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Our friends, Sarah and Chad Markley, hopped a plane and flew all the way from California to Podunk, Arkansas,  just to spend the weekend with us, not knowing whether or not we would have anything to do other than maybe go cow tipping. They came because we have a small circle here, and we all just needed the time together, processing life and then singing and eating together. The Christmas lights were on the square, and we bought wool ear warmers and took silly photos after we ate some classically awesome Fayetteville food, proving we have more than cows here after all.

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Later that night Seth and Chad played their guitars and sang to each other, and Sarah and I let our conversations slip to what we’ve been thinking about women in the church. Our conversations go in strings of questions, and that’s okay. She’s my friend who sticks, and I am hers. We can question in front of each other until the cows come home.

The next day we met up in Rusch land. Most people call it Bentonville, a town that hosts our local museum called Crystal Bridges. If our museum were to tangle with your museum, I’m pretty sure we’d win. I’m just saying name anything in the way of American art; we’ve got it or we will have it (huffs my fingernails and buffs them on my shoulder.)

We were all tender in the deeper waters of conversation, balancing our deep with inappropriate comments, how good friends do. It was cold and rainy. Our men dropped us off and then ran in to us laughing. Sarah, Corrie, and I were watching them be boys, brothers. It wasn’t long until we walked straight into Emma Marie Cadwalader-Guild’s Free. It was all laughter, turning a corner, then silence so thick we couldn’t swallow.

We walked around him, still standing solid after over a century, still telling his story. You should see his back. It’s too sacred to even spell it out. We barely spoke. The fact that this carving is titled Free, it’s what we wanted for him, freedom. It’s what we wanted for ourselves, the world.

When we moved on, Seth was feeling extremely introspective and so he held his hands together and pondered from painting to painting. Chad and Mike followed him for minutes and minutes, imitating his every move, and Seth never noticed. It was true strenuous work to not laugh and mess up the whole thing.

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Again we came into the room to see my favorite girl: Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter. I’ve always known that I love her and was showing her off as if I had painted her myself, but a museum worker could tell we weren’t taking her in how we should. He wanted us to hear the story.

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The museum guide pointed out that beneath her penny loafers is a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I had never noticed that part of the painting. He asked us if we recognized Rosie’s stance from another piece of art. We stood listening, and the guide said in his soft museum voice, “She is Isaiah the prophet,” and then the air sucked up quiet again, and he was saying words, but I don’t know all he said. It all went slow motion, Mein Kampf and a woman as a prophet. I looked at Sarah, and she and I both had tears in our eyes. ”She is a copy of Isaiah the prophet, as painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.”

I can’t explain that moment in full except to say that we had a moment, and standing there Sarah and I believed together that we as women are meant to set people free. We don’t believe this just about women, but about the whole church, the whole of us, together.

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Now I don’t believe I’ll have to bulk up like Rosie to accomplish it, but let’s look at history and let it teach us some things. Let’s look around at the ones in shackles. Let’s shirk free ourselves from what hinders us. Let’s trample the old ways of the world! Don’t we know who holds the keys to freedom?

{Free photo source here. Rosie photo source here.}
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  1. 1

    Amber,
    What a reminder that we, as women, have the power (in Christ) to set others free from the shackles of bondage. Christ came so that we might have life and have it abundantly…so it is our responsibility to use our God given gifts to enable others (and ourselves) to find that abundance and freedom in the Lord. Thanks for a powerful message this morning!
    Blessings,
    Bev

  2. 3

    I loved the way you told this story! I felt as though I was right there, in the museum learning about Rosie with you.

    I know for so many it is a struggle to find the freedom that Christ gives us. There is such deep beauty in the way He has the power to give peace and freedom to all!

    • 4

      That stature Free? That man had been made free, but you see his shackles all over him still. There was something so powerful about that image. You are right. Too many of us aren’t living our freedom.

  3. 5

    I’ve always had such weird/strong feelings about women as leaders/teachers in the church. It’s only as I get older (47) and encounter more great women leaders and teachers that I realize OF COURSE God would use women to teach/lead other women (and gasp! Men too!) I’m amazed at all of the great Godly women I’ve encountered online, young and old, and thankful that He has given me eyes to see and ears to hear.

    On another note, next time I’m in Fayetteville I’m gonna have to make a run to Bentonville. That museum sounds amazing.

    • 6

      Oh Kellie, that museum is amazing.

      I am thankful for how God is showing me how He walks with women, too. It’s very powerful to see another woman live free and called and loved.

  4. 7

    As always, you make me laugh and cry and think about life differently.
    Love the way you see the church.

  5. 9

    Oh friend, you know i love this –so because YES! That women and the entirety of the church, and the world we touch everyday– would be free.

    Two things : giggling at Mike and Chad copy-catting Seth. And i love the word, shirk. I like to say it– a LOT. Shirk, shirk, shirk!! Love you. <3

    • 10

      Shirk may not be a southern word, but it sounds like one to me.

      SO here’s a question. Do you know what a stob is? Now STOB is a word I love.

      :) Love you, Mississippi girl.

  6. 11

    How blessed to have friendships like these, and yes I believe that God speaks in just these ways. I hear Him like this and have to paraphrase, or I hear Him in one sentence plain as day.

    • 12

      It’s good to hear that if I’m a kookie pants, then at least I’m not alone. ;)

      No really, I believe He speaks to us all the time. We may just not always be listening.

  7. 13

    The key word you used is believe. We do have the ability and there are so many of us, especially women, who have so many gifts to be used in the process of setting ourselves and others free but are timid in our callings. The process of letting go and allowing God to use us is beautiful. We all just need to believe. This is a great word today. Thank you:).

    • 14

      Love your thoughts on timidness Jennifer. This quote from Jennie Allen really helps put my gifts in perspective: “We are all unique and needed in this plan. To hide our gifts, or to deny them, or to compare and wish them away is not only taking from yourself; it is taking from God, his church, and a world that needs to see the expression of God you bring. It’s the expression he designed you to bring.”

    • 15

      Yes, exactly, Jennifer!

      Sometimes I wonder if it doesn’t take a generation to do it first, so that the younger ones can see.

  8. 16

    Oh, Amber. I just love this! My blog has been sitting pretty quiet lately, but my heart hasn’t been. I sent some words out into cyberspace today, and they were all about…freedom. I thought my word for 2013 was freedom, but it turns out 2013 set the stage for God inviting me into my calling: be free to help set others free :)

    • 17

      Hi Mandy. Your comment here makes my heart smile. What a beautiful picture — God calling you to freedom so He can use you to call other to it too.

    • 19

      Mandy, I feel like I keep having to learn the lesson over and over again, but it seems to me that the lessons stick in me when I’m passing them on. Does that make any sense? I walk in freedom when I’m linking arms with others to set people free.

  9. 20

    Love, love this. Thanks for sharing such a powerful story.

  10. 22

    I’m standing on my own little book this morning. The book of my Plans. Plans from the heart of God to the words of Isaiah to my own fingers. And there are women that hurt my heart for lack of freedom and I stand lonely in my hometown hording words. And then…I come here. Thank you!

  11. 24

    I love how you wove this story Amber! Everyday life drenched with holy. Totally understand podunk and small circles. Feel for you there.

    Sensing the deep correlation between Isaiah’s exhortation to bind up the broken hearted, set the captives free, release prisoners from darkness and immerse ourselves in the work of restoration and the message of Rosie. She’s ready for the work – she’s ready to get down to business and put her heart into it. I feel very much the same calling.

  12. 27

    You got me–tears and all.
    Yes to freedom.
    Yes to my calling to set captives free.
    Yes.

  13. 29

    Friendship, art, history, revelation, action.

    The Lord’s been speaking to me about it all…. and through it all here lately.

    Sweet post.

    Kind Blessings,
    Kate :)

  14. 30

    Oh my, I never realized the significance of Rosie’s stance OR that she was standing on Mein Kampf. Incredible.

    This post that sings of friendship, art, and God’s heart for his daughters? I couldn’t love it more. Just beautiful, Amber. Much love to you.

  15. 32

    Surreal. Not sure I even know what to say.

  16. 33

    Wow…what a gift…community, love, laughter, insight…eyes wide open, hearts full…

    Thank you for allowing me to journey through this memory with you and giving me a guided tour!

    Blessings,
    Linda

  17. 34

    I’ve had more moments with God in the halls of a museum than I can count. I love this, and I’m challenged by it too, because I know in my head that it is good and right and holy for women to rise up. But I don’t really know how to live this out in my own life. I want to see more women–more freedom fighters and prophetess’ living this out for the rest of us to emulate, just as your friends followed Seth. Thank you for rising up, sister, and showing us how kingdom work is done.

    • 35

      “I want to see more women–more freedom fighters and prophetess’ living this out for the rest of us to emulate”

      ME TOO! Kimberly, I keep coming back to the fact that someone has to be first. If we know it needs to happen, and we’re not seeing it happen, then these may be the waters on which women of our time are being called to walk.

      • 36

        *Shivers* Someone has to be first. Thanks for the encouragement to step out into uncharted territory. Feeling inspired.

        I love art museums for the very same reason Kimberly!

  18. 37

    Wonderful storytelling and I like how you brought that all around to the message of setting people free. Beautiful!

  19. 39

    Thank you for this amazing reminder of who we are in Christ. “We are more than conquerors.” The Lord can use each one of us right where we are through words, love and the Holy Spirit filling us up to overflowing in and through Jesus Christ. Molding us into all that HE’s called us to be. I love those amazing moments when The Lord speaks to your heart and soul through others. What do they often call that… AHA moment?!:D Have a blessed day.

  20. 41
    Melissa says:

    I want friends like this. Friends who can talk about the deep and hard things of life. Friends who can also laugh and be silly. Where are they?

    • 42

      The friends who fly all the way from California? I have no idea how that happens. It’s rare. I know it is.

    • 43

      Melissa, I have had hard seasons without it, though – that’s for sure. It’s hard.

    • 44
      Beth WIlliams says:

      It is so hard to find, make and keep good friends like that. We move around so much and truly trusting someone is hard.

      Prayers for God to bring you a great friend who will love you and trust you with her most intimate thoughts and desires.

      Blessings :)

      • 45

        Melissa, I wondered the same thing too – after moving to a new town. Walked through a serious season of loneliness but God definitely brought kindred spirits into my life. Praying for beautiful encounters with potential new friends for you this coming week.

  21. 46

    Blessed to bless others, freed to set other captives free. This is our call. May we walk in it fully today. Amen! This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing a unique perspective and saying what my heart has been beating lately.

  22. 48
    Julie Reynolds says:

    Thank you for this insightful and informative post! I love your perspective, it made me search deeper today. Thanks

  23. 49

    I love the picture of you two standing there, hearing Him whisper into you, His girls, His freedom warriors, with Him. So cool So beautiful. Thank you for how you encourage here, Amber. Love your heart and the way you point me to Him.

  24. 50

    Ahhhhhhh. My heart – so full thinking of my own precious girlfriends far and near as I read your words, “We were all tender in the deeper waters of conversation, balancing our deep with inappropriate comments, how good friends do.”
    Then, overwhelm of my entire gut at also wanting him to be free.
    Then, that little amazed wow that always comes when I see Rosie, turning into a huge WOW at what Norman Rockwell was saying without saying.
    Challenged, Inspired, Encouraged to believe and be and do what Abba Father designed.
    Thank you for your words today.
    PS – I am working through some books on Woman in God’s Image and Likeness by John D. Garr for a ladies Bible study in my home. The series is actually titled “Feminine and Free”. Recommending them wholeheartedly to any woman (and man) willing/wanting to dig deep. It is changing lives, with a ripple effect.

  25. 52

    Thank you for sharing this touching story. The theme of “freedom” and the details behind the portrait of Rosie…..Wow! God is all around for those with eyes to see! And yes, we DO know who offers freedom to all! Thank you Jesus!

  26. 54

    Rosie. Wow.

  27. 55

    This: “Let’s trample the old ways of the world! Don’t we know who holds the keys to freedom?”

    Well the only thing I have to say to that is….YES and AMEN!!!!!

  28. 56

    This post is Isaiah 61. The beat of my heart. His Spirit and anointing are in and on us. Love the call to live in the truth of it, casting off hindrances.

    {funny men mimicking him-ha ha!}

  29. 57

    Oh Amber…. THIS is what excites me and overwhelms me every single day. Why aren’t we free? Why aren’t we embracing the freedom Christ suffered and died and rose again and conquered death for us to have? Why are we scared and why don’t we love ourselves enough to be free so that we can then want freedom for our neighbor? I’m so tired of talking about it all the time, but never doing anything about it. I want to get out of the boat and do it. How do we all clasp hands and keep each other up when one of us gets scared?

  30. 58

    Well Amber, this just churned in my gut and burned in my heart. I just love Norman Rockwell and can’t believe I never noticed Mein Kampf. My parents grew up in Nazi Germany during WWII and moved to the US in 1959. This leaves me shaking with anticipation about what we can do as women. Just this morning I was reading in Matthew and came across Matt. 9:37-38 ~> Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” There are too many who are not free. There was a time when my own family was not free. There is so much history to learn from and so much still to be done. And He is sending us out into His harvest field to share Truth and freedom. Thank you for sharing this post. Truly eye-opening.

  31. 59
    Annie Barnett says:

    My little artist heart loves this more than words can tell. Preach on, sister.

  32. 60
    Babs C. says:

    Amber, reading this post was like reading a favorite book or spending time with a friend and catching up…a real good friend that deposits to and withdraws from your heart. I always enjoy reading your posts, but this one I seemed to walk through it almost experiencing it for myself as you described everything. I experienced the quiet suddenlies in the museum and the beauty of the time you shared in friendly commune. Felt as if I were there among the friends, welcome, joys, wonderment, fellowship, deep, playful, heartfelt and everlasting…(not necessarily in that order, of course :) Between FREE and ROSIE you managed to withdraw one of my heart-life scriptures to add to the sacred Ah-Ha and Amen.. Isaiah 61 (link below). Especially in regard to setting the captives FREE and truly being free. Rosie, Isaiah… the words escape me to express all that is resonating in my heart over this connection and all that God has been teaching me and leading me to understand about His thoughts about His beloved women warriors of the spirit. Liberators not for selfish intent but for the glory of God and the growth of His Kingdom. Battling not for strife or gain but because we love and care and desire to see the captive free, truly free and restored. Battling not to overcome our male counterparts, but because God has them on their own assignments over yonder and there and there, and this is our calling…our joy. Oh,, YES, what joy to be free, to join ranks with the team of encouraging co-laborers, and be in the joyful labor of freeing others! Thank you, for painting these pictures of your wonderful time for all of us to share it with you and Sarah and Friends. I’m so glad you did!

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+61&version=NIV

  33. 61

    And this is where I stand up in praise and thanks – to thank God for the words that he is sharing through you, friend! Thanks Amber! Very encouraged by this very special image!

  34. 62

    Unexpected moments from God. Sounds as though it stopped you in your tracks and spoke deeply to your hearts at the very same moment. Powerful. Thank you so much for letting us hear what God whispered to you in that moment. Oh, that we would hear and respond…as the end draws a near.

  35. 63
    Beth WIlliams says:

    Amber.

    You are so blessed to have a good, fun loving husband and many great friends with whom you can share life. I just read a Proverbs 31 blog about being that kind of friend.

    We, as women, are given talents to share with others. We need to step out in faith and use those talents to set people free. To many people are caught up in the lies they hear and need freedom.

    Blessings :)

  36. 64
    Candy Warren says:

    Amber,
    It blesses my heart to know there are young women like you out there desiring to be what God called you to be. As an older woman (64), I fell into the church’s concept of women as children’s Sunday school teachers and choir members and not much else. Bound by church laws! Lord Jesus, let Your church be free from all that entangles it. And thank You for those who have been set free and are working to set others free. Thank You for Amber and the voice You have given her. Thank You for this venue that allows her to be heard. May our voices and Your words be as bolt cutters–cutting through every restraint that keeps people from You. And, just as Rosie was riveting metal together, may we be ‘Rosies’ who use the gifts You have given us to hold Your people to You. Amen
    Keep speaking, Sister!

  37. 65

    Oh wow – I had not idea about Isaiah! Thank you for sharing that. Fascinating!

  38. 66

    I have been to the museum and it is top of the line, in a beautiful setting with awesome architecture. As a Visual Art teacher I was entranced and almost had to be dragged out when it was time to go! I love Arkansas and have much family there on my husband’s side. Having seen both of the artworks featured in the article I can say I was in awe as well. And of course women must set people free! If not we will be feeding them and cleaning up after them forever!

  39. 67

    Oh, Amber! This made me tear up – actual tears. That Rosie the Riveter thing? Oh.My.Goodness. Never knew those amazing backstories at all. And the love and warmth in all of this telling – it’s palpable my friend. Thank you.

  40. 68

    Beautiful your picture of friendship and community and freedom in Christ. Thanks for such an inspiring post!