Elizabeth Foss on Ecclesiastes 3
She Speaks is a conversation series that launches with each Ruah book.
For each She Speaks, we ask five women to answer the same three reflective questions about one meaningful theme. It's an honor for us to share the heartfelt words of these women.
You will see several videos in the blog post below. Following each video, there is a short transcription of what Elizabeth says, so you can either watch the video OR read her wise words.
Grab a cup of coffee or tea, cozy up, and enjoy!
Wisdom from Elizabeth Foss
On Ecclesiastes 3
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
I am Elizabeth Foss. I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. I’m a big advocate of unmedicated childbirth and an equally big advocate of emergency, life saving c-sections. Come to think of it, I’m an advocate of V-BACs too. I have had enough babies to check all the boxes.
I was a breastfeeding mother for twenty-four years straight, except for the eighteen months that I spent with chemo and radiation. And so, I am also a cancer survivor, who has lived more years post cancer than before it. I am a woman who was the mother of five boys and one little girl, and I have come to miss spending the whole weekend on soccer sidelines. Now, my house is full of four girls and just one boy, and I find my joy by watching ballerinas dance and cheering my marathoner as he runs far away from this household of girls.
I am a writer and an editor and a business person and a publisher. I am an avid reader who loves to be outdoors and moving, so I am a ridiculous consumer of audio books. I am a decided introvert who loves silence. But every night, I cook dinner for “just” my family, in quantities that most people would consider party quantities. It’s still a party here at my house.
I’m a woman prone to anxiety and depression, whose life has been saved by Jesus in the Word, and I mean to spend the rest of my life telling the world how awesome is my God.
Which verse from the Ecclesiastes passage best describes your current season of life? Why?
“A time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” About six years ago, I entered into a season of striking contrast. My first son got married and we welcomed a daughter into our family. My husband and I danced at the reception and marveled at how beautifully our nine children had come together for the day, and what an absolute joy it was to see them there, from the four year old to the groom, twenty years older than his smallest sister. We noted how rare it was that the grandparents of both the bride and the groom were alive to know their joy. It was definitely a dancing day.
And within weeks of that wedding, two more of my sons left for college and the children at home were bereaved. They had lost a third of their population and the rhythm of relationships they had known all of their lives. We reeled as we adjusted, and I admit that I mourned what was. I loved having everyone home under my roof, and I loved this season where I was surrounded by little ones. I found teenagers much more challenging.
Shortly after that wedding, Kristin’s grandfather died and the first of the group that had gathered so recently began to leave. There was weeping and mourning and a new season. Then we learned a new baby was on the way, and our first grandchild was the sure reason to laugh and dance and shout from the rooftops that life was happening and that God was good. Then there was another death, my father-in-law. I’ll never forget sitting at the end of the pew at his funeral where my children filled the whole row, every face streaked with tears and the boys in their wedding suits, and they lifted the casket together into its place. The celebration clothes were mourning clothes. Several of the boys have outgrown those suits, and we’ve had to replace them for more funerals, and then there have been more baptisms.
I’m a woman who spent a December day at the side of my father who was slipping all too quickly into the depths of Alzheimers and further and further from me. And I thought about my own life and how short it was and wondered if it would be my ending too. But I’m also the woman who two days later put my two little girls in the car and drove like a crazy person to get to the home of my daughter-in-law, where I could run up and down the stairs a million times a day and sleep in a toddler bed with a three year old, and help them welcome twins into their growing family in the dead of the winter. This is my season, the season of contrast, and the challenge of this season is to see all of the good and truly believe that it is all all good.
How do you strive to embrace each season of your life? Can you share an example from this season or a previous season?
My favorite season of life was the season when we had lots of little kids and both a nursing toddler and a newborn. I loved that season. I know not alot of women love that time of life, and I’m really sure that it’s not a special achievement on my part, but it’s kind of a graced quirk of my personality. I love to hold them and to hear them and to have them close by. But I also love the insular nature of those days. I like for my world to be small and close and intimate. I was always sure what God wanted of me at any given moment because really I just needed to do the next thing, and there was always a next thing to do. But I also know the mind numbing fatigue that comes with that season and I know what it is like to never be alone and wonder if you ever will be alone. I know what it is like to want to dig deep into a creative project but to know that you are only allowed however much time is afforded by the baby’s nap and only if you decide not to clean for that day.
So what would I say to that season now that that season is behind me? It’s super trite to say that babies don’t keep, isn’t it? But it’s true. I think I’d say lean into it, learn it. Every small moment, every strange, unseen sacrifice. They make you more and more like the woman God created you to be. You’re not marking time in that season. You’re making you. You’re not just growing and nurturing children; you are growing and nurturing your soul. Tend it well. Listen to it in the quiet. Put down your phone when you pick up your baby. I didn’t have a smartphone until my last baby. And you know where some of my fondest memories and my biggest thoughts grew? In the times I was “trapped,” holding a nursing baby without anything to do. Nothing occupied my mind at those times except my big thoughts and my bigger prayers. Don’t rob yourself of that quiet in the midst of the noise. You embrace the season of welcoming life by being fully alert and aware and open to everything that those lives offer to your life. Even if you have half a dozen kids or more, it is a very short season.
If you could offer yourself wisdom on this subject what would it be? What does your heart need to hear today?
Sometimes it’s challenging to think that maybe the best isn’t yet to be, maybe I’ve lived my favorite season and that’s that. I mean, really, stop for a minute and think about it. When you were a little girl playing make believe, did you ever pretend to be a middle aged woman with a bunch of teenagers and frequent hot flashes? Did you ever pretend to be an elderly woman pushing her husband in a wheel chair? Not so much, right?
So sometimes I worry that it’s going to be hard for me from here on out and that worry can crowd out hope. That is when I force myself to stop, and sit, and really ponder. Where is my hope? In whom do I hope? In what do I hope? Is my hope in a house full of children? Is it in what lies in a house that has been home for a family of twelve for twenty years? If it is, hope fades. Hope passes away with time.
What I tell myself in this season is that my hope is in Him. Jesus knows my heart better than I do and no matter what extreme I find myself in, in this season, He is in it with me. He is eternal. He is unchanging. He knows what fuels me and He offers it to me daily. He is in it for the long haul. He’s not moving out, He’s not getting sick, He won’t die. No matter how quickly the world spins or how tired I am of trying to figure out this month’s new normal, He is unchanging. He is what I know I can know forever and always and no matter what. When I rest in that truth and I surrender to His tenderness, I see that this life and this season hold countless blessings everyday. I see that my Lord loves to delight me in things I could not have imagined when I was a little girl playing house.
About Elizabeth Foss
Elizabeth Foss is a morning person who relishes her time alone with the Word as much as she loves the inevitable interruption by the first child to wake. There is something so hopeful about every new day! A wife, mother, and grandmother, she’s happy curled up with a good book or tinkering with a turn of phrase. She alternates between giving up coffee and perfecting cold brew. Elizabeth would rather be outdoors than inside, and she especially loves long walks in the Virginia countryside that sometimes break into a run. She is the founder and Chief Content Director of Take Up & Read.
Personal Website: www.elizabethfoss.com
Take Up And Read Website: www.takeupandread.org
Twitter: elizabethfoss and totakeupandread
Facebook: Elizabeth Foss and Take Up & Read Community