Thursday, March 20, 2014

When God Doesn't Pick You

While I knew moving to Colorado was the resulting answer to our prayers, I still felt a bit miffed that (from my perspective) God had chosen to give my husband the desires of his heart, rather than giving me the desires of mine. I acknowledged that because our desires were different, God couldn't very well give us both what we wanted (or so I thought at the time), but I still didn't like the outcome.

As I stewed about God "choosing" Devin over me, a poisonous shift happened in my mind.

I allowed my wants (or "desires" if I'm trying to sound spiritual and not spoiled rotten) to morph into a need - and entitlement settled it's fat rump smack dab in the center of my heart. My prayers were no longer a petition of, "God, could you please maybe give me the desires of my heart?" but rather, "God, how could you be so cruel and withhold something I need?"

I wasn't just "a bit miffed" about the move anymore, I was angry with God and jealous of my husband. God had uprooted our life to give Devin want he wanted, and had ignored my needs. (Naturally, I had only converted my wants into needs, while Devin's wants conveniently remained petty wants.)

Even when I started to enjoy my new life in Colorado, this attitude shadowed my walk with God. And it got darker the more I held on to it - becoming a fearful, sinister accusation of, "God chose Devin over you. You don't matter enough to Him." It was a horrible place to be and caused me to keep God at arms length. Even when He was the only One I felt I could share my emotions with, my prayers were full of confusion, distrust, and often bitterness.

So when Devin announced at the end of last year that he wanted to move back to Arizona (and was actually excited about the idea), I was skeptical. Part of my suspicion in the ernest of his declaration was due to the fact that this man whom I knew and loved had told me from our earliest acquaintance that he absolutely never wanted to live in Arizona. But much of my avoidance in even discussing the topic stemmed from the fact that I didn't trust God. Since I had convinced myself that God didn't care about my needs, the prospect of moving back to Arizona didn't line up.

I'm starting to see now that while it appeared God was giving Devin's desires priority over mine, God was actually allowing both of our desires to be met. When the possibility of moving to Colorado was first seriously discussed, we prayed God would align our hearts on where we should live. Our desires were at odds, our reasons for staying-or-going weren't compatible, and we knew God was going to have to change our hearts so we could start guiding our family in some kind of direction. (It's difficult to settle on a job, or buy  a house, or invest in community or ministry, when "but what if we move?" is constantly on the table.)

This impasse would have likely continued to debilitate us had God not clearly told us to go to Colorado (or rather told me specifically, "Go with your husband"). Through our move Devin was finally able to experience the city he always dreamed of living in (and we ending up having a lot of fun discovering said city). We were provided many opportunities for growth personally, professionally, and in our marriage and family life. And at the end of it all, God chose both of our desires.

I never expected that this was the round-about path we'd have to take to align our hearts in this area. And I assumed it would be my heart that would need to be changed in regards to where we'd live. Ironically, by the time Devin made his declaration, I felt like my heart was starting to change and that I could actually like living in Colorado permanently. Perhaps this is why I felt so confused when we moved back home (and I still do at times when my heart misses our friends and our life in Colorado).

I know this isn't how God always works. There are a lot of times when a want-turned-need isn't what is best for us. Or when it feels like God is ignoring a need when really, He can just see a bigger picture. Sometimes, this life is unjust and though God walks beside us, we still get caught the the crossfire of this messed up world. And sometimes, our desires don't get met because they are not aligned with what God desires for us.

I didn't love moving three times in one year. I hated the homesickness. It would have been much easier had God changed Devin's heart before we moved from Arizona to Colorado and back again, or if had He made me really excited to move to Colorado in the first place. But He saw a bigger picture - ways my heart also needed to be changed (that wouldn't have happened had we stayed in Arizona), ways we needed to grow as a married couple and as a family unit, and ways we needed to experience community at a level we never did during our years in Arizona.

I'm learning so much through this process and can see now that God was never choosing Devin over me, or vice-versa. He was moving us both through the challenges, joys, and pains we needed at the time. It just looked different for each of us. And frankly, I listened to lies when I thought God didn't care. When I look back at the intricacies He wove through this last year, I would be blind and stupidly selfish not to gratefully acknowledge that He did in fact care, and had a purpose all along. 

Honestly, there are still residual doubts and struggles I'm working through as a result of my "God doesn't care" mentally, but I can at least see now that there was a purpose in all that happened through this move (some of which is still to be discovered). And this assures me that God does in fact care. I matter enough to Him.

If you are feeling like God hasn't "picked" you - please, please don't let bitterness and anger set in. He's got something in the works for all who love Him and it will be for a better purpose than the one you can see now, because it will be for His purpose. "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). It might be painful and take a really long time, but if you listen to the lie that God doesn't care about you, the journey will be horribly lonely and so much harder.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gender Reveal Party: He or She?

gender reveal invite"I'm so glad you're having another baby - you throw such fun parties!" I won't disclose which family member said this (with a wink and a smile of course), but truth be told - I share the same sentiment. I love themed parties and the creativity that goes into planning them (Pinterest only makes my "love" borderline obsessive... fortunately, I have strict and realistic budgets to stick to when party planning).

We had a great time three years ago with the gender reveal party for our twins, and baby number three wasn't about to miss out on an equally fun party for his-or-her gender reveal! (Plus, I desperately needed a creative outlet after the stress of our move, so I had another good excuse beyond "fair" parenting - which I'm not necessarily a proponent of all the time. Sorry kids. You'll might have fun parties, but otherwise: learn early that life isn't fair.)

Okay, so. The party. YAY! I designed invites, banners, signage, photo props and all kinds of adorable stuff that I could go on and on about, but instead, I'll just show you the final results.

First Off: Games and Activities. Guests dressed in pink or blue to make their predictions on the gender. We also had a tally board for guests to place their votes. As you can see below, the votes were pretty lopsided. When you already have two boys, people tend to assume that surely your body will magically produce a female child in order to maintain a balanced world populous.

gender reveal party

We also had fill-in-the-blank notecards that allowed guests to write some "Wishes for Baby." Some of the answers were really amusing. Example: My ten-year-old sister, Julia, completed the forth question thus: "I hope you aren't afraid of: me."  

gender reveal party

gender reveal partyFor a party game, we played a rather competitive round of "Sugar Baby Jeopardy". The answer to every question was the name of a candy and the top teams got to compete in a Final Jeopardy round to determine who would have the honor of revealing the baby's gender. It was intense. We have some serious game-players in our family, let me tell you. The questions were hilarious (I wish I could take credit for writing them).  Such treasures as, "Q: The Conception. A: What is a 'Skor' bar?" And, "Q: Difficulty lactating. A: What are 'Milk Duds?'"

In addition to wearing our "team" colors, I made pink and blue photo props for team pictures. Mustaches, lips, bows, and bow ties - I don't care if it is a trend, I love the photo prop movement!

gender reveal party


gender reveal party
Next Up: The Food (possibly my favorite part of any party... we'll just blame it on the pregnancy. Yeah, that's it.)

My inspiration for the party food was that old poem about What Little Boys/Girls are made of. Never mind that it's slightly sexist, if not misandristic, it made for a really cute food spread. The themed food was perfectly complimented by all the awesome trays and serving items that I borrowed from my mother-in-law. My favorite piece was a vintage toy truck that held mini dirt cup shooters - perfect for the boy food.
gender reveal party food
gender reveal party food
gender reveal party food
gender reveal party food

And Finally: The Big Reveal. We wanted this reveal to be just as fun and playful as when we announced the twin's gender (by popping balloons filled with colored confetti.) Our solution: SILLY STRING!

gender reveal invitation As mentioned, we had the top two teams from our Jeopardy game compete for the honor of the reveal. We did a race of sorts, where the teams tried to answer four baby trivia questions as fast as they could. Then when the final question was answered by one of the teams, they could race across the lawn and grab a can of silly string. There were only six cans and about twelve adults, so as soon as the first can was snatched, anyone could run and grab the remaining cans (if you've ever played the card game, Spoons, it was a similar idea). It was fast and fun and really heighten the anticipation for the reveal.

And the result was.... BLUE silly string!

gender reveal party ideas
gender reveal party
Even though the twins had been adamant that they were having a baby sister (they can't seem to comprehend that anyone besides their twin could be their "bro"), I think they were pleased with the result.  
gender reveal older siblings
gender reveal party invitation  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

When Change Feels Overwhelming

An abundance of things to share can be more restrictive to my ability to write than an actual lack of things to write about. I had one of the most difficult, heart-molding, trying, wonderful, and fullest years of my life in 2013 and yet, I wrote a grand total of twelve posts last year. Twelve. Most of them devoid of any real substance.

It was not for lack of content, I can tell you that. My year was insane - I moved states, faced horrible home-sickness, was placed out of my comfort zone, and was forced to make friends with strangers (gasp!) - some of whom I'd only met through a friend-of-a-friend on the internet (which for my introverted personality was super uncomfortable at first). Then around August, there was this shift and I found myself loving my new city and my new friends, and actually feeling settled in my new life. And THEN. A career refocus for my husband, a sooner-than-expected pregnancy, and a move back from whence we had come (barely a year after moving away). My life and emotions in 2013 were topsy-turvy and back again. Lots of trials and lessons learned and beauty to write about. Content, content, content.

And yet. Writer's paralysis clung to me because I had such an overwhelming amount of content. Really painful, messy, don't-really-want-to-process-it-in-public kind of content. Usually writing is therapeutic for me and helps me work through my thoughts and emotions. Flannery O'Conner said, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." That's me.

But these things? They were things I felt so deeply, but I didn't understand. Bitter, ugly things, and conflicting, confusing things. Emotions and doubts that were unflattering to me and potentially hurtful to those I loved if expressed publicly. So my ramblings were kept in the safe privacy of my journal and my prayers. Which is probably right where they were meant to be kept. At least for now. At least until the bigger picture of who-knows-what God has been doing with my life these past couple of years becomes clearer.

I've seen healthy growth and little glimpses of what these years of change have brought about in my life - some good, some necessary, and some I'd like not to repeat. I don't understand (or like) a lot of it, but I do see purpose in much of the pain and confusion. And for now, that's just enough to keep me holding on and moving forward into whatever it is God has for us in our new (again) city and our life as a family of (soon-to-be) five.

Some good things that have come out of the difficult:
  • There were many times I had no one to share my heart with except Devin. While we have always been close, we were brought closer as he helped me struggle through the mess of emotions I normally would have poured out to my closest girlfriends. But with their absence in my daily life, I had no choice but to turn to my husband for comfort, sympathy, and advice. It was a hard-at-times, but good thing.
  • There were times however that the things in my heart were too difficult to share with even Devin, and I was instead driven to share my thoughts and emotions with God. Again - a relationship strengthen because of the relational void I was experiencing in other areas of my life. 
  • With few family members (and no friends) in town, we had the time and motivation to invest in relationships within our church and our community early-on. This was a part of our lives we didn't realize was lacking during our years in Arizona, but now that we've experienced it, we see the importance of leaving room for community relationships amidst the time we spend with our extended families. 
  • I learned to step out of my comfort zone, show up to a room full of strangers, and make friends. And even though making an effort to start those friendships was difficult for me, it's those sweet friends who I shed many tears over leaving. 
  • And most of all, I've learned (or am at least forcing myself to acknowledge - which, believe it or not, is a big step) that change is a part of life. And as much as I hate it sometimes, fighting it will only make it more difficult. I ran across a quote shortly before we moved back to Arizona, and it was a turning point for me as I worked towards accepting some of the changes coursing through our lives right now:
"Faced with inevitable change, the choice was mine. I could fight until my spirit was weary, or I could release all resistance and create something new in my changed world." - Dean Jackson

So that's what I'm trying to do. Because my soul has become weary from fighting and it's time to try and make something beautiful in my changed world.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Best Meal You Never Eat

What is your absolute favorite meal? Most of mine come from my mom's kitchen. My mom is a great cook and knows how to make a mean broccoli-and-rice chicken casserole and whoo-boy is her manicotti delicious!

Growing up I ate some darn good food from my mama's kitchen. The thought never crossed my mind that it was a privilege to have a favorite meal, because I never worried about where my next meal would come from. The idea of not having enough food never even occurred to me. 

But for more than 140 million children around the world - the idea of having enough food is completely foreign. Hunger is a daily reality to them. And a favorite meal? This idea would be strange too - if they get to eat at all, they certainly don't get to be picky about what meal is their favorite.

Now when I say "hunger", I'm not talking missing a meal here and there, or having a little rumble in their tummies occasionally. I'm talking severe malnourishment that causes swollen stomachs, hair loss, skin discoloration, and reduces the body's ability to fight disease and infection. And every year, for 6 million children, this kind of hunger will also cause their death. (source: www.un.org)

Numbers like that are not only incomprehensibly tragic, but can feel overwhelming and debilitating. But the good news is that there are people doing something about it - and you can be one of them. Compassion International's One Meal One Day campaign is raising money to intervene in the lives of some of these severely malnourished children and you can be a part of the impact.

The idea is simple: give up your favorite meal between now and November 6, 2013, and donate the money you would have spent on that meal to One Meal, One Day. Easy right? And yet the impact on the children who receive food because of your gift will be exponential. (donate here)

Perhaps you're wondering, I thought Compassion's sponsor program helped these kids - why do they need more money? Good question, and here's the answer: Compassion's sponsorship program makes an unbelievable impact around the world by rescuing children from poverty, but there are many times when a child comes to the Compassion centers so malnourished that the funds from monthly sponsorships are not enough to meet the child's needs. Also, in the case of famine, natural disasters, or in emergency situations, the child many need more intervention than the sponsorship alone can provide. The money raised through One Meal One Day will help meet these extraordinary nutritional needs.

And getting involved is so easy. I'm willing to bet that if you are reading this (with - ahem - a computer//tablet/smartphone and an Internet connection), then you aren't worried about where your next meal is coming from and you probably can afford to skip one without much detriment to your health. But the money you would have spent on that one meal will stretch so much further in a poverty stricken country - providing far more than just one meal for one person.

One Meal One Day would be an amazing project for a family with older kids to tackle together. Talk about an tangible lesson - giving up one meal and experiencing a twinge of hunger so that other kids around the world might have the nutrition they need to live. That's a life-lesson your kids won't soon forget.

Or how about this idea: host a dinner party for your friends but serve beans and rice (a staple in most third-world countries). Then, donate the money you would have spent on steaks, side-dishes, desserts, and drinks. Plus, you'll have an awesome conversation-starter for your friends.

The main point is this: it only takes a little to make a huge difference in the lives of these kids. They need someone to step in and say, "You're important - you matter." All it takes is skipping one meal. Will you join me in the fight against hunger? If so, donating is just as simple - you can visit my fundraising page here. If you do join One Meal One Day, please come back here to my blog and tell me how it went - I'd love to hear about your experience!

Hungry for change? Let's do this thing!







Friday, October 4, 2013

Six Days of Simple Styles for the Stay-at-Home Mom

During the "dark days" of trying to survive as new mom of twins, I learned an important lesson. Some days, putting on a pair of jeans instead of staying in my sweatpants was all I needed to avoid of the psychotic break I felt constantly on the verge of.

While I'm not nearly as sleep-deprived and overwhelmed as I was those first few (twelve) weeks of motherhood, I still find that it helps my mood, productivity, and psyche to put a little effort into the way I dress. Now let's be real for a moment - I've got two-year-old twin boys. So when I say, "a little effort," I literally mean as little as possible.

Some moms are totally fine wearing sweats and a t-shirt most days, which doesn't bother me one tiny bit. But personally, I feel better when I feel I look nice - and for me that means getting out of my pjs (even the days when the only people I see are my kids and husband). At the same time, I don't have much time to get myself ready most days. I've found however, that it is possible to add a little style into the everyday of being a stay-at-home mom and it isn't difficult or all that time consuming (I promise).

I put together six tips and examples to give you a little peek at how I strive for a style that makes me feel better about the way I look. (Notice: six days, not seven. Even when I try and make it a priority, looking nice seven-days-a-week just ain't gonna happen. There are some days that you just need to wear a comfy sweatshirt and yoga pants. And frankly, some days you just don't feel like trying.)

This is in no way meant to be a mom-guilt inducing post. I just know that sometimes (a lot of times) as a mom, I feel that my identity is completely lost in the daily act of motherhood. For me, looking nice is a small way to reclaim some of myself. It's not that way for all moms - and to this I say, ::SHURG:: Whatever works for you, works for me. You're rockin' motherhood in your own way - which makes you awesome. Because it's hard any way you slice it (or dress it).

But, if you feel like me and looking nice is something you want to do more often, but you are overwhelmed by the thought - here's a little something to help encourage you.

Six Simple Style Tips for the Stay-at-Home Mom:

1. Wear what you feel great in. I'm not a fashion expert (ha!). My "style" is simple and cheap. I buy most of my clothes on clearance or at the thrift store. Which means they've already been rejected by someone as being outdated or not cool enough. But so much of style is about what YOU feel attractive in. Find an outfit that is flattering on you and makes you feel beautiful. Confidence goes a LONG way, regardless of what the magazines and runways say is "in".

2. Get up a little earlier. I know, I know, this is like the last thing a mom wants to hear. But I promise, even just an extra 15 minutes to shower or slap on some make-up is going to do more for your day than hitting the snooze button one more time. (Moms of newborns - those fifteen minutes of sleep will probably make a difference to you. So grab a shower when someone comes over to help and if you can't do that some days, just throw on a pair of jeans and call it good.)

3. Don't worry about spills. Sometimes the effort to get dressed feels null and void when you're raising itty bitties. But take heart - boogers and drool and peanut butter stains generally wash out from a cute top just as well as they do from a tattered t-shirt.

4. Have your go-to outfits. There are a few of my outfits that I just plain feel great in. I might wear the same outfit once every week because of how easy it is and how confident I feel in it. The point is, I mentally know what the complete outfit looks like. I know that my blue-and-black striped sweater goes great with my black t-shirt, dark jeans, and faux pearl earrings. Because I've already "put together" this outfit before, it makes for a great outfit choice when I'm in a hurry. I don't even have to think about it. Which - as anyone who has experienced "mommy-brain" knows - is a very good thing most days.

5. Keep it simple. Three-to-four main pieces max, plus one-to-three accessories (as simple as earrings, a scarf, or a bracelet). It's not that you can never have an outfit with more than four main pieces, just remember that looking good doesn't have to be complicated.

6. Learn some hair shortcuts. For me, this means quick up-do's, hats, and hair scarves. And... confession time: I usually only wash my hair every three-or-four days. Washing, drying, and styling my hair are things I don't have time for more than twice a week. I have a "hair cycle" that makes this possible. It goes like this: Day 1: wash, dry, and curl hair, Day 2: second-day, "left-over" curls/waves, Day 3: a hat/scarf or a quick up-do, Day 4 (hey, it happens): same idea as day three. Figure out how you can creatively "cut corners" in the hair department and save yourself some precious time!

And now for some visual examples of these tips in action...

Six Days of Simple Styles for the Stay-at-Home Mom:



tutorial to braid wrapped ponytail: here 
this headband (and lots of other gorgeous pieces) can be found at Noelle Grace Designs


get a magazine bead necklace here 
(proceeds provide meals for children living in the slums of Uganda, Africa) 

Confession #1: the next day, I wore my unwashed, forth-day hair in this exact style again.
Confession #2: Today is going to be my "sweatshirt and yoga pants day" because our gorgeous fall 
weather just plummeted to 49 degrees as a high and I just can't handle it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why I am (and am NOT) the Proverbs 31 Wife

I've been overwhelmed by the "Proverbs 31 Wife" for as long as I've been aware of her. Nearly an entire chapter of Scripture exalts her accomplishments as wife, mother, seamstress, cook, community-outreach coordinator, counselor, home manager, and business entrepreneur. Described as nobel, excellent, and worth more than rubies, she's freakin' wonder woman.

Being a part of the Christian church has given me plenty of opportunities to learn exactly how to be a "P31 Woman" (there are countless Bible studies, websites, programs, clubs, books, blogs, seminars, and t-shirts all dedicated to this goal). And all my exposure to Mrs. Excellent has given me plenty of opportunities to confirm that I just don't measure up. (Never mind that she is Jewish royalty with abundant wealth and a houseful of servants - two things that I am, alas, without.)

I love how Rachel Held Evans puts it in her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood (which I shared my mixed feelings for here). After a month of trying to live out the Proverbs 31 ideal, Evans came to this painful admission (one I know I have faced as well):
"I couldn't shake the feeling that if these were indeed the accomplishments of a competent, capable, virtuous, valiant, and worthy wife, then I must be none of these things." 
Fortunately, Evans doesn't allow this depressing conclusion to be her final one (which is what I have tended towards in the past). Instead, she seeks out insight for this passage from a Jewish woman. As Evans puts it, "Seeing as how Jews have several thousand years on us when it comes to interpreting Scripture, Christians might consider listening to them more often."

And Evans doesn't just interview any Jewish woman. No, no. She interviews an Orthodox Jew named Ahava, who lives in Israel and is the wife of a rabbi. Yeah - authentic source here, people. Ahava gives a perspective on this passage of Scripture that I found to be not only fascinating, but a huge relief. Here's what she had to say when Evans asked her the question, "[Do] Jewish women struggle as much as Christian women to live up to the Proverbs 31 ideal?"
"Here's the thing. Christians seem to think that because the Bible is inspired, all of it should be taken literally. Jews don't do this. Even though we take the Torah literally (all 613 commandments!), the rest is seen differently, as a way of understanding our Creator, rather that direct commands. Take Proverbs 31, for example. I get called an eshet chayil (a valorous woman) all the time. Make your own challah instead of buying? Eshet chayil! Work to earn some extra money for the family? Eshet chayil! Make balloon animals for the kids a ShulEshet chayil! Every week at the Shabbat table, my husband sings the Proverbs 31 poem to me. It's special because I know that no matter what I do or don't do, he praises me for blessing the family with my energy and creativity." - Ahava, from A Year of Biblical Womanhood
I know that no matter what I do or don't do, he praises me for blessing the family with my energy and creativity. I love this. This something I can accomplish. And not just accomplish, but be encouraged to apply in a way that isn't overwhelming and debilitating.

While I loved this new-to-me interpretation of Proverbs 31, I also was hesitant to fully embrace it. I felt Evans, at times, spun information to her advantage in her book, so I ran this insight by my friend Aria, who is Messianic (a believer in Jesus as the Messiah who also follows Jewish traditions). She confirmed that in Jewish culture this passage is not viewed as a checklist. Rather, it is a poetic way to honor the many different attributes that an excellent wife - a woman of valor - may have.

Any other Christian ladies out there releasing a huge sign of relief right about now?

Not only is the poem used by husbands in Jewish culture to praise their wives, it is also used by Jewish women to encourage and praise other women. Which I think is amazing and something that is often lacking in our communities. Women tend to try to one-up each other, presenting a facade of perfection all the while judging other women (either to elevate themselves or to compare themselves in a self-depircating way). But the discovery that Proverbs 31's eshet chayil - woman of valor - is something woman can encourage each other with was beautiful to me.
"As I saw how powerful and affirming this ancient blessing could be, I decided it was time for Christian women to take back Proverbs 31. Somewhere along the way, we surrendered it to the same people who invented airbrushing and Auto-Tune and Rachel Ray. We abandoned the meaning of the poem by focusing on the specifics, and it became just another impossible standard by which to measure our failures. We turned an anthem into an assignment, and poem into a job description." - A Year of Biblical Womanhood (emphasis mine).
Despite the overwhelming "to do list" that shadowed my previous understanding of this passage of Scripture, and my relief that it doesn't have be viewed that way, there are things which, as a wife, mother, and believer, I still hold tightly to as ideals that should be emulated. The bit about "her husband is praised at the city gates" and "she brings [her husband] good and not harm, all the days of her life" and "her children arise and call her blessed" and "a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (verses 23, 12, 28, and 30).

These attributes - I feel - are not just poetic, but incredibly important to a healthy and happy family and faith. I want to bless my husband with good throughout our marriage. I want my husband to be respected by others because of the way I treat him. I find hope in the idea that one day my kids may call me blessed (and that doesn't happen through passive parenting). And I want to grow in my love for and trust in the Lord. These are excellent things and ones I hope to cultivate in my marriage, parenting, and faith.

As far as the task-oriented parts on "the list"? I'll say this: Proverbs 31 is full of awesome examples of "acts of valor" that can be inspiring. It's got really, really good stuff in it. But to find all of these qualities in one women? Well, as King Lemuel's mother told him from the beginning of the poem, "who can find [her]?"

Let us be encouraged by the knowledge that while we may never be the Proverbs 31 Woman, little pieces of her can shine though all of us as we serve our families, our God, and our communities - in many different ways - with excellence and valor.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Will the Ideal, Biblical Woman Please Stand Up?

I decided to read Rachel Held Evans' book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, mainly because of the controversy. My "liberal" friends (read: female pastors who, though I don't always agree with, I admire greatly) had nothing but abounding praise for the book. While some of my deeply respected "conservative" friends (and many main-stream conservative leaders) thought the book was heretical and dangerous. And since I tend to fall somewhere in-between these two groups, and I like a good controversy now-and-then, I figured I'd pick myself up a copy.

Another reason I wanted to read this book is because while I am currently living the Westernize version of "biblical womanhood" (full time stay-at-home mom and wife), I have long struggled with the prominent, conservative viewpoint that the greatest way in which a woman brings glory to God is by being a good wife and mother who submits to her husband completely.

My struggle with this teaching doesn't exist because I think being a good wife and mother isn't a godly calling, or because I think wives shouldn't submit to their husbands - I think both are things that bring great glory to God. But when this type of role is elevated as the best, holiest, ideal position for a woman, it leaves out a huge population of faithful, God-loving women: The widowed or abandoned wife, the single mom, women who can't have children, women living in poverty who have no choice but to work to support their families, and single women like Katie Davis who moved to Uganda and adopted a whole houseful of orphans (thirteen to be more precise). And let's not forget that rather famous saint, Mother Teresa. Heard of her? Yeah. Unmarried and no kids.

Are these women unable to fully please God simply because they aren't married or don't have children? Are they "less-than" the ideal, biblical woman?

That just doesn't seem right. God uses all kinds of people in different ways, and a woman's ability to please God isn't on hold until she gets herself a husband and some kids. If the so-called, "biblical role of women" can't be applied universally to all women of faith, why is it being taught as such a rigid truth in so many Christian churches?

I felt Evans' book was, for the most part, an honest exploration of what the Bible says about women and their roles in the family and in faith. The book contained a few unflattering quotes from John Piper and Glen Beck that would probably have my conservative friends shaking their fists, and there were times that Evans approached these (and other) conservative leaders with a little too much snark. There were things about the book that I appreciated and learned from, questions I've always wrestled with that she addressed, and some things I took offense to. But overall, Evans' journey of trying to apply all of the Bible's instructions for women was a well-researched, respectful search for truth.

Reading about Evans' year-long exploration was at times humorous and at other times painful as I was confronted with some of my own judgmental attitudes towards woman who don't fit the traditional mold for a "biblical woman." And I learned that the Bible is full of stories of women who don't fit the mold either, yet are called righteous and faithful.

"The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman is a myth.
"Among the women praised in Scripture are warriors, widows, slaves, sister-wives, apostles, teachers, concubines, queens, foreigners, prostitutes, prophets, mothers, and martyrs. What makes these women's stories leap from the page is not the fact that they all conform to some kind of universal ideal, but that, regardless of the culture or context in which they found themselves, they lived their lives with valor. They lived their lives with faith. As much as we long for the simplicity of a single definition of "biblical womanhood," there is no one right way to be a woman, not mold into which we must each cram ourselves - not if Deborah, Ruth, Rachel, Tamar, Vashti, Esther, Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, and Tabitha have anything to say about it." - Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood

The kind of marriage relationship I witnessed growing up was one of mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), and yet I never doubted that my dad was the respected head of our household (Ephesians 5:23). My parents worked through decisions, disagreements, and life as a team. My dad had the option to give the final say on decisions, but he always took my mom's perceptive and opinion into account. He supported her dreams and she supported his. While my mom did chose to stay home with us kids (working part-time as a nurse) and my dad worked full-time, there was still a mutual love and respect between them. There was no "greater" or "lesser" partner in the marriage. They shared the decisions of life the same way they shared the burdens and joys - equally. And they now have nearly 37 years of marriage to show for it. (Love you Mom and Dad!)

I believe that the Bible's admonition for a husband to love his wife and a wife to respect her husband is a model that works beautifully when applied with the betterment of both spouses in mind - and one that can help strengthen marriages and personal faith even if only applied from one side (the wife who chooses to respect her husband and the husband who chooses to love his wife, even when he/she doesn't "deserve" it). And I believe that, if it is possible, having a mother at home with her young children is a very beneficial thing. But due to the fact that people, marriages, and families are made up of all kinds of different personalities and talents, who live in different cultures, financial situations, and realities, it is unlikely that there is only one biblical way for a woman and her family to bring glory to God.

This post is not an attack of the traditional family any more than it is a feminist battle cry for women to rebel and do whatever the heck they want. The Bible does have a lot to say on what a godly woman looks like, but let us not pick-and-choose which standards to universally apply and which to conveniently ignore in order to fit our ideals. Rather, let's acknowledge that there are a lot of different examples of faithful women in the Bible and how a woman of God brings Him glory can take many different forms.

Would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives in the comments section!

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If all goes according to plan (but let's be real, when does that ever happen), I'll be writing more about this book soon. I'll be sharing something very enlightening that I learned about the Proverbs 31 woman...