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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Ultimate Introduction

As I mentioned last time, I have been pondering the Proverbs 31 Wife for several weeks now. Who is she really? What is her secret? How on earth does she seem to literally do it all?!

Let's start with our introduction to her. It's a doozy. 

Wow. Um, ok...what does it mean to be a "wife of noble character?" Well, let's take a look at some definitions:

Noble - adjectivenobler, noblest.
1. distinguished by rank or title. 
2. pertaining to persons so distinguished.
3. of, belonging to, or constituting a hereditary class that has special social or political status in country or state; of or pertaining to the aristocracy.
4. of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence
5. admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition
6. very impressive or imposing in appearance
7. of an admirably high quality; notably superior;excellent.
8. famous; illustrious; renowned.
So what I glean from this, when combined with Proverbs 31:10a, is that a wife of noble character is: distinguished, of exalted moral character, admirable, impressive, renowned. A wife of noble character is known for her noble character. She stands out in any crowd as a woman of moral substance and strong convictions, even if she's the shy, quiet type. 

Continuing on, apparently it's really hard to find such a "woman of noble character." I know how beautiful rubies are; I've admired them in brightly lit jewelry cases at Shane & Co. My knowledge of rubies was severely limited other than that. So, I Googled "how rare are rubies." Yup, when all else fails - I turn to Google to correct my ignorance. Here's what I found (courtesy of the International Gem Society):

Ruby is the red variety of corundum. It is quite a bit rarer than the [sapphires]. The rarity combined with the demand for rich red gems keeps the price very high. Among rubies though, there is no shortage of small gems, the kind used in cluster rings. They are somewhat expensive, but readily available. It is when you get into gems of a carat or more that they get really expensive. Good quality rubies in this size range are few and far between. The law of supply and demand is really obvious here. While many people would like a full carat ruby, few have the thousands of dollars needed to purchase one.

It's as though that last sentence was specifically written with Proverbs 31:10b in mind. Tiny rubies are common, just like how the separate attributes of a woman of noble character may be found in many women. But the one carat ruby - the woman whose character is entirely noble - is so rare that it is worth more than anyone can afford. Proverbs points out the big flaw in the comparison: a woman of noble character is worth far more than rubies. She's priceless and rare. 

Intimidated yet? Oh, we're just getting started...

According to verses 11-12, a woman of noble character inspires confidence in her husband. She flat out inspires him. He trusts her, and his trust is well-placed because "she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Well, of course she does - she's a woman of noble character! But what does all this mean for us imperfect, hapless housewives (or is that just me)? 

Well, for starters, it's important to note that just because this woman is noble does not mean that she's perfect. It means that she seeks God's will for her life, that she actively pursues holiness, and that she is determined to serve and support her husband. The fact that her husband lacks nothing of value has nothing to do with material possessions; rather, it means that he knows that her love is pure and reserved for him. She brings him good by building him up, supporting him, and inspiring him. 

In her book For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn discusses some things we can do to demonstrate such love for our husbands. Here are two crucial examples:
  • Men need our respect more than they need our affection. Our husbands need to know that we respect their opinions, knowledge, decisions, and needs. They'd rather know for sure that we respect them than receive a million little displays of affection. (Chapter 2, Your Love is Not Enough)
  • Men may feel like "impressive imposters," meaning they may feel that they don't deserve success or recognition. We need to be sensitive to their fragility when it comes to their outward success. We should regularly encourage them, remind them of how proud we are, and build them up publicly. (Chapter 3, The Performance of a Lifetime)
There is so much more wisdom in this book! I highly recommend that every wife/bride-to-be read it ASAP. We will explore the other topics discussed in the book in the coming weeks. For now, I'd like to focus on the two mentioned above. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It's not just for divas; it's absolutely crucial to a man's self-esteem. For our husbands to have full confidence in us, they must first know that we respect them. This is non-negotiable ladies. If your marriage is struggling or your husband seems to react strangely to something you say/do, ask yourself if there's anyway he could feel a lack of respect. When you start looking at things through this lens, you will be amazed at how your relationship will change. The Proverbs 31 Wife respects her husband and he knows it. 

Secondly, it is important that we build our husbands up publicly. I'm not saying we should embarrass them with flowery ballads and flashy gifts. I'm saying we make the decision not to join in "bashing sessions," we refuse to criticize, tear-down, and otherwise degrade our husbands to others. You know what I mean. Those "girl chats" where everyone talks about every little annoying, nit-picky thing they can't believe their idiot husbands do. It's ok to vent to a close friend or family member when your marriage is struggling and you genuinely need support. It's not ok to tell everyone that will listen what a terrible husband he is because he works too much and doesn't help more with the kids. Although I genuinely try not to disparage my husband to others, I'm just as guilty as the next wife. The lesson here is that a Proverbs 31 Wife goes out of her way to encourage and esteem her husband in public, such that everyone else also sees that she respects him. 

This introduction hits on the key components to the Proverbs 31 Wife: she is of noble character and her husband is blessed by her respect and love. What seems like an intimidating opening is really a beautiful gem of marital advice. Pray for your husband. Encourage your husband. Respect your husband. If you can do these things, as oversimplified as they may seem, everything else will fall into place. In doing these things, you are pursuing God's will for your marriage. In pursuing God's will, you will indeed be a woman of noble character. It's all connected! 

I have to say I'm relieved. I don't have to be a flawless 5-carat ruby immediately or on my own. As I seek God and endeavor to love and respect my husband, God will mold me into a priceless woman of noble character. That's inspiring, not intimidating! Who's with me?!

Hapless but hopeful,

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The (Impossible) Gold Standard

Oh. My. Goodness. I know that I've used the phrase "one of those..." several times on this blog, but I have to tell you - it has been one of those weeks. The way our Sunday morning started, I should have known this week was going to be a doozy. We woke up with plenty of time to get to church early, even with Daddy not around to help (he really does most of the work on Sunday mornings, if I'm honest). After my stomach decided to disagree with my breakfast, my daughter filled her diaper and almost tore it off herself, and I had to replace her shoes twice...and then I suddenly couldn't find one of them...

Let's just say my attitude was not positive as we left the house. I shed a few tears of humility as I prayed for patience and forgiveness on the short drive to church. We pulled into the parking lot, already 5 minutes late. A spot opened immediately and right by the door closest to the nursery, which almost never happens. I shed a few more tears as I realized that God was looking out for us, even when I wasn't looking to Him. I took a brief moment to clean myself up and straighten my heart out a little before going inside.

That morning was the start to such a loooooooong week. L has been sick all week, terrifying me by spiking fevers every couple of hours and refusing to eat or drink anything. If you've read some of the past posts, you may remember that last time this happened she had a life-threatening febrile seizure. Suffice it to say, I barely slept all week and prayed over her feverish little body every waking moment. The doctor (not our normal doc) prescribed one medication, which did nothing. So back we went, only to be prescribed more medications. One of those was a steroid. If you know anything about steroids, you probably know that "roid rage" is something that can happen to anyone, including tiny toddlers who have only had one dose. After the steroid turned my lethargic and feverish toddler into an itsy-bitsy Beelzebub, the doctor recommended we stop taking it and never take steroids again if possible. Gee, thanks! To top it all off, as she finally started to get better, I got the bug. It has since settled into my lungs where it seems to be happily making itself at home.

SO...combine all of that with my obsession with the Olympics, and you can probably understand why I've fallen behind on everything. That includes my quiet time. My attitude was in the dumps, my sinuses were on fire, and I'd had about 11 hours of sleep over 3 days. So I'm sure you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm when I finally carved out a few moments to study and my Bible literally fell open to Proverbs 31.

Have you ever taken a good, hard look at Proverbs 31:10-31? If you're anything like me, you may have glanced over it some in high school or college and dreamed of the day you'd meet a man who would treat you with such love and esteem. Then, maybe after several years of being beat up on the dating scene, you'd mournfully avoid the lonely reminder of those passages. Finally, when you did find that amazing, wonderful man, you'd fearfully avoid the same passages. They once held so much promise, but now they're nothing but a painful reminder of how you'll never measure up to the gold standard set by the Proverbs 31 Wife.

At a first glance, this woman is a jack-of-all-trades. She's a realtor, designer, businesswoman, manager, hostess, mentor, mother, and wife. She has the heart and reach of Mother Teresa. She's everything to everyone. Everything she does is successful, every life she touches is uplifted, everyone she loves adores her.

That is an impossible standard.

Or at least that's how I've felt for several years now. There's no way I can meet up to the Proverbs 31 Wife.

Or can I? Is all of that what God wants/expects out of every one of his daughters? Do I really need to know how to plan a perfect menu, dedicate hours to charity work, dye and sew all our clothes, and invest in real estate in order to honor God and care for my family?


After stubbornly deciding to dissect the entire passage, I think I've been missing a lot of very important points. Actually, I'm certain I've missed the entire point. The Proverbs 31 Wife is not perfect, she's present and purposeful. She's not a revered saint, she's a redeemed sinner. There's so much more to her than her actions and reputation. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to really dig deeper and see what truly makes the Proverbs 31 Wife the gold standard. And don't worry, it has very little to do with buying and selling vineyards.

Hapless but hopeful,

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ministry: Size v. Success

Well, I'm back. I took an extended break for numerous reasons. I've been battling morning sickness and chronic pain, as well as some upheaval in my husband's job and a few other things. All of these things are positive in the bigger picture - my sickness and pain are due to my pregnancy, which is progressing normally; the upheaval in my husband's job is due to his traveling and increased responsibility. There are other such excuses too, but what it really boils down to is this: my head and heart weren't in the right place. I was growing discouraged again. I've always prided myself on being very adaptable, but lately my emotional state seems more fragile than ever before. Call it hormones, call it exhaustion, call it "mommy brain," call it whatever - it's a fog that hovers around my head for however long it takes me to drag myself out of it. Usually God gives me a little kick in the pants to jump start things again. This time was no different.

I honestly had already lost sight of what I originally set out to achieve with this blog. I've been told by other, much more successful bloggers that it happens to everyone and usually more than once. I didn't expect it to happen so soon! I wasn't getting the responses I wanted, so I started questioning the purpose, wondering if anyone cared or if anything I said made a difference. Then God kicked me in the pants. I stumbled across one of Ann Voskamp's eloquent posts that (as usual) burned all the way through the fog and pierced my heart. Here's my favorite quote:

BOOM. Then a dear friend asked why I hadn't posted in a while. And that's when I realized - or rather, remembered why I started doing this in the first place. God wants me to share my heart and let Him do the rest. That's it. It shouldn't matter to me if it reaches a million people or just one (or none for that matter). Maybe God is using this to reach ME as much as anyone else. And I have to say, that's a huge relief. I don't have to focus on statistics or traffic or views. I can just focus on what is on my heart, share it as best I can, and let God work. IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. That's an awesome feeling. So here I go again, with a fresh start, a humbled heart, and a newly cleared head. I've learned so much in the last month or so. I can't wait to share! If you've read this far, God bless you and I hope you'll join me in the weeks ahead. 

Hapless but hopeful,