daughter day one

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”Luke 8:48

“Daughter.”

In a time and culture where fathers advocated for their daughters, this woman came to Jesus alone and ashamed. She was known to all as unclean, and there was no father to defend her or speak on her behalf.

Upon touching His cloak, she was healed from her ailment, from what made her unclean.

Yet, it is the word “daughter” that restores her identity and heals her soul. In a situation where no other defended her, Jesus chose to be her father. With one word, Jesus filled the lack and accepted her. She was clean. She was directly addressed. She was seen―seen by a man who would call her His child.

I have always been uncomfortable with this relationship of father and daughter. It is the identity of God that I relate to the least. While I never expected God to hurt or betray me in this role, I simply didn’t get it. I didn’t understand who I was in this relationship or who He was. I didn’t know how to be a daughter to a father, and I didn’t know how a father would normally relate to a daughter.

Several months ago, I felt that God was inviting me to discover this with Him. I felt that He wanted me to know Him fully, and this was the relationship that was most awkward for us.

So I did what any daughter who grew up with an absent father would.

I turned around and walked―no―ran the other way. I could not get away fast enough.

Because I know that exploring this would ultimately bring me back to the father I never had, the father who never wanted me.

I spent years trying to heal, forgive, and move forward from the abandonment I experienced at his hand. While in college, I had finally done it. I was at peace that he was not there, and I decided I would forgive him so as to not be eaten alive by the pain and anger I felt toward him. His sin was my sin―just manifested differently.

This was the place I refused to go. I already healed. That was it. I would revisit this no more. So I built up my walls, hardened my heart, and wondered why I felt so empty.

(Pro-tip to those who receive an invitation from the God of the universe, Maker of heaven and earth: take it.)

Last night, my mom and I somehow got on the subject of my father. My mom asked me a question about his new family, and I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. So she told me about an article she found, and I looked it up.

Within seconds, I realized this was the biggest mistake I’d made in quite some time.

What I was looking at was an interview about my father, conducted by a girl who could possibly be my half-sister.

I read about his upbringing in China, which was similar to my mother’s. I read about how he did not want his children to experience not having food or clothing like he once did. I read that he came to America in 1988 and struggled until he learned English and could open his own business.

And I was angry.

In one sentence, he managed to insult both my mother and me, as he didn’t seem to care if we had food or clothing. The factual error of 1988 tells me that no one knows about my part in his history because we were a family in America by 1987. There were no details of how he came to America because that would have to include the ugly story of how he married a woman so that he could join her family, who was beginning to emigrate from their side of the Pacific. And then sired a child with her that he did not raise.

And then at the end of his interview, he boldly proclaimed that what he was most grateful for was that he would not have known Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior had he not come to America.

I was livid.

We may have happened before this, but we still happened. There was no attempt to reconcile, despite having been in contact with one of my uncles for years. This made me furious, but my anger only served to mask the deep hurt that was coming from a wound I thought was long closed.

This was why I didn’t take that invitation. This was why I ran. I had been hurt by this man long enough, and I did not want to invite him to live rent-free in my head once more. It took too much to heal the first time.

I have written countless letters, journal entries, and at least one poem regarding what I was feeling toward him, how I was processing, what I needed to do. And a few years ago, I wrote him an eviction notice. I was free from him. Finally.

I do not regret my life without him, despite having wondered more times than I’d like to admit, “why not me?”, “what would it have been like?” I was sent into the fire early, and from there, one can burn, or one can rise. It’s no one’s choice but your own.

But in the midst of this, God blessed my father and allowed him to gift the character “phoenix” toward my name as part of His plan: before I was even born, God declared that I would be victorious.

I was afraid to come to this place because I did not want the wound to reopen. I feared returning to a place of darkness, anger, hatred. But it seems the difference this time is that the wound is shallow and uninfected, and I am pressed to address it while it is so. And it is God who will have to help me keep it this way because my natural leaning would be to pick at it.

To be here now, as difficult as it is, God had gone to drastic measures to barrel through all of the walls I had built up, for the sole purpose of extending His invitation to me again.

God is a God of second chances, and when your heart is as hard as your head, He will break that rock-hard heart to give you one that beats and lives, and ask you to try again.

A spiritual mentor recently told me that because I have endured this much pain, my capacity for hope is this much greater. My wounds and scars run deep enough that the foundation is set for hope and love to be poured in to fill these broken places.

Months have passed since I was invited on this adventure. I was not ready to accept it then, but I think I am now.

It feels like the first step toward something huge.

I am terrified of the idea, but I am also feeling something I didn’t feel the first time.

Hope.

The one gift my father gave me is also my greatest burden. To bestow the name “phoenix” is ironic and fitting and everything I don’t want to bear. But it is a name that is redeemed because God called me something else.

Daughter.

He saw my lack and chose to fill it. He saw my wound and chose to heal it. With one word, He claimed me as His own―His own daughter. With this word, He chased away the hurt, shame, and lies that I had chosen to believe for much of my life.

He gifted me the bearing of a phoenix to fulfill the promise He made to me with this name. I will be refined with fire in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)

And a phoenix will always rise.

Above the ashes.

I am a daughter―His daughter. And I will learn to live what that means.

This is day one.

One More Choice

I’ve had Facebook for the last 3 elections, and I have never seen things get as personal as this one. Discussions were not being had; people were being talked at. If someone voiced a different opinion, they were not welcomed into the discussion, but belittled and attacked.

And this happened among friends.

The damage has been done, the words have been said, and the wounds have been inflicted. We are tired. We are all tired of hearing one thing or another, and being made to fit into one box or another. We are numb and weak from fighting back.

But I’m asking that we all make one more choice.

Decide if it’s more important for you to be right, or if it’s more important for you to be in right relationship with those in your community and your circle of friends.

These are the people who will go to your kids’ soccer games, run the booster club with you, or sit with you for coffee or a meal. The politicians will continue to be faces in the crowd and our TVs, and they will be perched on a mountaintop we cannot scale. They will never love us back, nor will they feed and clothe us when we are broken.

But we, the people, will be in each other’s lives, day in and day out. We, the people, must be each other’s community, and we must hope for a successful term, whether we voted him in or not.

Because what he does in these next 4 years does not affect only those who voted for him, but it affects all of us and even the world, and the generations that follow. If the captain doesn’t know what he is doing, the ship will sink with all aboard.

So pray for our neighbors, pray for our leaders—both locally and federally. Decide if a relationship is worth it, and say what you need to say in order to mend it or move on from it. Think before you speak and act. Listen before you pass judgment. Learn what it means to truly love, sacrificially and unconditionally, to the point where it is uncomfortable and asks us to give everything we have.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a nice sentiment. It is a command. Love your neighbor. Love your African American neighbor. Love your Mexican neighbor. Love your Asian neighbor. Love your gay neighbor. Love your hypocritical neighbor. Love your white neighbor. Love your Muslim neighbor. Love your racist neighbor.

Love like Christ loved the church and gave all for her.

love your neighbor (redux)

We hear it all the time.

Love your neighbor. Jesus tells us to love. Jesus is love, and He wants us to love like Him.

What is that supposed to look like? Do we “love” someone by tolerating them? Do we love someone by doing our best not to offend them? Do we love someone by keeping our mouths shut regarding their actions, even if they may be dangerous, but it makes them happy?

What does Jesus say about what it means to love? What does He say it means to follow Him?

To know that, you must look in the Scriptures.

It demands our life, and it demands our comfort (or lack thereof). We like the “hippy Jesus” that tells us to accept people and be good neighbors, as some consider to be the “core” of Christianity, but let’s take a look at what that actually means.

In Luke 10:25-37, we have the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We have our cast: the wounded Jew on the side of the road, the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan man. Let’s take a look at the last three a little more closely.

Many priests at this time lived in Jericho and went on two week assignments to Jerusalem, which was about seventeen miles away. The road they traveled was a common one and was known to them. A priesthood is extremely exclusive; it stayed in the family. This priest was likely wealthy and riding on an animal.

What were the stipulations and requirements to be a priest? What was his duty according to Old Testament Law?

1) he was not allowed to approach or touch a dead body, lest he became defiled
2) had he approached the wounded man to discover he was dead, the priest would have had to return to Jerusalem to be ceremonially cleaned
3) he would not be able to use the offerings he received (usually of food; his family and servants would also not be allowed to use them)
4) if the wounded man died later, the priest would still be considered unclean
5) serving as priest while unclean was punishable by death
6) when upon a dead body, he would have to tear his robes, but he could not tear ceremonial robes

The Levite was an assistant to the priest in the Temple. He likely just assisted this particular priest and was on his way home as well. Knowing that the priest just walked by, he could not challenge the decision made by the priest to pass the man, and so he would pass as well.

There’s a lot more than meets the eye, right? This isn’t in any way to excuse or pardon the fact that they were not neighborly, but we cannot deny the gray area in this situation. And isn’t the gray where most of life is lived? It’s not as pure as black and white.

Inserting a Samaritan into this story was a particularly radical move by Jesus. Samaritans are a mixed-race between the Jews of captivity and the Samaritan people of the land in which they were captive. The relationship between these two peoples were hostile as a result of their history with one another. The Mishna states, “He that eats the bread of the Samaritans is like to one that eats the flesh of swine.” The Samaritan is not a Gentile but is bound by the same law as the Jews, yet they were considered impure “half-breeds.” The Samaritan would not naturally be from that area, so the half-dead man would certainly not qualify as his neighbor. And the Jewish man would likely have chosen death over associating with a Samaritan.

In that time, a tradition known as “blood revenge” was practiced. In it, a relative of the guilty party may be punished for the crime in his place. It did not have to be an immediate relative but could extend to the most distant branches of the family tree.

So let’s recap the sacrifices this man had to make in order to love a man who was not necessarily his neighbor and would not likely have welcomed his help or offered it in turn:
1) he risked defilement
2) he poured oil and wine on the man’s wounds, sacrificing monetary and material resources
3) he paid for a place for the man to rest and heal
4) he paid for the man’s treatment
5) there was no way of guaranteeing that money returned; he was not expecting repayment at all
6) he exposed himself to the innkeeper and made himself and his entire family and tribe vulnerable to blood vengeance

Loving our neighbors requires sacrificing our comforts and possibly even our lives. It means more than just being tolerant. I would hate to just be tolerated by my neighbor. I would hate to just be tolerated by my friend.

What often keeps us from what’s best is what’s good.

Tolerance is “good.”

Acceptance is “good.”

Love is best.

Yes, Jesus preached love, but this love is dirty. It is demanding and sometimes demeaning; it requires us to get in the middle of people’s messes in order to love them. It requires us to point out what is wrong but not stop there—we must replace it with what is right.

It required a sinless God to step down from His throne to become a Man, made of dirt and clay; and it required His death to overcome death itself and His blood to cover all of our sin.

Pointing out the hypocrisy of Christians has been done over and over by the national media. Do we as Christians really need to add to it? When the world sees us dividing against each other, would they really want to know the Jesus we both claim to serve and love? Choosing to turn from each other is a declaration of a Pharisee, praising God that he is not a sinner like the tax collector, who is quietly begging God for His mercy to be extended toward him (Luke 18:9-14).

We don’t like the Christianity that is being portrayed in the media. We don’t like the hatred that is preached by some who call themselves Christians. We don’t like the misconceptions with which we label others, and we certainly don’t like the misconceptions with which they label us back.

Then what are we going to do about it?

Are we going to shame those people into submission? Did Jesus ever do that?

The kind of love we need in order to heal each other doesn’t come from us. It can never come from us. Look how easily and willingly we can choose to tear each other down.

So no, the core of Christianity is not to be a good neighbor. Even if it were, by context we are failing horribly at it. No, friends, the core of Christianity is Jesus.

If we are going to preach real, biblical love, this is it. It is gritty and it demands so much more than words and Facebook posts talking at people. Real, biblical love demands for us to destroy our pedestals and use those pieces to build homes. It demands for us to dig deep into our our poverty and feed someone else. It demands for us to love someone with a ferocity that destroys apathy and hatred in its wake.

Are we ready to do that?

my life in boxes (redux)

There has been one constant in my life for the last decade. From sunny Southern California to the rainy Pacific Northwest and back, one group of companions have gone through it all with me.

Boxes.

Lots and lots of boxes.

In the last ten years, I have moved over twenty times. I want to say that this last move might be lucky number twenty-three, though I could be off by one or two, give or take. I learned quickly that good moving boxes are hard to come by, and when I knew I would only be in a space for a limited time (whether it be a few months or a year), I would hang onto my boxes, breaking them down and keeping them in a safe, dry place. Sometimes I don’t even unpack fully. I have been surrounded by boxes, proof that my roots ran about as deep as a non-Chicago-style pizza.

People joke with me that I must be a professional at packing and moving now, and I have to confess that it is the complete opposite. Packing, moving, unpacking… the whole process traumatizes me and causes me to freeze in my tracks. I have gotten progressively (regressively?) worse at packing every time I have to do it. New boxes join old boxes, reminding me once again that it’s time to be transplanted.

It’s that dread that tells me how desperately I want to be rooted. I feel a sense of impending doom when it comes time to compartmentalize my life into cardboard cubes, closing off little pieces of who I am until time comes for them to make an appearance again. Yet, how long will they get to this time? After ten years of wandering, looking for a place to belong, I want to find it. And the frightening thing is, I still don’t feel like I have yet.

I was sitting in my living room a few weeks ago, taking a break from unpacking and ignoring the ever growing pile of empty boxes taking nest in the dining room. I stared at them for a while, knowing I should break them down and toss them, and knowing inevitably that I will. However, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but feel a little wasteful, and the thought, “what if I need them in the near future?” kept flashing through my brain. I knew I won’t, at least not for quite some time–plenty of which to reload with new boxes.

Boxes intimidate me, yet I cannot let them go. They were a sort of safety net for a while, but what I’m beginning to realize is that they are now a crutch. They tell me that I cannot go too deep in friendships because I will leave soon. They taunt me that have not found my place in the world and frighten me into believing that I may never find it.

How can I keep them if this is their message to me?

Yet, the obstacle between their demise and my freedom is all that they hold inside. I’d mentioned that unpacking had become traumatizing at some point in time, and it still is. It has been two months since I’ve moved, and I still have boxes in varying degrees of emptiness and fullness scattered all over the house. I even had a box that was lost for so long, I thought it’d vanished.

In the midst of all this stress and box hunting, I overlooked the most constant companion beyond these ten years.

Who else but God has carried me through all of these moves, made them possible to complete? Who else but God can empathize being on-the-move so much? In the Gospels, Jesus and his crew stayed with people as they traveled; sometimes they were invited, sometimes they had to ask for a roof for the night. Yet Jesus was so rooted in who He was and what He had come to do. He trusted that there would be food and lodging because He fully grasped what His purpose was. The rest of the details would fill themselves in because they are details in a plan for God’s glory. Because God’s ultimate goal is to glorify Himself, and because He has chosen to use us to get to that goal, He absolutely will take care of the details that will get us there.

I have allowed my many moves to affect several pockets of my life. I have doubted my purpose, I have doubted my usefulness, and I have doubted my Father. I have felt as though all I’d been put here to do is survive and exist, and I have nothing to contribute otherwise.

But I do have something to contribute. Why else would God have placed me on this earth with my specific struggles and pieced me together with all the conflicting identities that make up who I am? I have nearly stamped out my voice, burying it under ten years of cardboard. I have lost faith in who I am, but I am finding faith in who He is. Moving is traumatizing for me.; it exhausts every cell of my body, but moving cannot take my purpose from me. I have been transplanted more times than I can count, but thankfully, God is a wise Gardener that knows how to keep my roots alive to give them a chance to dig deeper.

To give them a chance to find home.

I can’t say that I’m going to be cured of my psychological attachment to cardboard any time soon; it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to cold-turkey this in the blink of an eye. But I’ll be doing my best and working on it. It will likely involve loud, angry music, a sci-fi show or a rerun of a hockey game playing in the background, and maybe a few friends, but it’ll happen some day.

I have to believe that God has more for me than boxes and shallow roots. There is such a great desire in the deepest part of me to belong, to do something meaningful and come back to more than just a place to lay my head.

And I hope some day soon, I really will lose my need of boxes. I hope to find the place where I will settle down and stay and root.

Until then, I’ve got some work to do.

the struggles of a female hockey fan

I am a female.

I love hockey.

“You must think the players are hot.”

I understand the game.

“That round thing is called a puck. They want to shoot it into the opponent’s net.”

My favorite player is __________.

“You think he’s cute, don’t you?”

When I defend said player.

“You need to get over your obsession with him.”

My least favorite player is __________.

“What’s the matter? Not good-looking enough for you?”

When I go to games.

“Are you bringing a huge ‘Marry me, ______’ sign with you, Miss Puck Bunny?”

When I attempt to have a civilized discussion/debate with other fans.

“Whoa. Calm down.”

When I disagree with other fans.

“Stop trying to pick fights with fellow fans.”

When I pull facts and stats to discuss my points.

“Sorry, I disagree with your opinion.”

When I give constructive criticism on my team (usually in aforementioned discussions).

“You don’t understand hockey and probably only watch during playoffs.”

When (in the rare occasion) someone appreciates what I say.

“Wow, I’ve never met a girl who knows hockey like you do.”

When I get a new jersey or shirt.

“They’re not meant to be fashion statements.”

When I correct someone on just about anything.

*stink eye*

I am a female.fan

I love hockey.

I understand the rules of the game.

I definitely get the basic concept of putting the puck in the net.

I also get that centers, wingers, defensemen, and goalies don’t all have the same role and responsibility.

I am, however, still sorting out my left wings versus my right wings.

I know there are different kinds of defensemen and different kinds of forwards and even different kinds of goalies depending on where and how they learned to play, as well as their preferred style.

I understand that when we win or lose a game, the glory or blame does not fall on just one player.

I understand that sometimes, the numbers don’t tell the whole truth (whether positively or negatively).

I don’t think the “ref, you suck” chant is okay by any means. I’d rather just cheer for my team instead.

I don’t believe in booing teams, especially our own.

I don’t believe in giving up on my team, no matter how much they may be struggling.

I don’t rub my team’s success in people’s faces because I know that failure is the other side of the same coin.

I do celebrate my team.

I mourn with them.

I don’t know all the personal histories of the players or their wives, girlfriends, dogs, cats, etc. They deserve some privacy, too, and the ensuing drama does not positively affect my fanship, so it is unimportant.

I don’t always even know where they’re from.

Or how tall they are.

Or how much they weigh.

But I know how to pronounce their names correctly.

And identify their position and titles.

Because I think that’s respectful and the least I could do.

I call out BS when I see it.

Especially from analysts and commentators (I’m looking at you, NBC Sports).

I have met several women who are more knowledgeable about the sport than me.

I don’t like the women’s cut of a jersey, so I will usually opt for a men’s. (Very fashionable indeed.)

Many shirts I like only come in men’s sizes, too.

I know icing isn’t just for cupcakes.

I understand what offsides is.

I know most of the referee hand motions for penalties.

I definitely enjoy a good fight.

But I especially hope to see a goalie fight live in my lifetime.

Or at least a Gordie Howe hat trick.

No, I don’t expect to marry a hockey player.

Though I’m not opposed to the idea either.

I stand by my team.

Because they’re my boys, and I’m their fan.

I am a female.

I just love hockey.


This is (obviously) quite different from what I usually write, but I wanted to explore femininity a little differently this time through the lens of something I enjoy. Hockey is traditionally considered to be a “masculine” sport, but it is something I am quite passionate and knowledgeable about. Many of these reactions I have received personally; some have been experienced by other female fans I’ve interacted with. My hope is that when you see the second half of this piece on what makes me a hockey fan, you would see that a woman can enjoy this sport just fine and does not deserve the prejudices and snap judgments that we often receive. This may not be every woman’s experience, but it is mine and some of my friends’.

 

Ben

“The LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
(‭Exodus‬ ‭3‬:‭7-8‬a)

“I know your sorrows,” He says to me.

Yes, I know He does. He sees more loss in the span of a day than I probably will in a lifetime, yet His eyes are still so kind, not hardened by the grief of each day.

And despite that, my sadness still matters to Him.

It has been a year since I lost my friend. I didn’t make it in time to say goodbye. By the time I’d arrived, he’d already gone, the smile that I had come to anticipate from him nowhere to be found. The young man I met years ago, who was so vibrant, so full of life, so infectious, had gone home to be with his Father. I can only imagine how excited they were to see each other, to meet face-to-face. I wonder, did Ben tell Jesus He’s “tight,” or was he so awed to speechlessness that all he could do was stand and gaze upon His face?

He’d dedicated his life to loving his Father. This love allowed him to love his wife, their son, and every single person he’d come in contact with throughout his life. Here was a man who was so selfless, always willing to assist where he could, never asking for anything in return.

I honestly can’t recall our very first interaction. We were probably introduced amongst mingling at Intervarsity. But subsequently, we became good friends, shared our insecurities, discussed Scripture, and laughed a lot—usually over a meal.

Ben once asked me, with my past how it’s possible that I don’t hate God. I think I’d said something along the lines of not being able to—His grace is irresistible after all. I’d answered that I’d seen too much from God to forsake Him, that He’d redeemed too much for me to try to keep going alone.

I thought about that question that day, and I still think about it now. I’ve concluded this: how can I ever hate a God who could and would breathe such a wonderful person into life and allow me to meet and become friends with him? The creativity and love and joy that went into creating a man who possessed such creativity and love and joy must’ve been exponential.

There are not enough words to describe who this man was and why we all loved and still love him. There aren’t enough to describe the way he loved God and people. He was always prepared to “speak on it,” giving all glory to God always.

There’s a song that I’ve been listening to a lot lately called, “Carry Me Down,” by Demon Hunter. In it, there was one line that always made me think of Ben:

So if you see me losing sight of all the death in life
You’ll find the peace in every time I failed to see the death in mine

If ever lived a man who poured out all he had every day, it was this one.

I miss you, my friend. You will never be just a memory. Your life will continue in all the people you’ve touched. What a legacy you’ve left behind in 29 years full of life.

Happy one year anniversary in Heaven, brother. Miss you and love you loads.

IMG_2386

 

 

you keep using that word

Words are powerful little creatures. They have the ability to lift up and tear down, encourage and demoralize. Humanity is fascinated by the strength of words. We seek to wield its potentials as a weapon, using it to cut our enemies down and defend our loved ones.

But sadly, we don’t often do the work required to wield them. We don’t train, we don’t listen to another’s words or what they mean. We throw around single retorts to end conversations. If someone doesn’t agree with you, s/he is an ignorant bigot. If someone is very passionate about faith or theology, s/he is a dogmatic fundamentalist. If the same someone speaks up about it, s/he is intolerant and needs to learn how to coexist.

Someone with the figure of a model is called beautiful, whereas someone with a full-figure is called overweight. Students who are more partial to math and science are called intelligent, while those who are more partial to arts than logic are not given such high a praise. Asians are nerdy, non-Asians are something else.

Can you see the problem?

We decide a word needs to fit another word, and when it doesn’t, then we use a third word to judge it.

One of the biggest words against me is how unfeminine I am. That’s the word I’m going to focus on for this entry.

I’ve been called “kind of like a dude,” a “guy with boobs,” a lesbian, among many other things. I’ve been asked if there’s anything about me that’s actually girly, if I’d ever considered wearing more makeup and dresses, and a whole slew of the same such questions. I am a word that doesn’t fit a word that people have decided I should fit, and as a result, the aforementioned words are used in a desperate attempt to define me.

What does it even mean to be “feminine”?

When we take traits and interests and apply them to gender, this is where we get into stereotyping people into this one area, and this is where people who don’t fit such a stereotype become confused, upset, or depressed as a result. Who died and made the rule that boys like blue, and girls like pink? Who decided that boys can love Batman, and girls get left with Barbie? Why do guys get action movies while gals get romantic comedies?

This is where the judgment sets in: I hate pink, I love Batman (I just purchased an adult onesie for crying out loud), and my idea of a romantic comedy is Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

41gR9euH6TL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I’ve been slowly going through this book for a while. She describes dominant masculinity very well, and it’s her James Bond example that I used in this entry.

Hollywood has a type of masculinity that it calls “dominant.” This is your misogynistic James Bond-type character, but he has to rely on other masculinities in order to exist and be elevated. We, as a society, buy into this dominant masculinity, and, as a result, we allow it to define what masculinity and femininity mean. Guys have to be suave yet totally tough and rebellious (and a bit of a jerk), and ladies have to be Bond girls—size 0-2 (but curvy), sexy (like, objectified-sexy), and flawless (and often need to be rescued by the former).

Why do we allow ourselves to be put into boxes? Why do we tell the six-year-old girl that she can’t like Batman or the color blue because she’s a girl? Why do we shame the six-year-old boy if he doesn’t like Batman or the color blue because he’s a boy? What exactly are we telling them when we treat them like they’re doing something wrong by enjoying things that they aren’t “supposed” to like because of their gender? What will the repercussions be?

I had a conversation about these two words with a college roommate several years ago, and this is how she defined masculinity and femininity:

“Masculinity, as it should be, like femininity, is having confidence and strength in one’s own skin—gender and sex and whatever essence the individual has claimed for himself or herself—while remaining respectful for self and others.”

She says there is room for this quote to grown and change. I think we just have to let it.

When I was first trying to figure out what “femininity” meant, I did what lots of people do: I read a book. It was a book called Captivating, which boasts of exploring what biblical femininity looked like. And I spent most of my time yelling at the book in the margins: about its theology, about its use of verses out of context, about reading into verses what they were not saying, and mostly about the fact that all of the females they used as examples were characters in movies (I mean, I would love to have been an elf in Middle Earth, I guess, but I’m not, so…). I also talked with girls who seemed to have this femininity thing down pat. But every time, I ended up getting dressed up, and I kinda hated it. I think the third word for me there was “conform.”

These days, I’m taking my friend’s advice and claiming the term for myself. I am a feminine female in my own right as well as a masculine female. I possess an undefinable, unboxable feminine masculinity and masculine femininity. I am in the cluster of “other masculinities” that dominant masculinity needs to reduce in order to build itself up. And I love it here, but I won’t be reduced for it. I don’t have to become someone I’m not in order to be me. I’m already me! I like what I want! And I won’t let anyone try to package me up with nice, shiny wrapping paper, crisply folded and taped where things need to be wrapped and hidden away, and then finish me off with a bright pink bow.

The most harmful things in this world are words and the people who use them without thinking of what they actually mean. We decide girls should play with dolls, and boys should play with superheroes. We decide girls should be nurses, and boys should be doctors. This makes it very confusing for adults, let alone children.

So what does it look like to be biblically masculine and feminine? It will probably take a lifetime to unravel just a fraction of what it means. But one thing I believe it means is that our masculinity and our femininity work together in the Body for the glory of God. We don’t reduce one to raise the other. Both are necessary to work in the Kingdom.

Carry your uniqueness proudly, and take words with a grain of salt or learn how to put some on as armor. But don’t be the person that cuts people down with it. Words can just as readily bring peace as well as war.

How will you use your words?

your Savior has come

I was looking through some prayers and messages I’d written down in my notebook in the course of the last year or so, and I came across this that I honestly don’t even remember writing down. But it was the word that I received from God at the time, and it’s an encouraging one:


Your Savior has come. I am right here with you. You are My child. I see where you’re prone to stumble. Trust Me during those times. Fall into Me when you fall. Make Me where you turn, not yourself, not your old habits, not what you’re used to protecting yourself with, not what you think you deserve. I will protect you. I will catch you when you fall over, and I will heal your wounds. Your Savior has come, Daughter; I am here. I came for you, and you have Me.

“Liar” is not your identity. “Prideful” is not your identity. I wash these names that you have seared into your heart. I remove the scars you’ve inflicted upon yourself on account of those names. Trust Me from now on. These “identities” are no longer there to “save” you. Only I am here to do so. They will trap you and ensnare you if you give them the chance. I will release you. I will set you free.

Fall into Me. Let Me be your identity. Don’t try to live up to what you think I want. I want you. As you are. Let Me make you what I want you to become for My glory. I know you, and I still want you, I can still use you, and I will still use you. I finish what I begin.

Don’t ever lose sight of that.

up to the highest height

Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring

On my way home yesterday, I drove past a man on the bridge. He was likely homeless, the childless jogging stroller carrying all of his material possessions. It was a brief glance, but what I saw in him was something I’d not had myself in quite some time.

Determination.

The man was flying a kite. At this point in the seasons, California is not exactly known for having breezes. There was a slight one, but certainly not such that would pick up a kite and fly it high. The amount of room he had on a sidewalk with a divider certainly added amongst the challenges against him.

Yet this man stayed on the bridge and moved and positioned himself as he was able in order to send it soaring as high as he could with what wind he had been given. I couldn’t see his face, but I would imagine a mix of joy, frustration, excitement, and resolve. The wind current and the weather worked against this man, but he flew his kite.

My passion for writing had somehow diminished in recent months. As it stands, I’d lost sight of the goodness of God and believed I had to take on the challenges of the world on my own. I put my kite down and went to work and came home and survived to do it again the next day. Whenever I thought about picking up a pen, I just as quickly pushed the thought away, feeling as though I had deserted my passion and, therefore, had no right to take it back up.

Challenges had begun to arise, revealing survival to be as hollow and unsustainable as was meant to be. I was put on this earth for more than what I’ve been doing. I am most alive when I am following my passion, and I do not have a passion for surviving. It is time to pick up the pen and move forward, adjusting with what I’d been given to work with and pursuing my dream as rigorously as this man pursued his delight.

I don’t know how long the man stayed there or how long he had been there before I’d spotted him, but I would imagine he’d lost track of time, possibly recalling a moment when life was simpler, and he was just a boy with his kite.

And isn’t this the best way to lose the time: doing what you love, what makes your soul soar, and your heart thrive?

Just a girl.

With her pen.

Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

ohana

Dear Family,

What does this word actually mean for you? You toss that word around when it’s convenient for you, and when it’s not, you hoard it to yourselves and keep it exclusively. When has that word ever been used to describe us?

Yet you asked me this week—no, you shamed me—in order to convince me you’re my family. You tell me that you can’t believe I would trust an outsider over my own family. It’s not the first you’ve shamed me with this either.

But let me ask you something.

Where were you?

Where was my family when I had to put a restraining order on one of our members? You were on the side of my abuser. Where was my family when I longed to belong to it? You were abusing me and shunning me from your presence. Where was my family when the inheritance I received from my grandmother disappeared and the account closed? You were the ones closing it. Where was my family when I was suicidal in high school because of the abuse? You were oblivious to your role in my suffering, and you could not be found.

How do you ever expect me to trust you? How could you ever ask that of me?

I have not allowed you to define this word for me for quite some time now. The word “family” does not belong to you.

It belongs to the Person who guided me out of suicide. It belongs to the Person who redeemed my greatest abuse to lead me to my greatest salvation. It belongs to His children, who have walked beside me and carried me these past fourteen years when you were nowhere to be found.

“Family” does not end with blood.

Blood may be thicker than water, but grace runs deeper than blood.

You made me feel that I needed to earn a place in this family. Was being my mother’s child truly not enough? Yet in this grace community, there is no such thing as earning a place in the family. We are family because of Him.

This word is still being redeemed for me, but here and now, I claim it as my own. It is not a word for you to throw at me to acknowledge your authority. This word will not be reduced to something so petty.

This word means hope. It means acceptance. It means love—love unconditional, love to the point of sacrifice, love for life.

This word is too precious to me now. You cannot define it for me any longer because I know what it is now.

My Father told me. He showed me with His loyal love.

I have a new family now. Maybe you can join it some day. But you’ll have to understand, it’s on His terms, earned by His death.

I hope you can give up your small definition for His great plan.