I was there when the Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign won its #Femvertising award this July. What was heartbreaking and yet also so moving about the ad was the subject of female power. It wasn’t so much about a girl’s ability to clamor to the top. It was more about her ability to simply take pride in being female and become all whom God created her to be.
Always locked onto this topic because female self-confidence often plummets in puberty. But it’s easy to see evidence of this decline continuing on from there. There’s a rampant self-image struggle in our society that’s aimed at our very self-worth as women.
As a girl, I remember my mom buying Reviving Ophelia for me - Ophelia being the character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet who drowns herself when Hamlet doesn’t love her. The book is specifically aimed at empowering adolescent girls. Our self-worth should not be based upon someone else’s opinion of us. Yet the temptation to look there is all too real.
Concerns about self-image abound whether they’re focused on size, shape, or stretch marks. Take, for instance, the recent blog post “To the Mom at the Water Park” that went viral. A mom’s bodily insecurity was threatening her ability to make memories and model confidence for her daughter. She was ultimately able to surmount that pressure, however, by drawing strength from another woman at the water park - that woman’s modeling made the difference.
Modeling indeed is powerful. It also happens to be the most effective way we learn. We can hear someone teach, we can read something in a book, but when we see it, it often makes a more lasting impression. Each of us can model - we can link arms with one another or hold our daughters’ hands. But I also want to see the modeling of women who are going before me. I want to hear their wisdom, yet I see society marginalizing their voices.
I see older women in our society feeling pressure to never age and fit into a twenty-something mold. Women are cutting, dyeing, and starving themselves to make this possible. Younger girls are doing the same. But when I really take a step back and think about this “ideal” beauty, it is generally voiceless. It looks how other people want it to. It is complacent to be used as a sexual object. It is to some extent void of expressions of its deepest humanity and soul.
Why should a woman who has aged and gathered years of wisdom through struggle be reduced to looking like those years never happened? Why should a woman whose voice could really change things feel pressure to look like someone who is still trying to find her own? Are we not as women, to the extent that we buy into this, voluntarily giving up our own power?
As a religion major at Northwestern, I studied Native American culture and religion. I learned about certain tribes who were led by older women. The voices of these women were respected and powerful. The society benefitted from their wisdom, which subsequently blessed their community. Somehow this link and appreciation is often faulty, if not broken in ours.
While I never was as passionate a history student, I do know that history repeats itself. Wars are fought for similar reasons, for instance. And on a microcosmic level, marriages end for similar reasons. Friendships are tried for similar reasons. Bigotry is encountered and surmountable for similar reasons. There is much we can learn from the wisdom that comes from the experience of many years - are we listening?
As a woman who is now in her thirties, I see the challenge to female self-worth from two perspectives. I see it as a mother raising young boys in the world. I think about the kind of respect I want them to have for women, a kind of respect that is often all too lacking. But I also see it as a woman who is thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next phase of my life as the wrinkles are just beginning to form.
I want to live in a world in which I am proud of my wrinkles, for they are battle scars for the wisdom I have garnered on this earth. They are evidence of the trials and everyday victories I’ve faced, the late nights I’ve sacrificially put another first, and the times I’ve laid in bed awake to hear the whispers of God on my pillow.
I’m also looking to women before me and their modeling. I want them to claim their influence and power for the sake of young girls and fellow women. This power shouldn’t simply be cheaply defined as the right to reach for hair dye to tackle gray hairs. While there’s nothing wrong with that choice, I see beauty through those hairs, not in spite of them.
As a minister and parenting blogger, I am especially mindful of the link between generations. I see how blessings can accrue and be passed down to subsequent ones. I want the blessings of fellow women to trickle up and over to the rising generation. Women aren’t competition, we’re community. And I’m ready to see that community soar.
NOTE: This post is also on HuffPost Parents. Please give it some shares and likes over there too! Thank you for your support!
Last year my oldest son went off to full day school for the first time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do cartwheels or pull out the Kleenexes.
Preschool had consisted of school days in which I often felt like I blinked, and they were over. The prospect of full day school now meant that I could get more than one activity done before pickup!
But it also meant that my day with my son shrunk to about four hours. He started coming home with jokes I didn’t know, songs I didn’t teach, and questions particular to his new environment that I sometimes wasn’t sure how to answer. And while I celebrated his independence and enthusiasm to learn, it realized it was the start of a new chapter.
I knew I would treasure the time we still had together, but I didn’t realize how much competition there would be for that time. Yes, full day school didn’t only mean longer school days - it also meant the onslaught of lots and lots of activities.
Here are 4 tips my family and I learned last year that helped us navigate the new pressures and protect what we value most:
1. Give your child the fall to acclimate. My son’s head teacher, who has been teaching for almost two decades, encouraged my husband and I to resist multiple sign ups. Going to school full day is a huge change in schedule for most children. It’s okay for them to come home and be tired - they need the space and permission to do that. Statistics say that children today get a full hour less sleep a night than children 30 years ago. We need to be aware of that trend in an effort to safeguard them - they’re still little.
2. Volunteer in the school or classroom. I cannot stress how much my son looked forward to seeing me occasionally around campus, or how enriching it was for me to learn firsthand about his new environment. Pick a way to tap in that works with your schedule - it’s a great way to ease the transition for both of you.
3. When your child is ready for activity sign-ups, preference two things. First, if there is an activity that several boys or girls in the class are signing up for, go for it. It’s a great way for your child to form early bonds and for you to get know other parents. Second, encourage your child to explore a range of activities. Exploration is an important phase in self-discovery that children can miss when there’s pressure to specialize younger and younger today. Our son uncovered a love for something my husband and I know little about this year, and we’re so glad we gave him the opportunity to try.
4. Protect family time. It’s shockingly easy for family time to get lost in the shuffle. When we’re faced with several good options, it’s important to remember the most important one and protect it. We routinely marked off certain evenings together that served as a respite for our children and for us as parents. It opened the door for insights from casual conversation and opportunities to show love even through the tired, “sticky” moments of family life. Ultimately, it helps form the basis of our child’s support structure.
Whether your child will be going off to full day school for the first time in kindergarten or first grade, you’re in for some endearing milestones this year. Savor it. And if you find yourself alternately doing cartwheels and pulling out the Kleenexes - remember it’s normal.
God's blessings in the upcoming school year!
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As a mommy blogger who has served as a hospital chaplain in a high-risk pregnancy unit, I have felt the nudge to share with you a miscarriage liturgy for some time. Sadly, the statistics bear that 15-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage. While it is as common as one in every four known pregnancies, there is often little said about it. Words, however, are very important. What others say or don't say can make a world of difference to those who have experienced it. Further, securing a safe place to share is essential.
For those of you who want to be that safe space for a friend or loved one, or for those of you who are hurting from a miscarriage and have wondered how to invite God in, I offer you this miscarriage liturgy. It appears below in abridged form from the book Healing Liturgies for the Seasons of Life. It is used with permission from the author, Dr. Abigail Rian Evans.
Dr. Evans' resource is a favorite of mine because it offers various liturgies for inviting God into our trials and milestones. The liturgies are largely composed of prayer, scripture, and sometimes symbolic action and come from a variety of church traditions. Dr. Evans' passion for the intersection of faith and medicine is apparent to the reader, and it has also made her a memorable professor of mine.
I have led this liturgy at hospital bedsides. You do not need to be a minister to led it, however; you just need a desire to bring comfort and approach God. Feel free to draw from it as needed - simply sharing these scripture references can be powerful.
A LITURGY AFTER MISCARRIAGE OR STILLBIRTH (from the Anglican Church of Canada)
OLD TESTAMENT READINGS
Baruch 4:19-23 I have put my hope in the Everlasting.
Jeremiah 31:15-17 Rachel is weeping for her children.
Psalm 42 Where now is your God?
Psalm 91:9-18 He shall give his angels charge over you.
Psalm 121 My help comes from the Lord.
NEW TESTAMENT READINGS
Romans 8:31-39 Nothing will separate us from the love of God.
I John 3:1-2 We are God's children.
Matthew 18:1-5, 10-14 Not one of these little ones should be lost.
Matthew 5:1-10 Blessed are those who mourn.
Mark 10:13-16 Let the little children come to me.
John 10:11-16 I am the good shepherd.
(Adopt with discretion for the circumstances.)
Loving God, we come in shock and sadness.
By grace and power you gave us opportunity
to create new life;
now we feel our human frailty.
Hear our cries of disappointment and anger
because of the loss of this new life.
Be with us as we struggle
to understand the mystery of life and death.
Receive this little one into the arms of your mercy,
to abide in your gracious and eternal love.
May we give ourselves over to your tender care.
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
(The mother and/or father may offer a personal prayer or reflection. The following can serve as models if helpful.)
O God, you have loved me into being.
Hear my cries for my loss.
I wanted to bring new life into the world.
Now I want to cry forever
and wash your earth with my tears.
Move me from this darkness
and bring me to the light of your love and peace.
In the name of Mary's son. Amen.
God of all creation, I wanted this child
with all my heart, my soul, and my body.
I feel guilty even though I am not to blame,
I feel unworthy, and alone.
Give me strength to trust in your faithfulness,
make me open to the comfort of family and friends,
and in time free me from the bondage of grief.
Bless me with the desire and power
to live again in joyful expectation.
I ask this in the name of your Son,
my friend and my Savior. Amen.
I pray this liturgy blesses you or someone you love today. Feel free to pass it on, but please do so with sensitivity for the subject at hand. If interested, you can find Dr. Evans' book here. Also, watch for my upcoming iBelieve article on how to further support someone who has had a pregnancy loss. I will share practical knowledge and tips from my training. You can subscribe via email on my blog to be sure not to miss it.