On Women’s Groups and Copouts

Truth be told, I don’t spend a lot of time with just girls much anymore.  I guess since I got hitched, and I like hanging out with my hubby, I’ve become one of those girls that does “couple-y” things or at least co-ed group things.  I have girl nights, and I have girlfriends, but I don’t do a ton of regular ladies groups. 

I didn’t realize that I had moved from the all-girl pack until a few months ago, when I realized that I had signed up for 2 ladies small groups.  Not one, but two.  One is a women leader mentoring group, and the other, a college small group.  Over the last few months, I have been surrounded by lots of women on a regular basis.

It’s fun.  We laugh and eat chocolate and cry and it’s really cathartic.  There really is a different vibe with women and sans men.  There’s a level of freedom and a depth of understanding that comes with being surrounded by people who share something inherent with you.

In our vulnerability, I hear trends in conversations that seem to come out every time I’m with groups of women.  We have some of the same conversations that I had with my middle school youth leaders, my closest high school girlfriends, and my college hall mates.  I have the same conversations with my college group and my women leaders’ group.  We talk about our insecurities, we talk about our anxieties, we talk about how we compare ourselves to one another, and we talk about our need for approval. 

Nearly every week, someone says something to the effect of “All women struggle with this” or “That’s just the way women are wired” as it applies to insecurity, anxiety, comparison, and need for approval. 

Can I be honest?  I think that’s a big fat copout.  As a lifelong approval-seeker, as someone who struggles with anxiety, and as someone who is adept at the comparison game, I have to say, I think it’s a copout to resign to a struggle just because I may be prone to it because of my genetic makeup.

I haven’t fully overcome my insecurity, anxiety, comparison, and approval-seeking, but I have come a long way, baby, and I still believe in my heart of hearts that my struggles can be overcome.  I don’t believe that I have to resign to or accept any struggles just because I may be prone to those struggles.  And you don’t have to, either.

Insecurity does not have to be part of who we are.  Anxiety does not need to rule us.  We can choose to not compare.  We can be content with who God made us to be.

If you are a woman, and you hang out with other women, don’t use your gender as a copout for struggles.  If you are a woman who has overcome insecurity, anxiety, comparison, and approval-seeking; share your story.  We would love to know your secret, but don’t keep it a secret.  If you hear women accepting their struggles, remind them that is not ok.  Challenge them to pursue growth in those areas.

Let’s challenge one another, as those who really understand one another, to rise up.  Let’s be women that challenge one another to be secure, calm, fearless, and confident.  What would our workplaces, families, churches, and communities look like if we conquered our struggles?

Women, what do you think: Do you resign to struggles because of your gender?

Do groups of women foster struggles, or challenge you to conquer them?  How have you overcome your struggles?

Do you share your growth with other women?

Talk to me!

Flashback to Middle and High School

I remember really vividly what it was like to be a middle schooler. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with middle schoolers since I got out of college, or maybe it’s because the memories are just that emotional that they are forever etched in my brain. I remember wondering almost every minute of the day what everyone was thinking about me. I remember wanting desperately to blend in while wanting desperately to be noticed. I hated standing at least a head above every other student and most teachers. I hated that I had to wear dorky shoes because my feet were fully grown in 5th grade. I hated my chubby knees. I hated my huge nose.

I remember really vividly what it was like to be a high schooler. Maybe it’s because I work at a high school and daily take in the sights, smells, and sounds, or maybe it’s because they were really formative years that stick in the memory bank. I remember wondering almost every minute of the day what someone was thinking about me. I remember wanting desperately to be a Christ-follower while wanting to be accepted by the popular crowd. I remember wanting to make a difference in my world, but wanting to blend into the world. I hated my thighs. I hated my bra size. I hated that my huge nose hadn’t shrunken in spite of all my dieting.

Middle and High school are tough years for everyone. I know it’s different tough for guys and gals, but I can only speak for the gals. There is so much pressure to be the right size, dress the right way, be well-rounded, be smart… and the list goes on. It’s nearly impossible for girls to not be overwhelmed with fears, doubts, insecurities, comparisons, and often lies.

Girls (and guys, I don’t mean to leave you out) need a voice of reason and truth to remind them that they are loved, that they are amazing, that they have a purpose in this big world that’s bigger than their small worlds.

Sometimes that voice comes from a parent, a youth group leader, a teacher, a mentor, a friend. On rare occasions, it comes from an awesome book.

Today, my friend Annie releases an AMAZING book called Perfectly Unique that’s geared for teenage gals. This book is a reminder about how much God loves His creation. It is funny, wise, endearing, and full of truths that young women need to know. I waffled between being in stiches and being in tears while reading this gem.

I wish I’d had this book when I was younger. I think I would have felt more ok in my skin. I wish I’d had this book when I was in youth ministry, I think I would have had better language with which to talk to my gals.

If you are a mother to girls, a youth pastor, a teacher, a coach, a youth leader, a mentor, you should really get your hands on this book.

Because I feel so strongly that you should get your hands on this book, I’m doing a book giveaway (Annie will sign and send you her book). If you comment on this blog (this could be by sharing your most embarrassing middle school moment, or simply acknowledging that you want to be entered in the drawing), you get entered once into the drawing. If you share this post on facebook, you get entered once into the drawing. If you retweet this, you get entered once into the drawing. If you do all three, yes, you get entered 3 times, increasing the likelihood of winning. You are so smart!

So here’s the deal, if you have a middle schooler or high schooler in your life, give them a hug. Listen to their chatter. Earn the right to speak truth and goodness into their lives. They love attention, make sure you give it to them! And please, do get yourself a copy of this book, who knows what life change this could spark in the amazing young women in your life!

Ps, the drawing was completed 9/5. Grand prize winner was Ms. Karen McGee!

Dear Church (You always made it seem so simple),

(From a guest poster who wishes to remain anonymous)

Dear Church,

You always made it seem so simple, so easy, so perfect. I vividly remember those days
as a teen in youth group when I made my “True Love Waits” promise and committed my
whole self to my future husband—my prince charming—this man whom you painted
to be as perfectly suited and unconditionally loving as Christ. “It’s worth the wait,” you
preached year after year, as if marriage were the light at the end of an arduous journey of
self-control, and this future husband the fulfillment of my deepest physical and emotional
longings.

And then I met him within your walls—that guy who was so on fire for Christ,
who made the same purity vow as I, and held a similar idealistic vision of marriage.
We were so young, so innocent, so naïve. And you knew that. You knew we had
years of growing up to do, years of life to live, and that our understanding of love and
commitment were erroneous. But you kept that knowledge to yourself,
never hinted at any sort of hardship to come, anything less than beautiful. You cared only
that we made it to that altar—still immature youth toting unformed identities—with some
semblance of purity upheld and some line uncrossed. That we could face one another in
front of friends, family, and our God and say with unspeakable joy that we had saved our
deepest expression of love for each other and each other alone.

And then you let us go—turned us out into a world of responsibility, stress, financial
burden, and daily living. You knew what sort of temptations we’d face, through what
monotony we’d trudge, and the disagreements that would brew into all-out brawls.
You could have predicted the niggling doubts and gnawing fear that would eat away at
our minds, the questions we’d ask as we lay awake angry, confused, and distressed at
night: “Is this my forever?”

Church, you never shared—as young, impressionable youth with our best years stretched
before us—the most important truths of them all: Life is hard. Marriage is messy. Love is
so very difficult.  Relationships take real work.

Maybe I would have been better prepared. Maybe I would have paused and thought a little longer and harder about the commitment I was about to make.  Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my struggle if I had known that others struggle, too.   If the
message weren’t all about sex and purity and kissing dating good-bye, maybe I would
have shifted my focus and been able to wrap my head around the commitment rather than the wait.

Even as a young wife, with my fixed smile and resolve to maintain a rosy façade, you never asked the tough questions. You never encouraged me to share the hard truth. I felt ashamed of my daily love reality, as though I had somehow miscalculated the formula necessary for marital bliss. You assumed all was well, and why shouldn’t it be? We had lived an upstanding youth, made all the right choices, were equally yoked, and even attended your couples’ small group.

Why didn’t you warn me or give me some purposeful truth to cling to in the darkest
hours? Why didn’t you ask me to fling wide the doors of my heart’s deepest turmoil or
hold me as I cried through my pain and the smashed dreams of my future? Why did you
allow me to harbor my shame as though I were the only one who couldn’t unlock the key
to matrimonial joy?  Why didn’t you tell us how to work through the dark hours?

Because now I am painfully aware that real life is hard. Love is a choice. People change
and relationships shift.  I only wish you’d told me this, and that you’d intervened with questions and support sooner.

Church, what if you talked to your youth groups about wholistic relationships, not just sex?  What if you were vulnerable about your own struggles with dating and engaged couples?  What if you let down your guards and admitted that marriage is really hard work and then you actually explained what that meant in non-vague terms?  What if you took the institution of marriage off of its pedestal?  What if you asked your married friends hard questions, and then answered their return questions honestly?

And what if you loved me where I am?  What if you listened and prayed for me, and ceased to give canned know-it-all answers? What if you sat with me in my mess and helped me decipher what’s good and true again?

Sincerely,

An anonymous pew mate

Dear Church (What if we were known by what we are for, not what we are against?)

(From a guest poster who wishes to remain anonymous)

Dear Church,

I love Song of Solomon, I’m so deeply grateful God breathed such a beautiful and clear book of a holy, intimate, loving relationship between a man and woman so deeply in love… That beautiful picture of young love was far from my young reality.  See, I am one of the 1 in 4 women and (I know many of the 1 in 6 men) whose first sexual experience wasn’t beautifully crafted; it wasn’t a Genesis 2:24-25 one flesh, no shame moment. My first sexual experience wasn’t my choice.

I struggled for years through the myriad of emotional and physical manifestations that resulted from the decisions made that violated me, as well as the later decisions I made that allowed me to be violated.  Some of my early sexual experiences were not my choice, some of my later sexual experiences were my choice.  But none of those early sexual encounters were ones that God had dreamed up for His creation.  And when I came into a relationship with God, I needed a Church to walk with me through my brokenness, questions, anger, regret, and healing.

More often than I’d like to admit, church folks could not look past the sin committed to me and the sin committed by me to see the hurt, lost person searching for restoration and in need of a Savior.  It breaks my heart that those outside of our faith community understand the Church as it is being defined by people who sit in pews who often ignore the call to be “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17).  My daughter’s Bible so eloquently describes God as having a “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love”.  Funny that my toddler is being constantly reminded of a message that is lost in grown up church.   Let us not lose sight of that love and our call to be rooted in it bearing its fruit.

Church, I beg of you to please consider the brokenness of our world when you address sexuality from the pulpit.  Don’t assume things about the past and present of those in your pews, youth groups, and small groups.  If we talk about premarital sex, we must discuss it in light of the harsh realities of our fallen world; sexual molestation, rape and the perversion that saturates every waking moment of our lives from television to the internet, from movies to magazines.

What if, instead of taking such strong stands on sexual issues, we challenged one another as Christ followers to be known by what we stand for—not what we are against?  What if in place of the ‘just say no’ messages, we relayed the importance of building God honoring, healthy, loving relationships?  What if we talked about how to actually have healthy relationships?  What if we preached that no one is so far gone that they can’t experience healthy love?

When we focus on what we stand for, we are able to view everyone in the light of the cross, where we so graciously stand. 

Oh sweet Church, we cannot change the reality that we live in a perverse, fallen world.  We can, however, raise up men and women who are able to engage with people in the midst of their brokenness.

What if we raised up fellow Christ-followers who were sensitive to those who have been abused?  What if we raised up men and women who could walk with those who are having sex outside of marriage and seek to truly understand the root causes of their choices?  What if we came alongside of people and expressed grace and love?

Church, let’s take the challenge to truly follow Christ, to sit at the well with someone and offer water to their parched soul.  Let’s challenge them to make a lasting change rooted in a new life, while remaining acutely aware of the grace and forgiveness we have received so that we can express it to those Christ has brought into our lives.

Sincerely,

An anonymous pew-mate

Dear Church (There’s something I need to talk to you about),

(From a guest poster who wishes to remain anonymous)

Dear Church,

There’s something I need to talk to you about.  This isn’t easy and I’m nervous. In the past these attempts have left me a little bruised, but lately I’ve been feeling this is too important of a conversation to just avoid because you are sometimes downright crazy when it’s brought up.  You see, on Right to Life Sunday, the words you choose are usually laced with such venomous anger that I end up leaving with the skin around my heart singed, burned, and hanging in shreds.   On Mother’s Day, when you take the time to acknowledge the women who have experienced miscarriages and tell them Jesus is near the brokenhearted, you usually forget to say anything about the dull ache in the pit of my own stomach.  I pull out of the parking lot fighting back hot, salty tears until I get home.   It’s difficult sometimes based on the way you speak to not feel like because I have had an abortion, I am somehow considered an enemy of yours, some anonymous monster of a woman that must be stopped at all costs.

We get it.  We killed our kids. For whatever reason at the time we thought this was our only option.  We don’t need to be reminded how awful it was.  We were there.  We got undressed.  We heard the machine.  We felt the pain as more than just our dignity was ripped from us.  We sat woozily in a recovery room surrounded with many others who were making the biggest mistake of their lives, aware that eating the pretzels wouldn’t actually make us feel better. 

We walked out and saw your signs that said, “Mommy, don’t kill me”.  Some of us saw the pictures you shoved in our faces of what our children looked like dismembered, dead, and gone.  We went home that night, yes, with some sense of relief, but mostly filled with contempt for ourselves.  As the days went on, for all of us, it became harder and harder to fight off the despair, the shame, the guilt.  And then, the nightmares began.  Depression became a familiar fog, a blanket shrouding over all our lives.  Denial was the easiest way to avoid the travesty of what one simple choice had taken from us.  Suicidal thoughts lurked around every corner, threatening to overcome us.  Self-injury didn’t seem like it was so terrible of an idea; at least we felt something.

Oh Church, how I wish you knew how many women come through your doors carrying the scars of motherhood denied.  How I wish you were aware that statistically speaking, just as many evangelical Christians seek abortions as a way to hide their sin as do those who are not affiliated with any church.  It’s not simply an issue of the poor, the uneducated, the left wing liberals, or the feminists.  It’s an issue for all of us because chances are you sit next to one of us every Sunday.

 While I don’t know if there’s an exact stance or formulaic response for the church to take in saving innocent childrens’ lives, I do have some inkling that it starts with grace for the women who are normally spoken of as murderers.  How powerful would it be if the church became a place of healing for those who have already made the choice?  What if instead of talking about how awful it is for so many babies to have been killed by their mothers, we shifted our concern to caring for these women?  What would happen if we made sure those women knew Jesus’ overwhelming love, acceptance and forgiveness could cover yes, even this bloody, life altering sin?

Oh Church, I know it’s much easier to feel like we are doing our part by just always voting for Republicans and never supporting March of Dimes in the grocery store checkout line.

Believe me, I know that being committed to offering Jesus to women who’ve chosen abortion will involve sleepless nights, spaces where words aren’t enough, and more anguish than we are humanly wired to deal with. 

But what if it was worth it?

What if reaching out to these broken women was the answer?

What would happen if, instead of speaking words that leave us feeling marginalized, abused and pushed aside, you empowered us to share our stories? 

What would happen if, instead of failing to address us, you acknowledged that ours is a unique pain that doesn’t have to be dealt with in secret? 

What if you focused on making sure we knew the freedom that forgiveness brings and then taught us how to be a part in offering that freedom to others? 

I’d like to think if we did this, Church, we could save lives.  Not because we passed out flyers, or because we gave our donations to the pro-life clinics, but because we acted like Jesus, who comes to stand in the broken places, and promises us that nothing we have done or are doing or will do can separate us from His love.

Sincerely,

An anonymous pew mate

Dear Church (If you only knew),

Dear Church,

If you only knew the people who were sitting next to you in your pews each Sunday, things could be different.  I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe you just don’t know.  Maybe you have no idea when you speak with such confidence about a sin or state your opinion so boldly on an issue, that someone who serves alongside you in the nursery or puts their money in the offering plate right after you, is struggling with that very sin or issue.

Church, if we are who we say we are, we have to start speaking differently.  We don’t necessarily have to change our message, but we do need to change our tone and language.  If we are who we say we are, we need to take up the cause of people, not the cause of causes.  If we thought for just a moment about who enters our buildings each week; maybe, just maybe, we would speak differently.  If we reflected enough on our own brokenness, and how we wanted to be talked to, maybe we would speak more gently, maybe we would ask more questions, maybe we would listen rather than talk.

This letter is the first of several letters written by guest posters (who wished to remain anonymous) that will be posted this week.  These letters are raw and real.  They are a reminder that issues the Church often treats as black and white are really rather gray.  They are a reminder that the Church is full of imperfect, broken, hurt, and violated people who have struggled, and do struggle, and will struggle.  These letters are a reminder that we as the Church are to be about the story of redemption, not condemnation.  These letters are a reminder that the things we like to yell in megaphones, sharpie on picket signs, write arrogant facebook statuses about, and (mis) quote scripture at are things that people struggle with daily.

These letters are a reminder that Jesus didn’t take up issues, He loved people with issues

May we all read these letters with a desire to learn how to speak to our fellow journeyers in a way that brings hope, love, and restoration rather than guilt, shame, anger, and isolation.

______________________________________________________________________

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b]but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love Never Fails  – 1 Corinthians 13

A Week of Mutuality

Many of you know of Rachel Held Evans.  If not, I’ve blogged about her before and you should definitely check out her informational and inspiring blog.  This week, she’s created One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality, a week of discussion about gender roles and the church.  It’s worth a look.  She’s been tweeting out tons of great articles and blogs written by countless Christ-followers who are grappling with this issue. 

In honor and support of this week, I’m reposting my “Letter to my Fellow Female Christ-Follwers” blog.  Feel free to link back to see the lively comments this post got in February and leave some new comments as well. 

________________________________________________________________

Dear Female Christ-Follower,

In case we don’t know each other yet, let me first say that I am a follower of Christ.  I believe wholeheartedly in Christ’s work of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation that was completed on the cross.  I love the Church (the whole Body of Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation) and believe God chooses to use the Church to carry on His work of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

My love for the Church has not blinded me to Her flaws, but as Christ loves His broken Church, I must love His broken Church.  And since love often takes work, I want to engage in an issue of brokenness that is preventing a movement of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation through the Church:

I have been very saddened by some discussions that have been taking place amongst the Body of Christ lately, which is why I am writing this letter- from a female Christ-follower to a female-Christ follower.  I wanted to apologize for some false messages that many Christ-following men have delivered, and for the lies that many Christ following women have believed and have passed on to you as truth.

To you, female follower of Christ, let me first say that you are a valuable member of the body of Christ.  You are a co-laborer with Christ.  You are not a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God.  You are not a “helpmate” in the work of Christ.  You are not limited in your calling.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  My sisters, you are one with your brothers in Christ.  You are not second in line, you are not the shadows, you are not meant to be quiet and wait for your cue.  Your cue comes from Christ, not from your male (or female) counterparts.  As a Christ-follower, your calling is to love God and love others.  You do that by being “you” in the way that God uniquely created you.  He gave you a unique personality and giftings, so use them to live out your calling.  Your giftings are not limited because of your gender.

If you have an extra few minutes, read all of 1 Corinthians 12.  For blog length purposes, I’ve hilighed a few verses:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink… There are many parts, but one body.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  And in the Church, God has appointed first of all, apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

My fellow female Christ-followers, each of you is a part of the body of Christ.  And each of you is a different part.  You aren’t limited to being certain parts because you are a female.  Forgive me if this seems crass, but I’m going to say it: Women, we aren’t the breasts of the Body of Christ – You know, ‘nice on the eyes, but really only practical and useful for babies and small children.’

Women, some of you are apostles, some of you are teachers.  Some of you are prophetesses, and some leaders.  Some of you have the gifts of helping, or mercies, or giving.  Some of you have the gift of tongues.  Yes, I said it, some of you are leaders, and you should be leading – and not just in the nursery ministry, or children’s ministry, or women’s ministry.  Some of you are teachers, and some of you should be teaching adults, not just children’s Sunday School.

Women, some of you hold leadership and management roles in the workplace, in which you supervise, manage, lead, and steer both men and women – and you’re good at it.  Why then, are you asked to check your gifts at the door of your Church?  If you have gifts (and you all do), use them!  Some of you love children, and are gifted at ministering to children; do that!  Some of you are servants; so serve.  Some of you are amazing cooks and you help by cooking meals for new moms and families in need. (Some of you men are also good cooks, sorry we as a Church haven’t often invited you to help with this!) Some of you are leaders; so lead in the areas that you are gifted!  Not all of you are leaders, teachers, and apostles, but whatever your gifts, use them!

And if any male Christ-followers are reading this letter, may I remind you that some of you are apostles, some of you are teachers.  Some of you are prophets, and some leaders.  Some of you have the gifts of helping, or mercies, or giving.  Some of you have the gift of tongues.  And if you are a Christ-following male, who does not have a gift of leadership or teaching, but rather, who has the gift of mercy or helps or giving, you are not a second-class citizen in the body of Christ.  You are not weak; you do not need to be called to greatness.  You do not need to be corrected.  May I remind you of Paul’s writings to the church in Corinth above: “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.”  (2 Corinthians 12:18)

My fellow women (and men if you are reading), if you are feeling skeptical about women leading, teaching, and steering the Church, let me remind you of some God followers who have come before you:

Junia – Apostle (Romans 16:7)

Anna – Prophet (Luke 2)

Priscilla – Teacher – (Acts 18) – Interestingly, she was listed before her husband in Paul’s writing – Priscilla and Aquilla

Deborah – Leader (Judges 4,5)

Phoebe – Service (Romans 16)

Read these women’s stories.  They used the gifts that God had given them to serve their entire community; both men and women.  Then, think about your gifts and whether or not you are using them.  If you don’t know what your gifts are, talk to the people who love you in your life or take a spiritual gifts inventory.  My spiritual gifts are: Leadership, Administration, Teaching, and Pastor.  But I’m a woman, is that a sin?  Absolutely not!  It’s a sin for me to not use these gifts!

My fellow Christ-followers, I want to address another conversation that concerns me greatly.  Christ-following women, it is not fair to our Christ-following men, for us to look to them to be our protectors, our leaders, our teachers, and our spiritual guides.  They are human; they will fail.  Jesus ONLY, is our Rock and Refuge, our Guide, our Great Teacher, and our Mentor.  My fellow Christian single women, look to Christ for wisdom and for your protection.  My fellow Christian married women, look to Christ for wisdom and for protection.  In marriage, communication and consensus is critical, but our husbands are not Jesus; they are not perfect.

Women, remember, you are a Christ-follower first.  You do not need to go through a man to hear from Christ, to learn from Christ, and to serve.  The veil has been torn, we can all communicate directly with God.  Women, we should not wait for our pastors, leaders, fathers, male friends, boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands to hear from God, and then blindly agree.  We must be praying and listening as well!  We are co-laborers, we can all hear from God, so let’s do it!  It’s lazy and unfair to a hurting world for us to not take ownership of our relationship with Christ.  Women, go after it, go after God!  Serve with not behind your fellow male believers!  I’m not calling women to be bulldozers, raging feminists, or man haters.  I’m calling each of us to use our gifts to work together for the kingdom!

My fellow female co-laborers with Christ, we need you!  We need all your gifts.  You are first a follower of Christ.  You are not first a wife or a mother or a career woman.  You are a follower of Christ.  There is a world full of hurting, lonely, lost people who need to hear the message of the love and redemption that Jesus brings.  So bring the message through your gifts, your prayers, and your unlimited co-laboring.

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

In the last month, I’ve blogged more about motherhood than any other topic, which seems odd, since I’m not a mom. But all this blogging, reading, guest posting, and email communication with other moms has gotten me thinking a great deal about motherhood and about womanhood.

So naturally, this mother’s day, I took some time to think about my own mother and the values she taught me. No mother is perfect, but my mother is a godly woman, who was incredibly intentional about teaching her daughters about what is most important in life. During our Dear Mom Friend discussions, we talked about the deeper stuff of mothering. So I thought today, I’d post a belated Mother’s Day tribute to my mom, in gratitude for the values she passed on to me.

1) Investing in People – I learned very early that my sister and I weren’t my mom’s only kids. My mom has mentored countless women over the years, who she considers spiritual daughters. She and my dad have counseled many couples, as well. Some of my earliest memories include my mom leading Bible studies with neighborhood moms (while I played in another room), late night dessert with couples (after we were put to bed), or coming home from school to find my mom deep in conversation with a young woman. My mom taught me through her actions that people are a key investment.

2) Centrality of Scripture – Growing up, I could count on walking down the stairs every morning, and finding my mother sitting in her blue and cream plaid chair reading her Bible. And I knew that what she read stuck with her because more often than not, when I was hurt or anxious, my mom would remind me of a verse that I needed to hear (she still does that).

3) Importance of Prayer – One of my mom’s constant phrases growing up and now is, “Let’s pray about it.” Every day, my mom and dad walk and pray. I know that my parents are my biggest prayer warriors, and I am so grateful for that. They parented out of prayer, not instinct or technique.

4) Hospitality – My mom is the queen of hospitality. She loves hosting and serving people. Some of my earliest memories are of dinners around my home table with missionaries, teachers, and other church folks. My mom knows how to make a fantastic meal on a dime, and makes it look pretty in the process. If you haven’t been to my mom’s house, you should, and I promise, she’d love to have you!

5) Giving Radically – My parents never have much money to spare, but they incredibly generous with what they have, in fact, they are more generous with what little they have than most. I have a vivid memory from elementary school when our family didn’t have much food in the pantry, and a homeless family showed up at the parsonage door asking for money. Insetead, of giving money, my mom took what food we had and made sandwiches and snacks for the family. She gave generously, because my mom knew that God would provide for our family. Radical faith in God’s provision leads to radical giving. I’m incredibly thankful for my mom modeling this.

6) Value of Women – My mom taught me through her actions and her empowering of others that women have great value, and that women can change the world. I love my mom’s firey passion to empower women in the Body of Christ, and I hope to carry on this legacy.

7) Lifelong Learner – My mom reads constantly, and not fluffy books, either. She reads books about faith, martyrdom, and women in Islamic nations. She is always reading to learn more about how to impact the world and I love that.

8) Eternal Focus – My mom lives her life with an eternal focus. She isn’t focused on acquiring wealth or taking luxurious vacations or watching her favorite tv shows. Her priorities are in order. She values people, she takes risks, and she has great faith. It’s amazing!

So my fellow women, who nurture others (whether that’s through being a mom or a mentor or a friend), I hope this challenges you to think about what values you are passing on to others. I hope it helps you to get perspective on all the routine and monotony that every day life brings, and reminds you that your character and your priorities are most important. That’s what your kids, or mentees, or friends are going to blog about one day.

Dear Mom Friend Wrap Up

Two weeks ago, I wrote a letter to my Mom Friends.  And then something beautiful happened; they wrote back.  The response that flooded my inbox inspired me to ask some dear friends in varied seasons of life, to write their own letters.  The last two weeks have been rich with raw, honest, and hopeful conversations here on the blog.

In case you missed a few, or haven’t reviewed the great discussions that are taking place in the comments, here’s a summary of the guest posts:

Dear Mom Friend,

(from a mother of a one year old) – Ruth Felt

(from the mom of two under age three) – Bethany Britt Morrill

(from a mom-t0-be) – Natalie Robertson

(from all the single ladies) – Anonymous

(from a non-official but possibly surrogate mom friend) – Kristen Nielsen

(from the mother of not yet one year old twins) – Molly Jaeger

(from a mom who found grace through infertility and loss) – Natalie Fletcher

(from a mother of teenagers) – Cindy Evans Badamo

I know we didn’t get to hear from everyone.  I’m sorry that we didn’t get to hear from women who have adopted, women who have had abortions, women who are raising children on their own.  We haven’t heard from mothers of grown children and grandmothers.  And we haven’t heard from men: Dads, stay-at-home dads, single dads, and non-dads.  If your voice wasn’t represented, it wasn’t intentional, there just wasn’t time.  But please, don’t let that stop you – speak up, write your own blog post, get together with friends, and continue this discussion.

I’ve learned a lot through these last two weeks and I hope you have, too.  My main takeaways are this:

* We all need to keep talking – Regardless of season of life, we all need to ask and be asked the hard questions.  So, let’s agree to move deeper than surface level talk once in awhile!

* We all need to have grace – Sometimes we won’t all be on the same page – maybe because we’re in a different season of life, maybe because we differ theologically, maybe we just aren’t on the same schedule – but regardless, grace can cover a multidude of differences.

* We all need to keep serving – regardless of season: Single, married, married with kids, single with kids, stay at home parent, working parent…  serving others (outside of our nuclear family) is a calling we all have, and it seems like we all find joy when we do.  But if we’re all honest, we have trouble making this happen.  Let’s remember to think outside of our normal everyday routines and think about others who could use love, a visit, a meal… 

Thanks for visiting, reading, commenting, and continuing this discussion! 

I know many of you are new to my blog, so I thought I’d take a minute to tell you about who I am and what my blog is all about.  In case you’re wondering about the meaning and pronunciation of my blog name, Mitzvot, you can read here.  I’m a Christ-follower and a social worker who has a passion for justice and mercy.  I’m also very interested in challenging and encouraging women.  Lastly, I love good food, so occasionally, I’ll post new healthy recipes.

Here are some common themes you’ll find here on Mitzvot (click theme for past blog post):

Social Justice

Relationships

Food and Emotions

Spirituality

Women’s Issues

Leadership

Thanks again for being part of such a great discussion!  I hope you’ll come back and join me later this week as I blog about my favorite day of the week and my favorite smoothie recipes!

Dear Mom Friend (From a Mother of Teenagers),

Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from a friend and previous coworker, Cindy Evans Badamo.  Cindy is an MSW and Licensed Clinical Social Worker and works with children, adolescents, and their families.  She and her husband raise their three teenagers in St. Louis, MO. 

Dear Mom Friend,

Balancing life’s changes is difficult for most of us. As a mother of three teenagers, (my youngest turned 13 last week) my life has ebbed and flowed with the changes that raising a family brings.

It was wonderful and overwhelming being a new mother.  I remember the intense feelings of joy that lasted for many weeks following the birth of our first. I was in love, and could not believe how wonderful I felt.  I now know that it was the release of oxytocin and dopamine that sometimes happens in women as they give birth and breastfeed, but I didn’t know that then. (All women do not experience this extreme joy, some even feel the opposite response) All I knew was that I felt incredible.  A few months later, when sleep deprivation began to take its toll I became extremely haggard.  I was working full time and nursing exclusively (pumping at the office) and could barely see straight let alone be present with my family or productive at work. I thought I had to do it all- and was paying for it physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Luckily, I was beginning to learn one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned about being a Mom- good enough REALLY is good enough.  I could not do it all, something had to give.  For me, the answer was part time work. I went to my employer, negotiated part time hours and began to take care of myself a little better.

When our second was born, again that good ole oxytocin/dopamine combo kicked in and I was in heaven.  She was such a gift and I felt so fortunate to have two healthy girls.  Unfortunately, our first born did not get the oxytocin/dopamine boost and began to ignore me.  She was so angry at me for what must have felt like infidelity.  She would rarely acknowledge my presence for what seemed like months (I think it was actually weeks).  I would cry daily, while my husband tended to our first born almost exclusively.  She would have little to do with me.  My pain was so strong; I constantly questioned my interactions and felt incompetent.  I questioned everything I was doing and secretly believed not only was I to blame, but I should be able to fix it.  But time was the healer and eventually she got used to having a sister, sharing her mother and came back around.  I was good enough, certainly not perfect, but good enough.

When our third was born, our family was complete.  My husband and I always wanted three and we were fortunate to now have three healthy children.  But our son was colicky, he cried more than half of his waking hours until he was almost 6 months old. I had decided to quit work, stay home full time, my husband accepted another job and we all moved out of state.  Going from a career woman to a full time Mom is a culture shock.  Add a colicky baby, a new state and you’ve got quit a challenge.  My husband would come home from work and I would hand him our beautiful colicky screaming son as soon as he walked in the door.  Only to then leave the house and cry in the garage.   I was so lost. I didn’t know who I was or how to care for myself.  For me, the transition to full time Mom was one of the most challenging.  It was far more difficult than becoming a new Mom. A large part of my identity had been linked to my career.  I now needed to redefine who I was as a woman and as a mother.

As they became older, I became better able to balance their needs with mine. My focus was able to broaden little by little again. I began to allow myself emotional breaks to care for me as an individual and not be so consumed with my job as Mom. For me, that took maturity (there’s and mine), experience (good enough REALLY is good enough), exhaustion (sleep deprivation is one powerful motivator) and most importantly really fabulous women in my life to help. Thank GOD I have such wonderful woman to help me learn how it’s done.  When our youngest was in school full time, I decided to go back to school, change my career path and return to the career world in a profession that I love.

This past Sunday we had dinner together as a family.  We can’t always do that as frequently as we used to with three teenagers.  We said prayers and took turns thanking GOD for what we were grateful for, as has been our tradition since they were little. We discussed our lives as individuals and as a family.  Occasionally I miss those days when they were little.  Mostly I am so grateful for the individuals that I get to watch become wonderful loving adults. It just keeps getting better, being this Mom person.  And I am constantly flooded with such joy watching them grow and navigate all the joys and challenges of life.

I have been incredibly fortunate not only to have wonderful women in my life, like my sisters, girlfriends, and mentors; but I also have a mother that isn’t perfect.  Mine is a good enough mother; and she reminds me often how I am good enough as well.

Sincerely,

A Mother of Teenagers

Please leave your comments on the blog so that Cindy and others can see and reply.