Last night, life presented my sister and I with yet another challenge. It was 9:30 at night, and we had to clean out the stove pipe because it was packed with creosote. We spent an hour being chimney sweeps, and then putting the stove back together again. We both were covered in soot from head to toe. We tried really hard to laugh about it, and I–through the power of the Holy Spirit–tried hard not to give way to despair and filthy language. Oh, what challenges life hands us. In this on-going journey to finding my beauty, I wonder–where can it be in the midst of all these challenges, the mundane, and the unfulfilled longings and dreams? Life has a way of keeping you from the beauty, of losing sight of the romance. As I am kneeling on top the wood stove with my knees on two towels, and still feeling the heat, covered in soot, in the ugliest outfit ever conceived by womankind, I ask myself, “Wow!!! Is this really the sacred romance?” I think I am really living out the Cinderella experience. I am the real life cinder girl, and frankly I am thinking, “I want out!” How about you?
My sister and I live in a very small town in northwest Ohio. The winters are long and the summers are short. The winters are always a combination of ups and downs in weather, but one thing you can count on is that we will have a lot of gray days. In the midst of the gray days my ache and longing for travel and beauty rises to the surface of my heart. I wonder to myself, in my journal–what happened to my life? What happened to the little girl who believed in the prince? She knew, that precious girl knew, he would come. He would take her away to exotic locales, and woo her forever. That little girl had a romantic heart. What kind of heart do I have now? I have a heart that needs some mending, some binding up, some wisdom, some revelation, and some training in the ways of the heart. I know Jesus is waiting for me. Why do I not take my heart to him? I guess if the truth be told, I do not believe that he cares. Jesus, I need your life to invade my heart because I know that I have been born again! I am taking up your offer to release me from the power of the old man’s convictions and agreements I have made in my heart, that are keeping me from the life I need in you. (Isaiah 61:1) The more I realize it, I am a woman who is being trained and romanced at the same time. I have become a woman of substance through it all. There is something to me. I know how to be adaptable in about any situation. These years have been a teaching tool, and wow, the lessons I have learned. I used to think that femininity was all gentleness and kindness, but the truth is, we do not all live in an antebellum home with Rhett Butler graciously doing our bidding. My sister Sierra and I are single because God is developing us and our character. We have learned that femininity is beauty inwardly and outwardly, plus a host of other things like substance. A woman who is beautiful, but has never had to deal with life, is only one sided. A woman who is beautiful and alive to her heart, has to deal with life. Life is not all gentleness and sweetness. Sometimes it is flat out hard, and how are you going to respond to that? One thing Jesus has taught me, is that he said to be gentle and cunning. (Matthew 10:16) I have spent a lot of my life being gentle, but not cunning, and the cunningness of others–and ultimately the enemy–has taken me out many times. Jesus does not want us to be ignorant, although I think the world, the devil, and unfortunately, sometimes the church, wants us to remain in a state of ignorance. To be a woman of substance, you need to be many things. God has to train you. This should bring a precious relief to your heart because it is not all up to you. Do you find yourself in life feeling very untrained, and undisciplined, and flat-out ill-equipped for life? Well, welcome to a place where many women find themselves. It is a place where we have to come to God, and say “God, train me!!! …”Help me to get the creosote cleaned out!” Jesus is faithful and he will train you.
Jesus calls us to so much more than the striving woman of the world and the church. He also calls us out of the places where we are ignorant, untrained, and undisciplined. I am drawn to women of substance. They are engaged in life–the reality of life–which is the life of the heart, where Christ resides in us. I encourage you, if you are in a place of character-building so God can make you a woman of substance, ask him to send you women along the way, who are further along in the journey. What is a woman of substance? She is a woman who loves Jesus and trusts him for her life story. She is captivated by his love and only longs for more. She is a woman who is a lover, and a student, or disciple, of his word and living presence in her life. She is a woman who knows something about life, and who is engaged in the process. Ladies, we are all in process, some women are ahead and some are a few steps behind, but we are all taking our queue’s from Jesus. Do not stay where you are, come out of either striving and hiding and place your hands in Jesus’ hand and let him lead you into becoming a woman who is more than you are now.
Remember my love for Esther? She was beautiful, but she was cunning, resourceful, inviting, mysterious, and a woman who sought God out for his presence in her life. She was a woman of substance. In the midst of her life, she rose to the occasion with gentleness and cunning. She had been trained by life to be more than just a beautiful woman, who is absent from reality. She was a woman who engaged in the battle, and she was able to come through in her femininity. She was a woman of true substance. Pretty faces, beautiful bodies, they come and go, but the substance of a woman is so much more. It is her essence. The deep things of her heart are alive, even when she is covered in soot, and questioning the sacred romance. Please remember that Jesus is faithful and he will help you through the hard places of life, and bring times of refreshing and romance in the midst of the training.
I thought I would encourage you with some of the lessons or examples I have learned on my journey to becoming a woman of substance. Purchase a journal and write down all the things you love. I mean everything. Then, I want you to realize that you could not love anything without your heart. Become a journaler, at your pace. It is so good to look back and see how you have grown. I encourage you to become a disciple–or as one teacher puts it–an apprentice to Jesus. There is not one area that Jesus cannot teach you about, so become a student of life with Jesus as your teacher. I encourage you to become a student or disciple of his word. You need to know how to live, and to be able to give an account of why you have chosen to live for and through Christ. Then, whatever it is you love or have an interest in, go on-line, and learn about it. Take a trip to your local library and take out books on all sorts of things. Take a class on it. Join a club that teaches about what you love. There is nothing more sad in this world than to find women who have no idea who they are, or what they like or even love. To be a woman of substance, you need to find out what you like and love–what makes your heart come alive. Purchase a Webster’s Dictionary and find out what words mean, not what you think they mean. Become a woman who reads. Challenge yourself to learn. Find a form of exercise that you can invite Christ into. Worship him as you learn to walk, row, dance, or do that yoga pose you never thought was humanly possible. These are just a few things that I have done, and you can too!!! God bless you on your journey to finding your own beauty and substance. ~Starla