Yank My Uterus

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Bluntness ahead. I do not intend to offend, but proceed with caution if you are in possession of thin skin.

I believe in writing honestly.

I also believe there is wisdom in knowing when to write and when to keep silent.

No author is obligated to share absolutely everything with her audience. We bloggers may spill our creative blood all over the internet, but we are allowed privacy. We can hold things back without becoming liars.

At first, I wanted to keep this to myself. But here goes.

In a few hours, I will have a hysterectomy.

The more I thought about it, the more irritated I got that I had this sense of needing to keep the thing a secret. Millions of women suffer each and every day. We experience pain and a diminished quality of life. We feel like we can’t talk about it because, though skin and sex are casually splashed everywhere, the workings of our bodies remain taboo. The message is clear: keep it sensual, darlings, maybe occasionally athletic, or shut up.

If men were in our position, billions of dollars would be dedicated to finding a solution.

Enough.

There is a woman out there who needs to hear that she is not a freak of nature after a hysterectomy. She needs to be told that she is more than the function or presence of an organ. She needs to know that she is bright, lovely and amazing, with or without all of her factory parts.

A declaration, for myself and for you, dear lady:

I refuse to believe that I am any less beautiful or any less valuable because I no longer have a uterus. I reject the notion that my scars make me disgusting. (In fact, I think they make me fierce, because I’ve been to war and lived to tell the tale). I reject the belief that I’m ugly because my belly may never be totally flat. I am more than skin, more than surface. I am vibrant, vital and vivacious. I have a lot of love to give. I will nurture life, looking for opportunities to uplift and encourage others. This is not the end of my story, but merely a plot device, designed to bring me into the next chapter.

I know that I will feel depressed and anxious after surgery. This is normal. I won’t feel this way forever. I know that I will be in pain. That won’t last forever, either. I am going to rest and take my medication and ask for help and rock long tunics, leggings and comfy dresses for as long as I want. I’ll wear my hair big and messy, too, because why not? Or I will get all glammed up the second I’m able, even if I’m staying home, because also why not? My beauty is mine to own and to style.

I know that it will take me up to 12 months to fully heal internally. This will frustrate me sometimes, but I will give myself grace. It’s a journey, a process. The days may seem long but the months will go by faster than I expect.

As they say, haters gonna hate. I will let negative comments go in one ear and out the other. I know I made the best decision I could. I will not allow regret or “what if?” to weigh me down. I won’t stay stuck. I will move forward. I will surround myself with honest, supportive people who may not always understand, but who will accept me as I am and give me the necessary, gentle pushes to keep going.

I’m still me. I’m still a woman, and a complete one at that. I have passion and drive and interests. I bring a lot to the table. This is but a blip on the radar screen.

********

Now why, you might wonder (if you’re the nosy type), am I getting this hysterectomy?

– I’ve been in constant pain for years. Manageable a lot of the time, sure, but still. Constant pain. I’ve tried everything to treat the problem, to no avail. It just keeps getting worse. Why on earth would I want to keep dealing with that? Why on earth should I keep dealing with that? Nobody gets a medal for suffering. It’s not noble. It’s not romantic.

– I’ve never been “regular” (oh, no – I’m talking about menstrual cycles; shield your eyes and hide your children). It’s either nothing or a scene that Quentin Tarantino would envy. This brings with it a host of concerns. Cancer risk increases. Infection risk increases. My gynecologist put me on progesterone, the absolute, no exceptions, only hormone that I can possibly use, at the lowest dose, in an attempt to “flush things out” and that didn’t really work.

– I can’t have kids (and even if there’s some chance that I can, I shouldn’t). Imagine living with the constant worry of being placed in the “high risk and probably going to get liver cancer, which is hard to treat (not impossible, but hard), so there’s a good chance you’ll die” category if by some miracle you did get pregnant. Imagine how that would impact your marriage. You don’t exactly want to get frisky with your husband when you hurt and when you’re worried about dying sooner than you’d like, most likely taking any baby with you in the process. Don’t talk to me about “leaving it in God’s hands.” God never, ever requires anyone to operate without sense. God never, ever requires anyone to deny reality. That’s bad doctrine. Go sit in a corner. Oh, and don’t come at me with “the Bible never mentions hysterectomy so it’s bad.” The Bible never mentions the internet that you’re using. Go sit in a corner again.

– The longer I keep this jacked-up spare part, the greater my chances of developing the uterine cancer that runs in my family.

– I can’t treat the issues hormonally (save for the aforementioned progesterone that didn’t work). I must not take acetaminophen for the pain. I have to use ibuprofen and naproxen sparingly. (Thanks, freakish damaged liver. I loathe you). Herbs and oils and supplements…just no. Don’t go there with me. They’re unregulated, so who knows what anybody’s really getting in that capsule that promises sparkling unicorns and rainbows. Plus most of that stuff is more dangerous for my liver than any painkiller. And massages and chiropractic…more no. #thatsnothowanyofthisworks

I didn’t arrive at this decision overnight. It’s been…I’d say about 5 years in the making. I’m nervous, of course, because, well, it’s major surgery, but that nervousness is dwarfed by a sense of anticipation, which I know will be followed by relief. No more cramping that keeps me in bed. No more big ol’ clots. The idea that maybe, just maybe, I can actually enjoy sex again. (Yes, I said it. Sex is a good thing).

I’m not a moron. I know the risks. You don’t wind up with a foot-long incision on your belly, the result of a tumor, without knowing the risks of surgery.

So out the uterus goes, and I’m not ashamed. I’m not “selfish” because I want one less health problem to think about. I’m not “sinful” because I chose to heed the advice of four different doctors instead of trying to manipulate God by “praying it away” (not that we shouldn’t pray for healing; there’s just a difference between requesting in faith and demanding a specific response) or using products sold by a multi-level marketing (read: pyramid scheme) company in the hopes they’ll work their magic or availing myself of mystical energy healing or following the direction of a blogger dispensing medical advice despite lack of any real medical knowledge. My life isn’t going to suck, I’m not going to become emotionally numb, I’m not going to lose my mind, I’m not going to walk around singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…” I won’t sit in a chair, staring out the window, sighing heavily for the rest of my poor, sad, useless days. I’m not “less of a woman” because I will now lack a uterus. I mean, part of me is concerned that I’m losing the essence of my personhood, because I’m pretty sure it’s contained in my uterus, but I think I can find some essence on the black market. (If you don’t recognize that sarcasm, I can’t help you).

Christian women need to stand up and lead in these discussions of body and health. It’s time for us to reject the bad message that says our beauty must fit a certain mold, the bad theology that says we cannot be fulfilled or used by God without children or the possibility of any children or additional children and the bad cultural assumptions that keep us holding on when we need to let go. Imagine if we took control of the narrative. Imagine if we stopped being silent. What if we made sensible decisions and talked about them? What if we modeled the hope that God has a good plan, regardless of what happens, to the rest of the world? What if we realized that the 2.5 kids and the white picket fence are not, in fact, a promise found in Scripture? What if we dared to believe that we are women, even if we lose our breasts, our ovaries, our uteruses, our hair – because that’s who God made us to be? That it’s something more than outward appearance? What if we stopped judging ourselves and others by the modern Western ideal of womanhood? What if we looked to the Lord and said, “Thy will be done”?

Lord God, King of my life, Light of my world, Lover of my soul – Thy will be done. I am in Your hands.

Surgeon, yank my uterus. Get it out of there. Give me another set of sweet abdominal scars. I am a battle-hardened warrior, filled with the Spirit of the Living God. I fear not.

Let’s do this.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Silvia Tomo
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For His Glory, Just Write

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

This article was called to my attention awhile back. I’ve read through it a few times, trying to decide whether or not to respond. Since the complementarian vs. egalitarian battle shows no signs of ending, might as well take the plunge. This isn’t some personal thing, but rather a discussion of concepts. I don’t want anyone to go over there and be nasty. She’s my sister in Christ even though we disagree, and I’ll defend her if I hear of any of that going on.

Here we go.

For those who don’t know, I’m a member of the Church of the Nazarene, which has been ordaining women since its inception a little over 100 years ago. I was an egalitarian long before that, though it took returning to school in the pursuit of a theology degree in 2009 to solidify my position. In my class on the Pauline Epistles, we discussed and even formally debated the role of women in the church, learning about the differing interpretations of the “trouble” passages (1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-15) and their various strengths and weaknesses. Despite protests to the contrary, complementarians are just as inconsistent in their interpretation and application as they accuse egalitarians of being. (For example, the vast majority slough off the headcovering command as “cultural”). Anyway, long story short, I’m all for women preachers and teachers and missionaries. (For some good introductory reading on the subject, go here).

In the eyes of many, that one thing makes me a flaming heretic, or at the very least someone who winks at flagrant sin, even if that many would (probably begrudgingly) admit that my doctrine is solid (unless that many believes that Arminian/Wesleyan/Holiness types are also heretics, then all bets are off).

Really, that’s okay. I know that I’m saved by the death and resurrection of Christ. He gave me the grace I needed to come to repentance. In a moment He justified me and the Holy Spirit came to dwell within. He continues to justify and sanctify each and every day, holding me close until that blessed, sacred, longed-for moment when I fall before His throne, laying all at the feet of the King. I’m really not worried about anyone who thinks that my egalitarianism disqualifies me from life and salvation in the kingdom of God.

This security has come only after years of fearing the opinions of others, so I know that there are other women out there in cyberspace who are brought up short by the whole “can a Christian lady blog even if she might wind up teaching men?” question.

Short answer: Of course she can.

It has never once occurred to me that I need to define my audience or worry about who reads this blog. I left that in God’s hands a long time ago. You can fuss and fret and set up all the parameters you want, but you still have no control over who’s going to come across your site. Even if you explicitly state, in bold italicized underlined font, that only women are supposed to read your posts and you’re only reaching out to and teaching women and that this is a women’s blog only, chances are really high that you’re going to wind up with some male readers. Why lose sleep over it? Why freak out and delete or deny when Joe from Sheboygan interacts with what you’ve written? Maybe he’s got something really good to say. May he was encouraged by you. That doesn’t mean that you’re subconsciously plotting to send all men underground and bring them up only for the continuation of the species. (Egalitarians aren’t plotting that either, just so you know).

Some say that lady bloggers are okay as long as we don’t exposit Scripture. Well, goodness, after 8 years and nearly 600 published posts, I’ve exposited some Scripture. I’ve also shared about my life and discussed political issues. It doesn’t seem right to me to hold back just because a man might read and comment. Why would you shrink from your gift and calling? (This, of course, doesn’t at all mean that you throw wisdom and discretion out the window. Some stuff really doesn’t need to be aired in the public square).

Others say that if you happen to accidentally teach a man via the written word despite all of the boundaries you erect, it’s fine as long as you have some sort of prominently displayed statement declaring that you post your articles under the authority/guidance of a man (usually your husband or pastor). Huh? To my eyes that’s neither the letter nor the spirit of any of the “trouble” passages when seen through the complementarian lens. That’s something somebody sometime made up for “propriety’s sake.” (Really one of two things: a) the assumption that women are rather dumb and must be guided by men in all things and b) a loophole because you’re going against your stated position but don’t want to admit it or change).

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a stereotypical “woman’s voice” or “woman’s blog” (nothing wrong with either), but I welcome interaction with men. They’ve got great perspective and insight. I learn from them just as they do from me. It’s a mutual exchange. I’m not lording it over them and they’re not lording it over me.

What about the whole “you can’t address men’s issues or call them to the carpet?” The example cited in this piece was written at the height of the Ashley Madison scandal, and the woman who wrote to prod men to kneel and do some repenting deserves applause. That’s a sister caring for her brothers and calling them to righteousness. If a man can’t handle that, then he’s got a whole host of problems. Because here’s the thing: If any of the men in my life, be they “real” or online, can speak a hard word to me if needed (and they have), then I can speak a hard word to them (and I have). That’s how family works.

I can hear it now: You’re not in submission to your husband! Chris is my greatest supporter. (I know. He’s a heretic, too). You’re not in submission to your pastoral authority! They’re super-cool with my writing. (Burn them all, right?)

I joke, but I realize that incorrect doctrine and practice are things we must be vigilant about. My faith is my life. I take it extremely seriously. I know that we egalitarians are supposed to be all liberal and ignore Scripture and stuff, but that’s simply not true in every case. Like I said, my denomination has been ordaining women for the whole of its history, yet we remain doctrinally and socially conservative. There’s some real live false teaching going on out there that few seem to be able or willing to see and confront. Further, people are dying due to extreme violence, poverty and lack of access to clean water. Dying without ever hearing of Christ. Perhaps I am naive, but I think that the tent is big enough to house disagreement on this and we’d all do well to turn our attention to these issues. Last I checked, Jesus did not speak the Great Commission only over the twelve Apostles.

Basically, you’re not a heretic if you’re a writing woman and you teach some dudes. Nor have you committed an egregious, unpardonable sin.

Lady bloggers, please don’t stress. If your heart is to write specifically for women and your posts are worded that way, great. May God bless you and whoever reads your words. If you’ve never even thought about the whole gender issue, great. May God bless you and whoever reads your words.

For His glory, just write.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos

31 Days for the Ladies: Closing

31 Days Big

Gentle Reader,

The 31 Days Challenge never fails to live up to its name. I wanted to give up somewhere around day 18.

This requires a lot of us writers. If only it were as easy as a good idea and a steady stream of words. It’s work. It’s discipline. It’s hours spent behind the scenes crafting images, settling on the best categories and tags, deciding how to publicize, staring at a blank screen and mocking cursor and remembering to publish anything written in advance. And, of course, battling with computer issues that always seem to arise at the worst possible moment. Creative ADHD sets in. You want to do something else. You get distracted. #squirrel.

After participating in and completing the last three 31 Days gauntlets, OCD wouldn’t let me quit – and I’m glad. Writing this series, even in the hard moments, has been a delight. I find myself thankful to be a woman and thankful for the fantastic women I know. We are a diverse, colorful lot. We have strong opinions and even stronger personalities. We bounce off of each other and sometimes hurt each other with our sharp edges. Words are exchanged. Hot tears flow. Forgiveness is extended and it all begins anew.

Women are amazing creatures.

Most importantly, I am thankful to God. Over and over again He reminded me that He did not put women on this earth to take a backseat or sit on the sidelines. He did not make us to live as delicate hothouse flowers that need coddling every step of the way. His Spirit dwells inside every woman who has bent her knee to Christ – and that Spirit raised a man from the dead. That’s some mighty awesome power we ladies are plugged into.

Women are warriors. We do battle. Sometimes against a world that wants to swallow us whole. Sometimes against ourselves, against our selfish desires. Always against the very real enemy of our souls. We bruise and we bleed but we get up again. That is our calling. We get up and we move forward, empowered and strengthened by the God who so carefully crafted us.

The heart of our Father is to give us good gifts. He sees each tear we cry. He holds us close. He knows when we can go on no longer and pours just a little more strength into our bones. He laughs when we play. He smiles when we thrill to the colors of a sunset. He knows our hopes, our dreams, our passions. In everything we face, He rests His hand upon our heads and declares, “She is mine.”

He is for us, ladies.

For 31 days and beyond.

My journey to faith. (15)

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

31 Days for the Ladies: Mold-Breakers

31 Days Big

Gentle Reader,

Every woman who ever drew a line in the sand and said, “Enough.”

Every woman who lobbied for decades to achieve the right to vote.

Every woman who believes she deserves to be paid the same wage a man receives for the job.

The first college student. Doctor. Pastor. Lawyer. Representative. The ones who paved the way. The ones who battled real injustice. The ones who continue to do so. Voices raw and bodies weary, their hearts burning with longing.

Every woman who wants more for her daughter.

Every woman who never listened to the “can’t.”

Every woman who steps into a new role.

The famous names like Marie Curie and Elizabeth Blackwell and Amelia Earhart and Florence Nightingale and Ann Judson and Jeannette Rankin and Susan B. Anthony and Fanny Crosby and Alice Paul and Amy Carmichael and Annie Oakley. The unknown scores around them, faces blurred in old tintype. Your great-grandmother, who rode the trolley to her office job. Your mom who stayed home and took care of you. The pioneer lady in the history book who walked across an entire continent in the hope of a better life. The immigrant bent over her work inside a dimly-lit factory.

And you, dear reader. Every time you dare to dream. Dare to hope. When you sign up for that class. When you take on that project. When you will not let what has gone before determine what lies ahead. When you choose to be the person God created you to be instead of striving to meet the expectations of others. When the man-made boundaries chafe your skin and you stretch and pull until the thing just breaks and you are free, gloriously free, to travel the road and exercise the gifts laid out for you before the world began.

Mold-breakers, I salute thee.

My journey to faith. (15)

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