Women


Marry Him and Be Submissive #BookReview

Time for another book review!

My friends at TAN Books asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing  –

Marry Him and Be Submissive by Costanza Miriano

I’ll admit the provocative title piqued my curiosity. If anything, I decided to read to see if it was as controversial as it sounds and see what all the fuss over the book (in Italy) is about. (Apparently Costanza has caused such a stir over her book, which came out first in Italian and now in English, that there have been “riots” and talk of banning the book in Italy.)

What I liked about it:

Costanza, a working journalist, writer, wife, and mother of 4, seems like a fun and interesting person who cares deeply and passionately about preserving authentic and mutually respectful loving marriages. She shares a lot of advice and wisdom to women who are either contemplating marriage or are already married in a tell-it-like-she-sees it but with a good amount of tongue-in-cheek quips to go along. That said, the translation is great although I think I missed out on a few punch lines because I’m not well-acquainted with Italian humor and culture.  It was fun getting a little peek into what life for a mom, maybe a lot like myself, is like in Italy.

After reading it, I’ll honestly say this probably is not a book I would choose to read on my own but I’m glad I had the opportunity to see what it’s all about with an open mind. I can definitely understand why the title and the content would ruffle a few pretty feathers but it definitely gave me some munchies for my mind to chew on.

Without getting into any opinions as I know this can be a sensitive subject, I will say that I did not relate with everything Costanza writes about. However, I did  find it interesting to notice the similarities between her – an Italian woman and mother somewhat obsessed with fashion and giving out unsolicited advice – and I – an “American” woman who generally dislikes clothes and shopping or telling anyone what to do if they don’t want to hear it (except for my kids, of course).

What is Submission?

Before I share more, I’ll also say that it’s essential to understand what the word “submission” really means in the context of marriage and loving relationships. Costanza did a good job going into a deeper explanation of that on pages 112 – 120. In short, know that, in Italian, sotto mettere (submission) means to place under so as to be supportive.  I remember learning about this with a line drawn horizontally across the whiteboard and then a woman stick figure under a man on top with the woman’s arms holding up the man and the man’s hands holding up the woman.

Kind of like this…

_________^_________________

v

sort of…you’ll have to use your imagination. 😉

So, in this context, it is not a submission that says a woman should basically do whatever her husband tells her and never speak up against him. It is a sub-mission – a loving and generous submitting and giving oneself to another and in cooperation with that other person for their own good and the good of their family.

For the record, she also has a book for men – Marry Her and Die for Her.

If you can understand the true meaning of the word submission, then you can more fully understand and appreciate what Costanza means when she says, “Marry Him and Be Submissive”.

In other words, Love Him Selflessly and Support Him Generously with your Love.

Here’s a video of Costanza explaining her perspective on “submission” on the BBC Newsnight. 

Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have read this book on my own, and I found her tangents into fashion and other unrelated topics distracting for my already distracted brain. That said, she shares a great amount of wisdom about Women, Marriage, Motherhood and everything that goes along with it.

Here are some quotes from the book I liked: 

On Marriage and Commitment

[Your husband] is the means God has chosen to love you, and he is your pathway to heaven. Our vocation, whatever it is in life, is essentially to make each other happy. As Pavel Evdokimov, the Russian Orthodox theologian puts it, if the objective end of marriage is to generate children, the subjective end is to generate ourselves.
Without [your husband, you] cannot fully be yourself… And this task, with God’s help, you will regenerate yourself.

Nowadays everyone seems to be desperate to keep all options open…. What they don’t realize is that the choice to leave something open necessarily requires closing off some other possibility. Refusing to decide closes off the possibility of following a path that leads to depths of emotion and riches of spirit that the world has ever known. Experiencing an array of different love affairs won’t teach you as much about love as living a single experience of love in all its depth.

The choice of a profound and lasting love will help you embrace your everyday life…It will help you love your life… the path will lead you, through everyday life, up a slope that may be steep. But at the top, a great valley, will open up before you – a hidden and secret place that the back lanes of ‘feelings’ can never reach. It is experienced by very few…”

About Women, Emancipation, and Equality

“Today, we women are no longer required to act as servants, but we can choose to serve each other out of love and as a freely chosen response to a call. Men and women are very different, which has nothing to do with equal opportunities. We are not the same, and not recognizing this is a cause of certain suffering, as indeed happens every time we deny the truth.”

“Emancipation – which started out as a claim for Justice – led to a distorted idea of equality. Equality is not sameness. It is about giving equal dignity to two identities that could not be more different.”

To her young daughters  –

“My hope is that your generation and women can finally be at peace with itself, and I hope that you can fulfill your deepest identity by consciously choosing it. And so – and this really is an unfashionable wish – I hope that you will be, more than anything else, strong and thus welcoming, open to others and capable of bringing people together. And in a word, if you can, be good.”

Advice for Motherhood

Pages 148 – 150 contain many good words and thoughts about motherhood that any mother of young children could relate to, for example:

“It might be useful for you to know that if you need to go to the bathroom and you still managed to retain the right to close the door, you can place a toilet role against the wall and use it as a makeshift cushion to grab a couple of seconds of rest.”

“Lowering your expectations is always a wise move, and at certain points, a goal simply to survive is a sign of good sense.”

“So I have come to the conclusion that the main challenge of our life as parents, and mine as a mother, lies precisely in this: We have to learn to give them their freedom…The challenge comes…when our children begin to take a healthy distance from us; when they are no longer little satellites revolving around us; and when they grow up, not always in the way we would like. The point is this: it’s not for us to choose how their life will pan out. We have to get used to running the risk that they won’t turn out the way we had planned… But that they may actually be better than we had ‘planned.'”

“We have to have patience, let time pass, learn to accept things, and acknowledge that, on occasion, times will be tough; they might be dirty, naughty, and much more, but they will always be our children.”

On Maternity and Openness to Life

“Maternity on the other hand offers the possibility of learning that precious lesson of how to give of oneself. And women who learned that lesson move up a gear in life. They flourish…. If you try, with honesty and humility,…welcoming a new life into your own life can convert you and help you to be less selfish.”

“…there is no need to be perfect to make the decision to being open to life, nor is it possible to wait until you reach perfection before trying to bring up decent kids. You just do it as best you can, knowing that none of us are perfectly balanced or free of anxieties. You do it knowing that mistakes will come every day.”

On Sacrificial Love (in Marriage, Motherhood, and all relationships)

“Keep on giving even while you’re running on an empty tank, without ever looking back. Otherwise what you have is not love, it’s a contract, and for that you don’t need a husband, you need a housekeeper.”

“There’s a secret that the world hasn’t figured out that allows us to follow a luminous path through the daily grind of boredom, habit, misunderstanding, and annoyances…. It is summed up in one word – sacrifice. The daily struggle is transformed from a stumbling block into another word for love. It is no longer something that gets in the way of love: rather, it’s something that nourishes it and helps it to grow. Love doesn’t go out in the daily grind; its flame burns stronger.”

If these quotes and the title, Marry Him and Be Submissive, have tickled your curiosity as it did mine I suggest you give Costanza Miriano a chance and look at the issue of marriage, women, and submission from a unique perspective. You might even gain some extra fashion advice while you’re at it! 


Who am I?? {The Mother Identity Crisis} 2

Every time I have a baby, I feel like I go through a sort of identity crisis. And the funny thing is, as I reflect back on the years and times after each of our 4 kids, it seems I follow a circular pattern with these crises. Yet, when I’m in it, it feels completely new and unlike anything I’ve ever been through before. (Except to my husband, he’s seen me go through all my crazy ups and downs through the years enough to pick out the pattern. Like the weather. And, since he’s smart, he knows just when to seek shelter and when it’s safe to enjoy the milder and peaceful times.)

When I think about myself and the time following the birth of each of our four babies, I think of a caterpillar struggling to get out of her chrysalis and learn how to fly. At first, I want to stay snuggled up in my comfortable little cocoon. But whether I like it or not, I have to go through the metamorphosis from a young woman to a mother; from a mother of one to a mother of two, or three, or four. On the other spectrum, when it’s time to come out of my cocoon, I try too hard, too fast. I push and wriggle and stretch and finally maneuver my way out, expecting to fly free and strong with my new wings. But my wings aren’t dry yet, my body still weak from my “incubation” time.  Through the months and years that follow my transition from “me” to “wife” and “mama”, my husband and children pump their life and energy into me and my wings strengthen and I fly a bit better.

With each new child, each new transition, I have to learn to get used to this new body, this new life. I struggle, oh how I struggle. I love being a mother; I love all my babies – all the joy and wonder they bring. But I can’t deny there are times I’m nostalgic for the simple days, when I was a simple caterpillar taking my sweet time crawling around on the ground with no real place to be or anyone to be in charge of except for myself. Once I became a mother my whole world – my perspective – my whole life changed. It wasn’t about me or myhusbandandme anymore, it was about another human being that needed me and us for everything. This excited and terrified me all at the same time. I wrestled with my new identity. I floundered as I tried (in vain) to separate my “individuality” from my ‘role’ as wife and mother. I wanted to embrace this life but I didn’t want to lose my old self either. I didn’t know how to be both or if that was even possible?

Some days, I look at myself and see a beautiful new creature, a wife & mother. Other days, I don’t even recognize myself; I have no idea who I am. Yet, if I search deeper, under this magnificent outward transformation, my simple wormy body from my past life remains. The dreams and memories of my childhood compose my skeleton, my framework. My past experiences, mistakes, triumphs, and lessons are my muscles, holding me up and giving me strength for the life I lead now. With each baby, I have to look harder to find myself, to figure out how to keep my original interior alive under my ever-transforming exterior. Every time I go through it, I have to re-organize myself and figure out who I am now and what God wants me to do. I’ve gone through a lot of different phases in this process. First there was my “Arbonne days” (I see those eyes rolling and mine are rolling right along with yours!). I finally gave that up [Applause!!] but have been involved in other projects here and there in between the seasons of pregnancy and infancy. One thing I’ve stayed consistent with is writing/blogging, which I am obviously still doing and very much enjoy. Each of these experiences provided me many lessons and have shaped me into who I am and how I understand the world and others today.

This time, now that my baby is one, I can say that I feel like I’ve done a better job staying focused on the task at hand. – Said the crazy lady. 😉 But I still struggle with knowing what God wants me to specifically do. There are so many things I am passionate about and would love to do to serve God, while still serving our family. I go through times when I love and fully embrace my role as an “at-home” mother whose sole and “full-time” job is to care for our family and manage our home. I love my family and want to be here for them, especially now while they are young. I’m eternally thankful to my husband, who works hard at his job that allows me the freedom to be available to our family like this, which I know is rare and not a realistic possibility for every family. I know there is no job more important than what I’m doing at home with our children and I really wouldn’t want anyone else but my husband and me being the primary care-takers of our kids.

Yet, every now and then, I’ll see an ad for a full-time job that I know I’d be very good at and I would enjoy working with other adults in a building that is not my house. It is tempting sometimes to not feel like there is more I could offer the world. I have other talents and knowledge outside of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, cooking, and housework. (I guess that is a lot right there though, huh?) Plus, on a practical note, while we aren’t living in poverty, our family’s needs are catching up to our income quickly. I can’t help but think a little extra could be helpful so we could proactively save money, share more with those in real need, maybe enjoy more family vacations that are important parts of childhood, tackle important (and fun) house projects, and maybe, just maybe, have some money to retire with. It’s too bad there isn’t a job that only requires an hour or so of work a day and offers a decent pay. (That’s wishful thinking, right?)

{But then I feel guilty even thinking and writing about these “worldly things” because I know we live a “rich man’s” life compared to so many around the world. And I wonder, how literally are we, as a family, supposed to apply Christ’s call to “sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” I mean surely he doesn’t want us to really sell our house and all our stuff and live in a cardboard box begging for food and clothing our kids in newspaper? Right??  But I would if He really made it clear that’s what He wanted…}

At this point, the “world” would tell me to go. Go out and “live your dreams.” “Find yourself”, “don’t waste your talents on snotty noses and dirty dishes.” The world offers me a more “glamorous” life – one full of “achievement” and “success”, one that would make me feel “important”, “fulfilled” and “useful”. (Thanks Sir Topham Hatt.)

But none of those empty promises are real. This life – me, my husband, our children, our family, our friends and community, this is REAL. Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing, wiping noses, kissing ouchies, reading and telling stories, helping with homework and in the classroom, praying and talking about God and life together, managing bills and purchases, working hard to make money by saving money (and maybe making a little extra from time to time), this is what matters, this is what is real and everlasting. I need to find a way to be passionate about what God has called me to now. This season will pass, the kids will grow-up and not need me in the same way they do now and I’ll have a little more time to commit to other jobs/volunteering outside of the home. I’m sure, when that time comes, I’ll enjoy the new opportunities but I will look back at these years and miss them. And I hope, by living this life as fully as I can now, that I will have good memories to look back on and miss. 

Part of answering God’s call to serve Him through my vocation as wife & mother means giving up me. It means I have to give up myself so that I may truly give to others, so that I may give God – LOVE – to others. I have to offer myself up, but this doesn’t mean I am not me anymore. A caterpillar is still the same caterpillar after her metamorphosis, her body has developed and transformed, but it’s the same caterpillar. And her new wings are attached to this same original caterpillar body. It’s the same with motherhood. I’m still the same girl, the same woman, the same me. I’ve gone through many changes and transformations but I’m still Erika. My “wings” – my husband, our children, our family and this life we live together – are attached to my original self. If I tried to take my wings off, I’d never fly again, my body would die. And what good would my new wings be if not for my body to fly with? 

The life I lived before all this was important, essential, to allow for my transformation into my next “life stage” of marriage, motherhood and family life. I can’t separate that life away from this life now and I don’t need to. But, I also can’t live that life the same way anymore. I shouldn’t try. I have wings now and so I must fly. I have a husband (whom I LOVE deeply) and children (whom we LOVE and adore beyond all measure) and so I must be a wife and I must be a mother to these whom I love so dearly and who are an inseparable part of my life now. And, it seems, they’ve been part of my life the whole time and always will. This is who I am. This is what I do.


Embracing Birth 6

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Though the funny incident of my water bottle spilling made me chuckle, it also led me to muse about everyone’s initial reaction to panic when they thought my “water” had broken.

We live in a country and a time where birth is feared instead of embraced for the beauty and gift that it truly is.

The dramatic scenes of labor that predominate our television screens depict this as a time to panic. Women and men congregate around their water coolers to exchange horror stories of their horrific labor stories, sending fear into any attentively listening “virgin” or first-time pregnant ears.

This mainstream attitude toward labor and birth runs in such a stark contrast to Rosie the Riveter’s “We Can Do It” motto adopted by the feminist movement. So much of what women do, and who we are, is about being strong and “in control”, taking charge of the situation. But childbirth isn’t the time to show off our “guns” or “feminine machismo” (even if we do roar throughout it); birth is a time to surrender—to become vulnerable, weak. It’s a time to swing our hips around, to grunt and yell, and to open our bodies – open ourselves – to bring forth LIFE.

While I haven’t gone through medical school and have never worked in an OB office or Labor and Delivery unit, from what I have seen and heard, the customary business-like approach to pregnancy and labor & “delivery” fails to truly respect women, our bodies, and the birth process. I see this as a direct result of our “contra-ceptive” and “anti-life” culture. If women and medical professionals see pregnancy as a disease and as something to be protected from, it makes sense that birth would be treated in the same way.

In a similar way, if a couple uses contraception as a shield from the inconveniences and frustrations that come with pregnancy and children, this attitude is likely to linger into the birthing room should they “accidentally” become pregnant anyway. However, this isn’t always the case as I’ve noticed that many who are strong advocates of natural childbirth also strongly support contraception and birth control (including abortion as one method) because of their focus on “choice”. That said, I’ve also noticed that many couples who are “pro-life” and against the use of contraception still approach birth with trepidation and an over-dependence on medical doctors and nurses.

In Lynn M Griesemer’s Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love, she quotes from Susanna Napierala’s Water Birth: A Midwife’s Perspective about the natural function of birth.

Giving birth is a function that women inherently know how to perform, if left alone for nature to take its course. Women also need to take responsibility for themselves and to not be afraid of their bodies. Their bodies were made to give birth…There is no mystery about it. If women educate themselves about birth and trust in their bodies, they will suffer fewer complications for both themselves and their babies. (Napierala 1994: 6)

I’m not knocking epidurals and pitocin and c-sections entirely, I know there is a time and a place when these and other medical interventions can be helpful and even life-saving, but I do feel that too many women, starting with their doctors and nurses, rely on these out of fear, diluting the real significance of birth. 

Pregnancy and birth are not merely medical “conditions” and “events” that need to be controlled and monitored. In the General Audiences of John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology Of The Body he brilliantly describes the human body as “the expression of the spirit…” Through and with our bodies humans have an amazing “capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift and – by means of this gift – fulfils the meaning of his being and his existence”.

The sexual act between a man and a woman that brings about the conception of a new human being is only the beginning of this self-giving expression of love, the woman’s body continues this ‘becoming-gift’ through the pregnancy, culminating in a total gift of self during the labor and birth of this human being out into communion with the world.

If we take time to look at birth again, to truly re-spect it, we can see that it is a humbling extension of our mutual self-giving, an acceptance of “being open to life.”When we say “yes” to God, even by accepting a new life, we are saying “yes” to all it comes with, including the work, the discomforts of pregnancy and the intense work of labor, birth, and the post-partum time. In this way, these “pains” take on a new meaning; they achieve a greater purpose and become…beautiful.

I don’t see childbirth as a punishment; it is a great opportunity to share in Christ’s sacrificial offering and love for us. There has never been a time in my life when I have felt so close to God than when a baby is crowning out of me. It is a time to be in deep awe of God’s ingenious design of our bodies. I do not fear birth, I embrace it.

“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19)

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)


Overturning Roe v. Wade by helping one woman at a time 1

Today we remember the 39th anniversary of one of the worst decisions in our nation’s history; Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court decision that basically legalized abortions, a medical procedure that ‘terminates’ the life of a baby in the womb.

This ruling has plagued and severely divided our nation ever since not just because of the tremendous injustice it has brought to unborn babies, women and families but also because of the monstrous imbalance of power it gave to the federal government over the sovereignty of the states.

Today, thousands of men, women and children gathered together in our nation’s capitol and in other cities around the country to march, in both protest of this 1973 ruling, but also in remembrance—of all the lives that have been destroyed because of it.

But while we continue to fight against this ruling, we have to remember that Roe v. Wade may have made it legal for a woman to choose to abort the baby in her womb, it will take more than just another court ruling to change the culture that has not only accepted it but ferociously embraced it.

The “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” lines in politics is clear but when the dust settles between heated arguments, there remain the real issues—the real women and the real children and real families who are affected by abortion. In order to “end abortion” we’ll have to put down our posters and megaphones and take a good look at why a woman chooses to abort her own child. And we have to realize that, in many cases, not only is this an extremely difficult decision for a woman it is also not what she really wanted. The reasons women abort their children existed before Roe v. Wade and they will exist even after Roe v. Wade is overturned or after stricter abortion laws are passed.

I am not saying we should abandon these pursuits to overturn Roe v. Wade or work on restrictions on abortions in order to get there. I’m just saying that if we care for the defenseless babies we must also care for their mothers by listening to them and supporting them so they don’t feel that killing their own child is the only real choice for them. And when I say “we”, I am not talking about the government; I am talking about we, the people.

Perhaps in this regard I share some agreement in President Obama’s remarks on the Roe v. Wade anniversary.

“While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue — no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.”

Of course I differ with him on how to do this, especially when it comes to the part about preventing unintended pregnancies, but that’s a whole different can of worms I’ll save for another post.

In general, I do support an individual’s rights to make their own health care choices and I firmly believe “that government should not intrude on private family [health] matters.” But I draw the line when it comes to abortion because we are not talking only about one person here but at least TWO. Abortion has a 100% chance of causing death to at least one person and a high chance of causing long-term pain and suffering to another. This isn’t just another health care decision, this is a decision that terminates a defenseless life—a life that also deserves the right of “choice”.

No matter what the circumstances are, or what sort of life the child might be born into, he or she still deserves at least a chance to live, to be free and to discover happiness in life just like any of the rest of us.

In ending a post that could go on forever, I think Mother Teresa, who worked with the poorest of the poor and understood pain and suffering, articulated the tragedy of Roe v. Wade the best.

It is a tragedy that a child must die so that a woman may live as she pleases.”

And,

“America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts — a child — as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience.

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