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Sunday, June 10, 2007
The Chaos of Womanhood
Currently, my local book club is reading a book called Gift From the Sea, written in the 50's by author, Anne Morrow Lindburgh. Many of her thoughts about life and being a woman are surprisingly relevant. Here is a quote that resonated with me:
With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pull -- woman's normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.

Her writing reminds me that life has been complicated and messy for women far longer than twenty years ago, when I became one myself.

I'm wondering if and how this quote connects with your experience. If it connects, what do you personally do to "remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life?" Do you practice any kind of solitude? If so, what kind?

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posted by Linda at 7:52 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 6/11/2007 04:22:00 AM, Blogger Irim

    I love this book!

    I've always had an issue with only the 'religious' or women who chose to live with their husbands as 'brother and sister' becoming saints.

    It's too blimmin' easy. And the women - and men - becoming saints *aren't* whole, b/c those the Catholic Church chooses as saints are struggling to transcend life, not engage with it.

    As Anne Morrow Lindbergh points out, life and love are complicated. But I disagree with her: I think this messiness drives us *towards* wholeness, not away from it, in the lessons that we learn and the depth they give us. At the time, it feels like it is driving us away from wholeness, but we're just looking at the individual thread, not the tapestry. After all, chaos came before creation.

    And the real saints aren't those who choose to 'give up' the earthly life, but those who make the choice day after day to remain open to life and love and what it brings them, even when it brings great pain, as it will. That is true courage.


  • At 6/11/2007 08:31:00 AM, Blogger Amy

    This is one of my all time favorite books as well.

    I agree a bit with both Anne Morrow Lindbergh and with Irim.

    This is a chaos that comes with the roles of mom and wife, of family and responsibility. I think back often these days of how "stressed" I was in college and shortly thereafter as I started to work. How naive I was!

    I think in the book the author is looking at her own life and the many distractions to her own quiet soul, a longing for order and time...sweet time to herself to pursue the desires of her heart (If you haven't read her biography, I encourage you to. It's very good).

    I wonder if the women saints would view their lives as simple and easy as we do looking back. I doubt it. I'm sure they had heart cries of their own that went unanswered.

    As I read the passage Linda provided, I felt this yearning to be free of some of my own responsibilities. To be able to more clearly find that center and balance the many different cries of my heart.

    Like Irim, I think that the messiness found in life leads us toward wholeness, even though it feels so far from that as we experience it. I am so far from a saint. My patience and my walk with God are challenged daily as I attempt to meet the needs of my family and still pursue other things that I love. Most of the time it's barely-ordered chaos. But in the midst of that, there are moments of wholeness. That wholeness is all the more lovely for the mess it seems to appear out of.

    As far as praciticing solitude, that is a goal of mine. It's not something I do well, but have become more and more aware of my need for this practice.

  • At 6/11/2007 09:22:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    I too agree with the comments here.

    I have not read the book. It sounds interesting, though. I think it also depends on the person. There are many that are distracted and live within chaos, but it never changes, and they don't find peace within the chaos. Others grow and learn through those distractions and the chaos.

    I do believe sometimes it is easier for men to carve out time for their interests etc. At least my experience (hence my faith community) is that it has been fairly difficult for us women to connect regularly and make time for those encouraging times. One of the main reasons is that many of these women have children, jobs, the home etc. they have a lot going on and to try to fit in one more thing is hard.

    I am not Catholic, but the only Saint (and don't remember if it was formal or not, so forgive me) was Mother Teresa. She was a wonderful woman, who was not married, didn't have children, but devoted her life to caring for others. It also seems like within faith dialog, women with kids etc. are burdensome. I have found that it is easier for some to not offer childcare (within faith communities), but leave the burden on the parent to find childcare, in order to participate. That has left many women I know, not participating because either their sig other is not helpful, or they don't have the money, family etc. to obtain the childcare. (Ironically, many of those women have husbands that have NO problem doing the things important to them.)

    So again, I think there are a few effects and a few ways we can be affected in finding "wholeness".

  • At 6/11/2007 04:57:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    what do you personally do to "remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life?"

    This might sound weird, but in the past I've pictured a large, translucent bubble surrounding me.

    It's kept me calm in difficult situations. I may be engaged in a certain task (working, etc), but I know that that isn't the sum of who I am. It's only a small part of the picture (can you tell that I've worked in a lot of customer-service oriented positions? ;) )

    leave the burden on the parent to find childcare, in order to participate

    This is sort of a rabbit-trail, but what pratical things can we as the church do to help women in this sort of situation?

    (i.e. Would you want the church to use some of it's discretionary funds to hire a few high school or college-aged students to watch the kids so that you could participate in meeting or event X? would trying to schedule meetings or events for different times of the day work better for you? Should pastors start talking about these issues from the pulpit, encouraging fathers to take a more hands-on approach? Something else? )

  • At 6/11/2007 05:39:00 PM, Blogger Linda


    You asked about the practical things the church can do to help women with child care issues. One thing our church does is pay babysitting expenses so that moms and dads can go to small groups together or participate in leadership meetings. Granted, we are a small church, but we've made this a priority because we think it is just that important. I'm not sure if a big church could do this, though.

  • At 6/12/2007 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    All the above has been done. It's amazing how hard it was to find help. Parents don't step up, others with grown kids or without kids, didn't help much, and finding paid sitters was fun also. So unfortunately where we are at, other than Sunday mornings we don't offer childcare for any events. It's sad to me...and I think why many choose to go to other churches. You're right, it's a never ending cycle. No good answers.

  • At 6/12/2007 03:46:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Our church has tried to be very supportive on the childcare front. My pastor is actually paying for childcare for me so that I can be part of the staff meetings for a special project I'm leading at the moment. They are also paying up to a certain amount for childcare for our small groups so that parents can invest in that time without having to worry about what their children are getting into. There are still times when it's difficult and when there's a lack of awareness of balancing kids with meetings and such, but I'm encouraged that they are trying.

    For a period of time, our church got babysitters from a local service. It cost more, but they were having significant difficulty getting volunteers. At the moment, several of the sitters are either from other churches or are unchurched (specifically for the youngest ages). There are some issues with that, but benefits as well, especially in the relationships developed with these ladies.

    Childcare stuff is hard. I love my kids, but I have to admit that I'm not nearly the first to sign up for watching other people's kids. I have developed a baby-sitting coop with a couple of my friends and we exchange care for meetings during the day as well as date nights with our husbands. It works pretty well.


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