A mature, prayerful woman who trusts in the Lord can be joyful and inwardly peaceful in the midst of challenges. She trusts that, even if she feels blindly confused and doesn't know where she's going, God knows. God leads the blind on their journeys. Conversation with God can lead to clarity about the next practical step we should take.
We all should practice gratitude for the little things in life, because the very ordinariness of our lives is shot through with sunbeams of wonder, grace, and love. A spouse's unexpected hug, an adopted child's first spoken "Mom" or "Dad," a friend's unexpected phone call, are the remembered small joys that make life worth living.
In other words, women who are content, joyful, and grateful can be true anchors of steadiness in their homes, rocks of safety for their families in the midst of storms.
Yet, "Holy Discontent" can also be a woman's virtue. The woman who feels holy discontent about her financial situation and proactively chooses to go back to night school to improve her education and get a better job has the virtue of holy discontent. Such a woman knows in her heart that if she goes outside her comfort zone, she can grow as a person and improve the life of her loved ones.
Dolly Parton is a good example of a woman who has practiced the virtue of "Holy Discontent."
Dolly Parton's middle name comes from her maternal great-great grandmother, Rebecca (Dunn) Whitted. She has described her family as being "dirt poor." Parton's father paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of oatmeal. She outlined her family's poverty in her early song "Coat of Many Colors"... They lived in a rustic, one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, just north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, a predominantly Pentecostal area. Music played an important role in her early life. She was brought up in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the church her grandfather, Jake Robert Owens pastored. Her earliest public performances were in the church, beginning at age six. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar. When she was eight years old, her uncle bought her first real guitar.
"Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs.... At 13, she was recording (the single "Puppy Love") on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her own instincts regarding her career."
Dolly always believed in going outside of her comfort zone. The day after she graduated from high school in 1964, the dirt poor country girl moved to Nashville to pursue a career in what she loved most and did best: music.
The rest is history. Dolly quickly became well-known as a song-writer and then as a singer. Parton is the most honored female country performer of all time.
Dolly says matter-of-factly about making changes in one's life: "If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one."
She has also said, “A belief in God is essential. We grew up believing that through God all things are possible. I think I believed that so much that I made it happen. I know what it's like to be without and I know what it's like to have things. And I appreciate both.”
In addition to being joyful in the midst of challenges, a woman can also be a "Holy Angry Advocate," speaking out against injustice. Righteous anger is the energy that impels us to seek necessary justice, for, in truth, without justice, there can be no peace or joy. Alauna Carter is just such a woman advocate. She works for "Sojourners" magazine, which has this to say about her:
"Alaura has had the opportunity to intern and work for several non-profit organizations, doing environmental organizing, communications, law and policy, and education outreach. She believes in the education and outsourcing of environmental ideas, issues, and solutions. While at Sojourners she is working on a number of projects to help save the earth, '“In Jesus' Name.'”
In a recent column ("Sojourners," May 2017) Alaura challenges us with these facts:
"People of color in the United States are exposed to 38 percent more asthma-producing nitrogen dioxide than are white people. People of color are twice as likely as whites to live without potable water or modern sanitation....
"Christian faith teaches us that we have an obligation to care for the earth. It also teaches us to take care of one another. We have a duty to ensure clean water, clean air, and a non-toxic environment. Black and Latino churches are becoming strong voices not just for people, but for creation; for the health of bodies, families, and neighborhoods.
"Exposure to nitrogen dioxide is one of the main triggers for asthma and contributes to heart disease. Researchers estimate that if nonwhites breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites, 7,000 deaths from heart disease could be prevented among nonwhites each year.
"Minority communities and the congregations that serve them deal with improper sanitation, which leads to health problems. 'More than 1 percent of black people live in houses without potable water and modern sanitation, compared to less than 0.5 per cent of whites,' according to Bryce Covert in 'The Nation.' Water contamination has largely affected those who 'live in rural areas, Indigenous communities, and migrant farm-worker communities.'....
"All of these are examples of why African-American and Latino churches are mobilizing on environmental issues, - particularly the People's Climate Movement....
"The Trump administration has shown that it does not plan to protect our earth. The administration is enacting policies and regulations that will further hurt vulnerable communities.
"The People's Climate Movement is addressing environmental justice, Indigenous rights, and the transition from fossil fuels and 'dirty labor' to clean energy solutions and sustainable labor and wages."
Alaura insists, "Denying the effects of climate change will not make them go away. And staying silent, hopeful, and prayerful is not enough to get policy change. We must be bold and clear: We will not stand for noxious air, polluted water, and toxic neighborhoods. We are moving from prayer to action to resistance."
Still, always, even in the midst of challenging and unjust situations, it's so important to be grateful. Whether we are practicing the virtues of Holy Content, or Holy Discontent, Holy Joy, or Holy Angry Advocacy, - the virtue of Holy Gratitude is paramount and ongoing. Melody Beattie, a well-known self-help author, and a household name in addiction and recovery circles, says,
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."
To grow into becoming the woman we can be takes daily trial and error. Dolly Parton says,
"When I wake up, I expect things to be good. If they're not, then I try to set about trying to make them as good as I can 'cause I know I'm gonna have to live that day anyway. So why not try to make the most of it if you can? Some days, they pan out a little better than others, but you still gotta always just try."
Which includes, importantly, some self-deprecating humor: "The only way I'd be caught without makeup is if my radio fell in the bathtub while I was taking a bath and electrocuted me and I was in between makeup at home. I hope my husband would slap a little lipstick on me before he took me to the morgue."
When you're humble enough to know yourself, you're able to laugh at yourself and bring everyone else along for a good, healing laugh. As Dolly also wisely says, "There's a scripture that says, 'A merry heart doeth good like medicine.' I think that's true, too."