Linda LeYanna - Woman of Valor
By Jennifer Ellison
My dad died a week before my mom’s radiation treatments were complete. She had been visiting him every day since he was admitted to the ICU for complications from a diabetes-related amputation. In the middle of her visits, she would walk over to the Cancer Center, located in the other wing of the hospital, and receive radiation for her breast cancer. As she walked, she would contemplate her life, her marriage and the goodness of God in the midst of the difficulties of life. She was a two-time survivor of breast cancer and of two types of skin cancer. Soon she would be a widow.
When my dad died, he left her, in her words, “with wonderful children and a large load of credit card debt.” The debt that would weigh her down was, ironically, a result of my dad’s deep love for my mom. Much of the debt was accrued to improve the quality of their lives in the last years they had together and much of it was from partially executed schemes to start businesses designed to provide for her when he died, businesses that never came to fruition.
After his death, she continued to work at her part-time job, not sure that she would ever be able to get out of debt or retire but thankful that between her paycheck and social security she would just barely be able to keep her head above water. The credit card companies would not budge on the interest rates or payments and she didn’t feel right about declaring bankruptcy. But she had the gift of faith. Faith that God saw her, loved her and would take care of her no matter what. It might not be easy, painless or glamorous, but God would provide. He always had. It would be sufficient and she would be grateful.
One month she faced two large medical bills that she was not sure how she would be able to pay. She went to church and felt God leading her to donate a certain sum of money to the food bank. This seemed illogical to her as she didn’t know how she would be paying her own bills but she had learned that it is better to obey God than not. So she wrote a check and left it on the alter along with the gifts of the other members of her congregation. When she got home and looked through the mail from the day before she found a check from her former co-workers for 40 times the amount she had given. God had blessed her obedience and provided the money to pay her medical bills.
By the grace of God in the form of surviving spouse benefits from the military (that she had originally been told she didn’t qualify for), an interest-free loan from family, gifts from friends, family, co-workers, and the church, she has been debt-free for over two years. Five years after my dad's death, at age 64, my mom will graduate from college with her bachelor’s degree. Her capstone project was creating a seminar called “Women and Cancer” where women could come together to hear share their stories about surviving breast cancer. She invited survivors representing women from nearly every decade of life to share. There were women who reconstructed, women who didn’t, women who had chemo, women who had radiation, children and spouses of survivors, representatives from the local cancer association who met and learned from each other. Attendance the first year was small (volunteers outnumbered attendees) but the reviews were incredible. People were educated and encouraged; tears were shed. Healing happened; hope was renewed.
Today she volunteers for the local “Loaves and Fishes” distributing food to people who are in need…a place she has been many times in her life. She is considering learning Spanish because she wants to give the food bank clients the dignity that comes by communicating in their own language.
She will kill me for sending this in. Kill me when I post it on my blog. She will point to so many other women that she thinks are women of valor and will not include herself in their company. She thinks her life is normal. She thinks that what she does and what she gives are nothing more than things any woman would give or do in response to what God has done for them.
She underestimates her valor.
For all her strength, perhaps her greatest weakness is that she does not know how strong she is. Her faith, courage and obedience have touched the lives of so many and that is why I am nominating my mom, Linda LeYanna as a Woman of Valor.
Jennifer Ellison feels called by God to love broken people, help others understand the Bible, and equip leaders for God's redemptive work in the world. This mission is lived out as she works part-time as adjucnt faculty in Bible and Theology in Western Seminary's distance learning program, at her church, City Life Church in Grand Rapids, and as a stay at home mom and wife living on a college campus with her husband, Cory, who is a Resident Director in a men's dorm. Be sure to check out her blog.
This post is part of our Women of Valor series. Eshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone. Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor. One of my goals after completing my year of biblical womanhood was to “take back” Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valor. To help me in this, you submitted nearly 100 essays to our Women of Valor essay contest. There were so many essays that made me laugh, cry, and think I’ve decided that, in addition to the eight winners we featured in August, I will select several more to feature as guest posts throughout the fall.