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.)
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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.)

Embarking on Year Two of Homemaking

Yesterday, I shared with you lessons I learned in my first year of homemaking. Lest you run the risk of thinking that I’m Holly Homemaker, with everything figured out and wearing high heels and pearls as I chase my 10-month-old, I wanted to share with you just a few things that I still really suck at (sorry that’s not kid-friendly language, but I doubt any toddlers are reading this…). So, this is that list. And I suppose it’s a goal-setting post as well, because no one wants to keep sucking at things, right? Here we go:

Exercise
This is a biggie, so that’s why it’s first. Shortly after I was cleared for exercise following my C-section recovery, I started P90x. It was awesome and really, really hard. But I lost weight FAST (nursing helped a lot with this, too), and was gaining muscle tone and endurance. I was so happy with how things were going, but then everything just derailed. As my little one got more mobile and also started sleeping less during the day, and as I started prioritizing Bible study, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and keeping my house clean, it just became impossible to continue P90x. I have to figure something out, though. I’m turning into the pillsbury doughmom.

Limiting computer use
This seems silly in light of my lament above, but let me explain. I use the computer mostly while I’m nursing my son to sleep in the afternoon, and at times when he is really just into playing on his own and rejects me as a playmate! Sadly, I am too easily sucked into Facebook. I love looking at people’s pictures, following links to blogs and articles that interest, inspire, or infuriate me, and just generally seeing what people are up to. And everyone loves notifications, be honest. So what is a somewhat limited approach to computer use becomes a more frequent check-in just to see if I have notifications, and then, oh, let me scroll down just a bit and see what people are up to, and now I’m on the computer again when I didn’t plan to be. I really like the blogs Hands Free Mama and The Unplugged Family, and ironically, reading them has really kicked my butt back into being more strict with computer use for about a week now. If you see me on Facebook, please treat me with grace — I’m working on it! I’m trying to find ways to use my time wisely while still being able to keep a close eye on my little one, and I’m also keeping in mind that I don’t want him to be obsessed with the computer. I need to model the behavior I desire to see in him; that’s Teaching 101!! I’ve got this!

Getting out of the house
Yesterday, I emphasized having a routine. There are two caveats: First, if you have a newborn, forgetaboutit. Just sleep as much as you can and try to squeeze in showers every other day! Second, the schedule is there to serve you, and not the other way around! I have to remind myself of that. Whenever I want or need to get out of the house, I’m already thinking ahead to when the baby will be sleepy or hungry, which is obviously good and responsible. It’s not the best idea to leave 20 minutes before he’s supposed to take a nap. However, there is always something coming up in the schedule. If it’s not nap time, it’s snack time. If it’s not snack time, it’s lunch time. If it’s not lunch time, it’s time to nurse. (My baby is kind of a bottomless pit.) Since something’s always coming up within the next 30 minutes, I often don’t want to mess with packing up snacks or whatever, so we just stay in. Well, I have a feeling that my little boy might be all critters and baseball and dirt like his daddy, so I need to do my part in not confining him to the house. How boring for a little boy anyway! We need to get out into the wide world, meeting people and getting our toes dirty. (Personally, I’m not usually itching to get out of the house, because I like it. It’s homey. It has all my stuff. But I’d like for my kid to learn to be friendlier than I am, and I need to get out there and be friendlier, too!)

Serving
This goes along with the previous point. My church participates monthly at a food pantry during the day, but I’ve never gone. Part of this is because nap time is in the middle of it, and part of it is because I wonder how much serving I can actually get done with an almost-toddler on my hip. So I’ve never gone. Also, my church has periodic movie nights in a nearby neighborhood to reach out to young families. They usually start around dinner time, and it’s pretty close to the time we start winding the baby down for bed. So I’ve never gone to that, either. I believe very strongly that my primary ministry is to my family, and I know that discipling my son and loving and encouraging my husband is a very worthy calling. As a homemaker, pretty much my entire life is serving. Somehow, though, I just feel like I should be serving others outside my family as well, and outside of my church family. The poor. The unsaved. The least of these, as it were. Right now, I’m doing zero. Well, that’s not true. I’m praying a lot, which is the very best thing I can do. And now I’ve encouraged myself! But still, food for thought.

That’s what I’ve got for now, and it is by far not everything I suck at. These are just my top things. Prayers appreciated. 😉

Tips for the Beginning Homemaker

It’s been exactly one year since my official career change from full-time public school teacher to full-time homemaker. While I still VERY MUCH consider myself a beginning homemaker, I do want to share a few things that I’ve learned over the past year. These are not new ideas at all, and I probably could have easily come up with them if I’d sat down to make a list of guidelines on day one. However, it’s taken a year of really digging into the daily business of homemaking — especially after having my first baby — to really begin to understand how foundational these things are to my mental and spiritual health, as well as to my general success in homemaking.

This list is not exhaustive, and just because it’s on my list doesn’t mean I’m an expert at it. It just means that these are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned and am still learning. I mess up in some way every day, and it usually relates to one of these. And then the beauty of it is that, so far, God has given me another day to try again. Here is my “Top Ten List”:

Know your job title.
Isn’t it awkward when someone asks you, “What do you do?” and you’re like, “Oh, I just stay at home.” Why are we denigrating our worth and propagating the myth that we “just” remain in our houses? Oh my goodness! If I “just” stayed at home, a whole lot of things would go awry. So forget the “just.” Also forget the “stay at home.” Look at that verb! What is it that you do? You stay? Is that really an adequate description of the main business of your day? Not leaving your house? Pooh! As an extension of this idea, I have abandoned the term “stay-at-home-mom.” In its place, I have adopted the title of “Homemaker”! Now that’s a job with quite a description behind it, and a whole lot of worth attached to it. Although both terms are typically treated as synonymous, I just have a totally different image in my mind for each. While the “SAHM” watches TV, plays on the internet, and slowly loses muscle mass in her yoga pants that are really never used for yoga, the Homemaker is hard at work! In addition to the daily upkeep of her house, she’s looking for ways to make it a home. She’s raising children (That’s a tough job, by the way. Why else would daycare be expensive? Ever think about that? It’s physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually taxing. Don’t downplay that.). She’s learning how to be a better cook. Maybe she has a garden. Maybe she cans preserves. Maybe she sews. Maybe she homeschools. But the idea here is that she is busy with an important, lasting, and impactful work. She does not “just” stay at home. For me, calling myself a homemaker gives me something to live up to. It’s a difficult and meaningful job that I am constantly growing into. I do not have to learn how to stay in my house, nor is much skill or effort required to do so.

Have a schedule for your day.
Those who fail to plan, plan to fail, and they end up on the internet all day watching YouTube videos and clicking “refresh” on Facebook. Don’t do that. If you do, then call yourself a SAHM. Ha! Just kidding. But whether it’s a written and detailed schedule you follow, or general outlines in your mind for what you need to do in the morning and in the afternoon, have a plan. It’s like setting goals. You won’t reach them if you don’t set them. Also, establishing routines for my baby has been a lifesaver. He knows what to expect, his little body gets sleepy and hungry at exactly the right times, and it just makes life easier for both of us. I know when we can go out and when we can’t, which almost eliminates public meltdowns — mine or his!

Make Bible study and prayer a top priority. Like brushing your teeth.
Seriously. No matter what is happening, barring a natural disaster, there is never a day that I don’t brush my teeth. Ever. Isn’t spending time with God more important? (Don’t ask your dentist that question.) Seek the Lord every day with a whole heart. Maybe right before you brush your teeth.

Get up early.
This is not difficult if you have young kids, because they will probably wake you up. But if you’re in a situation where sleeping in is possible, don’t make it a practice. It may feel nice to get those extra hours of rest, but generally sleeping in is a recipe for a non-productive day.

Go to bed at the same time as your husband (assuming he has a regular daytime work schedule).
Some people may object to the previous point, saying that sometimes they’re up super-late doing whatever important thing it is that needed doing. My advice to you on that one is to go to bed. If something is undone, leave it that way. If you order your day so that the non-negotiable things get done, while the lesser things are left for free time, then you’re unlikely to be facing late nights with things you “have” to get done. And it’s better for your marriage if you go to bed at the same time. You know what I’m talking about.

Do laundry and dishes every day.
I used to get SO MAD at laundry and dishes, and consequently, at the people who dirtied them. What the heck? Why is ____ wearing 72 articles of clothing in a day? Why did ____ use three different glasses today for water? I JUST washed the darks. I JUST emptied the sink. AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH! Okay, and so I was in a constant state of frustration and resentment over people simply living life. Clothes get dirty. Dishes get used. Every day. Multiple times a day. Treat laundry and dishes like showering. It’s fairly non-negotiable. You can skip a day, sure. But skip two… oh man. Now it’s smelly. Just stay on top of it and do laundry and dishes every day. Only the size of your family will determine how many loads per day are necessary to stay on top of it; start with one or two and see how it goes. And skip Sundays. No one should do laundry on Sundays. It’s in the Bible.

Start thinking about dinner around lunch time.
Many, many nights in my house have gone down like this:

Him: (around 6 p.m.) Hey, honey, what’s for dinner?
Me: (responding defensively, wondering why everyone always looks at me asking for food) I don’t know. Do you have a plan?
Him: (responding carefully) Well, do we have anything to cook? Do you want to order pizza? Chinese?

I’m left feeling lousy for not having my act together and shifting the responsibility onto my unsuspecting husband, and he’s left frustrated that the responsibility has been shifted to him at the last minute, but trying to figure out how to balance that frustration with being an understanding and helpful husband. No one wins, and we end up overpaying for delivery and eating too much grease. Ugh. Solution? Make a decision about what dinner is going to be while you’re eating lunch. That gives you time to run to the store for an ingredient, if necessary, or to defrost the chicken, or to do some prep-work during nap time so you’re not so rushed and flustered come early evening. It just keeps everybody sane, and a bit healthier. (As an extension to this idea, it REALLY helps to meal plan for the week and go shopping all at once. Saves gas and time, too.)

Have a schedule for household chores.
So you may have gathered by now that I’m a schedule person. Why yes, I am; nice to meet you! I have lists and charts and calendars, and I love it! Otherwise, I feel like I’m just ambling along, letting circumstances dictate my day, and I end up getting nothing that is very important done. To help with this, and to aid in learning hospitality, I developed a schedule for always keeping my home at an acceptable level of cleanliness. I am not a clean freak, but I am when I have people coming over. So, my early years of marriage were spent in a messy apartment, with a husband who wanted to invite people over, but with me refusing because it was so stressful to clean the whole place at once AND figure out food. Forget it! Let’s meet them at Chili’s! Now, I’ve learned to keep my house generally (but certainly not perfectly) clean all the time by keeping a schedule. Then if we want to invite people over, it’s only a few minutes of extra tidying that needs doing. And besides, we’re just all more comfortable in a clean space.

Be frugal.
Only purchase things you need, and evaluate your definition of “need.” Shop the ads for your groceries — you don’t have to go all over town; Walmart price-matches all local ads — and clip coupons. Look on the discount racks first at department stores, and seriously consider thrift stores and garage sales when you need clothes or household goods. For most of us, the choice to give up a paying job to be a full-time homemaker is a sacrifice, so keep that in mind. No matter how united you and your husband are on the idea that the money he makes is “our” money, he’s human. If you are not making money, but you’re spending the money he makes like nobody’s business on things you don’t need and/or can’t afford, it will be very difficult for him to not resent you. His resentment is his issue, sure, but your wastefulness and disrespect is yours.

Accept that this season of life will be different.
I am a writer. I thought, when I was pregnant and wearing rose-colored glasses, that I would be able to finish my novels while my baby slept. I mean, babies sleep a lot, right?! Ha! I was nuts. What a completely unrealistic plan I had. Maybe if I had a maid, and a nanny… Alas, this is life with little ones. Life will change; babies will grow up, (oh I have a lump in my throat at the thought!), and there will be new opportunities to more fully pursue personal dreams. Right now, my highest calling is to pour into my little one and constantly whisper the love of Jesus to him. And to talk sweetly to him when he accidentally leaks poop down his leg. What better job is there? Oh, but it’s just for a season.

Those are the biggest lessons that I’ve learned, and that I have to remind myself to keep learning very frequently. Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the things that I really still suck at, but I wanted today — my one-year homemaking anniversary — to be positive! What are some lessons you’ve learned as a homemaker?

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.)

Considering, Buying, Earning, and Planting

She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
~Proverbs 31:16

I love the simplicity of this verse. I have simple reflections in response, simply because there’s no reason to try and build something complex out of it.

Consider. Don’t just buy something because it’s pretty, or because you saw a commercial about how useful it is, or because it’s on sale. Consider whether it’s truly useful and necessary. Consider whether you have space for it. Consider whether you have money for it (do you have debt that still needs repaying?), and whether you could get a better deal elsewhere. Also consider the off-brand. A pretty good rule of thumb is that if you saw it, loved it, and grabbed it, then put it back.

Buy. Obviously this doesn’t mean buying everything you want (see above). Once you have determined that an item is useful and necessary, a good deal that you can truly afford, and practical, just buy it! Don’t waste time wondering about it. If you doubt your purchase that much, there’s a reason. Don’t buy it. But otherwise, buy it. 🙂 Notice the example in the verse. What did she buy? A field. Why? Because it would yield a great return for her family. How does that new pair of shoes stack up under all these criteria?

Earn. Work. Not all jobs have a monetary compensation, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t be working. For instance, if you, like me, are blessed to be able to stay home with your kids, earn that privilege. Don’t spend your days “running errands” (shopping needlessly) or merely socializing. If you don’t have enough to do to mostly fill your days, then consider how you can turn those extra hours into something useful. Shopping, unless it’s for groceries, is often not useful. Playdates definitely are useful, both for child and parent, but not really if you’re having a playdate every day. That’s just playing. Imagine coming home from a long day at work and asking about your spouse’s day. Frequently being met with words like “shopping” and “playing” would probably really annoy you, and rightly so. We should all be working; it’s what we’re made to do. That’s kind of why I like the term “homemaker” instead of “stay-at-home mom”. The first implies that you’re actually doing something, and reminds me to get to it!

Plant. Do something useful with your time and resources that will ensure some sort of return for someone. This is also called making a good investment! There are a myriad of possibilities. Maybe for you this means some sort of home business, where you are getting a financial return on an investment. Maybe it’s more spiritual, as you pour into your spouse, your children, your friends, the community. Begin to evaluate your days, recognizing ways you’ve already been planting, and looking for new ways as well.

Finally, recognize that in the verse, all of these components work together. She considers a field, then buys it. She already has earnings, and she uses them to plant a vineyard in her new field that will undoubtedly yield more return for her family and community. In short, this Jewel is practical, thoughtful, responsible, and industrious, and so should we be.

(But that doesn’t mean you should just walk out and buy a vineyard off the Internet, Willie!)

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, find a woman who has simple tastes; that may be the most practical advice I can give you on this topic. A wasteful woman, who spends excessive money on shoes and clothes and hair and nails and decorative items will not only put a strain on your finances, but she may struggle with some deeper heart issues. Caring about your appearance and keeping up with tidiness in the home is great — I don’t advise marrying a slob — but observe and consider her work ethic and her general attitude about spending. This will save you a lot of heartache later!

My Love, you know I wrote this post to myself! I’m still learning about wise and thrifty shopping, and it seems like every time I have my daily schedule figured out, that baby of ours gets more mobile and active and sends me back to the drawing board! But I want to be a blessing to you and to Bennett, so I am consistently looking for ways to use my time wisely and to pour into our family. I pray that I keep growing in this area!

My Lord, thank You so much for making me hate shopping! It makes some of this come easy to me. In other areas, I struggle more. Lord, I ask for wisdom and creativity in earning and planting. For the homemaker, it’s not always as straightforward or as grandiose as buying a field and planting a vineyard, but it could be those little moments invested with a little man that will yield a great return in years to come. Please give me perspective, patience, and passion for my calling!

♥ ♥ ♥

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