Dr. Chaney – A Woman of Valor

Transient

Dr. Chaney – A Woman of Valor
By Hope Estes, Claire Nieman, and Heidi McElrath 

Dr. Chris Chaney is constantly found in the company of stories. And whether they involve racial reconciliation, sexual identity, or David Copperfield, she always sees them and lives in them through the lens of the Gospel, the most important story of all.

Her life itself is quite a story. She grew up in San Francisco, attended UCLA, UC Berkeley, and took time off to raise two children before returning to the University of Washington to earn a Ph.D. in narrative theory. She began her job as a professor of English at Seattle Pacific University in 2000, where she would become a heroic supporter of students and their right to tell their own stories.

In 2011, a controversial student group whose goal was to foster safe communication and the telling of stories that would have otherwise been silenced was, itself, silenced. Though the SPU faculty tried to stay uninvolved, when it really mattered, they joined the side of the students—the side of the silenced. Dr. Chaney was one of the spearheads of this effort. "You only have to have one student who comes into your office and tells you they would rather die than be apart from God's love because of who they are,” she would say. “That should never happen."

She decided to stand up for these stories at tremendous personal risk. She co-wrote an open letter from the faculty to the students, which was published in SPU’s student newspaper, The Falcon, and was even willing to have her name put as the first signature. Part of the letter says, “We commit ourselves anew to make a safe place for you to live, learn and grow. And we take heart, like Paul, that nothing—nothing unwise we say, nothing shortsighted we do, nothing unthinking we do—will be able to separate each of you from God’s love that is in Jesus Christ.” These actions directly led to the group’s rescue, but more importantly gave students the knowledge that grace and love were available to them, not just because of who they are but because of who Jesus is. 

Dr. Chaney is a professor whose door is always open and who always offers tea and comfort and a listening ear. She has decided to live out the redemptive story of the gospel with her life and every day she invites all members of the SPU community to live in that story with her. She is truly an instrument of Christ’s grace and mercy, and exercises daily the costly discipline of love. Dr. Chris Chaney is, without a doubt, a woman of valor.

And best of all—today is Dr. Chaney’s birthday! Eshet chayil! 

***

Hope Estes and Claire Nieman are fourth-year SPU students and Heidi McElrath is an SPU alumna. All of them want to b like Dr. Chaney when they grow up, if only because it would make them masters at reading 19th-century literature out loud.

This post is part of our Women of Valor seriesEshet 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 to be featured this week, I will select several more to feature as guest posts in the weeks and months to come.

The winners of the Women of Valor contest, will receive a flower necklace that is hand-made by the artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit helping Burmese refugee women in Austin earn supplemental income and learn marketable skills. The necklaces and other new products in their fall line are available on their website now.  I enourage you to  read the stories of these women of valor in their Artisan Profiles and find out how you can become a Hill Triber Patron to support the artisans in their work. 

photo by Charis Dishman

photo by Charis Dishman

 Get your own TODAY!

Read the rest:
Mrs. Foster - A Woman of Valor by Jenn LeBow 
Rebecca - A Woman of Valor by Cheryl Cash 
Sarah - A Woman of Valor by Jenny Everett King
Sky - A Woman of Valor by Jonathan C. 
Sofia - A Woman of Valor by Emily Allen 
Mala - A Woman of Valor by Joy Bennett 
Hulda Nite - A Woman of Valor by Liz Myrick 

I hope you will consider writing a tribute to a woman of valor on your own blog this week. If you do, leave a link in the comment section so we can all enjoy. I'll be sure to tweet/share some of my favorites. (Note: All the winners of the contest have been notified.)

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/dr-chaney-valor

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Hulda Nite – A Woman of Valor

Left to right: Hulda Nite , Ralph Nite, and Gladys Nite

Left to right: Hulda Nite , Ralph Nite, and Gladys Nite

Hulda Nite – A Woman of Valor
By Liz  Myrick

I always pictured her with leathery hands, fingers calloused and worn from years in the kitchen.  I pictured her in a blue dress with a full skirt, though in my mind her dress would be perpetually covered by an apron that started the day a bright white and became more and more bespeckled by the hour.  I pictured her measuring out the ingredients for her pound cake by hand, plunging her thick, German fingers into the flour bin and pulling out a fistful for the mixing bowl.

In my mind, she is always caught in that period between the wars.  Brought from Germany as a bride and a mother, the proud wife of a US soldier, then promptly abandoned and left to raise her children alone as the depression dug its claws into the land she had only just begun to call home.  To me, my great-grandmother, called Granny by everyone I ever heard speak about her, is an icon forged and frozen in the years after her husband Archie left her alone to raise their three children in his country.

She has always been equal parts German kitsch and Rosie the Riveter to me, like one of the Hummel dolls she collected but with hands and a will both implacable as stone.  She seemed a simple hero who climbed, steadfast, over every barrier placed in her path: the language barrier, the barrier of being a single mother, the barrier of finding work as an immigrant in the midst of the depression. I see her life as the progression of undaunted footstep after undaunted footstep.

Everyone loves to talk about how Granny could take a pan out of the oven without a hot pad.  Years of cooking in a busy university kitchen had deadened the skin on her fingertips.  As a child, I considered it just more proof that Granny had been superhuman.  In the heady naiveté of childhood hero worship, I saw her as a statue, raising a scorching pan above her head while her skirt swirled around her knees and her apron strings swung out in a wide arc behind her.  But lately, I’ve been noticing how that image of her obscures the truth of the woman she was.  Lately, I’ve been thinking how many pans she had to burn her fingers on before she stopped yelping as she pulled things from the oven.

I think of her on the evening her husband didn’t come home from work.  I imagine her fumbling over the few words of English she knew, trying to ask the neighbors if they had seen him.  I wonder if she walked the roads, calling for him, and when she knew he wasn’t coming back.

I wonder when she realized that she could not feed her children, that she had to lose them to save them.Did her knees give out when she took her oldest, my grandfather, to live in an orphanage, or when she sent her three-year-old daughter to live with a friend?  When she held the baby to her chest, the only one she could manage to keep, did she say thanks for his comfort or did she only ask herself how she would feed them both?

It would be a year before she could bring her children home again, and even when she did, I imagine she anticipated more hungry days in their future.  Even when she made it through the odd jobs, milking cows and clearing tables, when she became a cook for the university, I imagine she did not see that she would eventually become the Head Dietician and that for decades businessmen from all over Chattanooga would swarm to that dining hall and stand in line with undergrads to buy a plate of her remarkable food.   

I wish I could whisper back through time to tell her how it would all work out.  I wish I could tell her that the faith she and her oldest son discovered together in that neighborhood mission would transform the family for generations.  

I wish I could stand beside her on the day she sent my grandfather off to the second world war, probably looking like his father in that uniform, and tell her that her son would come home all in one piece and marry a lovely woman named Juliet. That her son, the same one who spent a year in an orphanage, would become apastor, a doting husband, and a father who would see four of his own children give their lives to the ministry. 

Lately when I think about my great-grandmother, I see her not as iconic female superhero, but as something far more moving: a broken, challenged, tenacious, fragile person. I see the complexity and bravery she must have shown, but also I see the terror she must have felt.  And now, more than ever, I am proud to say that her blood runs in me

***

Liz  Myrick is a thirty-something wife and mother of two with an English degree and an administrative gig at her alma mater.  She is a person of faith, a champion of the underdog, a believer in fair treatment for all, and a smartass. Not necessarily in that order.  She blogs about rediscovering her faith, learning to live in the moment, raising a son with Down syndrome, and just generally feeling like a square peg in a world full of round holes at These Square Pegs.

***

This post is part of our Women of Valor seriesEshet 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 to be featured this week, I will select several more to feature as guest posts in the weeks and months to come.

The winners of the Women of Valor contest, will receive a flower necklace that is hand-made by the artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit helping Burmese refugee women in Austin earn supplemental income and learn marketable skills. The necklaces and other new products in their fall line are available on their website now.  I enourage you to  read the stories of these women of valor in their Artisan Profiles and find out how you can become a Hill Triber Patron to support the artisans in their work. 

photo by Charis Dishman

photo by Charis Dishman

 Get your own TODAY!

Read the rest:
Mrs. Foster - A Woman of Valor by Jenn LeBow 
Rebecca - A Woman of Valor by Cheryl Cash 
Sarah - A Woman of Valor by Jenny Everett King
Sky - A Woman of Valor by Jonathan C. 
Sofia - A Woman of Valor by Emily Allen 
Mala - A Woman of Valor by Joy Bennett 

I hope you will consider writing a tribute to a woman of valor on your own blog this week. If you do, leave a link in the comment section so we can all enjoy. I'll be sure to tweet/share some of my favorites. (Note: All the winners of the contest have been notified.)

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/hulda-nite-valor

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Mala – A Woman of Valor

We continue our Women of Valor series this morning with a special contribution from Joy Bennett, who sent this story to us this morning from Sri Lanka, where she and a fantastic team of bloggers are reporting for World Vision

Transient

"The Fire in Her Gut"
Mala – A Woman of Valor 
by Joy Bennett 

I met Mala, Woman of Valor, in her small palm-branch-thatched home in a rural village in Sri Lanka. As we sat in the plastic chairs stamped with flowers in the front room of her two-room house, she stood in the elbow between a handmade standing table and the woven palm branch wall of her home. Her curly black hair was pulled back from her face, and she shifted nervously as her daughter, Sewwandi, took a seat in the circle with us.

The house had no windows, though the woven branches let in slivers of light. The air was still, heavy, and hot. We perspired through every layer we had on as we listened to their story.

Sewwandi recently took a scholarship exam. If her marks are high enough, she will earn a scholarship that would partially cover the cost of her education. Mala explained that while the education itself is free in Sri Lanka, they must pay for books, supplies, and other fees. Sewwandi lives 3-4 km from school (over 2 miles), so they also pay for a tuk-tuk to carry her to and from. Despite the fact that they share with 7 other children, it still costs 1450 rupees per month. They have to purchase safe drinking water at 40 rupees per 40-liter container (they need at least one container per day). And their home, made of sticks and branches, isn’t water-tight during rainy season.

Mala spoke quietly but firmly as she explained that she and her husband often went hungry in order to feed their children or pay for Sewwandi’s education. She had to leave her boys with a sister so she could work in a coconut estate as a day laborer, while her husband, who is completely illiterate, works in a chili grinding mill.

Our interpreter asked Mala why education was so important that she would work so hard and sacrifice so much. Her eyes filled as she said simply, “I had a difficult childhood.”We leaned forward a little as she began to tell her story.

Mala never had a childhood. Starting at age 4, she worked as a domestic servant alongside her mother. At age 7, her parents pulled her out of school to live and work as a maid with a family an hour from home. She referred to that job as “domestic service,” but she earned just 7 cents a day (300 rupees per month). She cried as she described her father’s monthly visit to collect her pay. Each time he came, she cried and begged him to take her home. But they were so poor even this tiny amount helped. So she stayed until her mother got a better opportunity in the Middle East.

Mala returned home to raise her siblings when her mother left the country. Her efforts enabled her siblings to remain in school through level 7 (6th grade).The merciless grind of those years bred in Mala a passion for bettering the people she loved, starting with her siblings. The four additional years of education they received made a huge difference in the trajectory of their lives compared to Mala’s. For example, Mala’s twin sister is married to a government worker, lives in Colombo, and stays home with her children.

We grew frustrated and angry for her as she shared all the things she had tried to make a better life for them. We asked, “Is moving an option?” since so many of their challenges derive from their remote location. She explained that they had tried to rent a home in Colombo (Sri Lanka’s largest city), but it was too hard. Then she scraped together enough money to purchase a small piece of land much closer to the main road. But the land owner took advantage of her, also selling the property to someone else. When she began to build a house there, the other owner tore it down. When she went to the police, she discovered that the other owner had already bribed them. She lost every rupee.

In spite of it all, the fire in her gut burned fierce as she told us her one dream was for at least one of her children to finish school, no matter what it took.

Before we left, we told Mala that we were so proud of her. We said that we could see that her daughter had inherited her spunk and intelligence. I told her she inspired all of us with her problem-solving and indomitable spirit, despite overwhelming odds.

World Vision is working on infrastructure improvements in Mala’s area that will help change her life. They just completed a new road (the old path became impassable during rainy season), and the improvement plan for this year includes addressing water, electricity, and education. When you sponsor a child through World Vision, your money goes directly to her community, supporting their development work in partnership with World Vision. 

Sponsor a child, and you will also be sponsoring many women of valor, women like Mala. 

Sponsor a child today

***

Joy Bennett has been writing since the second grade and blogging since 2005. She grew up in a Christian home, and says she should know the answers to all the usual faith questions...but doesn’t. She has delivered four babies, handed two over to heart surgeons in the hall outside an operating room, and buried one in a cemetery just a few miles from her home.

Joy is right. Sponsoring a child with World Vision changes not only one life, but many. I saw this firsthand when I traveled with World Vision to Bolivia. (If, like me, you’re a skeptic by nature, check out “Confessions of a Child Sponsorship Skeptic.”)

 ***

This post is part of our Women of Valor seriesEshet 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 to be featured this week, I will select several more to feature as guest posts in the weeks and months to come.

The winners of the Women of Valor contest, will receive a flower necklace that is hand-made by the artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit helping Burmese refugee women in Austin earn supplemental income and learn marketable skills. The necklaces and other new products in their fall line are available on their website now.  I enourage you to  read the stories of these women of valor in their Artisan Profiles and find out how you can become a Hill Triber Patron to support the artisans in their work. 

photo by Charis Dishman

photo by Charis Dishman

 Get your own TODAY!

Read the rest:
Mrs. Foster - A Woman of Valor by Jenn LeBow 
Rebecca - A Woman of Valor by Cheryl Cash 
Sarah - A Woman of Valor by Jenny Everett King
Sky - A Woman of Valor by Jonathan C. 
Sofia - A Woman of Valor by Emily Allen 

I hope you will consider writing a tribute to a woman of valor on your own blog this week. If you do, leave a link in the comment section so we can all enjoy. I'll be sure to tweet/share some of my favorites. (Note: All the winners of the contest have been notified.)

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/mala-woman-valor

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Sofia - A Woman of Valor

image by Emily Allen

image by Emily Allen

Sofia – A Woman of Valor
by Emily Allen

She slipped into the kitchen where I was crisping bacon and flipping pancakes for a group of thirty people arriving to my house to share about life and faith and to learn about photography together. “Can I help you with anything?” she asked as she floated right into my heart, beginning a journey neither of us could have anticipated.

Not three months later, I stood with her in the hospital, 38-weeks pregnant with her third son, while her first son was diagnosed with Leukemia, unexpectedly fighting for his life at age six. She had no family in the country at the time, having transplanted from Europe as a result of her husband’s job. In those frightful days after Jacob’s diagnosis, Sofia and I went from being mere acquaintances to connected-at-the-soul friends. 

She called me right from the hospital to tell me what the doctors discovered about her son, who had been a normal, healthy boy up until a few weeks prior. The first weeks were tear-stained and gut-wrenching, filled with heartache and uncertainty.  Two weeks into this new cancer journey, Sofia gave birth to her baby while her husband was apart from her at Seattle Children’s Hospital with Jacob. I spent the hours following the birth with her, watching her struggle between rejoicing over her new, perfect baby and acknowledging her worst nightmare unfolding with her firstborn in a hospital not far away.

As those vulnerable moments turned into long vulnerable months, extended hospital stays with tubes, pokes, mysterious infections, and all kinds of unknowns, I witnessed first-hand Sofia’s courage in the midst of her situation. Coming face-to-face with the suffering of her child brought forth a compassionate and courageous artist.

When I met Sofia, photography was a casual hobby for her, but we've spent the past year sharing our passion for capturing people's love, relationships, and milestones. It has been inspiring to watch her develop her technical skills and pour out her soul through the lens, all while working hard to get her son well, keeping her household going, encouraging those around her to cling to hope. She has blossomed in the face of adversity, and makes beautiful images in the midst of an ugly situation. 

It would be easy for her feel sorry for herself, and for Jacob’s illness and the long journey to recovery they still have ahead, because they are far from being done. But instead of living by grief, she pounds cancer flat onto the pavement beneath her feet. She is training to run a half-marathon to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society this fall, and hopes to follow that with a full marathon at some point. 

She also reaches out to offer comfort, hope, and friendship to other families who have this frightful journey in common. She heard that another cancer mama wanted to shave her head in honor of her young son battling neuroblastoma, so she offered to capture the hair-cutting event for the family outside their makeshift trailer-home parked near Seattle Children's Hospital. 

images by Sofia Schaub

images by Sofia Schaub

Of the experience, she wrote:

I did not cry, not there, but later when going through the pictures of hair falling off. 
It's just hair, you can say but no, it's so much more. 
It's love. 
It's a statement. 
It's hope. 
It's pain.
It's a side-effect.
It's a mother’s heart.
Words are too small. 
I have seen my son’s hair fall off, seen the chemotherapy side-effects, all of them.
It is hair, but it is a big deal It is part of our identity, a part we cut and style and color and pay for to feel prettier. 
Without hair we look different, naked, people notice. 
I know God was there, counting, every single hair that fell, every tear. 
And he is there when new grows back, there in every moment. 

When I think of Sofia, I see courage. I see strength. I see someone who will stop at nothing to find a cure for pediatric cancers, for her own son, and for the many children who are diagnosed every year. And when it would be easy to blame God or despair over the situation, instead she chooses to spread hope. To experience life in the midst of hardship. To love others in the midst of their trials while she struggles through her own. 

***

Emily Allen is a wedding and portrait photographer who lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and four young children. You can find more of her work at http://solacearts.com. (All of the photos are used with permission.) She notes that “the family pictured in the black and white photos have a son who is fighting neuroblastoma and there is a video feature of them on this website, just in case that is of interest, because let's be honest, that mama is a woman of valor also, fighting for her son's life and raising awareness about his disease!”  

This post is part of our Women of Valor seriesEshet 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 to be featured this week, I will select several more to feature as guest posts in the weeks and months to come.

The winners of the Women of Valor contest, will receive a flower necklace that is hand-made by the artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit helping Burmese refugee women in Austin earn supplemental income and learn marketable skills. The necklaces and other new products in their fall line are available on their website now.  I enourage you to  read the stories of these women of valor in their Artisan Profiles and find out how you can become a Hill Triber Patron to support the artisans in their work.

photo by Charis Dishman

photo by Charis Dishman

 Get your own TODAY!

Read the rest:
Mrs. Foster - A Woman of Valor by Jenn LeBow 
Rebecca - A Woman of Valor by Cheryl Cash 
Sarah - A Woman of Valor by Jenny Everett King
Sky - A Woman of Valor by Jonathan C. 

I hope you will consider writing a tribute to a woman of valor on your own blog this week. If you do, leave a link in the comment section so we can all enjoy. I'll be sure to tweet/share some of my favorites. (Note: All the winners of the contest have been notified.)

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/sofia-woman-valor

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Sky - A Woman of Valor

Transient

Sky – A Woman of Valor
By Jonathan C.

 It started with an End. An end to all of the fun, that is.

We had been having a grand time at the restaurant, but I said it was time to go, and one of my children disagreed with that assessment. It could have been PTSD; it could have been Reactive Attachment Disorder; it could have been any number of traumas associated with being bounced through six homes in four years; and it definitely could have been your basic four-year-old temper tantrum....but the effect was the same.

My apologies to the kind Chick-fil-A cow; I hope your tail feels better in the morning.

My apologies to the other patrons; I hope you had plenty to talk about after we left.

We did make it to the car. Car seat, infant and diaper bag in one hand, writhing, shoeless four-year-old in the other, four and five year old trailing behind and ultimately fighting over which seat in the van was most awesome that night. That's when a kind woman flagged me down to say, "You are a saint!"

I'm not ungrateful. Far from it. It was a true kindness from a stranger, and sometimes those are the best kind. But what came into my mind at that moment was my wife, who had been taking advantage of the brief child-free hour to stop at a store and a consignment sale to purchase things for the children in our care.

She doesn't get anonymous cheers from strangers. She doesn't have people offer to keep an eye on the baby while she chases down the errant child. I'm not exactly sure what she would have to do to elicit a "good job" in the grocery store. It would probably involve CPR and/or a tracheotomy, although even then someone would undoubtedly think, "That woman spends way too much time watching Grey's Anatomy."

She hears things like this:

"You must have your hands full!" (Falls short of encouraging. More of a statement-of-fact.)

"Are you a nanny?" (An acknowledgement of the different races represented in our family, designed to elicit a longer conversation about why our family looks like it does, but only as long as it takes to check out.)

"Are you a day care?" (Do day care workers regularly peel off four of their charges and go to the store?)

Far from a random selection, these were comments given to my wife earlier that same day. The kids were not acting up, but calmly following her as she completed the day's errands, and yet she received scant more than innocuous observations about the number and/or color of our children.

For three years, my wife has been a stay-at-home mom to over 20 foster children under the age of six, one adoptive son, two soon-to-be daughters, and a soon-to-be son. She has been raged against, spat upon, hit, kicked, scratched, insulted, and ignored. She is isolated by circumstances, by confidentiality agreements, and by her fierce protection of her children’s dignity.

Faced with crippling tragedy, she speaks resurrection to our children. With a passion that rivals the best of gospel preachers, this 4-foot-8 suburban white woman will decry complacency, hopelessness and fear, guiding our children into a vision of healing, restoration and wholeness. She has wept tears of sorrow, pain, anger, frustration, loss, despair and exhaustion. She has raged against injustice, inefficiency, bureaucracy, and cruelty.

She has celebrated victories and rejoiced over seemingly insignificant progress, like a cloud the size of a hand that will surely bring relief to the drought.

And yet, she waits. Most of our children have gone to parents or relatives, never to be heard from again. Those that remain have much to grieve, and the object of their grief and anger is as distant as the chance of reconciliation.

As foster parents, the comment we hear most often is, “I couldn’t do what you guys do. I wouldn’t want to give the children up. It would hurt too much.” And while this statement neglects the unique and peculiar joy that our vocation brings, and leaves unacknowledged the inescapable fact that the work must be done anyway. The truth of the sentiment is much deeper than people realize. It hurts to say goodbye over and over again. It hurts to leave a job feeling unfinished. It hurts to live daily with the aftermath of neglect, abuse and trauma in children. And yes, it even hurts to be punched in the face by a three-year-old.

It hurts when she loves well. And that is what makes her a woman of valor. If you should see a short, dark-haired suburban white woman navigating her children of many colors through a public place, do me a favor.

Celebrate her.

 ***

Jonathan and Sky live in the Southeast corner of the United States. They have been foster parents for three years, caring for over 20 children. They have one adopted son and are in the process of adopting three more children. There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted, which leaves 300,000 children that just need a safe place to lay their heads and hopefully find some healing. If you are interested in foster care, contact your local DFCS office or any number of private agencies.

Isn't it encouraging to see a man celebrate his wife like this? Thanks to Jonathan for capturing the true spirit of Proverbs 31. 

This post is part of our Women of Valor seriesEshet 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 to be featured this week, I will select several more to feature as guest posts in the weeks and months to come.

The winners of the Women of Valor contest, will receive a flower necklace that is hand-made by the artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit helping Burmese refugee women in Austin earn supplemental income and learn marketable skills. The necklaces and other new products in their fall line are available on their website  TODAY! I enourage you to  read the stories of these women of valor in their Artisan Profiles and find out how you can become a Hill Triber Patron to support the artisans in their work.

photo by Charis Dishman

photo by Charis Dishman

 Get your own TODAY!

Read the rest:
Mrs. Foster - A Woman of Valor by Jenn LeBow 
Rebecca - A Woman of Valor by Cheryl Cash 
Sarah - A Woman of Valor by Jenny Everett King 

I hope you will consider writing a tribute to a woman of valor on your own blog this week. If you do, leave a link in the comment section so we can all enjoy. I'll be sure to tweet/share some of my favorites. (Note: All the winners of the contest have been notified.)

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