a pastor’s wife writes about breasts and dangerous women… fair warning

 we women have a complicated relationship with our breasts, as my sister so aptly (and hilariously) described to me in a text early last week.  she’s right- i’ve had a tangled and confusing 36 years in this body.

in my LATE blooming teen years, i longed to have a body worth noticing (or at least one that appeared different from that of an adolescent boy).

in my ‘good little Christian girl’ years, i rode the line between modesty, impropriety, and frumpiness- misunderstanding the beauty of how God created women, our bodies, and the sacredness of sexuality.

in my childbearing and breastfeeding years, i cared for and tried to cover the swollen, leaking monstrosities, despite the fact that my daughters adamantly refused to have a cover over their heads while they nursed.

in these most recent days, when my breasts turned on me and tried to multiply harmful cells much too rapidly… i didn’t know exactly how to relate to my body.  in cancer treatment, you lose your hair, your skin may rebel (blisters, sores, dry patches), your nails may discolor and fall off.  you may have a part or all of your breasts removed.  you may have your ovaries and uterus removed.  all of these parts of me- the parts i had hoped for and cared for, the parts God carefully formed before i took my first breath- all of these were suddenly at risk.  these parts that make me woman. beautiful. a life-creator and sustainer. cancer made them vulnerable and fragile, where before they were strong and resilient.

we learn a different appreciation of our bodies as we age… and yes, i know my years aren’t so many yet.  but i have lived a great amount of life in these 36 years. you’ve let me into your days- you’ve let me live them with you and add your years to mine.  those hours and days and years of your life- your joy and suffering- i’ve absorbed these into my memory, into my soul. they are a part of me now, and i will never again be as young as i appear.  so these physical losses?  the aged skin, the enormous scars, the flesh lost forever- cut away in life-saving effort?  those are not so devastating as i imagined. they are parts- they are not me.  i look at you and i remember:  i have more than my share, more than my 36 years-worth of life already within me.

 today i am stripped free.  no ‘pretty’ parts of me to draw away from who i am made to be: woman. bald, scarred, and breast removed… i’m a woman still with purpose and promise.

i don’t feel like my womanhood has been taken from me.  my hair will return, my fingernails will regenerate, and i will have a reconstructed breast- even returned to it’s original location, several inches above where pregnancy and nursing pulled low and sagged down.  i will appear feminine again in time, but i won’t be the same.

i will not shrink back and apologize and squeak ashamedly that i am too much to bear.

i will see my place in His story- know that i am enough- qualified and anointed to step forward and speak up.

i will be terrified and uncomfortable and feel unworthy, and i will do it- speak it- write it- anyway.

i will step onto the path in the darkness- i know the most breathtaking sunrise can only be seen if you take to the trail at midnight.

i will make room for you, sisters- welcome your years into my own- invite you to add your strength to mine.  we are so much more when we are one.

i will be the word i am both longing to and afraid to claim: DANGEROUS.  i will battle by filling cups, unburdening hearts, shining Light, breathing Freedom.

in all that has been stripped away from me, i see the power that God gives to us, to His women:  we are made to cultivate life and nurture and sustain each other.  we are strong, and we can hold each other up to the Light.  with or without breasts, we are Life givers. whether our bodies are now or ever have been child-bearing, we are fertile- able to join our lives to each other, add our years together, multiply Love by decades and generations.

i can think of nothing more beautiful and dangerous than that, sisters.

IF Local and The Barn 02-06-15

IF Local and The Barn 02-06-15

IF Local and The Barn 02-06-15pictures by Bailey Mohr of Beautiful Mess Photography, LLC!

14 thoughts on “a pastor’s wife writes about breasts and dangerous women… fair warning

  1. Rachel – I have so appreciated the things you have shared throughout this journey. I love how you write – but I love even more how you think and feel and process the pieces of life and God and family that make up your world. I assume you have heard of or read “Nice Girls Don’t Change the World” by Lynne Hybels and her prayer about making us “dangerous women”. I was in my early 50s before I learned I had permission to be “dangerous” – not just permission but that I was created to be strong and dangerous.


    • hi betty! yes, Lynne’s creed for dangerous women (http://www.lynnehybels.com/dangerous-women-creed/) has been a jumping off place for my heart transformation… her words have guided me in so many ways! she and her daughter Shauna Niequist are two women i admire greatly. i’ve hesitated to claim ‘dangerous’ for myself… i’m too nice, too quiet, too behind the scenes. but i’m encouraged more and more that dangerous isn’t always loud and shocking and ‘in your face;’ it can be how i raise my daughters, how i love my husband, how i share coffee with friends, and how i plant our family here in our not-so-new home. i’m thankful for dangerous women like you, betty, who share your lives and your words and make us all stronger!


      • Dear Rachel! I had been thinking that you must be a reader of Lynne,s book. When Betty and i were at a Willow Creek Conference years ago, I bought a copy, brought it home read it cover to cover; and then called Betty and read to her from it for 45 minutes straight. The next day I bought several more and convinced the rest of our group (mostly guys:) to buy copies. I’ve given away many, many.

        I think her description, and yours, is the best one for painting the picture of what God has and wants for us. He called us to “bear fruit” — no uterus is mentioned.

        Thank you for the blessing—generous and challenging —- of sharing your journey through darkness and light.


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  3. In struggles I’ve had with alopecia, I have learned I am not my body. It was a long painful lesson. But it is so beautiful to be connected with the me within the body…the me that’s me regardless of what my body is doing (or not doing). Your post is beautiful and so are you!


    • Thank you for reading and encouraging- I’m grateful for the reminder that I’m not alone in being taught by a body made broken by this world. I loved your most recent blogpost- I’ll be back for more!


  4. Your writing is inspiring and your story is powerful. Thank you so much for sharing. A lot of people find their identity in things that don’t actually hold the power of identity. We try to find it in our abilities or our looks, our strength or in our relationships. While I think that all of those things have a very small influence on our identity, they cannot bear the wait of it by themselves. Physical features, function very terribly as foundationshions. And this is true for both men and women.


    • thank you, andrew- for your comment and your encouragement! i just saw your ‘about’ page, and i want you to know some of my favorite teachers & pastors that i have worked with and sat under are also divorced… our stories, however broken, are powerful to share. i’m glad you are living and sharing yours with boldness!

      Liked by 1 person

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