If you are a Christian, chances are you have read Proverbs 31. If you are a wife, or a mother, or a woman desiring or engaged to be married, chances are you have read this and thought, "How on earth...?"
I know I have often thought that this is a ridiculously high standard to be upheld. This woman is perfect. This woman does it all. This woman never sleeps. She makes everything by hand. She's a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur.
She is not real.
She is a standard of measurement, and not even for women. It is believed that Proverbs 31 was written as advice, from a mother to her son, who would grow to be king. He is named at the beginning of Proverbs 31 as King Lemuel, but some have speculated that it is actually advice from Bathsheba to her son Solomon.
When you look at this from the perspective of motherly advice, how much more sense does this make? Of course we have ridiculously high standards for our children. Of course we want absolute perfection for them. Also, we know that seeking those high standards has a natural way of weeding out that which is not good for them.
Reading over Proverbs 31 this weekend, I gained a new perspective, and a new appreciation for its importance, and I felt as though I was seeing it with fresh eyes. This woman we try to emulate (or not, due to fear of inevitable failure), was not only (very likely) designed to advise a future king in choosing wisely, but she has servants. (v 15) When I think about how much I could get done, how many patterns I could write, how many chores I could get done daily, how much more quickly I could grow my work-from-home business, if I had hired help...well, the answer is a lot. This is a well off woman clothed in fine linen and purple (v 22), with a respected city leader for her husband (v 23), and servants to help her each day.
Does this discredit who she is? Does this make her any less worthy of striving toward? No. Because we learn, at the end of the chapter, the most important thing.
Her virtue determines her value; not the ongoing list of her daily chores, not her business transactions, not her fine linens. In fact, later on (v 25) we no longer hear of her fine linens, and instead see that she is clothed with strength and dignity. This is a woman who fears the Lord. This is a woman who does all things for the glory of God. This is a woman who serves her husband, her children, and her community by loving God. As such, then this is a woman who took the commandments seriously.
Moms, even God and even...even the Proverbs 31 woman rested on the 7th day. Let that sink in. By all means, strive for those high standards. But remember, we will all serve in different ways. The Lord has given us each different skills and talents with which to serve. He has also given us a day of rest that we so often refuse to take. Take it. And thank and praise Him for it. It's not about the hustle. It's about the heart.
I have spent at least half of my life in competition. At a very early age, I learned how to compete with myself. This taught me a great deal of self-discipline, and it helped me to improve my basketball skills daily. When I was older, this competition spilled over to other areas of my life. I competed in tennis, basketball, and I also competed academically.
Competition was a driving force in my life. I thrived on it, but not in an unhealthy way. I respected the competition. I loved competing against the best. Winning tough games was that much more satisfying, and losing tough games came with lessons which made us better. I have always believed that competition taught in a healthy way, is good for our children, and I believe they should learn how to work hard to win, and they should learn how to take a loss.
Sometimes a love for competition can make for a rough transition into adulthood, business, and life in general. People find themselves competing at work, as parents, friends, family; who is the best at all the things?
What becomes lost is the idea of a team. Competition is nothing without teamwork, and often we jump into adulthood competing in all the wrong areas. We've forgotten about building up our team.
This has created the idea that we can do everything by ourselves. We've stopped taking help from the village. We want good teachers, but they shouldn't be too involved. Don't tell me how to raise my child. We want good mommy friends, but don't discipline my kid. Don't tell me how to raise my child. We continue to create this island in our lives, and then complain about exclusion. We then complain when things get hard, and no one shows up. We have created a society of people afraid to step on toes, and offer help where it wasn't asked for.
.This verse isn't about all of us agreeing with everyone, all the time. It is about coming together. It is about harmony. Harmony cannot be done alone. We may not always do things in the same exact way, but we all play an important role.
This is a lesson I recently learned in the handmade community; community over competition. We all have a common goal. We are all trying to grow, and we can't do that by tearing each other down, or pushing others away. We can't do it all by ourselves.
It is easy to get caught up in competition. I have gotten caught up in this too! My heart has fallen a bit, in frustration, when I've seen another artist get to an idea that I had, before I did. This is futile! I have learned that it is better to team up, than to cause conflict. It is better to accept help, offer advice, and cultivate a community of friends, than to make enemies.
As early as Genesis, when God created Eve, He did so saying, "Man should not be alone." We weren't designed to do it ourselves. We were meant for teamwork. Reach out to your church. Reach out to your friends, your family, even your competition, and get off your island.
As 2017 drew to a close, I knew that there were some things I had to change about my business. I was burnt out. I had planned new content on my blog twice a week, nearly all year long. I had a new pattern release or recipe almost every single week, along with my weekly Monday Messages. It would have been a lot for anyone, but for a mom with four children; two of which are still home, it was way too much.
I was expecting too much of myself, and at what cost? My children saw a lot of the back of my head as I worked on patterns and blogs on the computer. Admittedly, not all of my patterns were the quality I would have liked, and my food photography for my recipes really needed more work.
When I began planning for 2018, I found a happy planner by me & my BIG ideas which said, "grace upon Grace," on the cover, and had so many perfect Bible verses for me on this journey, found throughout the pages. I decided then and there that my word for the new year would be GRACE.
Little did I know just how much of it I would need.
Three weeks into January, I had fallen so far behind, that I hadn't produced any new patterns or recipes since well before Christmas, and I didn't have any ready to go any time soon. My husband was laid up in bed for weeks with his back injury. Scenes of the stomach bug in this house resembled that of an exorcism, and I was struggling with my emotions, missing my crochet, and stressing about actual, real, upcoming deadlines.
Many things in this house were ruined during the course of this time. We literally had to order a new couch, and we may need a new dryer, and to add insult to injury, the final vomiting episode came down right on my "grace upon Grace," perfect-for-me, happy planner.
I know. Here we are on week three of you guys hearing about how lousy this month has been for my family, but I do hope you get my intended purpose for these messages.
Because it isn't about me.
I am weak. I am a human being, with struggles, and anger, and sin. I share my stories with you so that you may know just how heavily I rely on Him...even when I don't, even when I turn my face from Him in anger, even when I cry out in doubt and fear, even when I forget to trust Him....He is there.
Do you remember being a teenager and being so angry with your parents you never wanted to speak to them again? Do you remember slamming doors in their faces? Maybe you even told them you hated them, or wrote that thought in your journal. Maybe they did something, "for your own good," that you couldn't fully understand at that time in your life.
But when you needed them, they were there. You still slept in their house, ate the food they provided, and wore the clothes they bought.
I had been angry with God over my husband's pain and inability to work, over the kids' sickness, over the vet bills and expensive things needing replacing, over the pain I've been seeing in the world, but I still ate of His food, clothed in His provisions. Even in my anger, He sent us blessings in the form of loving family, church family, and friends.
HIS power is made PERFECT in weakness.
His GRACE is sufficient.
I bought myself a new planner, one which will be kept carefully away from any future vomiting children, and I've wrapped myself in His grace.
Whatever it is that you're striving for, whatever it may be that you feel has been keeping you down, wrap yourself in His grace. It is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weakness.
In our house, toddler is a verb. To toddler means to throw ones self in an inexplicable rage, sometimes in silent refusal, but often with wailing and flailing.
My almost 3-year-old toddlers better than any of our other children did, combined. She will throw a complete tantrum when asked to do something she doesn't want to do; you know, like get dressed. She doesn't like to be interrupted. She doesn't like to stop what she's doing, and sometimes just a simple task, which wouldn't take long at all, turns into a 30-minute war.
She knows when I'm fed up. If I begin to count, she knows she is losing the battle, and she throws herself harder. If I have to come get her, at the end of that count, because she still hasn't listened, I'm certain she can feel me burning with anger.
Then, the tantrum, as I pick her up, turns into, "NO, MOMMY! PLEASE BE HAPPY! Can you be happy!?" Only as she's yelling this at me, she is still kicking and screaming, and overall exhibiting unacceptable behavior.
Now, we're at an impasse. See, she is no longer throwing a tantrum because I've asked her to do something she didn't want to do. Now, she has realized her error, and she's pitching a fit, because she knows I am angry. Of course I want to be happy. Of course I want to just smile at her and pretend it is all ok. However, she has to learn that she is not free from the consequences of her actions. She has to learn that certain behaviors will not be tolerated. So I try, with as much patience as I can muster, to communicate this to her, and eventually she collapses into a strangling hug, desiring nothing more than to just be held.
And so I hold her.
This, as you can imagine, is not fun. I do not enjoy repeatedly rebuking this behavior, and appearing, however so briefly, like a villain to her.
But the last time this occurred, as I held my trembling, sobbing toddler, full of emotions needing guidance, God placed this on my heart. How many times in my own life, have I cried out in anger with him, over circumstances which were merely consequences of my own actions? How many times have I ignored what I should have done, to do what I wanted to do? Then, how many times have I simply needed to be held, clinging to Him, once I realized the error of my own ways?
How often do we, ourselves, toddler God??
What an image He gave me! Charlotte is not our easiest child, by a landslide, but the lessons in love, discipline, and patience, the Lord teaches me, daily, through her, is an act of love, in and of itself.
To be disciplined and corrected is to be loved! To have someone out there, who wants to see that you're successful, blessed, and your best self, is what it is to be loved! Whether you are struggling to raise up decent human beings, or struggling with being your own best self, know that discipline was never meant to be easy, but it was designed to be rewarding!
Pull up your big kid pants, and know that you are loved!
I have always been really conflicted about Santa. Like most topics of differing opinions, I am on the fence, looking out at both sides, with an equal understanding.
On one hand, it is this really creatively magical time of the year, that fosters a wonderful imagination in young children all over the world, and it is so fun!
On the other hand, it feels different than being creative and imaginative. It feels like lying.
For these reasons, my husband and I remained so torn, that like any good, conflicted and lazy parents would do, we ignored the topic all together. We neither played up the role of Santa to encourage the belief, nor did we tell them he was merely a story people enjoy pretending. Due to marketing and story books, they believed in him without any encouragement from us. They never sat on Santa's lap or wrote him wish lists. We never wrote "from Santa," on any of their presents. In fact, they always thanked us for their gifts. Yet, their creative and imaginative brains still had no problems believing that this story they had read, could be real.
But here is where this whole idea gets tricky for me. I struggle with this every single December. People, children and adults alike, whether they understand what they're doing or not, suddenly behave as though someone is watching them. Generally speaking, people are kinder, more generous, and more patient with one another. People are more willing to help others, give to charities, and let that car in ahead of them during rush hour traffic. Whether we realize it or not, this naughty or nice mentality has been ingrained in us from a very early age. We believe that if we are good, we will receive good things.
Now, there is some truth in that; in that we reap what we sow. I get it. But then why only this one time of year? Why are we so much more careful this one month out of the year, to be good?
Y'all, I don't know about you, but I am so thankful that Jesus isn't Santa! I can just imagine a disciple on the shelf, judging my every move, reporting back to Jesus just how unworthy I am!
No, I am so thankful, that He loves me, even when I forget to behave as I should. This is the grace I want to teach my children. This is the gift I want to share with my children. This is the gift, from God, that we celebrate Christmas morning.
Do up the Santa gig if you so choose. I am not trying to ruin your fun! Have a blast with it! Make great memories, but remember, it's not the gifts we have earned thanks to good reports from an elf spy, that make Christmas magical and special. Belief in this white bearded fellow, who flies a reindeer and sleigh should not make or break the spirit of Christmas for you.
Rather, this undeserved gift, which we cannot earn, no matter how good we are, is the spirit of Christmas! This grace that says, you are loved so much that God would give you His only son, so that you may have eternal life.
And all you have to do is accept it!
That is the gift we celebrate!
Christmas has not always been big here. In fact, we've had many years when Christmas gifts consisted of necessary toiletries, socks, and handmade gifts. To this day, my children are still incredibly thankful for toothbrushes and soaps in their stockings, (and sometimes a little hurt if I didn't have the time to make them something handmade)! But nothing has ever been able to destroy the magic of that day for us or our children, because, while Santa is tons of fun, he isn't the magic.
Jesus is. His love, His grace, His mercy is a gift that cannot be earned, is not deserved, but given freely to those who choose it, and I pray that we can all remember to extend that love, grace, and mercy to others, all year long, and not just during this magical time of year, because, let's face it; the rest of the year could sure use some magic too.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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