Archive | women

When you feel a bit selfish for pursuing your calling

In our new house, I have a little room of my own. Well, technically it’s not “my own” – it doubles as a guest room. But since the guest bed is a hide-a-bed, I’ll just go ahead and call it my “office” so that I feel like a proper adult. I’ve always had a bit of a laugh when serious well-meaning folks ask me about my “writing space” as if it’s a magical area. Nope. I have done 99% of my writing at the kitchen table or a noisy coffee shop or the public library. But now I have my own little room at the bottom of the stairs in the basement: the carpet smells a bit musty, there’s a hearth for a wood stove that doesn’t work, and cedar paneling that has endured since 1983. I love it mostly because I’ve established a No Tinies Allowed Here rule.

The other night, I had to do a few final checks on my book manuscript and it was urgent. It has been a busy month with our move in particular, so busy that I hadn’t really properly written or worked for the entire time except as snatches during 30 minutes of Phineas and Ferb for the tinies, so that night after we had cleaned up the supper dishes, I passed the baby to Brian, he set up the Monopoly board with the tinies, and I went downstairs to get my work done. I turned on a bit of music, made a cup of tea, lit a candle, and entered into my work with my full attention for the first time in far too long.

I came up to nurse Maggie an hour later and tuck her into bed. Brian put everyone else to bed. He came down to check on me at our usual bedtime four hours after I had begun, and I turned to him as one resurfacing after a spectacular deep sea dive, my grin wide and my whole being excited. He laughed at my euphoria. I said, I’m just so happy to be working! I love my job! I love having a quiet spot all to myself!

I finished the manuscript checks, got organized for the next week or two, made some plans, outlined some articles, that sort of thing. Hardly any great creative work but it was the kind of work that lays the groundwork for creativity. When I set up the scaffolding, it’s easier to build, I find. I sent the final docs off to my publisher, shut down the computer, blew out the candle, and floated off to bed. I slept like a champ, nursed in the middle of the night with joy, woke up in the morning singing, all of my energy restored by the simple act of doing the work I love to do. I felt more alive, more engaged with my life, in every way.

Virginia Woolf identified a woman’s need for “a room of her own” for creative work, both figuratively and literally. I haven’t had a literal room before and so I’m deeply grateful for it now. But the big thing I realised at the end of that evening was how important it is to also create the figurative “room” in my life altogether, to create just a bit of the emotional and spiritual room necessary for living out my calling.

I’m happier when I’m doing what I love to do and what I’m called to do and what I enjoy doing. The truth is I’m a better person in every way when I’m doing the work I feel called to do.

Life takes over at times, we all get it. We need to shelve our dreams or our creative work for many good and important reasons or make it accommodate the rest of our lives and the schedules of everyone else for whom we bear responsibility. My work right now revolves around Maggie’s nap schedule and the tinies school schedules and the unpredictable tiring rhythms of a young family. It’s not perfect and sometimes it’s frustrating, for sure, but the priority is there for me in this season of life. (When I was still working full-time outside of the home, I would write blog posts on my lunch breaks because that was my only free time.)

But here is the thing that I believe: we need to do the work we were meant to do in order to be who we were meant to be. And what’s more, I believe that honours God.

We are whole beings. We aren’t living out of just one aspect of our humanity to the exclusion of all the others.

Sometimes I can think that pursuing my calling is selfish. I don’t know where I picked that up – perhaps it’s cultural conditioning, leftover bad theology, or something. On some sub-conscious level, I can feel guilty for taking time to create, for taking time to do the things I love to do, simply because I love to do them.

But the truth is that I start to falter without it. I become frustrated, tired, empty, if I’m not creating something, even if it’s just as simple as a few hundred words a day. I know this but I forget it sometimes. I skip creating in some grand self-sacrificial way but then everyone else ends up missing the best and most whole version of myself altogether. It isn’t until I sit down and do my work again that I return to the rest of my life – homemaking, raising children, community, church, school, marriage, all of it – as my most true self.

I’m better everything when I’m doing the work I was meant to do, however humble or unimportant that work is to anyone else.

That night of work downstairs reminded me of a quote from novelist A.S. Byatt that Elizabeth Gilbert shared on the first episode of her brilliant podcast, Magic Lessons.

11885172_879965445418905_5225517795396087679_n (1)

image source

And on the flip side, I find that my whole life informs and enriches my work. The way I was raised informs my work. The ways I encounter and experience God informs my work. Falling in love with my husband all those years ago, the way our relationship has unfolded over the past sixteen years  informs my work. Becoming a mother and now the experience of raising my children informs my work. Ordinary life enriches my work. All the things I do and experience and live out inform my work. If I didn’t have all these other things, what in the world would I have to write about anyway?

I’m not sure, but I think this tendency might be more common for women. I think we struggle more with the perceived “selfishness” of living out our calling or vocation with abandon. So we feel guilty when there is no need for guilt, sometimes even adopting a martyr complex of all the things we are denying ourselves in service to our families.

In reality, God placed those gifts and callings inside of you for a purpose and it’s profane to stifle them in some misguided attempt at honouring God. If you want to honour God, come alive.

It’s entirely right and appropriate to bring your whole self to your whole life. I think God created us for an abundant life, filled with joy and meaningful work and service.  And I think it’s important for our children to see us working, to us loving our work (even the kind we do just for the fun of it, because it makes us feel alive).

I saw this in a friend recently. She is a gifted Bible teacher and she kept putting it off and putting it off because it was hard to figure out a way to make it work in her season of life as a mother to young children and a full-time job. But when she made space to engage in that aspect of her calling – teaching, leading, training others how to study and love the Bible – she came alive! It was incredible to see. She came home from the nights of teaching as if she were on an adrenalin high. The joy of it would carry into her whole week, affecting her family and all the rest of us. The work she did mattered, of course it did, and she changed lives with her work. But the act of doing the work itself was also life-changing for her and for the ones who loved her.

If teaching or preaching or writing or managing or leading or painting or film-making or delivering babies or studying astro-physics or whatever it is makes you feel more whole, then darling, do it all to the glory of God and you’ll see that the way it makes you come alive will stain your entire life with joy. 

The work is good and purposeful and necessary in and of itself, absolutely. I’m always flat amazed at the ways that my words, tapped away on this smudgy laptop wing into lives all around the world in ways I never would have expected. That’s worthwhile! But I also love the gift that the act of working gives to me. Isn’t that just like God? For even during the Fall, when we were “cursed” with work, we find goodness hiding there, too.

Because it’s never just about us. That true version of yourself – the one that needs the wholeness of creativity and work and service altogether – exists in a family and in a community and as part of God’s love letter to the world. When you are fully alive, as Ireneus famously said, it glorifies God. And when God is glorified, all of us are drawn to the light and life of that moment. 

It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be seamless and easy. It doesn’t have to come together without struggle. In fact, I can pretty much promise you that it’s going to be hard at times to create the room for your calling to be lived out. But it will be worth it. Because if it makes you feel alive, if it’s what God gifted and called and created you to do right along with everything else in your life, then we all need you to do it and also you need to do it.



Continue Reading · faith, women, work, writing · 80

A Voice for the Voiceless

A tired trope, isn’t it? a voice for the voiceless. The problem with this is, of course, that so few people are actually voiceless. The problem isn’t their “voicelessness,” it is that we are not listening. We don’t value their voices and so we do not listen.

I have never liked the phrase. Few people need us to be a “voice for the voiceless,” instead I believe it’s more powerful to elevate and amplify the voices from the margins, from the ones we overlook and pass over, to say that everyone is worth listening to and that – regardless of race, socio-economic status, geography, ability, and so on – people get to own their own stories.

There is one notable exception though: the unborn, the babies still in the womb of their mother, they have no voice. These are truly the voiceless.

So I’ll use mine for them without apology.

I am a pro-life Christian feminist. Christians have a long history of valuing the undervalued, saving the discarded from society, and welcoming the differently abled as icons of Christ. Our Jesus came to bring us life and life more abundant. So to us, life is sacred, a gift from God, precious. Every person carries the breath of God. We are made in the image of God.

But there is also a long history of pro-life feminism. In the first wave of feminism, our foremothers believed women deserved better than abortion. They saw that abortion was violence against women by a society who did not value women.

Because of both my faith and my feminism together, I believe in advocating for life, more than ever.

“A voice for the voiceless”: well, this week the voiceless have cried out.

I have made myself watch the Planned Parenthood videos – now I owe the voiceless these small words at least. Not because of the possible sale of fetal tissue, horrifying as that is: but because it told the callous truth of what this medical act is for once and for all. Legal or not, that is not the issue. Telling the truth is an act of revolution. This week has revealed it. Here is the truth of it, here is the truth of what it is, here is the truth of what it means and what it meant and how it will always mean something.

As a woman, as a mother, as a Christian, as a feminist, my entire being revolts against abortion and the Orwellian language with which we excuse ourselves.

I carry no judgement, how could I? This is incredibly complex and I offer only my deep compassion to the women who find themselves here. I carry no easy solutions, there are none. I make no promises and I write no screeds or manifestos or declarations or accusations.

I want women to be safe and I want babies to be born. I want all of the reasons why women abort to cease, to be healed, to be legislated right out.

So I want equal pay and decent healthcare for low-income women that includes contraception and supportive partners and a wide availability of midwives and supportive birth environments and real material support for children who are differently abled in mind or body and at least a year of maternity leave and on and on and on.

Abortion is a sign that we have failed women somehow, I think.

I don’t have much hope of legislated change when it comes to this issue. So I encourage us, Church, to continue to speak out, absolutely, but also to put our money and our time and our compassion where our outrage has risen up. The best way to save babies is to support women well.

Our pro-life ethic has to outlast our outrage. It has to show up in our communities and churches and clinics.


This video is by Gungor. As they wrote on their release, “In 2014, a woman tweeted that she would be faced with “a real ethical dillema” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome. Richard Dawkins responed “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Also in 2014, we had a beautiful little girl with Down Syndrome and two heart conditions. We named her Lucette, which means ‘light.” Lucie has taught us how much every life matters. This song is for her and all the beautiful people on this planet with special needs. We think that you make this world a better place.”

For more:

Feminists for Life

You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to be a Pro-Life Progressive by Benjamin Corey

Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion by Rachel Held Evans

On Planned Parenthood and the Language We Use Around Abortion by Hilary Yancey

I’m closing comments on this post. I don’t want careless words to wound any further.

Continue Reading · faith, social justice, women · 10

Women are Scary :: by Melanie Dale

Most of the time when people write or talk about female friendships they either make it sound like rainbows-and-unicorns-and-cupcakes OR they make it sound like the worst experience of their lives. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to Melanie Dale. Not only is she a fellow fan of Doctor Who(!!!), but she wrote a book about female friendship I think almost every woman needs to read. It’s called Women are Scary (isn’t that a fantastic title?!) and it’s one of the most honest, funny, and helpful books for developing friendships in adulthood. I loved it and it made me love women even more. You’ll see what I mean when you read this post from her. Then find her online and buy her book. – S.

Women are Scary :: Sarah Bessey

The Doctor: “There’re a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive … wormhole refractors … You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”
From Doctor Who, “The Almost People”

For several years, I’ve been a Sarah Bessey fan, so as you can imagine, I’m geeking out a bit as I type these words and have pretty much given up trying to be cool about it.

So. I’m trying to write a post about how women are scary for the author of Jesus Feminist. The irony is not lost on me. And I’m using words like “wench,” “bossy,” and “burping,” which are like a triumvirate of female no-no words. Other women have always intimidated me, and I’m a weensy bit sweaty admitting this here.

But maybe you can relate to the utter weirdness of trying to fit in, of squeezing yourself into a mold that doesn’t seem to fit your kind of female. What do you do with women’s ministry and women’s retreats? When I was figuring out how to be a girl in the church, I felt like an expatriate living in a foreign land where I was expected to understand floral arrangements and how to make a proper cheese ball.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a roomful of women I barely knew, watching a video in which Bible teacher Beth Moore got down in someone’s face and declared, “I love women!”

Ooh, I thought to myself, I don’t think I love women. Women are scary, complicated creatures.

The very next moment, something inside me bubbled up and I prayed inside my head, “God, help me to love women.”

Nothing happened. I didn’t feel the earth shake or my insides quiver. I finished watching the video, picked up my daughter in the nursery, and moved on with my life.

Never did I suspect that God would answer that little prayer in such a big way. Looking back over the last couple of years, since praying that prayer, I’ve realized that God has completely rewired my heart. I find myself asking questions, listening to the hearts and hurts of the women around me, and offering bear hugs with abandonment. Where I wanted to run, I now leap to encourage. Where I felt defensive, I now celebrate our differences.

I still avoid crafts.

I attended my first women’s retreat in college, hosted by the women at my church. At that point I was still learning how to be a little bit normal, how to navigate female relationships. My life as a theatre major, a fairly untalented one, consisted of daily rehearsals in which I stood in the back and played the silent role of wench or maid and practiced carrying trays and not drawing attention to myself while wearing a corset and petticoat.

On the night of my first women’s retreat, I of course had wench or maid rehearsal in my whalebones and came to the retreat late, tired, and my insides just a little squeezed. My boobs were relieved to be out of the corset and away from my throat, and I guess I was exploring my diaphragmatic freedom, because before I knew what I was doing, I burped loudly in front of everyone.

I liked burping. Burping was awesome. And then an entire room filled with older church ladies turned to stare at me and I could tell they were mustering the good Christian grace for which they’d trained, and I realized that maybe my parents weren’t the only ones who thought burping in public was a bad idea. Having girlfriends and being a lady might require sacrifice on my part. No more burping wench-maid. I wasn’t sure what I thought about this.

Years later, I still love Jesus, and burping, and sometimes in spite of myself and my complete weirdness, I still go to these things called women’s conferences. They’re filled with lovely ladies and prayer and I’m always just a little on edge, like I don’t quite fit and if they only knew what was going on inside of me … you know, besides gas. In a room full of Christian women I always secretly panic that I’m going to somehow lose control and scream the f-bomb over and over until they drag me out by my Bible.

In the ’burbs where I do life, we live in an independent, isolated culture. We drive our cars into garages and close the doors behind us, and we can go days and weeks without interacting with the neighbors unless we’re intentional about making friends. If we can learn how to develop real, soul-soothing relationships, there’s no stopping what we can do together for our kids, our families, and the world. But first we have to stop being scary and scared of each other.

I witnessed the perfect illustration of female relationships as I waited for my kids in the pickup line at preschool. I watched as two three-year-old girls held hands and tried to walk in opposite directions. They yanked and yanked each other back and forth. They were very angry. They were bossy. They tried and tried to get the other one to go their way. Because their way was better. They knew. No matter how hard they yanked and yanked, they each had their own idea about the right way to do things. But in all the yanking and bossing, they never let go. They held hands tighter and tighter.

That’s a relationship with a girl. We hold hands. We don’t let go. Because we need each other. We yank and yank, but we don’t let go.

So find your girls, grab hands, and don’t let go. We are better together. Put on your best sweatpants and get started.

headshotMelanie Dale is a geek on a God-ride, a minivan mama and total weirdo who stinks at small talk. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. Author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends, she’s also a contributor for Coffee+Crumbs and an advocate for Children’s HopeChest. Living in the Atlanta area, she blogs at about motherhood, orphan care, adoption, and sometimes poo.

Continue Reading · community, friends, Guest Post, women · 21

Say Her Name

#sayhername (4)

Say her name.

Say it out loud: DaJerria Becton. A beautiful name, let your voice say it out loud.

Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God – Jesus gives us ears to hear and then faith comes. I think there’s something powerful about our own voices speaking the truth out ahead of ourselves. Our words matter. Our voices matter. What we speak aloud often sinks its way into our soul and our memory and then into our actions.

So here is what we could say today: DaJerria Becton.

I believe that today the crucified and resurrected Christ is saying her name with us: DaJerria Becton.

You are made in the image of God, DaJerria, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are valuable. You are beloved.

She is not “Bikini Girl.”

Not “that black girl in the bikini in that video.”

Not “the McKinney girl.”

Not whatever terrible name she was called that day or in the days since as people cast judgment on her and her friends for the way the day ended: a white man’s knees pressed into her young back, forcing her face into the grass while she cried out for someone to call her mama.

“Someone call my mama!”

Her name is DaJerria Becton. 

She is just fourteen years old, someone’s child, yes, but she is her own person, made in the image of God. And she was brutalized, terrified. No matter what lead up to that moment, this was deeply engrained racially-motivated and sexualized violence. That man’s instinct was to throw her by her braids, a slender teenager in a bikini, to scream, to point a gun, to put the full weight of a culture that believes she is a danger because of her skin and disposable because of her sex right into her back.

There are a million reasons to be outraged: as a feminist, as a follower of Jesus who deeply loves the powerless, as a mother.

If anyone could watch that video and not feel the rage, the impotent need to rescue that child, then I have to wonder: how numb have you become to injustice?

Nameless victims are somehow easier for us to forget. But she’s not a nameless victim.  She’s not what she wore or what she said, she’s DaJerria Becton from Texas and she’s fourteen years old.

From the ancient tribal culture of the Bible to Boko Haram and ISIS to our own “civilized” societies, there are stories of the hundreds of nameless victimized women throughout patriarchy’s history. One after another after another, until our sisters somehow blur together. God’s global daughters aren’t a nameless, faceless sex. We have names. History glosses over us, we’re the collateral damage to the wars of men, and so our voices matter: lift them up and remember, we have names. We have stories, we have families.

Every woman matters. Black women matter, too. Aboriginal women matter, too. Poor women, too.

There’s  litany of names. One woman after another who has been murdered or damaged, made even more vulnerable often because of socio-economics or race or location. Here in Canada, our litany includes our aboriginal women – more than 500 murdered or missing as far as we know. We become numb to their faces, to their stories, it’s always one more one more one more one more in the news.

Let her be a person, not a news story or a litany or a victim. We will learn from the marginalized and oppressed, we will believe their stories. We will incline our ears and amplify voices. We will become educated beyond our own narrow context. We will not become numb and we won’t mind our own business, we will let our hearts cry out alongside of our sisters.

Say a name today.

DaJerria Becton.

We see you. We weep for you. We will carry you. We will pray for you and for your community. And we will never stop labouring for God’s dream for humanity to come true. We won’t give up and we won’t lose hope. 

We will be angry with you and for you – and then we will let that righteousness move us further out into redemption. 

Say a name today (there are too many to choose from, so many names, so many women.)

Jesus, be near to the brokenhearted, comfort the afflicted, bring freedom and truth and reconciliation. 

Today, go on, I dare you, say her name: DaJerria Becton. 

And let your heart break.


(This post was inspired by the powerful hashtag #SayHerName to raise the visibility of the Black female victims of police brutality.)

Continue Reading · faith, social justice, women · 22

Don’t turn away now: how to help with peacemaking in Iraq


Go read this dispatch from Iraq by Ann Voskamp, my fellow Canadian and dear friend. Go on now, I dare you.

You can walk into any mall and buy a pair of NIKE running shoes for what they are buying a Christian or Yezidi girl from 1-9 years of age — $172 dollars. And she’s yours. For whatever you want, for as long as you want, to make do whatever you want. Sit with that. Yeah, we’re all done living in a world where a pair of shoes can last longer, have more worth, be treated with more value, than a fondled, raped and discarded 9 year-old-girl.

The United Nations reports this week that at least one young girl’s been “married” over 20 timesand forced at the end of each violation to undergo surgery to “restore” her virginity.

So it could be ripped open and destroyed by the next highest bidder.

LookWe’re all done with keeping up with the Kardashians or whatever flash of skin is being flaunted on red carpets — when there are little girls being devoured on bare concrete floors and we will keep company with Jesus and be the ones who do something about the things that breaks His heart.

I sit with 4 Yezidi mothers in a shipping container where they sleep.

They need someone to have enough courage to not turn away.That is us.

That is us.

It sure as hell will be me. My nearly nine-year-old daughter woke up this morning and wandered into the kitchen, her childish voice asking for porridge and a hug. I wanted to clutch her to my chest and howl: now I know. Oh, my God, what if it was you? Now I know what is happening to her sisters in Iraq, to the their mothers, and then I made breakfast and I nursed the baby and I made beds and the whole time my gut was boiling with anger and grief and the need to DO SOMETHING.

I refuse to do nothing.

I won’t turn away and I beg you to stay awake to the pain of it, too.

Let yourself feel it. The howl is caught in your throat, I know.

Don’t turn away now. And for God’s sake, don’t numb yourself to it. Don’t inoculate yourself to this.

You are waking up now. Stay awake! 

Channel that rage and grief you feel, that sisterhood rising, and push it straight into peacemaking and into prayer.


And again from Ann:

It begins to end when the world lives what we actually are: We are sisters. We are a sisterhood. We belong to each other. We belong to the women who can’t read, we belong to the women who have been stripped of every hope, who are being sold in slave markets, whose daughters are coming back to them with ripped apart virginity. ISIS doesn’t own these women — they belong to us. They belong to the sisterhood of the world. When we live like we all belong to each other, we answer much of the longing in the world. 

When we understand that we are all made in the Image of God, the Imago Dei, we stand with each other and for each other and about each other. What ends the apathy and the trafficking and the racism and the fighting everywhere — is when we start seeing the Imago Dei in everyone.  

When we don’t belong to each other, we participate not only in the devastation of the world, but a desecration of the image of God.  

I’m going to lend whatever small voice I have to the peacemaking and the healing, to the long-term vision of Iraq through empowerment of women and the education of children.

I’ll be resourcing the peacemaking and I will be praying earnestly.

I’m joining with Ann to ask you to help defy ISIS by JOINING WITH PREEMPTIVE LOVE.

Here is the request:

1. Empower one woman to defy ISIS & start her own business: If we don’t help Sozan, Leyla, Mawra — these women have no help coming. Preemptive Love Coalition wants to empower women like Sozan and set these women who ISIS would like make invisible free to care for their kids with dignity and long-term security, so these mothers can provide food, water, shelter, clothes, and healthcare for themselves. $1,000 will give Sozan a business startup grant. How many women together can we empower? Our sisters are literally counting on us to give anything, something. 

2. Defy ISIS and give these kids the power of an education. Mohammadin with his red pen? Preemptive Love Coalition aims to put 22,000 kids like him back in school by this Fall. If a child loses more than one year of school, we know their chances of ever succeeding are severely diminished. Girls are especially vulnerable — invisible inventory.And boys who are not in full-time school are vulnerable to further radicalization by groups like ISIS. We can put 10 kids back to school this Fall for $100. How many kids together can we put back into school and defy ISIS?  

This is all our possible choice. 

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 5.49.10 PM


In just a short amount of time, we crushed it.

Instead of raising $120,000 as was the goal, together we all raised more than $616,000 in just three days – and we are still counting.



Continue Reading · Iraq, social justice, women · 8