Category Archives: Women

Lent & Women (Multitasking, as so many women do so well)

Happy International Women’s Day!  Happy second Sunday of Lent!  Happy birthday to my beloved Pappy!  So many things to celebrate/give up/celebrate on one day:  could get a bit confusing.  🙂

The Lenten Reflection guide calls us to reflect on hunger this week:  Journey into the Brokenness of Hunger.  The author gives world wide statistics on how many people go hungry, how many people will go hungry, what a typical amount of money for a given meal looks like, and what the picture of present consumption vs. future popululation figures looks like (*bleak*).  It’s enough to make me want to put my head under a pillow, or listen to the new U2 album really loud so that I can’t hear the worries – then again, listening to our current day St. Bono probably isn’t the best “numb out” material.  Stinkin’ sensitivity to the Spirit.

The guide offers a practice of planning meals using $2.00 per person a day – the worldwide average amount of money available for sustaining life (but actually, many exist of less).  Immediately, my defenses went up:

  • But I can’t plan around that!  I already have things planned out for the week.
  • I don’t know how much this stuff cost, and I already have it on hand.
  • I can’t provide the boys with nutritious food for that much money.
  • What about my blood sugar issues?  I need protein:  that’s expensive.
  • This takes too much time.  I have other things that need to get done.
  • Excuse.  Excuse.  Excuse.  Excuse.

Which brings me to International Women’s Day.  Feeding the family tends to fall down the shoot as “women’s work”.  How many women don’t have the choice of opting out of this practice?  How many women make it work – graciously – without their families knowing the work, the labor, the cost behind it – as an act of love – lean into the Lord, meal by meal, to make ends meet?

I’ve been reading a chronological mashup of Kings and Chronicles lately:  talk about a crazy time period.  Prosperity, famine, prosperity, famine.  Good kings, bad kings, mediocre kings, and everything in between.  While the stories of the different rulers run together (Was he Israel or Judah?  Tore down high places?  Offereed pagan sacrifices?  Built up defences?  Got hit with disease?), the stories of two women stand out:  the woman who fed Elijah and her containers overflowed with flour and oil, and the woman who housed Elisha and he promised she would have a son.  One was poor; one was rich.  One was asked for hospitality; one offered it.  Initially one had a son; one was without.  But they both eventually had children, and they both almost lost what they treasured.  These women had faith enough to seek out an intercessor:  they wrestled with God over the things that were precious to them – the future that they believed God had promised them.

This doesn’t happen in every situation.  I’ve seen women pray and plead and fast and ask over and over and over of the Lord to heal their children/husband/sister/friend:  the ill one doesn’t make it.  It’s the faith, the persistence, I see so many women equipped with.  Their life circumstances, their struggles, their belief in the future that God has promised them:  they keep that in their day-to-day view, driving and drawing them closer to God.  Not only do they make do:  they flourish.  And they reach out to work with intercessors if that’s what the situation calls for, pride be damned.

Today I think about the women who’ve been in my life:  my first grade teacher who I deemed would still love me even if my mom was mad at me, a woman who taught my eldest in Sunday School the same songs she taught me at day camp, my mama and her friends and how we kids never had to worry that there were economic hard times – and there were which I’m just finding out about now.  Friends, teachers, advisors, writers, singers, knitters, chefs, missionaries, moms, students, pray-ers, intercessors leaning into the leanness of the time and allowing it to transform them more into the image of Christ for the sake of others.

So Happy International Women’s Day!  Happy second Sunday of Lent! [And Happy Birthday to my Pappy who has always affirmed me, has taught me, and has been willing to eat $2.00 worth of my cookies as a meal.]

“The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.” (And we wonder where women get it 🙂 ).

Potatos, Dental Floss, and other Reasons I Should Probably Take Homekeeping Courses

I have a confession to make: the first time I tried to make a baked potato, I microwaved it. Which is bad enough (hello, rubbery starch), but it gets better. I had no idea what the process or logistics of it were, so I had to look it up in a cookbook. Yes: I looked up “how to make a baked potato” in a cookbook – that just seems sad. But wait: it gets *even* better. Whenever I ate a baked potato prepared by mom, it was wrapped with aluminum foil: why, I did not know, but I knew it was a critical element to baked potatoes. So I wrapped my baked potato. And placed it in the microwave. And hit the ‘start’ button. No: the microwave did not explode, and potato guts were not dashed around the kitchen. But the potato didn’t cook – at – all. That’s when I had an inkling I might need to brush up on some culinary skills.

This event took place when I was 24. Yes: 24. [Insert sighing and shaking of heads by those older and wiser than me, or insert sympathetic shrugs from folks who might’ve done something similar – I know y’all have got my back.]

I now know better. And I even have a few cooking tricks up my sleeve thanks to watching countless hours of the Food Network and reading cooking magazines while breastfeeding my oldest son. But it’s only come with time, and I’m nearing my third decade. I’ve been married almost five years, and finances haven’t felt functional until the last year or so. Painting and decorating the house? Done — only in my head (and oh my, it’s pretty: you should visit sometime). And let’s just say that my sewing skills are fairly MacGyveresque thanks to my teacher: my engineer father (did you know that dental floss is three times stronger than regular string? And as a bonus it gives your clothes a minty, or cinnamony, smell).

It’s not that I haven’t had opportunities to learn these “homemaking skills”; it’s that as a high schooler and college student (when they were readily available), I fled from them like I flee from things labeled “hazardous materials”, ‘toxic”, “black eyed peas”, “contains msg”, “country music’s top album”, and “Mr. Bean” (bleck: he’s oogy). My mama probably wanted to teach me the tricks she learned to make the house functional, but I was too busy working at youth camps, dying my hair with Kool-Aid, and watching ‘Animaniacs’ with my friends after school (hello: Peter Pan complex). And now I’m married. And have kids. And am still calling my mama because “Judah needs a halloween costume, and unless you help, he’s going to be MacGyver’s side-kick, aka a giant ball of duct tape.”

So I’ve been hearing rumblings about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offering a B.A. in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking. My initial response was a roll o’the eyes: ah, Southern Baptists – thanks for adding fuel to the fire so now more women will be coming to Northwest Emerging Women Leaders events because they’ve been squashdicated in their own denomination.

But then the other day, in the midst of my Halloween conundrum (seriously: I’m not paying $20 for a costume for Abel to wear for ten minutes and then poop on), I thought, “Hmmm: I bet it’s nice to sew, to know what to do with a sewing machine.” And I read a friend’s post about how she orders her day: vacuuming one day, dusting another – what a novel idea! I tend to do those things as part of my aerobic “Oh my gosh people are coming over and the house is a mess and I’m so not a hostess and just a general AAAAAHHHHHH” flurry of preparing for visitors. And let me tell ya: my fam LOVES it when I do this! Cause oh, I’m just a ball of light and graciousness, muttering around the house while wiping everything down with either a Chlorox wipe or Swiffer cloth (see, I don’t even know how to clean. Someone save my kids: Jason knew what he was getting into when he saw my apartment before we got married. Let’s just say I had lived there for two years, and my bed was an air mattress and my bookshelves were liquor boxes: if you’re kind, you’ll just call me eco-friendly :)).

You know: it might be nice to take those classes.

Now, I’m not saying that all women should take courses. And I’m not saying the woman’s place is only in the home. [I also don’t dig the fact that guys can’t take these classes, but that’s a whole other post.] But it seems that today these elements that were passed down from generation to generation just aren’t being passed; either we don’t see the relevance, or we don’t care, or we’re too busy to form relationships with those who could teach us.

As I’ve become friends with women at Bible Fellowship, I’ve been able to share with them my feeble attempts at knitting (which, I just found out last year that I’ve been doing it backwards – hurrah for self-teaching). My dinner swap group has shared recipes and tricks to make food look like Ina Garten came to whip up something “delicious and elegant and so savory for Jeffrey” (lucky Jeffrey). And Flylady: your system may be overly ambitious for this writing/lit/religion/history major, but at least I can glean more doable systems from your readers who submit their comments. And yes: my sink is shiny.

The views shared by the woman in this article struck a chord with me: she spoke sense and reason into the whole “homemaking course” situation. Plus, she seems like one who knows how to make a baked potato in the microwave without short-circuiting the house.

Providing a Safe Place

So I’ve been spending some time de-converging: sharing my experience with others, treasuring the connections I’ve made, tying up loose ends, dreaming about what’s to come, pondering about what in the world just took place. Driving home my two friends/roommates asked me how I was feeling and what I thought. My response: “I don’t know. I really don’t know what just happened. But I do know that it was *good*.”

It wasn’t until closing that I realized all the “bad” things that could have taken place. Which, if you know anything about melancholy personality types, is not typical of a melancholy: we tend to anticipate all possible outcomes, preparing for the worst. Think about this:

Women:

  • From multiple denominations
  • From multiple backgrounds
  • Of different ages
  • Of different places in life
  • Of different styles of life
  • Coming from churches that either affirm, condemn, or ignore their call to lead

Coming to a conference

  • With no speaker
  • At a hotel with an onsite brewery/winery
  • To share their journeys.

Dude, that could’ve gotten ugly, with theological debates or denominational issues or cranky spirits. But for some strange reason/blessed move of the Spirit, I didn’t even think about the possibilities. Folks came together in a beautiful spirit of receptivity and respect, listening to one another, contributing to the conversation, blessing and affirming and worshiping. The Holy Spirit came with power!

The only time I realized what could have happened occurred during our last gathered time. We sat in a circle, holding a candle, and as we passed the flame, we shared two sentences about our experience during the weekend. I heard of number of:

  • “I normally hate women’s gatherings, but this was a place of healing!”
  • “I would rather have a root canal than go to a women’s gathering, but I feel so welcomed.”
  • “It took a lot of assurance for me to believe that this would be a good thing, but this was such a safe place!”
  • “I love Christ, but in general I find myself not loving His people: many are mean, hurtful, hypocritical. But this has been wonderful, and I truly feel blessed to be here.”

And I realized: wow, that used to be me! I’ve never been one to congregate with the women. As a kid I tended to wrestle more than play with dolls. I’d much rather hang out at Powells than the mall. Mother and daughter events gave me the heebie jeebies (not because of my mom, my poor mother who never got to do those cause I’m such a punk: it just felt like way too much estrogen in one place to be able to think straight). But somehow that’s changed. Folks asked me where I worship: “Well, I attend Newberg Friends, but the Sunday morning gathering isn’t so much my thing. But there’s a fantastic area Women’s Bible Fellowship, and that I feel is my church body.”

Other comments I heard:

  • “I realized: I’m not crazy!”
  • “You have been such a safe place for me.”
  • “I feel loved, respected, wanted, affirmed here.”
  • “I really, really, really needed this.”
  • “Thank you for being present with me.”

A couple of years ago, that’s what I would’ve found myself saying. I was aching for community, feeling the void of trying to go it alone. How quickly I forget where I’ve been . . .

But I don’t want to forget. I want to remember those hard times, the journey I’ve taken to come to where I am. I want to continue to connect with people on the same journey, to share in their lives (whether over a few days, a few hours, or over the long haul), to speak words of blessing and affirmation and healing to them, to create a safe place for them to find refuge and refuel and head back out.

One of our mixer activities was called Speed Converging in which the leader shouted out a question, we had one minute to share an answer with a partner, one minute to listen to their answer, and then find a new partner. One of the questions was, “If money and resources weren’t an issue, what would be your dream job/occupation/way to spend your time?” Now, I knew about these questions ahead of time, and yet I still didn’t prepare any sort of answers. But what popped immediately to my mind in the moment was this: “Own a retreat center where I could stock a library, bake, and offer spiritual direction/friendship: a safe place for folks to find refuge and direction and resources before heading back out on their journey.” While I seriously doubt owning a retreat center is in the cards anytime soon, I do feel called to continue to provide to spaces, to foster relationships with others who are hurting and in need of friendship and healing, to facilitate a safe place for individuals and communities.

Interesting what comes about from converging . . .