Modesty, Body, Sexuality

  The first time I gave someone a blowjob, while I do remember feeling pressured into it, mostly what I remember is calling one of my friends after sobbing because I felt so guilty for even being sexual at all and that was at 21.  From the time I was very young modest attire and sexual abstinence was held up as the highest of virtues for a woman. I was someone who by the age of eleven was already beginning to curve into the shape of a woman and I observed the boys beginning to notice this change despite how I dressed. Then it would seem that the grownups around me noticed also… I started receiving books about “purity” in my church mailbox, when to my knowledge none of my friends did. Was there something about me that screamed “future slut”?

  Needless to say, that along with the fact that my body also didn’t seem to be able to fit into the ideas of secular world where the woman I saw being glorified were a size zero, tan, with perfectly pouty lips, sex kitten eyes, the perfect ratio of butt/waist/breasts, and had legs that felt like they were longer than I was tall, made it incredibly hard to find comfort in my own skin.

I have been inspired this year to confront and work to defeat this negative body image and stigma in regards to sexuality. This is my time to embrace my skin and the reality that I am a sexual being, and that is not something to be ashamed of. Nor am I responsible for how anyone else looks at my body. Part of this journey was letting go of all of the negative things I was taught about sexuality and allowing myself to find out what it means just for me. While another part was taking off my clothes and allowing someone to photograph me and not judging myself so critically about the supposed imperfections. The biggest part was the epiphany that is revealed in the below poem, which I read at Kafé Kerouac at their open mic Writer’s Block poetry night last night. I was so nervous I was shaking like a leaf, but these people made me feel so comfortable and welcome. So grateful I was brave enough and bold enough to take the mic and share the space with these wonderfully creative people.

My Body, The Temple

 

You told me that my body was holy, a temple for the divine.

But don’t you dare decorate those walls, tattoos are sinful.

And jewelry or makeup, well is a distraction from what I was intended to be.

I guess god’s not a fan of art, and he doesn’t want any embellishments on his “masterpiece”.

 

But then you told me that body was a gift for my husband. 

Some mythical man, who was going to save me from spinsterhood.

To give my life it’s only possible purpose by becoming a wife and mother.

And the greatest gift I could possibly give him on our wedding night was an intact hymen.

 

You made my body a conversation piece from the time it began to curve into the body of a woman. 

You told me to hide it away, that uncovered it was something to be ashamed of.

You told me my body was a distraction, that the boys couldn’t help but to look and to lust.

And yet, I was the one that was too irrational? And yet, I’m the one unfit to lead?

 

But you never said it was mine, you never told me what it was capable of.

Or what this world would constantly subject it to.

You never said I would have to fight every day for my right to take up space in this world.

You never even said I had the right to take up take up space in this world

 

As I grew older I discovered your lies, the universe revealed it’s truth to me as it does

That, I am a “universe, wrapped in skin”, capable of birthing a soul into this realm

From the blood of a woman, all men have been baptized. 

There are parts of my body, created only for pleasure. What man can say that?

 

I have taken my skin for granted, called my flesh a prison 

People have taken a piece, a part that was not theirs’s to have

It’s been battered and bruised, but still it survives 

My mind is my core and expression comes from my spirit, but I’ve neglected this body that should be my home.

 

I exist as a trinity, mind, spirit, and body

Every one of these facets of my being should be aligned

When they are, that is when I am at my best. 

So, I’m done being at war with my body

 

I’m done with the shame you have tried to heap on me, that I have heaped on me

Every scar, stretch mark, freckle, wrinkle or hair, it is all a testament to the road I have traveled

This body is a map of that journey, so whether I modify some part or let it do its thing, it’s worthy of love

It’s a flawed vessel but it got me here and I will no longer apologize or show disdain for any part of this flesh that contains my soul.

 

But when it’s all said and done… I guess you were right about one thing, this body is a temple, my temple.

And I am a mother fucking goddess.

And I will decorate these walls anyway I god damn please.

And I will share it whenever I want to, or notEither way the choice is mine alone.

 

So now, I have learned that must everyday bow down before and worship the god in me.

 

I present two of my favorite pictures from the shoot. I really have come to love my body more, and no, I’m not there perfectly, but I am much happier with who I am than I think I have ever been before.

shoot 1

shoot 2

Special Thanks: Tanis Clay thank you so much for the wonder makeup look and to Jean the photographer from All Things Boudoir for making me feel so comfortable and beautiful!  Also thanks to Connie Winch for showing up and helping me be brave at the reading and also recording it for me.

With love and hope,

Blessed Be

Ashleigh Miller

Advertisements

Donald Trump’s America Hurts Almost Everyone

*Trigger warning for sexual violence*
 

  Usually, I ’m not a, “what I am against” person”; I generally prefer to be positive and let others know what I support and am standing for. But in this instance, I feel very strongly that I should talk about something that I am against.

  I am passionately, adamantly, and now quite urgently against Donald Trump becoming president. I would also like to state very clearly that it is not my intent to alienate those I care about or to be hateful toward anyone; I simply would like to share my feelings and a different perspective that I hope at least you at least see as a very thoughtful.

  I believe this election to be the most important one we have had in quite a while, and one that will determine the kind of country the citizens want to be part of. For me, this is actually the saddest and scariest part, as it seems that nearly half of the country wants what Donald is selling, or are at the very least willing to buy into it to stop Secretary Clinton or the Democrats, or…whatever their specific issue is.

  Yes, I am against Donald Trump becoming president, but that does not mean I hold any hate toward him or those casting a vote for him. I believe that he is still a child of God. In fact instead of hate, I feel pity for him. His life and his status seem so empty, and I have found that those who are the cruelest are often either deeply troubled, or are narcissistic sociopaths, and regardless, it’s a very sad life.  

  I am sure if you are reading this, you are actively aware that I am liberal. (Like, really liberal, actually; I proudly voted for Bernie in the primary, and I’m still saddened every day that he didn’t secure the nomination). You may also know that becoming a liberal has definitely been a journey for me. I was first able to vote in 2008, and in accordance with my upbringing, I dutifully did so for John McCain. Then, in 2012, due to my still moderately conservative views, (but being socially very liberal), I cast my vote for Gary Johnson; and even worked on his campaign.
  So as you can see, quite a bit of change has happened in those 8 years, and I am personally completely convinced that the shift in ideology has been driven by the courage of my conviction and a better understanding of my faith and what it calls me to be. My faith is a very nuanced thing, which I’m happy to explain, should you ever feel inclined to ask. I’ll just say that I try to model how I treat others and how I move through the world after Jesus. Though I know it will always be flawed to some extent, because I am human, that is my primary goal. Despite many doubts and trials, I have never lost sight of him. Throughout my entire life, I have felt a closeness to him that felt completely real and tangible. He is my Jesus. I believe it is from him that I have received the gifts that helped me navigate through life, that enable me to see things from a host of different perspectives, that allow me to see what is possible, and even, in some cases, outcomes that are on the horizon.

  So with that in mind, please hear me when I say: if you feel like you can’t possibly vote for Secretary Clinton, I understand, I’ve been there, and I can feel where you are coming from. I would even be able to grant you understanding if you say voting for Secretary Clinton, is impossible as a Christian, because, again, I have essentially thought the same in the past.

  What I don’t understand is how anyone could ever vote for Donald, especially if you are someone who identifies as a Christian. It seems to be a massive ideological fallacy. I have tried to understand, and I have listened. I hear what you are saying, and I can feel that you really believe it to be true. But I simply cannot, try as I might, wrap my head around him ever being the better choice. What I find wrong with Donald, and what it seems that what others don’t like about him are things he himself has said or admitted to doing. I believe that, “When someone shows you who they are, [you should] believe them the first time.” (Maya Angelou).

  The notion that the Evangelicals did back and are still backing Donald, makes we quite literally feel ill. The image of people singing, for example, “How He Loves” on Sunday and then going and voting for him on Tuesday leaves me ill. This is a man who has always made his public image about being a vulgar bully, and objectifying women. Then he made his political entrance by, starting or, at the very least, perpetrating and profiting from the birther movement. —a fraudulent and divisive attack meant to undermine and diminish the first African-American president. He also called President Obama a Muslim, another all-out lie to bring further doubt to Obama’s credibility. (My question is: Why would that even matter? How would that make someone less worthy of the job? This isn’t a Christian nation and never has been.) He has run his entire campaign, on fear, intimidation, instigating violence, and further objectifying women. I was not in the least surprised by the audio of Donald from the Access Hollywood video, and yet still I was horrified; but not even half as horrified as I was by the fact that his bragging about sexual assault, yet another thing that should have been damning, resulting in no real loss of.

  What Donald said was not locker room talk!! I cannot emphasize this fact enough! Good men don’t talk about women like that, and while I am sure there are things said in men’s (and even women’s) locker rooms that they would not want everyone to know, it is not predator language. Please understand that that’s not “boys being boys.” That type of language is reserved exclusively for predators, and when I say language, I am not talking about the word “pussy.” That word does not bother me in the slightest; when it indicates weakness. It’s words like “grab”, or statements like “you can do whatever you want” or “I don’t even wait”

  What I find really upsetting is people pretending that this talk is harmless. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been sexually harassed, or feared for my personal safety from men, and. I really I wish that I could tell you that it stopped there.

  Unfortunately, several years ago, I was on what seemed like a nice second date. This was a man I had been talking to for several weeks prior to our first meeting; I have always tended to be overly cautious when meeting someone new. We had a nice first date, and our second seemed to be going well also. He seemed nice and was attractive, so I invited him into my home. We both had a drink, and initially we were just hanging out and talking, but as things go, we began to kiss.

  At some point, there was a change, and he was obviously trying to get me to drink more, which I declined, while At the same time I noticed that he had actually consumed quite a bit more than I had. I wanted to be done with the whole situation instantly, but I felt responsible for it at the same time. I knew he was far too drunk to drive, so I made up my mind that I would just try to wait until he passed out, which seemed imminent considering his behavior. Then I would go upstairs, leaving him passed out on the couch until morning, and I would never have to see him again.

  I told him to just sleep it off and that I had already taken his keys. Then I went upstairs, as he was already sprawled out on the couch. But before I knew it, he was there in my room and had pushed me down and climbed on top of me. I said no and tried to push him off, but he was not easily deterred. I panicked, and I didn’t know what to do. He was stronger than me. I honestly think I blacked out at one point because the next thing I knew, I could feel him inside me. I kept saying, “No! Stop!” But he didn’t and flippantly said something like “it’s just fingers,” as if that somehow made it okay. I finally managed to get out from under him, as I guess the alcohol had finally hit him because he seemed to have passed out there on my bed. I went downstairs in complete shock. I didn’t know what to do, and I partially blamed myself. I’d thought I knew a lot, but now that I have further educated myself, I realize how very ignorant I was then then; to men, sexuality, and what assault and rape really look like.

  I sat downstairs the rest of the night, just waiting, desperate to get this man out of my house and wash the night off of me. Then finally morning came and, and he left without saying much. The period after this night was not pretty; I was self- deprecating and was somewhat reckless, until I found someone to talk to. I have dealt with it and have mostly healed from it, and yet I still shudder to think about what could have happened, how much worse it could have been, and yes, too often feeling guilty about what I should have done. I know that it wasn’t okay, or my fault, that I didn’t “lead him on”, but I had heard people talk about victims that way so much that I had un-intentionally internalized it.

  Here is what is truly so unfortunate: most women who have been raped or assaulted feel guilty, or scared, and so they don’t report. Statistics show that 1 in 5 women will be raped and of those, 8 times out of 10, the perpetrator will be perpetrated by someone they know. 1 in 4 girls and 1in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Around 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police, and only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities. I believe this is due largely to the wide spread societal constructs surrounding slut shaming culture, that often lead to victim blaming and shaming, harassment, intimidation, and an especially prominent issue of calling women liars when they do report.  

I understand if you’re skeptical when you hear about a guy you know who “would never do something like that,” when one woman reports on someone and then several other follow suit, or when the accusations come after the attacker has become well known. Here is a little food for thought: There are some people who are very good at hiding their true nature, and it’s irresponsible to think that we know what someone is or isn’t capable of. Sometimes the only way you have the courage to report something is if you don’t feel alone. It can feel overwhelming when your attacker is prominent. Sometimes the potential for further harm is the only thing that helps you find the courage to tell your story, so that no more power will be granted to the attacker.

  After you have become the victim of violence, it often takes a great deal of time to deal with the fallout. Some people even experience extreme PTSD. Then when you think about reporting, you’re constantly bombarded with the reality that you will likely be called a liar or maybe even a whore, that you will probably be blamed for it, and that you could even face threats of further violence. Then you face the idea of a lengthy trial where you have to relive the violation over and over again, while someone tries to discredit you at every step. Couple that with the reality that so often there is little or nothing ultimately done to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable. Also consider this: while I’m sure we all really appreciate the idea of “innocent until proven guilty,” it makes every man, woman, and child who report a sexual assault a liar until proven honest.

  I have always found Donald to be very rape-y, but even more so after that audio. When you say you are voting for him, all I hear is you saying that his assault talk (which is rarely just talk, —“where there is smoke, there is fire”), bullying, and constant degrading of women is acceptable for anyone, even the leader of a nation. Furthermore, what truly breaks my heart is that so many of you who have denounced him, only did so after the release of that audio.

  What about his calling undocumented immigrants “rapists” and “murderers”? What about when he called for Russia to hack into our government, or told his supporters to use their second amendment rights against Secretary Clinton? What about when he even objectified his daughter, saying if she weren’t his daughter he’s be dating her, or that it was acceptable for someone to call her a piece of ass? What about when he called for a ban that would deny all Muslims entrance into our country? What about when he said that John McCain isn’t a hero because he was captured, or that his own “sacrifices” compared to the loss suffered by the Khan family? I’m sorry, but you don’t get much credit for changing your mind at this point. In the end, this is just a small taste of the awful behavior shown by this man, and seeing people I love vote for him, whether gladly or begrudgingly, leaves me with an awful gut-wrenching feeling that I simply cannot shake.  

  I have seen many posts on Facebook that say something along the lines of “Thanks to Trump, I now know who on my friends list are racist, xenophobic, islamophobic, etc.…” I get that most people who read this are good, decent hardworking, honest humans, but at the same time, I was always told as a kid that you are who your friends are; and well, to me, it stands to reason that who you support for president shows a lot about you also. Can’t you see that even if his policies were to line up with my own, but when he acts in a manner that shows himself to be morally bankrupt, —that alone makes him unfit?

  If you are conservative, there is Gary Johnson. If your number one reason to vote is for someone who is anti-abortion (I think Donald saying he’s anti-abortion is a political play only), you could vote for Evan McMullin.

  Literally any of the other people who ran during the Republican primaries could be on that ticket, and we would not be having this conversation. I can respect your policy differences and where they are coming from, but I can’t fathom how you could consider this man a lesser evil in this election season. The Secretary has consistently conducted herself with class, despite being attacked and consistently talked over.

  As for me, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. There are things that I don’t love about her, and she wasn’t my first choice, but do I think that fundamentally she is a good person. I do think that she is, like most politicians, too corporate based, and she believes in some things I do not, but I also think that she is very qualified, and has spent much of her life working to make people’s lives better. She also believes in climate change, and we need to do something about that now. And yes, she is pro-choice, but she has done more to ensure that there are options afforded to families, which has in turn lowered abortion rates, and raised quality of life, which I believe is one of the biggest ways we stop abortions. And try as they might to undermine her, the FBI and Congressional Republicans can’t actually find any wrongdoing. Two investigations and millions of taxpayer dollars have led to nothing regarding Benghazi. As for the emails, the report stated there was carelessness, but again no evidence of wrongdoing, and she owned up to it and said she made a mistake.

  I find it very interesting how people seem to be looking for every possible way to discredit her and call her a liar, when all you have to do is glance at Donald to find legitimate malicious activity, and it’s been proven that he lies regularly, not to mention that he’s scheduled to go to trial for child rape, and has been endorsed by the KKK. I don’t care if you reject the endorsement, if a group founded expressly by racism and hate can endorse you, you are doing something very wrong.

  At the end of the day, regardless of the outcome in this election, I am trying to choose to reject fear and to remain full of hope. I see people every day waking up to the realities that we face in this world today. This country was founded on some wonderful ideas, but her history is also bloodstained. Somehow while we are often on the forefront of technological innovation, we are often the last to accept anything different from what we already know. I don’t think we need to make America great again; what I think we need to do is stop being fearful of things we do not understand, and those who are different from us, and we need to allow ourselves to grow, change, and to move forward. We also need to lose the party hang-ups and learn how to compromise and work together.

  I pray every day that one day, every soul will know peace and the freedom to live wholly as their true, authentic selves. I pray that love and kindness will conquer over hate and fear, and regardless of your religion or lack thereof, gender, gender identity, sexuality, skin color, ability, etc., that one day we would all live together, unified as part of something bigger than ourselves. I think this is the world of my Jesus.

  You may think me naïve, and perhaps this is all just a pipe dream, but what if we stopped believing it were impossible and actually worked together, if we were to lose the division that has so long been rooted among us, if we were to find our common ground while acknowledging our differences and using them for good. Then maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t actually be so impossible. Ideas may start small, but the effects can never truly be measured and can grow and spread like wildfire. Ideas are immortal.

  Let’s stop telling others that things are impossible. I’m quite sure there were times when people said, “Walk on the moon? Impossible!”, and yet people have. Someone possibly even said once, “There is no way you could talk to someone on the other side of town,”, and well, now you can video chat with someone on the other side of the world. It would be ignorant to pretend that some things in life and in progress aren’t very challenging, with many obstacles to overcome, but to tell someone that anything is completely impossible seems unprecedentedly arrogant. Maybe that’s what childlike faith really is, asking tough questions while still believing in the “impossible.”

  I want to leave you with one final thing that has meant more to me over the years than I can ever express. I leave you with peace and love.

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.

A Prayer

To our most beloved heavenly father

In the holy name of Jesus

The savior of all things broken

My heart is breaking

I’m at a complete loss

Unable to stand

Or grasp this evil that devours

The pain is crippling

The hate in our world overwhelms

Eyes wide open

Though I wish I could close them

The loss of security

Loss of dignity

Loss of life

Yet my faith in you is not to be shaken

For I believe you placed me here

“For such a time as this”

And “only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”

So I come to you now

As a shattered vessel

Longing to be pieced back together

And filled to the brim

With your peace, hope and love

I want to sing a new song

A song of freedom

So I plead with you on bended knee

Knowing full well how unworthy I am

But by your grace and mercy

Boldly I approach your throne

I pray to rebuke the powers of darkness

Those who seek to steal, kill, and destroy in the night

Bring about your morning Lord

Shower your grace upon the broken

Heal the wounds that tear us apart

That regardless of race, gender, identity, or denomination

Your light would shine brightly from our hearts

Give us courage to stand and speak

When it is required of us

To call out injustice wherever it resides

Help us to raise up the battered, abused, and downtrodden

So that their voices may be heard

That they may never again know hunger

That they may always have shelter

That they may never be alone

Open all our hearts and minds to your truth

Help us to plant and nourish good fruit

Let seeds fall upon good soil

Seeds of unity, authenticity, grace, hope

And most importantly love, agape love

Though we may start out as a tiny drip

In you we can flow into a mighty river

That we may cut through the rocks that break us apart

You are our strength and shield

The foundation that shall not be moved

A safe place in times of weakness

All honor and praise belong to you

We know that through this night you are by our side

We release all fear and anxiety

Knowing we can rest in your care

Continue to shape and mold us

Take our pride and need to be right

Help us to embrace the unknown

Help us to love even when we are hurt

And to do the things they say can’t be done

For we know though you all things are possible

May we never stop seeking

And having faith as a small child

Thank you for the blessing you have bestowed

I commend all things to your care.

Knowing you know all things so we don’t have to

Amen

Surrender Your Mask

“Come to me, all you who labor and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

   This Scripture has always been one of my favorites and a wonderful reminder to me to take all the worry and stress in my life to the Lord and that he will carry me though whatever struggles life brings me into. However upon further study something suddenly popped out to me that I have never seen before.

 

                          “Take my yoke upon you”

 

   All of the sudden I get this and it stands out as this bright beacon of hope, that makes this passage mean more to me that it ever has before (and that is saying something). God is taking all of my worries and everything that weighs me down, and he gives me his burden to bear. But what is this burden and how can a burden be light?

   I believe that the burden consists very simply of seeing people find salvation through Christ and showing them the abundance of his mercy and grace. I also believe that this burden presents to each and every person in a completely unique and individual way. Christ takes the burden that we used to bear and uses that to show us the people that he needs us to reach.

  All the pain we’ve ever gone though, all the bad decisions that we have made, God desires to take from us and turn into a beautiful testimony of healing. This is a wonderful thing, because there are people who won’t accept truth from unless you have been in that situation. Being able to share a common pain is one of the best ways to lead people to finding their identity in Christ.

   The world doesn’t need a bunch of people wearing masks, masquerading around like we have no hurt. Surrender your burdens to God and let him give you his, for the hurting people in the world, and that will heal you even more.

Not My Strength, But His Though Me

“Don’t worry, God will never give you more than you can handle” ~Christians everywhere~

 

    How often have we all heard this line? It seems to be peddled by Christians as some bright shiny beacon of hope. I used to cling to this as some sort of holy promise to me. If I tell the Lord that I am not strong enough for this the cup will not be mine to bear. Yet it constantly seems to fall short for me. I suffered many years, struggling with the loss of my father, among numerous other struggles, but I knew that God gave me this burden because he knew that I would be able to handle it. But I couldn’t handle it, not any of it. My soul ached and my heart was very heavy.

 

   2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (ESV)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

   Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

   Never once in the Scriptures does it say anything about God not giving you more than you can handle. In fact what it does promise is that as a follower of Jesus Christ that you will face persecution and all sorts of evil will be done against you. It also says that the rains fall on the just and the unjust.

   The really great news is that despite the knowledge that times will come that you can’t handle it, it promises that when you take these things to the Lord that his power his made known in your weakness , and when the burden becomes too heavy to bear he will carry it for you.

   The bad news is that so many people have been told this for so long they believe that they have to come up with the strength to get through it, but they struggle everyday and find no rest because they believe that they are somehow failing.

   God does not make you strong; he puts his strength inside of you and carries the load that you cannot bear. That is a far more glorious promise. I don’t have to be strong I just have to allow him to have power and dominion in my life and he will do the rest.