Every Sunday evening, before the church service, Mabel led a program for elementary students. Before we could enter to sing, we recited the Bible memory verse of the week to an adult stationed outside the door.
By the time I was old enough to start “Juniors,” her children had children of their own or were off at college. Though several of her sons and daughters attended college, Mabel had never completed high school. When she was a young woman, teen-aged girls were hired out to a family with a new baby, a failing family member, or sometimes because it was less expensive to hire “household help” rather than pay a farm laborer.
Mabel made it look easy to be a Proverbs 31 woman.
She had a large garden, a flock of chickens kept for eggs as well as butchering, cookies for the men’s lunches in the afternoon and coffee cake for the morning break. Often during harvest time, she would also do the feeding and calf chores to help shorten her farmer- husband’s day.
I know this because my mom stopped nearly every week to buy fresh eggs from her. And while those visits included the sharing of recipes, cleaning tips, and news of the community, they always ended with a short prayer for personal needs.
Her life was one of integrity. What I saw when we’d drop in was the same person that lead our children’s program.
On my tenth birthday slumber party, the evening activity was to go to an evangelistic crusade. The music was cool, with guitars, string bass and drums as the accompaniment, a new trend in the 1960’s.
But the message was convicting, and though I had asked Jesus to forgive my sins at age six, I needed to be positive. Even with my party guests there, the pressure to go forward had me going down the aisle.
Waiting at the front were men and women of the community who volunteered to council and pray with those that responded. Mabel greeted me, showed me verses that affirmed my salvation, and prayed with me. Then she went further and helped me see that Christ wanted to be part of my everyday life. And every so often, she’d find a way to encourage my walk with God.
I wanted what she had in Christ.
She was confident in her faith.
She prayed like she conversed with God every day.
Even when bad things happened to her children or grandchildren, or they made choices that were less than Christ-like, she still loved them and offered support to them. And no matter what, her faith was unshakable.
Once, when I had children of my own attending “Juniors,” she called me to apologize for saying something hurtful that I didn’t even remember. But I was humbled, and strangely honored that she lived by the standard of the Bible of going to the one wronged and ask forgiveness.
Each time I had a new baby, she sent food and a card with a handwritten note about God’s view of the blessing of children.
In the later years of her life, her oldest son and her husband allowed some church decisions to distance their relationship. Though it must have pained her, she continued to maintain a relationship with her son without upsetting her husband.
When my sister-in-law had a miscarriage, I learned that Mabel had also experienced that heart-wrenching loss as a young woman. Reaching out to young women in that painful time, when she had learned to grieve alone, was another part of her ministry.
A few months later, I discovered that I was unexpectedly pregnant. Since I’d been a full-time mom for twelve years, I was looking forward to some private time when our youngest began school. It was Mabel who shared the difficult time in accepting her last pregnancy when her older children were already in high school. Her transparency helped me find joy in those weeks of prenatal growth and development.
Observing her life for nearly forty years, from the perspective of a child through teen years, and then as a young mother myself, her life continued to glow with a love life with God.
Mabel’s name may be forgotten, but for me her transparent and faithful life continues as a model of how a Godly woman lives.
Her faith investment in her family, forty years of children’s ministry, and her personal investment in my life may not be applauded by men, but by God’s measurement of worth. Mabel loved Him and all those who He brought into her life.
Sheila Dailie and her husband Kenne continue to live on his family farm where they raised four daughters and now enjoy two granddaughters. They also had a dairy herd for about 15 years. Sheila plays piano and has taught students for over 25 years. Learning to live out the faith she has always cherished is like climbing a spiral stairway: relearning lessons on deeper levels.
This post is part of the My Faith Heroine Series in conjunction with the release of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith. Click here to read other posts in the #MyFaithHeroine series.