I arrived at my folks’ house last night around 6:30 p.m. after driving for nearly twelve hours through five states. It was wonderful to walk in their back door and holler, “Hello,” and be greeted by a whooping sound as my mom came around the corner to take me into a big hug. My dad met me moments later with another bear hug and a huge smile. Within minutes my best friends were walking in the door to greet me as well. For the next six hours we talked, laughed, shared stories, munched on chips, cheeses, and dips while sipping wine and catching up. One of my dear friends brought her teenage daughter, my goddaughter, with her and we laughed and shared stories of escapades and silliness- all three generations. My mom, my friends, and my goddaughter.
As I have been sitting here too wound up to sleep, I found a photo album with pictures of extended family and further generations. My grandmother, my aunts, cousins, great-aunts, second cousins, most of whom are women as well. While I was looking at these women in the photos and remembering those who were gathered around the table, I saw a strong thread woven throughout all of us. We are all strong women. We have overcome struggles, losses, triumphed against the odds, celebrated with each other, cried with each other. We’ve been there for each other- even if it’s just by showing solidarity with a paper plate and a drawn on face.
The women in my life have withstood and stood with each other in ways I can hardly describe. I listened to my friends tell me about people they love who have been in battles recently and are struggling to stand up. I celebrated with them as they shared the tough decisions they had to make about toxic relationships. Encouragements came with the discussion of a mid-life career change and how to manage money wisely in the year to come.
I love these women. Their stories have defined me, molded me, instructed me, and even scolded me at times. Women who left the family farm to join up with the Army Nurses Corp so when nursing training was complete they would be able to aid wounded soldiers and sailors during World War II.
(My grandmother circa 1973)
Women who made a difficult decision to become a parent when society would say to think of themselves first. I listened to them tease my goddaughter about beating my son at UNO, a time honored game among my friends and me.
I bring these images and stories up because it seems time to put down the tools which attack and divide us from each other. It seems that picking on someone else is acceptable, but really is foolish and wasteful. We women were given a task unlike any given to man. We were created to support, uplift, nurture, and create. Whether that be cheering a young woman at her gymnastics tournament or sending a letter to remind someone of their place and role in your life. Women have the ability to love, correct, heal, and comfort those in need. We just tend to think someone else’s skills are better than our own, instead of growing the gifts God has given to us.
When I was born, I didn’t get to select the mother and father I would have or the people who would have input into my early years. God did allow me to have input into the women who would later influence my life. I am grateful for each word, each challenge, each laughter, inside joke, and each heart tug I have felt over the years. My life is richer, sweeter, stronger, more complex, and more complete because I have known these women.
Thank you God, for the blessing of my gender. You knew who would be needed to speak into my life and you have blessed with them, no matter if they are near or far. Best Beloved, who are the men and/or women who have spoken into your life and blessed you? Do they know the blessing they have been? The good challenges they have given to us to grow us further into your image.
Thank you Jesus. May we all hear your voice and respond with grace and mercy.