As we sat in the snow covered cemetery under a big flapping tent in folding metal chairs, I watched as her hand gingerly reach over to brace herself on the nearby headstone. She used it as leverage to push herself up out of her chair, into the cold wind, and stand to speak.
She’s been battling cancer for the last 18 months. Weight loss. Weakness. Chemo brain. Wheelchairs, walkers and soft shoes to accommodate swollen feet. This is a short list of what outsiders have seen. The list of challenges and set-backs that close friends and family have witnessed is even longer.
But on the day that we memorialized her mother-in-law of some 48 years, my mom found the strength to plan for the service all the way from out of state and get up to speak kind words about my grandmother.
Strong: able, sturdy, stable, tough, influential, brave
The strongest women are often draped in humility. They do what has to be done without a lot of fan fair. Their strength rises to the surface when life calls upon them to just get it done.
Do you ever look at other women…louder women…and think “why can’t I be strong like that?”
Volume doesn’t always equal strength.
Have you ever seen a woman in a dress suit and sunglasses at Target and thought “she must be important and look at me in my yoga pants and sweats shirt!”
Polish doesn’t always equal importance.
This time of year, I often think of Mary, Jesus’ mother. She was barely a teenager, no husband and without the Holy scriptures to help fill in the gaps of what was happening to her. She was not a prominent figure. She wasn’t the best dressed. When her home town demanded she travel while pregnant for a census, she didn’t get any special favors.
She was a young girl carrying the full hope of the world inside of her belly. No bubble wrap around her. No escorts making her pathway clear. No reservations made ahead of time for a soft bed and a warm meal.
God given responsibilities don’t always equal special treatment.
She did what had to be done. Quietly. Humbly.
Both my mom and Mary.
One only beginning her journey into adulthood. One who is fighting to remain in hers.
I come from a line of strong women.
If you are a child of God…you do too.
Women who have risked their lives in the name of saving their people (Esther). Women who chose Jesus over what their entire town would think about them (woman at the well). Women who left everything familiar in order to do the right thing (Ruth). Women who let their children go, clinging to their faith, trusting God (Hannah and Jochebed).
Sometimes, the strongest women aren’t the ones on stage, but the ones behind the curtain. Strong women are sitting bedside with their ailing parents, feeding them ice cream and wiping the corner of their mouths. Strong women are raising rebellious teenagers and not backing down. Strong women make hard choices and do hard things, not based on their feelings, but on what is right. And the strong women that I know…they pull other women along with them to do the hard things and celebrate each time they surprise themselves with their accomplishments.
Each breath that we take is another opportunity to ask the Lord for help and step into the strength that He provides for us. Sometimes that’s the only prayer we need…to ask for strength, and then move.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
Lord, help us to grasp that when we are at our weakest, You are there with exactly what we need. We are grateful that you don’t require us to be strong before you set our tasks at hand, but that you provide with each step, the strength for every forward movement in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.