The Proverbs 31 Project: She fears not the snow…

Proverbs 31 Project

This last week was so insane for me that I didn’t even look at my database and I missed an amazing guest post on Proverbs 31:21 that was light years better than anything I could have written. Andrea, I’m really sorry and your piece is going up today because I think people need to read it.

She fears not the snow for her house-hold; all her charges are doubly clothed. –Proverbs 31:21

I have personally struggled with Proverbs 31 since the first time I read it. I found each and every verse to be filled with impossible standards, which I thought I could never meet. I chose to write about this verse for Jen because it was this verse that made me realize the standards are impossible for us to do alone, but not impossible if we let God into our lives.

Worrying is what I do. I??m a worrier by nature; my husband would agree. My mind is constantly filled with what ifs for the future. What if my children aren??t healthy? What if I never find a good job? What happened to my husband if he didn??t return my call as quickly as I??d like?

Proverbs 31: 21 tells us that we should not worry, for our ??charges are doubly clothed??. Upon reflection I have found that this means that God blankets us with His comfort and with His wisdom. In times of sorrow, Jesus is next to us. When we are faced with difficult decisions, we can trust that as long as we truly place God in the center of our lives the decisions we make will allow Him to rejoice.

Although this makes sense to me logically, realistically it is hard to live life believing God will always provide. I know I shouldn??t fear for my family, health or finances, but I do regardless. So many women I know struggle with worries about the future. But women are commanded not to fear. God will take care of our lives.
Over the past few years I have actually found myself to be less anxious than I was at a younger age. Most days I trust that my family??s future will be bright.

Everyday I strive towards minimizing my worries. I ask God to take away my anxiety about the future. I ask Him to leave me with a sense of peace and trust. I find that when I pray more regularly, I am more in tune with what God wants and my worries are fewer.

If you tend to worry about your household, I encourage you to give all your anxiety up to God. He is more equipped to handle it.

Andrea is a Catholic, wife, mother and grad student. When she is not tending to bruises, studying or sipping wine she writes for Coffee with Mama Leigh about faith, family, food and budgeting.

The Proverbs 31 Project: She makes linen garments and sells them…

Proverbs 31 Project

Our guest poster today is Emily and she’s tackling Proverbs 31:24. She’s a fellow Lutheran but she’s in the process of becoming Catholic. She is also preparing to marry on May 4th and I’m hoping her wedding involves light sabers!

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. (NIV)
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. (KJV)

I have always been fond of this Proverbs verse. In fact, it even inspired the name of the blog I co-author, Fine Linen and Purple. If you have ever read this whole chapter, it’s quite beautiful! I’m sure you have read many other posts about the other verses, but this one is special to me!

I found this description while perusing Google and really liked how it described this verse: A virtuous woman – the kind of woman every wise man seeks to marry – is an enterprising woman. She is not content with merely being a housewife. She knows she is capable of more, and so she does more. The example here is a manufacturing and wholesale operation in fine linen and girdles. She has an entrepreneurial and industrious spirit that seeks profitable projects to support her husband and build the family estate.

This woman is giving so much, and is extremely obedient. She does everything she can to support her husband. She is the virtuous woman. She wants to help out with her family. Her family is well taken care of, and she gives all of herself to her family and husband. I think we can take something from this verse. Do all that you can to aid your husband. Give your all to your family. Give your all to God! This doesn’t just apply to women who are married. Try to give your all in every aspect of your life. That doesn’t necessarily mean make clothes for a living, but you get my point 🙂

Emily is a 20-something, engaged, almost-Catholic who lives in Ohio. She blogs about her wedding (in less than 3 months!), conversion, running, and losing weight over at Day in the Life.

The Proverbs 31 Project: Her husband is respected at the city gate…

Proverbs 31 Project

Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. — Proverbs 31:23

OK… so whoever scheduled Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day together needs to be beaten soundly. I’m losing time at night to ponder and write. But enough of my whining!

The city gate was the place where the judges sat and handled disputes. Only the wisest men held this place of honor (at least I remember that much from reading commentaries on Amos 5 in seminary) so if the virtuous woman’s husband was respected there, it meant that either he was exceedingly wise or the virtues of his wife shone back on him and added to his prestige. My vote is for the latter one.

This is an interesting verse for me as a pastor’s wife because everything I say/do/write reflects back on my husband Jon, whether I like it or not. This has led to elderly (and not so elderly) parishioners lecturing me on how I should dress, mingle, pursue employment, etc. In one case, I was always in the wrong place — if I was in the kitchen, I was being anti-social and if I was out pouring coffee for people, I was neglecting my kitchen duties. I was criticized for wearing clothes that were too dark — apparently, a jewel colored shirt with a black skirt or pants and a black cardigan was too somber and I should wear pastels. (Have I mentioned how hideous I look in pastels? So *NOT* my coloring.) I smiled politely and nodded, realizing that these people paid Jon’s salary and irritating them would be a bad move.

When Daniel was born, it was like I finally gained a backbone as I went into Mama Grizzly mode the second someone criticized decisions I made about him like choosing not to breastfeed (I was too sick and needed the sleep), actually going home every night (I trusted the NICU staff with him and he didn’t need me at that stage as much as he needs me now during hospitalizations), and choosing to vaccinate. I didn’t quite turn aggressive but I got quite a bit more assertive about my right to wear what I wanted to wear to church, saying “no” to activities because of Daniel, and not caring what anyone outside of my doctor had to say about him. I think these times were when I probably made Jon “respectable at the city gate” because I was authentically myself and I showed through how I handled Daniel’s birth and subsequent NICU stay that I was a woman of valor and one who was indispensable to her husband.

The Proverbs 31 Project: She makes coverings for her bed…

Proverbs 31 Project

Today’s guest poster is Kendra. She is my late night chat buddy and go-to person on most things when it comes to natural parenting. She also co-owns Fine Linen and Purple with her soon-to-be sister-in-law Emily (who will be featured here in a few days).

She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. — Proverbs 31:22

I love this verse for many reasons.

First, it portrays a strong woman, one who is gifted and skilled to provide for herself and her family, and (inferred from Proverbs 31 as a whole) she is happy to do this. Second, this verse shows a woman who is dressed in her very best. She works hard to put her best self forward and to do the best for her home and family.

God wants us to care: both about ourselves and for others entrusted to our care. We are called to put effort into managing our home, being there for our family, and taking care of our own needs each day. I know that there are days when it??s better, even necessary, to stay in pajamas or skip the chores, to manage stress or stay sane. However, I try my best, when possible, to not let that become the norm or default.

I notice that when I have time and take the time to put on a nicer outfit or do my hair, my attitude is better that day. When I accomplish a set of chores, or even set the table nicely before dinner, things just feel different. Taking care of yourself and working hard can both be contagious, and your positive attitude can work wonders: within your home and to others you meet.

So yes, I think this verse is telling us that it??s good to care, and to put extra effort into cultivating an attitude of joy in our lives. Put the nice ??coverings?? on the bed. Go in your closet and put on your own version of ??fine linen and purple.?? Take the time to do something a little extra for your spouse, children, friend, sibling, or co-worker. It may be the little spark you need to smile, and to spread joy to those who need it the most.

Kendra is a Catholic wife and mama of one little boy. She blogs about being a Catholic, a gamer and nerd, a real food advocate, and an attachment family at The Nerdy Wife. She also blogs about faith, fashion, beauty, and new feminism at Fine Linen and Purple.

The Proverbs 31 Project: When it snows, she has no fear for her household…

Proverbs 31 Project

When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. — Proverbs 31:21

Snow in Israel? It happens. There are mountains there and all that has to happen for snow to fall is for the temperatures to drop enough and have a weather system pass over. I googled the question and found that it happens every few years. Theoretically, even the area of northern California where I live could see snow if it got cold enough when a storm system came through.

This verse seems to go back to the theme of preparation. The virtuous woman has oil for her lamps, spins thread from flax to make clothes, and her family has scarlet garments for those rare occasions when snow would happen. Purely speculating on my part, having scarlet cloth would require that whatever cloth that was dyed could hold that color (she would have to know about mordents) and she would have to have enough of whatever was used to make the dye. This means lots of crimson worms or madder red which would have been quite expensive. Scarlet garments were used for the High Priest in Israel and anyone with clothing that color would have to be quite well-off.

Another benefit of having her family clothed in scarlet would be that they could be seen in a blowing snowstorm with white out conditions. In a world where clothes were frequently whatever color the wool/flax/linen were, her family would stand out and perhaps be able to be found.

The Proverbs 31 Project: She reaches out her hands to the poor…

Proverbs 31 Project

Today, we welcome Christina of Reflections of a Catholic in Formation.

??She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.?? ??Proverbs 31:20

As young women in university, my friends and I have often been exhorted to ??be a Proverbs 31 woman??. For most of us, this seems like an okay proposition, except that nobody tells us what that means. It??s a confusing imperative because there are so many ways to be a ??Proverbs 31 woman?? and many of them don??t even apply to us yet. We don??t have husbands to trust our counsel or children to praise us, we can??t weave clothing or buy fields, so we??re left wondering what we can do to model ourselves after Proverbs 31 other than fearing the Lord. It is a wonderful thing to discover, then, that verse 20 applies to every woman and is relatively easy to emulate.

Proverbs 31:20 says of the ideal woman, ??She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.?? It is simple, straightforward, and perfect for a woman my age. During one??s university years, there is a mixed sense of mature responsibility and juvenile desire to enjoy as much leisure as possible, the latter is made easy by the large amount of free time students enjoy being away from home and, to a certain degree, masters of their own universe. However, if one attends university in a city, he or she is not shielded from seeing that there are many people in the immediate vicinity who are in need, and for young Christian students it is the perfect opportunity to emulate the Proverbs 31 woman.

Unfortunately, universities like mine are fast paced, high expectations kinds of places which leave students little free time to enjoy leisure or dedicate time to much other than work if they want to do well. Service to the poor is often restrained to weekend mornings or giving what little cash or change a student carries to a person who asks for it. The school runs alternative break trips, but they run into the thousands of dollars, which is not always easy money for a student to get.

The cheapest of these alternative breaks is the one sponsored by the Newman Center, and it is usually filled with women in spite of the fact that we are always doing manual labor. The destination is typically in the rural South, and the project is usually helping to rebuild and renovate a house that is either falling apart or was destroyed by a natural disaster from which more affluent areas have long recovered. Students wear old, ratty clothes that only get dirtier as the week wears on, and generally do not look or act in a way which portrays a conventional sense of femininity.

I would argue, though, that doing work like this for others is not only proper in the sense that we should be helping people who need it, but that it is also inherently feminine, as per Proverbs 31:20. For young women to whom time is valuable and reflects how successful we could one day become, taking a week to go to an unfamiliar place to help someone who needs that time more than we do is a perfect expression of what Pope John Paul II referred to as the ??feminine genius??. Our instincts for care and kindness are manifested in ways that are not traditionally feminine, but the expression of them is inherently so. Perhaps, then, it is better that we are not told how to be a ??Proverbs 31 woman??, but that we are allowed to start on the road to becoming one with the opportunities which are presented to us now.

Christina is a junior at The George Washington University studying History and Latin. She is a revert to her Catholic faith, and enjoys reading (and occasionally teaching) as much as she can about it. She is fascinated by nuns and loves decidedly un-girly things like archery and contact sports. Christina blogs about her life and Catholicism at Reflections of a Catholic in Formation.

The Proverbs 31 Project: In her hand she holds the distaff…

Proverbs 31 Project

In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. — Proverbs 31:19

I have a number of friends who are yarn junkies and several who have spun their own yarn from fiber so this is a bit of a fun passage for me. Most of them have their own spinning wheels and ball winders which I imagine makes this easier. For flax, however, the process is different. You tie the flax fiber onto the distaff and wind it onto a drop spindle held in the other hand. Pictures can be found here.

I think in the spirit of the passage, it means that the virtuous woman/woman of valor makes her own fiber which is then used to make clothes but it illustrates an interesting principle. Fiber by itself is fairly weak — you can pull it apart easily. However, once one spins it into thread, it becomes much more difficult to separate. It can be pulled through cloth as sewing thread or woven into the cloth itself (making it even stronger).

Like the fiber, we are weak just by ourselves. However, we become strong when we are all woven together into the thread of community. It is quite easy to break just one person but in the community, all of us hold the others up and we are better able to weather the things life throws at us.

Interesting, huh?