It has been such a privilege to be your aunt. I vividly remember the evening your parents first shared they were expecting a baby (that turned out to be you). We were vacationing together in Flagstaff and we'd gone out to eat. Over dinner your dad nonchalantly smiled, then gushed that they were going to be parents. We laughed and screamed and dreamed together that night. (Of course I also remember when your dad called to tell me he was stealing the name Madison for their new baby girl. But that's basically a non-story given the outcome. )
Over the years I've watched as you've grown and it has been a joy. From tea parties with grandma and Barbies and Polly Pockets to piano lessons and acting and cheerleading. Through it all you've been my daughter's closest confidante and encourager and you've become a young woman seeking after God. (Not to mention that you're stunningly gorgeous and taller than me. )
And last night you graduated from 8th grade.
Speaking of which...It has come to my attention that at that ceremony you were presented the Martha Award. Congratulations!
However, this is puzzling to me. Not because you don't deserve an award, but because I don't understand why they'd give you (or any other woman they cared about) this one. I understand that the intent is to recognize one eighth grade girl for her devotion to service; for her ability and willingness to accomplish tasks behind the scenes where it often goes unnoticed. What I find more difficult to grasp is why they call that the "Martha Award."
In case you've not studied the story of Martha, let me summarize. While Martha is known for her tireless devotion to acts of service, she is primarily remembered for missing the point. Called out. Publicly. By Jesus. Ouch! And this occurs in the context of her service. (To be fair, I don't believe Jesus was chastising her for serving, but for believing that she was holier than her sister because she was busier.)
It seems a bit like presenting an eighth grade boy with the Thomas Award. Yes, he was a disciple and he ultimately died for the sake of the gospel, but he's primarily known for doubting. (There isn't a Thomas Award, is there?)
So here's my proposal...
I think there should be a Hannah Kredit Award. From 2014 on, one young woman should be chosen who represents the amazing qualities I see in you. Here are the highlights:
1. A gifted performer who comes alive on stage and then effortlessly moves to serve behind the scenes.
2. An encourager who finds deep joy in highlighting the beauty of others.
3. A hard worker who embraces the joy of the journey instead of succumbing to the relentless pursuit of perfection
4. Tall. I just think she should be tall.
5. An intelligent young woman who works hard but doesn't need to prove anything because her identity is in Christ
6. A creative dreamer who is fully content to live in the moment.
I'm aware that this blog post may go down as another one of Aunt Kelli's little rants. I hope so. Because I'll rant all day to ensure that you know how special you are! (Wait until next year when I write this post for Madison!) The last thing I want to do is diminish in any way the accomplishments of your elementary school years. You rock!
So take all of this with a grain of salt. Hold what seems good and right and discard what doesn't fit. You're smart. You'll figure it out!
Of all the things I've never wanted to be, an angry woman is at the top of the list. An astute observer of cultures, I realized early on that angry women were not welcome in the church. Quite frankly, they weren't welcomed anywhere, but the church had an arsenal of spiritual weapons to use against them and I did not want to be on the receiving end of this kind of criticism.
I would rather be marginalized, objectified and silenced than be labeled an angry woman.
And so it has been.
I've flirted with 'angry' in the past. In my twenties I was forced to address the underlying anger because I was literally vomiting it out of me in the form of an eating disorder.
In my thirties another layer surfaced and I went through a 'swearing' phase. I'm told it was hilarious. Cute, even.
And now it's back. I'm angry. Still hesitant to embrace it, it leaks out slowly. Often surfacing at the most inopportune times. An offhand comment has a little too much bite. What sounds like an affectionate jab in my head comes out as a punch in the gut.
Earlier this week I sat down with an unsuspecting group of pastors and they invited me to share about my experience as a woman in the church. I would not have told the truth to everyone, but to these brave men I chose to entrust just a bit of my story. The raw emotion that curled up from deep inside took me off guard, but these good shepherds seemed unfazed by my messiness.
Infinitely more surprising than the rage, was the compassion I experienced on the other side. In the wake of my anger, I discovered the tenderness I'd been searching for.
I recognize the bread crumbs God is laying out for me. His invitation to walk through this dark forest of frustration. Not alone and for a purpose. Trusting there is no other path to the open spaces on the other side of this blackness.
Because now I know that the only way to avoid becoming an angry woman is to get angry.
This morning on NPR I heard Shankar Vedantam (which is an awesome name) pose a frightening question. He wondered aloud "if one wants to be lied to, does it actually constitute a lie?" Hmm.
This was in reference to an even more frightening reality--the use of "vanity sizing" in the American clothing industry. Apparently, what was a size 8 in 1950 is currently a size 0. Yikes! Vedantam (author of Hidden Brain) explains some of the psychology behind the marketing and it basically boils down to this:
We prefer to be lied to!!! (You can check out the article here)
Got me thinking about places I don't want to hear the truth and I remembered a vivid moment between Jesus and me. It was during a time when I felt particularly fragile-emotionally and spiritually. A wise person posed this question to me. "What do you think Jesus is saying to you right now?"
For years, when I asked that question of Jesus, I could hear him say, "I love you". But on this particular day I heard "Get behind me Satan". That didn't seem right. In fact, it was downright harsh. I wanted to run away, but I was frozen. Had I really heard this? Would Jesus really say this? (Play along with me here--this all happened really fast!).
As I began to breath in and out again, I found myself face to face with reality. Jesus loves me, to be sure, but he's not just a supernatural cheerleader or motivational speaker. Sometimes his glance is lovingly piercing as he illuminates previously unexposed areas of selfishness and other sin. He promised as much--
12 For (A)the word of God is living and (B)active, (C)sharper than any (D)two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and (E)discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
What's interesting to me about the vanity sizing debate is that this lie has direct health consequences. (And, yes, a lie is a lie even if we prefer it). Researchers are finding that, although pretending our clothes are a smaller size helps the retail industry, it keeps us from taking life saving action. (If I'm still a size 8, why change my eating habits?) What a powerful spiritual analogy!
Thankfully our God is motivated by love--not money or market share--so he's free to tell us the truth about ourselves! For it's only in reality that I can bask in forgiveness and grace and his strength and transformation.
May I never settle for anything less than the truth!
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuschia_foot/2782402285/">Fuschia Foot</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
Tonight Madison and I watched yet another modern adaptation of the classic, “Snow White”. It starred Julia Roberts and some other impressive people and I kind of liked it. But also, I kind of didn’t. I’ve grown weary of watching women fight battles while men bumble around like idiots. I believe I am doing my daughter a disservice if I represent this model of feminine strength as the ideal.
You may not know me, so let me assure you this is not another call for women to take a backseat so men can take charge. I am saddened and angered at some of the statements about women that have come from Evangelical leaders in recent months. I want to scream that women don’t have to be weak in order for men to be strong. But that is not my point today. I want to talk about stories that shape us.
I first came across this concept in one of my favorite child rearing books…”The Wonder of Girls” by Michael Gurian. As I reviewed it again tonight, more than ten years from my original reading, I was amazed at how the basis of this story has shaped me.
The demonizing of these feminine fairy tales was made popular by the 1960′s feminist classic “The Cinderella Complex” by Colette Dowling. If her hypothesis is true, these stories subjugate women, destroy their individuality and make them dependent on men. That is a sad fate indeed. However, I believe that theory is flawed. Gurian and others insist that, instead, Cinderella (and Snow White) are stories of the making of a heroine. A strong woman who overcomes hardship, develops unwavering character, and discovers who she is, all while strengthening those around her.
Heroes and Heroines are not the same. A heroine is not just a female version of a hero. While some of the qualities overlap, the heroine’s journey is different and, in many ways more complex. By simply making the heroine identical to the hero, we lose what makes her uniquely strong (a focus on relationships, alliances and attention to beauty in unlikely places, i.e) . In fact it diminishes the entire role.
Notice that in these fairy tales, the heroine is the reason for the story. The prince serves as a supporting cast member. But not in a bumbling idiot way. The princess is carrying the ideals of the kingdom and in rescuing her, the prince rescues those ideals. They are both becoming more loving, wise and powerful through their ordeals and by the end, they have successfully passed into adulthood. That’s a worthy quest for my daughter and sons.
Yes, that means that I may need rescuing. Duh! It’s the core of the Gospel–I need a Savior. (And so does my prince.) I have been rescued in a most dramatic fashion and I am living my whole life in response. What a beautiful reality!
You may still cringe at some of the dated stereotypes of men and women in these stories, but perhaps you can set aside the world weary cynicism and take a second look. The Heroine’s journey is always treacherous and sometimes frightening–too much for any woman to attempt on her own. So here’s to the journey of womanhood, the acknowledgement of need and the gift of a Savior!
photo credit: Morning theft via photo pin cc
A few months back, I said ‘ass’ in church. And, no, I wasn’t reading from the King James Version or referring to a donkey. I didn’t mean to, but in my life, these things happen. The worst part is that I was talking to someone new to our church. Some poor, unsuspecting woman who had met my kids and assumed I was a saint and whose husband had been in ministry–and then I show my true colors.
I don’t swear much. But I have come to believe that sometimes well placed profanity can be just the right word. (not for you, Madison). Of course, in a conversation with a stranger at church does not fall under the category of “well placed”. Sadly, I haven’t seen her since. Perhaps our church should make a disclaimer sign for me…”The words and attitudes of Kelli Gotthardt do not necessarily represent the views of this church.”
I spent this past weekend with two dear friends. Our goal was to spend time together encouraging each other and getting to know God more intimately. My personal goal was to bless both of these women. But as Saturday stretched on, my anxiety and irritability began to rise. I was quickly losing perspective and spiraling into depression and confusion. This has been a difficult season for me (see many of my previous posts) and all this down time was bringing it to the surface. Now it was decision time. Do I share what is happening to me emotionally or do I hold those thoughts until later and move forward with just listening and encouraging.
I decided to share. I cried and babbled and whined and cried some more. Very undignified and personally disappointing. The next morning over breakfast I explained that I had hoped to just ‘be there for them’ and was conflicted over my mini breakdown. I wanted to bless them. One of my friends sighed (I think she felt sorry for me)…”Kelli, you blessed us by breaking down. You set a high standard of spirituality and if we don’t ever see you struggle we are working toward an impossible, inauthentic goal”.
Ouch! Very convicting. While authenticity is one of my highest values, so is my desire to spur others on toward love and good deeds. That tension is….well…a tension. Sometimes I do better at it than others. I never want my poor performance to be an excuse for someone else’s sin, but that often moves perilously close to hypocrisy. I’m a mess. A beautiful, redeemed, forward moving mess, but still a mess.
As a black and white thinker, it’s difficult for me to grasp my own journey. That there are areas where I experience great strength and freedom. Where the Holy Spirit has transformed me and I have a taste of the new creation that is me. But, at the same time, I’m always uncovering areas of weakness and wrong thinking and selfishness and mistrust of God…How both of these are true is a mystery to me. And embracing those polarities is becoming a new part of my journey.
So be warned. If you want to journey with me you will certainly see God’s transforming power at work making something beautiful and strong out of my life, but you will also see disappointing weakness and ugliness and fear. I hope you’re not afraid. This is reality. And sometimes reality will kick your ass.
My favorite part of last nights women’s beach volleyball final, was the post-game interview. Kerri Walsh Jennings led a clinic on being a strong, beautiful woman. Let me give you two of the highlights (not including her ability to speak authoritatively in a bikini!)
1. “We have an army of help…” Lest you believe that winning a gold medal was a shear act of personal willpower and strength, get real! This is the work (and therefore victory) of a small army. I don’t know what her army involves, but I know what it takes to run my life and, let’s just say, I’m not competing for any medals. I call them my “team of experts”, and I make no apologies for the group of people who have surrounded me with their support. From my dear mentor and friend, Carol, to my chiropractor, Dr. Jason. The women who give me business advice and the women who share my spiritual journey. My counselors (yes, plural) and my family. The team of people I’ve needed to raise my kids…childcare providers, family members, college students, neighbors, pastors, interns, teachers, etc. My cardiologist and my dentist. Women who know more about navigating college scholarships, or where to get a good deal on shoes. I’ve just hired a coach to walk with me as I write my first book. I don’t do anything without help! Long before I had a “fan page” on facebook, I’ve extolled the benefits of having fans. Every woman needs fans! People who believe in her. Who ‘get’ her. Who bring out the best in her. Who push her beyond what she believes she is capable of.
2. “This is such a small part of who we are…” How refreshing. This will not be their sole identity. In fact, it seems it will not even be their primary identity. In a culture where women are grabbing and clawing their way to infamy, a woman of beauty and strength says, “I am so much more that what you can see on this court.” I hope she doesn’t sign a contract for a reality tv show next week because that would really spoil this moment, but I loved that my daughter saw a wife and a mom and a teammate and a friend who was also an olympian. As soon as we are defined by our accomplishments or our public persona, we are in trouble. What a gift to be able to play on the world stage, engage in the moment, giving themselves fully to the task and then move forward, allowing other roles to flourish and grow. Her teammate, Misty May Treanor, affirmed this attitude when she added that she couldn’t wait to spend more time off the court with Kerri, pushing her to be the best wife, the best mom she could be.
Yes, she has great abs, but that isn’t what makes her beautiful or strong. So, do you need some more help? How are you defining yourself? Is there a next step God is inviting you to take as you embrace what he has for you? Praying you’ll have the courage to make a move!
Some days I feel strong. Monday was not one of those days. Here’s what I wrote…
It seems to me that strength should feel differently than what I’m feeling today. I think the Olympics is distorting my perspective. I want a gold medal in strength. When I’m watching strong people, it usually looks quite effortless (except for weightlifting competitors who always look like they’re about to pop a blood vessel in their head). I understand that they’ve trained for years and have taught their body how to react to stress and difficulty. But, seriously, I’ve been training too. I’ve done emotional work and training in godliness and practicing disciplines, and on and on. And yet today I feel like I’m trudging through a muddy field in a dense fog. Strength is taking one step at a time, walking the direction I think will lead me out. But it doesn’t feel very strong. It feels suspiciously like I’m very, very weak.
Today I completed a task I’ve been working on for a month. I connected to a dear friend for a 90 minute phone conversation and I managed to get a shower in. The kitchen is a mess, The laundry is piling up and my teenagers will not be able to sustain themselves on the food found in the cupboards. Those tasks were well within the realm of doable things today. If my brain didn’t feel like mush and the list of tasks didn’t get all muddled together, a strong woman should be able to do these things.
Should, should, should. Such damning words. Like running a marathon, some race days are better than others. Even with great training and ideal conditions, some days it just doesn’t all come together.
For me today, strength is not giving into despair and self-pity. It is celebrating the completion of a major task and leaving the rest behind. I salvaged the day with a trip to the beach to write and be with people (even though I felt like hibernating until spring). And tomorrow is another day.
What is strength for you today?
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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