Devotional Thoughts Based on Hagar

Do you ever feel overlooked?  Do you ever feel unseen, perhaps by your boss or with a promotion, in dating, or even by your spouse?  The human heart longs for connection, understanding, and to be known.  We want to be loved and valued for who we are, not necessarily for what we do.  It can hurt emotionally to have those closest to us misunderstand us or say unkind things about us or our character.

Biblically speaking, there is a woman whose story is often overlooked in the Bible.  Many people know the stories of David against Goliath, Noah and the ark, or Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Sometimes women of the Bible and their stories can be overlooked by the church and Christianity, and that is where I want to give a special shout-out to author and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs.  When I worked at a Christian bookstore, her books were often on our Top 20 wall.  I have always wanted to read something by her, but I actually never have until recently.  Higgs seems to have a heart for women and stories of women in the Bible in particular and what we can learn from them.  She has authored books like Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Unveiling Mary Magdalene, and Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible.  I found Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible at my local library recently, and I have been blessed by her wise insights and Biblical depth as I have been reading it.  She inspired me to write a short devotional about Hagar on my blog.

Hagar is a woman of the Bible who I speculate is likely not mentioned by many Bible pastors, priests, or teachers.  I think this is unfortunate, because Hagar is someone that many women can identify with.  She did not have the perfect life.  Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant to Sarai (later named Sarah), and she was given by Sarai to Sarai’s husband Abram (later named Abraham), to become another wife to him and have a child by him because Sarai was barren.  Abram went along with this plan, and he slept with Hagar and she became pregnant.  Hagar was in what most people would consider an extremely uncomfortable situation, to put it mildly (Genesis 16: 1-4).

I will sidestep the hot coal about why Old Testament times allowed men to have more than one wife, because that is something that I honestly do not totally understand.  I think that most people today will agree that having more than one wife in a home, or more than one husband, seems to be a total recipe for major problems, jealousy, and disaster.  Sarai began to mistreat Hagar, and Abram looked the other way, even though Hagar was bearing his child and it was not right that she was mistreated, perhaps even abused.  Hagar ran away, and it was there that the angel of the Lord found her and spoke to her (Genesis 16:4-8).  The angel of the Lord spoke to her and said, “You are now with child and you will have a son.  You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.”  My Bible footnote says that Ishmael means “God hears.”  Then Hagar actually gave God a name and said: “You are the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:11- 13).  Liz Curtis Higgs elaborates on this well with modern day applications for us when she says, “It’s reassuring to know our suffering never escapes his notice.  God sees and God hears.  Hears our muffled sobs late at night. Hears our whispered pleas in doctors’ waiting rooms…What comfort, knowing we are loved by a God who listens”(Higgs, 2007, p. 51).  

May we know that God cares for us and hears us, just like he did for Hagar long ago.  He cares what you are going through and about the hurt in your heart.

 

References:

Higgs, L.C. (2007). Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible. Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press.

Holy Bible, New International Version, (1973). International Bible Society: Zondervan.

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Can Men and Women Just be friends? Dating and the Age-Old Question (Take Two)

Author’s note- this post from several years ago was on my mind again recently, and I want to re-share it (with a few slight editing updates) since the topic is so good and is one that many people have pondered over the years.

Can men and women just be friends?  That is a question that many writers, singers, and infinitely countless number of women and men and boys and girls have pondered through the ages.  It is the quintessential age-old question.  I, too, have pondered this question over the years, and my interest in women’s studies and my own personal experiences in the murky waters that can be male and female friendship has led me to examine this subject one again.  Also, I have noticed that of all my blog postings, the most popular one is my first post on Word Press, “Love, rejection, and poetry (a.k.a. a heart, a wall, and vulnerability)”.  I have observed that there is an wide interest in the topic of rejection judging by the many google searches where people end up on my blog when they are looking for topics such as “love rejection poems”, “heartbreaking love poems”, “rejection poetry”, and “famous poems on rejection” (I didn’t realize that I was famous).  If you are interested in reading my post on love and rejection, then feel free to link to it here: https://julieannesmith.wordpress.com/2012/01/

Today I was reading an article in the Daily Illini online written by Tanya Trivedi on 4/24/12 entitled “Just friends or hidden desires: Cross-gender friendships not clear-cut.”  I found the article to be thought-provoking and well-written, and it caused me to re-visit this topic, ponder my personal experiences, and take action to write a blog post.  Trivedi begins her article with a quote from Oscar Wilde and then she poses some interesting questions.  Here is an excerpt:

“Centuries ago, Oscar Wilde said, “Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.” Can his perception of friendships between males and females still ring true in regards to sprouting relationships in the 21st century? Perhaps love, passion, enmity or worship is lurking under the illusory layer of what we think of as friendship.”

(Quoted from http://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2012/04/just_friends_or_hidden_desires_crossgender_friendships_not_clear_cut)

Look deeper in to your friends personality

Look deeper in to your friends personality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My experiences in the vastly murky waters of male/female friendships (and relationships) has not always been a pleasant one.  Hence, some of my poetry.  I am definitely not a huge dater, and I actually have only dated a small number of guys in my life.  There is a long list of reasons for that, but I am sure no one here wants to read a book.  However, to give a “Julie’s condensed version”, I would say some of the reasons are:

1. My parent’s divorce scarred me, and I have various fears related to love.  I am greatly troubled by the vast number of marriages that end in divorce, and how it seems (for reasons that I do not understand) that people can have longer relationships with their favorite sweater than a committed, lasting, and emotionally healthy and stable marriage.  Pardon my bluntness.

2. I am quite independent, and I have never been one to “need a man” to be happy.  Sometimes it seems to me that many women let  their own emotional contentedness and happiness with their life rest on the fact of whether or not they have a boyfriend (or husband).  I would like to think that has never been me.

3.  I am not a fan of internet dating.  I prefer to know a guy in person.  However, with the current rise of internet dating, sometimes it seems that I am the only one not really desiring to run out and do e-harmony or Match.com.  Almost every wedding that I have attended in the last 5 years came about as the result of internet dating.  Am I missing out?  Personally, I do not think so. (Author’s updated note 9/9/16- I am pondering this topic again re: if I am missing out, because internet dating is a possible avenue to love, although I MUCH prefer the old-fashioned way of knowing a guy in person and then dating.  However, the jury is still out).

4. I keep busy with my friends, family, interests, church, and (previously) my educational degrees that I attained.

5. Financial limitations, perhaps??? I was unemployed after the two companies that I worked for both closed during the Recession, and no way was my focus on dating.  Also, these days, while I am a feminist, I still think that it is beautiful for a guy to treat a girl very special on a date, as well as to pay, especially if you are first dating and the guy has initiated the date.  Call me sexist if you want to, but honestly I like that tradition and think it is quite noble and honorable.  However, often times both parties wish to date but do not have any money.  Dating doesn’t really need to involve much money, and creative and free alternatives can also be done. Personally, I am quite content with pizza (which you can cook at home) and a relaxing movie, but it can be nice to go out, too.  (Good conversation is always free, might I add).  However, if I am left to fend for myself and pay my own way (as some guys seem to prefer), then honestly I would rather be able to afford to pay my rent than to go to a nice dinner at Texas Roadhouse.  Dating is not a necessity, but I will not go so far as to say dating is a luxury, either.  I believe there are economic factors in dating that have previously been overlooked and heretofore have not been the focus of Sociological studies about dating.

6. I strongly prefer being friends with women to being friends with men, with a few exceptions over the years.  Those exceptions are typically  the husbands of my close female friends (or my Dad or brother), however some other exceptions that I have made over the years have led to pain and heartache, causing me to being even MORE apt to prefer friendship with women rather than men.  My heart has been hurt enough over my lifetime.  Finally, it can be hard to safeguard your heart and still be open to romantic love, which I desire.

7.  Ok, ok, maybe I am writing a book here.  So, I will end this list with the fact that I am picky.  Also, often the guys that I would enjoy dating do not clearly initiate, most guys seem gun-shy about using the D-word (author’s side note: which I understand, because none of us like rejection…but I totally agree with a quote from the movie When in Rome: “the passion is in the risk” or “the beauty is in the risk”), and I can be shy when I like a guy.  And, as far as being picky, I think that it is important to have an emotional connection with a guy that you would date, as well as a physical attraction.  Also, I would enjoy some common spiritual beliefs, however I have had it both ways in dating, and honestly I found it challenging both ways but for different reasons.  Finally, two of the qualities that I find most endearing in a guy are seldom found together: boldness and gentleness.  I desire to be treated tenderly and gently, and guys that have a gentle and caring personality are very attractive to me.  However, I also enjoy bold guys who are leaders, highly verbal, and “Joshua” type men (meaning Joshua from the Bible).  If I ever find a guy who has both qualities, that may be the perfect guy for me.

As far as men and women just being friends, I am coming to realize that I cannot do that topic justice in one blog post.  I will say that it is a hotly debated topic, and in my personal experience some guys that I used to be friends with have acted like they no longer wanted to be my friend after they asked me out, and I verbally told them that I did not feel that same way about them.  No one wants to hear “I just think of you as a friend”, but sometimes that is the truth.  I would rather be honest, but I never want to hurt anyone.  I remember a guy friend in college who I suspected liked me, but I had a boyfriend.  Almost immediately after my boyfriend and I broke up, there was an instance where the three of us were eating lunch together.  We went to part ways and my ex left first.  My guy friend at that point took the opportunity to kiss me on the forehead while I was standing there shocked and stunned, and he said, “I can do that now since you are single.”  UH, NO!  Sometimes stuff like that makes me frustrated, and at times it seems like male and female friendships (and relationships) are like buried landmines in a vast field and you walk across the field and do your best to try to escape without major damage to life and limb.  Alright, I am being dramatic.  It is nowhere near that complicated or harmful, but male/female friendships are challenging and pose unique issues for everyone involved.

How about you?  I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on male/female friendships.  Do you find them challenging?  How do you safeguard yourself from being hurt?  Do you even think men and women can be friends, or is it a lost cause and we are all fooling ourselves?

Imperfect: A Poetic Rendering

Imperfect

why does it scare us so

to be?

Too slow

and we get left behind

and criticized.

Too fast

and we make mistakes.

 

As women

we struggle

to be thin.

To be beautiful.

To be desired.

To be capable.

All the while inside

secretly feeling imperfect

and wondering if we

are good enough,

or thin enough,

or pretty enough?

 

Perfection is a cruel master,

not allowing for any deviations,

flaws, or lesser standards.

But I believe that there

is beauty in imperfection

and freedom

in not trying to be perfect.

Perfectly imperfect.

That is true beauty.

 

Love is the Hope

The girl has a
hopeful heart.
Tired and forlorn
but still beating,
still prayerful,
and still seeking lasting love.
Love is the hope
of her.
Time smiles
and seasons come and go
for the girl
but she sees a future
in the distance
brighter than her current moments
and glistening with a golden sheen
like the sun and a thousand brilliant lights.
Love is the hope
of beautiful moments.
She is not backing down
from faith.
She is not giving up
having trust in her God
and His good hand
of provision for her.
Love is the hope
of God’s faithfulness.
Love beckons in the distance
still to be found and embraced
and toward that distance
she will go.

Love Tarries

Embed from Getty Images

Love tarries
as sunrises and sunsets,
new moons,
summer,
fall,
and winter
come and go
and another spring bashfully peaks
through the horizon.
The delay
and wait for love
weighs down my heart
with much sadness.
I feel forsaken
by love.

Men in my age range
seem to prefer model-types,
exotic foreign girls,
girls who like to flirt,
or girls who run after guys
and make things happen.
So, I’m no model,
nor do I want to be,
and beauty ultimately should come from within,
but I fault too many guys
for caring too much about appearance
and putting it on a pedestal,
and not caring enough about qualities
like compassion or intelligence or courage.
I don’t have exotic foreign appeal.
Alas, I can’t compete with that.
And I’ve never been one
much for flirting.
I appreciate genuine connection
and prefer to be monogamous
with flirting, but in dating
and not with every single guy.
I’m more traditional in nature,
and want to be pursued,
but society seems to laugh
at that these days.
I can be both traditional,
as well as for women having equal access
and opportunity in both the home and work sphere.

Love tarries
like a long, cold winter
when spring seems like it is forever gone,
and I sigh
and grow in patience,
albeit somewhat ungracefully,
in this wait for beautiful and lasting love.

My Article was Published in “Empowered” (an online Magazine)!!!

Original Sunset Photography by Julie A. Smith
I submitted an article in September to the Christian online magazine, “Empowered.”  It was accepted!!!  My friend Melissa writes for them, and she recommended me.  It is a blessing, especially since I have wanted to be published in a Christian women’s magazine, but the ones that I have found don’t take unsolicited writing.  I have my blog, but it is incredibly exciting to get published on a wider scale.  I would love to have more opportunities for my writing to be published in the future.  As rain falls beautifully ending a drought, I earnestly hope that my writing both on my blog and my personal poetry will be reinvigorated and inspired again, ending a dry spell for me with both my motivation and inspiration that has been lacking.  It was extremely encouraging to have my article published, and I have received promising feedback from the small number of family and friends that I have told thus far.  It was so affirming to see my article referenced on the cover of “Empowered” with the caption “Finding your path.”  It was also empowering (yes, I am doing a play on words with the magazine title) for me as a writer to type up my credentials and biography and submit a professional picture (actually taken at a previous staff expo for my current job that has nothing to do with writing).  While there was a slight editing mistake in the article (i.e. I never actually bought a Siberian husky  when I was younger, because the dog sold at the pet shop before I could buy it), I am so thrilled with the article overall.  However. I have to fight my inner critic and own self doubts when reading my own work or thinking that I should have edited more before submission, even though I spent hours on the article.  I sincerely hope you have a moment to check out my article.  It is in the October/November/December issue of “Empowered” on the topic of careers that was published mid-end last month.  My article is on page 23-24 and is entitled, “Finding Your Path When your Career Path is Different than you Dreamed.”

I’m going to feel Deprived if my Husband doesn’t Cook

Pot roast

Pot roast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to feel deprived if my husband doesn’t cook.  In my head is this fantasy that I have, and I just laughed as I wrote that, because in this fantasy my (future) husband likes to cook.  Steak.  Mashed potatoes.  Chicken.  Pot roast.  Tacos.  You get my drift.  Oh, but my future husband doesn’t mind baking, either.  Chocolate cake.  Brownies.  Cookies.  Banana nut Muffins.  I laugh to myself again.  You are probably laughing at me, too.  Or, perhaps you are outraged.  Actually, that is kind of the mood I am in.   I feel like pushing the envelope a bit.  I’m not outraged, but actually I just want to set gender expectations on their head.

So I was just eating dinner tonight and thinking about how I feel like a “bad” female, because honestly I don’t really like to cook.  I was always too busy reading to help my Mom in the kitchen, and she would have to push and prod me.  So, I really don’t know how to cook.  That is part of the problem.  Also, I hate dishes.  But, I have a dish washer now, so you ask what is my excuse?  Truth be told, my Mom even recently subscribed me to Rachel Ray’s magazine, but I find myself flipping through it thinking that certain foods look good, but then I stumble at the action point where I need to go out and buy the needed ingredients to make the meal.  My observation is that if you don’t have basic ingredients to start with, then your grocery bill can burst your budget and be a major detriment into your foray into cooking.

I fear my future husband will feel deprived with my lack of domesticity.  Here is what “gets me.”  Women are expected to work full-time.  Be thin (and I must say that the older I become, the harder that is, especially with the genetic predisposition of the women in my family).  Be beautiful.  Be sweet.  Love children.  Do the bulk (if not all) of the cleaning in your home.  And, finally, be a domestic “goddess.”  But what happens when you don’t wear the red polka-dot apron and make an amazing pot roast?

Society likes to play it both ways.  Women need to work outside the home, but they need to shine in the home sphere, too.  If you don’t, then you deprive your husband (thus goes the logic).  Your husband deserves a good home cooked meal.  And why would a woman want to “waste” a college education if she decides she wants to raise her children and stay at home?  Is that not a noble profession, or does she have to be climbing the corporate or academic ladder to get applauded?  I think many women get burned out running from full-time work to PTA meetings to kid’s soccer practice, and trying to be home in time to make a five course meal may be an unfair burden that society places on women.  Women can juggle many things successfully, but I think fairness and equality is a standard to be obtained in both the work and home sphere.  Why can’t husbands cook, too?  While I definitely will not feel deprived if my future husband doesn’t cook (FYI, I was just stirring the pot), I do hope that my husband will at least like to grill out, or he will enjoy cooking with me as we learn to cook together.  A girl can dream.