“Laundry Is My Overflowing Inbox”: Working within the Home

Stuffing a ratty t-shirt into the washer’s maw, I try not to think about the fact that it was only yesterday that I hung this very same t-shirt on the clothesline.  The laundry is never done — even though we are down to a family of four these days.  How in the world did I survive eleven years of cloth diapers?  Apparently, somewhere along the way I have discovered that there is Glory in the Ordinary, that there is meaning to all the mundane tasks that are stuck on replay in this mothering life.  So when Courtney Reissig compared her laundry hamper to her husband’s overflowing inbox at work, I stopped and underlined, and nodded, “yes and amen.”

My soul resonated, too,  when she argued that in our ordinary chores and in the act of corralling chaos into order, we image God.

“You and I were created to work because God Himself works.  It is a function of being image bearers.”

Organizing a cluttered closet, mucking out a nasty refrigerator mess, distributing clean and folded laundry to the four corners of the house — these are all as quietly mundane as the work God does in our time to water His trees with rain or, in history, to arrange for the Exodus 16 manna that faithfully fed a generation of Israelites.

Go Back to the Purpose

Courtney’s personal illustrations and the vignettes shared from the lives of her friends encourage me to lift my eyes from the all-consuming “what” of my daily list and from the pervasive “how” (as in “how am I going to get all this done?”), and to fix my eyes on the one beautiful question:  “Why?”

Why do I do what I do every day in my home?  To love God and to love my neighbor.  And sometimes the hardest “neighbors” to love are the ones that share my last name and my DNA.

While Martin Luther made it clear that the works of our hands are not meritorious for our salvation, he wrote decisively that “one ought to live, speak, act, hear, suffer, and die in love and service for another, even one’s enemies.” (Kindle Location 871)  Loving others in our homes is more than a feeling, and it is likely to include the inconvenience of vacuuming the mud from their shoes, replacing the groceries they consume, and washing the dishes and the bedding they besmirch.

Mother’s Little Helpers

The whole family is invited to experience the “glory in the ordinary” that comes with the work of home — not only because of the “many hands make light work” principle, but because of the soul-shaping nature of chores and collaborative effort.  With sweet reasonableness, Courtney shares this gracious logic (Kindle Location 923):

“The home we all live in is for us all, and therefore, requires that we all contribute to it.”

She traces the history of housework through the the subtle transition in terminology from “housewife” to “stay-at-home mum,” and examines the impact of cultural context on the believer’s theology of work.  For instance, missionary and author Gloria Furman is a mum and keeper at home in a middle-eastern, community-oriented culture, while those of us in the West tend to have a go-it-alone mentality which can lead to the isolation, loneliness, and burn out that has given motherhood a bad reputation.

Toward a Sound Theology of Home

Since God is relational Himself, and since He ordained (Genesis 2:18) that his creatures would fare better in company with others, even the introverts of the world (I’m looking in the mirror here), need to consider what part community should be playing in our work at home.  Hannah Anderson says it well:

“God did not intend for families to be islands; they are part of the continent.  This is why multi-generational communities are so important to the work of home.”

I enjoy covering the nursery in church these days so that young mums can get a break from little children, but I am on the receiving end when a dear friend in her eighties washes all my dishes whenever she attends a big gathering in my home.

“Home here on earth is a microcosm of the heavenly reality that awaits us, [and] so is the church.”  (Kindle Location 1134-1143) Good theology and its practical application should lead to a connectivity and a “my life for yours” mentality as we serve one another.  This glorious truth gets lived out whenever Titus 2-truth sees daylight in a discipleship relationship between older and younger women or whenever men and women of “grandparent age” step into a situation where are there are no grandparents nearby to help and encourage.

“Community done among women commends the gospel to a world that breathes isolation and loneliness.” (Kindle Location 1151)

The God-Designed Gift of Rest

If God rested (and He did), if Adam and Eve in their perfect prelapsarian bodies needed rest, it stands to reason that my own post-Genesis 3 life will be better if I submit to a pattern of work followed by Sabbath.  J.I. Packer speaks wisdom into this subject (Kindle Location 1276):

We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this awareness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own.  Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road . . .”

Our prideful rearing up against the rest we need and the fact that work exhausts, depletes, and frustrates us are both factors attributable to our fallen-ness.  So is the idolatry that makes work into a god and permits it to supersede in importance even the people we are called to love and to serve.

When my children were all small (in the pre-homeschooling days), I gave myself the weekend off from cooking by preparing meals ahead every Friday.  Courtney shares an idea from a friend who depends on leftovers and PB&J for the weekend.  Regardless of how we accomplish it, we ensure that the Sabbath is honored in our homes by “working hard at rest,” investing the effort up front and employing some carefully chosen “no’s.”

 Enter into the Joy

The job description driving the work of home is an unwieldy thing, shifting daily and expanding and changing as our families grow.  While this is unavoidable, we can lighten our own load with some purposeful choices and a Christ-shaped mindset such as steering clear of comparison; resisting the urge to audition for the role of Super Mum; and encouraging our husbands to fulfill their own God-ordained roles as workers at home — without feeling threatened or “less than” because we are unable to shoulder the work of two single-handed.

Mired in the here and now, we forget that the work of home is the work of spreading God’s glory throughout the world.  By entering into the reality of that today, we leave a mark on those we serve and prepare our hearts for a future of greater work and greater joy when we will see that there has never been a mundane task without purpose in God’s incredible universe in which nothing goes to waste.  Every little task, every intentional act of service points back to the God who made us and forward to an eternity in which the connection between worship and work will be forever eliminated.

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This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Regular readers will recognize that the theme resonating throughout Glory in the Ordinary has shown up in these parts quite a bit in recent days.  I recently reviewed Jen Pollock Michel’s excellent book (Keeping Place) that also touches on the work of home.  Click here for part one of my review which deals with a theology of home.  Part two parallels Courtney’s thoughts and gives additional perspective on the work of home.

Melissa Kruger blogs for The Gospel Coalition and has interviewed Courtney at their website.  Click here for further insights behind the scenes of Glory in the Ordinary.

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And . . .

. . . stay tuned for details and a reading schedule for Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. I’m looking forward to a discussion here each Thursday from September 7 through November 16.

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Living in the Wide Open Spaces

Life has a way of expanding to fill the available space.

Little League games used to occupy Saturday mornings with hours of sunshine (and mosquitoes) and with chatting on the bleachers with other mums. However, a quick glance around my house reveals  our family has aged out of that particular American institution.  We’ve moved on, but even so, Saturday mornings are still booked. These days, though, I’m not a spectator.  I’m experiencing the great outdoors from the seat of a lawn mower.

If your goal in life is to live small and safe, beware the family business!  With its shifting parameters and employees who double as offspring and then have the audacity to grow up and move on to their own lucrative pursuits, our mowing business is challenging all my known boundaries.  Going from “I don’t do complicated machinery” to driving a zero-turn has been a harrowing experience, and one best accomplished in a wide-open field – for the safety of everyone!

There, with the startled butterflies rising along with the scent of fresh-cut grass, I’m gathered into the wildness of open sky alongside the coziness of trampled grasses where a deer bedded down the night before.

There, everything becomes an invitation:

See the wispy clouds, faithfully tending to their job of breaking up the stunning blue.
See the flock of hungry birds ransacking the honeysuckle bush.
See the honey bees, clearly all Threes on the Enneagram, hauling the makings for a flourishing life back to their far-away hive.

From my seat on the mower, inspiration is everywhere.  I have a job to do:  halt the advance of the Maine wilderness in this one location for this one season.

This I can do.
What a relief.

Capture

I’d love it if you would continue to read this story of how driving a lawn mower is impacting my sense of vocation and my conviction that God is active and present in my crazy, in-between life.  Click on over to SheLoves Magazine for more on the truth that even when our circumstances are shifting and the future seems unclear, we can step through God’s open door and find the wide-open field of His calling.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Women in Ministry: What God Wants You to Know

We were greeted with warm handshakes and pleasantries, an outline of the morning service, and then a startling announcement:  “We assumed that your wife would want to take the children.”  In the early days of our marriage when my husband was the area director of a children’s ministry, I used to travel with him to his weekend engagements.  However, in those days, I had a full-time job, no children yet, and no — I did not carry a Bible lesson around in my back pocket. (Given the same situation today?  I’d probably go for it!  Why not?)

Ministry wives are often subject to assumptions and misconceptions, and it is with this audience in mind that Kay Warren has written Sacred Privilege.  However, her words are relevant to all women in ministry, with or without husbands.  She writes from the perspective of a life-long “church girl,” the daughter of a pastor, wife to Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Life fame, and also as the mother to a pastor’s wife.  The book is a distillation of wisdom gained from an entire life lived in the fish bowl of ministry — not from the viewpoint of “perfect wife,” but as messenger and strong survivor, as one who has taken strength from God for a very specific calling and now wants to pass that encouragement on to others who share that call.

If you are a woman in ministry, here’s what God wants you to know:

1.  “You need to embrace your own story — all of it — for the glory of God and the good of His kingdom.” (31)

Kay’s story includes a brush with a porn addiction and a rocky start to her marriage.  It includes a struggle with depression and the mental illness and ultimate suicide of her son. She assesses this terrain and concludes that the life she has lived is the exact price required for becoming who she is today.

2.  “There is no greater heritage than for children to see that ministry is not just for dads but also for moms and brothers and sisters.”  (50)

Sharing a ministry focus as a couple and also as a family protects everyone from resentment and eases the claustrophobia of the glass house that can plague ministry families.  Kay defines “thriving” over the long haul  as the ability to share a God-given dream and points to Ephesians 2:10 to affirm that God is the architect of that dream.

3.  “Success in ministry is not about numerical results or recognition but about thriving, flourishing, and growing strong in one’s calling and in one’s character.” (58)

This does not mean that women in ministry will meet everyone’s expectations.  On the flip side, it also does not mean that we will always be free to do the thing we love the most.  When it comes to defining success in ministry, the most important voice in the room is God’s.

4.  “You have a story that is worth telling.”  (125)

Sharing God’s redemption process in your life is risky because your weaknesses come out of hiding.  However, in the process, others are drawn into the Light, and true friendships can be formed that will endure for the long haul.  Life in community — knowing others and being known — is so much safer and more comfortable than life on a pedestal.

5.  “No one will take care of you but you.” (139)

That sounds cynical, doesn’t it?  And it’s not to say that God, your husband, and/or your loving church family are all out to exploit you and suck you dry, but there are some aspects of self-care that are completely in your court:  eating, sleeping, and moving every day are your responsibility.  My favorite of Kay’s aphorisms applies here:

“Control the controllable and leave the uncontrollable to God.”

Nourishing the inner life and stepping away from ministry for Sabbath rest may require some adjusting.  Cultivating this flexibility is a discipline that is well worth it in the end.

6.  “Accept the loss of privacy with God’s grace.”  (180)

Gail MacDonald and Edith Schaeffer have blazed a gracious trail for ministry wives (and all women) with their writing, and Edith is eloquently accurate on this subject of boundaries:

“A family is a door that has hinges and a lock.  The hinges should be well-oiled to swing the door open during certain times, but the lock should be firm enough to let people know that the family needs to be alone part of the time, just to be a family.”  (183)

7.  “Live with transparency and work hard to do what is right in the sight of God and others.”  (194)

Because ministry is a “sacred privilege,” God-honoring integrity is key, particularly in the crucial areas of sex, money, and power.  Kay and her husband maintain a “warnings” file with details about well-known pastors who have left the ministry because of moral failure — just to remind them of their own vulnerability.

8.  Maintain an eternal perspective.

Practicing radical forgiveness will make the battle scars earned in church conflict more bearable — and will even speed healing!  Franςois Fénelon offers wise counsel:

“Don’t be so upset when things are said about you.  Let the world talk; just seek to do the will of God.  You will never be able to entirely satisfy people and it isn’t worth the painful effort.”  (215)

The shared dreams and plans, the sacrifices and the adjustments required of women in ministry can be viewed alongside Paul’s metaphor of the Christian life as a race.  We run toward a finish line that is difficult to see, and the noise of the crowd — whether cheering or jeering — can be a distraction.  Making it “our aim to please” God is the mindset that will foster self-acceptance, a thriving family, and the ability to live out God’s calling on our lives with integrity and joy.

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This book was provided by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

For more information about Kay’s writing and ministry check out her website here.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

A Different Kind of Woman

A favorite Elisabeth Elliot quote comes to mind whenever I overhear fragments of the ongoing row about the role of women in the church:

“I am not a different kind of Christian because I am a woman, but I am, most certainly, a different kind of woman because I am a Christian.”

Since ten of the twenty-seven believers commended by Paul for faithfulness in the early church at Rome were women, it is no surprise that women continued to fulfill roles of influence and responsibility throughout church history, whether recognized and appreciated — or overlooked and unsung.  The individuals featured in Michael Haykin’s Eight Women of Faith span nearly three hundred of those years (1537-1817),  and each of his subjects faced and overcame significant cultural obstacles.  In his eight vignettes, Michael chronicles the way in which significant cultural changes in the 18th century impacted women of faith.  Some were able to leave their own record of faith in their own words, while others are known to us only because they have been lauded in the writings of others.

The Queen – “Faith Only Justifieth”  

The great niece of Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554) was Queen of England for a little over a week, and she also did time in the Tower of London like so many of her royal relatives of that era.  Condemned to death for her Protestantism by her devoutly Catholic cousin, Mary I (with the less-flattering name, “Bloody Mary”), Jane stood firm in her belief that faith alone justifies, and this along with her view of the Lord’s Supper show that she had clearly embraced the doctrines of the Reformation.  A Woman of the Word to the end, she owned a Greek New Testament and recited Psalm 51 from memory before being executed.

The Wife – “Ruled by Her Prudent Love in Many Things”

Surprisingly, many of the church fathers held a very low and utilitarian view of marriage.  The Reformers and the Puritans did their bit to put an end to that by their example and by their words, and we find in the writings of Richard Baxter a glowing report of the blessings of marriage.  His wife, Margaret Charlton Baxter (1636-1681), was clearly the one to whom he opened his mind and communicated his concerns.  Although they were childless, they were comrades in ministry during a turbulent period of English history under Charles I in which, for a time, Richard was banned from preaching or leading worship because of his Puritan views. In a faith formed by persecution, Margaret’s influence was formative for her husband and marked a turning point in the recognition that “a husband and wife must take delight in the love, and company, and converse of each other.”

The Theologian – “The Glory of God, and the Good of Souls”

Disregard for female authors persisted well into the eighteenth century. Therefore, Anne Dutton (1692-1765) would naturally have felt that it was necessary to defend herself whenever she shared her gift in the form of books, tracts, treatises, and poems.  In spite of her critics, she was the most prolific female Baptist author of her time, reminding her readers that she wrote only for the glory of God.  At the same time, she boldly critiqued the theology of John Wesley (among others) in their view that it was possible to live without sin on this planet.  Like Lady Jane Grey, Anne also pondered the nature of the elements in communion, beautifully expositing Calvin’s view by describing the Supper as  “communication.”  The Lord “gives Himself . . .  with all the benefits of his death, to the worthy receivers,” and so He is indeed present at the celebration of His Supper.  Anne wrote and taught about her Lord until her death.

The Friend of Revival – “A Wonderful Sweetness”

A key figure in the First Great Awakening of the 18th century in the United States, Jonathan Edwards addressed the topic of revival from various angles.  In an era that minimized the input of women, he, nonetheless, shared (anonymously) the account of his wife, Sarah Edwards’s (1710-1758), spiritual experience so that, although she was not a writer, we have rich insight into her life both from her husband and in the writings of Samuel Hopkins (who was tutored by Jonathan Edwards and lived in their home).  Living with eleven children in the fishbowl of ministry during seasons of financial stress and her husband’s professional ups and downs, Sarah experienced an encounter with God that Jonathan recorded as “the soul . . . being swallowed up with light and love,” accompanied by “an extraordinary sense of the awful majesty and greatness of God” in which she lost all bodily strength.  As a faithful wife and mother, Sarah had the additional honor of becoming a model of what a “true revival personality looks like.”

The Hymnist – “The Tuneful Tongue that Sang Her Great Redeemer’s Praise”

Described as “the Baptist equivalent of Isaac Watts,” Anne Steele (1717-1778) began writing hymns simply to express her personal devotion to God.  As the daughter of a pastor, her creations soon found their way into worship services, and eventually were included in a hymnal.   “Father of Mercies, in Thy Word” is still in use today, and beautifully expresses the rich theology and high view of Scripture that sustained her through a life of continual suffering from various illnesses.

 Father of mercies, in Thy word
What endless glory shines!
For ever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.

The Daughter – “One of the Best Helps to Keep Up Religion in the Soul”

Recently, reading in the book of I Chronicles, I found a treasure in the midst of the lists.  Hushai the Arkite was immortalized in the pages of Scripture because he was “the king’s friend,” (I Chron. 27:33 NIV).  We don’t value friendship in that way today, but the Bible provides glorious examples of deep friendship, and church history is also a rich source of illustrations.  Esther Edward Burr (1732-1758), daughter of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, grew up during the Great Awakening and married a minister with the same “evangelical cast of mind” as her father.  Homesick for New England, she began a correspondence with Sarah Prince which chronicles their deep devotion to one another, but, more importantly, serves as a record of a spiritual conversation from which we can learn much about Esther’s commitment to God.  Thanks be to God that Jonathan Edwards saw the importance of educating his daughters!

The Missionary – “Truth Compelled Us”

Adoniram and Ann Judson (1789-1826), pioneer missionaries to Burma, were a key source of inspiration for the modern missionary movement.  In addition to their stalwart service in a field that yielded much trouble and little fruit, the record of their commitment to expressing the truth of Scripture is inspiring.  Ann’s letters document the struggle to learn Burmese, and her testimony of faithfulness ends with her final words on this earth begin spoken in Burmese.

The Novelist – “The Value of that Holy Religion”

With her books being made into movies, Jane Austen (1775-1817) has become a well-known literary figure, but few have documented the deep Christian convictions that lay behind her creative work.  With a father, two brothers, and various other relatives employed as ministers, she was uniquely qualified to write with humor about the ridiculous Rev. Collins and to put words of wisdom about pastoral ministry into the mouth of Edmund of Mansfield Park who asserts that a minister:

“has the charge of all that is of the first importance to mankind . . .”

Jane did not consider herself an evangelical and was uncomfortable with overt displays of religion that characterized the ministry of Hannah More.  Her private but sincere faith was expressed in written prayers and in the Christian virtues that were lauded by the characters in her novels.

No matter what role women choose today — with all our glorious freedom of choice and our comfortable lifestyle to make it so — there is inspiration in Eight Women of Faith.  In her foreword, Karen Swallow Prior describes Haykin’s eight portraits as a demonstration of “how their faith informed, shaped, and fulfilled their earthly callings.”

Women of Faith, may it be so of us today!

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This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

For my recommendations of more biographies of Christian women, check out these reviews:

Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

Fifty Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha

Fierce Convictions – The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More by Karen Swallow Prior

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Fabulous and Full of Life!

Everyday, the townspeople of Thrim would ask, “Hey, Yoj, how are you today?”

And everyday, Yoj would answer, “I am fabulous and full of life!”

And why shouldn’t he be?  Yoj was the happy doll maker who awoke each day with a song on his lips and dinner invitations almost every night — until one day a mysterious stranger from the Shadowland arrived with promises of influence and wealth.

Without a thought or a prayer, Yoj followed the stranger to a gray land of small dreams and regret.  Is his happy life in the Kingdom of Thrim forever lost?  Is there hope of joy for the other residents of Shadowland?

Journey through The Kingdom of Thrim with author/illustrator Janis Cox where young readers will learn that you just can’t put a price tag on joy.  When all the color goes out of Yoj’s world, he learns that the path to fulfillment and peace comes through using the unique gifts that God has given.

Opportunities for Family Discussion

The imaginary Kingdom of Thrim comes under the jurisdiction of the God of heaven, which opens the way for conversations about gifting and true happiness.  Yoj’s predicament reminded me of the story of the Gibeonites with whom Joshua threw in his lot without first consulting with God through prayer.  Reading this account as a family is a good follow up to the story.  How are Joshua’s and Yoj’s situations similar?  How are they different?

A number of good biographies have been  written about the life of Eric Liddell, Olympic runner and disciple of Jesus Christ.  He knew all about the joy that comes from doing what God had designed him to do, and is famous for having said, “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” After having read both stories, help your children to reach a conclusion about what Yoj would have said, “God made me _____________, and when I __________________, I feel His pleasure.”   Test their awareness of their own unique gifting by asking, “How would you fill in the blanks?”  Be prepared to share your own answers as well!

It’s clear that Yoj and his friends from the Shadowland learned the glorious secret of Colossians 3:23,24:

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The Kingdom of Thrim is the true home of all who put their whole heart and soul into doing what God has designed them to do.

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Be sure to visit author Janis Cox’s website for more information about her and her books!

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Vocational Equilibrium – A Tribute for Women’s History Month

“I should have worn sturdier shoes.”

“What was I thinking?”

Well, for one thing, I was thinking that an invitation to go for “a walk” issued by a seventy-five-year-old woman with a snowy crown of fly-away hair would be a rather sedate affair.  I was thinking that we would chat, and that Helen would tell me stories about her years as a missionary in China, about her escape from the communist armies – on a bicycle.

Crashing through bushes and skirting a steep embankment, Helen certainly did talk.  (Could she hear me huffing and puffing to keep up?)

She talked about becoming engaged to her husband in a foxhole.  She told of being evacuated from China (the second time) in the unpressurized cabin of an airplane that flew over the Himalayas, about the weight of unborn death she carried into the crowded streets of some Indian city, about seeking medical assistance as a refugee, and then being reunited, miraculously,  with her husband days later.

I’ve always been thankful that I became an adult in time to meet and befriend a few pioneer missionaries.  Hearing their tales, witnessing their clear-eyed following of the will of God has brought much-needed perspective to my understanding of ministry and calling.

Of course, by comparison, my own resume looks like a hen house that was built in a hurricane — random shingles of children’s ministry hammered into place, followed by a few years with an office and a 401(k), and now full-time mothering.  I’m no athlete, but have somehow managed to produce a brood of bike-riding, ice-skating, tree-climbing boys whose sense of balance takes them safely – and effortlessly – through treacherous bike paths, onto snow and ice, and even over ridge poles (don’t ask).  I’ve noticed that the secret to maintaining their balance seems to be movement – the ever-so-subtle adjustments they make to their position.

Could this have been Helen’s secret?  She may have been chased out of China by the Japanese army, but that didn’t stop her from returning – in time to be chased out again by the Communists.  And if all the doors slam shut, and it becomes impossible to minister to the Chinese in their own country, one mustn’t let all that good language training go to waste.  Helen and her husband went on to serve a Chinese-speaking population in Taiwan and then, later, in the Philippines.

It is likely that throughout Helen’s long ministry, someone in an office somewhere was concerned about a 1940’s-era equivalent of the words impact and platform.  Helen’s thoughts, however, would have been occupied with constructing a net that would — hopefully — capture some of the pigeons that roosted on a nearby roof.  Famine brings out the creativity in anyone, but God was way ahead of her:  He sent a torrential rain one night with plummeting temperatures that froze the birds’ feathers.  They fell off the roof into the courtyard, and Helen was able to pick them up by the basketful.

A life-long pianist, Helen brought music to several of Amy Carmichael’s poems, but she wasn’t averse to writing her own hymn lyrics either.  Is her secret to vocational equilibrium found in the simple words of this song she referred to as “My Testimony”?

Through all the journey of the years,
The Lord has shown His grace.
What shall I render unto Him,
How come before His face?
I’ll take salvation’s cup and drink
‘Til all my thirst is lost
In the deep well of Calvary love –
Secured at awful cost.

Helen Anderson had no idea that she would someday be thought of as a “pioneer missionary,” that her photos and the letters she wrote to her mother on dress patterns (paper was scarce) would be archived at Wheaton College.  However, she did know that her heart’s satisfaction was found in the “deep well of Calvary love” – and that she was called to share that love with the world.  Keeping her feet, Helen moved to the rhythm of God’s call on her life.

For over two decades, I have leaned hard into mothering, bearing four boys in eight years, hanging cloth diapers on a sunny clothesline, reading mountains of story books.  Adjusting my stance, I found that you could gather a kitchen-table-full of women around The Word if there was a swing set outside. The tiny deaths to self and the my-life-for-yours of this mothering vocation have kept me moving, adjusting, seeking equilibrium.

For missionaries and mothers, for everyone who follows a calling, the secret of vocational balance may be as simple – and as complicated – as leaning into the task at hand, drinking deeply from salvation’s cup, and trusting the One who says that He is “able to keep you from stumbling.”

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Photo courtesy of the Wheaton Archives (Billy Graham Center)

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Divine Design

“As Christian women, we desire to honor God by living countercultural lives that reflect the beauty of Christ and His gospel to our world . . .”

These powerful words lifted from the True Woman Manifesto are a wake up call to women, an invitation to enter into a life based on truth, and to view womanhood as a glorious gift that puts the creativity and wisdom of God on display.

In True Woman 101:  Divine Design, Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss (now Wolgemuth), share their own very unique stories of following God into ministry —  Mary as a wife and mother, Nancy as a single woman at the time of the book’s publication.  Certainly, marital status is no barrier to active and meaningful ministry.

While many in the church waste valuable time quibbling over what women should do or may do, the word of God is clear in its teaching that, although marred by the fall, the role of a godly woman is to exhibit wholehearted devotion to Christ, to display purity of heart and a quiet spirit in her use of the unique ministry gifts that God has granted.

When Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Helper, he forever exalted the role of those who come alongside to assist. This is a powerful message for women who want their homes to be launching pads for the next generation of world-changers, for women who are called to meet the needs of others outside their family circle, and for women of all ages and of all giftings who desire to be intentional and purposeful in living a countercultural life that puts others first.

The words of Elisabeth Elliot are a magnificent mission statement:

“We are called to be women.  The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.  For I have accepted God’s idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be.”

True Woman 101 is an eight-week study that serves as an invitation to throw away the cookie cutters and delight in the differences between men and women as well as the differences among women of diverse temperaments, at various stages in life, and with different callings.  We live our lives before God “to the end that Christ may be exalted and the glory and redeeming love of God may be displayed throughout the whole earth.”

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This book was provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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