Thoughts: Becoming Myself, chapter 9

Chapter 9 of Becoming Myself, “Beauty Forged in Suffering,” is so full of good stuff, that I found myself underlining and underlining.

And do I know something about beauty forged in suffering. Behold, my little sister. This is sacred ground to me, and I’m sure I won’t get through this post without sobbing.

My sister was one of those fiery, go-get-em kids who wanted the corporate job and six kids. Full of attitude, bullheaded, nothing would stand in her way once she’d made up her mind (we at least have that in common). The goal of corporate stardom dwindled as she matured, but the desire for an army of kids remained. Once she married, she was impatient to have them. As soon as her husband was in accord, she went after it. And something went wrong. The bleeding wouldn’t stop. My little sister just had  miscarriage. What? No! This didn’t happen to women in our family. We are a huge family. We are always surrounded by tons of healthy babies. What is this?

sad girlI made the stupid statement or believed foolishly (I hope I didn’t say it aloud) that the worst was behind her. For a while this seemed true. She soon gave birth to a healthy, gorgeous baby boy. Then came another miscarriage. Then–six years ago in October–came Baby Vaune. I remember when my sister was picking out girl names for this baby. She wanted a name with dignity, a name that would “grow up with her.” To settle on a name, she had to be able to envision a woman in a suit introducing herself with that name. So “Vaune” it was.

Vaune was born the day before Halloween; she was going to be “our little black cat.” We were astonished to hear that she weighed only a little over 5 pounds. Whoa, what? We finally get to have a small baby? Other women have small babies; women in our family have babies between 7 and 10 pounds. We were astonished at first, but not yet alarmed. Then the doctor came in and told us that all was not well, and Vaune needed to be flown to a bigger hospital for tests.

I cannot describe the physical pain that descended throughout my body. I had never felt that kind of pain before. I can only imagine what my sister felt, still in her bed robe and hooked up to monitors, or our mother who was sitting beside me and could not protect her own baby from this. I’m not sure how Mom and I ended up in that room alone; all I know is that as soon as we were alone, she grabbed me and started praying. “God, we trust you. We don’t know what this is, but we trust you.”

A few days later, we learned that Vaune had Edward’s Syndrome or Trisomy 18. We did our research and discovered that, unlike Downs’ Sydrome, Edward’s is 100% fatal by the age of 2 and that 1 in 3000 miscarriages is caused by this particular syndrome. We started counting the days. Mercifully, my sister was allowed to bring Vaune home and bring in hospice care. She and her husband and our mother learned how the feeding tube worked, along with the other monitors needed to keep tabs on what was happening inside Vaune’s little body. I tell you, I held that baby every chance I got. I held her so I could see her face and talk to her because I knew our time was short, and I wanted to memorize her sweet little face.

I won’t go into the details, but Jesus came for Vaune on December 7th.

I remember being afraid that this would make my sister a hard, unhappy, bitter person, who resented God and became untouchable to her husband and her family. The opposite is what happened. Through that process of pain and healing and surrendering to the care and sovereignty of God, my sister became the most beautiful person I have the privilege of knowing. I sit back and watch her, in her service to others, with her kids, in her relationship with her husband, in her trust in her God, and I am in awe. This is my little sister(?!), and she is stunning. Yes, she still can be bullheaded, and still has that fiery temperament that has earned us the nickname “the dragon sisters,” but her loss instilled in her a sense of right priorities and unshakable faith.

yellow-angelDid God cause Vaune to have Trisomy 18? I doubt it. But God used that time of unimaginable pain to create something exquisite inside my sister, to strengthen our faith, and in my case, for sure, to prove that I had it at all. I learned that during life’s worst moments, I do know where to turn, I won’t resort to blind anger, we won’t fall apart. And I can tell you that during those few weeks while Vaune was with us, I have never felt more strongly the presence of God. The peace that surrounded us was so palpable I could almost reach out and grab a fistful of it.

I can look back on that time and know absolutely that God is with us, that he does care about the intimate details of our lives – and if we let him, he can take that horrible, undesirable situation and with those hands that flung out the stars, forge something stronger and lovelier inside us than we ever expected.

Favorite Quotes

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33

“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange is happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

“Christianity is not a promise to enjoy a life without pain…. It is a promise that pain, sorrow, sin—ours and others’—will not swallow us, destroy us, define us, or have the final word.”

(Becoming Myself, 146)

“The very first thing painful trials try to do is separate us from God. But being separated from God is the worst thing that can happen, much worse than the most excruciating of trials.”

(Becoming Myself, 147)

“God created a world where the choices of angels and human beings matter. We are not puppets on a string. When someone sins, it is not God causing them to sin. That sexual abuse was not arranged by God; he did not cause your brother to be raped any more than he caused those terrorists to bomb the train station.

It is crucial for us to be careful with our interpretation of events. We must ask God’s help in making sense of it all. But for heaven’s sake, don’t blame the sin of the world on God. …

Your interpretation of events will shape everything that follows. It will shape your emotions, your perspective, and your decisions. What if you are wrong?”

(Becoming Myself, 148)

“… though God doesn’t cause all the trials in our lives, he does use them. He does work all things for our good. (Romans 8:28) He will use pain to expose our false beliefs about our hearts and about his heart … to reveal our brokenness so that God can heal it. …

There is more going on here than meets the eye. There is a battle raging over the human heart. Will we love God and choose to trust the goodness of his heart in the face of the immense brokenness of the world? Will we stand in our belief that God is worthy of our worship in the face of immense brokenness…?”

(Becoming Myself, 150)

“How do you find peace in the midst of difficult, painful circumstances? … [Jesus is] right where you are, right smack dab in the middle of your life.”

(Becoming Myself, 151)

This last quote brings to mind something Staci mentioned a couple chapters ago in which she described the circumstances of Jeremiah’s  tortured life and rescue.  She quotes a promise God made, saying, “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (Jer. 1:19)

“But,” Stasi writes, “Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers, beaten and put into the stocks, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, thrown into a cistern, and opposed by a false prophet.

“Ummmm. When did God rescue him exactly? After he was beaten. After he was imprisoned. After he was threatened.”

(Becoming Myself, 116)

And lastly, back to Chapter 9:

“We need to be honest about what we have done with our suffering. What have we allowed it to do to our hearts? Have we become more fearful? Controlling? Has resentment toward God or others entered in? … bring that to Jesus, for this is cancer of the soul, and it ravages what God means to make lovely.”

(Becoming Myself, 154)

For Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … to comfort all who mourn … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Have I let him do this for me? Have you?

When_My_Sadness_Born_by_j3ff3rson-800

“When My Sadness Born” by j3ff3rson, 2009

 

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Thoughts: Becoming Myself, chapter 8

“The Company of Women.” The chapter title itself provides a challenge for me.

Ironically, it was while I was reading this chapter that a friend texted me and invited me to lunch. Not my husband and me, not a group of friends and me, just me. Cheryl doesn’t know this, but that was the very first time I have “done lunch” with a person, one on one, who is not family. I was able to bounce some internal struggles off her, and she provided much needed encouragement.

I had to shake my head in wonderment at the timing. God was speaking, and I replied, “Thank you for what you’ve done.”

As I mentioned in a previous “Thoughts” post , making friends and holding onto them has been difficult for me, because in my earliest years “friends” were temporary. They were the kids I could get along with easiest in class for the couple of years that we lived in that particular town. But it wasn’t worth the effort—and the pain—to really open my heart and care about someone.

This carried over into my adulthood. Case in point, even though I had just graduated college, I had only a sister and two cousins for bridesmaids at my wedding. Family sticks. “Friends” don’t. In four years at the same college, I made not one single friend. During the first seven or eight years of our marriage, my husband befriended a couple of co-workers who he hung out with. They brought their wives around, and then they got divorced, proving that “friends” are one of those temporary things one endures, like head colds.

women talking

When we started going to LifeChurch, I had no idea the blessings God was waiting to pour over us. We decided we would get the most out of the experience if we joined a small group. I was so skeptical, so hesitant. “They’ll be shallow,” I said. “They’ll be straight and boring and shallow, and all we’ll talk about is petty junk.” Wow, was I wrong. They were weird! They were quirky! They let all their issues hang out in the most honest ways, and during only our second meeting, I was confessing the darkness in my soul. There was something so genuine and loving about this group of people that we felt invited to be real, knowing we would find acceptance anyway. I say “we” because I wasn’t the only one. Others drifted into the group later, and I watched the same closed-off self-protection mode dissipate. Bonds grew. Activities outside our small group were held so we could get together and share life.

One of these couples moved away. I tried, in my time-honored way, to let them go, let the relationship end. But they refused to let this happen, and I’m so glad they were persistent. “Distance” doesn’t necessarily translate to “over.”

But the blessings don’t stop there. In addition to the small group, we started volunteering to serve at our church campus by making coffee, counting offerings, and typing up prayer cards on Sundays. Three years later, I looked around and said, “Whoa! I have friends! Lots of them. How did this happen?” We serve with the same bunch of women (and a few men) every weekend. We started sharing life and prayer needs, and before I knew it I came to love these women. They are so sweet in their uniqueness, their brokenness, their faith, their growth. And I’m speechlessly grateful that they actually like me. Me? Quirky, introvertive, awkward me? But that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s their quirkiness that make them special to me in return.

Sorta proves that God loves quirky people. And a lot of quirky people in the same room loving each other? It’s a riot, let me tell you, and God is right in the middle of it, adoring us and the friendship we are willing to risk sharing.

Favorite Quotes

“Women are awesome. Yet sometimes getting near them is like approaching a cactus, hugging a porcupine, or taming a skunk. …

“A true friend loves you when you are being kind and when you are PMS-ing all over the place. They may not love what you are doing, or the dragon you are manifesting, but they love you. …

“A friend sees who you are meant to be and beckons you to rise to the higher version of yourself.”

(Becoming Myself, 125)

“[Jesus] is the source of our true identity. He is the one we must look to first to fill us with truth, acceptance, and love. Then we can bring our hearts … to our friends without demanding that they fill us. We can offer ourselves, open to receive good gifts from them but vigilant to stay close to our God and screening every experience, every word, through him. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. ”

(Becoming Myself, 127)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Thoughts: Becoming Myself, Chapter 6

treasure box

“A Treasure Chest” by LifeIsPixels, 2012

“From Accepting to Embracing” has been the hardest chapter for me so far. The most challenging, I should say. Because it encourages me to dream. Immediately I withdraw, shake my head, flee the building. Dreaming is too risky. There’s too much disappointment involved. Loss, heartache, pain, self-blame, accusations of failure. Like so many other people, I’ve stuff my beautiful box of dreams deep down inside. It’s okay to peek on occasion, then quickly stuff it away again. Gazing at the contents too long is dangerous. Because it shows me (or appears to be showing me) how far along I expected I’d be by now. Compare that with the reality, and things look a little bleak and very discouraging.

When I become frustrated with how my writing is going, my husband will often say something that doesn’t exactly help. “Well, at least you’re getting to write.” It’s only been in the last week that I’ve been able to articulate why this statement is like tearing a band-aid off an amputation. In order to articulate this pain, I had to remember why I chose to write in the first place. My motive had become lost in the act of actually pressing on word after word, day after day. The end goal, surprise, surprise, goes beyond having a book or ten published. I don’t shoot for the stars or anything, sheesh.

Now, to discuss this causes me to approach a precipice of panic, because the box is hanging wide open. My lifelong dream was not to write. Gasp! It wasn’t. That came later. It was to travel. My childhood vision of my adult myself was of me making a living so that I could travel the world. I loved National Geographic magazine, not for the articles, but for the visions of faraway places and people living in mysterious and wonderful ways. When I was little, I thought this dream was a simple one, attainable, black and white. I get cash, I buy a ticket, I travel to this place, then a while later, to that place.

In my complete ignorance, I chose writing to pay my way. Yeah, I know, you other writers out there are probably laughing. And you’re right. Most writers can barely pay bills by selling stories, much less afford the luxury of travel. Did I know this when I was sixteen? Pft.

Here’s something else. I gave up having children in order to achieve this goal. Writing in quiet, traveling during the school year, didn’t jive with the conventional life with kids. So here I am, almost 37 (dear God, keep away the panic) with neither a traditionally published novel nor travel nor children. What was the sacrifice for? Doubt floods in. Terror quickly follows. I chose a path. But that path, it seems, ends in a stone wall. Stuff it away, hit the keyboard again, don’t expect much. Then I can’t be disappointed.

So Chapter 6 leaves me with more questions than answers.

Unsettling Quotes

“God dreams big. And he invites us to dream big with him. God has planted dreams and desires in each one of our hearts, and they are unique to us. Opening up our spirits, our minds, our hearts, our imaginations to what we would really like—to even the possibility of wanting—allows the Holy Spirit to awaken parts of ourselves that are in such a deep sleep no dreams are happening.

When we dream with God, we don’t want to run to thinking, How can I make this happen? Dreaming with God isn’t about how. It’s about what.”

(Becoming Myself, p. 100)

To which I asked, “And the point of this dreaming is…?”

On the very next page, Stasi goes on to say,

“The point … is to allow God to access the places in our hearts where dreams and desires are planted. God speaks to us there. About himself. About ourselves.” (p. 101)

girl dreaming To which I asked, “But why?” I’m a “why” person. I ask ‘why’ as often as a toddler. If “why” isn’t answered, the concept has no meaning for me and does not reach the heart of the issue. Why should I dream if it only causes regret and pain? Is it not better to suck it up as a loss and move on? My life hasn’t turned out as I worked my tail off for it to be. Period. There is no going back. What good does it do to hold on to the same ol’ dream?

“Awakening and owning the dreams that God has placed in our hearts isn’t about getting stuff or attaining something. It’s about embracing who we are and who he has created us to be.” (p. 102)

Okaaay? And that is …? Someone who dreams of world travel but gets to sit at home? What is the point of that?

“There is a reason you have the desires you do. … Let God use your dreams to guide you into the fuller expression of your unfolding glorious self!” (p. 103)

Aaaaaargh! What is this even saying? I know what I want it to mean, but that leads me down the dangerous slope that I’ve utterly failed, that I chose the wrong life. This chapter is supposed to be comforting, encouraging women to be butterflies emerging from cocoons. But this is my pressure point, okay? So how is this implication not supposed to scare the crap out of me?

“By dreaming and writing them down, we aren’t demanding they come true. We are just owning the reality that they are a part of us. And since they are a part of us, we embrace them.” (p. 103)

… So Icheerfully wave as world travel passes me by. Yeah, no, this isn’t very comforting either. I embrace my dreams all right, and since I centered my entire life around this particular dream, the not-attaining it is kind of a problem. All I have is the brittle comfort that I’m still young. It could still happen, but don’t look at the vision in full color, just glance at it on occasion, from the corner of my eye. Otherwise, hope creeps in, and all those negative clichés about spinning wheels in a muddy rut and bashing against that stone wall.

Just get back to the keyboard. Head down, press on. My life is great. I am blessed beyond deserving. Really! I know this. But in this most vital area of my blessed life, I’m aiming at a target and haven’t hit the mark yet. One of my biggest fears is that I’ve been aiming at the wrong target all along.

Thoughts: Becoming Myself, Chapter 5

four queensI’m a week behind. So I’ll be brief, to catch up. In Chapter 5, “Our Mothers, Ourselves, part 2,” Stasi continues to explore the wounds dealt to us in our past and how we might find release and healing from them. As I stated in the post on part 1 of this topic, I choose to keep these families matters between God, my mom, and myself, so I’ll skip to …

Favorite Quotes

 “… what we receive from our mothers is similar to being dealt a hand of cards. What we received is formative and foundational, but this “hand” is not our destiny. If you didn’t get dealt a great hand, or your cards are torn and bloody, folded or lousy or even missing, this is where the healing presence of Jesus Christ can come in and wash your cards clean. He gives you the cards he intended for you to have. He restores. … We bring him the hand we were dealt and ask for his healing. … He wants to heal us! … He has the power to bless who we are and who we are becoming.

In order to receive the healing that God has for us regarding our mother wounds, we need to know what we need healing from and for. Specifically. We need to remember what happened in the story of our lives and invite the healing presence of Jesus there. For healing to come, we actually have to go back and remember and even access the emotion of the wound.

… he restores us to the truth of who we are and the reality of the life we are living and meant to live. … We are loved, wanted, seen, delighted in, provided for, cherished, chosen, known, and planned on. We are set apart, invited, valued, of immeasurable worth, and blessed.”

(Becoming Myself, p. 85-86)

Is this just a pep talk? How valuable am I, really? Through a poet, God tells me.

“all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

God was looking forward to the moment when I would exist, and he cares about every detail of my life:

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.

Psalm 139:1-5

Of course a God like this would want us to be healed from those things that hurt us. And as far as mothers go, I was dealt an extraordinary hand. I’m pretty confident I can sweep the pot.

Thoughts: Becoming Myself, Chapter 4

Mothers. The hand that rocks the cradle moves the world.

In Chapter 4 of Becoming Myself, “Our Mothers, Ourselves: part 1,” Stasi discusses the Father Wound and Mother Wound, focusing mostly on the latter. I know my mother reads this blog, so I need to let her know that I have identified and dealt with my Mother Wound. Years ago, actually, so exploring this chapter has been a good reminder of healthy progress, more than a painful journey of discovery. I won’t go into detail because, I feel, this issue lies between my mom and me.

Part of the healing came when I resolved to stand up for myself. Part of it came from going on an extended trip with my mother to Europe. If you need resolution on some things, take a month-long trip through a country where the only person who speaks your language is your mother, and see if things don’t change a bit.

In 2009, while we were in Paris, about Week 2 of what really was a stressful trip, I finally had an emotional breakdown. I got stuck in the subway station, in Paris’s version of a turn-style; the party I was with chose to walk from our hotel to the touristy areas instead of take the very competent and very available buses; with all the glorious food Paris offers, all I had to eat that day was a hotdog on a dry baguette; and that night, when I was exhausted, hungry, sweaty, sooty, and footsore, I got locked out of my hotel room. I lost it. My mother caught the full brunt of my rage. She saw me at my worst. She spoke to me in my language, words I had never heard her use, which aren’t clean enough to quote here, but it was like a slap to the face. In the middle of my sobbing, I started laughing. I sobbed a bit more, took a shower, and apologized. She apologized. It was stiff and awkward for both of us. For the rest of that evening, things remained tense between she and I, between the rest of our party. It was just not a happy situation.

snapshot, Mom and Me, Notre DameWe got a good night’s sleep and rose early the next morning to resume our touristy activities. I insisted we take the bus. Oh, yes, the buses in Paris are worth every euro. Mom and I still hadn’t really looked at each other after our tiff. Then when we were standing in front of Notre Dame’s iconic façade,  a member of our party asked for my mom and I to stand together for a picture. I remember smiling at her, risking, hoping. And thank God, she smiled back. A tentative smile at first, then genuine. It was like forgiveness. It was like her saying, “I still love you—with all the stuff I don’t understand about you.” In the picture our arms are wrapped around each other, and we actually mean it.

We came away from that month-long trip with a new sense of camaraderie. The kind that doesn’t have to be spoken. Our relationship just seemed … easier … after that. We had endured each other, we had connected, and gained what I hope is deeper understanding.

FAVORITE QUOTE

“Mothers bestow self-worth, and they have the ability to withhold it. Intentionally, but more often unintentionally. A mother cannot pass on what she does not possess…. Mothers have the ability to withhold acceptance, value, love. Our mothers failed us when, without meaning to, they passed on to us low self-esteem. Or based our self-worth on anything other than the fact that we exist.

God does not do that.

Our worth is not based on what we do, which life path we choose, or what we believe. Our worth is inherent in the fact that we are image bearers of the living God. Our worth is based on the fact that we are alive. We are human beings. Our worth is immeasurable. …

We are all hostages of such value that it took the blood of God himself to pay our price. You have worth beyond counting.”

(Becoming Myself, 76)

Thoughts: Becoming Myself, Chapter 3, part 2

The first half of Chapter 3, “The Landscape of Our Lives,” discussed HERE, talks about women’s hormones and the effect they have on our internal lives. The second half discusses misogyny and the effect it has on our external lives.

In my opinion, Stasi does a fairly good job of defining misogyny and summarizing how we are still bombarded with misogynistic messages throughout our culture, even in church. Too often especially in church. As Stasi writes it: “Some churches continue to teach that the fall of man came because of Eve’s wickedness and that she and all women after her are temptresses. … women can’t teach, women can speak in church, women can’t cut their hair. … cover their bodies, their faces, their heads. They should stay quiet, stay separate from men, and really should just stay home. Women can’t own property or vote or testify in court or travel alone. Women can’t go to school because they simply aren’t worth educating.” (p. 56)

I grew up in a conservative home. I thank God my mother had the opportunity to stay home to raise my sister and myself, and I’m grateful that my sister is staying home to raise and educate her children. They know that this is the frontline, the really hard job, and anyone who says otherwise is going to get “the look” and a stern talking to. But I remember during our college years when my sister spouted off something against feminists (I love my sister, and I have no wish to malign her, but it’s a great example of this deep-seated cultural battle). I looked at her and said, “If it weren’t for those feminists, you wouldn’t be studying for a Math degree. Math, according to men of the time, damaged a woman’s uterus.” Because, of course, the uterus is a woman’s only true worth. Ahem.

My husband and I were talking earlier this week about a particularly popular country music video in which the two young female singers make fun of the clothes that women in country music culture are expected to wear. I mentioned how ironic it was that the Women’s Lib Movement got women out of the house and got them naked. I think people slightly missed the point, there. To all those bare-breasted babes on the billboards I want to say, “You’re not free, you’re a sex object.” A tool to further the mindset that women are worth less than men, that their only worth is in how sexually alluring they are. It’s just oppression of a different color. Does this contribute to genuine respect for women? If not, throw it away.

Speaking of sex objects. Stasi discusses sexual assault in this chapter as the epitome of misogyny. Because of the experiences of a friend of mine, I was on the lookout for language indicating that Stasi might be caught in a web of victim blaming, her own sexual assault included. Those statements like “You shouldn’t have been wearing that,” or “You shouldn’t have been at that party,” or “You had too much to drink,” or “You knew better than to let him take you home” are all forms of victim-blaming. According to my friend, and I trust their judgment on this, Stasi writes in Captivating that she shouldn’t have been in a certain place, that she was an unwise young woman, and these things contributed to her being assaulted. But, thankfully, I didn’t detect any of that in the account of her experience as she writes it in Becoming Myself. On page 58, Stasi describes her assault in more detail than I expected. She ends the account with how the rapist blamed her for making him do this.

It’s my hope that Stasi has healed enough by now, become comfortable enough with her own worth, that these feelings of self-blame have disappeared from inside her.

The Temptation and Fall of Even, by William Blake, 1808

The Temptation and Fall of Eve, by William Blake, 1808

What I did take issue with in this half of the chapter is where she places all the blame for abuse and assault on Satan. Yes, our Enemy is a detrimental influence in the world who seeks to “steal, kill, and destroy” us (John 10:10). He “prowls like a lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) But in these paragraphs, Stasi echoes Adam and Eve too closely, shunting responsibility off on someone else: “The woman gave me fruit, and I ate.” … “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13) This argument takes away the burden of choice that each and every human being has been given. It even seems to take away the responsibility from rapists and abusers for the times they choose to commit these atrocious acts against another human being. Eve chose to eat. Adam chose to eat. An abuser chooses to abuse. So, while Stasi does hit on the root of the issue, that all evil ultimately comes from our Enemy, she leaps over the fact that choice still remains with the abuser.

FAVORITE QUOTES

Apparently Captivating emphasizes “beauty” a great deal. May I venture to propose that Stasi was referring more to the beauty of the soul, of a whole, healed person rather than outward beauty? While reading Becoming Myself, I have been on the alert for this red flag as well, and when discussing why womanhood is under assault, to her credit Stasi doesn’t mention “beauty” at all, in any form.

“Women are image bearers of God. Women are coheirs with Christ. Women are valued, worthy, powerful, and needed. There is a reason the Enemy fears women and has poured his hatred onto our very existence. Let him be afraid, then.”

(Becoming Myself, 61)

This is far more in keeping with what I would expect Stasi to believe on the matter. What is physical beauty when compared to the effective weapon a woman’s prayer life can be for her family? Or her hands of selfless service? Or sharing her testimony with a hurting friend? Those are the aspects of womanhood—and humanity as a whole—that our Enemy fears because they echo Christ’s influence. Physical beauty is dust, in the end, and I’m glad Stasi didn’t make that argument.

“When Jesus came onto the scene he turned misogyny on its head. A rabbi at that time wouldn’t speak to a woman in public, not even his own wife…. Even today, an orthodox Jewish man is forbidden to touch or be touched by any woman who is not his wife or a close family relation. Jesus didn’t abide by those rules. During his ministry Jesus engaged with women many times. He spoke to them. He touched them. He taught them. He esteemed them. He had women minister to him physically, touching him, washing his feet, anointing him with oil and with their tears. He had women disciples traveling with him, supporting him, learning from him, and “sitting at his feet.” If we, the church, the body of Christ, had followed the example Jesus had set instead of the traditions of men held captive to sin and the fall, we would have a much higher history here.”

(Becoming Myself, 55)

“Turned misogyny on its head.” Of course he did. Ah, I love Jesus. Freedom from oppression, freedom from fear, freedom from self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. He wants all these things for me, and he demonstrated this to the women he encountered. What evidence do I have that this is true? I guess you’d have to know who I was ten years ago, five years ago, to see for yourself.

Thoughts: Becoming Myself, Chapter 3, Part 1

estrogen molecule

Estrogen Molecule, wonderful and not-so-wonderful, depending on the day

The first half of Chapter 3 of Stasi Eldredge’s Becoming Myself, “The Landscape of our Lives,” has been my favorite section of the book so far. It talks about hormones. Thank God. Somebody, please talk openly and honestly about hormones!

I’ve heard other women say that PMS and other hormonal fluctuations resulting in erratic emotions are a myth. And my reaction to this has always been an adrenal rush of, ahem, hormones, and a sharp, “Excuse me?” I’m happy for those women who, by some miracle, managed to escape the monthly roller coaster. I am not one of them.

I married an even-tempered man who comes from a (mostly) even-tempered family. This has made about four days out of every month sheer hell for both of us. As the years progressed and his frustration increased, the arguments started out with, “You were fine a minute ago. What did I say?” but soon became “What’s wrong with you?” which became “You’re crazy. You need medication.”

So reading Stasi’s few pages about hormonal cycles was a breath of fresh air, to quote the cliché, but that’s exactly what it felt like. Reading these pages allowed me to take a deep breath of relief. I’d always understood that I had extreme hormonal swings, and this chapter backed me up, provided valuable arguments in my favor.

It’s not okay that I fly off the handle and say cruel things to my husband during these times. It’s not okay that I want to lose my temper at people in line at the grocery store. It’s not okay that I hate myself and repeat the lies that my Enemy wants me to believe about myself.

It is okay that I tell my loved ones, “I need to be alone today.” It is okay that I don’t feel like smiling and go to a friend’s house for dinner. And it’s okay that I take a nap instead of press on with the next chapter of my novel. I don’t have to feel guilty. I refuse to believe that I’m lazy or worthless, a mooch who contributes nothing to the finances because she can’t get a book deal, a good-for-nothing woman who can’t control her emotional outbursts and is fit only for a mental institution. How Victorian is that? What century do we live in anyway?

After reading this chapter, I told my husband, “You’re not allowed to call me crazy anymore. I’m not allowed to call myself crazy either. I’m not crazy, I’m just in my third week. Go find something to do that doesn’t involve me. I’m curling up with a cheesy romance movie and a cuppa coffee.”

Favorite Quotes from Chapter 3, part 1:

“There is an internal reality playing havoc with my world, but it is neither woundedness, nor sin, nor immaturity—not even a touch of insanity. There are powerful feminine tides washing to and fro inside each of us, and they are having an enormous influence on our lives—and on the way we perceive our lives.”

(Becoming Myself, 46)

But who wants to be a slave to these tides? Not I. From whence cometh my help? A pill? No thanks. This is the time to:

“…lean into God. Press in. The difficult days of each month can become a respite of hiding our hearts in our God, who always understands us and loves us endlessly. There is grace here. There is mercy here.”

(Becoming Myself, 52)

There had better be understanding, grace, and mercy! God created the female as his final act of creation, didn’t he? That means all the hormones included. Of course he understands, and he finds me utterly beautiful.