The Proverbs 31 Project: Honor her for all that her hands have done…

Proverbs 31 Project

Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. — Proverbs 31:31

According to Rachel Held Evans in her book, A Year in Biblical Womanhood, Proverbs 31:10-31 is part of a song the husband sings to his wife on the Shabbat. In doing so, he honors her for the contributions she makes to the household in managing it. (Hevel, please correct me if I’m wrong.) In doing this last entry of the series, I have some people who need to be honored for their contributions.

My thanks goes to:

Becky for the graphic.

-Priest’s Wife, Jill, Elizabeth, Claire, Christina, Andrea, Kendra, Emily, Jen, Stacy, Jenna, Amanda, and Mandi for guest-posting.

-everyone who has read/commented on this series.

The Proverbs 31 Project: A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…

Proverbs 31 Project

Our last guest poster is Mandi who is one of the most inwardly (and outwardly!) beautiful women I know. She is my right hand when it comes to trying to come up with fundraising ideas for Kaia and I appreciate her help so much!

When I think of a Proverbs 31??well, to be honest, I try not to think of Proverbs 31. For me, those verses are daunting, a reminder of the kind of wife I should be but often fail to be. A Proverbs 31 woman seems perfect, unattainable. That is, until I get to verse 30: ??Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.??

Most of Proverbs 31 focuses on what a virtuous wife does: she provides for the material needs of her family, she is thrifty, cares for the poor, and speaks with wisdom. It??s easy to go through this ??list??, verse by verse and think of situations in which I have failed to fulfill these tasks. But verse 30 is one of the few verses that describe qualities which are not necessary for a virtuous woman to possess, in this case charm and beauty. While a good woman may be charming or beautiful , she need not be. What a relief!

You see, when I think of a perfect wife, I envision someone whose outward perfection matches that of her inner life. She appears lovely, poised, and charming. Some days that could describe me, most days it does not. This verse is a reminder that outward appearance is not only unimportant, it also can be deceiving. That??s not to say that we shouldn??t try to look our best or that all women who put time into looking beautiful are vain or acting charming are deceitful, simply that these things are not the basis of virtue.

When Jen presented this project, I read through Proverbs 31 several times discerning which verse to select. Each time, this verse spoke to my heart. Since my daughter was born in December 2011, I have struggled to feel physically beautiful. I often feel beautiful in other ways; I believe the love of a wife for a husband and a mother for her child is beautiful in itself and I strive to perfect my beauty in this way. But physically, I??ve felt anything but lovely. On days when I don??t work, I usually don??t leave the house because I??m embarrassed to be in public. I??ve always struggled with blemished skin but since Lucia was born, it??s been absolutely awful. While I had some body image and self-esteem issues as a teenager, since meeting my husband, I??ve felt very comfortable in my skin. I don??t tend to put much stock into physical appearance, but over a year of looking in the mirror and seeing ugly red and blemished skin has caused my self-worth to slowly diminish to almost nothing.

??A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.??

Proverbs 31 is a beautiful reminder that I need to return to looking at myself through God??s eyes and not the eyes of the world. Open any woman??s magazine and there will be article upon article about how to appear more charming, how to look more beautiful. Yet, even if you ??perfect?? your beauty and charm, these things do not last. If you seek to attain eternal life, you must cultivate in yourself everlasting virtues.

A God-fearing woman may be invisible in the eyes of society, but to those that she encounters, she is a blessing. Beauty and charm rarely have the ability to transform lives, but a woman who loves the Lord leaves a lasting mark of love, grace, and dignity with her loved ones. I may not be described as beautiful or charming, but I am praise-worthy in the eyes of the Lord. If God sees value in me, who am I to say I am without value?

frl-152Mandi is a twenty-something wife to David and mother to Lucia. When she??s not changing diapers, teaching Spanish, or playing word games, she??s most likely blogging at Messy Wife, Blessed Life.

The Proverbs 31 Project: Many are the women of proven worth…

Proverbs 31 Project

Our guest poster today is Amanda who has my respect not only because she’s a woman of immense valor, but because she’s also a youth minister. ESHET CHAYIL!!!!

??Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.?? ?? Proverbs 31:29 (NAB)

Upon reading Proverbs 31:29 I have a knee-jerk reaction to say, ??Surely I have not excelled them all. God could not be talking about me.?? Then comes the thought that not only have I not excelled other women, but that I can??t even be counted among the ??many?? women of proven worth. All at once I??ve disregarded this entire verse because I??m certain it doesn??t apply to me. Proverbs 31 must be talking about some mythical woman who doesn??t exist in my reality.

But what if, for just a second, we consider the possibility that Proverbs 31:29 could actually be referring to each and every one of us? Then what? Our worth isn??t proven because we are perfect or sinless. In fact, our worth isn??t proven by any thing we do. We can rise while it is still night and distribute food to the household (v.15), we can reach out to the poor (v.20), we can do all the things that the previous verses describe and still not have our worth proven. Our worth isn??t proved by what we do, it is proved by who we are. Our worth comes from God and shines forth in our character, by being virtuous and faithful women. When the going gets tough, we fall to our knees in prayer. We recognize that it is God who proves our worth time and time again. There are many women of proven worth because they realize their worth is not of their own doing, but God??s. When we stop trying to prove our own worth and let Him find us worthy then we join the host of women this verse refers to.

This still begs the question, ??If there are so many women of proven worth, how can I excel them all??? We excel the other women by being who God created us to be: ourselves. St. Paul spends much of 1 Corinthians 12 talking about how we are each given a different gift. No one else on earth gets to be me, nor do I get to be anyone else on earth. God has called me to be me, here, in this time and in this place for a specific person. I exceed other women of proven worth by being me, by striving to fall more deeply in love with Him. God gave me special gifts and He gave you a special gift, a unique call to build up His Kingdom and glorify His name. Are you answering that call or are you bogged down by the art of comparison? Do you have yourself convinced that other women are doing ??it?? (whatever ??it?? is) better than you? Rid yourself of those thoughts because God is calling you some place unique and meant just for you. Follow Him there.

In reality, Proverbs 31:29 is meant for each of us. God finds us all worthy and proves our worth time and time again. He renews our worth when we turn our hearts towards Him and then He sends us out to build up His Kingdom in a unique way. By following His path for our lives we exceed all other women because only we can live out God??s call for us as individuals. You are a woman of proven worth, beloved by God, and invited to serve Him like only you can.

amandaA woman after the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Amanda is also a Colorado native and can hardly imagine living anywhere else. She graduated from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina in 2009 with a Bachelor’s in Theology, as well as minors in Psychology and Philosophy. Amanda works as a youth minister, and has a heart for women’s ministry. Her personal blog can be found at worthy of Agape.

The Proverbs 31 Project: Her children rise up and call her happy…

Proverbs 31 Project

Our poster today is Jenna who has mad coding skillz because I didn’t have to even *TOUCH* her piece — I just cut and pasted it without having to mess with with aligning pictures or anything.

I did something really original with my Catholic mom blog: I named it after a verse in Proverbs 31…I know, right? But, there is a reason we are all so in love with this Proverb: we often complain that being a wife and mother doesn’t come with instructions, but here they are. It is laid out pretty clearly. Our pesky human-ness just makes it a little difficult to follow.

So, which verse is my blog named for? Proverbs 31:28. And I like a lesser used translation, so my verse is from the good ol’ NRSV.

27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her happy;
her husband too, and he praises her:
29 ??Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.??

Her children rise up

Let’s start with a hard one. For me, this is THE hardest. This part implies that the mother is already awake when her children rise. She didn’t set an alarm with good intentions only to turn it off without a second thought each and every morning. Who would do that? I’m sorry. I would. I would do that.

(Not So) Pro-Tip: The only thing that has ever even come close to motivating me is this amazing post. Genius, seriously.

IMG_1971

and call her happy

If someone asked your kids to describe you, what would they say? I’m pretty sure they would say something of the vague variety (mommy is nice but she yells sometimes). Take that with a grain of salt; they have no idea what they are talking about half of the time. But, what about when they get older? How will they remember you? Always sitting on the couch with a laptop? (Mine might…) Always complaining/procrastinating/making excuses/fill in your own blank?

On top of considering our children’s views of our own happiness, what are we teaching them about theirs? Do we show them an example of happiness so they know how to deal with other emotions? Everyone experiences the whole gamut of emotions, of course, but a truly happy person can gracefully deal with moments (and sometimes long periods) of sadness, despair, anger and the like.

(Not So) Pro-Tip: People often put a lot of emphasis on finding your passion in life, getting a hobby, surrounding yourself with good friends. It’s not always that easy. Instead, find the happiness in the mundane. Instead of dreading and then rushing through the dishes, focus on the moment you are in. That is what you are doing in that moment. Be there.

callherhappyad

her husband too

If you stay at home, does your evening look like this too: Husband comes home: “How was your day?” You say, “The kids were insane. I’m so tired. I can’t take this anymore. I need some me-time. Just don’t talk to me for a while.” Is that just me? I really try not to do this, but it happens. And, honestly, if it’s not every single day, Mike doesn’t really mind. In fact, he is super helpful. But, that kind of attitude easily becomes habit, especially if your husband is the very first adult-ish person you’ve seen all day. I don’t ever want to hide or bury my feelings when it comes to Mike, but overall, I want him to see me as a happy individual.

(Not So) Pro-Tip: Remind yourself that your husband doesn’t deserve your leftovers. Start your conversation with the happiness of your day before you lay it on him.

mike and jenna

and he praises her

Is there any better feeling than when your husband is proud of something you do? Maybe I sound stupid saying that, but for me, it’s true. I mean, I married him for a reason: I really love him a whole lot. And, when someone you’re that crazy about loves what you’re doing and how you’re living, it’s pretty cool. Mike loves to brag about my blog and my freelancing. He thinks it’s so cool that I am able to stay home, do what I love and make money in the process. And, not so secretly, I get a little kick out of hearing him do it.

But, what about when no one notices what you’re doing each day? No one thanks you for dinner, for changing the empty toilet paper roll, for wiping that sticky crap off the wall. That’s usually the case, amiright? They don’t even notice, let alone praise you and give you all of the trophies and certificates you undoubtedly deserve. This part of the verse is asking a lot in regards to those feelings. Even if we aren’t getting the accolades, we need to do it anyway.

(Not So) Pro-Tip: This is so so so hard, but I try to keep one idea in mind (and I’m not saying I do this with extreme grace or even an ounce of it): we aren’t doing these things for the praise, or to make ourselves feel useful or even for our family believe it or not. We’re doing it for Him. You know who I mean. Him. We are taking care of our loved ones because God calls us to; it’s our vocation as wives and mothers. Darn, I know.

IMG_1545

Oops. How did that get in there?

So, how do you live this verse? Any more pro-ish tips than I gave?

profile_pic

Jenna is a former HS English teacher turned stay-at-home-mom to her daughter Ellen and stay-at-home uterus to a baby boy unnamed at the moment. She spends her days taking care of her charges, freelancing and creating content for her blog, Call Her Happy. Sometimes she cleans things too.

The Proverbs 31 Project: She watches over the affairs of her household…

Proverbs 31 Project

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. — Proverbs 31:27

I hate doing housework. I would rather do just about anything than housework. I can deal with doing laundry but I will do just about anything to get out of cleaning the bathroom. Dishes stress my lower back and I keep wishing for a parsonage with a dishwasher. The problem: entropy — things go from a state of order to disorder and in order to keep the nice CPS people out of the house, cleaning needs to happen from time to time.

In today’s verse, our virtuous woman is described as “watch[ing] over the affairs of her household” and “not eat[ing] the bread of idleness”. She was on top of everything that went on in her house so the beds had fresh linens, the food was procured and prepared, sashes were made to sell to the merchants, and all was where it needed to be. If she hadn’t been so aware of the state of her household, the family could possibly go hungry, there would be no light from lamps and candles after dusk, and her servants would fare worse than the family.

For me, being aware of the affairs of my household means that I keep track of the bills that need to be paid and I make sure that we have everything we need to function. This might not be everything we *want* in life but our needs are met. Not eating the bread of idleness means keeping up on the freelance editing work, the laundry so I have clean underwear and Daniel has clean clothes, and keeping the dishes under control so that I’m not drinking instant breakfast out of a measuring cup.

The Proverbs 31 Project: She opens her mouth in wisdom…

Proverbs 31 Project

Stacy is a fellow crazy cat lady who is staff to Miss Buttercup. She is also one of the people who is slowly but surely tempting me to try coconut oil. 🙂

She opens her mouth in wisdom; kindly instruction is on her tongue. — Proverbs 31:26

I would love to be the type of woman that Proverbs 31 describes. Wouldn’t we all? I fall far short, but do love using the verses for inspiration, and also to keep myself in check. I can read over the verses and pinpoint exactly what I do and don’t identify with. Many of the things I don’t see in myself are things I need to work on or improve upon.

When I read verse 26, the first thing I thought was, “Yes, I am wise and I do speak with wisdom”. Just as soon as I finished patting myself on the back, I realized there was another half to that sentence. Not just that instruction should be on my tongue, but kindly instruction. See, this is where it gets iffy for me. I am pretty wise, and I am pretty good at giving instructions, but I fail miserably in the gentleness and kindness categories. God has given me the gift of being able to grapple with things, figure issues out, and He has gifted me with a big dose of common sense. He also blessed me with the ability to teach others, to guide, and to instruct. But what I constantly seek His grace on is how to show those skills as a wife with kindness. I can be biting, and I can even be caustic. No amount of wisdom or instruction matters if you aren’t able to relay it kindly, and that is a lesson I have been learning and relearning over the past several months of marriage. I know that I don’t want to be the type of wife who is constantly nagging, or who snaps at her husband because things don’t come as naturally to him… but that is who I am sometimes.

This verse reminds me of the work I have put into myself, and the work that needs to continue to benefit my husband, myself, and my relationship with God. I want to be the type of wife who can pass wisdom on to her husband in the most loving of ways. If I’m doing it right, I bet he won’t even know that that is what I’m doing! My husband, like yours probably, responds so much better when I approach things from love and gentleness. In fact, I’m quickly learning that my husband is more likely to retain my wisdom and instruction when I give it kindly than when I give it curtly. He is much more likely to pay attention to why I am saying something than how I am saying something when I speak to him the way he deserves. We unfortunately live in a culture where men are put down and even treated as an extra child. I’ve seen this in myself when I take the above verse and omit that one very important word. That isn’t the type of wife I want to be, nor the type of wife my husband deserves. Let’s use this verse as a reminder that our husbands will love us at our worst, but deserve our best. Let it remind us that our husbands will retain our wisdom and instruction when we give it to them kindly. And let it remind us that, when we open our mouths, we have a threefold responsibility in our vocation: to share our wisdom, to instruct with that wisdom, and to be kind in our instruction.

Stacy is a newlywed who blogs about faith, frugality, living with PCOS, and green living over at Catholic and Crunchy. Feel free to stop by!

The Proverbs 31 Project: She is clothed with strength and dignity…

Proverbs 31 Project

Today’s guest post comes from Jenn who is one of my Twitter buddies and #Cathsorority chicas.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. –Proverbs 31:25

??You??re stronger than you think.??

This phrase has been said to me many times in my life. Most recently, I heard it a few months ago, in two different scenarios, from two different men. I heard it from one of my priests, Father Tony, and by one of my personal trainers, Shane: each man said the same five words, but each was referring to different parts of me that they felt were strong. Words said to me when I didn??t feel very strong, when I felt as if things were closing in on me. It was only looking back, did I realize that I was strong because of my faith.

The two scenarios:

Fr. Tony said those words to me on a very scary autumn day. I??d just found out that my husband, Chris, was diagnosed with a serious, potentially life-threatening liver disease. I felt as if we were being tested, yet again, by another life event that most people never have to experience. I was mad and scared; wasn??t it enough that Chris had almost been killed years ago, and then was laid off twice, once for over a year? If you want to see ??when bad things happen to good people,?? you just need to look at my husband. Additionally, I was thinking ??Could I support Chris through this latest crisis? Could I be the wife he needed? How could I be strong enough to help him when I felt as if things were falling apart???

Shane said the same words on another autumn day that was challenging my physical strength. I??d only been working out with him and the other personal trainers at our gym for a month or so. I doubted my progress, that I couldn??t lose weight, get stronger, and achieve the fitness level I desired. Previous attempts at working towards these goals had been derailed all too easily??life got in the way. What would keep me going this time? Did I want to be healthy badly enough?

Little did I know that my strength would be tested even further in the coming months. I lost my job just after Thanksgiving.

Deep down, I knew that things would work out, that Chris would be OK, and I would start to see progress in my efforts; even after the job loss, I just knew we would not financially suffer too much. There was an inner calm or peace about all of these things, but they weren??t in the front of my mind. I wasn??t overly confident in these feelings??I was definitely NOT laughing! I won??t lie, when I heard the phrase from both men, I wanted to brush them off. Why did they see strength in me when I didn??t, or doubted myself? Especially at the worst possible moments. Was it a platitude? I didn??t think so. I??ve known Fr. Tony for years, and he??s very honest. I hadn??t known Shane as long, but he??d been up front with me since the first day of my training. Neither man was trying to trick me. When it came to my job and income loss, I went out on a limb. My entire life had been filled with a lot of anxiety around money. This time, there wasn??t much. I knew I was strong enough to figure out something.

What did I do when Chris was diagnosed (and even before, as we dealt with specialists and more tests)? What did I do when I knew my health might be at risk and I didn??t want that life, but was scared to try and change things? What did I do when I walked out of my office for the very last time, trying to hold back the tears of embarrassment?

I prayed.

I prayed that Chris?? condition would change??either through his own hard work or a miracle. I prayed that I would persevere at the gym and with developing other healthy habits. I prayed that we would make it through my unemployment, no matter how long, and that all of these things wouldn??t tear apart our marriage, as they have for so many other couples. I also saw this job loss as an opportunity to be a better wife; I wasn??t working 80 hour weeks or bringing much work home with me, but I felt that I wasn??t being the best wife to Chris. My job made me stressed, I was snapping at him, I hated going, I was miserable when at home. Most people go to their faith in bad times, and I was no different, except that I started to use my faith to see that things aren??t as bad as they might seem. And I??m no Pollyanna! I??m very cynical! I??ve tried to incorporate my faith in all areas of my life??yes, even the gym! When trying to push through the last few repetitions on a machine, I might mutter a Hail Mary to myself, especially ??Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners.??

Something changed, and I don??t know when, but again, there was that inner peace. It strengthens me. It enables me to reassure Chris that he will be OK when he doubts himself. He asks how I know; I tell him that I just do. I can??t explain it. It helps me at the gym when I look at myself in the mirror and see how far I??ve come, yet wonder how much longer I have to go. It guides me when I feel sad about my work situation, even though I??m doing a little freelance work and keeping myself busy. It has aided me in this foray into full time homemaking; while I might have once scoffed at women who do it full time (mostly out of jealousy), I??m seeing how much I do contribute. My strength at getting things done, calmly and on time, helps bring peace and dignity to our home. No more fights about who is doing what, who worked harder, who is distracted by their day and can??t listen to the other. My husband feels stronger because of what I do??being both mentally and physically present for him, especially during the past few months of vague prognoses.

Having been through all of these bad things over the past nine years??Chris?? accident, his two layoffs, issues with our jobs and families, my job loss, his health crisis, other difficult things??I can laugh. Not in an overconfident, cocky way. Nor am I attempting to test God. My laughter is more like ??I??ve been through ALL of this stuff, and I??m alive and well, so I know that I??ll get through whatever else comes my way. I have my faith, I have God, I have my husband and my family. I will be OK.?? This strength does make me feel rather dignified, but not in a holier-than-thou way; that inner peace and calm, via the strength given to me from my faith, keeps me together, helps me hold my head up high, gets things done.

Am I stronger than I think? Probably. It??s not something that I take for granted, and I give thanks to God for helping me to develop it.

(And for those who might by wondering, Chris recently had a follow up with his doctor??all of his lab work came back in the normal ranges! His hard work is paying off and we are so thankful.)

JennJenn is currently discerning her true vocation during this forced sabbatical in her life. She and Chris live with their three crazy cats in Connecticut. (Did you like that alliteration?) She blogs at Chronicles of Real Life, which used to be known as The Adventures of Rabbit and Turtle. (She is the blogger formerly known as Rabbit.) On Twitter, she appears as @JentoInfinity. While she has many screen names, she promises she is one and the same.