Have you ever had a momentary lapse in which you temporarily tune out of existence to reflect on a memory from the past? This just happened to me, earlier this week.
It was a beautiful Autumn afternoon. After running a few quick errands, I decided to check out this quilting and fabric store, located in a nearby historic town.
After my brief visit, I strolled in and out of a few other charming shops. I took my time to savor the intimate delights that I normally wouldn’t pay much attention to…the sound of the bells on the door and the creeks in the hardwood floors, the smell of pumpkin candles, and the traditional vintage ornamentation that I hope to replicate at The House on High Street, once it’s renovated.
Fortunately, I have grown quite accustomed to window-shopping these days, as Scott and I are currently living off of one salary. And yet, as I tiptoed around the delicate and pricey displays from one shop to the next I felt overwhelmingly grateful.
I reflected on where I was a year ago, and how we could have easily afforded most of the items that caught my eye. And yet, on this particular afternoon, I experienced a feeling of contentment that was unfamiliarly pleasant to me. A feeling I wouldn’t have traded for anything else in the world.
As I pulled away from the metered spot alongside the pretty tree-lined curb, I whispered a silent prayer, “Thank you, God, for all that I have…and for all that I don’t have.”
A year ago, I was in the perfect position for God to bestow something extremely significant that would in turn, change my priorities and perspective of life. I was dealing with the Epstein Barr Virus, amongst other debilitating health issues, that were eating away at my physical strength and monopolizing my day-to-day routine. Reading was the one thing that I was able to do successfully during this time, and so I read a lot! I read novels, historical fictions, inspirational stories, and a little from the Bible, each day. This was like food for my soul and healing in my bones.
One morning, I came across Proverbs 31 verses 10-31 which describe a virtuous and capable wife. I was already somewhat familiar with this chapter; as the book of Proverbs in general was so helpful to me when I was working in a leadership capacity. Anyway, after reading it on this particular morning, I felt a bit intimidated by this so-called virtuous and capable woman.
There was very little in this description that I could relate to. Not to mention, who is to say that Solomon, son of King David, who apparently was referenced as the “wisest man who had ever lived” really knew the true definition of a virtuous and capable woman? From what I understand, Solomon had several wives. Clearly, he must have been setting the bar a little too high.
Yet, as much as I attempted to discount Solomon’s portrayal, I knew in my heart that this depiction was God-inspired. Therefore, I felt compelled to search for the meaning behind it all. In spite of my dissimilarity of this disgustingly perfect super woman, wife, and mother, I found myself attempting to justify that I couldn’t fit this description even if I tried.
Please allow me to break down these verses bit by bit, followed by my personal and honest response, at that time.
10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. 11 Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. 12 She will not hinder him but help him all her life.
“Hmmm, I am certainly no Wife of the Year. I can barely get out of bed. My body is too sick to conceive my husband’s children. So, I don’t believe that I am greatly enriching his life these days…”
13 She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. 14 She is like a merchant’s ship, she brings her food from afar. 15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
“Gets up before dawn? I can’t even get out of bed without my husband bringing me coffee. I don’t even have a job or the energy right now to plan a day’s work.”
16 She goes out to inspect a field and buys it, with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
“She plants a vineyard? Must be nice to have such an opportunity.”
17 She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
“Hmmm. Not feeling energetic or strong these days.”
18 She watches for bargains, her lights burn late into the night.
“I can barely stay awake after dark. But, I do try to watch out for bargains.”
19 Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.
“Okay, God… Give me the skills and the energy and the time to sew and make bread, then I’ll make quilts and pizza for everyone I know! I believe You’ve given me a heart and some talent in the domestic department.”
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
“Oh, Lord… You have given me a compassionate heart. This I know. And, you are pleased with my generosity, right? I just don’t have any income to donate right now, and not much energy to do anything charitable. I mean, what kind of charity would be willing to revolve around my irregular health patterns? I suppose I could make an attempt to look for something.”
21 She has no fear of winter for her household because all of them have warm clothes. 22 She quilts her own bedspreads. She dresses like royalty in gowns of finest cloth.
“Household? I have no children, remember? I don’t even own a house. I am a career woman, and if you can heal me and get me back where I belong I can buy quilts and dresses!
23 Her husband is well known, for he sits in the council meeting with the other civic leaders.
“Well, my husband is on the board for Habitat for Humanity. Does that suffice? Perhaps one of us is meeting the description here. But is that all you’ve got in the virtuous husband criterion? Really?”
24 She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.
“There goes that sewing reference again. These verses are clearly irrelevant to the times I am living in!”
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future.
“I don’t feel strong. I am not even liking myself in this condition. I am too tired to even anticipate a future let alone laugh at it.”
26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions.
“I do my best to be kind to others. And, I’m wiser now than I was in my 20s. I admit there are times when I forget to wear my verbal filter. I suppose I can work on that.”
27 She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness.
“Once again… I do not have a household! But at least I’ve never been considered lazy… so, that’s good, right?”
28 Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her.
“Have you forgotten me, Lord? I guess these verses do not apply to me after all.
29 There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all! 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. 31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Verse 30 really struck a chord. I had to think for a minute. I understood that God does not want us to fear Him in the sense that we have anxiety. Rather, this type of fear means respect and reverence. I found myself humbled upon reading and really meditating (for the first time) on these verses.
As it turned out, my heart was longing to be this woman.
And I knew that I needed to make some changes.
Shortly after, I created a list of things that I could do in order to fulfill God’s description of a virtuous woman. I figured if this was in God’s Word then I wanted to at least make an effort to see if (with God’s help) I could meet this description.
The first thing on my list was extending myself to the needy.
One day I called a women’s shelter that was nearby, offering to make prepared meals from time to time. I mentioned that I had sporadic bouts of energy and unpredictable good days, figuring they would reject my volunteerism. But surprisingly, they welcomed me whenever and however I was able to help.
I visited the shelter whenever I was able to bring food. My heart changed dramatically upon seeing these women who were so grateful to have a place to congregate, to rest, to eat, to wash their hair and their clothes. It turned out to be the most valuable opportunity for my faith to grow. My heart swelled every time I was around this group of women, and I found myself discovering contentment in my own circumstances and trusting in God to intervene in His timing and in His way.
You would think I was at the beginning of my recovery, but of course my humanness interfered…
A few weeks later, I stubbornly retreated to my old ways. I began thinking that I needed to use the time out of work productively to move forward with the application process in earning a PhD. The first step of the process was to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
As it turned out, the test date fell on a day when I was not feeling well. Halfway through the exam, my mind began to cloud and my body felt weak. I was growing anxious. I took my headset off and began rubbing my temples. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer, “Lord, can you please help me get through this test so I can get back to my career! I mean, sure, I would love to have a home and a household with land for a garden or a vineyard or whatever! Mouths to feed, and the time and the skills to make my own quilts and bedspreads! Are you listening, God?! Of course I would want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman!”
Do you want to know the single word that I heard God reply with?
I tried to convince myself that there was no way God could intervene or change my future for the better. I needed to maintain control and get through the exam so I could get back to the real world.
I somehow got through the last few sections of the test and drove towards home. Tears began to flow down my cheeks. I realized that it was time for me to stop trying so hard to be my own version of a virtuous woman. It was time to trust that God would fulfill His purpose in me, in His time, and in His way.
“Okay, God. I’ll stop trying. Help me to have the faith to allow your plans for me to unfold.”
Well, shortly after this, things starting coming together. By God’s miraculous grace, in spite of my physical limitations, I started bringing my husband coffee in bed!
Upon receiving my GRE test results, I celebrated. They were awful! But, I didn’t care.
Months later, Scott and I ended up selling our overpriced condo at the beach and bought The House on High Street for a fraction of the cost. A house with plenty of rooms to be a family household and enough land for a vineyard. I am trusting God to provide a household in His timing and in His way. I will plant my garden and whatever else can grow on that land!
My parents bought me a sewing machine this past birthday (the kind that makes quilts and linen garments). So, now you can figure out why I was feeling nostalgia after visiting that quilt store earlier this week…reflecting on my cynical days just a year ago.
These days, my health may be far from perfect. But I have the time to sew, turn our house into a home, and spend time with the needy. I feel richer now than I ever was.
God provided for me and He will provide for you, too.
Friends, do NOT give up hope. Do not surrender the desires of your heart, for God placed them there! Do not get lost in your circumstances. Are you starting to feel discouraged? If so, get out there and help someone less fortunate than you. It is merely impossible to stay in a position of doubt. Challenge your faith and trust in God’s promises. If I can do this, you can do this.
Let us choose to trust in God’s provisions and His timing…as He faithfully fulfills the desires of our hearts while maturing us into virtuous and capable women.