An Abuse of Power

This week, Harvey Weinstein, one of the largest movie producers and studio executives in North America, was accused of sexually harassing many women for decades. It feels like just another in a long list of men abusing their power for sexual gain. Twitter, of course, was in an uproar about it and while I was going through my own feed, I noticed a  tweet that caught my attention:

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Took me only a moment to remember and I replied to it. Before long, I had many, many, many responses:

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And while I (and my cell phone) were overwhelmed with the number of likes, retweets, and replies, my heart ached for all the women who said they had similar experiences. Now I had many wonderful male teachers and I have some great friends who are male teachers, but there are too many stories on this thread of teachers abusing their power over teenaged girls. Why is this even a thing? And how do we deal with it?

I wish I had an answer, but I really don’t. Someone suggested that we put cameras in classrooms. But is that dealing with the symptom rather than the cause?

It’s funny, but these tweets got enough replies that the trolls came for a visit. This was a first for me since most of my online presence is limited to a very few. They showed up with the most unoriginal of ammo: comments about my weight. At first, it stung. I mean that it physically hurt. A sharp tingle radiated through my ribcage and I wondered how famous women handled the constant barrage of hate. But then it passed. Suddenly, I felt lighter. They found a spot I’m sensitive about and attacked it, but it wasn’t the end of the world. It sucked for about five seconds, but that’s it. It was freeing in a way because I get to move on with my life and they’re stuck being miserable.

But those comments did show me a part of why people seem to think that they can go into a classroom and behave this way. This idea that showing sexual attraction to girls and women is somehow a compliment is dangerous. Especially since most of the time, we aren’t interested in knowing. And really, the most important thing is context.

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If I have to explain to you what the difference here is, you need to consider your life a bit.

To conclude, if you’ve had an experience like mine or any of the thousands of replies that  were posted to that original tweet, I’m so sorry. You aren’t at fault for someone else’s gross behaviour. And, everybody, we’ve got to raise a generation of people that aren’t like this. It needs to end with us.

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Dear Church

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Tulips from a friend today ❤

Today was quite the scary day for me. Today I spoke in front of my church. As someone who shakes and stutters through school presentations, this was quite the feat for me. But why would I do this?

Some background: I became friends with a couple, one of whom happens to be a pastor. Our pastor. On the one hand, it’s absolutely amazing because they are incredibly sweet and their kids are just the cutest and I think the whole family is so wonderful. There actually isn’t another hand. I just really like these people.

So when the pastor asked me to write a letter to the church, I had to say yes. I was flattered, I mean, I’m a writer. So when you ask me to write something, obviously I’m gonna do it. But reading it was a little more nerve wracking. So we came to today where I read my letter in front of like 200 people.

The sermon was on the prodigal son. You know the story, I’m sure. Our pastor talked about the behaviour of the younger son and then turned the parable around and talked about the self-righteous gate-keeping of the older son. It was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard and, let me tell you, I’ve heard a lot. So at the end of this sermon, here I came, trundling up to the stage to shakily read a letter about Christian gate-keeping and how it can change your heart when someone opens the door instead.

Apparently, my letter touched some hearts and so I thought, maybe this would be a good place to share it. So here we go, Rebecca’s letter to her church (note: I’ve removed the names of the church and those involved for privacy reasons):

To my church in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

Yes, that’s how Paul began his first letter to the Thessalonians and how I begin my letter to you today. I’m no Paul. In fact, when our pastor asked me to do this, I compared myself closer to Moses. Not the chosen, obedient, plague-wielding Moses, but the one who stuttered and stumbled when he was asked to speak to Pharaoh.

I’m not Paul, but in a way, I mirror his story. I grew up a Christian. Here, actually. I went through Sunday School, youth group, Awana—I still have my Sparkies plaque—before being released into our unforgiving world as an adult. My faith was untested and proud because, like many young adults, I knew everything. I learned very quickly that wasn’t true.

The past ten years have been a boat ride on a stormy sea. Life tipped me over and nearly drowned me. I’d had this idea that if you live the right way, God would protect you from everything except persecution. That bad things only happened to good people that screwed up. So when some of the darkest things happened to me, I was angry and afraid.

Angry that God didn’t intervene when someone was hurting me. Angry that I’d believed a lie for so long. Angry that Jesus promised in John 16:33 that “he has overcome the world.” What a load of garbage, I thought. If you can be raped and murdered and abused and abandoned in this world, how has he overcome anything?

I wasn’t just angry. I was afraid. Afraid that I had become everything my youth pastor warned me about. In my heart of hearts, I still believed there was a God, but He was cold, distant, disinterested. That He’d saved the world from Hell and then washed His hands of Earth with an “I regret everything.” I was afraid to negotiate with this world without the surety that I could be safe. But more than anything, I was afraid that there was no place for me in any church, especially this one.

Dear church, I was afraid of you because I didn’t think I was like you anymore. I thought you naive and judgmental. You know that dreaded phrase: holier-than-thou.

Still, I attended this church for the past two years without really being here. I wanted my children to have the same foundation I had, though I couldn’t tell anyone why. I was asked to do music and I like music, so I figured why not. On the outside, I did the good Christian thing. I pretended. That’s what you do on Sundays, right?

In January, a few careless words nearly sunk my boat. It was at that point that I quit. It felt like an official “Keep Out!” sign had been placed on these glass doors. No Rebeccas allowed. No sinners allowed. No one who disagrees allowed. Maybe I wasn’t through with God, I thought, but I was definitely through with the church. Maybe all churches. The problem, though, was that I was committed to doing music. I couldn’t just not show up anymore. So I sent a message to the worship ministry coordinator politely asking her to remove me from the worship team and from the schedules.

The response, basically, was that coffee was required to quit music. I dreaded the coffee date for the whole week. She was obliged to meet with me, I thought. She can’t willingly just let a church attendee stop coming. But we met anyways. I was ready to spill out the entirety of my heart from the last ten years because I figured I wouldn’t see her again anyways and she’d be more willing to not pressure me to stay in church with the sheer amount of baggage I was carrying.

Acts 9 recounts Paul’s conversion to Christianity. The English Standard Version says in verse 1 that Saul was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” And while I wasn’t breathing literal murder, my heart was so full of hurt and anger that I might as well have been. My coffee date listened to my story and everything that came with it. I half expected her to just get up and walk away. I didn’t know I was asking the same question as Saul: “Who are you, Lord?”

And He answered me.

I remember in one of my Sunday School classes as a little girl, we would often recite: “God is love.” It didn’t mean much, especially compared to the stickers I’d get after saying it. And as I grew up, I’d learned a different phrase: “God is rules.” But sitting in Starbucks late that night, I learned again that God is love. He showed me that through this new friend. It was as if she looked over all the trash I’d laid out from my past and she said, “Cool, but it doesn’t matter. Your value to God, your value to the church isn’t here. You are loved regardless.”

Like Saul, I was blinded. While preparing for all the worst circumstances, I hadn’t taken account of the best. I was invited to a small group and promised I’d be welcome there, no matter what. She wasn’t lying. Not only was I welcome there, I was wanted.

When I went to small group, it was like the scales that covered my eyes were removed. Like Paul in Acts 9:19, I was strengthened.

Dear church, it was this act of love that brought me back. A love that has made we want to jump into this place with both feet, the way my son jumps into puddles. And like Paul says in Ephesians, “For this reason,… I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

It was not an argument, a confrontation, or a challenge that has me writing this to you. It was not condemnation or a call for me to change my ways. It was love. It was grace. It was a reminder that brokenness is Jesus’ specialty.

So I end this letter to you with encouragement using the words Paul used in closing to the Galations: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

 

So that’s it. That’s the letter.If you want to hear the context for my letter as well as me shakily reading it, click here.

I’d love to hear your responses, good or bad. So feel free to comment below!

Carry On, Warrior: A Review

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As you’ve noticed in in my bullet journal, I’ve been trying to read more books this year. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton was the second book I chose to read.

The story of how I found this book is interesting. A couple of months ago, one of the trends on my Facebook page was this author’s name. The tag line said, “Prolific Christian author comes out as gay!” I’m ashamed to admit that the attitude with which I clicked on the link wasn’t a positive one. As I moved my mouse to the link, I felt a sense of smug satisfaction. Ah yes, turns out that another holier-than-thou is just like the rest of us. I wondered if she had ever preached about the evils of homosexuality and if she regretted it now.

I know, not the best attitude.

But I don’t regret clicking on the article because I started researching who this woman was and she wasn’t the person I had expected. She still spoke about the unending grace and mercy of God, how important her children were, and how this new identity fit within faith. She wasn’t defensive at all. So I followed her on Twitter because I wanted to know about this person. And her tweets were often encouragements to other mothers or speaking out for the weak or reminders that God loves us. There was something… different about this woman.

So I asked for any of her books for Christmas and Brian bought me this one. And let me tell you, it was like she had transcribed my own heart and read it back to me. Her past is filled with struggles with drugs, alcohol, sex, and loneliness. She’s unapologetically honest about each thing and then reminds us that she is still a child of God, she is still unequivocally loved. No matter her past, her present, her future, she is loved. And that love is powerful.

There were three passages that I read aloud to Brian because they felt like my own words. She had words for the things I couldn’t describe on my own. It was freeing. She tackles big topics, all through the lens of love. She doesn’t have an ounce of holier-than-thou. It’s refreshing to hear something so real, so authentic.

The wonderful thing about books is that they can give you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. This book does that. It taught me about celebrating my children, about finding the reflection of God in each person I meet, about building the foundation of my marriage, and about loving others no matter their history. I imagine there are many things that more traditional or conservative Christians would find contrary to some of their beliefs, but I still think they should read it. Not because I want them to change their minds, but because, as Rachel Held Evans said, “Glennon Melton… [gives] her readers a precious gift: permission–permission to doubt, permission to believe, permission to struggle, permission to laugh, permission to tell the truth, and permission to do it all imperfectly.”

So if you’re looking for a book that reminds you how much God loves you and helps you learn how to pass that love onto others, read this book. Borrow it from me, get it online. Whatever you need to do. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

I Could Have Been A Trump Supporter

There is a lot about me that could make you think that I’d support Donald Trump if I were an American citizen. I am white, I am in a heterosexual relationship, I am a Christian, and I live in a province that is infamous for its support of the PCs (which is the watered-down, Canadian equivalent of the Republicans for those of you who don’t know). And there was a time that I could have been.

In my teens, I was convinced that women’s rights were a waste of time. I mean, I’d love to stay home and have no responsibilities. And what’s the point of voting if I was just going to vote the same as my husband. I parroted these opinions, thinking that it’s what would make me desirable. After all, I didn’t want to be one of those feminists. I believed that abortion was wrong, that women who got pregnant had to “deal with the consequences,” that homosexuality was a sin, that homeless people were lazy, that other religions were misguided at best, that immigration was something that big cities had to deal with.

I am not proud of it.

I would have been a prime Trump supporter years ago. I would have gobbled up the rhetoric because it aligned with my world view. I would have turned my nose at Hillary because she should know her place. Maybe I would have dubbed Bernie Sanders the antichrist because of his popularity.

But last Tuesday while the votes were being tallied, I was taking a bath and I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Dear Lord, please don’t let Trump win this. I have never been more afraid of anyone in my life. I don’t even live in the same country and I am afraid. I can’t imagine what all of those people he’s scornfully mocked are feeling right now. Please, God, if I’ve ever asked for anything, let this be where you work a miracle.”

Then I looked at the count. Florida was being tallied and already it wasn’t looking good. When I went to bed, sleep didn’t come easily.

My children woke me up early in the morning. I could hear Monkey whining to come out of his room, but I stayed in bed for a moment. A heavy weight of fear pinned me to my sheets, only releasing me enough to let my reach for my phone. Then I saw the news. Trump had won.

I’m dreaming, I thought and I tried to turn over and go back to sleep, but Monkey was awake and this was real.


On September 11, 2001, I was in my dad’s Intrepid on my way to the second week of seventh grade. I remember Dad was unusually silent. He’s not talkative at the best of times, but this was different. We were listening to the radio, not the usual Michael Bublé CD, and I remember hearing that some building had been hit by a plane. I didn’t understand what it meant.

When I was dropped off at school, things seemed normal until my first class when our principal came over the intercom to explain that something awful had happened and we were going to have a moment of silence. That moment in silence marked where the world changed for me. My education was suddenly peppered with discussions about terrorism, war, and the Middle East. My limited understanding about what was going on led me to fear.

We were at war because somewhere, a group of people hated us. I didn’t understand why. Perhaps it’s because my pre-teen brain wasn’t ready to comprehend the complexity of international affairs. Probably it’s because people didn’t think we could understand it and only presented a watered-down version that didn’t provide any answers at all. Maybe the people educating us didn’t have all the answers themselves. I don’t think anyone was prepared for what the future had in store for us.

Everyone knows where they were the day the towers fell, when they heard the news. That was a Tuesday that changed the world. I can’t help but think that last Tuesday was the same.


I could have been a Trump supporter years ago. But why am I not?

My confidence in my beliefs was slowly chipped away as I got older. Things happened at church, where I’d picked up most of my beliefs. Things that my heart told me were wrong, but my brain told me were the results of my beliefs. I tried to reconcile them quietly, trying to make them fit into the boxes that I’d created long ago. When they didn’t fit, I stuffed them in the back of my mind. Under the staircase where they wouldn’t be a bother. I tried to forget.

Then in the fall of 2007, I was raped.

Things changed for me that year. I refused to deal with the experience and looked to my beliefs to understand what had happened. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have been drinking. I should have stayed with my friend. I shouldn’t have been flirting. I shouldn’t have accepted a drink I didn’t pour myself. I shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. My fault.

So I packed the experience up. Another box placed under the stairs where the others were festering. I’d learned a lesson, hadn’t I? I’d done something wrong and now I was the soiled woman that all the purity books talked about. What is it that I’d heard? Oh yes, no one wants a piece of gum that’s already been chewed. No man wants a wife who isn’t a virgin.

I let my life go to shit then. I’d diminished my quality as a wife. I was already chewed up and spit out. There was nothing to safeguard anymore. So I partied. I drank. I smoked some marijuana. I let myself be all the things that I was warned to stay away from as a little girl. It didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t matter anymore. The whole thing sunk me deeper and deeper into a depression that I couldn’t escape.

I met Brian in the midst of that depression. He chose me, even then. He stood by me for each panic attack, each irrational outburst, each threat of suicide. Until one day I begged him not to go out with his friends. In the darkness of that October night, I remember him standing silhouetted in the bedroom doorway.

“I can’t do this anymore,” he said. “I can’t keep wondering what I’ll be coming home to. You need to deal with this.” Then he left.

I wrote letters to each of my family members that night and tucked them under my mattress before downing a bottle of pills.


I knew I’d wake up the next morning because we didn’t have anything that strong in our house. What did surprise me though, was that I was glad to wake up. The late autumn sun  snuck its fingers through my basement window pane, illuminating the mostly empty room. Brian had come home. He was sleeping soundly next to me. For that, I was grateful.

His words from the night before still stung, but I realize now that I did need to hear them. I swore he wouldn’t see the pain I felt like needles under my skin. I made a decision to fake it. I clutched my feelings of inadequacy, of worthlessness, firmly to my chest, but my face would be smiles and small talk.

People tell you to fake it til you make it. For me, it ended up working. Had my feelings been connected to a neurotransmitter imbalance, I know this would not have been a solution. My self-loathing was a practiced one, one that I’d spent years preparing the ground for. Rape was the seed and my subsequent actions were the water. I shouldn’t have been surprised at what grew.

The crappy thing about that self-loathing is that once it’s planted, you spend your whole life plucking its weeds. Sometimes it convinces you that what you feel is real, that anything awful that comes your way is directly related to how truly, deeply, perfectly wretched you are. Other times, you look it square in the face and tell it to get behind you. If you’re not careful, though, the weeds can grow where you least expect them.

The birth of Monkey, and the horrible hormonal swings afterwards, caused a bout of postpartum depression. I failed the exam they give you at the doctor’s office and was scheduled for weekly visits to a therapist. Experiences, beliefs, fears, and my overwhelmingly low self esteem poured out in each hour-long session.


Yes, I could have been a Trump supporter. That was when I knew only a handful of people of colour in my community. That was when many of my LGBT friends weren’t out. That was when I thought that if I followed my restrictive, narrow-minded rules, I wouldn’t get hurt. That was when I thought that if others got hurt, it was because they didn’t follow those same rules. That was when I prioritized financial success over loving people.

Since then, I have learned a lot. I spent time with people who didn’t look like me who were kind and loving and smart and nothing like what the newspapers told me they’d be like. Friends of mine came out as LGBT and I realized that nothing had changed. They were the same people I cared about and that maybe what I’d been taught about them wasn’t true. I had children of my own and realize exactly how insanely hard it is to be a parent. I learned to respect single parents because I can’t imagine doing it on my own, especially when the world looks at them like they’ve done something wrong. I learned about rape culture, the patriarchy, and privilege and how those things directly contributed to what I experienced. I have a great appreciation for the women that fight for equality and strive to be a voice for equality myself.

I am not a Trump supporter. And I don’t think that every Trump supporter has the same world view that I had years and years ago and maybe they don’t have the same views as Trump’s most avid campaigners, but I do think that Trump supporters have declared with their votes that those views are okay. They have said, “It is okay that Trump gropes women without consent. It’s okay that he makes fun of disabled people. It’s okay that he is an alleged child rapist. It’s okay that he is part of a lawsuit about illegal business practices. It’s okay that he hasn’t paid taxes in years. It’s okay that he wants to mark Muslims and deport millions.” And this is what breaks my heart and makes me afraid.

I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Is everything going to normalize after a couple of months once people get used to the idea that Trump is going to be president? Are things going to escalate? What is it going to mean for my home province, where Trump’s rhetoric has effectively taken hold?

I am desperately hoping that people have voted for Trump out of misinformed fear. I don’t like to think that people are as racist as it seems, but each new report of hate crimes gripping the US is telling me otherwise. I’m convinced that many of those people would change their minds if they spent some time around the people that Trump has so viciously espoused his hate towards. It’s easy to hate people you haven’t met. It’s easy to fear things you don’t understand.

I am having trouble myself not fearing Trump supporters because I sure as hell do not understand. I don’t understand how Hillary Clinton was the greater of two evils. In fact, I don’t see how she was evil to begin with. I don’t understand how fellow Christians, who believe that our Christ was a person of colour with no wealth and who spent his time with criminals preaching love and kindness, decided that hate should prevail. I don’t understand and I am afraid. Afraid for the rape victims who never speak up because even their president has been accused of rape. Afraid for the people of colour who are attacked because even their president doesn’t value their lives. Afraid for the Muslims who have already had to shoulder the burden of 9/11 even though they had nothing to do with it. Afraid for the LGBT community because they are being condemned and killed over love. Afraid for women (yes, even the white women who especially let the rest of America down) because one by one, our rights are eroding away.

I won’t let this fear turn to hate. But I also won’t let this fear leave me cowering. That is why I had to write this and why I had to share a story that I am not comfortable sharing. I stand with victims of assault. I stand with Muslims, and people of colour, and LGBT folks, and women. I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and the Truth & Reconciliation program. You are not alone. I love you, I believe you are worthy, and I hope that in the end, love will prevail.

 

Comments have been disabled for this post at least for now. To be honest, I am really afraid of the reactions people will have to this post. I ask that if you comment on social media or here (once comments are allowed), that you be gentle no matter what side you’re on. While it’s okay to have differing opinions, I will not allow hate, name-calling, or bigotry, all of which get to be defined by me when it’s on my pages. Thanks for understanding.

Being Thankful

So a couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog with five things I’ve learned after being married for five years and people seemed to really respond to tip #4: having an attitude of gratitude.

Well today I got another lesson in gratitude.

A summary of what’s been going on in our lives: when Brian’s mom passed away a couple of years ago, she blessed us with a lot of help to start our lives as a couple. She thought ahead and while I’m sad she didn’t get to enjoy the money she worked so hard to save, I know that she would have been thrilled to know that she gave us a chance to start a family significantly earlier than we would have otherwise. Anyways, after buying a home and vehicles, there was only a little left. We needed to have some to pay for landscaping and then the rest was meant to be saved for a rainy day.

Moving out of the city and back to my home town meant that I left a job behind. And as much as Becka two years ago won’t believe this, I am dying to get out of the house. Some people are cut out to be stay-at-home parents and I am convinced that I am not one of them. Brian and I both believe that I would serve my boys better as a mother and a role model by at least working part time. But there’s not a whole lot out here in our small town. So we talked about me going back to university to finish my degree. I have three terms left in my bachelor so we thought let’s apply and see.

I re-wrote the entrance exam and was accepted, which was great, but by the time that I was able to choose my classes (students who went to school in the last school year got first choice of classes and I had to wait), all the classes I needed were full. There was a time limit for me to finish my degree and with the classes I needed being full, there was no way it was going to work.

Now, without going too deeply into my spiritual journey, I decided that I had to rely on God. If I was supposed to be going to school, He’d make it happen. If I wasn’t, then I’d have to figure that out. So we left it there and continued on with our lives. I applied to a job, but never heard back. September felt so far away anyways so I just pushed the whole thing to the back of my mind.

Then one day I was just checking the classes, just cause I’d exhausted all my social media entertainment while I waited for Eggs to fall asleep in my arms, and the two classes I needed suddenly had a single seat left. My classes had aligned and I’d be able to take all my classes in 3 days a week so that I could spend the other four with my boys. I was thrilled! It was a time of thankfulness and a little uncertainty. Was this a sign that I should go to school? Or just a coincidence?

Now that I finally had a schedule, I had to figure out childcare. And childcare is expensive (which I completely understand because the workers need to earn a living too). We were living more or less paycheque to paycheque now that my maternity leave had ended and we were officially a single income household. Three days of childcare a week would take up a full third of our monthly income. So again I turned to my beliefs and left the stress with God. While September was getting closer, it still seemed like an eon away.

A friend told me about government subsidies for child care for qualifying families. Yes! This is what I was looking for! But wait, you have to have your children enrolled in a licensed, approved family day home. The one that we were looking at was private and, therefore, not eligible. So I did some calling and emailing and got us on a list. Turns out the waiting lists for these things are insane. I was told not to hold my breath. Thankfully, the lady running the day home we originally wanted to go with told us to keep her updated and that she may still have space for us if we couldn’t get into the other homes.

So I dumped that in God’s lap too. But now I was wondering, is this a sign that I’m not supposed to go to school? Is this just character building? Is it just a coincidence? We kept waiting. And waiting. And we fielded off questions about school because I’d been so excited before and now I was a little less so and people were noticing. But people were also praying.

And now it’s today. School is just over a month away. I’ve been stressing a little more as each day passes, but with the definite feeling like I’m supposed to be going back. Brian was stressing too, I could tell. Not that I blame him. He’s being a saint in his support for me and this plan, knowing that he will be taking a huge amount of work with the boys on the days I have school.

This morning I had a dear friend over to visit while she was in town and I told her about the worries we were having. Told her about how I wasn’t sure that there was going to be the money for school and the house and living and maybe how I was afraid that I’d go back to school only to find that now I didn’t have enough money to feed my family and I wasn’t even enjoying the program. She commiserated and encouraged me. She left and while I was enjoying the boys’ nap time, I thought I’d check on our bank account. And there was a lot more money in our chequing than I expected.

Our child tax benefit has come into effect today and we will be receiving enough money to cover 2/3 of our child care costs every month. I know that our government was revamping the child tax benefit and I’d heard people talking about it pretty negatively so I didn’t look too much into it. So now I had this stress-relieving surprise that let me take a deeper breath than I have in a long while.

This school thing has come together in a way that I wasn’t sure it would. I’ve been afraid, but I trusted that it would work out if that was the plan for me. And I feel like it is. So, come September, I’ll be driving 1.5 hours one way to school three days a week with the assurance that I’m going where I am meant to. It’s going to be so hard on Brian, the boys, and myself, but I haven’t been this sure of our direction in a long time. And for that I am so very grateful.

Women, Competition, and Sisterhood

“I like to hang out with guys more than girls. Girls are just…you know…”

“I’m one of the guys.”

“I’m not like other girls.”

I’m ashamed to say that I have used each one of those sentences some time in my life. I usually included it in the same conversation as “Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to ever vote. I mean, my vote will just be the same as my husband’s so who cares?”

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Yes, I was quite the piece of work in high school. In the last few years, I matured and learned what those statements were actually saying:

“There’s something inherently wrong with being female and therefore I will distance myself from that as much as I can.”

But where did I get that idea?

Our world doesn’t value women. It’s easy to see. From insults like “throws like a girl” to the gender pay gap, we just aren’t considered as valuable as our male counterparts. As interested as I am in that subject, I’m no scholar so I won’t get too much into it. Even if you don’t think that I’m right, I want you to think back into your past to see if there were ever a time that you felt limited by being a girl.

For me, I desperately wanted to be a pilot like one of my uncles. Some kids want to be doctors or rock stars (I wanted that one too) or optometrists, I wanted to fly. Until I learned that piloting was for boys. Girls are flight attendants. Besides, science isn’t a feminine art. So I dropped it.

Why are some things for boys and not for girls? Because girls are petty, unreliable, emotional, illogical, irrational, uncooperative hens. And we have periods, which is apparently the scariest thing in the whole, entire world.

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Hell, even douche-y politicians are afraid.

All in all, the stereotype about women is that we just aren’t capable. Goodness gracious, me? Make a decision? All by myself? Heavens, no!

Gag.

There are a lot of dangers to this thinking. We get less opportunities, have less representation almost anywhere, and we are left out of conversations that strictly belong to us (birth control, anyone?). We are routinely ignored, even more so if you happen to be a woman of color or part of the LGBT community. If we are raped or sexually assaulted, we are more likely to be on trial instead of our attacker. Statements like the one below (from a judge no less) are examples of exactly what happens when women have no value in society:

But I’m not going to go into that particular can of beans today because I carry too much anger in that subject to talk about it more fully. (Quick note, “I have a firm understanding”? Yeah right.)

What I really want to talk about is our reaction as women. You’d think we’d rally together and say, “No! Enough is enough! We are just as valuable, just as capable, just as human as men!”

But we don’t. We subscribe to the same thinking. We don’t like working in offices full of women because we believe what we are told about ourselves. We buy tickets to movies where the entire plot of the movie is about mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws hating each other. We don’t mind not having more than one woman in our books, movies, television shows, and video games because there’d be too much drama. We criticize other women every chance we get on things that we have no business with (how she mothers, how she dresses, what she does with her time). We believe this nonsense.

But we don’t have to!

We can bond together (not against the patriarchy, I mean, unless you want to. Then, hey, send me an invite). We can refuse to believe what society says we are and we can refuse to treat other women in that same fashion. We can encourage, praise, and support each other. We can buy tickets or copies of media that shows well-rounded women. We can defend women who are being victimized. We can refuse to compete with one another. We can show each other that we are in this together.

I’m going to tell you from experience that it’s not easy. It’s hard to rewire your brain after you’ve been living one way since childhood. But I read somewhere that the first thought that comes to your brain in reaction to someone else is what you’ve been taught to think. The second thought defines who you are.

So if you see a girl in short-shorts or a hijab or something that you don’t wear yourself or you think is unflattering, instead of internally rolling your eyes or thinking something negative, skip to the second thought. Be happy she likes her body. Be proud that she stands up for what she believes in. Whatever you do, try to think positively. Because we have enough out there trying to tell us that we aren’t enough.

Being Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadians out there this weekend!

This is the weekend each year that we set aside to remind ourselves of how lucky we are to live so privileged. And we have a lot to be thankful for. This year, Thanksgiving falls a week before our federal election and I’m asking for you to be thankful for something very specific this year: religious freedom.

We should always be thankful for the food on our table, the people around us, and our health. We are told to be grateful every day for these things. And rightly so. There are millions of people who don’t have enough to eat, are isolated from their loved ones, or are dealing with health issues. You might be one of them. I don’t mean to downplay those issues. They are huge.

But the election this year has brought something up that seems to have emphasized an ugliness in our hearts, especially us white Christian types. Somehow we started a debate regarding wearing a niqab (a veil worn by some Muslim women that covers the entirety of the face except for her eyes) to a citizenship ceremony. Then the debate grew to why do we allow Muslims to enter Canada and not assimilate into our culture. And it’s been ugly.

From “Stay the hell where you came from” to labeling them as terrorists, I’m sure Canadians who are Muslim have heard it all. And a lot of that hate is coming from my home province. I’ve definitely pared down my Facebook friends list because of it. Alberta is a hotbed of racist remarks probably because of the fact that many of the people in Alberta (specifically small-town folk) haven’t met a Muslim person in their lives. It’s easy to call a group of people “other” when you haven’t met someone belonging to that group. And when you’ve classified someone as “other,” they begin to seem less human to you.

I want to go back to our topic today: thankfulness. We, most of us, are immigrants here. If your ancestors are from Europe, there is a good chance that they came to North America to escape religious persecution. Europe in the 1700s believed that a society had to have uniformity of religion to survive and that the government had to enforce that uniformity. Anyone not following that area’s specific brand of religion could be arrested and killed as a heretic. So many people left and came to North America so they could practice their religion in peace.

Fast forward to Canada in the twenty-first century. Since the people who are most vocal about their distaste of Muslims in my experience are Christians, let’s look there first. How many different branches of Christianity are there? Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Unitarians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and the list goes on and on. Each practices Christianity in their own ways. And we are thankful for that, right? You are thankful that you get to pick a church, or not pick one if you don’t want to, as you please. Whatever fits you the best. And the government stays out of it (except, you know, enforcing Christian religious holidays on everyone and other topics I don’t want to discuss here).

Religious freedom and keeping religion and state separate is part of why our ancestors came here. It’s been such a big part of our culture, we don’t know any different. Somehow, though, we seem to think we are the only people who “deserve” it. Part of it has to do with racism. And, yes, part of it has to do with the conflict in the Middle East (though we exaggerate this second part to downplay the first). And part of it, in my opinion, has to do with controlling what a woman can and cannot do with her body (because we aren’t debating turbans or kippahs or hoods).

Whatever we tell ourselves, we have got to stop this. We need to stop dehumanizing people based on their religious beliefs. Let’s remember that religious freedom goes two ways. If we expect Muslims to be restricted in their freedoms as Canadians, there will be people who expect Christians to have the same restrictions. Let’s just not go there. One of my favorite religious quotes is “You can’t evangelize and antagonize at the same time.” And, granted, that pastor was talking about how the church treats homosexuals, but I think it’s true of ministry in general. You want Canada to be a wholly Christian nation? Evangelize. Share the love you were shown. Show that Christianity is a place of refuge, a place of forgiveness and love. Show the scars of the life you lived before and how you were healed. Make Christianity a place of redemption, not rules and regulations. We are not a bureaucracy, we are a living body of Christ. And where does that start? With thankfulness.