What women want

I’m over at Ungrind again this week. Here’s a sneak peek – click over here to read the whole thing 🙂

WHATWOMENWANT1

I settled down at the table and watched my daughter compose her face in her “now-I-have-something-important-to-say” expression: eyes level, chin down, forehead hopeful.

She paused dramatically and in a butter-cream-smooth tone, said: “Mom, if you just gave us more of the things we want, there would be less crying and being angry with you.”

Reader, I literally snorted with laughter. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed until the tears streamed down my cheeks, infuriating my daughter more with each passing second. In hindsight, I probably should have laughed a little less.

I laughed because this was not the first time I was getting advice from my kids on how to do a better job as their mom. Not unlike the young tyrant from Calvin and Hobbes, my children are full of suggestions on how I can “improve my ratings,” or secure better responses from them.

In this particular instance, my 6-year old was angling for me to change my mind about whether or not she could have her ears pierced: a decision we had already said no to. She entreated us daily. For weeks on end. Sometimes with tantrums. Sometimes with stony silences. And on that particular day, she resorted to cool, calm reason. If we would just give her what she wanted, she’d be less angry with us.

Somewhere in the midst of that laughing, I felt the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder. Once again, He directed me to consider that panoramic vantage point into God’s parenting of us, His children, which we become privy to when we become parents ourselves.

(continue reading at Ungrind…)

The Verse I’d Never Seen Before

baptizing woman

Sometime in my 20’s, I started to cry. The transformation was astonishing: from being the Kid Who Didn’t Cry, I became the One Guaranteed To Blub. I cried during commercials, during Oprah, during weddings, and every-time-without-fail : I cried at baptisms. The beauty of seeing a believer washed new; brave and bold and dripping with the passion of one reborn undid me every time.

And so it was, a few months back, that I sat crying as I witnessed a baptism one Sunday morning: wiping tears as I corralled the toddler with one arm and a bribing snack, shushed the preschooler who was pretending to be a fighter pilot, and snuggled my 6-year old close. My tears dripped off my chin and onto her hair, and I wondered how bad the crying would be on the day when it was my own children in the baptismal font. If a stranger’s baptism undid me so, I would for sure be bawling when my own children’s day came. I wallowed in dramatic thought a moment longer: “do you know what would make me really ugly cry?” I thought. “If their dad were to baptize them.” I had seen some pastor friends baptize their kids. The mental image was exquisitely poignant.

Later that night, I broached the topic with my husband. “When the time comes, “ I asked, “do you think you would like to baptize our kids?” He mulled it over for a moment and shrugged: “not really.” I nodded, a little disappointed. Maybe he would be more excited about the idea in the future.

A few weeks later, I found myself sitting huddled at my dining table in the early morning dark, scrambling to finish reading Matthew’s gospel before my BSF small group. Even though I was in a hurry, something pulled me to a stop. Jesus’s words in Matthew 28:18-20 leapt off the page:

“(18) All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  (19) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (20) And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I read it again, and again. And I cried.

How was it that I had never seen verse 19b? As a woman – how had I never seen that?

I knew that the promises belonged to me: the One who has all authority in heaven and on earth (v18) is the one who is always with me, even to the end of the age (v20b).

I knew too that the Great Commission applied to me: I, too, was called to go and make disciples of all nations (v19a), and to teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded (v20). Surely this was my overarching goal as a Mom: to disciple my children as disciples of Christ.

And yet, I had never seen the permission – no, the mandate – to be one who baptized too (v19). For years I had lived, loved and served in a church where men did the preaching and the officiating of communion and all the baptizing (for these were pastoral, and therefore male, functions). And since I had never, ever seen a woman baptize, I had never, ever seen verse 19 commissioning me, as a woman, to one who is enjoined in the calling, reaching, baptizing and discipling work of the Great Commission.

Later that night, I settled down next to my husband on the couch. “Honey, remember I asked you whether you wanted to baptize our kids? Well, this morning I was reading in Matthew, and it occurred to me that if Jesus has called me in the Great Commission to disciple our kids and to teach our kids… don’t you think I should be able to do the middle bit too – and baptize them? Because I’d love to. I mean, if they wanted it, and it was okay with you. But I’d love to – and I just never even thought it was a possibility.”

He looked up and paused. “I don’t see why not,” he said, “if you want to.”

I do want to.

I do. And as it turns out, Matthew 28 says it is allowed: not just as a concession, but in fact as a command. For I, as a woman, am one of the beloved disciples he has called and commissioned.

And so, when the time comes, I would love to be able to baptize our children in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Even if I cry the whole way through. They would be tears of joy.

 

Photo credit: Rishi Bandopadhay (The Water Pours Freely), licensed with Flickr Creative Commons (edits by Bronwyn Lea)

When you say I can’t wear a bikini, this is what you’re also saying…  

no-bikinis

Dear Makers of the Pool Rules,

I’ve been thinking about your family-friendly set of pool rules, which include safety rules like “no running”, “no diving”, and “no glass bottles at the pool”. Among these, you also have a rule about acceptable clothing: tankinis and swim shorts and one-pieces are okay… but please, “no bikinis”.

Dear rule-makers, when you say that I can’t wear a bikini, this is what you are also saying:

You are saying you don’t trust me to make good choices as a woman.

You are saying you don’t trust me as a parent to be having conversations about self-respect and clothing with my children.

By spelling out a dress code for women, you are saying that, at some level, you agree with the problematic (and offensive) societal message that a woman’s acceptability and welcome is based on her body.

Spelling out a no-bikini rule adds to the horrid fear and shame culture which the women in our day are struggling with: we cover because we fear men’s eyes, we cover because it is shameful not to. I, for one, think we should cover for different reasons (to protect intimacy) – but when your rules are policing what I wear, the issue gets tangled.

As it happens, I prefer not to wear bikinis in public. I took my children to a swimming pool a few weeks ago and was miserable to discover I had accidentally forgotten my rash guard at home. I personally like to cover not only for the sake of keeping my body for my husband’s eyes, but also because I have a near-pathological fear of the sun. But that’s my choice. On that day, being found in 105F heat with three wilting and whining kids – should I have had to turn around, forfeit the $15 I paid in entrance fees, and taken my kids home because I only had a bikini?

Modesty and dress code are culturally relative things: it seems like bikinis are almost mandatory in Hawaii, whereas in France, Bermuda shorts are forbidden and speedo-type swimwear is mandatory at public swimming pools!

Yours is a family-friendly, faith-based facility, and I respect and appreciate that your pool culture prefers more coverage rather than less: Bermuda shorts rather than Speedos for men, one-pieces rather than bikinis for women. However, the way you’ve phrased the rule strikes me as legalistic, and we women are already facing such a horrid battle against being sexualized and objectified. Your rule, as it stands, is saying you’re on the side of policing women’s bodies, rather than being on the side of respect.

Can I respectfully suggest, then, that perhaps you rephrase your policy? Perhaps something like this:

“Our family-friendly community values modesty, and we trust you to show respect for yourselves and others in your dress code. Thank you.”

A move like that would be consistent with all the other, wonderful, life-affirming programs and activities you hold. And, such a rule surely would be better at teaching us about dignity from the inside-out, rather than trying to impose it from the outside-in. As Gina Dalfonzo’s helpful rule of thumb says: “Dress like you respect yourself.”

Just a thought.

Thanks,

A self-respecting and respectful woman.

 

 

 

 

To the Beautiful, Smart Girl Dropping F-bombs

To The Beautiful, Smart Girl Dropping

To the beautiful, smart young woman I saw today,

I was one of the passers by at the restaurant you were at this afternoon: a nameless face walking past while you sat on the patio with your friends. I heard you before I saw you, telling a story about pillows. You called them f*!#ing pillows. It got my attention. By the time I got near to where you were at I’d heard a little more about how f#*@ing frustrated you were about having to change them, and you asked your friends beseechingly: “how was I supposed to f@#*ing know?”

By then, I was near my car and nearly out of earshot, so I looked back quickly one more time. Yes, you are beautiful. And you had everyone’s attention. And I could tell by your collegiate sweater that you are smart too: it takes a 4.0 to get into the school whose name you wore today. And I wondered if you knew how very beautiful and smart and captivating you are – and how the constant use of F@*# in your dialog detracted, rather than added, to your attractiveness?

I wasn’t with my kids today, so it wasn’t that I was worried they’d hear and do their repeat-the-new-word playbook all the way home. It also wasn’t that I was offended. I have said similar things in times of extreme stress (it is a tough ask to find a woman who has given birth and didn’t reserve some choice words for the process). But the story you were telling was about pillows. And housemates. And chores. And I think you wasted the big words on such very not-big things.

Which is a pity.

I can remember a time when I swore a lot more. At the time, the words tasted like independence and free speech and power. They said “I’m an adult – I can say what I want. The teachers and my parents can’t hear me or stop me.”  But a few years down the road I realized they left an empty taste in my mouth – and my words were powerful, more independent, and actually freer without them. There were so many other, marvelous, descriptive adjectives I had been missing while relying on the cheap-thrill of the F-bomb. Like pusillanimous. And geriatric. And wretched. And bombastic. Even once I’d realized that swearing wasn’t doing me any favors, it took a while to break the habit… but it was a habit worth breaking.

Really, adulthood means not just saying what you want – but saying what is needed, what is true, what is right. Even if you’re telling a story about pillows.

Just a thought, from a stranger who thought you were lovely, and could have been lovelier yet with a few less words.

Tattoos and Cardigans {Jamie Hanauer}

Today’s post is from my friend Jamie Calloway-Hanauer. I am deeply honored that she was willing to share this here.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Once upon a time, I was young.

I thought all the admonishments, advice, and wisdom of my elders would not apply to my life, and I shook off their words.

I believed but didn’t always live prayerfully.

I thought through things as wisely as I could, often better than most, but youth does have its shortcomings.

I got my first tattoo when I was fifteen. A friend performed the task, in my living room, using a hollowed Bic pen, thread, India ink and a guitar string. I was in a band then (Christian punk), and each member got the same x-eyed smiley face to commemorate our commitment to one another.

I received my second and third tattoos when I was seventeen. Fairly well done, this time by a different friend, using an actual pro gun, once again in my living room.

The fourth I got at age eighteen. This time in a professional shop, done by an elderly man whose hand shook towards the end.

The fifth and sixth I got as an adult—a parent and law student at the time, you might think I would have known better.

But I didn’t.

Truth is, I very much like tattoos of a certain variety (the Sailor Jerry type). I find them attractive and I often like the stories that they tell about those who bear them.

What I failed to consider as recently as eleven years ago, however, is that no matter how much we rail against it in our youth, we do actually grow up. And buy minivans. And join the PTA. And wear wedding gowns and become bridesmaids and take the children to the park in hot weather. We attend church picnics and pool parties and workout in gyms. And—surprise!—people will see us during these times.

And people will judge.

Tattoos have become commonplace in my generation. I served on the PTA with women (and men) who had a few. After getting to know someone well, the presence of a little (or a lot) of ink usually goes unnoticed. But in those first moments, that first glance, or even when wearing a short-sleeved Easter dress for the first time to a church you’ve attended for eleven years, eyes travel to the vivid color on pale skin, and minds begin to calculate (or recalculate) just exactly who it is they are talking to.

And believe it or not, I don’t like this. I don’t like the knee-jerk assessment, the reassessment, or the stoic attempts to be “accepting.” And so by the time I hit 30, I’d learn to invest, heavily, in cardigans.

Thankfully I live in Berkeley. That has multiple benefits, one being that it is, well, Berkeley, and the other that it’s fairly cool here year-round. Most women carry a sweater with them at all times, and so my long sleeves in July warrant nary a glance.

We are, however, about to move to DC, a place not known for its temperate climate. I will be making new friendships, new first impressions, searching for a new church, and in general trying to develop a new community with whom to laugh, cry, and pray over the coming decades.

That isn’t something to enter lightly.

I wonder: should I or shouldn’t I? Meaning, should I swelter in the August heat until I’ve solidified my “personality” and good graces? Or should I live in relative physical comfort and risk being labeled a “type?”

Some might say, “Who wants to be friends with those who would judge or ‘type’ you anyway?” If only life were that easy. I have children. I have a spouse. As an adult, friendships are often born of what your children choose to do on Saturdays, or where you/your spouse finds employment.

Over the last seven years, I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone say in incredulous tones, “You have tattoos? You?? You are the LAST person I ever expected to have tattoos.” This statement comes from a belief that a mini-van driving, church attending, faith writing, non-smoking, non-drinking, non-partying mom of four would ever, EVER, think to get a little (or a lot) of ink.

They are both right and wrong. Would I today, being the person who I am, get tattoos? No, I wouldn’t. Do I regret, being the person who I am today, having gotten them? I would say, emphatically, yes. Does that have to do with me and how I feel about tattoos or how others do? Sometimes the line gets blurred and something born of societal influence becomes an “I’m doing it for me” type thing, but in reality the chicken and the egg have become a bit confused.

There are those who wear their tattoos as a badge of God-accepts-me-and-you-should-too honor. I believe that, but that’s not who I am. I don’t want second looks, discussions of a past life, assumptions of a present life, or a walk through Leviticus. I just want to be.

A friend once prayed for me that I would know I am more than “tattoos and cardigans.” As I move from my well-established home here in Berkeley to a life full of new friends, new church, play dates, and summers spent at the pool, I find that prayer coming back to me time and again. I have taken bold steps already—I purchased some new cap-sleeve dresses. I put a picture of my largest tattoo on Facebook (much to my mother’s dismay) and answered honestly when someone who I’ve known for years asked whose arm it was on.

I’m echoing daily my friend’s prayer for my life, and I’m getting closer to baring it all. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to throw in the cardigan.

Jamie Calloway-Hanauer is a work-at-home mom of four—two under five, one in college, and one called away too soon, for whom the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” was surely written. After practicing law for eight years, Jamie has put that chapter of life behind her and begun a new chapter of editing, writing, and considering whether or not she should donate all her suits to charity. Be sure to check out her blog where she writes pseudo-weekly on the absurd, the ironic, and the faithful, and connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter.

A Word of Praise for ‘Jesus Feminist’ from a Complementarian

I just finished reading Sarah Bessey’s little yellow book, “Jesus Feminist”, and I want to applaud, hug her, and raise my wine glass in a toast.

Jesus-Feminist-Cover-copyIt’s a beautiful book: redemptive, hopeful, saturated with the words and tone of the gospels. It is conversational yet profound. For all that she has tackled a hot-button topic, she has created a safe place in the pages of her book. It calls on us to consider that God has called and gifted ALL his children, men and women, to follow in His footsteps and participate in the great and wonderful work of seeing God’s Kingdom come on earth. Where ever we are, who ever we are: we are beloved, we are called, we are needed, we are commissioned.

How can you not want to applaud at these truths?

But did I mention that I’m one of those “complementarian” types? As much as I read about the roles men and women in the current church debate, I am still persuaded that Scripture has assigned different roles to men and women in marriage and ministry. For reasons I don’t want to dive too deeply into in this blog post, I am not convinced by the argument for “mutual submission”. I still can’t explain away that the Bible describes a wife’s submission to her husband and his love to her as being a model of our submission to Christ and His love to us. I understand submission as being a word which implies a voluntary yielding to authority, which by necessity means there has to be an authority relationship for submission to happen. We submit to Jesus, but he does not submit to us. He LOVES us. He SERVES us. But he doesn’t submit.

But do you know what? I don’t believe it matters that much, and Sarah Bessey’s book is a wonderful example of how believers can be on exactly the same page even if we disagree over interpretation on some points. To draw a line in the sand on this issue and stand toe-to-toe ready to shout is, as Bessey describes, “an adventure in missing the point.”

Why? Because the bigger issues at hand are the love and character and servant-heartedness of God’s people. When Bessey describes her egalitarian marriage, it sounds a lot like my complementarian one: we aim to serve one another, we put one another first, we are trying (with God’s gracious help) to put one another’s needs ahead of our own…. and friends, the way of other-person-centered love WORKS and brings joy in marriage, no matter what title you put on it.

In high school geometry I learned that complementary angles are two angles which add up to a Right Angle (90 degrees). I always understood complementarity in relationships to mean men and women together, both adding value side by side. I don’t believe that having different roles, or even acknowledging that there are relationships of authority and submission, necessarily means I am supporting patriarchy. Jesus and the Spirit submit to the Father (and not vice versa), but there is no patriarchy there.

Where oppression occurs, it occurs because of sin and a failure to love. Wives who are loved and nurtured in such a way that they flourish (as Ephesians 5 enjoins husbands to do) are unleashed to live a life of radical discipleship. I know this: I am a complementarian wife who teaches, who serves, who speaks, whose husband makes time for me to write. This is not the case for many though: there are many oppressed in the name of authority – and believers can and should speak up about this. Using authority for oppression is NEVER okay for God’s people. Never. The problem is not necessarily the existence of authority: it’s the sinful abuse of it. As one example: South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela is very different to how it is under Jacob Zuma: same system, different character.

I loved Sarah Bessey’s little yellow book. Loved it. Even though I thought we might be on “opposite sides of the fence” on a thorny issue. Even though I was nervous about the word “feminist”. I want ALL my beloved sisters to read the words of comfort and commissioning in this book, without fear of taking ‘sides’. This book is not about taking sides on “the women’s issue”; it is about men and women together being on Jesus’ side. I love that she has, in putting the emphasis on Jesus and His call to love God and love each other and love this world for all we are worth, put the spotlight squarely where it needs to be.

We are LOVED. We are commissioned. There is work to do and a world to serve and people to love. And for Jesus’ sake, this one-here-woman shouts a hearty ‘Amen’. If that’s what a Jesus feminist is, count me in. Even as a complementarian.