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International Women’s Day

March 8, 2013

Today is International Women’s Day.  I’d been reminded of it a couple times throughout the week, but chose just to ignore it.  There was a synchroblog I could link up to that I had brushed off.  Nah.  I’ll just let this blogging opportunity slide by.

This morning, I changed my mind.  Maybe it was because I knew I had copious amounts of time on my hands today (Ok, that definitely wasn’t why!).  Maybe it was because I have recently read Half the Sky and read about the struggles women around the world face daily.  Maybe it is because I believe it is important to bless and encourage others.  Whatever, the cause, I found myself compelled to write, to acknowledge this important day.

On this International Women’s Day, I want to honor some of the incredible women I know.

My Grandmas.  I have two grandmas that are a forces of nature.  One was farmer’s wife in Lancaster, PA.  The other was a teacher, who was also a pastor’s and administrator’s wife (my grandpa had many jobs, my grandma didn’t have many husbands) in Iowa and later Virginia.  Both were inspirational examples of hospitality and acceptance.  My Pennsylvania’s grandma’s house was always open to international students.  I remember many students they hosted–especially Mika, a Japanese student my grandma still corresponds with.  In the late 70’s/early 80’s, my grandma was actively involved with resettlement for the Hmong, who were refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia.  Not only did she support them through her church, she and my grandma rented the apartment adjacent to their farmhouse to several Hmong families who needed a place to live.

My Iowa grandma was more “liberal” than my Pennsylvania grandma (which was very typical for Mennonites in the past and today).  She taught in a one room school-house for many years in Iowa and then, when she moved to Virginia, got a bachelor’s degree in education (she would have been around 40), so she could teach in Virginia.   My grandparent’s house was always open to guests.  Often the guests were friends from Iowa whose children were at the college my grandpa worked at.  However, some guests they didn’t know.  They hosted back to school and Christmas gatherings for students at their house.

Both grandmas were strong, strong women.  They both supported their husbands in a very active, strong way.  They demonstrated hospitality to me in radical ways.  I struggle with being as hospitable as I would like, and these women serve as inspirations to me.

I have other incredible women in my life too, who inspire me to be a better person and challenge me in my walk with God.  I think of my very dear women I meet with on Tuesday nights, when we can.  Each of my dear women is deeply involved with different things and each woman teaches me more about what it means to be Christ’s hands and feet.  They challenge me with book suggestions and remind me to show grace to myself.

I think of high school classmates, who are doing unique things to help women.  I think of one friend who is preparing to go back to Africa with her family to work part-time in AIDS education.  I think of another friend who is actively organizing women in her community to support and uplift them, to let them know they are amazing and they are God’s beloved daughters.  I think of a third friend who is a stay at home mom/homeschooler who also is serving as youth group leader in her church, encouraging those girls who will become the next generation’s powerful source of change.

I think of my friends who have adopted children.   I think of my friends who volunteer at their children’s schools in a variety of ways.  I think of my friends who volunteer at our church, on top of their full-time jobs and families.  I think of my friends who are in the throes of raising children, with very littles at home they are nurturing.

Women are strong, resilient beings.  Women deserve their title of ezer–or warrior–given to them in the Bible.  Lately, I’ve become more aware of divisions between women, created mostly by words and labels.  Working moms vs. stay at home moms.  Women who have home births with midwives vs. women who opt for a scheduled c-section at a hospital.  Women in a complementarian relationship (one that actively lives out women should not speak and should be submissive to their husband) vs. women in a equalitarian relationship (women and men are equals–neither submit to the other, both have gifts and should use them regardless of their gender).  Women who are feminists vs. women who are traditionalists.

In Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn states that so much more could be done for women in the world if we could all work together.  They list several liberal and conservative agencies that are working for women’s rights around the world, but don’t work together.  They suggest if the agencies came together, they could bring about more change than they can alone.  That is true on the larger world stage and it is also true on the smaller stage of communities.

On International Women’s Day, I would like to challenge the women who live with enough, with only first world problems, to work together.  Find someone who is different from you, politically, religiously, however and find your common ground.  Pray for them today, think about how you can move past the differences, and do something to show you respect them even if they believe in evolution or creation or whoever they voted for in the last election.  We are women.  We are strong.  We must work together to uplift each other, to demonstrate hospitality, and love without judgement.  We are all God’s daughters. We must together claim our name of Beloved.

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