I recently led a workshop for teen girls at a youth conference. I included these questions and leading statements in a handout at the end. I thought back to the things that kept me going when I was just starting my self discovery process, and compiled them. Guided journaling is a powerful tool, and as we answer these questions for ourselves they can also become guideposts to return to when we have lost our way. They are a trail of promises and affirmations, leading us back to who we are in faith. I hope this is a helpful resource.
Grounding Questions & Open Statements for Journaling / Self discovery:
Asking myself the right questions is one of the most important skills I’ve developed. Sometimes we don’t need more answers, we just need better questions.
God has shown up for me in these ways:
I feel close to God when:
Ways I practice resilience:
How it looks when I’m not OK:
(Often it’s hard for our communities to know what it looks like when we are in a bad place emotionally, what should they look for?)
How my family & community can help:
These verses comfort me:
These people affirm my identity, they remind me of who I am in Christ:
We can’t be what we can’t see, women I respect who mentor me:
I am intentional with my influence, these girls may see me as a mentor:
Hard things I have overcome:
Harmful beliefs or stories I live:
God makes all things new, what beliefs or stories am I choosing instead?
I’m still waiting on these:
I feel complete & grounded when I am:
(List how you choose to define yourself)
I am passionate about:
Things about myself that I’m learning to accept:
Things I am claiming for myself:
Things about myself that I celebrate:
I LOVE spotlighting amazing women for you all to follow, learn from, and support. Besides thankfulness, November and the Thanksgiving holiday are often when we remember what we know of our roots, and stories of the “First Thanksgiving”. Unfortunately, the mental picture of peoples from vastly different backgrounds sharing a meal and tenuous peace is often where our understanding of Indigenous Americans ends. So this month, I have a treat for you. I am going to link you up with fantastic Indigenous women to follow and learn from. Let’s expand our understanding of and respect for these women together.
Today, I want to share just a little of what I’ve learned as background. For the last couple years I have been actively working to fill my social media feeds with people who are different from me. Originally this started out as resistance to diet culture. I wanted to follow women who looked different from me because I wanted to build new pathways of what “normal” looked like in my brain. But as I followed these other women, and started learning about their lives and struggles, it became something more.
I realized that representation doesn’t only affect our self image through showing us airbrushed and photoshopped versions of reality.
Representation shapes our communal understanding of each other.
To put it more plainly, we understand and assume that most people are like us, the people we know, and those we see represented in media and government. We have more empathy for those people because their stories and lives feel familiar.
I used to think representation wasn’t a big deal, until I started paying attention to those who I really didn’t see represented. They showed me new worlds full of perspectives and histories I had never considered.
Violence against women has been headlining lately. I’m glad to see women gaining their bite, and a movement forming. But Indigenous women have been especially vulnerable to sexual violence for centuries, due to unjust legislation and lack of priority. Non indigenous people visiting a reservation were not chargeable with crimes committed on that reservation until the VAWA act was passed in 2013. 1776 to 2013 held 237 years of crimes (against Indigenous women) that were not able to be prosecuted. As of this year, there are 5,712 missing and / or murdered Native women.
According to the Indian Law & Resource Center;
“In the United States, violence against indigenous women has reached unprecedented levels on tribal lands and in Alaska Native villages. More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence. Alaska Native women continue to suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault and have reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States. Though available data is limited, the number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women and the lack of a diligent and adequate federal response is extremely alarming to indigenous women, tribal governments, and communities. On some reservations, indigenous women are murdered at more than ten times the national average.”
When I first heard these numbers, it was staggering. I thought about how how most of the women that I know have experienced harassment or assault in some way, and that all of us have felt unsafe because of our gender at one point or another. Then I thought about how our “normal” could be so. much. worse. There’s knowing that female genital mutilation and gendercide are still happening on the other side of the globe, and that is terrible. It’s another thing entirely to realize the breadth and nuance of what Indigenous women are facing right here.
Here’s the thing about fighting for equity and equality. We aren’t here, til we are ALL here.
If our version of morality, faith, spirituality, or equality only works for people who look and think like us, we need to do better.
Sometimes that means coming up against hard things in ourselves. We must build the resilience to do this work.
I’m not writing this post to guilt anyone. There are myriad causes that we can (and many times should) be aware of. It can be overwhelming to absorb so much information, and if you’re an empath like me, emotionally exhausting. Resilience is my repeating mantra here.
We do what we can, with the understanding that as we learn our capacity for growth and affecting positive change will increase.
I’m going to leave you with a few really actionable and positive steps to take to improve your understanding and, if you choose, help Indigenous women gain safety.
The first thing we can do, and it’s often free, is educate ourselves. Amnesty USA has a PDF explaining the nuance in legislation that vastly contributes to Indigenous women’s lack of safety.
There are non-profits run by Indigenous peoples to combat violence against Indigenous women like
Native Womens Wilderness is a Native run initiative that inspires and raises the voices of Native Women in the Outdoor Realm. They encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the Wilderness, and educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. (adapted from Native Womens Wilderness mission statement.)
The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society is committed to providing shelter and advocacy for individuals victimized by violence. They recognize the necessity of a multi-faceted approach –the need to develop an effective response to systems in our community such as health, criminal justice, and other institutions that minimize violence against woman. They also believe it is necessary to raise community awareness by naming what has happened to them as indigenous women. At the same time, they recognize that responding to systems may or may not make significant institutional changes that will stop violence against women. Therefore, they are also dedicated to exploring and creating actions that will move us toward a social transformation that will allow equity for women.
(Adapted from The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society Facebook page)
Mending the Sacred Hoop grew out of regional organizing efforts and a Native women’s advocacy and support group for survivors of domestic violence in Duluth, MN in the 1980s. They began as a Native program operating within the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP), with the goal of changing the way systems and service people respond to American Indian people. Their first funded project was conducting systems advocacy and intervention: organizing a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to domestic violence with Carlton County and the Fond du Lac Reservation in northeastern Minnesota.
(Adapted from Mending The Sacred Hoop Website)
The Mission of National Indigenous Womens Resource Center is to support and uphold grassroots advocacy by creating and enhancing the capacity of Native communities to end gender based violence through technical assistance, education, public awareness and policy development. NIWRC’s vision is to restore safety of Native women and their communities by upholding the inherent sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. (from NIWRC website)
Native Hope believes in the power of storytelling to dismantle barriers, bring healing, and inspire hope for Native people. Why? Because telling stories of Native struggle and Native strength is a powerful catalyst for unity, generational healing, and personal growth. Each of us has an evolving story which no one else can write. Native Hope believe that healing for Native people starts with a vulnerable recounting of where one has been, where one is today, and where one wants to be tomorrow. That's why we tell stories. (adapted from Native Hope website)
Taking positive action can look like reading these (and other) websites, subscribing to their newsletters, and financially supporting them.
We can expand our mindsets by purposely following, supporting, and learning from Indigenous peoples on social media.
We can respect the sacred things in Indigenous culture, and abstain from degrading them to the level of personal trinkets.
We can make sure that if we buy clothing, jewelry, or household items featuring patterns from Indigenous culture, that they are made by (and the profits of the sale go to) Indigenous artisans.
We can allow the perspectives and histories of the Indigenous communities to show us their communal narratives, teach us, and broaden our mindsets.
If you've read any of my work, you know I'm all about building up other women and boosting their signals. The belief that drives this for me is a conviction that we all need each others gifts. We are not whole, until we are all whole. We haven't arrived until we all have arrived.
We are not safe until we are all safe.
I have just started my journey of learning about and from Indigenous communities and cultures. This post is not about me or my experience. This post is an arrow to the communities and women that I am learning from, so that we can grow together.
Last month, my friend Jaime texted me. “I just listened to this interview on NPR about a woman who wrote a book on evangelical purity culture, and I thought of you.” I immediately looked up the interview with Linda Kay Klein, the author of “Pure” and after listening to it, I ordered it on Amazon. It came in a day, and before I knew it I read the first chapter and was twelve again, feeling like it was God’s sovereign will that I marry my first crush.
I consider myself to have grown up on the fringes of purity culture. But “Pure” called out experiences that I’ve had or I’ve known friends to have that hit so close to home. I read the first few chapters and had to put the book down. It was just too real, too big of a reminder of mindsets I’ve come so far from.
I picked it up again a week later. The content was still hard, but also so vital. I felt like I needed to read the stories of these women, that they needed to count and matter for something. Their pain MUST pave others healing journeys.
Personally, the chapters that resonated the most with me were; “Going Home”, “Dementors” and “Sanctuary”. The rest were great examples that I identified with strongly, but I guess those three center either in where I feel I am right now (A mix of the creative owning of self explored in “Going Home” with the growth and expansion described in claiming faith through “Sanctuary”.) or where I feel my call lies (“Dementors”.)
"Going Home" explores the authors writing process as she confronted her family’s fears as she worked on a topic that is potentially so volatile. It pictures her still looking for confirmation of belonging, even as her faith and calling looked so different from what her parents ever imagined.
Personally, writing and sharing is really scary. I get it. I have written parts of my book (and even parts of my blog and instagram posts) and wonder which one will bring the raised eyebrow, or the shutdown of local ministry opportunities. I went through the “will my family stick with me through major change and disagreement” phase a long time ago, but I had never openly questioned or critiqued long cherished patterns of life in Christian communities. Perhaps this is another commentary on evangelical culture, that I assume if I am fully myself and live into my calling, my community will desert me. I assume that parts of myself and my calling will be seen as “too much” or “too intense”. So I feel for Linda, knowing that she must write potentially controversial stories, even though the kickback could be severe.
“Dementors” describes the religious PTSD many women (and men) who have been traumatized through harmful teaching experience when they walk into a church. For some women Linda interviewed, just talking to a clergy person or standing in a pulpit brought on actual panic attacks. I write for so many reasons, but these people are such a HUGE reason that I write. I hope and pray that these people find the healing they need in whatever way they need it. But as long as this keeps happening, I have work to do. My goal is to see Christian faith acting as an actual sanctuary. A place of healing, safety, and reprieve for ALL.
“Sanctuary” gives me hope that this can be achieved. Linda features a few churches which have focused on teaching Christianity in autonomy. Somehow she managed to write a book on one of the most painful and traumatic parts of life for evangelical Christian women, and end on a beautiful, hopeful note.
Also of note, and covered in detail in this book, the physical, emotional, and mental trauma caused by various (non biblical) purity teachings in evangelical faith.
Who should read this:
Those of you who are searching for your path out of the life force sucking traumatic experiences that encompass purity culture.
You will find so. much. affirmation. You will find (hopefully) hope. You will finish this book saying #metoo and maybe #churchtoo but also with an understanding that you can overcome this messaging.
If you have influence in faith circles, I think knowing the dark side of purity messaging is really important. Purity culture is alluring because there are set ways to “win” when we play the game right. It sells the idea of “safety” from having to sort out an murky feelings about sexuality, desire, or consent. We need to know what mindsets we are passing on to the kids and teens in our spheres of influence. This book will stick with you. The stories will haunt you, and they should. They will be reminders every time you want to give a pat answer, or trite example of “sexual purity”. Let the eighty plus women interviewed for this book always help you remember the gravity of this topic. Don’t let your teaching be the reason someone can’t step in a church without having a panic attack.
“They won’t tell you fairytales of how girls can be dangerous and still win.
They will only tell you stories where girls are sweet and kind and reject all sin.
I guess to them it’s a terrifying thought, a red riding hood
who knew exactly what she was doing when she invited the wild in.”
Meanwhile - Nikita Gill
Salem MA, right in our backyard, is a Halloween destination. Haunted Happenings lists all of the ways you and your family can get the full experience. Of course the reason Salem is on the map is much more sinister - the Salem Witch Trials from 1692-1693. This phenomenon and paranoia left over 200 people accused of witchcraft, and 20 lost their lives.
I grew up knowing that the witch trials happened, of course, but looking back now I think we have much to learn from our history, and some hope to draw too. The Salem Witch Trials came on the heels of massive witch hunts across Europe. This cultural history spanned over 300 years, and came with the puritans across the ocean. Theocratic government - religion chosen and enforced as law came with them as well.
The Theocracy made witch hunting a natural part of the Pope Gregory the IX Inquisition, fully sanctioned by church and state alike. All the witch hunts - both in Europe and Salem were fed by fear, closed mindedness, corrupt power dynamics, and lack of understanding. Suspects were imprisoned inhumanely and cruelly tortured until confession and death seemed their best choice.
It’s roughly estimated that tens of thousands of people in Europe, mostly women, were executed as witches. This seeps into our lore and fairy tales, as does the fear of a strong, intuitive woman. The crone or hag is a mythical archetype woven into lore from every country and culture. Much of the "damning" evidence for witchcraft was herbal mixtures of plants which were poisonous and hallucinogens. Applying these to sensitive areas gave a high without causing severe illness or death, which ingestion would cause. Whether or not it was labeled as witchcraft, these rituals were not looked on kindly by the theocratic government. Witch hunts were a very real way to strip women of personal pleasure or bodily autonomy.
Our stories and lore extol the sweet, virtuous maidens and princesses, while casting shadow and doubt on the crones, the witches, the hags. In “The Women Who Run With Wolves” Clarissa Pinklola Estes talks about the history of these characters. The old, wise, woman, often represents the Wild Woman archetype. But we overlook her because she is not “pretty”. She does not meet our specifications of Heroine. She is too weathered, is missing too many teeth, and to hold space for her, we must face the dark wild in ourselves.
Some days I look at our current social climate and see the same themes:
Abuse of power and corruption
Fear of what we don’t understand
Fear of others who aren’t like us
Fear of different belief systems, cultures, and religions
Searching for reasons that bad things happened to us or our loved ones
Searching for ways to right a perceived slight or a vendetta
Fear of the fully embodied and unleashed Feminine
But there’s another theme that I draw from Salem’s story, and one I think we should hang on to.
The turn around.
The fact that this is where the witch hunts stopped. It’s sad irony that the witch hunt in Salem started losing steam when the Governor’s wife was accused. The humanity seeped in when she was someone (someone importants') wife. If she had just been “someone” she may have been number 21. But hey, for 1693 that’s progressive and I’ll take it.
The hope I see in this gruesome and sobering story is this:
We decide what traditions and vices we hang on to, and pass on to the next generation.
We decide what stops with us. I know for me, the work I am putting in can feel like an uphill battle. I don’t just mean blogging! I mean the healing work, the therapy, the reading and developing my mindset. Calling out misogyny, being totally honest about where my integrity and yes, my faith, lead me regardless of response. In another 300 years, it’s possible and even likely no one will know who I was. But I can also choose to stand with my sisterhood of women in making history, saying that #timesup.
We may not be witches (well some of us may be, but not THAT kind!) but we hold the power to craft the future that women are looking back on in another 325 years. I’m not just talking about protesting, or hashtagging, or social justice warrioring, although all those things have merit.
Moms, I’m talking about what you say to your sons and daughters.
I’m talking about how seriously you take their “no” and how much autonomy you encourage.
I’m talking about giving your sons tools to process their emotions, and your daughters opportunities to get messy, be loud, and find their voices.
I’m talking about teaching ourselves that we matter, by prioritizing our own needs, as women, above the convenience and comfort of everyone else in our lives.
I’m talking about advocating for ourselves, claiming our space, and waking up to the full understanding that our healing is of so much more importance than our waistlines.
I’m talking about using our energy to build community and sisterhood, instead of counting weight watchers points.
I'm talking about doing the work to understand what power dynamics we benefit from, and leveraging our advantages to help those who were born in different social landscapes.
The women of 2,343 are counting on us to show up for them. To craft a world where they don’t feel the need to hold their keys between their fingers when they walk down the street after dark.
Where pepper spray isn’t a common keychain accessory.
Where every other girl and woman doesn't have a #metoo story.
Where they can stand on the shoulders of women who have done excruciating work, and reach the stars.
Let’s be those women.
For me, Salem is famous yes, for the executions of
Bridget Bishop (née Playfer; executed June 10, 1692)
Rebecca Nurse (née Towne; July 19, 1692)
Sarah Good (formerly Poole, née Solart; July 19, 1692)
Elizabeth Howe (née Jackson; July 19, 1692)
Susannah Martin (née North; July 19, 1692)
Sarah Wildes (née Averill; July 19, 1692)
George Burroughs (August 19, 1692)
George Jacobs Sr. (August 19, 1692)
Martha Carrier (née Allen; August 19, 1692)
John Proctor (August 19, 1692)
John Willard (August 19, 1692)
Martha Corey (September 22, 1692; wife of Giles Corey)
Mary Eastey (née Towne; September 22, 1692)
Mary Parker (née Ayer; September 22, 1692)
Alice Parker (September 22, 1692)
Ann Pudeator (September 22, 1692)
Wilmot Redd (September 22, 1692)
Margaret Scott (September 22, 1692)
Samuel Wardwell Sr. (September 22, 1692)
Giles Corey (September 19, 1692) - Pressed to death.
Bethany Shafer (october 21,1692)
But the fact that they were the last. This fall as you enjoy Halloween with your family, remember these men and women. Think about what about our world, based in fear and control, you might want to see end with you, or your generation.
Looking for more Fall posts? Check out my favorite Connecticut Blogger Babes below! We've linked up for an October Blog Hop. Want to participate too? Add your link!
Megan is a writer and creator from Wallingford, CT. She is passionate about empowering women to step into the full power and identity they were created to embrace and claim.