Friday, February 26, 2010

The Ministry of Motherhood

In my mind, homemaking and motherhood go hand in hand. Baking cookies ~ children. Wiping faces orange-stained with Spaghetti-Os ~ children. Vacuuming up purple and blue glitter piles embedded in my beige carpet ~ children. Wiping sticky fingerprints off the front door and TV screen ~ children. Decorating for St. Patrick's Day ~ children. Planning a Christian Passover Sedar ~ children. Planning Resurrection Sunday ~ children. Home ~ children!

Now the hubs fits in, too ~ quite nicely, may I add ~ but my children and their needs take up a huge part of my job as a homemaker. Ever since I've allowed the Lord to work in my attitude about striving more to be that Proverbs 31 woman, He's impressed the importance about discipling my children. I've been convicted SO MUCH in this area that I'm going to be posting about my journey as I learn about my ministry as a mother.

I found a book Sally Clarkson wrote called "The Ministry of Motherhood". The premise of this book is to challenge women to disciple their children to be passionate, devoted servants of Christ.

She uses the acronym "GIFTS" to show how we can make a lasting difference in our child's life by following the pattern Christ set with His own disciples. The GIFTS we give our children are the GIFTS of :

G ~ Grace
I ~ Inspiration
F ~ Faith
T ~ Training
S ~ Service

Elizabeth George also has a wonderful section about a mother's ministry in her best-selling book, "A Woman After God's Own Heart" which prompted her to write "A Mom After God's Own Heart". I'll be sharing my thoughts as I study these books in the weeks to come.

The Most Important Aspect of the Home

"The atmosphere we create in our home
directly affects our home's most
important aspect:
the relationships we have there.
We want our home to have an atmosphere
that allows souls to be replenished,
love to flourish, and God to be glorified.

Sights, sounds, smells, taste, and touches
are merely a means to minister
to our loved ones while here on earth.

Furnishings and fabrics will someday be gone.
Food will be eaten.
Music and laughter will be hushed.
Fragrance will no longer fill the rooms.

But the memories of the atmosphere
and the relationships in our home will live on forever.

~ Terry Willits ~

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Importance of Discipling Our Children in the Home

This post contains my notes from a message by Voddie Bauchman. I heard this sermon recently, and was challenged in my original thinking about my role as a parent.

The Centrality of the Home in Evangelism and Discipleship of the Next Generation

According to recent studies, Southern Baptist churches are rapidly loosing the next generation of believers. The studies show that between 75% - 88% of "churched" young people leave their faith by the time they've reached the end of their 1st year of college.

Because America's birth rate (1.9 children per family) is now below the replacement rate (2.1), we're not having enough children for our culture to survive. For example, in France, the birth rate is 1.5. Muslims in France are having around 6 children per family. That means that in 2 generations, France will be a Muslim country by sheer numbers alone! The French have unwittingly exchanged their culture (by not producing the next generation of children) for fleeting prosperity.

Sound familiar? America's not too far behind. Just think how many Christian people think that having more than 2 children is too many! "One for her, one for him. Now we're done, Amen!" We need to get a Biblical view on children and not conform to the worldly ideals that have taken hold in our way of thinking. God believes that all children are a blessing ~ Just read Psalm 127:3-5!

With this current precedent in place, that means that to replace the 75% of young people leaving the faith, it would take 2 families to get 1 Christian into the next generation. What does this look like? According to the Southern Baptist Convention, our generation has 16 million professing Southern Baptists "on paper". That means that:
The 2nd generation (my children) will be 4 million.
The 3rd (my grandchildren) ~ 1 million.
The 4th (my great-grandchildren) ~ 250,000.

What about evangelism? After all, we have all kinds of outreach ministries in the church, don't we? Yes, we can reach the unsaved, (and are commanded to do so by Christ Himself in Matthew 28:19-20) but recent studies state that it would take reaching 3 people to replace the 1 Christian teen who has left the faith! Currently, according to studies by the Southern Baptist Convention, in regular outreach ministries, it takes 43 people to reach just 1!

The churches will continue to be filled, but according to estimates of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, only 1/2 of the church members are even saved. In broad terms , that means that Christianity is dying in America, 1 home at at time, 1 generation at a time. Pastor Bauchman states, "We divorce ourselves from the issue by hiring youth pastors to make it better." So how can we turn this around? Pastor Bauchman used the complete context of Ephesians 5:15-6:4 as a guide.

A. The Context
1. There are 3 contrasts
(vs. 15-18)
a. Walk wise; days are evil. (vs. 15-16)
b. Don't be foolish; understand what God's will is. (vs. 17)
c. Don't be drunk with wine; be filled with the Spirit. (vs.18)
2. There are 3 commands (vs. 19-21)
a. Be worshipful. "Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord." (vs. 19)
b. Be prayerfully thankful. "Give thanks always for all things to God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (vs.20)
c. Be submissive to Biblical authority. "Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God." (vs. 21)
d. When these commands are obeyed, then the next point can be followed, which is:
3. There are 3 contexts (5:22-6:9)
a. The relationship of wives/ husbands (vs. 22-33)
b. The relationship of children/parents (vs.1-4)
c. The relationship of servants/masters (vs. 5-9)

B. The Fifth Commandment ~ "Honor thy father and thy mother"
1. It is the first commandment with a promise ~ "that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
a. The first four commandments are from God to man ~ there are no promises attached ~ we must simply obey!
~ I AM God ~ Don't get another one!
~ Don't make anything that looks like Me!
~ Don't mess with My name.
~ Don't mess with My day.
b. The last six commandments are man to man.
~ The fact that this commandment is first on this list screams its importance.
~ "Honor thy father and thy mother."
2. This commandment is for the community of faith, not for the individual child.
a. The home is central to discipleship! (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
b. Parents are to impress loving the Lord, serving, and worshiping Him to their children.
c. Parents are to "talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
3. This commandment was given to the Israelites before they were going to inhabit pagan lands.
a. "Be fruitful and multiply".
b. Disciple children in the home so they don't look like the culture surrounding them.
c. Our current society is a pagan culture as well, and we need to train our children to be different than the culture.
d. The community of God will disappear if we don't.

C. Fathers: Disciple your children.
1. Parents don't train their children ~ they hire youth pastors to do it.
a. In the last 30 years, there has been the largest increase in youth outreach, but a decrease in youth baptisms. (According to the book "Raising the Bar")
b. For a child to be Spirit-filled, we shouldn't lead them to the youth pastor ~ we need to lead them!
c. The child's spiritual temperature is based on whether or not they are submissive to their PARENTS as a spiritual authority.
d. Unfortunately, the parents have willingly stepped aside, handing their sacred responsibility over to their child's youth pastor.
e. What is the current approach to youth ministry?
1. To evangelize teens
2. To disciple teens
3. To equip them to evangelize others.
d. HOWEVER ~ this approach is:
~ Un-biblical
~ Anti-thetical to the Biblical model
~ Simply doesn't work (hence the 75%-88% current failure rate)
2. The church needs to teach the parents how to disciple their children, not do it for them.
a. The church doesn't tithe for its members ~ it teaches them to tithe.
b. The youth ministry should exist to equip and assist parents as the parents do what God has called them to do!

Although I haven't experienced the "blessing" of teenagers yet, I'm challenged by the wisdom of Pastor Bauchman's charge. All to often, we as parents, don't realize the responsibility to teach our kids what we believe and why we believe it. Perhaps ignorance, thoughtlessness, or feeling inadequate is the reason. We hope that simply taking them to church will reinforce our values and beliefs. We allow "programs" such as children's ministries, Bible stories, rap sessions, youth camps and conferences do our jobs for us. These things in themselves are good ~ please don't misjudge what I'm saying. My children receive the blessings of the many people who love them and desire to teach and train them as well. These programs just need to be in addition to our discipleship at home.

The following was taken from A Wise Woman Builds Her Home:

"Did you know that we are losing our children to the world before they ever step out to go to college? Why is this? Is there glaring hypocrisy in our own lives? Was there too much worldly influence allowed in the home that caused them to go astray? Was there a lack of biblical teaching in the home leaving it up to the church folk and Sunday school classes?

It is fully the parents responsibility to teach their children what the Word teaches about everything under the sun! This is a sacred responsibility ~ do not hand it over to another! If they have a stronger foundation in the 'why' behind their belief in God, they will be able to stand firm ~ if not, they will be plucked right out of the ground as soon as anyone questions or confronts their faith.

I believe every Christian home should teach biblical apologetics for this very reason. Over and over again we find examples in Scripture were the Word of God was not taught to the next generation and they quickly forgot and followed wicked ways. God was angry and brought curses and destruction upon them. Teaching God's Word must be seen as imperative and not merely an option. Let us not be a people who drops the torch as we pass it down to the next generation."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Simply Stroganoff


1/2 c. diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 T melted butter
1 lb. lean hamburger (However, I always use the leftover Sunday roast!)
1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can reduced sodium beef broth
1 cup sour cream (8 oz. container)
salt and pepper
season-all salt
1 T chives
noodles (cooked according to package directions)


Saute onion and garlic in butter until translucent. Add in meat of choice. Drain excess fat if using hamburger. Add soup and broth to desired consistency. (I pour any remaining broth into noodle cooking liquid.) When ready to serve, stir in sour cream, and seasonings (to taste). Serve over noodles. A great side dish is steamed baby carrots.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Home Culture

Home culture is the atmosphere
that is purposefully and intentionally
cultivated within the four walls of your home.
It is the music when you walk in the door,
it is the conversation at the dinner table,
it is games played by the fireside,
it is the singing when your daughters do the dishes
or the laughter of small toddlers
who find a small green caterpillar. exists just as richly and lively inside your home as it does outside your front door.
Dear Mothers, we weave the tapestry
of homelife for our loved ones
as we create the culture of our home.
As we sit down and plan the days and months ahead,
we purposefully begin writing what is akin to a novel
of soon-to-be memories of our families lives.
The music played the background of your homes today
will become the soundtrack from their childhood.
The art you hang on your walls can leave
a deep and lasting impression on a child's mind and soul.
Children will forever fondly remember the smells, music, joy and memories of their childhood and always fondly desire to return to it...even when they are old and gray.
Home culture takes planning...
it takes takes thought.
Mothers hold the brush in painting the beauty,
fun and memories in children's lives.
"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
~ Proverbs 24:3-4 ~
Dear Mothers, what a privilege it is to prepare
such a place for our families.
Prayerfully begin planning the culture for your home today!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chapter 24 ~ A Harvest of a Lifetime ~ Her Reward

Proverbs 31:31 "Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."

Well, sisters, this is the last chapter of Elizabeth George's book, "Beautiful in God's Eyes". I've so enjoyed doing this study ~ as I've mentioned before, I've been reprimanded, challenged, encouraged, and motivated. This last chapter is a culmination of all the things this wonderful woman has been working for so diligently, and now she receives her reward.
This lady has "chosen to live her life in the shadows and to bear fruit that grows only in the shade. Hidden at home, she gives her utmost for God's highest glory as a woman who fears the Lord." The rewards that await this beautiful woman that "has long been content to silently serve? A loud and unanimous chorus of praise!"

The Fruit of Her Hands:
"Give her of the fruit of her hands..." "Just as admirers award conquerors prizes for their feats and prowess, so we too are to give God's beautiful woman her prizes." In other words, give the gal some credit! "Give her the profit she's earned, the goods she's worked, the reputation she's established, the marriage she's nurtured, the home she's built, the family life she's cultivated, the future she's labored for! Give it all to her!"
In today's society, our Proverbs 31 woman is mocked, disdained, and despised. Today's "modern" woman considers her to be "just a housewife", or one that is wasting her talents and abilities at home when she could be out making a good living in the corporate world.
However, God calls us to praise her, admire her, follow her and to become like her! In his book The Book of Proverbs, W.O.E. Oesterly wrote this about our Lady: "This verse forms a fitting conclusion to what is the most remarkable exposition in the OT on the position of women, exalting... her functions in the home as wife, mother, and mistress, and showing how contentedness and happiness in the domestic circle depend upon the foresight and oversight of this queen of the hearth."

Praise in the Gates:
"Let her own works praise her in the gates." This means that others outside her home were praising her publicly for her works. Mrs. George writes, "How lovely and how encouraging to see that where men congregate, where the leaders of the people meet in solemn assembly, her praise is sung and the highest honor ascribed to her!"
Although her motivation has been to care for others ~ and placing herself last ~ although her work has been seemingly unnoticed, although her work is behind the scenes, now her deeds are "publicly acknowledged and acclaimed." She now gets to enjoy a good reputation and a high standing in the community. It was said that "Much of what...women do is in a supportive role, but imagine what would happen to a building if its support pillars were removed!"
Mrs. George writes, "Even if all voice were silent, even if no words of praise were spoken, the woman who is beautiful in God's eyes would receive the honor due her: Her very works are a monument to her name. The works of her hands and the fruit of her labor find a voice and proclaim her praise! As our poem declared earlier, 'A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised' (vs 29) ~ no matter what!"

An Invitation to Beauty:
"Every voice possible is praising our woman who is so very beautiful in God's eyes!" Her children, (vs. 28) her husband, (vs 28,29,31 ~ he is one of the voices in the gates!) other people, (vs 31) her own works, (vs 31) and most importantly, God. (vs. 30 ~ the fear of the Lord results in His praise!) Notice the only voice missing? The woman's! She's not bragging about her job as homemaker ~ She lives by Proverbs 27:2 "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."
Mrs. George concludes her book with this thought: [God's beautiful woman] "is here in Proverbs 31 to inspire, instruct, and encourage you when you fail, when you find your vision dimming, or when you sense your priorities shifting. A fresh visit... will renew your vision, restore your strength, and rekindle your love for God and your commitment to His plan for making you and your life beautiful in His eyes!"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chapter 23 ~ A Spirit of Reverence ~ Her Faith

"Proverbs 31:30 "Favour [charm] is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."

Have you realized that this is the first verse in our study that speaks about beauty? However, the context of this verse shows us exactly what God's idea of true beauty is! And guess what? It isn't what we've been taught all of our lives through the media's influence! A woman's true beauty isn't found in the eyes of a man, the world, the media, or an artist. It's found in the eyes of God, our Father and Maker, our Sustainer of life.

The Twin Vanities of Charm and Beauty:
"Favour/charm is deceitful..." In other words, this wise mother was telling her son, "Don't desire what is charming! Don't fall for the charm! Charm is deceitful. Charm is fickle. Charm is fleeting. In the end, charm is one of life's illusions, one of life's vanities!"
"And beauty is vain," she adds. "Don't be fooled by looks! Remember that beauty is only skin deep. Beauty is fleeting, fading ~ nothing but a vapor!" Mrs. George writes, "Physical beauty is transitory and temporary. It can also be misleading and even dangerous. And, like its twin sister charm, beauty does not guarantee a happy life. Neither does beauty alone effectively manage the nuts-and-bolts reality of life." Have you ever seen a stunningly beautiful TV mom scrubbing a toilet? I thought not!
A friend once told me that a woman will be her most beautiful before the age of 25 ~ of course, she was only in her late teens at the time! However, I've seen the regal bearing, serenity, and yes, beauty in women double and even triple that "prime" age! And it all is because of:

A Love for the Lord:
"...but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." Finally, we get to see what makes this woman tick! She certainly can't do all she does in her own strength! Maybe she could, for a while, but to continually be joyful and willing, she needs a Mover inside her heart. Only God can give the motivation and energy we need for each day.
To fear the Lord, this woman has a total spiritual commitment to God. Mrs. George writes, "Being beautiful in God's eyes calls for you to focus on your inner character instead of the external appearance.... You are to be primarily concerned about living out the holy character that God works in you as you live in His presence. You are to seek the praise of God rather than men. You are to shun the transitory vanities of this wold and pursue instead the eternal beauty of the Lord.... It is your fear of the Lord that sanctifies every other part of you life and shows the internal majesty of God that is at your very core."
So, what difference does such a deep commitment to the Lord make?
1. His presence will shine in your life.
2. He will be the Source of your strength and motivation.
3. He will give you compassion and mercy to focus on the needs of others.
4. He will energize your conduct, character and love for others.
5. Your faith in God generates, animates, and adorns the beauty of your moral stature and the usefulness of your life.

The How-To's of Beauty:
1. More love to Thee, O Christ ~ We're blessed to be living in the Church Age, and a woman who's beautiful in God's eyes enjoys a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus is on the throne of your heart and life, then all that you do is an act of worship.
2. Schedule time with the Lord ~ Most of us live by our schedules. We schedule appointments for just about everything! However, "You and I schedule non-essentials of life... so don't you think we should schedule time with the Lord?" Remember that prayer closet mentioned in an earlier post? Let's dress there each day for garments of praise, the armor of God, and the fragrance of Christ! There, in that closet, we are "privileged to be able to behold the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4) and worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness (Psalm 29:2)."
3. Embrace God's plan ~ Instead of resisting (or even disdaining) God's perfect design for a woman of beauty, "embrace it, glory in it, delight in its every aspect, excel in it and experience its beauty." We are to take God, His Word, and His plan for our lives seriously.
4. Do your best ~ Our Proverbs 31 woman offers this guideline: "Do what you need to do to be healthy and fit and to bring honor to your family." Consider this quote from author Anne Ortlund. "I noticed that 22 verses [of Proverbs 31] describe this woman's kindness, godliness, hard work, loving relationships ~ and only one verse out of the 22 [verse 22] describes how she looked.... Seeing this kind of proportion in Proverbs 31... I prayed, 'O Father, I want to give 1/22 of my time to making myself as outwardly beautiful as I can and I want to give all the rest of my time, 21/22 of my life, to becoming wise, kind, godly, hard-working, and the rest.'"

Whew! This is a lot to digest today! As we approach the final chapter tomorrow on our study, I've realized how much my attitude has changed about this "Superwoman". She simply allows God to work in her heart, and He shines through her life in return. She willingly opens her heart to His will ~ He gives her the strength and grace to do it.

Grace and Nothing More
I seek the bloom of holiness, He leads me deep within
Reveals the hardness of my heart, unearths my hidden sin.
My barren soul groans in despair, in brokenness I cry,
"Oh God, I find no hope in me!"
A smile ~ His sweet reply.
For where the tears of brokenness have soaked the fallow ground,
The tender shoots of holiness now spring up all around!
By His own hand and faithfulness,
He steers me toward a distant shore.
And the wind that billows in the sail
Is grace and nothing more.
Yes, it's grace and nothing more.
~ Grace and Nothing More ~
~Steve Green ~

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chapter 22 ~ A Crowning Glory ~ Her Praise

Proverbs 31:28-29 "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all."

Have you ever been blessed by your husband's compliment to you ~ I mean, he really complimented you? I'm so thankful to have a kind, considerate husband! He tries to be understanding when I struggle with inadequacy or when I feel completely overwhelmed or frustrated. I've kept several of the little notes he's left me on the kitchen table to read after he's left for work.
Here's a little bit of one: "Thanks for helping keep the house clean and the clothes washed. I understand it's hard and tiresome. You will receive rewards in Heaven for all you hard work and the results will be seen in the success of our children, by God's grace and help."
Like I stated in an earlier post, the hubs isn't one to give flowery sentiments, but when he does give a compliment, it's like I'm a flower drinking in the water of his praise ~ I bloom!
In these verses, we see the gratitude and appreciation that the Proverbs 31 woman's husband has for her. She most certainly is a crown to her husband! (Proverbs 12:4)

An Excellent Wife:
Not only is our Lady a wonderful homemaker, manager, business woman, financial wizard, and mother, but also ~ not surprisingly ~ an excellent wife as well. "In our poem of virtues, the man who has first place in her heart has the last specific word of praise for his beautiful-in-God's-eyes wife."
This husband "proudly and publicly.. lauds the woman who helps bear the burden of his every care; she is his comforter in every distress, his faithful adviser, his best friend, his unceasing joy, and his brightest crown! He who is the companion of her youth (Proverbs 2:17) has shared much of life's journey with her. And here, long after the children have "risen up" and gone out into the world, she continues has his faithful wife, doing him good all the days of her life (vs. 12)."

An Army of Virtuous Women:
This man knows his wife well, and he begins his compliment with these words: "Many daughters have done virtuously". In this phrase, he's saying that many women are noble like his wife. After all, he sits in the gate with the elders and knows the happenings of his town. There is an army of women who live in a worthy manner! Wait, an ~ army? Yes, an army! Remember, the word "virtuous" means "power of mind and power of body". Mrs. George writes, "Here the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman picks up that military image in the word virtuous. Many have done excellently. Many have done valiantly. Many have proven their worth. Many have gained riches and wealth. Many have shown great force and power."
I don't know about you, sisters, but that little word, "many" gives me great aspiration!
I've heard ~ and for a while thought ~ that this chapter of Proverbs described a culmination of many women. After all, I surmised, there's no way one woman could do all of that! But then I thought of the not-so-distant past of the American frontier. Allow me to indulge a bit.
As a child, I loved the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura and Nellie's disputes ~ the blizzards and locusts ~ Pa's stories ~ the traveling in the wagon and setting up a new home ~ I loved it! However, as a mom reading those books to my daughters, I gained a new appreciation for Ma ~ Caroline Ingalls! Leaving family and friends behind, she willingly followed her husband into unknown territory not once, but many times! (If memory serves me correctly, they left the Big Woods in Wisconsin and eventually ended up in South Dakota!) And even though she lived in a wagon for weeks/months at a time, she did her best to help her husband, make the camp attractive, do her work joyfully, and be a loving mother to her daughters.
Read this excerpt from "Little House on the Prairie": "Ma was folding the dry clothes... [and] laid them in the wagon, and took the flowers. She admired equally the flowers that Laura gave her and the flowers that Mary gave her, and she put them together in a tin cup of water. She set them on the wagon-step to make the camp pretty." Also, Laura writes that "Ma hummed softly to herself while the iron smoothed all the wrinkles out of the little dresses. All around them, to the very edges of the world, there was nothing but grasses waving in the wind." This resilient woman helped Charles build their log cabin, (Remember how the log landed on her foot?) beat out prairie fires and packed up their home when the government told them to move out of Kansas Territory. She wasn't the only pioneer woman who did so. Many did. Many were virtuous. That means that I can be, too!

The Best of All:
Out lady's husband doesn't stop there, does he? Aren't you glad? I am! This proud and grateful husband continues with "but thou excellest them all." His precious wife is beautiful in his eyes as well! "His chorus of praise resounds as he declares: 'You surpass them all! You transcend them all! You far outdo them all! You are better than all of them!' Comparing her to the complete army of the other virtuous women in God's army, he confidently claims that she is the noblest of women."
Mrs. George states, "The OT Hebrew proclaims, 'You ascend over all [of] them.' This Hebrew wording suggests that the husband gives his blessing in genuine appreciation of his wife's actual accomplishments and activities ~ not as an act of graciousness, obligation, or well-meaning politeness. God's beautiful woman truly merits this honest praise because she is indeed the best of all!"

A Kaleidoscope of Virtues:
Mrs. George likens the Proverbs 31 woman to a kaleidoscope. She writes, "God allows you and me to view the many rich colors and glorious patterns of her multifaceted life. As we've moved from verse to verse, from virtue to virtue, as we've lifted the character of God's beautiful woman up to the light of His Holy Spirit, He has illumined the brilliance of her virtues. They have burst into an exquisite pattern and then, with a slight change of angle as we've moved to another verse, we've seen yet another splendid display of breathtaking beauty."
1. She adds honor to her husband's name and reputation. (vs. 10)
2. She contributes to his financial well-being and manages his money. (vs.11)
3. She eases his mind by doing good. (vs.11-12)
4. She provides for his needs at home. (vs. 15)
5. She increases his assets, expands his property, and plants a vineyard. (vs. 16)
6. She counsels and encourages him with her wise, kind words. (vs. 26)
7. She frees him up from worries at home so that he can serve his community. (vs. 27)
8. She raises his children in a godly manner and they serve the Lord. (vs. 28)

A Beautiful Crown:
Our Lady is "her husband's brightest ornament, and she draws all eyes to him, as one who is eminently honored and blessed. A crown is a mark of dignity and a virtuous woman brings respectability, credit, and reputation not to herself, but to her husband. Adorning and beautifying his life she is an honor to him." And she is pleased to be his crown. She "gladly gives her life behind the scenes so that her husband may be noticed and honored."
This image also offers one more message ~ she is a crown of joy. Back in OT/NT times, the bridegroom ~ if he could afford it ~ wore a gold crown. If not, he word a garland of fresh flowers. In any case, he was crowned. Mrs. George writes, "For that one glorious day, even a peasant seemed a prince as the people paid him the respect called for by the exalted rank which his crown symbolized." Fast-forward 20 years or so. The festivities are just a memory and life's ordinary. This man's wife becomes his crown. She "supplies him with the dignity due a king." She has become the symbol of honor for him ~ a crown to her husband who richly adorns his life and makes his every day a celebration! I so desire to be that beautiful crown of dignity and joy my hubs can wear daily!

Yeah, But What If...?
Maybe your husband isn't the provider, husband, father or spiritual leader God calls him to be. Look to these wise ladies as an example.
1. Hannah ~ Her husband wasn't the leader he should've been, or he would've taken care of the problem with his wives. (According to God's law, he shouldn't have had 2 wives, anyway!) There's nothing in Scripture that says anything negative about Hannah. She didn't let life's circumstances keep her from striving to be beautiful in God's eyes.
2. Abigail ~ Her husband was a mean-spirited drunk, yet Abigail was the best wife, home manager and supervisor of the servants that she could be. We recognize this because the servants came to her when the household was in danger. She saved everyone in her household from David's wrath.
3. Esther ~ Yes, she was a queen, but her husband was godless, full of rage, and an alcoholic. She still shone as a "star" ~ that's what Esther means ~ an example of humility, courage, and wisdom.
Mrs. George writes, "In light of these examples, I urge you to please look beyond your circumstances, far beyond your present difficulties, and even beyond your husband. Instead, as you gaze outward, put God's kaleidoscope of virtues up to the light of His bright hope and His shining Word and give it a turn!" He has you in mind and is "maturing you in the midst of your challenging circumstances." Remember:
1. God's grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
2. God is faithful. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
3. God has His good purposes for your life. (Romans 8:28)
4. God is making you more like His Son, Jesus. (Romans 8:29)

A Checklist of Beauty:
1. As a woman ~ Do you put the power of your mind and body to work on behalf of your husband, family, and home? At the same time, is it your deepest purpose to not only do worthily, but to be a worthy woman, consistently exemplary in character?
2. As a homemaker ~ Do your provide for the needs at home? Do you carefully and attentively look over the ways of your household?
3. As a mother ~ Are you raising your husband's children to love and serve the Lord, thereby giving your husband peace of mind and strengthening his reputation in the community?
4. As a wife ~ Do you posses the "kaleidoscope of virtues" to your husband? In your honest opinion, has your husband found a virtuous woman in you, a woman who is beautiful in God's eyes? Pray that he has ~ and keep pursuing the heights of excellence!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chapter 21 ~ A Cup of Blessing ~ Her Family

Proverbs 31:28 "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her."

I don't know about you, sister, but if my kids ever "arose up" and called me "blessed", I'd faint dead away! Usually, I can expect them to wish me a "Happy Mommy's Day" or birthday, but to actually be appreciative for no reason? I don't know what I'd do! Children naturally only care about themselves ~ they don't think of compliments unless prompted. After all, you have to remind them to say "please" and "thank you"! Mrs. George writes, "Such a display of gratitude is certainly what all moms dream of and train their children toward, but such thankfulness isn't always expressed."
Here are some interpretations of this verse:
"They rise up in the morning and, finding everything well prepared, the children express their thankfulness to her." (Hebrew text and English translations)
"Rising up meant standing up in her presence as a mark of respect."
"The children rise up as a preparatory movement in order to make an announcement, to give words of tribute in reverential honor of her." (Commentary on the OT volume 6)
Mrs. George wrote that a more realistic interpretation would be that "the Proverbs 31 woman's children grow up and go out to live in a way that brings honor and blessing and credit to her. The children's lives become the living praise of her worth and her work. The children of our Proverbs 31 woman give her life its highest reward. They bless her. They praise her. The children experience the sweet fruits of her virtues, and she experiences the sweet fruits of their lives and rejoices in them."
That's my ultimate prayer for my children ~ not that say thank you, stand when I enter a room, or give a flowery speech that sings my praises ~ but to grow up and live Godly lives. I want to bless them by praying for them, caring for them, teaching them and training them daily. Mrs. George gives 4 basic essential elements in the love of a mother who is a blessing to her family.

Essential #1: A Mother Cares
a. The gift of basics ~ We can show our love daily by giving our children the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and rest. We spend the majority of our days providing food and clothing for our loved ones by preparing meals and doing laundry. The shelter we provide is a home warm in temperature and in love. Because we don't want to be contentious or loud, (Proverbs 21:9 and 7:11) our home is a shelter where our family can rest and know peace. "Daily she extends the cup of physical care for her family."
b. The gift of time ~ It's been said that love is spelled T-I-M-E. Of course, very young children take up a lot of our time ~ feeding, rocking, diapering ~ potty-training, cleaning up their "discoveries", (like the time my youngest decorated herself and the walls with my brand-new tube of lipstick) and reading, singing, and playing. Mrs. George writes that "50 percent of a child's character and personality development takes place by age three and 75 percent by age five!" Older children need our time "as they learn to reason and become real conversationalists, as they face the challenges of middle school and high school, as they become young adults in the workplace or in college. They also need our time when they transform from "child" to "friend". "Every minute ~ indeed every second ~ we spend giving the gift of time to our children is an investment in their character and in their future."
c. The gift of long-distance love ~ Biblical Hannah is a wonderful example of this. After she left little Samuel at the temple with Eli, she traveled a day's journey every year with a new little coat she made her son. Elisabeth Elliot's mother wrote her daughter a letter a week from 1954 to 1985. Not only did she write Elisabeth, but her five other children as well! Imagine the time it took! Imagine having an intimately detailed record of your mother's love!
Essential #2: A Mother Focuses
As a Christian mother, my ultimate goal is to raise my children to love the Lord and serve Him. My assignment is to raise my child in such a way that he/she has a heart dedicated to God. I am training the next generation of Christians. Sadly, that number is growing smaller. According to recent studies, many teens who've been raised in church are "leaving their faith" by the time they enter college. Why is this so prevalent? I believe it's central reason is because of lack of care in the home. After this Bible study, I'm going to be sharing my thoughts on this somewhat "controversial" subject.
Sisters, (I'm including myself here, too) we need to take our role as mother more seriously! We have to do so much more than provide for our children physically and emotionally. We need to provide for them spiritually, too! That means we not only need to teach them "Bible stories", but how to pray, how to study the Word, how to live a Christian life.
Consider this quote from Edith Schaeffer: "We are responsible for 'handing on the flag [of faith]' and for being very careful not to drop it ~ or to drop out ~ because of our responsibility to the next generation.... To hand down truth to one more generation is one of the central commands of God." (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
Yes, but how? You may ask. One way is to pray over your children. Another is to pray scripture. There is power and promise in the Word of God, my sisters! I also firmly believe that we should live our lives in a way that doesn't cause our little ones to stumble. Our children see us how we really are. If we put on our "spiritual" robes to go to church, but can't wait to shed them once we're home, we're causing our children to stumble by our own hypocrisy. Behaving one way for the pastor and another way at home is offending our little ones (causing them to stumble). Jesus Himself was very clear on this matter. He said "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were downed in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:1-6, Mark 9:36-37 and 42) It's vital that we maintain consistency in this area!
Essential #3: A Mother Plans
As caretaker, my job is to plan the daily operations of the home. Remember, the greatest desires of our hearts simply won't happen. We must plan for them! What does this include?
a. The presence of the Lord in my home. You can't give away what you don't posses, so I must fill my heart first. "For God's presence to be obvious in my home, my homemaking, and my dealings with the family, He must be present in my own heart."
b. Passing on the faith in Jesus Christ to my children (and grandchildren someday, Lord willing!). Plan for regular church attendance, daily devotions, pray to become aware of opportunities to point my children to Jesus. Plan to pray for them regularly. Mrs. George shared how she planned bedtime rituals with her girls by using Bible books and stories to read. I like the example of Dr. James Dobson and his wife Shirley. Each week, they set aside one day to fast and pray for their children.
c. A pleasant atmosphere in the home. Planning nutritious meals, setting the table beautifully, doing housework and laundry, little surprises for a fun home life ~ plan time for these things. I want my children to recall these things when they're grown up and out on their own.
d. Progressing relationships with my children. Know what's going on in their lives. Plan on questions to ask, ways to express my love, such as little gifts to delight and deeds of kindness I can bestow upon them. Plan outings, holidays, birthdays, Christmas and Easter celebrations. (I'll be sharing these later on, too.) Plan one-on-one time with the kiddos, too. My mother wisely did so for me.
Sometimes, when I arrived home from school, my mother would be waiting, car keys in hand. My dad was often away from home on business, so Mom would say, "Hey, Shel, wanna head to the mall and then get supper somewhere?" I'll always cherish those shopping trips and dinners. I always knew my mother was someone I could talk to and share my thoughts, feelings, and opinions with. My oldest daughter is thrilled to now be included in similar outings with Mommy and Nana. Even now, at age (ahem!) 40-something, I crave that "alone time" with my mother. Whenever we visit one another, we'll make sure everyone's tucked in bed, and then we'll either stay up and talk until 3 AM or head to Sonic for a limeade. Sometimes Mom takes me shopping, sometimes we just go to Hobby Lobby and Bed Bath and Beyond to "look". Thankfully, the hubs understands and celebrates the relationship I have with my mother, so he always makes sure Mom and I have some alone time, even to the point of watching the kiddos!
e. Plan for persistence, even when the child is seemingly "grown up". Dr. Richard Mayhue likens parenting to a 100-yard football field that has a life-and-death game being played on it. He stresses for parents to "go the distance" with your child, especially between the 95-yard line and the goal at the 100 yard-line. (Those being the ages of 18 to 25-ish.) After all, in a real football game, the team endures brutal blows, scratching and clawing to gain every inch of those final five yards! Think of those final five yards for our precious children ~ 2 of their most important decisions ~ next to faith in Jesus Christ ~ is their career choice and finding a mate! Such parenting opinions like "We've taught you everything you need to know. Now go and do it!" (to your middle-schooler) ~ "Well, you're on your own now. You can drive, you're old enough to get a job, and you know what you ought to do. Good luck!" (to your 16 year-old) ~ "Don't forget to visit us once in a while!" ~ (to your newly high school graduate) ~ simply shouldn't even exist in the Christian parent's mind, much less in their vocabulary!
I know wonderful people who believe that once their child turns 18, they're "out of the house and my job's over, thank God!" May it never be so, my sisters! That teenager is still a child that needs direction, care, and concern! We must plan to encourage, assist, advise, and pray for our children, whatever their ages. "Our assignment calls for us to lock arms together with them and move forward shoulder to shoulder, inch by inch, all the way to the finish line ~ no matter what!"
Essential #4: A Mother Works
Edith Schaeffer wrote this: "Being a mother is worth fighting for, worth calling a career, worth the dignity of hard work." As we do the hard work of mothering, God will bless our efforts and help us realize our dreams for our family. So, how are we to do our work?
a. Without murmuring or complaining. (Philippians 2:14)
b. By remembering Who we're ultimately working for. (Colossians 3:23)
c. Willingly and joyfully. (Proverbs 31:13)
d. Without expecting anything in return. (Luke 6:35)
e. By remembering it's our God-given assignment!

Yeah, But What If...?
"What if they don't follow my leading? What if they don't live for God? What if they don't follow in the way I've trained for them? What if they never say thank you even seem to notice all I've done for them? What if they don't ever rise up in any kind of honor?" Mrs. George writes this: "A mother's energy and efforts must never be motivated by possible rewards." There are things God has determined for us do to ~ no matter what!
a. Love your children. (Titus 2:4)
b. Teach your children. (Proverbs 1:8)
c. Train your children. (Proverbs 22:6)
d. Discipline your children (Proverbs 29:17)
e. Care for your children. (Proverbs 31:27)
Remember, dear sisters, we're not to have faith in our own doing, but in God's! We must leave our precious ones in the hands of the Father, Who, after all, loves them even more than we do!

Wow! What a challenge as a mother! It's so intimidating and daunting! This chapter has inspired me in so many ways ~ especially the quote, "Being a mother is worth fighting for!" As Mrs. George concluded, "When it comes to mothering, there is no place for neutrality, ignorance, aloofness, or a hands-thrown-up-in-the-air "I give up" attitude! Please, dear Father, help me be the kind of mother who is a blessing to her family!

I want to close this post with the words to a song Steve Green made popular. I'd like to make the chorus my prayer as well:

Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.

What Children Need

Children need more than clothes on their backs,
A roof o'er their heads or a lunch in their sacks.
Children need more than satellite TV,
The latest Nintendo, and DVDs to see.
Children need more than a beautiful home,
A room full of toys, or their own cell phone.
Children need more than far-off vacations,
Amusement park rides and grand celebrations.
Though treasures we buy bring them smiles ~ it is true;
Our children need less than we might think they do.
Children need time to talk and share,
For growing is painful and not always fair.
Children need someone with listening ears
To hear how their day went and help calm their fears.
Children need space, a home where there's rest,
A place where they're needed and told, "You're the best!"
Children need hands to hold when they're scared;
Children need arms to hug them and care.
Yes, children need less than we might think they do,
Children need love ~ Your children need you.
~ Nancy Agular ~

(modified a bit by me)

Simply Fettuccini Alfredo


1 pint heavy cream
1/2 stick butter
2 T. cream cheese
3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 t. garlic powder
1 package fettuccini noodles
1 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley


Combine cream, butter and cream cheese in a saucepan. Simmer on low until cream cheese and butter melts, whisking well. Add in Parmesan cheese and garlic. Simmer 15-20 minutes on low.
Meanwhile, cook fettuccini noodles according to package directions. Drain. Place noodles on a platter and top with Alfredo sauce. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan and parsley. I serve this with salad and breadsticks. BTW ~ this is Olive Garden's recipe, according to Recipe Czar.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chapter 20 ~ A Watchful Eye ~ Her Management

Proverbs 31:27 "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness."

Have you ever heard this phrase? "So, honey, what did you do today?" The hubs usually asks me this question after he's put in 10 or more hours of heavy lifting at his Coca-Cola job. I have to stop and ask myself, "What exactly did I do?" Now, the hubs isn't trying to make me "accountable" to him or being accusatory. The sweetie's just trying to make conversation. Yet, I must admit, at times the question chafes. Do any of you know where I'm coming from?

Now, if I've been extremely busy, I'll give him the complete low-down. In fact, I can make the poor man feel exhausted! If I've whiled away the day, I'll be decidedly vague. If I've been downright lazy, I pretend that I don't hear him! ~ No, seriously ~ I feel extremely guilty, then angry. Angry at myself, that is. The phrase "eateth not the bread of idleness" reverberates through my brain! The accuser of my soul screams "Failure!" at my pathetic attempt of being a home school mom and homemaker. So what's a girl to do? Let's take another look at our Lady.

Keeping Watch Over Her Flock:

"She looketh well (or watches over) to the ways of her household." Even though our lady has servants to help her, she still is "actively involved in the hands-on management of her household. No one runs it for her. It's her home, her family, her household, and she considers its management an area of her stewardship."
King Lemuel's mother used the imagery of a watchman that was familiar to her son. A watchman was observant, a look-out and guarded over a city. We are to be like that watchman, always guarding, always observing, always on the look-out for our homes. Remember, sisters, we are on assignment from God to watch over our homes and the people in it. "Watch over" also means to hedge about as with thorns. We must actively guard, protect, save, guide and attend to those who are precious to us.
"She looketh well..." Sisters, this woman's serious about her role as watch-woman. She doesn't just glance over things or check the "thermostat" of her home every once in a while. She intently studies every situation that pertains to her home. She's always on the alert ~ she has her finger "on the pulse of her household."
"She looketh well to the ways of her household." This talks about the pattern of her home life. The comings and goings, the habits and activities of the people at home. "The Hebrew word for ways means literal tracks made by constant use. They're like the foot path that appears through the lawn. Our watch-woman is aware is aware of these habits and any changes in habits."
"She looketh well to the ways of her household." Remember the extent of her household? Obviously, her immediate family ~ the hubs and kiddos ~ they are, of course, her primary concern. "As mistress of her household, she also cares for any extended family members and her servants."

Keeping Watch Over Herself:

"She eateth not the bread of idleness." This Hebrew word "eat" means that our Lady doesn't choose to live a leisurely life filled with food and drink. The word "bread" is associated with sluggishness. These two words paint a very clear picture of what we as women should not do ~ we "shouldn't be content to go through life eating and sleeping." To put it simply, the Proverbs woman "is never lazy"!

The How-To's of Beauty:

1. The People ~ Our family is more important than the place we live. The place exists to serve the people. Our first concern is to care for our family spiritually, emotionally, and physically. If we place emphasis on our home first (cleaning, organizing, etc.) we will be in for a rude awakening later on in life. Consider this quote from Edith Schaeffer: "Neglected mothers and grandmothers may perhaps have been preparing for their own neglect by teaching over and over again that people's sensitive feelings, and people's need of response is never as important as clean houses, schedules, or rules and regulations." Sobering thought, isn't it?
One of the most important things we can do as mistress of the home is to pray for our family. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city [or house', the watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1)
2. Then the Place ~ With your family taken care of, you can turn your attention to household management. As mistress of the house, we manage many things ~ the people, the place, the finances, the meals the "maids" (the dishwasher, the washing machine and dryer, the vacuum, etc) and the clothes. Let's choose to do it ~ joyfully!

A Little Place
"Where shall I work today, dear Lord?"
And my love flowed warm and free.
He answered and said,
"See that little place?
Tend that place for Me."
I answered and said: "Oh, no, not there!
No one would ever see.
No matter how well my work was done,
Not that place for me!"
His voice, when He spoke, was soft and kind,
He answered me tenderly,
"Little one, search that heart of thine,
Are you working for them or ME?
Nazareth was a little place...
so was Galilee."
~ Author Unknown ~

A Mother's Guide to 1 Corinthians 13

If I keep my house spotless and dust-free,
And deliver crisp starched shirts and clean white socks,
But do not show love to my family,
I'm just another housewife.
If I cook well-balanced meals, pack delicious lunches,
And prepare gourmet holiday dinners with all the trimmings,
But do not show love to my family,
I'm just another cook.
If I sew gorgeous window treatments,
With matching fringed pillows and coordinating wall coverings,
But I do not show love to those who live therein,
I am just another interior decorator.
Love puts down the dust cloth to hug the child.
Love rubs a back, kisses a bruised knee, and bandages a skinned elbow.
Love colors a picture, plays cowboys and Indians;
Listens to endless stories over and over again.
Love is patient and kind, though tired and frazzled.
Love doesn't envy anothers child who never seems to misbehave,
Or get puffed up on the one occasion when hers doesn't.
Love doesn't try to impress others with her abilities or knowledge as a mother.
Love doesn't yell or swat but disciplines with control.
Love doesn't feel cheated because Mommy didn't get to do what she wanted to do today ~
Scrapbook, read, or soak in a hot tub.
Cook, clean, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chapter 19 ~ A Law of Kindness ~ Her Words

Proverbs 31:26 "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."

I've been away from my computer for the past few days ~ we've had some sickness around the household for the past week, and as you know, it's hard to back on track. We're all healthy now, praise the Lord, so I'm ready to get back into gear!
Wow! We've only 5 more chapters of this book to go! There's so much information in this chapter of Proverbs! So far, we've learned how God's beautiful woman manages her home, her family, her business and finances. I've shared how motivated I am to strive to be more like this lady ~ it's a heart and mind change as well as a lifestyle change! It hasn't been easy for me, but God's been good to remind me of verses from His Word and phrases from this study that keep me on track.
Today's study is a challenging one for me ~ kindness in speech. It goes hand in hand with wisdom ~ knowing when/when not to say something. Not exactly my strong point, sisters. Ever heard the phrase "Open mouth, insert foot?" That's me, I'm afraid. I usually have to apologize for what I've said. Well, since there's no time like the present, let's just go ahead and plunge right on in, shall we?

First of all, God cares about what we say and how we say it! If you don't think so, please read James chapter 3! The entire chapter is devoted to the evils of the tongue! What's the big deal? Why does God care what we say, or how we say it? ~ Check out verses 8-13 ~

"But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."

A Fountain of Life:

Remember the example of the fountain in that hidden garden in an earlier chapter? How it offered refreshment and joy as a respite from the heat, fumes and loudness of the day? Mrs. George wrote that in the brutal heat and parched land of Israel, water is chosen above food! This bubbly flow is a perfect example of the use of our words. Proverbs 10:11 states, "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life." The writer of this Proverb knows how important water is in sustaining life, and he compares godly speech to life-giving water.

Wise in Speech:

"She opens her mouth with wisdom." In other words, her mouth's not always open! She doesn't speak unless she has something kind or wise to say.

Kind in Heart:

"...on her tongue is the law of kindness." In other words, she has the "spirit and manner of a gentle and benevolent heart, revealing a kindly disposition and a fear of unnecessarily offending. She isn't hurtful or destructive with her words. As the Greek translation puts it, 'she places order on her tongue'."
Mrs. George writes, "Every person in [our Lady's] life (and ours!) means that words must be spoken, and the Proverbs 31 woman makes sure her words are wise and kind. In ancient Jewish marriages, not only was the content of a woman's speech important, but the volume of her voice was important as well." In fact, her "loudness" was measured by whether or not her neighbors could hear her speak while they were in their own house!

Absence of Malice:

Sometimes noticing what's missing speaks volumes! Look at what's absent in the speech of our example:
1. No gossip.
2. No slander.
3. Nothing unkind about/toward others.
4. No complaining.
5. No humor at the expense of others.
6. Nothing indiscreet or unwholesome.
7. No meaningless talk of trivial things.

"Those who are not gracious talk of wrong things. Those who are gracious but not wise talk too much."

Listening to God's Beautiful Woman: 2 Biblical Role Models

1. Hannah ~ "An [amazing] woman who opened her mouth very little under very difficult circumstances! Married to a man who had another wife, Hannah endured not only childlessness as her rival bore child after child, but also cruel and ongoing provocations from that woman (1 Samuel 1:1-7). Again and again insult was added to injury, yet Hannah chose to say nothing in response.
With great agony of soul, she went to the house of the Lord (the right place and the right Person) to pray about her situation (the right solution). The intensity of her praying caused the high priest to think she must be drunk, and he said scornfully, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you" (vs. 14). But dear, noble Hannah answered with wisdom and according to the law of kindness, graciously explaining her pain and appealing to his understanding. In the end, she received his priestly blessing." (God opened her womb and she gave birth to the Prophet Samuel).
2. Abigail ~ "Married to the foolish, alcoholic Nabal, Abigail used some carefully chosen words to successfully walk a tightrope of danger. When her husband rebuffed David's kindness and mistreated his men, her servants reported Nabal's insulting behavior to her. She intercepted David on his mission to annihilate all that belongs to Nabal ~ including herself and the servants. Acting quickly ~ and with wisdom and kindness ~ Abigail met David with abundant food for his 600 men. Then, prostrate on the ground before the enraged David, Abigail begged his forgiveness. With her sensible reasoning and words of wisdom spoken in accordance with the law of kindness, she successfully persuaded David not to take vengeance on her husband." When she returned home, Nabal was too drunk to listen, so she wisely said nothing of the danger until the next day. Abigail "lives on in history as a wise woman, a skillful negotiator, and a persuasive speaker."

The How-To's of Beautiful Speech:

1. Establish two guidelines ~ 1) Speak only if the words are wise, and 2) Speak only if the words are kind. (Proverbs 31:26) "By following these same two guidelines, you will always have something to say that's worth saying (wisdom), and you'll say it in the right way (with kindness).
2. Think before you speak ~ "The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil." (Proverbs 15:28) Literally pause and think about your words before you speak them. Make it your goal to carefully select wording that measures up to God's standards of wisdom and kindness.
3. Learn to wait ~ "When something unpleasant happens, make it your first "law " to do and say nothing. If you must respond, remember "a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)
4. Add sweetness to your speech ~ "Speaking pleasantly will always make others more willing to listen and be instructed." Proverbs 16:21 says, "Sweetness of the lips increases learning."
5. Add persuasiveness to your speech
~ Be kind and speak sweetly, but please know what you're talking about! Your speech is an indicator of what is in your mind!
6. Err on the side of less ~ Consider Proverbs 10:19 ~ "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise." Also, Proverbs 17:28 ~ "Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace."

Sisters, God wants us to be that fountain of life in the harsh, arid desert of our cruel, "in-your-face" world. By using sweet speech, we can refresh, encourage, cheer and uplift all those we encounter. Our words can be used to promote health (Proverbs 12:18) that can heal the downhearted! What a blessing we can be to someone who needs a kind word!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chapter 18 ~ A Wardrobe of Virtues ~ Her Clothing

Proverbs 31:25 "Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come."

I don't know about you, but this study has inspired me to strive even more to become God's beautiful woman. When I've caught myself getting frustrated or needlessly thinking "poor me", God's reminded me of this phrase: "choose to be joyful!" Getting up earlier has helped me so much ~ I feel like I'm a step ahead of the game. Like Mrs. George wrote in an earlier chapter, "Nothing just happens." It'll take time, but I'm already amazed how God has used this book to motivate me to get out of my funk and take my responsibility as a homemaker more seriously.
Upon first glance, this chapter seems to talk more about our lady's clothing. However, this clothing just isn't her outward adornment, but is ~ in fact ~ her spiritual adornment. I love the NIV translation of the Apostle Peter's advice to wives in his First epistle, chapter 3, verses 3-5.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful."

The Clothing of Character:
Our Lady clothes herself in her character. Her garments are strength and honor. (dignity) Again, that word "strength" comes up. Not only is she physically strong, (she strengthens her arms) but she's mentally tough, too. She's built up economic strength, "so she faces daily life and the prospect of old age with ample monetary reserves. Also, having made diligent preparations, she is ready to meet temporal changes (like a snowy change in the weather) with confidence." Her trust in the Lord strengthens her for sorrow and care. She has strength in wisdom as well as social strength (because of her compassion and dignified conduct). Mrs. George writes, "As the finishing touch to this wardrobe of virtues, her powerful mind gives her an inward vigor and resolution. Yes, strength for life is her clothing."
The literal Hebrew translation for dignity is "splendor". This means that she has a regal bearing as well as godly behavior. "Apparently her noble spirit gives her the aura of majesty. There is nothing common, low or little in her wardrobe of character. Her greatness of soul ~ coupled with her gracious conduct ~ spells goodness to all who are blessed to know her. All that she is, is touched with the beauty of dignity."

Joy for a Lifetime:
I liked these translations for the second half of verse 25:
"She shall rejoice in time to come."
"She is not afraid of the future."
"She smiles at the future."
"She can laugh at the days to come."
Notice a common theme here, sisters? Our Lady isn't worried. She doesn't fret or wring her hands. She's prepared. She has done everything she can to provide for her family and trusts God to take care of the rest. "Faithful herself with the temporal matters of life, she trusts God for the eternal."
I'm just going to quote Mrs. George here, because she sums it up perfectly ~ "Whether she's thinking about the past, the present, or the future, she experiences only pleasure. She's done her job. She's carried out her God-given assignments and lived out her virtues a day at a time, every day of her life. Looking backward, she has no regrets. Looking forward, she has nothing to dread. Living in the present, she knows only the joyous challenge of tapping into God's provision and putting her powerful mind and body to work for one more beautiful and joy-filled day!"

The How-To's of Beauty:
1. Your spiritual life ~ Your prayer closet. Visiting this closet first each day will clothe you in righteousness. Read Isaiah 52:1, Psalm 63:1, Isaiah 61:3, Ephesians 6:12-18 and 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. Amazing! We can clothe ourselves in garments of praise, the armour of God, and the fragrance of Christ. Who could ask for anything more?
2. Your family life ~ Put your family first! Take care of their physical needs of food (vs. 14-15) and clothing (vs. 21). Run a neat, clean, orderly home (vs. 27). "Pour out your love ~ lavishly, unselfishly, creatively, and joyously. And, if your service, your care, and your love seem to be unnoticed, or you feel unappreciated, or you never hear a "thank you", keep in mind the perspective and the call of Colossians 3:23 ~ "Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men." Mrs. George encourages us to "put on the apron of nice" ~ God's beautiful woman takes care of her family ~ "whatever age and whatever stage". After all, the Fruit of the Spirit includes kindness [and] goodness!
3. Your financial life ~ Keep watch! Set your financial goals and try to find creative ways to save money. Think some more on your Proverbs 31 Project!
4. Your physical life ~ Strengthen your body for your work! Set goals for your physical health and strength. In my case, put down the Dr. Pepper and pop in the Wii for some exercise! I realize that taking better care of myself now will aid my health for the future. By doing this, I will be able to enjoy my old age instead of having physical ailments that keep me from doing the tasks I need/want to!
5. Your mental life ~ Love God with all your mind! We will stand before God one day and give an account for how we've lived our lives ~ and that will include how we used the mind He gave us! Here are some ideas Mrs. George gives to use your mind in a constructive way:
"a. Read, memorize and meditate on God's Word.
b. Think through the issues of Scripture ~ the role of women in the church, etc.
c. Think, pray, and plan ~ just as the Proverbs 31 woman does!
d. Read a good Christian book/biography every month.
e. Read a time-management or money-management book.
f. Read worthwhile books, such as books on marriage, mothering and homemaking."
6. Your social life ~ "A Circle of Friends". The Bible tells us that it's important to have a few "best friends" ~ friends that stick closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) Make time for your BFF's ~ encourage them and pray for them. One of my favorite songs from Point of Grace is called "A Circle of Friends". One of the verses states, "If you weep, I will weep with you. If you sing for joy, the rest of us will lift our voices, too. But no matter what you feel inside, there's no need to pretend. That's the way it is in this circle of friends."
7. Your professional life ~ Your contribution that advances your family financially. Keep your skills sharp and up-to-date. Keep reaching for higher levels of excellence. "Stay alert, plan and dream, take the initiative to develop those skills and abilities; work hard."

These clothes of strength and dignity just don't happen to fall on all by themselves. We have to take the initiative to clothe ourselves. I especially loved the example of clothing myself each day in my prayer closet with garments of praise, the armour of God, and the fragrance of Christ. That's what it's about, isn't it, sisters? Glorifying and praising our King, dressing for battle against the wiles of the devil, and being so much like Jesus that others can sense His perfume around us! Yes, that is the source of strength and dignity.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chapter 17 ~ A Creative Professional ~ Her Industry

Proverbs 31:24 "She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles (sashes) unto the merchant."

Whenever you hear/read about a woman's success story, it's usually that "she developed something personal into something professional." I can't help but think of Paula Deen. You may have seen her programs on the Food Network channel. I call her the "Butter Queen" because almost everyone of her recipes begins with a stick of butter. If not, you can probably assume it will be deep-fried or made of cheese. That's why I love her so much! A gal after my own heart! Her success story is very interesting. After the death of her parents, a bout of depression and a failed marriage, Paula budgeted $200 to begin a catering service called "The Bag Lady" to support herself and her two sons. She grew from that business to preparing meals at the Best Western, and finally her own restaurant, "The Lady and Sons". She wrote cookbooks based on family recipes handed down to her from her grandmothers, and simple Southern-style cooking. Of course, we know her as a down-home, wise-cracking, everyone's "Mama" that brings fun and delight into the kitchen.
We, too, can turn our something personal into something professional to better the lives of others. God's given us the skills, talents, and knowledge to do so ~ we just have to find out what that something is!

The Birth of a Business:
Our Proverbs 31 Lady is no exception. Remember all the references to her weaving? She seeks the wool and flax, (vs. 13) she stays up late processing them and spinning them into yarn/thread, (vs. 18-19) she gives warm garments to the poor, (vs. 21) clothes her family regally, (vs. 21) makes exquisite coverings for her home, and dressed herself richly. (vs. 22)
This ancient woman was, in fact, a modern-day "career woman"! She was such a professional that her items were sold to foreign markets!

The Expression of Creativity:
"She makes linen garments." We've already discussed how much work went into making the linen. Our lady had to do it anyway, but she went the extra mile for her family, remember? Her linen was so soft and so fine, it was costly! She made extra to sell, as well as "sashes for the merchants." The linen sashes were more attractive and costly, "woven with gold and silver thread and studded with jewels and gold."

The Enrichment of Estate:
"For the Proverbs 31 woman a business was born when something personal to her became something professional. Her business grew out of her personal creativity and her personal desire to enrich her estate. So 'she makes linen garments and sells them.' God's beautiful woman merchandises her goods, producing them for the specific purpose of economic trade."

The Proverbs 31 Project:
Mrs. George encouraged in an earlier chapter to begin thinking of a "Proverbs 31 Project" ~ something that you do well and love to do that can bring in a little something financially for the family. Remember God's two guidelines, outlined in Proverbs 31:
1. Your family is first! Don't neglect your responsibilities to build your home to pursue your own interests. Remember our Lady's example ~ everyone is cared for, and everyone benefits from your project.
2. Give it time. A little time each day adds up over a lifetime. "Fifteen minutes a day devoted to one definite study will make one a master in a dozen years."

The How-To's of Beauty:
1. Alertness. Keep up with what's happening in your field. Stay on the cutting edge of your "thing". You'll continue to grow creatively if you stay alert and aware of what's going on around you.
2. Planning. Don't just set aside special time to develop your skills and plan your projects. Plan and create in your mind, too. Take that time driving, waiting in line, and even showering to think about how to do what you do better.
3. Initiative. The Nike phrase, "Just do it" seems to fit perfectly here. If you don't take the initiative, who will?
4. Hard Work. "She works willingly."

I'll end this post with a quote from Mrs. George.
"Our society focuses so much on self-fulfillment, self-image, and self-esteem. But the good news in Proverbs 31 is that GOD provides all that you need in these areas. After all, there is no greater fulfillment than knowing that you have loved and cared for your family and home. When you (and I) take care of your 'something personal' first ~ the people at home ~ and do it well, God can grow you personally and even propel you into 'something professional', something creative, some avenue where you can express the creative gifts and talents He has given you."

Simply Pork Tenderloin


2-3 lb. pork tenderloin
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. rubbed sage
1/4 c. chicken broth

Make a dry rub with the salt, pepper and sage. Coat the tenderloin completely. Place in greased baking dish and add broth to the pan. Bake, covered at 325 for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an addition 30-35 minutes, basting with the pan juices.

I like to serve this with a Raspberry Sauce, (recipe follows) Buttery Chive Potatoes, (recipe follows) and a vegetable side.

Raspberry Sauce
1 pkg. frozen raspberries, thawed
1 1/2 c. sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. corn starch
1 T butter
1 T lemon juice

Drain raspberries, reserving liquid. Set berries aside. Add enough water to raspberry liquid to measure 3/4 cup. In a saucepan, combine sugar, salt, vinegar and 1/2 c. raspberry juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.
Combine cornstarch with remaining raspberry juice until smooth; stir into saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes, or until thickened.
Remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon juice, and reserved raspberries. ~ Leftovers are great heated and served over vanilla ice cream ~

Buttery Chive Potatoes
4 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 stick butter
1 T chopped chives
1/4 t. Kosher salt
1/8 t. cracked black pepper

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Drain and set aside potatoes. Melt the butter and add in chives, cooking slightly. Add potatoes and toss so that they are covered with butter mixture. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chapter 16 ~ A Man of Influence ~ Her Husband

Proverbs 31:23 "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land."

Mrs. George begins this chapter with this statement: "Although our culture may not value it, one of the wife's most important roles is to support her husband."
When I first read it, I realized how true that statement is. Today's view of marriage is 50/50. Both usually work full-time jobs, just to make ends meet. It's not uncommon for the husband to do half of the housework, half of the childcare, or half of the cooking. Shared responsibility is a good thing, so what does Mrs. George mean?

Marriage to a Man of Influence:
"Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land." Back in the OT times, the cities were completely walled around for protection, but, obviously, there were gates to allow entry and exit. According to Mrs. George, (who has been to Israel and has seen these gates) these gates had one or two large rooms built into the wall. Some of these rooms served as official government offices. These rooms were where legal and governmental decisions were made. This is where our lady's husband is "known". He "sits among the elders of the land." This tells us that he may have had a seat in the gate, possibly an elder himself. He was well-known because "he sits in the council chambers with other respected civic leaders who are conducting legal business. An honored citizen, he is held in high esteem by the townspeople and the officials of this community and, therefore, is truly a man of influence."

Behind Every Good Man:
Mrs. George likens this influential couple as a pair of bookends. "Both of them are pillars in the community, both are known in the gates (verses 23 and 31), and both are committed to the good of others (verses 20 and 23)." She then gives evidence of how they work together:
"1. He contributes to the community; she is his helpmeet. (Genesis 2:18)
2. He is successful in the realm of city management; she is successful in the realm of family and home management.
3. He is happy at work; she is happy at home.
4. He is respected and held in high esteem; she preserves and advances his honor by her conduct and example.
5. He is deferred to as a solid, influential citizen; she brings credit to him.
6. He is a counselor, a man of common sense and not-so-common insight; she speaks with loving wisdom.
7. He exerts his influence on the life of the community in the city gates; she influences the community from home.
8. He is known for his solid character and important contribution; so is she.
9. He has achieved some worldly wealth and social status; she improves his financial situation as well as his social standing by what she is to him and what she does for him as a wife.
10. He has reached his professional aims; she has helped him do so by her diligence and frugality.
11. He has earned prestige; she is respected for her creative handiwork.
12. He is a virtuous man; she is a virtuous woman.
13. He is crowned with honor; she is his crown. (Proverbs 12:4)"

A Woman of Influence:
Okay, that was then, this is now. My husband isn't involved in politics or legal issues, so how does this verse concern me? Well, we can contribute to our husband as he pursues his career and serves the Lord in his job. How? Remember how his heart can "trust in us"? That means he has no worries at home. In fact, his home enhances his reputation. We are the ones who "fill him up and send him off to be a blessing to others." Our support isn't just a paycheck or a clean house. It's the way you take care of him, his home, his children, and most importantly, his well-being.

The How-To's of Beauty:
1. Praise him! (Proverbs 3:27 and 31:12)
2. Encourage him. Don't focus on correcting him. Encouragement helps far more.
(Proverbs 12:25 and 31:26)
3. Take care of your marriage. In case you haven't realized it yet, marriage takes work! God has called us as wives to pray for our husbands and respect them. (Ephesisans 5:33). Read this verse from the Amplified Bible: "Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband ~ that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates (holds in the highest regard) and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly." Whoa! Okay, I'm overwhelmed here! Thankfully, we have the rest of our lives and God's help to do this!
4. Take care of your family. As a wife, God has called us to take care of our family. We are to run our husband's home smoothly and effectively. In doing this, we can contribute to his public reputation and his usefulness in the church. (1Timothy 3:4-5)
5. Take care of your home. Remember those words "choose" and "joyfully"? Let's ask the Lord to help us choose to be joyful, even handling those "daily drudgeries"!
6. Take care of your finances. Be wise in money management.
7. Let him go. Especially when it comes to church needs. I can sometimes allow resentment to creep in when my husband uses his at-home time to prepare to teach a Sunday school lesson or fill in for Bible study. I need to remember that my husband belongs to God, not to me.
8. Support his dreams. "...Whatever your husband's job, his place of employment, his sphere of influence, pour your strength into him by supporting rather than ignoring, belittling, or even laughing at his dreams."
9 Realize that your behavior is a reflection on him. Is this one of the reasons that your husband is known and respected?

"Like a pair of bookends, husband and wife should stand together as a unit, facing together and managing together all the facets and challenges, all the causes and concerns, all the opportunities and dreams that make up your life together. Rejoice that you are equal in influence and contribution, although you live out that influence and contribution in separate arenas. Rejoice when you husband is the center of attention, when he excels, when he is recognized and honored."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chapter 15 ~ A Tapestry of Beauty ~ Her Handiwork

Proverbs 31:22 "She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple."

People living during the Old Testament times could barely manage to subsist. Their mere survival was first and foremost. However, with thoughtful care and provision, our lady of virtue not only provides the "essentials of existence, but provides abundantly ~ so much that she has enough to give to the poor and some to sell to those who can afford it."
Since she's met her family's basic needs, she can turn her attention to decorating her home.

House Beautiful:
I don't know about you, but I love to go to stores where I can look and dream about beautifying my home! I love to look at artwork, knick-knacks, furniture, bedding and kitchen stuff. Fortunately, the hubs understands my hankerings to go to places such as Hobby Lobby or Bed Bath and Beyond! Gem that he is, he stays home with the kids, because I he can only take so much of the "girly stuff". He's done looking in 5 minutes~ I need at least an hour!
As I mentioned in my profile, I want my home to be a cozy haven for my family. I want them to be able to "kick back and relax" with a fluffy pillow and a warm throw in front of the TV ~ enjoy the beauty of flowers and plants ~ eat at a nicely set table ~ and, at the end of the day, sink into a sumptuous, comfy bed.
Our Proverbs 31 lady is no different. "She maketh herself coverings of tapestry." At first glance, it seems to be describing her clothing. However, the "coverings of tapestry" were her home furnishings. "Some translators of the Bible call these furnishings carpets, woven coverlets, and upholstery. One version even says, 'She makes her own quilts'".
We studied how this lady spent so much of her precious time processing raw materials to spin yarn and thread ~ which she wove into thick, luxurious robes and fine linen garments for her family, extended family, servants, the needy, and to sell.
However, she still has leftover yarns and threads, so she decides to create tapestries of beauty to adorn her home. "Pillows, blankets, cushions, drapes, rugs, wall hangings, tablecloths, runners, mats, and upholstery...Our beautiful weaver also designs and makes napkins, hand towels, sheets, quilts, coverlets, and bedspreads. A variety of colors, textures, patterns, and styles add beauty and warmth to her stone house, transforming it into a delight for the senses."
The word "makes" in verse 22 not only means using her hands to do the hard work, but to "spread" or "deck" ~ her home into an enticing bed of comfort and luxury. "When God's beautiful woman is finished, her bed is spread with colorfully woven pillows, mattresses, coverlets, and tapestry. Indeed, her entire home is decked out, a rich tapestry of beauty."

Beauty Check: Is my home a tapestry of beauty?
#1 Pretend you're a visitor. Walk through your house with new eyes. What would a guest notice? What mood does your home intimate? What pleases you, and what would you like to improve upon? Remember, as the homemaker, we are the ones responsible to create a welcoming atmosphere and beautiful environment in our homes.
#2 Plan several home improvements. For example, I need to clean the outside of my kitchen cabinets. I must admit, I don't think of them being something that needs regular maintenance ~ so I don't realize how gross they are until one day when I just happen to notice. Yuck!
#3 Pass it by your husband. If you need/want to spend money on home decor, check with the hubs and the checkbook. It may not be the right time to spend money. And, as Mrs. George reminds us, "God's beautiful woman knows how to wait."
#4 Put in some overtime. Set aside a special time to do your home improvements.

Remember, "your home is for you, and is an expression of you ~ your virtues, your abilities, your love. You may not be able to determine the kind of home you have, but you can determine its beauty. You control whether it's clean, organized, and orderly. You also choose your favorite colors, styles, and moods."

A Touch of Class:
With the family's needs and comforts met, our lady can now "think about what she herself will wear. It's time for her to put on the ornaments suited to her station and means."
"Her clothing is silk and purple." Mrs. George writes that this lady's regal clothing is "simply a reflection of her character."
"Silk" is, in actuality, fine linen. Remember how she had to beat the flax to make it glisten? The more it was beaten, the more it glistened like silk. Mrs. George states, "What she fashions for herself to wear reveals her inner clothing of strength and dignity" [that verse 25 describes].
Purple dye was rare and costly because it was extracted in small quantities from a shellfish found only in certain shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Mrs. George wrote that our lady probably exchanged some of her handiwork for this expensive dye when the merchant ships came in.

A Touch of Taste:
Our lady was not only praised for her virtues, but also for the beauty of her wardrobe. I believe this is so because of all the time and effort she put into making them. Most importantly, she put the needs of others before her own. The way she dressed reflected these things:
1. Her position in society. She is a woman of dignity, wealth, and high ranking.
2. Her practice of hard work and skillful management. She has the finances and is willing to invest the time and effort to dress according to her station.
3. Her professional status. She's a walking billboard for her handiwork.
4. Her praiseworthy character. She's robed in what speaks of her true character and dignity.

The How-To's of Beauty: What is God saying to us about our ~ wardrobe?
1. Your care. Mrs. George writes, "The way you care for your clothes reveals something of your character and what you value. So consider the general condition and overall appearance of your clothes. What message might the way you take care of your clothes be sending?"
2. Your reflection. Our appearance also sends a message about our families. This also is a reflection on our husband, his name, reputation, and children. Mrs. George writes, "The husband of God's beautiful woman is known in the gates, but not as the poor man who's married to a slob... but a lady, a meticulous, gracious, attractive woman of character."
3. Your standards. We should follow God's standard for beauty ~ Modesty, moderation, discretion and chasteness. (1 Timothy 2:9-10, Titus 2:5 and 1 Peter 3:3-4)

Well, sisters, I've been convicted yet again, especially in the wardrobe department. I've been satisfied to wear clothing that has small tears, stains, or is rumpled or faded ~ especially around the house. It's now the time to go through my clothes and weed out those that send a negative message about myself and my husband and put on clothes that follow God's standard.