31 Days for the Ladies: Gracie Allen

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Gentle Reader,

Women are funny. I don’t care what anyone else says. Women are funny.

Exhibit D: Gracie Allen.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.

31 Days for the Ladies: Fangirls

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Gentle Reader,

Fangirls get a bum rap.

It doesn’t help that there are the creepy folks who get lumped in with the average fangirl group. We don’t all track down the addresses of our favorite celebrities and then stand outside of their homes in the hope of a “chance” encounter. We don’t all write creepy fanfiction that involves the killing off of said celebrity’s significant other so we can insert ourselves in her place. (Simmer down. Some fanfiction is really cool and creative. Some is just bad and disturbing). We don’t all scour the internet, hunting down every single image of that person or character ever. We don’t all tweet at authors or actors multiple times a day, every day.

There’s a difference between a fangirl and a stalker.

A fangirl is someone who enjoys something. That’s really all there is to it. She likes a certain television show, book or movie. Something about the actors, characters or writing trips her pleasure switch. She makes a connection. She learns all she can about the thing. She never misses an episode, makes sure to pre-order the book and sometimes goes the midnight premiere of the movie. She’ll listen to a podcast about the show, book or movie if it’s worthwhile.

A fangirl has fun.

The derision women receive for enjoying entertainment is eye-roll inducing. It’s fine for men to devote time to watching their favorite sports teams. Normal for dudes to spout off stats about cars or technology or whatever they’re into. Acceptable for guys to cosplay and make journeys to ComicCon. But even as “nerd” goes mainstream, even as women are encouraged to pursue whatever interests them, somehow fangirling is still wrong. For some reason we still have to defend ourselves.

Enough with that. I’m an intelligent woman with a college degree and a career. I’m also a fangirl. I can tell you exactly what’s wrong with Star Wars: Episode I (spoiler: it’s not just Jar-Jar Binks). I’ll explain and defend the superiority of Iron Man against all other Avengers. I know what breed of dog probably hung out with Jesus (the Canaan dog). I don’t miss an episode of Once Upon a Time or The Blacklist. I’m impatiently waiting for Francine Rivers’ next book. I’ve been known to play The Tonight Show hashtag game.

Somehow I’m still a functioning person who leaves the house!

There’s nothing wrong with being a fangirl. Nothing. What you enjoy is part of who you are. You’re not weird if you know the lyrics to every song your favorite band has ever produced. You’re not stupid if you know the minute details of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (#somuchbetterthanDC). You’re not bizarre if you’ve dressed as a favorite character for the office costume party. You’re just you. And you’re allowed to like things.

Just don’t send Tom Hiddleston pictures of your boobs.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.

31 Days for the Ladies: Anne Bradstreet

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Gentle Reader,

Remember what you were like at 17? What things did you enjoy? What were you worried about? What did you want to be when you grew up?

On June 30, 1630, the passengers of the Arbella disembarked at Salem Plantation. Three thousand miles and 62 grueling days had brought them to this desolate spot. All traces of what they recognized as true civilization were long gone. Cave-like dugouts and “English wigwams” clustered together in a crude village formation. Discomfort the norm and disease expected.

It is not hard to imagine that the recently-married Anne Bradstreet would have been dismayed at the sight of her new home. Scurvy, starvation, homesickness and constant hunger drove many back to England. Anne stayed. Salem Plantation was overcrowded, so several of the colonists, including the Bradstreets, moved to Charles Town and then to Newtown (now Newton, a suburb of Boston). There she came down with a lingering illness.

As a Puritan, Anne was steeped in Calvinism, and so saw this illness as predetermined discipline from God. This experience moved her to pen some her first lines of poetry in Upon a Fit of Sickness:

“Twice ten years old not fully told
since nature give me breath,
My race is run, my thread spun,
lo, here is fatal death.
All men must die, and so must I;
this cannot be revoked.
For Adam’s sake this word God spake
when he so high provoked.
Yet live I shall, this life’s but small,
in place of highest bliss,
Where I shall have all I can crave,
no life is like to this.”

Even by Puritan standards the lines are highly impersonal, but this attempt at expression unleashed a creative storm within the poet. Life in the fledgling colonies was often a brutal affair. Everything, from food to clothes to shoes to the very homes they lived in, had to be produced by the colonists themselves. Women did not sit idly in rockers and knit the day away. Their work was hard and unending. For Anne to crave out time for writing in the midst of her work and while caring for eight children is remarkable.

More remarkable is the support she received from not only her family, but the community at large. The Puritans were a highly self-disciplined lot who constantly examined every task or action in light of it’s value in the kingdom of God. The fact that her poems were published by her brother and read by others stands as a testament to their importance.

Anne is often classified as the first “American” poet. Upon the warm reception of the first volume of poetry, The Tenth Muse, she dared to step outside of the then-accepted conventions of the art. Her words became more personal. She described life in the New World: the heartbreak of being far from family, the fear of childbirth, a fire that destroyed her home. She knew loss intimately and wrestled with it on the page.

Even in that wrestling, she never ended in despair. Always her eyes were drawn to beauty and hope, as found in the first stanza of Contemplations:

“Sometime now past in the Autumnal Tide,
When Ph{oe}bus wanted but one hour to bed,
The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,
Were gilded o’re by his rich golden head.
Their leaves and fruits seem’d painted but was true
Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hew,
Rapt were my senses at this delectable view.”

At the risk of being branded a heretic, Anne allowed her readers to see a deeper wrestling, a wrestling with faith. She was tempted to atheism and wrote that she often argued with herself. Belief did not come easy; she made a conscious decision each day to accept the truth of Scripture and its testimony about God and salvation. She wondered if the Catholic Church had it right after all, but ultimately rejected what she termed the “vain fooleries” and “lying miracles.” She battled a strong materialistic streak but came to the conclusion that God Himself was better than anything else.

In short, Anne Bradstreet was a real, imperfect woman. Though she lived four centuries ago, she dealt with the same questions and insecurities we do today. She exposed herself, her struggles, on the page for all to see. She put down in words what many were afraid to express. In doing so, she left behind a testimony of tenacity and grace.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.

Sources

Michelle DeRusha, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014), 77-83.