We Have To Start Somewhere

As I sit down to write a little today, I am in one of those low places.  Cloudy and cool outside, have not seen much of the sun for days.  It is midday and I am in pajamas.  Tony left this morning, frustrated with me.  My sinuses are infected, I’m tired, my house needs vacuumed, my face needs washed.  I feel greasy and unlovable.  I want to change how I feel and who I am.  From this place I sit and think of you.  You’re welcome.  I am aware some of you may be feeling like this.  We represent a vast collage of dreams and struggles and fears.  And this world is as broken as our hearts.  It can leave us all so disappointed sometimes.  In this vulnerable place, I want to turn away from the seductions on all sides, those temporary distractions and fixes.  Your spirit knows what those are for you.  Instead, I want to turn into a realm unseen, where I see beauty in me and the world, despite the stench of both.  It is called the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is what I really long for.  Today I turn to the King spoken of in this simple line from Eugene Peterson’s the Message:

“For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever” (Psalm 100:5).

That may be a weird way to christen a blog, but I have never done it before and I want us to be very forthcoming.  Dear sister, wherever you are today in your heart, we get to come together in this moment.  We get to see a different side of each other here than we do on Sunday mornings and we can get to know each other in between women’s events.  We can share a forum for artistic expression and utilize technology in a beautiful way that unifies our mission.  God could bless all of Northeast through this blog.  He could use you and your story, in His timing and in His way, to bring life to your fellow woman.  If I could choose a theme for our women, that would spill into our blog and events, it would be: “celebrating beauty and cultivating connection”.  And that lovely little phrase is really hard work.  When loneliness and time constraints and fear seem to win the day, we need to ask why we would keep going in this exhausting work of ministering to each other.  Here are some of my thoughts:

We Need Each Other.  Many of us would like to wait to offer ourselves and our gifts until we feel good and ready, welcomed and confident.  Affirmation of our gifts and an invitation to use them feel great.  Instead of sitting and longing for that, we can be the affirmation to another that we ourselves are waiting for.  Be the encourager, be the welcomer.  Let’s stop waiting for the perfect opportunity or until we feel more confident.  Let’s choose right now to be brave, to lean into the Spirit, and to offer what we have TODAY.  Not what we would offer if we were less busy or more talented.  Not what she does, because she is already doing it.  We do not need another person doing that in that way.  We need you to do it your way.  I cannot afford to wait until you have it all together or grow out of insecurity.  I do not need you perfect.  I need you now.  Side note: I do not just need older or wiser women in my life.  I need you younger women, too.  Every Tuesday night, I spend time with 10 women in their early 20’s.  I learn from you women.  I need your fresh enthusiasm for Jesus, complex questions, un-jaded-ness, and your big dreams.  I want to be around that.  Readers, trust me, you need them too.

We Gain Joy From Our Variety.  When we are flooded with the riches of His grace, love has room for differences.  Women’s disciple-making groups are a great context to discover and practice this.  Love has room for different political views, ways of thinking about Jesus, parenting methods, and for sure, personalities.  Many of us say we believe in the beauty of those differences in theory, but if we are oftentimes threatened by how another woman looks or parents or cooks or keeps home or serves or creates, than maybe we should ask ourselves why.  I do not need to feel threatened by _______.  Love gives us this space that is hard to find in the world.  A space where we can breathe deep in our skin even when we have standalone methods or an unconventional opinion.  A spacious place that has room enough for diversity.  May Northeast not be a church where there is a prototype woman.  Rather, I take joy in being who God made me to be while thoroughly enjoying who God made the woman next to me to be.

We Need To Speak Up. If we are really truthful with one another in writing or in conversation, inevitably someone will not like what we say.  And that is okay.  Sometimes we are tempted to use other people’s feelings as an excuse for dishonesty.  True honesty deeply values others’ feelings, but it does not fear hurt feelings.  Honesty, among imperfect people, is not always pleasant for everyone.  Right relationship allows for the discomforts of honesty.  Let’s quit settling for imitation vulnerability.  It really gets us all no where.  Maybe it goes without saying, but by honesty, I do not mean posting our brutally honest opinions on Facebook where we can avoid eye contact.  In real life, let’s take a deep breath, soften our faces and our hearts, and open our mouths.  Let’s say true things with lots of love.  Real relationships will result.  Otherwise we are stuck with smooth presentations, without depth or transformation.  I believe our honest female voices are crucial to the building up of this specific church.

We Seek Beauty.  Sometimes as women we feel we were made for more.  I believe those feelings that pulse through our souls, as we go about our day’s work, are God-given.  Recently I remembered that there were real women that followed Jesus when He walked this earth’s dusty ground.  In addition to the 12 disciples there was a group of followers, both male and female, that went where He went.  These ordinary women, I imagine them insecure and weary.  I imagine they were hurt or neglected at some point in their lives.  But I also imagine these women with unique stories desperately chasing after this mysterious, affectionate Rabbi that called them to something more.  A collective throng of women that just had to keep up with Jesus, for one more glimpse of His power and compassion, one more word from His deep thoughts, one more touch of His healing garment.  All the passion and emotion and determination of a women’s heart pulsing after this Jesus.  Let us help each other get there, get nearer.  There is more beauty.

We Shape The Church and We Shape Culture.  This is a pivotal time for woman.  There have been many such times throughout history.  We join those other moments, those movements where women broke through barriers.  Today, we must paint with our lives a portrait of femininity that is vibrant against the world’s backdrop.  There are many ideas in the name of feminism that are, in reality, anti-woman.  Instead of settling for how the church has defined womanhood in the past and instead of settling for how our culture defines womanhood- let us grow into a brave, real, and kind femininity.  One that does not go with the flow.  One that does not weaken in the face of opposition or oppression.  Harriet did not, Corrie did not, Perpetua did not, Rosa did not, Gladys did not, and Jesus never did.  One that does not demand rights out of selfishness and will even lay them down.  For we have a bestowed right that can never be taken away: to be a God-designed, God-declared-good, God-deemed-necessary woman.

Where do we start??

Celebrating beauty and cultivating connection.

Hello.  I am Hannah Opliger. I am a wife, pregnant mother of 3, a nurse, a yoga teacher.  I love change, being outside, good food and drink, stirring conversations, kissing my husband (ha!), and getting wrapped up in a good book.  I often feel God’s nearness through music, silence, and beauty.

2017-01-12T13:38:38+00:00 May 11th, 2016|Church, Courage, Unity, Women|8 Comments
  • Cherith

    My dream for the women of Northeast is for every woman to know she is valued, more than just tolerated but truly wanted, and a true sense of belonging, not for what she brings to the table, but because she is a sister in Christ. True, tangible community, real hands and feet.

  • Suzanne

    Hannah, I love what you have beautifully written! You have such a gift with words.

    Northeast has been such a place of healing for me, such contrast to my prior church experiences. The women of Northeast encouraged me to be vulnerable. I was given freedom to mourn. I was anointed with mercy, compassion, love and acceptance. My dream for the women of Northeast is that we would continue to pursue the most excellent way of love…really seeking the best for each other .We’ve heard 1 Corinthians 13 so often … but it is so profound. I want this to be my reflection; our reflection.

    Love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast. It is not proud, rude or self-seeking. It is not easily angered; keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I dream that we would protect one another’s dignity. That we would have an environment of trust. That we would understand where each other has come from, and hope the best for each other’s future. I dream that we would accept each other where we are on our journey, with an abundance of love and patience, allowing room for the Holy Spirits work of transformation, which can be painful at times, by the way. That we would persevere through the difficult, and put off falsehood.

    My dream is that by God’s grace and His Holy Spirit, we could do this so well, that we would be a light in the darkness of our city. That our authenticity and love for one another would be contagious among all of the churches in Fort Wayne that make up the CHURCH of Jesus Christ, and that together, we would love God well and people well. I dream that we would do this so well, that unbelievers would see God’s love through us, and realize that they are depraved and need the redemption and saving grace of Jesus

  • Tammy

    Spot on, Hannah! Just came across this today… and just yesterday began a Bible study on True Womanhood! Thx for your honest candor, so clearly spoken! And hey, some days just require jammies and unwashed faces! ??

  • Angela Cuevas

    I loved hearing your thoughts on how we can become a closer knit body of women at Northeast, Hannah. I appreciated what you had to say about younger women needing older women in their lives and vice versa. As a 19 year old, I truly do need older women who can speak wisdom and truth into my life. I need women who can mentor me and can help answer my endless questions about stepping into marriage, celebrating/ loving others even when something inside of me is causing me to feel inferior, and becoming a more Christ-centered person in general. And younger women need me, too! Wow. It’s so beautiful to think that every single woman in this community is needed by another.
    It really encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone in order to invest and be invested in.

  • Hannah

    What’s a dream you have for the women of Northeast? God has been vividly at work- it’s undeniable- but if the Spirit of God free-flowed among us in a new way, what do you see happening? Comment below!

  • Jess

    Hannah, I am so thankful for the words the Spirit gave you to lead our mission, to be our anthem, “Celebrating beauty and cultivating connection.” You are a vessel of Jesus and it is evident He is real in you. Thank you for being honest, gritty, and sharing these important thoughts as we dive into the blogosphere!

  • Valerie

    I’m really excited about reading this blog and hearing from the women of NE! Hannah I love how you got us started, so honest, and true. “I cannot afford to wait untill you have it all together…. I don’t need you perfect. I need you now.” Gulp. So so true, good and right. I so want to embody that. Also loved the idea of the women of northeast not being some sort of “prototype” – I am bursting with celebration of all the different personalities, gifts, & ideas that make up our community, oh how embracing them and celebrating them could allow us to grow and learn such sweet things from each other. I want more and more.

  • april reinhard

    oh my – this is so rich! God has spoken through this blog post to me in neon signs and capital letters! thank you, hannah for being the deliverer of this straight-talking, beautiful love letter to us from our Dad! wish i could’ve been there for the women’s tea, but God has me elsewhere right now. i am thankful to be able to journey together and deepen relationships through this blog – what a wonderful way to help us connect even if we can’t be physically together!

    Praise God for the way He moves and speaks and acts and brings all things together!