Filled and Glorious

She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
~Proverbs 31:14

Chick-Fil-A. That’s what we had for dinner last night. You could say it’s “from afar,” since one has to drive “to town” to get it. Too bad I wasn’t exactly the one who drove to get it, but rather sent a text to my husband hinting that I wanted him to pick it up on his way home from work!

Seriously, this verse is a tough one for me, in more ways than one. First, this is a weird simile. I don’t know how flattered I would feel if my husband whispered sweetly in my ear that I remind him of a merchant ship. Huh? How? So, I got to thinking about what this means, and of course reading beyond the semicolon helps with this. She brings her food from afar. (Well, does Walmart count? It’s in town!) It’s talking about grocery shopping, apparently, and our goal is to be a merchant ship. This is still weird imagery in my mind!

As I studied, my Bible’s cross references led me to, among other verses, Ezekiel 27:25:

The ships of Tarshish were the carriers for your merchandise. And you were filled and were very glorious in the heart of the seas.

That second sentence really struck me; it was just so beautiful. The ancient city of Tyre, which is the “you” in this verse, was “filled” and “glorious” because of the faithful merchant ships. Here’s what I wrote in my journal after reading this verse and applying it to the simile found in Proverbs:

She has what her family needs. She makes sure they don’t run out of anything; she brings goods, supplies, and food into the home in anticipation of her family’s needs. She’s reliable. She’s the one to ask if you need something. Because of this, her family members are free from worry and able to focus their energies on their calling. They’re filled and glorious, able to shine.

And this brings me to the second reason why this verse is a tough one for me: To put it plainly, this is a major weakness for me. I have made great strides in this area in the past several months, shopping ads for the best prices, couponing to save a few extra bucks, and trying to go to the store regularly (stop laughing, husband) to make sure that we have food and don’t have to eat out as frequently. Obviously, since Justin’s undoubtedly chuckling as he reads this, I still am not the most reliable merchant ship!

The fact is, I hate shopping. This isn’t just grocery-shopping we’re talking about. I hate shoe shopping. Clothes shopping. Shopping for do-dads for my house. I hate it all. Everything’s so dang expensive, and I’m so dang indecisive, and I hate trying on stuff. At least, though, I end up with stuff I like after those types of shopping trips. But what about grocery shopping? Well, I end up with all kinds of food that is NOT ready to eat, but that is awaiting more work from me to CREATE something to eat. That’s just more fun for everyone, because I like cooking just slightly more than shopping! (Oh, my husband is one lucky man, right?)

Honestly, it sounds like I need a little of verse 13 infused into this week’s verse! I really have made vast improvements since becoming a full-time homemaker. Like I said, we are saving a good little amount of money because I am going to the store more frequently and, therefore, I am cooking more frequently. I am proud of myself! Especially since I started price matching at Walmart and made a coupon book (which you can see here, skip to 6:57 in the video). Still, I know I have a long way to go before becoming a merchant ship!

Focusing on that Ezekiel verse really does help, though. Why is it important that I improve in this area? To benefit others. To help them maintain healthy bodies. To help them shine. To release them from worries about something they need. Just like all of the other verses we’ve seen so far, this reveals Jewel’s selfless heart. I’m sure it wasn’t exactly convenient to go shopping every day for food — remember, no refrigerators back then! — but she did. We can easily glean from the surrounding passage that it was her delight to serve her family well in this area, and it could and should be ours, too.

As a bonus, if we’re fully embracing the idea that this is a noble calling, and finding delight even in grocery shopping, so that our family members might be “filled and very glorious,” it seems to me that the return for such faithfulness is that we’ll be filled and glorious, too. Literally and figuratively.

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, a great homemaker is not born that way. In our world today — and who knows about your world in 25 years? — few young women arrive at marriage prepared to take on the role she envisions herself taking on. If she wants to be the primary food-maker and home caretaker, chances are that she doesn’t really know what that means. Learn from your dad here, and be gracious. Be helpful. Be encouraging. No one knows how to be a wife the morning after arriving home from the honeymoon. A great homemaker (whether part- or full-time) is a lifelong learner, and she will blossom under your love and gentle encouragement.

My Love, oh me. Thank you for your patience, and thank you for bringing home Chick-fil-A! I sincerely appreciate your understanding and your willingness to help out after a long day at work. This is an area that I’m working on, and I am determined to become a merchant ship! And a cheerful one, at that. 😉

My Lord, I love Your creativity in this verse. It sounds so strange at first, yet it’s a perfect picture. I pray that You will continue to revolutionize my heart and make it more like Yours. You are the ultimate merchant ship! You provide so that we don’t have to worry about a thing. May I model myself after You!

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
~Jesus (Matthew 6:31-33)

♥ ♥ ♥

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)
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Delighted to Help

She looks for wool and flax,
And works with her hands in delight.
~Proverbs 31:13

One of the most pleasant things about Chick-fil-A — besides their superior chicken sandwiches and their tendency to play worship music — is their customer service. Have you ever noticed how cheerfully the employees reply, “My pleasure!” when you thank them? It’s such a small thing, but it goes so much further than “sure,” “no problem, ” or even “you’re welcome.” Even after all these years as an enthusiastic patron, it still makes me smile every time! Sure, they’re just doing their job, which happens to require more concerted effort in the customer service department than it does in many other fast food chains, but the cheerful attitude makes all the difference in the world.

Sweet Jewel of Proverbs 31 is no stranger to this idea, because she delights in her work. That’s pretty rare probably in any century, but especially when you consider what this verse is talking about when it mentions wool and flax. She literally is finding good wool and flax (a plant pictured above) — which perhaps entails shopping at the market for it or looking among her flock and in her garden — and then using her hands to remove the fibers. What will she do with the fibers? Weave them, of course. And then she’ll hand-make clothes, blankets, and other goods. Also, she can use oils from both the wool and the flax for medicinal and health purposes. But make no mistake; it’s not like she can just go to Walmart or Bed, Bath, and Beyond and swipe her credit card in exchange for these finished products. She literally has to work the usefulness out of these natural sources for hours and hours.*

Even through all that tedium, which really was just historically and culturally expected of women at the time, she is exceptional because she is delighted to do it. All of it. Every day. How?

Her heart is right with God. She has found her purpose in Him, and she sees her purpose working itself out as she spins wool and flax. She knows that what she is doing truly matters, that her work makes a difference in the lives of other people, and that God is pleased with her faithfulness. And that is enough.

Well. I have a long way to go before I get there, but I’m taking baby steps. This verse, (along with all of the others in this passage! ha!), was very convicting to me. Even while dutifully fulfilling my responsibilities, it’s easy to get an attitude because I’m pretty prone to selfishness. So I got to thinking about how to delight in my own mundane or tedious tasks. Now, you really can’t muscle your way into a heart change, but you can take some practical steps to open your heart for change. In order to do that, I thought about what makes a delighted person, and I came up with two clear ideas:

A delighted person does not procrastinate.
Really. Think about it! I remember when I turned 16. I had all of my driving lessons completed and had passed my test; all I lacked was the actual license. I had to wait until my birthday to get that, of course, and I sure did make sure I could go immediately after school to get it! It was all I could think about all day, and as soon as I got back home from the DPS, I hopped in my car and drove — nowhere, really! Just around! All by myself. I didn’t think, “Eh, well, I have all this homework to do. And then tomorrow I’m pretty busy, too. I’ll think about getting my license next week.” HECK NO! I was way too delighted by the idea of having my new license in my hot little hands and driving by myself to nowhere in particular, just because I could. Now when’s the last time I scrubbed a toilet with such eagerness? Ha!

A delighted person does not complain.
Oh man! Okay, some people have no problem with the procrastination issue, simply because they’re the type of people who want to get the crummy stuff over with so they can enjoy the rest of the day. Good! But what about this one? I remember one time, way back when Justin and I were dating long-distance, that I made him a very involved Valentine’s Day present. I mean, it took weeks to make. I worked on it every day, and I was more than delighted to do it! That gift was cool, and I was just so excited to finish it, wrap it, and mail it! But it was hard work. It took planning. It took time. I stayed up late many nights after a long day at work and then college classes just to make sure I got it done in time. But I delighted in doing it! I never complained. Again, dishes… laundry… holding a screaming, teething baby all day… Am I delighted to do these things? Or do I get frustrated, feeling like it’s somehow unfair, and then complain (even in my head)?

So these are two things I’m trying to put in place to open my heart to an attitude change: Don’t procrastinate, and don’t complain! They’re great reminders, because as I’m finding myself doing either one, I stop, repent, and correct my behavior. I truly want to be the type of person who is delighted to clean, or cook, or hold that teething baby for hours… (Can you tell what I’ve been dealing with recently? Ha!) There’s no reason why you or I can’t delight in our daily responsibilities just like Jewel did!

I mean, at least it’s not working with wool or flax! But even if it were,

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
~Colossians 3:23-24

Amen!

*Here are two great sources that helped me understand the uses of wool and flax: Cheerful Holiness and What is Linen?

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, a good wife does not have to be naturally inclined to domestic activities. She doesn’t have to be the best cook, have a passion for vacuuming, or have a gift in interior design. What she should have, though, is a cheerful, willing, and teachable spirit. You’ll work out the details about who does what in your house, and it may not be along traditional gender lines. What matters is her attitude. Is she the type of person who is delighted to help others?

My Love, I wish that I were more domestically inclined! As I’ve lamented many times before, I just do not naturally have a love for cooking. I’m terrible at decorating. I am pretty good at cleaning, but since it’s no fun, I tend to procrastinate and complain! If I were more naturally gifted in these areas, it sure would make a lot of things easier. I would be able to take delight in them without thinking about it! What does come naturally to me, however, is loving you and our little guy. As I am opening my heart for change, I’m also remembering that these are ways that I can show love to you. It’s about time! 

My Lord, You know how difficult this part was for me to write. I had this post fairly well completed yesterday, except for this section right here. I just couldn’t say anything, because Your Spirit was convicting me of how I was procrastinating in some of my *real* responsibilities just so I could write this post, which is partly about not procrastinating! Of course I couldn’t write to you; I needed to confess my sin of procrastination AND my sin of hypocrisy! Now that I have, and now that it’s a new day, I know that this post is done and that my heart is well on its way to delightedness. I also know I cannot become a delighted homemaker without Your transforming work in my heart, so I ask for Your help. Today, tomorrow, next year, fifty years from now, and every minute in between. It’s just too easy to become selfish; I need You to help me keep my perspective and to help me continually find my purpose and my fulfillment in You, whether it’s with the next load of laundry or in finishing a novel. I am delighted to serve You! (Oh, make me delighted to serve You!)

♥ ♥ ♥

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)