Vocational Equilibrium – A Tribute for Women’s History Month

“I should have worn sturdier shoes.”

“What was I thinking?”

Well, for one thing, I was thinking that an invitation to go for “a walk” issued by a seventy-five-year-old woman with a snowy crown of fly-away hair would be a rather sedate affair.  I was thinking that we would chat, and that Helen would tell me stories about her years as a missionary in China, about her escape from the communist armies – on a bicycle.

Crashing through bushes and skirting a steep embankment, Helen certainly did talk.  (Could she hear me huffing and puffing to keep up?)

She talked about becoming engaged to her husband in a foxhole.  She told of being evacuated from China (the second time) in the unpressurized cabin of an airplane that flew over the Himalayas, about the weight of unborn death she carried into the crowded streets of some Indian city, about seeking medical assistance as a refugee, and then being reunited, miraculously,  with her husband days later.

I’ve always been thankful that I became an adult in time to meet and befriend a few pioneer missionaries.  Hearing their tales, witnessing their clear-eyed following of the will of God has brought much-needed perspective to my understanding of ministry and calling.

Of course, by comparison, my own resume looks like a hen house that was built in a hurricane — random shingles of children’s ministry hammered into place, followed by a few years with an office and a 401(k), and now full-time mothering.  I’m no athlete, but have somehow managed to produce a brood of bike-riding, ice-skating, tree-climbing boys whose sense of balance takes them safely – and effortlessly – through treacherous bike paths, onto snow and ice, and even over ridge poles (don’t ask).  I’ve noticed that the secret to maintaining their balance seems to be movement – the ever-so-subtle adjustments they make to their position.

Could this have been Helen’s secret?  She may have been chased out of China by the Japanese army, but that didn’t stop her from returning – in time to be chased out again by the Communists.  And if all the doors slam shut, and it becomes impossible to minister to the Chinese in their own country, one mustn’t let all that good language training go to waste.  Helen and her husband went on to serve a Chinese-speaking population in Taiwan and then, later, in the Philippines.

It is likely that throughout Helen’s long ministry, someone in an office somewhere was concerned about a 1940’s-era equivalent of the words impact and platform.  Helen’s thoughts, however, would have been occupied with constructing a net that would — hopefully — capture some of the pigeons that roosted on a nearby roof.  Famine brings out the creativity in anyone, but God was way ahead of her:  He sent a torrential rain one night with plummeting temperatures that froze the birds’ feathers.  They fell off the roof into the courtyard, and Helen was able to pick them up by the basketful.

A life-long pianist, Helen brought music to several of Amy Carmichael’s poems, but she wasn’t averse to writing her own hymn lyrics either.  Is her secret to vocational equilibrium found in the simple words of this song she referred to as “My Testimony”?

Through all the journey of the years,
The Lord has shown His grace.
What shall I render unto Him,
How come before His face?
I’ll take salvation’s cup and drink
‘Til all my thirst is lost
In the deep well of Calvary love –
Secured at awful cost.

Helen Anderson had no idea that she would someday be thought of as a “pioneer missionary,” that her photos and the letters she wrote to her mother on dress patterns (paper was scarce) would be archived at Wheaton College.  However, she did know that her heart’s satisfaction was found in the “deep well of Calvary love” – and that she was called to share that love with the world.  Keeping her feet, Helen moved to the rhythm of God’s call on her life.

For over two decades, I have leaned hard into mothering, bearing four boys in eight years, hanging cloth diapers on a sunny clothesline, reading mountains of story books.  Adjusting my stance, I found that you could gather a kitchen-table-full of women around The Word if there was a swing set outside. The tiny deaths to self and the my-life-for-yours of this mothering vocation have kept me moving, adjusting, seeking equilibrium.

For missionaries and mothers, for everyone who follows a calling, the secret of vocational balance may be as simple – and as complicated – as leaning into the task at hand, drinking deeply from salvation’s cup, and trusting the One who says that He is “able to keep you from stumbling.”


Photo courtesy of the Wheaton Archives (Billy Graham Center)

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44 thoughts on “Vocational Equilibrium – A Tribute for Women’s History Month”

  1. Fantastic article here, Michele. It’s amazing how much we look to others and wonder about our own effectiveness but the Lord calls each person to an individual walk… and the obedience we show to that is our truth and our faith shown bright.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Obedience. Yes, it does come down to that, doesn’t it. I’m so thankful that you peer over my shoulder here, Bev. I appreciate your encouragement, and have so much respect for your experience.


  2. Michele – I am so glad to “find you” and to read this posting. Thank you for sharing the link to it in our Consilium group. I melted into the beauty of your words sharing of the impact Helen’s life and faith were – the gift God gave to her to be a light in her part of His world. At first it can be intimidating to read of one so committed but you brought we readers right back to the “shoes” we wear that help us do the sturdy work each of us has been called to. It is true. Whatever garden we tend, wherever we are called to live – there is a mission call on each of our lives. God bless!


  3. Great post, Michele, as always! I loved hearing the story of Helen, but I also liked how you related the message to all of us and our callings – whatever they might be. Loved your line: “The tiny deaths to self and the my-life-for-yours of this mothering vocation have kept me moving, adjusting, seeking equilibrium.” I’m thinking that whatever our callings might be, it will require tiny deaths to self!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we all want to do great things for God — it’s our nature. But the “great things,” when viewed in hindsight, all seem to be made out of moment by moment trust in His sovereignty and availability to do whatever needs doing. I fall short.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, Michele! I was trying to find your email address to contact you, so I thought I’d give this a try. I wanted to let you know I featured a couple comments about your articles in my What We Learned in February post. I hope that was okay. I did put links back to your posts and, of course, gave you credit. I’m a big quote collector, but I have learned to keep track of where I saw great material and try my best to always link back. Jerralea

    From: Living Our Days To: prov31grace@yahoo.com Sent: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 5:04 AM Subject: [New post] Vocational Equilibrium – A Tribute for Women’s History Month #yiv0177752942 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0177752942 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0177752942 a.yiv0177752942primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0177752942 a.yiv0177752942primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0177752942 a.yiv0177752942primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0177752942 a.yiv0177752942primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0177752942 WordPress.com | Michele Morin posted: ““I should have worn sturdier shoes.”“What was I thinking?”Well, for one thing, I was thinking that an invitation to go for “a walk” issued by a seventy-five-year-old woman with a snowy crown of fly-away hair would be a rather sedate affair.  I was” | |


  5. Oh this is stunning!!! I love these stories of God’s angels filled with wisdom and faith after such hardship, what a blessing her life is, and so is yours–motherhood is a beautiful, rugged adventure, too!!! So enjoyed your writing! Visiting from #raralinkup today!


  6. Love this! Must have been lovely meeting Helen in person. So much to learn from her stock of experience and wisdom! But I can see why you expected a leisurely stroll! 🙂 I like how you lace the idea of moving, walking, and keeping our feet from stumbling all through the post. Wonderful, because the important thing, in the end is to keep growing and going on with the Lord. Knowing he will keep our feet from stumbling!


  7. Stories of integrity, honor and faith balance things out don’t they? This woman’s life a testimony to just doing what was before her with nothing but faith and determination to be an open vessel, refillable, usable, no matter how ragged and worn. Regardless the hardships, difficulty and challenges that her normal was, I wager she never posed the question – where is my happy that is due me which seems to be a disturbing trend nowadays. Thanks for this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Meema. I wish I could have done a better job conveying the manner in which Helen shared her life with me. She was so self-effacing – very careful to assign credit to God whenever it was being handed out. I still miss the sound of her laugh.


  8. Helen Anderson…thank you for the introduction, Michele. We need these stories of faithful ones ahead of us on the journey. I was touched by your last line as well–it comes down to faith in the One who alone is ‘able to keep you from stumbling’. This has been such an encouraging post for me. I have just read a short autobiographical missionary book by Nancy Sheppard this weekend–focused on the things God used to teach and grow her faith and how He truly transformed her at the core of her personality. I’m sure you would enjoy it if you haven’t seen it already: Confessions of a Transformed Heart. Your story here reminded me of it. Thanks again for sharing ( :


  9. What a wonderful story, told so beautifully! I am so glad the Lord gave you the opportunity to meet Helen. It is truly a wonder when we look back over our lives and discover those who have intersected their life with ours and the impact it leaves many years later! I so much enjoyed this reading this afternoon before I start dinner! Thanks!!


  10. Hey Michelle! I LOVE this post! I fell in love with reading about missionaries through reading the Christian Hero’s then and now series with my girls who are homeschooled. First I started with Amy Charmichael – and it blew my socks off! I have never been the same. Then we read Gladys Alyward, which was Oh, so good! Now we are reading Nate Saint. Reading these books have really brought me closer to God. How funny how you struggled to keep up with Helen. :o) I can’t believe you really met her. So exciting! I’m so happy for you.

    Thank you soooo much for sharing that experience. (I found you at 100 Happy Days!)

    Have a blessed week!


  11. Michele,
    This article is so timely as we launch our new website for Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. So true that you can have plans and platforms, but if you can’t feed hungry mouths, chances are they won’t have strength to listen to what you say. Thanks for the encouragement to be there where the rubber meets the road. God is molding and morphing my very limited non-profit ministry experience into something He can use. I just have to keep showing up…beautiful friend!!


    1. You remind me of the words of Amy Carmichael when a donor sent in a gift earmarked “for work with souls.” What Amy really needed right the was accommodations for her rescued orphans and so she returned the gift saying that in her experience, souls were more or less tied to bodies and she was in ministering to bodies right now. May you serve with the lion hearted devotion of that great lady!


  12. I love this.. I love the way you inspire us to lean in to words like you do, Michele. What a gift you have of speaking the good and the beautiful as an invitation to draw into the literature that has touched your heart. I am always blessed to spend time with you, here.


  13. It sounds like it was amazing experience to meet Helen and hear her story. Thanks for sharing it here. I like your point that we all have a calling, whatever that may be and we just need to get on with the task in hand and keep our focus on God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think we sometimes get so focused on our “calling” that we forget to answer all the many “calls” we receive to serve God and others countless times every day.


  14. “Lean into your task” will be my words for this week, and I really need to lean into my tasks. Thank you so much for writing such beautiful and encouraging words. I feel just a little stronger to face the mess of a house that I need to clean, the homeschooling of the kids that I need to teach, and everything else I need to accomplish this week.


  15. Hi Michele! I’m still working through the women of faith Michelle DeRusha shares in her book “50 Women Every Christian Should Know”. I find the lives of the women fascinating. Thanks for adding another faithful believer to the list of women I get to learn from. The reflection on mothering and calling were powerful additions to an informative post. This line is just perfect “The tiny deaths to self and the my-life-for-yours of this mothering vocation have kept me moving, adjusting, seeking equilibrium.” – me too friend, me too.


    1. I loved Michelle’s book! Ruth Tucker has also written a lively collection of biographies of all the Bible women. Thankful to be moving along this path, keeping our feet, and seeking equilibrium together! Thanks for all you do!


  16. Wonderful story-telling. I don’t want to sound clueless? But is this a book review or did you meet this lovely lady? I would love to read more about her. Thanks for sharing on Literacy Musing Mondays.


    1. This is actually a story from my life. I wrote about Helen to honor her and also just to remember her wonderful influence. She was such a soldier for the Lord in an era where one could say that and it was not be considered trite.


  17. I loved this post just as much as I did the first time I read it! Talk about the lesson of perseverance taught by this lady!

    Thanks for sharing this at The Loft today.


    1. Thanks for reading, Jerralea! The prompt today made me think about all the wonderful people God has given to me — who have taught and built into my life. What a great gift!


  18. Oh, to sit and chat with some of these women like Helen. I’m working on a post “3 Women I wish I Had Known Sooner” Women that were right there in my midst, but I never took the time to sit and chat with them.


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