The Most Influential Women in the World

I am able to trace back my maternal genealogy an impressive distance. My personal experience and knowledge begins with my maternal great-grandmother, Ruthie Mae McDonald Smith. I am glad to have known her as a young girl. I have glimpses of who she was, who she became. Recently, I feel that I’ve grown to know her more intimately as I’ve begun in depth research preparing for a historical narrative I am writing. 

Here is a photo of her with her husband, my great-grandfather and her five oldest children. The oldest girl, is my own grandmother, Alvis Yvone Smith (later to become a DeMoss). 


In this photo as I study my great-grandmother’s face, I can imagine she was so proud and probably so tired. Life was hard, physically hard nearly a century ago. She could not have seen what the future would hold, the tragedy, the grief, the heartache and surely the nightmares. She could not have known that three of her children in this photograph would become part of history, part of the worst school related disaster our nation has ever known. 


The New London School Explosion would destroy more than a building. It destroyed lives, families and the hopes and dreams of many mothers. Only moments before dismissal a gas explosion claimed hundreds of children and many of their teachers. 

I didn’t know her before of course, but my grandmother told me that her momma was never the same again. She never quite recovered. And yet, she continued to mother. She would birth four more children and live a long life. She would become the woman I remember, always appearing a little melancholy. 


Today is Mother’s Day and I’m thinking of Ruthie Mae McDonald who knew the greatest heartache a mother can have   I’m thinking of her eldest daughter, Alvis Yvone Smith DeMoss who had children of her own and one of them my mother, Genevieve DeMoss Roberts. I’m thinking of them all and my heart is thankful. 


I’m thankful to have known the most influential women in the world, in my world. I am thankful for the rich spiritual heritage that they passed on to me and that I will pass on to my daughters. Today I celebrate them all! Happy Mother’s Day! 

True Friends

Thinking lots of thoughts this morning. Mostly I’m thinking about the women in my life who have invested into me with love and time and energy.I’m thinking of true friends. 

I have always believed strongly in mentorship and perhaps one of the reasons was because I’ve been the recipient of many such relationships. 
There’s a long list of women I could name as having helped to form me and mold me, starting of course with my own mom and grandma. But, this morning I’m thinking of my own Miss Clara. 
If you’ve watched ‘War Room’ you likely know exactly what I am referring to. She’s the older lady that in my opinion was the star of the show. She was without a doubt, my favorite character. I assumed this movie (and book) was about marriage. On the contrary, at least in my eyes, it was about women supporting women. 
My Miss Clara that I’m thinking about was Irene Gilley. She, like Clara in the story, was in her 80’s and like Clara, she was a Godly women and a prayer warrior. She loved me. She blessed me in numerous ways. She was a tremendous influence in my life. She supported me when I felt wobbly. She was not related to me or otherwise obligated to me. She chose to be a part of my life and I chose to allow her. 
The other day a young woman I love dearly told me I was her Miss Clara. My heart was so touched by that thought. We definitely chose to be a part of each other’s lives.  Then last night, my daughter-in-law shared so kindly about how good it felt to be supported. It does feel good. This morning I was reading in the _War Room_ book that my son’s fiancé  gave me for Christmas and near the end of the book, Clara said, “Give me another one, Lord. Guide me to who you want me to help.”

  
This really made me stop and think. It challenged me. As Christian women, we can get so caught up in our own families and lives that we forget what we are really supposed to be doing. “Go and make disciples.”

I’m not sure exactly why it is, but often it seems that women are most critical of other women. Competition? Comparison? 

When we choose to support another woman, when we encourage her, pray for her and value her, it extends far beyond her. The influence spreads to those she loves and values. She impacts others. The power of love prevails and the ripples continue long after we are aware. 

I’d like to challenge us, you and I both to reach beyond our comfort zone. Stretch out our arms, extend ourselves beyond our own daughters and invest in the life of another woman, young or old. Be a listening ear, a prayer partner, a true friend. Be someone’s Miss Clara. Be a true friend. Never be too busy to invest in the life of another woman. 

That young lady who is struggling may be quite desperate for hope. That woman who seems bent on self-destruction may just hear your kind words. That girl who has too much attitude may be a scared little girl on the inside. That gal that insists on controlling and manipulating may long to feel strong and going about it the wrong way. 

My prayer is that women will resist the urge to criticize and ostracize. My prayer is that we will be someone’s safe place so they can be real. My prayer is that we will not underestimate the value of being a true friend. 

The Mother’s Day Pit Fall – It’s a Trap

This won’t be your normal mushy Mother’s Day blog post. I’ll likely do one of those later. But, today I am thinking we need to set aside the fluff and get down to the nitty-gritty. Mother’s Day can be wildly emotional and the emotions aren’t always kind. Sometimes it is more like having your heart raked over live coals. 

You know I’m telling the truth. There are countless reasons that Mother’s Day can hurt like heck. Some you can’t avoid and must learn to cope with. But, there’s one that I hope reading this might help you bypass. 

If your heart is hurting about your own mother, your relationships with her or lack thereof or perhaps y’all are separated by miles or even death, Mother’s Day will hurt your heart. I pray that the good will outweigh the bad and your day will be joyful in spite of your grief. 

If your heart is hurting because of your own state of motherhood, perhaps a delayed state, Mother’s Day will hurt your heart. I pray that hope will spring anew and your day will be joyful in spite of your longing. 

As I said, there are some things that we just can’t control and there are just some hurts that can’t be avoided. But, we can learn to cope and continue on. I’ve been there. I truly understand and remember quite clearly dreading the Sunday every year when the preacher would tell all the moms to stand and I remained seated. That changed for me. This will change for you. Take courage. 

However, here is what I really want to talk about today. I want to talk about the moms who may be very disappointed when Mother’s Day rolls in and rolls right back out and your feelings are hurt because, well, it wasn’t all that. It was another day of changing diapers and cooking and cleaning and servitude. I said we were going to be real and I meant it. Sometimes we can feel unnoticed and under appreciated, especially on Mother’s Day. It’s the pits. 

I want to encourage you to avoid the emotional pit fall that Mother’s Day can deliver, if at all possible. Here’s the first important step. Recognize that you are worth celebrating! You work hard. You give up sleep, your favorite activities and sometimes your choice of foods. Hey, we get it.  We knew what we were signing up for (well mostly). We know that’s how the boat floats. But, not on Mother’s Day. 

If you have a well intentioned husband and small children a subtle hint may be in order. If, from past experiences you realize that a subtle hint isn’t going to work, be more direct. 

“Hey Honey, you know what I really want for Mother’s Day?” And then tell him! 

If you have no husband or if the husband you have refuses to cooperate with the less than subtle approach there’s no sense being miserable. If you have adult children that are too busy to bother celebrating the woman who wiped their noses and their derrières, well shame on them, but, don’t despair. 

If others won’t celebrate you then just CELEBRATE YOURSELF! Yes, you heard me right. Take yourself for a pedicure. Rent your favorite movie. Hog the remote control. Buy the flavor of ice cream that you like and no one else does. Go through the drive through if that’s all you can afford and still not cook. You are worth celebrating. 

Still hesitant? Not measuring up to how things should be? Perhaps not. But, it’s better to have a day of fun and special treats that you choose than realizing there’s a BBQ going on and it’s your heart on the grill. 

I’m going to make a confession. There has never been a Mother’s Day that didn’t find me having a tender moment when things didn’t go just right. Maybe, this year will be the exception. I don’t know. But, what I do know is I’m going to do my best to avoid known pitfalls of expecting my husband and children to be mind-readers. I’m going to speak up, be honest and do my best to have a great Mother’s Day. How about you?

  

Inspired

What inspires you? What gives you the strength to try one more time? What gives you the courage to keep pursuing your dream?

Is it a person? A past experience? Your faith? Music? Scripture? 

Whom do you inspire? With whom have you shared insight? Which person do you share your courage with by encouraging them?

Is is a family member? A friend? A coworker? A student? A child?

  

As for me, I’ve got quite a list of inspiring folks to mention. 

Some I’ve never met but, I’ve read their words that have outlived them. 

  

Then, there are my children of course. They are a constant source of inspiration. Their innocent faith when they pray inspires me to believe without doubting. 

There are countless women in my life that inspire me. My grandmother who faced hardships and held tight to her faith through it all. My mom who is an excellent example of physical discipline, taking care of her body. My mother-in-law who survived illness that threatened her life and thrives today. My sisters, my friends, my heart daughters often inspire me with their encouraging words. 

I must not fail to mention the Word of a God. Oh the many moments I have turned to the Bible for inspiration and never once failed to find it there. 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”  2 Timothy‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬ NLT

There are certainly days when I misplace my inspiration and instead slip into drudgery and dread. How about you? Are you facing days in this season when it feels as if the sun will never break through the gloomy clouds that seem to hang above your best efforts. 

I have discovered a truth about discouragement. When I feel it creeping upon me, I begin to look for another heavy heart. Instead of commiserating about the woes of the world and multiplying the gloom, I do what I can to lift their spirits. Almost immediately, I find my own spirits are up as well. It’s this wonderful spiritual law. We give joy and courage and then we harvest  joy and courage. 

“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Isaiah‬ ‭58‬:‭10-11‬ NLT

Be the inspiration that you need! Invest into another weary soul when you yourself are weary. Give out of your own need and watch God supply yours. Be the light in a dark place that someone else travels and you’ll find you will also keep yourself from stumbling. 

Stir in the Sauce

Spaghetti is a family favorite for many families including mine. It is simple, tasty and let’s face it, it stretches. Whether your family is XL like mine or you’re on a budget (also like mine) or you find yourself suddenly needing to provide dinner for more than you were counting on, spaghetti is a proven stand-by to satisfy.

The thing is, sometimes you need to stretch even a little further and stir in the sauce. Here’s what I mean. Years ago when my sister, Tamara, had two sets of twins (yes two) and they were all little she was having a family dinner for a special occasion. I can’t remember what the special occasion was but, I remember Tammy’s words about her spaghetti. I had told her it was good and I had never thought of stirring in the sauce like she did instead of serving it on top of a pile of noodles. Here is what she said in reply. “That’s the only way I can manage a spaghetti dinner for a crowd right now. I have to stir in the sauce and make it stretch.”

I thought of her words this morning as I was doing some meal prep early while most of the house slept and as I worked on the dish, I developed a plan. You see, Daddy had cooked last night while I was out and there was about three times as much noodles as sauce. I had bought extra pasta and he cooked it all. As I sorted through entangled noodles I knew the first step was to remove a few parts that just couldn’t be blended in. They were clumped together and would be thrown to the chickens later. The next thing was obvious, I’d have to stir in the sauce. When even that wasn’t enough, I added some Italian tomatoes and seasoning and Parmesan until I finally had done all I could do.

Standing there alone with bare feet on an yet unswept floor that needed it badly, I stared at the noodles that had been transformed into what would be heralded later today as good baked spaghetti. I pondered that this was a good image of my life lately. Time and time again I found had way more pasta than I needed, some had not cooked properly because there wasn’t room in the pan and finally, not enough sauce.

How about you? Have you been feeling stretched lately, not enough, less than you need and inadequate?

It may be time to sort through your entanglements and remove the parts that just won’t blend in. You know, just like those noodles that get all clumped together and ruin the whole dish. Toss them out. Throw ’em to the chickens.

Then you can stir in the sauce. Be honest, is the flavor of what you have to offer being stretched so thin that what you are serving up isn’t savory at all? If so, you better find some new ingredients and don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t tried before.

What is in the cupboards of your heart? Has it been too long since you filled up with the staples every woman needs. When is the last time you had a facial or a long bubble bath? What portion of your day do you spend in prayer and with the Bible? Who comprises your support team, your soul sisters? Why don’t you consider doing things differently today? This week? This month? See if you can re-discover your full flavor and then, watch the transformation that occurs when you stir in the sauce.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

What’s a Girl to Do (Athaliah)

This is the third part of a study called _False Images – Your Future is not Cast in Stone_. First we looked at Rachel and her inability to let go of the false images of her father. Next we looked at Ruth and how she determined to embrace her future. This section is subtitled ‘A Reason for Treason’. This time we will look at Athaliah & next time Jehosheba. While you may have heard of Rachel and Ruth, Athaliah and Jehosheba may be less familiar. Two women, faced with choices. They are both real life characters in a dramatic, suspenseful story but, the roles they play are totally different. Athaliah is the villainess while Jehosheba is the heroine.

If you asked most people who the most evil woman in the Bible was, chances are, most rarely would think of Athaliah. After this study however, that might change. She is violent, deceptive, murderous and possibly the epitome of evil. Before we enter into the action of the story, let’s have a bit of background.

Many scholars agree that she was the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. She had learned Jezebel’s wicked ways and embraced them as her own. Remember we always have a choice. She had a choice. She was married to Jehoram the son of the Godly King Jehoshaphat. Jehoram had a choice as well. He forsook the ways of his father and under the influence of his evil wife undid a great many of the good things that King Jehoshaphat had accomplished during his reign. Excuse me for just a moment while I pause to pray for the women whom my five sons will some day marry. Although I’m being a bit facetious at this moment, I truly do this on a regular basis. Oh the influence of a wife on her husband (and vice versa of course).

When her husband died, their son Joash became king. She was no longer the Queen but, she was the Queen Mother and this satiated her appetite for power. But, then everything changed. While she was not Jezebel herself, she had that same spirit of manipulation and hunger for power. When her hold and influence were threatened she took action. Awful, terrible, horrific action. She intended to keep control AT ANY COST.

“When Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah of Judah, learned that her son was dead, she began to destroy the rest of the royal family.” (2 Kings 11:1 NLT)

Just in case that isn’t perfectly clear, let me clarify. She killed in cold blood all the royal seed. Anyone who could have a claim on the throne was annihilated. She murdered her own grandchildren. I can hardly type the words without my heart lurching in horror. She was so determined to have what she wanted, she destroyed her own future and sacrificed those she should have protected. Selfish, self-centered, deceptive, manipulative, usurper! She became the king. This was indeed a reason for treason, there was an imposter on the throne!

I’m so thankful to say that this isn’t the end of the story. After this bloody scene of murder and mayhem, the curtains close and reopen to reveal Jehosheba, our heroine. I can’t wait to tell you all about it next time. Until then, I want you to stop and think of the choices you have before you. Just like every lady we will look at in this study, you may have a family heritage of sin, dysfunction and shameful acts. You do not have to claim those false images as your own. When you are tempted to, stop and ask yourself, “What’s a Girl to Do?”. There are options, there are always options. You do NOT have to be what has been before you. You have a new heritage as a child of the King. You can be redeemed, purchased with a price and set free from the heritage of sin. Even if you yourself have already made choices that you regret, this is not the end of the story.

When I talk to my children about family trees, I developed a unique method of explaining it. I would draw a tree with branches and roots. I always tell my children that they have roots of their own biologically that are different than mine and Henry’s. Those roots helped determine the color of their eyes, the height of their stature, the shape of their mouth. But, as an adopted child, they are grafted in to our family. I always stop and add a branch at that point. I explain that while we did not determine the color of their eyes, we will help them to see truth and recognize right from wrong. While we didn’t have any part in how tall they stand physically, we can help shape them and make them spiritually strong. We didn’t contribute to the shape of their mouths either, but we hope to encourage them to smile, to choose their words carefully and lift their voices in praise.

This same illustration applies to us spiritually. The roots are there, roots of sin, roots of pain, roots of despair. They’ve had their influence, we might as well not deny it. But, that is not the end of the story.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5 NLT)

20130726-225819.jpg

What’s a Girl to Do? (Rachel)

False Images
Your Future is NOT Cast in Stone

When we hear the term ‘False Images’ we may immediately think of idols that are carved from wood or stone. This study however, deals with self images that can be just as false and warped.

No matter what our families have done before us, no matter what everyone else is doing around us, no matter how bleak the future may seem – your future is NOT cast in stone.

‘Created in God’s Image’

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NLT)

In our original state of creation there was no disease, no imperfections, no shame. Why should there be? Then, sin entered in and changed everything.

When sin touches you it leaves an imprint on your life. When it touches you enough, whether it is your own sin or the sin of others, you may come to the point where you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. You may not even remember who you are or who you were created to be. That’s a terrible and scary place to find yourself in.

An encounter with sin may find you abused or neglected, wounded or crushed, abandoned, betrayed, deceived and accused. As a child or a wife, any stage of your life, sin may have disfigured your self image until you no longer recognize yourself as the very good creation of God Himself.

“Choices – What’s a Girl to do?”

This study looks at five women from the Bible and the false images they chose to reject or embrace. First are two women who were both faced with choices. They have something in common. They both had married into families that worshiped the one true God although that had not been how they were raised. They both had to choose between what they were leaving behind and what the promise of the future held. We will begin with Rachel and consider Ruth next time.

Rachel had married Jacob. Jacob had left his own land and family to avoid facing the consequences of his own actions of deception and betrayal. He had reaped what he had sown by meeting his match in the manipulation arena with his new father-in-law, Laban.

After decades of living away from his family, Jacob decided to return and face his brother and father. When told about this plan, Rachel is enthusiastic about the idea and points out that she had been mistreated as well. So, the whole family (very large family) is in agreement and prepares to leave, secretly. Waiting for the right opportunity, Jacob takes action when Laban goes the opposite direction (15 miles) with his sons to attend to his flocks in another area.

Here is where a pivotal point in the story of Rachel happens. She has made her decision. She is eagerly going with Jacob to leave behind the lifestyle her family chooses and hope for a brighter future. It is at this moment that Rachel stumbles. She decides to take a bit of her past with her as she journeys into the promise of what lies ahead.

“At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her.”(Genesis 31:19 NLT)

A huge encounter occurs later due to her unwise choice. More deception, more conflict, because she hid away mementoes from her past. We don’t know exactly what thought process led to her decision, but, I think we can agree it was a faulty thought process.

Have you made the same mistake? As long as she carried those reminders of her past, those false images, she could never fully embrace her future and the wholeness of who she could be; who she was created to be.

One of my greatest challenges as a foster/adoptive mom was to encourage the children I encountered to let go of what wanted to attach itself to them as they tried to heal emotionally. I would often do an object lesson and fill their hands and arms with all they could rightfully claim as ‘their own’ from the life behind them. Objects would represent betrayal, abandonment, rejection, neglect, pain, deception (on and on I could go).

Once their arms were full, I would then offer them something lovely, something they really wanted. That object represented healing, comfort, peace, acceptance, (on and on I would go). They soon had to decide to hold on to what was ‘rightfully’ theirs to hold on to or drop it in a heap and embrace what they desired. We can learn a lot from children. Some if us need to do the same thing.

This is a brief summary of a lesson I taught on a series of seven 10minute YouTubes. If you care to hear it in it’s entirety, I’m including the links below that tell Rachel’s story. Perhaps it will remind you of yourself.

False Images Part 1

False Images Part 2

False Images Part 3