Letter to a 13 year old girl.

Dear 13 year old girl,

I am writing to you from several years down the road, but really not so far from where you are now. I am writing to give you hope and maybe another perspective. From a Millennial to a Generation Z-er,

I want to tell you that yes, despite what you may be thinking, you will make it through high school. I want to tell you that it is possible to avoid drama by refusing to instigate or perpetuate it. That it is possible to choose not to date anyone because you are still figuring out who you are and what you are all about. It is possible to define beauty on your own terms and create your own fashion. It is possible to find strength and acceptance from within yourself, rather than so desperately try to find it in others. It is possible to work hard for what you want. DSCF0295 It is possible to be successful in math and science disciplines even though they are often referred to as male-dominated professions.

If you are a part of a faith community, it is possible and necessary that you lead there in your own unique way. It is possible to choose not to sleep with someone who does not care deeply and intimately for you. It is possible that if you do, you can heal and that you are not and will never be less than whole. It is possible, nay probable, that you will make mistakes and that you will recover from them.

It is possible that you begin understanding the ideals of feminism and live into them. It is possible that you will change your world with love, acceptance, and equality. It is possible to find friends and mentors to trust and that these folks will create a space for you to be exactly who you are. It is possible that you will find a group of people who will not run away when you are going through difficult and uncertain times. It is possible that you will experience heartbreak, and oh baby, it will hurt, but soon, a new day will come and you will find new life, new growth, and maybe even new love.

It is possible that you will feel that your worth is tied to your success and that if you fail, you are by default, a failure… this is not and will never be true. You will have colleagues who call you names and subject you to their own insecurities by trying to elicit yours, you will have doubts about whether you are smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough– this type of scarcity culture will engulf you if you let it. It is possible that you may decide that cutting yourself or starving yourself is the only way to have control over a world that seems completely out of your control. All of these things are possible, but listen to me when I say…

You are beautiful. Your spirit and your resolve. Your smile is stunning. And we need you. We need your voice as a woman, we need your laugh, we need your hands to work for peace and for equality. We need your faith to show us the way.

There is a day when you will feel comfortable in your own skin. There is a day when you will be celebrated for who you are. There is a day when the future of the church will rest in your hands.

And my prayer is that this day I speak of, is not far away, but that it is here with us, now.

Be strong, dear girl of 13 years. I am so grateful for you. I’m rooting for you. And I’m asking you to believe your voice matters.

Do Not Be Fooled

Do not be fooled, oh no friend, do not.

Do not mistake my vulnerability for weakness,
or my pacifism for apathy.

Do not mistake my inclusiveness for waywardness,
or my faith for certainty.

Do not mistake my love for an agenda,
or my prayer for ritual.

For there is a hurricane in me,
a ferocity only quenched by equality.

When sweat for peace flows down, mingling,
with tears of joy at its long awaited arrival.

When diamonds no longer have blood covering them,
and balance replaces patriarchy,

When children no longer shoot AK-47s,
and women preach in pulpits.

For the day is coming when swords will become plows,
when the pen will break the gun,
and fear that feeds hate, will lose.

Do not be fooled, oh no my friend, do not.

I Am a Woman

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert at a great many things in life, like say, fixing a malfunctioning toaster, sewing a family quilt… or say, safely landing an airplane, or examining nanoparticles on a Scanning Electron Microscope. I’ll leave all of these things up to the experts… who knows, maybe I’ll muster up the wherewithal to attempt soon. But today, there is one thing I do consider myself an expert on. Women.

I have a pretty decent resume to support this. For starters, I’ve been one for a number of years. That’s got to count for something. I’ve felt the joys of womanhood. I’ve felt the pressures to emulate the front-page models of Vogue. For years, I sported long, glossy- brown hair that fell to the small of my back. Presently, as of last Thursday, half my head is shaved. I’ve taught women for years. I’ve been taught by women for years. I’ve been told (though I don’t agree) that motherhood is the highest calling of a woman. I’ve mentored and been mentored by women. I’ve felt the fears that women experience. I’ve held women’s hands and cried with them. I’ve stood behind women on their wedding days and held their newly born babies. I’ve fought for women who are sold into forced prostitution and trafficking. I’ve hugged women who have stories of bravery. I’ve been silenced because I am a woman. I’ve been honored because I am a woman. I’ve been taken advantage of because I’m a woman. I’ve been ignored because I am a woman. I’ve been through the good and bad of being a woman. I am a woman.

As I was driving my woman self through a neighboring city yesterday, I passed an electronic sign advertising what I thought to be a women’s self defense class. The sign belonged to a staunchly traditional, evangelical church and read: “Safety for Women: Come Thursday– 8:00pm!” As I read the flashing sign…the irony of it hit me like a truck. This church is not actually a safe place for women. Women can’t speak here. Women can’t lead. Women can’t preach. Women can’t even pray or teach in mixed company. Does that strike a nerve? Does something about it feel wrong in your spirit?

Well, it does in mine too.

Here’s what I know. I am a woman who is created, loved, and empowered by God, just like a man is. I follow the teachings of Christ, just like a man. I pray in Christ’s name, just like a man. I take communion–the body and blood of Christ– just like a man. I love in God’s name, just like a man.

I read about the women of scripture and I know they were not silent. I know when Paul proclaimed that women should be silent, the comment was contextual and not universal. I know that there were powerful women apostles and women prophets and that these women played a significant role in the early church. I know that women have much to offer in the ways of leadership and in the ways of making peace.

How long are we going to silence female bodied individuals? How long are we going to make the church an unsafe place for women to exercise their God-given gifts?

If you find yourself adamantly disagreeing with me, would you consider, just for a second, imagining yourself being ignored or silenced not because of what you had to say, but because of who you were biologically… something you had absolutely no control over. What if we’ve gotten this wrong? What if we’ve silenced generations of women who could have led us to the gospel?

Women, for your sisters and your daughters. Speak. Men, for your sisters and your daughters. Let us.

I’m not entirely sure that another generation will pass, letting this continue to happen. There are too many voices to be heard and no longer any ground to silence them. I know this. Because… I am a woman.

What is your story? You have a voice here on this blog and I would love to hear it.