Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mom, can we talk?

I came home earlier than usual tonight and noticed the light in my daughter's room was still on.

"Mom, can we talk?"

A dear friend of hers has not been eating lunch. "Amy" goes through all of the motions, buying lunch or bringing something from home, eating a few chips, taking a sip of water, and then gives the rest away or tosses it out. Amy says she's not hungry. Apparently Amy has not been hungry for lunch for at least three weeks.

My daughter was in tears. Lunch period is the only time these two see each other during the day, but a few friends have also noticed Amy's lack of appetite.

"Anorexia. What if it's anorexia? Does she think she's fat? She's not fat, Mom. She's beautiful just the way she is. She needs to eat."

In my dark moments, I look at my daughter, and I worry. I watch for signs of depression (something I've struggled with). I watch for signs of an eating disorder or preoccupation with weight (something I've watched friends struggle with) - making sure she isn't just pushing food around or going to the bathroom after meals. I watch for my shadows cast onto her tween years...

My awkward stage lasted a good 10 years. Bad haircuts, glasses, braces, uncool clothes, a flat nose and almond-shaped eyes evolved into more bad haircuts, glasses, straighter teeth, clothes that screamed "board room" or "goth", a flat nose and almond-shaped eyes that were forbidden to be tainted with eyeshadow. My sense of rhythm, my $2,000 smile and my killer moves got me a spot on the pom-pon squad, but even the varsity letter couldn't cover up the fact that I felt, and actually was, very uncool and very misunderstood.

So I watch my own daughter and wonder if she'll feel anything like I did. I watch for the awkward stage as girls shed their little girl bodies and giggles and find their way into womanhood and reclaim their laughter and voice. I watch for the tsunami of hormones to rage into door slamming declarations that I'm ruining her life. So far, the hormones have focused on her forehead and height.

"Bethany, how do you feel about yourself? Do you know how beautiful you are? Do you know how God sees you?" 

"I know, Mom. I know," she said with a smile that held nothing back. "I like the way I am. I'm just worried she's starving herself."

We prayed for an opportunity to talk with Amy and for courage to be honest and ask questions. And I prayed in my heart that both Amy and Bethany would know and believe deep in their hearts, minds and souls that they - as physically different as they are - are both beautiful, strong and wonderfully, fearfully made.

Oh, Lord. Please help her know. Please help me to guide her well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Have I feminized the church by submitting and being silent? Or how can I become Christ-like if Jesus is the Ultimate Fighting Champion?

I'm confused.

I've seen this list - "Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained For Ministry at Serving Bread" linked on several websites during the past few days. The comments in response range from high fives and laughter to not-so-brief sermon outlines on why women should not teach/preach/be ordained/so/on/and/so/forth.

Personally, I almost cried. Yes, a few of the reasons brought a smirk to my face, and I laughed...out loud. I've heard each one of those reasons turned around in some form as an argument against women taking any form of leadership in the church. But I was quickly reminded of how I've been deeply hurt, and paused. I do not want to be the cause of such hurt for my brothers.

For me this isn't an "issue". Issues can often be boiled down to convenient sound bytes or 32-point headlines. No. I can't boil this one down to 15-seconds because my story and the stories of my sisters can't be reduced to that. No. Women in ministry/leadership is life.

So I'm confused because in the same week I'm also reading posts and comments about the feminization of the church being a turn-off to manly men. Phrases like "chickified church boys" and "Ultimate Fighting champion" popped up. The call to reclaim the masculinity of the church is getting louder. Somehow women who are not allowed to lead/teach/hold authority over men have so incredibly influenced the culture of the church that some believe it's time to pump up the testosterone, grab a weapon and reclaim the Bride.

So now Jesus, instead of being a fair-skinned, wavy-haired blonde with blue eyes who sits by sheep, lambs or little children, is now being painted as a chest-thumping, nose-punching dude who in some other version of the story took down those guards in the garden.

If I'm getting all of these messages straight I'm supposed to be transformed, become Christ-like, which should be a manly dude who had calloused hands as he prepared to lead a revolution. But I'm not supposed to be like that because I'm actually a chick who has chickified the church because I only want the sensitive-Jesus.

And what about my Asian American brothers who are often reduced to slanty-eyed geeks (anyone remember "Sixteen Candles"?) or kung-fu masters (and Jackie Chan still can't get the girl)? Or my African American brothers who are reduced to gun-toting thugs? Or my Latino brothers who are reduced to border-crossing "illegals"? Are they manly enough or too manly for the church?

I'm deeply offended that any male pastor would speak of women with such a derogatory tone. I'm hurt and angry that the few manly men left in the feminized Church, no matter what stand they take on women ordination, aren't speaking out against such belittling speech about their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. I don't want politically-correct rhetoric, but I do long for grace-infused conversations with people ready to learn from people whose cultures, experiences, and heart languages are different; willing to be corrected, admit they were wrong, confess they wronged others; open to the possibility that we have a way to go to understanding and following Jesus.

I'm sad because it seems I am not the only one who is confused. Are we are losing our way?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Toddlers & tummy tucks

OMG. There's a new book written by a plastic surgeon to help women who are having plastic surgery walk through the process with their toddlers and young children. My kids are 12, 8 and 6. They would notice if this mommy came home with a new nose or bigger breasts. 

Let's be honest here. I have my moments of vanity. I'm a moisturizer junkie, who has also had to curb my appetite for nail polish. A few months after giving birth to my daughter, I had my eyeliner tattooed onto my eyelids. (Yes, it hurt...a lot. But childbirth hurt more...much more.) I have a thing for great haircuts and hair color, and the local beauty school has allowed for the occasional splurge - a facial for $15!

And I've thought about plastic surgery - breast augmentation to be specific. A boob job to be blunt. I wrote a little bit about my personal body image dilemma in "More Than Serving Tea" in the chapter on sexuality. I'm petite with an upper body that looks the same as I did in 6th grade. Finding tailored clothes, even a nice dress, becomes a hunt for the holy grail simply because those darts in the front are meant for some other woman.

I can laugh about it, but when I'm honest there are moments when I compare myself to the media's images of beauty. I walk away defeated and a bit confused. And I wonder what would it be like to go under the knife.

There are a few things that stop me.

1. Money - those who know me know that I would never pay for plastic surgery even if I could.
2. Pain - again, those who know me know I have a very high tolerance for pain. However, after watching Dr. 90210 one night and catching a glimpse of an actual breast augmentation I recognized my limits for pain.
3. Hypocrisy - one of my struggles is to love my neighbor as myself...I had a hard time loving myself and therefore loving others. So, I am a sinner saved by grace who is learning and longing to love her embodied self. Imagine the conversation I would have with my daughter or my neighbors - "God loves you and knew what He was doing when He created you, your mind, your heart, your body....oh, and by the way, I got a boob job because even though God loves me I wanted to improve on His plans."

Oversimplified? Yes. But I see my middle school-aged daughter begin to play around with hairstyles, decide what "looks good" in terms of clothing and lip gloss, take delight in her growth spurt that puts her about two inches shy of me. She's beautiful - all of her. And I listen to my two boys who could care less about lip gloss, except when I get it on them, but sit on my lap and lean into me to say, "Mommy, you're beautiful except when you yell."

But the sun is finally out, and pool season is just around the corner...

Would you ever go under the knife?