Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Courtney Fricke. She blogs at lovesmashesintoaheart.blogspot.com and tweets at @courtneyfricke. If you remember nothing else today, let it be that what you desire is okay. Don’t fight it, don’t run. You don’t have to. – Lauren
The excitement of living on my own and working for a missions agency faded last year as I moved back home after three adventurous years.
I was home. I was with family. Things felt right. I was happy.
But after all the unpacking and getting reunited with friends and family, I had to face the real world. I had bills. I had to grow up.
I eventually got a part time job that I hated. If you haven’t had one of those yet, smile because you’re beating some statistic out there.
But I began quickly to throw a lot of questions at the Lord.
“God, how long am I going to be home?”
“Come on, God, seriously, what do You have next for me?”
“Well, if I’m only here for a little while, there’s no point to getting a full-time job, right?”
It’s hard making decisions when God is silent. And it’s even harder when the noise of life is amplified. I had just left working for something that I was passionate about. Bagging groceries wasn’t cutting it for me now.
Geez, something had to give. My heart was dying out there.
I had a faded image in my mind of what I’d want to do in the future. But how in the hell do you figure out the 10,000 steps that it takes to get there?
Something inside of me tells me that I’m not alone in this battle. Stories of friends changing majors left and right always reminded me of this lurking battle to figure out your ‘calling’, your ‘future’, your ‘destiny’, your whatever. My generation is buckling under the weight of the future.
I was 21 years old. I needed benefits. I needed a 9-5. I needed to build a career.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” -Proverbs 19:21
I tried to build some 9-5 dream. I tried, but I failed. Why? Are 9-5’s bad? No, they aren’t. But for me, they weren’t in the plans right now.
I long to be a mother some day. Sometimes I dream of being called ‘mommy‘. I close my eyes when a kid yells ‘mommy,’ and I dream of what it will feel like when it’s the voice of my precious ones. I’m that girl that has an on-going collection of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books for my future children’s library that I imagine them having. I’m that girl that perks up and loses focus when a baby comes into the room. My Pinterest board for “the children of my future” is ridiculously full.
I know, shake your head, but I’m seriously that girl. It might not be your thing, but I don’t care. That’s why it’s my thing and not your thing. But what matters is that we find our ‘thing’.
One day, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember having talks with my mom, a successful business woman, about career choices. I considered a lot of options. Then I perfected my resume one more time. I realized that I didn’t want to be a bank teller or a personal assistant. My goal in life was not a successful 9 – 5, a specific career, or benefits. I felt like I was throwing my life away trying to pursue something that I wasn’t ever meant to pursue.
What I wanted was to be a mom. I was about to trade my passion in for other people’s dreams for me. I almost robbed myself of the joy that I now have.
I’m still at home. I’m still with family. Things still feel right. I’m still happy. And now, I have a little bit clearer picture of my ‘purpose’.
God intervened and opened doors for me to become a nanny to two of the cutest toddlers in the world. Seriously, they couldn’t be any more perfect for me.
I’m single, but I’m head over heels in love with a little 3-year-old boy. I’m an outdoorsy type girl, but this 4-year-old little girl has me memorizing Disney Princesses. I don’t have a college degree, but I’m getting the necessary training for my future occupation. I might not look like a picture perfect version of success, but I feel successful. I feel like a woman who is becoming a better version of herself.
At the end of the day, I still don’t know what I’ll be doing with my life in the next five or ten years, but I really hope that it might include a baby or two or twelve. But at the end of the day, those things don’t matter.
In the next five or ten years, I really just want to be someone who loves God and who looks to Him in the everyday moments. I just really want to be someone who is known not solely for her intelligence or her beauty or her riches or her fame, but for her love for God regardless of where He takes her.
I wish they would include “lover of God” as a career choice. Because even though some days I’m terrible at it, it’s what I was made to do.
So precious women, don’t give in to the pressure. Don’t rob yourself of joy trying to find happiness. Prestige is nothing if you don’t have passion.
Find that thing you were made to do and fall in love with the thought of doing it for the rest of your life.
You were made to love God and to love people.
Find your purpose and ‘destiny’ in that and watch Him bring definition and meaning to the rest of your life’s story.
Editor’s Note: Every year that goes by, I swear the percentage of women who consider themselves workaholics more than doubles. A lot of us seem to wear it as a badge of honor, while we’re silently buckling under its weight. If you feel like you are always trying, trying, trying – or can’t say “no”, you may want to head over to 10 Things I Learned About Burnout next. Today’s post is by Samantha Fritschle. She’s a second year college student, a musician, and an aspiring writer. Samantha blogs at sammmbam.wordpress.com and tweets at @sammmbam. – Lauren
I work hard. I always have.
And so it was fitting that I chose quite possibly the world’s most daunting major: Music Education. In four years time, I have to rack up 135 credit hours of 0- and 1-credit courses. Those, along with homework, hours of practice, concert band, marching band, pep band, trombone choir, and attending concerts and recitals made every day into a 14-hour day. But I liked it because I liked being busy. I thought I was “seizing the day”, not missing any opportunity, because I had no leftover time. I was doing as much as I could with the time I had. That’s what I thought was important.
People sometimes asked me what my hobbies were or what I liked doing. “Well… I like playing trombone. I like school,” is what I found myself saying. Yeah… probably the lamest answer ever. I didn’t have any hobbies. I was consumed by work.
School and “work” were all that I thought about. While the people around me spent time with each other, I came home with only enough energy to stay awake until bed time. I was so tired that I couldn’t do much besides stare at a computer screen. There were no coffee dates or doing homework together or even having alone time. (My poor fiancé, he had to deal with a zombie version of me for almost a whole year — and he STILL proposed to me. What an awesome guy.)
I didn’t really have friends or even make them in the first place. I lived in the dorms my first year, which seemed to me to allow exceeding amounts of social interactions for all the extroverts (them), and a lot of overwhelming experiences for the introverts (me). I kind of went into friend-hibernation because I just couldn’t keep up. I was always baffled by how other people with my same major and responsibilities actually hung out with other people — but then again, I got a 4.00 GPA my first semester and a 3.84 my second. All I thought about was how to succeed. How to “be better”. How to get noticed by someone more important than me. How to be perfect, really.
And I’m starting to see that God doesn’t want that for me.
When I visited my mom for Christmas break, she actually thought I had a chronic condition from how much I slept. I suppose my stepdad saw it necessary to intervene at this point. My stepdad used to be in the military, and from what I hear, basic training is brutal. So when he asked me what my basic needs are, I knew the “right” answer: food, water, and shelter. Then, a source of income (going to college so that I can get a good job) and transportation. But he pressed onward. “Those are your physical needs.”
“You pay for every ounce of stress that you place on your body, whether it’s sooner or later. And you can either choose to continue your stressful lifestyle — meet your known level of tolerable stress without shutting down or having emotional breakdowns — or to live a balanced lifestyle.”
Those were perhaps some of the wisest words ever spoken to me. For they imply so much more than what is there.
He showed me that it’s not just that I want more than basic needs in life. Or even that I deeply desire more in life. I need more than just those physical things. I need to sit in my bed and get lost in a good book. I need to spend time with my fiancé and devote my undivided attention to him. I need to write. I need a huge chunk of alone time in every day. I need to spend time forming and maintaining friendships. Because God created me to do those things, too.
Friendships, “me” time, family, hobbies… those aren’t just added bonuses to life. They’re not just little extra treats I get when I finish doing “important stuff.” Those are the things that refresh me and motivate me to do the “important stuff.” Which, might I add, isn’t really the important stuff in the end.
Because in the end, God wants me. Not my accomplishments, my independence, my pride. He wants my heart. And taking care of the heart He’s given me is way more important than chasing after the things I think the world wants of me.
Sometimes, it’s not all about doing. It’s about being.
Editor’s Note: Hannah Brencher is one of the most driven, loving girls I know. Over the last couple years, we’ve eyed each other from different sides of the Internet and watched the other try, try, and try again – and she has created some extraordinary things. She is the creator of More Love Letters, Communications Assoc for Save The Children, a researcher for She’s The First, and writes at her own blog at HannahKaty.com. You can tweet her some love after absorbing her wisdom at @hannahkatyb. – Lauren
Growing up, I was never the girl who gave much thought to her wedding day beyond the kind of cake I wanted to eat in a pretty white dress.While my friends plotted & planned the day they’d wed a Backstreet Boy, I kept quiet – the same, sweet picture sitting in my head of a one day, some day office space and a career to call my own.
Since my smallest forms of self, that was the dream.
I envisioned a desk piled high with meaningful work; a network of strong supporters and faithful business partners; a chance to do something really wonderful within the realms of social good and business and media.
I find myself here, knee-deep in “careerdom” (a word that I so appropriately made up for this article) after the first few years of letting God bob and weave me through the working world, swerving past the Valley of Defining Business Casual Attire, hurdling through a series of obstacles strewn before me: Resumes. Interviews. First jobs.
It is only the start of my career but already I’ve gathered so much from what it means to hold a dream given to you in your own two hands.
1. Gain experience… anywhere.
When I pictured careerdom, I saw lattes abounding and an office space resembling that of a freshly decorated IKEA store space.
I never saw myself hauling a printer box two times the size of my body down Madison Avenue while trying to balance in perfectly impractical heels, pulling it back to my windowless office space to place beside a desk I had yet to assemble all on my own. The directions were in German. I cried.
Maybe it is just my generation but we tend to have some lofty expectations about the “first job”.
My advice: Squash ’em. Early. And instead, vow to take in all experiences, good and bad, to build a character within you that can take on any obstacle along the way.
Take on volunteer work. Work the extra hours. Do the hard stuff even if you don’t know how you’ll get it done. Open your hands up to anything and everything that will prepare you for another level. Show that you’re trustworthy. Keep the integrity but don’t be afraid to show that you want it. Be willing to stretch for the next level.
It is within those blood-sweat-tears moments where your body is on the verge of collapse that you’ll learn how very capable you are. How strongly He has equipped you. How much He trusts you to take on good and challenging work within this world. And that is a moment, mixed with exhaustion and amazing, that can never be beat.
2. Your worth will never come from a piece of paper.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I was a girl who stood before potential employers with a resume crinkled by the shaking of my own two hands and a speech ready to be spouted from the mouth about how worthy I was for the position.
Worthy. A strange little word that God never intended us to go out and seek in the world. We are already worthy. We are already His. And yet we forget it so often as we stack up our references and our notable accomplishments.
I let that piece of paper, my “professional image”, define me for the longest time and I have to caution those who may fall into the same trap.
Yes, a resume is important. Yes, it should be presentable and a good representation of your best work. No, it should not define you and if you seek that kind of value to the ends of every day, you will come up empty.
Learn yourself off that paper. Know what makes you valuable not merely as an employer but as a human being and a child of God. If you don’t know that before you sit down to churn out a mammoth resume, then perhaps there is a bigger boulder to tackle first.
3. Connection lives in cups of coffee.
I used to cringe over “networking”. The very word left me crawling from my skin and ducking for the corner. This was mainly because someone first taught me that networking was all about me and what I wanted. They were so wrong.
Networking is never about you. Networking exists on creating a meaningful relationship that will benefit all involved. So you are in there somewhere – just not the forefront, my friend.
Be it a mentorship relationship or a business partnership, the way you handle the networking will determine the strength and the solidity of the relationships yet to come.
Admire someone? Ask them out to a cup of coffee. Looking for pointers? Propose a Skype date. Wanting to grow stronger in a field you don’t have experience within? Tweet it out there and see what comes back.
Thankfully, we’re human beings. We like to help one another. We crave connection. We delight in sitting down to know one another in and out of the office settings.
As someone who has found her best friends, pen pals, and people who will one day stand beside her on her wedding day through the word “networking” I can honestly encourage this: Bring your heart to every encounter. Sew it to your sleeve before the coffee date. Approach networking with grace and integrity to reach a point of meaningful connections that don’t have to end when 5pm arrives.
4. Keep your day job, find your dream job.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is this: Your dream job does not exist yet. You have to be the one to create it.
In the years that have piled since college, I have found nothing to be truer than this. Day jobs are essential. They pay bills. They keep us secure. We all need them and sometimes we struggle when they don’t really satisfy us.
It’s normal. Don’t let it discourage you but don’t feel wrong for searching outside of what you already have.
We’ve got a good, good God who honors the searching. He honors obedience to a workplace. He honors the longings of our hearts. And he fills those longings in His time.
My dream job grew out of a day job. Outside of my 9-5 job, one I thought was my “dream job”, I started an organization that suddenly fueled me in a way I’d never known. Made me more passionate and hungry than I have ever felt before.
When you find that hunger, don’t let it go. Dare to think about what that dream job might look like for you. Dare to place it on your heart and insert it into prayers. Dare to sit down and doodle it on scraps of papers & napkins.
And, if you haven’t yet started to imagine a dream job just yet, dare Him to reveal it to you.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Elena Pellizzaris, writer, reader, teacher, lover of Jesus. She spends most of her days serving by teaching orphans in Liberia, West Africa. She works for Orphan Relief and Rescue, blogs at Stumbling In Grace, and is on Facebook. She also wrote “Your Heart Is Good” for us! – Lauren
It seems that everywhere I look in today’s culture, I’m bombarded with the same message: there are two types of women in the world. There’s the driven, goal-oriented career woman in a power suit, making bank and saving up for the home/car/vacation of her dreams. And then there’s the wife and/or mother, happily married and living a life of domestic bliss. There are two types of women in today’s world, society tells me.
The problem is that I fall into neither of those categories. I’m nearly 29 years old, single and childless, without an actual physical address. I have no real “career”, no five-year plan, not even a real savings account.
So tell me: what kind of woman am I?
For years, I didn’t know how to answer that question, and my identity crisis nearly crippled me. There was a time in my life when I could have called myself a career woman. I had a job that I loved, one that I seemed to be made for. It paid well and gave me the financial freedom to shop. To travel. To live comfortably. I never really understood the American dream, but looking back, I think I was living something that closely resembled it.
There was also a time in my life that I was able to call myself a wife. Married at 18, I was young, in love, and had high hopes for a magical future with the man of my dreams. I had it all planned out. Start a family around 25. Move into a bigger home. Maybe even relocate. All we needed was the white picket fence.
And then… well, life happened. The economy took a turn for the worse, and that job? I lost it. Mr. Right turned out to be Mr. Wrong, and I ended up divorced at 25 instead of having my first child like I had planned. Everything that I had used to define me, to give me my identity was pulled out from under me, like a rug beneath my feet. And I didn’t know how to deal. I was lost, confused, scared. Who am I? And what do I do now?
The answer was unexpected, to say the least. I ended up selling nearly everything I had and moving to Liberia, West Africa, to teach children living in orphanages. I came for two weeks… and have stayed for four years.
In those four years, friends and family from back home have gotten married. Had children. Moved into new homes. Changed jobs. Traveled the world. And I’m not going to lie; there have been moments where I’ve lamented why not me, God? There have been moments in which I’ve felt like I’m in exile. Banished to one of the loneliest places on earth. Like I’m missing out on… something. I know women who are in love with their husbands and families, and I know women who are in love with their careers. Don’t get me wrong – I’m honestly, really and truly happy for them. But there are definitely times when it hits me: I don’t have that. That is not who I am. What’s wrong with me?
It’s only recently that I’ve been able to truthfully answer that question: nothing. Nothing’s wrong with me. Other women’s paths are not the same as mine, and that’s okay. Their journeys, their stories, their experiences are all different than my own. And that’s okay. I’m not a wife. I’m not a mother. I’m not a career woman, but that doesn’t make me any less of a woman. I may be those things one day, but I’m not right now. To accept that is to make peace with who I am today, at this moment, instead of waiting to become someone else.
If you’re like me and you don’t fit into either group at this stage in life, please hear me: it’s okay. Embrace who you are and where you are, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for it. You are enough, just as you are. You’re a beautiful woman with incredible potential, living out your amazing story just as you were meant to do all along.
Editor’s Note: In Ashley Samsa’s submission email, she explained to me that she used to feel like a bad woman for not wanting children, and being torn between her ambitions and child-bearing. She wished that more women could to hear stories like this, because the pressure to reproduce can sometimes be unbearable, and not knowing how you feel about having children does not make you a bad woman; on the contrary, thinking it through and making a decision that works for you makes you a good woman. I wholly agree. Ashley blogs at smallstrokesbigoaks.com and tweets at @samsanator. – Lauren
As my husband and I were watching television one night, a car commercial came on. A woman and a man are walking down the street and she turns to him and drops the ultimate bomb: “I want to have a baby.” He, in turn, dives into full panic mode and starts listing all of the things he wanted to do before he had a kid because, of course, he can’t do anything once a kid is in the picture.
I turned to my husband and joked, “Did you see that? You better hope I don’t get pregnant any time soon. Your life will be over.”
The idea that pregnancy will ruin your life is not a new one. This particular myth about motherhood starts when you are a teenager as a way for high school health classes to scare you. After all, all it takes is one sexual encounter to get you knocked up.
It follows, then, that my first experience with babies was one of fear. It was like a really long conditional statement from math class. If you get pregnant, then you will have a baby. If you have a baby, then you won’t have time for school. If you don’t have time for school, then your grades will drop. If your grades drop, then you won’t get into a good college. If you don’t get into a good college, then your life is ruined. Therefore, if you have a baby, then your life is ruined. And this isn’t even taking into account the scarlet letter of a bulging belly as you walk through the hallways, judging eyes following you all the way.
My formative assumption about babies, then, was that they ruin lives. Why would I ever want to take part in that? I had big things ahead of me: college, graduate school, writing the next Great American Novel, traveling the world. I couldn’t be bothered with kids. And this was the popular opinion among my peers as well. I remember being in undergrad, sitting with a very good friend on the quad just before her graduation, and she looked at the sky and said, “You know what the weirdest part about graduating is? That, for the first time, my life would not be ruined if I got pregnant right now.” When I met my husband – in graduate school, where I was successfully still kid-free – I laid it all on the table for him and told him that I didn’t want kids any time soon, if at all. Thankfully, he agreed.
After graduate school came the wedding, and after the wedding came the weddings of about a hundred of our good friends. And after the weddings of our good friends came the inevitable slide into our late twenties. And after that came the sudden dinners out with distant friends we hadn’t seen since their weddings where they announced the happy news: they were pregnant. Frankly, I had mixed feelings about the news. In my one-track mind, getting pregnant would still be an accident that would change the entire course of my life. After all, I hadn’t even started my Great American Novel yet, nor had I gotten my PhD or traveled the world.
It wasn’t until my best friend told me she was pregnant that the realization that my close friends would take the plunge, too, started to take hold. When she told me, I made the stupid mistake of spitting out the first words that came to my mind: “Did you plan it?” I asked, not because I thought she didn’t, but because I was genuinely curious to know whether or not adults actually got pregnant on accident. Was I, myself, at risk? It was just beginning to occur to me that people would actually want to have a baby, let alone plan for it. Eventually, I got my foot out of my mouth and apologized and told her how happy for her I was. Honestly, though, I had been telling myself for so long that babies were awful inconveniences that it was hard for me to start thinking about them as agents of joy and excitement.
Months later, I was at the same friend’s baby shower. The last gift she opened was from her mother – a vintage-looking box filled with all of her favorite baby toys and clothes. She started to cry as she pulled out items I, too, recognized from my childhood: the Gloworm, the Cabbage Patch Kid, the tiny shoes, the baby spoon, the blankie. I looked over to her mom, who was also holding back tears as she, undoubtedly, remembered cherished moments as her daughter was growing up, but also as she looked to the future of a happy daughter with a happy family, growing and mixing their new traditions with the old and creating something wonderful.
Later that night, I asked her how she knew she was ready to have a baby. She said, “Listen, Ashley. If you wait until you are one hundred percent ready, you’ll never do it. Take your time, but don’t wait for it to hit you over the head. It won’t. At some point, you’ll just realize that the risks are worth the reward, and you’ll be ready.”
I started to see how happy my friends were. I saw how people rallied around them, rather than judged them. I saw the look on their faces when they glanced over at their sleeping children. And I saw how beautiful their babies were.
I even held a few of them.
I started realizing that childbirth will not kill me, that people won’t look at me and scowl with judgment as my belly grows larger, that my Great American Novel may, very well, be inspired by a tiny human being of my creation. And who says I have to write it now, anyway?
This has been the greatest realization of my life: I can do it all, but I don’t have to do it all right now. I can write the book, get the degree, have a great marriage, travel the world, and have a baby. But it doesn’t all have to get done tomorrow, or even next year.
I will never have a happily ever after story about how I just knew my whole life that I wanted to be a mom. If my future daughter ever has the same crisis as I did and asks me when I knew I wanted her, I’ll have to be honest. The truth might be that I never knew for sure; only time will tell. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be a good mom. I’ll be a great one, in fact, because, if I do bring a new person into this world, I’ll be ready to give this whole mom thing everything I’ve got.
For now, I’m still writing, studying, and traveling. But it’s entirely possible that a baby will creep its way into those plans in the future.
Editor’s Note:Today’s submission is by Allie Hoyt. She is an aspiring missionary pilot. She’s acquired her A&P (aicraft mechanic’s certificate) and her private pilot’s license. She blogs at allietrustworthy.wordpress.com. – Lauren
Aviation is very much a male dominated field, with only 6.7% female pilots, and just over 2% female mechanics. And sometimes, when you get a bunch of dudes together, the conversations turn…well, vulgar. Indecent. Uncouth. You get the idea. And sometimes, I am unlucky enough to overhear them. This time, however, it was sort of a blessing in disguise.
And now, here’s the entry:
I sat there in stunned silence, mouth open, holding my phone away from my ear, like it was a diseased rodent that might bite me, as the first few seconds of the filthiest, most obscene voicemail I’d ever heard in my life played out. Then I swallowed hard, set my jaw, and made myself listen to it in its entirety, because I knew this was going to turn into a fight. And I wanted to be well armed when it did, with all the outrage and indignation I could muster.
Just a few hours earlier, I had attended a bimonthly luncheon for corporate aviation professionals at a local flight museum. If I had time afterwards, I always loved walking around the exhibits, and catching up with all the older folks who volunteered there. Many of them had served in World War II, and almost all of them had long and storied aviation backgrounds. There were usually at least one or two women there, which was always inspirational to me: you see, of all licensed pilots in the United States, less than seven percent are women, and those numbers were even lower back when they started flying. Women like these paved the way for women like me: although women in aviation are still relatively rare (I’m an aircraft mechanic too, a field that’s only two percent female), I don’t face nearly the same amount of prejudice and barriers that they were constantly fighting to overcome.
But this day was an ugly reminder of what being a woman in a male-dominated field can be like. During my usual post-meeting walkaround, I had struck up a conversation with a middle-aged man who held a position of importance at the museum, and two of the somewhat younger volunteers. We talked at length about airplanes, airports, and the museum’s living history program. Summer was approaching, a time when the museum always had loads of children’s programs, and while they already had an Amelia, they had plenty of authentic WWII-era WASP (Womens Air Service Pilot) uniforms in storage. I was very enthusiastic about the possibility, and asked for his card. He produced one, but told me that his mobile number was the easiest way to reach him. He pulled his cell phone out and said, “Here, give me your number, then I’ll call you so you have mine.” He called, I pushed the “Ignore” button, saved his information, and then left.
I was about five minutes into the drive home when my voicemail notification went off. I chuckled as I realized what had happened; he’d never hung up. I went to just erase it, but something prompted me to listen to it instead. I heard myself tell everyone goodbye, and then as soon as the door to the museum shut, I heard the middle-aged man with whom I’d just had a very professional, aviation centered conversation, free of any innuendo or flirtation at all, remark, “Yeah, I knew that girl when she worked at (a business on the same airport). She always seemed really cold. I think she just needs a really good orgasm.”
And then he proceeded, in graphic detail, to describe how he or one of the other men present could make that happen for me. And I felt more and more humiliated with every passing second. Then he went from talking about me to describing other woman in objectifying, degrading ways. And that’s when the fury started. It rose and swelled til I was practically choking on it.
It inspired the following angry Facebook status: “Men who view women chiefly in a sexual light disgust me. I just listened to the foulest voicemail someone accidentally left on my cell phone, and I have never felt so violated. Men, even when you think no one can hear the things you say about women, God does. And God is my father, and fathers never take kindly to someone talking about their daughters that way.” I got a lot of amens and you-go-girls, and that felt good, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t satisfying. As much as I always try to eschew confrontation, I knew what I had to do.
The very next day at the museum, an event was being held to celebrate the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to women who had served with the WASPs in World War II. These women took over the work of ferrying military aircraft and towing airborne targets, so that male pilots could be released for combat duty overseas. From the very beginning, they were met with resistance, skepticism, outright hostility, and (it is widely suspected) sabotage. Decades passed before they were recognized for their service, and years more went by before they were honored properly for it.
And I had to ask myself, in light of what these women went through: how could I just hide behind a Facebook update, a few words on a screen, when I knew exactly where that man would be that day, and that he needed to know exactly how he’d made me feel, and that he had no right to make me feel that way? So I prayed, I practiced what I would say to him, and I listened to that voicemail a few more times for motivation. And the next day, I attended that event.
After it was over, I walked right up to him and repeated the first few words of his voicemail back to him. And it was one of the most empowering experiences of my life.
But even as I said it, I could see the abject guilt and accompanying nausea wash over him, and I realized my mission there was not just to make him feel like dirt. This was a teachable moment, and even though I had no control over whether or not he learned anything, I was free to check my rage and handle myself like an adult woman who deserved and demanded respect. So as he stammered and tried to explain that sometimes men (himself included) are just pigs, and that he was sorry I had to hear that conversation, I explained to him that there were no acceptable excuses for what he had said and done, and that even if divine intervention hadn’t recorded that exchange on my voicemail, it still would have been wrong of him to say it. He said he understood. I asked him if that meant he would change. He said he’d try.
I said, “You’d better.” And that was that.
I still wonder sometimes what my male colleagues say behind my back. But I’ve learned that the best policy is to presume people are innocent until proven guilty, and that what people say almost always gets around. I still get frustrated at the thought that my modesty and good girl behavior don’t earn me a free pass from harassment. But I now understand that the fault lies largely with men who refuse to see women as equals, or better yet, as sisters. I sometimes wish I had my dad (or a large, threatening boyfriend) immediately available to back me up in situations like this, but now I know that I am a daughter of the King, and I am quite capable of standing up for myself.
I don’t have to tolerate being treated like I’m less of a person (or less of an aviator, for that matter) because I have breasts. You don’t either, ladies.
You have rights. You have privileges. You have a voice. Exercise them. Your Father and I, we’ve always got your back.
Editor’s Note: Mihee Kim-Kort is an ordained clergy woman now a stay-at-home mom to twin babies. She blogs regularly at www.miheekimkort.com, and can be found on Twitter at @miheekimkort. And good grief, do I admire her story, her strength, and her words. – Lauren
Growing up, it was always my father who worked to support the family.
When we first immigrated to this country, I was barely a year old. My parents had next-to-no knowledge of the English language. My father worked jobs like movie theater attendant that the high school students did half-assed in order to pay for food or booze on the weekends. After he finished an undergraduate program at the University of Colorado extension in Colorado Springs, he began working for a computer company that has now been subsumed by Hewlett-Packer. But he started, of course, at the bottom rung before finally getting in finance and accounting. He tells me stories about company parties where people offered him pot, picnics where employees let loose with each other a little, and “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day,” which I remember doing briefly.
When I think of work — quantifiable work, important work — I think of my dad. It took a while to realize that my mother was a working woman, too.
She worked everything from dry cleaning to childcare to assembly work soldering little electronics alongside many of the women from our church. They could chat the day away talking about their children, family back in Korea, and their sometimes insufferable husbands. And they could do it comfortably in Korean. Eventually my parents would try their hand at owning businesses — a clothing store, a sandwich store — and my mother basically ran them both until they went under. Then, to make ends meet, both my parents worked as custodians in the evenings at the local bank. I have memories of sleeping on the floor in one of the rooms as my parents vacuumed, scrubbed toilets, and swept the entryway. But for some reason none of this work “counted.” Because my mother was seen as the main caregiver to her children, me and my brother. That was her work.
Ironically, this kind of work — and not only caring for children — is not necessarily seen as work either. There’s no income if you are the parent of the children. There are no health benefits, no medical insurance, no pension. There’s no retirement package, no bonuses, no commission, no quantifiable measure of success or accomplishment.
Somehow I did eventually become a working woman. In high school during my senior year, I worked a part-time job sloshing Orange Julius shakes together. In college, whenever I went home for the summers, I worked in the accounting department of a limousine company. During and after graduation from seminary, I worked in churches.
Now, I don’t work outside of the home. I am stay-at-home to twin babies.
Do we see the problematic dichotomy here? Work = value, and home = what??? Non-value? Value in a lesser sense? It became so entrenched in me as I saw it embodied in my father and mother, this difference, this distinction, that I embodied it, too, without really thinking about it.
I was only able to see the dualism in this understanding of gendered work when I stopped working at the church to stay home with the babies. Because, hello, I feel like I’m working. I’m seriously working my ass off every day. Except I don’t punch in since it’s literally 24/7. And, I don’t get a paycheck at the end of the week, though if I were to be paid in poopy diapers and clothes, slobber, and runny noses, I’d be ready for retirement. I don’t write up summary reports about it unless you count my venting in blogs. And when I explain to anyone why I’m so bone-tired, and how the past day was so chaotically-drive-off-a-cliff busy, and how my feet and back and shoulders are killing me from lugging those two precious potato sacks around town, I can’t find the right words to describe the work.
Because all the words I have seem to make it sound value-less. I feel silly when I say that I spent all day washing, drying, and folding cloth diapers, or chasing the babies around the house because it was the only thing that would make them stop crying and whining. That’s work? Yes. Yes, it is.
A friend recommended a book called What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen. She writes, “Being a mother is more than a role or job description. It doesn’t even describe behavior. Mothers haven’t got a monopoly on motherly behavior. Most people are capable of being motherly. However there is a big difference between being like a mother and being the mother herself…[But] the essentials of mothering are invisible.” Welcome to my life and my work. It’s always open for business. Except that it’s hard to explain it.
But, the thing about being a woman, something that I think is just natural and unique (despite my feminist inclination to not want to generalize about women or men or anyone), though not outside of the realm of men, is that we like to create, and make, and we give birth, and provide new-ness. So, motherhood was an opportunity to re-create myself. My identity. My work. My vocation. My calling. And putting it on paper, or talking about it with others, that helped in the re-invention.
It took a while for me to figure this out as I tried to be something else or despaired that I wasn’t something, someone, or somewhere else in the beginning. I see that, holy man-alive, or ahem, woman-alive, I have much work now. I have responsibilities to this household, and the value is immeasurable. But I have work in communities, too, whether it’s mom groups, college students, or churches. I serve on boards and committees. I mentor. I volunteer. And, back to words again, I write. To survive. To tell the truth. To shape the world for these babies of mine so that one day they will inhabit it and I won’t feel afraid to let them walk on the street because of the way they look different. That work is pretty ongoing right now. I can think of few things more important.
And, no doubt, right now and always, I am and will be a working woman.
Editor’s Note: We often spend the majority of our time with co-workers, and usually, we don’t have the option to choose which of them we have to interact with. This includes men that we would never ordinarily date, but fall into caring for because of the time and energy invested in them. Today’s story is Anonymous. – Lauren
I was in my mid-twenties, single, with a penchant for older men and a lot of questions on why God still had me waiting.
My colleague was in his late thirties, handsome, well-read, funny, British (and aren’t I enthralled by British accents) and overall, just a really nice guy. We started working together in the company’s construction department. Since he couldn’t speak Spanish he brought me along for on-site translation. That meant many, many hours of car rides and time spent alone.
We hit it off. We laughed a lot. We talked about music (Lord knows I’m passionate about music), about film, about environmental issues, about the business, about what it was like in my country, about what it was like in his.
Randy’s wife was a new mother and her recent role, added to the stress of living in another country, was damaging the marriage. While Randy didn’t say this in so many words, I could tell by the personal stories he confided.
Over the course of several weeks we bonded. How could we not, when we shared so much personal insight into each other’s lives?
But I knew (as one always knows these things) that there was more to it. I could tell by the way he looked at me, some of the things he said, the attention he bestowed on me. And I… I was smitten.
My heart skipped a beat whenever he was around, I felt crazy energy by just being in his presence… And then there was the guilt factor. Randy was married.
Yes, I was Christian. But, things were a little muddled. My heart wasn’t 100% in it. I was harboring resentment towards the past (due to the death of a loved one), I was harboring resentment towards the present (lack of opportunities for improving my family’s life and mine) and I was scared of the future… not entrusting it to God.
When the heart is set on such things, it becomes a nest where the worst seeds are bound to thrive.
There was silence in the car that day, when we arrived on site. The tension was so palpable it really could have been cut with a knife, as cheesy as that sounds. I knew in my heart that if I stayed in that car one moment longer, Randy would lean over and kiss me, so I practically leapt out of that car and kept my distance during the remainder of the afternoon.
The next day I called an older woman from my church, a lovely lady, passionate, kind and wise. I broke down on the phone and told her what had happened, or almost happened.
“It’s enticing… when someone with characteristics you admire waltzes into your life,” she said gently. “There are ways we can be tempted and you-know-who knows them all too well… What’s happened, dear, is that you’ve dived head-first into an emotional affair. You’ve held the soul of another woman’s husband in your hands. It’s got to stop.”
I nodded my head, incapable of uttering a sound through the tears. “Tell the Lord how you feel. And ask him to bring you that man you’ve been waiting for.”
A month later I quit my job. When Randy asked why I was doing it, I told him it had to do with my relationship to God. I couldn’t volunteer any more information, I had no energy and my shame was too great.
That same week the company threw me a going-away party. Randy arrived with his wife. As I kissed her cheek – according to Chilean custom, all I could think of was the Earth somehow opening up and swallowing me. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at her.
There are such things as emotional affairs and it’s all too easy to get caught up in their rollercoaster rushes, especially in the workplace. Co-workers tend to become something of a substitute family. It’s a sad by-product of the social-financial system we abide in that we spend more time in the office than we do at home. This makes it paramount that we be on guard; taking care of our hearts (from where our very being springs forth), nurturing them, always rooted in God’s Word and knowing, knowing all too well that by giving someone too much entrance into our personal space, into our hearts, we might just get waylaid by our own emotions.
It is then we end up hurting another woman and another man just as much as we hurt ourselves. We should know better.
Proverbs 4.23 (NLT 2007) says: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Our hearts make manifest the road we choose to take for our lives, the decisions we make, the times we wait silently, the times we act and how we act. Cultivating our hearts is something of an art. The practice of any art, according to philosopher Erich Fromm, requires discipline, concentration, patience and supreme concern.
1. Discipline. Within the art of cultivating your heart, the practice of discipline is as simple as focusing your thoughts on what is right, true, honest and good (you are your thoughts, never forget this – Philippians 4:8).
2. Concentration. Concentration implies living fully in the present, engaged in what is noble and right, rejecting false ideas implanted by the media (lust, sexuality as the basis of intimacy, individualism and false standards of womanhood) and also rejecting today’s greedy corporate culture that preaches entitlement above all else. When you feel you’re entitled to something, it’s easy to get caught up in emotional wrong-doings. For instance, if you’re lonely and feel you’re entitled to romance, then your heart will make up excuses if you find it in the wrong place.
3. Patience. If we fall, we get up, forgive ourselves and try again, knowing that God, our biggest fan, roots us onwards.
4. Supreme concern. The condition of practicing any art is supreme concern with its mastery. This means we must be diligent, considering the art of cultivating our hearts to be of supreme importance.
And finally, Erich Fromm states that the practice of any art requires faith. And because we know we are in fact, good women, daughters of one most high, we have faith in him; faith that when we surrender to him, he will lead our way. And his way is always perfect for our lives.
Psalm 37:23 – The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.