Keeping my eyes open to glimpses of God

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No Women Allowed

I want my friend's daughter to live in a world that
encourages her to obey God in whatever way she's called.
Tears welled in my eyes as I read the recent Her.meneutics post "Hey John Piper, Is My Femininity Showing?"

It seems God has had a lot to tell me about women in leadership recently, and I've been soaking it up. But all that soaking has left my heart full of anguish. As I consider the future of the Church, the future of our world, I can't believe how much we're missing--simply because women aren't allowed.

I've recently been keenly aware of how women are often mistreated in the workplace, especially in Christian workplaces. From being inflexible in the schedule for a new mother to a double standard for women when they are assertive, determined, and goal-oriented (qualities that are, by the way, actually desired in men). From not promoting women because superiors want to keep them in their "rightful place" to coworkers looking down on women for working and being a mother.

And the sad part is that we have grown up with these mixed messages. "Go after a career," "be independent," "grow intellectually," and "find your calling," are mixed with "your husband's job is more important than yours," "good mothers never leave their child's side," "likeable girls aren't too smart," and "you're calling can't be anything in leadership--especially not in the church." We internalize these wishy-washy messages, and we begin censoring ourselves--even from elementary school. We play dumb so that we're liked. We look for career paths that suit us while holding out for a man whose calling we can support instead. We uphold women's right to work, but we feel guilt about leaving our own children. And this is just a small taste of how these cultural messages negatively affect women.

I've had the honor of learning from women who transcend this conflict, women who are firm in their calling and are devoted to God, first and foremost. Women who actually empower others to do the same. Their stories inspire me and encourage me on the most difficult days. Days like yesterday when I read John Piper's words referred to in that Her.meneutics post.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"I Do" to More Than You Think

Singing Katy Perry at church

Marriage isn't what I thought it would be. It's wonderful in a number of ways, but there are a million other things that no one prepares you for. Things that no one talks about.

I was reminded this weekend that when you're married, you're inextricably linked to your husband, more profoundly than you realize. No one told me that his sin would affect me. That his struggles would become my struggles. No one told me that I wouldn't only be dealing with my fallenness, but also his.

No one told me I'd lose sleep or cry in worship or walk through a day zombie-like with a heavy heart . . . as I dealt with his struggle.

But when you say "I do" you take it all on--the best and worst of him. And thankfully, he takes on yours as well. There are two of you to multiply the joy of the good times. But there are also two of you to multiply the pain in the hard times. The pain is felt twice: once in your own being, and again as you see the pain weighing down your spouse.

Marriage is beautiful and mysterious and double the joy. And it is also hard. Really, really hard. It's hard enough to deal with your own sinful condition, let alone that of another.

The 30+ one another passages in the New Testament are commands for a reason. They remind us how we must relate to one another because we are tied together--through good and bad. We are interconnected, all leaning on one another, one person's actions affecting all the rest. We are responsible to one another, and it's this responsibility that makes working on self make any sense at all.

I'm reminded today of that deep connectedness, even more mysterious in marriage. And I'm reminded of how desperate we are for Jesus. My heart aches as I see my husband in pain. My soul thirsts for the day when all sin's effects will be banished. My mind wishes for easy answers to give my husband, a hidden escape route no one's seen before.

But there is nothing but prayer and love and hope.

And with Jesus, that is enough.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Leaning Into 'Lean In'

Graduating with my M.A.

I've been listening to the audiobook version of Lean In, which is simultaneously empowering and infuriating. It is empowering because she gives clear ideas on how women can succeed in the workplace and in life in general. Infuriating because it's making clear to me the unfair realities of our culture's gender stereotypes--cultural norms that really hold down women in conscious and unconscious ways.

The author, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has a lot of wisdom to share. But the thing that strikes me most as I listen to this book, is that she writes with authority that she feels she's been given. She writes--even without knowing her faith--as though Galatians 3:26-29 were really true: "There is no longer . . . male or female."

She continuously writes about how women operate, respond, and carry themselves differently. She is also clear that women--even doing the exact same thing as a man--are often perceived differently. But she never stops to prove that women should be just as welcomed in the work place as men. She doesn't go on about how our differences make us better suited for certain jobs or roles. Instead, she assumes that women are called, capable, gifted, and qualified to work, lead, and serve in many ways. In fact, she reminds readers that more undergraduate and graduate degrees  are earned by women than men, so women may actually be more qualified in many cases. That said, she makes clear that our cultural stereotypes hold women down and make us feel as though we have few or no options, especially when it comes to working while starting a family.

Her words, based on scientific data, have opened my eyes to dynamics that I'd never noticed before. She's even made me aware of my own biases. And I've learned a few things about living up to my calling in a way that works with cultural norms rather than against them.

I'm excited to read the rest of the book and discover more. But I'm even more excited to discover what God will do in and through me as a result of this empowerment.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day

Wind turbines off Rt. 47 in central Illinois
As I drove down to my alma mater, Eastern Illinois University, a few weeks ago, I noticed hundreds more wind turbines than we saw the previous year. I was in awe at these spinning giants spotting the horizon, impressed at this amazing source of green energy--and the fact that people in central Illinois are putting the technology to use.

The fact is that I'm a greenie, and I have been for a long time. In high school, though, when I started following Christ, green living took on a new purpose and urgency. Reducing, reusing, and recycling were no longer just nice things to do--they were part of loving God, the creator of everything.

Green living is part of following Christ for two reasons: 1) We know the Creator and He has called us to care for his creation and 2) We are called to love our neighbor, and green living seeks to ensure that our consumption of natural resources doesn't negatively affect our worldwide neighbors.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Baking Bread

Fresh Baked Pretzel Rolls
As I am wont to do, I'm on a new wave of obsession: making bread. Unlike most of my obsessions, though, this hobby requires little money and produces something that my husband enjoys just as much as I do. So that's good.

I've also been learning a lot about patience in the process. Because I'm not sure whether you're aware of this, but making bread requires time. Like, hours. It's not something you throw together for a 30-minute dinner after work. You love on it for two, three, sometimes four hours before you get to enjoy it. So, of course, I find myself eating the raw dough while I'm waiting. I think through ways to make it rise faster and how I can multi-task by pre-heating the oven while it's rising. But the hard truth is that the bread just does it's thing, and there's little you can do to speed up the process. And while that can be troublesome while you're waiting for it to rise and bake, it's all worth it when you take that first bite of fresh-from-the-oven bread. It is so good. If you haven't tasted it, you must make some now. For real. Go.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lessons of Less Clothes

Well, I did it. I finished my fast that limited my clothing. And Easter morning I was more excited to pick out my clothes than I've ever been before. But I didn't post along the way as I'd intended. That's because I slept more. I read more. I spent time with my husband. Oh yeah, and the rest of life's repsonsibilities didn't stop just because I only had 15 items of clothing to wear.

But I want to recap what happened during that time. Because it was good.

You see, every spring I think a lot about spring cleaning. Visions of closets filled with neatly organized bins in trendy designs dance in my mind. I picture my desk completely cleaned off with only a few tidy, colored-coordinated piles. I even smile thinking about wiping down the miles of wood baseboards in our 1920s home.

But thinking about it is as far as it goes. At the end of the day, the task is just too daunting because I have way too much stuff. I have a room full of crafting supplies, a closet filled with an embarrassing number of clothes, and boxes of books that never got unpacked after our last move.

Enter my fast: for all 46 days of Lent, I limited myself to wearing those 15 items of clothing. To choose which ones, I pulled out all my clothes and went through them, first narrowing them down to 30 can't-live-without items; then 18. Cutting those last three items hurt, but as I stared at the tiny pile of clothing, I felt a strange sense of relief. Turning to see the pile of my leftover clothes, was overwhelming. I am too embarrassed to admit the number of items that were left. Knowing they'd be a temptation to me, I packed them up and put them in the attic.

I realized during my fast that the message of most spring cleaning articles is that it doesn't matter how much stuff you have as long as it's organized in beautiful bins and boxes and shelving units, because simplicity comes from organization. But it seems God's way of spring cleaning involves having a lot less stuff to begin with.