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Sunday grace

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank you for the women, for the ones who touched my life and left their fingerprints.

For the women who lived before, fighting battles and suffering long that I might live free and equal, and be considered a person and not property.

For the women in Scripture who stood tall and brave in the face of adversity, who spoke prophesies and championed soldiers, who stood between kingly decrees and their children, who faithfully followed in terrifying conditions and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

For the women who taught me through word and example, who told Bible stories and expounded the Truth, who lived lives of grace and mercy, who were faithful to their husbands and loved their babies.

For the women who saw my untamed talents and the beginnings of my gifts and nurtured them in me, smiling their encouragement and applauding my progress.

For the women who authored books that made me laugh and made me think, who pricked my heart and seemed to know my story, who did not condemn but showed me how to move toward healing.

For the women who were my grandmothers, leaving their impression on my parents, passing along the inheritance and blessing of their goodness.

For my aunts who loved me and treated me like one of their own.

For cousins who have been like sisters.

For my dear mother, my mother-in-law, my step-mother, each one so different yet profoundly impacting my life.

For my one daughter-in-love who continues to teach me about loving  a husband and training her own brood to fly.

For the friends who have become like family and kindred spirits, and for daughters-of-my heart who have their own special place.

For the women, O Lord, who have been your vessels and have poured into my life, who opened their heart and welcomed me into their circle, who have laughed with me and cried with me, who have held my hand and hugged my neck, who have prayed for me and inspired me to take courage.

For these women, daughters of Eve, tough and tender, warriors all, leaving a legacy of love and devotion, being the beautiful crown of creation and housing the light of Jesus. They cause me to give You thanks on this Mother’s Day.

Thy have left their fingerprints on my life.

Sunday grace.

 

Dealing with Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is complicated. At least it is for me.

I’ve celebrated it in sundry ways.

There were many years when I celebrated my own dear mother.

I suppose words of affirmation are my love language because I wrote a lot of notes and letters to express my devotion.  Often there was a handwritten note to the woman I considered to be the very best, and I was thankful she was my mom. I told her so, setting words to the page on Mother’s Day.

In 1983, my mother died. My grief seemed unbearable. Mother’s Day that year filled me with deepest sorrow and loneliness. I no longer had a mother to celebrate. It changed the day forever. And it changed me.

There were the years when my son was young and learning what it meant to celebrate his mother.

It was a Sunday evening of Mother’s Day, and this little lad of mine wanted to “take me out” to MacDonald’s® for an ice cream cone. You see, there was a give-away of free cones to any mother who came, and it was what my son could afford.

I was weary and worn. Problems don’t take a holiday, and I didn’t really want to go. My mother took my aside me and helped me understand that this was important to my son. This was his gift and I needed to receive it.

So I drove the two of us the few miles to the fast food restaurant, and we enjoyed the taste of cold sweetness together. It is a memory I hold dear.

When that one sweet boy grew tall and whiskered, there was that one year he let me know I was to be a mother-in-law. I was so excited and felt like I had been to a big reveal party where someone proclaimed, “It’s a girl!”  The one daughter-in-love became another reason to celebrate being a mother in a completely new and different way.

 

There were the years when I should have been holding another baby on Mother’s Day, but I was not. Two miscarriages in two different years left me bereft. I saw other young women cuddling babies in blankets, full of life and happiness. It was hard. I clung to my one small boy, thankful for the gift he was to me.

There were years I worked myself silly on Mother’s Day.

I was a Mom and a Grammy. I invited my family – son, daughter-in-love, three grandchildren, dad, and step-mother – and cooked up a storm. I wanted them here, not spread out at a restaurant that would be overly crowded with families trying to bless their mothers, waiting for us to give up our table.

This was my way of celebrating. And it was a blessing to me. Nothing is sweeter than having the house burst with noise as dear ones come through the door, They spread out through the rooms, then we wound our way in a circle before the meal, holding hands for a prayer of grace and thanksgiving. We gathered at the table, and this was sharing life together. The laughter, the stories, the children in dress up clothes, the making of memories were worth every bit of effort.

When the youngest grandchild and the only boy was quite young, I planned for him to sit next to me. He was the non-stop talker, and I was especially patient with this little guy who had my heart.

I recall those years fondly and would do it all again in a heartbeat.

And now I am in a different season. Our family dynamics have changed.  Time, death and life stages have altered the holiday. Family units evolve; they cannot stay the same.

So the second Sunday in May is complicated for me. I know I am not the only one.

In the way of the Lord’s giving and taking away, I recognize the blessing of others who entered my life as changes were dramatic. Older women became my mentors after my mother’s death. Friends of all ages have loved me, touched my heart on any given day.  My life is full and rich in relationships.

Though it may be complicated, we should celebrate. Mothers are a breed of their own. Their hearts demonstrate God’s own love in a way no other can. They are tireless, loyal, selfless, committed to their children, and will never, ever stop loving them, even when they are the prodigal.

Where would I be without the godly influence of my mother who loved me without conditions? What other experience can be likened to being mother to a son and then getting to love his wife? And who can even describe the joy of being a grandmother? It is compensation for growing older and a do-over for parents who become wiser with the years.

Mothers are grand, they are amazing, they are something so special, no way around it. Celebrate them. Give them their due reward and praise.

No matter how complicated Mother’s Day is, it marks a day to cherish the women who shaped us and loved us, who influenced us and guided us, who shine as heroes and warriors.

I’m thankful for my own precious mother, for the experience of being a mother and grandmother, and for women who have enriched my life in ways I can never fully express.

Happy Mother’s Day to them all.

 

 

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?

IF_Local_Flyer

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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