Reflecting on Year Three of Homemaking

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been three years already! Today marks my third anniversary of becoming a full-time homemaker. Around my 2-year anniversary last June, I posted four goals for the upcoming year:

  1. Homeschooling
  2. Potty Training
  3. Balance
  4. Vegetables

Whelp! Let’s start off with total transparency: I completely forgot that there were four goals until just right now, when I looked up my old post. I thought there were three. Oops! And to make it worse, even though I thought there were three, I couldn’t remember what #3 was! You might think this means I didn’t take my goals very seriously, but that’s actually not the case.

Homeschooling and potty training were the two I remembered, and they were definitely my two “biggies” this year. While I didn’t remember that balance and vegetables were also on the “official” list, I was still actively working on them! God is so gracious. So, here’s how it went:

Homeschooling…
is difficult. BUT! Worth it! I predicted last summer that this would be my biggest undertaking of the year, and I was right. It was a major change, but it taught me so much about my boy. We had a lot of struggles, because our curriculum ended up not being the best fit, which made me THROW a fit, because I did not want to do heavy lesson planning! Once I got over that, though, and just buckled down and did what I already know how to do — since I was a school teacher in a past life — it got crazy awesome. Turns out, Bennett L-O-V-E-S school! He doesn’t care if we’re learning about the letter y or about ankylosauruses, about AABB patterns or Scripture, he just LOVES it. Every day, he asks if we’re going to “learn about school” today. It’s just about the only thing he will drop everything for, besides ice cream or Daddy coming home. Once I pressed in and found some supplementary things that worked for us, it just got beautiful. My kid memorizes entire passages of Scripture, and loves it! What an eternal work we’re doing here, sowing seeds for the future, planting truth deep in his heart. This is the best, and I might just homeschool forever. Except I totally don’t want to, except that I totally do. I’ll keep you posted on what God wants, since that’s a bit more important.

Potty Training…
was just about the worst time in my life. It’s worse than having a newborn. BUT! We’re through it. He’s potty trained. Still in pull-ups at night, but that’s an awfully long time for a little bladder. He makes it through naps, but not through the night yet. That will come. I’m choosing not to stress about it. I’m choosing to call this a victory!!! Potty training is a battlefield, and I may have scars, but I am victorious. Poop and pee are defeated and banished to the potty!

Balance…
is elusive. I’m learning. My word this calendar year is Simplicity. I have to let some things go, and choose to focus on the right things — The Things God points out.

THIS is important.
THIS is eternal.
THIS will be remembered.
THIS is the Lord’s work.

THAT is nice, but it is lesser.
THAT is temporal.
THAT, despite all your hard work, will be forgotten in a week.
THAT is just busy work.

♥ I’m working on it. ♥

Vegetables…
are becoming my friends! I didn’t actually keep a log of vegetable-serving frequency, but it *feels* like more. So, I can’t really quantify that and call it a victory. I can, however, say that my attitude has changed. Instead of, “Oh, I guess there should be a vegetable,” I’m all, “We need to have a salad night,” and, “I feel gross if I haven’t had any vegetables in a day or two.” MAJOR victory for me! Major. Still working on this one, too, but I can only go up from here. Even more telling is that my child loves carrots, green beans, broccoli, and peas! Like, he will eat them before anything else on his plate. I’ve made it a normal part of eating since he started solids, and so it’s normal to him. Let’s pray his taste buds don’t rebel in the next few years!

In conclusion: It’s been a year of much learning, growing, and victory! Stay tuned for my new goals for year four, which I’ll hopefully post soonish. Since I have no idea what these goals will be, I don’t know how long it will be before I post about them. But I *would* like to hear about *your* last year or so. How are things going for you? Have you had any victories and/or learning experiences in homemaking/parenting/life? I’d love to know, and be encouraged with you.

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All the Days of Her Life

She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
~Proverbs 31:12

This is not just a Hallmark card for Mother’s Day, where Lemuel signs his name beneath a few lines about how his wife is a good one, and yada yada. Cards like that always extol the mother as amazingly kind, endlessly patient, infinitely loving, and remarkably sacrificial because that’s just what you’re supposed to say on Mother’s Day. Whether it’s really true, whether the family really feels that way about the mom, and whether anyone else would agree with these superlatives really doesn’t matter because it’s Mother’s Day. It’s what you do.

Well, this is not that card, and this is not that family. This woman’s character is so solid that her children rise and call her blessed (apparently without prompting?), and her husband sincerely treasures and honors her above all other women — not just one day a year when teachers remind kids, kids remind dads, and dads grab whatever leftover card they can find at Kroger on the way home! It’s sincere appreciation for a sincere woman who works with a selfless heart, consistently and deliberately.

Consistently and deliberately. You have to WORK at this, ladies! You have to continually ask Jesus to help you die to your fleshly desires. You have to seek out ways to do good and not evil. And you have to constantly be on the lookout for those little evils — things that you really wouldn’t call evil, because they’re just so little, and because evil is really such a strong word, but honestly those things aren’t doing any good. So, they’re evil if they’re not good.

Good = Benefit

She benefits him all the days of her life. ALL the days of her life. Interesting. Even before she marries him! I lived 23 years of my life before I had a husband. When I was just 18, I highlighted that phrase, “all the days of her life,” in my Bible and wrote next to it: “I am to honor my precious husband now.” I wasn’t married. I wasn’t even dating my husband-to-be; we hadn’t met. But I knew that in a way, I owed something to him, to the man who would someday become one flesh with me. (Of course, I failed miserably at my limited definition of what honoring my husband meant! Oh, how thankful I am for grace!)

I look at this verse now with slightly older eyes, and with a completely different perspective. Then, I was working full-time in a cubicle and getting ready to get my own place and start college courses. I was in the single’s ministry at church. I really wanted a boyfriend. (Like, really.) Now, I have my prince. I had no idea then that I’d meet him at 19! I now have over ten years’ experience learning to love him like Christ calls me to, which is infinitely more than what comes easily to one who is in love (grace upon grace — I am still just fair to middling in this area, but I am learning). I have lived in several different cities in two states, I have had five different jobs, and now I’m a homemaker and mother to the coolest baby on earth. Now I see my marriage, my motherhood, and my home as my ministry and my biggest calling. Now I am opening my eyes to how the Lord is showing me what is good and what is evil, and sometimes the differences are very subtle. Often, Biblical womanhood, wifery, and motherhood are completely belittled by our culture. (Time to re-evaluate who you’re listening to and following on social media. That’s just extra, free advice.)

She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Wow.

This beautiful verse rounds out the introduction of this treatise on an excellent woman. The two previous verses speak of how rare and trustworthy she is, while this one praises her consistent, selfless good works, but thankfully the tribute doesn’t end there! These three verses clearly lay out for the reader exactly how amazing this Jewel is, and then the remainder of the passage will give specific examples showing how she lives it out. I can’t wait!

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, oh she is so very rare. Do not settle for less, though. You will know she is the right type of woman if she is seeking to do everyone good instead of evil. You see, young love is beautiful and fun and carefree, and sometimes deceptive. She may adore you and dote on you now, but how does she treat her little sister? How does she act when her boss isn’t looking? You see, all that fire and excitement will change over the years; it always does. You’ll become common, in a way. And honestly, sometimes we women are guilty of treating our men worse than anyone else because we become so comfortable in the common, and we too easily take the common blessings for granted. If she is not that rare kind of woman, she will not fight this inevitable drift in her sinful heart; she will defend it. She will blame you. She will list out her merits and say that you just don’t appreciate her, and she will get a whole gaggle of stiff-necked women to agree with her. That’s our culture. It has built itself around the sinful desires of the human heart, planted a flag, and is now handing out chocolates. That rare jewel will ask what they’re selling before eating the chocolate, and then she’ll go home and check her Bible. She seeks to do good and not evil, she is other-centered, and she is worth waiting for.

My Love, I am completely NOT the woman I just described to Bennett! I know it! But because I desire to become her, I believe the Lord is helping me to change. Little by little, I am truly learning how to think of myself less. When I think about how much time I have wasted in my life seeking my own happiness to the exclusion of yours, I am ashamed. Knowing I so easily default to this way of thinking without even realizing it, I am overwhelmed. But knowing that I am married to a gracious, godly husband who is leading me into deeper relationship with our Lord, I am encouraged! Jesus isn’t through with me yet!

My Lord, You are so good. As I have been meditating on Your sacrifice this Holy Week, I have been inspired and astounded by what You — the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the One to whom every knee will bow — desire. It’s so blessedly simple, sacrificial, and selfless. How is it that it’s the Father’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom? How could You want so badly to save me that You would lay down Your life for me?  I have been so blessed by John Piper’s Holy Week devotional:

Remember, when you think of Jesus’s resolution to die, that he had a nature like ours. He shrunk back from pain like we do. He would have enjoyed marriage and children and grandchildren and a long life and esteem in the community. He had a mother and brothers and sisters. He had special places in the mountains. To turn his back on all this, and set his face towards vicious whipping and beating and spitting and mocking and crucifixion, was not easy. It was hard.

We need to use our imagination to put ourselves back into his place and feel what he felt. I don’t know of any other way for us to begin to know how much he loved us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Teach me to love like that. 

♥ ♥ ♥

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

Not a Misandrist

The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
~Proverbs 31:11

Just a few decades ago, the fight against male chauvinism was a fierce one. Women fought for respect and equality, and while there were many noble intentions garnering intrinsic rights that I’m sure I take for granted today, there were also some sinister consequences. The biggest is abortion, but that’s a topic for another post. A very big consequence is the heartbreaking and marriage-killing pervasiveness of female chauvinism, or misandry.

Misandry is misogyny’s counterpart. While a misogynist could be found belittling, exploiting, ignoring, using, and/or abusing women, so behaves the misandrist toward men. And just as many men who would be accused of misogyny are married or have intimate relationships with women, many misandrists are married or intimate with men. Both would hotly deny the accusation that they hate the opposite sex, but their attitudes, actions, and words tell a different story. Misandry has become part of our culture, and many women — including Christian women — treat their husbands disrespectfully. It’s just so socially accepted and normal to belittle men that I think many wives don’t even realize it’s happening.

But look at how sweet Jewel the queen is described in the verse above! Lemuel trusts her implicitly, and has no lack of gain in any area of his life:

  1. Financially — She doesn’t say, “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” She doesn’t make excuses. She doesn’t waste money. A man married to a woman like her doesn’t have to hold his breath every time the credit card statement comes in the mail. (And in fact, he sees every bill because she doesn’t hide it from him.) She watches her spending and questions every purchase in her mind. Instead of making excuses for compulsive purchases, she pauses and asks herself, “Do we need this? Do we have the money for this? Even if we have the money for this, could I spend this money in a more useful way, or could I find a better deal somewhere else?” Some people call this being cheap, but it’s actually being wise. You’re guarding your heart, your mind, your marriage, and your livelihood by thinking this way. More on this in another post.
  2. Spiritually — She doesn’t gripe, “He’s just not being a spiritual leader,” all the while stomping all over him and usurping his leadership. She is a spiritual encourager. She is an example to him by being a faithful follower of Christ, but she doesn’t lord it over him or use it to point out his failings. She is careful not to help him chase idols. Ladies, we have incredible spiritual influence over our husbands (just ask King Solomon), but we must be gentle, humble, and quick to notice our own shortcomings instead of focusing on our husbands’. A sweet spirit goes a long way, but a nagging spirit is counterproductive.
  3. Sexually — She doesn’t say, “Oh, he knows who I’m coming home to!” when someone looks sideways at her for wanting to gather together with girlfriends and watch some very attractive actors stripping, or to discuss the “plot and characterization” of the latest sado-masochist best-seller. She recognizes explicit movies and erotic literature for what they are: pornography. She is completely faithful to her husband, recognizing that excuses about how this “entertainment” is fake and how it has improved her sex life is tantamount to giving her husband $500 in ones to blow at a strip club, with the only stipulation being that he spend his climax on her when he gets home. Um, nope. That’s so degrading to women!! How horrible! Exactly. It goes both ways. Besides, it doesn’t feel good to anyone to know that your spouse is more aroused by someone else, and only interested in you one night because of that someone else, whether that someone is fictional or not. The Proverbs 31 Woman has eyes and a heart only for her husband, and he feels completely loved and accepted by her sexually. (Yes, our men need and deserve that security, too.) So hopefully, it goes without saying that this woman also doesn’t say, “I have a headache,” kind of ever. 
  4. Emotionally — She doesn’t say, “Oh be a man!” with her words, her attitude, her expression, or her tone. Ever. He can share any thought, feeling, emotion, or insecurity, and know that his wife still respects him and loves him, and that she will never share his deepest confidences with anyone else. He doesn’t even have to ask her not to tell anyone; she just knows. This emotional trust ties in very closely with #5:
  5. Publicly — I’ll be talking more about this in a later post, but generally she doesn’t mock him, belittle him, give him attitude, or talk poorly about him in public. Her husband can trust that “playgroup” and “ladies’ night” are not simply code names for bashing sessions. (Sadly, too many of these gatherings are exactly that. My advice to you if that describes your group is to say no to your “friends” and to honor your husband by staying home instead!) When he makes a mistake, or needs help doing something, she doesn’t speak to him like he’s an idiot. She doesn’t roll her eyes. She doesn’t sigh, snap, speak harshly, or visibly simmer as she responds. She recognizes in him the man that she loves, and she helps him when he needs help, and that with patience, understanding, and kindness. (I mean, could you perfectly do everything he is good at, completely without his help?)

Where do you see yourself in the descriptions above? Remember, don’t just assume that you’re an excellent wife. Let the verse settle into your heart and ask God to help you see yourself and your marriage objectively. Are you as completely trustworthy as Jewel? Can your husband say that in all of the areas above, he has “no lack of gain”? I personally find this all very convicting; I don’t know about you. It’s too easy to let my politeness “fizzle” by the end of the day and snip and snap at the man who slays dragons for me every day. We all struggle with this to some extent, but let’s not let that be an excuse to tear down our men and our marriages, ladies! This is not “stress.” This is not “exhaustion.” This is not “frustration.” This is not justifiable in any way; this is sin, and it needs to be repented of and dealt with. Let’s let this verse settle into our hearts, searching out the truth and teaching us how to bless our husbands!

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, if you cannot trust her when you’re dating, it will not get better after you marry her. You should have absolutely no reservations about her faithfulness, her trustworthiness, and her passion for honoring, loving, and encouraging you. If you do, do not marry her. Better to be single than in a marriage with a woman whom you can’t trust.

My Love, you deserve a Jewel of a wife. I am definitely not her, but I pray that as we grow in our marriage I will become more and more like her! Please forgive me for ways I have disrespected you or hurt you, and know that I am committed to becoming a Jewel as I press more into Jesus and allow Him to chip away my impurities.

My Lord, teach me integrity! Change my heart and rid me of selfishness. I know I fail You and my husband daily, but I know that You are bigger than my sin!

♥ ♥ ♥

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

A Rare Jewel

An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
~Proverbs 31:10

My immediate thoughts upon reading this:

  1. Not every wife is excellent. 
  2. Most men do not have excellent wives.
  3. Don’t assume that you are an excellent wife.

(Before I expound on my three points above, I want to make mention of a very important translation issue. The word translated as “wife” can simply mean “woman.” In fact, it does. It means woman, wife, or female. So if you are a single woman reading this, please do not think that this post — or more importantly, the entire 31st chapter of Proverbs — does not apply to you; it does! I will be looking at this chapter primarily through the lens of a wife, since I am one, but please know that this is not a part of the Bible that you should feel excluded from. It’s all about you, too, and your thoughts are most welcome!) 

As a Christian wife, I am pretty familiar with Proverbs 31. I have a few of the verses memorized, and I remind myself of them frequently. However, I’ve never taken each verse individually and really chewed on it like I did with this one. And it really hit me.

I think my first two points can be taken together, because everyone would agree that not every wife is excellent. Go ahead — take a moment and think of one or two wives who are decidedly not excellent. There’s the woman who carries on an emotional affair with a co-worker, or the one who abandoned her family, or even the one you saw on TV who killed her husband so she could take his money and run off with a lover. It’s no surprise that there are terrible wives out there, but perhaps my second point was a little more abrasive. Most men don’t have excellent wives. If they did, why would the writer wonder who could find an excellent woman? If most wives were excellent, this would be a silly question!

Let’s look at the word “excellent.” Other versions may translate that word as “virtuous” or “capable.” It’s actually the same word (different part of speech) that is used in Lemuel’s mother’s oracle in verse three of the same chapter:

Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.

This same word is translated as “strength” in just about every version I looked up. (It’s Strong’s #2428, if you’re interested.) In any case, I think the word “excellence” really captures the idea, and its meaning is expounded upon in the subsequent 21 verses. In every area of responsibility, character, and virtue, she excels. She is rare. She is more worthy than jewels. In some translations, it says pearls or rubies. Same idea.

Do you know what else in the Bible is more valuable than these types of treasures? Wisdom:

For wisdom is better than jewels;
And all desirable things cannot compare with her.
(Proverbs 8:11)

And the Kingdom of Heaven:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
(Matthew 13:45-46)

Wow, ladies! Rare indeed. So that brings us to my third and most sobering point. Don’t assume you are an excellent wife. If most men do not have excellent wives, it then follows that most wives are not excellent. This doesn’t mean that many wives are not generally good, fulfilling responsibilities, staying faithful, and loving their children. But aren’t these basic requirements of being a wife? Isn’t that just part of the definition? So doing them does not make you excellent. Excelling in them makes you excellent! To excel, once again by definition, means that you’re better at it than most other people. So, most wives are not excellent. Let’s approach the rest of this chapter with hearts open to God so that we might attain this goal of becoming a truly rare jewel!

I love this verse so much that I am naming this woman “Jewel” in honor of it. Lemuel and Jewel — we have much to learn from them! 🙂

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, a good woman is exceedingly rare. You must search for her, refusing to settle for someone who’s just a nice person. But of course, you must be the kind of man such a woman would bother to look twice at!

My Love, I was not the kind of woman when we met that I hope for Bennett. I praise God that you saw goodness in me, and a true heart. I knew right away that I had better not let you go, and your presence in my life has made me a better woman. May I learn more every day what it is to be a truly excellent woman, and may I have the moxie to become her!

My Lord, who am I — or who could I be — that You would value me? Yet I know that You love me just because I am Yours. Yet press me, refine me, make me a treasure indeed.

♥ ♥ ♥

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

More Advice from Mom

(Maybe.) Because my Bible titles Proverbs 31:1-9 “The Words of Lemuel” and then verses 10-31 “Description of a Worthy Woman,” I treated only those first few verses as the oracle from Lemuel’s mom (it seems that’s a pretty common approach). Well, that may not be so. It could be that the entire chapter is the oracle!

That’s pretty awesome if it is. First of all, it just makes Lemuel’s mother even more special. She didn’t just model for her son what a virtuous woman looked like, but she intentionally wrote out examples — according to a Hebrew acrostic for “easy” memorization — and painstakingly taught it to her child! Acrostic or no, that’s still a lot to memorize, which is the second reason I think it’s awesome if it’s part of the mother’s oracle. Lemuel memorized all of it! I hope he found himself the kind of wife his mother would approve of! I hope that both for Lemuel, who would have to hear it from his mom if she was still alive, and I also hope it for his wife, who might have had to wake to these little verses whispered in her ear if she stayed in bed past dawn. Sheesh!

Whether it’s part of the oracle or not is unclear, but I like the idea. I will be studying, meditating, and blogging through the remainder of this chapter verse by verse in the coming days and weeks. While I have no specific timetable for this, I would think I will publish no fewer than one or two posts per week. As I examine each verse, I will be keeping these ideas in mind:

  1. Lemuel’s mother was intentional about teaching her son how to select a spouse.
    How can I be intentional about teaching my son the same thing?
  2. This is not a list of absolute standards, but a beautiful example of a very valuable and cherished wife.
    What steps can I take to move closer to this excellent goal?
  3. The Bible presents Christian marriage as a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the Church.
    (Christ : Bridegroom :: Church : Bride)
    How can these verses be translated into the Christian life and relationship with the Lord?

I’m excited about this journey, and I would love to read your thoughts as you read along! Blessings!

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