A Woman’s Work (It’s Not What You Think)

A Woman’s Work (It’s Not What You Think)

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?

But wait…

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.

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How Am I Influencing My Husband?

How Am I Influencing My Husband?

I came across the following old Jewish story as I was reading about women in Biblical Israel:

“The story says that a pious man once married a pious woman. They were childless, so they eventually agreed to divorce one another. The husband then married a wicked woman and she made him wicked. The pious woman married a wicked man and made him righteous. The moral of the story is that the woman set the tone for the home.” (Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, eds. Packer and Tenney, P. 430)

This story stood out to me because, as I’ve meditated on Proverbs 31:11-12, I’ve been taken aback by the influence that a wife has on her husband. Any kind of influence is a grave responsibility. But when it comes to the husband you love, the father of your children…the stakes get higher and things get real fast.

So I had to ask myself how I’ve influenced my husband over the course of our relationship. But the funny thing is, when you ask yourself a question like that, it’s hard to come up with any answers. Sure, he eats more sushi now. And yeah, I’m pretty confident that he never would have seen The Real Housewives of Anyplace if I hadn’t tuned in. But I don’t know what kind of lasting impact those decisions have made in his life.

I finally did come up with a concrete example. When Garrett and I met, he was a choir director in a local school district and was also on staff at an Episcopalian church as a staff singer. For all you Baptists and non-denoms out there, it turns out that some churches hire professional singers to sing in their choirs. Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

Anywho, I was a member of a large Baptist church and enjoyed the contemporary upbeat music that all the kids listened to. As our relationship got more serious, I told Garrett that, as beautiful as the Episcopalian service was with its high-church music, I would very much appreciate it if he would return to his Baptist (or similar) roots.

Now here’s where I need to tell you that Garrett loooooves all that high-church music. And believe me, he certainly has the voice for it. He wasn’t too thrilled with contemporary services at first, frustrated by songs that he’d never heard and the lack of written music.

Fast forward five years, one marriage, and two kids later. We’re looking for a church in the new area of town we’ve moved to. I’m trying really hard to find churches with choirs so that Garrett has that outlet, but he decides that a choir isn’t necessary. The man that loved his work as a professional church singer now also loves contemporary worship music to the point that he’ll choose that over the traditional style.

I influenced my husband in a material way without really realizing I was doing it, and certainly without a grand plan. How else am I thoughtlessly influencing him?

As a woman that likes facts and figures and data-driven actions, I’d like to know exactly how I’m influencing my husband. And not only that, but also specifics like, “In what areas should I influence Garrett in the future,” “How can I influence him for the better,” and “In what areas should I limit my influence of him?” But, much like my thoughts about the work I need to do in regard to my husband’s heart trusting in me completely, I’m at a loss.

So I’ve decided that my best course of action is to pray that God reveals to me areas in which I influence my husband, for the worse or for the better, and the wisdom to know how to alter my actions when needed.

I wonder what areas of influence will be revealed five years from now…

Unexpected Revelations about the Woman of Valor

Unexpected Revelations about the Woman of Valor

My Scripture focus in 2013 has been Proverbs 31:10-31. And I’ve been surprised by the impact this passage about the woman of valor has had on me so far.

For one thing, I expected that these verses would have no impact on my appearance. My initial thoughts were that it’s all about what the excellent woman does, not how she looks. I was surprised to find that the woman of valor is a classy lady in every way. I couldn’t help but think that a classy lady might care something about how she comes across to other people in her appearance.

This was a wake-up call I needed because I’d pretty much let myself go physically. People, I’ve been hanging on to maternity clothes, and my youngest is 16-months-old. Sad, right? I just hated that I’m not the size I was before I had kids, so have avoided shopping. I also hadn’t had my hair cut since before my youngest was born. And in case you weren’t aware, that’s plenty of time for split-ends to take over.

I’m happy to say that I’ve done something about both of those issues. I’ve made a few clothing purchases to help me look less like little orphan Annie. I still have a long way to go in that department, but I’m not so embarrassed to walk out of the house anymore.

And the big news is that I finally got my hair did!

Wow, I’ve been wanting to say that for so long.

It feels good.

Another way that I’ve been surprised by the passage about the excellent woman is that I thought it would be all about me. Instead, I’ve spent an awful lot of time thinking about my husband. And of myself in relation to my husband.

Proverbs 31:11-12 states,

“The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.”

What this says to me is that the valorous woman’s husband had complete trust in her. He trusted her with his strengths, weaknesses, feelings, hopes, past experiences, future plans. He had no need to go elsewhere for this type of deep connection and respect.

Ummm, yeah.

I won’t elaborate on this other than to say I HAVE SOME WORK TO DO. And I honestly don’t even know where to begin.

I will say that it’s a bit scary to think of the responsibility a wife has in caring for her husband’s heart. Again, SOME WORK MUST BE DONE.

Although I’ve been surprised by what God is showing me through this passage, I love it. LOVE IT. Unexpected revelations remind me that God is working in my heart and life, even when I can’t always feel it. And I definitely don’t always feel it. So keep teaching me, Abba. It’s just what I need.

The Secret to Getting Things Done When You’re a SAHM

The Secret to Getting Things Done When You’re a SAHM

Last night I was going to write a post about how my family has become too kid-centric. But, in an ironic turn of events, my youngest woke up before I finished the post and derailed my plans.

It was sometime past two in the morning (that’s 2AM! aaagh!) before I got him back to sleep. I ended up sleeping in his room on a mattress topper on the floor. The mattress topper is there to break his fall from his toddler bed as he gets used to sleeping in it, but it works for mommy or daddy when Cruz is having a tough night. It’s kind of like camping indoors, without the s’mores.

I woke up a few hours later with Garrett kneeling next to me in his suit and stroking my hair. He was about to leave for work and wanted to make sure I knew it was time to get the kids up and ready to take Michael to preschool. He leaned down to kiss me goodbye, which was quite the sacrifice on his part since I was sporting morning breath and a grumpy attitude.

I ended up in the preschool drop-off lane wearing jeans, an unflattering hoodie that I don’t think I’ve ever worn out of the house, and a cardigan/sweater type thing that didn’t really go with the outfit (and I’m using the term “outfit” very loosely here). I was too tired to deal with contacts, so I kept my glasses on. Makeup consisted of a little bit of concealer and lipgloss that I put on in the car. And I don’t recall if I brushed my hair.

It’s shocking how one night of poor sleep can bring out my inner homeless person.

I dropped off Michael, went through the Starbucks drive-thru for my second cup of coffee, and brought Cruz home to play while I sulked on the couch. Interestingly, Cruz was in high spirits after what felt like a sleepless night.

I took a break from sulking to study Proverbs 31:10-31 again. As I sat on the couch wearing a questionable top and running my fingers through my unbrushed hair, I concluded that the “excellent wife” is a classy lady in every way.

Was God trying to tell me something?

Soon after that epiphany, I came across this post on Anne’s blog where there’s an interesting conversation about how the effort you put into your appearance can affect how you tackle your day.

Well-played, God. Well-played.

I took the hint and did something about my appearance before picking up Michael from preschool.

Dressed1

I threw on a green T-shirt, khaki blazer, and infinity scarf that I received from one of my sisters for Christmas. I love this scarf because I can wear it a few different ways and it dresses up a plain shirt. This picture suffers from too much lighting, but in it you can see that I looped the scarf around twice and pulled one loop down to disguise my unfortunate mommy belly. Anybody wanna give me $20,000 to get that belly taken care of? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Dressed2

I also tried the scarf looped around three times. I love the look (despite the frizz), but decided to go with two loops today.

Dressed3

This is where I channeled my inner teenager and did one of those overhead self-portraits. I felt pretty silly. But it’s definitely better than looking down at the camera. Things like sagging necks disappear.

After getting dressed, I did my makeup and brushed out my hair. I didn’t have time to do my whole beauty routine, but you know what? I felt better. Happier. More confident. More energetic. Imagine that.

But that’s not all. Even though I was still so very tired, I managed to get a lot done today. I cleaned up a lot of Christmas clutter, put a bunch of stuff away, folded two massive loads of laundry, and even played games with Michael while Cruz napped.

People, I don’t usually get that much done on a day when I’m well-rested.

Getting dressed in a leaving-the-house outfit, putting on makeup, and doing something with my hair made me feel like I was getting ready for more than washing dishes and changing diapers. So I did more than washing dishes and changing diapers.

And that’s my new secret for getting things done.

Linking up with Dear Abby Leigh, Create Hope Inspire, and The Pleated Poppy.

Why I’m Memorizing a Passage About an Impossibly Perfect Woman

Why I’m Memorizing a Passage About an Impossibly Perfect Woman

In a fit of New Year’s resolve, I may have mentioned that I want to develop the spiritual habit of Scripture memorization in 2013. Darn it, I’ve committed myself.

I’ve chosen to memorize the passage about the excellent wife (Proverbs 31:10-31) for the 2013 Siesta Scripture Memory Team, one verse at a time. It plays into my whole Year of Purpose plan because I need some ideas for being more purposeful in my family life. I could continue with my current method of allowing Netflix, Hulu, and our children’s current developmental stage to dictate my days, but somehow I think I can do better.

My plan is to spend two weeks meditating and journaling about each verse, as well as digging in and doing a little studying. I’ll just have to see where the Spirit leads.

When I first thought about using Proverbs 31 to be more purposeful in my family life, I wondered how I would handle specifics like “She looks for wool and flax” and she gives “portions to her maidens.” Even though that last excerpt tempted me to make a case for household help, I suspected that I would instead distill each portion of the passage down to basic principles rather than make myself a slave to the description of a well-to-do woman that lived in a very different time and very different culture.

Right around that time I came across this blog post that clued me in to  the spirit of the passage in general. In it,  Mrs. Evans tells us that Proverbs 31:10-31 resembles a poem describing the feats of a warrior. Consequently, the excellent wife is actually best described and translated as a “woman of valor.”

Mrs. Evans further elaborates that the phrase “woman of valor” describes any woman that blesses her family by using her energy and creativity. In other words, you are a woman of valor if you use the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given you to bless your family. Consequently, your expression of the woman of valor is unique.

It’s at this point that I part ways with Mrs. Evans on our views of Proverbs 31:10-31. While I am thrilled to understand that the expression of a woman of valor is not limited to the activities listed in this passage, I cannot view the heroic poem of a woman of valor as mere literature. It still serves as a guideline (at the very least) for ways to be valorous as wives.

This is where my plan to meditate on Proverbs 31:10-31 comes in. Since every portion of Scripture is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching”, I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will use this passage to teach me new ways to live purposely, as well as show me what I’m already doing in the spirit of the woman of valor.

Do you think there’s any chance that my expertise with Netflix will play a vital role in my attempts at becoming a woman of valor? Maybe just a little? How about my ability to navigate my Hulu queue? Wait, don’t tell me. Let it be a surprise…

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