Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why Is Being a Woman Still a Liability?

I just don't get it.

It's the year 2016, people. Twenty. Sixteen.

And yet here we are, with being female still being a hardship. A liability. A handicap, if you will.

Today, the home page of a major news organization carried the headline, "Cheerleading Team Nixes Tryout Tips After Outcry."

Here's  what this university - this institution of higher learning - values in its representatives: a "beachy glow." Hair with "volume." And don't leave out the all-important "false lashes." In other words, everything opposite of who we women really are when we wake up in the morning. Don't lose sight that the girl in the picture is also blonde and skinny. Two more traits that make a girl have the valued "look."

Makes me want to puke.

This week, I had a man suggest that my skirt was too short. It hit my knees. My knees. A man with whom I've had maybe two conversations in my life. A man who was bothered by the fact that my scandalous and I suppose seductive kneecaps were showing. Excuse me? First, who do you think you are? The clothes police? You have no legitimate reason to discuss anything with me, most especially the length of my skirt. Which hit my knees. Second, be glad I was too shocked to say or do what later occurred to me to say and do. We'd both be in worse shape than we are now.

This week, too, I read that a presidential candidate said another presidential candidate is only viable because she has the "women's card. She has got nothing else going." Here's the truth. I'm not a fan of either of these people, but for real? The only thing she's got - the only reason people are voting for her - is her gender? The implication is that we women are so uninformed, unintelligent, and thoughtless that we only cast votes for women because they're women? Further, the only value this woman herself has is her gender? She has done nothing in her life except flaunt her chromosomal makeup?

Give me a break. Her accomplishments, even if I disagree with them, are in spite of her gender, not because of it. I guarantee she's had to work twice as hard to prove her worth because of people who think her only worth is in her beachy glow and false lashes.

I'm just so sick of the double standard. I'm tired of seeing women - both those I know and those I don't - being treated as inferior because of their femininity. I'm tired of being told I can't because I'm a woman and then seeing someone who can just because he's a man. I'm tired of women with voices being called pushy and women with opinions being called loud. I'm tired of the assumption that I'm weak and ignorant. I'm tired of my value lying in what I can cook and how I can decorate and if I got my body back after baby.

We women are not accessories. We are not stupid. We are certainly not inferior. What year will it be when we as a society finally realize this?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

To You, As You Test, From Your Teacher

I saw your hands tremble as you reached for the test. Your face displayed confidence, but your hands showed your heart. 

You're nervous, and I get it. You've worked hard and studied often, and you just want this test to show it. 

To you, right now, this score is everything. The score represents you, on a 10 point scale. It is your worth, from A to F. It is what matters, written in red.


But sweet child, it's really not. It's really not everything. It's far from your worth, and even coming from your teacher, it's not what matters. It's just a test.

What matters is what I've seen in you and from you during these weeks. The attention you've given, the details you've pored over, and the effort you've given. What really matters is the character you've shown as you've readied for the test and the perseverance you've had as you pursued what I taught.

This test? It's just a snapshot. It's just a one-time indication of how you did one time you answered some questions. That's it. That's all. Nothing more.

When you get your score back, I pray it's what you wanted. But if not? It's OK, because you - the value of who you are - could never be captured in one little number. You are more than an A and more than an F. You are a diligent chaser of the best you can be, and when scores come back and papers are filed, that's how I'll remember you. That is who you really are. Remember it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

This Life Thing is Hard

I want it all to be easier.

I want to wake up in the morning, choose my path, and do what I love.

I want the decisions to be obvious, the money to be readily available, the children to be always obedient.

I want the fighting to stop, the politicians to be good, the heart not to hurt.

I want to float through life, not fight through it.

I want Eden. I want Heaven. I want them here.


Here is fallen. Here is hard. Here hurts.

Here, people betray those they pledge to love. Here, bodies break and brains deteriorate. Here, children die and hearts break.

Here, this life thing is hard.

But, mercifully, here is not hopeless. Here, in the hardship, is Jesus. Here, in the hurt, the Holy Spirit intercedes. Here, in the hostility, is God.

This week, especially, the hard and hurt have been loud. This week, all around, I see pain and hear, "Why?" Here, this week, I want what isn't, and I want what is to change.

Yet in the hard and in the hurt, light is shining. Faith is growing. Love is abundant.

And for today, for right now, that's enough.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A High Price to Pay

At 36,000 feet, you can clearly see what's not visible from the ground. Miles above the surface of the planet, everything looks different, and with no effort on your part, perspective shifts and your eyes see what was once hidden.

Difficulties are kind of like being 36,000 feet in the air.

You need to understand that I hate to fly. Hate. It. I have to be medicated and nearly crush my husband's hand during takeoff and make people around me nervous that I'm going to lose my mind. I once nearly hyperventilated on a flight from Miami, and on my last flight from Chicago, my shirt was stained with sweat rings. There is no place I hate worse than the cabin of an airplane. My most fervent prayers have been as my flights taxi towards takeoff. I pray that the rivets will hold, the crew ate a nutritious breakfast, the fuel is untainted, the tires were manufactured properly, fellow passengers have only the best intentions... No area is untouched by my prayer life when it comes to planes.

So the beauty of those pictures? There's a high price to pay for them.

There's a high price to pay for all beauty in life, though, isn't there?

No one invites difficulties or welcomes them with open arms. We pray against them and do what we can to avoid them. We want smooth sailing, life to continue as we know it, and comfort to surround us. What we think we want is safety and familiarity - the absence of hardships. What I've learned, though, and what God continues to show me is that safety and familiarity - the absence of hardships - lead only to complacency and a distorted perception of life.

We need the valleys of life to see the 36,000 foot view. The logic of God makes no sense to our humanity.

It has been in the pit - and because of it - that I have even begun to understand the glory of my redemption. It has been through the worst that I have been able to smile at the best. When life has been smooth sailing here on the surface of this planet, I have lost my desperation for my Savior and my reverence for his role. The hardest days of my life have lifted me beyond what ordinary eyes can see and have shown me the view from Up There, if only for a moment. From the depths of a depraved world, mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

To see with eyes like Christ, you might have to suffer as He did. To gain his perspective, you might need to share his pain.

And to see from 36,000 feet, you'll probably need to fly on a plane.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Your Permission Slip

Sometimes we adults need permission just like children, so here's my permission slip for your grown-up heart.

It's ok to feel what you're feeling right now.

I've been struggling lately with a lot of big feelings, and rather than lean into them and learn what they're trying to teach me, I've been running from them. Ignoring them. Denying that they're there.

But in the darkness and silence, those few minutes alone in an empty car, they cry out to me. They call my name and catch my breath and demand to be noticed. So I'm trying. It's so much easier for me, the one who flees rather than fights, to shut them out and pretend them away. But all that has left me with is unresolved sadness, unreconciled hurt, and unmet longings.

So here I am, trying to listen to what my heart needs me to hear. And I'm giving you permission to do the same. I'm also giving you permission to tell God what you feel. Yes, He knows, but I'm learning that He wants us to trust Him enough to take it to Him. All of it. Those big feelings, where you feel alone and afraid and like He loves everyone but you? Take them. Those feelings that say you'll never be good enough; those feelings that say He won't do for you what He has done for others? Take them. Those feelings that say "I'm spinning my wheels and I'm on a never-ending treadmill and my life is adding up to one big nothing?" Take them. He can handle them - and handle them, He can. When we stuff them down and pretend they're not there and smile like everything's ok? That's not handling them.

Honesty is the first step. Don't ask me how I know.

So. You, with the welling tears and the heart beating fast? Feel those feelings. Give their darkness some light. Give their secret places some visibility. Give yourself some relief. Feel them, then heal.

You have my permission.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I Saw You

Hey, October teacher.

I saw you stumbling into the lounge this morning, well before you were paid to be there, fumbling for quarters to get a caffeine fix.

You is broke. You is tired. You is a teacher. So true at the end of the school year!:

I saw the papers spilling out of your bag, the ones you graded too late last night because you promised you would.

I saw that silly Homecoming week get-up you wore to promote school spirit, and I also saw you tutoring that student from 4th period because she just can't understand how to multiply polynomials yet.

I saw you - see you - and wanted you to know.

I also want you to know I understand. October is a hard month in this line of work. The new of August has worn off, the exultation of Christmas break is far away, and you're smack dab in the middle of it all. You're in the meat of the material, the midst of the semester. You're in the meetings and the grading and the planning - and you're wondering if any of it makes a difference.

Rest assured. It does.

I know in the midst of it all you start losing sight of the forest for the trees, and you focus so greatly on the details that you miss the big picture. Those kids you're planning for, grading for, working for? They trust you. They listen to you, they want to please you, and they depend on you. Whether you realize it or not, you have become part of their stories. Years from now, when they speak of whatever grade you teach, they'll speak of you. You and they are connected forever, and everything you're doing now is impacting who they'll become.

Don't forget that.

Yes, I know exams and testing and evaluations are coming, and I know your calendar is overflowing with to-do's. I know your bag is full again today, and tomorrow's hours already seem too short.

But today, if you're feeling the weight of it all, can I invite you - just for a moment - to forget the lists and remember the love? For just a moment, don't think of all you need to do, but all you need to be. Don't look at the grades, but remember their faces. Remind yourself of what matters, and make the right adjustments. Go back to how you felt the day before school started, and recapture just a smidge of that excitement and anticipation. Tomorrow is a new day - a fresh day - the first day of something new. Make it what it needs to be. You're a teacher, and you have that power.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

She Stiffed Me Fifty Cents

I woke up yesterday morning absolutely irate with an imaginary cashier at a grocery store from my dreams because she stole fifty cents from me.

I have no idea what I ate that might have caused such a realistic and ridiculous dream, but let it be known that if you ever steal fifty cents from me, I will find your manager (whose name was Gage, by the way, in this dream that needs to be analyzed) and give him a piece of my mind. And if he smirks at me because "it's just fifty cents," we will have a conversation about integrity and how the monetary amount couldn't matter less - it's a revelation of the heart.

Bless my heart.

I'm trying not to let my heart be hardened against the grocery store chain I dreamed of, but I'm not there, yet. She stole from me, y'all. And Gage didn't care.

So that's how my Saturday started.

And this is how it ended.

Photo courtesy of Travis Lister
My family has season tickets to Clemson, and we're kind of hard core.

While Hurricane Joaquin was sending his rain-remnants last week to South Carolina, we were watching the game. In the rain. Wearing get-ups like this.

And when ESPN College GameDay comes to town, you get a little carried away. Your engineer dad creates gutters for your tents to funnel away the rain,

Travis Lister
you cover the generator to protect it from the monsoon,

Travis Lister
and you exchange your traditional stuffed tigers for a rubber ducky replete with a poncho that you recovered from Bowman field.

You know you're going to get soaking wet, so you prepare yourself mentally and just go with it.

Travis Lister
And this week? Oops - we did it again.

When you were literally born in a college town the year before they last won a National Championship, you don't let little things like driving rain keep you home. Especially when said team is playing really well and is ranked as one of the top teams in the country.

So we went. And we got wet. And they won. And we came home.

And I slept really well after all the rain and excitement, but thank goodness the cashier and Gage didn't visit my dreams again. I have a feeling we would have fought.