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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Feel Pretty: Intro

 Someone asked me recently if I could live in any time period in history, what era would I choose? Admittedly my first thoughts were of many good options...but my immediate next thought was- there aren't many years over the course of human history that a woman was viewed as more than property. And even after men decided we could be educated or marry who we want, there still are even fewer years where women were considered more than second class citizens. Lord help them if they weren't rich white girls. So my answer was now. I want to live now; I have access to all the clothes I could imagine but I can vote and get paid a fair wage. (Most of the time)

 Before I had children, before I got married even, I prayed for sons. Boys just seem more straightforward. Girls? Riddled with complication. Maybe my anxiety comes from an awareness of my own complicated existence in this world. Raising women definitely tops my list of anxiety triggers. But a theme of my life is God forcing me to face my greatest fears and meeting me there with faithfulness.

So of course I've birthed two girls.

And obviously, I'm mad about them. I don't want to hand them back in for boys. They are so lovely and interesting and unique. But as I ponder their future...this world in which they will grow and learn how to become women...sometimes I freak out. Of course there are a myriad of topics lining the Freak Out Shelf. But one word I keep honing in on is identity. Who is Woman. What does it mean to be her.

Knock knock. Who is it? Oh hello, its the neighborhood courier handing me the list of the 3928746598367918275698 different things the world at large tells us what it means to be female.

How to dress, How NOT to dress, Hair, Make up, Body type, Occupation, How to interact with men...Between the reality tv, self help books, and Oprah spin off shows its enough to make a girl wanna quit.

(throws list at Freak Out Shelf, runs for the hills screaming, burning ill-fitting Target bra on my way.)

 That could be the end of the story. We could all hide in the forest of feelings holding hands and rocking back in forth in a catatonic state until someone actually figures this all out. No? I'm the only one who likes to rock during panic attacks? Thankfully we have something more helpful than avoidance or escapism. We have Jesus. And he didn't give us a dress code, or a 5 step plan to thigh gap.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Psalm 139:14

 This reminds me that I can raise my daughters with hopefulness. And joy! Because they are wonderfully made by a super creative and expressive and colorful God. The shape of their cheeks and the twists in their hair, the timbre of their voice when they tell a great story, the flexing of their muscles when they climb a tree, the (eventual) wrinkles beside their eyes when they smile widely- all these things make the world we live in a more beautiful and interesting place. And they cause me to rejoice in my God. These are some of the things I want them to celebrate about their womanhood the most. And my prayer is that it too will cause them to worship the God that made them and find their worth and approval in Him alone who finds their worth imessurable. But these things are a lot more difficult to communicate. Its a lot easier to put a pink dress with ruffles on them, and a bow in their hair and say "oh you are SO PRETTY!"

Here's the tension that I live in: I am no philosopher, but just as an observer of my kind...we like to decorate ourselves. There is a wide variety in the way we as people and particularly women like to decorate ourselves- but its a thing. And while there are certainly perameters of propriety in regards to age, culture, etc...there's no reason to moralize things like: color. Or fabric. Or pattern. But we DO. All the time. We are constantly making concious and unconsious declarations about what is good or not good for girls to robe themselves in -even well outside the issue of modesty. So lets take a deep breath and look at the world around us. Look at bird feathers. Or water. Or a sunset. Look at the freaking human eyeball IT'S AMAZING. There is such a variety of expression of the beauty we see around us and yet we are all freaking out about the same Target T-shirt and what that says about our value as a woman.

So here's my present plan: I want to explore this big wide world of fashion, art, and accessorizing. And I'm going to do it with my older daughter. She's 3, but she already has a strong opinion about what she wears and an interest in make up. So we are going to go on scavenger hunts, and look and paint and fashion photography and play dress up and take pictures and just see what turns up in our imaginations. Then we will document our findings and share our thoughts with you. Hopefully on a regular basis.

Stay Tuned.