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I didn’t “let you do anything,” sir (a declaration)

I am one of the many women you brushed up against in line. One whose waist felt your arm slither around and hold a bit too closely as you helped me into a vehicle. A female whose body you leaned into for a hug instead of a handshake, pressing your hand into my back so that my chest came into harder contact with yours. Those are my legs you ogled in a meeting because I dared to wear a pencil skirt. It’s my laugh you heard when you told me the racy joke. My big brown eyes that looked away over a lip-sticked smile when you made the flirtatious suggestion.

None of what you did was wanted.

None of it appreciated or invited.

But, like the Republican presidential candidate, I’m sure you believed one of two things: (1) she’s giving me cues that she wants this or (2) I can do this because I’m me and she’s her.

And did I kick up about it? Did I slap your face? Go to HR? Write a blog post, even? No. So that must mean I wanted it, right? Must mean I enjoyed it? Must mean you’re allowed to be this way.

No. Here’s what really happened:

You stared at my legs. I asked myself why I didn’t put on the slacks because I knew I had a meeting with men today. Then I berated myself for the idea of changing a completely acceptable wardrobe just because you can’t focus on business in a business meeting. Then I thought about moving to another seat, one that wouldn’t give you such a good view of my knees. Then I berated myself again for thinking of how to accommodate your ridiculous actions and how un-Sheryl Sandberg that is of me. Then I thought about just taking the bull by the horns and interrupting the entire meeting to say, “If you could stop staring at my legs, I’d appreciate it,” but then all the other men in the room would either think I was an ice queen or suddenly also become aware of my legs and the other women would withdraw from me, grateful it wasn’t them but eager to not be put in the ice queen territory, too. And then I needed to stop allowing myself to care that you were ogling me because I had valid contributions to make to this meeting that would be helpful to the project, so I turned away and worked.

Or let’s talk about how you do business hugs instead of handshakes – only with the women, of course, because you’re “a hugger.” So, you throw your big arm around my shoulders and pull me in, pressing my breasts against your chest and holding me there until you’ve gotten your fill, talking the whole time about how good it is to see me and how you’re looking forward to being a part of this project, blah blah. Since I didn’t slap your face, I must have “let” you, right?

“…they let you do it,” Trump told Billy Bush. “You can do anything.”

While you were busy getting your cheap feel, here’s what I was thinking: If I say something right here, right now, will I lose my job? Will this project go south if I embarrass him and he quits? He matters more to this than me because he’s the one with the money/prestige. If he leaves, his funding leaves, too and then we’re back to square one on this. Does it really matter if he feels my breasts for a few seconds if, in the end, we get the project done and it makes a positive difference in the world? My comfort level isn’t as important as getting the job done. This is just part of it. Part of working in a male-dominated industry. You don’t want to be “that” woman who can’t work with men and get along or you’re done in this industry, Rebeca. Be a grown-up. Smile. Overlook it. Stay focused on the mission. Laugh.

I did.

I smiled. I laughed.

You took that as acceptance and possibly even encouragement.

It’s no wonder you are confused by the female outrage over that Trump video. You’ve been hugging and ogling for years and you know dang well that women are fine with it because none of them has ever objected and most of the time we smile and laugh right along with you, right?

Let me clear things up here.

I fake smile and fake laugh so I can do my job.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be effective in my role.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t get fired.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I have relationship capital.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that you’ll keep working on the task.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t slap you.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be a team player.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that the situation will end and I can get back to business.

I fake smile and fake laugh.

And you see and hear acceptance, even invitation.

 

If Donald Trump becomes president, your belief system on this will be exemplified by the leader of the free world. Suddenly, the sexual innuendo, flirting, hugs, touches, and ogling will be even more acceptable because, hey, that’s how the president gets things done and it worked for him, right? Married to a topless model, living in the White House, millions in the bank – the guy is the epitome of Man of the World and what man doesn’t want to be that?

So I wanted to be clear right here, today. Make a declaration, even.

You touch me, you flirt with me, you treat me as a sexual being that you are entitled to access, you’re getting called out on it. It shouldn’t require me to sacrifice my career, but that’s a length to which I will go now. Why now? Because the threat level has risen with every defense of Trump’s behavior that I have read on Facebook and Twitter or listened to on the radio or watched on television since that video came out.

I don’t walk in a room and stare at your penis. I don’t crack jokes about its size or call it by derogatory names because I’m not thinking about it at all. I don’t picture how you would be in bed. I don’t try to determine if you want me. I do not even care that you are capable of sex. I’m not interested. At all. Ever. Even a little bit. No, not even that much. The door is closed. There is no crack in it. No window for you to climb through.

Your sexual nature is not wanted.

Not even if you’re famous.

Not even if you’re rich.

Not even if you’re the Republican party’s nominee for President of the United States.

You want to work together like two adults who are talented, intelligent, resourceful, and can get the job done? Bring it. Let’s do this thing. I am all over that like white on rice. You wanna joke and kid while we work? Absolutely. I love a fun workplace. You wanna explore ideas and brainstorm about how we can do this job better, how we can enrich the culture of this country with the stories we bring them? Holy heaven and hottest hell, yes, I am down for that.

But check the rest of it at the door. I’m not going to quit genuinely smiling just because you walk in the room and mistake it for sexual invitation. I’m not going to quit genuinely laughing because you find it sexually attractive. I like to smile. I like to laugh. That’s for me, not you. That’s me enjoying the amazing life I get to lead and the adventurous career I have – it isn’t an invitation for you to be a part of it in any way but a colleague.

Thanks for letting me set the record straight here. Whew, I feel lighter already, knowing I won’t have to have those internal debates anymore.

Now, let’s get to work.

 

 

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God + Suffering = ?

c3olormanprayingIf God is God of all, why is there pain? Why suffering?

Our pastor—going through a sermon series in which he addresses questions of the congregation—had the difficult task of tackling those questions yesterday. He made me think harder, pray more, and consider the Word again…which is the best kind of pastor!

He shared a story of being called to another city to baptize a newborn. The baby had been born with severe brain defects and would only live for two days. The situation begs the question, “Why, God? Why create this?”

I have had three miscarriages. Each time, I cried out to God. Aren’t children a blessing? Did I not love Him enough? Was I not “good” enough to be blessed with another child this side of Heaven? I wrestled. My husband wrestled.

There have been other difficulties in life, of course. I am an abuse survivor, as is 1 in 4 women in this country. If you’ve read other writings of mine, you know other tough situations that came and went. I’ve also had the privilege of praying with and walking with some of you through stormy circumstances.

Why does God create that?

I think it’s the wrong question.

God created a perfect world, including humans. Perfect. Without any blemish. Everything in working order. Harmony. Peace.

We broke that.

We chose to use a perfect gift He’d given us, free will, and turn away from Him.

We broke perfection.

We’ve been breaking it for generations.

When I lose a child within my womb, when a friend of mine suffers through vision abnormalities, when I witness the breakdown of my dear father-in-law’s body to Parkinson’s, or when a child is born and dies within two days from defects, I no longer ask, “Why, God?” Instead, I look in a mirror.

I did that.

You did that.

Millions of us did that.

God did not create imperfection. He set out to create perfection and, each time we see otherwise, we see the repercussions of generations and generations of breaking and breaking and breaking and breaking. How dare we lay that at His throne?

This groaning that erupts when we encounter the fallout of our choices and the choices of those who came before us – death, sickness, destruction, war – is a direct response to the groaning of the Holy Spirit within us believers. Just as it pains me to see my child hurt for his choices, it pains God to see us hurt when we use His gift of free will poorly. How much more it must pain Him to see us walking around amidst fires, famine, disease, and carnage – heaps of unholiness wrought for thousands of years by humans He created. Humans today being burned by choices made generations ago.

God desires the perfection He created.

We cry to God, “Fix this! Save us from our own consequences!” We sound like the Israelites in Judges 10, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think is best, but please rescue us now!”

And, sometimes, He does. That very next verse in Judges says, “Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” The rest of the chapter talks about how He led the Israelites to defeat the people that had been hurting them for 18 years.

Other times, the story He is weaving for all of mankind won’t allow for the miraculous removal of brokenness in the present. In those times, we read and re-read Romans 8:28. We stand on it. We cling to it. We find rest in it. “All things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose.”

We like to focus on how much God loves us. He does. More than we can comprehend. But when we encounter sickness and death, I believe it is important that we not fall for the twisting trap of satan and ask how a “loving God” creates sickness and death.

I think we must look upon and walk through that experience with the full knowledge that we created it.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Life Lessons

 

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Dead End Places

Those of you who know me are aware of the recent upheaval in my world. Those of you who don’t probably know upheavals of your own, or are praying someone through a world turning upside down.

Questions from within and without became a barrage as I navigated through the intricate maze of emotion, faith, reality, and action. Had I done something wrong? Should I have seen this coming? How would all this affect my career? My family? My finances? Relationships? Reputation?

Ultimately, every question came back to the same place: Did I not hear God correctly?

When I found myself backed into what appeared to be a dead end, I couldn’t help but wonder if my feet had somehow slipped from the path He carved for me. Surely if I’d followed him correctly, I wouldn’t be here. Right? I felt like Job, eagerly listening to all his friends espouse their views, sifting through the words to find the elusive wisdom.

On the day I went to move out of what had become my former office, (hubby at the wheel and me firmly ensconced in my passenger seat with reading material) one thought kept popping into my consciousness: Exodus 14.

Exodus 14. At least I’d grown enough in the faith to recognize this prompting as being Holy Spirit-driven. So, I inwardly responded, “Yeah, yeah, be still, be quiet, be amazed. I get it, God.” And then that quiet voice again. Exodus 14.

Since embarking on this major career expansion two years ago, I’ve lived in Exodus 14 and various passages in Nehemiah and Isaiah. Comfort could always be found in reading again how God called His people, then equipped and provided. So, when I heard Exodus 14, I remembered well how the Israelites came screaming at Moses with the Egyptians bearing down on them. They were panicked, asking him why he brought them into the desert to die when they could have done that in the comfort of their own homes back in Egypt, thank you very much. Moses responds with some of the most comforting words in all of Scripture,

“Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

Exodus 14.

Yeah, God. Be still. Be quiet. Be amazed at the deliverance.

Exodus 14.

Okay, fine, evidently I’m missing something.

I grabbed the Bible from the dashboard and flipped to Exodus 14. Here’s what I read:

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharoah’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.’” (vs 1-4)

Hmm. God sure was specific about exactly where He wanted them to go camp. Crazy specific. Did you catch that? God told them to go to a place of death. He sent them to a dead-end place. Hemmed in by the sea, there was no escape if the enemy came against them. No earthly escape, anyway.

With moving boxes tucked under an arm, I climbed the three long flights of stairs to my office, my dead-end place, and stopped just before the final seven steps. Did I believe God led me here? Yes. Absolutely. I’d never moved without talking to Him and asking for His direction, submitting myself to it.

If I believed that – if I believed that God sent me to this place, then running to Moses screaming wasn’t necessary. I knew what Moses would say.

Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…

If you are in a dead-end place and you know that you didn’t get there as a result of disobedience or not seeking God’s will, you might want to consider – is your Red Sea moment almost here?

And if that could be true, then remind yourself: even when the dry ground comes, you’ll still have walls of water on both sides and an enemy bearing down from behind. Step firmly on that dry ground. There’s a bank of freedom on the other side.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Life Lessons

 

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That pesky outcome problem…

Divorce sucks. A dear, fantastic, beautiful woman I love (“Joy”) is going through it. She and I headed off to lunch recently so she could catch me up. Little did I know we were headed into a veritable shouting match about God’s attributes.

My life’s ups and downs could rival those of Trump’s career. I’ve been loved. I’ve been divorced. I’ve been hugged. I’ve been hit. Sung to. Screamed at. Birthed new life. Had life die within me. Securely debt-free. Crazily debt-ridden. Mt Everest to The Dead Sea. That’s me. Lots of lessons learned along the way. The one that caused Joy’s eyes to blaze with anger and forehead to wrinkle: outcome is not our responsibility.

She’s faced with a tough choice. A ministry unaware of her husband’s infidelity (with a major donor to that ministry while he was in charge of the ministry’s development) submitted an affidavit on his behalf which affected the custody dispersal of their children. Her dilemma is whether to make the ministry aware of the circumstances that caused his abandonment of her and their children. I urged her to, at all times, speak truth in love. Operate from a motivation of love. Stay in truth. She’s a former client of and donor to that ministry. She has a responsibility to provide truth to them. She’s scared of doing anything that will further affect the custody situation. I told her that outcome was in God’s hands, not hers. Her job is to speak truth, be motivated by Godly love. She ultimately realized her motivation right now would be vengeance, so she’s got some more discussing to do with God. 🙂 Our conversation, though, is still churning through my mind.

I used to cling to the façade of control. Take Action A, follow with Action B, Outcome C will occur. Follow rules: pain and suffering remain at bay. Take the medicine: sickness leaves. Eat correctly: get a healthy body.

As a Christian, though, I have to accept that my life is no longer ordered this way.

God is in charge of the processes and He’s anything but predictable in action – only in motivation. His motivation is always love, but it’s not always a love I can comprehend given my lack of His perspective and overall purposes. He’s a God who says, “Yes, I know you’ve never known a man, Mary, and it’ll wreak havoc with the man you’re engaged to, but you’re going to give birth. Trust me.” He says, “Yes, I know you can’t speak well and there’s no discernible food or water out there in the desert, Moses. Trust me.” He says, “Yes, I know you’ve no concept of rain or flooding or need for salvation from such, Noah. Trust me.” He watches Elijah have those four jars of water filled and poured on the 12 altars three times, then produces a blazing fire on them. Over and over He makes no sense on this side of the lesson. Over and over we see His glory as a result. His awesomeness. His ability, not ours.

It’s easier to give up the need to control outcome if we value His outcome over the one we can dream. If His outcome hurts today, we have to be confident of the tomorrow that reveals His glory. We have to long for that glory more than our comfort. God glorified must be our source of peace.

I ache for Joy. I know the overwhelming hunger to control. To prevent pain – of self and of those under my care. To believe myself a failure if I don’t shield them from hurt or a bad outcome. Ultimately, it’s a reflection of our design. We’re made in the image of a God who controls. And I think it becomes an offering to Him when we sacrifice that particular part of our design back to His authority…trusting that He can do something more fitting with circumstance than we could dream.

Joy reminded me if she pointed a gun at my head and pulled the trigger, I’d die.

I reminded her that would only happen if God allowed it. And, if He did, He’d ultimately be glorified in it.

She reminded me of an abused boy, chained to his bed for years, recently discovered by authorities. “Was that God’s will? You think God’s going to be glorified in that?”

I reminded her of some of my Dead Sea moments. A client who recently reneged on $19,000 that was supposed to help move my family nearer my in-laws’ who need our presence and help. A former boyfriend who thought pushing and slapping were acceptable ways to keep me in line. Another one who made me long for the days of just pushing and slapping.

“You think all that was God’s will?” Her beautiful blue eyes opened wide.

“I think God allowed it,” I responded. “I don’t think I can know fully why. I don’t have His mind. But I can tell you I have a good sense of how He hurts because I’ve hurt. I can think of that man who owes me money and hurt for the impact his ministry will experience as a result. I can feel that more honestly than I can want justice from him. I can think of the men who hurt me and ache for how lost and scared they must be more than I want them to be hit back. And I know that’s God. The world tells me if I’m hit to hit back harder. If I’m cheated, to exact vengeance. But God says to love your enemy. He says to turn the other cheek. I’ve learned that doing so gives Him freedom to be seen. And Him being seen – and known – matters more than me. There’s freedom in that.”

She shook her head.

We sat back in our chairs.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Life Lessons

 

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