Married to a Big Shot

Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
~Proverbs 31:23

Well, we don’t have gates, but we have a city limits sign. Should I send my husband down there? I guess that’s one way to get yourself noticed and become well-known!

This idea — gates — comes up periodically in Scripture, and it is a bit foreign to us today. In ancient times, judges and elders would hang out by the city gates and hear cases — it’s as simple as that. Apparently, Jewel’s husband was one of the elders, and that fact is included in this long list of reasons why she’s an awesome wife. She married a big shot; way to go and high five!

Some people like to say, “Behind every good man is a good woman.” I’m not interested in picking apart that saying here, but rather in just loosely applying the sentiment to this verse to help us, perhaps, contextualize it a little bit. As wives, we have very much to do with our husbands’ success or failure in business and in life. Really. We can make a huge impact.

You may disagree with that, but let’s try something. I’m going to negate everything we’ve learned about Jewel so far, point by point, and create her antithesis:

  • Her husband can’t trust her, and she lets him down every time he turns around.
  • She never thinks to do good things for him.
  • She is lazy and complains about work.
  • She expects everything to fall in her lap.
  • She sleeps in, letting everyone find whatever food they can dig up for themselves, and she fails to manage her home effectively.
  • She is thoughtless with her purchases and squanders her money.
  • She doesn’t exercise.
  • She has no concept of the state of her finances, and she goes to bed with necessary work left undone.
  • She procrastinates doing tedious tasks.
  • She ignores the poor and feels entitled to her wealth and status.
  • Every life circumstance is an inconvenience or a surprise, and therefore a sudden emergency. Her kids don’t even have clothes that fit.
  • She has gotten to the point where she doesn’t even take care of herself anymore.

Do you think this woman’s husband would be respected by anyone? And just how motivated and encouraged to succeed do you think he feels when he comes home to her every day?

Certainly, Jewel’s husband had to earn respect in his own right, but his wife clearly augmented his reputation. She was the kind of woman who, when her husband’s friends and associates got to know her, asked, “How in the world did he ever get a woman like you? What a lucky guy!” By proxy, their opinion of him rose, and they understood him better after meeting her. Even more, Jewel’s worth, her work ethic, and her righteousness inspired her husband to be a better man than he would have been otherwise.

Some find it sexist to say that we should make our husbands look good, but I do not. What’s the alternative to making him look good and inspiring him, and why would we want that? I sure wouldn’t.

So let’s do it! Let’s inspire our husbands and make their friends jealous that he’s got it so good!

(That’s hard to do from the couch with a bad attitude.)

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, if your friends suddenly avoid you because of your girlfriend, that’s a bad sign. They should like you even better because she brings out the best in you. If she doesn’t, you should consider carefully your choice in dating her.

My Love, this is a tall order. For those times that I have failed to inspire — and I know I have — I would like to say that I’m sorry. Truly. You are an amazing provider for us, you’re the best dad ever, and I could not imagine a better husband. You deserve to be inspired, and I’m trying every day to make your friends jealous! 

My Lord, I’m getting a bit redundant here, but I doubt You ever tire of my thanking You for Your abundant grace! You have designed me to be my husband’s helpmate — to inspire him, to encourage him, and to make him look good. I know I fail in some way every day, but I also know that You are helping me every day to get back on the horse. Thank You for your patience! 

♥ ♥ ♥

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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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Take Care of Yourself, Too

She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
~Proverbs 31:22

All of the verses in this passage so far have been predominantly other-centered. She’s serving, serving, serving, and then serving some more. Before the sun comes up, and after the sun goes down, our Jewel is working. Many might argue that this is an archaic picture of womanhood, that this chapter was written by men for men in a sexist society where women were treated as mere chattel, that it is irrelevant and outdated at best and unhealthy and repressive at worst for the modern woman.

I disagree. I think this model is exactly what we need. 

In a society obsessed with self, with immediate pleasure, with feelings and happiness and ease and luxury, and with making much of nothing, the very LAST thing any of us needs is more lies coming from the enemy who’s trying to get us to love ourselves above all else. For that reason, I LOVE the emphasis placed on serving others. I need it. I am inherently and obsessively selfish, and I need to be stretched and challenged to see myself and those around me with an eternal perspective. A model like this may be ancient, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Wisdom is timeless — why else do even the non-religious study ancient thinkers?

This little verse, tucked in between so many verses about how she pours herself into others, shows us that Jewel is not a door mat. She’s not some Cinderella toiling away in tatters. This woman knows that taking care of herself is a necessary part of taking care of her family.

So what about us? Let’s think about what we need to do to take care of ourselves — and I’m not talking about a day at the spa! You don’t really need that! What do we need to be healthy, whole, and able to be fully present for our husbands and children? Different people may have slightly varied lists, but here’s a fairly general one:

  • Alone time — first and foremost to be spent in the Word and in prayer. Secondly, you should be able to spend at least some time on a regular basis doing something that you love. For me, that’s reading and writing. I don’t get a ton of time for that second thing, but I get it sometimes. That’s good enough for now. 😉
  • Sleep — really. Just Google how important sleep is. Lack of sleep can affect your health, your mood, your functionality, the length of your life… you name it. You need sleep. Now, since I have about a year and nine months of motherhood under my belt, I do recognize that there are seasons of life when regular and restful sleep is impossible! However, it should be a priority over most things except hands-on care of little ones or sick ones. If you’re staying awake very late for the dishes, or to read, or to check Facebook, go to BED! These can wait, but the health of your body cannot.
  • Healthy food and exercise — you need to be alive and healthy in order to care for your family. Obviously. (And yes, this is one of my biggest struggles.)
  • A support system — family and friends who love you and encourage you. This is vital. You need people who will kick you in the pants when you need it, and also who will remind you to stop getting down on yourself; yes, you are a *great* mom.

For me, most of my life revolves around cutting up and microwaving food, wiping nose and bottom, playing peek-a-boo, holding hands to practice–practice–practice walking, making bottles, singing, saying “no,” tickling, redirecting, ignoring tantrums and trying not to laugh, picking up toys… you get the idea. It’s not about me, and it’s easy to either get “woe-is-me” about that reality (read: to mourn because I am unable to be as selfish as I please), or to do the opposite: to completely lose myself in it. Neither is good for anybody. I have to take care of myself in order to take care of others.

Notice that doesn’t mean that I take care of myself *before* or *instead of* taking care of others. There’s a difference.

But it is true — If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, find a woman with a true servant’s heart, and then be sure to encourage her to take care of herself, too. Surprise her with the type of gifts she would never give herself sometimes, while still finding ways to honor her heart’s desire to serve others. I pray for a woman like that for you!

My Love, you have been so encouraging through the years as I’ve very slowly been learning how to balance taking care of others and taking care of myself, too. (I’m slower than molasses on a glacier sometimes…) I certainly can’t say that I regularly neglect care for myself, but if I ever do, you’ve always been quick to encourage me to rest. On the flip-side, if I get a little too me-centered, you sweetly encourage me in the other direction, too. I’m so blessed to have you as my compass!

My Lord, thank you for this beautiful reminder in Scripture that it is never Your desire that we be so extremely other-centered that we fail to care for ourselves. You say to love our neighbor as ourselves, not to love them instead of ourselves! Our bodies are temples of Your Holy Spirit, and as such, we must care for them physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Help us all to find that balance of honoring You with our bodies, but also of serving others before ourselves, and help us to continually look to Your Son’s perfect example.

♥ ♥ ♥

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

Cheese and Toilet Paper — Don’t Run Out.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
~Proverbs 31:21

Santa Claus is  coming to town!No wonder Santa dresses like that! I never realized that you should wear red when it’s cold!

Okay, so this verse sent me to the commentaries. Apparently the word translated as “scarlet” may also mean “double,” meaning that her family isn’t necessarily wearing red, but probably just wearing extra clothes. In fact, the CJB translates the second line this way: “Since all of them are doubly clothed.” This makes more sense to me, despite the few commentaries that work very hard to make “scarlet” make sense.

Jewel’s family, then, doesn’t have to worry when the temperatures drop. Mama planned ahead. Far, far ahead. I wonder how long it would take to make extra overcoats for everyone in your family when you have to start with a sheep!

Frankly, I can’t relate. She probably had to start in May to be ready for October, when I can just run to the store when I need to, even at the last minute. It’s helpful to me, then, to extend the core of this message — preparedness — to other areas of my life.

To me, this verse boils down to anticipating the needs of your family. There are things we know, like the fact that the baby needs milk and diapers. We also know that it’s usually cold at a certain time of the year and warm at another, and that we all need to dress appropriately. The mortgage payment is due at the beginning of the month. We all really need toilet paper and soap. Oh and cheese. For the love of all that is good and holy, do NOT run out of cheese.

These are things that are not surprises. If we’re caught unprepared, it’s because we simply didn’t prepare! Remember your English teacher saying that failing to plan is planning to fail? Or what about this one, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”?  Well, she was right! Yes, I had that English teacher, and yes, I was that English teacher!

(That doesn’t mean that I’m always perfectly prepared!)

YES, I sometimes call my husband and ask if he will bring home dinner, pretty please, because I just didn’t get it together that day.

YES, I have taken my baby to Walmart in his very last diaper, praying for no explosions before getting back home with a box!

YES, I have completely run out of baby food because I just kept procrastinating and failed to make more.

YES, I sometimes faced a new school day with no idea what I was going to have my students do.

YES, I have a lot of other examples, but this is good enough.

The bottom line here is that your family looks to you to take care of them. It’s easy to resent that, wondering why it is always you who has to be sure you have toilet paper and cheese, but just because resentment is easy doesn’t mean it’s helpful. Daddies have a list of things that they could wonder why it has to be them, but it doesn’t go over so well if they hem and haw about taking out the trash or mowing the lawn, does it? So neither do we have the right to have a bad attitude.

Instead, we can view our responsibilities — mommies’ and daddies’ — as privileges. Mommy makes sure the bathrooms have toilet paper so everyone can be clean and healthy. Daddy makes sure the grass is cut to make it more enjoyable to play (and to avoid fines from the city). Mommy checks the fit of winter clothes in the fall so no one gets hypothermia, and Daddy kills the spiders so that everyone will just come on in and chill out about it. (Or you know, whatever jobs work in your family.) God gave us our spouses and children to love and to care for. This is an awesome and humbling and terrifying and amazing job.

Let’s try not to blow it by running out of cheese.

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, is she an ant or a grasshopper? (Avoid the grasshoppers.)

My Love, don’t answer that question about me.

My Lord, thank You so much for the lessons You’ve taught me in my last seven years of marriage, and especially in my last year of homemaking. You are so patient and gentle and wise, nudging me to truths and revealing to me my purpose in my home. Give me a teachable spirit and show me more and more the beauty of loving and serving my guys.

♥ ♥ ♥

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

Open Arms

She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
~Proverbs 31:20

I have a secret to share with you. Someday, if God ever blesses me with a little girl, I want to give her the middle name Charity. I love that name, both because it’s pretty and because I’m all about name meanings. While I might love the sound of a particular name, if I don’t love the meaning — if it doesn’t carry any weight, any significance — it’s stricken from my list. I might use it for a potential book character, but never for a child.

Charity. I want my (someday maybe) daughter to be tenderhearted and sincerely gracious to everyone. I want her to File:Homeless man in Anchorage.jpgchallenge me with her desire to serve. I want her to love like Jesus loves, and that’s what I see in this verse. No hesitation, no questioning, no excuse-making. Just loving.

I read the verse above in the NASB, and it was just too familiar. I “got” it. Yep, she helps the poor.

*yawn*

It didn’t impact me at all, so I read it in one of my favorite translations, which I discovered on Biblegateway.com. Just about every time I look up a verse in this version, it comes alive to me in a whole new way, and that’s what happened here. It put flesh and heart to this verse for me. See if it does the same thing for you:

She reaches out to embrace the poor
and opens her arms to the needy.
-Proverbs 31:20, Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

This is not handing a couple of bucks to a bum with a sign.
This is not writing a check for a charity drive.
This is not making your teenager work in a soup kitchen at Christmas.
This is not gathering up unwanted items and asking Goodwill to come get them.
This is not emptying the change jar to help your kid’s VBS team win.

This is embracing.
This is opening yourself.
This is necessarily inconvenient.
This is inevitably sacrificial.
This is gritty.
This is real.
This is a lifestyle.
This is evidence of a heart totally transformed by Jesus Christ.

This is not a verse that describes me, and this is a major problem. 

 

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, find a woman who truly considers others before herself. She will teach you much about Christ’s love that I have failed to show you.

My Love, pray for me.

My Lord, change me.

♥ ♥ ♥

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

Where Can I Get a Distaff?

She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
~Proverbs 31:19

Image-SHE LAYETH HER HANDS TO THE SPINDLEIf idle hands are the devil’s workshop, then he must be extra frustrated with our Jewel! When faced with a few unscheduled minutes, it seems like she finds something insanely productive to do every time. But let’s back up.

What in the world is a distaff? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I was wondering, too. It’s used in spinning. Let’s let Dr. Wikipedia expound:

It is designed to hold the unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process. It is most commonly used to hold flax, and sometimes wool, but can be used for any type of fiber. Fiber is wrapped around the distaff, and tied in place with a piece of ribbon or string. The word comes from dis in Low German, meaning a bunch of flax, connected with staff.

(So if you look at the picture, what she’s holding under her left arm is the distaff, and the spindle is in her right hand.)

And here we go again with the wool and flax! This is an extension of verse 13, where we found out that she works with these materials delightedly. So now here she is, after dark (see verse 18) spinning away to make thread that she can use to make cloth, which she can finally transform into usable goods. Now that’s an undertaking that is NOT speedy, yet she works diligently and delightedly.

I never do that. Make my own thread, cloth, and then clothes, that is. Do you? I used to admire people who were skilled and talented enough to make their own clothes from a bolt of cloth, but no more! Until I see you with a distaff and spindle, forgetaboutit! I guess we’re all chumps.

We must remember the historical and cultural context of verses like these (click on the image above for some insight along that vein). Must we have a spindle and distaff? Of course not. Instead, look at the heart of the issue: Jewel displays industriousness in place of idleness. How does that look in our modern, western lives?

Okay, here’s my brainstorm. Turn off the TV. Close your laptop. Let your phone charge on silent in the other room. DO something useful! Only you and God can determine what that something is, what you could and should be doing that would be in some way profitable. The answer for Jewel, because of her context, is probably different than the answer for us, but the idea is the same. How can you be useful? Helpful? This doesn’t mean you have to totally spend all your energies on others and neglect yourself — we’ll discuss that in a later verse — but it does mean that you should be looking for ways to serve others more than you look for ways to serve yourself. TV probably serves yourself. The computer, your phone, getting your nails and hair done, likely mostly serving yourself. I’m not saying to never do these things; I’m saying to evaluate activities like this, to evaluate their frequency in your life and whether that time could or should be spent differently.

Industriousness over idleness. This is a daily fight for me, but it’s a fight worth having. I don’t think I’ll ever look back and say, “I sure wish I’d spent more time on Facebook.” I may, however, regret never trying my hand at spinning.

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, find a woman whose heart is bent toward service, toward being helpful, toward being useful. And then return the favor.

My Love, please don’t use my new phrase, “industriousness over idleness,” when you catch me — in your opinion — being idle. Please. It will make me be more idle, and then we’ll have rebellion on top of idleness to contend with. HA! 😉  But seriously, this is a battle for me. I’m still learning every day to delight in my work, and mostly I do. I’m a work in progress!

My Lord, sometimes it’s enough to remind myself that what I’m doing is helpful and useful to my guys. That they need me. That my work makes a difference. And then sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes I just plain don’t feel like folding a shirt or puréeing a carrot or sweeping a floor. In those moments, Lord, I ask for help. I ask for reminders that while what I’m doing is helpful and useful and needed and difference-making to my guys, that even more, it’s a service to You. Now that is a high calling.

♥ ♥ ♥

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

Burning the Midnight Oil

She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
~Proverbs 31:18

Late to bed, early to rise… so it would seem! We already know that Jewel is up with the chickens, and now we find out that she also keeps right on working into the night! We’ll talk about that, but first let’s look at the beginning of the verse.

The version quoted above is NASB, my favorite, but here are a couple of other translations to get us really focused in on the meaning of the first part of this verse:

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. (ESV)

She sees that her business affairs go well; (CJB)

She sees that her profits are good, (HCSB)

She sees that her trading is profitable, (NIV)

Remember that she recently (in verse 16) bought a field and planted a vineyard. She also apparently makes clothes and belts to sell for more steady income (verse 24). Recognizing that the profits are helpful to her family, she refuses to slack on her commitments. She even continues working into the night to make sure she gets it all done. We might call this “burning the midnight oil,” but I doubt it’s midnight for her!

She is up with the chickens, after all. You really cannot consistently stay up past midnight, get up before dawn, and perform the kind of hard labor she does. Maybe for a time, but not for a lifetime. I doubt she stayed up “late,” as we consider it.

Sunset tonight in my neck of the woods is at 8:28 p.m. Generally, if it’s not too cloudy, opening the blinds in my house provides sufficient light for most of the day. However, that beautiful light begins to fade around dusk. And naturally, because the dimming light makes it harder to see as night falls, I go ahead and close the blinds, brush my teeth, and head for bed. What. Don’t you? In the words of Gretl von Trapp, “The sun has gone to bed, and so must I! Goodnight!”

Okay, not really. I, just like you, turn on the light so I can keep doing stuff. And Jewel did the same thing, except her light was an oil lamp. So we’re likely not talking about midnight here, but more like what we might call “evening.”  She, like me, probably put the kids to bed, and then stayed up a bit. Although I’m speculating, I bet she went to bed well before midnight so that she would be refreshed and alert for the next day’s tasks. And so should we.

I think I’ve always pictured the woman in this verse toiling away into the wee hours of the morning while everyone else slept, but it just doesn’t seem to fit with her character of wisdom and responsibility in the rest of the chapter, does it? Although this is not really the point of this verse, what I got out of it is that work is good. Profit is good. Work hard, but don’t risk your health by being a workaholic. (That last part isn’t there, of course, but that’s how it hit my heart!) If you consistently need to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, reevaluate your commitments so you can work on changing your bedtime to a healthy one!

What about you? Are you a night owl, or do you call it a night as early as your grandma? 😉

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, I’ve told you before to avoid the lazy woman. Let me add to it this: avoid the over-committed woman. Over-commitment to work, school, extra projects, church functions, personal endeavors, etc., leads to overtiredness, which leads to irritability and lack of productivity. She will be stressed, snippy, and sour. She may do a lot of things, but she will probably do none of them well, and few of them happily. And where do you fit in once your newness wears off? You don’t. Not really, anyway. You just happen to be around, but all she wants to talk about is how stressed she is. How fun! Rather, find a woman who does work hard, but who also works smart. Someone who knows what she loves to do, knows what she is good at, knows what is profitable, and works very hard at those few things. If she takes on too much, everyone will pay, and no one will profit.

My Love, my focus in this post is not mainly what this verse is about, I know. In fact, it doesn’t talk about going to sleep at all, but I inferred that she must sleep if she rises in the morning! Still, this verse is mainly about recognizing a profitable endeavor, and working hard at it. So what is my profitable endeavor? At this time, my profitable endeavors do not make money, as you know. In the future, when the time is right, I hope to be able to do what I know I love to do, what I am good at, and I hope that it will be profitable! But for now, I am so thankful for this opportunity to invest in our little guy. He’s worth the temporary sacrifice! (But boy do I have to become a bestselling author to make up for this, am I right?!)

My Lord, it is amazing to me that I have had different answers at different times in my life to the questions I gave Bennett. Years ago, I would say that I loved to teach, that I was good at it, and that it was profitable in more ways than one. Now, I would say that I love being a homemaker, that I’m *learning to be* good at it, and that it’s profitable in ways I cannot yet imagine. Someday, I hope to say that I love writing, that I am good at it, and that I will be a bestselling author! Please?! Seriously though, I know I am so, so blessed, and that You deserve all the praise. You are my Provider, and You have always taken care of me. Teach me to use my time well to serve you, whether I get an earthly penny for it or not.

♥ ♥ ♥

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

Girded Loins and Strengthened Arms

She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
~Proverbs 31:17

Oh man. Here’s the verse I was dreading — the exercising one. Bah. Let me see if I can make it NOT about exercising… 😉

(Just kidding.)

(Kind of.)

“Gird” is a weird word that we don’t use often. In fact, I’ve mostly only heard it in reference to girding one’s loins in preparation for battle. In ancient times, men would pull up their robes and tuck them into their belts to allow more freedom of movement in battle. (I mean, imagine wearing a maxi dress in a sword fight. You’d hike up your dress, too!) So “to gird” means to surround with a belt, or to fasten with a belt; eventually, however, both the verb and the entire phrase just came to mean preparing for action or for a difficult task. And here in the Proverbs 31:17, the more literal translation is also “She girds her loins with strength.”

This whole idea creates a weird image in my mind. I begin to picture her literally tying up her dress for battle like the warriors, but then I get stuck on the word “strength.” How do you surround your loins with a belt of strength? It started as a literal image in my mind, but then I wonder if it’s more figurative. I cannot wrap strength around my waist.

(Unless I exercise.)

This verse is cool, albeit convicting. It seems to apply to any kind of strength, including physical, mental, and spiritual. The physical is obvious: keeping house and raising children requires physical exertion. She girds up (prepares) herself for hard work every day, and her body is strengthened. You can apply this also to intentional exercise, and I think you should. Being a homemaker in modern, Western society does not typically require the kind of physical labor that Jewel was accustomed to. Frankly, being a homemaker today can easily lead to flabby thighs and bat wings, no matter how busy you are with being domestic. I see it happening to me, and I’m still trying to work out a way to incorporate exercise into my routine with a busy baby underfoot! So yeah, this verse is about exercising. (Bah.)

But it’s also not. Jewel is daily going into battle against her selfish flesh, against the schemes of the enemy, against the culture; essentially she’s waging war against the spiritual darkness that is relentlessly trying to invade and conquer the little and big hearts living in her home.  So she must figuratively gird up her loins, or, as Peter instructs:

Therefore, prepare [literally: gird up] your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13

The task before us is great. We must be ready; we must intentionally seek to strengthen ourselves against the enemy. How? Well, we can’t do it ourselves:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

The very best and most important thing you can do for your family — and really for everyone you come in contact with — is to stay grounded in Him. Gird your loins and make your arms strong, for we go into battle every day.

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, is she a strong woman? I don’t mean the kind of strength that the world recognizes…the sarcastic and pushy kind. I mean the kind of woman with inner strength and fortitude, regardless of her circumstances. The kind of woman who is not shattered when her world shatters, but who looks up with bleary, blurred eyes and says to God, “I trust You and I praise You. Tell me what You would have me do, and I will do it.” Now that is a woman.

My Love, as per usual, I wish I were the woman I am recommending to our little guy! However, I take confidence in the working of the Holy Spirit as He refines me, and I am thankful for the wonderful example of strength and fortitude you are to me every day. I love you.

My Lord, You are the Source of all wisdom and strength, and only You know what each day holds for me. I ask for Your guidance as I face the enemy each day, and I pray that You fill me with Your supernatural strength to withstand his attacks and to guard my home.

♥ ♥ ♥

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