To My Daughter: A Few Notes on Being a Woman.

At my twenty week scan, I found out you were a girl. I had a mild panic. I realized I was going to raise a woman and honestly that was petrifying. It is complex being a woman. I mean I am sure it is complicated being a man too but I have never experienced that. But instead with you, I have some idea of what you will face. Hence, the mild panic.

You are only one year old right now but I already see that you are fearless and reluctant to take my help. But I am your mother so I choose to give you advice anyway. You can read these at your leisure…. you know when you can read.

1. Society is full of contradictory and complicated standards for women. Be hot, be nice, be successful, but not intimidating. Be a domestic goddess but don’t look like you are trying too hard. Make sure you have a great body etc. Let me help you out, as the woman who loves you the most, you will never meet them all. But if you turn out to be a rebel and try to shun them all you will get yourself into a guddle too. Try not to be defined positively or negatively by the standards you see around you. And yes I would even include church standards in that. We are guilty of adding definitions to womanhood that I am not sure are any more Godly than others. Instead find what is true, worth fighting for, and define yourself by that. I would call that walking by the Gospel and the fruit of that is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

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2. Don’t be a gossip. There are just some opinions you shouldn’t share. If you can’t say it to someone’s face then don’t say it. We often gossip to make us feel better about our lives and our problems. ‘Look, at least I am not them.’ But inflating yourself by indulging in chat about someone else’s issues is a cheap and mean way to make yourself feel better. The Gospel calls us to a level of realization about our own brokenness so we don't consider our issues as superior to others' issues. Oh, and don’t you dare use God as an excuse to legitimize your gossip.

‘I have to tell you this so you can pray.’

That is using God’s name in vain. I will metaphorically kick your butt if I hear you do that. I am sure God is not that pleased either.

3. Please do not mistake ‘being nice’ with kindness and love. Often as women, we are taught that love equals saying the polite encouraging thing rather than the challenge in love, respectfully disagreeing, or explaining in a situation that you were hurt.

‘Oh it’s okay, you didn’t hurt me.’

‘I love it when you do that. You are so sweet.’

‘I totally agree.’

Don’t misunderstand me you have no right to dehumanize someone or take your pain out on them by hurting them. But I do challenge you to love by being truthful, having opinions, and having hard conversations. When we assume that God calls us to always say the ‘nice’ thing rather than the ‘hard’ thing we sometimes deal with that pent-up energy and frustration by venting and gossiping about someone. Say the hard thing to people’s faces so that you don’t dehumanize them behind their backs.  

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4. If you find yourself single when you would rather you weren’t, please know you are not in a waiting period before marriage. If you get married, know you have not made it to a more legitimate stage in life. Both singleness and marriage are representations of God’s love for the world. Marriage is an expression of the depth of God’s love by concentrating on one person. Singleness is an expression of the breath of God’s love by the diversity of the relationships you can build. Both require work and faithfulness to walk in healthy marriage or healthy singleness. Try not to look down on one or the other whatever your stage in life. Be friends with married people when you are single and single people when you are married. We can learn a lot from each other in community. If you are single don’t let other people assume upon your time and faithfulness. You also have relationships to build and invest in.

5.  Don’t watch porn. This is hard to summarize in a paragraph, especially as a woman because the dynamics here are varied and far-reaching. But we were designed for connection. And porn was designed to bypass connection. It was designed to give pleasure without the need for the ‘messiness’ of relationship. It is the easy way but it is also the falling short way. I will also add, that no matter how many women you know who watch it, porn was designed for men by men. You are watching something that will warp your definition of power in a relationship. And it will warp your definition of womanhood. I am pretty sure we should not learn our definition of female identity from a medium designed for men to masturbate alone in their bedrooms.  

6. You may find yourself taking your struggles in life out on your body. Either by controlling it to feel like you have some form of power in life or abusing it to walk out your pain. You might do this by restricting food, indulging in food, addiction, or self-harm. You may concentrate a lot of energy on your body to define your self-worth. This might get confused with normal ‘feminine behavior’ but women and their bodies have a complex relationship. Your body is a poor vehicle to express control and it is heart-wrenching to take your pain out on yourself. If you find yourself doing this please find someone you trust and tell them. You may not want to tell me. That is okay. Please tell someone.

Love, your mum

{Ailsa}

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Women.

We all have stories. Stories of the backs that have broken. The blood, sweat, and tears that have been poured out, the battles fought, the arms that have pushed us forward at the very moment their own strength failed. The shoulders of greatness upon which we stand.

Today is the day to tell these stories. Stories of women who have gone before us.

One of these courageous women once wrote....

‘I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.’ (Jane Austen, Persuasion)

Here are some of the women that have gone before me, and bravely fought through the stormy waters, ensuring that I had a sail and a compass to go forward....

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Here’s my mum. Carol. Of the many things she gave me, my education was one of them. She decided, against cultural norms at the time, to homeschool me. All the way till university. She would hand pick the curriculum every year, driving hours to a conference to wade through the decision making process. Now that I’m a mother myself, the weight of that sits heavy on me. She gave me a love of health food well before it was fashionable. One of the most incredible gifts she gave me was ensuring my brother and I had read through the entire Bible before we graduated high school. What has shaped me the most, though, was the way she created a home that was founded upon hospitality. From the age of nine, we always had people living with us. To this day, I have many older ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ around the world of different ethnicities and backgrounds. We hosted meal after meal, guest after guest. As a kid, it meant a lot of chopping, cleaning, and laundry. But, I am beyond thankful for this. Thankful for growing up in a home centred on hospitable love and welcome. 

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This is my mum’s mum. Nana. She was the daughter of Portuguese immigrants to the USA at the start of the 20th century. She battled through discrimination (she changed her name from Rosa Edwina to Edna Rose in order to fit in with all the other northeastern fashionable girls) and poverty. She left school after the 8th grade, was sequestered in a sanatorium for two years at the age of 16 for tuberculosis, and saw numerous young women die. Age 18, she met my Papa at a 25 cent dance hall, he was in the navy and soon after they were married. She went on to have 7 amazing children, 25 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren. All of whom still love each other and who prioritise family. But most of all? Her love of Jesus shined the brightest. Her favourite thing to do was lean over to a stranger in the grocery store queue, or next to her in the doctors office, and ask ‘Do you know Jesus?’ What a legacy. What a saint.

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This is my dad’s mum. Grandmother. Helen. She raised five children with a husband who flew planes for a living and had to be gone much of the time. Her strength carried her family through when my Grandfather, Jim, was in an accident that left him in a coma whilst she was pregnant with my dad. Her home on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia was an oasis of peace and beauty. She went before me. Raising a man, my dad, who serves and loves with dignity and strength. Her legacy.

Who are the women in your life who courageously set out from the calm waters and braved the storms so that you could sail?

 

{Grace} 

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