Month: September 2015

What Women Need to Stop Saying

“Anyone who is reasonably good at organizing, step right up!”

I didn’t step up. For those of you who don’t know me, my ability to organize anything is…extremely limited. That’s a magnificent bit of understatement, right there.

Two weeks ago, the youth group I help out with was assigned the task of taking mounds of random, unsorted donations and coming out with tables of neatly folded and categorized items for a church garage no-sale (where we donated items to people who needed them).

I was given the task of folding baby girls’ clothes that were pre-sorted by the organizing types. I didn’t give orders. I didn’t create systems. I just haphazardly tucked pink dresses into some semblance of neatness and set them on a table. (I figured any mom with a kid that young wouldn’t be particular about my folding job. They’d be too focused on staying sane.)

As I folded, I thought about a theology of gender.

sign

(For those of you who are super impressed with what I think about as I sort clothes for a garage sale, I spent most of the time thinking about how glitter is the most evil substance created by mankind and why any mom would ever pay hundreds of dollars to outfit her toddler in designer jackets. This was just a small side-note.)

It was sparked based on the fact that we were creating different tables with boys’ and girls’ clothing, which reminded me of the recent controversial Target decision to remove gendered signs from their toys.

Target

Some of Target’s former signage.

So I thought about why most of the baby clothes I was folding were pink, and why girls’ Halloween costumes are “sassy” and “sexy” unlike the male version of the same costumes, and why there was something fun about wearing a tutu skirt the whole time I sorted clothes (it was a dare; don’t ask), and why the first comment the jr. high boys made when we played games on a break in the service project was “Let’s run around! And tackle each other!” and the jr. high girls gave me looks of extreme skepticism about this course of action. And what the Bible has to say about all of that.

Then my mind wandered back to whether a three-year-old would find fur-lined boots ticklish and how sweatpants with words on the rear should not be a thing.

As I faithfully went about my task of (badly) folding clothes, there were some people who actually did have the ability to organize: several of the adult volunteers, mostly moms used to commanding order out of chaos, and one of the teen girls in particular. She was telling people where to put stuff and coming up with more efficient ways of doing things and organizing like a real pro.

Although she wasn’t being pushy or obnoxious at all, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to tease. I joked about how her oldest child tendencies were coming out and picked up a shirt that said, “I’m not bossy, I have leadership skills,” saying we should get one in her size, and so on.

image

The shirt in question (and the tutu I was wearing). Photo credit to Pastor Shawn.

It was all 100% in good fun.

It was also 100% a really bad idea. And really bad theology.

Because what I was really doing with those jokes was telling this young woman that it’s not really okay for her to use her gift to glorify God. In a way, I was contributing to doubts she probably has, that I think many of us do—Am I coming on too strong? Are there certain lines I can’t cross? What will people think of me? (more…)

What RPGs Taught Me About Weakness

In college, my friend Chandler told me about this new thing called “cooperative storytelling.” He said it was an online platform used to write a story with friends, each of you telling the story from the perspective of one character. A narrator added all of the non-character action, like the weather, and reactions of characters who weren’t played by someone else in the group.

Cooperative storytelling. Wow. That sounded awesome! How had I never heard of such a thing before?

As it turns out, one of the participants in my friend’s current campaign—er, story—had to drop out. The GM—somehow, I wasn’t sure how, this was a synonym for the narrator—asked if I could take on the PC—I mean, character. At one point, someone said something about dice, but I had no idea what they were talking about.

I never did really figure out the dice.

I never did really figure out the dice.

So I signed up to take over the character, and, as it turns out, I had accidentally joined a roleplaying game, or RPG, as it is more commonly called by people who aren’t trying to deceive their female writing major friends into getting past biases and giving it a try. (Shoutout to the Windcaller Studios crew. Also, I refer you to this post if you want an overview of RPGs because this whole thing sounds intriguing.)

My favorite part of the cooperative storytelling process is always creating a character: creating and describing the personality, family, backstory, and abilities of a hero or heroine.

Under the system I was part of, you were allowed to give your character one superpower, called a legend ability. There were limits, of course—the narrator had to approve your ability so you couldn’t give yourself, say, the ability to sneeze bullets or something. Powers typically went along the lines of being able to paint visions of the future or teleport or shoot two arrows at once with perfect aim. (more…)

The Farmer Maggot Exercise

Confession: I did not actually care for The Fellowship of the Ring. The other two, yes. Return of the King has so many fist-pump-and-cheer moments, and The Two Towers was my favorite. (I know. I am the only person in the world who thinks this. I can only chalk it up to the fact that I really like trees. And Faramir. Who is so much cooler in the books than the movies.)

But Fellowship…not so much. Current theories for why include too much description of walking, I hadn’t yet gotten used to Tolkien’s writing style, not much happens in the book that isn’t in the movie, or I’m a terrible judge of literature and probably also a terrible person. Pick your favorite explanation.

LOTR

My friend Thaxton was trying to change my mind and convince me that the opening chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring are not, in fact, the most boring things Tolkien ever wrote. To prove his point, he pulled out a quote by Tom Bombadil about the infamous garden-guarding Farmer Maggot: “There’s earth under his old feet and clay on his fingers; wisdom in his bones, and both his eyes are open.”

Feel free to just read that again and appreciate the beauty of it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

To me, what makes this line even more amazing is the fact that no one else would have described Farmer Maggot that way. I mean, I sure wouldn’t have. For reference, here is how he was depicted in the movie:

Farmer Maggot

Meet the plainspoken, small-town Hobbit farmer who chases young hooligan rascals off his land. He’s got a walk-on role where he helps Frodo and company get to the forge, and that’s pretty much all we know of Farmer Maggot.

That and Bombadil’s lyrical assessment of his character, which goes so far beyond his appearance, job, and the shell of personality he presents to acquaintances that it stopped me cold. The hobbits reacted in pretty much the same way, and the narrator notes their surprise that Bombadil “seemed to regard [Farmer Maggot] as a person of more importance than they had imagined.”

Did you catch that?

Guys. Guys, listen to me. Everyone you know is Farmer Maggot. (more…)

The Leprosy Year

I keep a kind of journal. I say “kind of” because it’s on my laptop, which gives it less of an old-fashioned feel but drastically improves the spelling. So I usually just imagine the Microsoft Word document in a leatherbound volume with perfect calligraphy handwriting that I could never have anyway and reconcile myself to it.

And if you call it a diary, I will punch you.

And if you call it a diary, I will punch you.

In the journal, I process all my emotions so I don’t make decisions based on them, which is probably the only way I can ever come across as a halfway rational, functioning member of society.

My future self will evaluate this strategy and decide whether it was emotionally healthy or not, but for right now, it seems to be working better than the alternatives. Everyone around me should be extremely grateful for my journal, because it means you don’t have to deal with me bursting into tears or angry rants all the time without warning. (Also, I don’t need Facebook to be my personal, unedited journal. You’re welcome for that too.)

A lot of the entries in my journal hurt. They are the raw parts of me—the hidden fears and quiet shames, the unforgiven hurts and unrequited feelings and unmet needs and things that won’t be fixed, not quite, until heaven. There are happy parts too, but I don’t often need help processing positive emotions. “Woohoo! Hugs and cookies for everyone!” seems to work as a standard approach in those situations. (more…)