Reframing How Interact with This World

There was a period in my twenties (and into my thirties) when I was part of three in-person book clubs. As a single and newly married person, this didn’t pose a problem at all. I had time to read, our schedules were flexible, and I had the mental capacity to dig into big issues. Fast forward nearly a decade and added children later and I’m no longer part of any real-life book clubs.

51+HOUEO-WL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_I had slowly quit them along the way, but the last one (that Books and Beer group) was the hardest to let go. It’s been a year since I stopped going and I know it was a good decision for my family, our schedule, and my time but being part of vibrant book clubs was a big part of my identity for a lot of years.

The next two books are ones I read with those clubs and they are books that have shifted my worldview and continue to impact the lens in which I process the world.

Published nine years ago, Half the Sky tells the stories of oppressed women from around the world. Each chapter digs deeply into a systemic condition that impacts women – from maternal death to daily safety concerns to sex trafficking and slavery. What is so powerful about this book is that the stories also tell of survival and overcoming those horrendous odds.

Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are committed to deep research and stunning storytelling. Even though the topics in this book are hard to digest, Kristof and WuDunn draw the reader into these stories and create empathy for women fighting for dignity and life around the world. This is a must-read for anyone wondering if women’s equality is an antiquated fight.

I read this book the year it was published so it’s been a while since I’ve read these stories and yet the impact it made on my life and the way I interact with news, especially about women, has had a lasting change.

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51+3X+KL1IL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Growing up, my view of heaven was a place you go. It was for people who believed in Jesus and we would spend our days happily worshiping him. Surprised By Hope mixed up that notion and made me rethink the idea that we are just waiting here on earth for a future glory.

Theologian N.T. Wright walks the reader through the ancient roots to our theology of the afterlife. The part that stuck out to me most and has changed the way I view my own interactions with our world is the idea that heaven is really this earth, restored. It’s what Eden was meant to be. In this restored earth, we experience all God originally created for us.

Wright also talks about the idea that, in this restored earth, we do what gives us the deepest joy. That our days are indeed filled with worship but it’s not the endless church service I imagined as a child. Gardening, painting, inventing, scientific discovery are all part of the way we interact in this restored world.

I love this image so much. As I explore what gives me deep joy, I love thinking about what I could be doing for eternity, as an act of worship.

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What about you? What do you imagine doing for eternity as an act of worship? 

A (1)This post is Days 13 & 14 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. You can find the entire series over at my A Literary Life page. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Raising Strong Girls

In response to our news of another little girl, a friend recently said, “Your purpose in life is to raise strong women.” Frank and I have taken this statement as a sort of commission – a guiding principle in our parenting choices. As we raise Bea and dream about this next little girl, our hope is that we foster confidence, strength, opinions, and courage. We want our girls to be women who change this world for the better, who think critically, and who question what they are taught.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Race, Reconciliation & Immigration conference. It was a hope-filled time focused on what we can be doing to combat injustice and work toward reconciliation. As John Perkins said,

Drinking coffee together won’t solve the problem – it takes justice out of the equation.

Surrounding myself with strong women
Surrounding myself with strong women

One of the best parts of the conference for me was going with some moms from my MOPS group. It is so encouraging knowing women who care about justice and who are in different places on their journey towards it. I am learning so much from them and their life experiences. One woman is an initiator – she is full of ideas and practical ways of doing justice. We were talking about what we as moms could do and she suggested playdates. This common act can bring about connections and experiences that – while it doesn’t feel like being on the frontline of protests or prison reform – is a doable way for moms to stretch outside comfort zones and work toward bridging community gaps.

What I loved about this idea is that it is something I can do. My first inclination toward new ideas or information is to read more about it, to follow authors and bloggers and tweeters who are on the frontline, to get frustrated, but to ultimately not really know what to do next. I do know that I can take Bea to a park and play with other kids in neighborhoods that need justice and reconciliation. It may seem like a tiny step, but it’s something I can comfortably do with my child who doesn’t have the same fears and prejudices many adults do.

I have another friend who works toward justice through her Family Service Club. Kellie wanted to foster a practical spirit of giving in her kids, so she is actively looking for ways to engage them in their communities. I love that she wants to take the childhood lesson of sharing and caring for others into the broader world of her community.

From these women, I am learning that working toward justice doesn’t have to be grand. Especially in this stage of small acts and raising small people, starting with simple is best. We need big world-changing ideas, but we also need small community outreaches and playdates. I need to remember what Perkins said,

If you do justice anywhere, people will hear about it everywhere.

Frank and I were talking about other practical ways we can raise strong, compassionate women. We’ve talked about modeling our own pursuit toward justice. Ultimately, what we do as a family will carry far more weight than any words we say to our girls. What do we want our family story to say? How do we make these beliefs our family norm?

I know I won’t stop reading and learning about ways to fight injustice, but I also know I need to surround myself with strong, proactive, and justice-minded women. Women who teach me how to put my knowledge into action. Women who are ahead of me on this journey and who can teach me sensitive ways of working toward justice. Women I want my daughters to be like when they grow up.

How do you work toward justice? Any practical ideas for including children in this pursuit?

Jesus Feminist

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

In middle school, I would write letters (actual, handwritten, stamped, Post Office, wait-weeks-for-a-reply letters) to a missionary friend of our family’s. Ruth and I met in England, where we had gone for Christmas when I was 10. My dad was speaking at a Winter Camp organized by Ruth and her husband. Since that Christmas, Ruth began mentoring me through letters. I would write my seventh-grade thoughts and questions and she would faithfully respond. In high school, I saved my babysitting money and allowance and flew to Estonia to visit Ruth and Ron for three weeks. Ruth showed me the power of listening to others’ stories. She showed me that marriage is a partnership – that she and Ron have different gifts and talents and they used them wisely. She showed me that women in ministry are people in ministry – meeting the needs of their community.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

In high school, my mom used the education budget to get her Master’s degree in counseling. After working as a paraprofessional in the public schools, she decided to get a degree in a field she was passionate about. She attended classes on the weekends and during the summer. She worked during the week and continued to help my brother and I navigate middle school and early high school. She showed me that it’s never to late to return to a dream. She showed me that women in ministry are people in ministry – and that ministry doesn’t always happen in a church, but often in a public school setting.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

During my first semester in college I lived with Sue and her young family in the suburbs of Paris. Sue was a stay-at-home mom with two sons born with a life-threatening disease. She studied French to take care of their daily lives, but also learned medical vocabulary and how to advocate for her sons in a country foreign to her. She studied the Bible and gave sermons on social justice. She showed me that stay-at-home moms are not simply housekeepers but advocates for their children. She showed me that women in ministry are people in ministry – educated and passionate about redemption.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

I am a mother of a daughter. By the time she is old enough to understand labels, I hope she will not need this one. I hope that our church culture will have evolved enough to not see women in ministry as anything but people in ministry, using their gifts and passions for the Kingdom.

I am a Jesus Feminist because…

I hope Paul’s letter to the Galatians is truly lived out: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (3:28)

I have been following Sarah Bessey‘s blog for years. Her first book, Jesus Feminist released last Tuesday. Since I have been quietly following her thoughts on faith for so long, I thought I’d join her synchroblog in support.