Monday, October 20, 2014

31 (ok-18) Lessons from 31(ish) Women (and one little boy): Failures

I set a goal for myself this month- to blog everyday.  I wanted to participate in this blogging challenge at  But then life snickered at my big plans and I made it to day 6 before I quit writing.

This is the point where I would normally call myself a failure and give up.  But not today.  Turns out, all the cool people fail.

Oprah was once fired and called "unfit for television".  

Marilyn Monroe was told that she'd never make it as a model.    

Louisa May Alcott was told by a publisher that she'd never succeed as a writer.

Florence Nightingale's family considered her nursing career just a notch above prostitution.  

Suze Ormon started her finance career because she was bankrupted by a failed restaurant.  

Vera Wang was once a figure skater who didn't make the Olympic team.  

Bette Nesmith Graham invented Liquid Paper after years of correcting her typos with white tempura paint.    

Princess Diana and Coco Chanel both dropped out of school. 

Beyonce lost on Star Search. 

And Julia Child burned dinner.  Probably a lot.

Just this summer, my son learned to ride a bike.  He's ten.  Ten is late for bike riding and he knows it.  But God wired this child up a little differently, and gross motor skill deficits and balance issues are a real thing for him.  Riding a bike is the single most difficult thing I think he's ever tried to do.

And it was hard, hard, to watch him struggle up and down the long driveway in the summer heat, all rage and tears and bloodied knees.  In his black-and-white mind, you either do it or don't.  There is no in-between, and so each fall told him that he was a bike-riding failure.  

I contemplated success and failure those days on the stone steps by our driveway, and I wondered what all this trying would be like without the world inside our heads pressuring us to get it right.  We'd be free to try as many times as we wanted, our hearts never once nicked by failure.  Trying only becomes failing when the world is watching for it.   

My little blogging 'failure' has made me think a lot about goals and what I really want to do.  I want to write.  That's it.  Write about grace and what it's done for me.  And I want other women to read what I write and be encouraged.  It would be nice to be a published author or popular blogger, but that's not really what I want.  I just want to write for Jesus.  He's my audience of one.

God plants seeds inside all of us to go and do great things for His kingdom.  Sure, sometimes He plants those seeds for a specific time and place, but mostly I think He just wants to see what we'll do with them.  He wants to see us grow in grace and knowledge, and that can take a long time trying.  But that's ok.  It's time spent with Jesus.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jer 29:11

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

31 Lessons from 31 Women: Lydia of Thyatira

Lydia of Thyatira only gets a few brief mentions in the book of Acts.  She almost seems like background noise.  It's easy to miss her, but don't.  She's a trailblazer.

On the Sabbath day, we went outside the city walls to the nearby river, assuming that some Jewish people might be gathering for prayer.  We found a group of women there, so we sat down and spoke to them.  One of them, Lydia, was a business woman originally from Thyatira.  She made a living buying and selling fine purple fabric.  She was a true worshiper of God and listened to Paul with special interest.  The Lord opened her heart to take in the message with enthusiasm.  She and her whole household were ceremonially washed through baptism.

Lydia: If you believe I'm truly faithful to the Lord, please, you must come and stay at my home.

We couldn't turn down her invitation.        -Acts 16:13-15

A few verses later, after the most spectacular jailbreak (which you simply must read for yourself in Acts 16:16-39), Lydia is mentioned again as hosting the first Christian church in the city of Phillipi in her home.  That's it.  That's all we know about her.

We don't know who her family is.  We don't know if she was married or not.  We don't know anything about her personal sin history or if she fell victim to any of the usual suspects of tragedy like childlessness or widowhood that plague Biblical women.  We know none of that.

Which is kind of nice.  We just get to know Lydia for herself.

I'd like to have coffee with Lydia.  Oh, she might would tell me about all the brokenness in her past, how she's divorced or she lost a child- we all have those stories.  But I think she would tell me more about Jesus and the hope she finds in him.  The difference in Lydia is that she's not defining herself by the brokenness.  She's defining herself by the Lord.  And that gives me hope too.

Thank you Lydia.  We need strong women to go first.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

31 Lessons from 31 Women: Sarina Leigh

Each Wednesday afternoon, the boy and I get to keep his little 8 month old cousin, Sarina.  She is such a joy.  One of her favorite things about our house is that we have four cats.  She just loves to watch the kitties.

One day we were playing on a blanket in the living room when one of the cats snuggled up right next to Sarina and began to purr.  Sarina was very happy to finally get up close and personal with one of these mysterious creatures.  She immediately reached out a chubby hand to touch the kitty’s face.  She did not expect to first encounter whiskers.

She drew her little hand back in surprised delight.  She looked at her hand and then looked at the cat.  She reached a second time; again the whiskers tickled her palm.  This time she broke a wide smile and patted the whiskers.  She marveled there a while before moving on to touch the sleek fur, the delicate ears, that little pink nose.  All the while, kitty sat warm and soft, purring patiently beside her new friend.

It was a sweet moment to behold.  I’m glad she shared it with me.

Today offered a different kind of sweet moment as beautiful Sarina Leigh was dedicated to the Lord at church this morning.  It was a privilege to gather around her with family as the pastor prayed over her.  I cheated during the prayer, though, and peeped one eye open to see what she was doing.  Her family may have been deep in prayer, intent on the great spiritual battle that rages all around us, but Miss Sarina was completely relaxed in her daddy’s arms, leaning back and looking around as if she didn’t have a care in the world.

“That’s right, baby girl,” I thought.  “You just sit back and enjoy- we got this.”

At a another baby dedication a few weeks ago, the pastor explained that really we are dedicating ourselves to lead and pray for this child as she begins her walk toward the narrow gate.  Just as I sat beside Sarina to guide her safely through her first encounter with a kitty, we all have a very serious responsibility to shepherd the children in our lives through the wilderness and right to the foot of the cross.

So you are safe and loved, Sarina.  Protected and blessed.  My prayer for you is this, that you will reach your little hand to Jesus with bold wonder.  He is full of delightful surprises; grace and mercy abound in His presence.  You can reach right out to him, close enough that His whiskers will tickle your hand.  He is your friend, your personal savior, and He will sit patiently beside you for as long as you want.

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.  Psalm 127:3

Saturday, October 4, 2014

31 Lessons from 31 Women: Martha, part 2

So I may have been re-reading yesterday's post looking for typos (because I've seen y'all mock people's grammar on Facebook) when I saw something that was so good, I had to come share it with you.  We are going to have another visit with Ms. Martha this morning.

Let's read part of her story again:

Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village.  Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home.  Her sister Mary, went and sat at Jesus' feet, listening to Him teach.  Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements.   Luke 10:38-40

Whoa.  She invited Jesus into her home and then kept right on worrying and doing all the same things she'd always done.

Mmmm.... I had to chew that one for a while.  And it was hard to swallow.  I might have done that too, Martha.  Once.  Or twice.  Ok, everyday.  For like the past ten years.

There are so many verses that I could quote here, verses about not being anxious about anything and how Jesus' burden is light.  Or dying to self and submitting to God's authority.  But what I want to tell you about is the power we have in the Holy Spirit.

The Father is sending a great Helper, the Holy Spirit, in My name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I have said to you.    John 14:26

Only two days ago, I was telling my husband that I wished I could hire a mother's helper for just one day a week.  She could tutor the boy while I run errands and make phone calls.  I could get bills paid on time and go to the grocery store by myself.  I could finish a whole shower without anyone asking me for anything.

Now imagine an even better mother's helper, one who would "...teach me everything and remind me of all..."  That's like having Mary Poppins in my house, guiding me through every single step of this wife and mother business every single day.  I would be all over that.  I certainly wouldn't ignore her- no ma'am.  That would be crazy!  I'd ask her so many questions, Mary Poppins would think she had three Beverlys on her!

And yet here I sit with a helper better than even Mary Poppins, a helper ready and willing to teach me everything I need to know and remind me of all the things that Jesus said.  I have this wonderful helper, but most days, I don't even stop long enough to hear to what He has to say.  

I'm just like Martha.

So here's the part that's tough to swallow:  stopping to hear the Holy Spirit is a choice we make.  So no matter the circumstance, no matter the baby crying or the in-laws coming or the looming deadline at work.  No matter how many unforeseen disasters strike, no matter how many balls we have we put in the air, we are responsible for making the choice to listen or not.  <Gulp>

By the way, when you listen, you'll probably hear this:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.   2Cor 9:8

All grace.  All sufficiency.  All things.  At all times.  Because He loves you.

Friday, October 3, 2014

31 Lessons from 31 Women: Martha, part 1

Today is one of those crazy-busy days.  I have too many things to do: take the dog to the groomer's, grocery shop, make my house presentable and clean the bathroom that hasn't been cleaned in ~ahem~ week(s).  Then I have to cook dinner for guests tonight- something amazing and delicious of course because Pinterest, and, you know, I have to represent.

At some point I need to go hold the hand of my poor heartbroken mother who has, bless her, been rescuing stray animals all summer long and now is having to give them up one by one.  Which reminds me, I also need to catch the last of her stray kitties and take him to a shelter because he's tripped her four times in the last week and she is limping and covered in bruises.  Oh, and then we have a full day of school today, including the daily Asperger meltdown over math.  

While I'm at it, I'll make a list for tomorrow.  Paint the boy's room.  Cook a month's worth of breakfast mini-quiches to freeze.  Mop all the floors.  All while being a fun mom because Saturday.  Oh wow.  Tomorrow might be even worse than today.

So, right now I am feeling so dang glad that I made this commitment to blog everyday through the month of October because jumping in the deep end.  I'll be blogging all month about 31 amazing women and the deep and spiritual lessons they bring (because I know anything about that- HA!), and, of course, I'll be blogging about them in perfect prose without using the word 'by' for 'buy' like I did yesterday while Blogger puts white boxes around random things I italicize for no discernible reason.   

By the way, do you know how many women I had on my list Wednesday when I started this crazy quest?  One.  

Awesome.  I'll just be over here doing some research.  Because free time.

Do you see me getting bitter?

Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village. Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home.  Her sister, Mary, went and sat at Jesus' feet, listening to Him teach.  Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements.

Martha (interrupting Jesus):  Lord, why don't You care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her to get over here and help me.

Jesus:  Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters.  Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won't take it away from her.       Luke 10:38-42

How about that? Martha had the gall to interrupt Jesus himself to ask Him to tell Mary to get up off her hiney and help. I think she was bitter too.
I know we are all supposed to be Marys in a Martha world, but I have always questioned that just a little bit because at some point, people need to eat and wear clean underwear, and you just can't know when your mother's orphaned squirrel is going to come down with pneumonia and you have to drop everything and take it to the hospital.  Somebody has to do all this stuff.  See what I mean?  Bitter.
I don't think it's the work, though, that makes the Marthas (and the Beverlys) bitter.  I think it's our skewed perspective.
We can guess all the many reasons that Martha might have been working so hard.  Maybe she  was a little bit of a control freak.  Maybe she was prideful in how well her house was run.  Maybe she was spending too much time pinning recipes and tablescapes instead of cleaning her kitchen.  Maybe she was secretly avoiding Jesus.  Maybe she (I) was all of these.
The one clear thing though is what she (I) wasn't.  She (I) wasn't working for the glory of the Lord. 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,      Colossians 3:23

When we start throwing words like 'work' and 'master' around, we don't readily glean a picture of freedom, but Jesus as master is freeing.  He doesn't care about your grammar or your bathrooms.  He's not going to size you up or critique your performance.  He's not going to look down on you because your pot roast is always dry.  He cares about you.  

Yes, there are tasks to be done, but he wants you to do them not for duty, but for love, not even for your family, but solely for Him.  When you do things for His glory, He gets to be in control and you get to be in...peace.

And when you do that work for His glory, guess what else?  You're doing the work and sitting at the feet all at the same time.  Which is good for us Marthas because we sure love to multi-task...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Lessons from 31 Women: Miz Bailey

When I was a little girl, I had a babysitter named Elsie.  Elsie and her husband, Cliff, were my parent's good friends.  Their two sons were the same age as my two brothers, and they lived across the road from us beside a little fishing lake, down in what can only be described as a hole, with the steepest driveway you ever saw.

Cliff was retired Air Force man, and he knew a little something about everything.  Elsie was his graceful, and sometimes flustered, wife. Cliff had a commanding presence; Elsie's strength was more gentle, the kind that raises three children with a military husband and a war in Vietnam.  

Cliff fished and fixed stuff.  Elsie kept children in her home.  I remember that they used to take me and Miz Bailey to Hardee's and buy me french fries.  Miz Bailey was Elsie's mother.

I don't know Miz Bailey's real name.  Her brown weathered skin had long since earned her the title 'Miz' like all good southern women of her generation.  She was small and stooped, subtle like her daughter, but also strong.  She had wrinkled and bent hands, capable hands that knew how to make strawberry jam and pat a baby to sleep just right on an aproned lap.  I remember her as joyful, always smiling under her silver glasses.  

When Miz Bailey 'set up housekeeping' during the Great Depression, she had a chair.  It was a maple chair with turned legs and a scalloped backrest.  Simple and pretty, it was smaller than any chairs made today- people were smaller then- but it had a nice wide seat, curved just so to make it comfortable.  It was, by all accounts, a fine chair.

And when Miz Bailey outlived her second husband and moved into a little trailer beside the lake-in-a-hole, she had no place for her fine chair.  So she gave it to me, the little red-haired four year old who played dolls in her daughter's living room.

That chair was my inheritance.  It sat in the corner of our living room while I was growing up.  No one really ever sat on it because it was an antique.  But I did sometimes.  And every once in a while, my mother would tell me the story of how that chair was mine because Miz Bailey had left it to me.

I loved that the chair was mine.  In our rented home where we just got by, this chair was real and solid.  It brought weight and history and craftsmanship into my un-rooted world.  This fine chair was an heirloom.  It had belonged to someone. And that meant that the little girl who sat privileged upon it belonged to someone too.

The lesson here is to never underestimate the legacy we leave for the ones coming up behind us.  Those legacies tell us whose we are.

I wonder what stories that chair could tell, what family history it has witnessed?  Did it entertain little Elsie while she read Hardy Boys novels?  Did it pause for Miz Bailey each morning to sit and slip on her shoes before the day's work?  Did it push up to the table on Thanksgiving day to make room for just one more cousin?  Did it hold the tired or the grieving when life got too heavy, and they needed a rest?  I know that it did all of these things because it is a fine chair.

Now that I have set up housekeeping myself, that chair resides with me.  It sits under the table in our homeschool room and has become the favorite chair of my 10 year old son.  He likes it because the seat is wide and smooth, and he can rest his feet on the floor.  He also likes that it creaks when he wiggles which means that poor chair creaks A LOT!  If it survives 5th grade math, I will leave it for him.  And I will tell him all the stories it has borne so he will know whose he is.

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.       Psalm 78:4

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 Lessons from 31 Women: Gerda Weissman Klein

If you have not read All But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein, you must stop what you’re doing right now and go read it.  Beautiful, amazing story of human strength and perseverance, the kind of story that scoops out your soul and grounds you in things that matter in this life.

Today, Gerda is a noted author and much celebrated human rights activist, but in 1939, she was just a girl when Nazis invaded her hometown in Poland.  She spent the next 6 years living under Nazi rule, removed from her home, losing first her brother, then her father and mother, before being sent to a series of concentration camps.  She was tortured and starved- worked nearly to death for three years- and then forced to march 350 miles through the winter forests of Eastern Europe.  4000 women started that cold journey.  Only 120 survived. 

In the last days that Gerda and her father were together, Julius Weissman insisted that his daughter take her heavy winter boots when she was called to the concentration camps.  His request didn’t make sense to her.  It was the heat of June and they had said the 'work camps' were only temporary, but her father knew better.  

Those boots would save her life.

I can’t imagine being a father and and having to release my teenage daughter into the worst of the world with no better preparation than a good pair of shoes.  Just the thought tears my very heart from my chest.  Gerda didn’t know what trials waited for her, but her father was wise and he sent her out ready as best he could.  

The boots, yes, were crucial, but maybe more important was the fact that her father loved her and valued her enough to provide them for her.  Through those long years of unspeakable suffering, something kept Gerda hopeful in the face of the worst kind of degradation.  I can only imagine that thing was the peace of knowing that somewhere out there, she was loved.  Someone had provided for her.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  Eph 6:14-15

“…your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”  I always struggled with that one.  In the armor of God, all the other pieces make so much more sense.  My faith shield and my spirit sword- I know what to do with those.  But what about those peace shoes?

More and more, I am coming to understand that the gospel of peace is the foundation for it all.  All the grace and borrowed righteousness are no good to us if we are afraid to walk in them.  We have to be grounded in them.  We have to know them in our souls.

So know this, sweet friend, the gospel of peace is yours.  God provided it for you.

Know that the gospel of peace is confidence in who you are in God’s sight.  You are crafted by his hand, that same strong hand that has your name tattooed right on it.  

Know that the gospel of peace is freedom in the finished work of Christ on the cross.  You are free to walk this cold winter wilderness on a path that is fully redeemed.  

Know that the gospel of peace is God's assurance that you are not left on your own.  He sent Jesus to prepare the way for you.  Just for you.

You may not know the trials ahead, but your Father is wise.  He sends you out ready as only He can.  He has cobbled peace for you, and His son Jesus, footwashing King Jesus, leaned down from the cross and forever tied that sweet peace on your feet. 

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!”   Isaiah 52:7