{September 10, 2009}   women’s ministries

In general, I find myself hating women’s ministries. I know that sounds odd because I love being a woman, and I’m a Christian, and I write a blog about being a Christian woman (or try to). But sadly, this is true. Every time I try to get involved in one, either the cynic in me wells up and can’t stop making fun of the cheese or I get frustrated at how squeaky clean it all is. Every women’s Bible study, ministry event I’ve been a part of has been warm, fuzzy, flowery, and so often centered on being mothers and wives because let’s face it, in the Christian world that is a woman’s highest calling. Don’t get me wrong, I love being married, and I look forward to being a mom, and I think mom’s deserve more praise and love than they get, but what about the rest of women out there. What about the women who are called to be single and therefore will never be mothers in the traditional biological sense? What about the women who aren’t big fans of kids but still love Jesus?

I always feel like an outsider after I leave a women’s ministry/Bible study. I’m married, yes, but I’m not a mother yet, and I haven’t decided 100 percent if I want to go that route with my life. Sometimes I feel my life would be perfectly wonderful just me, John and our dog. I’m the girl who is extremely passionate about her career. I’m getting my Master’s degree in the hopes that when I do start on the career path, I’ll be able to skip a few levels. I look forward to the day when I’ll have my own office, heck, even my own cubicle would get me excited. I love going to work and getting a paycheck and what I love even more is that my future career (if anyone will hire me after this graduate degree is complete) is that its something I’m passionate about and love doing anyway. I don’t get the sense that any of the other women at these things feel the same way. Most of the conversation is about how to deal with the stress that comes from being the caregiver of your family, how draining it is to be sacrificing all the time, which is completely valid and things I feel too. But what about the difficulties of being a woman in a man’s world, the struggle to find the balance in being a working mom, the frustration of being over-30, still single and how your mother is not okay with that even though you are? When do we get to talk about that?

Even though all those are points of frustration, I think the most aggravating thing about women’s ministries are the fact that they are the hub of church faking-it. Everywhere I turn I see those plastic smiles that scream “Everything’s Leave-It-to-Beaver fantastic here! I have everything under control all the time! My house is always clean like a picture in a magazine!” Either I’m a complete failure as a woman, but that is not how my life is. My life is messy, not train wreck messy, but everyday life messy, and I don’t even have kids yet. I can’t imagine all these mothers have it all together all the time. To me church should be a safe place for people to let it out that they don’t have it all together, but church is one of those places that we shove all of our messes under the bed and into the closet no one ever opens. No one really cares what you answer when they ask, “How are you?” during meet-and-greet time Sunday morning. And women are experts at faking it. Now maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe I’ve never stuck around long enough for these women in these ministries to let their guards down and pull out their messes, and that would be my fault. However, I’ve been seeped in the church my whole life, so I don’t think I’m wrong here.

If you know of a women’s ministry that does let women relax and be authentic, please let me know so I can move there and be a part of it.


{August 2, 2009}   Ponderings from Scrubs

Scrubs is one of my all-time favorite shows, and as I was watching a rerun, I was thinking about what I was watching. Elliot Reed was struggling with the fact that the lab work she requests always takes longer than the male doctors in the hospital. Jordan and Carla tell her that the best way for her to level the playing field between her and the boys is to use her sexuality to get what she needs with winks and lingering innocent touches. Elliot masters this ability and enjoys getting what she wants when she wants it. Elliot is also up for winning a fellowship at the hospital and has her interview coming up. She cuts in a line to get a soda (using her feminine charm) and takes the last one. The man she cuts is her interviewer. He mutters to himself, “If the rest of the women who work in this hospital are like her, she’s not getting that fellowship.”

I can’t help but feel conflicted in this situation. It seems fair with how off-kilter work environments can be that women should be able to use every tool in their arsenals to get a fair chance. On the other hand, doesn’t that completely undermine what we really want, to be valued, respected, and rewarded for our intelligence, talents, and abilities? Isn’t that completely disrespecting ourselves? But when we can’t get recognized for those higher values, what are we supposed to do? Just lie around and pray for some man or a lucky woman in power to come around who will notice and give us an opportunity?

What’s a girl to do? Is there an amount of using your feminine wiles that is appropriate? If that line exists, where is it? Lend me your thoughts. Do you have any answers to these questions?

{July 30, 2009}   double standards in custody

I happened to be up early enough this morning and with time to kill before work so I flipped on the Today Show. A report caught my attention and immediately made me think of this blog. I have to know what you think of this. Read the full report here and then comment and tell me what’s going on in your head. There’s also an article in this month’s Marie Claire that you can read here.

Apparently, there are over 2 million women in America are non-custodial mothers. These are women who have gotten divorced and relinquish physical custody to the father. Now, I don’t want this to become a discussion about divorce, but I do think it’s interesting the stigma attached to women who do decide to allow their ex-husbands physical custody of the children. At first I was shocked and appalled, but then, I started to understand why a person’s initial reaction to that mother would be to judge. After being entrenched in a social idea that women should always have custody, that women should always be the primary caregiver, it’s hard for some to wrap their minds around the idea that a mother who loves her children (because all the mothers mentioned in this story seem like loving, involved mothers) would be willing to hand over physical custody, but why is it not an outrage for a dad who loves his children to give up custody? It’s becoming more and more acceptable for a dad to be the primary caregiver (whether the couple is still together or not), but on the other side of the coin, women are still being stigmatized when they give up their socially accepted role. Read the rest of this entry »

My bff Ash, who I’ve partnered with on tea@elevensies, brought this article to my attention, and I wanted to bring it to yours. NorthxEast, a site aimed at helping bloggers, has compiled a list of the fifty most influential female bloggers. I’ve only heard of a handful of them (that handful are the really famous like Arianna Huffington), but that’s because most don’t blog about things I’m interested in. To see so many female bloggers who have made blogging a profession and become a force in the blogging world is an inspiration to little-old-wannabe-blogger me. I can only dream of the kind of RSS subscriptions and comment numbers these ladies rack up in a day! Need some motivation or inspiration. Just look at this list that shows what some ambition and guts can do.

NxE’s Fifty Most Influential Female Bloggers

{July 23, 2009}   back in action

Sorry for the impromptu hiatus. Keeping up with such a specific topical blog is difficult. Who knew it would be so hard? Of course, slacking on your relationship with God will also hinder a blog with a spiritual foundation. Plus, I’m going to graduate school and have been devoting most of my Internet presence to building up my new more general blog with my good friend Ash, tea@elevensies.

Enough excuses though! Let’s get back into the action. Yesterday, I had an interesting moment that reminded me of the feministic charge I used to feel growing up. Working on the shipment team at Old Navy, as I have done since starting work there a year ago, I was unloading a truck full of boxes of clothes. Most of the shipment team had already taken loads of clothes to the sales floor to start placing them, leaving two people scanning boxes into the computer, one person sorting the contents of boxes, and two of us (one being me and the other being a guy) removing boxes from the truck and stacking them throughout the back room. The boxes were heavy, but I’ve unloaded heavier with no problems. When one of guys (new to the shipment team, it was his first day unloading the truck) from the sales floor came back for another load, one of the girls scanning boxes, yelled at him to take my place so I didn’t have to unload heavy boxes. Now, I know I’m only 110 lbs, but I know what I’m doing and like I said, have lifted boxes heavier higher than the ones I was unloading yesterday. Also, like I said, he was completely lost unloading the truck which is why we sent him out to the sales floor. I hollered back to the girl, “I’ve got it!” The other guys laughed, and I continued to unload the truck. All of it. And guess what? I wasn’t even sore the next day.

What this incident made me realize is how long its been since I’ve felt that surge of girl power. I’ve struggled a long time being married to a man’s man with how feminism works in a marriage. It’s not that my husband is a sexist. He isn’t. He doesn’t keep me from pursuing my dreams at all. In fact, he believes in them more than I do sometimes. But I do the majority of the cleaning, cooking. I let him open doors for me. Sure, I can open my own doors, and he is capapble of cleaning, and he often grills for our summer dinners. I do the majority of the cooking and cleaning because he works full-time, and I don’t so I have more time than he does. Plus, I like cooking. I let him open doors and do heavy lifting because he loves me, and it’s more important to let him show his love and respect in this way than me to make a statement. This marriage is a marriage of mutual respect. I haven’t had to bring out the girl power in a year. It’s been nice, but it was nice to remember that it’s still needed.

Of course, I’m not trying to blow this incident out of proportion. I know it was minor and silly, but it was a flicker of girl power that I hadn’t felt in a while, and it felt good to do something that someone didn’t think I could because I was a “weak” girl.

{May 8, 2009}   turning the tables

Has anyone else noticed the declining view of men in media? It seems to me that the image of men, especially in television ads that the American man has been reduced to a stupid, lazy, incompetent ape, undeserving of the bold, intelligent, self-sufficient beautiful women they are often paired with. All of this is done in the name of making us laugh. I think this is a response to the stereotype that men are really just the figureheads of families, but the women really control everything.While some of this may be based in a silly but true seed of truth, the fact that the only commercials to show men not being idiots are ads selling men hygiene products is sad.

The answer to gender equality is not turning the tables. I’m all for strong, intelligent, beautiful women who can take care of themselves, but how can these women expect to find smart, funny, considerate men in this world when the culture of our media perpetuates this less-than-satisfactory image of the American man. I’m not asserting that we do away with the caricature. I think it’s funny, but it is overdone. Let’s tone it down a bit and get some more positive images out there. And ladies, let’s have the grace not to cry sexism when those positive images do make it on the scene.

{May 1, 2009}   girl talk

I abandoned my husband during Sunday School at our new church to start attending a women’s only class. We’re doing this study by Susan Andringa called The Esteemed Journey: Discovering Your Full Worth in Christ. We’re only in the second week so its a little too soon to judge, but so far, I’m not impressed. It’s nothing against the people who picked it or Susan Andringa, but so far it’s not giving me tangible ways to deal with my burdens that its making me confront.

The good thing from this class has been the people in it. Since moving to a new town, it’s been difficult to meet people, especially other Christian women. I had forgotten what I had been missing out on. Just being in the same room and talking with other Christian ladies for an hour each week has acted as Red Bull for my soul.

Ladies, we need each other. We need to hang out, talk, support and pray for each other. Women were not supposed to live in isolation. We were supposed to be there for each other. You won’t know how important it is until they are no longer there.

{April 17, 2009}   loneliness

As hard as I try to not like it and resist what is popular, I can’t help but like Taylor Swift’s song “Love Story.” It’s just too catchy! I do have one beef with the lyrics of this song, however. It works nicely with the song, but the lines about “I’ve been feelin’ so alone” and “You never have to alone” send the wrong message to women.

Loneliness is one of my biggest fears. It’s what fuels my self-diagnosed hypochondria and my fear of flying. The idea of being alone when something bad happens terrifies me. I think this fear is shared by many people, especially among women. It is what often fuels our desire for relationships, especially those of the romantic variety. Fear of loneliness also fuels many a marriage proposal. It’s natural. We want a family. We want someone to care whether we come or go. We want someone to come home to, fall asleep with and wake up to. There is nothing wrong with those desires, but where these desires go wrong is when we expect those relationships to annhilate any loneliness. Just because you are married or in a relationship doesn’t mean loneliness will not come. No other person can truly understand you, your life, your problems all the time. No person can be there for you all the time. This puts too much pressure on the significant other and the relationship.

While no person can always be there for us, God can. God can fill that loneliness that haunts all of us. This puts no pressure on Him because He can handle it. He is God after all. He is the only one who is always there, always understands, and fulfills our every need. Instead of turning to the person next to you, we (I included, I really suck at this) need to turn to and lean on God to fill our voids because He’s the only one who can fill it completely and not leave us wanting more.

{March 16, 2009}   happy bday glamour

One of my favorite magazine’s is not only celebrating women this month but also 70 years of magazine awesomeness. Check out this creative, interesting, beautifully done piece on American Women Icons in this month’s issue.

It’s much cooler in person so I stress buying the magazine (its also packed with other incredible features on women artists, women saving the planet, and good old beauty and health tips), but click the link if you don’t have five bucks to spare.

{March 15, 2009}   Women I Admire 2009

Here it is again! In honor of March being Women’s History Month, I’m posting my list of women I admire. Mostly it’s a list of public women who I find myself drawn to, either because I love what they’re doing for women or just for being the essence of awesome. Last year’s list included Laura Bush, Tina Fey, my aunt who has kicked cancer’s ass and Ruth Graham. There’s always at least one woman from my personal life who makes the cut though. And here they are, the women I admire for 2009:

The ladies I interviewed for a Vox Magazine article on Women Authors in Mid-Mo: The claws came out in the meeting when this issue’s stories were assigned. Nothing was going to stop me from writing this incredible article. Once I started interviewing these women, however, I was so bummed that I was only allowed 100 words per writer. Each of them were so amazing and so insightful. I had 1000 words easy from every interview. I just wanted to sit at these women’s feet and bask in their writing wisdom.

Meghan McCain: The more I read this girl’s writing and listen to her during TV interviews the more I like her. Some people say she’s just a rich valley girl who knows nothing, but I disagree. She’s an intelligent normal person who has the guts to say what needs to be say. I love that she’s trying to save her party and make them more relevant. I love that she stands up to those who bring up her body and encourages women to love their bodies the way they are.  I am definitely following her on Twitter.

Kristen Wiig: She is by far my favorite cast member on SNL right now. She. is. hilarious. She dominates every sketch she’s in. I love her as Nancy Pelosi and Penelope the One-Upper. If you aren’t watching SNL right now, watch it to see what I’m talking about.

Elizabeth Banks: This gorgeous actress has an incredible range of acting ability. After seeing her on Scrubs as the mother of J.D.’s son at the end of last season and Definitely, Maybe, I was blown away when I just randomly watched Seabiscuit for the first time in years and realized that she plays Seabiscuit’s owners wife! After that serious role, to find out she’s also The Daily Bugle secretary in all three Spidermans, a sex-maniac in The 40-year-old Virgin, one of the leads in Zack and Miri, and Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s W. blew my mind. Yes, some of her choices in movies are raunchy (just look at the plot of Zack and Miri), but this woman is hilarious, talented and very down-to-earth. She joins Keira Knightely and Natalie Portman as one of my favorite young actresses that I wish I could be friends with.

My Mom: As always, she has to be on this list. I try to live my life like she lives hers. She’s so smart and so cool, and she always seems to react the right way during life’s tough situations and knows what to do. I miss her and wish we could hang out all the time.

One of my BFFs Ashley Geiger: I’ve been struggling a lot on the spiritual front, and Ashley is an inspiration to me. When she talks about God, whether she’s struggling or on top of the world, it always sounds sincere and genuinine. When she says things that would make me gag coming from myself or someone else, it’s the most beautiful thing ever because I know she means it. She’s not trying to impress; she’s being honest. Wish I could be that way, but I always feel like I’m trying to “sound spiritual.”

Lady I’m Keeping an Eye on: Rachel Maddow: She has recently grabbed my attention after seeing her on The Colbert Report and actually watching her show when Meghan McCain was on it. I appreciate her style from what I’ve seen so far. She definitely has me intrigued and will possibly be full-fledged woman-i-admire status next year.

et cetera