Prompted by something I read this morning over at (in)courage, I decided I would like to honour some of the women in my life that I esteem. That I hold in high regard. (I apologize – I don’t have the room to mention everyone that has touched me, but I wanted to mention the following women in particular.)
Some women are from my past and are very far away from me now, and others I see on a regular basis. All have touched my life in one way or another and I would like to honour that. To say that they have value to me, not just to the Lord (although His opinion is worth so much more than mine).
From my past, Linda, the perfect example of servant-hood and a great encourager. I know Linda from my “home church”, where she was an administrative assistant for the church, and also specifically for the youth pastor. She would be there Fridays long before anyone started rolling in for the youth service, and she would be busy organizing things, praying over the evening’s events, and encouraging the people that trickled in early for one reason or another. I do not think there was a single person at that youth group who had not had some kind of interaction with Linda, even if they didn’t know her name or know who she was. She was indiscriminate in her encouragement. From the “popular” kids, to the “down and out” kids; from the youth leaders to the youth pastor. Linda was incredibly generous, opening up her home after youth was over on Friday nights, often contributing to the finances or just arranging things so some of the less financially fortunate kids could still participate in the events that cost a bit of money, and she was responsible for many behind-the-scenes acts that made the difference for many of those youth. All this, and we couldn’t even coax her out to the front of the church to sing her “Happy Birthday” – she leaned against the doorway at the back of the room, smiling, while we all turned around to sing to her.
Another inspiration in my life is Ingrid. Ingrid is the Children’s Ministry Pastor at my home church. The wife of the previous youth pastor (still currently a pastor), her passion to include children is unmistakable. With three kids of her own, I still don’t know how she manages to do everything that she does, and she does it with humility and grace, though she looks like she should have every right to brag. What I love about Ingrid is that she is true. Her love and her heart for children, her family and the church are an inspiration to me. She would often lead the children’s worship – yes, worship, not just “Sunday School” songs, but real worship – at the beginning of the kids’ church service, and she was responsible for the infamous “Cows for Cuba” campaign where the kids raised enough money for not 1 or 2 cows, but 6 and a half cows! “Cows for Cuba” was just the start of many financial giving programs that prompted our kids to give freely of what they have in excess so that others could have enough to meet their needs. The kids felt like their contributions were worth something, and were excited to see the joy on the faces of the people they helped.
My piano teacher while I was growing up, who is also the daughter of my pastor, taught me about patience. She treated me with kindness and love, even when I hadn’t put in the hours practising that I should have, even when she knew I was fibbing about how much practising I had actually done. Over the years I have known her, she has grown up from a young adult, to a young wife, to a mother of three, and while her dad might say she was the wild child of his two daughters in her younger years, she certainly proved that the lessons she learned from her parents are ones that she took to heart.
Maureen was the worship pastor at my home church. She (and her husband) saw that I was willing to serve and put me to use. It was she who taught me what the true purpose of a worship leader is: to bring people into the presence of God. That being up in front of the church to lead worship wasn’t just a privilege, or about being the centre of attention, or just something fun thing to do, but it’s something that carries great weight and responsibility. Maureen has a fantastic voice, unlike any I have ever heard – and she has such humility and grace about all her gifts.
From my present, there are a core of women in the church that have been such inspirations to me. Gwen is a fantastic intercessor and her obedience to Christ, transparency, and integrity have touched me deeply. She has gone through trials, and proudly shares when her Jesus has conquered the demons and obstacles in her way. Holly is a great hostess and her compassion for others is inspiring. I can see that she is growing her faith in a real way and she’s not afraid to tackle some of the doctrine that was ingrained in her that may not be an accurate reflection of who Christ is and who He wants her to be.
Synnove is a joy – she truly is. She has gone through so much, and much of it recently, yet I can scarce remember a time when she hasn’t had a smile on her face – a real smile. That’s not to say she hasn’t cried or had tough moments, but her strength comes from the Lord and she takes her joy from Him in such a profound way. Irene, who’s name is Greek for “peace”, is like her namesake – with the force of a river. She and her husband have been married for 60 years, and I trust this woman has learned a thing or two. She’s been through so much in her lifetime, and her primary message is love and peace and joy. She finds and takes joy in her church family and is never afraid to speak love into someone’s life. Full of hugs and blessings, she blesses me every time I see her – whether she’s actually blessing me, or blessing someone else in the vicinity.
Cynthia, who reminds me so much of Linda, is a true treasure. Her willingness to be real with me is humbling. She is wise and she is full of a desire to serve. I’m really hoping that she and I can jump start something in this little town in the fall that will give her an opportunity to use her gifts more. Joan is an inspiration in everything she does. After six kids, the youngest of whom is the only one still at home, she is braving the workforce. She is an incredibly talented artist, and has a beautiful prophetic gift that often expresses itself through her creativity. I strive to follow her example in letting my talents flow more freely in the Spirit.
Linda takes me into the throne room of God. She’s not afraid to have fun, but when it comes down to worship – she’s all heart. She has an incredible gift of discernment and knows just what the people need when she’s leading worship. She knows how to bring us all into the throne room in a powerful way and I love that she shows everyone she’s not the focal point, but that her Jesus is. She reminds me of Maureen, but she definitely has her own style! And Helen, who isn’t just part of our little church, but part of the bigger Church here, who is a watchwoman on the wall, reminding us that it’s about relationship and not religion, reminding us to love and encourage, and is constantly showing us how to serve – with your whole heart.
And then there’s Liz. Liz, who picked up her life and her family and moved here from South Africa – moved here to the boonies of the Northwest of Canada. Liz, who thought she was coming here to be the wife of a manager at the mines, and ended up being our pastor. She has been the catalyst to my recognition of the gifts that God has given to me, and learning how to use them in a graceful and respectful way. She has sown into my marriage, sown into my family and sown into my life like none other than my own mother. And in some ways, she did the things for me that my mother could not (through no fault of my mum).
And now Liz is going home to South Africa. She is going where she is needed the most. And while all of these women I mentioned above were always important to me, they will be that much more special to me now that Liz is taking her leave. Because one of the things I learned from Liz is how important it is to stick together, to encourage each other, and to love each other through everything we go through. And now, we’re going through saying good bye to Liz and her wonderful family, who have each touched us in some tangible way that we could never forget. Though some of us will perhaps see them again, some of us might never get that opportunity, and we need each other to get through this sad and yet joyous time. We need each other for this time, and for so much more. We are family. And just like family, we celebrate our different gifts and rejoice in our diversity, knowing full well that Christ is the One who unites us.
I am not forgetting my mother – I’m saving her for last. My mother does not understand all the things that she has been the best example of, and she doesn’t see her worth the same way that I do, sometimes. As a mother, she has always wanted the best for me, and some of the things that she has considered “best for me” haven’t always been the best after all, and some of the things that she regrets as a mother are things that I value and wouldn’t change for the world.
If I could only share one thing that my mum has taught me, it’s to take pride in your work and do your best, no matter who you are working for. My mum has spent her life working hard. I’m talking 36 hours before sleeping, working at a computer as a work-from-home-mum to two kids, cleaning the house — hard. She doesn’t always believe the compliments people give her (most of which, if not all, are well-earned) and often struggles with her self-image. But she was the Mum I needed her to be, and while I may not be the person she expected me to be, I know she still loves me.