I do not know Marilyn personally (yet!). But a friend recommended her to be featured as one of our mentors and I have to agree she is a great example to learn from. This is a lengthier interview but I couldn't find myself editing out any of Marilyn's words as even the simple parts of her life shine the light of Christ. I'm taking notes!
"Please tell us more about yourself, Marilyn. What is a regular day like for you?"
This question makes me giggle. If you had told me when I was a young mom that in the future I would be getting up as early as I do and have the long days I have, I would have never believed what the Lord would do in my life. So here goes!
On week days, my typical day is spent on the upper floor of a business located literally out in the country north of West Bend. Wisconsin, where we live. I work for a corporation that has 6,000 employees in 30 countries. My job has challenged my abilities and believe it or not, prepared me for ministry. It started out as a desperate attempt to find employment so we could afford Christian high school education for our 5 children. It has ended up opening doors to the gospel! Normally on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I get up at 6 am. A highlight on each of those mornings is at about 6:20am. As I am doing my hair, my faithful and wonderful husband reads the scriptures to me. Right now we are reading Revelation. He reads just one chapter a day. It takes such a short time, and yet it gets my mind set to go out into the world and do whatever I am called to do that day.
Technically my work is as a learning professional in an engineering company with a manufacturing business. My job entails teaching business concepts, designing instruction, and marketing and coordinating training. I arrive at my workplace at about 6:45am. On my way to work I listen to Christian music (mostly Getty hymns) and pray for my family and friends. Sometimes it becomes a conversation out loud with the Lord. Most of the time I am feeling so thankful for all of God’s blessings in our life. And when I don’t understand God’s plan or purpose for the trials and tribulations we face, this time settles me down. In my car, somehow it seems OK for me to just talk to Him about whatever I am thinking! I try to pray for all the leaders and workers at my company every day. I also ask the Lord to help me recognize the “teachable moments” when a colleague or co-worker might be open to hearing the gospel. I like my work. I can honestly say I like the people with whom I work. Most days I am happy to be there, and I know I am there for a reason.
When I get to my office, I log in to my computer, grab my coffee cup and walk about a half- block to get to the coffee machine. Back in my office, while the exercise and the caffeine are settling in, I read all my emails and check the calendar for what is on the schedule that day. I look forward to reading the Time of Grace devotion from Pastor Jeske every morning. I also have my devotion books ready in case the day is going to be a challenge or I am just thirsty for the Word. It’s amazing how spending that small amount of time in the Word at work enables me to be more productive.
At 5:30pm or later I head for home. I work four ten-hour days. This is done so that I can have what I call “flexible Fridays” in order to do ministry. More on that later. For now, I want to tell you about my Thursdays which start at 5am. Since we have three shifts of workers, I need to teach some of my classes from 5am to 7am! I am able to leave at 3pm on those days. I head directly to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School, where my husband is principal and business manager. More importantly, our three grandchildren, Savanna (age 7), Paige (age 4) and Cullen (age 1) attend school and child care there. I get the privilege of picking them up and play time for a couple of hours after school every Thursday. The joy of hearing them just telling about their day, or sing their songs for church is the high point of each week. I LOVE that they are being taught by all these faithful people to love the Lord.
Being a grandparent has been so wonderful, amazing and fulfilling! The interaction you have with your grandchildren is far more fun than you can imagine prior to having them. Besides the Wisconsin three, we have three grandchildren in California, Jackson (5), Porter (4), and Charlotte (1). Since we live in the north, we get to see them only a few times a year. We long to see them more. However, thanks to Skype, we have been a part of their every day lives too. They love to tease with us, tell jokes, and play with us on the screen. Technology has been a blessing in that respect.
Now on to the ministry in which I am involved. At least two Fridays a month begin at church. For an hour after school starts at 8am, I teach a Bible study for moms of young children. Two of my friends take care of the children so the moms are free to listen uninterrupted. This year we are studying “How to Pray for Your Family”. The Bible study is an outreach of the ministry that by the grace of God, I am privileged to mentor. The ministry is called “Time Out” for Moms. We have been offering spiritual growth activities for young mothers for the last 6 years. It has been so rewarding. During this time I have been able to use my presentation skills and organization development skills that I learned through my job. This ministry has touched many young women’s lives, and consequently their families. The Lord is showing us how faithfully he keeps His promises as these young moms honor Him with their lives.
When I am not teaching on Friday mornings, I drive to a neighboring congregation to attend a women’s Bible study so that I can get refreshed. An empty vessel cannot fill another’s cup with water, but a container that is filled up has plenty to share with others. Gratitude fills my heart as I think of the women of my generation who are seeking to know the Lord better and to find more ways to serve him. These friends from another congregation are so refreshing. Together we dig into the Word and share our lives and pray for each others’ families.
Weeknights I watch a few TV shows with Jim, and while I am doing that I can often be found studying for the next Bible class or presentation for a women’s retreat. I have verbalized to a few people my grandiose dream that someday I will write a book. Soon I will have to honor my words. I have so many stories to write. I am afraid that once I get started I won’t be able to stop! Look out, world.
Weekends are spent with family, friends, worship and Bible study! We are abundantly surrounded with loving people and God’s blessings through the body of Christ in our home congregation! However, Jim and I do cherish our time alone together as a couple or with our intimate family, our children and their families. Sundays are the day for that special time. We can be seen carrying our grandkids on shoulders or piggy backing it as we go to and from the cars at home or anywhere. As I said before, being a Grandparent is the reward for bringing up your own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Of course this description doesn’t include all the many other activities we are part of in our local congregation and school, area high school and Christian community. I enjoy singing in choir, speaking at women’s retreats, and we travel to California a couple of times a year to visit our other children and grandchildren. With my husband in ministry there is no lack of sporting events to attend, people to encourage or fun to be had.
"How would you describe your unique role as a woman?"
"Being a woman is filled with challenges. The first challenge is to understand what God ordained in the Garden before sin entered the world. He put together a perfect plan that reflects the Trinity and the partnership of the three persons of the Godhead. He instituted marriage and set up the relationship of a man and a woman. While he made them equal in salvation and responsibilities, God put the man in a leadership role and complemented the man with the woman in the assistant role. He then blessed them with his presence and guidance.
When I was a very young wife and living in California, I struggled with the fairness of submission. Of course, I wanted to honor God, but at the same time I had bought into the idea that it was not fair for a man to “rule over me”, not even my husband. I listened to my husband, but I wanted to take over all the time, and I was miserable as a result. When I finally took the time to study scriptures and to mine the treasures in God’s Word to understand the beauty of God’s plan in the Garden, it hit me like a ton of bricks that this plan was indeed very good. It was instated before sin. It reflected God himself.
Something in me clicked as the Holy Spirit moved and softened my heart. I saw how it worked perfectly to honor God by submitting to his plan. I wanted God’s blessings on our family. Ephesians 5:22 became my anchor on this topic. It says we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. When I take the Lord at His word, I will submit to His Great Command to love. I believe, as scripture teaches, if relationships today were based on the original plan, and on reverence for Christ, each person would be working for the good of the other person most of the time. To me, that is the essence of our unique role as women: to live for others, and to show love for Christ through our acts of kindness and our witness to the truth, even when our more worldly friends don’t agree or put us down for being old-fashioned.
The second challenge to women is to step out in faith and live God’s plan for women. Now that I understand God’s beautiful plan, I realize the absolute freedom I have in Christ as I fulfill my role being a woman. I can build up and support my husband and my sons to take on their roles as servant leaders. I can embrace my role as a helper, equal in salvation, equal in inheritance, and equal in grace. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to submit to others out of love for Christ. Less is more in God’s economy! I love being able to show emotion and be nurturing to other humans. One of my greatest pleasures is to help others succeed at living their lives for the Lord. I hope to encourage them to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)
As a child of God, which supersedes being a woman, I have the unique privilege of going to my heavenly Father with any issue or problem that I have. When I fail, as I often do, forgiveness is mine. God’s words in Phil 4:13 encourage me to be the best I can be for the Lord. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
"I see several books in the making here, Marilyn. What bible passage is your favorite?"
"In the Old Testament, Isaiah 55 keeps grabbing on to me. In verses 1-5, the invitation to come to the Lord and partake of the free gift of salvation is so well stated. We bring nothing and we get his riches – what a deal!
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live." (Is. 55:1-5)
Then it goes on to describe the thought process of an omnipotent, almighty, and holy Lord and the great power of His Word:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Remember! It’s not about us; it’s about God and His will for us to receive the blessings He pre-ordained for us in Christ as recorded in the Bible. All scripture points to Jesus as the Christ. All the glory goes to God for His amazing grace!
In the New Testament, I have to say that Philippians 4:4-9 is my all-time favorite.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:4-9)
This to me is living in the Spirit: being joyful, unworried, grateful, prayerful, and peaceful because of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. As a result of God’s grace, we can pursue with gusto all the good things in this life as a testimony to our victorious Lord. We can anticipate the better things in the life to come as we wait on God’s promises to be fulfilled!"
"Who is your strongest Christian mentor?"
"Honestly, I have to say that my husband is my strongest Christian mentor. He is what you would call an “old soul”. He is so anchored in the Word that he has never judged me or gotten upset with my impetuousness. He is my rock emotionally. I am all over the map when things happen. I have to process the next steps out loud. I verbalize and he internalizes. Then he usually turns my thoughts back to the calm and peace of being God’s child. It works for us. I really do admire how he takes almost everything in stride.
Next to my husband, I have been greatly influenced by his mother. She is now 99 and the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman. She is so faithful and so very peaceful as she is waiting on the Lord to bring her home. She has taught our children and grandchildren the meaning of family and obedience to the Lord. She has raised a wonderful and loving family. Through them I have understood the real meaning of forgiveness and love for others.
Due to the fact that I am an “older” woman, there are many other men and women that have been strong Christian mentors to me. My own dear parents prayed and sacrificed so that my siblings and I could attend Christian schools through college. My Mom showed me how you can grow in your faith during trials in your life. A former co-worker, Susie Habben, was an elegant woman and pastor’s wife. She had such a reverence for Christ her Savior that I couldn’t help but stand in awe of the Lord that had given her such interesting experiences. All of our pastors have been mentors to me in the personal ways that they taught the Word of God in the pulpit and in Bible classes. I am amazed at the fact that they have spent their lives studying the Word and are still so excited about sharing the gospel with others. I want to live that way until it is my turn to go to the Lord."
"Can you share some advice to encourage a husband in his faith and role in marriage?"
"Today’s culture encourages men to be less than what God designed for them. My heart breaks as I see young women ridicule and put down their husbands. I would advise husbands of all ages to seek the Lord with all their hearts, to trust in Him and lean not on their own understanding. (Prov. 3:5-6) The men that know the Lord intimately are better equipped to be what God has in mind for them. I would advise them to pray diligently for their wives and family. If they set the example of faithfulness in servant leadership, the Lord will be with them and will bless them richly."
"Is there anything specific from Titus 2:3-5, our blog’s mission, that you can comment on to encourage women?
Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
"I take this section of scripture very seriously. As an older woman I have a responsibility to be a teacher to younger women. I am determined to embrace a life of reverence for the Lord. Paul hits a nerve when he says not to be slanderers. He knew that older women have to work hard to find the positive in life, especially after living a fair amount of it. Faithful women labor to make a home for their families, and unfortunately for some, only to be taken for granted or to be put down by their offspring or husband. Modeling how to speak the truth in love is an art to be pursued. In time, as women grow in this art, their children will more likely than not speak well of others.
I find that when I am mindful of the great trust to teach younger women to love their families and to be pure, I become a magnet for the younger women who are open to being taught. Many young moms and wives are searching for a good role model. They are so thirsty to know that they can rely on the Lord. They want to know that God can be trusted and that His promises are true. When I am open about how the Lord is the joy of my heart and continue to teach about Him, the younger women take notice. They are savvy enough to know if we older women are living the truth or not.
Besides that, living the glorious life of a redeemed child of God is exciting! I find myself smiling like someone in love with life. Truth is, that is how I feel. Every day is another adventure, and all days can be good days because of God’s promises. Even the bad days serve some good purpose, whether I can see it at the time or not. Titus 2 women know this and strive to model the fruits of the Spirit."
"I cannot say enough how I appreciate your words on mentorship. What do you feel is a threat to a woman’s faithfulness in her home?"
"One threat that I see is the trend of women relying on other women for emotional and spiritual support. Spending more time with girlfriends than husbands and family erodes the primary (husband-wife) relationship we need to tend and nourish. The leadership that God has given to men to cover and strengthen their wives becomes compromised. As a wife we need to work on the primary relationship we have with our husband and excel at being his best friend.
Supporting our man in a leadership role is not always easy. Waiting for him to consider the facts and make the final decision can be frustrating. Trying to like some of the things he likes or at least to understand them is important to grow together. When I take an interest in my husband’s interests, he is more likely to listen and engage me in a conversation about my interests and opinions. This complementary relationship is fulfilling and nurturing to the marriage. I have seen with my own husband how he takes his role more seriously and considers my opinions carefully because I have deferred to his leadership and decision-making ability as a man.
Now please don’t misjudge my opening statement on this topic! There is no replacement for a faithful female friend or group of them. Do not think that I am saying girlfriends shouldn’t be a part of our lives. I could not live as happily as I do without my friends. They just don’t occupy first place!"
"Absolutely! Let's affirm our husband with words in public! I have never enjoyed groups of women who "husband bash" to find understanding. Negativity spreads and discourages marriage all the more... thank you for your straight talk! A great reminder.
Can you share a difficult event that God strengthened you through?"
When I was thirty-three I team taught the middle grades. During our second year God called my nine-month-pregnant teaching partner, Karen, home at age 28. She had a pulmonary embolism. After she was declared dead, the doctors delivered her oxygen-starved baby Robin. Baby Robin was damaged, stuck at age 2 months in cerebral-palsy-like brain damage. She had a 2 year old sister and a 4 year old brother.
Where was God now, we asked? As the deep waters of doubt swirled around us, threatening to drown, God’s promise in Isaiah 43 grabbed on to us.
”But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’” Isaiah 43:1,3
Robin ended up being a witness without saying a word. She fussed until anyone taking care of her sang “Jesus Loves Me”. She went to the Lord ten years later, following her mother to the Lord on the same day in January. We learned that our times are in God’s hands. He decides when we live and he decides when we die. No discussion. We are to trust that His ways are good, no matter what they appear to be.
"Oh, to God be the glory! Thank you for sharing Robin's story with us.
Is there a moment that you saw God's hand so clearly guiding or providing for you that you would like to share?"
"Honey-Bun, there are so many I don’t know where to start. One story I love to tell is about a car that we had. It was an enormous station wagon with nine seats. While our three older kids were in Christian high school it just kept running without any problems. We began to call it our “cruise of oil”. It guzzled oil by the quart, but kept on going and going. It approached 231,000 miles! During the week of graduation for the third child in high school, the car blew up in flames on the freeway! We no longer needed the car, and it had gotten us through the rough years of 3 in high school at the same time and two going on to college. The Lord has a fantastic sense of timing and of humor at times. He provided transportation for us as long as the financial drought lasted. When the drought was over we knew it without a doubt! During graduation week after 6 years of tuition payments, the car literally exploded on the freeway. No one was hurt in the flames of the blowup. The incident caused a traffic jam on the freeway and made the nightly news on WTMJ Channel 4! We laughed and praised God all in the same moment."
"Wow! Glad to hear no one else was hurt in the accident.
What’s next in life for you, Marilyn?"
"Only God knows. What do I see myself doing in the future? For one thing, I would like to finish strong as I end my working career. I have been given some new challenges. I pray that I will be able to succeed in the new expectations for me. After that, I hope to be able to return to oil painting, which I enjoy. I would love to be more involved in our grandchildren’s lives. Doing more ministry is also a desire I have. I would love to coach and mentor younger women, and to continue teaching Bible classes. Also my husband deserves more of me than I feel I currently can give him. Just being there for him more is what I would love."
"Truly inspirational! I see why you are often over worked and busy ministering - the Lord has blessed you with incredible gifts to share his love with others. We are blessed by you too! This interview was a great way to start the week as you've reminded me of God's forgiveness, love, and to thank Him for the family of believers that "... spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25
Thank you Marilyn!