Leah the Weak: An Unexpected Story of Christmas.

December is a story time of year.

Mostly about a baby, a star, and those who came to see the prophecies of history fulfilled.

But recently, I read a story, not about three wise men, but about three people in a love triangle.  Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.

You may know the story, but here’s a recap:  Jacob, the son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, sets out on a long camel ride to find a wife.  He also happens to be outrunning the murderous rage of his brother, Esau, after stealing Esau’s inheritance.

“Jacob” is a word for “deceiver” in Hebrew.  So far, Jacob is living up to his name.

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When he arrives at his kinsman’s home, Jacob agrees to work for the man.  He sees the man’s younger daughter, Rachel, and immediately falls in love and wants to marry her.  He has also seen Rachel’s older sister, Leah, and, for whatever reason, he is not interested.

The girls’ father, Laban, agrees to allow Jacob to marry Rachel if he will work for him for seven years.  So Jacob does, and seven years pass.  The wedding day arrives.

But–and this is where it gets tricky–on the wedding night and unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban somehow substitutes Leah in Rachel’s place as the bride.

Jacob discovers the switch in the morning when the sun comes up.

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After pondering this one for some years, I have decided  it does not pay to ask many questions here.  There are only sordid and potentially embarrassing answers for everyone involved.   I’m planning to ask God to explain how this is all completely edifying when I get to Heaven.  Leaving it at that for now.

But, the point is, Laban deceived Jacob.

Jacob goes to Laban, understandably angry, and says “What is this you have done to me?  Why have you deceived me?”

Laban says to Jacob, like it all makes perfect sense, “Oh.  It’s not our custom to marry the younger daughter first, so I gave you Leah.  Wait a week, and you can marry Rachel, too, if you will work for me another seven years.”

So, without feeling like he has much choice, Jacob agrees.

For years I heard this story taught as a morality tale of sowing deception and reaping deception.

Jacob deceived Esau and stole his birthright–scandalous!  How dare he!  And so, he got what he deserved when Laban deceived him with Leah for a bride, instead of the woman he loved.

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Leah, the weak-eyed, unmarriageable, older daughter.  Leah, given as some kind of cosmic punishment to Jacob the Deceiver.

I’ve always felt a kind of camaraderie with Leah.  Whatever “weak-eyed” means in scripture, some scholars have suggested that she was cross eyed with poor vision.

I was a cross eyed kid.

I have worn glasses since I was four, and I had two surgeries as a child to correct my eyes.  But over the years, if I forgot a contact, or if I’m very tired, one eye might drift a little at times.  I don’t know if anyone else notices, but I do.

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I remember being at a family reunion and seeing an older cousin with the same crossed eyes.  She was tall and slender, very fashionably dressed in a tailored  yellow top and a green pencil skirt.  Her hair was thick and dark and wavy, and she wore spectacular red cateye glasses with little jewels on the frames.

But her standout feature was, unfortunately, those extreme crossed eyes.

It’s so hard to know where to look when someone has an eye off, how to know which eye is looking at you. And your own eyes dart back and forth, trying to find the active eye, like a Poe novel come to life.

I can say that, because I am sometimes that girl with the wandering eye.  And, for the record, I can tell you, just pick one.  They are both working fine, most likely.

Just pick one.

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Anyway.

I’ve always kind of felt for Leah, this weak-eyed woman.  Handed around like property, an unloved wife, accused as a man-stealer for the rest of time.

In the story, God brings sons from Leah and Rachel.  He uses this strange setup to fulfill the prophecies over Abraham, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  From these women come twelve sons, the twelve tribes of Israel.

And these sons, the majority of them come, not from Rachel, but from Leah.  At that time, children were considered proof that a wife was a good one, that she was pleasing to God Himself.

The sons were a vindication.

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Reading this story today, I went back with the same old perspective. Jacob the deceiver meets his match in his sneaky old uncle, Laban,  and gets stuck with this unbeautiful, unlovable bride.

For a minute I wondered if Laban had had faith that God would provide a husband for Leah, could she have married someone who loved her?  And Rachel and Jacob, could they have had their fairy tale?

And then, I was arrested by this thought.

No.

God did it.

As wacky and sad as it seems for one minute, God did it just like that.

It hit me.  If Jacob got two wives for his “punishment,” that’s a strange punishment indeed, especially for that time. Leah was no punishment.

Leah was Jacob’s double blessing.

Leah was abundance.

Jacob comes out of this deal with two wives instead of one.  In the context of the time, God Is blessing Jacob in spite of his failure, not punishing him for it.  Aside from the inherent blessing of companionship, wives were a sign of wealth.  And a source of sons.  The more wives, the more sons.  And more sons and more wives meant increased standing in the community.

Jacob did not get what he “deserved,” some kind of Bride-from-Hell-Smackdown from On High.  No.

Jacob got mercy.  He got grace.  He got a heavy portion, pressed down and running over.  He got abundance for his sin, rather than devastation.

That’s more like the God I know.

And Leah had more retribution than just bringing forth many sons.  Leah was not born to bring punishment.  She was not born for another man or lineage.  She was born for this one.  She was born to fulfill a prophecy and give birth to nations.  And to a saviour.

You may remember this part of the story, too.  Leah’s fourth son was called “I will praise the Lord,” or “Judah.”

And Judah.

Judah, through many generations, brings forth Jesus Christ.

And Rachel has her sons, too.  Both women were exactly where they needed to be.  The great Joseph comes from Rachel, a man who saved Israel in Egypt, a man who foreshadows the coming of his even  greater cousin, Jesus.

Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

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Leah the Weak, through God’s grace, becomes Leah the Lioness.

The mother of a lion.

The mother of The Lion.

God loves to use the weak to bring forth strength.

There are many women like this in the lineage of Christ. Tamar, the seductress.  Bathsheba, the exhibitionist.   Rahab, the prostitute.

Women despised by their culture.  But redeemed and honored by time and by scripture.

Sometimes we do not always see our vindication, our reparations.  We don’t always get to see the full fruit of our labors.

But these things are coming.  Our sacrifice is not wasted.  Our efforts are not in vain.  Our pain and tears and weakness do not go unseen.  And they do not go unredeemed.

Leah, Rachel, Jacob, Laban.  Small figures in an epic tale.  A huge plan that spans millennia to bring love to all mankind in the form of one tiny child.

One little lion.  In a manger.  Leah’s son, and Rahab’s, and Bathsheba’s, and Tamar’s.

And Mary’s.

And God’s.

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The unspeakable beauty of a God who takes a thing that the world calls weak and ugly to bring forth the greatest miracle.

The beauty of a God who might even sometimes ask us to endure some embarrassment or inconvenience–after all, what is a lazy eye in the scheme of things?

He might sometimes ask us to lay down our pride and our ease for something greater.  For the ones that come after.

Leah was willing.

Jesus Christ was willing.

And I am thankful.

Thankful for eyes to see this Christmas.

Thankful for His coming and His sacrifice and His strength in our weakness, in my weakness.  So thankful.

***

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2Cor12:9

Call It Good. One Way to Beat Holiday Pressure.

I wrapped Christmas presents today.

I have all this cute, adorable, beautiful, sparkly paper.  And one really ugly roll. I don’t know why I bought it.

Well, actually, I do.  I found it on sale for seventy cents a roll.  Seventy cents.   And it’s one of those never-ending value rolls. Like, a million square feet.

I keep wrapping a gift with it here and there, hoping no one will notice.  I try to stick them on the bottom of the pile.

In fact, this roll of paper is so ugly and huge, it may last me my entire life as a caution, a reminder not to shop like that ever again, throwing my seventy cents around without any thought to the consequences.

It literally seems to get bigger every time I cut it.  It could outlast me.

But, dear God.  I hope not.

Anyway.

My daughter and I wrapped presents today, with mostly the cute paper.

We were wrapping them to send to loved ones nearly a continent away.  They are trinkets really, but I pray these friends feel all the love that we can’t be there to give.

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As we wrapped, and I checked one more thing off my Christmas list, I felt so organized.  I was on time, early even.

And then, I hesitated.

I looked at those gifts packed in that box with so much joy and love and anticipation.  Those gifts, wrapped in cheerful patterns, with their messy edges and wrinkly tape, names written, and hearts drawn on the paper with markers.

First, I smiled.

Then, I hesitated.

And then, I criticized.

There were no fluffy bows.  No glittery package toppers.  No pretty tags.

They were nowhere close to perfect.

For one second, as I thought of our beautiful friends, I didn’t think these presents were good enough.  I considered taking them all out and rewrapping them, the way I used to wrap presents.  Before I had kids.  Before I started homeschooling.  Before I realized that energy is a perishable commodity, and I simply can not do it all.

I didn’t know it was a luxury back then.

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But I have learned my lesson in a million ways.

Some things just have to be declared good enough.

My sister says the secret to success is, sometimes, lower standards.  She laughs when she says it, but she is a wise woman.

And that’s my reality today.

I have other boxes, other appointments, other errands.

I either send these presents now, as they are, or it will not get done.  And our friends would miss a blessing.  And I would find this package in July, under a pile of sweaters, and realize I never sent it.  And then stick it back in the closet with good intentions to try for Christmas next year.

And it would never get done.

Again.

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I looked at those gifts.  I even lifted one out and studied it in my hand, and I immediately heard this, “Do they need to be perfect? Or do they need to be good?”

And I set that gift right back in the box.

And I am not looking back.

Except.  Maybe to do something with that hideous paper.

My oldest daughter suggested that we burn it.  It’s that ugly.

Or, maybe we’ll just call it a lesson learned.

And good enough.

***

Perfection is the enemy of the good, and enough is as good as a feast. 

I pray your holidays are good enough.  Not in the sense of settling, but in the sense of a deep contentment and enjoyment of the messy, real life and true love all around you.

Take a deep breath.  Let some of it go.  It’s not all going to get done anyway.  

Let someone help you, even the kids.  Especially the kids.  Their work will be messy.  But a present wrapped, a cookie decorated, an ornament hung by a child is adorable, and the people who love them will love that they tried.    And the kids will feel like they matter.  And they will be one year closer to learning how to do what needs to be done.  

And they will remember that you valued them enough to let them do the big stuff.

Not one of us is perfect.  Holding ourselves and others to that kind of standard is the worst fun killer ever.  And it may be the worst love killer, too.

Just send the packages.  

And receive them.  And all of it.  With grace.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1Pet4:8

Crazy in Love with God. Interview with Chana Keefer, Bestselling Author. {WATCH}

You are called to something.

We all are.

I love connecting people with each other, especially the ones I know who are courageously pursuing that call.

In this interview of six short questions, meet Chana Keefer, best-selling author of several books and a great friend of Lady the Fearless.  Chana encourages, inspires, and shares tips for any of you who are pursuing that thing–whatever it is–that you feel called to do.

Check out her new book, Annabelle:  A Ghostly Texas Tale, and her other books here.  Great additions to any Christmas list!

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You’ll also find a heartfelt video response to these questions at the end–watch when you can!  You will be lifted up and leave with practical applications from this interview.

LADY:  Hi, Chana, my friend!  Thanks so much for being here today!  First question, simple and sweet!  What inspired you to be a writer?           

CHANA:  Growing up, some of my favorite moments were getting lost in a good book.

Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and others had that gift of making me forget my troubles at the same time I was learning huge life lessons such as empathy, courage, kindness, and even God’s character.

I always wanted to write a book–it was an item on the ol’ bucket list–but it wasn’t until I went through intense personal battles, that at their core were spiritual battles, I unwittingly put a foot on the road of writing.

Desperation led me to prayer for an hour every morning which led to vivid dreams that led to a story I HAD to get down on paper. As I grew closer to God, the NEED to write burned me up so much I would get up way-early in the morning to pray and let the words pour out. Connection and flow.

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Chana’s first book, an answer to prayer. Click image to read reviews and novel summary.

 

 LADY:  Amen!  Tell us a little bit about your latest book, Annabelle: A Ghostly Texas Tale.                                                                                                       

CHANA:  Annabelle has been very patient. I actually started writing the story in the spring of 2007 but learning about publishing and juggling life in general kept this wonderful story on the back burner. My family, especially my hubby, always said it was their favorite of my stories and every time I cracked the manuscript open to edit, I would always end up crying, kinda dazzled by the beauty of it.

On the surface, Annabelle sounds like a simple ghost story but the themes are much deeper. Who hasn’t felt a bit like an old house, past its prime, glory days gone by, gutted and abused by life? I know I have. The young family in the story are decimated by harsh circumstances when they limp into the tale. It’s a beautiful, timeless story of restoration and redemption.

Who hasn’t felt a bit like an old house, past its prime, glory days gone by, gutted and abused by life? 

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Alternative cover art for Annabelle, by the talented Disney artist, Scott Seeto.

 

LADY:  What’s it like to be a writer AND a mom AND a homeschooler AND run an online jewelry business AND work in the prayer ministry at church? How do you juggle it all and stay filled so that you have something to give?        

CHANA:  (Laughs) GREAT question for which there is no easy answer.

The hardest thing to juggle as a writer, wife, mom, etc. is my own self-defeating inner dialogue–something, with God’s help, I continually work to improve.

Do I EVER feel that I’m doing all those roles well?  VERY rarely.

There are little victories that arrive hand-in-hand with more challenges. I try to stop and celebrate the victories, at least a moment, before turning to the next flub or challenge. Kind of like popping your head up to breathe while swimming, taking a moment to notice a victory, no matter how minor, gives me the breath to keep on going.

What’s funny is, on a day when I might feel like, “Wow, I am totally killing it! Yes!” whether in writing, homeschooling, keeping house, whatever, I tend to hit a wall later that evening.

Basically, my expectations and reality don’t really mix therefore I constantly feel I’m not doing enough. (Anyone relate? Perfectionists, self-floggers, over-achievers?) It’s a constant struggle but thank God for His grace and His perspective to help me kick Chana off the throne to remember it’s all about HIM anyway.

In a practical way, I have to remember to give myself permission to enjoy something once in a while. It’s amazing how laughter, a chat with a friend or even reading a good book will re-boot my energy.

The hardest thing to juggle as a writer, wife, mom, etc. is my own self-defeating inner dialogue–something, with God’s help, I continually work to improve.

 LADY:  What other advice do you have for aspiring writers and creatives?          

CHANA:  I was never a very disciplined person until I had to be.

When the prayer and writing became as vital as breathing, discipline followed–at least in committing to them every day.

Therefore, find your WHY and go after it. The best place to discover meaning and purpose is in God’s presence since He made you and knows what will fill you up. I feel all true art is spiritual in nature, therefore we must connect in a spiritual manner with the Creator of all.

Again, connection & flow. Out of that will flow the passion that will keep you going day by day, where real life works hard to knock you off-track.

 Find your WHY and go after it.

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Chana writes what is known as “speculative fiction.” Her books don’t fit neatly into a genre or category because of her unusual story lines, which she would say are God given.

LADY:  What is your hope or prayer for anyone who reads Annabelle, or any of your books?                                                                                              

CHANA:  With all my books, whether inspirational romance, epic spiritual warfare, memoir, etc, my deepest prayer is for the reader to be ushered into God’s presence–to “taste and see the Lord is GOOD.”

Just like a song embeds words and messages in our hearts, so I pray these stories plant vital seeds of being crazy-in-love with God. That’s the start. Open heart, mind, and spirit to our loving, healing, inspiring, empowering Father, then He takes it from there.

I pray these stories plant vital seeds of being crazy-in-love with God.  

LADY:  What does fearlessness look like for you? And what do you do to grow in courage and to fight fear in your career, life, and faith?                                                                                                                                     

CHANA:  I love Joyce Meyers’ advice to “Do it afraid!”

God does not bring me into a comfort zone.

Every single time I speak or share stuff online or unveil a new book, there’s trepidation. I’d like to say I never waver, that my eyes are so fixed on God there is zero fear and I don’t mind if people say negative things, but that just ain’t so. It has to be a choice of “Who will I serve: Fear or God?” The one I obey is the one I serve.

Courage, for me, is looking fear in the eye, taking God’s hand and plowing through it. I may gulp big and quaver a bit, but it’s not my power anyway that’s going to accomplish something of eternal value.

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Lady the Fearless reads Chana Keefer!!! Don’t know which one to read first! All proceeds from “Servant of the King” go to Kemper Krabb’s international ministries.

 

Courage, for me, is looking fear in the eye, taking God’s hand and plowing through it.

***

Thanks again, Chana!  

Who will I serve: Fear or God?” The one I obey is the one I serve. –Chana Keefer

WATCH Chana answer questions in person at the link below.  Wisdom, transparency, and prayers from the heart.