The Silent Voice

Microphone

(FreeImages.com/TomJackson)

Growing up, I experienced the nurture of loving parents, but I also grew up in and around a culture where it was expected that women were to be the quiet, affirming, supporting ones.  In fact, a strong woman was perceived as a threat to most men in our spheres.  I remember wishing I was a guy… because I did think and wanted to be able to contribute intelligent thoughts and insights.

In and around some of those spheres, a “child” was considered a child until they had a home of their own.  As a female, my parental authority was then transferred to my spouse’s authority.

There is an element to this that is true and healthy: children are under the protection and authority of their parents until they reach adulthood.  It’s the parents’ job to train their children to take increasing responsibility until they are able to make the transition into adulthood.  Husbands do have a responsibility to protect and give spiritual guidance to their families, but this is not to the exclusion of the wife’s influence or voice within the home.

In my growing up environment, there were many families that took the authority issue to an extreme.  Children were considered “children” until they were given permission to marry, but they were also told whom and when to marry, where to work, what jobs to work, etc…  There were many adults I knew who still were not marrying the ones they loved because it was not allowed (in their 20’s and 30’s).

You might wonder why didn’t those adult “children” just do their own thing.  When you have been raised to obey and not question your authorities or you are considered rebellious, you dare not question the system.  Who wants to be guilted or called rebellious because you dared to question something?  The stigma would be too harsh.  My voice was controlled and “silenced” in some of those circles (not trying to reflect this back on my parents; this was the environment of the families and teaching in which I lived).

I remember going on a mission’s trip to Russia.  During my stay there, the wife of the main guy in charge of the entire operation in Russia pulled my sister and I aside and told us one day that we talked too much and that guys don’t like women who talk.  Again, my voice was shamed and silenced.

Within a number of church circles with which we associated, the women were also told to keep silent.  There was not a lot of opportunity for women to have a vocal presence within the church.  The result was I envied the men who had the honor of vocally getting to share because I had to silence so many thoughts that were brimming over in my heart.  I did share them with the Lord and even when appropriate with fellow women.  My voice though felt disqualifed.

[Note: The point of this blog is not to discuss what the Bible does and does not say concerning the roles of men and women.]

My husband is a quieter guy.  He also learned to be quieter, but that is his story…  Because he is quieter, I remember people accusing me of “wearing the pants” in the family.  Again, I taught myself through the continued experiences of my life to hold back, shut down, silence my voice because some male might see me as a threat.

[Note: I had no intention of being dishonoring of my husband, but I simply had an opinion that was articulate and insightful.  Somehow, wisdom and insight coming from a woman was a threat to some people.]

My longing to be heard, to have a voice led me to blog.  Some might be misinterpreting what I am saying as being a self-absorbed preoccupation with a need to be heard.  My motivation for blogging though was that God had given me a voice to be heard and somehow it needed to be heard so I began to blog.  The “voice” He gave me was to share the things that He is teaching me on this journey, called life.

There are times that I can be in a group of women and will even share a few things, but still feel not “heard.”  Part of that is because sometimes we are all so desperate to be heard that no one is really listening.

Sometimes, we are all so desperate to be heard that no one is really listening.

Why is being heard so important?

Why is it so painful to feel like no one hears or cares to really hear you?

Have you ever been in a room brimming with people, the noise is deafening, but in the middle of the noise, you feel unseen and unheard?

Is there more to “seeing” and “hearing” than the physical sense?

Is it more the sense of feeling loved, validated, wanted, respected, appreciated, and noticed for which we are really looking?

What are we desperately desiring in the pursuit for validation, respect, and appreciation?  Isn’t it about connection, love, and belonging?  Isn’t that where we truly find purpose?

Yet, we look for purpose sometimes in the very things that disconnect us from connecting, from receiving and giving love, and from really experiencing the stability that comes from truly belonging. 

There is commitment that is required to really belong.  Yet, those who need that sense of belonging the most are the most likely to “shy away” from commitment.  It is frightening, risky, vulnerable.

As I seek to find my voice, I am also aware of the pitfalls.  It’s easy to try to find my voice and in the process I forget about everyone else’s voice. 

Do I enjoy my “shining moment” at the expense of others? 

Right now in my journey, I am still learning to find the courage to be heard, to not apologize for being heard, and to also in the process learn to listen to the silent cries of all the voices around me, longing for someone to care enough to truly listen.

The Connection Between Pride And Fear

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/osprey-leaving-nest-1547342)

I believe God gave me one of those “light-bulb” moments when I began to realize there is a big connection between pride and fear.

At first glance, they can seem like total opposites.

Pride seems to indicate self-reliance and an over-inflated ego/view of oneself.

Fear, on the other hand, seems to speak of the opposite.  It speaks of self-doubt, doubt of others, circumstances, objects, and events.

The opposite of these two negative qualities is that of faith and humility.

Humility speaks of a sweet submission, a concern for others, and love.

Faith speaks of trust, reliance, and a measure of humility as well.

Just as pride and fear go hand-in-hand so do faith and humility.

When people are self-absorbed, we would call them proud.

What produces an obsession with self?

I believe that a lack of contentment and resting in the Lord brings about a preoccupation with ourselves. 

When we are “complete” in Him, we are secure in who we are in God, and we don’t need the validation of others.  It is insecurity that causes us to be preoccupied with ourselves.

What is faith — the true definition of faith?  Is it not a complete trust in the Lord and submission to Him?

Pride relies or trusts only in itself and will not allow itself to be mastered by anyone else.

It takes faith to humble ourselves before God.  It takes humility to submit ourselves to the care of God.

Faith is submitting oneself to the care of someone or something.

Fear, on the other hand, refuses to completely surrender to anyone or anything other than its own rationalizations or self-preservation.

For example, if I have an improper fear of riding in a car, I will refuse to get in one or will ride in it while anxiety roils through me.

There is no sense of security or peace while I am encountering the object I fear.

When I am proud, I am relying on myself — my own rationalizations, self-preservation, and strength to protect me.  I am my own “master.”  As my own “master,” I instinctively know that I cannot control everything or anything; and thus, I live in fear of the things that I can’t control.

Let me reiterate that again because it’s worth repeating:

As my own “master,” I instinctively know that I cannot control everything or anything; and thus, I live in fear of the things that I can’t regulate, contain, or dominate.

An indication of both fear and pride being alive in my life is if I struggle with “control.” 

Those who are able to put their trust/faith in the Lord and surrender to Him (in humility) experience the greatest peace and flexibility.  They understand that relying on themselves is the greatest position of weakness, but relying on God, the Great I am, is their greatest source of security.  They are confident and “relaxed” because they are “resting” in God — in Who He is — rather than in who they are themselves.

Pride produces fear.  It’s that simple.  It’s also a good chance that if you “suffer” with pride, you “suffer” with fear.  The opposite is also true: if you “suffer” with fear, it’s a good chance you “suffer” with pride.

Humility and faith are two of some of the best characteristics for walking in freedom.

Humility frees us from the bondage of self.  Faith frees us from the bondage of everything else, including ourselves.

Knowing the above truths have caused me to look more closely at my own heart and life and to be convicted of more areas that need to be yielded to the Lord.  It’s not from fear or “self-righteousness” that I confess these things but because I desire to walk in greater freedom in my spiritual walk.

Afraid Of My Children… Part One

Recently as God was dealing with me in the area of fear, He began to reveal specific fears I had.  I knew I was a fearful person in many ways.  It started when I was quite young.

As a child, I can remember hiding behind my mother when meeting strangers.

I remember crying when I had to get my first job.  I know, sounds silly.

There is nothing silly about fear though. 

Fear is very real and very powerful in the way it affects our lives.  It can cripple our living and hold us hostage to its impact.

I struggled with fears about storms, loved ones dying, disease, financial ruin, growing old, you name it…

One of the fears that I began to recognize I had and that God wanted to help me overcome was the fear of my children.

Yes, I was afraid of my children.

My guess is that I am not the only parent who struggles with this, and that’s why I am writing this blog…

It began soon after my first child was born.  All of a sudden, the reality of life “hit me in the face” when I had a newborn who began to display a temper soon after birth.  He was not happy when he had to wait for my milk to “let down” in order to guzzle his dinner as quickly as he wanted.  I quickly learned tricks to settle him down so he could nurse, but I had already begun to feel like motherhood was not so easily controlled as I had envisioned. 

That lack of control was not only something I feared, but my “need” for control was also indicative of a fear problem.

Becoming a mother personally was a bit of a rude awakening.  I had held this “Cinderella” view of motherhood, and the reality just wasn’t like the fairy tale dreams.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a mother and I loved my son, but parenting was so much harder than it looked watching everyone else raise their children.

Then came the birth of my second child.  I had two little ones, born 16 1/2 months apart, and they both were so needy.  I was exhausted, was suffering from undiagnosed and untreated hypothyroidism (for the first several months), and began to feel incapable of being a “good” mommy to these two little boys.

Fast forward a few more years and a few more kids.  The challenges kept increasing.  I would seem to figure out a new technique for each new challenge, and then a new one would present itself.

With some challenges, it didn’t seem to matter how many techniques and methods and principles and advice I heard and read.  The challenges didn’t seem to diminish or even to be improved effectively.

I became weary of bad or ineffective advice.  I became weary of my own inconsistent and/or wrong application of good advice.  Each new thing I heard seemed to be another “nail in my coffin” when it came to my role as a mom.
I felt like one big “failure.”  I also began to fear my children.

You fear what you can’t control, and you try to control what you fear.  Vicious cycle!

There are a lot of you reading this who think that you have never “feared” your children.

Fear though manifests itself in different ways.

  • For some, fear takes the role of victim.  The victim feels hopeless and helpless and unable to ever succeed.
  • For some, fear takes the role of critic.  As the book, Freedom From Fear, says, “The Critic never feels good about himself or what he has done.  He is discouraged and defeated even before… [the fear] hits.”
  • For some, fear takes the role of the perfectionist.  As the book, Freedom From Fear, says, “They never have any peace of mind because they can never achieve perfection.  Their overwhelming need to accomplish more and more makes them driven, stressed, irritable. … they can’t stand to fail, especially in public.”

Fear of your children manifests itself in two very different ways:

  • You either give up, and your children dominate you. Children in this type of home are rebellious, disobedient, lack self-control, and are privately insecure.  The victim mindset and the critic mindset can fit within this category.
  • Or, your fear causes you to have unhealthy control over your children, and you dominate them.  Your children will be very “controlled,” but the control isn’t healthy.  It’s fear-based, manipulative, and will produce either rebellion or unhealthy dependence in your children.  Your children will “appear” very obedient, but the reality is they have never been given the freedom to think their own thoughts and to determine their own convictions.  You have determined them all for them.  The perfectionist mindset fits in this category.

The root of both manifestations is the same motivation: fear.

It was recently said to me that wise parenting teaches children how to be good stewards of their freedom.

This means giving your children freedom and understanding that we must want our children to live freely the plan that God has for their lives — not that we have for their lives.  It means giving our children the tools to wisely steward this freedom so that they can truly be and live the freedom God intended them to have!

My next blog post will address what the solutions are for finally overcoming this fear and finding freedom from it.  Stay tuned.

Embracing Womanhood

Amy 1

(Picture By Laura Patrick Photography.)

Today as I watched my kids play happily in the warm sunshine, digging in the dirt, and chasing balls, I couldn’t help but think what the miracle of their lives represent — the miracle of motherhood, the miracle of womanhood.

We live in a day when staying home and being a mom seems mediocre or insignificant.  When asked what we do as women, the expected response is often for something of worth or significance — something beyond being a homemaker.  The proper response of our worth or measure being that of some noteworthy career, where we can demonstrate our equal or superior intelligence, status, and capabilities with that of men.

There is nothing wrong with a woman having a good career and being educated.  The point is a good career and several degrees are not necessary to prove the worth of a woman.

Why do we as women feel that we have to compete with everything a man does to demonstrate our own worth?  Why do we feel that we must do and be everything a man is to prove that we are equal or superior to men?

What is at the root/heart of this competition?  Could it be insecurity?  Could it be a reaction to past history?

Women are of equal value, equal intelligence, and have gifts that equal men in significance!  Yet, in all our striving to prove something are we actually proving the opposite and degrading our own species and value?

If our value is in the variety, diversity, and distinctions of our particular genders, why do we strive to be like a gender we are not?  By trying to prove that we are like the other gender, do we not reinforce the image that our own gender is weaker, less significant, less valuable than the other?  If our gender has distinctive value in its differences, why do we try to operate as if we are the same as the other gender?

Motherhood, the demonstration of the uniqueness of our gender as a woman, is one of our greatest gifts to society.  Yet, it is often scorned, ridiculed, or viewed as subservient.  What enlightened/educated woman wants to be viewed in this modern culture as “merely” a homemaker?  “What honor is there in that?”

Motherhood is a distinct gift to society — perhaps the greatest contribution we can give to this world!  It is the gift of life, the continuation of the species, the formation of a character and life, the extension of the life cycle, the hope of our future, the potential for benefits to all of society through ingenuity, creativity, and new inventions produced by the next generation.

No other gender can create, bear, and nurture life!  No other gender can protect and bear life within its own body.  Motherhood is a unique opportunity — distinct from the other gender!

Distinct differences with women are their unique gifts to perceive, feel, nurture emotionally — not just physically, create, and color the world with passion, creativity, and a unique perspective.

The femininity of women is not a weakness!  Yet, modern society portrays attractive, sexy women as being as strong or stronger physically then men, aggressive, tough (emotionally and physically), and sporting clothing that decries hints at femininity.  The only hints of femininity is to continue to portray the wrong view of women: as objects of sexual gratification and lust.  Thus, these modern women are portrayed in sexy clothing, that is as raw in its design as in its message: women are meant to lust after, to be a sex object.

This view might illicit strong reactions.   Modern women will react to the idea of men lusting after them, which they rightfully should.  Yet, women have bought into the error — continuing to dress with raw, provocative clothing as if their only value is in being a sex object.  Why else would we put so much undue attention on sexual attention?  Is it to feel powerful?  Do we think by dangling this hold over men and then yanking it away, we control them?  Does controlling men somehow make us strong or stronger?  Does control ever demonstrate true strength?

Does control ever demonstrate true strength?

Does avoiding being a sex object mean we reject any intimation of our femininity or womanhood?  Does it mean we wear unattractive clothing that cover any hint of our feminine form or any hint of our distinct attraction to the creative, colorful, softer, more nurturing sides to our nature?  Would that also not be a disavowal of our womanhood, a perfidy of our distinctions as women?

To be a woman means you must be strong — a strength with its own distinctions and uniqueness!  The singular differences of our own gender requires a strength of character, strength of purpose, strength of physical endurance, strength of emotion.  As women, we expressly create, nurture, sustain, and contribute to life like none other! 

Not many men would readily volunteer to undergo the challenges that women must in order to preserve, nurture, and sustain life.  Most women would rather endure the challenges of pregnancy, child-birth, and raising young children rather than hear their husbands whine and suffer through it.  (Not that all men would be whiners.)  The point is that our womanhood proves our value because of our unique contributions!

Women are not valuable because they can be just like a man or be superior to men.  Women are valuable because of who they are!  The essence of womanhood is the very distinction that gives value to women.

If we want to be respected as women, then perhaps we should stop trying to prove we are the same as men — as if the distinctions of manhood are the only specifications of worth and value — and start walking with confidence in our own dignity as women.  We are not mere sex objects.  Our strength is not in our ability to manipulate or control another, including the opposite gender.  Our strength is in our singularity as women — not as women who haven’t recognized their own worth and thus are in the awkward state of trying to function as a man when they are a woman.

The diversity of the two genders is what makes them both uniquely special and independent from each other. 

As women, let’s embrace our womanhood and femininity, stop believing the lies, and walk with dignity because we are distinctly women!