Guest Post: Jennifer Howland

Hello, lovely readers! I’m so excited to host my first ever guest post! Fellow hope*writer Jennifer Howland tells stories of legacies of women in her family, that ultimately lead to the most important legacy we leave: our eternal legacy. Read on:

Autumn is saturated with sensory feelings and experiences that we love. So often, all of these translate into traditions that women execute yearly. Those, we believe, are our legacies. It is the costumes for the play, the desserts and dishes we make, the quilts we compose in our heads and then masterfully execute and enter into a contest. But the what of legacy equals nothing. It is the who. Who are women without the traditions and the things others count on us for? God values every woman not for what she does but who she is to Him.

My wonderful, creative Mother made the most memorable and delectable meals and desserts that most of my friends, family, and acquaintances have never forgotten. Her cookies far outshone the popular Girl Scout cookies I sold every year from fourth grade up through high school. In Fall, she made everything from the traditional snickerdoodle, thumbprint, and ubiquitous sugar cookies to the lesser known Paper cookies—thinner than crepes crowned with one yellow raisin—all from books or recipes on bits of paper that have accumulated in a drawer somewhere.

For fancy dances in high school, my Mother would host a pre-dance dinner in our little one-bedroom apartment for about six of my friends. My Mother made tiny cream puffs with lemon or chocolate chess pie filling, or chocolate ganache, or almond-vanilla cream piped inside. The boys would cram their semi-formal-wear pockets with as many as would fit, which my Mom would be delighted to see on their way out the door. She never made them after I grew up.

For my oldest cousin’s birthday, Mom’s sister’s son, she would make her own version of Baked Alaska: A slow-cooked hard meringue pie shell filled with vanilla ice cream and home-made chocolate sauce right off the stove. His face would light up when she poured the chocolate over the entirety of “Alaska,” and we would have to cut the slices quickly, eating as the ice cream melted under the chocolate. Not for years now, has she made this.

During Autumn, my Aunt would begin the lengthy process required to produce a traditional Plum Pudding with hard sauce—her oldest son’s favorite dessert at holiday time. Upon her emerging from the kitchen, his face would literally go childlike no matter how old he got, and the priceless moment came as she would light the pudding on fire after having poured over it the magic golden liquid. She’s been gone six years now.

Everyone knows the more popular passage about Martha and Mary—who have you become? Martha? Are you the one bossing everyone while slaving in the kitchen, taking care of the elderly in the “other room” while the rest are watching football in the “living” room? Do you somehow end up deprived of the season in exchange for some grateful compliment from those lazy, yawning, bleary-eyed people who are half asleep: “for all that stuff you did.” Does it leave you thinking: “Was that it? I am so tired—exhausted even. Well, that’s over. Did someone get pics? Can I have a nap before I have to clean up what’s left of my legacy? Oh…guess not, my bed is being used as an overnight coat room.” (Sigh)

John 11:20-22 [New Living Translation]

When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Oh, my. Did she really say that to God? Notice Mary stayed in the house. Smart one, that Mary. She didn’t need to go out there before Jesus even got to their home and backstab Him with her feelings. Martha is the exhausted, resentful, sacrificing, bitter older sister—the real flesh of the older brother in the Prodigal Son. But from Jesus’s first visit to their home at Martha’s invitation, Martha has already forgotten that Jesus tells Mary to sacrifice nothing, do nothing, to keep sitting at His feet. He is Mary’s legacy, her inheritance. All that Mary absorbs from listening to and loving her Lord keeps her sanguine. By the time Lazarus dies, Mary has learned enough, been with her Lord enough that she is calm, waiting for Him in the house, sure of His plan, whatever it may be. She truly trusts Him. Mary is your good news, but especially in Luke Chapter 10.

The Bible is written in a particular way, with a particular set of priorities—not ours, but those of God’s Holy Spirit. This makes certain passages easier to appreciate if we know what has come before and after. Martha and Mary’s first encounter comes at the end of a highly significant group of actions, instructions, prayers, and events. And this is why Mary has such good news for you and the legacy you may be concerned about—the one you think of at night: Have I done enough for my children? Am I a good-enough wife? Did I do enough of the right things? What has my life meant to anyone?

God sees you. He sees you now. He puts things together in your life so you get who He wants you to be out of your relationship with Him. He doesn’t care about the rest of the world—it’s you and Him against the world. We have communal worship, prayer, but it doesn’t mean anything when we leave that group without our individual bond with our Lord. Mary is every woman.

Luke chapter 10 begins with Jesus sending out the Twelve. Notice they all enact His instructions later with Martha in the street, and she invites them into her home and offers to feed them. After the instructions to the Twelve, it’s Jesus’ private prayer of thanksgiving to the Father after which He turns to his disciples. This verse is key for women to pay attention to.

Luke 10:23-24 [New Living Translation]

“Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

And there is Mary. She did not need to be told this. She was attuned to, as many women are, a special Spirit offering salvation coming near. She was listening, she was ready. She had blocked out the whole world before He even got there. After the private comment to His disciples, Jesus states “love thy neighbor,” illustrated by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Martha, consumed with cultural norms and religious community judgement, would probably more exemplify the Priest or the Temple Scribe. It is Mary who would likely be the Good Samaritan. She has the character, the pure heart, and mind of Christ. But our Lord is patient with Martha, and teaches her. He does not dismiss her.

Chapter 10 of Luke ends with Jesus’ first encounter with Martha and Mary. Everything in this encounter and the ensuing set of events illustrates everything preceding it in the chapter. In other words, it is His application in real life of what He has just taught His disciples. And as if she were a reward waiting around the corner, they encounter excited-evangelized Martha who leads them to peace-filled-discipled Mary.

Most look first to the Book of Acts for the “how to” in fulfilling the Great Commission. But actually, the first illustration of a truly discipled person by Jesus Himself (an example to His disciples) is Mary. While at various points in His ministry some disciples vie for positions at Jesus’ left and right in Glory, Mary has chosen “what is best,” to be seated on earth right in front of her Master, and He further encourages her and Martha by saying, “it shall not be taken away from her.” Every woman is offered this by God Himself: To sit right in front of Him and be taught, be close, and to have that sanctioned by Jesus.

This is what Jesus desires for all women: Be His, recognize the times you are living in and the intimate relationship readily available to you. Blessed are your eyes that see what you see and your ears that hear what you hear: Jesus.

If you were to ask me to remember one thing about my Mom after all the years of preparing amazing things, I would say that her eternal legacy was clinched when I was 10 years old and since then by what she told me: “You can always count on your Father in Heaven.” That has been my heart and soul as I have sat at His feet in front of Him until I stand to see Him face-to-face. That is my Mom’s legacy, the Great Commission carried out in her own child.

Jennifer Howland has been living in Virginia for over a decade with her family and has been a writer, educator, and Sunday School teacher for many years. Like many of us, she is feeling her age but has so many things to do before Jesus comes back!

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