pathSometimes, you have to pull back.  You need to stop talking and listen.  You need to stop producing (and consuming), and just be.  And many times, you need to process things on your own and not post it all over Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  This, I have found to be especially true in the Season I have been in since winter.

My last post I shared I was angry, and then I went AWOL—at least from my blog. I let my heart process. I let myself be angry, and in many areas I allowed myself to let go.  I also realized that I was trying to use this blog as a means to replace a job that I once felt was woven into the very fabric of my being.  So I stepped back, and felt for the first time in my life, what it is to not have a “role,” and not have “giving” or “striving” be my identity. I have felt free from the lie our culture tells us that our profession/paycheck is our identity and our worth, all wrapped up in one. And I am slowly seeing:

I am more than what I do for a living, and so are you. We all are.

In all of this time “off,” I have felt much of my anger dissipate and forgiveness take root. It has taken a lot of prayer, some grieving, and some painstaking letting go.  And, if I am completely honest, I am not “cured.” Some things, when remembered, still bring a boiling anger to the surface—but it is much more short-lived, and much more easily handed over again in prayer.

I return to you today, because I want to share an observation from my journey with anger. It all centers on one of those questions that I just haven’t been able to let go. One of my main frustrations and questions for God during this season has been “why?”  Why did He allow me to be in a place where I was mistreated and not SEEN for who I really am? (Why did I allow myself to be mistreated?) I have asked this over and over again.

Then, today, as I sat in a Starbucks (I joke that it is my new office), with a former student, telling her the crazy story about how I was hired at the job that brought me to Pennsylvania, introduced me to some of the most special students/people I have ever known, and was also the place of some of my greatest pain (and some of my anger), I realized something HUGE.

It was all for GOOD.

There was a lot of good that came out of the past nine years—more good than the bad, more good than pain. When you come to the end of all of your anger and lack of understanding the past, and you see more good than bad, there is a lot of peace. When you look back and realize that even in the places of pain, God was sowing good, you can’t help but stand in awe. It doesn’t undo what has been done, nor repair all of the relationships that have been frayed, but it does make the journey worth it. It does make you stand in that place in your heart where you have been thrashing around and crying “why?” and instead, begin to lift your hands and voice in worship.

When you journey with God through your anger, rather than allowing it to rot into bitterness, it is amazing what He shows you. It is amazing the gifts he gives, even when we are still struggling to unclench our fists. He shows up, even when we don’t want to. He guides us through the anger, even in the moments where we don’t want to deal with it. And if we are patient (with ourselves), He brings us through to places of healing.

As I said, I am not finished with this journey and there are still unresolved questions. But today I feel like one of them was answered. Today, I feel His peace.

scream

Sitting on the couch, sick for almost two weeks, has definitely given me a lot of time to think. Though I have distracted myself with a lot of reading on how to make the perfect whole wheat bread and with the happenings of Downton Abbey, there has been one thing that I haven’t been able to fully distract myself from.

On one of our first nights home, after spending the Holidays with family, I woke up in the middle of the night, ANGRY. I had had a dream that I was back in one of the unhealthy places of my past, and unable to get out. Then, as I looked around our dark bedroom, I sensed God say something to me, to the effect of:

You have moved away from that old way of living, that is no longer your story.

I put my head back onto the pillow, and fell into a very peaceful sleep. His beautiful, life-giving words stuck with me over the next few days. However, rather than continuing to give me peace as they initially did, they began to uncover something else.

Inside, I am ANGRY.

There are parts of my story, my life, that I wish weren’t a part of my story. Things that have been said to me, ways that I have been made to feel small, and people who I respected who treated me poorly. There are systems that have let me down. And ways that my voice has either been silenced or ignored.

As God said, it is no longer my story, I am not in those places anymore. But I think what gets me the most, is that for so long I thought I wasn’t allowed to be angry. I wasn’t allowed to question. I wasn’t allowed to disagree. So, I kept swallowing my thoughts and my pain. I kept allowing myself to be treated unfairly.

We live in a culture where “common knowledge” says that we as females are better at communication than men, because we have been encouraged since birth to express our feelings. Yet I would disagree. Yes, we have been encouraged to express many feelings, but we haven’t been taught how to express Anger.

In fact, as women, we have been taught that being angry, isn’t attractive. I know many women, myself included, who are afraid to be categorized as feminists for the very reason that they don’t want to be seen as angry, bitter, or divisive. Sure, it is socially acceptable for a mother to get all “Momma-Bear” angry on behalf of her child, but ask that same woman to get angry when she has been mistreated, and it won’t be as easy.

Very few of us have been told that can be good, and even right at times, for us to get upset. And I would guess even fewer of us have been taught how to speak on our own behalf. We struggle with confrontation. We fear it, when it involves defending ourselves.

I look back at the things of my past that I wish weren’t mine, and I am angry that I couldn’t be angry. I am upset that so often I chose to maintain harmony in unhealthy relationships, rather than speak the truth–rather than speak on my own behalf. I am angry because I chose to stay in unhealthy situations longer than I should have. And yet:

That is no longer my story.

It is no longer my future. I have moved away from my old way of doing things, and I am learning new (and hopefully healthier) ways of living. But, what do I do with this anger?

It feels like an important piece of the journey towards Change. It is something I have to name, before I can learn how to express it and then move through it. Anger is not a place I want to stay, and yet dealing with it is new to me.

So, over the past few days, metaphorically, I have been picking up my anger in my hands, like one would do with mud. I have been picking it up, and holding it out to the One who is promising me more. I have been saying:

“What do I do with this anger? And what does it look like to forgive?”

As I have been sick the past few weeks and dealing with the uncovering of my anger, it has been difficult to blog. Please forgive my erratic posts, and know that I will return more regularly soon!

Nothing rings in the New Year better than coming down with the flu…and then an awful chest cold.  Ok, there are a lot of better alternatives.

I had every good intention to come back to Redefining Female the day after New Years–that is until the day before we were to leave my in-laws (New Year’s Eve), I got the stomach flu. Thankfully, any nausea I had, subsided before the two hour car ride to the airport and the flight back home. Yet needless to say, I was absolutely wiped out when we got back. Then, a day or two later when I thought I was getting better, I came down with an awful cough which progressed to basically feeling weak and yucky this whole past week.

But, rather than wait another week to resume blogging, I thought I would share what I have been doing with my time on the couch.

What I have been watching:

DowntonAbbeyDownton Abbey

Now, I know I am a little bit behind as season 3 episode 1 just aired here in the US, but better late than never, right? One of my closest friends has been recommending this show to me for a while, and so for Christmas, I asked for seasons one and two on DVD. She was right–it is SO good! Beginning right after the sinking of the Titanic, the show follows the lives of a British, upper class family and their large staff of servants. The relationships, social dynamics, and well-developed characters make this show more than a little addictive. I am already done with season one, and into season two!

What I have been reading:

Unladylike

1. Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church, by Pam Hogeweide. In this book, Hogeweide talks about something that is often “hush-hush” in our churches–that is the attitude that women are somehow less in God’s eyes and incapable of ministering alongside their brothers. I am still in the middle of it, but will share my review here soon. Here is the trailer for the book, check it out:

2. Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads, by Peter Reinhart. This was one of my favorite Christmas presents this year (my husband definitely knows my heart and how much bread baking has become a part of it)! This bread cookbook however, is not for the faint of heart! It is more like taking a class from Reinhart who is a Johnson & Whales Bread Professor. I am learning about wheat, the chemistry of flour and dough, and so much more! Ok, I may be becoming a bread nerd, but I love it!

Whole Grain Breads

What I have been eating:

Southwestern Chicken Soup from Cooking Light

This is currently our favorite chicken soup, and as soon as we came home, I told my husband that I wanted us to make this! It has different flavors than traditional chicken soups, but it isn’t spicy. The simmering of cumin, garlic, and onion in chicken broth, makes the base of the soup so good!  Add in the creaminess of white beans and avocado, and you have comfort and yumminess in a bowl!

Finally, I just want to say a huge thank you to my husband. This past weekend he folded laundry, made dinner, straightened up the house, and for the greater part of Sunday–got me all my meals, and all the liquids I could drink! I am so thankful to be doing this journey–in sickness and in health–with him!

What do you do, when you are sick?

 

tree a glowThree years ago, four minutes past midnight, on Christmas morning, I said yes.  Though it was more like “YES! YES! YES! YES!”

In plaid pajama pants and thermal shirts, hanging out in my parents family room, my now husband asked if we could stay up just a little longer…”until Christmas.” He pulled out a box way too long, and way too big for a ring, and told me I could open it at midnight. But just as twelve o’clock came, my sister came down the stairs looking for wrapping paper. Anticipation growing, we waited for her to go back upstairs. Then, four minutes later, when we heard her door close up stairs, my then boyfriend said “open it.”

Opening the box, I found a beautiful card that he had made with a picture of us on it. “One plus One…” it read. Then, he pulled out a much smaller box–a ring-sized box–got down on one knee, and asked me to be his wife. My heart soared, and all I could blurt out was four “YES’s”–because I wanted to make sure he heard me! He kissed me. I looked at the ring on my finger and then at him. We paused to take in the moment…and then woke up everyone in the house!

Christmas/Christmas Eve is a pretty common time for proposals (my dad hid my mom’s ring on the tree).  But, an important part of Christmas that we often forget is that it too, began with a “yes.”

Nine months before Jesus was born, we are told that an Angel appeared to a young virgin, Mary, and that he greeted her with these words:

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)

As any of us would be, Mary was troubled, and so the Angel went on to say:

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

Despite not having Sex-Ed in school, Mary knew how babies were made. This, just didn’t add up. So she asked the Angel, “How will this be, since I am still a virgin?” The Angel went on to explain the miracle God was about to bring about, and then finished with the words:

“For no word from God will ever fail.” (v. 37)

Up until this point in Scripture, there are no other stories about Mary, and yet what she is about to say speaks volumes:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (v.38)

Mary didn’t live in a time where she had a lot of options, or where she was waiting for that one moment when Prince Charming would ask her to be his wife. Instead, her choices had been made for her. She was pledged to be Joseph’s wife (Luke 1:27), but it was her father who made that arrangement. She lived without power, and without choice.

Still, becoming the mother of Jesus was something she said yes to. God did not impregnate Mary and then tell her that she was going to be Jesus’ mother. No, He sent her a heavenly messenger, telling her that she had been chosen to be the mother of His Son. When it comes to following God, He always gives us the choice. She could have responded differently. She could have said “I will be stoned to death if I get pregnant out of wedlock,” or “Joseph will never want me if I am pregnant.” or “Why me?”

Instead she said “May it be to me as you have said.”

She said yes.

Mary said yes to bringing the Son of God into the world.  She said yes to the seemingly impossible, believing that with God, nothing is impossible. She said yes to possible alienation–even stoning by her community–believing that God would not forsake her–and that rather, through her, He was coming to save His people.

Because Mary said yes to the plan that God had for her, Jesus came into our world and began His still unfinished work of restoration. Christmas is both a celebration of the work He has done, as well as the work that He has yet to do.

Mary said yes.  How may we be called to say yes this Christmas season–not to a ring, but rather to His work in our family, our community, and in our world? 

Redefining Female will be taking a break until after the New Year. Wishing you a Blessed Christmas and New Year!

A few weeks ago, I shared my “Christmas Non-Negotiables,’ in other words things that make Christmas, Christmas for me. One of “my Non-Negotiables” was giving. I explained:

It is needed and important all year round, but as we celebrate a Holiday that our culture has made more and more about getting, we are finding it increasingly important to do the opposite. It is in our giving–not our receiving–that we are reminded of how much we are so blessed already. 

I then went on to say that I would give you an update on ways that my husband and I are giving this year. Today, I want to share about two of the organizations that we have decided to give to and why. We knew we wanted to give both locally and globally, as both are important to us; so, we chose a local and a global organization to give to.

Locally, we chose to support our Food Bank. With so many people experiencing tough times, food banks are helping feed families. But because there are so many in need, the needs of the food bank are growing. As many of us know, they are always looking for donations of canned goods and non-perishables, but they also can use monetary donations, as well as people to volunteer their time to sort food.

canned food

The global organization we decided to support is World Vision.  We both have had a lot of exposure to the organization through church events, and through sponsoring a child. The thing we like about World Vision is that they have so many ministries within their organization that help meet a variety of needs in communities all over the world. There are opportunities to change: the life of a child through sponsorship, a whole family by giving one person a small business loan (sometimes for as little as one hundred dollars you could change the future of an entire family), the life of a girl rescued from sex trafficking, and so much more. They also have this great Gift Guide that explains the many ways that you can give gifts in honor of a family member or friend.  Struggling to find what to give the person in your life who has everything?  Donate a goat and two chickens in their name, and feed a whole family!

World_Vision-logo

Because I haven’t been working this past year, I have to admit that at times it feels like we don’t have much to spare.  But what I have found through our giving is that we have more than we realize, and that a little can go a long way.

If you want to give this Season, but don’t know if you will get to it before Christmas day,  know that those same needs will be there after the New Year, and that its never a bad time to give.

Are there any organizations you give to, that you would like to share?

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten, and children listen, To hear sleigh bells in the snow…”

–Bing Crosby, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of my friends turned to me the other day and said exactly what I have been feeling the past week. It was something to the effect of:

“I was so excited it was Christmas time, but then I started thinking about all that could go wrong–what if this person isn’t happy, what if this doesn’t work out, etc. And I began to wonder if I was trying to project these impossible expectations on my family for the perfect Christmas… Am I being too cynical or just realistic?”

I looked at her like “you took the words right out of my mouth,” and then I told her she was completely normal (unless it’s that we both are strange?). I went on to explain that after Thanksgiving, I too was counting down the days until we could go home for the Holidays. But then, I began to think of all the things we had to do, all the family dynamics that could come up, preparing to travel to two different states, etc.–and suddenly my Christmas excitement turned into panic.

Talking about all the possibly bad “what ifs” of Christmas, got me wondering about what God intended Christmas to be. I began to imagine the night Jesus was born.

Every year, Churches and families put up beautiful Nativity sets, depicting the birth of Jesus, in a small stable in Bethlehem. They are wonderful, and I love putting up the one my parents gave us when we got married. But, they don’t tell the full story: An attractively carved or sculpted Mary kneels beside Jesus, looking at Him as if He magically appeared–not like she just went through painful labor to give birth to Him. And a regal Joseph solemnly stands over them–as if helping Mary through labor was a breeze. Then, just as carefully crafted, the  Wise Men show up in the Nativity scene bearing their gifts–when they actually found Him sometime later. The real picture and story was more rough around the edges.

nativity light

The night of Jesus’ birth, must have been frightening. Joseph had to bring a very pregnant Mary to the town of Bethlehem for a census that was being taken. Luke 2:5 says that Mary was pledged to marry Joseph–so they weren’t actually married yet. Here was this young couple with barely a relationship or friendship in place, traveling a long distance together. Then at some point on the way, Mary began to go into labor. She was probably in her early teens, and scared. They were in a place where they knew no one. Joseph probably felt desperate to find a safe place for her to give birth, but the town inn was full. The only place left was a very humbly stable–a place where animals were kept.

Joseph probably cleaned out a stall for Mary to give birth in, and then he helped her through child birth–alone. Mary didn’t have her mother by her side. There were no doctors, no nurses, no hospital equipment, and scripture doesn’t even mention a midwife! Here were two everyday, imperfect people in a much less than perfect situation, and into the chaos arrived a baby. But not just any baby–a capital “P,” Perfect baby–the Son of God.

Perfection entered into Imperfection.

Wholeness entered into Brokenness.

The Prince of Peace entered into the chaos of a small stable. 

Emmanuel (Literally, “God With-Us”), joined us in our broken world.

What must have began as a scary, painful night for Mary and Joseph, ended with the very presence of God, in baby form, wrapped tightly in His manger bed.

As I thought all of this through, and about all my concerns over “what could happen” this Christmas, I was reminded that Jesus entered into the imperfection of that night in Bethlehem so that He could enter into the brokenness of our lives when we ask Him.  He came into the world then, so that He can be present to us now.

If you are like me and you are worried about having a broken Christmas, remember that it is no more imperfect than the first Christmas. And join me in asking Jesus to enter into our chaos, enter into our family dynamics, enter into our stress, and bring His Peace into all of our celebrations.

Linking up today with Emily Wieranga

With Christmas only 8 days away, I thought it would be fun to start our week off talking about one of the best parts of the Christmas Season–the movies! And though my husband is kind of right (he says they’re all predictable), what can be better than a Christmas movie and a Chick flick all rolled into one?

So, grab some Christmas cookies, and see if you agree with my “Top Christmas Chick Flicks:”

little_women_frontcover

 

Little Women (1994, w/ Winona Ryder): Maybe its because I am the second oldest of four girls, but this was one of my favorites growing up.  Based on the book Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, this film reveals the lives of four sisters becoming women, in New England during the Civil War. And the main character, Jo March is a woman you can cheer for and admire, as she seeks to become a writer, leaves home, and falls in love.

 

 

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

 

While You Were Sleeping(1995): Sandra Bullock–in many of her movies–plays a woman you either want to be, or be friends with. In this one she plays a lonely women who works as a clerk for Chicago’s subway system. When she is stuck working on Christmas day, she witnesses “the man of her dreams” get mugged and then pushed onto the train tracks. She saves him from an on-coming train, only to find her life is turned upside down! Really fun–and who can’t forget “Joe Jr.” (“Hey Luucce…”)

 

Serendipity (2001): Who doesn’t love a chick flick with John Cusack in it? A great story of two people, meeting by chance at Christmas time in New York City, and then spending years trying to find each other again.

john_cusack_kate_beckinsale_serendipity_001

the_family_stone_2005_1

 

The Family Stone (2005): Its funny because the “romance” part of this movie really isn’t my favorite part. The Family Stone is about a guy who brings his girlfriend home to his very close, quirky and critical family, for Christmas.  But, as I said, my favorite part isn’t the romance, but rather the family. I love the family dynamics, and how the beginning of the movie shows everyone coming home for Christmas, making me want to be home. It is the perfect picture of how very good and yet dysfunctional it can be to be with your family!

 

The Holiday (2006): If only we could all switch homes with someone in England or California at a moments notice! This film is about two women who are recently broken hearted, who switch homes for Christmas in order to escape the reminders of their pain. Each woman meet people on their journey who help them learn more about themselves, and redirect their lives in a sense. My favorite character is Iris (played by Kate Winslet)–she is funny, vulnerable, and relatable.

jack_black_in_the_holiday

 

What are you favorite Christmas Chick Flicks?

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