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The Strength to Be Where You Are :: by Brandy Walker

guest post by Brandy Walker

My three-year-old looked at me with big eyes yesterday. He told me that he does not want to be a grownup. And I laughed because I get it. Sometimes it’s really not very fun.

Meanwhile, my middle schooler keeps trying to sneak into the high school group at our church. She’s overwhelmed with problems that feel far too old for her. Struggling with the desire to be perfect and have everyone around her fall in line, too. That unique, torturous feeling of not-enoughness that often strikes previously confident young girls around puberty.

My son is a lot like his dad. Never in a hurry. Completely comfortable where he is.

My daughter, on the other hand, is exactly like me. As I battle my own demons of perfection and performance and doubt, it breaks my heart to watch her as she watches me and takes up her own sword.

I think of Jesus, when he talked about being a mother hen, wanting to hold us. I know he gets it.

I long to wrap her up in my arms. To gently shake all the insecurities off her shoulders. But I feel like I’ve got to work on my stuff before I can even begin to think about helping her with hers.

That’s what we’re told, right? I’ve got to get rid of my plank first.

It doesn’t work that way in parenting. You don’t get the luxury of waiting until you’ve got it all together before you have to approach your kids with seemingly sage advice.

The frustrating thing, of course, is that Jesus was perfect. He actually had sage advice.

When we think about being like him, though, I don’t think it’s perfection that we’re talking about. It’s the way he connected with people. It’s the way he tore down the old ideals of what being perfect is supposed to look like.

You could even say that he wasn’t perfect. Because perfect is a static state. It’s unchanging, steeped in tradition.

Instead, you could say he was what Brené Brown calls wholehearted. That is, he had the strength to be vulnerable.

Cultivating deep, loving friendships with men and women requires authentic vulnerability.

Telling people the truth in gentle yet challenging ways requires authentic vulnerability.

Getting pissed off at the broken systems and doing something about it requires authentic vulnerability.

Being scared of your calling and asking for it to be taken away, but ultimately submitting to the purpose of your life requires massive amounts of authentic vulnerability.

I am a writer and a life coach. I teach people how to find their purpose and go after it full-tilt, in the midst of real and messy life. Since I became a Christian 11 years ago, I’ve had a growing fascination with Lent. It’s about repentance and fasting and I suck at both of those things.

But I love how Lent follows Jesus as he accepts his own life purpose—one that led him to a place most of us would never want to fathom. But one that, as Christians, we celebrate, wholeheartedly. Because he showed us a new way.

One of the criticisms we get as a church is that we focus too much on Jesus’ death and not enough on his life. That’s what got me thinking about vulnerability.

I believe that it’s our drive to be perfect—prefect parents, perfect kids, perfect feminists, perfect students, perfect activists, perfect progressive Christians—that keeps us from stepping into our big, wide-open dreams.

A couple of years ago, I started an e-course called Be, a journey through Lent. Last year, we focused on rest and sabbath and deep self-care. Sometimes, in order to pursue your calling, you must first curl up into a ball.

Be-2-960

But after the soul-filling rest, what happens next?

How do you do find the meaning of your life in the middle of your actually crazy life?

I believe the answer can be found in authentic vulnerability. And I believe the journey through the Lenten season is the *perfect* vehicle for real transformation here.

In Be this year, we’ll create a safe space where we can take off our armour. We’ll talk about shame and the lies we tell ourselves. Once again, we’ll practice deep self-care. We’ll laugh and cry and bake together. We’ll find the courage and the breathing room, together, to find or submit to our purposes. We’ll create and solidify our sacred friendships as we walk closer and closer to Holy Week. Finally, we’ll celebrate Easter with all its new and outrageous implications.

Through it all, we’ll face life’s challenges as they come. We’ll hug our kids when they need to be hugged. We’ll trust their love when they want nothing to do with us. We’ll face good and hard personal news together. We’ll celebrate new jobs and dreams and possibilities.

Hopefully, we’ll walk away with new friends, a renewed commitment to our purpose in the world, and the profound sense that through it all we’ll have the strength to remain authentically vulnerable.

If that sounds like something you need in your life, I hope you’ll join us. The class starts on February 15th, but you have until Friday, the 20th, to sign up. If money is an issue, there are scholarships available.

Whether you’re dashing through life like my daughter and I, or plodding along at a brilliantly steady pace like the males in our family, may your direction lead you to your passion and your purpose.

May you always find the strength to be where you are.

10885151_10101648877255500_9196860507141744614_nWhen Brandy was in kindergarten, she used to get in trouble for daydreaming. Now she makes her living as a professional daydreamer. She talks about the intersection of shalom, feminism, and radical self-care at brandyglows.com. She helps creatives work through the blocks holding them back and dare to dream tornado-sized dreams. You can follow her random thoughts, big ideas, and pictures of her crazy, adorable kids on twitter at http://twitter.com/brandyglows.

 

 

Continue Reading · faith, Guest Post, lent · 7

In which I am carrying on their legacies :: a guest post by Dusty Counts

I received this beautiful letter from a woman in North Carolina named Dusty Counts. (Isn’t her name amazing?! I love the South.) After reading it, I asked her if I could share it here on my blog as a guest post because I love her legacy and I love how consciously she walks out that legacy in her life right now. Eshet chayil! 

Do you have a family story? Have you heard it all your life? This was my situation when I read Jesus Feminist. Somehow, reading that book made two of my family stories come to life.

My grandmother was 8 years old (can you imagine?) when she had to quit school. She was in the 3rd grade. Her mother had broken her hip, so my grandmother had to stay home, both to take care of the younger children as well as run the household. Did I mention she was 8 years old? Cooking was done on a wood stove, which my grandmother chopped the wood for. She also killed chickens. And she was never able to return to school.

But my grandmother decided life would be different for her four daughters, who all finished high school. This was unheard of in rural North Carolina during those times. My grandmother then cashed in some small life insurance policies to send her daughters to business colleges. All four of them then proceeded to graduate from business college!

She always, always, did for others. My mother told me she could never remember a meal (when she was a child) where my grandmother didn’t also fix a plate to send to someone in need. She did this, despite the fact there was little to send. These were far from wealthy people.

My grandmother also demanded that the first indoor bathroom in the community be installed in her house. There is a famous family story about her wanting a renovation to the house. My grandfather wasn’t quick enough in starting the project, so my grandmother took a sledgehammer and beat through the wall one day while he was at work. The renovation was completed.

My mother was a quiet person. She would never talk about her faith. But she prayed every night, for what seemed like hours to me. At her funeral, I learned there was more than one person that my mother had quietly provided toys and food for at Christmastime. She was such a person of faithful prayer.

At my church, Renovatus, we say: “We are your grandmother’s church and your great-grandmother’s church and your great-great-grandmother’s church.” I always think of my mom and grandmother when I see this.

These are their stories. I feel such a deep connection to these ladies who are now gone from my life. They were truly Jesus Feminists.

Thank you for making their stories alive again to me. You have given me a priceless gift.

I have been thinking about how I carry on their legacies. Am I doing that in any way?

I have a community life group that meets in my home every Monday night. We do a meal each week. Although my husband does the cooking, I like to think that this is carrying on the ministry of my grandmother.

And, I am on the prayer team at my church. We meet every Thursday night to pray for the ministries and members of our community. I like to think this is carrying on the ministry of my mother.

And, I have just become one of the first two women elders at Renovatus. There is an old saying in the south, “The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.” This means we are more like our parents than we realize. I believe the spirit of my mom and grandmother are living on. That spirit is a part of me.

Love,

Dusty Counts (isn’t my name awesome? An adjective and a verb!)

dusty countsDusty Swink Counts hangs out in Charlotte, NC where she has spent 35 years climbing down the corporate ladder arriving happily at the bottom. From an IT professional to a stay at home mom who homeschooled to retail to preschool teacher to food service worker, it’s been quite a ride. She has been married to Jim for 30 years and mom to Dustin, 27; Ian, 26; Greylan, 23 and Christine, 22. This motley crew includes a financial advisor, a barber, an arborist/dancer and a Geology/Secondary Education major dance minor. When not asking, “Would you like to large size that meal?” Dusty enjoys reading, visiting with her children and awesome daughter-in-law and having coffee with friends. She has recently been ordained an elder at Renovatus, a church for liars, dreamers and misfits where she fits right in!

 

Continue Reading · Guest Post, Jesus Feminist · 16

In which a strange word teaches us about grace :: a guest post by James Prescott

Today, let’s welcome James Prescott from the UK over here to our neighbourhood! James writes about finding divine hope in the midst of the messiness of life. And if you’re not following him on social media, you’re missing one of the best encouragers online. 

 

It was a sermon in church a few weeks back, when I first heard of the art of Kintsugi.

And if you’re thinking “What a strange word!”, you’re not alone. That was my first reaction too.

So what does this strange word mean? Well Kintisgui means ‘golden joinery’, and it’s the name for the 15th century art of fixing broken ceramics with a lacquer resin made to look like solid gold – and often actually using genuine gold powder.

There is a well known story about Kintsugi.  A man was traveling to visit friends in Japan. While en route, some pots broke and he threw them in a bin.

When he departed he was given a gift by those he visited. He looked, and saw it was the bowls he had brought to give them, the shattered pieces put together to make something even more beautiful than the bowls they had been originally.

And the man who gave them to him said, “Now, these are even better than when you bought them”

It is said a vessel fixed by Kintsugi will be more beautiful, more precious, than before it was broken.

My own story closely resembles a work of Kintsugi. How is that? Well, I’m broken. I don’t have it all together. I make mistakes and have a list of regrets.

The damage was done years ago, growing up in a home filled with alcoholism, anger, epilepsy and chronic asthma, which combined with the torture of bullying at school, made my life feel like a tale of hell.

The asthma had taken my Mum’s short-term memory when I was only 8. And once my tortured teenage years were over, asthma took my Mum’s life as well. I was 23. She was 52. Way too young.

I was the eldest child, and as such from a young age I had felt a responsibility to protect the family. To be the ‘strong one’. Even more so when Mum died.

But it caused untold damage.

Burying my pain meant anger became part of my life. Every minor setback resulted in a rant from me, blaming God for the hell my life had been.

In my mind I knew the truth: God loved me unconditionally. He’d walked with me through my suffering. I was precious to Him. But my heart just wouldn’t listen.

Until one day, I reached breaking point, and said to God: “I hate you”

Not long after this, God spoke to me directly. He’d told me twice in the previous two years I was worth everything to Him. But this time, it was different.

God said to me, “Enough is enough. When are you going to believe me? You are worth everything to me”

And finally, I broke. I came clean about my brokenness. I allowed God in. I let Him strip me down and get to work in my heart. I opened myself up to grace.

I allowed God to pick up the broken ceramics of my life and slowly piece them together again. To make me a piece of divine Kintsugi.

Since that day I have confronted the truth of who I am. Not just my past, but my poor attitudes, my bad habits, my idolatry. The process s been uncomfortable, and painful at times.

Because grace isn’t easy. Anyone who sells a form of grace which doesn’t cost anything, and which is all smiley-happy-simple, isn’t telling the truth of grace.

Grace is messy, dirty, and painful.

But it’s life-changing.

Grace confronts us with the truth of who we are. Broken. Fractured. Messed-up. And it tells us in that moment, we are loved. In the moment our lives are strewn all over the floor of our souls…

…we are worth everything to God.

Then, in the nakedness of our broken lives, we will hear the words

“You are beautiful”.

And grace will gently reshape us into something even better, more precious, more wonderful, than we could ever have imagined.

This is the Kintsugi of Grace. And it’s for me and you.

James P new profile 1James Prescott is a writer, author and blogger. He blogs regularly at www.jamesprescott.co.uk on encouragement, telling a better story, and discovering hope in a broken world. His first full length book, “Mosaic of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping of Our Broken Lives” is available later this year. For more information, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter at @JamesPrescott77

Continue Reading · Guest Post · 21

In which we’re telling a new narrative about gender roles and racial reconciliation :: a guest post by Osheta Moore

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)

From Chapter 5:

How do you interpret the Bible’s call for mutual submission in marriage? Could you walk out the dance of “none but Jesus” in your home?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book. (This is our final instalment in the series and tomorrow afternoon, I’ll announce the winners of the signed books.)

Today, Osheta Moore of Shalom in the City is responding to our question.

 

****

I knew I would marry a white boy even before my Mama told me so.

Maybe it was my wall covered with pictures of Jonathan Knight, the shy, sweet older brother of New Kids on the Block that tipped her off. I did have a small picture of Boyz II Men next to my desk to balance out the overwhelming white boy love fest, but since it shared a page with a New Kid’s interview—it didn’t really count.

It was quite possibly the many stories of my school day that included me gazing at, daydreaming about, or nervously working next my middle school crush, the popular pre-teen Adonis with blonde hair and blue eyes. I think I showed her my cards when I asked my mom while reading “Little Women” if Laurie would have fallen in love with me even though I was a black little woman.

I think she suspected it was time to liberate the white boy lover in me when I tried to convince her I found black boys cute with an insincere off hand comment. “Mama, you know, Steve Urkel is kinda cute when he’s Stefan Urquelle,” I commented as Jaleel White seamlessly switched from America’s favorite nerdy next-door neighbor to his sleek, intelligent and charming altar ego after drinking “Cool Juice.”

“Oh, Honey!” my mama said. “You’re gonna marry a white boy!”

Shocked and a little embarrassed I laughed, “What makes you say that?”

Searching the bowl for the coveted slightly popped kernels we called, “crunchies,” she looked up and simply replied, “Because that’s all you look at.”

From that day on, I never felt bad about only dating white boys. It wasn’t a conscious decision as much as a comfortable preference. The same way I only wear flip-flops in the summer or cotton scarfs over silk. I knew what I liked and confidently moved towards that.

In all my years of dating white men and praying about the intricacies of having bi-racial children, I overlooked one problematical reality of marriage: someday as a “biblical Christian woman” I’d have to submit to one, even if it’s mutual.

I, a black woman, would have to bend my will to a white man.

The baggage of racism had not been unpacked in my interracial marriage. When I married my husband, my post-racism, “we’re past white and black issues” worldview, convinced me that the little twinge in my heart towards submission was caused by pride or worldliness.

I did not know Jesus was inviting me to the well to drink deep the everlasting water of racial healing. I was willfully ignorant of race issues and colorblind to a fault.

Then God called us to urban ministry and the more I learned of poverty, systemic injustice, and violence in the urban core, the more I realized in order to embrace the African-American community, I needed to embrace our shared past of suffering. Gone were the days of running from the truth that I am a black woman in America. As a black child of God, I had to process my pain around race or else he could not work deep magic in the broken places.

After all he gave me this skin, it was time I learned how to wear it proudly.

Those months of learning to love my identity as a black woman and attempting to play the role of submissive wife were hard. It seemed every African-American heroine’s story began with overcoming the odds of white male oppression. From Harriet Tubman to my favorite Disney Princess, Tiana, I saw white men creating some sort of unnecessary obstacle.

How could I submit to this white man whose very skin makes me feel “less than?”

The how and why of submission became very important for moving forward. Do I submit passively, without gently asking questions or respectfully sharing my insights? Do I submit to avoid conflict even though I know the fall out from bad decisions would be more raucous than a few minutes of heated debate between lovers? Do I submit because I’m a woman and the church says we should remain silent? What if God wants to use my voice to speak clarity in an important family matter? Do I submit then? Do I submit because I know there are so many stereotypes of the “angry black woman” and a part of me wants to de-bunk that?

See, see, us black woman can be gentle and quiet.

I think that’s why my feelings about submission and racial identity were unnecessarily enmeshed.

The uncertainty of it all put me in a place of submitting out of fear. I submitted to be a peacekeeper, not a peacemaker. 

When I separated the two, God could heal the wounds caused by racism while teaching me that shalom in my marriage doesn’t come from a bending of my will to my husband but from a bowing of my head in prayer to my Savior.

When we’re at an impasse, I don’t have to blindly submit “because the bible tells me so” or because I have this sycophantic impulse as a black woman to please all white people— especially white men.

After I separated the two and let Jesus work on my baggage around race, I started to see my husband as more my partner and less patriarchal. If we don’t agree, an issue can remain unresolved while we can learn to dance through frustration, not around it. It looks messy, at times chaotic, and too often we step on each other toes, but it also looks like dignity, honor, forgiveness, and hope.

As a “Naked Anabaptist.” my reading of the Bible is Jesus-centered. Therefore, my view of submission has to reflect a “None but Jesus” hermeneutic. I submit first and foremost to Jesus. So does my husband. We’re disciples who yearn for the harmony of Heaven on earth, we let Jesus’ teaching inform us on how to speak peace in conflict and create wholeness in our marriage. We try to live out a cruciform—Cross-shape—love for one another by smothering the jolt of life we get from being “right” in order stand right next to each other.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

In my interracial marriage, as we practice submission, we’re telling a new narrative about gender roles and racial reconciliation. I’m glad I married a white boy even if being his black wife challenges me in all the best ways every single day.

 

osheta biopic-1Osheta Moore, an Anabaptist stay-at-home mom in Boston. She has four babies: two boys (Tyson and TJ), one girl (Trinity) and a church plant (New City Covenant Church). She’s passionate about racial reconciliation, peacemaking and community development in the urban core. She writes on her blog, “Shalom in the City,” and at the top of her bucket list is “dance in a flash mob” — all the better if it’s to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Pharrell’s “Happy.”

 

Continue Reading · Guest Post, Jesus Feminist · 29