Two Questions Women Shouldn’t Ask

During a leisurely lunch with three dear friends some time ago, horror stories and scars surfaced around two familiar topics.

Among the four of us, two are married with children, one has never been married or had children, and one is divorced with no children. We range in age from 35-51 and are committed Christ followers.

First, I need you to know something. This post took significant time to write and pray through because it’s rather blunt about sensitive topics.

This post isn’t a vent — it’s a plea borne out of loving others. That being said… 

Throughout our adult lives, my three friends and I have been asked two questions so many times that we’ve lost count. To this day, we remain flabbergasted that some women haven’t caught on. There are two questions that plainly shouldn’t be posed to another woman — unless she’s your BFF or a close second.

Question #1: Why aren’t you married?

Stated like that, this question isn’t really a question. It’s a judgment. 

Since I didn’t get married until I was 29, I fielded that question a LOT of times. We met when I was 23, dated for two years and were engaged for four years while he finished post-graduate college. During those six years, if we would have collected $1 from each woman who asked me why I wasn’t married yet, we could’ve easily paid for the wedding and honeymoon four times over.

As our conversation continued, my three friends and I realized that more often than not this question was posed by married women. That’s tantamount to a millionaire asking an unemployed person why they aren’t buying a mansion.

Even if asked in a caring or flattering way (perhaps she thinks highly of you), it still stings. Believe it or not, some women ask it to intentionally inflict emotional or social harm. And trust me, those on the receiving end can tell the difference.

I’ve also been asked innumerable times since my divorce nearly ten years ago why I have not remarried, along with who, when and whether or not I am dating. Frankly, the answer is entirely too personal to discuss nonchalantly with casual acquaintances. So I never bother. 

Last month, a Christian friend whom I hadn’t communicated with in a while asked about my dating status. When I responded that I was not seeking to be in a relationship, she typed a stunning one-word response: “Disobedient” — immediately followed by, “You’re not a nun.”

Wow. Currently, I am more content in Christ, peaceful and purpose-filled than at any other time in my adult life. But she didn’t ask about those things. She simply judged one aspect as the whole story and moved on.

If you are single, divorced or widowed, perhaps you need to hear this today: God gave marriage as a blessing, not an entitlement or commandment. He did not create us as half a person seeking another half to “complete” us. We are whole and complete in Christ alone. The rest is all grace.

I loved serving God as a married woman. I love serving God as a single woman. Simply put, God calls some women to serve through their marriage and others through undistracted singleness. The key is a passion to love and serve God no matter your marital status.   

And the second question… 

Question #2: Don’t you want children? 

Again, stated like that, this isn’t a question. It’s a judgment.

This question has caused more scars in my life (and my three friends) than any other. It presupposes so many things that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing it.

Asking a single woman that question is cruel — whether intentional or not. Perhaps having children has been a lifelong, unfulfilled dream that has cost her many sleepless nights and a river of tears. What if she believes marriage should come first? Should she rush out to the nearest bar and hook up with the first man she sees? Should she rush to the sperm donor bank and sign up? 

Asking a married woman that question presupposes that she is physically able to bear children. Perhaps she and her husband have tried to conceive children for years only to face financial hardships due to unsuccessful fertility treatments. No woman should ever be expected to share her private struggles or physical condition to justify why her home isn’t overflowing with children.   

My ex-husband and I were married for thirteen years, but didn’t have children. We trusted God’s plan that if He wanted us to have children, He would provide. I believe we would have been wonderful parents. But now looking back on divorce, I believe God knew best. 

Some people have pulled out the Christianity card. “God designed women to have children, so you’re disobeying if you don’t have them.” Yes, people have actually had the audacity to say such an unkind thing to me and my three friends in the past. And when such a statement comes from someone we hold dear, the wound plunges deep. 

Some people have played the adoption card. “So many children need good homes, why aren’t you willing to adopt?” Stated like this, that question is also a judgment. Perhaps she is, in fact, willing to adopt, but is still thinking and praying through the many considerations of such a monumental commitment.  

Simply put, no woman owes another an explanation to these two extremely personal questions. Over time, I’ve learned to smile and deflect the tension. However, the pain inflicted still takes significant prayer, extending relentless forgiveness, and time for God to heal.

The bottom line? Those two questions negate God’s sovereignty. They infer that we need to follow cultural norms or our own plans instead of submitting to His. If no one has ever asked you either question, you are among the blessed minority. 

If you are unmarried or do not have children, please hear this truth loud and clear:

Despite your marital or parenting status,
   God loves you right now
   Just as you are. 
   Precisely where you are.
You can joyfully, successfully serve him today.

Following God isn’t about conforming to some cultural mold of how others believe our lives should look. Remember the Apostle Paul? The Apostle Peter? One was married, one was not; one had children, one did not — but they made a powerful difference for God’s kingdom from their individual, God-designed circumstances.

God can use any person at any time in any place for His holy purposes.

No tangible thing on this earth makes us more or less of a Christian. Following Christ never hinges on whether or not we’re married or have children. It’s about being in relationship with Him. It’s about our desire to know Him and be fully known by Him. To rely on Him for our every need. To receive His immeasurable love and amazing grace into the deepest recesses of our soul with overwhelming gratitude.

So to my fellow women who have been on the receiving end of these two questions: I love you. I know what it feels like and I’m so sorry for your pain.   

And to those women who believe it’s okay to keep asking another woman either of those questions, STOP.

PLEASE STOP. 

They damage — and even kill — friendships.

*These wonderful friends are not members of my home church. They read this post when I originally wrote it and gave permission to share the generalities of our discussion in the hope of shedding much needed light on this sensitive topic.*

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Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.

Dear Pastor’s Wife: Please Forgive Us

Last week, I wrote a post dedicated to pastors. The response was beautiful.

Beyond the comments left on social media and the blog, what moved my heart the most were the many private messages I received expressing gratitude from those who love our pastors most: their wives.

It reminded me of the challenging road that our pastors’ wives walk — not only my pastors’ wives but the plethora of these amazing women whom I have been privileged to befriend all across the U.S.

So to my pastors’ wives and each of you dear, courageous women married to pastors:

You gracefully stand silently in the shadows while people clamor for your husband’s attention and heap praises on him while we don’t even acknowledge your presence.

Please forgive us.

You live in a glass house where we notice every fingerprint, yet you faithfully keep those windows clean by extending forgiveness that we often don’t deserve.

Please forgive us.

We ruthlessly police your fashion, hairstyle, hair color, size, and words like it’s our sole duty on this planet.

Please forgive us.

You listen dutifully while your husband uses your family as a sermon illustration again and graciously smile while we laugh at you.

Please forgive us.

When we unjustly criticize your husband or how he runs the church — even when it’s so nasty that there should be a smackdown right there in the narthex — you smile graciously and assure us gently that you’ll pass along our concerns.

Please forgive us.

You strive to faithfully walk as Christ’s disciple faced with the same struggles and hurts that we experience, yet you shoulder the burden in solitary silence.

Please forgive us.

You are often volunteered for tasks in the church that no one else wants to tackle — often areas you are not gifted for — yet you trudge faithfully ahead while we slander your efforts.

Please forgive us.

And then there’s this:

Some days you worry that the stress may kill your husband. Literally. You desperately want to be in the will of God but are afraid of what that requires from you, your marriage and your children.

You long to help the multitudes alongside your husband and willingly lay down your very life for the beautiful body of Christ. And some days that makes you very, very tired.

Perhaps you wonder when your husband retires if you will ever walk into a church again. Sometimes sheep bite.

But I want you to know, dear Pastor’s Wife:

Your calling is hard and it can get lonely, but you are standing on the Rock.

You may not have anticipated this calling to be a pastor’s wife, but God has equipped you for this noble work.

God will faithfully provide helpers to you who love you unconditionally, find joy praying for you, and commit to walk alongside you — whether inside or outside your church.

Take heart: Jesus can heal your wounded soul, renew your exhausted mind, reconcile broken relationships, work beautiful forgiveness, mend your broken heart, and meet your every need.

I pray for God to keep faith and hope alive in you because we NEED you.

We often neglect to tell you, but please know this:

You are LOVED.
You are BEAUTIFUL.
You are VALUABLE.
You shine God’s light RADIANTLY.

THANK YOU for your extraordinary sacrifice of praise to Christ our Savior as you serve us. Sisters, I love you dearly and esteem you greatly.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastor’s wife?

Your Messy Bravery Makes This Mess Brave

You have gathered close and invited me across state lines and beyond our country’s borders for one simple, profound privilege: to huddle our hearts together around God’s Word. 

And I’ve seen you come from all over — bags packed, faith intact, and prayers offered with the desire to go deeper with God. You did it again just a few weeks ago as we gathered at my home church to tape a new DVD Bible study series in partnership with the LWML.

And I have to tell you:

You are brave. 

Every. 
Single. 
One. 
Of. 
You.

You have come regardless of insecurities and difficulties, not knowing if you would belong. Hoping to fit in somewhere. And it’s as if I’m looking in a mirror. 

We come with our stories searching to see how they fit into His bigger story — because that is what we have. Stories. God’s Word shining light on our lives to write stories that bleed, heal, and bless.

The lines of our stories become life-lines we share with each other when life’s storms blow hard.

Jesus often taught through stories called parables. Because people can relate to stories.

In the midst of our brave story-sharing, we discover there are a whole lot of other women out there who are a bit of a mess just like us. Messy because of those days we have to fight for joy when the enemy pulls out his arsenal. Messy because we long for eternity while living in a fallen world.

We are a mess — you and I — saved by grace. A brave mess. Brave because each day you get out of bed despite wanting to pull the covers over your head until the aches and disappointments subside.

We brave the harsh world to share our messy stories because other women need to know perfection this side of heaven is an illusion.

And as we gather around His Word, sharing our messy stories, the Spirit of God can bind our wounds. He can take away the sting of loneliness and restore joy despite the laundry heap, crying kids, bruised marriages, and frayed dreams.

Please keep getting out of bed.

We need your messy, real, authentic, unmasked stories trusting that in the hands of the Spirit, the stories become salve to the battered souls. Because as we gather in community around God’s story, the Word is made flesh in our own lives.

I need your messy story… and you need your messy story. We need people who will tell us their story, not their sermons — their thrashing, not their theology. Because we need to know that we aren’t the only messy ones. 

You are BRAVE.

Your bravery makes me brave.

And together we bravely face this world armed with the Sword of the Spirit that reveals the life-altering story of a Resurrection Easter love written for all. So we suit up.

Not because we, the messy, are perfect.

But because of the perfect One who wasn’t afraid of our messes and risked it ALL to write the perfect ending to our stories.

Thank you for being brave.

WWW.LWML.ORG/BIBLE-STUDIES

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Little Old Lutheran Ladies Club

If history and literary geniuses have taught us anything, it’s that we love a good story. Stories that provide a new perspective. Stories that move our soul.

This is one of those stories.

A few weeks ago, several thousand LWML ladies attended our bi-annual convention in Albuquerque, NM. Long-time Twitter friend, Pastor Andrew (Drew) Ratcliffe, an avid supporter of LWML, attended the convention. Drew’s wife (Angie), her mom, sister (Liz), and a couple of Angie’s aunts also attended the convention with him.

Angie’s sister, Liz, was not very familiar with LWML since her Lutheran church in Idaho does not have an existing group. Her only familiarity with LWML is from attending her first LWML convention in Des Moines two years ago and the things that Drew and Angie have shared with her.

After attending her second LWML national convention in Albuquerque a few weeks ago, Liz penned her thoughts about the convention and shared them with Drew. Her thoughts brought him to tears, touching him deeply. After gaining Liz’s permission, Drew shared them with me to share with you.

I hope Liz’s beautiful story (in purple below) about the incredible Lutheran Women in Mission touches your heart and encourages you today.

Little Old Lutheran Ladies:

Some timid and proper, some outspoken and opinionated, many of them grandmothers, many of them widows. This used to be the extent of what came to mind when I thought of this particular demographic. I ought to be familiar with the subject, as the church I attend has many in its congregation.

After attending a bi-annual convention for an organization made up many little old Lutheran women (among others), I’ve been reflecting on the identity of these exceptional women:

  • The many Sunday school teachers I had as a child that gave me a solid foundation for my faith.
  • The 80-year old woman from my church that sends me a card on every holiday and has remembered my birthday every year I’ve been alive.
  • The various ladies that lean over in the pew just a bit when I go up to communion to see which ridiculous pair of shoes I’m wearing that week. “I was hoping you were wearing my favorite pair – those heels with the polka dots!”
  • The 90 year old woman who really isn’t supposed to be driving, but made a trip from Meridian to the farm almost in New Plymouth by herself to visit my Mom after Dad died. “I wasn’t sure I remembered how to get there, but I passed the old Cloverleaf restaurant and figured I was heading in the right direction, so I just kept driving!” Mom said she opened the door and couldn’t have been more surprised to see her standing there.
  • The ladies in their pant suits or jacket/skirt combinations that love and compliment my crazy outfits instead of expressing disapproval.
  • The many widows of our congregation that make a special effort to check in with my Mom every week, and never shied away from the hard conversations and progressive bad news from her the past years.
  • The committee of women that provided and organized countless funeral dinners for families of the church with my Mom, free of charge.
  • The group of Lutheran women that formed a women’s missionary league during World War II, a time when being charitable and spreading the Gospel surely seemed of little importance to many.
  • That same group of Lutheran women who still give millions of dollars every two years to support many mission projects throughout the world. 

The women who traveled to Albuquerque, NM, despite some of them being poor in health, limited in their mobility, or facing tragedy and heartbreak in their home lives, came to give yet more of their time to this group.

I attended this convention, largely due to the suggestion of my sister. I was running through all the reasons I should be at home in Idaho instead of where I was when the event was starting.

As the convention progressed, I received the same lovely compliments and encouragement in my faith, but this time from Little Old Lutheran Ladies from all over the world.

These women are to be admired and respected, not pitied or dismissed.

I’ve realized through family discussion that my grandmother on my Mom’s side (that I never met) fit this bill. I am watching as my Mom and her sisters become them.

What an honor it would be to be one day included in the Little Old Lutheran Ladies Club.

I’m so grateful to Liz for her beautiful words and willingness to share them with you. Ladies, I don’t know about you, but I consider it a high honor to be part of LWML for over 20 years now. We are prayer-warrior women of ALL ages, nationalities, and from ALL walks of life coming together with a passion to serve the Lord through mission work.

I hope you share this to encourage other women — and perhaps take a moment to comment below and encourage Liz.

The LWML has been bearing abundant fruit in God’s vineyard for over 75 years.

Won’t you join us for the next 75?

To God be the glory!

http://www.lwml.org/bible-studies

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Two Questions Women Shouldn’t Ask

It happened again.

During a leisurely lunch with three dear friends* a few years back, horror stories and scars surfaced around two familiar topics.

To preface, only one of us is married and has a child. We range in age from 32-49 and are committed Christ followers. I need you to know something first. This post took significant time to write and pray through because it’s rather blunt about sensitive topics.

This post isn’t a vent — it’s a plea borne out of loving others. That being said…

Throughout our adult lives, my three friends and I have been asked two questions so many times that we’ve lost count. To this day, we remain flabbergasted that some women haven’t caught on. There are questions that plainly shouldn’t be posed to another woman — unless she’s your BFF.

(1) Why aren’t you married?

Stated like that, this question isn’t really a question. It’s a judgment.

Since I didn’t get married until I was 29, I fielded that question a LOT of times. We met when I was 23, dated for two years and were engaged for four years while he finished post-graduate college. If we’d collected $1 from each woman who asked me why I wasn’t married yet during those six years, we could’ve easily paid for the wedding and honeymoon four times over.

The more we talked, my friends and I realized that more often than not the question was posed by married women. That’s tantamount to a millionaire asking an unemployed person why they aren’t buying a mansion.

Even if asked in a caring or flattering way (perhaps she thinks highly of you), it still stings.

Believe it or not, some women ask it to intentionally inflict harm. And trust me, those on the receiving end can tell the difference. I’ve also been asked that question innumerable times since my divorce seven years ago. And frankly, the answer is too long and deep to broach with someone who doesn’t really know me. So I never bother.

Simply put, God calls some women to pursuits other than holy matrimony. Mother Theresa comes to mind, among others.

And the second question…

(2) Don’t you want children? 

Again, stated like that, this isn’t a question. It’s a judgment.

This question has caused more scars in my life (and my friends) than any other. It presupposes so many things that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing it.

Asking a single woman that question is cruel — whether intentional or not. Perhaps having children has been a lifelong, unfulfilled dream that has cost her many sleepless nights and a river of tears. What if she believes marriage should come first? Should she rush out to the nearest bar and hook up with the first man she sees? Should she rush to the sperm donor bank and sign up?

Asking a married woman that question presupposes that she is physically able to bear children. Perhaps she and her husband have tried to have children for years only to face financial hardships due to unsuccessful fertility treatments. No woman should ever be expected to share her private struggles or physical condition to justify why her home isn’t overflowing with children.

My ex-husband and I were married for 13 years, but didn’t have children. We trusted God’s plan that if He wanted us to have children, He would provide. I believe we would have been wonderful parents. But now looking back on divorce, I believe God knew best.

This question also presupposes that every woman longs to have children. Having children was never a huge tug on my heart. I realize that I’m opening myself up to some pretty hefty criticism with such a statement. Trust me when I say I’ve received my share of ugly comments. In spades.

I love so much spending time with my nieces and nephews because I see my three sisters in them. My 21-year old niece has lived with me for almost a year and I have cherished that time. Children are incredible. Yet God did not instill in me that desperate longing to have my own. I can’t explain it, it’s just the simple truth.

Some people have pulled out the Christianity card.God designed women to have children, so you’re disobeying if you don’t have them.” Yes, people have actually had the audacity to say such an unkind thing to me and my friends. And when such a statement comes from someone we hold dear, the wound plunges deep.

Some people have played the adoption card.So many children need good homes, why aren’t you willing to adopt?” Stated like this, that question is also a judgment. Perhaps she is, in fact, willing to adopt, but is still thinking and praying through the many considerations of such a monumental commitment.

Simply put, no woman owes another an explanation or response to these two extremely personal questions. Over time, I’ve learned to smile and deflect the tension. However, the pain inflicted still takes significant prayer and time for God to heal.

The bottom line? Those two questions negate God’s sovereignty. They infer that we need to follow our own plans instead of listening for and submitting to His. If no one has ever asked you either question, you are among the blessed minority.

If you are unmarried or do not have children, please hear this truth loud and clear:

Despite your marital or parenting status,
God loves you right now.
Just as you are.
Precisely where you are.

Following Him isn’t about conforming to some cultural mold of how others believe your life should look. Remember the Apostle Paul? His singleness allowed him the freedom to accomplish incredible ministry and write nearly half of the New Testament.

Following God isn’t about OUR agenda.
It’s all about what God does in us and through us in HIS perfect timing.

No tangible thing on this earth makes us more or less of a Christian. Following Christ never hinges on whether or not we’re married or have children. It’s about being in relationship with Him. It’s about our desire to know Him, be fully known by Him, and receiving His love and grace into the deepest recesses of our soul.

So to my fellow women who have been on the receiving end of these two questions, I love you. I know what it feels like and I’m so sorry for your pain.

And to those women who believe it’s okay to keep asking another woman either of those questions, STOP.

PLEASE STOP.

They kill friendships.

*These three wonderful friends are not members of my home church. They read this post when it was originally posted and granted permission to share these generalities of our discussion with hopes of shedding much needed light on this sensitive topic.*

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