Nine years ago I published both of my parents’ ages in my high school student newspaper with this headline: They don’t seem all that old. Both of their birthdays had just passed. And now since we’re celebrating another major birthday this Saturday, it seems about time to do it again. Rather than incurring the wrath of my mother, however, whose age our culture tells me that I’m not supposed to publish, I won’t actually give you their years.
It is rather remarkable how much nine years can hold and yet, at the same time, it is remarkable how little can change in nine years. If I may be so pretentious as to quote my 17-year-old self:
Looking at my parents, I guess you wouldn’t really think they were all that old. The only real indications of their age are the couple (hundred) white hairs that are showing up here or there, or, in my dad’s case the couple (hundred) hairs that aren’t showing up here and there.
But in all seriousness they’re doing OK. My dad can still run for way too long, and my mom still reads way too much (although she always has her reading glasses around her neck). And I have to admit that both of them manage to keep up with me pretty darn well.
Not much has changed. My mother has perhaps a few hundred more of those white hairs; my dad has perhaps a few hundred less of his. He also just ran a half marathon to pace my brother, and my mom now reads her kindle rather than 15-lb novels.
Of course, much has also changed. In these past nine years, my brother has graduated a couple of times, married, and moved up to Seattle. I moved away to go to college, then farther away to go to law school, and most recently, I moved back to get engaged to my wonderful fiancé.
I never thought I’d move home after living on my own for just under a decade, but it turns out that sometimes it’s okay to let your mom cook for you again. It also turns out that when you have the opportunity to reacquaint yourself with your parents in your adulthood, an entirely new relationship and even a new appreciation for who they are as adults are possible.
You see, contrary to my deep concern when I left home almost a decade ago that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves, they have managed to find things to keep them occupied, some things in fact that are almost as worthwhile as raising my brother and myself. Kidding aside, I am thankful for the opportunity that I have had to both avoid contributing to the rental market and to spend time with my parents in my own so-called adulthood.
Through the past nine months since I’ve been home, I’ve had the opportunity to essentially spy on my parents—“real” adults who have weathered 37 years of marriage, two rather active children who like to travel to far-off and unsafe lands, a bout with cancer, and the burdens and joys of caring for aging parents—and in so doing, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a few lessons I’d like to have going into my new marriage.
Discipline. My parents are relatively early risers. That is to say, they rise early enough before they have other tasks, meetings or obligations in the day to make sure that they always have time for one, and generally two things. The first is that they always have time to spend time reading the Word of God and doing their morning devotions. The second, is exercise. As most of you reading this are Christian women, I hope that the first is obvious. We should all strive to start each day with Jesus, first and foremost. But the second should be obvious as well—regardless of how busy our days become and how hectic our life may be. I know that this is a challenge for most of us, but it is the call to discipline in our life that keeps us healthy and mentally capable of taking on seemingly insurmountable tasks, not to mention to care for the temples with which God blessed us.
My parents are also relatively late sleepers. That is to say, they go to bed late enough to pray together every night before they go to sleep. They start and end the day with each other and with Jesus.
Laughter. My parents can be a hoot without meaning to be at all. In fact, I don’t think they would call themselves particularly funny people. But they make each other laugh. And they make me laugh. And that’s all we really need anyway.
Service. Both of my parents have done a lot. I mean they raised me after all, and that took some work. They have a lot of people they’ve already helped and a lot of people who through the years have relied on them for different reasons. Yet, they continue to take on new and different roles to serve and love others—in our family, in our church, and in the community. They are tireless, really, even at their ripe age, and more importantly, they serve together. It grows them together and each of them is able to serve in their strengths, one complementing the other.
It turns out my parents still aren’t that old. And as I get older, I find that I can appreciate them more for what I can learn from them as people, rather than simply as parents. So happy birthday Mom and Dad. I love you. Here’s to another ** years or so.
1. Theater-worthy! See it!
2. Definitely rent it.
3. Stream it on Netflix, if you must.
4. Don’t even bother.
I’m not the kind of girl who loves to see every chick flick that hits the big screen. But I definitely do enjoy seeing films that portray good ol’ fashioned love – the passionate, fiercely committed, self-sacrificing, “till death do us part” stuff. That kind of thing moves me, inspires me, ignites me, and that is why I really enjoyed The Vow.
This movie features a relationship that is joined forever, against impossible odds, in a unique way. A couple very much in love gets married, and shortly after goes through a tragic accident. The wife suffers from memory loss, and does not remember her husband. The story is about their journey in falling in love for a second time, and honoring their commitment to each other, for better or for worse. It’s based on a true story, which makes it even better.
Before I saw the movie in the theater, I watched an interview of the real life couple that this movie is based on, Kim & Krickitt Carpenter. They are Christians who want their story to be remembered for the commitment to their vows that they took seriously. Krickitt even clarified in the interview that even though they did fall in love twice, for her it was less about needing to fall in love again and more about honoring the commitment she made to her husband, Kim. That is the passionate, fiercely committed, self-sacrificing, “till death do us part” stuff that I mentioned earlier. What a heart breaking story, but amazing example, that ultimately turns out beautifully. You can see the full interview here: http://on.today.com/x1eRB4
I thought Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum were cast perfectly in this film. They spent time with Kim and Krickitt prior to filming and played their roles exceptionally well. The movie doesn’t follow the Carpenter’s true story super closely as far as the details go, but the overall theme is the same. So while the film portrays some themes that I wouldn’t endorse as a Christian (ie. Living together/sex before marriage – there are no illicit sex scenes in the movie though), the message of commitment to each other through the good and bad does shine through. I didn’t necessarily love the ending that was chosen for the film, but I’m glad I know the real ending for the Carpenter’s is one that I can celebrate.
I didn’t wear pink until I was 23 years old. It was too girly for me. Growing up, my best friend was my brother. Throughout school, I was encouraged to compete academically and then professionally with impressive and charismatic men. If there’s one thing I didn’t want to do, it was wear pink.
Besides wanting to be taken seriously, I honestly thought a no-nonsense, emotionally unexpressive woman was the most attractive thing to a man. My guy friends told me how crazy they thought women were for getting caught up in romantic fantasies and emotional blubbery. Together we agreed that I was not like that. I wasn’t girly.
One man’s perspective of girly-girls is comically satired in the Sh*t Girls Say viral video on Youtube. He puts on a wig and many (adorable) dresses, looking a little too good in lipstick and heels. I laughed hysterically, recognizing the truth in such statements as, “get these chips away from me,” and, “that poor dog needs water!” Still, something bothered me about it. It was the fact that it was called, “Sh*t.”
Uniquely feminine expressions are referred to as trash, refuse, waste. Why do we interpret being a girl as a bad thing?
Men aren’t the only ones mocking girly-ness. In a Kelly Clarkson song, she tells her boyfriend in the second verse:
“Now you’re up in arms because I say we’re not working out – You wonder if I loved you from the start well I tell you what – I knew a guy who changed my world – And then he grew to a little girl.”
Finally she breaks out into her pop-star anthem chorus singing, “Don’t Be A Girl About It.”
Don’t be a girl about it. And it’s supposed to be cute because it’s coming from a girl. Think about what is really being said by this statement. She is communicating that being ridiculous, unreasonable and irrationally emotional are the essence of our sex. Yet Kelly comes across sounding almost empowered when essentially she’s saying, “HA! Now YOU’RE the weak one…like a girl!”
We are all guilty of this subliminal subversion. We don’t say, “you’re too sensitive,” we say, “you’re such a girl,” much like we would say, “you’re an idiot,” in a condescending way.
What has gone wrong here? The strength of a woman is now viewed as her weakness. A woman’s great strength is her vulnerability. This is a delicate, deep and important revelation to wrap our heads around. My strength is my softness.
This softness flourishes in a caring environment: which is difficult to come by. Instead, we have been taught to weather the elements by getting rid of our vulnerability. Much of this is because men are not protecting us but taking advantage. I realize, this goes against years of feminist progressive thought that says we don’t need men. That is another topic altogether. My point is, instead of trying to buck girly stereotypes, why aren’t we bucking the stereotype that being a girl is a bad thing?
We are the delicate beauties. The dust twice refined. We are more emotional and freer with our tears, laughter and hugs. We can empathize with strangers and are fierce protectors of children. We are harborers and sustainers of new life. We can believe in the impossible and never give up.
While all of these are female stereotypes some of us will be angry that I mentioned, why don’t we take a moment and ask ourselves why it makes us angry. It is that very anger that I’m addressing. Why are any of these things bad and why would we not want them to be characteristic of our sex?
Think about it this way. If I were writing to men and said, “You are strong protectors and providers. You are fashioned to lead and flourish in courageous endeavors. You are builders of buildings and climbers of mountains,” would they be deeply offended? Why should they be? These are all positive. They are all necessary for humanity. No, not all of them are true of everyone and do not limit the totality of each man individually. But they are particularly celebrated in men.
Now, ladies. Could it be that we are indoctrinated to not celebrate the uniqueness of our gender? And could it be that this indoctrination IS FROM WOMEN, perpetuated BY US?
I am pleading guilty to doing this without even realizing it. Every time I apologize for being “such a girl,” I am inadvertently undermining my sex because I’m insecure about my vulnerability. When I say someone else is “such a girl,” I imply I am less like a girl therefore more like a man and therefore better. THAT is what is truly shameful; that I feel more empowered as a woman when I feel more like a man. Are you guilty of the same?
One small step that can break this cycle is eradicating the term, “such a girl,” from our language. We should not say it about ourselves, our friends, our families or even our enemies. It is a manipulative tool to silence our emotions through shame in our gender. If a woman OR MAN acts solely on emotion instead of wisdom and common sense, we say this person is a fool, not a girl.
The term we should be using for one another is, “quite a woman,” remembering that when we feel, particularly for others, we are uniquely and divinely expressing our humanity.
I still don’t wear pink. Not because I don’t want to look girly but because I just don’t like it. But I unapologetically cry in front of men I respect when I hear about injustices. It is my unique, sincere, and divine expression of God’s heart, empowering me because I’m quite a woman.
What is yours?
I have been through many seasons in my life: growing up, college at Baylor, running at Baylor, college at Texas Tech, living in Dallas, running, advertising, living in Boston, marriage, counseling, living in North Carolina, living in San Francisco, running, etc. These are just a few of them. The list could go on much longer. Many of these seasons come full circle. I would never have predicted how these seasons would shape me, but looking back I can see that each season has helped form the person I am today, the good and the bad. Some seasons are easier than others, however, my goal with each season is not to fear or worry about the next one, but embrace each season for what it brings into my life. I must admit, I do not always embrace the rough patches, and when circumstances are uncertain, I panic.
I started this blog post a few weeks ago, and part of my hesitancy in finishing this entry centers on not wanting to sugarcoat struggles and portray following God during each season as an easy decision to make. Some seasons are joyous and others are tough. We may embrace these tough seasons with more of a fistfight than a hug. In Shauna Niequist’s book Bittersweet, she discusses different times in life, and very accurately articulates what I think many women WANT to feel when she said, “Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and the life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through…” (Niequist, 11).
We never know what the next season will throw at us and that is scary. When seasons are happy, we sing praises to God, and thank him for giving us such glorious times. This is a good thing however, when we enter a season that is full of fear and uncertainty; many times fear holds us back from enjoying our current season or events in our lives. For example, many people know I’m scared of needles. VERY scared of them. The first time I went to Ethiopia I had to get 8 shots. At times, I thought my fear of needles might stop me from going on this trip. Thanks to a good friend who went with me to get the shots, I did get them, and went to Ethiopia. This is a very surface example of fear impacting my life, but illustrated how fear can creep into our lives and stop us from embracing an opportunity or a season in life. (Ironic that I’m scared of needles because I’ve had my belly button pierced twice and now get acupuncture.)
My hope and prayer for my life, and the lives of all the women reading this blog, is that we let ourselves enjoy each season and give our best to that season. My hope is also that we let others walk through the seasons of life with us. God gives us community to celebrate the good times and cry with us during the difficult times.
We can call out to God in all season, and know that the God who created the heavens and the earth is an unchanging God, who is always available to his children. Jesus experienced both sadness and happiness, yet, amidst all His emotions, He knew God was there for Him, and He trusted his Father’s plan. God sent His only son to give us hope in all seasons of life. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus said the following, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Holy Bible, ESV). Embrace each season, both the bitter and sweet, and know that God has already written each of our stories as we walk through these seasons. He stands ready to embrace us, and gives us friends and family to physically embrace us during the many seasons in life.