By Bethany Bettenhausen
My question for you this morning is this, “When you walk into the coffeehouse on Tuesday morning and see all of the women here… what do you see?” Do you look for friends? Do you look for a table in the corner? Do you look for the nearest cup of coffee? Do you start looking around to see who is wearing what or who seems to “belong” or who seems to be the most pulled together?
In a room full of women, I would wager there is a lot of personal insecurity. We tend to size each other up. We look at the outside–our attire, our demeanor, our mannerisms, and our “pulled togetherness.” It is so easy to focus on our own insecurities that often we miss out on what God sees on Tuesday mornings. When God meets us here on Tuesday mornings, He sees a room full of individual women, each precious to Him. Women who each have their own unique story to tell: stories which have their own beginnings and are also presently unfolding. On Tuesday morning (and every morning for that matter) God sees each of us. He knows us. He loves us. And He wants us to see, know and love each other too.
I was asked to share how Tuesday morning Equip Her has helped equip me on my journey or enabled me to help others on their journey. There is so much I could say, but this morning I’d like to share with you an abbreviated version of how God used the women on Tuesday morning Equip Her to see, know and love a struggling woman out of an abusive, if not dangerous, situation. I also want to share how this story changed me through the process. Although I have full permission to use her story, since she is not sharing it herself, I’ll call this precious woman and friend Lindsay.
Lindsay had recently moved to Lincoln around Christmastime. She was living with her new fiance’, four-year old son and had a baby on the way. She decided to come to the Tuesday morning MUMs group to meet people and to grow in her walk with the Lord. On one of the later Spring semester Tuesdays, one of the MUMs ladies noticed that Lindsay was in the parking lot after class looking overwhelmed. She responded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and struck up a conversation. It turned out that not all was going well for Lindsay in her pregnancy; in fact, there were some major concerns.
This responsive mom ended up not only listening and encouraging Lindsay, but she also exchanged contact information. This was key as not long thereafter, Lindsay was hospitalized. Her water had broken, but the baby was still too young to deliver since she was only about halfway to her due date. Lindsay contacted the caring mom who had been little more than a stranger not long before to ask for support and encouragement during her hospital stay. The mom quickly took action involving Pat and Laurie who also very willingly responded by visiting Lindsay themselves and then inviting anyone who was willing and able to visit Lindsay in the hospital in order to make her days go by a little faster.
That is where I entered Lindsay’s story. I heard the request to visit Lindsay, and I believed God was tugging on my heart. I was a little nervous to go visit a perfect stranger in the hospital, but Pat assured me that Lindsay truly wanted the company, and that she was “easy to talk to.” I decided to ignore the awkwardness and go. The first time I went to visit, I brought her some Boltz juice and a Chinese food microwavable meal that she had requested. The only trouble was I had quickly bought the food the night before, and I realized on my way up to her room that the meal I had just purchased was expired. I had to throw it away when I got there. It was a bit of an extra embarrassment for me since I am a registered dietitian, but we did have a good laugh about an RD bringing a pregnant woman expired food. It turned out to be an unintended ice breaker. I really enjoyed visiting Lindsay. Another lady in MUMs and I both routinely came by to visit on different days, and we formed a bit of a friendship.
In the fall, Lindsay finally had an emergency C-section, and her precious new son was born. Lindsay returned to MUMs in the fall and requested to be in the group with me and the other mom who had been visiting her. She seemed upbeat and, although a bit overwhelmed, adjusting fairly well.
Then very quickly things started heading south. Lindsay started writing down prayer requests at our prayer group time that led us to know that all was not well with her. She was not getting along very well with her fiancé, and she was overwhelmed with taking care of her two boys. I thought that maybe this was just the normal postpartum baby blues, but then she stayed after a moms’ night out event to talk. She told me she was feeling very depressed and suicidal. I did not know what to do, but I prayed for her and offered her support. The next day I talked to Marlys at the church to figure out what I should do; how I could help, and how I could refer Lindsay on for the help I was not skilled to give. She started with Spiritual Care but then quickly began to see a counselor at Berean.
Many things happened all at once, but the short version of the story was Lindsay ended up storing some of her possessions at our home and then my husband and I helped her flee with her boys from her fiancé to the Friendship Home while she got things in order to leave the state and meet up with her parents. Through this situation, I truly saw many wonderful people step up to be the hands and feet of Jesus to Lindsay. Besides counseling and emotional support, women in the women’s ministry helped her get clothes for herself and her boys through the clothing exchange and at the store since she had to leave so many things behind at her fiancé’s house.
One wonderful lady in particular, Linda, provided transportation for her and the boys to see the counselor and doctors. Linda held Lindsay’s precious newborn for hours in my living room so that Lindsay could sort through her stuff downstairs and have a little bit of a break, and Linda took the older son to the park while the baby slept so that he could be outside and do something fun. Watching that sweet lady in action really changed me too. The initial mom who had shown concern made sure Lindsay had a place to have Christmas. All of us involved even got together to do a mini birthday party and Christmas/farewell party for Lindsay.
Lindsay wanted me to share her story today. In her own words she said, “Please DO share my story because I want people to understand that they are not alone when they walk through life’s challenges. Encourage them to reach out and not be afraid to ask for help. If it wasn’t for the few that surrounded me in prayer and love and called me on a regular basis, I may still be in a dangerous place, as well as my boys. I’m just now starting to share my story and go through emotional healing after two years of getting out of the abuse.”
First and foremost, I wanted Lindsay’s story to prompt praise to God for how He is working through Tuesday morning Equip Her to reach out to hurting women. I was privileged to witness how God used His body at Lincoln Berean Church to make such a tangible impact. Watching the body of Christ in motion really convicted me of my own self-centeredness and inspired me to be more like Christ, sensitive to the needs of others who are hurting. I give God all the glory for what He did in and through that horrible situation.
Second, I wanted to share this story with you to urge you to reach out past your own insecurities. Let’s ask God to help us really see the women in your prayer group or the women who sit at our tables during opening time, even the women who we see after class in the halls or the parking lot. Most of the personal stories we will encounter are not as dramatic as Lindsay’s, but I would wager there are hurting women all around us in this room. It may be something as dangerous as suicidal depression or it could be a health concern, a wayward child, or maybe a woman who is just plain lonely. Many of us come feeling empty on Tuesday mornings wanting to just relax and be with our friends. That is not all bad; we all need to recharge, but let’s ask that God will help us to see others, to get to know them and to love them.
As I shared with you last time, I have moved around my entire life. Over the years I have realized that life is often not as simple as just being outgoing and everyone will be your friend. In my experience, you will face a lot of rejection if you reach out to others so I acknowledge that it isn’t always safe or easy. There are seemingly legitimate reasons why we stay in our own bubbles. However, we should be careful we don’t lose sight of the fact God has placed us where He has placed us for a reason. In the words of Gal. 6:9, “let’s not grow weary in doing good.” Let’s be sensitive to the leading of God’s Spirit, to see each woman here on Tuesday morning, and to be the body of Christ to each other.