Actively Caring

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:20)

Pick up any magazine or newspaper and you’d likely find a story of some celebrity helping out others less fortunate. Whether it’s Oprah giving away– well, anything you can think of, or Brad Pitt helping rebuild New Orleans (is he still doing that?), or Michael J. Fox and his involvement in Parkinson’s research, the rich and famous are famous for sharing their riches. The thing is, after sharing (and sharing generously), they are still rich.

This verse speaks of actively helping out others. Not just offering, but finding ways to get the help to those who need it. Kind of like the difference between having a food bank, or going and dropping off boxes on someone’s doorstep. As Christians, we are to help others. Scripture mandates it. We are to share with other Christians, opening our homes and resources to those who have need. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (Acts 4:32) and As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10). We are to be a Light, a Beacon, to a weary and lost world, and meeting needs can speak volumes to a hungry soul. We are not saved by our good works, but we are known by our love. James 2 explains how faith without works is dead, and Ephesians 2 tells us why works alone cannot save: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

It’s good for those who have to share with those who have not. But the Bible tells us it’s a special thing for one who has not to share with those who have even less. Luke 21:2-4 describes a poor woman giving all. 1 Kings 17 tells of a poor woman in desperate times, who was called on to share what little she had with the prophet Elijah and was blessed because of it.

Our Proverbs 31 Woman actively sought to help and bless others. We’ve seen already that she was an incredibly busy woman, but that didn’t stop her from reaching out. May we not use the excuse that we are too busy when we see a need. May we not use the excuse that we’ll be left wanting if we give to someone with less. The “Proverbs 32” woman is too busy, too poor, too self-absorbed. Lord, help me to not be her.

 

Busy hands, happy heart

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. (Proverbs 31:19)

I have a friend who is a truly artsy-fartsy type. She amazes me, really, with the stuff she can do. The first time I was at her house, she showed me her quilts. LOTS of them. On beds. In closets. On shelves. In bins. Quilts finished, and quilts in various stages of life. She showed me her plants: flower gardens (old-fashioned, belonging very much to another time– not a pristine manicured affair for sure), houseplants (“Take this piece home with you– you can’t kill it.” I did). She makes jewellery, and sells buttons (Yes, buttons. Vintage, mostly. On etsy.com, and had buyers!). And she makes soap. The kind that would really confuse a kid should you ever try to wash their mouth out with it– chocolate, bubblegum, vanilla, coffee, you name it, I think she’s made it. She has used a spindle, and spun yarn. And yes, she’s even a homeschooler. This summer her family is serving at a NCEM Bible camp. She makes me tired. And makes me look really bad. I don’t have half her ambition or gumption. Good thing I’m not compared to my friend in God’s eyes, eh?

But the thing is– I think this verse doesn’t neccessarily mandates what we are supposed to do, but points to the “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord” concept. There is a measure of accomplishment in working with your own hands. I like seeing a loaf of bread that I made, or a dress I sewed. Not everyone is able to do these things, but those who do generally find satisfaction in it– even if the results stink.

Today is a day to find things for my hands to do, whether I weed my garden, or feed the chickens; whether finish those pajama pants, or cuddle a toddler. Maybe the trick is just to concentrate on serving others, and my hands will be busy.

Second-guessing our best

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. (Proverbs 31:18)

How many times do we second-guess ourselves? Even when we’re pretty sure that the dress we’re making is turning out nice, or the meal smells really good, or that story is well-written. I’m not talking about being the kind of person who constantly needs approval, but of doubting our own abilities– even in something we’ve done well, maybe even successfully, more than a few times.

I love to write. Right now, that means blogging (mainly because it’s short pieces and I’m short on writing opportunities), but I’ve written a lot of poetry, and parts of stories. I have 3 or 4 novels floating around my head just begging to be written. But I doubt my abilities, even though I’ve been praised for my writing (for the record, I feel very uncomfortable having anyone read my stuff– except for blog posts). So, I tend to second-guess myself.

I think maybe that’s where the “candle not going out at night” part comes in. The Proverbs 31 woman knows her merchandise– the stuff she makes to sell– is good. And she works at it late at night to get it done. She knows it’s good enough– and worth enough– to push through late hours to finish (also for the record– I sew, and do a fairly passable job, but make way too many mistakes if I try to do it at night when I am tired).

There’s this common notion that Canadians are rather self-depreciating. We seem to have an overdeveloped sense of modesty, and tend to downplay any praise. But, we do have a sense of quiet pride in those things we, as a nation, do well. We are known nearly worldwide as being polite; we turn out awesome hockey players (although it seems they seldom play for the Leafs); we’re known more for peacekeeping than for active battle (unless you go back to WW1 & 2, and ask people in Western Europe); Tim Horton’s coffee. A few years ago there was a beer commercial that, despite it advertising alcohol, hit the nail on the Canadian head. The spots were called “I Am Canadian” and they resonated with most of us. For once, it seemed, we were allowing ourselves to be openly proud of our nationality.

We need to acknowledge when our work as wives, mothers, is worth something. When we know we have something to be proud of, we need not be ashamed of it, or the work it took to produce it.

Just sayin’.

How strong is your girdle?

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. (Proverbs 31:17)

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7)

It’s no secret in my family that I’m not into physical fitness. I used to have a poster of Garfield, that lasagne-loving orange cat, that stated, “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy”… and I’m pretty fluffy. I’m certainly not as strong as my husband, or even my 16-year-old son, but I like to think I make up for it in stubborness. If furniture needs moving, I’ll do it. If tote boxes need lugging, I’ll do it. If wood needs to be stacked– well, I have kids who can do that. Ambition and stubborness only go so far.

I’m going to go beyond the obvious here, because although I know physical strength and endurance are important, I don’t model it. My sister-in-law runs, and is totally into increasing her endurance. She’s even started taking her muppet-like giant dog with her (he’s awesome, by the way– a goldendoodle that really does run like Barkley on “Sesame Street”). Personally, I see running as something you do when your toddler is heading into the street, or when you are trying to get away from an attacker. Torture, associated with danger. But I digress.

I’m thinking of that strength and endurance that women have had to have since… well, pretty much since Eve. It’s the strength of character (which she sorta flopped on, and we see where that got her), the strength of will, and the power of an enduring spirit. There are examples all through the Bible of women who hung in there, who did what had to be done, who rose to the occasion when there was the need. They did it because they had to– for themselves, their families, and for God. They had babies, uprooted their lives, had their hearts broken. And they rolled up their sleeves, dug in, and did what had to done anyway.

My grandmother exemplified this for me. As far as I know, she was unsaved, and she allowed bitterness to creep in over the rough life she lived. But as far as the doing-what-has-to-be-done ethic– she nailed it. She was raised in a large family in a Newfoundland fishing village, and grew up around women who were often called on to be, well, everything. The men were out on the boats, and the women took care of things at home. It didn’t matter if they didn’t feel like it, or if they were pms’ing, or if tragedy struck (which it often did). They took care of business because they had to. When my grandmother married and moved to Nova Scotia, she had a similar life there, too. Her husband and older sons were out on the boats- this time, for Imperial Oil- and she was home being mother, father, chief cook, and bottle-washer. She took care of everything, and found it very hard to readjust during the times my grandfather was home. Which brings me to another related point.

We need to have it in us to do it all when we need to, and the spirit to push through when tragedy strikes, but we also need to remember that we were created to be a helper. The KJV terms it a “help meet” which simply means a suitable helper. We weren’t made to do it all, and it’s not healthy to do it all for any length of time. We will eventually burn out, and turn out like my grandmother– bitter, controlling, and resentful. Just like physical strength and endurance, we only have so much. But, we have it within us. Are we willing to use it, or do we wilt under pressure? Or, can we only use it with artificial courage? If it takes medication or alcohol, it doesn’t count (and please understand, I’m not lumping clinical depression or other mental illnesses and their respective treatments in here).

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

But what if you just can’t find that strength? What if you’re in that place of your mind where life just seems like oatmeal porridge, but black…? How can you become strong?

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7,8)

Help is available, from One who knows our needs before we even have them. Just look at what our God can do:

For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. (Isaiah 25:4)

Now that needs to go on my fridge.

I posted this on one of my other blogs. Thought it might be an encouragement to someone.

The Titus Two Project

When I was 17, I considered having an abortion.

I wasn’t so much scared of being pregnant as prideful of the reputation I feared I’d lost. I’d had my “first time” and didn’t want the world to know. I “wasn’t THAT kind of girl”. I told no one, except one quiet friend, what I suspected. And I knew her heart ached for me.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a decision I would have to make. I wasn’t pregnant, and I would be able to muddle my way through my senior year with other crises to deal with.

The young man in question learned later of my suspicions, and I remember him taking my hand and squeezing it, and asking me, why had I not told him at the time? He looked like the wind was knocked out of him, and he told me gently, painfully (with his voice breaking…

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A glimpse of the journey

So many times, when you see a study on Proverbs 31, the focus seems to be on what the Proverbs 31 woman does. She’s into real estate, she sews, she cooks, she’s a great organizer… all great skills or activities, but the more I’m studying this, and looking underneath the surface, the more I’m seeing that that’s not what it’s about at all.

It’s about strength of character and attitudes that build others up. These things are not time-and-place-specific. They cross over cultures, countries, and centuries. It doesn’t make any difference who you are, or what station in life. These are what matter. These are what will make your husband and children arise and call you blessed. If they don’t, or if you have neither, you have a Lord who will one day tell you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And really, that’s better.

I still have a long way to go. Boy, do I ever have a long way to go. But if each verse is like a street sign, at least I have a glimpse now of the direction this journey is taking.

Procrasti-gardening

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. (Proverbs 31:16)

Wow, that Proverbs 31 woman is a real go-getter! Not only is she industrious, and generous, and full of virtue as we’ve already seen, but the woman has foresight and ambition, too.

From what I’ve read about Bible times, it seems that a woman buying property would not have been exactly commonplace. It really says a lot about her standing in the community that she would have been involved in real estate at all. So, here is a woman who is bucking tradition, sort of, in a way that is still godly, and honouring, and respectful. After all, it says elsewhere in this chapter that her husband, who is apparently respected locally, thinks very highly of her. The overall tone of Proverbs 31 is one of reverence and admiration for pretty much everything this woman does.

So. She has checked out this piece of property and, seeing that it was suitable, went ahead and bought it. Then what? She planted a vinyard. It says “with the fruit of her hands” she planted it. I want to look this up, because I’m not sure if that means she got her children to help plant, or if she did it herself, but either way, I’m pretty sure she didn’t hire the job out to labourers, or farm hands. She took responsibility for getting it done. She didn’t wait around for her husband to do it– which when it comes to gardening, that’s sort of what I wind up doing. I might plan what I want in the garden, but I tend to wait for my husband to get out there and then say something like, “Oh, I was planning on doing that…!” Yeah… mmhmm…

As a ‘Proverbs 32’ type woman, I have been rebuked. I procrastinate, and hope someone else will do the job (even if it’s a subconscious thing). I might like to plan, but I’m terrible at following through with things. How about you?