Evangelical trauma Do’s and Don’ts

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Thinkstock images

Recently, I posted about the culture of fear within the evangelical community and how it has left me deeply scarred. I had many people who voiced their support for me as I continue to recover from this trauma. Others, while perhaps well-intentioned, were less than supportive. This trend is something I’ve noticed throughout my life, and especially within the past few years on social media. Rather than listening and validating someone’s experience, there is a tendency to turn it around and make it about you and what you’ve done wrong.

As I’m sure any trained trauma specialist would tell you, that’s not the way to go about helping someone heal. Since evangelical culture doesn’t seem to get that, I thought I’d provide a list of do’s and don’ts for anyone involved with someone who has been traumatized by evangelical culture.

Don’t perceive this as an attack on you. The pain evangelical culture causes is a result of systemic dysfunction, perpetuated by those at the top on down.

Do try to understand the problems your RE (recovering evangelical) has with evangelical culture. Even if you don’t agree, try to see where they’re coming from. If you were directly part of the problem, acknowledge that, apologize and ask for forgiveness for the pain you’ve caused.

Don’t victim blame.
Too often, evangelicals will try to show a RE “their part” in the trauma they experienced. One person suggested that I had fear and kept feeling the need to rededicate my life to Christ because I wasn’t really a Christian.

Do understand that this is something that happened TO them. Just like any other victim of abuse, they are not at fault for what happened.

Don’t quote Bible verses.
Evangelicals always seem to have “clobber verses” at the ready, meant to show the RE how wrong they are and reinforce how right the evangelical is because Biblical authority. It’s as if they are bombs dropped on someone with PTSD and the evangelical doesn’t understand how that wasn’t helpful.

Do be loving.
Somehow, evangelicals have interpreted “loving” to mean showing the RE the error of their ways in the most condescending tone possible. In reality, nothing could make a RE run away faster. You can be loving by understanding that the RE’s experience was real, listening to them, and doing what you can to support them in their recovery.

Don’t be incredulous.
It’s one thing to be surprised. It’s quite another to tell someone that what they’re saying can’t possibly be true.

Do validate the RE’s story and their pain. Just because you did not experience or perceive what the RE did does not mean that it isn’t true.

Don’t feel like you have to save a RE.
A RE is on a journey. That journey may include leaving evangelicalism. It may mean having a different view than you on what being a Christian means and looks like. It may mean leaving Christianity altogether. Just know that it’s their journey and it is not up to you to dictate which direction their path takes. And for Godsake, don’t presume/tell someone they’re going to hell. Remember, if you believe that a person’s journey with God can only look a certain way, you have a very limited view of God.

Do ask how a RE is doing.
Do not presume to understand how a RE is feeling and what their journey with God is like. Engage with them. Listen to them. Believe them. Support them. Love them.

Vanilla Scones

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I love how simple, yet elegant these scones are. They’re light and flaky, like biting into a puffy, vanilla cloud. Don’t mistake vanilla for boring and bland. With so many layers of vanilla flavor, that would be impossible. This scone is also adaptable for different vanilla-infused flavors. I’ve already adapted the recipe to make a vanilla orange scone, (coming soon.) Kids seem to love them, too. They were the favorite when we had friends over for brunch. Rachael and her friends loved them.

Vanilla Scones

Ingredients

For the scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. vanilla sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. coarse salt
8 tbsp. (4 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
½ cup low fat plain greek yogurt

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4-5 tsp. milk

You will need to make the vanilla sugar several hours to two days in advance. The longer the vanilla mingles with the sugar, the more vanilla flavor will be imparted to the sugar.

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Split open and scrape the seeds out of one vanilla bean pod.

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Measure 1 cup of sugar. Add the vanilla bean and stir and massage the seeds into the sugar. Add and cover the vanilla bean pod to the sugar. Seal the sugar mixture in an air-tight container for several hours to two days.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, vanilla sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and toss lightly to combine. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the largest butter pieces are the size of peas and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the milk, vanilla and yogurt to the bowl. Mix together lightly with a spatula or fork until a sticky dough comes together. Very gently and briefly, knead lightly with your hands to incorporate the remaining loose flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough out to approximately a 7-8 inch square. Fold into thirds like a business letter. Pat the dough out into a 5 x 10-inch rectangle. With a lightly floured large knife or a sharp bench scraper, slice the rectangle in half lengthwise. Then cut each half into 5 equal rectangles to make 10 scones total.

Transfer the scones to a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Bake, rotating halfway through the baking time, until golden on top and just set, about 12-14 minutes total. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

While the scones are still warm, make the glaze. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean in a small bowl. Whisk in the milk a teaspoon at a time until you have a glaze that is slightly thick but pourable. If you accidentally add too much milk, stir in some powdered sugar until you achieve the correct thickness. Drizzle the glaze over the warm scones. Do not add the glaze to the scones right after they come out of the oven. The scones will be too warm to allow the glaze to set. Let set a few minutes before serving.

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Summertime ceasefire

It’s that time of year, the time when the temperature gets hot and women from the mid-Atlantic and northward are expected to don a skin-tight bathing suit and act like that’s normal. For women like me, it’s always been the worst. If you’re not a small person, finding a cute bathing suit that fits usually involves some sort of skirt, shorts, or ruffles to disguise cottage cheese flabbiness. I’m on White Whale 2014 countdown, the end time being when I’m expected to take part in this summertime ritual.

Even though I’m hovering around 250 pounds, I’m not entirely uncomfortable with my body. It is what it is, and there isn’t too much I can do at this point to change it. At long as I have cute clothes that fit, I don’t live in too much despair. That is, until, I’m required to wear the suit of shame.
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Image from “Moose” by Stephanie Klein

Women watching other women and judging them is our hockey. Even though no one says anything, you can feel the eyes of people watching and silently belittling you because your thighs jiggle with every step you take. You see the faces people make, or the quiet, yet audible gasps when you remove your coverup to reveal just how large your stomach and ass really are. You are frequently excluded from the rounds of, “Oh! Your suit is so cute!” Or, if you are included, it’s out of politeness and pity. I think it’s even harder for me living in Northern Virginia, where everything is so driven by appearances. Most of the women I do know around here are skinny and in shape. Around here, I’m the outlier. It’s this judgment that brings any self-esteem you have to the edge of the diving board to take an inelegant swan dive into the drained deep end of the pool.
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And if you’re like me, the thing that makes you want to smack a woman is when they’re skinny, complete with thigh gap, and they complain about having to wear a swimsuit. I honestly had that reaction at first when I saw this Twitter post from one of my favorite bloggers, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.
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Oh, poor you. You’re trying on suits in an actual store. It must be so hard to try on a size 6 and then be skinny and tan in front of other people.
But that reaction was quickly shut down when I read her following post.

Yay! I’m an asshole. Of course other women have insecurities which are magnified best in spandex. How dare I assume to know her story or anyone else’s stories simply because they’re skinny. Lord knows I wish I could walk around with a hovering sign that explained my story:

I used to look like this:
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I look the way I do now because I’ve been through two pregnancies in which I gained a lot of weight. I lost a lot of that weight, but then I gained it all back because of the medication I take for fibromyalgia. I can’t exercise like I used to because it hurts too much. A two mile walk/run left me in so much pain that I couldn’t sit on the toilet for two days without it being excruciating. My face looks like a teenager’s who wears nightly Crisco masks because of the IUD that keeps me from doubling over as shock waves of pain surge through my uterus and pelvis throughout the month. My feet are completely jacked up because the weight gain has caused my feet to spread and crack. No matter has much I scrub, scrape, or moisturize, these deep cracks won’t go away. It’s like walking on knives.

It really shouldn’t matter what any one of us looks like, but it does. It’s our first impression of people. I just hope that this summer, we lay down our arms: those judgy looks; those purposefully just audible whispers; all of our assumptions…. let’s lay them down and realize there is a story under every person. Let’s just be nice to one another as we parade past each other uncomfortably or pull out half the pool with us upon exiting. And folks, we even need to be kind to the self-absorbed assholes who have Sexy and I Know It playing on a loop in their head as they treat you like dirt. It’s not their fault they’re assholes. They probably had too many people telling them how wonderful they are growing up, or no one informed them that it’s not nice to be an asshole to other people. And worst of all, they won’t get to know the great person you are because they don’t care about your story. It’s physically impossible for an asshole to care.

Blueberry scones

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It’s really hard to go wrong with baked blueberries. When they’re baked, any tartness is replaced with subtle sweetness. My favorite thing about them is how they’re soft, but remain firm, so they burst when you bite into them. So when I came across a recipe for blueberry scones to make for our Daisy tea party, I knew I had to make them.
I had trouble with them the first time I made them because I didn’t measure the length and width of the dough when I went to cut the individual rolls. Once I had my silicone mat with measures, they were terribly easy.

Blueberry Scones
Ingredients
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen whole
1½ cups (7½ oz.) fresh blueberries
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sour cream
2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Turbinado sugar

Freeze blueberries in advance.

Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat to 425˚ F. Grate the frozen butter on the holes of a large box grater.

Whisk together the milk and sour cream in a medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Combine the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined. Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead with well floured hands, 6-8 times, just until the dough holds together in a ragged ball. Add small amounts of flour as needed to prevent sticking.
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Roll the dough into a 12-inch square. Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter (a dough scraper/spatula really helps with these steps). Fold the short ends of the dough into the center in thirds, to form an approximate 4-inch square. Transfer the dough to a plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.
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Return the dough to the floured work surface and roll into an approximately 12-inch square again. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down so that they are slightly embedded in the dough surface. Using a dough scraper, roll the dough up to form a tight log. Lay the log seam side down and press the the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
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Brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with Turbinado sugar. (If freezing ahead of time, flash freeze on the baking sheet for 20 minutes, then wrap individually and store in a freezer bag until needed.) Bake until the tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
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While these were baking, my entire house smelled of sweet, creamy butter. These scones did not disappoint. They were crumbly and fluffy and moist from the blueberries. The turbinado sugar gives just a hint of crunchy texture with each bite. I think everyone pretty much agreed that this was their favorite scone at the tea party. One of my Daisies even certified these as “stinkin’ good”. So there you are.

Recipe slightly modified from Annie’s Eats.com

Daisy tea party

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The lovely little ladies of the Daisy troop I lead have been asking to have a tea party for months. May has Mother’s Day, spring flowers, and gentle sunshine; what better month to have a garden tea party? And what better reason than a tea party to craft, put together beautiful flower arrangements, and make flaky, fluffy, mouth-watering scones?

The first thing I wanted to do was to make a gumdrop topiary. They’re a little bit whimsical and an edible decoration.

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Step 1
Decorate terra cotta pot. If you choose to paint the pot, you’ll need paint that says it’s suitable for terra cotta or outdoor uses.

Step 2
Choose or cut a dowel rod to the appropriate height. These topiaries are going to be top heavy, so you don’t want the dowel rod to be too tall or thin. Paint dowel rod. Cover the hole in the bottom of the pot with heavy duty paper. Hot glue the dowel rod to the bottom of the pot in the center.

Step 3
Mix plaster of Paris according to package directions and fill the pot 3/4 of the way full. Allow plaster to set. This step prevents the topiary from toppling over once the gumdrops are on top.

Step 4
Choose a styrofoam ball for the top. You’ll want the ball to be smaller than the pot, because once you affix the gumdrops, the ball will be a bit larger than the pot. Once the plaster has set, put the ball onto the dowel rod approximately 1/3 of the way into the ball. Remove ball.

Step 5
Cover the ball in foil so that styrofoam bits don’t get onto the gumdrops. I chose to use colored candy foil, which you can purchase at your local cake and candy store. Hot glue foil onto the ball.

Step 6
Using toothpicks, affix the gumdrops to the styrofoam ball. I push the toothpick through the gumdrop most of the way and then push the toothpick into the ball. I use the flat edge of a butter knife to push the toothpick the rest of the way through the gumdrop. Use two toothpicks to secure the gumdrops on the underside of the ball.

More decorations!
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I found these chalkboard painted items at my craft store. I used liquid chalk to write on them. I thought the little daisy clips would be perfect to keep track of each girl’s plate.
I love the flowers I end up finding at Whole Foods. As flowers go, they’re inexpensive and always look full and vibrant. For this party, I decided on Gerber daisies, (you have to have daisies) peonies, and hyacinth. I was absolutely tickled when I found a teacup flower planter at my craft store. How could I not use it for a flower arrangement?

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But I think the most beautiful flowers came from one of my Daisies!

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Food
It’s always fun to get dressed in frilly, puffy dresses and pretend to be proper, drinking tea with pinkies elevated. But the best part of any tea party is the food. The Daisy moms pulled together and made some fabulous garden party food: tea sandwiches with egg salad, chicken salad, cucumber, Nutella and fruit….no, not all on the same sandwich. We had juicy fruit and crunchy veggies, chocolatey cookies, and gorgeous cake pops.
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I made one of my favorite party drinks, blueberry lemonade punch. I also had a genius idea: made blueberry lemonade ice cubes. It keeps the lemonade cold, but doesn’t dilute the punch once they begin to melt. The only problem with this genius was that once the cubes did melt, the free-floating blueberries got in the way of the drink dispenser. But at least it looked pretty.
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I was excited because I made the scones, a quintessential part of every tea party. I had never made scones before and was excited to try my hand at it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did try one of the recipes for teacher appreciation week, which resulted in some pretty major Pinterest derp.
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At least they tasted good.

Fortunately, these scones turned out much better than my first attempt. It’s amazing how that can happen when one follows directions! I made blueberry scones, cheddar bacon scones, and triple vanilla scones. I’ll make the recipes separate posts and link them here. But until then, be tempted and drool over pictures of the final products.

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Everyone had a good time at the tea party, especially the girls. Proper lemonade sipping and scone nibbling soon gave way to sliding on our slide backwards and upside down, dog piles in the play room, and games of tag that led girls under tea tables covered in bright tablecloths. I’m sure the sugar they had had nothing to do with it at all.

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The fear that passes all understanding

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Community

If you were to die tonight, are you sure that you’d go to heaven?

I heard these words so often growing up. Ever concerned with our eternal salvation, pastors and speakers would pose this question to its captive audience in an effort to jolt us with a dose of reality. Time was running out! What if we did die in a car crash on the way home? What if the rapture happened before the morning dawn broke through the dark, night sky? After all, it could happen at any time, so you should always be prepared and vigilant! Inevitably, someone would be scared into an alter call or raising their hand while everyone else’s eyes were closed in prayer. The speaker wanted to know who had made “the decision”.
I was in constant turmoil over that state of my soul. I was usually one to “re-dedicate” my life to Christ, just to make sure my bases were covered. You see, we were always told that once we accepted Jesus into our hearts, we no longer needed to have fear because we knew we were heaven-bound. The problem was, I never felt that “peace that passes all understanding”. Clearly, I was doing something wrong, otherwise I would have felt this esoteric peace. I spent my childhood in fear because of my faith. With a framework of what I would call “hellfire and brimstone-light”, it’s pretty easy to see how that could be.

-There were puppet shows with a Satan puppet, dancing around/fighting with the good guys to “Sinbusters”. Yes. They defiled Ghostbusters. It’s probably also why puppets freak me the fuck out.
-We sang songs with lyrics like,

Now, Satan is an evil charmer,
He’s hungry for a soul to hurt.
And without your Holy armor,
He will eat you for dessert.

-We were told stories of demon possession and exorcisms.
-I remember a specific story about a biker in Hell’s Angels or something who claimed Satan grabbed him while he was in bed. (I think he was also tripping when it happened, so…)
-I read books like Josh McDowell’s “Love Killer”, where demons actively try to get a good Christian girl and her atheist boyfriend to bang. No…seriously. Spoiler alert: They don’t bang, but he does get AIDS.

-Then there’s this gem; the ultimate showdown between Jesus and Satan. It was performed by a pantomime group, all in costume, at a youth convention. For some reason, it scared the shit out of me. I think because of the voices. I was brainwashed. Shut up!

-Then there was the spiritual warfare. Vans before trips would break down because Satan was throwing up road blocks.

Yeah. Mike, who grew up Lutheran and did not have any do this stuff shoved down his throat, once exclaimed after hearing one of these stories, No wonder you were so fucked up.
And fucked up I was.

I seriously had my plan for what I needed to do if Satan ever appeared to me as an angel of light so I could make sure I wasn’t being tricked. I had trouble going to sleep at night because I was terrified that demons were torturing me. They circled my room in the shadows, plotting and scheming. I prayed with every fiber of my being and sang praise songs in my head, pleading with God to protect me and my mind. But, of course, the more one clings to God, the more Satan tortures a person dontchaknow.
I used to have recurring dreams where I was being chased by demons and Satan. There was also the one where I die. I stand before an elevator which will shuttle me to heaven or hell. But I don’t know where I’m going until the elevator opens. If the color inside is blue, I’m going to heaven. If it’s red, hell. Most of the time, it was red.

It wasn’t until just a few years ago, when I stopped believing that there were any such things as a devil, demons, or physical hell, that my fear of such things disappeared completely. Before, no matter how hard I prayed or begged for help, I never received peace or comfort.
While my belief in all things demonic no longer exists, the scars of a lifetime of fear remain. It was actually my therapist who pointed this out to me. I told her that I want to work on managing my anxiety and panic attacks. In the course of conversation, my evangelical upbringing came up. My therapist mentioned that it seemed that there was a lot there that would cause my constant fear and anxiety. I had never connected the dots before. Perhaps so much of the anxiety that I experience today is an offshoot of seeds that were sown so many years ago. Perhaps I would have been an anxious person anyway. In fact, I’m sure I would have been. I’ve honestly wondered if evangelical culture could be a cause for my fibromyalgia. Enduring the actual torture that was all that evangelical nonsense certainly did not help.