Proverbs 31:30-31 – Charm can be deceptive, and beauty doesn’t last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised. Praise her for the many fine things she does. These good deeds of hers shall bring her honor and recognition from people of importance.
Gratitude Day 722
Americans live in a country where we seem to have a special day for almost everything.
And a bunch of other “special” days throughout the year.
When I lived overseas for a year, I discovered a special day that I had never heard of before. Seriously. I taught English in the country of Kazakstan at a state-run university. Our students were so excited that we would get to celebrate International Women’s Day with them on March 8th. I tried to hide my ignorance in not evening knowing there was an International Women’s Day … let alone what we should be doing to celebrate it!
Our female students were shocked when the other American teacher (also a female) and I admitted that we were not familiar with this day. We shyly tried to explain that Americans celebrate another day for women in May that we call Mother’s Day. Once the females in our classes realized that Amy and I had no clue what to do on March 8th, they couldn’t wait to tell us exactly what we should do.
International Women’s Day was considered a national holiday in Kazakstan. No one expected us to have classes at the university that day. We compromised and said that we would hold class as part of the celebration. So, we met our students at the location where the main celebration was help in the large city where we lived. We listened to the Russian speakers and tried to understand a little bit of what was said. We accepted flowers and other little gifts from our students, who declared that we were “the best English teachers ever.” We ate food and watched native Kazak dancers and marveled at the beautiful local dresses and costumes that many women wore. I felt a little drab in my western khaki’s, sweater and black coat that I had been wearing on repeat all winter long.
My students tried to convince me that the rest of the world celebrates International Women’s Day, even if the U.S. doesn’t. This is the one day of the year when women are esteemed and honored and appreciated. This was especially important for the young ladies in our English classes who were struggling to be accepted in a culture that was still very male-focused and dominated.
These were young women who wanted to be professionals with careers and families. Yes, women did work outside of the home. Mostly, because they had to. Families needed the mom to work so they could simply pay their bills. Women worked only in very traditional positions: secretary, teacher, factory worker. Our classes included young women who wanted to be lawyers and diplomats and own companies of their own. Knowing English was their ticket to getting hired by a western company that could help pave the way into their future.
While there continues to be disparity for women in the workforce here in the U.S., please believe me when I say women in our country have so many more opportunities than these young Kazak and Russian ladies. Getting a university degree was still very new for women in Kazakstan at the time I was there. Certainly, women could not be considered for certain positions. It socially was not acceptable. At all.
Yet, celebrating women was such a big deal! A national holiday! Women were paraded and recognized and honored. Moms and sisters and grandmothers and aunts and cousins and friends congratulated each other and shared special moments together and possibly a little gift if it was feasible.
As I stood at these International Women’s Day festivities, I remembered the women who have molded and shaped me: my Mom, grandmothers, female mentors, teachers, advisors and friends who have encouraged me when I questioned my abilities. Provided helpful suggestions and yes, even criticism. Challenged me to think bigger and deeper and broader. Women who sometimes saw more in me than I saw in myself.
The Ideal Woman
The last half of the 31st chapter of the Old Testament book of Proverbs celebrates women, or more accurately, a woman of noble character. This woman is portrayed as being able to do everything imaginable that a noble woman could do … and more. Her abilities are never-ending and far-reaching. There is nothing this woman cannot do well.
We can read this description of an ideal wife and can be overwhelmed with trying to do all these things. But I’m not sure this is the intention of this writing. Trying to do everything that is listed is, well, impossible. No woman could ever do it all.
Maybe this is the underlying point of this description. No woman, not even Mary, Jesus’ mother, could do everything right. Perfect. Just so. If any woman did, she would be divine.
Instead, God created us just the way we are. As individuals, each woman has unique gifts and talents. As a whole, women are wired differently than men. In God’s eyes, we don’t have to be perfect. We just need to be willing to listen and hear God in our lives and then try to follow God’s leadings in our lives.
If you are a woman, rather than assuming God wants you to be perfect today on International Woman’s Day or any other day, let’s celebrate the woman you already are.
- The woman who has tried to keep her family safe in a shelter or underground subway station overnight.
- The woman who ate less so her children could eat more.
- The woman who gets up before anyone else in the household so she can have a few quiet moments with the One who created her before the chaos of the day begins.
- The woman who wipes away tears from a young person’s cheek.
- The woman who cheers on another lady, even if she thought this opportunity should have been hers.
- The woman who has been hurt and beaten and cannot figure out a way to leave this awful situation.
- The woman who leads a company or a non-profit or a work group to the best of her ability.
- The woman who longs for children and yet, has not been able to have a family.
- The woman who works harder than anyone else.
- The woman who struggles with pain and grief and still puts one foot in front of the other.
- The woman who longs for a full night’s rest.
- The woman who is lonely and feels isolated.
- The woman who smiles even when she is sad.
- The woman who thinks of herself last and makes sure everyone else is taken care of.
- The woman who quietly lives her faith and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Friend – if you are a female, I celebrate YOU today. YOU are a beloved child of God that was designed just the way YOU are. I pray that YOU will encourage another female today and celebrate the women who have guided YOU through this journey we call life. May we not strive so much to be perfect, and instead yearn to become the person God created YOU to be.
For the opportunity to celebrate women around the world today, I am grateful.
Holy God – Thank you for the beautiful and rich women You brought into my life. Thank you for all these ladies who have given me a bit of themselves to help me grow into the person I am today. Bless women around the world this day. So many of them are living in challenging situations right now. Please bring them even a moment of peace and silence in their lives. Amen.
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