Shut Up for Once and Listen! Please.

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Yesterday I read with disbelief as a flood of women replied on Tony Jones’ blog, when he asked the question “Where are the Women?”  Hundreds flooded his blog expressing how frustrated they were with not being listened to by him, by men, in the Church, in the blogosphere.

They also said they didn’t have time for blogs where they aren’t listened to carefully and respected for their ideas.  What I couldn’t believe was that he got his feelings hurt and ended up petulant, going away to lick his wounds.

I believe Tony Jones meant to ask “why aren’t women commenting on my blog?”  Which is actually quite nice of him to notice that women are silent there.  And fascinating, really, that women don’t comment though it is clear that they are reading.  Especially since women are talking to each other within the community of other blogs, like CT’s blog for women, her.meneutics and Rachel Held Evans blog and other places.

What Tony Evans got when he asked, was vitriol and anger and I heard pain from women’s experiences in the Church, but mostly I think the underlying response was would you “shut up for once and listen. Please?”  

These women are frustrated.

I don’t know your church experience, but I’m guessing if it is conservative, or evangelical, or Bible based, women don’t have much of a voice.   They may do lots of work in the church, and may even have subtle and quiet influence, but most women don’t have influence the teaching or theological grounding of the church, because women aren’t being trained theologically, encouraged into those studies, or leadership, or speaking or teaching.

Then a fellow Redbud, Jenny Rae Armstrong wrote a great article Women, Theology and the Evangelical Gender Ghetto. She  commented about how James W. McCarty III expressed concern over the lack of female voices in the theological blogosphere in Stop, Collaborate and Listen. He said:  “Listen to women. And listen in a way in which you can learn from them. Seriously… And don’t argue with them right away… Listen deeply. Meditate upon those things that don’t resonate with your experience and give them a charitable interpretation. Think about the questions that women ask which you never think to ask. Take those questions seriously and recognize your need to learn from women to answer them.”

It reminded me of something I wrote this last year:

When our Traditions and Tired Beliefs are Calcified into Orthodoxy (Brief Thoughts On Women).  

And this:  What is lost when the Church echoes with the sound of women’s silence?

And it reminded me that the work is incomplete. As Jenny said, books could be written on this topic.

The evangelical Church with a big C (not all churches) is still stuck in petty bickering and  totally useless, entrenched ideas about what women can and cannot do. (That much is clear from the response to Rachel Held Evans new book A Year Of Biblical Womanhood.)  

As one thoughtful blogger Joy asked, where are the optimistic feminists?  She said won’t you dare to hope?  

Food for thought.

Do you listen to the women in your life, truly listen, slowly, deeply, open-handed and humbly asking what their experiences and feelings have been being a woman in the church? Do you think about the things that don’t resonate with your experience? Think about the questions that women ask which you never think to ask. Do you take those questions seriously and recognize your need to learn from women in order to answer them.

When was the last time you felt heard at church? Are you a optimistic feminist?  Are you angry.  If you’re angry I’d challenge you to consider the ways, if any that you can be a voice for change.

What did Jesus say about what women can or cannot do?  What does the Bible show  women can do, as Scot McKnight asks so well in The Blue Parakeet.  Read that book it will change the way you read the Bible!!

 Tony Jones was disconcerted by the responses of women.  This disconcerts me because what I heard was women wanting to be heard.  That is all.  That is a beginning.  That idea gives me hope.  Shut up for once, and listen.

I Wanna Be Ready – Life is a Process of Becoming

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to do anything that a boy could, continuously looking for the chance to prove myself as a girl and eventually as a woman.  That theme has circled throughout my life, drumming in the background incessantly— even to the point of becoming what felt like a blasphemy.  As Christian women our destinies, our dreams for our lives aren’t large and hopeful, but small and inconsequential.

Something inside me has pushed back at those ideas, the invisible barriers.  As I shut out what felt demeaning and battled with personal doubt, what persisted was a powerful belief that the universal ideas about women in the church might be wrong.

It is only by God’s grace that I have become resolute, and eventually open, about my belief in the biblical equality of men and women in the church.  This had become central to my identity, and I believe God gave me that understanding — but things quite beyond my control converged to make it highly unlikely that I would ever become the woman that I am today.

My formative years were spent in the southern United States one of four daughters of missionaries. I came to love God early and enthusiastically studied scripture.  That knowledge of scripture has been important, even as I wrestled internally with what I was taught.  I have been the kind of person that responded to God with an unequivocal “yes” even as I saw how the conventional understanding limited the dreams of girls and women.

My youth pastor led a camping survival trip for boys. When I asked if I could go, to his credit my pastor didn’t say no, he asked me “Why would you want to go?  It’ll be hard.”  I suppose it never occurred to my pastor that girls would want that sort of physical pain and mental challenge because most didn’t.  That trip, which was very difficult, taught me that I am strong, tenacious and hard-working.  Those are things I did not know and may never have learned if I hadn’t pushed to go.  I have always been inquisitive and contrary by nature.   My youth pastor encouraged it as strength, even while I must have driven him crazy with my never-ending interrogations about the Bible.  At that point in my life, I was ready, open and willing to do anything God wanted of me.

Although I felt encouraged by my youth pastor, it was the subtler messages growing up that hurt me. My home life was not healthy.  My father constantly berated me for things I could not control, and I watched my mother stifled in the expression of her gifts.  This led to depressive thoughts throughout high school and college.  I was afraid to open my mouth—I wouldn’t even pray out loud.  I suppose I was afraid of messing up, of being wrong, of not knowing something.  I still wrestle with that. I can remember coming home from a prayer meeting and praying under my covers, only imagining myself saying it out loud.  I wanted to believe that one day I would have the confidence and peace to say what I believed.

Even from those formative childhood years and on into adulthood, I had been driven by fear and need to be perfect.  I recall being yelled at for grades that were below my potential.  Roared at to stop stammering, because I had a small lisp. It only took a look from my father to shatter me, tears slowly leaking out of my eyes, fearful he would be angry for the tears but not being able to control them.  I learned to control them and to this day find it hard to cry.  I remember gazing at my bitten & bleeding fingernails under the microscope in high school biology, wondering if I would ever feel good about myself.  Somehow, my hands came to symbolize my pain and the ugliness I saw in myself.  Spacing out was one way I coped with the unpredictable nature of my father’s anger which could be triggered by anything—a slip of the tongue, a comment coming out a too sarcastically or being considered disrespectful.  Of course having ideas other than his enraged him and though he was never physically punishing to us, he verbally hounded us long into adulthood.

Shortly after graduating I moved back home, which was now in the Midwest, and started working for my father who was by now at a different ministry organization.  My mom and my older sister were both working for my father.  On some level we all longed for his approval, still.   I started doing clerical work part-time and was soon promoted.  Suddenly I was receiving affirmation from my father and acclaim from others.  As I worked, I began to remember things that I had completely lost track of – I was naturally gifted as a leader, a critical thinker, and an artist, a passionate and gifted communicator.  Though I nearly threw up each time, I even became an effective public speaker.  After all those years, I had come a long way from the timid and shy girl that hid under her covers, too afraid to pray out loud.

But deep down, I was full of self-loathing which came, I believe, from the incessant yelling and shaming of my father.  I was unsure about what God really thought of me—I had never understood the grace Jesus offers.  I was extraordinarily insecure and wasn’t able to fully access my spiritual gifts.  I became rigid, caught up in petty competition, critical of others.  I became a workaholic as I needed to prove to everyone that I was “good enough.” Though I was promoted quickly up the organization — even with all of the “success” — deep down I was terrified of it all shattering.   I was utterly lost.  I longed for a mentor or spiritual director or a boss to give me insight into my own despair, but it wasn’t offered to me and I didn’t know enough to ask for it.

I walked away from work burned out and cynical. Only then, by losing that aspect of my identity, did I finally face who I had become.  Whether I was conscious of it or not, I had lost my way, my spiritual center, in many ways becoming just like my father.  Over the years my true voice had become silent.  I shut down. I learned the safe thing was to not speak out loud.  I forfeited living for peace. I lost my way.

The church and its teachings, my father’s influence, and my internal journey all converged into great confusion, when in my forties I learned that my spiritual gifts were leadership, teaching, wisdom and mercy.  I didn’t know how to reconcile that.  I obviously had been misusing my talents.  I was afraid of my “spiritual gifts.”  I had not been mentored or helped to become a Godly leader—to be gentle, peaceful, generous, patient and kind.   This is something I learned is crucial for all young leaders, to have another wiser elder come alongside and guide them.  Was it because I was a woman that I didn’t receive it?  I’ll never know. When I left work to be a stay-at-home mom, I set that entire part of me aside refusing any leadership capacity or take any responsibilities at our new church. I was afraid of my gifts and unsure how to use them well, or if I even should. So I became silent, again.

I have spent these years at-home personally inventorying my heart – crying out to God.  I know that I have a strong and powerful voice.  If God made me a leader, with heart care for others; if he made me a critical thinker;  if he breaks my heart over injustice; what does he want from me?  And if God wants me to do something, how do I figure out how that fits into my church? I have felt like a misfit, disobedient not using my spiritual gifts.  I’ve been made a certain way and yet I’m stubbornly withholding out of fear.   Fr. Richard Rohr, the Franciscan monk, says that the typical trajectory of our life is that our hurts, disappointments and betrayals will embitter us.  Unless we allow God to heal and transform our pain we will transmit it.  This I have most certainly done. Even as I’m still learning discernment I know that I cannot remain silent.  The challenge for me now is finding a place and a way to speak that is worth the risk.

All of my life, I got the message that the person that God made me—tough, opinionated and full of questions, capable and yet bullheaded—was somehow wrong. Though I have seen the ways that these qualities have hurt others I am figuring out how to be that person God made, not bitter and destructive but transformed.  I long to be useful.  As I wrestle every day with the tension between my earthly father, now dead, who raised me and what scripture says about our heavenly father, I have to admit that this part of my story is not complete.  My ideas about a Father God are not yet redeemed.  No matter what I have learned, there are some days that God is still mean, angry, and out of control, railing at me in my head.  And that’s going to take a miracle to heal.  Still, I’m confident at this point that I am worthwhile, because God loves me and made me in his image.

I strive ahead, hoping to be useful to the faith community that I am a part of, though it is at times uncomfortable and frustrating!  Will I always struggle with the feeling that I have to prove myself? Probably.  If this life is merely a process of becoming, I welcome it.   Like the old hymn says, “I want to be ready.” Not afraid to speak.

Jesus met the Samaritan woman the poorest and most broken of women in the gospels.  She had made her share of mistakes, was rejected and marginalized.  When Jesus meets her, he doesn’t ask her to get her act together rather he exposes to her his own need.  He said “Give me a drink.”  I am quite sure that she did not believe she had anything to offer Jesus, and yet he revealed to her the truth.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could accept that truth?  I would no longer need to be grasping for proof of my worth or working and competing for my value.   I have always wanted to be great in the world’s and in God’s eyes, with little understanding of this truth.

We are called to a life of love, justice and hope to the “least of these.”  Each one of us is made in God’s image and as we are being transformed, we can know our value to Him.  No, I am not yet perfected, nor am I perfect but that too is adequate as I ponder the greater question of what it means to be an empowered woman of faith.  I will always remember what I came from, even while seeking the path of greatest usefulness, even today responding unequivocally yes to God.

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I wrote this in January 2012 for a specific publication, but as they did not use it I thought I’d share it here. In retrospect perhaps it is tepid and preachy.

When our Traditions and Tired Beliefs are Calcified into Orthodoxy (Brief Thoughts On Women)

 

Yesterday as I was sitting across from one of the people I respect most in the world when my life changed forever. 

You see I have had many long years of being in pain about being a woman in the church, though I am on a path of healing. Yes, this story does have a happy-ish ending.

Okay happy isn’t quite right but I feel hopeful in the knowledge that we have not seen the end of Our Story.

Being a woman in the evangelical Church can be painful.  Being a natural questioner is too.  

More than a decade ago, I began to question the roles of women in the evangelical church and this has brought me a lot of personal pain.  The process of learning what was True – scriptural, cultural, and relevant for us today, was slow and difficult because no one really wanted to talk to me about it or help all that much, as I questioned my pastor, and the elders, and pursued it with others.

Little did I know that in some cases it was because others didn’t really know what they thought.

This is a part of what makes this issue so slippery.  I pushed, sought clarification, and ask for perspectives and read a lot of books! The process of the last ten years has been uncomfortable, isolating and even at times agonizing.

I learned recently that I have even scored a “reputation.”

Not as I would hope of being a thinking, theological person – because I have asked the biblical basis for these things and sought truth. That I would take as a backhanded compliment.

And not as I might wish for being a questioner –because I do have many questions and never saw that as liability as a person of faith.

Rather, I have been called the f-word, yeah that f-word – Feminist. And even more malevolent, an “Angry Feminist.”

Actually, the angry part is true. Once I am able to step back from my defensive, hurt posture, I’ll confess that I have been angry.  I have carried around inside me, close to my heart, an oozing, pussy, and infected spiritual sore and this has been  very bad for my soul.  I even picked incessantly at it.  I have been wounded, offended, bitter and angry and worst of all to me is this.

I have felt unheard.

Sitting there across from my beautiful, big-hearted and loving, Bible cherishing, Jesus following, Holy Spirit filled, Bible Church attending friend, she uttered the most unbelievable words.  And she repeated them when I seemed to just look at her bug-eyed, in shock.

“You are not alone.  You are not the only one wondering what’s true,” she whispered to me.

She asked me this simple question:

 “What did Jesus say about women?”

Well, nothing that I am aware of and I will double-check because she asked. But I am not aware of anything prescriptive that Jesus said about women.

Jesus saw women,

Jesus spoke to women,

Jesus healed women,

Jesus taught women,

Jesus was financially supported by women,

Jesus loved women,

Jesus listened to women?

Jesus was persuaded to change his mind by a woman.

All in a culture and time when women were unseen and unheard, unworthy, unquestioningly invisible.

So I ask you friends.  What did Jesus say about women? And what parts of Scripture bring you hope as you consider the place of women in the church today?

I’ve had a healing of that sore that I allowed to fester for more than a decade.  That incredible story is here.

And I have a renewed challenge by my friend, someone who I never thought would ask about the injustices toward women in the Church.  Because of her, I now dream of somehow bringing a riptide of change into the middle of this vast ocean of tradition and tired beliefs which have been calcified into orthodoxy.

These days, most days, I feel hope about the place of women in the Church. Other days it feels foolish and the lack of certainty is soul crushing.

On the days that I maintain my weak hold on Jesus, I do believe change will come.  And hearing the questions coming from this dear friend meant everything.

I am resolved to begin again to study and write on this topic — I gave it up for a good long while.  The angry feminist in me has become resolved and certain of Jesus and his love for me and all women.  Something shifted in my mind and heart , in my soul as I sat listening to my friend.

I am not alone.  I am not the only one asking.  I am not the only woman looking for answers.  We will find the Truth together.  We have not seen the end of Our Story.

Melody

Other things I have written on these subjects.
//

Call Me Crazy, But I Talk to Jesus too (Thoughts on being a Christian Woman in the 21st Century)

Call me crazy, but I talk to Jesus too.
And so, I can say that I don’t need you to liberate me.
Jesus already did that.
No, I don’t need a church to say what I can and cannot do,
I’m already free.

Call me crazy but I don’t believe in a Jesus that oppresses you or me.
You see, I’ll repeat it in case you didn’t understand, we are already free.

Yes, I’m going there.
Call me crazy but I don’t worship a male God.  Sexuality just cannot matter
to Yahweh — who is the creator of the universe – who formed the stars and galaxies, and all kinds of life.
I believe in a God who isn’t male or female, he is everything.
God is spirit.
God is breath.
God is here.
God is everywhere.
God is everything good.
God came before us and will be here after us.

That I am a woman is nothing to him.
And here’s something else I believe.

God doesn’t love you because you’re a man.
He sure doesn’t love you more than me.
For a long time I thought he might.
But then, crazy me I talked to Jesus too, and then. I read the Bible for myself.  I learned
yes, God loves me
for I am made in his image and by that he doesn’t mean male.

Because Yahweh, our creator God, isn’t male or female.
Don’t you get it?
We are already liberated and free.
I even think, if Jesus returned today he might not come as a male, no not today. I’m just saying,
he might not.  Why does that scare you?

But as the Son of God it’s true.  Jesus came in human form, two thousand years ago
and

way

back

then,

even though Jesus came to liberate us all,
even though God allowed a woman the great honor of being the first witness to the Resurrection,
still, way back then …

Women had nothing.
Women were chattel.
Women were owned.
Women were property.

Call me crazy, but I am not that two-thousand-year-old-oppressed-and-dependent-kind-of-woman,
I’m free.
I just need to learn live like it.

If you look.  If you really care to open the eyes of your soul and read the Bible, then you will see.

No, I don’t believe in a God who oppresses anyone, least of all me.
I talk to Jesus and he told me

I’m already free.

MHH

Inspired by and written as a part of the Synchroblog March theme, All About Eve.  As a part of Women’s History month,

Women’s rights have been all over the news recently, from bills in Congress and state representative bodies to crass “jokes” by national broadcasters. The idea that women are or should be equal to men has become a polarizing topic of discussion on the national stage. So we thought Synchroblog might jump right in. Anything concerning women in general, women and the church, balancing women’s rights with religious freedoms, the differences between men and women … these are all good topics for blog posts. There is one caveat, we are asking that the Synchroblog be a voice of moderation and temperance. You may have strong beliefs on this subject and that is good. Giving voice those beliefs in a spirit of cooperation and bridge-building is also good. We would like these posts to step in that direction.  Here are a couple of great examples of moderate writing on women’s issues to prime your writing … An Apology From Limbaugh, But The Damage Is Done by Denny Burke.  And now…on the other side (critique of extreme complementarianism) by Roger E. Olsen

I invite you to read these other synchroblog posts.

(I haven’t read them all yet.  Passing them along in the spirit of the project):

Marta Layton The War on Terror and the War on Women

Kathy Escobar replacing the “f” word with the “d” word (no, not one of those ones!)

Tammy Carter Pat Summitt: Changing the Game & Changing the World

Wendy McCaig Letting Junia Fly: Releasing the Called

Words Half Heard Lenten Submission: Rethinking Hupotassō

Jeremy Myers Women Must Lead the Church

KW Leslie Churches and Women

 Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman

Jeanette Altes – On Being Female

Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too

Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar

Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi

Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve

Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…

Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day

Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women

Christine Sine – It All Begins With Love

K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women

Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal

Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor 

What Can’t our Daughters Do?

I’m re-posting something I wrote a year ago.  It was my most popular article ever written with more than a thousand viewers.  So I thought it was worth posting again.  

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Quickly — I want to thank all my visitors from the homepage of wordpress.com. Welcome!  Wow!  A lotta love happens when you get featured on the homepage.  Until yesterday, this was a little ol’ blog visited by some of my friends and a few Facebook contacts. I was essentially writing to myself and my lurkers (I do have quite a few of those.)

It would kill me to have you think I’m some ranting feminist and that’s what this blog is about.  Because that is not true, about the blog, I mean. I am a feminist.  And I can rant (at times.)  Okay quite often.  But I rant — ahem write about many topics.  I post my poetry, and talk about all sorts of things from politics, faith & (dis)belief, family & parenting, depression & mental health.  It’s varied.

I’m a Haus Frau, free-lance photographer and generally vexed person who writes.  If it were not for my faith I’d be mean and ugly things would come out of my mouth.  But if you find anything golden here it is because of grace of God in my life.   Melody


I started writing these thoughts about two months ago.  But Nicholas Kristof’s article in today’s NY Times entitled, Religion and Women, got me thinking, again.   I am a regular reader of his Op-Eds.

Do you believe this little girl does has the right to the same opportunities as these boys?  (Even if she felt called to be a Pastor?)

Kristof mentions Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, which I read when it was first posted online.

(I think I’m “in love” with Jimmy Carter because he lives his life with principles.  And standing up for women is sexy!  But that’s irrelevant here.)  I don’t have complete or even very coherent thoughts on the topic yet, I just want to ask some questions:

  • Is feminism as simple as giving women equality in work, home, church life?
  • Do women deserve access to anything that men have access to?  Why do some men have such a problem with this?
  • Do you believe your daughter has a right to every opportunity that your son has?  Why would a loving God say she doesn’t?  What can’t our daughters do?

Personally, I think oppressing  a woman, from war lords raping women in the Congo, to Afghani men who throw acid on girls faces, to men who psychologically abuse women, or the British woman who was arrested for being raped in Dubai, all of this should make us sick to our stomachs and even more culturally accepted things like putting women down, objectifying women.  And yes even keeping them from leadership opportunities they are obviously qualified, all of these things give men the chance to believe that women are inferior human beings.  And when you do that, bad things happen in our homes, institutions and relationships.

Sexism is any mistreatment of women, ranging from violence against women, to treating women as inferior, to objectifying a women. Any time women are treated in any way other than a respected human being with every opportunity in the world!

“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted.  “The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”

Jimmy Carter sees religion as one of the basic “causes of the violation of women’s rights.”

As a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, he is speaking out.  The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to “change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions.”

Why do I have a problem with women not being elders at my church? Because in its simplest form it is saying:

  • That women are not trusted by God with the complete story, or
  • that women somehow don’t have what it takes to lead the church, or
  • that women don’t have full access to God, or
  • that women  don’t have the wisdom and life experience,
  • We do not have whatever it takes.

Oh, believe you me I know (some) churches will allow you to do anything else! Serve, give, teach, be missionaries.  Just not be the spiritual guide.  It just doesn’t feel right.  In my gut.

Eugene Cho, is a pastor and leader and all around amazing, wise and prophetic person who has written and thought about this subject saying:

“Shouldn’t we work together to build a culture (even amongst our own churches) of respect and dignity? How do we do that beyond the debates of the ordination of women?  How do we do that in our lives, families and churches (or must it be connected to the issue of ordination?)  What’s clear to me is that it’s really difficult to pursue these things when we don’t hear directly from women. Or allow ourselves to listen to women… aka – that we take a posture of humility and submit, believing that God can actually speak through women as well. Why?”

I’ll tell you why.  Because they do not fundamentally believe they should be listening to women.  You can’t convince me otherwise.

Surprisingly, in a progressive place like Madison we settle for less on this subject.  It is rare in Madison that are women subjected to overt forms of sexism.  Most of the men I know are loving and open-hearted.  And so, in the church especially, women let a lot go.  We ignore the whole Elder and women being ordained issue, just glad we’re all getting along.  And in fact my church is ahead of many other Evangelical churches in the area.

What I don’t like is that we aren’t willing to talk about these things.  We need to talk about these things.  The fact that we don’t talk about it is painful to me. I believe if we want grow, to heal, and to have everyone truly empowered and working out of their gifts and abilities, it is crucial that we be willing to talk.

It takes an immense amount of energy to challenge someone on their sexism. It is much easier to sit here and write about it.  Even a situation that is simple and straightforward, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, sent me into a tailspin for about 12 hours.  I knew it was sexist.  I couldn’t believe how bad I felt and wondered how my sister, an ordained minister in her own church felt being spoken to in such a demeaning manner.  I suppose in some ways I forgot, being out of the workplace and not heavily involved at church, that this is still common, and widespread.

It would seem that sexism would be easy to recognize.  As with any type of discrimination, sexism can be both personal and institutional, obvious and much more subtle.  Do you think you could spot sexism when it occurs?  These are all in the category.

  • Definitely commenting on a woman’s looks when you should or could be talking ideas with her can be a form of sexism.
  • The use of pejorative names like ” ‘girls’ at the home office” and other patronizing terms can be a form of sexism.
  • A teacher or pastor or youth worker offering more attention to one gender can be a form of sexism.
  • Only hiring people of a certain gender for a specific type of job can be a form of sexism.  (Every support role in a church or ministry being filled by one gender, female.)
  • Expecting only people of a certain sex/gender to be interested in specific activities can be a form of sexism.
  • Identifying activities, roles and chores as male or female can be a form of sexism.
  • Steering students towards specific subjects based on their gender can be a form of sexism.

Mutual respect, openness and conversation are what we need.

I have rung the bell too many times within my church on the role of women. I try to be respectful and teachable. But I am tired of being told “Talk to so and so, who is a woman who leads…” so that she can tell me why she’s accepted the fact and is okay that she will never be an elder in the church.  Pass.

I’ve decided it’s the denomination that speaks.  Women are not pastors or ordained in our denomination.  I cannot change the Evangelical Free Church of America denomination (Or can I? my son would say.  But I know I cannot.) so I have to decide if I can live with it.

And it comes down to whether I can counteract the message, subtle as it is from the platform, that says to my 12-year-old daughter sitting in the pew — you will never do that job.  You will never be a pastor.  You don’t need to study scripture as seriously as the boys, because you aren’t accepted at their seminary.  Women do not preach.  You will not see women preach in our church.

I just think that’s sad.  It makes me very sad.

So how does a feminist, at-home mom answer the question: What do you do?

I hate that question!

And I hate that I hate it.

Unless you’ve spent some time (more than a month) at home managing things and people, you can’t imagine how the following realities can possibly be true.

When I say that I am a part-time free-lance photographer, I usually gets responses of  “Oh, cool” or “Oh wow” and just slightly impressed gazes.  I know what they are thinking when I say I am also an at-home mom.  I am an out-of-work-highly-skilled-workaholic-manager who hasn’t been able to transfer that skill to home and doesn’t have another job.

It’s true.  My many failings as a house-keeper are evident to anyone who spends more than a few minutes in my home.  I sometimes take images for others, and get paid.  Others I donate my time to like Our Lives magazine (I did this cover and usually have something in every issue. But most of the time my photography is for my own pleasure.  I spend my days super busy and yet at the end of the day I have usually (not always) not made a cent and quite the opposite have undoubtedly helped the economy along.

How do I spend my days?  What’s currently going on … ?

I spend a lot of time and even more soul energy, advocating for my children in the public school system.

When I am on my game I spend quite a good amount of time studying the Bible.  (I can’t take anyone’s word for it any more when it comes to my faith and understanding of things in the Bible.)

My yard is sorely neglected but it is beautiful and has a garden (providing amazing tomatoes, banana peppers, leeks and carrots, Bok Choy, and beans and different herbs.  I am an on again, off again composter but I mow my own yard and sometimes my aging neighbor’s.

My eight year old has — count them — eight cavities and will see the dentist four times this month, along with an orthodontist.   He has the unfortunate combination of: loves sugar, bad hygiene habits, and simply has bad teeth.  He also needs an appointment with an Audiologist, and a Psychologist, and I’m late signing him up for speech therapy/tutoring he receives twice weekly through the UW. I want to sign him up for football, because soccer was not his sport and with his auditory and focus challenges and issues, I think catch the ball and run will be right up his alley.  His IEP will be written at the first of October.  I need to contact a disability rights advocacy group, and figure out how to get his IEP working for him with or without that group, and check in weekly with the teachers, working on things at home.

It’s no wonder my eleven year old thinks she never gets my attention and she has started speaking stridently about e v e r y t h i n g.  (At least I hope that’s why she’s so exercised about every little thing.) It’s absolutely not true about my time, but I do have a lot going on with Jacob.

My middle child is creative and happily goes about his movie making, hoping to slip under the radar.  But he needs daily help with reading and homework whether he wants it or not.

My mother is 72 and although living independently we are beginning to have conversations about managing life.  She has two doctor appointments that I will attend and will require follow-up.  She’s broken her shoulder and so I do her laundry, fetch things, shop and visit daily.  I aim for daily at least.  Now I think she is ready to look into continued living facilities and has asked me to help her find them and go to appointments.  That will happen after she gets out of the assisted facility she is in for her rehab.

I got the physicals done thankfully, with shots for Emma going into Middle School and they asked my kid, like they have for … nine or ten years, … DOES YOUR FAMILY HAVE A FIRE SAFETY PLAN?  NO, No, for the last bloody time we don’t and probably never will!!!!!!!!!!  Lingering Guilt…  My advice in a fire is run!

I can’t seem to stay on top of my daughter’s soccer schedule and commitments, because we missed a seemingly innocuous parent meeting: I didn’t go and Tom didn’t get out of the car. And that’s all I’ll say about it, but she has two practices a week and a game which my husband helps to chauffeur,  for which I am grateful.

Speaking of husbands, I have a book at Borders recommended by a good friend, The Passionate Marriage (by David Schnark) which I haven’t had time to pick it up much less read, or work on that passion!  But I am hungry for connection with my husband, because we have reached those dangerous years when we are so busy “doing” for the kids that we hardly touch base.  The main time we see one another is 6:00 pm daily when we eat dinner as a family.

I am 14 months into my recovery from alcohol addiction and this recovery takes work – time and energy, energy and time.  I missed my Alcohol counseling appointment this month because it was the only day we had free to use already purchased tickets to Noah’s Ark, which we had been rained out of twice already, and the summer was over in a week.  But I haven’t even had time to do my Step 2 homework, so although I need to go, I’m not ready.

Every strain of life seems to be leading back to nutrition and health, with Jacob’s sugar fixation, Tom and I feeling lethargic and being over weight, my kids being a bit chubby, my high cholesterol, etc, etc.  I barely make it to the store, or to cook meals, much less read the 300 page book on Family Nutrition.  Even if I skimmed it I just want to sit down and  …. sigh.

I hadn’t had my teeth cleaned in a year, but did recently and have confirmed TMJ and need to schedule with a specialist.  Any surprise that I grind my teeth at night?  Some mornings I wake up with headache reminiscent of my old hangovers and my jaw pops all day long.  The dentist recommends I quit chewing gum, the same gum that I was chewing so that I could quit smoking.  Sore jaw or smoking withdrawal.  Hm….. Life is full of choices.

I had skin cancer last year and need a followup appointment, my doctor moved, so I have to get a new doctor, and a new appointment.  I have moles that are looking strange, but it will likely be winter before I get to it.

My neighbors have apples that need picking, free for the taking, but I keep buying them at the store because I don’t have time to go pick them.

When all is said and done (or undone) I will go pick an apple, breathe, and rethink whether it matters what my dentist, or anyone else, thinks about what I do all day?

Everyone’s life is full of challenge and we may or may not get to it all.   I go to bed night after night with my to do list still swirling around undone.  But big picture, this is exactly the right job for me, for now, for today, for this moment.