So yesterday was International Women's Day, and it reminded me again of what I call The Angst. That one that creeps up every now and again, those feelings of injustice at the way God's daughters around the world have suffered under the weight of oppression. And then there's the angst about the subtle ways patriarchy plays a part even in our society now. But I'm actually not here to talk about that today. The last time the angst starting creeping up, I had a conversation with God about it. Here's the thing, I don't want the job of "speaking out about women's issues." I really, really don't. I so admire those for whom that is their calling, and I cheer them on. I do NOT want that job. But I still have these feelings sometimes, so what do I with them?
And then I remembered something brilliant one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, said recently: "Feelings are just fuel we can use to create beauty." And I thought, yes. Of course. When I feel the angst creeping up every now and again, I will use that fuel to raise up another woman, to encourage her, and to celebrate her. I will respond in the opposite way women have often been treated (and are being treated around the world). It will be tiny minuscule drop in the ocean, but it will be a way for me to do something constructive with these feelings that don't seem to go away on their own.
Now as soon as I had this thought, an awful, pesky, fear thought immediately piggy-backed it. "If you talk about this AT ALL, even a teeny tiny mention of "the angst," it's going to mark you as a radical feminist and it will take away any teeny tiny voice you had to speak about anything else--most of all, your first and most consuming passion: Jesus." (Which I think is ironic, because if you read about Jesus for more than two hot seconds you'll realize he was setting the example for treating women with respect, dignity, and love.) And so I journaled it and looked at that thought on the paper. And then another thought came traipsing along, gave that thought the unimportant glance it deserved and said simply, "Write that." So I did....never mind that it was much later and it took time to muster up some guts. (That journal entry was from February 18, ahem. Whatever, I'm overcoming fears. It's ok if it's at the pace of a sloth. God is patient, my friends.)
So I am starting a series that I will post in regularly whenever the inspiration hits me. I have a lot of women in my life (and some from afar) that have inspired me, challenged me, and been the catalysts for and witnesses to my transformation. They have labored with me, been present with me, actively trying to mine the gold they new was inside me somewhere. They are too numerous to count, really.
But today I want to honor my first shero: my mom. Please forgive me, I slashed and edited the heck out of this because I have SO MUCH to write about this amazing woman. But it's still long. So pardon my abundance of words.
When she was sixteen, Leigh Ann Webb, her dad and her brother white water rafted down the Colorado River. No one would ever suspect that of my mom if you had just met her, but I’m privileged to know the woman who would camp out in the Grand Canyon with the rattlesnakes, and also play the piano on stage at Carnegie Hall.
My mom is one of my heroes, and she probably doesn’t even know it. She tends not to think too highly of herself, but I have this hunch that when she walks through the pearly gates of Heaven someday, there will be a standing ovation. She has more talent in her pinky finger than most do in their whole being, and yet she has laid her life down and sacrificed herself time and time again for her family. She has poured sweat, blood and tears (quite literally) into every ministry she’s ever been a part of, and God has changed many lives through her.
Her father was a doctor, and her brother went on to become a doctor, so she of course became a pianist.
I’m so thankful my mom was a musician, and placed a high value on the arts. She told me once that God gave us music and it was always meant to stir our souls in a way nothing else could. I used to just like “fun music”, the normal stuff that kids are drawn to, but she drank up music of all kinds, and she appreciated each genre’s unique purpose and place in the world and in culture.
When I was young, she was a teacher and accompanist for a local college in the music department, and she absolutely loved her job. I am starting to recognize now what a great impact it had on me to see my mom following her dreams and spending time on what she was passionate about. She would come home from work with the great Arias stuck in her head, and as she sang them into the food she was cooking, joy would fill the house. To most people it would be a waste to try to educate a 6 year old on opera, but that never stopped my mom. Proverbs says “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” I think my mom just overflowed with great art, so I grew up hearing the stories lines and music of Wagner and Mozart. I got more than an education in that kitchen. My mom’s passion is what rubbed off on me after all those years of listening. She was enraptured by them in a way that drew me in. And because I was too young to care about being “cultured”, or even to know what that meant, I valued them for what they actually were: great stories told through beautiful and compelling music.
I listened to "Peter and the Wolf" more times than I can count, sometimes with my mom providing commentary on where the music was taking the story. She was captivated by music’s unique ability to draw out our emotions and also create a narrative.
Music is just a part of who I am, and it’s woven into the very fabric of my life. I think I owe that to my momma. To this day, we will send each other songs that are speaking to us, and I cherish the things she taught me in that kitchen. Because of her, I know how to make Pecan Pie, how to fold a cloth napkin into beautiful origami, and how to sing Spanish folk songs to my kids (to their delight, by the way). All of the art my mom practiced and appreciated, she passed down, and my life is richer for it.
My mother is a contemplative, through and through. From her I have learned to sit with Jesus, to meditate on Scripture, and draw life and energy from it. When I was young, she desperately wanted me and my friends to grasp the scope of the STORY of scripture. The story of God, his people, his redemption and love...the whole, complete narrative. So of course because she didn't have enough on her plate (note the sarcasm in that), she decided to teach our Sunday school class. We looked at the overall arc of scripture, the recurring themes, the narrative, complete with old testament maps and charts. It was basically like an Old and New Testament survey class for fourth graders. I'm just now realizing how ridiculously rare and awesome that is. That's my mom.
My mother has bravely followed Jesus wherever he has led her all my life, and I've learned to love him deeply by watching her. She is the most nurturing, loving, homemade cookie making, welcoming person I know. But she's also so much more than that. I can't believe how lucky I am that she was the woman God picked to be my mother.