I liked winter ok until I had children. I say “ok” because I was never a great lover of frigid weather. I have miserable memories of walking to school in the snow uphill…both ways! the winters we lived in Germany. The month-long Houston winters are just right for me.
Since having children, though, I’ve come to hate winter due to the illnesses that take residence in our home. There’s one particular virus that was with us for so long it should have paid rent. These illnesses come home with my children from preschool or Sunday school and start replicating themselves so that there’s enough to go around. And also so that there’s a backup, because even if one of us is able to successfully fight it off after a few days of misery, we just catch it again from each other.
When I was single, an illness meant that I laid on the couch for a few days, reading or watching TV as fever allowed. That sounds like a spa day to me now. Because you know what illness looks like when you’re a mommy? It looks like pretty much every other mommy day, only with a layer of “Oh God I feel like I’m going to die” added to it. I don’t even want to talk about the days when I’m sick at the same time as one of my children. I’m lucky that I have a husband that can rearrange his schedule and be home when it gets bad, but as a financial advisor that works solely on commission, if he doesn’t work we don’t get paid. So we try to avoid him not being at work.
In January I chose “Purpose” as my word of the year. My intent was to be purposeful in every area of my life (like marriage, mothering, money-making activity), which I’d hoped would translate to greater productivity and increased joy in my family. I didn’t take into account the many illnesses that we would have to deal with since the Great Vomit-Inducing Virus of the Fall of 2012 hit our family. Since then, we get better for a few days, maybe even a week or two, only to succumb to yet another illness.
As you can imagine, this has played havoc with my Year of Purpose. Before we became ill last fall, I was losing weight and exercising regularly, but that sort of self-care went by the way-side. My blog and business ideas are the next thing to go when I’m exhausted from caring for children or dealing with an illness myself. As a matter of fact, my husband and I are too tired and/or sick most of the time to do anything other than the necessary.
I’ve been pretty down about this state of affairs lately and was ready to throw in the towel labeled “Purpose” until I came to verses 13 and 14 describing the Proverbs 31 woman:
She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar. (Proverbs 31:13-14, NASB)
I know that the parallels will not be immediately obvious, but try to stick with me on this one.
The first life-lesson that I gleaned from this verse (and in the verses following) was that the Woman of Valor is a planner. This excellent wife plans and participates in activities dealing with family, friends, the management of her home, and business – all areas in which I’d like to have some successs. This may sound like such a simple thing, but to someone like me that feels overwhelmed by all that I want to do because I’m not feeling my best, this is a lifeline.
The Woman of Valor also works with delight (the NIV says that she “works with eager hands”)! This thought was both refreshing and convicting for me. Sometimes I feel like I’ll go crazy if I unload the dishwasher one more time or change yet another diaper. I think that one of the reasons that she could work eagerly and with delight was because everything she did was for the benefit of her family. If I change my thought process to ask myself how a task benefits my family, I’ll be happy to do the dishes because a clean(ish) kitchen makes the house feel so much more pleasant, and a clean diaper makes my little one happier.
The thought also occurs to me that I can think about ways to make my work more delightful. Maybe listen to an audiobook while doing dishes or cleaning the bathroom? Watch a movie while folding laundry? I’ll have to think about this one.
Doesn’t this sound disgustingly June Cleaver-ish?
It’s just as important to me to see what the Woman of Valor is not doing as what she is doing. And you know what she’s not doing? Entertaining her kids every second of the day. I see on Pinterest and blogs and articles linked on Facebook all these ideas for interacting with your kids all day. There are sensory boxes and cookies to bake and crafts to make and…my head is spinning just thinking about it. Those are all good things, but they don’t work for me. The thing is, I’m an introvert and need some time to myself throughout the day, even from the children that I adore. And I just don’t have the patience required to craft and cook with toddlers. If I did, I would have become a preschool teacher rather than an engineer. So I happily leave those activities to the professionals.
Also, I think kids and parents need time throughout the day when mom and dad aren’t in their kids’ faces. I don’t feel like cooking and cleaning need to be group activities all the time. And my kids need to have time to play on their own. My three-year-old, Michael, is displaying an incredible imagination. He can find ten different ways to play with one toy, and I love that. He likes for me to play with him sometimes, and I do, but he has a lot of fun on his own.
I want my kids to see and experience that life’s not all about play and having fun. Besides laughing and having a good time, we also do chores and other work activities. The Woman of Valor seems to do a good job balancing all of those areas of her life and modeling that behavior for her kids, and I want to do the same for my kids.
But one of the most important life lessons that I learned while pondering the Proverbs 31 passage about the excellent wife is that I should not seek a sense of self-worth in any activity, even if it’s about caring for my family. Verse 30 tells me that worship, not just work, is praiseworthy. God created me with a specific set of skills, abilities, and the capacity to learn and grow emotionally and spiritually, but He didn’t create me to be the best wife or mom or engineer. My true purpose is to worshipfully submit all of that skill, ability, and capacity to Him so that He can achieve His purposes through them.
I keep thinking about the fig tree that Jesus cursed because it didn’t bear fruit. It looked good, but it wasn’t fulfilling its purpose. I’m afraid of being that fig tree, of looking productive and busy, but not fulfilling the purpose for which He’s created me. Rather than making my Year of Purpose about “productive” work, I need to work at worshiping God and allowing Him to work out the details.
Which is nothing at all like June Cleaver.