New Year

My senior year of college, I found a list of questions for end of year/beginning of year contemplation. This list includes questions like, What would you like to be different about your life in a year? What would you like to have accomplished in that time? Where would you like to travel? What purchases would you like to make? What do you want to stop doing? What are your favorite things?

In lieu of resolutions, I answer these questions as a way of plotting major goals and plans for the year. I like being able to see what I hoped for and if I accomplished it. I underestimate my past self sometimes–for some dreams and goals, I don’t always remember how long I really wanted it.

It’s easy for me to remember, though, some of the things that don’t happen. How long I’ve waited on plans that never seem to come around the way I want.  Some of the things I hope to be different seem to never change. I’ve had the same hope on my list every year since December 2009/January 2010, and it still isn’t real. It may not seem that long, but it feels like an eternity, because my life has changed so much since then and because it’s a wish held longer than that. It’s a stupid wish, because I can’t control it and I hate things I can’t control. But I refuse to take it off, because I’m not ready to believe it will never happen.

Not everything is bleak, of course. When I answered my questions last year, I focused on researching and creating a new position for myself at the Little Light House. At the time, I was really just being ridiculous. I wanted to create a job were I could improve the LLH’s social media presence, launch a LLH blog, and other internetly things. But it was a long-term dream. I had quiet hopes that it might happen in 2012, but I thought any possibility of a job would be 8 hours on a Friday, and probably 2-3 years before being in charge of social media, etc, would be a full-time job. Yet God worked a lot of pieces together to make a full-time happen THIS YEAR for me and for the LLH. I had forgotten that I had dreamed about the possibility of a new position a year ago, making me thankful to my past self for answering those questions. While there are still dreams that feel like they’re just getting buried deeper and deeper, this dream fulfilled is a promise that not all lofty dreams are buried forever.

Last year I wrote to myself:

“I would like to remember that my life changes so much in one year, even when it feels like nothing has changed.” High-five past self. You were right.  May my life look different again this time in 2013.

Captain

I have been given many mixed messages on being a woman. To be clear from the start, these messages aren’t from my parents. From them I received nothing but affirmation, along with no prescription that I must get married to be important. The mixed messages arrived from some of the people in the Christian subculture where I spent a lot of my time. It’s a strange world I inhabited.

I was often surrounded by people who spoke of feminism like it was a filthy dirty swear word, who believed that women were naturally second best, who gave women important tasks but always with a man in authority. But simultaneously I was always encouraged to be the best that I could be, that I could be anyone I wanted, that I was intelligent and beautiful, that I was a woman of God. I could change the world, follow my dreams, and do great things for the glory of God. Except, when it really came down to it, I really should be married to do those things. I needed a man to guide me. Except, once I was married, I really just needed to have children and then I had to stay at home and homeschool and keep a perfect home. All of those dreams? A career? Any use of a college education beyond teaching my children? I can’t actually have any of those things because I am a woman. And women who love God and follow Jesus has to follow these steps. Or you aren’t living biblically.

Needless to say, these conflicting messages have been confusing. Why do you tell me how much I can achieve, then teach me that I can’t actually do any of it? What do you mean I need a man in order to have a fulfilled life? I’m really just supposed to quit the dreams God has called me to fit into your ideal of who a “Christian woman” is supposed to be? My only dream is supposed to be being a wife and mother? In the words of Liz Lemon: blergh.

I would like to say I’ve wrestled with this dilemma, but let’s be honest. I haven’t wrestled with it. I just realized I was being forced into a false dichotomy, so I chose to throw aside the crazy. Someday, part of my life may include finding a travel buddy [read: a husband] and having children. And I would like to stay home with those children and perhaps homsechool them. BUT I DON’T HAVE TO BASED ON SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEAL FOR MY LIFE JUST BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN.

I can do great things without a man–and with one. I can make great decisions on my own–and with others. I can have dreams–and God can change or keep them. I am the captain of this ship, with God drawing up the maps as I go along.

Even though choosing to throw out some of the crazy imposed upon me wasn’t difficult, the old messages pop up with surprising frequency. When everyone is getting married and having babies, it feels weird to be one of the few that isn’t. Is there something wrong with me? Am I not living the way I should? Why am I not getting asked on dates preparing for marriage (or whatever the conservative Christian kids are calling it these days)?

If I still believed what I was told for so many years, these and other questions would lead me to think that I was out of God’s will. I would think that my life isn’t good enough because I’m not married. Worst of all, I would think that someone else is responsible for my happiness and completeness as a child of God. That sobers me up pretty good, because those are lies.

I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m who I’m supposed to be. I’m working in the job at the ministry where I belong. For this season, since I am not otherwise attached, I can devote myself to my job without reservations. I can take extra responsibilities, learn new tasks, and do things for others that I couldn’t do if I had a man and children at home. I love my life.

I am not lesser in God’s eyes because I am a woman. I am following his dreams for me. I am making a difference. And no amount of other people’s crazy will change that.

I am the captain of this ship, with God drawing up the maps as I go along.