Sing It Out!! — for SheLoves in December

We were asked to write a shorter-than-usual reflection piece for SheLoves this month, reflection on a character in the Christmas narrative. My choice was a bit of a ‘cheat,’ because I picked two of my very favorites. See if maybe you see the same things I do in this lovely piece of our story. You can start here and then finish it over at SheLoves:

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There are two of them in the story, two of them in the same boat.

And such a strange and wonderful boat it was.

One young, very young. The other, older, maybe ten or even twenty years older. Cousins the story tells us, they were distant cousins.

Both of them pregnant — unexpectedly, miraculously, stunningly pregnant.

And they came together at a crucial moment, offering each other gifts, gifts that took the shape of words, words that sing out with hope and promise, with surprise and jump-for-joy abandon.

That younger one was full to the brim with Spirit-joy and more than a little bit of wonder, and I’m guessing, more than a few questions. When she knew she was with child, she went running, right on up the dusty road, up to the hills, looking for that familiar face, that familiar cousin-voice, so hungry for a companion on the way.

And the older one? Well, she was smack dab in the middle of her own wonderment. For years she cried out to God, begging for a baby, a baby who never materialized, leaving her aching and isolated. When she was beyond hope, God answered! Now there was a wild-souled boy-child growing inside her.

Their meeting is a picture of the life-giving power that is possible when women who share affection and esteem support one another. Mary, overwhelmed by that heavenly visitation and its remarkable aftermath, headed straight into the arms of someone who knew her well, someone who knew God well, someone who could help her make some sense of all the craziness. She headed for Elizabeth.

Hop on over to SheLoves to see what happens next!

How Blessed Am I? #MyFaithHeroine

This piece is part of Michelle DeRusha’s blog link-up about #MyFaithHeroine, in connection with the recent launch of her excellent new book, #50Women. 

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A Double Delight rose, my spiritual heroine’s favorite.

Life was hard and uncertain when she was growing up. One of four siblings, barely a year apart, with parents who both worked, a father who drank hard and gambled hard, always losing. Then there were “the aunts,” she told me. The three older cousins who never married and who loved all those kids to bits, providing protection on occasion, but most of all, bringing fun and merriment into their days.

Though their mother had grown up in the church, after she married their dad, neither of them ever darkened a church door again. But they agreed that their kids could go.

So every Sunday, they dropped all four kids at the curb and left them to fend for themselves in downtown Los Angeles at that old brownstone building. For my heroine and her sister, it stuck. For their two brothers, it took a lot longer. The sisters loved to go to that place, where they met friends their own age and were sheltered and loved by lots of adults, as well.

One of those older women saw potential in the bigger of the girls, and when she was in junior high school, almost into high school, she arranged for a scholarship to a nearby training seminar. A Christian leadership seminar. And my heroine bloomed, learning to love the Bible, church music and a wide circle of friends, many of whom remained close to one another throughout their lives.

Eventually, she married one of the church musicians, a talented pianist with a bent for mathematics, and they began to build a home and a family. A girl was born, then two years later, a boy and about ten years after that, another boy.

All during those early years, the family continued to attend the downtown church where the parents had met, and they contributed faithfully, both musically and financially. Eventually, they moved too far out into the suburbs and switched to a larger church closer to home. Within a few years, that old church was razed and a used car lot took its place.

Their new church provided wonderful activities and teaching for her children and some powerful teaching during the adult Sunday morning hour for her and her husband. Professors from a nearby seminary came and built small congregations within the larger one. Once again, this woman bloomed and grew, stretching toward the light, exercising her good mind, asking probing questions, reading widely.

She always worried that she didn’t have a degree from college, but then, she never really needed it. Her own reading regimen (everything C.S. Lewis ever wrote, plus a lot of Paul Tillich, George Ladd, Eldon Trueblood, Peter and Catherine Marshall), her willingness to ask hard questions and her fearlessness about seeking answers provided a priceless education, as well as forming her more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

She taught eleventh grade Sunday school (girls only, in those days) for about a dozen years, providing wisdom, grace and breakfast out for every one of them sometime during the year. Each week, she worked hard on those lessons, getting up before the rest of the family to rough out ideas and read scripture. And to pray. She prayed for each student in her classes, regularly, faithfully.

By God’s grace and her own commitment to growing, both spiritually and psychologically, she overcame the difficulties of her upbringing, remaining close to her entire extended family until they each died. She is the only one left now, and that is hard — for her and for those who love her.

She dealt with a lot of insecurities and fears her whole life, but always, there was a joyful sense of humor, a warm and welcoming hospitality, and an immense reservoir of creativity. She decorated her home, her children and herself on a tight budget, and encouraged each of her children to get a good education and build a good marriage. And she loved her husband fiercely, even when he was old and frail and sometimes demanding.

This woman modeled for me what it means to follow hard after Jesus, to commit yourself to learning, asking questions, reading widely, and serving others. She wasn’t perfect — and she knew it! — but she was good. Even in her old age, she hangs onto her faith with all of her diminishing energies.

I visited her over the weekend, in the dementia unit where she now lives. She was sick, with a very sore throat and a nasty cough, all of which makes the dementia worse and exhausts her. I helped her change her clothes and sit in her recliner chair for an afternoon nap and then went across the room to bring her large, whiteboard calendar up-to-date after several months of neglect.

As I worked in the semi-darkness of her small entry way, I could hear her muttering in her chair. I thought perhaps she had drifted off to sleep and was dreaming. But then I began to pick out a few words, and my heart soared and broke, all at the same moment.

“Oh, Lord,” she said. “Please help Diana to be well, to be strong. She is such a beautiful daughter and I love her so much.”

Before I left I kissed her on the forehead and she smiled up at me and said, “The Lord’s been good. We’ll just keep praying and believing.”

“Yes, Mom,” I said. “That is exactly what we’ll do.”

 

This blog post is part of Michelle DeRusha’s #MyFaithHeroine contest, in connection with the release of the book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Find out how to participate here. 

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