Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: women (page 1 of 2)

Reserved

A year ago I got off the plane in Austin, where it was only 2 degrees warmer than Ohio, for the first ever IF:Conference. This thing was an enigma, but I knew I wanted to be there – my favorite writers would be speaking and they were trying for a whole new thing when it comes to Christian women’s conferences. I hungered for a sense of authenticity, a newness within my familiar Christian world.

 

Alas, she will not be at IF this year, she's too busy having another baby. Seriously, who has 4 kids?!

Alas, she will not be at IF this year, she’s too busy having another baby. Four babies. Who does that?!

At the first session Lori and I sat so close to the reserved tables we could have swiped their cell phones and programmed in our own numbers. We refrained. As Jen Hatmaker arrived in the 11th hour, she asked the general population of Reserved Table Sitters where she could find a seat. I said, loud enough to be heard, there was a seat open right beside me. She didn’t rush over.

I rummaged up the nerve to walk over and introduce myself to my favorite blogger, Sarah Bessey. I’m awful at small talk and generally awkward around new people, specifically those who have no clue who I am, yet whose work profoundly shapes me. I can find specific places where her words have etched a new pattern or direction, a new hope, into my life. What is the appropriate way to introduce yourself to such a person? What do you say and how do you not gush?

After my idol-stalking, I made my way back to my seat among the commoners, aware I had made my role for the weekend a taker – a receiver. An audience member. I felt small. Even in a more intimate venue with hospitable atmosphere, I carried a sense of division between those who were doing God’s work and those there to learn how.

This invisible division was not the work of the speakers or event organizers. It was the work of a liar, one who wanted me to take the easy way out – comparing and belittling myself and others.

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In black, on the right, Hatmaker, et. al.

As the worship music began playing, I watched. These women who had such genius thoughts and words, who led organizations and spoke to crowds of thousands, sang with me the same words to the same tune.

I loved IF. I came back inspired, ready to live out my next chapter. I read Jennie Allen’s Restless in its entirety on the plane ride home. I grew in my sense of clarity and confidence. I vowed to stop apologizing for myself. (Thank you Brene for reiterating that promise this year). Overall the conference propelled me into a generally positive direction, getting me off my ass and into work for kingdom things. I dug into ideas for reaching the women of my own church with this fresh breath. My hopes were high – we could grow BIG and be REAL and go DEEP in our faith.

This is what I wanted.

Except, not really. What I really wanted was to do something well. I wanted on the map. I wanted to find a way to that reserved table. I went looking for a way to validate my life and my ministry. I took off in search of a victory story to bring back, believing it was a step toward a someday when I could be a part of that, over there, with those people.

And I failed. And then I quit.

I failed mostly because the thing I offered our church women was not what they are seeking. I worked in marketing mode, starting with my product then creating a felt need and offering the solution to that need. I believed if we just made it BIGGER and BETTER and all of those cool-kid things, we would see success. I was foolish. A successful ministry is one in which people leave closer to God – period. That, over there, with those people, is not this, right here, with these people.

Over and over in our world, I’m convinced bigger does not mean better. It means centralized, it means cheaper and often it means under control. But it doesn’t mean better.

And so it goes in the Christian Celebrity world. I have continued to voraciously read the work of well-known leaders and grow from their wisdom.  I have also become alert to the dangers of celebritizing them. There’s a concern in believing an elite group keeps all the answers. (It’s especially dangerous if you put people like me in that group because we like to think we have all the answers.)

Not a single woman on the panel of speakers comes from a rural context, where talented and faithful people grow disciples, largely unnoticed. If the pastor of my childhood church could get the town’s entire population into church on a given Sunday, s/he still would not have more than the local megachurch here in Dayton on a slow day. Numbers don’t tell the whole story.

This year as IF approaches, I’m taking a different approach. I value the words and wisdom of conferences – I’m a complete geek. I’d learn from all of the conferences, all the time, if I could. I’m not going to miss the inspiration of some of the top voices of my generation.

Instead of longingly watching The Reserved and feeling as if I should aspire for more,  I’m reserving seats for some of the most amazing women I know from Ohio. (And Troy, MI.) When I take a good look at the women I know, let me say, I know some fabulous people. Loving, beautiful, talented and faithful. The way in which we live out our faith is quite diverse (though we as a group are not diverse. I regret we’re quite monochromatic. I would like to see that change).

if lakeIF I believe (which is the theme for 2015) that bigger is not always better, than I’m determined to live it. I have 12 beautiful souls joining me for IF:Lake – most of these women I know. Others, they are awesome by association because my friends have good taste. It’s not a closed group, I simply started with those I know and threw open the doors.

My heart is so full as I dive into these final 2 weeks of preparations. Of course, I’m hoping that the women making the trek will hear something to inspire their life with God. Yet I’m most excited to hear from them. They may not have a stage, but I can learn a thing or two about living as IF God is real from these ladies.

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Birth and motherhood solidarity

A certain kind of solidarity exists among mothers when it comes to the waiting room outside Labor & Delivery. Those of us who have gone before, especially just recently (but I can imagine the feelings remain forevermore), know what’s happening inside. At some point I even recall the physical sensation of a contraction rising, the tight grip that moves from the outside of my hips inward and down, a wave pushing the baby toward the shore of its new world.

Image - CC by rumpleteaser

Image – CC by rumpleteaser

Contractions, a water breaking, a worrisome sign – any of these push the mama off the plank into a free fall. Once she hits the water of hard labor, the decent slows down. Moments become flashes of images. Time moves faster and slower all at the same time. She swims deeper and deeper into the pain, the fear, and the unknown. Someone shouts, “the head is out!” and she pushes herself from the bottom with all her might, climbing back up, up, up to the surface as hard as she can.

First breath.

Mama lifts the baby and gives the cry of gratitude. We did it.

Every birth story is unique. The interplay of doctors and nurses, how pain was managed, the centimeters – all of these measure our depths at different points, but the dive is much the same.

So when the father or the doctor or the text finally emerges – mama and baby are fine! – the women, we join in our own cry of celebration. We remember gasping those first breaths of motherhood, sometimes more than once in our life. We take in another deep breath, in her honor.

We do this every time one of our own moves to the birth chamber. The intermittent hours, sometimes days, sit heavier as we know she’s diving deeper. We silently will her all of the things we discovered we needed in order to find the strength to climb back up, baby in arms.

Motherhood contains countless decisions about raising these babies, doing things right. But on the day of birth, those huddled around the maternity ward – in person or via group text – don’t care about any of them. We’re remembering our birth-days, not in a selfish but in an effort of solidarity. We’re with you, if only through our personal experience and how we now share in it together.

We’re with you, sister-mama.

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The day Jesus walked into the delivery room

For all 4 babies, I had nothing but terrific birth experiences. Please, put that in perspective that I was giving birth, so it wasn’t filled with rainbows and lollipops, but at the end of the day night, I had no regrets about labor or delivery. I had built a strong relationship with my first midwife, Bonnie, who delivered my first 3 kiddos. She knew my wishes, talked me through the hard parts and had nothing but encouragement for my desires for a natural delivery. (She was supremely supportive of my friends who opted for as many painless options as possible, which is what makes her a great practitioner.) Going into that L&D room, I knew that if Bonnie said I needed to take a different course of action, I needed to listen. I had nothing but trust for her.

My relationship with the midwife practice who delivered my 4th was also positive, however there were 4 midwives in the rotation, so I just didn’t have the opportunity to grow the rapport. It was still a positive experience and I had a good understanding of the ethos of the practice so I could trust them.

With this perspective in mind, I’m absolutely appalled this isn’t the case for all women. When I started following ImprovingBirth.org  on Facebook, I was horrified at the stories.

softball water rape exam

 

I respect doctors and midwives and the years they’ve spent practicing and training. They have delivered more babies than I have. The wisdom of the medical and birthing community is needed. Based on my experience alone, it’s clear the above stories aren’t the norm for women.

Friends of mine have experienced emergency c-sections and even post-birth emergencies that could have been quite grave. Praise Jesus for knowledgeable professionals that acted quickly to preserve as much wellness to the situation as possible. Not everyone gets an easy-peasey delivery. Cords are wrapped, heart rates drop, body parts get stuck. Birth is messy and different, every single time for every single woman. So a level of trust must be established for a doctor or midwife to take necessary action in critical situations. We cannot second guess every decision of the health care industry (though I’m the first to question several).

On the other hand, these stories are real for far too many. Women in our developed, first-world country with freedoms guaranteed, did not welcome their babies with such love and joy. It is a sad day, indeed, when fear trumps love on a day so special to families, not because of tragic situations but rather because of tragic carelessness of people’s souls.

Birth, while a joyous and necessary ordeal, can be extremely humiliating. There’s the nakedness. And people’s hands are all over you. I’m not sure it’s protocol for a nurse to shake your hand before she shoves hers in a personal space to “check your progress.” By the time the baby arrives, you have a crowd of people which you never met with access to knowledge about your shaving or waxing preferences. Of course this comes with the territory because it’s the territory of birth, but just because you find yourself in humble situations does not mean you need to be treated with disrespect. In fact, it is precisely because we’re in a humble situation that grace should be most extended, is it not?

Immediately I was taken to a story present in all three synoptic Gospels.

[box] A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:24-34[/box]

Years of bleeding and mistreatment by doctors (the text indicates a majority of male physicians, I believe) who also took her money (can we get political about the cost of birth in this country?!) and she’s out of options. She yearns for wholeness, to be included and treated like a woman again, not just a thing currently enduring a condition.

She’s in the midst of a crowd, a gaggle of onlookers wanting to know who is slowing down the show by requesting something so simple as a touch of the robe, which she fought tooth and nail to the front of the line to steal. Jesus asks the entire crowd who touched him and she meekly steps forward, falling at his feet. I wonder if she fell face down because she couldn’t bear to look him in the eye. She trembled with fear at what could happen. Fear. The hands of so many healing men before this one had brought destruction and though she believed this one could be different, her experiences cause a reaction quite the contrary and she trembles.

Ultimately, she gets healed. One of the other gospel writers says, “immediately the flow stopped.” Treating someone as human has immediate effects. Jesus states that her faith healed her. Faith in Jesus? Well, yes. And. Perhaps a faith that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a better way of life.

There is a Kingdom in which the King believes that all people are… people. Loved. Cherished. Treasured. Made in the image of the one who Created each and every one of them.

The work of this organization brings doctors into the hot seat (and I believe it’s a deserved question, as it seems possible, if not likely, that such treatment of women has existed since, oh, Jesus’ time). Yet let us not all pick up a stone until we ask – how have we been tempted, nay, even acted, in ways that took advantage of those in humiliating places and times because we forgot they were human.

We hold just as much guilt for hurrying past a situation demanding mercy because we have an appointment with the cable guy. 

I’m thankful when I found myself in humble situations, it became the opportunity for pain to bear joy, not heartache. Thoughtful and loving hands handled me and my little ones with care. It’s time we begin to demand this for all women. (And men and children, too, of course. Especially if any of them give birth.) And as we demand this in the delivery room, let us demand it of ourselves on the streets, in the stores and in the classrooms.

 

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