Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Spiritual Mothering and Life Group

"I challenge you, my sister, to write your story into the fabric of another woman's life.  This is not a call to a life of ease.  It is a call to a life of involvement in serving the King by nurturing his daughters." 
-Susan Hunt

 I'm not sure if this is a recent thing, or if it has always been this way and my eyes have just been opened to it more since having a daughter, but it seems as though pop culture and society alike have been focusing on women as strong, powerful, and independent people more than when I was growing up.  Female characters I watched and loved when I was younger, from Cinderella to Sandy from Grease, have been replaced by the likes of Katniss Everding, Anna and Elsa of Arendelle, and Ray from Star Wars.  Even Beau and I notice this in our favorite TV shows today.  It seems the entire story line of our favorite Game of Thrones has killed off many of its strong men leaders only to make way for what seems like all of the female characters to emerge center stage.  Even the newest Beauty and the Beast remake revealed a Belle comfortable in her unique skin and beautiful because of it, ultimately equipping the Beast with the same qualities.  The media and several women around the country stood up and let their voice resound in our most recent election, and shortly thereafter, a half a million women marched in Washington and in cities all over the country to raise their voices and stand together.  It seems more than ever, women are center stage and the spotlight of public attention is upon us.  

What's funny, though, is that our value and purpose can be distorted if we fail to acknowledge the God who created us in the first place.  The One who breathed life into us, called us very good, and created us with a clear purpose as a daughter of a great kingdom, with power to change the lives of others for His glory.  And that long before the likes of Anna, Elsa, and Daenerys Stormborn, the Bible is filled with amazing stories of real women who inspire and empower with their grace, compassion, and strength.  I just recently finished reading the book of Exodus and was floored by the way God used the women in this book to carry out his plan and move his people out of slavery.  First with the midwives, who loved God and because of this, refused to obey Pharaoh's command to kill the baby boys born to the Hebrews (1:15-18), and later, with Pharaoh's own daughter, who showed compassion and love to a little baby in a basket, and with the help of his own mother (2:8), raised him to be Moses, one of the most important men in the Bible.  It's all quite ironic and amazing that Pharaoh worked so hard to disrupt God's plan, but didn't think about the ways women could disrupt his.  And meanwhile, God used these women as the bold and courageous players that moved His plan forward.  Seen as nothing more than cattle to Pharaoh, God used the weak and powerless to overthrow the seemingly strong and mighty. 

I think often, we underestimate the power and importance God equipped women with, especially if we attempt to identify our value based within the context of societyEarlier this spring, I read Spiritual Mothering by Susan Hunt, a book that reminded me how intentional God was when he created us.  I love that when describing a woman, God referred to her as a helper, the same term He used later when creating the Holy Spirit to guide the disciples to greater conviction, purposeful action, and powerful service.  I love that in Titus 2 (3-5), Paul describes our redemptive design as life-giving, not simply in the form of biologically making life, but breathing life into every season, situation, and relationship.  Women are designed to nurture community, extend compassion, and help others flourish.  After Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus, the first person she goes to is Elizabeth, a woman who opens up her arms and her home to her, encourages her, and equips her to live out God's great plan for her life.  Our role is not to be superwomen, but willing to show our sin, encourage other women, and "welcome one another as Christ as welcomed you" (Romans 15).  When we live out our design, our calling to breathe life and bring God glory in our homes, our relationships, and our situations, He worksWe are the midwives, faithfully following God even when society tells us otherwise.  We are Pharaoh's daughter, extending compassion to others who need it.  We are the Elizabeth, opening up our lives and being available to encourage others.  We are Tabitha, unifying and equipping women to flourish.  I will never forget how Rebekah Lyons inspired me at the If:Gathering with her words: "Beckon your daughters and your mothers and your sisters and your friends because you, the food people, you are the ones who feed.  You feed the hungry, you house the orphan, you lift up the disabled, you reach across lines, lean in, and listen.  You are the daughter of a king who has prepared you for a moment like this.  March for that." 
One of my best "yeses" of this past year involved a group of fifteen college girls invading our home once a month for what our church's college ministry calls Life Group.  God used our home, my heart for teaching, and my place on UNI's campus to open up a new door to grow my relationship with Him by forming deep relationships with these young women.  Once a month, we invite them here, we feed them good food, and in return, they feed our soulsOur home, our marriage, and our kids' lives have been enriched by these sweet souls.  Monthly dinners and Bible studies have extended into coffee dates at Sidecar, drop-ins after church, job references, and opportunities to serve them and show them love during these often exciting, but hard years of college.  I have grown to love each of them for their unique beauty and strength, and feel only more convinced of the importance of living as women who invest, love, and support one another. 

A couple weeks before finals' we enjoyed our last life group of the year on a picture perfect spring night outside.  I watched as a few girls congregated around the grill with Beau, a few sat at the kitchen table finishing homework, and a few chased Cruz and Mila around the swingset.  They ate their fair share of burgers and hot dogs, made s'mores and took selfies by the fire, wiped the kids' sticky fingers and faces, and curled up with blankets and their Bibles.  And when the sun went down (and Cruz mooned them all from the upstairs window), we read scripture, talked about how we can be the women God designed us to be this summer, and circled under the stars to pray.  What a joy they have been this year, and what an influence I pray this "yes" will be for not only them, but for Cruz and Mila, too.
God has me convinced that there is a kingdom right here in our grasp to build for His glory.  And we are fearfully and wonderfully made in ways to breathe life in every season, situation, and relationship.  Whether that includes a kitchen table of little mouths to feed, a staff meeting to lead, or someone to be silly and share s'mores with.   

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Hebrews 10:10-25

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