Gender divisions within the church, and how they’re not cool.

As I’m sure is quite obvious to most of you by now, I am female. I am a female who enjoys cooking and baking and summer dresses and cute animals and acoustic music. But I am also a female who enjoys cycling and hiking and gardening. I enjoy muddy forest walks and camping and listening to metal and eating too much.

So that also makes me a female who is frustrated to no end when “women’s events” in the Church involve nothing but cupcakes and tea and makeovers, while the men get to go off on some sort of fun adventure and then end the day eating steak.

Why is the Church so backwards? Why are women not allowed to embrace the truth of being female, and how that’s more than eating cupcakes and looking pretty?

Most of all I worry about women in the Church who don’t particularly enjoy all the generically feminine things that are forced upon them. Every so often I receive invites to clothes swaps to raise money for charity; I don’t know the first thing about fashion and I don’t really own that many clothes to swap. I instantly feel lacking in some unwritten feminine ability that all women should know a lot about clothes. Personally, I hate shopping and only do it about once a year when I really have to, but these events make me wonder if I should be buying more clothes, if I should know more about fashion. Am I not worth more than that? My heart for Jesus certainly has nothing to do with the clothes on my back so why do I worry like this?

The Church doesn’t help by dividing us into these groups of women who like [insert generically feminine interest here] and men who enjoy [insert generically masculine interest here]. When women get invited to bring some sort of food item to an event but yet they don’t know the first thing about cooking or baking, how do they feel when they see their fellow sisters in Christ carrying their home made dishes to the table, while they try and discretely remove the packaging from their shop bought cake? And what about men, what do they do when they’re invited to an evening to watch the match with their fellow brothers in Christ, but they don’t really like sport that much?

I don’t fully understand why single sex events can’t be made more diverse. I’m not saying women should all do something overtly masculine, while men do something feminine, but why can’t we be more open to the interests of the people within the Church? Why can’t we find out the interests of our brothers and sisters and try out something different every so often?

x

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Graduation Day: A few photos

Romantic Comedies: What Has Happened?

Today I want to deviate from my usual blogs and write about something that is very dear to my heart: films. As some of you know I has just finished a film degree (don’t worry, I’m not about to wax lyrical about black and white films with subtitles) and it has made me see film in a completely different way to how I viewed it four years ago. But the sad thing is that I think film has really lost something as of late. However, I more specifically would like to look at romantic comedies.

My favourite rom/com is Serendipity:

Cusack and Beckinsale are brilliant, hilarious and quirky throughout the film. They embody perfectly the true leading lady/leading man characters and are wonderfully likeable. It’s a beautifully believable story in which their best friends support their dreams and join in the chase with them. We know this couple is perfect for each other and, as crazy as the story seems, we want them to get together and we know they will. It is innocent and kind; it is a true romantic comedy.

My second favourite is probably ‘You’ve Got Mail’, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan:

This film captured the beginning of the digital age, it made internet dating normal and innocent and wasn’t all about porn and sex. There was no sharing of raunchy photos or looking at body parts over Skype. It’s a hilarious tale of two people who on line, love each other but, in real life, hate each other. But we still root for this couple, we know they’re perfect, we know their love of books will bring them together, even if their businesses are what could tear them apart.

However, I grew up watching films older than this, and this Doris Day classic was another one of my favourites; By the Light of the Silvery Moon:

The sheer simplicity of films during the Golden Age of Hollywood is something that will never be able to be repeated. People don’t want to see families who live in houses surrounded by white picket fences, with rose bushes in the front garden and trees on the avenue, couples who go to balls and ex-soldiers who sing about “just one girl”, they don’t want to see grown women still living with their parents and “courting” their boyfriend. Sadly, they want city slickers, independent women, and men who make bad jokes. There was something truly beautiful about this age of Hollywood.

Lastly, I certainly couldn’t forget Meet Me in St. Louis:

I’m convinced that Judy Garland is one main reason as to why I love to sing so much. A true classic from MGM, Garland plays Esther Smith, the girl in love with the boy next door, John Truett. This film depicts to us middle-class life in 1900s St. Louis, Missouri, during preparations for the 1904 World’s Fair. We get a special look into the trials and tribulations of the Smith family, including the antics of Tootie, the youngest daughter.

The great thing about the older films is that they don’t just focus on the couple, but they greatly cover the lives of the people surrounding them; in a way this is more realistic and gives the films far more depth than a lot of the rubbish plastered across the silver screen these days.

I won’t lie, there are a few romantic comedies that have been released in recent years that have made me laugh out loud and shed a few tears (The Holiday, Love Actually, The Proposal…), but nothing beats the romantic comedies of times gone by (even if those times were only ten years ago). I think the problem now is that all Hollywood does is rehash old ideas, and there’s not much about rom/coms now that is actually very funny. I think Hollywood knows they will make money out of whatever they do, so they might as well forget about making a true piece of artwork because the majority of people will go to the cinema regardless; we’ve stopped demanding good quality entertainment and will empty our pockets for anything that seems mildly appealing.

I also think there’s far too much a focus on sex. Now, some of you will say “typical Christian”, but I really don’t think that’s relevant or fair. Last night I saw The Five Year Engagement. I left the cinema feeling like I’d wasted my time and my money. It wasn’t very original and there wasn’t all that much about it that was funny, but there were constantly references to masturbation and sex and scenes where the couples were actually having sex. I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I saw Serendipity and You’ve Got Mail, but I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t mind letting a twelve year old watch either of those films. But the one I saw last night? Definitely not. We have two extremes here you see: there’s either the unattainable Disney-esque ideal that says all your dreams will come true, or the 21st Century rom/com that tells you a relationship can’t work without sex. Where on earth is the middle ground? I’d also like to include that both main characters in the film last night cheated on each other but then things worked out fine in the end; is this the norm now? That you can cheat on your partner and it’ll all work out fine?

I think that film makers of old would be turning in their graves.

However, I will continue on my search to find good romantic comedies in the 21st Century, because if the three I briefly mentioned above are anything to go by, I truly believe that Hollywood can get past these barriers of too much sex and bad jokes and make something really good again. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

x

Graduating: What it Truly Means for Me.

On Wednesday 16th May 2011 I awoke at 2:30 am, after completely failing to get any sleep at all because I was so excited, and prepared myself to hike up Dumyat, one of the Ochils (the mountain range right next to the Stirling University campus), with some of my friends to have sunrise worship on a mountaintop. Everything about that morning was a metaphor for my time at university and I’d like to take you through it. Some of you will think it’s super cheesy, but I’m okay with that.

First Year – Setting off the in dark.
It was pitch black when I left the chalet, as well as being really quiet and creepy. The hill that leads up to the university building from Spittal Hill is pretty scary in the dark and I almost ran up it, meeting a lone passer-by on my way. When me and my pals began the ascent it was no brighter and we found ourselves walking a darkened path at the back of halls, and making the decision to keep our torches turned off so our eyes could adjust. In first year I stepped out into the dark. I went somewhere new and scary and I was terrified the whole time. My gaze fell away from Jesus and the lights went out; it was like nothing I’d ever known before.

Second Year – The forest.

Eventually the sky started to brighten up a little and we found ourselves in the forest. It wasn’t too dense but it felt like we were constantly finding new twists and turns, speeding round corners and trying our best not to trip before we found our way out to a small, quiet country road. Second year was a really strange time; it was when I fell back into my old ways again but, soon after, decided I couldn’t like this this any more. After Christmas I started going to Bible study as soon as I got back; I found my small, quiet country road.

Third Year – The true ascent.
This was when things started to get interesting. We made our way off the road and on to the mountain itself. It was still reasonably dark, and I found myself out of breath a lot of the time. I got mucky feet and we met some interesting characters along the way (including a lone highland cow and some sheep). In third year I made more effort, I started to truly chase after Jesus, I got mucky feet and met some interesting characters (though they were more of the human variety). I got pretty out of breath but kept pushing.

Seventh semester (the second last one) – The final push.
My legs were aching, I thought I might collapse at times, I’m not sure I’ve ever sweat that much in Scotland… But at one point, before we reached the final hill, there was a break in the wall of rock that had stayed by me most of the way and I was able to see the beginning of the sunrise, shining a beautiful red, almost bubbling below the surface of the light blue above it. This kept me going. This semester was especially tough; I was lost again, unsure of what I wanted, pushing for things I couldn’t have. But the whole time I was surrounded by great people who encouraged me just by being themselves, even when others tried to drag me down.

Final Semester – The sunrise.
When the sun finally came up it was  one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen, and when we began to sing I was so full of joy. The sunlight was shining upon my home and I was seeing it in a way that I’d never seen before, from a place that I’d always looked upon but never had the strength or the passion to get to. This semester was truly beautiful and bright and joyful. From the ground, through life, I saw Stirling in a different way, I fell in love with it, and the light of God shone upon it in a whole new way. My heart became whole.

When this post publishes I will officially be a graduate of the University of Stirling; I will have set foot upon the campus as a student for the very last time. For some people university isn’t quite the grand/important occasion that it’s been for me, and I understand that, but the past four years of my life have changed me in ways I never imagined. I want to let you all know now that I plan to spend the next year working to save funds to go to Belfast Bible College. As much as I know I would’ve loved to study theology for my undergraduate degree, I would never have chosen anything over Stirling; God wouldn’t let me. I tried really hard but it wasn’t in His plan for me to do anything else. Had I not gone to Stirling I wouldn’t have realised my true need for Him and if I hadn’t discovered that then studying theology would be useless.

I would appreciate your prayers in finding a job and continuing to grow over the next year.

x

P.S. I promise to upload some photos from graduation later this week!

God-esteem, not self-esteem.

As you may know, I am from Northern Ireland. I think my blog posts as of late have made it slightly obvious that I’ve struggled since coming home from Scotland and tonight I seem to have figured out why. I was going to write about how the problem is in everyone else, how no one here fits into my ideas of what’s good and right, but all of a sudden it’s hit me that my problem is found within. Yeah, yeah, it’s cheesy, I know, but it’s true.

My name is Annie; I am 22 years old, I’m single, I don’t really know much about fashion, I listen to the music that my ears like. I love gardening, and cooking, and baking (and, gosh darn it, not because it’s fashionable; I’ve been baking since I could talk). I think poop jokes are genuinely hilarious. I love the ocean, but I think I love the mountains more. I like to get up at 7:00 am to cycle and run just because I can. I adore the Lord of the Rings and Zelda and bird watching. I am passionate about the fight against sexual addiction and pornography and dream of the day when everyone who has been trapped by this can be free.

This is only a tiny part of who I am and if I can’t be comfortable in myself then that is for me and Jesus to deal with.

People tell you that you get over self-confidence issues when your teenage years end but I really don’t think that’s true. I know a lot of people who struggle with self-confidence and it’s not as simple as just telling them “Jesus loves you so it’s okay.” I think it’s important that we give people a reason to be confident in themselves. I don’t mean it’s right for us to find our worth in other people (our worth should really only be found in Jesus), but it is our duty to love people, to make them feel welcome, to let them know they are worth something; sometimes we need to be the Jesus in their lives. That goes for Christians too.

I don’t mean to say that I’m surrounded by horrible people who don’t love me, telling you that would be an awful lie. But I was bullied for a long time in school and it has most definitely had a negative affect on me; it’s okay though, because Jesus is working in me (but so as not to contradict myself you should know that I know this myself, someone hasn’t told me that). The girl who writes this blog certainly doesn’t have it all together. Don’t feel like by 22 or 32 or 42 that you have to be perfect because what use would we be to God if we were? 

I think it’s important that we stop putting people’s worth in their appearances too. This morning Gemma Wilson tweeted one of her older posts about how we do this, how the first thing we do with children is tell them how cute or how pretty they are, how we genuinely struggle to give compliments based on intellect and things that a person is good at doing, rather than being. On Wednesday I graduate and I’ve spent all day wondering how to compliment my fellow graduating classmates on something other than their fashion choices for the day; it seems silly, I mean it should be easy to think of something, but this world has really engrained into us that outward appearance is a crucial part of success. I certainly didn’t get my 2:1 based on how I look, and I’m insanely proud of myself for working so hard to achieve it; I really better think of something.

There is one situation most in which I struggle with this. I have some very pretty female friends and a lot of my male friends talk a lot about how outwardly beautiful they are. Never mind how much damage this must be doing to them (I can’t even begin to imagine how self-conscious they are), it also makes me wonder if a man will only ever be attracted to me based upon my appearance; these things genuinely get to me. It makes me paranoid to be around these girls and that’s just horrible because they would never do anything to make me feel that way. I know I have a ton of great qualities, but I sometimes find myself wondering if I should be more like those girls because a lot of guys seem to be attracted to them. I mean it’s nice to be complimented on how I look, but it makes me insanely happy when someone tells me I’m a good writer, or a good singer, or that they like something I’ve baked or cooked. That means ten times more to me because those things take skill. I don’t mean to put all the pressure on men, women do this too, but I can only speak from my own experience.

But, to return to the matter at hand, the people in my life who I look up to as wise Christians are almost always the people who don’t care so much about wearing the most fashionable clothes or following the latest trends, and I can say that knowing they won’t be offended by this because they simply don’t worry about things like that. I can also be 100% honest in saying that I want to be one of those people. But most of all I want to have their attitude, I want to stop judging, because only then will I be truly confident in myself. That is when I will truly be living on God-esteem, not self-esteem.

x

The next step, and where it might lead.

More than anything right now I’m trying to start afresh.

As of late I’ve been thinking about where I am in life, the people that surround me, where I live. Coming back home doesn’t mean that I have to live the life I lived her previously, it means that I need to figure out the next step. I want to do this slowly, take life as it comes, figure out what I want, not just fall back into my old life.

I think it’s really easy to come back to a place and just expect it to be what it always was, but I don’t want this place to be how it always was because that didn’t make me happy, and, truth be told, a lot of the people who did make me happy are moving on too, and that’s fine, so I think they’ll understand that I want to move on. If they don’t that’s not for me to worry about. We’re all growing up, we’re all changing, we all need to accept each other as we change.

I want to find a Church. I’m not as persistent about it any more, which is a good thing because I’m less likely to feel let down if the next one I go to doesn’t work out.

But maybe I will move back to Scotland; I’m just waiting for God to show me if that’s what He wants. I’m constantly looking for jobs, constantly filling in applications, constantly working on the next step. He has me in His arms, He’s not going to let me fall. We can do this together and I’m excited.

x