>I was seven going on forty when I was contemplating the apparent societal paradox of being both a, “Godly woman and a strong woman”. I know. My poor mother. In desperation, I called my Aunt Linda in Austin,Texas and begged an answer. (Being a Presbyterian Minister and the smartest woman I knew, I figured if anyone could figure this one out, it’d be her.) She told me that I had only to look in the Old Testament to find strong, female examples after whom to model myself. Unfortunately, being the smartest woman I knew had some disadvantages: she wasn’t keen to the fact that to a seven year old, the idea of having to search through all the “thee’s” and “thou’s” of the King James so beloved by my Baptist family was more daunting than being last picked for kickball in gym class. After I voiced those concerns, she assured me that she had an idea.
For Christmas that year, I received the first package ever addressed solely to me. With my name on the front! Only mine! It was a chapter book with pictures. Inscribed in the front cover was a note. It read:
This a lovely story I have always been fond of. The next time I visit, maybe we can read it together. Some of the words may be a little difficult, but Mommy or Daddy can help- and they can help you find the story in the Bible, too!
Needless to say, being the child I was, I was a little offended that she thought I would need help with the words. I was in the highest level reading skills group at school, after all. They didn’t call us the “Jets” for nothing. But, I was astounded that the story of Esther, so beautifully played out in words and pictures in the book she sent me, was actually a story from the Bible. A courageous woman who broke rules? Who defied laws? Who was as smart as she was beautiful? Get out. She must be the only one.
Turns out, she wasn’t. Not even close.
So began the barrage of mail (addressed only to me) of stories that clearly defined the type of woman I wasn’t sure existed. Deborah, Ruth, Lydia, Mary, Sarah, etc. All women who loved the Lord- who had stations, and titles, jobs, and callings. Some, who commanded men, some who began churches, some who were faithful and loving wives and servants who had hiccups of faith but always came back to the saving knowledge of where and in whom they found their identity. I have poured over each story, each life, for twenty years since I first received those books. But Esther, was and still is, forever my favorite. I believed she was the first one sent to me for a reason- that we shared a special connection, somehow, and my Aunt just knew we would be life-long friends.
We celebrated the passing of my Aunt Linda this past weekend- she suffered greatly in her life and we rejoiced that she is finally able to rest, and am quite sure she is not through with asking God her list of questions she must have brought with her. ( More on that, later.) Though it was lovely listening to all of her friends and family share about her life, I spent the majority of the time marveling at the gift she left behind for me.
The illustrated Esther, now worn, replete with orange juice stains, maple syrup and further on, coffee stains marking the progression of my transformation from childhood to adulthood, has never left my bookshelf. I have moved four times, have had five different jobs and got married. Esther has come with me through them all, reminding me how to be both strong and Godly. Without always realizing it, Aunt Linda has done the same.