The Strong Woman
If you’ve ever been to the circus or seen strength exhibitions on TV you may have seen what the world perceives as the “strongest man or woman”. I hate to break it to them….but my mother is the strongest woman in the world. How do I know? Well, even though she has never been in any “worldly contest”… she lived the life of strength in Christ before my sisters and brother. I am the oldest of four---so I should know.
I watched as she faced each trial holding tightly to the hand of God. Sickness of a child, betrayal, financial problems, single parenthood, her own physical problems that came as a result of the trials of life, and many other adversities that I, as her child was never privy to. She protected us from her difficulties. But, since I was the oldest, there were a few things I knew, saw or learned. Through each and every trial….she never turned loose of the hand that held her so tightly….but ever so gently. She is the one that taught me, “Pray about everything”. And I do.
This is a little "side trail".....
Several years ago, I gave my mother a gift that I believe she treasures to this day. No matter how amateurish it may look, with its glued in pictures, glued on bindings and computer printout pages, she loved it. I gave her a book of my memories of her mother, who had gone to be with Jesus several years earlier, but was missed greatly by all of us.
As I worked on this gift project, I went to my mothers' sisters for help. They gave me old pictures to copy. They told me stories of life that surrounded each photo. Every picture had a memory. Throughout this little book, I told of all the details I remembered as I grew up, being a privileged grandchild, and being able to stay with "Mamo and Papa" for long visits in the summer. My claim to privilege is due to the fact that we lived about 350 miles from my grandparents and were able to spend lengthy visits with them on each school break.
A few of my memories were, wagon rides behind Papa’s tractor through the watermelon fields. Mamo would take small watermelons for my sister, Wanda and myself and carve a face on it with a nail, giving us a “melon baby” to play with for the day. I remember helping Mamo wash clothes in her wringer washer on the back porch, later watching crisp sheets snap in the breeze. The gathering of the eggs, watching Papa milk the cows in the early morning and late evening, were also among the sweet memories. Watching Mamo churn butter, make cakes, biscuits, and all sorts of good eatin’ that you would always find at her table was a delight to this young child's soul. They grew their own vegetables, made their own jams and jellies, slaughtered their own hogs (yuk), and so many other things, we’d be here all day if I continued. But through every detail of their lives, they held tightly to God.
Prayer was serious business. They had no TV when I was young, actually, even later on when Papa convinced Mamo that they “needed” one to watch the news, I never remember visiting and finding the TV on. They were always busy with the activities of life.
When staying with them, I woke early to the smell of breakfast cooking and if I woke late, I woke to the sounds of the chairs being pushed back on the linoleum floor, so that they could get on their knees. The early morning sounds of their daily conversation with the Father. On their knees. EVERYDAY. This was their daily exercise. (This was where my mother's strength began to form.) It showed up in their lives. It showed up in their children.
After supper, each night they would retire to the living room and read in their Bibles, or Sunday School lesson, or The Pentecostal Evangel. When the time came, they got down on their knees and talked to God. EVERYNIGHT. This was an honor and privilege for me. Although at the time, being a young girl, I may not have realized the “strength” of the moment---but I can tell you today, I know. I know where my mother’s strength came from. Her godly training. By a godly mother. A strong mother.
I Timothy 1:5-7 "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." This passage of scripture always reminds me of my mother and grandmother. My mother's name is not Eunice....but my grandmother's name was Lois. I always claimed this verse to be "about them". I believe whatever strength I have today, began from the kneeling position at Mamo's couch. By her side. Even as a young child of 5 or 6....it is the memories of those times that have encouraged me. Watching and hearing my own mother in her prayer times....strength builders. Having my own prayer time and bible reading....strength builders. (End of side trail....)
The memories that I shared in mother's little book that were so sweet to me, brought back memories of “hard times” as mother remembered growing up. She remembered the sweet things as well, but it was through the hard times in her growing years, that she began to gain strength for the next phase of her life.
To be physically strong it requires some action on our part. We can’t just buy exercise equipment and expect to have that “fit body”….believe me….it doesn’t work (tried it). We have to eat properly and actually "use" the equipment! Whether we walk, run, hike or do aerobics, we need to circulate the blood---get the heart rate up. We must be diligent.
In order to have the spiritually fit life, there also are steps we take. We can’t just buy the Bible and expect it to “jump in us”….We must drink in His Word. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:" (1 Peter 2:2)
We must be persistent. Romans 2:7 says: "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life". The amplified Bible says “patient persistence”. And we must exercise our faith.
"Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next". 1 Timothy 4:8 NLT
In my early teenage years, when my dad was no longer an active figure in our home---my mother's plate of duties began to expand; she stepped up to that plate and became what was necessary. This required more time with the Lord. Through that time, she gained more strength---as she spent more time on her knees and more time in His Word. This was her spiritual exercise. This was necessary for her spiritual growth.
A not-so-brief synopsis of my mother: She was our cook, our teacher, our personal seamstress (she made almost everything we wore), our chauffeur, our doctor, our personal decorator, our cheerleader, our prayer warrior, our friend and confidante, our comforter--when our childlike heart was broken, a trail blazer--never afraid to attempt what seemed impossible (firmly believes nothing is impossible with God), our peacemaker--for anytime you have children...you have fusses and quarrels, and on the rare occasions when there was just a bit of extra money, she was our banker. She enabled us to “learn to earn” our spending money. Most of all, she was our strength.
She was strong (still is), but only through and by the grace of God. Through Him, her weakness was made strong. We all want to be strong. Physically and spiritually. We don’t necessarily want to do what it takes, or endure what we must for that strength.
I remember many years ago when I worked at the high school, I lead a small class for anyone that wanted to spend 30 minutes after school walking and exercising. Every other day we did one or the other. We walked the track at school or we worked out to an exercise video in the gym. It was tough. The first 2 weeks I thought I needed a fork lift to help me off the toilet! One of the teachers that had joined in complained of the same thing. Reaching our goal took effort. It took daily perseverance. But those of us that kept at it, achieved our goal. (Don’t ask me what happened since I am NOT in the shape I was then---I’ll whoop out my pictures of my grand kids!)
Today, I have a different goal. I want spiritual strength. I have to realize there will be trials and difficulties ahead. But I want with all my heart to become the woman God intends for me to be. A strong woman in Christ. A genuine faith filled, Holy Ghost empowered woman!
1Peter 1:7 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
As 2008 begins to dawn, let us all endeavor to reach for the spiritual strength that God desires to have in each of us. Let us lift our "spiritual weights" while we are lifting our physical ones. Every January, I set a goal for myself....same one....every year. More exercise, better health, better eating habits. But this year, I am adding one. I want to be spiritually strong. We can achieve both. Together...and don't forget to "encourage one another". Be sure and visit Darlene's "Live Well" site for great encouragement and ideas on a healthier, stronger you!
May each of you be blessed with the Spirit of Heaven at Christmas....as you Worship the Reason....for our blessed season. Jesus!