Women


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!

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In my friend’s church office, I sat. Tears were streaming down my face, as she quietly listened to my story. I told her things about my life I had never admitted out loud, and as I did, she watched my face. When I was finished, she was quiet for a moment, and then she said:

“You are tired of being the strong one.”

Though for so long I felt like the lesser and the weaker, my friend named me in that moment. For friends, for my family, I had worked so hard to be “the strong one” –the one no one had to take care of, the one who took care of everybody else. I was trying to be Superwoman, but I had come to the end of my reserves. No longer could I be strong for everyone else, because I couldn’t even be strong for myself. I was wrung out. Broken. Not just from circumstances I found myself in at that moment, but from already being worn down from years of trying to do it on my own (or for others).

A couple weeks after that conversation, I found myself in the front seat of another friend’s car. We had been running errands together and somewhere in the middle of it all, I found myself in tears once again. I was an overflowing well of exhaustion and pain.

“You don’t always have to be the strong one, you know?”

Its frightening when people see you as you are. Another friend was exposing the same truth of who I had tried so hard to become. I looked my friend in the eye, and answered her with a nod. I thought for a moment, and then said:

“I don’t know how to be any other way.”

A few years ago, on Grey’s Anatomy, Abigail Breslin played a little girl with a similar (yet more severe) issue.  She was a foster kid who kept getting shuffled around from home to home. At some point, her character discovered that when she was physically hurt, she didn’t feel pain.  She had a very serious nerve condition, yet thought she didn’t experience pain because she was a real live superhero with the responsibility to stand up for all the kids being bullied at school. Being shuffled around so much, she began to believe that she wasn’t very important to people, but that she could find her worth in being strong for others.

In a touching scene, one of the doctors, Alex, has to explain to this girl that it isn’t her inability to feel pain that made her a superhero–that made her special–but rather her concern for others who are in trouble.

Have you ever felt like you had to be Superwoman?

Maybe we get the message from society or from our circumstances, but it is not uncommon to hear women talking about the pressure they feel to be a Superwoman, Supermom or Superwife–as if its required for us to be Superhuman. (Maybe we think we have to become more than who we are, in order to be loved?)

For me, believing I had to be the strong one began with my circumstances as a kid. I had a sibling that was in the hospital a lot, and I didn’t want to add more to everything my parents were trying so hard to do to take care of us. But when the crisis passed, I didn’t know how or if it was OK to ask for help. I lived thinking I had to be superwoman, until I found myself in my twenties, in a heap of tears, and thankfully, in the presence of friends.

As I shared Monday, we as women are strong, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be strong all the time. Since that day in my friend’s car, I have been learning to ask for help. I have been learning that there are times to let others be strong for me. And I have been learning that people don’t need a superhero in their life, they need a friend for the journey.

There is a lie that has transcended cultures, one that has existed almost since the beginning of time. It is a lie that feels like a reality when things get hard, or when we are told we can’t do it so we shouldn’t even try. It is a lie that comes with slogans like “women are the weaker sex” or you don’t want to do anything “like a girl.” Its a lie that some believe only men tell us, yet it falls just as powerfully from our own lips to each other, and is most paralyzing when our own brains whisper it to our hearts. The lie:

We are not strong. We who are women, are weak.

A chilling piece of fiction, it casts an effective shadow over us in our most insecure moments. It keeps us silent, when we know we need to speak. It keeps us still when we know action is needed. It keeps us sidelined when we belong in the game. But, these moments are not the majority. More often are the times when we completely forget how true the lie seemed a few minutes ago, when strength is our natural reaction, and this fiction is rendered powerless.

Like the time you sat alone in the cafeteria day after day, with no friends to sit with you, yet you held your head high anyway. The time you told him no, even though you knew it meant he wouldn’t call again. The time, after graduation, when you took a different path than all your friends. When you began to wonder why you decided to live so far away from home because you have never felt this lonely, yet you stuck it out. Or the time you felt like someone took everything out of you–either they stole your heart or your dream–and you still found a way to get out of bed in the morning.

The time you became a mom; being up all night with a baby that wouldn’t be soothed, only to get up the next morning for a long day at work. The time you worked so hard in a job you hated, to help someone else’s dream come true. The time you stood by your friend, when her husband left. The time you held things together when sickness struck your family in a way you never thought it would. The time you found a lump, and all of a sudden, you were the sick one.

The list of examples could go on and on, proving that:

Female, You are strong!

Your Creator made you strong. Whatever is making you feel otherwise, fight it by remembering your track record. Remember the times you have been strong, for yourself or for others, and know you will get through it. May you speak when you need to speak, act where you need to act, and know that you belong in the game.

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!

At twenty-three, after a year of job searching, I finally found a position in the field that I wanted: I became a Jr. High youth pastor. But when I started, in addition to thinking about what most new youth pastors think about (like what their first teaching series is going to be or what small group curriculum they would use), I also was unexpectedly faced with this question:

What was I going to wear?

Not because I am a fashionista or super image conscious, but rather because all the other youth pastors I knew or met, where men. “What does a female youth pastor wear?” I wondered. I had just come from a more business-type job where I wore dress pants and button up shirts–which I definitely wasn’t going to wear working with students. I also felt this weird pull not to dress too feminine, so that I could try to fit in with my male co-workers, and be taken seriously. Soon, I began to realize my concern went a lot deeper than the clothes I wore, and that the real question of my heart was:

What does it look like to be a woman in this job?

I had no other examples. More important than what I wore, part of my job included giving a message to the students on a regular basis. I was really new to the public speaking part, yet I soon realized my teaching style as a woman, was going to be different than my male co-workers. I tried to find women preachers/speakers to learn from. Sadly, many of the examples I found preached in a deeper voice and took on a similar style as their male counterparts. As if there is really only one way to preach; speak like a man. But my heart knew that wasn’t right.

God made me a woman for a reason, and I was in that position to bring something to our students that I wouldn’t bring if I was spending my time trying to lead, speak, and dress like my male colleagues.

They say “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” but what they are talking about is more than just clothes. In essence, they are saying if you want the job, “act the part.”  But because there are few examples of what it looks like to be women in certain professions, we can at times feel pressure to change our style of leadership–to “act the part”–and match the style of the men who have gone before us. Yet when we do this, we are committing a disservice to ourselves and the companies we work for.

During my seven years as a female youth pastor I learned that:

  1. Showing my femininity, didn’t make me a lesser leader; it made me a more approachable one.
  2. When I taught/spoke from my most authentic female self, student’s responded the most.
  3. When I started dressing in a style that reflected who I am as a woman, I felt freer to be myself as I did my job.
  4. Figuring out who I was as a women leader was not just important for myself, but for all those I was leading–both female and male. 

If we have the passion or burden inside of us to lead, we are not only responsible to pursue it for ourselves, we also are called to become the examples for the women who are to come.

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