Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Hats We Wear...Virtuously

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

A Virtuous Woman Series - Part 4 of 8

(If you wish, to better understand this study, please read
Part 1,
Part 2, &
Part 3
of the Virtuous Woman series first.)

The Biblically-described virtuous woman had many obligations,
just as you and I change hats many times throughout our modern day.

Like her,
our daily roles vary...
from one moment to the next....
based largely upon the needs of our husband, children, parents, and loved ones.

For years, I was in the position of having an elderly, widowed mother,
and a very young, active, dependent son at the same stage of life.

Mom used to love to go.
She just wanted to ride...
to get out of the house.
After she had a serious accident in 2005,
she was no longer able to drive.
To say that losing this pleasure....this freedom....
 devastated Mom...
is quite an understatement.
She had always dearly loved driving.
Being under the wheel always relaxed her,
and adjusting to a phase of life where she would never
be able to just pick up and go whenever she wanted
was a very hard challenge for her.
She felt like a burden.
She hated being beholden to others.
Don't we all?
My heart went out to her in innumerable ways, 
as I watched her lose her own independence.

Seeing your parents age, 
lose their mobility,
lose their faculties,
become growingly dependent on you,
turn into someone elderly in front of your eyes,
is one of life's most difficult, agonizing things to watch....
let alone live out.
Those who are in this stage or have passed through it will agree.
Those of you who are still young enough to have parents who haven't gotten there yet,
will one day be less judgmental of those of us who have....
for, if God permits, you will one day walk this road,
and you will much more clearly understand the demands that come with the territory.

Perhaps, you won't criticize us as harshly...
after you have walked in our shoes. :)

There comes a point when the parent literally becomes the child....
and the roles are suddenly, completely, and irreversibly reversed....
and the one you are accustomed to turning to for help,
is now helplessly turning to you.
When your Mom and Dad become someone you look after
more than someone who looks after you...
you are undoubtedly and without contest
thrown into the face of one of life's hardest, most painful transitions.

When I reached this point with Dad,
I had not yet become a mother...
and I still had a mother....
to pick up a lot of the slack...
to make the transition easier.

I remember the day...
the exact moment...
when I realized Dad's role was forever changing.

He and Mom had gone to the DMV office to renew his drivers license.
On their way home, they stopped by the bank where I worked.
Dad wanted to talk to me.
My desk was the first desk on the left when you entered the bank lobby,
so my face was the first face customers saw when they came in,
and usually I was the first one who saw them.
I will never forget the look on Dad's face that sunny Florida day
as he opened the door and entered the bank.
It was a look of total disbelief...
and dejection.

"They wouldn't let me renew my driver's license."
Dad's voice matched his facial expression
as he slowly, dejectedly walked towards my desk.

"What?" I was stunned....
the realization of what he had just said
washing over me with an overwhelming thud.
In a moment,
the impact rushed over me...
straight to my heart.

"What do you mean, Dad?
My heart went out to him...
I felt like I would cry.

"My eyes.  I couldn't pass the vision test."

I instantly understood.
His diabetes was literally attacking and destroying his eyesight.
We knew it was coming.
I had been there with him and Mom
when the doctor called us in to show us the increasingly growing darkened spots
behind his eyes that showed up on his most recent eye exam.
They were no longer able to fit him with corrective lenses.
His vision was changing...
and deteriorating...
very rapidly.

Yet, to hear him say the words....
to see him acknowledge the reality....
to watch him reluctantly relinquish such a huge part of his independence....
was heart-wrenching.

My mind went back to hundreds of memories....
over the years....
him teaching me to drive in our old, green Gremlin...(remember those?)
showing me how to make donuts on the pavement of a snow-covered empty parking lot....
trips we had taken....
miles we had traveled.
He would sit behind the driver's seat no more.
Someone else would be required to transport him...
from one place to the other.
He couldn't just jump in the car and take off...
and be independent.....
any longer.

I saw a part of Dad die that day.
I'll never forget it.

Mom learned to pick up the slack,
to stop depending on that part of Dad,
and she adjusted.
She was there,
so it didn't impact me in a big way....
(other than the emotional hurt)...
to watch my strong, independent Daddy...
become weaker
and feel less like a man.

When Mom reached the point of not being able to drive
after her car accident in 2005,
I was the mother of a sweet, active, rambunctious four year old little boy.

Life was much different for me then.
Thankfully, I no longer worked outside the home,
and I was blessed with the freedom God knew I would need
to be the daughter He needed me to be.
We hadn't started Kindergarten homeschooling, at that point,
and due to Zachary's birthday being when it is,
we didn't have to begin for over a year after.

For the next seven years,
I was blessed with the opportunity of taking Mom along,
nearly everywhere Zachary and I went.
I would call her and ask if she wanted to ride along...
to visit the sick in hospitals,
to pick up and deliver donated clothing for the needy,
to pick up and deliver donated bread for those who needed it,
to grocery shop,
to go to Wal-Mart,
to visit the homes of those who called for and needed prayer,
and so many other occasions and trips.
There were very few times that she would turn down my offer....
even if it meant she just rode along to sit in the car.

Bless her dear heart,
she was such a great help to me with little Zach.
I could not have made it through those years without her.
I could not have reached out to so many.
I could not have fulfilled the call of God on my life....
without her sweet support...
in the background...
quietly doing all she could to help me with Zach.

She used to tell me how worthless she felt...
she didn't feel she was contributing anything...
that she was doing anything at all for God.
She and Dad used to have a wonderful ministry
in visiting those who were sick,
going and doing for others,
doing personal work in the Kingdom of God.
Now, she couldn't drive,
Dad was gone,
and she felt very unnecessary.

I used to tell her how she was working for God.
She was helping me.
That I couldn't do what I did without her...
supporting me, helping me with Zach,
giving me peace of mind knowing he was with someone who loved him dearly,
and being that rock for all of us to lean on.

I don't think she ever believed me...
or realized how much I appreciated her and all she did for me.

She is reaping a great reward now.
How that fills my heart with joy!
Even though I miss her so deeply and still cry so often when I think of her.

There were times I couldn't take Zach in with me,
and the two of them had grand times playing "I Spy" in the car 
while waiting for me to come back from visiting a hospital room.
Zachary has wonderful, bittersweet memories of those days.
While he didn't enjoy certain aspects,
while he would have preferred to be home or outside playing,
and some of the trips were hard,
we sometimes traveled in discomfort in the heat,
and the car was prone to have problems,
he loved and valued his time with Nana and me.

She loved getting out.
I'll never forget the many times we would be riding along together,
and I would look over to see her little head bobbing forward...
she was sound asleep...
relaxed and content...
just knowing she was with Zach and me.
I would glance over and my heart would 
be so filled with pity....
and love...
the realization of her age and dependence...
becoming more and more real.

She hated being alone.
So riding along was a great pleasure for her.
Zach and I seldom got in the car during those years,
without making sure we stopped by her apartment
to pick her up and take her along.

Can I tell you how much I miss that now?

I won't say it was always easy.
Going in a restaurant for a sit-down meal was one of our favorite things to share...
and one of my biggest challenges.
Trying to make sure Mom was okay and settled and safe,
while chasing a very active, adventurous, ever-exploring little boy,
was quite exhausting...
not only physically, but emotionally.

What I wouldn't give...
just to do that...

Towards the end,
it became more difficult...
to get out with Mom.
I worried about her.
Zach and I rushed through stores a lot.
When she wasn't able to go in with us,
I hurried through visits a lot more.
I hated leaving her in the car.
But, she would insist on going...
even though I know she must have sometimes felt afraid...
and alone...
while waiting for Zach and me.

As Zach grew older, he began to feel resentful.
There were days that he would beg...
and literally plead....
for a day out with just him and me.
He loved his Nana....dearly.
But, he longed for one-on-one time...
with me, too.
I was caught in the cross-fire...
almost continually....
forever being caught in the middle...
so in tune with Mom's needs,
yet very empathetic to Zach's.

God only knows the times I cried....
and felt overwhelmed with despair and inadequacy.

I can honestly say that I did the best I could...
for both of them.
Somehow, I lost myself many times in the process,
and I often felt like a mechanical robot...
going through the motions....
of making sure everyone around me was happy.
Never mind personal cost.

Can you relate?
Life isn't easy.
Who said it would be?

Now I enter a stage of life where I still feel I need Mom.
I need her....
won't I always?
She is not here.
To take along.
To make me feel more safe.
Even though she became increasingly frail...
and feeble...
and dependent on me....
I always felt more secure...
if she were in the car...
if she were near me.
Mom's presence exuded security...
I clung to it.

Mom had that kind of strength...
I drew from it all my life.
Now I have it no more.

It is really a different life when you are without a mother.
You learn to step up to an unfamiliar plate.
It isn't easy.

The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 must have faced similar challenges.
She no doubt had difficulties that were like yours and this day.

Being torn this way and that.
Seeing what she needed to do,
yet feeling spread so thin she felt she would break...
and snap in two.

Let's continue reading about her...
and admiring her...
while keeping in mind she had real-life challenges...
just like you and me.

"She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands." Verse 13

Her heart is in her home.
She looks for the things her family needs.
Their needs are more important to her than her own.
She looks ahead and seeks supplies.
She seeks out what needs to be done....
and she does it....
willingly and without complaint.
She has ambition....and do what needs to be done.
Taking care of the ones God has placed in her life comes joyfully to her.
She is thankful she has a family to do for.
Nothing is a sacrifice.
Her work is driven by love...
and a willingness to serve.

"She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar." Verse 14

Difficulty isn't a deterrent to her.
If it's hard, she just tries harder.
She makes sure her family has something to eat.
They don't have to worry about it.
She plans, shops, cooks, and makes sure they are fed.
She is diligent...
and steady...
and dependable...
like the ships of merchants who have promised to deliver goods.

"She riseth also while it is yet night, 
and giveth meat to her household, 
and a portion to her maidens." Verse 15

She denies herself for the sake of those who live in her house.
She is always thinking of their needs.
Even when it requires giving up sleep, she is up doing what needs to be done...
so their lives are more comfortable.
She looks ahead to the day that it is coming,
and she makes sure her ducks are in a row.
She is organized and thorough.
She never forgets the ones who help her.
She puts their needs ahead of her own desire for sleep.
She makes sure they have what they need.

"She layeth her hands to the spindle, 
and her hands hold the distaff." Verse 19

She is ambitious and diligent.
She seeks for the most efficient way to get the job done.
As the virtuous woman of days gone by utilized the distaff to assist in her spinning,
allowing her to keep the unspun fibers untangled,
the modern day virtuous woman utilizes the resources
God provides to better care for her family.
She is not lazy.
Her hands are not idle.
She realizes the value and benefit of staying busy...
doing something productive and worthwhile....
always seeking the good of her family.

So, what is on your proverbial plate for today?
How many hats will you don before the day is through?

Feeling overwhelmed?
Wondering where you and your personal needs fit in...
to the equation...
of your responsibilities?
Trying to figure out how you can be "virtuous"...
in the middle of life's chaos,
and demands?

Many of you have the added stress of working outside the home
piled on to what is expected of you inside the home.

This is to all of the women who are reading this....
whether you are a stay-at-home mom,
a woman who works outside the home,
a homeschooling mother,
a mother of grown children,
 a woman without children,
a grandmother...
may I just say that I salute you?
I commend you.
What you accomplish in any given day...
is admirable...
and virtuous.

You fear the Lord,
and you deserve to be praised for it.
You do the absolute best you can do...
day after long day...
and you are one special person.

Don't despair when you don't measure up.
Reading Proverbs 31 together is a sharing experience...
a learning experience.
None of us are an epitome of this woman.
But, all of us would like to be, right?
All of us want to improve...
to do better...
to strive harder...
to be the woman God seeks.

If you're feeling inadequate,
unequal to the task....
be encouraged.

Your desire to be virtuous brings joy to His heart...
even when you fall short...
even when you don't quite make the mark.
He knows you want to.

Please stop and consider this:
Maybe the virtue lies in wanting to be 
the woman He longs for us to be.
God looks on the heart, remember?
He knows how hard you try.

Here is how He feels about you.
"The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;
He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy;
He will rest in His love,
He will joy over thee with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17

You are not a failure.
Don't ever buy that lie.

You make the heart of God sing.

You are valued above rubies, my friend.
You are matter which hat you are wearing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Virtuous Wife

"And now, my daughter, fear not...
for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman."
Ruth 3:11

A Virtuous Woman Series - Part 3 of 8 

(If you wish, to better understand this post, please read
Part 1 and
Part 2
of the Virtuous Woman series first.)

Now that we have done one of the hardest things in life
and taken a personal inventory of our own performance as a virtuous wife,
it is not time to despair if we fell miserably short,
nor gloat if we found ourselves absolutely perfect.
It is time to take courage if we fell short,
and open our minds to improvement if we measured up.
We can all improve, right?
None of us are so virtuous that we can't be more so, right?

While some of the verses about a virtuous wife overlap
and bring more than one of her roles into play,
there are four main verses in the 31st chapter of Proverbs that
give specifics concerning how a virtuous woman relates to her husband....
in a marital relationship.

"The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." Verses 11, 12

Her husband is the most important person in her life.
Her love for him comes second only to her love for God.
She is completely trustworthy.
Her husband never has to wonder what she is doing when he isn't around.
She has his back.
His best interests are always foremost in her heart.
She won't squander his means.
She does not put him down.
Her words never undermine his integrity or cast suspicion on his reputation.
She has no ulterior motives.
She is completely in his corner...under all circumstances.
Disloyalty to him is not even a possibility....not a remote option.
She would rather die than betray his honor,
cast a shadow of doubt on the soundness of his character,
or bring him hurt.
Her love for him is not based on what he does.
His behavior is not part of the equation.
No matter what he says or does, her intentions towards him are good...
and noble...
and faithful.
He never doubts it....nor does he ever need to.
Everything she does builds him up.
When everything else in his world crumbles,
she will be there...
a steady rock,
a firm shoulder,
a helping hand...
to pick up the pieces...
right by his side...
He never has to to doubt it.

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

She supports her husband's efforts.
She understands his position.
She gives him the space he needs to do what he has to do.
He can succeed, move forward,
and fulfill his God-given obligations,
with full assurance that she is fulfilling hers.
He doesn't have to pull her share of the relationship.
He knows she is doing that.
He he can hold his head high,
and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the most respected,
because she respects him at home.
She lifts him up,
compliments him before he walks out the door,
shows him that he never has to doubt her love.
She realizes temptation lurks around every corner outside,
so she gives him the love he needs at home.
She isn't slack in keeping the vows she made to him on their wedding day.
He is the object of the most intimate affections in her heart.
He can do his job without undue stress from domestic unrest.
He knows his home will be as he left it when he returns,
due to her diligence and faithfulness.
She is not clingy.
She doesn't try to dominate his life and actions.
She doesn't inflict guilt over times he cannot spend and be with her.
He is free to be the man God calls him to be,
because she is in the background helping to make him look his best.

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

There is no greater compliment a woman can receive
than that of her husband.
To hear him praise her efforts,
to applaud her accomplishments,
to announce her worth...
is a crowning honor.
It means more than worldly acclaim.
For though we acquire fame
and earn admiration from strangers,
a deep-seated need is not satisfied...
unless we are appreciated at home.

I think it is important to note
that the reason her children and husband rise up
and bless her and her husband praises her,
is because she is who she is supposed to be.

We have a long, telling list of all of her admirable attributes
quoted before this verse
to paint a clear picture that she has absolutely earned
their respect, blessing, and praise.

It makes me think that possibly even the most insensitive husband out there,
could possibly be won over by his virtuous wife.

You might read this and think,
"Yeah, sure.  You don't know my husband.
You've never tried to live with him.
He doesn't deserve my honor,
nor my respect.
Sure it works...
to be a virtuous wife....
if you have a God-fearing,
gentle husband."

What about when you don't?
And you are still required to do your part?

I want to give you an example of a woman who had such a husband,
and yet she was the exact epitome of a virtuous wife.

Her story is found in I Samuel 25:2-42.

Her name was Abigail.
She was beautiful.
And smart.
And very dedicated to her man.

Her husband's name was Nabal.

Here's what we know about him.
First of all, he was rich.
He had a lot of earthly goods.
He was powerful.
And, he was evil.
The Bible says he was "churlish".

"Churlish" comes from the Hebrew word "qasheh".
I sought information from several Bible research sources,
and this is literally what "churlish" means:


On top of all of this,
Nabal drank too much.
He lived way too fast.
He lived as if he had no conscience...
as if he were invincible....
as if he had to answer to no one.

Do you recognize any of Nabal's attributes in your husband?
I hope if you see anything familiar,
it is just one characteristic...
I surely hope you don't have to live with a man who's personality
is an exact match...
with Nabal's.
If you do, by some chance,
please take courage.
Abigail walked your path.
She could relate to the silent pain...
of being and living life as a virtuous wife...
to an obnoxious, ungrateful brute of a husband.
 This guy had all of the above personality traits.
He couldn't have been harder to get along with.

Abigail's life could not have been easy.
She more than likely had every earthly good she wanted.
I imagine they had a fine home,
lots of servants,
creature comforts,
and everything a woman could long for....
except love....
and appreciation...
and affection.

Money can't buy love....
no matter how much it is poured out and bestowed.

I can just imagine that when Nabal did show her attention,
it was to satisfy his own selfish desires.
I doubt that it was to meet the deep longings of her feminine heart.

There was more than likely no tenderness....
at least, not on his part.

How she must have longed for the things Nabal refused to give!
How many nights did she cry herself to sleep?
How many moments did she long for a kind word,
a tender, caring look,
a gentle touch?

I have even wondered if he inflicted physical abuse,
along with all of the emotional distress he must have dished out.

She seemed to live in fear of him
and his violent temper...
terrified of setting him off
or causing him to go into a rage.

Yet, in spite of all,
this was one admirable woman.
A woman who made no allowances for her own behavior,
simply because her husband was difficult.
Abigail's loyalty to Nabal could not be shaken.
In fact, she put her own safety completely on the line,
stuck her neck way out for him,
and ended up saving his life.

Let me explain.
One day, the future king of Israel, David happened to be traveling,
and he and his men came through Nabal's territory.
Nabal was out shearing his sheep,
and David sent his servants ahead of him to ask Nabal
if he would share sustenance with him and his men.

The message David sent was a message of peace.
He told Nabal that he had been good to his shepherds.
He was simply asking for kindness,
as he passed through.
There was nothing in David's message that should have
warranted the ensuing rage and defiance of Nabal.

Nabal, being the brutish man he was,
sent a message back to David letting him know
that he would not comply with his request.

His disrespect and insubordination invoked David's fury.
David and about 400 of his servants took up their swords to go after Nabal.
They meant business.
After all, Nabal had no right...
to show such impudence.
Nabal might be able to bully everyone else.
He may instill fear in the ones who knew him,
including his sweet, devoted wife,
but not so with David.

David was strong.
He didn't back down from bullies.
Remember Goliath?

David's intentions were to kill Nabal
and every last one of his men before the morning light.

One of Nabal's shepherds knew what was happening
and saw the gravity of the situation.
He sought out Abigail and told her what was going on.
It makes me wonder how many times this had happened before?
Obviously, cleaning up Nabal's messes was nothing foreign to Abigail.
And evidently, Nabal's men knew the value of Abigail's peacemaking abilities.

Why else would he go straight to her?
To intercept her husband's wrath?

The shepherd explained how well David and his men had treated him and his comrades
and how Nabal had railed on Davids' servants, in return.
He spoke highly of David,
and he reminded Abigail of her husband's disposition
and how it was impossible to try to reason with him.

How well she knew!

She quickly realized that if she didn't make a move,
David would kill her husband.
She had to think fast...
come up with a plan...
and proceed with stealth.
She couldn't let Nabal know what she was doing.

She loaded her donkeys with bread, wine, meat, corn, raisins, and figs,
and she set out to do her utmost to appease David's wrath and thwart his
efforts to kill her husband.

How she must have loved him!
In spite of his neglect,
regardless of his mean spirit,
never mind his rough, cruel ways.

He was her husband,
and she would defend him....
to the end.

She met David on his way to kill Nabal.
He was in an angry state of mind when he first saw her.
He was intent on murder....
plotting and conversing with his men.
When Abigail saw him,
she fell down at his feet, begging him to place the blame...
not on Nabal, who completely deserved it...
but on her.

Can you imagine?

She explained to David that she wasn't around when his servants
came asking for something to eat and drink.
Had she known about it, this never would have happened.
She would have complied...willingly.
She begged David not to be like her husband.
She reminded him that if he committed murder,
he would be stooping to Nabal's level.

David stopped...dead in his tracks.

He listened to her.
Her advice was sound.
She pleaded with him to reconsider...
so he wouldn't have the regret of murder on his mind and heart...
later on....
when he was established in his kingdom.

After he heard her out,
this was David's response to her...
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:
And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou,
which has kept me this day from coming to shed blood,
and from avenging myself with mine own hand.
For in very deed, as the Lord God of Israel liveth,
which hath kept me back from hurting thee,
except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me,
surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any..."

David took the food from her hand,
gladly and gratefully.
His wrath was appeased.
Abigail's kindness had changed his mind...
and saved Nabal's life.
Her mission was accomplished...
and it had been successful.

She returned home.
She must have been exhausted...
physically, but especially emotionally.
One would think Nabal would have been happy to see her.
An expected response would have been open arms...
a thankfulness for the sacrifice she had made on  his behalf,
after hearing about the courageous effort she had made.

So, what did she find when she got there?
 She walked in to find Nabal hosting a party....
and very drunk.
The Bible doesn't say, but I can just imagine that
Abigail felt disgust....
a let down.

She didn't even bother trying to talk to him.
One can just picture her taking in the scene,
then turning away,
pain and shame in her eyes...
as she walked away alone.
How she must have longed to share what was in her heart!
There was no use.
He was so drunk, it wouldn't have sunk in anyway.

She waited until the next day.
She poured out her heart
and told Nabal everything.

The result was very surprising.

In verses 37-38, we read,
"But it came to pass in the morning,
when the wine was gone out of Nabal,
and his wife had told him these things,
that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.
And it came to pass about ten days after,
that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died."

Some Bible scholars believe Nabal had a stroke.
At any rate, ten days later, he was dead.
When David heard about it,
he sent for Abigail.
How she must have impressed him!
Her virtuous ways were still fresh in his mind.
He wanted to repay her kindness.
He did so...
for the rest of his life,
for soon after Abigail became his wife.

No doubt her marriage to David was much different
than her life with Nabal had been.
Judging by the Psalms he wrote,
I believe David was a very tender-hearted,
caring, compassionate,
and gentle man...
and husband.

Abigail was a virtuous wife....
even when it wasn't easy to be.
Under the worst of circumstances,
God gave grace,
and He rewarded her faithfulness.

He always does.
Whether we are married to a David...or a Nabal....
no matter how easy...or hard it is to be a virtuous wife,
God absolutely has the grace we be an Abigail.
To stand firm.
To be the virtuous wife He wants us to be.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Virtuous Woman

"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband:
but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones."
Proverbs 12:4

A Virtuous Woman Series - Part 2 of 8

(If you wish, to better understand this study, please read
Part 1 of the Virtuous Woman series first.)

What does a modern day virtuous woman look like?
How can we hope to achieve the standards recorded in Proverbs 31
that were set by Bathsheba while instructing King Solomon, her son?
How can we apply her wisdom to the everyday lives we currently live?

I believe it is possible, through God's grace, don't you?
The bar is high.
We may fall completely short.
But, if we really want it...
if we strive for it with all our hearts...
if we seek God's strength...
I believe we can and will inch ever closer
to being the woman God seeks.

Greek meaning of virtuous:

Original Word: δίκαιος, ία, ιον
Greek word - dikaios
Meaning = correct, righteous, by implication, innocent
Equitable in character or act;
by implication, innocent, holy;
just, meet, righteous.

Modern meaning of virtuous:

"Characterized by or possessing virtue or moral excellence; righteous; upright.
Possessing or characterized by chastity; pure."


The meaning is the same.
Over 2,300 years between Bathsheba's advice
and the day in which you and I live
has not diminished or altered the characteristics
and the requirements demanded of a virtuous woman.

What comprised a virtuous woman in 350 B.C.,
is the exact composition of a virtuous woman in 2014 A.D.

Times have changed.
God's Word hasn't.

In order to understand this woman we all yearn to emulate,
I would like to break down her life's roles into a very real,
hopefully clear picture....
then examine how she excels in each role.

She wore a lot of hats....
not literally, of course.
Maybe she did.  :)
But, that's not important.
I'd love to delve into the many "hats" of duty, role, and obligation she wore
on any given day.

I think it is interesting to take note that the very first role written about
when giving such an explicit description of a virtuous woman
was her marital relationship.

So, let's take an in-depth view through the lens
of seeing her as a wife....
obviously a most important role.

Before we do, though...
first things first.

Some of you are not married.
For various reasons, you are without a spouse.
Perhaps, in the future, you won't be.  :)
Please keep reading.
Maybe you can glean something to store away for future times.
It could be that God wants to adjust your way of thinking now,
before you enter a relationship....
so that when you do,
you will already know what is required of a virtuous wife.
Wouldn't it be good to walk into a brand-new marriage
already fitted and up to Bible standards to fill that role?
Your future husband will be most grateful!

Some of you are men.
There is something in here for you, too!
Not for you to compare your wife and see how hopelessly short she falls.
Not to measure her against this perfect woman,
then rue the day you married her.
But to view this in a positive light.
Maybe God is trying to show you areas you could help her....
gently and steadily...
along the path of life.

God's Word is sharper than a two-edged sword,
and we can all benefit by every, single part of it.

Whoever you are,
there is something to be gleaned...
for all of us....
in every compartment of the Word of God.

Before we go another step,
may I get personal with you?
May I first ask some very pointed questions?
Will you stop after each one and let them sink in?
Will you promise to be honest in your answers?

I won't know your answers.
I don't need to.

If we want help,
if we want to be a better, more virtuous wife...
if we want to improve....
we must first take a hard, honest look....
inside ourselves.
Identify our problem areas.
Isolate our weaknesses.
We must be brutally open and honest and transparent...
to ourselves and to God.

No one else is judging you.
No one has the right.
It is just you....
and Almighty God.
He already knows you.
He knows how close or how far you come
to reaching the bar...
of being a virtuous wife.

So, the main person you need to be honest with...
is you, right?

Are you ready?

Grab a piece of paper and a pen.
Take a deep breath.
Make a promise...
right now...
to be honest.

Take each question one at a time...
and write down your answers.
Do it carefully,
and slowly.
Tell the truth.
Otherwise this will never work.

Okay, here goes.

How do you view your husband?
(Write it all down.  What do you really think of him...
as a man, as a father, as the head of your home, etc.)

Do you think he is competent or incompetent?

Do you find his way of thinking inferior to your own?

Do you think he makes good or bad, wise or unwise decisions?

Do you feel he should listen to you, because you know better than he does?

Do you feel that you often know a better choice than the ones he makes?

Would you consider him your best friend?

Would you consider him a friend at all?

Does he get on your nerves?

Do you view him as responsible or irresponsible?
Mature or immature?
Equipped or unequipped?
Capable or incapable?

Does he measure up to the man you wish he was?

Does he disappoint you or surpass your expectations?

Do you admire him?

Do you respect him?

Is he romantic enough for you?

Do you think he compliments you enough?

Do you feel he appreciates you?

Do you regret marrying him, or was marrying him one of the best choices you have ever made?

Are you 100% devoted to him...
for the long haul?

Do you still love him?

Now that you've done that,
may I ask you to do a very hard thing?

Will you now shift your focus?

Will you take your eyes off of your husband...
off of your views of him, whether good or bad, negative or positive,
and turn them wholeheartedly and completely....
on yourself?

Will you stop trying to change him.....
stop wishing he were someone he is not....
and ask God to help  you  to be the one to change?

Because no matter what your view of your husband is,
no matter how much he pleases or doesn't please you,
no matter if he is the husband he should or should not be...
(either in fact or in your opinion)....
no matter what he is like,
the only person you can change is you.

Trying to change him...
to remake him into someone you read about in a romance novel...
to compare him to your friend's "perfect" husband....
to continually point out the things you don't like about him...
is completely unwise.

Allowing God to change you....
to remake you into the woman you read about in Proverbs 31...
to bring you closer to measuring to His...and her standards...
to continually yield and submit to God's opinion, for that is what matters....
are some of the wisest choices you will ever make.

The chain of command God established in the home
is clearly defined in Ephesians 5:23,
"For the husband is the head of the wife,
even as Christ is the head of the church..."

We cannot change that.

I know this is not a popular way of thinking.
"Liberated" women cringe to hear or read of such things.
But, my friend, it is still right.
It is God's Word...
and it absolutely works....
it creates a happy marriage...
a peaceful home...
a contented life.

Whatever your opinion of your husband,
he is still the head of your home.
It is his God-given place.
He is human.
He is not without fault.
But, he absolutely deserves your honor.
It is his God-given right.

There are no contingency clauses in Proverbs 31.
It doesn't say that if your husband measures up to all
he should be, then you should follow this advice.
It doesn't say to do it only if he does his part and fulfills his role.
It simply describes, in vivid detail,
what you and are I to do...
as Godly, virtuous wives.

The sooner we stop focusing on our husband's discrepancies,
the sooner we stop bringing forward our ever-growing list
of reasons he doesn't deserve a virtuous, devoted wife,
the sooner we remove the critical spotlight from him and place it on ourselves,
the better off our marriages will be.

So, with that frame of mind...
with a re-directed focus....
will you kindly turn your paper over and 
grab your pen?

We are ready for the next line of questioning.

These are a little tougher...
funny how it's so easy to do this exercise geared towards our husbands,
yet so difficult to face when it is directed towards ourselves, huh?

Here goes....

How do you view a wife?

Would you say you are a good wife?
(List why or why not.)

How agreeable are you with your husband?

Do you nag?

Do you complain?

Do you often point out his him?

Do you often point out his others?

Do you speak disrespectfully to him?

Do you speak disrespectfully about him?

How do you talk about him to your closest friends?

How would your closest friends describe your relationship with your husband?

Do they know too much?

Are you discreet about his business?

Do you reveal his secrets to others?

How often do you compliment him?

Does he consider you his best friend in the world?

Are you the one he confides in?

Do you make the home you share with him a desirable place to be?

Do you give him space?

Do you appreciate him?

Do you tell him so or just assume he knows?

How would you feel if you woke up tomorrow and he was gone?

What are your priorities on any given day?

Who do you run to when you need comfort?

Is it him?

Does he know you have his back?

Can he trust you?

When is the last time you called him just to say "I love you"?

And, finally....
How badly do you want to be a virtuous wife?

Before we go another step in delving into Proverbs 31,
I believe God would be pleased for us to allow these thoughts to sink in....
to stifle our own excuses for not following His Word...
to ask God to renew our minds...
to give us the mind of Christ...
to help us stop seeking out the faults of our husbands...
and to start seeking out our own.

Once we get into the right frame of mind to receive His instruction,
once we are in tune with God's heart,
once we stop trying to justify our own disobedience,
once we are willing to truly listen...
to what God is saying to us....
we can make real progress.

God has a lot to share in Proverbs 31.
I look forward to dissecting it with you.

First, we have to be ready to listen...
to do this study for us....
for our own transformation...
not with motives or intentions to change our husbands...
or anyone else.

Just us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Over My Kitchen Sink

"Who can find a virtuous woman?
for her price is far above rubies."
Proverbs 31:10

A Virtuous Woman Series - Part 1 of 8

I love being in the kitchen.
I would say it truly is the heart of our home.
After all, it is where we gather often...
to eat,
 pour out our hearts,
cook, bake, make soap, do crafts, and make gifts,
do school,
play board games,
and enjoy life.

I truly love everything we do in there....
and yes, I even love to clean and do dishes.

I enjoy the work.
It gives me a sense of peace...
and deep contentment to keep things clean and neat and orderly.

Once my Uncle Donnie asked Mom,
"What's wrong with this girl?",
when he was in our home and heard me speak of how much
I enjoy cleaning!

I even enjoy being on my hands and knees cleaning the floor.
I talk to the Lord while I'm down there. :-)

We have a mop.
And one of those nice Swiffer Wet-Jet gadgets.
Sometimes, I use one of them, if I am in a hurry.
But, I prefer the slow way....
cleaning it by hand.

To me, there is nothing like sitting in my favorite recliner,
positioned caddy-corner near the kitchen....
reading the Bible or looking at Country Sampler...
while every now and then taking a sideways glance 
at the shine of the newly-washed kitchen floor
as I inhale the aroma of something yummy baking in the oven.

The kitchen is a comforting place to me.

I do a lot of my thinking over our kitchen sink.
I spend a lot of time there.
God speaks to me as I wash the dishes clean.

He speaks to all of us...
if we only take the time to listen.

As guests watch me run dish water in the sink after a meal, 
they often look at the dishwasher next to the sink and ask,
"Doesn't your dishwasher work?"

I tell them,
"Sure, it does.
It works great."
Then I proceed to open it...
 and reveal my secret stash.... 
of bowls and lids in there.

I seldom use it for anything other than storage.

I just enjoy the work...
and the stillness....
and hearing what God chooses to reveal....
as I look out the window over the sink...
my hands in the water...
all sudsy and warm.

I've received inspiration for many of these devotionals...
standing in that very spot.
Sometimes, God will speak and the words will begin to flow so quickly...
I have to leave my spot and grab a pen...
or come to the computer to record my thoughts...
before they are gone.

I think the reason I love being a homemaker so much...
the reason it fulfills me...
is that within my heart there is a deep-seated desire...
an undeniable yearning....
to be like the woman I read about in Proverbs 31.
It seems an unattainable goal....
a far-off, distant dream...
because I fall so dreadfully short.

But, no matter how far off I am from the goal,
I still long for it.
I still reach for it.
My heart still yearns...
to be that woman.

I admire her....
more than any woman I know.
She is my role model...
the one I aspire to emulate...
even though we are so far apart.

Did you ever consider that this woman was described and written about...
by a man?
He recorded and shared with the world...
the words of none other than his own mother.

In verse one, we read,
"The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him."

There is some controversy over whether or not King Lemuel
and King Solomon were one and the same person.
I researched several commentators,
and though there are some who are uncertain,
most agree that Lemuel and Solomon were the same person.

In the Geneva Bible, we find this notation:
"That is, of Solomon, who was called Lemuel, that is, of God,
because God had ordained him to be king over Israel."

If King Solomon were indeed writing these words,
(since it is generally agreed-upon by Bible scholars,
for the sake of this writing, we will assume that he was),
we realize that his mother was Bathsheba, the wife of King David.

I must say, that when I first think about the woman described in Proverbs 31,
Bathsheba is not exactly the first person that comes to mind.
Actually, at the point of her indiscretions,
she would probably be the last woman Bible character I would think of....
to fit this mold....
to hand out such wise counsel...
to women of all ages.
Based on the standards here,
and based on the first connotation that enters my mind when I hear the mention of her name,
I wouldn't consider Bathsheba to be virtuous,
and definitely not the woman described in this chapter.

Isn't it sad that we so clearly remember the bad things people do?
Isn't it unfortunate that, as human beings, so quick to judge and condemn,
we seldom take into account that someone can actually repent, change,
 and, by God's grace, do a complete turnaround?
Scandal seems much more outstanding and easier to remember
than the good deeds we hear about.

We don't know when this advice was given,
but it is my opinion it was several years after she had lived
and reaped the results of her own wrongdoing.

Listen to her heart in verse 3.
"Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings."

Was she, perhaps remembering the day David, the king, directed his attention
towards her...
a married woman?
That he, being so intent to have her,
gave his strength and energy into making her his own?
Was she thinking of the path that followed
and how close their indiscretion came to completely
destroying the life and future of King David?

As she instructed her son,
was there remorse in her heart, as she remembered her first husband,
the steadfast, intensely loyal Uriah,
and the way she had betrayed him through an adulterous affair with the king?
Did she still feel the pangs of guilt as she recalled that the repercussions
of her careless affair eventually caused Uriah's death?

Could it be that her words were wrenched from
the realization and confession of mistakes she had made in her own life....
that she was not this virtuous woman she described,
but someone she only wished to be?

Or is it possible that after all of her failings, shortcomings, and bad decisions,
she had learned the hard way...
what it meant to live and be this woman?
That the redemptive grace of God had turned her mess into her message...
that we are still reading about and aspiring to become...
recorded in Proverbs 31?

We don't have a lot of information about Bathsheba's life
after she married King David or gave birth to the son
who would later trace his father's footsteps to the throne.

I wish we did know more about her.
What we do know, is if these words were truly written by King Solomon,
Bathsheba was directly responsible for influencing this writing
since she was indeed his mother.

Beginning with verse 10 through the end of the chapter at verse 31,
we find a list of the qualities and attributes of a virtuous woman.
Lemuel speaks of her as a rare find whose worth is far above the value of rubies.

Don't we all aspire to be this woman?

I believe God created a woman with a need to nurture the ones she loves...
to give of herself...
to seek the joy of others...
to find a sense of fulfillment, joy, and deep satisfaction...
in being in the center of His will for her life.
I believe that deep within the heart of all of us,
we long to be virtuous...
good wives,
good mothers,
Godly women.

So what does a modern-day virtuous woman look like?
How can we break down Bathsheba's advice, recorded somewhere around 350 B.C.,
into practical guidelines to follow and fit into our everyday life in 2012 A.D.?

It really isn't difficult to adapt her wise instruction to our lives today.
The basics aren't any different now than they were when they were written.
Women are still women.
Men are still men.
We are all still created with the same inherent
needs, desires, and emotions.

And though the day in which we live and the day in which Bathsheba lived
are vastly different and worlds apart,
the formula for greatness....
for successful womanhood...
for finding and living a virtuous life....
still works....

By God's grace and inspiration,
and with your patience and bearing with me,
I'd like to analyze the last 21 verses of Proverbs 31,
break them down verse-by-verse,
and explore God's message for us today.

It may take more than one devotional to cover it,
but I feel inspired to try.

God will show me the way...
I trust Him to give the inspiration....
over my kitchen sink.  :-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

When God Reinvents Us

"While the earth remaineth,
seedtime and harvest,
and cold and heat,
and summer and winter,
and day and night shall not cease."
Genesis 8:22

The thrill and chill of fall is in the air!
To me, there is nothing like it.
As the outside temperature drops,
my heart is warmed and content.

The other day, my sister and her family came to visit.
We decided to make pumpkin pie to go along with our pot of decaf.
The air just seemed to make us crave it!
(I make it with sorghum, instead of sugar...
the recipe is at the end.)

I even got out my special mug from my dear friend, Wanda...
the one I use for homemade hot cocoa....
and I used it last night.

The leaves from our cherry tree
have begun to fall again...
and gently drop in a circle below its branches.

Soon, Zach will want to make another pile in the front yard....
from all of the fallen leaves....
like we did with Austin a few days ago at Granny & Papaw's house.

Another round of seasons has come full circle.

Life comes in seasons...
phases, if you will...
periods of time...
that vary greatly one from another.

As I look back over the years,
I see six defining lines of distinction
that God has drawn,
separating the phases of my life.

Have you ever contemplated your life that way?
It is almost as if you have lived several lifetimes...
all in one....
so different are the phases.

Some of the time periods I have lived through were longer than others,
but regardless of the time spent there,
I can see the way God reinvented me...
in each phase.

He is continually remaking and remolding us into His Own image.
Each phase of our lives prepares us for what is to come...
in the next.
We don't see that at the time.
We don't realize it as we live life day by day.
Sometimes, we feel stuck...
in a rut...
like every day of our future will drone on 
with day after day mundane monotony.

If only we wouldn't view life that way.
For the season of today will soon become yesterday.
And we will look back and wish we would have enjoyed it more.

Life is such a gift.
Such a treasure.
So precious.

While the hours turn into days,
the days into weeks, months, and years, 
God is continually working for our good.
He allows the good and the bad,
the sunshine and the rain,
the laughter and the pain....
all of it is part of His plan...
to propel us onward....
to make us better.

We are constantly learning....
hopefully, maturing....
both emotionally and spiritually.
There is something going on inside of us...
as we do life.
The moments that seem inconsequential
actually aren't.

As God began to present these thoughts to me...
as He took my mind on a backward journey...
over the course of my life so far,
I began to see exactly what He meant.
I went and found my notebook,
and I wrote a description of the six seasons...phases of life...
I've lived so far.

Reasons for bitter tears,
the purpose behind heartaches,
the necessity for times of brokenness,
the value of time spent waiting....
the answers were right there.

So many things became crystal clear to me.

Nothing was without reason.
Nothing in the life of a Christian ever is.

In retrospect, I know that I could never have stepped into phase 6 of my life,
had I not been tested severely and proven what I was made of in season 5.
I could not have survived phase 5, had I not learned valuable life lessons in phase 4.
I would not have been able to succeed in phase 4, if I hadn't received the training I did in phases 1-3.
I wouldn't have walked so fearlessly into phase 3,
without watching God see me through phases 1 & 2.

You get the picture.

Now, it is today.
I am not the person I was when I started out.
God has reinvented who I am more than once.
Undoubtedly, He is in the process of reinventing me now.
Each time, He has made me stronger...
more capable....
and more dependent upon Him.

He does that in all of our lives.
We can fight it,
we can buck against His plan,
we can resist with all our might....
but He loves us too much to leave us where we are.

"What we are to be, we are now becoming",
says the old quote.
So true.

There is more for us.
There is more to be done.
So, He prepares us...
remakes us...
into what He needs us to be.

Life is like building blocks.
We can view the blocks as inconveniences,
obstacles that make us stumble,
or we can see them for what they really are....
learning experiences and lessons to prepare us for what comes next.

I love the second verse of the song, "Bright Anticipation"
written by B.E. Warren.
"When I look o'er the past, I behold,
How His wide arms of mercy held me; 
Oh, His sweet love and peace are untold,
In His favor, I'm happy and free."

This is my testimony.
Through all of the phases I have lived so far,
God's wide arms of mercy have held me.
His everlasting arms have sustained me...
kept my head above the water...
and given me the grace to keep swimming...
even when the going was all upstream.

It blesses me to look back and see God's hand at work.
Things I didn't understand at the time,
now make perfect sense.
I love seeing how
He transitions us from one phase of our lives to the next.
How He propels us forward, ever so gently.
And how He reinvents us into the person He wants us to be...

The past is over and done with.
There isn't one thing we can go back and undo...
or change.
The door to its passageway is forever closed.
Yesterday is gone.
So, it does us no good to try to linger there...
or to stay held captive in a place we will never be again.

We are here today.
In this current phase of life.
Thank God for now.
For this moment.
To be who He wants us to be.
To fulfill His plan...
for this moment.

If you are in an uncomfortable phase of life,
take courage, my friend.
You won't stay there forever.

It didn't come to stay...
it came to pass.

God is working on you and shaping you
in preparation for what is coming next.

Maybe you've been here a long time,
and the waiting-for-the-next-phase is becoming hard to bear.
Remember, God doesn't measure days and hours like we do.
He isn't in a we are.
He knows that to move us to the next phase...
before we are ready...
would spell disaster for us.
So, He takes His time.
He works at His pace.
He uses His timetable....
not ours.

He will not be hurried....
just because we are tired of waiting.

He ultimately knows what is best...
in each of our lives and situations.
And He will work accordingly.

I'm glad God waited until I was 34 years old to send Zachary to us.
I had done a lot of living...
before I ever became a mother.

I used to wonder.
I really thought God was being unfair...
by not sending the baby we so longed for.
"Why, Lord?", I often asked.
He saw me squirm..
and complain...
and question.

But, it wasn't His time.
He knew when I would be best suited for motherhood.
He knew when Kevin and I would need Zachary the most.

Hindsight reveals that God's timing couldn't have been more perfect.
But, I couldn't see it at the time.
God was reinventing me...
as a person...
to become a mother.
As He has done
in so many other areas of my life.

I think a huge part of parenting is simply passing on to our children
the wisdom we have acquired through living our own lives.
I love it when I am able to prevent a mishap in Zachary's life...
simply because I relate a blunder I have made in my own.
It blesses me to be able to tell him about my own mistakes.
This way, hopefully, he won't make the same ones, 
and I can thankfully spare him at least that heartache.

I am glad God let me live life
in order to share with him the nuggets of wisdom I have been taught first-hand...
and am still learning every day....
as a lifetime student in life's school of hard knocks.

I pray Zachary will take those invaluable lessons
and use them as tools of direction in his own life.

He is watching us now,
as we live through the phases.
He is an apt student.
He doesn't miss much.

God help us to be faithful...
to be good parents....
to teach him Your ways...
through the way we live.
Being a part of his growing-up process...
the miracle of it....
is one of the dearest and most precious gifts I have ever been given.

What a blessing to look back
and trace God's reinventing hand....
how He has moved me from one level of faith to another,
from one branch of service to another,
from one role of life to another...
with such gentle, smooth motions.

And what a double blessing to see Him doing that in the life of our child.

Where are you today?
Not geographically, but chronologically?

I hope you are happy.
I hope you have found contentment.
I hope you know that you are loved...
and appreciated....
and important.

I hope there is someone in your life who tells you those things.
I hope someone lets you know how special you are...often.

And whether you are in a good phase,
or a more difficult one...
I trust you feel God's love...
surrounding you...
comforting you...
letting you know that...
you are being reinvented...
into the person He wants you to be...
in the next phase.

That no matter what the season,
no matter what the outward conditions,
He is performing a work inside of you...
to make you better....
and more equipped.

As the leaves fall,
the temperatures drop,
and the skies become more gray,
I hope your heart...and filled with peace.

Sorghum Pumpkin Pie Recipe

3 eggs
3/4 cup sorghum
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
2 frozen pie shells
(Or if you are extra-industrious, you can make your own!)

Thaw pie shells and prick with fork to maintain crispness.
Beat eggs slightly.
Add sorghum, spices, salt, and pumpkin.
Mix well.
Add evaporated milk.
Pour mixture into 2 thawed pie shells.
Bake at 325 degrees for one hour, or until knife blade comes out clean.
Cool thoroughly before serving.
Serve with Cool Whip on top,
alongside an ice-cold glass of milk or a steaming cup of your favorite hot beverage!

Take a deep breath of the crisp fall air,
look around at all of your blessings,
bow your head...and heart...
 to Him from Whom all blessings flow,
cherish the moment....
and enjoy!