She Facebooked her Friends and said “Rejoice with Me!…

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…for I have found the piece which was lost!”

Several sisters have asked about the lost dress. Facebook can be a huge umbrella of encouragement even in the mundane.  I know life’s not all about finding Cindy Colley’s heirloom dress, of all things, but I was truly humbled and amazed that so many of you cheered us on as we searched for and found a little dress that I very much wanted to put on BabyG2 next September.  Hundreds of you (literally) and many that I’ve never met have been the sweetest sisters a woman could ever have. I love Facebook for giving your encouragement to me. 

The dress was deep in a closet at Hannah’s (my daughter’s) house. It was in a garment bag hiding behind her wedding dress, which was in the back of that closet in another very huge garment bag. The funny thing was, I had everyone looking for a pink box in which I’d originally wrapped that dress for the gender reveal two years ago…the gender reveal that turned out to be for a boy. Thus, the dress was never opened at the reveal. 

What I had forgotten was that the dress had been removed from the box and used as an illustration at a ladies day in Middle Tennessee a few months after that reveal…the very weekend, in fact, that Ezra was due. (Thus the reason it never got out of my car at my house….It just went straight to Hannah’s house and got hung in a closet there because hospital luggage is not conducive to dress preservation.) That’s just where Facebook became very helpful. You found out I was looking and three of you remembered the dress. You identified where you saw it and the garment bag in which it had left the church building at East Main. In turn, I told my son Caleb (via his Facebook page) to stop looking for a box and start looking for a garment bag. Truth be told, I don’t think he’d done a whole lot of looking for either. (He’s a good egg, though.) But Hannah, being the faithful Facebook follower that she is, immediately saw that post about looking for garment bags. She had moved all the hanging clothes in that closet more than once, laid them on the bed and searched the back of that closet for a box. But this time, she rushed home and actually looked through those clothes she’d been moving  back and forth. She looked for a black garment bag. She found the dress and tried to call me…twice. Unable to reach me, she called her Daddy, who got in the car and drove across town with photos on his phone to spread the cheer.

When he walked in the kitchen door in the middle of last Tuesday, I was surprised to see him. 

“What would you give a man…?” he began. 

“You found my dress??!!”

“I think so. But what would you give a man?…Is this the dress?” He offered his phone and a series of photos.

“You found my dress!!!!” 

“Yes and you should call your daughter on that phone that I don’t even know why I pay for.…She wants to hear from you.”

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There are always lessons, of course. Here they are:

  1. If Facebook can find a lost dress, surely we can connect some dots and find some lost souls, too. Facebook is a more personal and encompassing kind of outreach than email or USPS. It’s the kind of networking in which you never know if a click that posts or comments may be the click that does click with some lost soul and opens a door to a relationship, a study, an invitation that could result in a saved soul.
  2. Facebook is a neutral commodity. You get to decide whether your use of it is for the Lord or for the devil. Now, finding a dress is not a work of the Lord. But encouraging each other, as Facebook friends did (and do regularly for me) through this medium, is a great way to get the most good out of something the devil loves to control.
  3. You’re never going to find what you’re looking for if you’re looking where it’s not. That dress was not in all those absurd places (like on top of way-up-there kitchen cabinet and in overflowing trunks where I would have never crushed that batiste and damp basement corners) where I was looking. Sometimes life is like that. We can’t find contentment. We look in all those hard-to-do absurd places instead of the obvious place where the “owner” of truth has put it in the first place. 
  4. You may be own, be picking up, carrying, and moving about the answer to all your dilemmas. But until you recognize that, open it up and really look inside, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Hannah did that with that garment bag. She moved it over and over as she looked other places, to no avail. That’s what we do with our Bibles. We lay them on the table beside our beds. We pick them back up and take them to worship. Sometimes we move them back and forth and back and forth without ever really opening and examining them. We move the book, but we don’t meditate on it, memorize it or mark it. There are many people who own a Bible but do not own truth. It’s very important that we show our kids the difference. The Bible is not a lucky amulet. It’s what’s inside that can bring us joy. But that joy exists for me only when what’s inside the book gets inside of me. Hannah had a garment bag that she was transferring mindlessly back and forth, while what was inside eluded us all. 
  5. Some people are so close to what they really want, but just not quite there. Jesus told a scribe as much in Mark 12:34. “You are not far from the kingdom,” Jesus said. I have many friends who are close to the kingdom. I hurt for them because, of  course, being close to the kingdom of God is not enough. Hannah was near that dress we were hunting each time we talked about it on the phone. It was sometimes right there in the same room with her. Close is not good enough. We have to give people the information they need to identify that for which they search. 
  6. Some news is so good, you want to personally deliver it. I love that about my husband. He loves to bring joy…not just to me, but to everyone in all circumstances. We have the very best news of all. When we understand the wretchedness of that from which the good news— the gospel—rescues people, we can’t be stopped. We are going to those people. We will move heaven and earth to reach them with the good news. In fact Heaven has already moved that they might have this good news. It’s up to us to make the move on earth. We simply must. We are going to tell them that we’ve found that for which they are searching. 

This is Controversial. But Why?

Sometimes we just get in our own way. Sometimes we would just be so much better off as God’s women if we could just submit to His will, willingly and wholly, instead of trying to be His, in name, and yet play the world’s feministic game. We decided a few decades ago that we could do just as well chasing careers as we could chasing children. And so, by and large, our children got away from us. We’re losing them to the world in huge numbers. We can recklessly blame lots of things: inept youth ministers, school influences, weak church leaders, television–a litany of evils. But really, the buck stops at home. We can’t turn out Timothys if we have failed to be Loises and Eunices. If we fail to spend time with our kids we can’t put the Word in them in the Deuteronomy 6 way. And if they don’t get the Word in them according to Deuteronomy six, then why should we expect the result of Deuteronomy six teaching: that they should walk in the ways of the Lord all of the days of their lives. It really doesn’t take a village to raise a child. In fact, I am convinced that it’s our villages–the culture of materialism around us–that has most dangerously influenced our homes. It’s the village to which we sometimes leave our children that draws them from God.

That’s the ultimate price that we often pay for feminism. But there are other lesser prices, too. We wanted to find fulfillment outside the home forty years ago. So we left the challenging and very rewarding (and very Biblical) arena of raising our children, being keepers at home and being helpers to our husbands for desk jobs and corporate partnerships, teaching positions and medical careers. Some women traded the home-keeping business for less lucrative positions as underlings to more successful men and women. But many, if not most, did so, not to put food on the table, but, instead, to take the family out to eat more often. They were not keeping a roof over their heads, but were rather making sure there was lots of square footage under that roof along with tasteful decorations, multiple bathrooms and a well-stocked entertainment center. The casualties are sometimes the little people living in that very square footage we’ve worked so hard to provide.

But what are some of the other prices we pay (besides our inability to maximize the hours of faith-injection in our kids)? I’ve noticed several price tags in recent weeks. One is that the more we work outside the home, the more we are expected to work outside the home. Case in point: Several young ministers applying for jobs in churches recently have told me that the elders were unwilling or unable to pay the young families enough to adequately support them, so they indicated that the young preachers’ wives could “get a job to supply the rest of the needed income.” Something is wrong with that picture. Have we really come to the point in our churches in which elders believe it’s the minister’s wife’s responsibility to provide basic monetary support for the pulpits in our churches? That’s not the idea, for sure, In I Corinthians 9.

Secondly, there are those men in some of our churches today who are fearful of implementing programs which facilitate our older women teaching our girls how to be keepers at home. The reasons being given include a fear that women will get the idea that we think they should be staying at home and raising their own children. Or perhaps women will resent the study….It might portray housework as not really being an “equally shared responsibility” in the home. Or perhaps women might feel denigrated if we emphasize domestic skills like sewing and cooking, cleaning and ironing. Have we come to the point that Titus 2:3-5 is actually offensive to women in our pews today? Are some church leaders even afraid of the ire of feministic women in congregations? The phrase “keeper at home” is still there in Titus 2 and it still means “one who looks after the home; a domestic.” Is the Word so old-fashioned that we can prohibit its teachings in our churches?

Thirdly, I believe women in the workplace, many times, lose the precious commodity of a heart that hates sin. I have been amazed, recently, as I have learned of “Christian” women reading pornographic novels, being comfortable with vulgarity of language, dressing more and more immodestly, even undergoing abortions, and freezing multiple fetuses fertilized in test tubes–babies that they produced, but never planned to raise. I hear of more and more of my sisters who have become involved in adultery and have even left their children for these relationships. There’s a litany of sins of which we are becoming ever more accepting and tolerant. Now, do not get me wrong. I do not think women’s jobs are always the culprit, or even the catalyst. But I know that in many of the cases with which I am personally familiar, the associations at the office or school or hospital, combined with little time for Bible study and prayer make for an easy exit from the narrow path to the broad way that leads to destruction. When we are around the world and away from the little innocent hearts that constantly remind us of a higher calling, it just becomes easy for us to lose the heavenward focus and be sucked into the mentality that pivots on the here and now. The more we say “yes” to promotions and career climbing, the less time we have for prayer and family devotions. Furthermore, if we don’t have time to think about spiritual things, our consciences become less and less potent and we become more and more accepting of the world.

Did I say it’s always wrong for any woman to work outside the home? No. Did I say there are no situations in which women can make supplemental incomes and still “be there” for family? No. Do I think every woman can possibly have the luxury to be at home with her kids every day? No. Does it even matter what I say? No.

But God’s Word still calls us to be “keepers at home.” Whatever I am, I must be sure that I am that. But even aside from the clear statement in Titus 2, I think I could figure out that there’s often a big price for following a career path that takes me away from home and children. I’m going to keep pointing this out because 1) I’ve known women who figured this out in the nick of time and saved a lot of heartache, 2) I’ve known several women who figured this out when it was too late–eternally too late–for their children, 3) I’ve known several divorces which would most likely have not occurred had a woman chosen to stay home and raise her children and 4) I personally can attest to the fact that being a keeper at home is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding ventures of this life for God’s women. I want to share the wealth.

Finally, I know this is the most controversial thing I urge women to do. I will likely be unable to answer all of the mail and messages I will receive as a result of this post. They will not all be pleasant. I can hardly believe that we’ve come to the point in the body of God that the teaching we hate most, as women, is that we really should optimally stay home with our babies and raise them ourselves…for God. But we are there. May God help us to realize that the needs of babies have not changed in the last half-century. It is a deep and threatening desire to be like the culture around us that endangers our faithfulness and that of our children. May He help us to be transformed by a renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2) as we turn our hearts toward home.

Calling Her Blessed: Johnnia Duncan Holder

As I am writing it’s Mother’s Day. This year marks the 20th year since my mother won the battle over cancer and went home. She’s victorious and happy–even blissful, and I would never will her back to the struggling lifestyle that I try to tackle every day. But, still, I miss her like crazy–even now, twenty years hence. The children of the Proverbs 31 woman rose up and called their mother blessed. I know my mother is blessed, especially now–with the Lord, but I don’t know how to call her blessed. As I look back over the chapter, though, I see some things that made the children of Proverbs 31 call their mom blessed. I wonder how, exactly, they called her blessed. Did they tell their friends about the way God worked through the good deeds of their mom? Did other people look at her children and say that those kids were a blessing to the Proverbs 31 woman? Did her children write posts about how blessed their childhoods were because of the mom that made sure they were getting the maternal care they needed both physically and spiritually? If so, where did they post these notes? I do not know exactly how her children called her blessed, but today is my attempt to call my Proverbs 31 mother “blessed”. One thing’s for sure. The ultimate blessings are in the place in which I fully believe my mother is cognizant, rejoicing and awaiting my coming. She is blessed, now, for sure.

The heart of my father trusted my mother, that she would do him good and not evil. I do not remember ever having the first inkling of an idea that my dad ever thought Mother was lying to him, that she might be having an affair or that she was tricking him into getting things her way. In fact, the whole idea of any of those things seems preposterous. My mother never asked me to lie to my father. In fact, she would have spanked me in the “spanking place” if she thought I had lied to him. Not only did he never doubt her honesty, but he trusted her judgment. He trusted my mother to clothe us, to buy Christmas gifts for all of us and the extended family, to buy the groceries and to stock the freezer. He did not have to be a micro-manager. He trusted her.

My mother sought wool and flax and worked willingly with her hands. Her candle did not go out by night. If I close my eyes, I can see her hands. They had a couple of little age spots on them. Her fingers were long and thin and she never had a manicure. They were hard working hands. She had a sign in the little bedroom that doubled as her sewing room that said, “Whoever dies with the most fabric wins.” She won. See, she really did seek wool and flax and polyester and cotton and rayon. She could make anything on that Singer and so she did. I remember coming home from school one day for several weeks in November to a lot of white fur all over the carpets and bedspreads. I wondered if she was having bunnies over to play every day while I was at school. That year on Christmas morning, there were three precious little white fake fur coats for my sisters and me.

I remember many summer mornings when I would awaken to find that she was already out in the hot sun. I would look out the back kitchen door and down the hill I would see her bent over in the butter pea patch. I would try and be quiet, because I knew if she saw me, I would either be picking with her or washing breakfast dishes in the kitchen. If I was ever bored, I did not say so. I knew better. No one in that house ate the bread of idleness.

We did eat well, though. My mother gave meat to her household and a portion to her maidens. I cannot remember ever going hungry. My mother knew what day the meat would be in the marked-down bin at the market and she was willing to get up very early to be there. We did not go out to eat often because that was expensive. Our favorite Sunday night place was called “Traveler’s Rest” and it averaged a full six dollars for our family of six to eat burgers there. But there was always plenty of food on the table at home and it was always delicious. My brother was allergic to chicken, so when we had chicken, we had a small dish of some other kind of meat for him. Everyone was considered and everyone counted. My mother did not carry a couple of dishes to the fellowship meal, either. She carried a huge meat casserole or a couple of fried chickens, several side dishes, some cornbread and a big cake or banana pudding. If my mother ever had a maiden, she would have had plenty to eat, too. And I can never remember one meal around that table when we did not bow our heads and thank the Lord for the food.

My mother considered her purchases and used them well. She was frugal. I actually remember her sending us through multiple lanes at the store, so we could each be a customer and take advantage of “one-per-customer” savings. I remember buying fabric from the remnant bins and canned goods from the dented bin. I remember making our own popsicles and culottes. (Does anybody remember those?) She saved and redeemed green stamps. She sold encyclopedias and she taught school in our little Christian school for our tuition and we all went to school together. She saved the remnants of bars of soap and Daddy melted them down and made big new multi-colored bars. Free outings included the library and window shopping trips. Our shoes came from a little hole-in-the-wall place called “Salvage Shoes,” but we loved going there! She made everything fun and there was no place the kids in her Sunday School class had rather be than in our yard. One of them said one day, “I love going to Johnnia’s. She’s got a gallon of kids!”

She stretched out her hand to the poor and reached out her hands to the needy. My mother sent shoes to the prison where a neighbor boy ended up after his mother left home and he turned to drugs. I remember frequent walks up the street to Mrs. Brackin’s house, when she was feeble, to carry food from our kitchen or garden. I remember how Mother cared for Kathleen and Chris and Patrick when their mother went a little crazy and left them. I remember a little girl we picked up for worship services. She lived in the basement of an old upholstery shop on the Pratt Highway. I remember she didn’t smell good, but she loved coming with us. I remember another man who often rode with our family to worship and two older women, too. I remember Mother finding a place in a Christian orphanage for some children up the street when their parents left them destitute. Most of all, I remember the years and tears and fears of her caring for my grandparents. I remember when that small sewing room was converted to a sick room for them. I remember Mother’s sacrifices of travel and time with my dad. I remember the crowded conditions and the worry about their health. I remember my mother’s attendance at their hospital beds and their death beds. I remember the agony she suffered when they left empty spaces after her years of care.

My mother made tapestries and coverings. She used quilting frames suspended from the ceiling. They made walking through the small living room next to impossible. She made at least four quilts and coverings for my babies’ nurseries. As I write, I have company up in my guest room and she is sleeping under one of those quilts. My mother was keenly interested in making all kinds of things. She embroidered and smocked and made dolls and aprons. She made sweatsuits and curtains, stuffed bears and potholders, purses and pajamas. We wore handmade dresses and coats and bonnets. We had the best halloween costumes and great parts in school plays because the teacher knew she could count on our costume designer. Christmas spilled out everywhere in our little house. We, in short, had it made. We had it all made by our mother.

She opened her mouth with wisdom and kindness. Time and space constrain me, but let me just say that profundity is when an adult can think back and still remember phrases and their intonations—phrases that were spoken forty-plus years ago. Things like:

“Cindy, if you read your Bible and find out that I have taught you something that’s not right, you do what the Bible says. Know that doing that is what will make me happy.”

“Cindy, people who make fun of you for doing the right thing are the same people who, really, deep down in their hearts, respect you for it. One day you will learn that.”

“Cindy, you had better be very careful about everything you do, because there are two little sisters who are watching every move you make and they want to be just like you.”

“Cindy, don’t ever let your boyfriend give you money. that’s just not respectable.”

My mother feared the Lord. I really believe this was the trump card that made all of the above so evident in her life. She had this amazing way of boiling all of the decisions of daily life down to the question, “What is most pleasing to God?” The question was pervasive and invasive, and we visited it and revisited it on a daily basis. Conviction took us to every service and to run the children’s bus program an hour before each service of the church. Conviction had her sew a gym uniform for me that met all the class standards but had extra length for modesty. Conviction had a class full of middle school girls learning about fearing the Lord. Conviction had her spending time with them outside the classroom in cook-outs in our yard and in flower-picking trips to make bouquets for girls who were leaving for college. Conviction had her opening up that worn-out Bible and showing us passages relevant to some raunchy attitude she was seeing in us or some discourteous remark made. If we weren’t careful, she was assigning us long passages to learn; passages that she deemed appropriate to help adjust our attitudes or demeanor (and we weren’t even home schoolers). The Bible was just like a giant magnet in the middle of the metal of our lives. It was the control, the draw, the reference point.

I cannot remember anyone ever commenting that my mother was charming. But many people of all ages filed by her casket in October of 1992 and commented that she was the best Bible teacher they had ever had. They cited that she had made the Bible come alive or that she had made even the outcast among them feel worthy. That night I was glad for the fulfillment of the prophetic proverb: Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

This has been long. If you only could know how selective I have been, you would appreciate the post for its brevity. My mother was not perfect. She was often weakened by sin, but then strengthened by the power of His might. She struggled with evil, but overcame with prayer. She sometimes fainted, but was renewed by the Spirit. See, though she was larger than life to this little girl, she was only human. I had to grow up to know she wasn’t really perfect. And, just about the time I began to see her human-ness, the possibility that she had flaws, her mortal limitations, she went and put on immortality. My mother really is sinless now. She is perfect, flawless, completely invincible. I can truly call her blessed.