Editor’s Note: This week in Part II: Women Who Shaped My Life, Lindsay Barham Moore shares with us the stories of three women central in her development.
As I continue to consider what it means to be a woman in light of Carly Fiorina’s quote: “A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts,” I cannot help but think about what the Bible says about women in action.
Proverbs 31 beautifully illustrates the character traits of women in my life: include resilience, moral fortitude, hospitality, faith, administrative leadership and eagerness to pursue knowledge.
25: Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
26: She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27: She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28: Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
This description paints a picture of the women who have impacted my life by challenging me to be a woman who desires to use my gifts to bring meaning to others’ lives.
The late Louise Bailey of Mayodan taught me what it meant to turn dreams deferred into joy. She further showed me the gift of hospitality, one that could not be disconnected from its roots in her relationship with God. Working alongside her, crafting and cooking, I saw what it looked like to be a woman of faith.
Louise and her husband, Fred, were considered by the youth at Mayodan Moravian Church to be celebrities. On Wednesday nights, the church hosted youth groups. Once you reached 10, you were finally old enough to join Fred and Louise’s coveted assembly.
While the Bailey’s were unable to have children of their own, they claimed the children of our community, and youngsters flocked to them from all over.
An impatient child, I decided I could not wait until I turned 10 to join the Bailey’s youth group. And by seven, I had invited myself home with them after Sunday services.
I would continue the routine of Sunday visits with the Baileys for the next decade.
I stayed for lunch and made myself their shadow, soaking in the Baileys’ talents and hospitality each Sunday until my parents insisted I come home around supper time.
While the late Fred taught me to garden and find crawdads in their creek bed, Louise shared her faith with me as we crafted and cooked at all things Southern. To this day, I am known for the collard greens I make using her methods.
Louise further taught me to open my home to friends, old and new, with the goal of bringing peace through fellowship and a hearty meal.
Louise also taught me to suffer well.
There were only a few times during those years that I sensed her sadness about not having biological children.
But she seemed to transform her sorrow into joy as she welcomed children like me into her world. So when I lost my first daughter at the midpoint of a pregnancy, I named her Louise, knowing that my sweet friend in heaven could hold her as her own.
My mother, Sue Barham Moore
My mom also had an integral role in nurturing my faith.
She showed me how to be organized, driven and principled. In fact, I’ve always believed my mother could have headed a Fortune 500 company had she chosen a different path. I’ve never met anyone who can equal her ability to administer, organize, envision and implement large and small challenges, alike, with excellence.
Along with being my mother, she was essential to my dad’s success during the most formative and productive years of his small town medical practice. And those years ran parallel to her busiest years parenting me and my two young sisters.
Somehow, my mom made time to have nightly meals on the table and always engaged me and my sisters in substantive conversations about the activities of the day.
Though she did not have an official job title, my mom epitomized the word multitasker, meticulously handling family finances and the business of my dad’s fast-growing office. Despite strengths that gave her a ticket to any career, my mother chose a life in which she gave her talents in support of my father’s God-given gifts.
Her days were busy driving me and my very active siblings to our many extracurricular activities, teaching Sunday school and tutoring students. Ultimately, she worked full-time as an educator to help support my widowed grandmother.
I remember well when a friend’s mother assumed my mother led a life of leisure. I was 10 when the woman coyly asked me if my mom sat around eating bon-bons all day.
I kept the pain of her remark to myself for some time. Eventually, I asked my mother why someone would make such a comment.
In answer, my mom asked me to reflect on her life and the structure of her days.
Of course, I knew well the choices she made were because she loved my dad and she loved us. Her life was overflowing with fruitful abundance because she had fully utilized her God-given gifts with goodness, beauty and truth — certainly not with her feet propped up, popping bonbons.
In fact, I can’t remember ever seeing my mom with her feet up.
Instead, she continues to support my dad in his retirement, all while seeing that her eight grandchildren are taught to be trailblazers.
By passing on her legacy of excellence, my mother has shaped me and will influence the development of my daughters in the years ahead.
My 10th-grade English teacher Gerry Carter of Madison is one of the most brilliant women I’ve ever met.
I admit, I was frightened of her when I first stepped into her classroom. We stand at the same height— 5-foot-2. But the power of her being has always made her seem larger than life.
There is an aura about Gerry –a brilliant mind with high emotional intelligence.
And while she was a firm instructor, she offered loving tenderness as a teacher who hoped to see each of her students appreciate knowledge and truth.
She made me feel exra special, teaching me how to support my ideas and opinions with words, as well as authentic emotional insight.
If I am a gifted writer today, it’s because of Gerry’s imact on my heart, intelligence and ability to see the world with wonder and imagination.
Gerry made challenging books available to me, such as Margaret Atwood’s, “The Handmaid’s Tale” and poet Max Ehrmann’s, “Desiderata.”
Through such poignant literature and poetry, Gerry forced me to think unconventionally. She didn’t question my beliefs, which often differed from her own. Instead, she invited me to support my ideas with thoughtful writing, engaging questions and transparent emotions. Those lessons were defining.
Now, 20 years later and in the midst of a pandemic, Gerry supports my oldest daughter’s education with weekly tutoring.
Gerry is one of my best friends. With a giggle, I often tell my daughters that when I grow up I want to be just like Gerry Carter.
Throughout my life, Gerry has taken the time to send me beautiful notes of encouragement.
She buoyed me after a major childhood disappointment:
“It must be difficult to do all the right things and see little recognition for your sacrifices and h ard work. To know that life is not fair is a hard lesson to learn. One thing to remember though is that all those “right” things you did weren’t done for others. They were done because you were incapable of doing anything other than what is right... Perhaps you need to read Emerson and Thoreau again … Remember you are an intelligent sensitive caring lovely person and you will continue to make a difference to those lucky enough to know you and I’m glad that you have let me in to your life.”
These women stand out as extraordinary pillars of strength and beauty for me. Their “misbehavior” paved the way for me to make choices that have defined me. My hope and prayer is that my daughters will use their unique God-given gifts and be the dynamite the world needs today by leaving an indelible legacy that does not settle for mediocrity.
Jane Austen said it best in her most mature novel, “Persuasion”:
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
—Jane Austen, Persuasion.