October 2012


Last January, I came home from seeing our families for the holidays to a big change: I came back to a life in which I didn’t have a job. I came back exhausted, grieving that “former life.” And I came back with a question–after seven years in which my focus was often on others, my soul asked:

“What does it look like to take care of and value myself, without becoming self-absorbed?”

As women and as a society, we tend to gravitate toward extremes. Not only that, but we do “extreme” really well, and I think we have a hard time finding the middle ground. According to our perceptions, we are either succeeding or failing (often considering “average” to be failure).  And in our actions, we are either eating too much or starving ourselves, working out too much or not at all, ignoring our appearance or thinking about it way too much, others-focused or inward focused, etc. Very few of us are able to find the healthy balance for eating, work and play, or determining our self worth. Those of us who do, often struggle to keep it.

For me, my greatest struggle to find balance lies in valuing myself. It is a struggle I think many women have. For longer than just this past year, I have wondered what does the middle ground look like between door mat and prima donna?–Only thinking about others, and only thinking about ones self? For most of my life, I have erred on the “others-focused” end of the spectrum, at times wearing myself out to the point of sickness. I have believed anything else would be selfish. I have believed I wasn’t worth taking care of. And when asked, by people who care about me, why this is, I haven’t had an answer.

The middle ground of healthiness that I have experienced, the one that lies between only thinking about others and only thinking about ones self, is a very thin, fine line. “Don’t get too close, or you will become a diva!” Yet I am beginning to realize that the healthy middle ground in my life, has been a very fine line not because it has to be, but because I am so afraid of one extreme, that I have sacrificed myself to the other.

Like I shared on Monday, I have based so much of my life on what other people think of me. I have used others as my starting point for how I focus my life, rather than starting from a healthy, balanced view of myself and who I am called to be in this world. I need to create space for the healthy middle ground so it is a place that I can live out of, a place I can dwell.

While I still am without a job, and I am in this time of waiting, I am beginning to see that part of my current heart-work is creating this healthy middle space. I don’t exactly have a “how-to” set of instructions, but I am blessed to have this time to figure it out with God’s help.

How about you? Do you live out of a healthy middle ground?

As you have probably heard, those of us on the East coast are being slammed with Hurricane Sandy. So, as I have been doing all the usual preparations (storing water, doing laundry while we still have power, etc.), I have been mentally putting together a list of things to do during the storm.  Here are a few ideas in case you find yourself homebound for a day or two (prayerfully safe!):

Read a good book! If you still have power, A Year of Biblical Womanhood comes out today!  Download it on your Kindle or ipad and then make sure it is fully charged in case you lose your electricity! If this isn’t an option, read a book “the old-fashioned way!”

Give yourself a Mani/Pedi: You may not have power, but you can always paint your toes by candle light! Pick out the craziest shade you own, and brighten up the gloominess.

Cards and Board Games: Pull out some of your old fav’s like Uno or Monopoly. Maybe even some rummy or solitaire?

Journal: take some time to reflect on your life right now. What are some things you are thankful for? What are some things you want to change? Either keep these thoughts in a journal, or just think about them as you listen to the sound of the rain and wind outside.

Have a Party: Get your neighbors, family, or roommates together (anyone who doesn’t have to travel to get to you!), for snacks and games.  Have Minute to Win It competitions or a massive Apples to Apples game–whatever fits your group!

Yoga: If you have power use a DVD or a video online.  If not, even some sun salutations and downward dog, may help you relax any stir-craziness you have.

Watch Old Movies: If you have power and are getting sick of watching Sandy’s news coverage, pull out some movies you haven’t watched in a while (It may be great Pride and Prejudice or You’ve Got Mail weather!).

Actually make one of your Pinterest Pins: Again, you need power for this–or, pick out a craft, recipe, or home project before you lose power and write down the instructions, so that you can still do it–sans internet.

Put together a puzzle: its something we don’t often do, yet some great conversations can be had while putting pieces together!

Enjoy the candle light: Even if you don’t lose power (but you have enough candles just in case), make coffee or tea, light some candles, and just enjoy the fact that you don’t have to go anywhere (its a rarity in our world!).

Praying for all those of you who are weathering the storm like we are!

What do you like to do on stormy days?

One of the many things I learned from working with junior high students, is that the biggest question we all have in 7th and 8th grade is “do people like me?” Before then, I always just assumed that in 7th grade, I was the only one who desperately wanted to be liked and accepted. My time with students helped me see that insecurity in one’s early teen years is a universal experience. But–through working with parents, volunteers, and other adults–I also realized that for many of us, our desire for people’s acceptance doesn’t leave once we move past early adolescence.

Mine certainly didn’t.  At times, it only got stronger.

It was kind of my uninvited companion, until in my twenties when I began to realize that my solution to being accepted–people pleasing–was leaving me exhausted. I had had a lot of unhealthy friendships, and at one point, I was able to look back and trace a whole string of them that were more about me giving, than give and take.

So, I started to pull back from some of those friendships that were still in my life, while realizing that it wasn’t those friends that were the problem. I was. I had played an active role in giving and not expecting anything in return. I had valued those friendships more than I valued myself or being healthy.  I had been living as if I needed to earn people’s acceptance or friendship–expecting them to reject me otherwise.

I was using people pleasing as a shield, keeping people from really knowing who I am, in case they would decide they didn’t like me.  

Not only that, but I was using it as a shield from truly knowing myself. I was allowing everything outside of myself–my friendships, people in my life, my job–to define who I was, instead of embracing who I am on the inside. So much of my people pleasing was about protecting myself, yet I was beginning to realize it was actually doing the opposite.

What did I do? I started counseling. I started working to change the ways I related to people and I started learning to put up healthy boundaries. Things began to get better, and I began building healthier friendships. But, like building up the walls of a faulty structure, I was still caving on the inside.

Honestly, I am still caving on the inside. But, over the past year of being out of work, I think I am beginning to realize why: I need to change the question that has kept me company since I was twelve years old. I need to stop asking “do people like me?” and instead ask myself “do I like me?” Not, “what do I need to change to like myself?” But rather, “can I accept and embrace myself, flaws and all?” God loves me, brokenness and all–can I live in light of that truth?

Can You?

 

If you are like me, whenever you see a great movie or read a great book, you want to share it with others!  So, today I want to share 6 fun things about A Year of Biblical Womanhood:

1. Rachel takes on Martha Stewart in both Housekeeping and Cooking!(it will make you think of the movie Julie and Julia!)

Taking on Martha Stewart

2. She adopts a “Baby-Think-it-Over” to better understand Motherhood. 

Rachel with Baby-Think-It-Over

3. To better understand the purity laws of the Old Testament, Rachel camped out in her front yard the week of her period!

4. Dan’s Journal Entries: Rachel’s husband, Dan, kept a journal during her experiment–his experiences and reflections are just as funny and meaningful!

Today marks the second day that Rachel has to call me “Master.” I’ve specifically requested a few little things for her to do: put away some dishes, organize the mail, send our friend, Quentin a bizarre instant message just for fun. Sure enough, she says “Yes, Master,” and does it!…the possibilities are quite tempting…” —A Year of Biblical Womanhood, p. 57

Praising her husband at the “city gate”

5. You will learn inspiring things about the women in the Bible (some women you may have never even heard of!).

6. Her Reflections on Women choosing to work inside or outside the Home:

“…in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere. If God is the God of all pots and pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood, p. 30

 

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is a fun and yet needed read in a time where we are getting so many messages about what it means to be women and men. If you are looking for a good book to read, I definitely recommend it!

 

 

Rachel vs. Biblical Rachel

Some people thought she was crazy.  Some have criticized her for making light of the Bible or not treating it with the respect it deserves. Others deeply disagree with her interpretation of the Bible’s passages on the roles women should have in the world.

As I shared on Monday, I had the privilege of being able to read Rachel Held Evan’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood before its release date next week. Interestingly though, before I even started reading it, there were many people who already had strong opinions about it.  Last week, Twitter, Facebook, and many online sites were buzzing.  A large Christian bookstore chain announced it wouldn’t carry the book, and some in the evangelical world were speaking out against the book as if it would do some harm to the Bible or to the Church.

So, imagine my “surprise” when I opened up A Year of Biblical Womanhood, to find that it was a fun and yet very thoughtful read about what it means to be a woman? No where was there an attack on the Church or the Bible. Rather, it was one woman’s story about her journey to both make sense of what the church has told us the Bible calls us to be as women, and to truly understand what God’s Word actually has to say about women. Where there were differences, Evans handled them with Grace.

Laid out in the order of the months of her experiment, Rachel takes us on her journey to follow literally everything the Bible says about women. There were some things from the Bible that she practiced all year–like dressing modestly, submitting to her husband in all things, and not cutting her hair. And then, she took a month to focus on each of the bigger themes of Biblical womanhood–like taking care of the home, the Proverbs 31 woman, marriage, motherhood, etc.

Also, she was very thorough in her research. To try and understand what it was like for women in the Bible who were one of many wives, she talked with a woman in a polygamous relationship. For the passages concerning the importance of women wearing modest/unadorned dress, she came here to Pennsylvania to spend time with women who are Amish. To better comprehend important Jewish traditions and the Proverbs 31 passage, she talked with a devout Jewish woman from Israel, who became a good friend.

Through humbly sharing her comical experiences like trying to be the model house wife, or calling her husband “master” for a week, Rachel keeps you turning the pages wondering what will happen next!  She is able to laugh at herself when things in her experiment go terribly wrong, while at the same time, vulnerably share when it breaks her heart (like when she visits women struggling to survive in Bolivia).

If you are a woman who has struggled to live up to some standard of what it means to be a woman–either Biblically, or otherwise–you will find this book encouraging, freeing, and inspiring. You will also find that through the telling of stories of the women in the Bible, Rachel brings God’s Story to life, revealing His incredible heart for us as women. Through reading this book, you will feel inspired to find out all that God has in store for you, as a Eshet chayil, a Woman of Valor.

If you are a man who is wondering what all the fuss is about, yet you think this book is just for women–you are wrong! This book is for you too!  As human beings–both male and female–we were created to do life together, so how we answer the questions “what does it mean to be a woman?” and “what does it mean to be a man?” are important to both genders. Much of Rachel’s book is about women’s struggle to answer the question of womanhood for themselves.  The things she shares in her book will give you special insight to what many of the women in your life are trying to figure out.  Also, throughout Rachel’s year-long experiment, her husband, Dan, kept a journal, and many entries are incorporated into the book. His reflections on this project are equally as meaningful as Rachel’s, and I think, relatable.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is a fun and important read that I believe has a role to play in Redefining both Female and Male. I hope you have the chance to pick it up!

I have to admit, on more than one occasion, I have wished that there was a manual for life. Being a reader, I would have loved it if the moment I reached puberty, my mom pulled a magic book of Womanhood out of her pocket, that told me how to navigate life as a female in the world we live in. It would have made so many things easier (dating, break outs and break ups, girl drama, etc.).

Similarly, as a Christian, I remember being told at least once that the Bible is our guidebook or instructional manual for life, only to open it in times of questioning, and not find the answer.  The Bible doesn’t tell us things like where you should go to college, what career you should pursue, or who to date. Though it has some pretty important rules (like the Ten Commandments), the Bible is not written to tell us what to do as much it is to tell us how to live as people who are loved by God. Unfortunately, for us a women, there are many differing interpretations on what the Bible has to say on how we are to live.

Recently, a woman spent a whole year taking literally all the passages in the Bible that have to do with women, trying to answer the question “How does a woman live Biblically”–or how she phrases it “What is Biblical Womanhood?–and she has written a book about it!

The woman is Rachel Held Evans, and the book is called A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”. The book comes out officially, next Tuesday. I  had the privilege of being part of a group chosen to receive an advanced copy.  I have read it, and I look forward to sharing over the next few days, some cool, interesting, and important things about the book with all of you!

In the meantime, listen to what Rachel has to say about the book and some of the things she did as a part of her journey!

As I shared yesterday, I have found that when I am in times of waiting it is good to have a soundtrack. In moments where we are wondering why something isn’t happening yet, and we don’t have the words to express our feelings about it, music can help.

As you will see I have a somewhat eclectic taste in music, but here are a few songs that are keeping me company these days or have, in other times of waiting:

Wait by Mat Kearney: Part rap, part melody, this song captures what it feels like to be at the end of our rope–or at least close.

Broken by Lifehouse: This is a beautiful song about holding on to hope when we feel like we’ve been broken for too long.

Useless Desires by Patty Griffin: This song is all about saying goodd-bye. Sometimes our seasons of waiting are ones in which we are learning to say good-bye to the past, in order to be ready for what’s ahead.

“You Have Me” by The Michael Gungor Band (now known as Gungor): This song brings me back to being nineteen, when I first answered God’s call to ministry. Back then I thought the plan God had for me was going to be straight and sure. Now, I know the road is anything but straight, yet that God’s love for me is SO sure–I can trust Him. This song is a prayer that centers me.

“Fill Me Up” by Kim Walker/Jesus Culture: Waiting can make you feel empty. It can make you feel like you have nothing left to give and no direction to go in. This song is simple yet exactly what I need to say some days.

I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons: I will leave you with this one that is on Mumford & Sons’ newest release.  There comes a point in waiting, where we have to stop striving to fix things, and do just that–wait.

Next Page »