Raise Your Voice

Today’s a big day!

Today is the one year anniversary of Kathy Khang’s important book, Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How We Speak Up! To celebrate, below is an excerpt from her book. Go buy it. Give your money to women, especially women of color.

This excerpt is from her first chapter, “Seen and Not Heard”. How very true this is for women. I also wanted to share this particular excerpt because it highlights friends Amena Brown and Soul City Church, which is co-pastored by Jeanne Stevens.

Last year, I hosted Kathy on The Global Fringe podcast. In that episode, we talked about the biblical story of Esther in a way I’d never heard before but resonated with so deeply. Kathy’s attitude is empowering. She doesn’t shy away from addressing issues of justice and mercy and how we are created to use our voices for the betterment of another. And as a justice warrior, Kathy helps us identify necessary self-care as an act of political warfare.

She’s a force. Listen. Follow. Learn from her.

Raise Your Voice
Kathy Khang - Raise Your Voice

The Stories We Tell

I had the honor of watching my friend, author and artist Amena Brown, raise her voice at Soul City Church in Chicago. Amena told us a story about her grandmother and the care she put into packing food for family members who were traveling. Her grandmother would carefully wrap a slice of cake in waxed paper and put fried chicken in a paper towel and foil. These lovingly packed meals were important to African Americans in the time before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when black travelers didn’t know if they would be able to find a restaurant that would serve them.

As I recall Amena’s performance, mannerisms, and imitation of her grandmother’s speech and cadence, I can see how the warm memories of food dovetailed into a story of racial injustice. Amena can tell this story because of who she is and who her people are. And while I can share her story here, I can’t pos- sibly embody the story because it’s not in my bones or blood.

But I can share the story of how my grandmother, who was a child in Korea during Japanese rule, was widowed before she turned forty while raising five children and how she never remarried. I can tell you how she refused to tell me her Japanese name, but did tell me about why she choose not to remarry—because she would have been forced to prioritize her role as wife over her role as mother, even though it was difficult to live as a single mother in her patriarchal culture.

Amena’s grandmother and my grandmother. Two different women, two different periods in history—but injustice didn’t silence them or stop them from acting on their own behalf and on behalf of their families. We need to give voice to these uniquely embodied stories. We need their complexity and beauty. And this is where I see my story, and the various stories of diverse communities, and the biblical stories of Esther, the bleeding woman, Moses, the women at the cross, and the resurrection colliding—in identity formation, in community, and in advocacy against racism and misogyny.

Most of the books I’ve read and speakers I’ve heard on the topic of voice and identity have been white men or women with little nuance and contextualization for individuals and communities that reside both on the margins and simultane- ously in the intersections. I believe we need to address voice and identity through the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and class, as well as in personal and public spheres of communication. The growing focus on racial reconciliation and the pursuit of justice only highlights the lack of nonwhite and nonblack voices, especially but not exclusively in evangelical circles. Women of color need to be part of the reconciling work of the gospel. We all need to understand that voice, identity, and agency are given by God but often underdeveloped or ignored in people on the margins. We need to be seen and heard.

Stay Awhile

Tamara Carpenter - Ezer + Co.

Tamara Carpenter

Guest Post

What does it mean to be an Ezer; a warrior, a strong helper? I’m still learning.

My progress toward wholeness is advancing in fits and starts. I’m learning that by owning my whole story, even the unseemly parts, I grow stronger. With help from God and friends, I also gain courage to face my fears instead of bolting. Forged under the pressure of scarcity, my shadow life is gradually exposed through vulnerability and it surrenders haltingly to real desires, interests, and passions. As time passes, I feel stronger, freer, and more joyful.

I’m learning that strong women never travel alone. I walk in the company of women and men bent on becoming all they were created to be. In this safe space, we are vulnerable; we show up; we cheer each other on. And God is pleased.

I am growing up into my original design. Like layers peeled away over time, the child within is timeless, embodying all I was meant to be and created for. She is powerful, brave, distinct. Her voice, muted since birth, grows stronger each day as she embraces her true identity. A rising force that cannot be denied.

This is how my journey began…

Safely curled in a fetal position, I lay motionless.

In the dream, I am encased in an egg-shaped capsule with thick, opaque walls. I see shadows of people passing, but no one sees me. It is a refuge. Predictable. Controlled. Protected.

From there I can observe without showing up; critique without committing. From an early age I learned to survive this way. Just follow the rules and figure out how to make everyone happy. Fly low. Never dream. Stay quiet.

Many years, and a myriad of circumstances, led me into this pallid existence. Release, however, arrived in an instant.

Someone cracked an opening in the encasement just large enough for light to penetrate and color to invade. A hand entered my darkness and beckoned me forth.

I had a choice. There is always a choice. I could accept the offer and follow color, or remain in the shadows.

It takes only a little faith to move a mountain. I mustered enough.

Emboldened by hope, I strained against the wall and it yielded to the internal pressure. My feet exited first coming to rest on warm, rich soil. As the remainder of my stiff body unfurled, I breathed in the sweet scent of a thousand blossoms and relished in the playful song of Spring. Freed from constraining walls, the sun's warmth coursed over my chilled body and vibrant hues washed the remaining scales from my eyes.

I saw we were in a lush meadow, my Rescuer and I, surrounded by impenetrable, rugged mountains that pierced the heavens. The valley overflowed with wildflowers and rushing streams. Only an occasional oak tree interrupted the lush turf carpeting the expanse.

We stood in silence. It was exquisite and untamed. Fertile and wild.

Releasing the hand that delivered me, I stepped forward in wonder. Instantly, the joy of my newfound freedom was slashed by a cold blade of fear. This expanse was resplendent, yes, but also formidable. Where was the control? Where the safety?

Instinctively, I turned toward the shell I had vacated. Although still resting on the meadow floor, it was clear I could never return to its safe confines. Somehow, I was larger now.

Scanning the horizon for another hideout, my eyes came to rest on the hand still extended by my Liberator. Her hand was meant to be my security. God’s presence my fortress.

If I accepted the offer, together we would walk. Explore. Discover. Conquer.

Reaching out my hand, she enveloped it in her and led me away from my past. In time, fear gave way to trust. Trust created room for peace. And peace ushered in rest.

As dusk fell, still hand in hand, we ascended a knoll. Gazing down onto yet another meadow, I saw hundreds of great boulders strewn haphazardly as far as the eye could see. When I asked why the landscape had changed, she urged me to look more closely. Suddenly, I realized these were not boulders, but egg-shaped capsules. Each containing a person, curled motionless in a fetal position.

Tears flowed unrestrained and a mere glance was enough. Together we moved toward the nearest pod. Easing next to it, she whispered, “Stay with them awhile as I work.”

We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
— Marianne Williamson

You Only Need This If...

If there’s a twinge of “yup” or “ugh” when you read that quote, pay attention. It’s your body and soul telling you that there’s life-giving work to be done. Recently, I was listening to a friend share through tears a part of her life she’d “forgotten” about. But the memories burst to the surface in an unexpected event and she doesn’t know what to do next. With all the empathy and conviction I could summon I said, “Friend, reclaim your whole story.” Her tears confirmed the truth that what happened matters, it affects her, and there’s hope for healing.

But you can only reclaim your story if you’re willing and open. All transformation begins with these postures. It’s all you need to take the next step. They’re courageous postures but it’s actually easier than living under the weight you’re currently tolerating.

Consider your one and only life for a moment. It’s been a series of moments, events, experiences, people interactions, highs and lows, beautiful and broken moments. It’s all formed you into the person you are today. Some parts of your life you remember and embrace. Others … not. If you haven’t experienced any pain, disappointment, brokenness, dashed dreams, unfilled promises, unmet expectations, disruptions or interruptions, change of plans, awkward transitions, or disconnected emotions, you don’t need to reclaim your story. You’re good. Carry on.

But if you have experienced any of those things, chances are you still need to reclaim parts of your story, to nurture them back into the wholeness of your soul. There’s equal power and surrender that comes as you do that work.

Everything we do at Ezer + Co. is about transformative development so you can live + lead with your whole self.

We’ll do that in a number of ways, but perhaps it starts with reclaiming your story. That’s why this infant company is beginning her life with a 5-week online course so you can do exactly that.

But you only need this course if you…

  • believe some of your story doesn't matter

  • don’t believe you’re not enough

  • have hang-ups about how you were created as a woman

  • don't know how to connect the dots within story so it’s integrated and whole

  • believe any lies about who you are and what you're created for

  • hide from some of your experiences, pain, shame, or wounds

  • have unfulfilled dreams

  • have fears holding you back

  • have experiences that have left you scratching your head

  • lack closure, healing, or connection from a broken relationship or job

We all need to reclaim our story!

That’s the powerful thing about it all!! As we reclaim the broken and the beautiful, we become more of the Ezer we’ve been created to be. Don’t skip too fast to what you’re going to do in the world as an Ezer. You can always do more, but who you are becoming is everything. It shapes everything you do.

Own your story, reclaim it so you don’t spend your whole life running from yourself. You’re worth it. Own it.

You have through Friday to register for the online course.
You are worth it.
(or until spaces are filled)

For the Girl

April Wahl - Ezer + Co.

April Wahl

A Guest Post

For the girl who longs for something more, who knows this isn’t the end of the story.

For the girl who dreams of the ocean, but wakes up on the plains.

For the girl who wants to make waves in the world, but fear of the ocean keeps her from splashing.

For the girl who wants, who dreams, who longs, who desires…I write for you.

For the little girl who I was, she’s for whom I write.

For the girl at the pier.

For the girl in the pew.

For girls everywhere…I write for you.

I want to tell your stories. I want to know your stories.

For the girl who sat around a table a few nights ago and felt the light shine in her cracked soul.

For the girl who smiled a true smile; who wasn't trying to hide any pain.

For the girl who was present; who wanted to savor every moment.

For the girl who woke up and could finally breathe.

For the girl who didn't know sadness as she pulled herself out of bed.

For the girl who read another's words that jumped off the page and into her very own soul, because she knew the thoughts and the feelings well.

For the girl who woke up and went along her way, knowing who she was.

For the girl who decided today she was going to start living as herself, and not a shell of herself.

For the girl who lives inside the pages of my journals…

For the girl who lives inside of me…

For the girl who’s finally deciding today is the day, now is the time...

I'm writing for you.

For us. For the women who are paving the way, who are joining hands with sisters and brothers to let the Kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven. The little girls are waiting, watching, and wondering.

May we live into the calling that has been set before us. May we not shrink back. May we live into the full abundance that Jesus came to live and die for, so that others may know the freedom found only in Him.

For the girls who don’t have a voice.

For the girls trying to find a voice.

For the girls who have found their voice.

You are loved. You belong. You matter. You are worth it.