Real Wonder Women

Four Generations 1979

I am staying with my mother this week following the replacement of her pacemaker.

Look out world, she has another 15 years on this new device!

At 89 my mother is an amazing example of someone who embraces life and sees each day as an adventure. She is a woman of strong convictions and loves people with genuine feeling. Get within ear shot and Mother will engage you in conversation, hoping to share at every opportunity “the hope that lies within her.”

There has been lots in the news recently about Wonder Woman, the movie and it’s groundbreaking success as a film about a female super hero. Alongside these stories have been additional offerings concerning the issues that women face in current culture, exploring efforts of women to “have it all” – by overcoming the glass ceilings in many areas of entertainment or careers, AND having satisfying and meaningful relationships.

The first question that arose in my mind was “What is “it“?

What exactly does it mean to “have it all?”

Certainly in our diverse and pluralistic society these commentators are not suggesting that “it” is the same for all of us women, are they?

While listening to these viewpoints it seemed that the prevailing attitude was that many women don’t reach their goals or dreams because their responsibilities to their families hold them back. Small children prevent them from becoming the CEO because they can’t leave an ill child at day care and therefore they miss the important board meeting insuring being passed over for a promotion. Is a promotion guaranteed if one doesn’t have children? I think not.

But the question remains… can a woman “have it all”?

That depends on what “it” is.

So, I asked myself… do I have it all? Did my mother?….did my Grandmother?

I look at the above picture and see women who have had it all. Yet, not all at once, nor in the same way.

Let me explain.

My grandmother emigrated from Sweden in 1920. She came to Chicago via Ellis Island with one suitcase. Her dream was to raise a family as an American citizen. She first worked as a maid, then a cook for a wealthy Chicago family. After meeting my grandfather, she married, had three daughters, raised two grandsons, eventually living in a lovely brick colonial home in a northern suburb of Chicago. She began oil painting when she was 55 and she continued painting until she was 90. Her greatest joy came from her relationship with God through Jesus Christ. She loved to quote Bible verses – sometimes out of context – and share the fact that Jesus loves each individual, regardless of who they are.

At the end of her life, she felt she had it all. She had lived the American dream and was going to spend eternity with her Lord and Savior.

My mother grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents. She married her college sweetheart before finishing her degree and soon had three children. She stayed home raising them, eventually getting an Associate Degree in Library Science when her children were in college. Together with another family they ran a family campground in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina during the summer for 22 years. After my father retired from teaching high school Biology, my parents went to teach at a mission school in Taiwan. This had been a dream of my mother’s since childhood – to serve in a foreign county. They lived and worked in Taiwan for 7 years returning to care for aging parents. My mother has participated in and taught women’s Bible studies for over 65 years and she has continued to do this in her 80’s.

My mother just turned 89 in May and she will tell you she has had it all. Not all at once, but she has lived fully and experienced things she didn’t dare to dream. (trips to Brazil at ages 86 and 87)

These women have lived purposeful, meaningful lives. They have not been paid seven-figure salaries. They have not had books written about them (yet) nor gone viral on YouTube (thankfully! well – almost).

Wonder Women!

Jesus said this – in Mark 9:34-38 (NIV)

34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.”

 

The point our culture misses is that the path to true greatness is servant-hood.

When we are serving our families as mothers and wives we are being obedient to a high calling. Jesus Himself placed children front and center as we see in verse 37.

Some women are called to places of authority – some are not. Having it all for daughters of our Heavenly Father means serving one another –  whether we are the CEO or the one who changes diapers.

These are the true Wonder Women  – the women who serve with a servant’s heart.

 

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Having it All…But Not All at Once…Part 2

Three Generations - Four Mothers

Three Generations – Four Mothers

I remember as a little girl my mother telling me that when I grew up I could be anything God wanted me to be. What a wonderful gift! There was no limit to what I could become because I knew God was all powerful. I was never told I couldn’t be something because I was a girl. The clear message I heard was that God had a plan for me – and it could be anything.

I had two brothers, one older and one younger and I never felt that they had more options in life than me. God had a plan for each of us based on His will. My options were not based on societal norms, pressures to be successful, or pressure from my parents to live their unfulfilled dreams through me. The only expectation I felt was that God had a plan for my life and it was GOOD.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I began teaching my stuffed animals and dolls at a young age. I also played church and would lead the singing, preach, and take up the offering. I did it all! One Sunday when I was in 1st grade, I went to Sunday School and told Mrs. Green my Sunday School teacher that I would teach the lesson that day. (she told me this many years later – I hope I asked her and didn’t just tell her – but like I said – I always wanted to teach!)

I taught for three years during which time I got married. I became pregnant after we were married a year and a half. The Lead Teacher at Almond School where I taught was a dedicated teacher I very much respected. She told me when she found out I was pregnant that if I could, I should stay home with my baby until he got older. She had gone right back to work after the birth of each of her two children and she said that if she had it to do over, she would have stayed home a few years.

Phil had decided to go to seminary, but we tightened our belts and I stayed home for the next 10 years. After that I worked part time for several years, going back to full time teaching in 2002.

Does that sound like a lot? I did NOT do it all at once!

I mention this because our culture scares women into thinking that they must stay in their job or they will lose every opportunity. There is also a strong message that women who do choose to stay home are missing out “on something”. I have been blessed to be able to teach public school, teach as a volunteer in a Christian school, work part time as a Health Education Specialist, and teach full time again. I also have been able to create art here and there along the way.

The point is NOT whether you are working outside your home or at home, or both – the issue is having peace that you are where God wants you to be at this time.
Let me share briefly about the next generation of women in my family. Our three daughters all graduated from college and each pursued various careers in: Legislative Staff for a US Congressman on Capitol Hill, teaching high school Political Science, nursing, coaching women’s soccer at every level from college to middle school, teaching Special Education at the elementary and middle school levels, and staying home with young children.

Does that sound like a lot? They did NOT do it all, nor all at once!

What I want to communicate clearly to the next generation, our grandchildren, is that God has a plan for their lives that will allow them to use their unique gifts and abilities while serving Him.

Ephesians 3:19-21(NLT)

19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

We are able to “have it all”, in fact verse 20 says ” infinitely more than we might ask or think”.
I LOVE that last part – “through ALL generations forever and ever! Amen!”
We will have it all … in God’s way and in His time.

Having It All…but Not All at Once… Part 1

four gen

I heard several stories this week on the radio that gave me pause. One was an interview on “Fresh Air” and another was on “All Things Considered”. In light of Mother’s Day there were several stories on “Morning Edition” that focused on the changing roles of women in society. Each of these stories covered the issues that women face in current culture, exploring efforts of women to “have it all” – by overcoming the “barriers to success in the workplace”, AND have a satisfying and meaningful family life.

The first question that arose in my mind was “What is “it“? Certainly in our diverse and puralistic society these commentators are not suggesting that “it” is the same for all of us, are they? While listening to these viewpoints it seemed that the prevailing attitude was that many women don’t reach their goals or dreams because their responsibilites to their families hold them back. Small children prevent them from becoming the CEO because they can’t leave an ill child at day care and therefore they miss the important board meeting insuring being passed over for a promotion. Is a promotion guaranteed if one doesn’t have children? I think not.

But the question remains… can a woman “have it all”? That depends on what “it” is.

So, I asked myself… do I have it all? Did my mother?….did my Grandmother?….do my daughters?

I look at the above picture and see women who have had it all. Yet, not all at once, nor in the same way. Here is a picture of four generations of women who have lived their dreams because being a mother was a focal point of those dreams.

Let me explain.

My grandmother emigrated from Sweden in 1920. She came to Chicago via Ellis Island with one suitcase. Her dream was to raise a family as an American citizen. She first worked as a maid, then a cook for a wealthy Chicago family. After meeting my grandfather, she married, had three daughters, raised two grandsons, eventually living in a lovely brick colonial home in a northern suburb of Chicago. She began oil painting when she was 55 and she continued painting until she was 90. Her greatest joy came from her relationship with God through Jesus Christ. She loved to quote Bible verses – sometimes out of context – and share the fact that Jesus loves each individual, regardless of who they are.

At the end of her life, she felt she had it all. She had lived the American dream and was going to spend eternity with her Lord and Savior.

My mother grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents. She married her college sweetheart before finishing her degree and soon had three children. She stayed home raising them, eventually getting an Associates Degree in Library Science when her children were in college. Together with another family they ran a family campground in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina in the summer for 22 years. After my father retired from teaching high school Biology, my parents went to teach at a mission school in Taiwan. This had been a dream of my mother’s since childhood – to serve in a foreign county. They lived and worked in Taiwan for 7 years returning to care for aging parents. My mother has participated in and taught women’s Bible studies for over 60 years and she and my father have continued to do this in their 80’s.

My mother will be 85 on Friday and she will tell you she has had it all. Not all at once, but she has lived her dreams and experienced things she didn’t dare to dream.

These women have lived purposeful, meaningful lives. They have not been paid seven figure salaries. They have not had books written about them (yet) nor gone viral on YouTube (thankfully!).
They don’t run large corporations or manage hundreds of employees.
But they sure could make small children sit up and listen!

Jesus said this – in Mark 9:34-38 (NIV)

34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.”

The point our culture misses is that the path to true greatness is servanthood.

When we are serving our families as mothers and wives we are being obedient to a high calling. Jesus Himself placed children front and center as we see in verse 37.

Some women are called to places of authority – some are not. Having it all for daughters of our Heavenly Father means serving one another whether we are the CEO or the one who changes diapers.

Next week – Part II – Having it All… But Not All at Once.