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.