So many ambitious working mothers who I encounter these days are distressed about something – their family life, their finances, the relationship with their husbands, their bodies, their dreams, their health, their children, maintaining good supportive friendships and the list goes on and on. While some seem to have it together, others are unsettled, unfulfilled, unsure and a little (and sometimes a lot) resentful. For people in church circles like me, reference is always made to the Proverbs 31 woman as a beacon of hope for these kinds of issues. Still I’ve heard many women of faith say that the she is a hoax; that her life habits and achievements are…well… fairy tale. If that were true, why would she be included in the good book? She is included to give practical timeless insight and understanding to wives, mothers and women in general about how to experience a fulfilling unresentful well-lived life.
The saving grace for the Proverbs 31 woman is the fact that she fears the Lord; meaning she believes in the Creator, knows who He is and lives her life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Her fear of the Lord is manifested in three important ways – how she takes care of herself, her family and her dreams.
She eats well, dresses well and stays fit – She takes care of herself
“She is like the merchants’ ships; she brings her food from afar” – Proverbs 31:14. Isn’t this a discriminating type of woman? She doesn’t simply buy whatever is conveniently found at the shop or eatery nearby; she thinks about what she really needs and buys quality foods that can truly nourish her body. She is worth the effort. This knowledge is not based on a puffed up sense of self-importance but basic wisdom. What are you eating on a day-to-day basis? Is it good for you? Are you eating on time? And let’s say that given your work and commute situation, getting good quality food is really difficult, time-consuming or expensive, are you at least having a protein shake, green juice or at least taking supplements? I’m no nutritionist but we can all accept that the journey to fulfillment involves the basics of good nutrition. Eat well and live well.
“She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms” – Proverbs 31:17. This all about taking care of the most important tool that we were given – our body. Unlike other tools at our disposal, our bodies are irreplaceable. Plus if we want to be able to honour all our work, personal and family obligations, it needs to be primed and prepared to operate at optimal levels.
After the birth of my second child I was very successful in getting fit and energetic using exercise programme, The Firm. I felt strong, worked hard and looked good. Now, after my third child, it feels a lot harder to get things moving but I’ve made the commitment in my mind, it’s now time for my body to follow. This time however, I’m thinking of picking up a sport like badmington, swimming (if I can resolve the hair issues) or cycling which I really enjoy. Until I have figured things out, I have started to do at least 30 squats a day…not wasting anytime.
The point is that we must ‘strengthen our arms’ so that we are physically ready to seize whatever opportunities come our way. Plus exercise helps us to shake feelings of sluggishness, stress and fatigue. Let’s not be ‘damsels in distress’ but confident women who know, develop, harness and use our own strength.
“She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple” – Proverbs 31:22. Silk and purple, this is exquisite stuff. This woman likes nice things and makes sure that she looks good. There is absolutely no shame in that. This is something that many overworked women, especially women of faith, ignore at their own peril. Taking the time to secure quality items for yourself is an indication that you think that you are worth it. It sends a message to yourself and to those around you that you are worth the effort. This doesn’t mean that we have to break the bank to get the latest designer item, but it does mean that we plan carefully for our own comfort and appearance, which is key to taking care of self.
After my first child, my body wasn’t quite the same…and I needed outfits that fit. Me, being usually reluctant to spend money was thinking to secure 1 or 2 discounted items somewhere. My husband however had a different idea. He took me to this chic boutique stocked with tailored, smart, feminine gorgeous suits and dresses….which each cost about 5 or 6 times what I would normally spend! Of course I thought we were just window shopping like we sometimes do; giving ourselves something to aspire to. To my surprise, through my husband’s orchestrations, we were shopping, picking out and fitting well-lined gorgeous outfits that would suit my changing role at the office. We didn’t have the money or earn enough to pay for the stuff at one time. All we had was my husband’s desire to get me some quality pieces, his commitment to paying the bill over time, a balanced honest perspective on how many items I really needed and faith. 8 years and several promotions later I still have those gorgeous power suits that I pull out on special occasions.
I encourage my sister-friends to make a commitment to take care of you by eating well, working out and dressing beautifully without breaking the bank. This will significantly impact every other area of your life. Remember that we are charged to love others as we love ourselves, but if we don’t love or take care of ourselves, can we really love others?
She rises early to make food, earns the praise of her children and husband, treats her housekeepers well, is prepared for the future – She takes care of her family
“She rises also while it is yet night, and gives meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” – Proverbs 31: 15. Waking up early is the habit of efficient productive people – women and men. Some of us struggle to get up early, but if we are honest we can attest to the fact that waking early does provide a great head start for the day. Plus if you have a family with young children – you have no choice but to wake up early to make breakfast for your family, which in the midst of your getting ready for work and other tasks doesn’t seem like a privilege. However preparing food for the family represents the first daily act of love towards others and keeps us creative and connected to the principle of service and the original call to make our home great. The Proverbs 31 woman also wisely sets aside food for her housekeepers/maid. This is both very strategic and loving:
1. She is making sure that her servants are fueled and ready to take care of her household and family.
2. She is sending a message that she cares about the wellbeing of the housekeeper, and in this way she reaps what she sows.
3. It is also an indication of who is in control and who sets the pace in the home. All of this helps her to be at ease when she is away from home tending to her dreams.
I’ve also found that waking up early to a noiseless space helps to clear the pathways for the divine; it gives you an unencumbered space to connect with God. So what time is early? I think 5am is a good time to get in both food preparation and prayer before getting into the rigours of the day. If we find ourselves in a place where even though we usually have a habit of waking up early, we are struggling to get up during particularly stressful seasons, it’s a clear indication to take a break, to rest up and regroup.
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet,” – Proverbs 31:21. The lesson from this verse is preparation. This woman is proactively and consistently thinking about her family and making sure they are prepared for each season, whether it is environmental or emotional. In other words, she is the manager of change in the family. This is a crucial task which must be seasoned with prayer, so that the Lord can give insight and wisdom about things not immediately apparent. This role is particularly difficult for busy corporate women who face so many external obligations; however every effort should be made to be a focused change manager so that the family isn’t exposed to harmful elements. This kind of watchdog role is strengthened with fasting, bible study and intercession. Plus having a faithful trusted housekeeper also helps to ensure the family is prepared and protected.
“Her children arise, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her,” – Proverbs 31:28. If your kids are in their teenage years, don’t expect too much praise from them during this stage of life, just keep investing love, accountability, trust, responsibility, the reality of God and of course fun in their lives. We will reap what we sow in due season. The key to successfully raising our children is training them from very early – it can be frustrating, time-consuming, demanding and draining – but very essential. In the same way that we use braces to straighten irregular teeth so that they eventually emerge aligned, we use training to raise our children so that they can be adults aligned with the right values. This training includes rules, rewards, consequences, discipline, practice and patterns.
What do I mean by patterns? Well if our housekeeper makes our kids’ beds every day, the kids will expect that it will be made every day by someone else, and if it is not made by some else, in their minds something is wrong. If however our objective as parents is to teach our kids to take personal responsibility for keeping their room tidy, which includes making their beds, then the pattern needs to change. The housekeeper should stop making the bed and the children given the discipline of daily bed-making with guidance, consequences and rewards.
Of course earning the praise of your husband is a little trickier.
‘Earning the praise’ – does this mean we have to do something to get his praise? If you were like me in the very early days of marriage, you would think that you gain his praise simply because he loves you, you are beautiful and you deserve it! However after the honeymoon lights fade and we start living in the real world – we are each going to actually need to put love into action.
Now if he is a good man who truly loves the Lord, and we as women sow affection, friendship and respect the man ought to sing our praises. But sadly some of our men are flawed, selfish and short sighted….and to be fair, so are some of us as well. Nevertheless we still feel resentful when our man doesn’t express gratitude or praise for the sacrifices we make. How do we move from resentment towards fulfillment? Let’s try bathing our marriage with daily prayer in the early mornings when we rise, daily lovemaking (or more often if that’s what he needs) and extending a sincere word of admiration and kindness. Maybe he doesn’t deserve it, but then love was never about what anyone deserves. And maybe you are thinking, ‘so what about me; what am I going to get from him?’ Well we are not talking to him now; we are looking at what we can do as women to make our marriages better, trusting and prayer that the Lord would also use whatever tool or method to reach out to our husbands as well.
Still, truth be told, some relationships are far more complicated and require external intervention such as counselling or even separation. (Please look out for more on marriage in my upcoming blogs.)
She considers investments, invests and reinvests, believes in herself, is eager, works hard – She takes care of her dreams
“She considers a field, and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard,” – Proverbs 31:16. This is the kind of woman who thinks for herself and trusts her wisdom. Maybe she consulted her husband and her friends, maybe she only merely mentioned the idea….whatever level of involvement she sought from others, it is clear that she was a confident woman who uses her own mind to make decisions about her dreams and desires. Making a decision is only half of the challenge however, the other half is execution. So first she considers the field and then she buys it. She therefore must have access to resources – either her own, her husband’s, a friend’s or a good reputation at the bank.
A good friend of mine decided to invest in a house a few years ago, and that was a major victory for her and her family. But she urgently needed more money to make the deposit. I was so surprised to learn that her housekeeper was able to lend her a portion of the money. Her housekeeper was earning around 10% of what my friend was earning but still she was able to help my friend to achieve this big goal. My friend showed faith, humility and courage in the process of achieving her dreams and her housekeeper was a true sister friend who understood how to harness power from very little. Together they remind us that it is through partnership that we achieve great things.
The Proverbs 31 woman also understands the principle of sowing and reaping and sowing again. So if she has earned from an investment, she reinvests. This may be inspired by her desire to take care of her family for a long time; to provide for them while she has strength in her arms and have that provision multiplied over time through reinvestment. Or maybe it is inspired by her desire to honour the Lord by using all her talents, knowing that the Lord expects us to multiply what we’ve been given. We know that through all her efforts her kids will rise up and call her blessed, but still it doesnt appear that she is hoping that they will be her pension plan. The Proverbs 31 woman is actively managing her affairs and sowing into the future.
“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates,” – Proverbs 31:31. Again, we are reminded that we reap what we sow. How are you sowing into your dreams? If your dream is to plant a vineyard or invest in real estate or go back to school or start a business making cakes, or write a book or trade merchandise or put on a production or whatever other noble gesture that creates a buzz in your heart, then sow into it. This means putting money, time and resources aside to make it possible. Work eagerly and passionately at it, test it with considered thought and prayer so that you can be confident about it and then go ahead and birth it. And when it is born give thanks to the one you fear the most and be humble when the tide of praise starts to come in.
In the end, from Proverbs 31 we understand that a fulfilling unresentful well-lived life is a mixture of taking care of yourself, your family and your dreams, knowing that sometimes the emphasis may be heavier on one over the other during the different seasons and stages of life but understanding that none of them can wisely be ignored. When we practise these things we are found fulfilled unresentful and full of life!
This blog is authored by Shelly-Ann Harris. Send direct emails to firstname.lastname@example.org