

I am now officially a published poet.

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Haunted Are These Houses Vol.1 is an anthology from Unnerving Magazine full of dark tales and poems all dwelling within the storytelling realm of haunted houses.

It features 22 poems and 12 short stories of creepy, disturbing goodness. And one of those poems, entitled Four Locks and Sunday Hair Pins was written by me!

My words are in there! My idea! The little universe I created is printed on those pages (and available in digital form)!!

I was also on Unnerving’s Interview Series podcast. You can find the episode I was on here.  My part starts around 40 minutes in, but you should really listen to the whole thing. Amy Lukavics is an outstanding author and last year was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. Her new novel is called Nightingale.  It sounds incredible and I’ve added it to my To Read list.

I don’t think I can fully explain how excited I am over this.

Since I was young, I’ve wanted to be able to call myself an author.  I wanted my words to be out there. And this blog does that. The various websites I’ve had pieces published on do that (check my About Me). But this, this is a book.

I’m in a book.

I’m in a fucking book!!

This satisfies an itch I’ve had since I was just a weird little girl. It’s validation that all my daydreaming and world building has paid off.

It’s something I’ve wanted for such a long time.

And now, I want more.

I want to write and create. I want to develop and publish. I want a full book of my work.

In sports, they call it staying hungry. Now that I’ve had a taste, like a vampire locked in a crypt, I’m starving.

 

 

Duel Review: Women Who Run with The Wolves and Light is the New Black

If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m kind of a mess. Around me gravitates a sort of controlled chaos.

For example, currently, I’m totally into subversive embroidery. (You mean you can stab a thing thousands of times to create words and images that would give the sewing circle at church a heart attack? Sign me up!) I’ve also just bought and printed like half a hundred pages in a coloring book of shadows off Etsy. So on my desk is haphazardly piled with embroidery junk and printed pages, colored pencils and half-read books. Like books are everywhere. If there’s a flat surface, it probably had a few books on it.

Which brings me to admit I’m the type of person who reads more than one book at a time. Some books are living room books. Some books are bedroom books. And there are some books that are travel in the purse, pull it out when you need a few bumps type of books. And that’s what I’m doing with Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Light Is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell.

Ever heard the phrase “same but different”? Well, that describes these books, kinda. Both of them emphasize the importance of understanding one’s true self. Both of them describe the struggle of breaking down the walls that contain us. And both books, to me, provoke unmistakable inspiration.

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Women Who Run WIth the Wolves is a deliciously heavy read. The author, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, is an ultra-accomplished Jungian psychoanalyst, a storyteller, has a PhD, and is an illustrious post traumatic stress recovery specialist. She uses her expertise in analysis and her innate storytelling ability to examine the Wild Woman archetype in the feminine psyche. And that she does just that in the book. She breaks apart some of some of the most well known myths, fairy tales, and folk tales and exposes the threads that are woven together to create and rally for the Wild Woman ideal.

41xwfptiavl-_sx317_bo1204203200_Light Is The New Black is a light breeze on a hot day. It’s an airy, high-spirited sprint into the world of light working. Not only light working, but light acknowledging. It’s a how-to guide to letting the light inside you out and how to process life shining out loud. The author, Rebecca Campbell, is a well versed jet-setting Australian who has been known as The Skype Nomad and is one of Hay Houses outstanding authors. Hip, fresh, and personal, her writing is easy to connect to. Her voice echoes through the words on the page. With the title playing off the popularity of the TV show Orange in the New Black it’s almost a testament to the influx of spiritualism into current culture. The book is in a similar vein as Modern Girl, Mystical World which you know I am not a fan of. With the exception of one short passage, I have found so much more enjoyment in Light Is The New Black than I did in Modern Girl, Mystical World. And I think that a lot of it has to come from the author being more relatable.   

There’s more to these books than I can put into words. The authors themselves have done so much work to create these volumes of truth anything I try to come up with will fall short. Even though the books are different strengths they both pack the same punch. Sometimes you need to jump into the deep end and surround your mind and soul with ideas that rattle you to the core. Sometimes you need to open a door to a shining light surrounds you and starts healing your wounds. These books do both.  

And both of these books are hitting me right where I need to be hit. Like you’ve read earlier, I’m balancing a lot of things right now. I’ve been balancing them for a long time. With my attention, soul and inner light going into fixing things for others, it’s left me empty. If I’m a match, these books have ideas in them are a striker strip. In the few moments I get, these books have reached inside and found the voice I had thought was lost.

And man, they are inspiring the fuck out of her to do something great.

Even if she is tired and scared and totally washed out. Even if she’s a mess of overstacked bookshelves and tumbling papers. She’s awakening again. These books are guiding her home.  

Featured Photo by Prasanna Kumar on Unsplash