Saturday, May 9, 2015

Well Behaved Women


Well behaved women seldom make history.  It is a quote often incorrectly attributed to Marilyn Monroe and Eleanor Roosevelt, but is actually a book by Mormon feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  She used the book to highlight notable women in history, such as Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. While I certainly understand the original intention behind the book, I have to say that I can't wholly agree with Laurel's assessment of well behaved women.  Well behaved women make history, change the course of history, even, every day.  I should know.  I am the daughter of a well-behaved woman.

My mother is a gentle soul.  If you are blessed to know her, you probably know that she and I are complete opposites in many ways.  I am loud, and she is quiet.  I am bold, and she is cautious.  I am a confronter, and she is a peacemaker.  She is well behaved.  And me?  Well, I try.

She talks about how she grew up wanting to be a nun, before she realized that being a nun required being Catholic.  She just wanted to serve God.  And so God took the willing heart of a little girl, and he planned something greater.

She married a preacher when she was only 20.  And for over forty years, she has followed him wherever God led.  Across states and oceans and back again.   She has sold and re-bought housefuls of furniture and has made-do and sacrificed in the name of obedience to Christ.  I have seen her struggles, but I have never seen defiance.  She has faithfully relied on God as her direction and provision for as long as I can tell.

She became a mother when she was only 21, and spent most of the two following decades caring for babies.  She taught at Christian schools so that all six of her kids could have a Christian education.  She parented us with repeated little phrases that we still repeat to one another like "It's always right to do right" and "Pretty is as pretty does".  Those phrases were true when she started saying them, and they are still true.  She woke us with early morning songs and lots of clapping.  She made chore charts, and the words "pitch in" were regularly on her tongue.

My mother has always been resourceful. A woman with six kids has to be resourceful. When we were younger, our least favorite thing was when we found something we wanted to buy (or to be bought for us), and mom would whisper "That would be so easy to make". But now, my sisters and I say the same thing... because Mom was right. So many of my clothes were homemade. Taffeta dresses for school banquets, sweatshirts with puff paint for my middle school cheerleading days, bedroom curtains in teal and purple. As a child, I remember hours of thrift store shopping, stretching small amounts of money into complete wardrobes for six children. We were always well-dressed while mama dressed us. And ironed. Wrinkles were not acceptable. They still are not acceptable.

I watched as my mother battled depression, and I saw how she dove head-first into Bible study and prayer to bring her through it. I have pictures in my head of her at the kitchen table, Bible and notebooks and pens spread across. These are wonderful things I hope to model for my family, too.

Over the last few months, she has watched as my dad's life was so fragile, so uncertain. He has been on the verge of passing from this life several times. With every infection and fever and prognosis, she has been right there, praying and hoping. We have all grieved the loss of him from our daily lives, but no one feels it like my mom. Everything about her life has been turned upside down. She has had to be brave and make difficult decisions. Until the day my dad wakes up, more difficult decisions will be hers to make. And still, she is praying and hoping for the moment that he wakes up. She talks about their Alaskan cruise they have always wanted to take. I believe they will get to take it. It's just a matter of time.

You might not see her name in the history books. She is not famous. But she has six children and thirteen grandchildren whose lives have been shaped by her influence. There are people all over the world who have been impacted by her life and ministry.

My mother is faith-filled. She is kind-hearted and sympathetic. She is a listener, a counselor by nature. She loves people, and she loves Jesus.

She is indeed well behaved.

And I think she's pretty special.





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