Having a Housekeeper-It’s Biblical!

“…and portions for her servant girls.” Proverbs 31: 15.

So often we study the Proverbs 31 woman and then sit in awe or defeat.  We compare ourselves to her, a lifetime of achievements and qualities captured in 21 short verses.  We lose perspective.

This woman of God lived a life well lived.  She was blessed, praised and honored.  She did much.  She ran multiple businesses, she managed family finances, she took care of herself physically and emotionally.  She provided for her family. Her days started early and ended late.  But more than what she did, which is where we often focus, we need to consider who she was.  We should study to learn about her qualities, not her achievements.

We have already discussed that she was pure, trustworthy, loyal, industrious, and thrifty.  Most of all we know she feared the Lord and sought His guidance daily, hourly.  It is in the seeking to know who she was that we will find the lessons He has for us.

I have often joked about verse 15.  Before children, when I was working 60+ hours a week, volunteering in my community and with our youth group at church, I had a housekeeper.  In fact we had her for 16 years.  She became our friend, an extension of our family.  Her daughter grew up in front of us.  We shared laughs, tears, trials and joys.  I was blessed to have her help, her friendship.  On occasion, my husband would question our need for her.  (You see I am one of those people that would clean up to get ready for the housekeeper.  I know.  That’s a whole other discussion.)  On more than one occasion I would whip out Proverbs 31:15 to justify my decision.  I mean after all if this revered woman in scripture clearly had maidservants, then I should most certainly follow suit.  So there you have it ladies.  Having a housekeeper is indeed biblical!

Well, remember that thing called perspective?  In deed the Proverbs 31 had maidservants.  She lived in a day and time that financially, politically was one of the darkest and most difficult times in Israel.  Families often found themselves unable to provide for their children, thus abandoning them or selling them.  Recurring battles and plunder left many children orphaned.  Living in a trade community there we enslaved girls brought in and sold or traded, some even abandoned after the merchants were finished with them.  Yes, human trafficking existed even then.  As such, families who were able, families who felt compelled to help, would take young boys and girls in as bond servants, offering them safety, shelter and provisions.

The Proverbs 31 woman also had need for help.  Again, due to the times, life was difficult.  Much was required if one was to have food and provisions.  It required sacrifice, planning, diligent labor, ingenuity and physical strength.  It would have been virtually impossible to do it alone.

courtesy Town & Country

courtesy Town & Country

While I’d like to stick with the whole “having a housekeeper is biblical” thing, the real lesson is so much more.  It’s not about the housekeeper/the maidservant.  Again, it is about who the Proverbs 31 woman was.  She was wise.  She spent time considering all that she had and needed.  She sought God’s counsel as she attempted to plan for the future.  She was confident enough to know she could not do it all, she could not be all.  She knew what and when she needed to delegate. She saw her plenty and knew she was called to serve, to rescue, to help.  She provided for her maidservants as she did her family.

This woman did not live in abundance.  She had plenty.  But even the plenty she was willing to share, with her maidservants (vs 15) and with the poor and needy (vs 20).  It wasn’t about having more for the sake of having more.  It was about having plenty/enough and being willing to stretch that to help meet the needs of others.

This woman did not work from a place of pride.  She was humble.  She sought to work hard, give her best, yet she knew and accepted what she could not do.  A part of her resourcefulness was knowing what to delegate and to whom.  Once she chose to delegate, she then taught/trained those whom she sought help from.  Her ways were gentle.  She worked alongside them.  She cared for them.

So many lessons for us.  When I seek help am I doing it to stretch my plenty or to obtain abundance?  When I seek help do I humbly come alongside that person teaching/training and working alongside?  Do I use the extra time afforded me by having help to do something worthwhile?  Do I look for the needy and offer them help?

I don’t have a housekeeper any more.  Some days I miss her terribly.  But finances changed, my work load lightened, my daughters grew and the wiser choice was to take our plenty and use it wisely.  I now delegate to my daughters, working alongside them to train them and teach them how to care for a home, provide for a family and serve others.  We open our home to serve others.  We look for opportunities to help meet needs in our family, church and community.

We all live in different circumstances.  Our plenty is different for each of us.  And some of us our blessed with abundance. Remember, to that one, much is expected.  Having help is important.  Knowing what and when to delegate is critical.  Let’s remember those lessons from the Proverbs 31 woman.  Let’s dig deep and look at who she was, not just at what she had or did.  In the end it is all about stewardship.  Stewardship of our time, our resources and our plenty.

Battling Failure

It is Monday.  Yep, it is a Monday.  I had big plans for today.  A great blog post, clean house, some advanced cooking for the week completed, research for an organizing project…  Big plans for a big week.  Instead, I literally got knocked off my feet and my day derailed at 6:00 a.m.

I have two dogs.  We have a love hate relationship.  Most days I love them, but Monday and Thursday when I am cleaning and handling home maintenance I hate them.  This morning, the cute white one, decided to attack the front window with vengeance and bark her head off.  Now mind you, I had yet to get my first cup of coffee drunk.

WinterSpringSummer 009

I ran to the window, sandwich bread and knife in hand, to politely “shoo” the dog away from the window.  About the moment I took my last step toward the window, the “lovable” black and white, thirteen year old, I guess now partially blind, dog decided to join in on the barking chorus and lunged straight through my legs.  The leg already in mid air was propelled into the air forcing my other leg up off the floor.  Sandwich bread and knife went flying, as did the rest of my body.  I have a bulging disc in my neck which I am acutely aware of.   In a moment of panic I decided it would be best to try to twist my body, as if at this age I have any control, and land on my side so as to avoid any further neck injury.  I have no doubt it looked as ugly as it felt.  I landed instead flat on my side, elbow and knee slamming into the hardwood floor.  My neck popped as I tensed the muscles trying to keep my head upright.  All I can say is that in an instant I became aware of every muscle in my body.  Throbbing pain.  I really didn’t want to cry.  I wanted to fling two dogs out the window.  Instead I cried. Mostly because I had fallen and couldn’t get up.

Have you ever been there?  That moment in time when something bad happens, a mistake, a misspoken word.  You go straight to negative, angry, bad.  The hopes of the previous moment are gone.  Your confidence, your strength.  It flees. It so often amazes me – how quickly I can go from good to bad, how quickly I can begin to feel like a failure, the one person who can’t get it together, get the tasks done, spare the moments for the friend, laugh, find time for the hobby that feeds my soul.  Been there?  How is it I can get there so quickly?

I have battled the pain all day.  Truth be known I have battled the ugly thoughts all day – not about the dogs, not about anyone, just about me.  I have battled the urge to give in, to declare defeat.  I have battled the tears of physical pain, mental fears and heartfelt hurts that Satan so quickly reminds me of in these moments.  But I chose to push through today. I didn’t get it all done.  The exercise meant to help me push back on the infringing age 50 got set aside.  I could have stopped and stayed right there.  There have been times I would have.  Frankly it is easier.  It’s not beneficial though.  No, giving in to the fear of failure, the lost hope, the darkness never helps.  How do I push through?  I focus on what I can do.  It wasn’t a lot today, but it was something.  I made those calls to friends I knew were struggling needing a word of encouragement.  I read back through the cards and notes I keep in my “special box”, words of encouragement from friends,clients and acquaintances.  It’s hard.  Pushing back, pushing through takes strength, commitment.  The pain is still here.  The tear still appear in an instant. But, the darkness is lifting.  The lies brought on by thoughts of failure I are pushed back.  Truth sets in.  It slowly heals, like a salve gently pouring over the wound.

Friend, if you have had a terrible, no good, very bad day, stop and regroup.  Remember who you really are.  You are here for a purpose.  Mistakes will happen.  Falls will occur (let’s just hope not brought on by a dog).  You learn.  You keep going.  It will hurt, it will be hard, but you are worth it.  You were made to make a difference.  You were made in God’s image, His child.

I am probably going to hurt more tomorrow.  And I have a feeling I am still going to be thinking negative thoughts about these two stinking cute dogs.  But the darkness of failure has passed.  I’m learning.  I’m gonna keep going.

Getting Up While It is Dark-The Most Important Spiritual Discipline

I am by nature an early morning person.  It comes naturally.  I am thankful for that.  Whether or not it comes naturally, I do believe getting up early to meet with God in quiet is a biblical principle we should desire to practice.

Proverbs 31:15  says, “She gets up while it is still dark;…”  On many levels this is just a practical habit to develop.  Getting up early offers us quiet, uninterrupted time to plan our day, prepare meals, set out reminders, etc…  It’s a jump start if you wish. We see evidence of this in the description of the Proverbs 31 woman’s life.  Verses 16-18 describe some of the tasks she sets out to handle during this early morning time.  However, I think the principle goes deeper than this.  Throughout scripture God gives us examples of His people seeking Him early in the morning.  His Son, Jesus Christ, frequently stole away in the early morning hours to pray.  I am convinced getting up earlier than others in our home to spend time with God is a spiritual discipline that can transform our lives.

Each new day brings with it a fresh slate.  Repented sins of yesterday have been cast away.  Each new day brings new graces, now opportunities.  When we arise early in the morning to meet God before we open the calendar, begin our interactions, we meet Him unblemished.  We meet Him in the best possible condition we can be in.  Cleansed by His grace, refreshed, renewed, revived.  We meet Him with clear minds, before the busyness of life sets in.  It is in those moments I am most open to hearing Him, to understanding His word, to seeing the priorities He has set before me.  In those early morning moments, it is truly just me and Him.  New day.  Fresh words.  Blank journal page.

I believe the Proverbs 31 woman was just like me and you.  She had a full to do list.  She had a large family.  In order to be her best, she chose the discipline of getting up while it was still dark.  That one act gave her the wisdom to determine her priorities for the day.  It gave her the emotional strength to serve in gladness.  She was able to move into her day with a willing heart to work.

I know it is not easy.  And for some of you it may seem impossible.  You prefer the dark hours of the night when the family has fallen asleep.  Here’s the thing-at the end of the day, even when those seem like your best hours, you are spent.  You have the sins of the day weighing on your shoulders.  Regret has had time to set in.  Those minutes/hours may be great moments to study, repent, ponder.  But they are not the morning.  There is something absolutely amazing about meeting God in the early morning hours.  There is something beautiful about watching the day literally unfold as the sun rises. There is something invigorating abut knowing I am sitting before the throne cleansed, giving Him my very best, my first fruits.  It is a wonderful act of worship to lay myself before Him as an offering early in the morning, to meet with Him anticipating a new day.

Early-Morning-Prayer

I challenge you to practice His presence in the morning.  You may not have to get up while it is still dark.  Just get up 15 minutes before everyone else.  Just get up 15 minutes earlier and commit to use that time to sit in His presence.  He will give you the strength to do it.  He will call you to Him.  You’ll begin to look forward to those moments.

Mother’s Day-With Mixed Emotions

Like many, yesterday was a great day.  My husband and daughters treated me like a queen.  The entire weekend was full of acts of kindness, special treats and notes from the heart.  I loved every minute of it, just as I love being mom.  So, why the mixed emotions?

I am a firm believer God uses circumstances, the hardships and joys of life, to grow us, but more importantly to tender our hearts.  I have said it before and will say it again, our greatest ministries come from our brokenness.  While I have much to celebrate as a mother, there was a time that was not so.  Six long years yearning for a child.  Years of doctors appointments, loss, pain, disappointment, envy, anger, marital tension, loss of friendships…  Six Mother’s Day celebrations that weren’t easy, each one bringing with it wonder if it would be different the following year.

My husband lost his mother all too soon.  A loving, gracious, giving woman.  A woman I had only four short years to know. A woman who would have loved her grand-daughters with abandon.  A woman of quiet strength who was a great source of encouragement.  We too often long for her to still be present, thinking of how different life would be were she still here.

I still have my mother.  For that I am blessed.  But it is a tenuous relationship, one healing after years of untreated depression leading to a reversal of roles, words spoken in anger that can’t be erased, financial strain providing home and help with spending gone out of control during moments of manic.  She loves with passion.  She perseveres.  I have learned to release, to know my limits and to see God’s infinite care and provision.

roses

Motherhood should be honored.  I am thankful our nation still honors those who create, who serve as the glue in our homes, our churches, our neighborhoods, cities and nation.  I am thankful we still see the significance of mothering.  I am reminded though, that while some celebrate, some are struggling.  Their chance to mother has not yet come forth.  Others know they will never mother.  Many seek to heal relationships with mothers, with children.  Others, revisit loss and the pain of a mother no longer present.

In the midst of my personal celebration I thanked God for the hardships.  I am grateful for the twinges of pain that remind me to think of others, to bend knee in their honor, standing in the gap for them asking God’s mercies be unleashed.  I am reminded every day is similar.  Each day holds victories and celebrations for some, while loss and pain exists for others.  I celebrated Mother’s Day with mixed emotions.  I’d rather celebrate that way than oblivious to all that is around me.  I’d rather remember the sorrow, the pain, than simply celebrate the gifts, the victories.  I’d rather hope for the future than live only for the moment.

“Love Idol” by Jennifer Dukes-It’s Impact, My Thoughts

If you are a recovering perfectionist like me, I highly recommend “Love Idol” by Jennifer Dukes.  It was an easy read.  It grabbed my attention in the first few paragraphs.  Not just because I am a recovering perfectionist, but I am a woman.  A woman who seeks to serve God with all my heart, mind and body and yet feels like I miss the boat all too often.

“Love Idol” was a fresh perspective.  I have never thought of how my drive to seek approval, perform (do for others), maintain order etc… as idols.  Yet Jennifer Dukes’ analogies were dead on.  Not only that, but she very openly discusses the impact these “love idols” can have on our families, especially our daughters.  It’s not just the perfectionist tendencies, ALL of us have “love idols”.  For some it may be more about holding one’s self out as the nurturer, playful woman who puts others above tasks, chores, performance.  It can often even be our service or ministries.

An idol is anything that captures our hearts, our minds.  We begin to think more of those things than we do God.  As we focus, our efforts become more about our ways, our plans, our thoughts than His.  I know, stings a little doesn’t it!?!

I recommend this book.  In fact, mine is on loan right now to a young mom.  It is an easy read, but a thought provoking read. You could get through it in a day or two, but I recommend taking it chapter by chapter and pondering.

My take aways:

1.  God continues to use writings, friends, music to remind me of the need to slow down, step back.  I absolutely will not find God in the hurried days of a cram packed life.

2.  I am uniquely gifted and created.  He has a purpose for me, one He will allow me to fulfill if I watch and wait.  Life is full of seasons, and in due season my gifts and talents will be used in various ways and in differing amounts.

3.  There is no doubt our families come before our service, our ministries and our work.

4.  The comparison game is dangerous and deadly.  Too often, I am comparing myself to my own too high standards, not so much to others.  I need to release those self-imposed standards.

If you are interested in the book or learning more about Jennifer Dukes go here:

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/love-idol/

When Google Maps Steers You Wrong

A couple of weeks ago one of my daughters and niece and I were traveling to a church in another city nearby for a ministry project.  As we set out, I secured the address off the registration page and entered it into Google Maps.  However, I was 90% certain I knew exactly where this particular church was, having driven by it numerous times on a major through street.  With navigation set, off we went.  It was a short drive, only 30 miles or so.  As we got off the interstate and began our way towards the church the navigation guidance kicked in.  With each turn we took I kept telling the girls, ” I really don’t think this is the right way.  I swear we should have just stayed on the major through street and it would have been off to our right.” The girls quickly responded with, ” Well, then just turn around.  You are probably right.”  I did not heed their instruction, nor the quiet voice in my head.  We kept driving and sure enough wound up at a dead end, no church in sight.  The voice of the navigation system, louder than the voice in my head, had won.  I had continued on a course I knew was wrong, doubting myself, the quiet voice in my head.

maps

We arrived at our destination, meeting up with a friend and her friend.  I began telling them of our little “adventure”.  The friend’s friend had also been on her own little “adventure”.  She had chosen to follow our mutual friend who drives a white Jeep.  She had stayed right behind her.  Upon nearing the destination she had taken her eyes off our friend’s car for just a moment, but long enough for another white Jeep to come into sight.  She too felt fairly certain she knew where the church was, but began following this other white Jeep.  With each turn she realized she was nearing the local university and not the church.  Yet, like me she continued on the faulty path.

As we shared stories and laughed about our foolishness I couldn’t help but think of spiritual lessons.  So often we fail to heed God’s still small voice, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Instead we allow the loud voices of the world to grab our attention and mislead us, all the while knowing it’s just not right.  We also lose sight of God.  So often we are on a course, a good course, His course, but get distracted by someone else’s course, or a bright shiny object that looks more appealing than the one set before us.  A moment of distraction can lead us down a whole other path in life.  We hear God, our conscience sets in and alerts us, but we lose confidence.  We let doubt set in and can often kick off a snowball of emotions and mistakes.

On the way home the girls and I talked about our little “driving adventure”.  The girls asked why I had kept following the navigation when I knew it was wrong.  Tough question, but one that needed to be answered in this teachable moment for us all.

I had to admit to the girls that I had let doubt set in, and when the doubt set in everything I thought I knew came into question.  We talked about how that happens to us in life.  We read His word, we attend church to learn of His precepts, and then we enter the world and something else grabs our attention or someone else’s voice is louder than His.  We doubt and in those moments of doubt we begin to question everything we know of God.  That’s a dangerous place to be.  Our adventure ended fine, no harm.  Just a little late.  However, in life, those doubts can lead us down paths that alter our course for life or bring about hurt that is hard to overcome.

I am so thankful I serve a God who longs to show me His ways, the path I should take.  Psalm 33:11 tells us “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purpose of his heart through all generations.”  I can’t thwart God’s plans.  I can chose to follow them, get off course and return, or ignore them.  I will either be a part of His plans or lose the opportunity.  Through free will He grants me choice.  Life is so much better lived carrying out His plans, being a part of the blessing.  I am so glad I serve a God of grace, who continually calls me to Himself, even when I get off course.  He welcomes me back to His path when I repent and seek again to follow His ways.  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21.

His purposes prevailed that day.  We served Him packing food for third world countries.  We worshiped Him in song and fellowship with friends.  We learned and we grew as a result of those moments of doubt and our quick response to repent and get back on track.  Nothing lost.  Nothing wasted.

“Make plans by seeking advice.” Proverbs 20:18.  Just remember that the advice of this world and Google maps can be wrong.  You have access to the Shepherd.  He will lead you in the path of righteousness.  He’s always there to get you back on course.  Seek Him.  Seek Him first.  Trust in His still small voice.

Proverbs 31: An End to the Stay At Home Mom vs The Career Mom

I so often wonder why women hurt each other so very much.  I have experienced it at the hands of so called friends, I have inflicted it upon so called friends, I have watched my daughters stung by words and exclusion of so called friends, I witness it in the church and I don’t know a woman in the workforce who wouldn’t attest to the fact that women are hard to work for. Women, we are fierce and yet weak and insecure.  We compensate by building walls or building up our own self-esteem at the expense of another’s.

Last week I attended a women’s networking group for women in business.  The topic?  Negotiating.  Great speaker.  In fact she was a woman who had been through a deep spiritual experience as she sought to become the woman she wanted to be instead of the woman she was “posing” as.  Where did the presentation go?  Where it sadly goes so often-the harshness of women, our insecurity, our overcompensating.  It was refreshing though to be in a room of women I didn’t know, all there for “business” purposes, but all seeking wisdom on how to do life better, be better.

Wool&Flax

Proverbs 31:13-14 informs us of the woman’s work.  She worked with wool and flax making clothing, blankets.  She is compared to merchant ships bringing her food from afar, trading at the marina.  Clearly she worked, and worked hard. Does it matter if she worked for someone else, worked in a storefront or worked from home?  I have never understood the debate we create – especially at church.  Where and how we work is not a reflection of our spirituality.  Who we are at work or at home or at church is a reflection of our spirituality.  Whether or not we engage in the debate, judging other women for their choices, their efforts, their calling is a reflection of our spirituality.  Taking a side, defending our choice, by judging others is a reflection of our spirituality.

The Proverbs 31 woman lived in a very dark time for Israel.  Life was hard, resources were few and theft/plundering was common.  This woman of faith didn’t spend her time contemplating which “camp” of women she wanted to align herself with.  This woman of faith kept her eye on her priorities.  She knew she must bring good to her husband and family (vs 11-12).  She went to work.  She was industrious.  Somehow I don’t think this woman afforded herself much time for idle talk, games of Bunko, supper clubs or mani/pedis.  She was too busy seeing the needs in front of her, working to meet those needs and keeping her focus on God for sustenance, strength, and hope.  She struggled little with insecurity, not because she was proud, but because she kept her focus on God, His precepts.  She spent little time comparing and instead focused on serving any and all she could influence.  She focused on having excellent character, wisdom, skills and compassion.

These verses, more than any others in this passage, convict me.  I so often fall prey to looking around, comparing my life to others, allowing the comparison game to drain me.  Fatigue sets in and my industriousness wanes.  In the end I hurt myself, my family and sometimes those around me.  My words become harsh.  Discontent can drive unnecessary spending.  My priorities shift and I become more important than He.

As women of faith can we see past a list of “to do” items in Proverbs 31 and really see the passage for what it is?  It is a description of a woman who found her worth in God.  It is a description of a woman who focused on her God, her family and her community – in that order.  It is the description of a spiritually, physically and mentally healthy woman.  Let’s put down our judgement.  Let’s pull away from the debates.  In fact, let’s agree there is no debate.  We work.  We seek to be industrious, trustworthy and compassionate.  We keep our eyes on God, we see needs around us and we work.