can we talk more about this later?

Dear Joy,

I read your last letter just before boarding an airplane to SanFrancisco for a dear friend’s wedding. It arrived at the beginning of craziness – two weddings in two weeks, each on opposite sides of the country. This past weekend, it was my brother Luke’s turn to get married, and instead of flying, Marty and I road-tripped it with the little guys. Twenty-five total hours of driving (not including stops)… and we were only gone for four days. I know I’ve got absolutely nothing on your solo flights across the world, toddler in tow – but it was pretty grueling. On Monday, our first day back, the boys were acting crazy, and I was so confused… until I remembered that, right, they had just basically spent an entire day in the car. Silly me. Anyway, the pictures above are from our San Francisco (and sans kids) trip. (While there, we decided to move to California… and then looked at housing prices… and then decided to stay in Illinois.)

So we’ve been a little busy, but I’ve also been avoiding this. You told me about a fruit festival and your kitchen renovation (!!!), and I read and loved the MAF piece that morphed out of your deleted paragraph. And then you asked me what I thought about the whole women-Church-ministry topic. Admittedly, I’m the one who brought it up, but (also admittedly) I’m feeling a little lost.

Have you read anything by Shauna Niequist? My friend Monica introduced me to her last year, and I devoured her first three books. (Bread and Wine is my favorite. Essays and recipes, combined? I get to read while I cook? LIFE changing.) Last summer, I went on a Shauna kick, and started listening to audios of her talks while I stained the big old deck behind our house. Her Q address, What My Mother Taught Me, felt like it kicked me right in the gut. I was somewhere between the screened-in porch and the edge of the deck, working on the railings. My brush swished, and I listened to Shauna describe a mother who put her passions and gifts on hold for her children, because logistics made it too difficult for her and her husband to mutually pursue their callings.

There I was, feeling goal-less and passion-less (because, how passionate can one be when one is staining a ginormous wooden beast of a deck?). And oh baby, my heart was screaming. “YOUR PASSIONS HAVE BEEN SIDELINED, FOR THE SAKE OF LOGISTICS! PURSUE YOUR CALLING!” I felt like pumping my paintbrush in the air. I was ON FIRE.

Only problem? The thought of don’t let logistics interfere with pursuit of your calling quickly and subconsciously morphed into how can I escape from my current doldrums of life as a mom of two? I immediately began looking into MDivs, or graduate degrees in just about anything I had a remote interest in (classical literature, women’s studies, architectural design, law school… seriously). I made Marty listen to The Shauna Talk later that night, when the kids were in bed. I googled how long it would take to pay off a hefty grad school loan (quiet, Dave Ramsey). I pulled out my old StrengthsFinder book (soo, what exactly am I passionate about again?).

Sometimes, like that time last summer when I had my deck-staining-Shauna-Niequist epiphany, I get a little carried away. I lose focus. I start to fake like I’m this oppressed woman, chained to her children and a gallon of deck stain. I forget what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it.

For many reasons – physically, emotionally, spiritually – raising my two boys is taking a whole lot more time and energy than I thought it would. When I left an incredible job to stay home with our newborn baby boy, I had lots of thoughts about how life would be as a mom, with my very own kids. I had plans. I had dreams, baby. And then I actually had the baby, and like many other people, my life turned upside-down. It’s been five years, and I feel like I’m still stuffing things back where they belong, except that it’s been so long, now they don’t even fit.

Where were we? Right. Women’s issues. Ministry, and the Church, and the fact that Paul says some really uncomfortable things in 1 Timothy. I’m wrestling with what the Bible says, and how God actually wants us to live, for three reasons.

(1) I have friends (including the one I mentioned to you before) who are deeply passionate about women’s rights, because they have personally witnessed the exploitation and oppression of women. It’s one thing to get really angry about male chauvinists or people who think women shouldn’t pray in church. It’s another thing to come face-to-face with the ravages of rape, gender inequality, and complete and utter lack of opportunity for women. Theologically, I might not reach the same conclusions that some of my friends do, but I’m going to pray for a heart that cares just as deeply, and a mind that thinks just as carefully.

(2) It seems to me, based on what I’ve read so far, that commitment to biblical authority is a huge determining factor. Many liberal scholars dismiss Paul’s commands as illogical, and paint Genesis 1 as myth. But if the Bible is being dismissed as irrelevant, then on what basis are we debating? Experientially? Culturally? I’ve gotten turned around a couple of times, because I didn’t realize that the commentator I was reading didn’t actually care about things like inerrancy. And then I started asking, Really, how important is inerrancy? This “quest for truth, biblical womanhood, and the throwing off of logistics” has led me to deeper places, indeed.


(3) I’m interested in challenging the status quo for the sake of God’s calling.

Can I leave it like that (cryptic), and can we talk more about this later? It took me two weeks to finish this letter, geez louise. I really want to hear what you think. Or, if you want to talk about other interesting things, like ghost-writing (fun!) or more fruit festivals, or what it’s like to remodel a kitchen without a Home Depot on the island, I’m all for that, too.

Spring is here, by the way, and the mud smells great.

Love, Sherah