Published online for the Presbyterian Outlook: 10 things that serve my female body
The prompt for this month’s blog on Outlook is about gratitude, inviting us to: “Make a list of 10 things that brought you joy this week. Write an essay about one of them. What did you learn about God in this joy? What did God show you about yourself?” I am grateful for my friends and family, of course. But ten things?
My glasses help me to see and help others to see me. I’m thankful not only for the vision but for the perspective they bring to my world. They remind me to pause, to adjust to new situations by wiping off the fog or rain or schmutz that lands on them and to pause for those who meet my gaze. I want to see you clearly, pause, let me think a moment, pause, let me show you my safe vulnerability of un-seeing-ness for a moment, I have a weakness; I am human.
The next items on my list make me feel confident and beautiful: moisturizer, mascara, and dry shampoo. The moisturizer is the foundation of my routine that reminds me to take care of my skin (and the rest of me). Waterproof mascara lets my emotions run free without a black smear that makes others wonder if it’s joy or sorrow my cheeks bare. The dry shampoo has helped me to look presentable when the pandemic anxiety tried to keep me in bed. This war paint gets me through Zoom after Zoom after Zoom.
My work bag keeps all the other things organized and ready to go from home office to church, from Zoom to in-person, from car to coffee shop with all the small things I need including laptop, iPhone, and keys. With all eight of these things, I hop in my car which is the ninth thing for which I am grateful. At my ordination, I promised to serve with prayer, energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, and those things need to be digital, flexible, and movable, which is why I love these practical things, especially my car. My previous car was a prompt to pray, with most prayers starting, “Dear God, what was that sound? Help me get home or help me be found.” But this new car reminds me of all my effort, budgeting, saving, and credit score work. My prayers now are of gratitude for how lucky I’ve been.
Glasses, moisturizer, mascara, dry shampoo, work bag, laptop, iPhone, keys, car, and the thing for which I am most grateful, I decide, is my menstrual cup. For those unfamiliar, a menstrual cup is inserted like a tampon, but instead of absorbing blood, it collects it. I’ve been washing and reusing mine for a few years and I love it more each time I use it. I haven’t purchased menstrual products or paid for plumbing issues they cause or put more plastic waste into our already overflowing landfills. I don’t have severe cramps during my period anymore either, which many people attribute to the chemicals in disposable tampons. (However, there isn’t enough research for this assertion to be conclusive yet.)
I’m in touch with my body in a different way now. There is less shame and stigma in my life around my womanhood, and I’m working to resolve issues that the 90s purity culture left deep within me. And, best of all, my menstrual cup gives me a new image of the holy.
Like many Presbyterian youth, I was told to remember my baptism every time I showered. This has always struck me as an odd place to think about our Holy Baptism. But here I am — it’s been over 20 years and I still think about my baptism regularly in the shower.
This ingrained thought process has taken on new meaning with my menstrual cup. As I dump and rinse my cup in the shower, I see the swirl of blood and water around my toes and down the drain, and I remember that my baptism covers every part of me, even the unseen and often stigmatized blood. I remember that God came to be with us through Mary’s water and blood. And because of my cup, and Mary, I believe that God loves all of me and I feel my soul’s worth. So, yes, I am grateful for my menstrual cup. It reminds me of God’s love.
Karie Charlton is the associate pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is the leader of the Pittsburgh Chapter of Days for Girls. You can find more of her writing in her blog, www.periodpastor.com, or by following her on Facebook and Instagram @periodpastor.