Tag Archives: Faith

The Girl God

By Trista Hendren

 

When I grew up, God was a MAN. I was a sinner in need of His salvation for my many transgressions.

This view hampered my life until my mid-thirties when everything completely fell apart.

It pains me to write this, but the reality is this: I was never taught that I mattered.

I came from a loving family but the emphasis was on meeting the needs of men, no matter what the cost to women. I watched my mother make a lot of sacrifices for all of us – and despite this I often still resented and blamed her. Because I grew up placing a low value on myself and my needs, I often made poor choices and was filled with resentment.

I had a rather dramatic end to my second marriage which forced me to re-look at my life. I began reading again—voraciously.

Despite 15 years as a feminist, it never dawned on me to question my family and religious upbringing. We were, by all accounts, “normal”. Compared to many other people, I really didn’t have much to complain about. So while I learned about and rallied against the systematic oppression of women, I did not correlate my family and faith to the roots of my own.

I now believe that it is these very engrained patriarchal systems that continue to keep women as a whole down. This is a very hard thing to face. It is painful to think that your own family had anything to do with holding you back. Most of us will do anything to hold on to the very idea of our family. Even until last year, I still was in the habit of biting my tongue whenever my father said something I disagreed with.

When my daughter was born 3 years after my son, I realized a very real difference in the way my children were regarded. I was raised with 3 sisters, so I did not have the first-hand comparison of how boys and girls were treated growing up. But my observation is that we still approach boys and girls very differently – perhaps even more so in traditional religious families.

When my daughter was 5, I realized that she could not relate to the idea of God at all. It seemed to come natural to my son, who enjoyed going to both the church and the mosque. Perplexed, I asked my daughter if she could feel God inside of her. She could not – until I asked her about a “Girl God.”

At that point she lit up with a big YES!!

I wrote a book about our conversation as we began our faith journey together towards the divine feminine. Since then, I have made it into a series, as I realized I could not address everything I wanted to in one book. As Ursula Le Guin said, “We have to rewrite the world.” I’m working on it!!

It was important for me to write interfaith books as I come from both a Christian and Muslim background. As I began to research the Divine Feminine, I found Her in every faith tradition! My hope is that women can work together despite our religious differences. We have much more in common than we might imagine.

I also see that sometimes there is a resistance within feminism to religion, which can result in putting women of faith down or into certain categories. I think this is a huge mistake.

The majority of women around the world belong to a religious tradition, and most are unlikely to leave their faith of origin. I think it’s really important to work with women and girls where they are at.

I believe that we cannot break the chains of our oppression until we address the roots of it. When we dig through what is there, we find that the Divine Feminine was often always there in the shadows. I would like to bring Her back into the light. I want women of all faiths to know that it is not a “sin” to worship a female deity.

In my years working with the Divine Feminine, it became apparent to me that women need their own communities. I was drawn to the Red Tent movement – the work of DeAnna L’am, Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost, ALisa Starkweather, and so many other amazing women. The two things that appeal most to me about this movement is the strong communities of women it builds and that it reverses the menstrual taboo of shame that is present in so many religions.

Audre Lorde said, “Without community, there is no liberation.” I believe by returning to the Divine Feminine, we will reclaim our power, together, as women.

You can purchase our books at www.thegirlgod.com

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Filed under ageing, coming of age, DeAnna L'am, growing up, Guest Blogger, parenting, women's stories

Blog Tour of Inspired Reading: The Red Tent

By Keiko Zoll, (From Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, June 18, 2011)

Today’s post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour: a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. In today’s hop, the blog featured before mine is Karen’s But I Digress. The blog featured after me is the captivating Catherine at Idea City. Do stop by and say hello plus some of us are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy!

For this Blog Tour, we were asked to write about the book that inspires us the most. I’m glad I’ve gotten the  prompt to write about a book that has meant so much to me over the years and has in many ways, shaped the way I view myself as Jewish Woman (yes, with capital J and capital W).

Every woman should read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. I have often called it Required Reading for Every Woman because it is a remarkable, gorgeous, sensuous work of historical fiction that celebrates both the darkest and most glorious parts of what it means to be Woman.

Seriously? Go read it this weekend.

Very briefly, because I don’t want this to feel like a book report – The Red Tent unearths the story of Dinah from the dusts of the Torah, a Biblical figure who receives little more than passing mention in Genesis 34. Jacob is known as one of the great Patriarchs of Judaism with two Matriarchs at his side, Rachel and Leah, and a whole host of a dozen sons who became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. But among his boyish brood exists a lone daughter: Dinah.  Her story is often known as “The Rape of Dinah” as a prince of Shechem “defiles” her, and Dinah’s brothers Levi and Simeon avenge her rape by massacring the city of Shechem, leaving no survivors.

And with that, Dinah fades back into the dust of the Torah, never to be mentioned again. This is where Diamant picks up, fleshing out the story of Dinah’s youth and relationship to her four mothers: Rachel, Leah, and Jacob’s concubines Zilpah and Bilhah, as well has her grandmother, Rebecca. She weaves the tale of Dinah falling in love with the Prince of Shechem and that her brothers’ crusade was bent on murderous rage. After the massacre, she flees to Egypt where she gives birth to a son and becomes an devoted and talented midwife.

The Red Tent refers to something we talk about a lot in the infertility community: our menstrual cycles. As happens in many confined living arrangements, the women would often cycle together, in a phenomenon known as menstrual synchrony or the McClintock effect. Ancient tribes of women would gather in a menstrual tent or hut during their blood cycle, often cycling with the moon. Dinah learns of her rich heritage, not just as a third generation of monotheistic Jews, but as a Woman in her place in a Long Line of Women Before Her.

As I’ve said before, we shouldn’t be ashamed or grossed out by our periods, because our menstrual cycles are a vital indicator of women’s health. The Red Tent reminds us of this and inspires us to be mindful of the miracle and wonder of our own human forms.

You may have also read posts where I speak of the Red Tent Temple, the women’s group I go to every month. The Red Tent Temple movement was born out of Diamant’s novel by ALisa Starkweather, a Wise Woman and Women’s Empowerment Practitioner. I’m also so pleased to know filmmaker Isadora Leidenfrost who is making a documentary of the Red Tent Temple Movement: Things We Don’t Talk About. This one-hour film is slated to be released next year. I have eagerly been awaiting the trailer; hopefully I’ve made the cut from hundreds of hours of footage that Isadora shot herself at Red Tent Temples all over the country. She’s also looking for some more financial support to stay on track with her production and release schedule, so if you know of women-empowered businesses or organizations who’d be willing to help out an empowered woman filmmaker, please head over to her site and drop her a line.

The Red Tent in its modern iteration has become a place of community wisdom and social healing, a sisterhood of empowerment. In reading The Red Tent and participating in the Red Tent Temple in my own community, I’ve realized that their is indeed power to be had in gathered groups of women. We need more dialogue circles like this, more Red Tents, to share our collective womanhood experiences; there is so much we can learn from one another as women when given the opportunity.

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Filed under Anita Diamant, Keiko Zoll, Sarah Laughed, The Red Tent

The hardest letter to write

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, November 10, 2009)

Dear-

Well, this leaves me at an impasse. I’m writing a letter to someone I have never met, never named.

Let’s try this again, shall we?

. . .

I began this letter as an exercise in grief, in letting go. The goal was simple: write a letter to the genetic child I’ll never have – a textbook psychotherapy homework assignment. Each time I would craft some eloquent opening in my head, rolling it around on my tongue without committing to speak it aloud or put it to paper. I would have these passing thoughts like express trains, blurring past the local stops leaving a windy wake and the knowledge that a thought had passed through this station without stopping, intent on the same ultimate destination.

Each time I thought of crafting this letter, I would be a few sentences in when I realized I would jump right into the body of the letter and neglect the greeting. I was addressing a letter to an unnamed child, always resulting in an awkward two-sentence false start. Before I could commit to anything more than those two sentences, I went on happy tangential daydreams thinking of names. I think this is exactly what they mean when folks mention “that twinkle in your mother’s eye.” That twinkle is possibility, and what drives us is giving that possibility a name. It’s like putting a lasso around the unknown: “I don’t know what my child will look like, but I’ve got a name for them.”

Infertility aside, I have no idea what my child will look like. Even if we could make a baby the old fashioned way, there’s no way to predict the way mine and my husband’s genetics would combine visually. After our vacation in Japan, I ached for an adorable little Japanese baby with their rubbed-the-wrong-way static electric hair. I am genuinely curious to see what a quarter-Japanese child would look like, rather, wanting to know what my quarter-Japanese baby would look like. Would he have big ears like his daddy? Would she have soft skin like her mommy? In the end, I don’t know and for the first time on this crazy ride, I’m okay with not knowing.

Genetically, I’ve got some real beasts I’d potentially pass down: thyroid problems, obesity, a history of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my extended family, not to mention my own infertility issues. How cruel would it be to pass on my infertility to my daughter? It’s just not ethical. But my thick dark hair, my rich brown eyes, and my high cheekbones: these are lost. My seemingly petite mouth and almond shaped eyes that can portray a myriad of exaggerated facial expressions at a given moment: those unique faces that are genetically passed down with the same facial muscle structuring (“oh he looks just like his mother when he laughs” or “she has her mommy’s smile”) – this legacy of visual expression is lost. I grieve for this face that should have been.

I grieve for this now lost moment when I look in my child’s face and see myself, really see my genes and my visual characteristics. I grieve knowing that from an evolutionary standpoint, I didn’t make the cut. I deeply grieve the loss of a child that is part me, part my husband, from their very fundamental genetic makeup. I grieve for the misplaced miracle in utero, where the very essence of me and my soulmate are joined by cosmic biology, a Darwinian leap of faith.

I hold this image of you tight in my arms: I smell your hair and stroke your cheek and smile back at the smile that looks just like mine. I cradle your face in my hands as you balance on tiptoes to reach up to me. I kiss you on the forehead, and release you like so many cells and dust and stars into the cosmos.

. . .

But you are still out there.

. . .

When your father and I met, we recognized something in one another. I saw a part of myself in him and he in me, that recognition of an old soul long separated into many pieces, as if to say, “Hello, at last. I have found the part of my soul that has been missing all these years.” When we found each other, we fit our missing pieces together and found completion.

Or so we thought.

Let’s not kid ourselves: we were only fifteen at the time. We had a little growing up to do.

. . .

After a heaping tablespoon of the real world, we could maturely interpret and internalize just what it means to be soulmates. We wanted everyone to know and share in our joy with each other. We wanted to shout it to the rooftops and we did – we were surrounded by our loving family and so many dear friends as we told the world: “Here! Here is my heart, my joy, my breath! I have found the one in whom my soul delights.” We danced and danced and danced and as we each clung to a corner of a red napkin, hoisted high on the shoulders of those that love us, we were truly a reconnected old soul, laughing with joy and contentment.

The stars laughed with us that night.

. . .

What I have realized is that you are still out there. You are that little piece that has been missing from our souls and while it might take me a little time to find you, I know you’re out there. You may not look the way I thought you would, but I will love and welcome and cherish you just the same. And when your father sees you, he’ll remember you too and say smiling, “Hello at last, little one! We’ve been looking for you. Come, tell us of your travels! We have so much to share with you.”

I will look into your eyes and I will recognize you from so long ago, thankful that we’ve found you after all this time.

. . .

In the clear night sky, the stars hang hopeful.

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Filed under Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Infertility, Keiko Zoll, letter