Monday, July 30, 2012

Never Surprised

For he looks to the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
Job 28:24

God is not surprised. Not now. Not ever. He wasn't surprised in Eden. He wasn't surprised at Golgotha. He's never been surprised for a moment in history. 

Disappointed. Saddened. Angered. Frustrated. But never surprised. 

I recently wrote a post about my favorite name for God. 'El-Roi: The God Who Sees Me'.

He sees all; He Knows all. 

Right now our world is bleak. There are people weary from the fight. There are hearts wondering what has happened and how it could have happened. This is what happens with churches fall apart. When the ugliness of the human race creeps into power in the body of believers. We're not immune to sin, even though we are saved from it.

Our world feels dark and the load feels heavy. My heart is aching for people that I love. I'm tempted to say that 'all' I can do is pray. As if prayer isn't action. As if prayer isn't powerful. As if prayer isn't good enough help. Oh, ye of little of little faith.

I worship the God who sees me. The God who is never surprised. The God who has it all under control, even if it feels like being in the middle of a mighty whirlwind.

God didn't make this happen but He did allow it. That is true for every pain, struggle, trial, and heartache you or I will ever experience. Sometimes it is for correction, to get us back into the safety of His flock. Sometimes it is to test us, to see if we will still choose to praise Him when our circumstances seem unbearable. Sometimes we have no idea what He's up to and we won't know until we reach the other side of Eternity. But He is still in control. Always in control. Never surprised.

It's not possible for His plan to be thrown so far of course that we end up outside of His plan. Our lives may be re-routed and end up on long and rambling detours, but that doesn't mean we've gone of His grid. He sitll sees us. We're still in the palm of His hand.

See, I have engraved you in the palms of my hands. 
Isaiah 49:16

When Dayton was diagnosed with jaundice and we had to stay overnight in the hospital I still felt like I had no idea what to say to this stranger who belonged to me. My mom was a natural, she talked and sang and  knew just what to do. I couldn't seem to think of anything to say or any songs to sing. Me, who always has a song in my heart. But I was left alone with him once and I remember looking into his little bassinet and I just started to sing, 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands'. He loved it. I don't know how I knew it because he couldn't smile yet, but I could just tell that he loved my singing this song to him. I sang it to him again the other day. It's become our anthem, our reminder, that God is in control. And that day in the hospital I just kept adding verses, anyone I could think of, even our dog. Well, I'm still adding those verses. It's now our prayer. Every time I sing this simple melody, borrowed for my childhood of simpler times, I am actually praying. I'm calling on God's power, on His control, on His watchful eye. I name the people I love and that are in need of His comfort. If you're one of them, please believe, you are in His hands.

The Lord bless you 
    and keep you; 
 the Lord make his face shine on you 
    and be gracious to you; 
 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace. 
Numbers 6:24-26

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Cheering Example to Her Sex

This is the biography portion of my thesis regarding Sarah Josepha Hale and 'true womanhood'. I may end up sharing more bits and pieces of that paper as I find her words and thoughts on domesticity to be inspiring for me, as I am coming into my own as a mother as well as a wife. 
I hope you enjoy reading about this incredible woman and maybe you'll get a sense of what I love her so. 
When Sarah Hale sat down to write her cookbook full of practical and stern advice to American housewives, she made sure to tell her readers, “I …write what I know to be true…I have been a housekeeper, both in the country and the city, and have had a practical knowledge of those rules of domestic economy which I shall recommend. And I have brought up a family of children, without the loss, or hardly the sickness, of one of them during infancy and childhood. I can, therefore, claim some experience” (Good 11-12). She knew that it was important to establish her credibility when giving ‘rules of domestic economy’ and even more so, when instructing women on True Womanhood. Sarah Josepha Hale was, in fact, one of the leading authorities concerning True Womanhood and “no one has had greater influence, or become more universally popular among her countrywomen” (Woman’s 686).
If truth be told, the works of Sarah Josepha Hale seem to have been passed over by many scholars interested in True Womanhood. The majority of writing concerning Hale focus on her work with Godey’s Lady’s Magazine and little else. This is a phenomenon that would surprise most nineteenth-century women because she was instrumental in the formation and continuance of True Womanhood. In her time, she was well-known for being a champion of women’s education and philanthropic causes, as well as, an authoress of novels, advice annuals, and cookbooks. True, Hale was not the only woman writing about women and for women. For example, women like Catharine Beecher and Margaret Fuller have interesting writings concerning True Womanhood, both for and against it. What makes Hale unique is that she was the complete package—a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and career woman—unlike Beecher, for example, who never married or had children. Given her wide influence and her personal experience, Hale is a qualified candidate for study and research that has been disregarded for far too long.
 In 1788 Sarah Joespha Buell was born in small town in New Hampshire. Her father, Gordon Buell, had been a farmer but abandoned farming after years with little success to be an innkeeper, which would prove to be just as unsuccessful. For Sarah, this meant that “poverty and home-schooling [would be] the two major elements of her childhood” (Montgomery 63). Concerning her education, Sarah would go on to write much later in life:
I was mainly educated by my mother, and strictly taught to make the Bible the guide of my life…The books to which I had access were few, very few, in comparison with the number given children now-a-days; but they were such as required to be studied—and I did study them. Next to the Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress, my earliest reading was Milton, Addison, Pope, Johnson, Cowper, Burns, and a portion of Shakespeare (686).
 This education may have been homespun but it opened Sarah to the world of language, imagination, and religion. She was eternally grateful to her brother, Horatio, who was attending Dartmouth, for “supervis[ing] his sister’s progress in a course of study paralleling his own, and which included ‘Latin, and the higher branches of mathematics, and of mental philosophy’” (Tonkovich 20, Woman’s 687). Her brother’s help and influence allowed Sarah to continue her education above and beyond normal standards for a nineteenth-century girl. She flourished under Horatio’s tutorship and the education she gained was near equal to her brother’s college degree.
These quaint anecdotes of Sarah’s early life show that “although Gordon and Martha Buell were not among…[the] social or intellectual elite, their home life was rich in intellectual stimulation. The details of Sarah’s childhood reading and the fact that her brother Horatio met Dartmouth’s admission requirements, suggest, that her family was well read” (Tonkevich 29). Poverty was not a prohibition to Sarah’s success, even in her early years, she learned to surpass difficulties and strive for improvement, especially the improvement of her mind.
While still living at home and helping to make ends meet, Sarah became a schoolteacher at a local school. She expanded her curriculum to include unconventional subjects including Latin, higher mathematics, and philosophy. She took her students on nature hikes and picnics so that they might study botany and other natural sciences. Sarah also insisted on teaching boys and girls together in order that girls might be able to have the same education as boys; this was an ideal she believed in and never relinquished. She had great success as a teacher, and for the rest of her life, Sarah would campaign for better educational opportunities for women.
While still a young woman, Sarah suffered the pain of tremendous loss. Her brother Charles tragically died at sea, her sister and mother both died from tuberculosis on the same day in 1811, and her father died shortly after. Yet, if every thunder cloud does have a silver lining, David Hale was Sarah’s glimmer of hope. Biographer Barbara Venton Montgomery explains, “she did not consider matrimony while providing for the members of the family, always her first concern. Without them, she turned to David Hale who wanted to care for her. They married in 1813” (64). David had stayed often inn the family inn, clearly captivated by the beautiful Sarah, and now her married her.
Their marriage was remarkable; “they had five children within nine years. They studied French, botany and geology together in the evening and with friends began a small literary society. They hiked the New England countryside together and discussed events of the day and her poetry which David encouraged her to write” (Montgomery 64). The literary society “included women as well as men, family members (David Hale and his sister Hannah) as well as other men of substance in the community…Its membership bespeaks class privilege, or so one must conclude from the rather florid account of the group, which notes the members’ ‘well-sustained complacence at their advanced social position’ (Tonkevich 30-31, Parmelee 267). The society provided Sarah with her first outlet for writing and expressing herself, and her inclusion in the society indicates that David respected Sarah not only for being his wife, but also his friend and his equal. In fact, Sarah’s inclusion in the literary society would prove to be a means to an end when Sarah was dealt yet another massive blow.
            David, the love of her life, passed away “on September 25, 1822, after a short illness [of] pneumonia”, just two weeks before the birth of their youngest son, William (Finley 37). The stun of losing a man that had cherished her as a wife, a peer, a friend, and a lover was devastating. Sarah “wore black mourning for David the remainder of her life and never considered the possibility of remarriage”(Montgomery 67). By nineteenth-century standards she should have remarried or moved in with her nearest male relative, but instead, Sarah pushed her pain aside and made a life for herself. The Hales had not been rich, although they might have lived comfortably on David’s earnings as a lawyer had he lived. However, Sarah soon realized that she would be raising her children in poverty as the few fees from David’s practice could not provide for them as they needed. Thus, “it was in the hope of gaining the means for their support and education that she engaged in the literary profession”(Woman’s 686).
            The members of the literary society used their individual influences and collective resources to get a book of Sarah’s poetry published. The book sold well and encouraged her to write her first and only novel Northwood; or Life North and South. Her novel was an “instant success” in both America and in England, and went to press multiple times. In 1830, soon after the publication of Northwood, she was soon asked to move from New Hampshire to Boston, with her family, and begin a ladies’ magazine. By accepting this invitation Sarah became the first American lady editor, a “pioneer in this species of literature” (Woman’s 686). Then, in 1837 Louis Godey, the “Prince of Publishers” bought out The Ladies’ Magazine and merged it with his own magazine, creating Godey’s Lady’s Book and making Sarah editor (Finley 43). The difficulty was that Godey’s magazine was published in Philadelphia, which would have required another move for Sarah and her children.
The decision to move from Boston was impacted by the unimaginable loss of her eldest son David—named for his father—when he passed away suddenly. Her son’s tragic death understandably caused Sarah to feel a surge of motherly protection and concern for all of her children, and so she requested that she be permitted to edit Godey’s in Boston until William, her youngest, graduated from Harvard. Louis Godey was sympathetic to her needs as a mother and allowed for her to edit the magazine long-distance. Given the difficulty of travel and the unreliability of the postal system, editing a magazine in Boston and publishing in Philadelphia was a very stressful and complicated procedure. Despite the difficulty, Sarah had amazing success; her “writing was emphatically personal and approximated conversation caught in print. This combination made her writing accessible to the readers, men and women alike, who enthusiastically responded to the magazines she edited” (Tonkevich 30).
            Sarah worked on Godey’s Lady’s Book for forty years. Under her direction Godey’s became one of the most widely read magazines of the nineteenth-century. She included recipes (which were then called ‘receipts’), fashion plates, sheet music, clothing patterns, poetry, short stories, and scholarly essays. She supervised its production through the Mexican War, the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. She retired in 1877 and died that same year at the age of eighty-nine. Her success was considered “richly deserved, and her energy, devotion, and perseverance under circumstances the most trying, afford a cheering example to her sex” (Woman’s 686).
            Sarah Josepha Hale was a woman with an interesting and exemplary life. She lived what she wrote. She had been a devoted daughter, a beloved sister, a cherished wife, and a self-sacrificing mother. Her picture of domestic bliss seemed attainable to her, because she had lived it with David. Sarah did not make impossible demands or set-up unlikely standards for her readers; she wrote what she knew, what she believed, what she felt was right. Sarah began life as a poor young girl in New Hampshire, and by her own determination and talent, she became one of the most influential and successful women of the nineteenth century, as well as an accomplished housekeeper, and proud mother and grandmother.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Original Martha Stewart

To graduate with my Bachelor of Arts in Literature I had to write a senior thesis. I considered the many works of great literature that I had read over my four years at school. But I knew that I wanted to write something different, to touch on something or someone that had been overlooked. So I skipped over Byron, Shakespeare, and Bronte...even though I love them...and settled upon a writer that had been completely ignored by the canon. Sarah Josepha Hale. I used her writings to argue that the woman's sphere was an evil institution of the past. I believe that domesticity and womanhood should be celebrated, not shunned. I feel that modernity only gives us one side of the story...the extreme feminist side. And it's not an accurate picture. 

I fell in love with Hale as I poured over her works...mostly cookbooks and copies of 'Godey's Ladies Magazine'. I read biographeies of her and the few precious words she had written about herself. She had always worked hard to be educated and well read. She was widowed young with four sweet children to raise. First a milliner, then a writer, and finally a lady editor, she labored tirelessly to provide for her children. She instructed women across the country on how to do everything from prepare a chicken to treat sicknesses to wash windows. It was Hale who rallied the ladies to write letters to Abraham Lincoln insisting that Thankgiving be made a national holiday. And it was Mrs. Hale who penned a song that every child knows, 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'. The magazine she edited for several decades was the predecessor for today's magazines like 'Lady's Home Journal' and 'Better Homes and Gardens'. She published short stories, works of music, instructions for crafts. She even befriended a young Edgar Alan Poe and helped him get published. It's for these reasons that those that do know of her consider her the original Martha Stewart. Although, Martha doesn't hold a candle to Sarah.

I fear that if I were to start in on everything she stands for that I would basically be re-writing my thesis which is over 20 pages. Instead, I've pulled a handful of my favorite quotes. Someday, when I have more time, I may write more about my dear friend Sarah Josepha Hale but for now, I'll let her words speak for her.

"I place woman’s office above man’s because moral influence is superior to mechanical invention…woman’s mission is to mould mind, and form character; while man’s work deals with material things.  I do not agree with those who would place women in competition with men in their industrial pursuits. Such a course would not only deteriorate the feminine nature, but fatally injure society, because giving material things a still greater preponderance over moral goodness than is now to be found in Christendom”

“…There were care and preparation in the forming of woman which were not bestowed on man. Why was this recorded, if not to teach us that the wife was of finer mould, and destined to the more spiritual uses,--the heart of humanity, as her husband was the head?...Does it not mark the better nature of woman, that, after the fall even, when she was placed under the control of her husband, she yet held their immortal destiny in her keeping?...not a ray of hope can be found in the destiny of the man, save through the hope given to the woman. Thus they stood together, when, after their sorrowful ‘fall’, they were drive forth from Eden, and sent—Adam to till the ground, ‘cursed for his sake’, or sin; Eve to become the ‘mother of all living’” 

“In the history of creation, it seems that Adam was not perfect till Eve was made to be with him.  All the words of the Creator were pronounced ‘good’ til we come to the man: then the word of God was—‘it is not good that the man should be alone: I will make a help-meet for him.’…The happiness and glory of Eden were then perfected”

“Is it a disparagement to the rose that it differs from the acorn? Would the peach choose to be identical with the potato? Nature gives the kindly ‘fruits of the earth’ their uses and virtues, all different and all good. With mankind it is similar. Men and women differ as essentially in their minds of modes of thoughts as in their forms”

 “And even now, happy homes may be made, it the husband and wife would lovingly work for this sweet enjoyment.  Why should all the responsibilities be laid on woman? Would it not be well to give men a lesson or two on their home-duties? Why should not the husband be advised to bring home ‘smiles and sunshine’ for the wife, which she is admonished always to ‘have only smiles and sunshine for the husband when he comes home wearied with his day’s labor’?”
“A young bride, first making her own home, should think of this, and remember that much of her future enjoyment may depend upon the halo her hand shall throw around the domestic sanctuary” 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

El-Roi...The God Who Sees Me

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”
~ Genesis 16:13 

When I was in college I was part of a women's Beth Moore Bible study. If any of you have every done a Beth Moore Bible study you know that it's pretty intense and you learn a lot--about the Bible, about God, and about yourself. Not necessarily in that order. This study was 'The Patriarchs'. At first, I thought, "The patriarchs? How can a women's Bible study be all about men?" Foolish little me just didn't see it. But I have always been grateful for that study. I learned so much...about the Bible, about God, and about myself. Not necessarily in that order.

So if this study was six or so years ago, why bring it up now? Well...lately, I've been reminded of one of my favorite parts of that study. It's become one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and it features a little respected or valued person. Hagar. Hagar gets a bad rap most of the time, I think. It wasn't her fault. She was just a pawn in Sarai's quest for fulfillment. She was used, abused, and cast aside. And posterity has had little compassion for her.

Genesis relates two stories of Hagar going out into the desert, running away from and/or thrown out by Sarai. And both times, God comes to her. The writers of Genesis paint these tender scenes of God in the form of angels coming to Hagar to comfort and guide her. The first time Hagar is instructed to return to Abram & Sarai; the second time God provides life giving water for Hagar and Ishmael and reassurance that He will sustain them. It's so clear that God has time and tenderness for this scared servant girl.

In Genesis 16, the first time Hagar runs away, she gives God a name. This is one thing I learned in 'The Patriarchs'; people in Genesis are always giving God names. In this way, Genesis is one of the best books to read to get a sense of who God really is. So many facets of His character are revealed. Hagar gives God the name 'El-Roi' (and in a humorous side note, I can't help but think of the stinkin' Jetsons...'his boy Elroy!' *ah-hem*...anyway...).

El-Roi is translated as 'The God who sees me'. 

Take that in for a moment. Soak in it. Because it really is beautiful. 

And I can tell you it's true. He does see me, and He sees you, too. I've been experiencing this incredible reality for the last 10 weeks. Ever since I started recovering in the hospital after giving birth. It's been in the little things that became really big things for me. The examples are deeply personal so I'm afraid I must keep them to myself. But I can tell you this...I cried out to God from within my heart, and I really believed He could and would do what I asked from Him...and He hasn't let me down. He is the God who sees me. He sees my pain, my fear, my exhaustion, my hopes, and he hears my prayers.

That's the other part of Hagar's story. When she and Ishmael are cast out by Sarah (her name has been changed in the time between Part 1 and Part 2 of Hagar's story) the Bible tells us that God heard Ishmael crying. And so God came to Hagar to comfort and provide for her. He proves that he's not only the God who sees but the God who hears.

So can I tell you, the next time you are afraid and feel all alone...or the next time you feel completely powerless to do what needs to be done...the next time you are over-whelmed by your reality...remember that there is a God who sees you. And just call on El-Roi. He will be faithful. He's always faithful.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

~ Lamentations 3:22-24

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