Updated: Aug 21, 2018
Hi Mindi! I am so excited to be able to interview you and share all the goodness that is you with the world! Can you tell everyone a bit about yourself?
Hi! Yes, well I am 35 and what you’d call a “mutt’, if you will, as far as where I come from. Born in Arkansas but moved to Iowa when my parents divorced and then ended up in Racine with a job transfer going on about 17 years ago! I’m a family and portrait photographer here in Racine but also really enjoy anything creative from painting, writing, and singing to crafting and even furniture restoration. Jack of all arts I guess! I’m a huge sucker for thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales. I’m married to my husband Ryan and we have an adorable daughter named Kinder who seriously just lights up any room she walks into and has brought so much joy into my life.
How long have you been a Christian and how did that come about? Were you raised in a Christian home or did you come to know Him later in life? What did that mean to you? I wouldn’t say I was raised in a Christian home, my grandmother took me to church during my summers with her and definitely planted that seed of faith but for the most part I didn’t go regularly until high school when I was invited to a youth group and accepted Christ during my time there. Coming from a split home since age 3, and both parents remarried, it caused me to feel like an orphan most of my life, even though I still had my parents. I wasn’t real sure where I belonged. The idea of God the “Father” and entering a new family really spoke volumes to my heart during those tough years and compelled me to accept Him as it was comforting knowing that the creator of the universe cared about the pain I was going through.
Have you always held and been taught an egalitarian perspective of scripture? How did this affect you as a Christian? Though my parents didn’t raise me in the church, ironically (or maybe not so ironic) I was raised to believe I could do anything I put my mind to which pretty much coincided with egalitarian perspectives. My being female was never an issue or consideration when it came to life decisions or passions I wanted to pursue.
I went into Christianity in the beginning with the preconceived idea that we are all equal and talented in our own ways and never imagined that my gender would ever become a topic that determined those talents. So naturally, the idea of knowing the God that put these giftings in me was an exciting concept as I was excited to discover their purpose. It wasn’t until my gender started becoming an issue to others within the church that my excitement began to fade and I struggled with where my place in this world really was. I would say it also probably had a bit to do with my walking away from my faith during my backslid days. I really value authenticity and do my best to live that way, so if what I’d heard about gender roles and where the church said I could operate was true, I realized that those roles didn’t really fit who I was. And if I couldn’t be “me” then what was the point? Thankfully the Lord is always faithful and He didn’t let me wander forever and redirected me toward his truth so that I could gain that freedom back to just be me.
We should probably let our readers know that you and I have a very close relationship and we are always talking, so let me ask this next question like this- about 2-3 years ago it seemed something tough but good happened that radically changed your approach to life and yourself and your past and your future. Can you share with our readers what that was and how it affected you? Ah yes, well to set it up, I was dealing with a lot of emotional wounding stemming from early years in childhood. I’d carried these wounds and allowed them to be a crutch, so to speak, that enabled me to just live in this victim-type mentality. Always that mindset of “no one understands what I’ve been through” and using it to keep me in a constant state of always being offended. I can’t speak for others but I imagine I was probably difficult to be around, always reliving and rehashing all my old emotional traumas with anyone who would listen!
At your house, for a bible study after another rehashing of my sad story of offenses, you were stern with me for the 1st time. You bravely asked me (with some uncertainty of how I’d take it), “So what’s it going to take for you to move past this?” And then shared an illustration of how I’d been running back to this cave of hurt when things got tough instead of moving forward in forgiveness and freedom.
It really forced me to think about how I dealt with offenses. Like, “oh you mean we have to deal with them, they don’t just go away?” I realized I was just collecting them like coins and was never actually doing anything with them but letting them sit. So I had quite the piggy bank full of hurts that ironically kept me emotionally bankrupt and left no room for joy. Recognizing that revolutionized how I began to deal with offense. I didn’t have to LET offenses control my mood and life. I could take that coin of hurt and toss it rather than deposit it in my emotional bank.
Now I try and stick to a new mantra when dealing with offense: Grieve it, find the lesson in it, then forgive and move on knowing the Lord has great things in store for the future.
What does it mean to you to be a Christian egalitarian?
In 3 words, to be FREE.
I think sometimes we can walk around with all this anxiety, guilt, insecurity or even shame about who we are and convince ourselves that we are free. But our relationship with Christ and others around us suffer because we aren’t truly operating in complete acceptance of who we are and who God created us to be. What we can often describe as flaws about ourselves, based out of cultural surroundings, are really like these awesome, unique, beautifully placed attributes that really show God’s amazing creativity and give him glory. So for me being an egalitarian is embracing all that I am and not only accepting but CELEBRATING what makes me different than anyone else on the planet and not trying to fit into any kind of generic role. Freedom to be me; freedom from any molds that say I need to be anything other than me in authentic form.
What challenges have you faced in the church and your own life in regards to trying to walk out the egalitarian perspective that you hold? Well, it’s strained some relationships for sure as I fumbled my way through deconstruction but I think I’d say the biggest challenge has been trying to use discernment in sharing my beliefs vs letting my Christ walk speak for itself. I have a lot of compassion and heart for the hurting and the pain I went through that led me to egalitarianism makes the issue a very personal one. Knowing the bondage I came from and am now free of makes it really hard to see others living in that bondage and not say something when common phrases come up in conversation like “well our husbands are the heads of the household” or “women are too emotional to lead”. It physically pains me to hear things like that knowing that they are born out of a false understanding of context and scripture and knowing 1st hand what kind of damage those beliefs can do to a woman who is in fact called by God to lead and desires to have an equal partnership within the home.
What strengths/gifts has God given you? Did you need to come to terms at all with the legitimacy of those giftings in you, a woman? How have you been able to use those gifts to help others and advance God’s Kingdom? Hmm… that’s a good question, I’d say I’m gifted with creativity and voice through a prophetic lens (although I didn’t always recognize the prophetic part). I’m always thinking or seeing ahead as to what can be improved upon or made new, and desiring to stir up positive change through various creative outlets. That’s manifested in many ways over recent years, writing, speaking/teaching, singing, art/photography, leading projects, etc. The hardest to reconcile with myself and my prior beliefs, was the leading & speaking. Being taught that I wasn’t supposed to have these leadership gifts made it a major internal battle in my soul and ultimately I lost a lot of confidence in what I was hearing from God. When I eventually recognized I had a voice that God intended to use to teach/preach when he called me back in 2013, knowing the truth of what God thinks about that, and me, eventually became my biggest concern. But God is faithfully pushing me to step out more each day in that.
In recent days, while I continue to gain my confidence back in that area, I’ve been able to use my photography to capture events and milestones God’s been bringing different people and groups God’s connected me with through and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of that!
What kind of stuff is God speaking to you about lately? What are you doing with it?
The major theme and the word he gave me for this year has been “Be You”. I’ve lived so much of my life trying to fit in, conform, do the right thing and beating myself up if I got it wrong in order to please Him, that he’s really just been encouraging me to be myself without the shame and guilt and allow him to sand off the rough edges as we journey together. It’s been a healing process of coming out of a doctrine that inadvertently taught me to doubt much of who I was. So I’ve just been trying to step out in obedience to his promptings, which is scary at times. A lot of that has been through posts and videos on social media and through my writing to name a few, but really just learning to love myself and who I uniquely am in Christ.
What have you learned from entering into conversations online about this topic? Any tips for others who may do the same? Pros? Cons? Mistakes? Ha ha… oh the mistakes… I’ve made plenty! The biggest lesson I’ve learned that can be largely attributed to my dear friend Charissa Garver, who through just sitting with me through my own painful journey of deconstructing my faith has showed me what it means to truly be empathetic and validating. I learned that it’s so important to understand where the other person you’re speaking to online is coming from before you bring your opinions to the table. Like in a real way, one that seeks to not ruin or disrupt the harmony between you, and gives respect to the other person. Online discussions can go south pretty fast as tone can be confusing in text form, but the key is just keeping your humility. Remembering that this was all new to you at one point too. Not being afraid to admit you misunderstood someone or took them wrong and reacted out of emotion. We’re human! We’re going to make mistakes, say the wrong thing or offend someone sometimes without even trying. While some are just hardened to the idea of even dialoguing about it, for the ones that are open, the offense isn’t as important as the way you handle it after it’s happened. When you give grace people feel respected and heard, they can hear you and what you’re saying. Your words, Eileen, have always echoed: Value the relationship over the conflict. Aside from that, just remembering that what you post is representing Christ and doing your best to represent him well.
If people want to connect with you more, or see more of your stuff, where can they find you on social media? You can find my photography page on Facebook or visit my website at creativehavenphotography.com
You also may stumble across some of my writing as an occasional guest post on the Ezer Rising Facebook page that is geared toward empowering women, especially those struggling with the effects of damaging doctrines.