a tribute to her

I LOVE WOMEN.

Even two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say that with a straight face. Being a woman didn’t feel special and sometimes even felt like a burden. I didn’t understand the hype around feminism or the desire to showcase one’s femininity. If womanhood was such a gift, I thought, why were women being mistreated everyday? Subconsciously I often compared myself with other women or tried to distance myself from them.

After many encounters, TED Talks like this one, and much processing, I can now truly say that I love my woman-ness and the woman-ness of my sisters. Being a woman is a gift, a cause for celebration – whether or not others recognize it as such.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I raise my glass to each and every single woman in the world. I hold in my heart today those women who face insurmountable challenges, daily oppression, and life-threatening situations. Those who work hard to provide for their families, to finish school, to make the world more livable for themselves and their loved ones.

I raise my glass to the women I’ve been fortunate to meet. Some of you showed up for a few moments, others stayed with me for a season, still others continue to journey with me. Your presence, your words, your laughter, your hugs, your interests, and your challenges have helped me become the woman I am today.

¡Feliz Día de la Mujer!

And in honor of Women’s History Month, I give a shout out to some of the women in my life who have made and are making history every day.

My mother, who models sacrifice & self-care.
First in her family to be born. First in her family to live permanently in another land. First in her family to come to faith in Jesus – and over the last 40 years or so, almost everyone in her family has come to know Christ through her example. First woman I knew. First to get things done. Yet always puts others first.

My sister, who is my true love.
First in my family to be born. First friend, mentor, and shero. Built a new life in a new place not knowing what it would bring.

Emily D., who teaches me to love women.7B
First DC-to-Chicago-and-back road trip, accompanied by John Legend, Beyoncé, and JT. Actively discerning the call to pastoral ministry.

Danbee, who inspires me to create.
First Asian roommate. 🙂 Making art to promote restorative justice.

Jenn, who shows that it’s okay to vocalize what you’re thinking and feeling even and especially when you feel like you should be thinking or feeling something else.
First college friend to meet my boo. Making the best of each circumstance.

Jennifer, Stephanie, Jenny, and all my female friends in Colombia, who pursue their goals and interests despite having limited resources in a machista culture.
First to prove that 100º weather and humidity is no excuse for looking like a scrub.

Stacey, who let me know it’s good to have emotions.
First boss out of college. First person I met in DC.

Sara, who taught me both the possibility and the joy of simple and shared living.
First “official” mentor. First sunrise.

Becca, who brings people together withSojo30Women her smile, her presence, and her cooking.
First photo card. Courageously pursuing work that feeds her soul.

Emily P., who loves the little things and thinks deeply about everything.
First time almost getting stranded in DC. First time jamming on the roof. First to teach me an energizer (it’s a PCUSA thing).

Jess, who fights for what she believes in.
First friend to be weirder, sillier, and more blunt than me. First to help me see the links between mental health and the prison industrial complex.

EDR, who embodies freedom and confidence.
First to tell me about doulas. Fearlessly loving each cycle of interns at Sojourners.

Sophia, who models hospitality and generosity.31065_1176503098385_4850604_n
First visit to DC. First time I said I could see myself living in DC. Making a difference in the lives of students in Chicago Public Schools.

Gracie, who marches to her own beat, always has a song on the tip of her tongue, and is the most talented woman I know.
First homemade cheesecake. Taking bold first steps in being a singer/songwriter.

Sue Lee, who always says what needs to be said.
First introduction to the love language of food. Studying law to help marginalized communities.

Rachel, who pushed me out of my comfort zone but always had my back.
First real talk on race. First exposure to India Arie.

Sarah, who lives in the present and holds plans loosely.IMG_1395
First time living overseas. Accompanying churches in Colombia and Bolivia.

Emily M., who turns any experience into a funny story.
First person I connected with at YAV Discernment Event.

Erica, Joy, Kayla, Shelby, who showed me what leadership and teamwork looks like – and that girls do in fact run the world.
First JBiebs/Beyoncé music video.

Patty, Solanda, Melissa, who saw me in all the stages of my awkward years and are still my friends.
Too many firsts.

Mabel, Santine, Karissa, who made Sundays and Jr. Camps so much more fun and who are each doing their thang in their respective corners of the world.
First campfire experience.

If you are a woman reading this, I celebrate you!

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maya angelou, happy birthday to you

Touched By An Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Maya Angelou

daily resistance

WOMEN have come a long way in history. But our progress looks so different from country to country.

Having grown up in the suburbs of the Midwest, I’ve enjoyed relative freedom in personal expression as a woman. Of course, I experience disrespect as a woman from guys when they dismiss my intellectual reflections or treat me as a “bro,” but I can hardly complain for long when I consider the situations of my sisters across the world. Even when I recently visited Hong Kong, a developed society, I felt incredible pressure to act cute & needy and have pale, blemish-free skin simply because I was a woman (please excuse my broad generalizations of Hong Kong’s culture).

So then, what about women who live in societies that CONSTANTLY expect them to submit their words, their actions and even their bodies to men? What is it like to have the courage to protest structural injustice, only to have my opinions smothered and my body exploited by the very people who are supposed to administer justice?

And then to be accused of contributing to my own sexual exploitation? (click to read the story by The New York Times)

My heart stirs in anger for these women in Egypt. These things should not be.

In the midst of the injustice, there are voices proclaiming truth. In the above article, the husband of one of the women who was sexually assaulted defends her innocence: “My wife did nothing wrong.” It saddens me that his words will probably have more legitimacy than his wife’s because of his sex. But I am thankful for men like him.

Since the beginning of history, women have been framed as weaker and less valuable than men. The irony is that the very efforts of society to subdue women are perhaps making them even stronger. One can read this article and say, “Well, it’s just one story.” Sure, but to dismiss it as just another story highlighting the follies of ultraconservatives and the sufferings of women in the Middle East would be to overlook the one word that describes these women in Egypt, indeed, throughout the world:

RESILIENT.