Notable Women in the Bible

The last sentence in the book of Judges points to a time of disarray. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. There was no accountability.

At critical moments in Israel’s history, women’s faithful prayers and actions made an impact on the future. During the period of the judges, the story of a family was recorded. Ruth was a young woman of Moab, who married a man from Israel. After her husband and father-in-law died, she made a commitment to her mother-in-law. She promised: For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16b

Ruth kept her promise and was blessed to become the mother of Obed and the great-grandmother of King David. 

Following the book of Ruth, Hannah is introduced in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel. In sorrow over her barrenness, she made a vow. She asked God for a son and promised to give him to the Lord. After Samuel was born and weaned, she kept her promise and brought him to serve in the temple.

Hannah’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving is recorded. Here is a portion:

My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.

There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none beside you; there is no rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; For the Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed

The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 1 Samuel 2: 1-4

I am inspired by Ruth and Hannah, also Esther, Elizabeth and Mary. There is blessing in being faithful.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Kate’s word for today is: ACCOUNTABILITY

Herbs in a Nosegay

This summer I have had more time in the garden. The flowers and herbs are flourishing. I picked a nosegay including these herbs with their flowers: calendula, echinacea, feverfew, lavender, mint, lemon balm and marjoram.

Some years ago, when I was working as maternity nurse and Lamaze instructor, I came across a book that fueled my interest in herbs. Susun Weed wrote, Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Her introduction alludes to the history of herbal knowledge collected by women and midwives.

Wise women have used herbs—gathered, eaten, tended, loved herbs—and taught their daughters the wisdom of herbs in the childbearing years.

I became familiar with the benefit of nettle as a nourishing herb and found nettle tea in the health found store. I now have a stinging nettle plant in my garden–grown from seed– and add the leaves to soup stock.

Stinging Nettle

The libraries have books about herbs. I discovered calendula flowers, also known as poor man’s saffron. When the flowers are dried the petals become yellow and orange threads. they can be added to rice or muffins. I make a calendula tea with the dried flowers. I am fascinated by the variations in color in this lovely flower.

Calendula flower
Orange calendula flower
Calendula lemon color

Sometimes I add mint leaves to fresh ground coffee to brew a mint flavored coffee. The leaves of lemon balm can be used for tea. 

When I worked as a home birth nurse, I carried lavender oil to use for a soothing massage. You can read about it here. The scent of lavender has a calming effect. 

lavender

Herbs are nourishing and flavorful. Some are medicinal. Rosemary and thyme are favorites in my kitchen. I am still learning ways to include more herbs in recipes. 

There are many stressful things in our world. It is good to pause in the garden, give thanks for the abundance of God’s creation and pick a little bouquet.

This post is linked with Tuesdays with a Twist and almost Wordless Wednesday at image-in-ing.

Women Establishing Order in a War Zone

In 1917 eighteen Smith College graduates went to France to provide relief measures and establish order in war torn villages. Lauren Willig has written a novel based on the reports about this group. The author read a memoir by one of the members of the Smith College Relief Unit and letters written by the young women. It is an amazing story.

The book mentioned letters being censored and the difficulty in getting accurate information. The women often did not know what was going to happen next. Makes me think of the censoring of information today. Are we in a war?

From a writer’s point of view the story is well written. Conflict, dialogue and inner dialogue are well balanced and keep the story moving forward. It is a good read.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community.

Strong Women: Midwives and Nurses

As we look back through history, we come across women who demonstrated faith and courage. Their actions were based on convictions. Some are midwives, and some are nurses.

The first book of Exodus records the confrontation between Pharoah and two midwives. Shiprah and Puah did not carry out the Pharoah’s orders. They saved the lives of Hebrew babies. I wrote about these two midwives in a 2019 blog post (click here).

Raquel Levy served as a midwife for Jewish survivors of WWII that were refused entry into Palestine. She went to the refugee camps to attend the Holocaust survivors. You can read my review of her biography here.

Florence Nightingale supervised a hospital for soldiers during the Crimean War. She made sanitary conditions and nutrition a priority. She led the way for health care standards in hospitals.

Edith Cavell was a director of a nursing school. During WWI she treated soldiers on both sides of the conflict in Brussels. She held fast to her faith, even as she was escorted to her execution. You can read more about these two nurses here.

Each of these strong women is an inspiration. 

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: STRONG

Immigrant Women and Midwives

A couple of books have stirred my thoughts and emotions. I read a lot—sometimes three books in a week.  I don’t review many. These two books have touched me.

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin is historical fiction based on a real event. In 1888 a blizzard came on suddenly in Nebraska and took the lives of children returning home from school.

The families affected were Swedish immigrants establishing farms. A main character in the story is a wife that resents being isolated on a farm. She was far from sisters, friends and relatives. When she first immigrated, she lived in the city of Minneapolis.

The story brought to mind my grandmother. When she first immigrated at the age of nineteen, she lived in the town of Calumet, close to her brothers. Perhaps 10 years after her marriage my grandfather bought a farm, miles from town. She managed (developed) the farm and took care of the children while my grandfather worked in the mines to pay for the mortgage. My mother was born on the farm. She talked about her mother’s deep depression, due to the hard work and isolation.

My mother and her siblings were affected by the family dynamics. Yet, I am here because of my grandmother’s perseverance through a very difficult time. I have a deep debt of gratitude.

The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham is a historical novel that pursues speculation that Eva Braun, companion and finally wife of Adolf Hitler, gave birth. The story begins in a work camp, Ravensbruck, where a midwife is caring for pregnant women. 

Eventually she is ordered to be the companion/midwife for a pregnant woman in high standing in the Reich. She is taken to Adolf Hitler’s compound high in the mountains.

The author is a midwife and gives an accurate account of typical midwife care that is given to healthy women, giving birth in a home setting. It brought to mind the home births that I have attended. I share the belief that environment and emotional support have an impact on the progress of labor. I did a little research about Ravensbruck—was it really as bad as the story alludes? Click here for an article about the camp.

Linking this post with Tuesdays with a Twist .

Return to Me

In the middle of the week, I have a women’s Bible study. During the week each of us spends time reading a couple chapters and looking up cross references. On Wednesday morning we meet and discuss what we have learned.

Currently we are studying the book of Amos, having already gone through Obadiah and Joel. These books gave a warning to Israel. The prophets were warning that God’s judgement was coming, because they were no longer obeying God’s commands, they were no longer honoring God with their lives.

Judgement would come in the form of famine, natural disasters, pestilence and attacks by other nations. In the book of Numbers and Deuteronomy, God promised to bless Israel if they followed his ways and to judge them if they disobeyed. He had chosen them to be an example of life lived in relationship with Him.

The phrase, yet you did not return to me, is repeated throughout chapter 4 of Amos.

Amos was giving voice to God’s purpose in judgement. God was hoping that his people would return to Him. 

God’s steadfast desire is that we return to Him, live obediently and honor Him. 

For we are the temple of the living God, as God has said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. 2 Corinthians 6:16 

5/16 I am adding a note in consideration of the events taking place in Israel. Throughout the book of Amos, God also judged the nations that attacked Israel. Some nations were utterly destroyed, but God always preserved a remnant in Israel. God has kept his covenant with Israel throughout the ages. In this time of unrest and the barrage of rockets, pray for Israel. Pray for the people, for the salvation of Jews, Arabs and Palestinians. Pray for God’s name to be exalted.

This post in linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community and Heart Encouragement

She Asked Me to Pray

After working in hospital labor/delivery units for many years, I had the opportunity to join a home birth practice. I attended healthy women in labor at home. During the active phase of labor the doctor or midwife arrived. Approximately ten percent of the women were transferred to the hospital for interventions–less than ten percent required a cesarean section. I am grateful that I was able to observe the natural progression of labor in the home setting. The following poem reflects combined experiences. The poem and is an edited version of one previously published on my blog..

Labor pains came gently through the night.

Morning light streamed on her rocking chair.

Her labor intensified. She walked slowly,

hand on my arm and listened for encouraging words.

Her movements were intuitive. She labored,

finding comfort in firm back massage.

She knelt down and asked me to pray.

No pain medication. She asked me to pray.

I prayed as she moaned and released her body to

Waves of pain and pressure. Her cries filled the air.

Her body pushed. The midwife supported

the baby and lifted her to welcoming arms.

I recorded the time of birth.

Morning light was now an afternoon glow.

I marveled at God’s design.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community .
              

               
              
              

               


              

        

Birth During the Pandemic

Yesterday I listened to a couple take about their birth experience. They had planned to have a home birth. Having had the experience of assisting at home births, I thought their choice was good—especially during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the mom needed to be transferred to the hospital after many hours of labor. Soon after arriving she had a cesarean section. I was pleased to hear that they placed the baby on her chest, skin to skin in the operating room—a soothing and a bonding moment for mom and baby.

The baby was then taken to the neonatal intensive care unit due to a low blood sugar. The mom was tested for covid and although she had no symptoms, she tested positive. As a result, neither she nor or husband was allowed to go into the nursery. They were separated from their newborn for ten days.

It saddens me to hear how covid has affected procedures in hospital birth care. The couple has returned home with their baby. They are redeeming time together, bonding with their baby.

So many things are more difficult during this time. My heart goes out to new mothers who are recovering from the emotional experience of birth. How did it feel to be attached to monitors and intravenous lines with care givers coming in with masks and face shields? Did they have a support person with them throughout labor? As they think about the birth experience, they are in a process of physical recovery.

Recently I found a file with notes that I had shared with my Lamaze classes.

The physical changes that occur in a woman’s body in the days and weeks following birth are enormous. The uterus which has grown to a two-pound sac at the time of birth will reduce down to a two-ounce muscle in six weeks (hence the after-birth pains).

Vaginal drainage (lochia), which lasts about two weeks, marks the healing process of the uterine lining.

During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume has gradually increased, supporting the growing baby. In the first week after birth, approximately five pounds of excess fluid are lost through urine and sweat.

Following birth there are major hormonal shifts. Estrogen and progesterone drop off markedly and prolactin levels peak. The body prepares for breast milk production. All of this happens after the exhausting event of labor!

In a future post I will share ways to prepare for the recovery period following childbirth.

Note: photo is courtesy of T. Adriaenssen

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: REDEEM

International Women’s Day

This post was originally posted in 2017.

As women in the United States we can give thanks for the progress that has been made in women’s rights and opportunities. My maternal grandmother and paternal great-grandmothers immigrated to Michigan from Finland. With great effort they raised families while managing subsistence farms. My paternal grandmother wanted to go to elementary school but was needed at home.

I am thankful for these women!

My opportunities are much greater than theirs were. I have benefited from their sacrifices.

I recently finished reading I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl*. Hilda Satt Polachek came to the United States from Poland as a child.   Within two years her of family’s arrival,  her father died. Hilda’s mother was faced with raising the family in a new country. Hilda went to work in a knitting factory at the age of thirteen to help support the family. She received help and encouragement from the Hull House women.

In the United States we have made great  progress, and  we need to      acknowledge this. Women have equal rights and opportunities.

Currently more young women are going to college than young men. Click here for the research.

I am thankful for God’s word and the assurance that He loves me, a woman. Jesus demonstrated his respect, his concern and his equal treatment of women.

I am thankful for my church and the freedom to worship that we have in the United States. Many women in the world do not have this freedom or the same opportunities.

Gratitude leads to a sense of joy.

Psalm 34 has some verses of praise and thanksgiving. 

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be continually in my mouth.  I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.    Psalm 34: 1,4 

What can you give thanks for?

*Hilda Satt Polacheck edited by Dena Polacheck Epstein, I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl, University of Illinois Press, 1989

UPDATE 3/7/2020: As I give thanks for God’s love and design for women, I realize that many women are abused. The reality of human trafficking became clear as I read The Third Daughter by Talia Career. How can this evil be stopped? 

UPDATE 3/8/21 As migrants seek to enter the U.S. southern border I wonder how many young women will be trafficked. It is a great evil. I pray that congress will fix our immigration laws for greater safety of both migrants and citizens of our country.

We have a new challenge with the White House executive order to allow biological males to compete in women’s sports. I pray that our government will acknowledge the science, the physiology of the human body. Men and women are physically different, but loved equally by God.

Why is the Roe v. Wade Decision Still Raising Questions?

Roe v. Wade is once again being discussed. During the Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, Judge Barrett was asked many questions about the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide 47 years ago. Senator Klobuchar asked if the decision was a super precedent—a decision that should never be reviwed.

I have thought about abortion from the perspective of a woman, a mother and a nurse.

Abortion is defended as a woman’s right to choose. With national legalization it is more than that. When abortion was made medically available and normalized, a parent was given the ability to pressure a daughter to abort a baby that might be an embarrassment to the family (as happened to one of my daughter’s friends). A boyfriend, an abuser or a pimp could more easily pressure a girl to abort an inconvenient pregnancy—releasing young men from any responsibility. The national legalization of abortion normalized the choice to kill life.

A friend of mine learned that the child in her womb had a genetic defect. She was pressured to abort the baby. She was “encouraged” multiple times by her doctor and refused. She gave birth and honored the life of that child.

In 1999 I wrote an article for a nursing journal about another woman who went against the current of medical opinion. The baby in her womb had been diagnosed with a major deformity. She carried the baby to term and was able to care for her child for a month, loving him until he passed away.

Five years ago I wrote a blog post about a patient of mine who experienced a pregnancy loss and the way that the nursing staff honored that baby’s life. Here is a portion of that article.

I recalled an experience that I had as a nurse in the hospital. My patient experienced a miscarriage. At sixteen weeks gestation, the infant had died in the womb. The mother had experienced wrenching physical and emotional pain as she labored. She had moaned, tossing and turning in bed. As her nurse, I had given morphine ordered by the doctor, but it had not covered the pain. After eight exhausting hours the body of the tiny girl baby was delivered.

We wrapped the baby in a blanket and after the mother held her, I made the memorial card. I held the tiny feet gently, applied ink and made footprints on the bereavement card—a memorial to the life of a baby girl and one aspect of bereavement care provided at the hospital.

At the nurse’s station, a doctor was explaining various medications that he had used to abort pregnancies.  He talked about the abortion process and it struck me that women going through abortion may have experienced the same misery that I had just witnessed.   The difference was that they did not receive bereavement care.  Women went home from the hospital or clinic quietly. The experience may have been traumatic and done in secret.

Although some celebrities have said that they are proud of their abortion, many women carry emotional and spiritual wounds. The group, Silent No More, testifies about the long lasting pain of abortion.

There is a deep sense among many people that the quick fix offered by abortion is not right or good.

The Wall Street Journal (10/16/2020) quoted Judge Barrett’s response to Senator Klobuchar’s question about a super precedent. “I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which indicates that Roe doesn’t fall into that category”.

The images of the developing infant are courtesy of Creative Commons through this license.