I tell my daughters . . .

to thank God every day for one thing: If they were chosen to be born as a woman, thank him that you were born to be a woman in America today. Not a woman in another country today or a woman in America in another time. America. Today.

Stories like this are why.

Books like this are another good reminder.

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My list just keeps getting longer

I came home from CSC thinking I need to read Barbara Brown Taylor and more Marilynne Robinson and more Billy Collins and I need to break out the John Mark Hicks again and then I found this. Fifty Books for Our Times by Newsweek.

I’ve read a few of them and some of them look really, really good.

Is the list ever going to get smaller instead of longer?

Christian Scholars Conference

Yesterday I came home from the 29th Christian Scholars Conference. It was my first time to attend the conference, but I hope that it can be an annual event for me.

My own words won’t sufficiently express the beauty and depth of thought that were present. I’m usually a note-taker and picture maker, but for these few days I wanted to to just sit and listen and be fully engaged rather than acting as an observer or scribe of the events.

Hubert Locke spoke of the atrocities of the Holocaust and reminded us that education is not the key to society’s ills. We are a part of a world that experiences beautiful glimpses of God’s goodness and horrific pictures of Satan’s evil. Education of the head will never solve this world’s problems. Education of the heart and loving others as God loves them is the only hope for more goodness in the world.

Barbara Brown Taylor spoke of the sacredness of each part of life. God can be found in taking care of chickens, connecting with others while waiting in line, and on rare occasions he can be found in the pages of a Harlequin romance novel. Life is full of stories that are on display before us and we must choose which stories we will focus on. We cannot keep up with them all, but we must not choose a narrative that is too small.

Hearing Billy Collins read his own poetry was a joy. I wish that everyone who has ever said, “Poetry is not my thing,” could have heard him. He is funny, down-to-earth, and incredibly insightful. If you struggle with poetry, find Billy Collins.

And everyone should check out Tokens. Best worship service I’ve been to in a long time.

Dear Microsoft Office 2007

When I select the button that says, “Please do not show me this message again,” I really do mean that I do not want to see the message again.

Why did you change your default font and size? Every teacher and supervisor will recommend that documents be typed in 12 point Arial or Times New Roman.

Double-spacing between lines should not be a default setting.

Thank you for your time,

Lisa K. Burley

Having daughters

There was a time in my early life when I wasn’t sure I wanted to have daughters. I was a teenager and coming to grips with everything it meant to be female. At the time, I didn’t think it was all it was cracked up to be and wasn’t sure I wanted to pass all the nuts and bolts of femaleness on to someone else.

I’m so glad that God knows better.

Tuesday night was Burley Girlie road trip night. Em needed a new swimsuit and we’d exhausted the possibilities in Searcy so we headed south to the metroplex of Jacksonville/Sherwood/NLR. The first stop was dinner at what was once the only option for Mexican food in central Arkansas. Jacksonville’s Mexico Chiquita has been there forever. It’s not the best in the world, but the cheese dip is great and if my girls are going to claim Searcy as their home, they need to experience Chiquitaville at least once.

They drove the conversation and we talked about everything. And I do mean everything. We laughed and probably bothered other people because we laughed so much. At one point I got to that I-may-actually-die-laughing place. There was one woman — bless her heart — who was sitting by herself across from us. Every time I glanced over there, she was just watching. I couldn’t tell if she wanted to join us or call the police.

Swimsuit shopping is always interesting, isn’t it? One of my recommendations to people who are in a slump is to grab a best friend and go swimsuit shopping. No one can be in a bad mood trying on swimsuits, but not because it brings up lovely pictures of California-type bodies on the beach. No. No, no, no, no, no. The older you get the more fun it is to try on swimsuits because — well — things just don’t fit into them the way they should. It’s hilarious. Next time you’re in Wal-Mart, look around . Who designs these things? Do they realize that most women have about 5 minutes of their life when their body might look good in what’s being sold as swimwear? Let the average woman take the average swimsuit and you’ll probably be able to guess how many children’s she’s had by counting the stretch marks that will show outside the lines of the very French-cut leg. Unless you’re under 18, forget about looking like you have a figure. There’s no “support” and body parts that are supposed to look shapely will most likely be interpreted as directional aids for finding your feet, so make sure your toenails are pretty.

When our mission was finally accomplished I told my beautiful daughters that I’m actually glad that I’ve gotten old and fat because no swimsuit looks good on me anyway. It has greatly simplified the swimsuit shopping process. I can just grab one that isn’t hideous and go with it because it’s not going to look good on me anyway!

Years ago, a friend of mine told me a story that I love. She was trying on clothes and asked her then 9-year-old daughter, “I don’t know. I like these pants, but do they make me look fat?” “Well, mom,” answered the sweet young thing, “You are fat so anything you put on is going to look that way.”

It sounds harsh, but there’s a lot of freedom in realizing that as women, we will always have imperfect bodies and our clothes will most likely reveal that. WEAR WHAT YOU WANT TO AND QUIT WORRYING ABOUT IT. If you’re over 18, you’re NOT going to look 18 again. That doesn’t mean you have to dress like Shirley MacLaine’s character in Steel Magnolias, but neither do you have to confine yourself to a boring wardrobe in an attempt to hide any flaws you might have.

We are human and we are flawed. Beyond that, we are women and our bodies tend to show our life experiences in ways that male bodies do not, and there are a lot of beautiful female bodies in all shapes and sizes. My sweet Grandmother used to say, “There is no woman more beautiful than one who is carrying a wanted child.” She would say that to me when I was big as a boat and anything but beautiful. I didn’t understand it then, but now I do and I’ve claimed a different version of it for myself.

“There is no woman more beautiful than one who is happy in her skin and loves her life.”

Tuesday night, I realized that’s what I want for my daughters. They may never bear a child or have a California beach body, but they can be happy in their own skin and love their life. It may take becoming old and fat before they’ll come to grips with who they are how they’re built, but I hope they know TODAY that I think they are beautiful even when they don’t feel it inside or see it in the mirror.

Having daughters is a good thing.