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Most admired

I’d picked up a copy of the magazine that is specifically written about women for women. It is free, and I find it in the hospital waiting rooms where Sweet William and I frequent much too often.

most-admired

This one’s cover showed pictures of twelve women chosen as most admired in as many categories. I read the women’s stories, all of them worthy of their being chosen. They have worked hard to educate themselves and achieve success.

These are high-profile women, some of the movers and shakers of the community. They carry briefcases and they carry weight and influence.

As the days go by after reading the summary of these successful women, I begin to formulate my own list of most admired. They will never grace the cover of a magazine. Their stories may not be told in print. They will not get a make-over or a fashion consultation so their photographs look polished and professional.

But the women on my list have achieved something that ranks them in a place of honor, in my opinion.

There is woman who opened her home to an aging mother-in-law, and this after her own children had left the nest. At a time when she and her husband could have thought about travel and beginning to explore their couple-ness again, she is responsible for someone who becomes more in need of care as the years go by. She handles it with grace and dignity.

There is the woman who comes to help me in our house sometimes, the one I have called on in emergencies to let our Little Dog out when Sweet William was suddenly hospitalized. She enters our house with a smile and joy that brightens our lives. She has her own problems for sure, but she continues to work multiple jobs to help provide for her family while making sure her children get to ball practices and games, music lessons and the unceasing activities of this generation. She maintains an openness and honesty with her children in the midst of her crazy schedule. Her kids are growing up to be responsible and hard-working, following her example.

There is the woman whose grandson lives in the far corner of the country. She is his life source in many ways. Her love and devotion to him is unmistakable, and she makes the journey to him many times throughout the year. Her continuing prayers for him are evident in his young life as she sees God intervene and provide. She keeps up with his activities and his grades, doing what she can from her distant home, to see that he has every available advantage.

There is the younger woman who is taking care of her mother who has been left with a sever disability, while she has a husband and children at home. Life has dealt her some rugged blows, and she keeps walking forward, seeking different avenues to advocate for her family, making sure they have what they need.

There is the friend who checks on me, asks about my day, and willingly hears my honest raw truth coming from a fractured heart. She has her own burdens, yet she cares about me and mine.

There is the teacher, influencing lives on a daily basis, praying for her students and showing them God’s love actively while not being able to mention His name.

There is the nurse who gives skilled expertise to patients in hospitals, rehab centers and nursing homes. She cares for those unable to care for themselves while offering a smile and some cheer on many a gloomy day.

There is the woman who fosters other people’s children, giving them a safe haven when they have been removed from home, some experiencing untold horrors.

There are the women who volunteer. They teach Sunday school to the least of these; they meet weekly with middle schoolers; they have a heart for understanding teenagers. Theirs is a special calling.

There are the mothers who home-school and invest their daily time and energies into the hearts and lives of their little ones, knowing there is no other more important job. They sacrifice some of the frills of life so they can give themselves away.

There are the women who are caregivers of  children, husbands, parents, and relatives who have experienced life-changing illness or injury. Their lives are focused on another and not themselves.

There are the women who are friends to other women, loving them with a listening ear and words that encourage. They offer a comforting place to speak one’s heart and not worry about being exposed on Facebook or Twitter or to the next-door neighbor.

Women are a wondrous group. They may be described as the “weaker, more delicate vessel” in physical make-up, but they make up for it in determination and courage. They are fiercely loyal, tireless in their efforts, and they give of themselves to a fault. God endowed women with a heart like His in so many ways, their nurturing, relentlessly loving, tenacious way of holding on in hope.

Almost an entire chapter of the scriptures is dedicated to a woman’s worth. More than rubies. Priceless in value. Her characteristics are most definitely to be admired and emulated.

If I had a list of most-admired women, it would be long. The women who are are making a living and making a life. Giving and selfless. Loving in word and deed.

These women are strong. They are beautiful. And they are worthy of honor.

“Give her the reward of her labor,and let her works praise her at the city gates.”  — Proverbs 31:31

 

 

We are in this together

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

We met for an early morning coffee chat. She’s young enough to be my daughter. Our friendship began at a chance meeting, the two of us at a women’s event when the Spirit brought us face to face.

She shared her recent life events and then asked about me. I could not speak for a couple of seconds, emotions tightening my throat. She waited quietly until I was able to talk about things that concern me. Nothing big, just the small pebbles that can pile high and begin to look like a mountain.

I told her how I sometimes say “I’m good,” when asked, but hiding underneath the cheerful face is sadness I can’t account for. It’s not that I mean to be dishonest, but I don’t think most people want to hear my litany of complaints. She’s not most people. She’s my friend.

Lying on the table between us was a book I brought to share with her. As she expressed her concern for me, she pointed to the front cover and smiled. The subtitle read, “because women need each other.” And that is exactly right.

giddy up eunice

When I chose Giddy Up, Eunice as my next book to review, I was intrigued by the title and what might be waiting for me within the pages . Sophie Hudson picks out three Biblical friendships and shows the vital important of relationships between women.

“. . . there’s no getting around how much women need each other. The heart of the gospel is relationship, and God has hard-wired each of us with a longing to be seen, to be loved, and to be known.”

A woman understands this at her core. Her DNA shouts it. Hudson challenges women to look beyond their “same age, same stage” groups. She points out that women who are ahead of us (the older generation) and the ones behind us (the younger generation) are rich friendship opportunities.

The title of the book comes from 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul remembers the faith of his youthful protegé Timothy, how it began in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.

Hudson writes about three inter-generational relationships: Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, and Lois and Eunice.

She suggests there are women already in our circle who may be a potential friend. She says,

“In fact, in each of these three pairs of women, there’s already a built-in cross generational connection. That’s important, because it reminds us that we don’t necessarily have to take on anything new; we may just need to open our eyes and look around at the people in the places where we already are.”

That’s a relief, not having to add more to my plate. I don’t have to sign up for a new ministry or start attending another small group. Our own family members cross the generational lines to be a source of support and encouragement. If I simply look at the places I live, work, and serve, there are women on both sides of my generation, and we can share our journeys. We can help each other grow.

“We would say that we want to be women of great faith, women who pass on the ‘sincere faith’ of 2 Timothy to the younger people in our sphere of influence. We also want to be women who learn from [the older women] in our lives.”

I am thankful for friends who are my age and stage of life, who remember when the Beach Boys first came on the scene and when television was small, black and white. We share similar life experiences. We understand each other so well.

I am equally thankful for those older women who nurtured me and advised me when I was younger. They were my role models, the ones who paved the way for me. I hope I always have an older woman in my life until I am the oldest one around.

And my young friends, they are career women and mothers. They home school and they serve in the community. They have babies, toddlers, teenagers and husbands, and their lives are full and running over. They help me remain hopeful for the future.

Giddy Up Eunice speaks to me, not so much as an instruction manual but more like a friend across the table where we laugh a lot and get really serious and talk for hours.

Sophie Hudson is a Mississippi girl and southern oozes from her pen. She is expressive and funny and often exhibits excitement with her ALL CAPS WORDS as she tells personal experiences that illustrate the truths she is presenting.  While this was my first time reading her work, I am already looking forward to reading another of her books.

NOTE:   I received a copy of the book Giddy Up Eunice, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

B&H blogger icon

 

For all the women

Mother’s Day blogging is upon us.  I am reading them this week.  I’ve written my share.  What else is there to say?

As a mother of a grown up son, I long to hear the words, “well done.”  I want to hear that I did a good job, or at least that I didn’t leave permanent physiological damage.

We women are known for comparing ourselves with other women.  We wonder if we are keeping up, if we are good enough at this high calling, or are we failing at the most important task of our entire lives?

Looking back, I see lots of places for a do-over.  But life does not offer a rewind.

Perhaps that’s why we enjoy grandmothering so much.  We get a little bit of a chance to do things differently, realizing that some things we thought were so important just were not.

I miss my own mother on Mother’s Day.  I always will.  When she was alive, I tried to tell her how much I loved her, how I appreciated her role in my life.  I hope I did it enough so that she felt like she had done her work well.

Mothering is the most rewarding and sometimes the most heartbreaking of jobs.  We celebrate and we cry.  We hold close and then we let go.  We teach and instruct only to come to the place when we must keep our mouths shut.

It’s not easy being a good mother.

Yet is it the way God planned for children to be raised, nurtured, loved, trained, and set off on their own as young adults, just so the cycle will repeat itself.

God’s tender compassionate heart is reflected in mothers.  They don’t give up on their children.  They don’t turn away from them when they make mistakes, end up in jail, turn out badly.  They keep loving, keep praying, keep hoping for better days.

I am thankful for women who have poured their love into my life in so many ways. While some will have the title of “mother,” others will not, but their hearts still mother in ways only women can.  God made woman that way.  She is unique, a creature like no other.

William Ross Wallace said it well:

Woman, how divine your mission,
Here upon our natal sod;
Keep—oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Where would we be without the love of mothers, the love of good women?  Blessed are they.

mother andbaby hands

What if . . .

What if I really believed God is sovereign and good and loving?

What if I really believed He can do what He says?

What if I really believed He had my best in mind through all of my life?

What if I really believed His word?

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Those questions were brought to the forefront during a weekend conference at Little Flock.  We were the IF: Local group for the IF: Gathering simulcast.  It brought a diverse group of us from surrounding churches to join with women around the world who were asking themselves the same questions.  These were women who were strong in their faith in spite of heart-wrenching events.  Women who had stepped into new territory despite their fears.  Women who knew there was more to God than they had seen or experienced, and they wanted Him more than a mere Christianity.  They wondered what a life beyond themselves could do if they really believed.

I wonder that too.  And I am asking myself the questions.

If I really believed what I say, not just spouting off empty platitudes, what would my life look like?  How would my actions change?  How would I treat my fellow-men and -women?  Would my prayers become bold?  Would my faith increase?

Could it be that this is the generation where we will determine that fear will not stop us but that we will do what God says while we tremble in our boots or our stiletto heals?

Can we walk in His light even if it shines only one step at a time?

Will we dare to love like Jesus did, like He commanded, even when we risk being rejected and persecuted?

Would we live out love like He did to the fullest by washing dirty feet of those who would betray and deny in just a few short hours?

Can we believe for miracles? for revival? for His presence to come and overtake our programs and our schedules?

The questions have been presented to us.  Now it is up to us to answer.

What will you say?  What will I say?

The next step in the local process will be to gather at tables as sisters, IF: Table.  We will meet to fellowship and ask the hard questions of one another.  We will grow in our relationships.  We will be challenged by one another.  We will leave with more resolve to live out this Christian walk being real, being transparent.

IF you are invited to an IF: Table somewhere wherever you are, respond.  Go.  Take a risk.  Participate.  Let down your wall of protection.  Be open to love and being loved.

Because IF we really believe God is who He says He is and really believe His word is true, we will be changed.  And we can change the world.

Thoughts of women and Mother’s Day

I anticipate Mother’s Day with mixed emotions.

Being a mother can only be described as one of the greatest adventures of my life.  When I was pregnant, I wanted to be the very best mom with the near perfect child, and I really thought I knew how I was going to accomplish that.

Then the child was born.  Everything changed – my life, my focus, my time, my energy, and especially my ideas of what it is to be a mother.  

A child consumes you and changes you in ways no one can prepare you.  The cord that connects mother to child during pregnancy may be cut at birth, but the cord that connects a mother’s heart to the heart of her child can never, ever be severed.  Her love is bound to that child in such a way that even God showed a comparison of His love to that of a mother.

Isaiah 49:15 says “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb?  Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.”

So at Mother’s Day, I celebrate the privilege and joy of being a mother. 

But . . . the week before Mother’s Day I begin to miss my own mother once again.   She died early in 1983, and despite the year or more of deep mourning, I have adjusted to living my life without her – not really gotten over it but adjusted to it.   The months following her death, however, I could not picture how I would live my life without the woman who gave birth to me, who modeled motherhood, who gave me wise counsel, and who loved me like only a mother can.

But I did adjust.  I moved past my grief.  I allowed other women into my heart, both older and younger.  And I have become richer for it.

Still, on Mother’s Day, the memories of my own dear mother suddenly break into my thoughts like an unexpected visitor.  My thoughts return to my childhood, my teen years, my young adulthood, and my own motherhood and how I am becoming more and more like her as the years go by.  I cannot separate the happiness of celebrating from the sadness of loss.  It will always be so, I suppose.

Because of my loss, at Mother’s Day I remember women who are grieving their own mothers’ passing.  I know of two women whose mother died within this year.  Their hearts are heavy, like mine was in May 1983.  I hurt with them.  I want to acknowledge their loss and let them know someone understands how they feel this year.

Then there are the women who have miscarried and will grieve the loss of the child they should have been holding, either in their womb or in their arms.  I hurt with them also, because I remember that grief as well.  Having a hope of life snuffed out too soon is difficult to bear, especially at Mother’s Day.

In a similar place are the women who mourn a child they did hold, perhaps watched grow up, even to become an adult, but like a candle extinguished, life was cut short.  It never feels right for a parent to outlive her child.  I’ve not experienced this grief, cannot imagine the deep well of sorrow this brings.  I have friends who deal with it, who mention the child’s name and tell a story so others will remember.   I know the child lives in her heart if not on this earth.  For this woman, Mother’s Day may rip open the wound. 

There is still another group of women I think of at this holiday.  They are the ones who long to be mothers, but for reasons known only to God, they have been denied.  In some ways they have adjusted, like I adjusted to my mother’s death.  We must adjust, or we stagnate in an unhealthy place, where productive life ceases, where sorrow has made its permanent home and joy has moved out.

But if I perceive their hidden tears behind smiles, I think they have the same mixed emotions that flow through me, like high water flooding its banks.  They desire to celebrate in a way they cannot. 

” . . . The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces . . . ” Isaiah 25:8.

I wish all mothers a blessed day on Sunday.  You have been given the gift of life and of training souls for the kingdom of God.  What an awesome task.   May God be with you through it all.

I pray for cleansing tears for those of you who grieve the loss of your own mother or for the loss of the precious child you hold close to your heart.  Tears are healing.  We must give them release to flow.  There will be a brighter day and a day of reunion when God will wipe away all tears and there will be no more death.  Hope for it.

And for those who have been denied the title “mother,” I dare say you are nurturing people all along your pathway.  You may not even dream of how many are blessed by knowing you, are warmed by your love and concern, and are honored to call you friend, aunt, step-mother, sister, foster-mom, teacher, neighbor . . .  Their will be songs in Heaven for you, “Thank you for giving to the Lord.  I am a life that was changed.” 

We are women, all of us.  Placed in the heart of every woman is the desire to nurture, to love, to care for, and to protect.  God allows us to do that in so many wonderful and unexpected ways.  He brings people along to walk the journey with us on purpose, people who need what we can give, people who will be touched by our womanhood.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you precious women.  You are dear to my heart.  And even more so to the heart of your God.

Genesis 3:20 – “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”

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Tribute to a dear woman

 

May 2nd marks the birthday of someone special to me.  She was one of the women who impacted my life in a monumental way.  This day I pay tribute to one of God’s soldiers gone home, my aunt, Doris Marie Lockard Rayhill.

I never really called her Doris Marie unless I was trying to identify her to someone. To me she was my Aunt Dottie.

But the first name I called her was “mommy.”

You see my cousin and her first born, Danny, was born a year and a half before me. He was the big brother I never had and the one this little girl tried to imitate. He called her “mommy” – so I called her “mommy.”  I called my own mother, “Mother,” naturally.

It wasn’t until I got to elementary school that I learned the other kids did not call their aunts “mommy”.

The two of us had a talk about it. I explained that I needed to call her something else because the kids at school didn’t understand.  She told me about a pet nickname her mother had called her.  It was “Dottie.”  She was my Dottie ever since.

Dottie was my children’s church director, and she was my first pastor. I wish I could tell you how we children really had church in the basement of Faith Temple Church of God, how our spiritual foundations were laid stone by stone each Sunday morning.

I learned about Jesus’ love from the stories she told us. Stories like: The Little Red Hen who gave her life for her chicks; Snowflake, the lamb that kept wandering away from the shepherd; Barney’s Barrel; Why the Chimes Ring; and Miss Bump.

Those precious stories explained the gospel in a way a child like me could understand. They still touch a tender place in my heart when I sometimes share them with my own grandchildren.

In children’s church we learned to sing What a Friend We Have in Jesus, I’m Glad I’m a Christian, Ti’s So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, and Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Those songs became themes for my Christian walk.

In the basement of that old church, I learned the books of the Bible, was encouraged to memorize Scripture, and could do a Bible drill with the best of them.

When I grew into a teenager, Dottie was my choir leader at Dixie Valley Church of God. And she led us to worship! We sang some good old gospel songs: “He’s the Lord of Glory,” Walking Up the King’s Highway,” “Here Comes the Bride,” and “Getting Ready Today, moving out tomorrow, gonna say ‘good-bye’ to all earthly sorrow. I’m looking for that mansion there. I see the light, I’m almost there.”

I wonder if her spirit was singing that when she departed this world in September 2008?

Dottie became my mentor when she decided the youth needed to be taught how to become leaders. She put me in charge of directing a play, The Missing Christians, a story of the rapture and those left behind. There were other young people who were challenged to take on leadership roles. What a bold venture for her and what confidence she put in us as she stood in the shadows and watched us take off and grow.

Years later, a group of women gathered weekly in my parent’s basement for Bible study and prayer. Once again I was privileged to sit under Dottie’s teaching, this time as a young adult. I watched and listened as the Word of God seemed to pour forth out of her mouth. Through her years of faithful study and hiding His Word in her heart, she had become a reservoir of living Truth that became the Bread of Life and Living Water to us.

I soaked it in, and one day I thought to myself, “I want that!” I never aspired to be a teacher, but I longed for that knowledge of God that only comes from knowing His heart through His spoken Word.

When my dear Mother went home to be with Jesus in 1983, Dottie and I grieved together.  We both loved Mother so much.

That first Christmas without Mother was when Dottie gathered my little family in, Sweet William, our son Travis, and me. We had always been in her heart, but from then on she included us into her own immediate family for holidays and family events.  And there we remained.

As the years passed, she continued to encourage, support, and pray for me.

When her health began to fail, I was honored to serve her and care for her at times. She would always thank me, sometimes try to pay me. She didn’t grasp that I owed her so much more than money could ever repay.

What a great woman of God she was. Not perfect as none of us are, but truly a follower and disciple of Christ.

A Scripture seems appropriate for my Aunt Dottie. First Corinthians 11:1 says, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” That’s what she did and what she taught.

Hers was a life well lived.  I am a life that was changed because of her.  

Happy Birthday Aunt Dottie.

 

If you had a special person in your life, I would love to hear from you.

A little story about someone I love

Because February is the month of love ~ 

mother2I think of those who have loved me much. Today, February 11, is the anniversary of my mother’s death 28 years ago.  I can’t help but think of her as Valentine’s Day approaches because we put her earthly shell in the ground on that day.  The only flowers that year were the ones around her casket.  It was a hard day.

But instead of feeling sad about my loss, let me tell you about this precious woman I called “Mother.”

Charline Lockard Rayhill was 27 years old when I was born.  That was considered to be late in her day when most women were in their teens or early twenties when they had their first child.

Mother was such a wise parent. I suppose she learned it from her mother, Bertha Ray Lockard, who had been a school teacher before she married and began raising three children of her own.  I am told Grandma Lockard had the wisdom of Solomon when it came to people skills.  And I’ve heard some interesting stories.  One of Grandma’s favorite quotes was “Consider the source,” when dealing with people who did and said stupid things.

It would only be natural that my mother would imitate her own mother’s parenting ways.

Mother was a strict disciplinarian while being a totally loving parent.  She had the proper balance between the two.  She let me know what was expected of me and then expected me to follow her instructions.  I can remember a few times when as a little girl I was misbehaving or talking during church.  All mother had to do was look at me with her dark brown eyes, and I knew I’d better straighten up.

 Mother’s love was so unconditional I never questioned it.  I knew from her words and her actions that she loved me even when I did something wrong or hurt her in some way.

Mother loved my dad.  She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to him or fail to express her opinion even when it differed from his.  But she was loyal to the death and would defend dad in a heartbeat.  She showed me what it really means to be a good wife, one in whom her husband trusts.  She did him good all the days of her life.

After I married, she became “Mom” to my Sweet William.  He has told me how he loved talking to her early on Saturday mornings.  She was a good listener, and they became buddies.

When I became pregnant, mother said she was not going to act like other  grandmothers did, being silly about their grandchildren and showing off pictures all the time.  Little did she know what her baby grandson would do to her heart.  She became so enraptured by this tiny boy child that she became “one of those grandmothers” she said she would never be.

Mother loved to give gifts.  One year at Christmas she bought and wrapped many small scatter pins (what we called them in the 1960s).  My stocking was full of little Christmas packages that year.

No one enjoyed telling a funny story much better than my mother.  She used to tell “The peanut butter story” to the family again and again upon request.  Her sister, Doris, would laugh at it every time as if she were hearing it for the first time.  Mother always tried to pull off a joke on April 1st, telling some tall tail, then laughing and saying, “April fools.”

Mother opened her arms and her heart to others.  There were the ladies of her Tuesday morning Bible study who came faithfully each week.  They loved her like she was their kin.  Even the young men whom my dad taught in Bible study or counseled, more often than not gave her a big bear hug.  She was a spiritual mother to many, giving away her love and her wise words.

Ah, I wish everyone could have a mother like mine.  There would be fewer dysfunctional homes and far fewer people spending their adult lives trying to overcome their childhoods.

I loved my mother.  I knew she loved me.  That’s what every child needs.