I am thrilled to introduce Caroline Wenger as this week’s Strong Woman. When we met in Paris, Caroline was the first of my peers to help me realize that we are leaders now – not when we’re “grown up.” Caroline is British-born. She lived in Paris for 5 years before moving to Swiss-German-speaking Switzerland with her Swiss-German/French husband of 9 years. She tries to keep linguisitc confusion to a minimum in her house by only speaking English to her two children aged 6 and 7. She sometimes writes, often bakes, would like to blog, attempts to garden, lives to sing and is still working out her vocation in life.
Daughters of Eve
Strong women are those who know themselves. Those who are strong in their identity and ultimately, those who know their identity in Christ. Who know where they come from – really come from. Not just their parents or place of birth (although this is important, of course) but those who have understood an accepted that they are a daughter of Eve, redeemed by Christ. I am a woman, made in the image of God. God was excited when he created me. I am fearfully and wonderfully knit together. I am not perfect, but I was made good. And what was not good in me, Christ is perfecting. This is my identity. There is no other foundation stronger than this and is the rock on which I try and build by life.
I guess that’s why my very first thought when I hear ‘strong women’ is nuns! Nuns have nothing to prove. In their rejection of all our ‘worldly trappings’, they have chosen the freedom of a disciplined life without the distractions and exhaustion of the life that I have chosen with a husband and family, work, and a home to care for. (Not that I would swap any of that!) Nuns can only do this when they are convinced that God is enough, that life without those things is not only enough, but the way they have chosen brings the abundance of joy that comes of living wholly in the presence of God and being able to concentrate on him.
I live near to a Christian community (it’s not a convent) whose women are known for their very modest dress, lack of make-up, and simple hair-styles. I recently made a comment about how these women were not free to be themselves and wear what they like. And I’m glad that a wise friend pointed out to me that they are more free. They do not have to worry about whether double-denim is in our out this year. Or if their bob suits their wide jaw or not. Or if their heels are going to be cramping their feet at the end of the day. These are strong women. They do not cow-tow what society accepts as acceptable and they know their identity in Christ is firm and established. It even made me feel a little jealous of them as I caught myself checking my make up before leaving the house. Again. Whose approval am I seeking when I walk out the door, and am I strong enough to accept myself as God sees me and not as the world thinks I should look?
As Christians we are always taught that in our weakness, we are strong through Christ. This is quite hard for me to live out for two main reasons. Firstly, I come from a family (my father’s side, at least) where dependence and weakness are frowned upon. My 94 year old grandfather still lives alone and begrudgingly has help every day getting up, washed and dressed. Independence is paramount and was to be maintained at all costs. Needless to say, this side of my family have missed out on the pleasure and the satisfaction of a life of inter-dependence. I am only strong because someone else completes my weaknesses. But I have to admit my weakness in the first place!
And secondly it’s hard because I know that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, but sometimes I struggle to receive that power. Always berating myself for not having enough ‘quiet times’, blaming children, housework, my phone for distracting me from tanking up on God’s love and strength. But thank God there is another way of receiving him: Thank God for communion – one of my absolute favourite things in life.
It is such a holy and precious thing to be able to receive God in a concrete and tangible way. For those of us with minds like butterflies flitting from one thing to the next, to be able to come to the Lord’s table and actually hold something in my hand and digest something that comes from God (or is God – who knows?) is very life-giving and strength-transferring. I once learned that communion is food for pilgrims on the journey of life and for me, this is true. I truly feel fed by the body of Christ when I have received communion. The Bread of Heaven sustains me and strengthens me. Even if my quiet-times and Bible reading habits could be a lot better. It’s a moment of grace that I could not live without. In this way, Christ is my strength.
I am closing with a poem written by a strong woman I know very well – my mum Marian Thomas. She wrote this whilst on a retreat in the cathedral city of Ely in the UK. She does not know that she is a poet, so perhaps seeing herself published on-line will strengthen and inspire her in this direction.
Quartering an apple – time to consider
In silence, cradling the apple in my left hand
Adeptly cutting it in two
In silence cradling the half apple in my left hand
Adeptly cutting it in two
In silence cradling the quarter apple in my left hand
Adeptly scooping just enough to remove the core, the pips, the potential for
Thousands more apples
They can return to earth in green waste
But left for me
The apple, rosy, juicy, crunchy
How many apples have I prepared like this, for me, for my children?
How many apples did my mother prepare for herself, for her children?
How many apples will my daughter prepare for herself, for her children?
Daughters of Eve – the apple is redeemed – Allelulia!