Book Review: A Woman’s Place by Katelyn Beaty

A Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the WorldA Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World by Katelyn Beaty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t want to feel like a burden. Try to imagine a man saying this—especially about his career—and it’s almost humorous. Try to imagine a woman saying it, and it seems like a mantra of femininity (page 215).

If you’re a working Christian woman, you’ve probably felt the tension. I know I have. There’s a sense in many Christian circles that for women, work is just a temporary thing you do until you get married and start having babies. Last fall, in a mostly good conversation with my older brother, he challenged my super-single self by telling me that being a wife was a calling, so if I had a strong sense of calling in another arena, that might be an obstacle to having a relationship. While I know his intentions were good in telling me that, the underlying assumption of his statement—that being a career-oriented woman is inherently incompatible with being in a marital relationship—is a symptom of a cultural paradigm that devalues the work of women out in the world and limits women to work within the home and family.

Enter Katelyn Beaty’s A Woman’s Place. This book has been on my list since it came out in 2016. I follow Beaty on Twitter and I found the book’s premise compelling. The premise: That God calls all women to work in some way and that work is a way of embodying the image of God.

A Woman’s Place tackles the cultural and historical factors that influence how we in the church see women and work in today’s western society. Key to her discussion are the Industrial Revolution, which separated work from the home (previously, men and women performed their trades out of their houses), and various philosophers and theologians who’ve reinforced the idea that women are somehow less than men. She also makes the point that the ability for a woman to not work for pay and instead just stay at home, keep house, and raise children is dependent on a certain amount of socioeconomic privilege. If you’re poor, you do what you have to do to survive; poor women have always worked.

At the same time that she elevates and supports the work of women outside the home, Beaty also affirms the work of wives and mothers within the home. Work is not just what we do to make a living. “Work happens whenever we interact with the created world, laboring to make it fruitful and beneficial to ourselves and others,” Beaty writes on page 89.

I love to work. I always have. Since my first summer job as a teenager, I’ve enjoyed going to a workplace (or my computer) to accomplish specific tasks. I’m the rare person who doesn’t light up about the weekend and dread Mondays. I look forward to getting back to the office or wherever it is I’m working. Ambition could easily be my middle name, and it has nothing to do with the paycheck. It’s the sense of purpose and the ability to look back at a job well done and say, “I did that.”

Because I enjoy working, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a Christian in the workplace, though not necessarily what it means as a woman—that question comes more into play within the context of the church (Beaty touches on this phenomenon). Beaty’s book wasn’t groundbreaking for me, but it put many of my thoughts into words while highlighting a lot of different people, groups, and initiatives that have done or are doing good work in the arena of faith and work for women Christians.

If you’re a working Christian woman, I highly recommend that you read this book. If you’re a Christian man who wants to better understand your own call in the workplace or the different obstacles that working Christian women face in the church, you should read this book. If you’re a church leader who wants to better serve women, you need to read this book.

View all my reviews.

NYC Week Six: Rejoining the workforce

Read last week’s post here or view all other New York City posts.

I rose early this morning, beating the sun by a hair. Crawling out of bed, I shut off my alarm, turned on my desk lamp, and paused, sighed.

6 a.m. Day has broken. 

A quick trip to the bathroom, splashing water on my face, and then back to my room, on with another light, dig in my shirt drawer for the second of two new t-shirts: charcoal gray with sky blue text across the chest, reading “spoon-fed”.

Look out work — here I come.

Oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and a full glass (well, mug) of milk. Wash, dry, put away. On with the boots, scarf, coat. Double-check my pocket for my phone and MetroCard, my bag for my sneakers, wallet, keys. Button, button, button, button up. Unlock the door in front of me; step into the waking world, sunbeams tinting the sky; lock the door behind me. On to the bus stop. On to the subway station. On to Manhattan. On to work.

This past Thursday, I filled out tax forms for my new part-time job as a counter person at tbsp (pronounced tablespoon), a restaurant operated by Spoon Catering on 17 East 20th Street. (Apparently, tbsp’s tables came from Cooperstown.)

tbsp
It’s cuter on the inside.

For the first time in a long time, I’m the new kid on the block, the one who has to ask questions about everything from “what’s in the frosting” to “do we have more of these” and “what should I do with this”. It’s tough going from a system you know inside-out to a brand new work setting that’s similar to where you’ve worked before, but different in the way it runs.

I’m used to Danny’s Main Street Market, the place where if you’re behind the counter, you not only take orders and ring out customers, but you make bagels, come up with sandwich specials, wash dishes, mop floors, sharpen knives — and you answer questions based on your knowledge from doing everything behind the counter. I’m used to a place where, by being hired, you’re expected to do it all. And I’m used to knowing exactly what “all” is.

Now, I’m the newbie, the one who busies herself with straightening paper bags and stocking soup cups because she doesn’t know what else to do — only to find that it’s actually the paninis that need to be restocked, meaning the cold sandwiches need to be transferred to the grill. And, yes, the cold sandwiches are right here, on a tray in the rack under the counter. Be sure to put on gloves.

I’m used to being the one who’s been there for years, seen the place through ups and downs, multiple owners. Now, I’m the new kid who knows nothing and knows nobody, but knows, for sure, that she doesn’t agree with multiple co-workers’ choices (no surprise here) and knows she doesn’t want people who barely know her to write her off as a hater — especially since she actually loves people, loves getting to know them, learning their stories, and figuring out what they’re into and what makes them who they are.

Right now, getting to know the other people is what I’m focused on. I may already have some favorites.

Introducing (some of) my co-workers

Ashley: One of tbsp’s managers, Ashley thinks I look like one of the cheerleaders in Glee. She talks super fast and went to a Catholic school somewhere in the City.

Drew: Flamboyantly gay and super particular in all things regarding the new espresso machine. He recently received training in cappuccino art and, just this past week, I witnessed a girl Instagram one of his drinks. Excitement ensued.

Jenay: Full-time tbsp staff who’s working on a fiction book about the impact of generational abuse. She found out I studied writing and immediately launched into an introduction to her own thoughts and research on writing and publishing. She’s pointed out one literary agent who comes in regularly with a stack of manuscripts under his arm, and I’ve since seen at least one other person carrying binder-clipped, size 12, double-spaced, Times New Roman piles of paper.

Yordana: One of those people who’s so cool, you don’t know what to say. Studying criminal justice and psychology at one of NYC’s many universities, Yordana is barista for weekend brunch and works shifts during the week as well. You can tell just by looking at her and hearing her voice — low, confident — that she’s smart and she’s tough.

Brianna: Born in California, raised in Dublin, Ireland, Brianna has lived in New York since last September. Her accent is delicate, not always obvious, and Brianna is hard to read. I’m never sure if the look on her face is because I did something majorly wrong or because something completely different is on her mind.

Then there are the Mexicans who work in the kitchen, Jen the pastry chef, the owners Melissa and her husband (whose name I hear and forget every day I’m there), the weekend brunch staff, the weekday delivery guys, and a couple others — a lot of people to keep track of. I don’t think I’ll ever know everyone’s name (but we have a staff meeting tomorrow, so I’ll at least hear everyone’s name).

I always start off quiet, shy, and gradually become more outspoken. At the beginning, Customer Service Meredith interacts with everyone — customers and co-workers alike. The drive-thru voice turns on, smile grows big, and the problem-solver, who deals with difficult customers very sweetly, runs at full throttle. As time goes on and I get to know the place and people better, more of me and the inner workings of my brain leak out and those I work with, along with a few select customers, get to hear what I think.

I’m not there, yet, with tbsp, but in the past week, I’ve started to crack open a bit — the amount of cracking directly related to the growth in my ability to independently recognize my duties and fulfill them. I expect, as time goes on, this relation will continue and the less I feel like a know-nothing newbie, the more I’ll feel free to let my thoughts fly. I look forward to that.

Reflection

Bringing you up-to-date:

Sunday: The end of Faith Baptist’s revival, containing two messages from Paul Schwanke.

Monday: Dim sum (which I guess means real Chinese food) with a Chinese lady from church and Mara Burns. Internship.

Tuesday: I met fellow Taylor grad, Hanna Ryberg, at her aunt’s apartment building on the Upper West Side. We went for a run in Central Park, and then I walked a good bit of it myself (shorts weather!) before heading downtown to get my New York Public Library card.

Upper West Side  Good day to be outside Spring is comingCentral Skyline  Looks Familiar

Wednesday: Internship + 1.4 mile run in 11:15 + church.

Thursday: Worked at tbsp. Filled out tax forms.

Friday: Worked at tbsp. Called my family and talked to everyone except my 10-year-old brother. =(

Saturday: Worked at tbsp. Waited in a huge line at Trader Joe’s to get my housemate fancy salt from the Himalayas. Hit Aldi on the way back from Manhattan. Successfully resisted the urge to buy ice cream or chocolate or both. Ran 1.4 miles in 10:51. Ate chicken and rice soup for supper. Spent way too much time on this blog post. Oh, and I took this picture. Notice how what makes the buildings good are not man’s designs but God’s creation: the sun, the clouds, the sky.

Saturday park