Fear

i sat in the back of the courtroom and watched the charismatic figure of a woman who has been entrusted by the state to guide parents through the visitation, custody and mediation process speak to a room full of parents, all going through a form of the same hell that is the road to the end of a road. I found myself talking to God in my mind and wondering, if we are all here for our kids, if we are all here to do our part in raising happy, healthy kids who will grow up capable of having happy, healthy adult relationships, WHY IS THIS NECESSARY!  We should be able to walk away from the fighting and see the costs for ourselves without needing to participate in this circus playing out before us.

A woman a few chairs over sniffled and dried her eyes as a computer slide show was projected on a screen at the front of the courtroom, detailing the tolls that divorce and alienation take on kids as their parents engage in the behaviors that lead to divorce.  The voice of a child lisping lines talking about the feelings of insecurity and fear generated by having their home life shattered floats over the room.  The woman returns to the podium and continues speaking about compromise and a childs need for security, regardless of their parents failures.  That the failure is ours, and is not for our children to bear.  My mind wanders across the back in time across the desert of the last decades and in some ways, I can see that I have come a long way.

I’m finding peace in accepting that it is not my plan or desires that guide what will be.  Thy Will be done.

I think about the man whose lawyers continue to produce document after hateful document of slanderous, viscous, ugliness and for a moment I find myself thinking, If he only knew how happy his daughter is now.  That she is secure, that she is loved, that she is safe from the feelings of loss and abandonment that children of divorce feel because she was so young when he left that she didn’t live the loss.  She knows nearly nothing of the years of insecurity, the years of tension – the years I spiraled through the cycle of tension and violence and couldn’t see a way out.  Anticipation.  Raised Voices.  Fear.  She lives a life where these things cannot touch her.  If only he could see that she is happy and safe.  Maybe then he’d leave us alone.

…and then it hit me.  This is scar talk.  That my daughter is safe and loved are the very things he is trying to use to justify withholding financial support from her.  Her happiness and security in the only life she has ever known is meaningless to him.  Custody is something to be won, like another argument.  If I’ve learned anything in fifteen years, it’s that appealing to an abuser leads to more abuse.  You can’t negotiate from a position of perceived weakness.

I have to guard my own responses as a parent, the hope that another adult will treat my child as a valuable human being deserving of love and respect in her own right, outside of their dynamic with me.  I have to remind myself that when dealing with an illogical person, it is insanity to expect higher reason to guide their actions.  I have to steel myself against my desire to appeal to this person on behalf of my child, the child whose best interest should be paramount in all things when creating a fair and beneficial custody agreement.  My words hold no value in the eyes of an abuser.  I hold no value in the eyes of an abuser.  I have to face it in order to release it

We recognize the Devil by his lies.  You are worthless, you are alone, you are not deserving of love or even life.  When another human speaks these words we can look them in the eye and leave them by the roadside because we know them for what they are.  They bear the true mark of the beast in their words and actions.  Our need to prove that we are valuable to a person who cannot value us is a honeypot trap.  If I just…  Let me show you…  and I’m in the pot again, stuck by a wing and can only be freed by a prayer.  To try to prove your worth to the devil is to invite him to dance.  Eve speaking; “I can handle this.  Whoops.  Oh crap.”  My four year old daughter speaking, I am too big enough… and the milk spills.

I cannot leave the door open for an abuser to change my focus or to seek a win with abuse because I don’t want to view him in the full light of his intent.  It’s a terrible moment when you realize someone sees hurting you as their greatest victory and does not care about the collateral damage, to you, to your children or even to themselves.  I cannot let my ability to forgive fade into forgetfulness, much as I need to forget and move forward to focus on providing the best life I can for my daughter within the family we’ve built and my deep gratefulness to God and our family and extended family for the life we have.

A few nights ago my Forever Husband and I were able to take a pre-holiday break and have a date afternoon out on his motorcycle.  The day was sunny and cold, and as we were coming home and the sun was setting, it was just cold.  A thermal shirt, two sweatshirts and a jacket were like wet cheesecloth against the whipping wind.  Eye protection is not negotiable by the law, or by the wind.  Sunglasses in the dark do not make for great visibility.  Fortunately I don’t have to drive.  I just have to hang on.  As we ducked and dodged through traffic enjoying our last hour of us time, an orange harvest moon crested the eastern hills over the valley, peeking through the clouds.  The sunglasses that are necessary to block the wind cast the falling dusk in deeper shades than the night has yet earned.  The moment closes down to the now.  My hands aren’t so cold anymore.  My nose just fits into the space between the back of my Husbands helmet and vest and I can smell his neck and feel little breaths of heat rising off of it.  I scrunch a little lower and tuck my head in to get out of the wind.  My nose isn’t so cold anymore.  I can’t see the road, but when he changes lanes the small play of tension in his body guides the bike and we are together seamlessly. Traffic screeches to a halt and we brake sharply.

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

Thou art with me.

I will not fear.

I will not vex the walk.  I will not obstruct Gods plan, nor will I doubt it.  I will allow God to work through me, to work WITH me and to work on me, to allow my life to reflect His Glory.  I am not driving.  I can’t see what the road ahead will bring, but I can hold on.

Psalm 23

King James Version (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

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Should She Leave Him? – The Respect Dare

Should She Leave Him? – The Respect Dare

I am of two minds on these posts, because where I am now is much different than where I was 5 years ago.  Because abuse is not a part of my relationship, I can say with much confidence that in a relationship between two adults, we can have conversations about anything in the world and if we are respectful of our differences, we can usually expect reason to guide us if we don’t indulge me over us or let momentary anger cause long term damage to our relationships.

Three is a belief I think, that abuse is subjective.  That one persons being abused can occur at significantly lower thresholds and still be seen as a gray area.  We can’t indulge this kind of thinking, because at the other end of the spectrum we’re saying a good firm arse kicking is within that same curve of tolerance and might not really be abuse.  The woman at the far end of that tolerance spectrum has been conditioned to question her sanity.  She’s stuck, she’s been taught that any move is a wrong move.  She’s been taught that her perception of the world is wrong, her actions are thusly wrong and that being abused is acceptable in light of this.  She might not even in her heart of hearts be able to accept that what she’s experiencing is a pattern of abuse and instead views it as a pattern of her failing not to do enough to avoid being abused.

I can understand how blurry the line between abuse and not getting what you want of feel you need from someone has become.  We throw around the word abuse if someones speech towards us is too harsh or critical, or if a disagreement goes on too long for comfort.  

Differentiating FEELING abused and truly being abused has become a semantics game in which we assign blame for the breakdown of communication in a relationship.  The word abuse has become preemptive justification for throwing a set of opinions that differ from yours out of the picture.  Much like the ‘slut shaming’ trend has muddied the waters around the real factors of rape – rape has nothing to do with how you are dressed; the term abuse in the collapse of a marriage has become a stone to throw, a set of check boxes in court and essentially a toothless accusation to be waved to direct traffic in ones favor within the legal system and amongst peers.  

I left.  But thinking back on the culture that was prevalent during the time of many biblical writings, I’m quite confident my ex would have been put in the bottom of a gulley and had heavy stones dropped on his head till every thought he’d ever had came out his ears with the blessing of the law, so :shrug: meh.

ACCOUNTABILITY was the final straw. There was none.  His accountability was to himself.  No other.  His password of choice for many years was “GoN4Mine”  Unless you have someone who sees you as a human being, deserving of life, who is impacted by the actions of the people around them as opposed to an blame dumping ground, ya got nothing to work with.  This man spit on me and laughed as I on hands and knees cried at his feet and begged him for his compassion even if I couldn’t reach his love.  

Many of the principles of respect and submission were already largely present in my first marriage, although I called it something different.  I called it a survival plan.  Bottom line, you don’t confront unless you are willing to go all the way.  Unless your life, your home or your children are on the line, you find other ways to work with what’s in front of you.  diplomacy is a survival skill.

Financially, when I realized he was pulling resources OUT of the family rather than directing resources in a way I didn’t like; that was a major issue.  

The affairs had gone on from the time we were dating.  When we were dating I made a point of not asking questions I didn’t want to know the answers to, questions that would have forced me to see what I didn’t want to believe.  When he decided we needed to take a break for a couple months because I was getting too fat in his opinion, chunky little 5’9″ 135lb gal I was, (feeel the sarcasm… it crusts and oozes) I asked no questions when later he showed up on my parents doorstep and after a dinner out  his apartment had been redecorated with a ‘feminine touch’ that was not mine.  When he decided it was best for our family for him to work for six months in a city halfway across the country, leaving me and our two week old first son behind in California, I said “If this is what you need to do, I am behind you 100%”  The next day, he was on the plane and gone and I cried all the way home from the airport.  Six months of brand new baby growing pains and fears and what the #$% do you want from me on the other end of the phone if any answer at all.  When he came home, things were different.  He never admitted to anything unless caught red handed, but over the years I learned the hollow smile of a liar well.  It’s rather like the smile the DMV clerk gives the hundredth person in line when they need to go back and fill out a form again.  Please take your seat, I will be with you shortly.  :vacant eyes:

I remember when he finally confirmed one of his affairs, offhanded, vague, before going out to dinner one night.  The plane tickets, the hotel reservations, he went to her house for a few days.  They had quite a time of it.  I didn’t speak for about a week after.  What was there to say?  He wasn’t sorry, he’d just found a new way to hurt me.  Honesty.  How refreshing.  A few months later, in the midst of the foreclosure of our home he left to work again, halfway across the country, leaving me with two children and one on the way to pack a household that never completely came out of boxes again.

At the point that you find yourself questioning your sanity, that you’ve lost yourself, that you can’t make a decision because you know you always make the wrong decision and you’re afraid of what will happen if you fail because the only person in the world who has your back is the person you have to run from, that you can’t trust any friend you have with the reality because you can’t trust anyone that might like you because you’re really not as good a person as they think you are, know you are looking abuse in the eye.  These are the fears planted in your head by an abuser.

There are no atheists in foxholes?  I dunno.  An abuser relies upon the same lies as the Devil himself, you are not worthy.  You are alone. You are uncared for.  

I don’t know how someone could have the strength in faith to reject the lies of the greater evil and remain within the power of the lies of essentially the same trap.  I think in a situation of abuse, identity terrorism, behaviors designed to make you afraid of and ashamed of being you, maturing faith would eventually demand change.

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She spoke, He Heard, We vowed to live differently – a perspective on domestic violence in Christan marriage

Inspired by

“She spoke, He heard, They vowed to live differently”

“You’re about to drive our family off a financial cliff,” I said, mustering my resolve. “You must get a second job–any job–this week, or I will!”

Nearly four years ago I submitted my resignation as an English teacher at the local high school. I loved my role, but I certainly did not sacrifice my career to be a sorta-stay-at-home-mom just to work nights at Taco Bell or the grocery mart.

“You’re tellin’ me that you’re going to go back to work?” my husband questioned, calling my bluff.

“No, not full time,” I shot back, restraining my anger, yet engaging my commitment to persevere, “but I will find some job so that when you come home from work I’ll pack up and head out to my job, and you can watch the kids.”

I spent fifteen years in an amazingly abusive relationship, and we had the financial tango down to a deadlock. The discussion would go very differently. My ex husband makes over 6 figures, we had relatively moderate bills in alignment with our income but not an ounce of financial accountability to my exes name. You can’t balance a bank account if someone wont be transparent with their spending.

Not surprisingly, his lack of accountability at home transferred to the workplace, so layoffs were not an unfamiliar experience for us. Bridges burned around us leaving detractors staring back at us where bosses, coworkers and networking once held opportunities.  Wondering where the money went before the end of the month was no stranger. As we went on, repossessions and utility shut offs were a known friend. My children at five and six years old learned to hide and turn off the lights when someone who looked like a bill collector or repo company rang the doorbell.Esposas_de_Matrimonio_1

The dialogue was much different in our house.

Him: We’re broke, you need to get a job
Me: alright, I’ll start putting out applications.

Within a few weeks of beginning the waitressing/ checking job of the moment, things around the house would begin to unravel in a different way from the basic chaos.

“The towels weren’t folded, the boys need their homework checked. I don’t know what kind of superstar you think you are for working, but you’re failing the entire family at home. You are a zero, a drain on this family. If you weren’t so selfish you would see that. You haven’t cooked a thing that didn’t come pre-made in the last three days. Some mother you are.”

-and this was if he wasn’t drinking yet. For YEARS I followed him into alcohol with the hopes that in a shared state we might have a moment of meaningful communication, but to think that any lasing meaning can be had for getting inebriated together is a lie.  There may be a peaceful moment, but it only lasts as long as the buzz and leaves you hungry for real, sincere contact.

If he were, drunk, the kids would be God only knows where, leaving me knocking on doors at 9pm looking for my kids in a dark neighborhood, while he surfed porn and e-mailed high school girlfriends on the internet. While I was trying to do the best I could do for my family, he was sexting drunk till he passed out in a puddle of beer. When I caught him, it was my fault. I was paranoid, I was insane, I was destroying his female “friends” lives by calling them and asking them to respect my marriage.

If he were drinking when I got home, I could anticipate being screamed at and threatened, shoved up into a corner, have my face smashed into walls, being put in a sleeper hold to passing out or to have things that I drew pleasure from (like my laptop computer) destroyed violently.

Eventually the job that I was trying to hold onto that would go, since getting screamed at all morning to arrive at work and have to put yourself together in the store restroom before setting about the day can make people suspect you’re a tad bit flaky and unstable. An hour of unplanned overtime would be the final straw; knowing I had to get home to try to set to right the storm that was waiting for me. I would end up in a fight with someone and quit before I got fired for it.

The words thrown change;

You are a failure at life. You can’t even hold a minimum wage job.  You are an anchor, you suck this family dry. You do nothing but take. We would all be better off if you just left. Leave the kids, they don’t need to be with you, all you teach them is to fail.

I entered this marriage in a similar not to yours, “he is teachable” my dialogue went even deeper. Because he grew up in an abusive home, he doesn’t know any better. All he needs is consistent, unconditional love and…

Hmmm. Out of the ashes I came to understand that it was pretty egotistical of me to believe that my love and my ability to withstand abuse was going to be what remade a man, or that no one in his entire life had ever loved him well before me. Through learning more about my faith and the dynamics of a healthy Christian marriage I realized, it is not my place to teach him anything. I cannot know what Gods plan is for any of us, I can only learn what I am given to learn and support the efforts of others in their learning through encouragement and respect.

I am working towards forgiveness, I slide back into angry every now and again as that he insists upon denying the daughter he created any support or acknowledgement, both materially and through his actions, yet feels he should be entitled to walk in and out of her life at will and continues to support law firms rather than a child that he walked away from as an infant and has been a part of her life for no more than 6 months.  Continuing to believe that there is a moment of spiritual epiphany in his future is one for the mind of God, because these are things that are not for me to know.

I have been blessed with an amazing and supportive family and my forever husband stands shoulder to shoulder with me, in faith raising  our daughter in a home where she has never and will never experience fear of abuse, neglect or being judged unworthy of what God blesses her life with.  I do my best to replace the pride, guilt and fear of being unworthy myself with gratitude.  i did not chart this course, but I walk it in awe.  I try to surround myself with individuals who inspire me to continue to look heavenward.

Fear of additional abuse leads us to do some pretty self destructive things, all hinging upon the fallacy that “If I am good enough, he find will me worthy and treat me with the love and respect that I am then deserving of” In the context of faith, there is only one Power that dictates our worth and the bestowing of that worth happened long before any of us were a sparkle in the cosmic eyes of God. To be forever locked in a pattern of seeking validation of our worth in a mans eyes is chasing the Devil into Hell. The lies of the Devil direct us to trust in our own ability to change someone, the deceptions are cloaked in logical half truths that validate our pride but never pay out. The devil tells us that we have been cast into the world without a hand to hold, so we’d better set about making the best of it regardless of the casualties. Make the rocks into bread, you could jump from the top of your temples and if God is truly your Father he’ll catch you. When we splatter on the ground in a pile of broken pride, sin and loss of faith because through questioning our own faith, we have defied God and then blamed him for it. lessons be damned.

We double whammy ourselves when we link another persons treatment of us as being because we are worthy or unworthy of love and respect. Guilt steps in. Because I questioned Gods plan, because I said something wrong, I am not deserving or valuable. Through Christ, we have already been found worthy.

Do not put the Lord God to the test – Mathew 4:7

“For I know the plans I have for you, Declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

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Thoughts on Pride – Trials, Temptations and a Dream of a Tree

James 1:2 Trials and Temptations

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds  3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  6But when he asks he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;  8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

I had packed boxes with neat and in my not so humble opinion near perfect organization and order. In fact I declared proudly that I was a “Master of Organization”  Oh yeah. I was asking for it. I’m still hearing it actually.

We got to our new home and the guys worked their magic unloading boxes and we began the process of getting at least the kitchen, bedrooms and den put together so we could at least get through the basics of the day without having to look for it in boxes.  We also had and are still working on getting the fences fixed, the sprinklers working, the house power washed.. but I was on top of it.  I, after all am a master of organization.

564081_10202317878932998_842778019_nand then; I got sick. Words and voices all sort of blended into a mud soup that wouldn’t lift. The room was swimming and the world had too many edges and they all hurt. My productivity went down the tubes.   I tried to push through. I was upset about something, but for the life of me I just couldn’t really get it together to figure out what was wrong.  After a day of this it was just tears because I couldn’t come up with much else.  The gloom and dooms were getting me and even though I didn’t have words I knew I felt horribly under appreciated for what I *DID* get done in light of how badly I was feeling.  I found myself angry at others for their ongoing productivity in light of my inactivity.  I found myself feeling guilty for being unable to push through the fog.

I’d like to share an excerpt from the book, Jesus Calling, a series of daily devotionals, “The ultimate solution to rebellious tendencies is submission to my authority over you.  Intellectually you rejoice in my sovereignty, without which the world would be a terrifying place, but when my sovereignty encroaches on your little domain of control you react with telltale resentment.”

This encapsulates the ongoing struggle many of us, myself included face when setting about the applying of our gifts to our realities.  We have been given sight, intelligence and the ability to be effective in our worlds.  It’s easy to mistake the gift for being a facet of self rather than a reflection of a greater giver.

What never occurred to me was that what I got done, my masterful organization was more than just a me thing.  In my own mind, I had the world spinning on my finger, I was doing it all, but I never stopped to notice that while I was rejoicing in my glorious management of my kingdom, I was failing to appreciate that it is a gift of and for the glory of a Greater King.  I stopped seeing the contributions of others as significant and I began to judge myself and others on whether they were doing things in accordance with my convenience.  The countless hours of hard work that my husband and family put into building the house, and the long road ahead of us to make it a home narrowed down into the smallness of one moment of weakness, and that weakness is pride.

Pride is an ugly thing, and it is to be a hinge point for a bunch of other nasties like guilt, shame and judgement.  Pride makes us believe that our Walk with God is a unique and finely crafted walk that is special because *we* are walking it.  We even fool ourselves into thinking we were the engineers of that walk, the engineers of SELF, making shiny and special choices, that make our walk significantly different than the walks of those around us, or that others are less deserving of the blessings we experience in our Walk with God because they are not walking as we see ourselves to be walking.  Remember?  Master of Organization.

“I am the product of a set of gifts that are present in all people and that I had no hand in creating.  Like every man, I have been given an opportunity to accept those gifts and use them for the betterment of myself and those around me. These gifts of the spirit  are not exclusive to those I deem worthy; that I like, that I feel are working in a way that I see or understand or that share a spiritual affinity with how I see the world (including myself, when I attack myself, with self doubt and self criticism!). These blessings are not something we earn or gain access to based upon what we are or even what we do, they are gifts, just as we cannot be deserving of the sacrifice of One Mans life to pay for our lifetimes of transgressions.  the Mystery is the all inclusiveness of that sacrifice, that gift to us.”

There is nothing that you or I have done or can do that explains why we are where we are right now rather than naked in a mud hut with flies on our eyes, sporting National Geographic bewbs. There is nothing inherently wrong with or lesser about living in a mud hut with flies on your eyes sporting national geographic bewbs… Hierarchy of spirit, within ourselves or levied against others is counterproductive. It divides us from our own progress by keedc4bd51549922ae28ce43f719d61f09fping us from accepting and appreciating our own gifts pending deservingness and judging others by what we feel would be better use of their gifts, and why they were created with the talents and given the blessings they have been endowed with as opposed to the talents and blessings we experience.  We never get to move forward to gratitude and to see and be truly awed by what we have in front of us.

Daniel 4:30

30…“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Humbly,

mandi

Track back to Nina’s post at the Respect Dare, “Feeling Unappreciated” which led to much of the reflection that went into this post, here

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11 Year Old Girls and Sex – Reblogged from The Respect Dare

“Our judgment of what is “good” can easily be wrong.

When my daughter was 6, she had a crush on a neighborhood boy we put on the bus in the mornings. She insisted, sobbing, that she wanted to marry him and that she loved him. Knowing that hormones influence brain activity and emotion, I recognized this for what it was – biological activity based on proximity. I told her that kids her age shouldn’t be thinking of things like this, and explained in six year old terms how the pheromones worked. I apologized for letting her spend time with him like that, and that I didn’t know it would take so little time for her to be affected…it was literally half an hour a few days a week. I told her she wouldn’t be with him in the mornings for a few weeks and sure enough, the crush wore off.  I think it was one of those times where we can look at something and thank God for His leading – she knows that the more time she spends with a boy in a class, for example, the more tempted she will be to “like” him. I wonder what I could have opened up in her young heart if I had treated her as though her behavior was “cute” – even though part of me thought it was…Many of us are mothers…it’s so important to watch our kids and keep them safe. It’s just as important to help them interpret the world around them through a Biblical lens. This assumes we know the Bible ourselves. I remembered a verse in Song of Solomon about not awakening love until it’s time…”

 

Things like this really leave me reflecting on my own childhood, where because most of my friends were boys, boyfriends were an early experience.  Infatuation and too much contact absolutely DOES lead to too much too soon, and in our culture of trying to raise boys and girls as being the same outside of ones ability to later menstruate and give birth has left us subjecting our daughters to the impulses of too much unsupervised contact with boys from too young an age.  I recall that I strongly preferred the company of my cat, who didn’t want to kiss, get married, become territorial about whom I talked to or monopolize my time.  I was a bonafide, tree climbing, fort building, rock collecting country girl, so I think my mother assumed that because my interests weren’t really stereotypically “girl” that I would find more acceptance amongst boys, but even though I didn’t know the difference, it was rather like throwing a cat in amongst dogs.  Later as a preteen, keeping up with the boys left me at the top of a steep hill, on a borrowed bike, screwing up my courage to follow the boys down the hill through a narrow lane of thorn bushes; don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry… don’t FALL.  If you run, you’ll never be respected as one of the boys again.  Just do it.

Reliably, most of these boy friends, attempted to push their interests in ways that they would not have with other boys.  I still have a reputation with old friends and neighbors as being smart with a mean streak that often boiled over into violence.  As time went on, refusing the pressures that at the time were glaringly wrong; in spite of the natural need to feel acceptance and have someone to play with turned into enough anger and frustration to fuel preemptive rage that I turned to violence at seemingly small provocation.  Inappropriate male behaviors were dismissed with “boys will be boys” and “Honey, you shouldn’t kick him there.”  My temper and seeming over reactions became the stuff of rural legend and the tales are still told today.  If I told you what he asked me to do this afternoon walking home from school, you’d have kicked him there yourself.

Predictably, I found myself looking for “safe boys” guys who were often the victims of other males and who would not put the pressures of male culture, in which one can be expected to stand up or lay down upon me.  The problem that later came about in relationships with these kinds of guys, is that I saw myself as more man than they were.  I made it down the steep hill, but the guy I was dating hadn’t.  I had no respect for a man that couldn’t be a man, but men who were competitive and actively participating in male activities inspired a combination of fear and viscous competition in me.  The feeling that I must keep up, fight back and beat them at their own game became the driving force in most of my dating relationships.

I think we see this a lot in women today.  Tomboy culture is a culture in which we use competition to validate our equality, but the hurt that we must compete against someone who has already disrespected us by forcing us to play the game by their rules in order to be ‘equal’ leaves that validation empty.  We cannot truly win, we can only be allowed to win, because no matter how well we perform, that validation can be taken away with a shrug as the “No Girls Allowed” sign gets hung on the clubhouse door. 

When the moment comes that we find ourselves outmatched, outdistanced and even abused, our feelings of self worth and equality are leveled along with the relationship.  We are not truly competing with the guys, we are competing with the lack of value that was placed on women early in life and the bottom line is, unless a man chooses to value a woman, there is no victory that can be won on any meaningful playing field in this game.

This pattern has permeated female culture, right down to our most intimate relationships.  We hear so many young girls talk down about other women, bragging that they have mostly male friends, because they “don’t like to listen to the shallow things other women say” and they reject them as if they were a plague to be caught and might loose their own depth for engaging in a relationship with another female that was not competitive.  This attitude, unfortunately has transferred into a hook up culture where women proudly proclaim that they have sex like a man.  No feelings, no phone calls, no strings attached.  Their number of partners climbs into the teens, the twenties, the so many I can’t remembers.  They even claim bisexuality and more in the name of asserting their more competitive sexuality over other women, who are not seen as companions, but competition for prowess.  Unfortunately, the prize they seek still eludes them.  They will never be revered by men as a woman and they can only be one of the guys as long as they are entertaining to the males around them. Our ability to draw validation from other women has been cut off because we weren’t taught that women have meaningful validation to offer.  If they wont compete with us, how can we beat them?  If we can’t beat them, what good are they?

These “tomboys” are much like the weaker males who find themselves the butt of the joke amongst other men and who must take it, just to be a part of the game.  They become a caricature of copied masculinity.  They cannot be uplifted from the filth they have immersed themselves in in the name of acceptance.  It is a cycle of self degradation, seeking to be loved for what you work to be rather than what you are, and for your efforts making yourself contemptible to the people you seek to impress the most.

If I were to look for a pivotal place in which this cycle could be broken, I would say it is in early childhood, in treasuring our daughters femininity and protecting them against being thrown into primarily male peer groups, where “boys will be boys”  We don’t need to toughen up our daughters, we need to teach them that they are valuable as they are.  Girls will be girls, girls NEED to be girls.  Girls need to learn to value what is different about themselves and about other girls.  Until we can feel that we are valued for what we are when we are simply being, we cannot claim to have true self esteem that is not based in momentary achievement and “what have you done for me lately” pressures, leading to competition, control and feelings of invalidity that permeate all of our relationships.  Teaching our daughters that they are as good as boys is not enough.  We need to teach them that they are as good as girls and do not need to be anything else to be worthy of our esteem and affection.

I pray for my daughter, who is still young enough that they only people she seeks validation from treasure her as she is, her father, myself, her grandparents, all see this exuberant, dirty little pink creature as a source of unending joy.  She is the apple of her daddy’s eye.  I pray for the daughters of others, who are subjected to pressures to be something they are not so they can better be used by people who do not uphold and uplift them, I pray that they find light in their lives and can turn towards it rather than blindly leaping into the reactive cycle of seeking what they will not find.  I pray for myself in my relationship, that I can continue to grow and accept the love that is offered to me, just for being me and Gods love that blankets us all, whether we have eyes to see it or not.

 

In Love and Respect,

Mandi

 

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Riding Together – Faith, Vexation and Ephesians

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“Here are the rules.” he spoke with a smile that wasn’t really a smile so much as the smile of a patient teacher speaking to a particularly slow pupil.  “Hold on to me, keep your feet on the pegs.  If we’re going down, you’re not gonna save us.  No matter what, hold on – even at stop lights.  You don’t know what I’m going to do – sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to do”  The smile shifted and became teasing, albeit the reality of his words were deadly serious.

Christian Marriage is in many ways follows the same rules.  It will not be by our putting our feet down, by our bail out, our sudden and independent surge of superpowers that we will be saved, and we cannot be saved alone.  Can two walk together, except they be agreed? – Amos 3:3  Submission in marriage requires that we agree that we are walking together, and like any two individuals walking together we must have a direction and a pace.  If both people are vexing the pace, one pushing forward and the other hanging behind we are not walking together.  If one person is wandering off chasing butterflies and motes, we are not walking together.  When we dance with a partner, we must agree upon what dance we are dancing, and who is leading.  We both hear the music, but unless we can agree upon a pace and a direction, we cannot come together to make a Waltz.

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I want to go back to the word vexing for a moment, because in the context of Faith, it means something very different from our day to day usage, although it is much the same in application.

In a spiritual context, to be vexed is not so much about being bothered, as it is about being obstructed.  When we vex our walk with God and our spouses, we are obstructing the agreement we have made to walk together.

Day to day life can be pretty vexing.  What’s that?  You’re hungry?  AGAIN?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  What do you mean you can’t find your sneakers, they’re… oh crap.  I have absolutely no idea where they are.  No, there is nothing to snack on.  Yes, yes I put them away, I just don’t know WHERE at this particular moment.  I’m vexed in uplifting and honoring my family and my man when these little obstructions take over where loving service and Godly Submission should be.Were we to be on the back of a motorcycle right about now, we’d have experienced those potentially lethal consequences about now.  Crash and burn.  We’ve been run over by at least three cars after falling unceremoniously from the back from succumbing to our own weaknesses, and it’s completely avoidable.

Here’s something kind of interesting.  Men on motorcycles seem to have some pretty polarized opinions about riding women on the back of their bikes.  The predominant opinion seems to be that the added weight and added responsibility just aren’t something they’re interested in carrying.  The few who do talk both lovingly and in disbelieving concern for the burden they have been entrusted with.  “She’ll fall asleep back there! Sometimes I goose it just to make sure she’s still awake”  another man speaks in somewhat awed tones, “She can hold on through anything”  Talk about trust!  We sure wouldn’t want to vex our partner while he’s choosing the safest path through traffic, although many of us do just that on a daily basis.

The simple act of getting on the back of a vehicle that you are not driving is an act of faith.  It isn’t a choice to be undertaken lightly.  When we make this choice we take all the steps we can to be good passengers.  We make the choice of whom to entrust our lives with with great care.  Cars don’t have two steering wheels and they only have one brake pedal for a reason.  We both cannot drive at the same time.  For the sake of our safety and our drivers safety we take every possible step to avert tragedy.  We wear helmets and figure out where to put our hands so that our driver is not obstructed in his view of traffic.  We learn over time how to make our weight more a part of the bike and less a load strapped to the back of it.  We work not only to not vex our driver, but to assist in a seemingly passive position with deliberate actions.  To be a passenger is not simply to be along for the ride.  We have to walk together.

Married life really isn’t so different.  The rewards of these seemingly small contributions are enjoyed by everyone.  Much like in day to day life, the five minutes we invest in building up our relationships pay out in a lifetime of joy, in building a culture of generosity in our homes and living in alignment with our faith and our ideals.

img-thingEphesians 5:22-33

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

In Love and Respect,

Mandi

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