January Wisdom Round-Up

Dear Searching Sophia’s Pockets Community,

As we come to the end of our month of beginnings, we wanted to round-up some of the high points of the month and offer all of you a chance to share your high points as well. Check out any of the posts below that you missed from Searching Sophia’s Pockets in January. Here’s to beginnings, and of course wisdom, love ..and lint!

We hope you enjoyed the wisdom we shared this month and feel free to add important posts, news articles, photos, or just joys from your world in the comments section.

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

Autumn and Jenni

P.S. We also look forward to hearing what you have to say about next month’s theme, Love, so get your submissions in now!

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The Beginning of Wisdom: A Feminist’s Journey to the Basics

As we look toward next month’s theme of love, Jenni has written some words that discuss the beginning of her journey with feminism and the way love is a vital part of that journey.

By: Jenni Taylor

I became a feminist when I was ten years old reading the bible, and came across a verse that said women shouldn’t speak in church. I became a feminist the very moment in fifth grade when I was told I would bleed for a living and this was part of God’s creation. I became a feminist when sex was explained to me as a means of reproduction and I knew I didn’t want any part of it.

I was as angry and butch as you can get for a ten year old. The word “feminist” hadn’t even entered my vocabulary yet, but it was fitting right in.

While my anger came from a good place, a place of wanting justice, a place of wanting right to be right and wrong to be wrong, it was still anger, and the majority of it had nothing to do with justice but with a deep misunderstanding and feeling of betrayal. So much of my angry feminism began because of scripture, scripture from a religion I fully embraced, and now my world was crumbling to pieces.

This crumbling took place for a long time. It continued when a boy I liked refused to date me after a heated discussion of why husbands being the head of the household was bull crap and I would damn well do what I pleased. It continued when I decided I couldn’t be a missionary like I wanted to be because of that silly verse about women being silent. It continued as my boobs grew and my vagina began its monthly production of horror and I couldn’t understand why in the world God would make me a woman if it was only so I would suffer.

I stayed angry for a long time. But when the anger finally left, it wasn’t because of deep theology, or turning away from my faith, or even a book I read. The anger left because of a man and a picture.

I was at camp, and I had disrupted enough “women and the Bible” discussions for my counselor to take me straight to the head pastor for a talking to. I knew it wasn’t going to go well. It would be another man telling me about the blessings of being a woman and how I just need to trust God with my questions and blah blah blah.

Instead, the pastor listened to my lengthy monologue citing biblical texts, famous speakers, and anything else relevant I could get my hands on when I was 14 years old to explain why God was unfair.

The pastor listened, and then picked up a picture from his desk. It was a picture of his wife.  “I love my wife,” he said. “I would die for this woman. If I love her, why would I stop her from doing anything that makes her happy?”

This answer didn’t fix the worlds problems, or even answer any of my questions and complaints. But the simplicity and sincerity in his voice stuck with me.  He loved her.

Love. Is. Bigger.

Love made every single one of my issues seem so small. Did I need a man to love me? Hell no. Did I need to believe in a God who loved me? A thousand times yes.

The theology and the arguments become minuscule if you can wrap your mind around a love that encompasses the universe. The moment I decided to believe in a God who loves me, the anger began to fade and I was left with a much stronger feminism- a feminism that stopped complaining about injustice and began to fight injustice with the same love I believed in.  Love was the beginning of wisdom.

Some people think being a Christian feminist is an oxymoron.

I say, any kind of feminist with love is one that makes absolute sense.

Beginning to Doubt

I’m a doubting Thomas,
I’ll take your promise,
Though I know nothing’s safe.
Oh me of little faith.
–Nickle Creek

Sometimes, it is not easy to live a life of uncertainty, a life of faith.

A few days ago, I got another rejection from a magazine that I had hoped would publish a piece of fiction I wrote, a piece I really believed in, a piece I really thought was good. But now I am beginning to doubt. I am beginning to doubt myself, my calling, my talent and even my faith.

I feel most in-tuned with God when I am writing creatively.  Most of my work as a Christian is tied to my work writing and editing for this very site. So when I start to doubt my writing, I begin to doubt everything.

Faith, like creativity, cannot be proven. I may never know if the God I believe in is real, just as I may never be able to empirically evaluate my talent as a writer or editor.  And just like faith, it doesn’t matter how many times someone else tells me that I am good, or that God exists, if I can’t believe it for myself.

So, one big rejection and I am beginning to doubt it all. Yet, I know as both a writer and a Christian, doubt is as essential as faith. I might even go so far as to say doubt is essential to faith. There are no sweeping comebacks if we don’t fall down.

I think to make sure I am sane, I have to doubt. If I am to continually believe in things that cannot be proven, I think a bit of doubt and perspective might help me decide what I want to believe in, and what might just be too far-fetched.

But the most important thing about my doubt is that I don’t leave it there. I work through the doubt, in my faith, in my writing. Will Donnelly recently asked “What if we were to see it [doubt] as the fire-starter it is?” Indeed, I know that doubt can move me to better places as well as bitter ones.

My goal has never been to have unwavering faith, or constant inspiration. I want my doubt to move me. I want to work through my doubt to something greater. I want to have enough faith in my path, in my God, in myself to keep going with my doubts until the universe stops sending me rejections and rings with a resounding yes.

I often wonder what kind of example of faith I can be, when I question so much. Yet, I know that this is the only way to be an example of what I believe–to be myself, and live my life as I feel called, no matter how ridiculous I look or feel. I must share my doubts, when I have them, and my strength when it finds me.

But for now, it’s just me, here with my doubts and my determination. Just a doubting Thomas, with just a little faith–but that’s just enough to get me to somewhere good.

 

Teaching and Beginnings: The Jägermeister and his Sidekick

Today we are honored to share another guest post from Laura Beth Eschbacher, a freelance English teacher and translator living in Kleinbottwar, Germany.  While recounting the beginning of her work as an English teacher, she gives us wisdom about friendship, life, and the ways we can celebrate beginnings and endings.

Just over a year ago, I began my first corporate teaching assignment at an automotive garage supply company near Stuttgart. I remember I dressed very professionally that morning and nervously made my first 1.5 hour commute by bus, train, and then by foot through the snow and gray sludge to their office building. There were two students in the group: a round-bellied, jolly German sales director with kind eyes and grown children; and a handsome, thirty-something jokester sales manager from Macedonia with a 5-year-old son and a wife who likes to shop.

Over time, I would discover that they were coworkers and best friends – the Black Forest Jägermeister and his comedic, fast-talking sidekick, both very professional and both very bad at English.

As we wrestled with grammar over the next year, my own teaching skills improved and I got to know them better. We fought the never ending battle of simple past versus present perfect: “Did you go hunting in Sweden, or have you gone?” In the Marketing chapter, I walked them downstairs to the storefront and we discussed the underlying messages of cardboard cut-out pinup girls holding radiator fluid and showcasing the latest windshield wipers. In the Sales chapter, they taught me about gross and net profits while I corrected their if-clauses: “If we hadn’t met this year’s target turnover, we wouldn’t have had such a big Christmas party.”

I learned that both are devoted family men. I learned that they look out for each other; if the sidekick forgets a name at a company event, the hunter comes to his rescue. If they go out to dinner with a customer, the hunter tries the food first to make sure it is pork-free for his Muslim buddy. If a coworker is chatting aimlessly away to one of them, the other walks past and says, “Don’t forget our important meeting in five minutes,” offering a perfectly rational excuse to interrupt the conversation.

Last Friday, on our one year anniversary as teacher and students, the sidekick broke the news to me that he was promoted within the company and is moving up to Düsseldorf in two weeks. “We have one more class, and you can say to me goodbye.” I asked them who will finish each other’s sentences in the future. The hunter replied gracefully that the promotion was a good opportunity and that he was happy for his sidekick, but he would now need a new colleague… and a new friend.

After a year of this group refusing to see any teacher other than me, we are now unsure whether they will continue the course.

I’ve heard from other teachers that you never forget your first students. These two fun-loving salesmen were my first corporate class. They were the providers of many a humorous Tweet quoting non-native speaker mistakes. They were an inseparable pair of best friends who thought I was a great teacher before I even thought I was a teacher. If they are starting new chapters now, perhaps it’s time I began one, too.

When You’re Not Looking

By: Jenni Taylor

Every so often I put on my headphones, jump on a crowded bus, and head a few miles away to tutor a young girl in English. They live in one of the hundreds of thousands of high rises bursting out of the concrete on every street corner, reaching up through the pollution to find the rare sunlight filtering through the smog. I know the route well- walk, bus, walk, elevator, do my job, and repeat steps to go home.

This time the parents were heading out to see the opera, and the young girl was left with her grandparents as babysitters. The old gentleman’s eyes met mine as I greeted him in Chinese, unsure of their background. He responded in English, and proceeded to offer me slippers in clear, slow, and intensely polite English. Though surprised at his perfect accent, I briefly thanked him and turned my focus to the girl for the next hour. I was here for a job, after all.

As we ended, the grandparents came back into the room to see me off and begin cooking dinner for the girl. The man gently stopped me again to chat.I had no interest. I wanted to go home. It was cold and while the bus ride was short, it was always crowded and uncomfortable.

The silliest part of all of it was that I had planned on going home to continue reading a book on recent Chinese history, a book that was changing my perception of China on every page. Each chapter made me feel like I knew less and less, and made me more eager to learn.

The older gentlemen spoke slowly and softly. He asked me where I was from. “Chicago, ah, I have been there twice,” he said. “The Sears Tower, the highest building. The cold wind from the lake biting into your skin.” It wasn’t what I had expected to hear. He went on to tell me that he used to work for a foreign service radio in Beijing in the 1970s, and was an English teacher for several years at a well-known Chinese university. The conversation didn’t last long, but nevertheless I felt humbled.

I had closed my eyes to the world around me and had almost tuned out this poetic, experienced grandfather who simply wanted to chat with me. I had become hardened after failed attempts at friendships with the Chinese and had decided to learn everything from books rather than people. I had stopped looking for relationships, and had almost missed one right in front of me.

It’s a small, insignificant story, but it reminded me to keep my eyes open at all times. With the new year just beginning, it is such a small step to resolve to look for the good in others, to be open to wonder, to go slowly and see what there is to see under the more obvious layers.

My very simple resolution is to stay awake. I’m ready to find something beautiful.

Beginning My Journey as a Youth Mentor

Today’s guest post if from Brendan Tedford. In addition to his work life, Brendan volunteers as a leader of a youth group for 6th-12th graders at Webster Groves Christian Church in Saint Louis, Missouri. Today Brendan shares some words of wisdom he gained as he has started his journey as a youth mentor.

I wanted to write a few words about what it means to begin my journey as I become a Youth Leader. I sat with it for a while not knowing what I was going to say about it. I am currently one of the youth leaders over at Webster Groves Christian Church in St. Louis, MO. We are a group made of youth from 3 different churches. I used to be a youth in the group from 2002-2007, during my time in the 6th-12th grades. Then, in the fall of 2012, I came back to begin a new journey as a mentor.

Only a few months later, in the spring of 2013, the Associate Minister of Webster Groves Christian Church announced that she was leaving to work at another church. Not too long after that the Associate Minister of one of the other churches that made up our group announced that he was leaving as was another one of the other adult mentors.

Suddenly it was just me, the lone mentor, for the upcoming fall, in which I had a total of 10 youth. When I heard about the changes in mentors, I was speechless. For the first time I was nervous about being a mentor. The journey seemed to have changed a lot.

The first thing that I thought was “How do I make this easier for these youth, and how do I help them?” It was a little unnerving having to figure out what the fall was going to look like for these youth.

I prayed only once through the entire process of starting this difficult year because everything just fell into place after my prayer. I guess you could say that my prayers were heard. I had to construct a new team of mentors and we had to construct a new program, it wasn’t the easiest thing but we did it. I did it because I love these youth & that helps guide me because I want to make this the best thing I could ever make it for them.

Whenever people ask me about how I can work with teenagers or something similar to that effect, my response is, I don’t feel like an adult half of the time anyway…I feel like an older brother to these kids and I love them as if they were my own younger brothers and sisters. It wasn’t too long ago that I was a teenager myself since I am only 25 now. I believe that having been a youth in this group and being only 8 years older than most of them, helps me connect to them.

Being a mentor and teaching faith is not an easy thing for me to do, it wasn’t easy to begin and it certainly wasn’t easy to begin this year. It has been quite a journey, but someone once told me to never ignore my own faith journey as I help these youth, because, in a lot of ways, I’m walking the journey with them.

A Prayer for New Beginnings

By: Autumn Elizabeth

As we explore beginnings, I wanted to offer this prayer for all of us who are starting new journeys. This prayer is my beginning, so everyone is welcome to modify it, customize it, and re-create to better fit their own journey and beliefs. If you would like to share you re-creations, we welcome you to do so in the comment section, or to submit your own prayer.   

Dear Spirit of Creation,

As I journey towards new places, new visions, and new dreams,
I ask that you go with me, and help me discover the beauty of this world.

I ask that you remain with me even when I question or doubt my new direction.
I ask that  together we carve out the trail that is best for me, in this place, in this time.

Help me to find my strength when I stumble or fall,
and help me to empower others as they journey along their own paths.

Assist me in seeing the help others have provided for me,
and help me to provide assistance to those I meet.

Spirit of Universal Creation, create with me a path of wisdom
and help me share love along my way.

Amen


Please feel free to use this and any of our content in services, prayer groups etc., just remember to link it back to us! 

Kiva in the Spare Change Spotlight

As we explore beginnings this month we wanted to talk about an orgnaization that helps gie people new beginnings. This organization is Kiva. Kiva is “a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.”

Just like Searching Sophia’s Pockets, Kiva uses the connecting powers of the internet to create opportunities for new beginnings worldwide.  Since its own beginnings in 2005 Kiva has helped people in over 70 countries.

We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.

Here are a few great ways you can help Kiva right now:

Kiva is a great way to help people around the world and a excellent connection for people in our own communities who may need some money this year to make a new beginning.

Beginning My Life as a Christian Writer

Today’s post comes from Emily Hornburg, a Chicago native who moved down to small town Missouri to work as a youth minister. Her post talks about how she began writing about her spiritualty, and how she began to see writing, even creating, in a new way. You can read more of her writing on her website, Love Woke Me Up This Morning, or  follow her on Twitter @LoveWokeMeUp 

When I was in high school, I gathered up the guts to show a friend of mine my writing. (Who in fact, is one of the founders of this site.) I hate showing people my writing because I never know how it’s going to go over. Receiving criticism from a stranger is much better than from a friend whom you see every single day.

She handed it back to me and said she liked it. However… whenever I talked about faith it was stiff.

It was fake.

Forced.

It just wasn’t good.

I knew this about my story long before I showed it to her. It was a truth I didn’t want to face. But wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? I was a good Christian girl and I was given the gift for writing. Therefore, I had to talk about God and Jesus in my stories!

Then my friend told me something, which has stuck with me ever since… and it’s nearly ten years later. I don’ t have to mention God in my writing for people to see where my heart is. Who I am and what I stand for and believe will shine through without having to mention the name or word “God.” That was a new beginning for me.

From then on, I’ve noticed this in all that I create. Whether it’s writing a story or a blog post, singing a song, or performing a role on stage. Because here’s the thing:  creating in itself is an innately holy act.

The very first words of the Bible are that “God created.” The beginnings of our world came to be because God was creative. He made something. He made it beautiful and honest and true.

Which is really what creating is about. It’s about being true and sharing the story.  Even if it’s just our side. It’s about reflecting who we are, and by reflecting who we are we are also showing who God is. Because he is the one who created us and gave us these minds with those ideas and these hands with those skills and that voice with that heart.

Creating, by simply being itself, is the beginning of something holy.

14 Ways to Begin a New Journey in 2014

Here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets we are all about journeys, especially global spiritual journeys that lead us towards wisdom and love. Here are 14 ways we have come up with to start new journeys in 2014. Enjoy and then tell us all about it!

  1. Try making new art projects… you can use paint like Yvonne, pencils, watercolors, clay or whatever inspires you.
  2. Write spiritual poetry like Brittany’s poem about the end of DOMA, or Seanna’s poem about loss and nature.
  3. Meditate on one theme all year see where it takes you
  4. Save 10$ a month toward a trip or pilgrimage
  5. Photograph things that are holy to you (Then submit them!)
  6. Start a mini-habit, like one push-up, or one page of reading a day
  7. Work your way through a spiritual text in a different language
  8. Take walks in neighborhoods that other than your own and pray for them
  9. Reuse all paper products at least once
  10. Take a different form of transportation one day a week
  11. Try out new prayers at your usual prayer time, like our prayers for last breaths, success and travel.
  12. Ask to join a friend in their type of worship and go with an open mind
  13. Ask a friend to join you in your type of worship and enjoy the wisdom they bring
  14. Tutor someone for free and see what you learn from them

These are just 14 ideas from us here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets…Leave your ideas for new journeys in 2014 below!