Anything But Empty

"Let your words be anything but empty."

Eshet Chayil

womanofvalor

A few weeks ago I wrote about women; how women see, relate to, and speak to one another.  I tried to address some of the underlying tensions that taint the way women interact and the stereotype that women secretly dislike and distrust one another, with every insult, compliment and dialogue cloaked in some kind of veiled attempt to tear the other one down.

At the end of that last post, I issued a challenge of sorts, or a hope, that we can begin rewriting that story.  I think, on some level, we are afraid that by praising strengths in another woman, especially strengths that we may not have, will somehow shine a light on our own deficiencies and reveal where we are most insecure, and where we aren’t as good. And I think a good place to start is to intentionally begin praising and recognizing the incredible women that are in your life.

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Blogger and author Rachel Held Evans introduced me to a concept of the Proverbs 31 woman that I had never heard; that it is used not as a prescriptive laundry list, but rather a poem of praising a certain woman for the way she lives out wisdom in her life.  Rachel describes the account of her Jewish friend who says that her husband sings it to her at every Sabbath meal.

The poem praises a “Woman of Valor”, or “Eshet Chayil.” Traditionally, Jewish men have memorized Proverbs 31 and recited it to the women in their lives who live out wisdom and valor.  But I don’t think that means I shouldn’t be able to use it to praise the women who show me daily what it looks like to live with wisdom and valor in so many different ways.

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Eshet Chayil!

…to my best friend, whose job is to wake up every day and go and love children who are hurting and crying, you choose to love them not knowing how long their precious lives will last, knowing that you can’t heal their illness but that you can chase away some of their scariest moments.  You choose to love them knowing your heart could break the next day when you step through the doors of the hospital. And that makes you brave.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to my roommate and friend, whose passion and hard work are second to none. I have seen you put your mind to so many things and not only achieve, but excel, in every single one of the.  Now your job is to work hard on behalf of those who are sick and hurting, advocating for those who need you, and caring for people in their most intimate and vulnerable places, and I wonder if they’ll ever have any idea how lucky they are to have you.  You teach me to pursue and to fight.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to that momma/accountant/wife/friend, you are so much to so many people. You open your home and share the warmth of your family with whoever needs it. You refresh the hearts of those who are tired and you speak encouragement and wisdom. Your home is a place where people find rest and their hearts are at ease.  They don’t feel unwelcome or a burden.  You show me how to be warm and charitable.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil

…to my sister who always makes me laugh and astounds me with your work ethic, yet your ability to go through life with an effortless grace and humor. Everything you do, you try so hard to do well, and you give all of your heart. Whether it’s for a black belt in karate or for the kids you teach, you invest so much of your heart, time, and abilities, and that inspires me every day.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to that almost-sister, literally on the ground in Africa, fighting on behalf of the widows and orphans.  You are the smartest person I know, you could’ve done anything you wanted and got a job anywhere in the world, and you took an internship in Africa to be a part of God’s justice there.  You are on the frontlines and I am so proud to know you.  You are fearless.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to that sassy friend, who brings out the sass in me! I look at your life, and how you make every day into an adventure, and I learn so much from you. You are always available to talk, to encourage, to write letters, and send texts.  You seek so much to live every single day wringing out the best of every single moment, and whether I am quoting movies with you or learning from you, I enjoy every single second with you.  You are so eager to understand, to challenge and be challenged, and to live life with courage, daring and bravery. And you are one the bravest women I know.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to my mother. You love and sacrifice so much for your loved ones, and your children.  You have been through so much, you have survived so much and you have grown so much.  Every day I see you strive to be better then you were the day before. You have so much faith and trust and belief in me and it encourages me every day.  You have shown me what it means to persevere.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to the artist, you see the world in a completely different way and in those moments where you share what you see with us, we see it different to. You express love, joy, hurt, and pain with paint, pastels, and music in a way that never ceases to amaze me. You feel everything so hard and it spills out in every art form in beautiful, messy, brilliant, and gut-wrenching ways.  You take color and canvas, and you make something beautiful, something that I never could’ve imagined but when I see it, I can’t imagine anything else. You teach me to see.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to the student who asks, who questions, who challenges, who doesn’t take the easy answer, or accept it “just because.” You turn every thought over in your head, examining it, breaking it apart and putting it back together.  You aren’t satisfied with the regular, the normal, the common, you want to be you and you are bravely carving out what that looks like. Your wit, your words, your passion, all of them amaze me. You teach me how to learn.

You are a woman of valor.

Eshet Chayil!

…to stay-at-home moms, single moms, working moms, pastors, wives of pastors, those who are volunteering to hold babies in the nursery, career women working 9 to 5, students, nurses, writers, dreamers, poets, artists, daughters, sisters, aunts, doctors, seminary students, wives, survivors of abuse, neglect, physical illness, and mental illness. I’ve known so many of you, and your strength, your love, your laughter, your courage, your tears, your struggles, your smile, your prayers, your gifts, every day they challenge me and make me better.

I delight in you and am proud that we are on the same team, fighting for God’s love, justice, mercy and restoration in this world

Thank you for being in my life, and thank you for showing me what it looks like to be a woman of valor.

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