Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - What Dorcas teaches us

Dappled morning sunlight...
July is my birthday month and this year it is special.  This is a zero year.  While every birthday can cause us to reflect on past years, zero birthdays have a way of rocking our world. 

I was planning a wedding less than two weeks away when I turned twenty.  I turned thirty in the midst of a corporate career with one young child.   When I turned forty, I had a teenager and a surprise (albeit very welcome) young child.

But I don't remember my fiftieth birthday at all.  Those years are enveloped in a haze of trials and tribulation.  I thought I had experienced difficult trials before.  I had no idea there would be days I had to remind myself to breath.  Long days when the future was encased in a fog of uncertainty.

The years surrounding my fiftieth birthday... before and after... were when I had my Jacob experience.  I wrestled with God and He won.  Except instead of one night's struggle... I spent a few years in a wrestling match between my will and His.  I didn't realize that was what it was about until later.

Like Jacob, I came away from those years with a limp.  Physically I was never the same.  We never recovered financially.  Many hopes and dreams and desires of the heart were laid at the feet of Jesus when I finally gave Him what He desired most.  My will, my goals, my very idea of what success in life looks like.

He didn't leave me damaged in the dust.  Eventually He replaced the large house with this brick ranch at the corner of the forest.  He replaced money in the bank with provision just when it is needed... and the gift of Godly desires here and there.  Dreams of doing something big for God were replaced with obedience in the doing of small things.

I have been reading through the Book of Acts and recently came upon a favorite story of the early Church.  It is found in the 9th Chapter where we learn of the passing of Dorcas (also translated Tabitha).

Peter was ministering nearby and was asked to come to Joppa, where Dorcas lived. I am not certain if it was to hold a funeral or if the disciples had hoped he could heal her in time but she had passed on when he arrived.

He was met there by widows who showed him the fine garments Dorcas had made them.  They must have been beautifully stitched and sewn, each an act of love from the hands that made them.

Stories of Dorcas' compassion and good works were shared.  She had to be a woman willing to listen to those in the depth of trials.  For especially widows in those days were often dependent on the help of others.  She showed her love in what she did best... sewing... and not just a quick pattern with cheap material.  Her gifts were of such quality that the recipients showed them off to the visiting Apostle.

So God had Peter raise her from the dead.

I don't recall Lydia, the seller of purple, being raised from the dead.  Neither do we hear that Priscilla, who worked with Paul alongside her husband Aquila, was raised from the dead.  While both of these women had significant impact on the early Church... it was a woman who stayed at home and used her gifts to help others that we read about centuries later as being raised from the dead to continue her humble ministry.

What God taught me in the Jacob years can be found in the story of Dorcas.  We are to use His gifts as He desires to serve our family and those around us.  We are not told if Dorcas at one time had young children at home but if she did, I am certain they also wore clothing made by Mother.  Now in the empty nest period of life, she didn't consider her work done but used her gifts to be a blessing to others.

You see, those of us raised in the Baby Boomer years were told we could accomplish great things and great things were expected of us.  Only great accomplishments would be accepted.  But that is not Biblical... it is cultural.

And sometimes God has to wrestle with us to teach us that Truth.  He gave us our gifts.  They are to be used as He has ordained.  

Some will do great things for Christ when measured by the number of people reached.  But if that is not our calling, then we are to work within our realm of influence.  When we realize He has placed our boundary lines, true peace comes when we accept them.

So what does the story of Dorcas teach us?

The story of Dorcas teaches us that no circumstances are too small to be used by God.  As she sat in her home and stitched, she was doing God's work just as much as the women whose work we also read about in Scripture.

The story of Dorcas teaches us that no God given talent is to be taken for granted.  He can use talented seamstresses and cooks and bakers and basket makers and knitters and quilters and flower gardeners and growers of veggies.  He uses those who listen to the lonely while serving cookies and tea sipped from pretty cups.  He depends on His people who offer a mug of hot coffee in winter or a cold drink in summer.

The story of Dorcas teaches us the importance of those who give to others in need.  God loves a cheerful giver (and those of us who have been needy know often it is the gifts of others that have shown us God is still at work in our life).

The story of Dorcas teaches us the great value of doing small things for a Big God... and how that opens the way to share His love to those in need of Living Water.

I also think the story of Dorcas proves the value of the work of women.  Not as we are told in today's culture but in the eyes of the Lord.  Just as He gave value to women by talking to them at the well and appearing to them after being raised from the dead... He gives value to the humble work women do each day of their life as givers and nurturers and keepers of the simple things in life.

So with those lessons I celebrate this zero birthday.  I may be a slow learner but eventually He gets through.  ;)


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Brenda. Thank you.

Vee said...

Happy Birthday whenever in July it may be and thank you for "catching up." =D

Perhaps it was Fulton Sheen, but I was once listening to a homily on the radio where the speaker said something like this: If you ever find yourself in a fight with God, pray that He wins.

I think about that quite often. And I think about the song that says the trials of this life are our mercies in disguise. It certainly doesn't always feel like it. That's where faith comes in.

Terra said...

Happiest of birthday to you Brenda, and this post really speaks to me. The story of Dorcas is leading me to read Acts, upon my return from church this morning. Faithful in small things is beautiful advice.

Cheryl said...

I love this, Brenda!

Anonymous said...

Dear Brenda,
I have a zero birthday this week and I think it is probably the same number as yours. I have read your blog for several years now and I have never commented before. I feel especially moved by this post today, enough to write a comment and tell you how much I get from your blog and hope that you continue to write for a long time to come. Nancy

My Cottage Diary said...

This is an excellent post, Brenda! You didn't say what day you celebrate your BD so I'll wish you a very Happy 60th Birthday, whenever it's here! You are a beautiful gift to so many. May many wonderful blessings be yours, Bess

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I needed to hear that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much- I needed these words today!
Cyndi in MN

Jeannette Arangua said...

I was reading this Bible passage a few days ago. But then the days moved on and it didn't stay at the front of my mind. Thank you for sharing your growth experiences. Mine have been similar and you've really encouaged me. God bless you, Jeannette.

Anonymous said...

This was so encouraging to read today. Thank you for sharing your story and perspective.

It grabbed me right away because we just had a message on that passage this morning.

suzanne said...

Happy "zero" birthday, dear Brenda. This is beautifully written and powerful in it's message. Thank you!

Mary said...

Happy Birthday Brenda. You are a such blessing and encouragement to your readers.

Deborah Montgomery said...

Thank you Brenda for this. I have spent much time during my life wrestling with God. It's a painful thing. I really like how you remind us that it is often the "small" things that the Lord honors -- the faithfulness and obedience that may not look big or successful to the world, but is a pleasing sacrifice to Him. Blessings, Deborah

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Brenda! What lovely insight in the story of Dorcas.Thanks for the reminder to be obedient to God willing to use what he has given me (and excel at it!).

Deb said...

What a great post! Amen to Vee's comment. I love the quote by Fulton Sheen. Thank you for this lovely post about having faith through our trials. Happy 60th birthday whenever it comes!

Anonymous said...

What a wise, beautiful, and honest post! Thank you so much!

Wishing you a very happy 60th birthday and a glorious new decade of life.

I have had my own Jacob experience, and it lasted 17 long years. (I don't learn very quickly!) I wrestled with God from the time I was 33 until 3 months before my 50th birthday (I'm now 53). Needless to say, my 40th birthday was one of the most painful birthdays of my life. Actually, every birthday in my 40's was agonizing. I finally realized that I had wasted that entire decade and that if I didn't want to waste another decade of my life, I had better stop fighting.

Blessings to you,

Anonymous said...

Oh,Brenda, what a wonderful post!I will always think of Dorcas now as a role model. Thank you!

Friend Debra

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

A beautiful post! Vee's comment made me remember how St. Teresa of Avila is said, once when something bad happened to her, "Dear Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them."

The story of Dorcas does teach a beautiful lesson.

Judy said...

I'm not quite sure how to thank you for this, Brenda - such encouragement. I too have walked through the fog when God had me release many things.

"I came away from those years with a limp...Many hopes and dreams and desires of the heart were laid at the feet of Jesus..."

And now I fear another frightening season in the fog is not far off and this time, weariness of spirit holds such grip. May I have the faith to allow suffering to continue to shape me.

Mrs.Rabe said...

Happy Birthday, Brenda!

This is such a great encouraging post. It's so true that we are to 'bloom where we are planted.' These days young people are encouraged to be "radical" for God, and I say that if that is what He calls you to, then great, be radical. But if he calls you to live a quiet life, serving your family and others, then do that! That is His will for you!

I love that one of the things He has called you to, is to share truths like this in the blogging world. You are ministering every day.

I'm glad to be your friend and am thankful for you!


Anonymous said...

What an awesome post! What a work God has wrought in your life--in the wrestle that He won. Thanks be to God for His mercy and His love and His care. Blessings, Sharon D.

crowned4him said...

Happy Birthday! Wonderful post,thank you for sharing.

Ann said...

Thank you for your insight. I've been lamenting lately that my life is small, that I am not accomplishing a great deal for the Lord. I am still recovering from the loss of my son and although time is healing the wound, there is a scar there that will never be gone. Nor should it be; it's a part of my life, of my struggle, of who I am and who I hope to become. You reminded me today that serving my family and showing love and compassion to others is vitally important in God's plan. May God bless you as you celebrate this coming of age and bless you in the year to come.

Tina said...


I'm a longtime blog reader, and you've always been very encouraging to me; however, this post is probably one of the most encouraging one you've written.

I have a zero birthday this week...the big 4-0...and I've wrestled lately with fighting off some negative thoughts regarding aging, accomplishments, disappointments, worth, etc. I'm also facing a hysterectomy due to 10 years of medical issues. The struggle to stay hopeful, to believe, and to have joy has seemed, at times, impossible. The past 20 years of being a homeschooling mom and a "domestic engineer" have felt like such a paltry contribution to the world--a lie, I know, but one that's so tempting to give into sometimes when you fall into the trap of comparison. :)

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your consistency and transparency. I occasionally enjoy a few of these "mommy blogs," but always come back to yours for substance and wisdom and real encouragement. The blog world, and the real world, need more ladies like you who've walked the path and can pass on some wisdom.


Melissa said...

So looking forward to hearing about your upcoming family vacation. What a wonderful time you will have celebrating!

Sunshine said...

Wishing you the happiest of birthdays! Love this post, love the reassurance and hope it contains. Sunshine

Breahn said...

I needed to read this today... I pray that God will write it on the walls of my heart. Thank you so much.

Kelly said...

Thank you for this. I too had some Jacob years and learned some of the same things as you. I'm so encouraged to be reminded of them today. I'm thankful you're using your gifts to encourage other women in their walks with the Lord. I hope your birthday is lovely.