Women Who Change the World

Dear young Christian girls,

  There is a popular saying now that goes, “Well behaved women never make history.” Let me tell you something. Look into your bible. Every single Godly woman in the Bible is a well behaved woman. The women that God blessed, used, and commended were well behaved women. The ones that weren’t – Rahab, for example – made it into the Bible because of the times they were well behaved. Deborah, Hannah, Esther, Ruth, Mary… These women were humble, obedient, and faithful. They were STRONG. You cannot look at them or their lives and say they weren’t incredibly strong women. They were strong because they behaved, and when they behaved, God’s power flowed through them into the events of the world, all the way to the birth of our savior through one of the most well behaved women in the entirety of scripture. 

  The sassy bad girl, fierce rebel, and uncompromising free spirit are the ideals for women of the world today, but the good girls are still the ideal for God. Good girls are beautiful, remarkable, and captivating. They’re varied and diverse and unshakable. Did you know that? Look into your bible again and see all the different kinds of good women God used for all different kinds of tasks. No two are alike except in their goodness. These women were far from boring. 

  Good girls don’t just get mentioned in history, they shape it, mentioned or not. Why? Because history belongs to God. Obedience to God’s commands and callings, whatever they may be, puts you right in the middle of the unfolding of the the world, right where He needs you, to make the difference in the course of lives and events only you can touch. So I say to you as I would say to my younger self – do not be ashamed, do not be discouraged, do not be swayed. Be humble. Be steadfast. Be kind. The world needs you, even if it does not know it.


All The Children of the World

 My father is African American with some Cherokee in there, and my mother is 100% Dutch in heritage. He has black skin, she has white. There were people who said that this was going to make raising my siblings and I a little different than raising kids whose parents were the same skin color. We would have to be talked to about racism earlier, and we would struggle with whether or not we identified more with our ‘black side’ or more with our ‘white side.’ 

  Let me tell you what my parents did. Obviously, we weren’t blind. We knew our parents had different skin tones, and that we had different skin tones even to them. So my parents, as we grew up, told us, “God made people with different colored skin.”

  That’s it. That’s all it took. The children’s song Jesus Loves the Little Children didn’t have any more significance to us than Jesus Loves Me or Amazing Grace. Skin color was just another physical characteristic like eye and hair color, and since my father was in the military – which itself is highly diverse – we lived all over the globe encountering people not only different from Americans, but different from us. We loved it. Without having to be told specifically about racism and the importance of not judging people based on their skin color, we grew up not colorblind, but seeing the world and the people in it in all the beautiful color with which God created it. 

  We understood diversity but we also understood reality. In Europe, we found mostly light skinned, broadly built Europeans. In Korea, we were surrounded by short, also light skinned Koreans (which made finding my dad literally anywhere a cinch and we thought that was hilarious). In Africa, we saw when my dad would send us pictures, there were mostly dark skinned Africans. And we knew South Africans had light skin, Japanese had tanner skin than Koreans and Chinese, Europeans from the Mediterranean has deep tans like my siblings and I, and so on around the world. When we came to a new place we didn’t look to see how diverse it was within itself, we just looked at the people that lived there and learned about them and their culture. The whole world was diverse; it didn’t occur to us that we needed more. My Barbie doll collection was filled with different skin, hair, and eye colors, all kinds of different personalities. When I picked a new one I didn’t think to myself, “Do I have enough diversity in my collection? Should I get a white doll, a tan doll, an Asian one, or a black one to maintain the balance?” All I thought was, “She looks like a cool person, I want her to join my others.” When we watched movies and TV shows we didn’t think, “There are too many white people,” we thought, “That character looks Norwegian, that one looks Irish, that name sounds totally Eastern European, is that guy Indian or Middle Eastern?” Of course, we did have a soft spot for the big black dudes and for all the redheads because we associated those with our parents, the same way we were partial to the military characters and the stay at home mothers. 

 We see the world with diversity all around us. It never occurred to us to demand more in order to be ‘represented’; that concept makes no sense to us. When we lived in Korea all we saw were Koreans on the television, and that made perfect sense. When we live in America, we see Americans on television. There are more people from a European background in America than there are people from other backgrounds, so it made sense to us that there would be more characters with a European heritage in our media, entertainment, and daily life. That didn’t count as any less diverse to us than always seeing Koreans in Korea, Germans in Germany, or all the different kinds of people on military bases. We lived both in the gulf side of Florida where there was a large Hispanic demographic and we attended a very colorful church, and also in the middle of the Midwest surrounded by German, Dutch, and Irish farmers where only two black people went to our church and one of them was our dad. We didn’t consider either any less diverse than the other; both churches were filled with fascinating people who have lives filled with blessings and struggles all their own. 

 No, we aren’t colorblind. We didn’t struggle more than other kids growing up. In fact, I believe we had it much easier than a lot of kids, due in large part to our travels and to our parents teachings despite what those around them insisted was necessary to teach us. We see people as people with diverse and fascinating heritages, regardless of the color of their skin, and value the contributions, experiences, and legacies that every ethnicity from around the world has to offer. Good and evil are not restricted to any one culture or any one skin color. If you look for one, you will find it, and if you look for another, you’ll find that, too. It didn’t make us angry if we were treated differently – we spent a lot of time in foreign countries, we were different to people there – and if someone was mean to us, we didn’t assume it was because of how we looked, we assumed it was because they were mean and they were looking for whatever excuse they could to be mean. We met good and bad all over the world in every size, shape, color, and age. We treated everyone fairly and gave them the opportunity to do the same to us. Many, if not most, did treat us quite well. In fact if there was anything that the majority of people didn’t like as much about us, it was the number of kids my Mom had more than anything else. We accepted that, too; nine kids is a lot and we make an intimidating crowd filing into a restaurant, or trying to convince someone to rent a house to us. 

 I encourage people, even those who have been hurt, to try to look at the world this way. Humanity is the crown of God’s creation, there is so much beauty in it. Every individual, group of people, every society, every nation, every lineage, all have incredible stories to tell that will enrich the hearts and minds of anyone who’ll listen to them. They are the stories of us and how our world has been shaped, and in a world so big as ours, there is already diversity everywhere if you learn to see it. 

Things I Learned About God from Being a Parent

My daughter Rosie came into the world at 4:55am on a Thursday morning. Her pink face was scrunched up and she laid on my chest squinting into the dim light while I gave her her very first snuggle. The picture my husband took of that first embrace shows me with a serenely happy expression, while Rosie is the picture of the word disgruntled, all wrinkles and pink skin with a striped hospital hat covering her mass of dark hair to keep her warm. She was so new and so small and everything from lights, to sounds, to what little she could see, to the feeling of air and breathing, were all alarmingly unfamiliar. Everything, except me. My voice and my heartbeat right under her little head were things she had known for all her life inside the womb. I was Mommy, and I was safe. I knew she knew me then as I had known she knew me in the womb.   And I wondered, is this how God sees us, His children? So new and helpless, blind and knowing, in our very bones, that we are His? Does He rejoice so deeply and so tenderly for the birth of every new Christian – perhaps, for the birth of every new human?

  Rosie depended on me for everything. The first few weeks of her life were filled with new and scary sensations. Diaper changing, cold wipes, hunger, trying to fall asleep, laying in a crib apart from Mommy at night. Her cries were heartbreaking. She cried because she had no other way of expressing anything she felt. The little frown furrowing her brows lingered as if wondering whether or not coming to the outside world had really been that great of an idea. My husband would change her at night and she would cry and cry and it made him feel awful, but there was no way for us to explain to her what was happening. We just had to do it, in spite of her protests. 

  It reminded me of God’s tender care for us in His vast knowledge. Hearing our confusion, our fear, our pain, and continuing with what is best for us, perhaps seeming silent when it is only that there is no way for Him to convey to us what is happening and why, simply because we are incapable of understanding that level of knowledge. And as much as we loved to take care of our little girl, so He must love to take care of us, His compassion for us boundless. 

  As she grew older, there came the fateful day when Rosie discovered her will. She found out that she wanted things that Mommy said she could not have, to go places she wasn’t allowed. At first she was confused that I stopped her from crawling to the base of the bookshelf in the corner, but after a few times she learned that I did not want her to go that way. I knew she knew when, after having given up once already, she crawled back towards the shelf, paused, and looked at me, before deliberately continuing forward. So again, I stopped her. Ah, but now she knew what she wanted, and she loudly expressed her displeasure with my restrictions. She was equally as upset with my boundary for the living room door, and for the other corner where the television and lamp cords were tucked temptingly behind the television stand, as well as for the tall lamp itself. Why wasn’t she allowed to play with those? She acted as though my rules were unfair. Unneeded. But the bookshelf could be tipped over, and there were stairs leading downwards right across the hall outside the living room, the cords could shock her, and the lamp could be pulled onto her head. But Rosie knew little of gravity and nothing of electricity. She didn’t understand the cause and effect of her own actions or that anything was unsafe. She only wanted to explore. Patiently, I kept her from reaching anything dangerous. Over and over and over despite her angry protests and tears over the perceived injustice. She was still too young to understand why, so instead I taught her to obey despite not knowing why. The innocence of her newborn tears had become the frustration of willful disobedience. But just as she had when she was first born, she needed to learn to trust me. I made rules for a reason whether she could comprehend those reasons or not. 

  I understood, then, God’s patience, and His commands for obedience. There is no way for us to fully understand the reasons behind God’s rules, but we learn, over time, to respect them anyway. And I began to take great comfort in knowing that if I was willing to gently rebuke my own daughter over and over and over for the very same offense – it did become somewhat amusing at times that she would still try to get away with things even though she hadn’t once succeeded – then how much moreso does God do so for us? He calls us His children, He our father. He watches us willfully commit the same sins over and over and gently but firmly He rebukes is. We wonder, how could He forgive me again? Now I know why; because He loves us, He is invested in teaching us to trust Him, and so does not grow weary but rather understands what we can’t, and that is that life is so much bigger than we are able to see. But He sees, and He guides us until the day we will see more clearly like Him. 

  From the day Rosie was born, to her first birthday, and every day afterwards, she has been a joy to us. I look forward to seeing her face every morning more than I look forward to seeing the sunlight through my window. Loving her fills me to bursting; I feel as though my heart is tugging at its seams just to contain it. Every little thing she does, the sounds she makes, her movements, her little round shape, her wild hair and stormy blue eyes, every one of her expressions from her grin to her concentrated frown, brings me great joy. Her very existence blesses me. Even now, when she can’t say I Love You, she can’t say Thank You, she can’t wash dishes or clean her room, and she doesn’t always want to snuggle. Even now when she can give me so little, she gives me so much. 

  That, I know now, is how God loves us. And that is what my daughter has taught me in just one year of life. She has pointed me to God in so many ways, ways I never could have truly understood without her. 

  So, my lovely daughter, my precious Rosie, thank you. You make my mind run back up the sunbeam to the sun; as surely as God is the sun, my love, you are the sunbeam.  Right now you are too young to know how deeply you have touched me and how much your life has made me grow, but someday, I pray, you will know. God will show you His face and His heart as He has shown me. Mommy loves you very much. 

  And my dearest, precious Lord, thank you for loving me, your daughter, and thank you for giving me this beautiful glimpse of your face. Thank you for the tiny hands that push me ever more into your great ones. Thank you for my sunbeam. 

Three Fictional Female Characters that Impacted Me Positively

Princess Una from the picture book St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodge

As I was pondering the question of which three fictional female characters had the most positive impact on me, I began to realize more and more that Princess Una holds the first place in my heart as a fictional female character. She was gentle, and meek, undyingly faithful, utterly selfless, and unwaveringly courageous. When the dragon came and ravaged her kingdom, she didn’t throw off her crown and train to fight it herself, she couldn’t have, that’s not the kind of capability she was created with. But instead of doing nothing, she left her home and braved perils that the book only mentions as incredibly treacherous, and finds a champion who does have the ability to meet the dragon head on and defeat it. She guides him back over the wild lands, keeping him from getting lost, and all the while the suffering of her people is first in her heart and compels her to overcome every hardship. When George does engage in battle with the dragon, she remains to watch and cares for him when he’s wounded and prays over him for strength to succeed. I loved and admired her as a character – the same as I admired St. George, as well – from when I was very young and my mother would read that story to me. She more than any other female character ever has inspired and encouraged me.

Nancy Drew  from the original 51 book series

There was a point in time where I read literally nothing but Nancy Drew books. I loved her curiosity, her cleverness, and her devotion to her family and friends. She had a strong desire to help people, a sense of adventure I related to, and she was very feminine all the while. She helped me remember never to stop being fascinated by the world, never to stop learning and looking and listening, and to remember to think for yourself because not everything is as it seems. 

Laura Barton from Avengers: Age of Ultron

There are not words to describe how elated I was to meet Laura Barton in the second Avengers movie. I was too happy to even care that every other person I encountered at best considered her a disappointing plot device, and at worst hated her for either ruining their Clintasha ship or being the exact opposite of a feminist icon. I didn’t care. She fed my soul. She was me, my mother, my mother in law, my aunts. She was a wife and mother, a resting place and support for her warrior husband. She was quietly strong in just the ways her family needed her to be, and she was happy. Laura Barton is forever my favorite superhero.

The Rich Blessing of Children

On Tumblr the other day I came across a brief discussion of the Godliness of contraceptives. One Catholic called it a sin because it frustrates the procreative purposes of sexual relations, and another Protestant argued against abstaining from sexual relations within marriage as warned by Paul in 1 Corinthians, and also that not all married couples are meant to have nor want children. These are my thoughts on the subject. 

I would say there is a very strong argument in the bible that a large part of the purpose of marriage is for having children. God speaks with repeated and /deep/ fondness of children, He calls them a blessing more than he ever calls health or money a blessing, and gives children as a reward to married couples. In the bible, the greatest reward God can give us besides His own son, is a child. Children are very precious and very Important to God. Not just children in general, your own children, of your marriage, of your flesh and blood. Your reward. 

The very first charge to the very first couple was to be fruitful and multiply, pointing to the original design for the relationship between a married man and woman. If the argument that men and women were created for each other is used as a way of pointing out the sinfulness of homosexuality, then God’s charge to the first man and woman to have children must be given the same weight. Marriage and sex and children all go together as part of the original design for creation. When this charge is given its due weight, it further invalidates homosexuality as Godly because there is no way to produce children in a homosexual relationship, and no way to call it a marriage if sex and children are inseparable from each other. 

Arguments can be made that, in our fallen world now, we do have to be intelligent, know our limits, and deal discerningly with situations that obviously would not have come up before The Fall. That does mean we don’t go having children willy nilly as if health, financial, and other concerns aren’t a factor. However, wanting or not wanting children isn’t the criteria for deciding if one should have children. The bible openly shows us that not only are we supposed to have children, but we should rejoice in them as rich blessings. More than money, more than health, more than success. Children are indescribably beautiful, they are a reward from our God, they are His most precious creation.

None of that makes contraception a sin, depending on how one categorizes a sin, but it should give one very long pause to examine the motivations for wanting to use it in the first place. Children are not a lifestyle choice and should never be treated as such. 

This is already long but I’ll add another note – the natural end to biblical sexual relations is procreation, however sex within a marriage does also serve to form the oneness between a husband and wife. It isn’t solely a way of producing children. That is its ultimate purpose, but God designed the means by which offspring are created to be an incredibly special, powerful, and uniting act. The bible does charge that married couples do not abstain from sexual relations except as a kind of mutually allowed fasting. In times between children or for health reasons, financial reasons, or even barrenness, this aspect of sex within a marriage is still important to continue even when procreation is not an immediate possibility for a certain amount of time. 

That is how I see it, and I have tried very hard to base my views on the bible rather than fit the bible to my views. I know many others do, as well, and come to different conclusions than I, but my hope is that my perspective causes some measure of thoughtfulness and searching. That is my prayer. This topic is very close to my heart, very dear to me, and it is so easily mishandled in our society, where children are being perceived more and more as a burden rather than a blessing.

Heaven and Health

A gal I’m acquainted with on Facebook posted – at around two in the morning – that the concept of eternal life and heaven was really messing with her head, and she was mildly freaking out about it. So I gave this reply. 

I’ve had a little of this before. Not horribly, because apparently I don’t find anything strange or hard to accept, I just dislike things that are illogical or impractical. 

Honestly, I don’t think about heaven much. Not in the traditional western sense of heaven, anyway. I think about the whole world – heaven and earth – being renewed and remade, put to rights as it was intended to be in the beginning. For me the western view of heaven is too shallow and abstract to make much sense. It’s more of a holding place, where we are in God’s presence, resting, rejoicing, until all of creation is renewed. So when I think of heaven I don’t think of just living in endlessly in a state of…. Well, whatever that is. Nothingness, I guess. Just existence. I mean, people say it’s happy and I want to be in God’s presence as much as any other christian, ultimately, but just being happy and hanging out in mansions for all of eternity doesn’t really make me excited. It’s actually kind of disappointing. That’s not really an eternity that sounds compelling, and it also doesn’t seem like the kind of eternity the bible talks about, anyway. 

The new heaven and new earth are far more appealing to me, and I get happy and excited thinking about them. It’s earth, remade. It’s out home, except made perfect. We’ll have purpose, and work, and beauty all around us. It’s this world except as we long for it to be, filled with goodness and light and creativity, and we will be fulfilled because we’ll be able to do what we were designed to do in the first place, and that is be God’s stewards of the world. What was broken by sin will be joined together again and it will be beautiful beyond words. We will /want/ to live eternally in that world. We want to now, all creation does. The fear you’re feeling, anxiety, panic, stress, the longing for peace, that’s you wanting the world to be right. We know these things aren’t supposed to be here, they’re results of corruption, and we want peace. Order. Purpose. Fulfillment. Surety. Joy. That’s what creation remade is, that’s the eternity, the heaven, that awaits us. 

Now, as for the concept of eternity itself, that’s something that humanity is going to struggle with wrapping it’s mind around, because we are all creatures bound by time. We experience life inside time. Eternity is just a word we use to describe the absence of time. God is outside of time; time is something he created. It wasn’t there before he made the world. You’re a writer, think of it like this: you have the ability to skip to any section of a book, at any point in the characters’ journey, without being forced to start at the beginning every time, or being unable to go back over what you’ve already read. Now the characters in the story, they experience the story chronologically. They can’t go backward or forward – the story isn’t a story to them, it’s their life. And you have complete control over what happens when, even behind the scenes in the bits you don’t specifically write out. For you a page break or the jump from one chapter to another takes two seconds, but the characters take the long way around, and live out every second in between chapters, scenes, page breaks…. When we read and write, we experience a little of what it’s like to be outside of time. That’s what I imagine it to be like for God. With even fewer limitations yet, but it’s a glimpse at least, and helps make sense of something that seems like it should be impossible. 

Those are my thoughts on the topic. I’m getting ready for church at the moment, but if you want I can find some bible verses and passages about my view of heaven and new creation of you think those would help. The very top thing no matter what, though, is trusting God. I have to remind myself of this constantly. Not just about heaven, but about many things in life. God says heaven is good, so it is good. Whether we understand it or not. I freak out more about what happens immediately after death, about facing God with all the sins I’ve committed, worrying that maybe I’m forgetting to do something that will ensure I’m forgiven and accepted by God, afraid that the transition from life to death is going to be horrible, terrified of standing before God full of shame. But every /single/ time I start down that line of thought, I remember what God has said. He had said that we can approach His throne boldly -boldly?! – knowing that Christ has covered us with his sacrifice. Period. The end. I’m not missing anything, there isn’t a secret password or a pass fail grade, it’s just Jesus. And I remember what God says about Himself; He loves me more than I can fathom. He /wants/ me to come to Him. So even if the experience is uncomfortable or confusing or scary, I trust God. Completely. And if He does something a certain way, I trust that is the way it should be done, and that it is ultimately for the good of myself and the rest of His children, even the whole world. It is important to tell this to yourself when you start to panic. Cheesy? Maybe. But even the psalmists preached to themselves when they were in the very depths of grief and fear and anger. It is a good habit to develop. It doesn’t make you stuff your feelings, it just gently reminds you of truth even when you’re emotional. It will help. 

Lastly (I know this is insanely long) what you’re describing honestly sounds like late night brain talking. Which isn’t to dismiss your fears at all; emotions very often point out real issues, even if the proportion isn’t necessarily accurate. To help your anxiety and panicking it helps to recognize what they are. You were up far, far too late. The human mind doesn’t work well that late at night, especially when other health issues are involved. Hopefully it doesn’t sound callous for me to point that out, but it is definitely a factor, and if you’re ever going to have peace, real tangible peace, you’ll have to recognize that. The mind, body, and heart are all connected. You have to take care of them all in order for any one of them to do well. Your heart and mind will joy know full peace and clarity until your body is taken care of. Your body will not operate at its best unless your heart and mind are taken care of. Do you see? Just thinking about trusting God isn’t going help you at all when you’re awake at two in the morning stressing your body, because at that point your brain is physically not capable of operating properly enough. It’s going to freak out, which will freak out your heart, and it’s downhill from there. Right into existential crisis about eternity in heaven and anything else your thoughts latch onto when what they really want to be doing is sleeping and staying healthy. 

I keep you in my prayers, dear. Believe it or not, I can relate to a lot of what you go through, and have come out the other end of it all. You can do it too and you can have much more peace of mind, body, and heart, and I sincerely pray that for you.