I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

29 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 20

Magnolia in bloom - photo by J. Stahl

When you think of childbirth, what comes readily to mind? No doubt, top of the list is a safe environment, competent doctors, nurses, midwives - maybe doulas, home births.

For millions, possibly billions of women across the world, childbirth is not the safe, fuzzy, awesome thing we know in the West. Sure, most people are looking forward to the birth of their long expected child - but what it takes to get there, and stay alive after having given birth - comes at a high cost.  As an acquaintance of mine online said: "It's always good to remember that some women have to fight just for a hospital birth."

...each year 3.3 million babies are stillborn and more than 4 million newborns die within 28 days of coming into the world. Some 536,000, often sudden, unpredicted deaths occur among women during pregnancy, childbirth or after the baby is born, leaving behind devastated families who are often pushed into poverty because of the cost of health care that came too late or was ineffective...
Inform Africa: Making Pregnancy Safer in Least Developed Countries
Improving health facilities and access to drugs could mean 60,000 fewer maternal deaths in Africa per year from post-partum bleeding and sepsis, according to a UCL study.
UCL study: improving maternity care in Africa
In Malawi, in the local language the words for pregnancy - “pakati” and “matenda”- translate into “between life and death” and “sick”, respectively.
Every year, in Africa 200.000 mothers die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth; and for every woman who dies, many others suffer injury, infection or disability.
Every year 1,5 million African children are left without a mother.
Maternity Project

 I have to admit this is something I had thought about in passing a few times, but not something I regularly have thought about. As a mother, and a woman who has required medical intervention in both births (non-medicated assisted midwife/doctor birth in hospital and c-section), I know all too well how dangerous birth can be if it goes downhill.  I remember thinking in my birth how at the very end, we are both on the threshold of life and death. Morbid I know, but you push a rather large baby out of your nether regions for several hours and I'm sure after all that hard work you'll realize your own mortality as well.  I'm very lucky and fortunate that I have doctors in a rather wide radius nearby me, even in my small village that can help me out at a moment's notice.

Other mothers are not so lucky.

Other mothers may have to walk, ride a moped, a horse, donkey, camel, hitchhike, or a little bit of all of those for many hours while in labor.  I remember trying to walk while in transition with my oldest - five feet from the birthing tub to the bed where I was to birth him due to a slight issue we had with his heart rate and the fact I'd been in transition "so long" (scary, I know).. and that was really stinking difficult, especially in the middle of contractions that were around a minute apart, if that far.

Imagine now, being a mother who needs help, who wants to birth in a safer environment than her home - who has to walk once she knows she is not having false labor pains, to get a ride to get to the hospital, and ensure that everything is hunky-dory.  Is that not terrifying?

Birth is a Dream: Maternity in Africa
This is a photo/audio essay from Paolo Potruno, who documented births in Uganda and Malawi.
If you are sensitive to blood, birth in general, nudity (totally normal while birthing, nursing and in the rest of the world that is not the USA...) DO NOT CLICK THIS VIDEO LINK.
I'm not joking. You will see blood, afterbirth, babies being born, nekkid mamas, naked babies, and more blood and unsanitary or less than optimal birth room/ward conditions.

Until this morning, I'd never heard prenatal and postnatal care or birth really discussed in this manner. And I shook to my core. I asked immediately if there is anything we can do to make it better, to help, to fix this unnecessary injustice towards our fellow sisters. And there is a way. There are many ways. Below, are a few charities that help women who are facing this terrible health crisis, that should be a time of joy, expectation and NOT fear, dread and worry.

If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments and I'll add them to this post.  Please, prayerfully consider giving  - not just this time of year - but as often as you can to support women in their time of need. 

28 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 19

Today's post is dedicated to all the girls and women in India.  Save the Girl Child!

Know this does not only happen in India. There has been documentation of this happening with Indian families who have moved to the Western World.

Charities you can give to that will help support women and girls in India include: The Girl Effect, Gospel for Asia, Native Missionary Movement, OXFAM, Heifer International, PresentAid, Practical Presents, World Vision, UK Friends of Unique Home for Girls in India (Featured in the 20/20 videos) - Consider perhaps in your holiday spending, that someone might like to know instead of getting more "stuff" from "stuffmart", that instead, you gave to one of these many charities in their name, that not only girls in India may be helped... but many girls around the needy world.

What is currently happening in India, has been happening for a very long time. Missionary Amy Carmichael documented these horrors in her day. Laws have been put in place to curtail some of these issues in India but they only go so far when doctors and those who commit these horrendous acts are not reported.

It's time to help put a stop to this horror. It's time to be true to our faith, and our convictions that women are truly created equal by G-d, and a gift from G-d in every home they are born. That girls are just as valuable and sometimes moreso than sons. That girls can be educated and support their parents, and even their in laws once married. Instead of being left to die, murdered or aborted.  After seeing this, you cannot say you did not know. You cannot say you didn't see or hear it happening. You cannot say that your heart and soul were not touched to core. And you cannot stand by and do nothing.

News videos about femicide in India:


Documentaries about Femicide:

27 November 2012

The Paradise (BBC/PBS Masterpiece) Period Drama

Image from screen capture of BBC One's The Paradise

I've recently fallen in love with a new BBC One period drama. It's based on "The Ladies' Paradise" (Original title: Au bonheur des dames ) by Emile Zola. I'll readily admit I have NOT read the book, but I did just order the Kindle edition in English and look forward to reading it. I don't even care if the period drama was nothing like the book, that's how good the series was.  (I fully believe in license to make dramas or films that respect the books but take liberties that do not totally destroy the original work, so maybe that helps.)

The Paradise is an eight part period drama, I'm not for certain when PBS Masterpiece will run it in the US, but it was great.  I think I need to re-watch it from beginning to end to ensure I caught everything that happened, as I tended to watch this when my husband was asleep in bed snoring, or when children were in the middle of coming in and going out after nap time.  I did not have the benefit of subtitles, so I did miss a small bit of dialogue after trying over and over again to hear a bit I missed. The cast is absolutely stellar. The producers could not have done better. (The DVD is coming out on December 3rd on!!!)

The Paradise began airing on BBC One on 25 September 2012. They ran one episode each week for the last eight weeks.  I am rather pleased to hear that there has been an order for a second Series (Season for the Americans) - as the first ended abruptly with no real answer on how we will move forward (Miss Glendenning or Miss Lovett? Oh Moray!! Make up your mind finally!)

The basic premise of the story is about Miss Denise Lovett becoming an orphan and having two siblings she has to take care of. She moves to the North of England with her Uncle, Edmund Lovett, in hopes that he will have a job for her at his Dressmaker's shop. Things don't quite work out that way, when she finds out about the new department store called "The Paradise" that moved in right across the street. (They did an absolutely wonderful job with their reproductions, antiques and making the shops look well stocked. You can read about that here.)

Long story short, she gets a job at The Paradise, hired by the widower Mr. Moray. As the story progresses, we learn about the loss of his wife, his dalliance (as was pretty usual in those times) with Clara (and finding out she has a daughter in the Orphanage that she pays rent on), Moray's girlfriend and later fiance Miss Glendenning, the conniving Mr. Jonas and his back story with the former Mrs. Moray, Arthur - a child who was born in The Paradise (we still do not know his complete story), and what in the world is Lord Glendenning going to do once he finds out what Moray is up to.

There is some language (PG probably? I'm not such a good gauge at this with having learned the EU policies - I'd say it's 6+ on most episodes and 12+ on a couple others), talk about an illicit relationship, and there was some insinuation that Moray and Glendenning had some relations together after becoming engaged.  - Again, very typical for that time-frame. (It was mostly off screen.) I'm not excusing it or making it "ok" at all - I'm just stating a fact.

The bulk of the story centers on the shops across from The Paradise, the department store itself, the workers in the shop and how they lived, and the inner workings of the changing classes of England at the time.

I really like that the characters of Denise and Catherine are so very strong women. I love that Miss Audrey softens and tells her story a bit, and why she never married. (I do wonder if she ever will by story's end?) I feel very much for Clara, and for her daughter. I think I may have cried several times in the episode where we learned her back story.

I am afraid I'm sharing a bit too much hear so I better shut up... I don't normally get to talk about "my shows" with anyone else.

If you loved period dramas such as Upstairs-Downstairs, Downton Abbey, or PBS "Reality TV" productions such as 1900 House, 1940s House, The Edwardian Country House, Regency House Party (I really loved this one being an Austen fan myself), Frontier House, Colonial House and Texas Ranch House -- you may like The Paradise.

Next period drama on my list - Downton Abbey. I've had it in my queue for a while, and I'm certainly interested to see how things play out, considering many of my online and "IRL" (in real life) friends have enjoyed the series. I've kept tabs on things and series three is due out very soon.

Are there any Period Dramas you particularly enjoy watching?

26 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 18

yellow flower - photo by J. Stahl

German police have arrested a man after he allegedly set his pregnant wife on fire in a cafe in Dortmund. Both the woman and her unborn baby survived, but the attacker faces attempted murder charges.
The guests at the Cafe came and rescued the woman immediately, stopping the flames. The 33 year old was taken to the hospital with severe burns, as we're told by the police. She and her unborn child are not in critical condition. (German)
The man was arrested by the police later in the evening. The Dortmund police and District Attorney's office do not yet know all the specific details and  relationship backgrounds that may have brought on the attack. (German)

This article went on later to say that the couple has been separated. Other articles say that they do not know what chemical was poured over the woman, and that her estranged husband will be charged with attempted murder of herself and the child.

See, I'm sure a lot of people reading my blog are wondering why I am on a "kick" about domestic violence.  
This is why. 
 From the time a baby girl is born, until a woman's death - the chances of abuse of any kind coming near her is 1 in 4. The rates are only SLIGHTLY smaller in the United States.  Compare the size of Germany (including population) with the US, you will realize this is a huge problem.

When you can sit down and think of 10 relatives off hand that have some sort of domestic violence affect their lives (and you know it is more than that) - you know there is a major issue, and something has to be done.

When you hear statistics such as these:

30% of domestic violence starts in pregnancy (1).
Between 4 and 9 women in every 100 are abused during their pregnancies and/or after the birth(2).
Women's Aid (UK)
240,000 pregnant women are subject to domestic violence
40% of assaults begin during the first pregnancy
Pregnant women are twice the risk of battery
American Pregnancy Association

    Each year 1.5 million women in the United States report a rape or physical assault. This number includes 324,00 women who are pregnant.
    25% - 40% of all women who are battered are battered during pregnancy.
    15% - 25% of pregnant women are physical and sexually abused.
    At least l in 6 women is abused during pregnancy.
    One quarter of pregnant women is physically abused.
    4% - 17% of all women are abused during pregnancy.
    Nearly 50% of abusive husbands batter their wives when they are pregnant.
Statistics about domestic violence during pregnancy

According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year in the United States more than 300,000 pregnant women experience some kind of violence involving an intimate partner, and about one-quarter of women country report having been sexually or physically assaulted by a spouse, partner, or boyfriend at some point in their life. Domestic violence is a leading cause of injury to American women between the ages of 15 and 44 and is estimated to be responsible for 20 to 25 percent of hospital emergency room visits by women.
Baby Center

Pregnant women have a higher risk of experiencing violence during pregnancy than they do of experiencing problems such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or premature rupture of membranes.

The incidence of violence in pregnancy may range from 4 to 17 percent. These figures may significantly underestimate the problem, as many women do not report their experiences of violence.
Women's Web Canada

 Immediate effects on the pregnancy can include:

    Blunt Trauma to the Abdomen
    Hemorrhaging (including placental separation)
    Uterine rupture
    Preterm labor
    Premature rupture of the membranes

Abuse, both in the past and in a current relationship, particularly sexual abuse, has been shown to have effects on laboring women. There is even some speculation as to whether or not previous history of sexual abuse can delay the baby from dropping into the pelvis, make the pushing stage longer, etc.
Domestic Violence in Pregnancy - Intimate Partner Violence -
Domestic violence during pregnancy can be missed by medical professionals because it often presents in non-specific ways. A number of countries have been statistically analyzed to calculate the prevalence of this phenomenon:

    UK prevalence: 3.4%[21]
    USA prevalence: 3.2-33.7%[22][23]
    Ireland prevalence: 12.5%[24]
    Rates are higher in teenagers[25]
    Severity and frequency increase postpartum (10% antenatally vs. 19% postnatally);[26] 21% at 3 months post partum[27]

There are a number of presentations that can be related to domestic violence during pregnancy: delay in seeking care for injuries; late booking, non-attenders at appointments, self-discharge; frequent attendance, vague problems; aggressive or over-solicitous partner; burns, pain, tenderness, injuries; vaginal tears, bleeding, STDs; and miscarriage.[citation needed]

Domestic violence can also affect the fetus and the subsequent child. Physical abuse is associated with neonatal death (1.5% versus 0.2%), and verbal abuse is associated with low birth weight (7.6% versus 5.1%).[28]

And if that was not enough - there's this 33 page document in PDF format to explain how dire the situation is in the United States alone. 


Speak up. Be an ear. Be a help in a great time of need.

If you see something, say something. If you hear something, say something.

This should not be any woman's normal. Not in America, not in Germany, not in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Venezela, Mexico, Japan, China, India.. no where on this planet.

I cannot tell you how much it haunts me to know that I have known women in this position, terrified to speak out - to ask if their normal really is normal.. and not read between the lines until it was almost too late for them.

I cannot begin to express how horrified I am to learn daily that my normal is not the normal for the other women I might meet or pass by today. 

I am horrified to know that when I go to pick up makeup on some frivolous buy just so I can go to a party, or out to the movies, or just so I don't look like the living dead while shopping - that some other lady standing there next to me looking over cosmetics may not be thinking about how lovely that shade of eye shadow is, or whether her concealer matches her skin tone, but whether or not that product alone will cover the pain and injury she has experienced and must keep hidden.

I'm saddened to know that when I am looking at sunglasses on sale and wondering when they'll come back out next year so I can get a few new pair to match my summer and fall wardrobe - that the ladies standing next to me are wondering if the lenses are large enough to hide their bruises or the fact their eyes are so red...

It tears me up inside to know that when I go to the OB/GYN for a yearly checkup, that probably the entirety of that room has either needed help, currently needs help, or didn't know how to give someone the help they needed.  And scarier thought - that not all the men in that room are actually there to "support" their daughter/daughter-in-law, wife or girlfriend.

I'm shaken to my core. I'm in tears. I'm so sorry, and I wish there was a way to wave a wand and make it better, but there isn't. We all have to pull ourselves up and stand with our sisters, help their daughters and their sons... If we don't help, if we don't say something when we see or hear something.. If we don't act - we're letting it happen.

If you see yourself in any of the statistics posted here today, please contact someone for help.

If you are in the US or Canada, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224 or here: /

You may also contact the Suicide Prevention hotline here, and they can put you in contact with those who can assist you:

If you are in the UK, you can contact 0808 2000 247 or go here:

If you are elsewhere in Europe - check this page for your local help websites and phone numbers.

Tinkerbell - Secret of the Wings

Tinkerbell - image rights belong to Disney

At the risk of sounding really cheesy, I have always loved the Peter Pan stories that Disney had done. "Hook" and "Finding Neverland " are way up there on my list of favorite movies. (Not as high as "The Princess Bride" will ever be - no movie will ever top that one in my book!)

I got hooked on the Tinker Bell films not long after I had seen the Disney film "Peter Pan in Return to Never Land" which I am not ashamed to say made me cry a couple of times in the film. It reminded me of a few times growing up when my dad was off away from home for various "war" related reasons and being the eldest, helping hold the fort.  Some of that could have been post partum hormones, but I don't think so.

We took our boys (four and a half and three) to see the latest installation to the Tinker Bell film row* - Secret of the Wings yesterday afternoon. We've watched all of the others on Disney Cinemagic or Playhouse Disney (now Disney Junior) - and then immediately gone out and bought the DVDs. I haven't purchased the Fairy Games, since we recorded it off of TV.

I love the positive message that the films bring, the lack of language worries (we can watch in English or German - no PG language to worry over in either), and the fact that all the girl/women fairies are portrayed in a positive light. The boys and men are as well. They're not bumbling idiots, and they're not overbearing oafs either.

In this installation, Tinkerbell wanders into the Winter Woods - where the Warm Fairies are not allowed. She's never told why, and her wings became brilliant and iridescent while in the winter lands... When she asks why, she's sent to the library, and finds a book that's been eaten through - which begins the great adventure detailed in the trailer below:

While my three year old is certainly (beyond a shadow of a doubt after yesterday) NOT READY to watch films in the theater - my four and a half year old was, and enjoyed every second of the film. He's still talking about it today!

My husband missed the first minute while getting popcorn (to keep the three year old busy since he kept pointing at everyone else and insisting that we were missing out on the experience without popcorn (LOL!), but he said that he enjoyed the rest of the film. He laughed a few times!

There are a few tear-jerker moments, so keep tissues in hand if you are a big "feeler". The lady who sat next to me blew her nose twice. I did have to wipe away tears at one part, but I'll not spoil it for you. I have to say it especially touched me since my family lives so far away.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the music in the film, and actually, contrary to Christian reviews I've read ("...once again teaches kids that breaking the rules is a virtue, given the right conditions..." I'm seriously rolling my eyes here), I saw a lot of good in the film.

I'm looking forward to purchasing it on Blu-Ray and watching again in English, though I am rather sad that Kristin Chenoweth did not reprise her role of Rosetta, but was instead replaced by Megan Hilty (you might know her from SMASH - she also played Rosetta in The Pixie Hollow Games). All the other usual voice actors and actresses were in play.  The voice actors in the German version were all the same, with the new addition "Periwinkle" being voiced by  Mandy Capristo.

You can find more information on the film here at IMDB, Wikipedia and Rotten Tomatoes - though be warned that the Wiki article completely spoils the story. (Really, it does!)

I hope if you've seen it, or plan to see it, that you enjoy it as much as we did.

* Tinker Bell, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Pixie Hollow Games, Secret of the Wings

25 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 17 - International day for the elimination of violence against women

By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and invited governments, international organizations and NGOs to organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem on that day.
The United Nations

At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime - with the abuser usually someone known to her.
Women's activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981.
The World Health Organization

Established by the United Nations in 1999 and first observed in 2000, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women seeks to:
  • raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels;
  • strengthen local work around violence against women;
  • establish a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women;
  • provide a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies;
  • demonstrate the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women;
  • create tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women. Nov. 25: International Day to End Violence Against Women

"[Deutsche Welle] Domestic violence is the most common form of violence experienced by women around the world. What measures should be taken by politicians and society to decrease violence in the home?
[Karen Nordmeyer] The first is to say very clearly: Violence behind doors or outside is a crime. It is a human rights violation, and it needs prosecution. Governments have to first make sure that people know what it means and how domestic violence is to be defined. It's not only to see that someone was beaten and you have some wounds, or near broken arms – no. It is also these other harmful techniques which are not physical, but they are psychological.
The most serious fact is that women should be empowered to make their rights seen and heard by their partners because very often domestic violence occurs between intimate partners. Everybody should know that violence in the domestic field should be criminalized and shouldn't be seen as a private thing. States have the duty to prevent that sort of violence against women and girls. They have to protect the victims and they have to prosecute the perpetrators. Then we should have a legislation to prevent this violence and let them live without fear."
Deutsche Welle: 'Women should be empowered' Interview with Karen Nordmeyer

 Warning: DV Video - very triggering

“God of peace, there are many places and many people who do not experience your peace. Right now there are many, many women and children who live under the dark weight of the fear of violence right in their own homes. We pray for your protection, and for wisdom for friends and officials to help bring that right protection to them. We pray for the many men who themselves feel powerless and confused about their relationships. We ask that you would help them find healthy ways to work out their frustrations and to find hope without resorting to destructive impulses. God, work in our country to stem this epidemic. We ask for your perfect peace…”
A Prayer for Domestic Violence posted by Mark Herringshaw

24 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 16

You may recall that I have previously written about The Women of The Wall in a previous post. Well - there's been another issue at the Wall. It happened last week, but I've been way-layed as far as writing about it.  There's been a lot going on preparing for Thanksgiving, kids sick, kindergarten issues and getting back into the swing of things in addition to what has been going on in Israel as of late.  I also got some bad news about some family members of mine, so - if you can think about it, please be in prayer for those unspoken needs.

Six women arrested for wearing prayer shawls at Western Wall
Other women, who had wrapped their smaller, more colorful 'female' prayer shawls around
their necks like scarves, were not detained. - Haaretz

There isn't much more news than this, other than to state that the women who wore their talliot improperly  were not arrested. This is a month after the leader of Women of the Wall was arrested for doing the same, and Rabbis forbidden - leading a Torah study with a Torah Scroll at the wall.

Of course I'm incensed. Why in the world is one article of clothing, that many ancient rabbis said are not an obligation for women, but a mitzvah we can take on, suddenly something that makes people so angry that women are arrested and contained in prison with real criminals?  Why in the world are women who are simply worshiping G-d so offensive that they have to be put in jail like prostitutes, thieves and murderers?

Add on to this, that the Church of England recently came to a vote about having women bishops or not and the vote was so close (by six votes!), and they failed to allow women bishops.
 "Many of the 470 members of the church’s three-tiered General Synod (bishops, clergy and laity) were stunned that the House of Laity couldn’t garner a two-thirds majority in favor of women bishops. The voted failed by just five votes, 132-74, after easily passing the bishops and clergy."
Washington Post: Church of England rejects women bishops
"The house of bishops, which voted 44 to three in favour of the reform with two abstentions, will meet for an emergency session to try to find a way to rescue the legislation.If it fails, the synod will not be able to return to women bishops legislation for another three years, during which time supporters are likely to push for a more uncompromising single clause measure. "
The Guardian: Church of England bishops plot response to vote to exclude women
"The vote seemed certain to sharpen divisions within the English church, the historic homeland of Anglicanism. Twenty years after the church approved the ordination of female priests, which took decades, a third of its clergy members are women, many holding senior positions like canons and archdeacons. Their expectation had been that they would begin to win appointments as bishops by 2014 if the change had been approved."
NYT: Church of England Rejects Appointing Female Bishops
In the Church of England women have been able to serve as priests since the early 1990s.  The draft legislation would have continued that service by "enabling a woman to be consecrated to the office of the bishop if she otherwise satisfies the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who may be consecrated as bishops."CNN Belief Blog: Church of England rejects female bishops by six votes
A 12-year push to allow women to move into the senior positions ended in one minute of electronic voting - and was lost by the narrowest of margins.
It prompted senior clergy to speak of their disappointment and one prominent London clergywoman said it had made the Church an 'irrelevance'.
The current legislation has been finely tuned since 2000, but it could be 2015 before a new vote on the matter reaches the synod, the Church's national assembly, because of its rules on repeated voting.
Channel 4: Church of England women bishop vote: what next?
I'm having trouble posting the Daily Mail article with the comments I found helpful to explain some of the feelings on this issue, so please check this out:  The Daily Mail: Right Reverend Justin Welby tweets Verdict - Church of England Rejected women bishops.

Tell me, why does it matter if someone in ministry has a penis or a vagina, if G-d has called them? Why for the last 1,000 years (give or take a few decades)  has it been (unless you're called to be a nun), that women have been forbidden ministry and worship opportunities?

Paul worked with women as apostles, elders, deacons... there were women who prophesied and hosted assemblies in their homes and financed synagogues. What in the world happened between now and then to make women a lesser species?

I don't know how to say this, but this is not what G-d has ordained. It's not His design. A few twisted Scriptures/Commentary do not a rule from Heaven make.

 It's a sad day indeed, and the CoE is not even my church. It just further proves that there are not that many opportunities that are "ordained" by men for women to do what G-d calls us to do.

In one of the articles I read this week (Sorry, I don't remember which one) - this stuck out to me:

it has been remarkable to hear the number of times in recent weeks people reciting that women are forbidden from exercising authority (1 Tim 2.12 does not say that), or that a man is the ruler of the household (that comes from Aristotle’s Politics, not the New Testament), or that headship is about authority (which in 1 Cor 11 it is not), or that there is gender hierarchy in Genesis 2 (there is none).

How very true.
"As long as women are not accepted fully as ministers in all areas of church life, then all of us must share in their pain of rejection, of half-acceptance, and all of us must do our utmost to affirm those women that we know in ministry. This is not a women’s issue any more than racism is a black issue. It is also not a human rights or equality issue. It is nothing to do with man boobs or lady boobs. It is theological issue, and the Church of England resolved it in the 1970′s (just) before I was born. It is not irrelevant. It is imperative."
The Blog of Kevin: Man boobs
 "...this has seriously undermined the credibility of the Church, as a moment’s glance at any of the press will tell you. It seems to me somewhat ironic that evangelicals who are concerned with mission have been instrumental in doing such damage. To claim that this is not about credibility, but about ‘doing things God’s way’ is delusional. Some people need to get out more!
...if this vote is defended as an expression of biblical values, then most people will decide that they would rather do without such a Bible. Defence of a ‘biblical’ position requires that there is a credible apologetic, and for those outside the Church this position has none.." all adds up: What does the decision on women bishops mean?
"All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.
Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans xvi, 7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman."
 Fulcrum renewing the evangelical centre: Women Bishops: It’s about the Bible, not fake ideas of progress

 I don't normally post, or even turn on my computer on Shabbat... but today, I don't know why  - I just had to get this out there.  Why in the world does a slight DNA difference, and reproductive parts + cultural expectations from pagan Greek and Roman beliefs dictate what we do as a people of Faith? 

It has to change. 

I'm very sorry to my readers who have had to put up with the weird HTML issue I've had since posting this. I'm trying to fix it! 

21 November 2012

What's happening...?

Plate of holiday cookies - J.Stahl

I have sat in front of this blank screen for two days wondering what to post about. I kid you not, even in my sleep I have thought about blogging.

This week I had the realization that I've lived more time than I can remember as a rather stressed out individual.

I've realized that about half of my parenting life has been in a fight or flight mode, because I never take time out for myself.

I'd lied to myself that mamas don't need time out to think or to rest, or just to get away from everything and piece life back together before having a full mental breakdown. Only worldly secular mamas need to have a nanny / babysitter, or frequent manicures and pedicures, time out to go to the gym... yadda yadda.

I've told myself this is totally normal, this is all ok.  That I'm OK.  Anyone who says otherwise is just lying or something.

It's funny sometimes the roads G-d will take you on just to have more time with you, and to help you in the midst of a crisis.

I ended up in the end of a long-term health crisis this summer, requiring iron infusions. I have iron deficiency anemia due to my celiac disease.

For those who don't know about this - it's bad, bad news. You basically starve your immune system, thyroid, heart and brain of essential food and life force. You run on empty. You are tired all the time. There's no more strength to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Your mind wanders. It's like having full blown ADD that just won't shut up because you know deep down there are things that must be done, and you begin to obsess about what you will do when you get better or have a burst of energy.. and then you come crashing down when your invisible disease leaves you looking 100%, and you feel more like 10%.

In the middle of all of this, my youngest son was having a major health crisis. We didn't know why he had cyclic vomiting. We ended up going to get help from a pediatric gastrointerologist that is near us. It took us until very recently to find out about his gastric hernia and hole in his stomach. We did allergy and intolerance testing. We did celiac testing (naturally a negative since our house is 100% compliant for my sake. - yes I know, selfish me.), and we got nothing. He's otherwise 100% - basic diagnosis is to keep doing what we were doing and slowly reintroduce dairy. Watch for any cross reactions or "trigger" foods. Investigate a low Histamine diet, get back with the GI and the dietician. Make a plan of action if we think it might help.

 Also, my husband has been having a health crisis. Steadily gaining more weight. Gallbladder attacks. Not enough sleep, poor eating habits and some depressive-type episodes.

My eldest in the meantime, was not getting enough attention from me apparently, and was acting out a bit.

Is it any wonder I was stressed out?  I kept lying to myself. "All of this is normal", I told myself. "Everyone with two boys this age live through this", "they're just ... spirited.. and it's normal I am so tired." - No. Absolutely not.

I was tiring more and more of pithy, cliché and non-helpful answers that weren't helping me tread water or make it any further ahead in my life. I especially hated the "claim it" kind of faith that was telling me that whatever I claimed in my life is what was making things worse. It wasn't. No one can honestly understand a person who hasn't enough spoons to go around to get things done - let alone feel like they can function, until they have been there too. (The Spoon Theory)

This summer I decided that I had to do something about this stressed out reaction I'm having all the time. The muscle tension, the constant (all day long) tinnitus that gets louder when I think, that is now requiring me to constantly sleep with media just to relax. 

In the last three years, I gained weight after having my son. You would think it was because I stayed at home and was sedentary. Other than the bouts I did spend on the couch, in a chair or in bed due to sheer exhaustion - but, I was very active. We live in an upstairs-downstairs apartment that requires frequent trips to the basement that equal 30 steps down and then back up just as many, once or twice a day, more if I do frequent loads of laundry.  I was up and down all day long chasing children, redirecting and also cooking meals from scratch.  Turns out iron deficiency anemia can do that if your thyroid is being "starved" and your body thinks that you aren't getting enough nutrients.  Apparently your body will do one of two things with this disease - one is pack on weight like a bear going into hibernation, and the other is to become like a skeleton. Luck of the draw I guess, I packed on the weight.

Massage therapy helped, but it was looking crazy to go for a referral so much... like I was mooching off the system or something. I had to do something else. But what?

My husband and I joined a gym after coming back from our anniversary trip to the town my dad's ancestors came from.  The local gym was to open the first week of September. That was three months away.  (This was before we found out all of our son's issues) I felt like I was biting off more than I could chew. But I'd made a one year commitment.  I am going to see it through one way or the other.

I drove by every chance I got to watch the progress. I watched news about it... And at last, at the end of September, the delays were over and the gym opened. Joy of Joys! So many options. I could run the treadmill. I could do the ski machines, or maybe join a bicycle course (yeah, right - who am I talking about here? That is not me yet!!) or maybe I could check into Zumba classes, Dance Aerobics, water courses, or... yoga?

I kept thinking about my options at the gym. What was low impact enough that I could do while I was getting weekly IV iron?  I had to quit using my swim pass at the local pool because it was making my body go into overdrive or I was getting too wiped out just standing in the water while more than a handful of people were there. So, that counted out the low impact water courses... and going to Zumba and aerobic dance (as I found out after trying a Zumba class. I love it, but I'll have to save it for later.)

I'd been told my entire life (admittedly in very fundy circles) how evil yoga is, it's "eastern mysticism" -- you name it, I heard it. However, I'd been reading up on it, and I researched what would be taught, and I'm secure in my faith and what is going on in the courses I take. There's nothing funky, and so far everything we've done is on exercise level only.  The meditation/focus areas of the classes are within parameters that are consistent with a Torah lifestyle. And actually, the more I see, the more certain things I've been learning in the last 12 years are making sense.

I'm relaxing more.
I'm less stressed.
 I'm a happier me.
 I've lost weight.
I've become more flexible, and I'm not depressed.
I'm not as anxious.
I can shut off my OCD type tendencies and have quit hyper focusing on things I "should" be doing when I know I am not capable.
I'm not panicking as much.
My heart isn't racing like it did frequently due to the stress.
My tinnitus is lessening.
I'm beginning to feel more peace about a lot of my decisions and the place that G-d has put me.
I'm beginning to make friends (outside of my husband's family and social circle) finally after living here for five and a half years.
 I'm praying more...
I'm seeing a light at the end of this long tunnel, and it's not the dreaded freight train.
G-d isn't out to get me.
My kids aren't either.

I'm coming to terms with myself, my day, and actually having time to talk to G-d because the whirlwind has stopped for an hour and a half. Things are quiet enough now to hear that still small voice.

I think I've finally come to terms with those horribly spiritually abusive things I have been told about womanhood and putting myself first sometimes.

 I'm beginning to be comfortable with the fact G-d made me a woman. I'm getting comfortable in my skin. I'm making peace with things that were not right in the last 20+ years in my life.  On top of all of that, the kids and I have been making peace. They and my husband are having more time with him alone, and bedtime has gotten loads easier. They understand I need time out and are happy I'm getting it.   They have even positively reinforced my need to go, and helped me get out the door. How's that for a change in our lives? ; )

09 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 15

Hello again! I wanted to let you all know I'm still here plugging away, and as you can see the image to the left, I've been reading Rachel Held Evans' new book.

 I'd won a copy on Pam Hogeweide's blog, and as my friends at Gentle Christian Mothers, and the reviews I'd read online had said - I am loving every millisecond of reading my free copy of "A Year of Biblical Womanhood"

In fact, it made its way with me today to the doctor's office where I got a lovely blood draw (best I've ever, EVER had actually!) and found out that I do in fact have sinusitis again. Grr. arrg.   The cool thing though,  I got the doctor interested in my book.

Unlikliest of unlikelys, he happened to pick the book up, read the title, the summary on the back and asked me how I was liking it. "Very well! It is terribly funny and I'm enjoying reading it. This one is new from the US, and very popular right now." and he replied "It looks interesting and like it could be funny." - Definitely not the reaction I'd expect from a doctor, or even a reaction I'd expect here in Germany - but, you have to understand, we don't have the same evangelical pull here that I grew up with in the culture of the United States, or even when I lived in the United States. The idea of "biblical womanhood" is... we... more like what womanhood was in the Bible days, not something that is foisted upon women to live like in this day and age. To some, it may have a context more in line with Islam perhaps - but not what is considered "Christian Orthodoxy" in the sense of what is normal to Christianity. Considering he knows that my beliefs align more along the lines of Messianic Judaism and somewhere to the further left of that - Judaism in all of it's wonderful forms, reading this book must make things more interesting.*giggle*

I've made it almost to the end of my book in the matter of a few hours, and I daresay that this book and Pam Hogewide's "Unladylike" have been the fastest read books I have had this year, followed closely by Jim Henderson's "The Resignation of Eve" and Carolyn Custis James' "Half the Church" (which I am almost finished with as well)

Adding to the delight of reading "A Year of Biblical Womanhood", I have found that not only are Rachel and I close in age, but we have similar personalities. So, I am finding that I am laughing in much of this book as our humor is very similar, and our approaches to learning how to bake is apparently similar as well. Her story about baking apple pie for Thanksgiving reminded me of the film "Julie & Julia", which I had the pleasure to watch not too long ago when it premiered on our movie channels here.

Her retelling of her first Passover (cleaning and prep) reminded me of my first year here in Germany, in my last trimester with my eldest and trying last minute (I call "the month of" last minute as it does take more care and concern when you cook and bake all your meals at home) to clean the house top to bottom.
In case you've never been pregnant or have never really been around pregnant women in your life - this is not a good thing... as your muscles, tendons and bones tend to be a lot more elastic and in your spring cleaning tizzy - you may well tear, bend or overexert parts of yourself, which I found out first hand.

I totally related to sitting in the floor of the kitchen and crying. I've totally been there! Mine was more on Passover than Thanksgiving though, after realizing the gravity of the situation and I was doing it alone. Followed by a repeat in the last three years, this time with children. First time post pregnancy, I was pregnant again with a toddler "helping", and then with two toddlers. I decided this past year that hiring help to go through it with me was smarter... and less likely to end up with me in the floor crying that the job was too much for just one lady to do.

I guess what I'm trying to say is "get out and get yourself this book!!" Perhaps, you too, may find it healing. Perhaps it might help satiate your curiosity about certain Christian lifestyles or aspects of living modestly, or even family purity. Perhaps your curiosity about how an egalitarian marriage works may be satiated.  And perhaps, it might inspire you that: yes indeed, I too can have girlfriends that are willing to come to my rescue when I dig a hole slightly too big to pull myself out of.

Rachel, you did a GREAT job sister.

Dear readers, I hope to have some more interesting things to contribute soon. Until then, have a great and restful weekend, and I'll see you probably after my youngest's birthday party.

05 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 14

Tea Rose - photo by J.Stahl

According to a 2010 census survey, 447,204 women over the age of 18 are single in the United States.  The same census states "For every 100 unmarried women there are 88 unmarried men."
The  2005 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey says that there were 117 million women age 15 and over in the United States. Of this number: 63 million are married, 3.1 million are legally separated and 2.4 million have a husband who lives elsewhere.  This means that 57.5 million American women live with a husband and 59.9 million are living with no husband in the home, for various reasons. (Here are the 2011 statistics)

In The Resignation of Eve, Jim Henderson tells many stories about women in faith and how their faith walk has been represented. Denie Tackett's story really stuck out to me (especially page 204-205). Denie began a ministry to the homeless, and was discouraged. First, because she is a woman. Secondly, because she is single. Thirdly, women are meant to be married. Here's an excerpt:

"Though her church family appeared concerned about her ministry, Denie grew more comfortable in her role and continued to pass out water and sandwiches to her new friends "without homes".
Then, the woman issue began to surface. The first one to bring it up was another concerned woman who actually told Denie that she was a loose woman for going alone to minister to men and that, as a single woman, she should be involved in the church ministries and looking for a husband..."
Denie ended up leaving her church, but continued with her ministry - which now involves men and women.  You can read more of her story here, here, here and here. And her blog can be found here.

In Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women, Carolyn Custis James brought something forward that I thought worth discussing:
"Lots of women never marry and many are single moms. Are these women forced into a man's role? Are they violating their true calling as women, or are they actually fulfilling God's calling for them as ezers? Single women are caught in the awful quandry of developing skills and competencies in the secular world that can lower their marketability as prospective brides. Does the necessity of being the follower compel them to reach for the "off" switch when a marriage prospect surfaces or wedding bells ring? Or should they be valued for bringing these strengths to their marriages?"

There are seven myths that single women believe in Christianity:
  • God will give me a husband when I'm ready.
  • God views me more as a useful tool than a beloved child. 
  • When it's the right guy, I'll just know. 
  • When I get married, then my life will begin.
  • Marriage will/will not meet my deepest needs.
  • There must be something wrong with me. If I could just figure out what it is, I could fix it and guys would start showing interest.
  • The older I get, the less likely it is that I will find someone.     
More info: Seven Myths Single Women Believe by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin.

"The reality is, God does value family and marriage, but nowhere in scripture does He make it a command to marry (except to the rare few like Hosea). On the flip side, we also know from the Apostle Paul that, at least in his opinion (which, um, ain’t a bad opinion), the single life affords individuals many more opportunities to serve Christ.
Christian women are taught to idealize and admire the Proverbs 31 woman and, hey, I get it. She is pretty awesome. She is not, however, the only example of a Godly woman in the Bible." - The Single Christian Woman: Blessed or Doomed?

"Women are often mentioned in the Bible as helpers, offering support to those who labor with the ministry; they are described as helpers of the gospel. In Romans 16 Priscilla (with her husband Aquilla) is called a helper (verse 3). The church met in her house! Mary (in verse 6) is described as bestowing much labor on Paul and his band. She must have fed, cared for, and provided housing for Paul and those with him. Phoebe (verse 12) is called a servant of the church. She obviously laid herself out for the saints. These women are described as serving, sacrificing, bestowing, and helping. Women like this are a tremendous resource in the church. They were in Paul's day, and they still are. But I often think that unmarried women in particular don't realize the huge impact for good they can have in the church. They don't give themselves a good job description, and they don't think they can really be very fruitful (at least in any important manner) until they are having babies. This is simply false."
Unmarried Women in the Covenant Community,

As a married woman with children, I feel a little out of my depth here - but I know this, I was single for a time, and I hinged my entire life on being fulfilled only as married with children. I had been taught that this was the epitome of femininity, and something that every woman should strive for. That Proverbs 31 was a banner to carry overhead and no single person can fulfill the duties of a Proverbs 31 woman. No, it takes being married to do that. And not only do you need to be married, you must pop out lots and lots of babies. (That's not true.)

Guess what? G-d wants us to be happy in whatever state we find ourselves in. Whether that is single, married, or single again. We need not be pining for whatever other situation.  We are in that place, in that station for whatever reason. And G-d holds each and every one of us as the apple of his eye, his dear beloved child - and wants to help us become the best us that we can be in Him. We can only do that, if we - the clay, bend to the Potter's hand.

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” - Isaiah 64:8

However, you will find that in many churches and Messianic synagogues, that your singles ministries do not actually meet all the needs of singles/singles again, or allow them into ministry positions because of their singleness. There are SO many females within the body that are not yet old enough to be married, there are those not called to be married, there are those in temporary single states... there are so many unable to, or not called to have children. It has ALWAYS been this way in the Body. Always.

Why then, are we pushing a model of Female Faith that is only exemplified as a married, older, mother of many?

Something is not right here.  We need to push for change. Put information out there. Help our sisters out! It's a travesty when men and women are pushing down other men and women, simply because we do not have the same calling, or are not at the same life stage.

I suppose you could say that one of the ways the Girl Effect changed me, is the realization that every single stage of a woman's life, in every single situation - is a situation that G-d can work in. It is a situation that G-d can bring us through and make us flourish in, if we are given the opportunity. We need to stop putting people in molds, and let G-d mold people.


Please note: On the videos that are posted here today, they are more for a conversational point, not because I agree with everything 100%.  Think about what is being presented and if maybe, there is a way for you to minister, or be ministered to, or to expand your thinking and theology to meet the needs of others around you.  (yes, I totally noticed the last two videos about singleness turned things around to talk about marriage rather than being single and I was rather dismayed myself. There are good nuggets in there though!) Also, I'm not really keen on Focus on the Family, but their article was timely.