Monday, August 10, 2009

The Weaker Vessel

Stefanie Farley, Suzanne Friesner, Nedra Farley, Lenya Heitzig, Hanna Farley, and Janae' Heitzig

Peter dubbed women as the “weaker vessel” (See 1 Peter 3:7). I think he meant it to be a deferential, honoring term. I’m all for knights in shining armor, but the women I’ve encountered lately are certainly not weak. In fact, I have drawn such strength from their courageous reservoirs that I attribute much of my wellness to their influence.

My sister, Suzanne, left this morning after seeing me through the first round of chemotherapy. Walking into the nicest of such facilities reduces the stoutest of hearts to feeling like a lab rat. When she scanned the sterile environment with its bags, tubes, and needles full of dread, her eyes began to well. I thought, "Uh oh, she’s going to start boo hooing big time. If she starts, I won’t be able to stop." But no, she straightened her spine and with heroic resolve cracked a joke, “The scariest thing in this room is the scale hiding in the corner; dare me to get on it?” she asked. From that moment on, I knew we would persevere with laughter and love.

Seeing others who had joined the chemotherapy club long before me, smiling with shining heads, strong hearts, and Sudoku puzzles, made me realize that I’m following a legacy of fighters and survivors. I would take a seat beside them, Bible in hand, and show the world that another “weaker vessel” could do it.

Recently, I wrote about the unique ability women possess that men do not. Friendship between women shape who we are, soothe our troubled hearts, and support emotional gaps in our marriages. Scientists in a landmark UCLA study now believe that spending time with our friends actually relieves stress which manifests in upset stomachs. Previous to the study conducted by coauthor, Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Heal at Penn State University, scientist supposed that stress caused a rush of hormonal reactions in the body triggering the flight or fight instinct in humans.

But the new data reveals that women have a greater repertoire than men due to the hormone oxytocin released during stress that causes us to make and maintain friendships with other women. Instead of running or raging, oxytocin encourages us to tend to children and gather other women for support, which counters the stress and produces a calming effect. Drs. Klein and Taylor describe this female response to stress the “tend and befriend” syndrome.

“This calming response does not occur in men," says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone — which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress — seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.” As a result men tend to isolate their feelings, which has significant negative health repercussions.

The old adage is true "united we stand, divided we fall." Maybe the key is that we are the weaker vessel, but when we come together we make one strong stand. So what about you? Maybe you don't have close family or friends, but you can find sisters in Christ in the Women at Calvary. We all need someone else to stand with in our hard times; I hope that you will step out in faith and engage in a small group. Maybe you will be the strength that someone else needs to persevere in laughter and love.



  1. Love this post. I just finished a chapter in a book about longing for intimacy, which talked about women friendships and the importance of them. I'm so thankful for my garden of friends.

  2. Lenya- I have been listening to your husbands radio program for some time now on CSN International and today you were mentioned. So I decided to get on the website and find you. I didn't realize what you were going through. Please know I am praying for you. That our Abba, our Jehovah Rophe will touch you and restore your health. Blessings to you, you are such a beautiful person, very witty, wise and fun loving. You seem quite the match for your husband. You are such a cute couple!
    Jehovah-Shalom ( The Lord my Peace)
    "Your Name is Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. If you are for me, who is against me? You who spared not Your own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will You not also with Him freely give me all things? Lord, You give strength to Your people; Lord, You bless Your people with peace."
    - from Peter Lords prayer journal

  3. Absolutely wonderful picture and blog! So love it Lenya. Beautifully written as well.

    It made me love all of you! All... I shared the humor of the scale amid welling up eyes...the look of all of you lined up...

    Well...just everything, and I love you. We are delighted at God's answer to prayer last week.

    Ever-standing...everlasting, love, Susan

  4. Lenya, my first tendency is to withdraw, to isolate when I *feel* things are not going well. (Just noticed feel and flee have the same letters?!Hmmm, that is suspicious!) Thank you for your blog today, I think all of us should picture our female "tend and befriend" 'comrades in arms' lined up with us, just like your photo and then call them to encourage each of them in whatever they are facing. In that way we will be encouraged also!! Romans 1:12 Can you tell I am missing Bible Study? Love in Jesus, our closest Confidant! Praying for you as His confidante because of HIS Amazing Grace, Sandy

  5. I'm looking forward to the study, too, just like Sandy.

    Your thoughts reminded me of Ecclesiastes 4:12. I like it in the NLT: "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." Sometimes the Lord requests me to become the broken cord or the weak link, giving others the opportunity to come alongside. Not easy...but a blessing to those who pray, give, and stand with me. And what a relief to have those sisters who have already walked the path there to help!

    Be strong and courageous! We're keeping you in prayer.

  6. In response to your last two blogs: Oh, as a doula I know so well the power of the "weaker vessel" and the strength in the comfort only another woman can give to us. Praise God for oxytocin and for our sisters in Christ. I'm still praying for you and Skip as you keep on keeping on during this journey.

  7. that is so for sure true i have some many girl buddies to share with comfort and encourage
    i just cried to a friend today at work i was so stressed and she was so sweet and totally understood it sure helped to have a friend there to release some emotions
    laughter is good so glad your sister and you were able to bond together in a difficult time
    i am and will continue to pray for you
    your sister in Christ linda martin in ca

  8. i also want to let you know the strength and love is totally shown to us
    God's love through our families
    i recently had a hysterectomy and it was hard, my mom and dad were so kind and loving and my sister was the best ....
    and then my husband had to go to the hospital and have an immediate surgery in his leg he had a staff infection in his leg and was in the hospital for a week. i was not even better yet i felt sad, guilty and horrible but you know the best part was God's love was shown so wonderfully through my mom, sister and sister n law and husband and son of course.
    just God is so near and kind in hard times
    i am so thankful for your family and friends

  9. Lenya, I was so looking forward to meeting you this September at Fresh Lifes Womans retreat! Now I learn of your recent health issues and I am saddened, yet reading your blog I see that God is already using you in so many others lives. Hopefully we will meet in the future, in the mean time, you have a new prayer warrior.
    God be with you, Jennifer

  10. how are you lenya i hope you are doing well
    keep praying fo ryou
    when do you go again for another treatment

  11. Lenya,
    You are such an encouragement and example to many! Although I don't know you as well as others may, I see you in your trouble trusting in the Lord. I have seen you in years past supporting, helping and standing by your man in hard times and good times. You are no weakling. I know that you would, and do, attribute your strength to our Great and Mighty God for when we are weak HE is strong.
    I am with you in this. I am praying for you as a sister Lenya. You are never alone for God will fight valiantly for you and teach you great and wondrous things through this battle.
    Thnk-you for your willingness to be vulnerable before us all as we watch you walk a path none would want to walk. You are a blessing! Be very strong and courageous. God is for you and with you all the way.
    With a love that wells from my heart for you, a sister who is part of the body of Christ, and one who has exemplified God's goodness many times over, I trust in our King that He will see you through this difficult time because that's the God I know!
    We as a family will keep you covered and lifted up!
    God-Bless you as He gives you hinds feet on high places!
    All our love,
    Lydia Hoppman