On International Women’s Day last week I thought back to the many women who have influenced my life. From the broken ones to the fiercely strong ones and lots in between, there have been many who have had a part in fashioning the me I have become.
What about you? Do you have women in your background who have, in some way, had a part in the making of who you are? Who kindled you in kindness or offered you a good word? In what ways have you benefitted from them? Which women have laid the foundation of who you are today?
I picked three dear women from my life who have, by words or actions, led the way for me.
Of course I always think of my mother first. She will forever be on the top of any grand list I put together. Mom's gift to me was her presence and her delight in me. She was a gentle, kind soul and I picture her sitting on her chair rubbing those arthritic knees and reading from her red Bible with bits from Our Daily Bread. She found her daily strength in the God she loved. Sometimes we would ask her to say the prayer before a meal. I always loved it when she did because when she prayed it felt like Jesus was right there with us. Her love pulsed during those quiet humble prayers and her faith fashioned mine. I always longed to travel home to be with her. She was my solid safe place.
When I was little, my sister, Ann, was my hero. Ann's gift to me has been an unconditional love. Between her and me were two brothers and when mom and dad were leaving for the hospital to give birth to me, Ann told them to not bring me home if I was not a girl! (No wonder I always loved being a girl!) Her eight-year-old self was yearning for a little sister and to her delight, I was exactly what she was hoping for. I can imagine her excitement when I was brought home, offering to hold and mother me as often as she could. I know she was a great helper to our mom when raising four children and farm life became hard and exhausting. She sewed clothes for my Barbie doll and played dress up with me after school. For my eighth birthday she even gifted me with a ticket to see South Pacific, the high school play that year. I sat mesmerized never having been to such a thing before. Being eight years older than me she was ahead of me in every way, but I'll always cherish her "I love you." at the end of every phone call. Life has not always been easy for this dear soul, but she has remained solid in her love for her family, her husband, Max, her many friends and for me, her little sis.
I'll mention one more. Lenchen is a friend of mine and past director at House of Hope. I have admired her in most every way but she changed my life by speaking out her encouragement of the way I think. Really. That’s it. When I was on staff, she and I would sit and talk about a book I was reading, or a piece of scripture she was thinking about, or an interaction at home and when we had to get back to work, we would reluctantly part, but always with plenty to think about. Lenchen's gift to me was to show me that I had something to offer and that I had ideas worth listening to! She had a way of bringing the hesitant me out of hiding, the one who longed for feed back and for affirmation at a deeper level. What a gift! She enabled me to look at myself and dare to love the me that was beneath layers of self doubt. I totally loved that she had thoughts and ideas too. She didn’t just listen to me. Our talks were deep and rich because there was so much give and take. It set a standard in me that avoids small talk and, in contrast, welcomes the exchange of thoughts, feelings and ideas.
International Women's Day was designed to celebrate achievements by women throughout the world. I celebrate these women and the effect they had in fashioning my heart in quiet yet profound ways. Their love has deepened my understanding of God, my faith, my sense of being lovable, and the confidence that I had something to offer.
There are many other women I could name here: friends who are great mothers, who are deep thinkers, who honor their husbands, who love Jesus. I could write for some time about them, thankful as I am for their modeling and mentoring in my life. But for today I am thankful for these three.
What about you? Who are the women who influenced how you see life and yourself? I'd love to see their names in the comments section.