Monday, February 27, 2017

The Other (proverbs thirty-one) Woman

Lurking in the shadows cast by the spotlight illuminating the perfect wife and mother I tried to cross-stitch into a wall hanging over twenty years ago lives the other woman.

Our family affectionately refers to this woman as the "Proverbs 32" woman.

I am the other woman.

I do realize the mother instructing her son (in this case, the wise King Solomon) in Proverbs 31 was merely summarizing the general idea of a noble wife and mother, and there was no way she expected her son to find a mere mortal who could fit the bill in every single category every single day. But when you are an over-achieving perfectionist like me, you tend to read this beautiful description of the ideal and then proceed to beat yourself up with your otherwise useless cross-stitching hoops.

See, I am not a quilter, a SAHM, a chef, or an entrepreneur. These things are wonderful, but I am not them. Nor am I a trailblazer or a visionary. I am just an overtired legal assistant with a posse of kids and a messy house. How can I measure up?

Below are just a few of the portions I struggle with: 

She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.

Does Super Wal-Mart count? Since I usually go to Aldi, shopping at Super Wal-Mart gets me excited over brand-name cereals and a produce section where they mist their vegetables. And don't even get me started on the free samples.

She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

I'm sorry, but I do not get up before dawn except for those very rare occasions when I have a plane to catch, and then I sleep in my travel clothes the night before so I can pull back my hair, grab some coffee, and make it to the airport just in time for the pre-flight safety checks. My eyes do not even open all the way until I get inside the airport with its lights cranked up to a brilliance rivaling the appearance of a comet.

If only I had a couple of those aforementioned servant girls . . .  

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.

Okay, now there is just no way to "get up before dawn" and also be "energetic and strong." No way. Not before Starbucks.

Waiter, I'll take what she's having, please.

Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.

I guess the fact that I couldn't even finish the cross-stitched wall hanging before getting bored to tears explains a lot about why I did not make it into Chapter 31. My sister-in-law ended up finishing that project for me, and her initials stitched above mine are an ever-present reminder of my handiwork shame.

She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.

She makes her own bedspreads?? Um, the last time I tried to make anything, it didn't exactly end as planned. Years ago, I got the wild and crazy idea to make bathrobes for my four daughters for Christmas. Believe it or not, they did actually turn out pretty well, if you didn't look too closely at the arms that were so long they would have been better suited for an adult male gorilla. 

She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Okay, I've got this part down pat. I watch over everything. EVERYTHING. I see every sock peeled off in the living room, every coat thrown over the dining room chair, and every dirty dish left in my kids' bedrooms. 

I have been accused of having the ability to SMELL dust. (To this I say, how can you NOT smell dust when it gets so thick your husband asks if you bought a new table runner?)

But my favorite part of all is towards the end. This part resonates with me on a deep and personal level, and it ties the entire chapter up into a pretty package tied up with a ribbon and says, "Here, take this. This is for you."

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the lord will be greatly praised.

See why I love this? At the end of the day, all that really matters is whether or not my priorities are straight and my heart is right. If I've got that down, then I am measuring up perfectly to the ideal of who I was uniquely created to be. All I have to do is trust God knew exactly what he was doing when he created me and gave me my unique family and my specific talents (or lack thereof).

Then I can step out of the shadows and into the spotlight of Chapter 31.

And my husband and children shall call me blessed.

Flaws, shortcomings, and all.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Valentine's Day was just a few days ago. (If you did not realize this, and the strained silence of your spouse has not yet clued you in to this fact, then hurry; there may still be a few leftover boxes of chocolate hearts on the shelves beside the Reese's peanut butter cup eggs and yellow Peeps chicks.)

Personally, I am never really prepared for Valentine's Day. I usually find myself sifting through the picked-over Russell Stover selections the Saturday before the Big Day and remembering to sign my cards to my husband and kids the night before.

After I've already gone to bed.

And dug them out of the closet . . . from behind a pile of shoe boxes.

Take this year, for instance. I finally remembered to sign my cards so late into the night that my messages became less prolific with each card I wrote. My youngest son's card ended up reading, "I love you more than chocolate."

Hey, it's not Maya Angelou, but it's still a true statement.

Even though he didn't believe me.

My lack of foresight doesn't mean I don't love all the hype. I do love the hearts, flowers, cards, and candy. I love the chance to tell those I love how much they mean to me. But, really, what's love got to do with it?

Valentine's Day is nice, but it's not enough.

That kind of prepackaged love isn't enough to make me speak kindly to my husband even when I don't agree with him or to remain patient with my kids when they're pushing my buttons like a game of Whack-a-Mole. I need something more than that. I need a kind of love can't be bought for $9.99 and isn't replaced by Easter baskets before I've even had a chance to do my shopping.

I want the kind of love that keeps on loving even when the other person is grumpy, tired, unreasonable, rude, unfair, or negative. I want to love my husband and kids like that because I need them to love me like that, and I know I'm not always lovable. (I know. Hard to believe.)

That's the kind of love that sees you through. It lasts a lot longer than a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates, and it doesn't expand your waistline.

And it doesn't cost a thing.

Except maybe a little bit of pride.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

An Ode to Sleepless Nights, Lonely Days, and Unabashed Love and Devotion

I recently came across a blog encouraging young mothers to keep going, keep mothering, keep forging ahead. The article assured these young moms they would survive these times, that it would get easier, that their kids would turn out okay. I thought this was beautiful. Back when I was a young mom, I read everything I could get my hands on to try and figure out what I was supposed to do with the tiny, hairless people I had been charged with raising.

When you're a young mom, you need encouragement from other young moms who are in the thick of battle right alongside you. I am convinced that a good peer support network is vital to the emotional well-being of a sleep-deprived woman surrounded by tiny little dictators who wet their pants, refuse to eat, and jump out of their cribs (usually all in the same day).

Young moms also need encouragement from older moms who have made it to the other side and are living proof they will too. Older moms have lived through those baby/toddler days, and whether they had crank swings with hard plastic seats or lavish battery operated bassinets, they are a wealth of information. They have learned the tricks of the trade and know that both mom and baby are sturdier than previously imagined. These moms have learned that a few mistakes, a few skinned knees, and a few too many junk-food dinners will not destroy their child's chance at lifelong happiness.

But all the while, even on your worst days, your little ones still look at you like you are infallible. Like you are the embodiment of light and perfection. In fact, when they aren't throwing a tantrum in cookie aisle of Wal-Mart, they are probably patting your cheeks and saying, "You're so pretty, Mommy." And, as the blog I found correctly explained, this unabashed love and devotion can go a long way toward sustaining you throughout those sleepless nights and lonely days.

Then your kids get to grade school, and you get what I like to call a parenting reprieve. Sure, you still worry, but you have had a good night's sleep, so your worry is kept in perspective. And you're not concerned about every fever or sniffle, because you have nursed your child through many ailments by this point, and you know it really takes a lot to get them seriously sick. (Admit it, by now you've probably taken them over to the neighbor kid's house that time he was inflicted with chicken pox just to make sure their varicella vaccine was working.) You have long since exchanged the diaper bag for a cute purse (although it's probably the size of a piece of carry-on luggage), and when you drop them off at school, you just put the car in park and remind them not to slam the door. No more getting out of the car, going around to the other side, and leaning over the older children to unbuckle/untangle the baby's car seat.

But after grade school comes high school, and that's when things get interesting again. Sometimes you are reminded what those sleepless nights were like - not because a baby needs his diaper changed, but because you are worrying about your child spending the night at a new friend's house, or driving home from a late shift at a fast-food restaurant, or attending the first high school dance chauffeured by friends instead of parents. And it's at this stage we moms need encouraging all over again. Maybe more than ever. Because at this stage in the game, your child is no longer looking at you with that same unabashed love and devotion. Sure, he still loves you; but since it's no longer cool, he keeps it under wraps. And your rules are probably dumb and unfair, and you are most likely interrupting his favorite Netflix show, so could you please just shut the door on the way out of his room and call him when dinner's ready?

Now hang on here with me, moms. Don't give up hope. Deep in the trenches of the high school years, it can be incredibly easy to forget the toddler patting your cheeks and nearly impossible to imagine the adult who will one day become your closest friend. Maybe all you can see is the bedroom that looks like a bomb went off, the family car sporting several new dents in the fender, or the sighs and eye rolls every time missing homework assignments are mentioned.


This is just another stage, and it will most assuredly pass. Not only will you survive, but you will wind up with an incredibly amazing person that you helped develop who loves you more than anything and will always be there for you.

Even if he can't always come home for Christmas.