I remember many conversations with my mom about getting an education to get a job to provide better financial security. She always wanted a degree but she encouraged dad, who ended up with a Master's degree after having to quit school at age 14 when his dad died - and us kids to pursue education, 4 of us 5 kids have degrees -2 with Masters degrees. I think my mom is one of the most intelligent women alive. She graduated with honors from the school of hard-knocks - after raising 5 children. She has wisdom and I know she has shared that wisdom because I often find myself quoting her. I believe the sign of a good leader is to have followers and my mom is a great leader.
My mom taught me to think. It is one of the greatest gifts she imparted on me. I am sure this happens in many households, I would misplace something, usually my shoes, and I would ask, "Mom, have you seen my shoes?" You would think I would have learned early on to not ask because every time I did ask she would say, "Barbara, THINK! Where did you last take them off?" I would stop, think, and mentally retrace my steps and almost every time I would remember. Sounds like a simple example - but to this day, I use that bit of logic nearly every day.
Now that my children are grown and my "daily parenting task" is behind me - I am able to look back and see the joy in the midst of the hard days. Many times I felt like the mean parent. Dads usually do not get the tough task of being the minute-by-minute disciplinarian. Think about it - we wake them - and get the scorn for it, we tell them to put their empty bowl in the sink - without arguing about it, to pick up their dirty clothes, to put away their clean clothes, to help clear the table and wash the dishes, to do their homework, to turn off the TV to get that homework done, to mow the lawn, to get their shoes out of the middle of the floor, etc... It is so difficult to get the "Mom" whine or the eye roll ... And we wonder if they will ever love us at the end of their teen years. Those teen years made the baby-toddler years look easy.
So, how do we survive their child-rearing years? How do we transition to the empty nesting years? And how do we be the godly woman that Proverbs 31 describes?
I think there are a few points that really jump off the page for me.
V. 11-12 Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
Trust is a noble character trait. Good relationships are built on trust.
Are you trustworthy? Have you built good relationships?
Mom would always tell me, "Barbara, to have good friends, you need to be a good friend." The same goes for being a wife and mom. To have good relationships - you need to be trustworthy with your family. Don't talk negative about your husband and children in public. Build them up and believe the best in them.
I worked for a lawyer several years ago. There was a gal there who bad-mouthed her husband every day. I was newly married and pregnant for Kate. I could not stand to hear her bash him. I determined then I would not humiliate Jim in public by speaking ill of him. After all, it can be a two-way street and I would not want him speaking poorly of me. Keep the trust – believe in your family. Let your family feel safe in your home because you have made it a haven built on trust.
V. 17-18 She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
Jim often tells me, and lots of other people, that I cannot retire because my 'honey-do' list will be too long and I will focus all my energy on him! I love to keep busy - but I also need rest. Sometimes I go, go, go and then find my body demands I slow down. But I am not sure this is what this verse is talking about. I think her having energy - being strong and a hard worker means she is always there to care for her family. Moms have to be strong. We start out carrying our little baby for up to 9 months while they grow inside. We need that time to start developing a sense of how we will care for this little one. We learn to love them because they are with us every second of every day. They feel our heartbeat, they hear our voice, they sense our distress and our excitement. Our "labor" of love in birthing them proves we are ready to be a hard worker because the real work begins and we are busy 24/7 for the next 18-20 years of their life. We definitely burn our lamps late into the night willingly because there is no greater unconditional love we have ever experienced. That love is our driving force to be a hard worker for our family.
V. 20 She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
My dad felt called into ministry in his late 20's. He was convinced there was no way he could take 4 children and his wife and go to college. My mom not only encouraged him, she nearly became a single parent as dad went to school full-time and worked full-time driving a truck. Shortly after dad started pastoring, they had their 5th child and mom was an at-home mom. We didn't have much. I clearly remember the time it hit me that we were fairly poor and I asked mom and dad about it. Dad looked at me and said, "Honey, we do not have a lot of money, but we are not poor. Poor is a mentality." From that day on, they helped me to see how we could help people in need even if we didn't have a lot of money.
The winter storm in 1978 that knocked out power in our town 2 hours north of here flooded our home and left us freezing. Mom and dad went to work helping their church family. They moved our pop-up camper into the garage and turned on the heater. Dad went from home to home checking on our elderly. He came home with an elderly couple in their 80's. He carried them out of their house, drove the treacherous 10 miles to our home and carried them into the camper. I watched mom and dad extend a helping hand. Mom somehow made meals and lovingly provided the help they needed. And they slept in our cold house as this elderly couple and my brother, Doug, and I slept in the camper - staying somewhat warm.
They taught me by example how to care for those in need. Our family needs to see us giving and caring for people. We teach by example - by action - not simply by our words. After all, actions speak louder than words.
V. 26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
I know that right now many of moms will agree that we have not always spoken with kindness - but we cannot confuse teaching our children right from wrong with loving them and praying for their best everyday.
Another word of wisdom from my mom, "Barbara, be nice! You will catch more friends with honey than vinegar." Oh the thousands of times I wanted to scream at people - but I heard my mom's voice and I would clamp my mouth shut and say nothing. There were times when I spoke and defended my children or husband, if necessary, but often I would simply hear my mom. On those times I spoke improperly, I realized how foolish I was and I would find I had to apologize and make amends.
Oh, I am human - you are human. We mom's will make mistakes but we must continue to do our best to speak with kindness and use wisdom while giving guidance to our families. Allowing our families hear us admit we have made a mistake does not make us weak - it shows strength of character. It shows wisdom.
V 28-29 Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”
Oh, how we all hope for this praise to be spoken by our family and many times we feel like we fall short or that we have not done enough to earn their praise. The tears we moms spill down our cheeks every week could replenish our lakes in Michigan. I remember telling Jim I just prayed I would have a relationship with our kids as they got older. I was afraid they would only remember every mistake I made. Oh, you can be sure they still laugh at me about my many failures - but usually I know they laugh because they know that I know - they love me - with all my faults.
We can know, as moms, that we have done our very best and as I have shared about my mom and her wisdom, someday our kids will share about us. I think it comes with age...it is a trait that like fine wine...it has to age to experience the richness. Moms - cannot be too hard on themselves in the midst of the growing time. These cloudy and rainy days can really get us down but those bright sunny days help us grow and bloom. And those of us who are currently past the daily parenting stage - we have a responsibility to impart wisdom and kindness to those currently in the 24/7 stage of parenting. Don't give up praying and dreaming for your children. God has a plan for every one of your children to know Him and spend eternity in Heaven.
That ladies, is our biggest responsibility - to teach our children about Jesus - Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so."
See - your real responsibility is to share with your children so they can learn to trust in Jesus.
Are you teaching your children, grand-children, great-grandchildren this simple truth? I believe this Proverbs 31 woman was praised because she imparted this wisdom on her family. It is the legacy my mom gave me and the one I most want to be remembered for when I am gone from this world. For nothing else matters as much to me, except eternity!