Frazzled by: Peggy

Like all parents, when the kids were young, we were BUSY! Gilbert worked a lot of overtime and I worked part-time, so life could get overwhelming at times. But it wasn’t until one of our son’s birthdays that I realized how frazzled I was.
We always tried to make the kids birthdays special, and would celebrate with the extended family with a birthday dinner. But we also would try to have a kid’s party for them. David was born in April, so it was a great time of year for a kid’s party. Boys like to run around outside, and we lived in a place with acres of ground. The plans were made for a Saturday afternoon party, and Jim was staying home from work that day to ride herd on the outside activities. I remember shopping for the party bags and decorations wondering: what do you put in party bags for 8 year old boys? Girls are easy: play make-up, stickers and all that glitters. But boys? As I was wandering through the dollar store, I came across a bin of little Swiss army knife-type thingies. I picked one out, and, upon close inspection, I found that as I opened this nifty little thing, each piece was actually a little tool. One stem was a little hammer, one a little screw driver, a little wrench but no knife or blade or anything. It all folded neatly into a compact piece with a chain to put on a belt or backpack or whatever. It was perfect! I couldn’t believe my good fortune, as I reached into the bin and counted out 15 for the party bags. I was set. Each bag would contain a little tool thingy, a hackie-sack ball, and all the sugar I could stuff in to send them on their way. I was also into cake decorating in those days, so I made a cake shaped like a football jersey, with a big number 8. I got streamers that said “Happy Birthday, eight year old”, and I blew up a lot of balloons, then cleverly took a magic marker and wrote an 8 all over each one before hanging them all over the house.

The party bags were filled, the house decorated, and everything set to go. Gilbert spent the morning outside mowing the grass, getting the baseball diamond ready, clearing the basketball court, and making everything ready for the posse of boys who were ready to descend for the festivities. I looked around the house, quite pleased at the way everything was just falling into place. My mother promised to be there about a half hour ahead of time to lend a hand, and all was ready when she arrived. I can still see her coming in the door. Now my mom was the coolest woman alive, but she was a chain smoker and always had one lit. She walked in, cigarette in hand, and looked around and surveyed the great job I did decorating. She looked at everything, the balloons, the streamers, the party bags, the cake. She took a long drag of her cigarette, looked at me, and said “ **expletive**, Peggy, why do you have an 8 all over everything? He’s not 8, he’s 7! This is his seventh birthday. What the **expletive** is wrong with you?”
Ummm… what? Seven?!?! You mean to tell me this kid is only seven? But he looks like an 8 year old, right? Oh, wait a minute-it was my nephew who was 8… Dear God, she was right. My son, the one I gave birth to, was turning 7, not 8. How could I make such a ridiculous mistake???? What was wrong with me?? Mom immediately went to work ripping down streamers, popping balloons with her ever lit cigarette and blowing up new ones, mumbling under her breath the whole time. I went to work on the cake, scraping off the 8 and making more icing so I could pipe a 7 onto the shirt. Somehow we got it all together as the boys arrived. They all had a blast, and I was very happy to hand them all their party bags as their parents came to pick them up.
My mother was still shaking her head as the last of the boys left. She said to me “You’re frazzled—go sit for a few minutes and I’ll start cleaning up”. Gilbert was still outside with David and my nephews, who were spending the night. I went into the living room, and sat down next to the open window, enjoying the smell of spring wafting through the window, listening to the sound of the boys outside playing. The sound of “ swoosh..THUNK!, swoosh…THUNK!” followed by the sound of boys saying “YEAH!” Wait a minute: “swoosh thunk”? What was that?? Gilbert was in the shed but must have heard the same thing I did. My mother came out of the back door at the same time. With curiosity/fear, we approached the boys from different directions. They were huddled around an old tree stump, and in their hands were the handy-dandy tool-thingies that were in the bags. Except they weren’t tool thingies. They were knife-thingies. Pen knives? Where did you get those? “Aunt Peggy/Mom: they were in the party bags!” WHAT!?!? “Yeah, Aunt Peggy—these are the coolest gifts ever! Our mom doesn’t let us play with knives at our house!” I guess there was only ONE tool-thingy in the bin at the dollar store—all the rest were pen knife- thingies. Yep. I sent 15 boys home from my house with weapons. Right about then, the phone rang, and I knew that I knew it would be a mom questioning my sanity. My husband started laughing uncontrollably. My mother took another long drag on her cigarette, looked at me with disbelief that I was her child, and shook her head. I went in to answer the phone and start calling the other moms to tell them to take away the party bags before their sons killed someone or started carving things into the coffee table. They all asked me the same question:   “ You mean you just reached into the bin and pulled them out without opening each one to be sure of what you were getting?” I wanted to scream at every one of them “That’s right, super Mom! This psycho mom only opened one—I didn’t open them all, so if you’re smart, you’ll get off the phone and hunt down your kid before he pokes his eye out!” Geez…  I didn’t say those things, I just apologized profusely and begged for forgiveness. They were all very gracious and no one called DYFS on me.
It was at the end of this long, long day that my mother’s words struck me. “You are frazzled”. Up until that point I didn’t realize how true that was. I was getting through every day, hoping for the best. I would wake every morning and pray for safety and protection for the family as I ran around packing their snack-lunches. But I never really took the time to pray that God would order my day or help me set His priorities. I realized on David’s first eighth birthday party day, that I needed to rest in Him a little more. I honestly had no idea how to do that. I was too busy.
Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Ps. 143:7&8
Knowing that something definitely had to change before the next kid’s birthday (she would be turning 3, right?) lest I mistakenly buy bazookas or something, I set about trying to spend some real quality time of meditation and reflection in the morning. It wasn’t easy to get my mind to settle down, but eventually, I overcame. I would read the Bible and pray. It was in those times that I learned that God was truly my friend. He was always there. In my happy times, He is there smiling with me. When I am overwhelmed, He is there to settle me. When I am sad or grieving, He is there with comfort. This, I can say, was the beginning of a true change in me as I learned that I could truly rely on God to be there, right where He said He would be (with me to the end of my days).
It is an on-going process, this resting in His presence. It is here that I find Him. He gets me. He understands that I sometimes have…let’s just say “unique” sense of humor. He helps me overcome the urge to cry and snort at weddings, and the urge to laugh and snort at funerals. He watches me fall, and then helps me get up. And I am not as frazzled. I am busy. I am exhausted. I am starting to feel my age. And He is here through it all. I’ve had people say to me that they don’t understand how I can talk about God as if He is my best friend. I say, how can you not? I get great comfort in my prayer time—my time of talking to the Lord. Sometimes the time I spend is short, sometimes longer; sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easy. I am ever-learning how to work with Him, rather than let circumstances dictate my life. Today, I challenge you to spend some time in the Savior’s presence and in His Word, and let Him teach you how to follow in His footsteps of purpose, passion and peace!
“Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:28,29 MSG)

Sojourn by Peggy

A few weeks ago I got laid off.  I’ve never had that happen to me before, and I honestly felt a little lost and somewhat fearful.  I’ve always felt that I’m in control of my life.  Ok, ok, so the family would say I am a “control freak”, but I disagree with that moniker.  Let’s just say that I am “obsessively organized” and leave it at that J.  Back to the point:  Anytime in my life if I have left a job, I have always known exactly what was next.  Not this time.  So, I found myself with lots of time on my hands to think, pray and reflect.  I thought that job would be my last job, and I just couldn’t figure out why it only lasted for two years.  The word “sojourn” kept rolling around in my mind.

To sojourn means  to stay for a time in a place; to stay temporarily; to stay for a time in a place not one’s own.   I guess I always thought of that in terms of one who is a nomad, a wanderer.   Someone with no plan.  I didn’t think this word fit me, but it has fit different situations.

It seems that there has always been a “sojourner” in my life.  As a very little girl my mother brought her father into our home at the end of his life.  I was very young and don’t remember much about it, but I do know that he left his 3 kids after their mother, his wife,  died, and he had no real contact with them.  He abandoned them, to be raised by their grandparents, during the Depression.  My mother was only 7 years old.   Her father contacted all of his adult children when he needed help at the end of his life.  According to my mother, her brother and sister were in no position to do anything for him, and my mother didn’t want to do anything for the man who made an already fragile childhood shatter into pieces.  My father was the one who told my mom that they needed to help him, or she would regret it all of her life and always wonder what would have happened had she helped.  So, begrudgingly, she gave in.  She told me that she never regretted it.  She still could never understand how any father could do what he did, but she knew when he died that she had made peace with it and had forgiven him as best she could.  By bringing him into our home for a few weeks, she watched her children interact with him, she got to know him a little, and she no longer carried unforgiveness for him around her neck like a millstone.

Years later, when my aunt had broken her leg and needed some help, my parents did not hesitate to bring her under our roof until she healed.   That’s the way it was.  So, naturally, when I became an adult and got married, Jim and I followed suit.  It seems that there are many times in our lives when someone has come to stay awhile.  A friend and her family who were in-between houses, that same aunt who later lost a part of her foot and most of her eyesight to diabetes and needed to come and stay for a few months, a brother who was in the service and would stay when he was on leave, a sister who stayed one summer while she was in college, friends of the kids—lots of friends of the kids.  Just people who needed a bed for awhile.  One young man and his baby, whose wife left him because she decided she didn’t want to be a wife or a mother.  College kids who needed a local place to stay during Christmas break, our own adult children and their families who needed a place for a spell, and the list goes on.  Some stayed for days, some for weeks, some for months and some even for years.  Sojourners, every one.

I remember at one point, when our youngest had gone off to college, I wanted to sell the house.  We were now empty nesters, and it didn’t make much sense for us to keep a house that was clearly built to shelter an entire family.  One day, as I was praying about that, I felt like God just said “no, you’re going to need this house”.    We didn’t sell it.  Had I known at that moment how many people would be “sojourning” here in the next few years, I would have sold it and moved to a one-bedroom something in a bad neighborhood with no parking!

It hasn’t always been easy, I’ll admit it.  There were times here and there that Jim and I would just find a corner somewhere and hunker down and just wonder what was wrong with us.  Why did we just give over our house to every one?  But then, we would look at whoever was staying at the time, and see a look of peace and contentment as they were watching television or something, and we knew:  we didn’t give them a house to stay in, but we created a home for them for a time.  No one ever took undue advantage of us, but showed us great respect.  It was hard for some of them at times.  But we all survived.  This was a place for them to stay a while before moving on to the next thing. And we all learned something from each other.  I could write several books on our experiences, some nice and some not so nice, but all times of learning.

I have come to realize that we are all sojourners in this experience we call life.  While part of our life  (Jim & I) role seems to have been the ones who provide the place for the sojourners, overall, we are also sojourners.  We are here in this world temporarily, passing through.  Jim likes to say we are created to be “vice-regents” for God, caretakers and administrators of this place called earth.  It’s what we do with our time here that is important.  Jim and I just always felt as though providing a place to stay was our reasonable service to mankind:  someone needed a bed, we had a bed, so we lent a bed.  Plain and simple.

We sojourn through each phase of our lives, our jobs, our families; taking up residence for a time in that phase, before moving on to the next.  It is up to us to treat the earth as if it is owned by someone else who has been kind enough to let us kick back and stay awhile.  Treat this life with kid gloves, as if we know that it is a gift given to us for a short time.   Enjoy life’s seasons, embrace the experience you are in right now, be ready to embark on the next journey.  Our time here on this earth is like a grain of sand on a beach, a dot on the timeline of eternity.

Solomon, the wisest and richest man to ever live, at the end of his life, summed it all up, how we should sojourn through this life:

Now all has been heard;  here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”     Ecc.12:13-14

COCOONS by Peggy

My husband laughs at me all the time because he says he has never seen anyone “cocoon” themselves the way I do when I lie down.  I am able to totally tuck myself in to my blankets like a baby that has been swaddled in theirs.

Until I was about nine, my father worked the middle shift ( 4pm til midnight), so he wasn’t there at bedtime most nights.  On the weekends, though, he would always be the one to tuck us in.  My sisters and I shared a room (that’s right; all 3 in one room, and it didn’t kill us!).  My younger sister and older sister shared a double bed, but I was on my own in a single bed next to theirs.  Daddy would come up and tell us a story (he was a GREAT story teller!), and then proceed to tuck us in.  Starting on the far side of the double bed, he would first tuck in the youngest, Tina, then the oldest, Marie.  Since my bed was right next to the door, I was the last.  I always loved being the last and actually felt that somehow I had special time with Daddy that the other two missed, even though he did the exact same thing to them, and I’m sure they felt equally as special.  He would make a big deal out of fluffing the pillow, arranging the blankets just so, and tuck it all around me nice and tight.  The last thing he would do was hold both of my little feet in his massive hand for a second, and give a quick rub to my head, and then the kiss on my head good night.  Finally, it was lights out.  I always felt loved and protected and safe.  He was a great dad!

As the years went on we moved to another house where we girls all had our own rooms. The tucking- in ritual went the way of all childhood rituals, and I just went to bed with a quick kiss goodnight.  I am, and was even then, a hopeless insomniac.  I would stay up until the wee hours reading or listening to music.  Even after the lights got turned off, there were many nights that I would just lie awake for a while before I could finally fall asleep.  By that time my Dad was very sick with emphysema, and he had a great deal of difficulty breathing. He only had the use of 13% of one lung, so even sucking in his deepest breath was little more than a whisper of air.  Every breath was painful and exhausting, even with an oxygen tank to aid him.  Lying down was particularly hard for him, making him feel as though he was drowning,  so he would stay awake sitting at the kitchen table until he literally just couldn’t stay awake anymore.  Finally ready to try to get some sleep, he would make the trek up the steps to bed.  I hated that because I would listen to him struggle up the steps, trying so hard to catch his breath, stopping a few times, before reaching the top to then make his way down the hall. It was agony listening to it, so I can only imagine how horrifying it was to experience it.  I would hear him stop off at my younger sister’s room for a minute to tuck her in, then work his way down the hall to his room.  My room was directly across the hall from his and my mother’s room, so I would be his last stop.  He would come in, and try to be quiet, lightly tuck the blanket around me, hold my feet, stroke my head and give me a quick peck on the head before leaving the room.  I would pretend I was asleep so I wouldn’t interrupt the ritual.  Being a teenager, there was a big part of me that rolled my eyes and wanted to say “Daa-ad!  I’m too old for this!”  But I never did.  Because there was a bigger part of me that was just a little girl, who, in the face of seeing her Daddy wasting away from that horrible life-sucking illness, took great comfort in feeling his hand on my feet, and being tucked into the cocoon as only he could prepare it.

I married Jim when I was 19, leaving the nest so painstakingly feathered by my parents. My hubby is a good man, and has been the perfect mate for me.  My father died when I was 20, a little more than a year after our wedding. I was pregnant with our first child, his first grandchild.  Although relieved that he was no longer suffering, my heart was broken.  My poor mother was so unbelievably stressed out at that time, and I found myself handling a bunch of little details for the funeral.  My brother and I had to rifle through boxes of mementos to find my parent’s marriage certificate, and Mom charged me with the task of getting together Dad’s clothes and getting them to the funeral director.  Mom was a little frantic when we (Mom, my sisters and I) went to the funeral home to make the arrangements, and she seemed to be obsessed that they make him look exactly as he did when he was alive.  In her grief, she was focused on making sure that Dad’s hair was combed correctly with the part on the right side—she kept saying that she just wouldn’t be able to stand it if she went to see him and he did not look like himself.  She made me promise to mention it again when I brought the clothes over to the funeral home. The funeral director was very patient when I told him yet again, and he said that focusing on a detail like that  was a normal reaction with someone overcome with grief, he saw this kind of thing all of the time, and would be sure that Daddy looked his very best.  The viewing was scheduled to take place a few days later in the evening before the funeral, and again for an hour before the funeral Mass the next morning.

The day of the viewing seemed to drag on, as family was gathering and trying to be “normal”, trying to not think about the evening ahead.  In the afternoon, the phone rang, and someone asked for me.  When I went to the phone, I was quite surprised to hear the funeral director. He said he did not want to speak to my mother because he did not want to upset her, but that there was a little problem, and could I come to the funeral home right away?  I got Jim, and we made up an excuse about going to the store for something, and drove the mile to the funeral home.  Here I was, just 20 years old, pregnant, and heading to a funeral home to be told God only knows what about my father’s funeral!  I had no idea what to expect.  I was so grateful Gilbert was with me (yes we have always called him “Gilbert” and not Jim)!  We went to the door, and the funeral director and his wife greeted us so warmly and comfortingly.  Jim said “ So, tell us what the problem is”, as he put his arm around my waist with one arm and grabbed my hand with the other.  Mrs. Funeral Director said :  “Well, I know how very upsetting this all is to your mother, so we thought it best to ask for you first, since you brought over the clothes and all.  You see, your mother is quite insistent that we make sure your father’s hair is parted on the right, is that right?”  I nodded in the affirmative, and she went on “ Well, I am so very sorry, but it seems that I just can’t make his hair part on that side.  It just wants to part on the other side, and actually seems to be cut that way.  I was hoping you could come and take a look and maybe comb his hair exactly as your mom wants it so we can make this experience as good as possible for her.”  I actually had a hard time processing what she was saying, and Jim was saying to me “Peg?  Do you think you can do that?”  I just remember saying:  “Sure, I’ll do it”.  Mrs. Funeral director said, “of course I will come with you, and I will do the actual combing if you’d like, but please tell me I have it done correctly.”  I honestly don’t know what possessed me, but I said “No, that’s ok, I’ll do it myself.”  She and her husband looked a little tentative, and Jim said:  “I will come with you—I don’t want you to go in alone”.  Mrs. Funeral director gave me the comb and she and Gilbert walked on either side of me into the room where my Dad was.

We walked to the front, where Daddy was dressed and laid in the casket my mother had chosen. He was partially tucked in with a satin blanket, a crucifix placed there, rosary entwined in his hands.  He looked at complete and perfect peace.  All of the pain and strain of emphysema   was gone from his face, and he looked like the Daddy of 3 little girls, the Daddy that took us to the park and regaled us with tales of make- believe:  Barnacle Bill and sharks and soldiers and barracudas.  His hair was combed perfectly, with the part on the left.  My mother, in her grief-stricken state, had told the funeral director the wrong thing.   He didn’t need his hair combed, everything was perfect. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember the kindly smile of relief that came over Mrs. Funeral Director’s face when I communicated that his hair was perfect.  She squeezed my hand, and said “why don’t you take a minute”, and walked silently to the back of the room. There we stood, Gilbert and I, at my father’s casket.  It was surreal.  Jim took a few steps to the side, leaving me to stand alone, gazing at this man, my hero and protector, now gone from the shell of his body.   I took the comb, smoothed his hair anyway, tucked the blanket, put my hands briefly on his foot, and gently kissed the top of his head.  He was tucked into his cocoon, by one of the daughters who loved him lots.

Later that night, as my mother went up to the casket with her children gathered around her, she held his hand and said “oh, he looks like a little boy!  He is so peaceful”.  She didn’t know about the phone call that came to me and my visit with my Daddy a few hours earlier.  I did tell her a few years later as we sat having morning coffee at my kitchen table.  She said she honestly was so out of it when he died she didn’t even know what she told the funeral director, but she did remember telling anyone who would listen that he needed to look good or she wouldn’t be able to stand it.

Growing up, my father made a cocoon of love to surround his family.  As an adult, my husband has done the same for his.  I know I am a better person because of him.  I’m the renegade, impulsive and explosive one, and Gilbert is the “steady Eddy” and voice of reason.  He has been an amazing father, and I know our children feel the same way about him as my father’s children felt about him.

I also know there are far too many people who never get to experience that kind of love and safe-keeping.  Too many go through life orphaned, abused, alone, rejected and abandoned.  It’s as hard for me to fathom how a father can abandon or hurt their child as it is for those people to imagine a loving and good father.  I have no comforting words of wisdom for those that are victims of such abuse.  But God does.    I know, I know.  Most would say:  “If God loved me so much, then why did He let all of this happen to me?”   I have no answer to the “whys” in our life experiences.  I wish I did.  But I do have faith:  the substance of things hoped for and not seen.  I have faith to know that God is God, and I am not, and faith to know that this life is but a wink on the timeline of eternity; like a grain of sand on a beach.  But eternity is forever, and, when we have faith in Jesus, we will spend it with Him.

When I think of the word “cocoon”, I think of it as a verb, an action word.  I cocoon myself when I go to bed, my father cocooned me when he tucked me in, Gilbert has cocooned us (me and the kids), and God cocoons me every day in His safety and protection, by His grace and comfort.  He goes before me as a cloud by day and as a light in the night seasons of my life.

In closing this entry, I ask that you ponder the words of Psalm 91:1, 2 & 4.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” … He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…”

Imagine! We are cocooned under the wing of the Almighty!  Hunker down, get cocooned and read the rest of the Psalm.  You’ll be glad you did.

© Pro 31 Women’s Compendium and all blogs posted by its authors, Peggy Gilbert, Barbara V., Andrea B., Ronda W., including any photos or original illustrations, commencing January 1, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the authors (Peggy Gilbert, Barbara V., Andrea B. and Ronda W., and Pro 31 Women’s Compendium, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

The Proverbs 31 Woman of 2014 by Peg

The Wife of Noble Character

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.  She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  She gets up while it is still night, she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.  She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.  In her hand she holds a distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.  When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  She makes coverings for her bed, she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.  She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.  She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instructions is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”  Prov. 31:10-31

Years ago, my husband and I attended a home meeting that had a very diverse group of people come, although not always the same people.  One evening a new gentleman came in and joined the meeting.  This was a serious prayer meeting, without a lot of superfluous chatter, and the 20 or so people in attendance  got right down to business, praying not only for the needs of others, but more purposefully for a deeper walk and relationship with God.  It was a great time to spend in the presence of God, and always uplifting and refreshing.

After a time of worship and prayer, the new gentleman attendee looked right at me and said, “Mrs. Gilbert, I believe the Lord has shown me that you are a true Proverbs 31 woman!”.  ( Mrs. Gilbert?!? wow!  I wasn’t used to having another adult call me that–I’ve always just been Peg, or Peggy, or to one really sweet 90 year old gentleman in church who was hard of hearing:, “Betty”.  I did tell him once that my name was Peggy, but he said, “well, you look like a Betty to me:, so, Betty it was) Sorry, I digress.  Anyway, that’s it, that’s all he said.  Now, I had read Prov. 31 multiple times, but I can’t say I ever really studied it.  Every time I read it I would just think “well, this sure isn’t me, and thank you Lord that I live now and not when this was written!”  So when this gentleman spoke these words, I found myself fighting to control not only the smirk I felt overtaking my face, but my tongue (I have always been pretty quick-witted).  As I looked around the gathered group, I could see some of the ladies rolling their eyes as if to say “huh??  Peg?!?  Boy, did he get that wrong!”.  My husband, however, was nodding in agreement with the man. Seriously, Jim was nodding in agreement.  I figured he was nodding because he thought the poor soul was nuts, or because he figured he’d better nod in the affirmative to make it look good.  I decided, though, that I needed to go re-read this, and do some research to see who the heck  that delusional man thought I really was.

After reading it again several times, I thought “nope. Just not seeing it”.  But, being stubborn and determined, I was going to dissect it until I could figure out how to be  the perfect Prov. 31 woman!  So, line by line, I looked for me:

  • Worth more than rubies”  My first reaction was: “Darn  straight I am!” (ahem), but, in all honesty, while one might consider me a diamond in the rough,  I have always thought I was fairly worthless, so no.  No. this doesn’t fit
  • Husband has full confidence”  ok, yeah, I guess he does.  He just likes to come home from work and know everything is handled, and I handle it, so, good to go there!  But, maybe on second thought, I don’t handle things well, and I would think being able to handle all things well is a pre-requisite, so, nope, this doesn’t fit me either. sigh…
  • Brings him good, not harm…”  Well, I haven’t killed him in his sleep yet, so I guess it’s all good.
  • Like a merchant bringing food from afar.”  We lived 8 miles from the nearest grocery store at that time, so I guess 8 miles is “afar”, right?
  • Gets up at night and provides food for her family, etc…”  Well, I hadn’t slept the entire night since # 1 was born, but I can’t say I got up to provide food for them.  They were all way past bottle stage, so while I was up, they were not.  Geez, Louise! Another failure!
  • Portions for her female servants.”  Yeah, right—I was the female servant, and I certainly did feed myself, but I don’t think serving oneself is what God had in mind.  oh, man, what a loser I am!
  • “Works vigorously, strong arms, lamp doesn’t go out“…  Hmmm..well, I got done what I had to (throwing everything into a closet and quick slamming the door, and then putting Pine Sol in the toilet so the house smelled like I cleaned all day counts as vigorous work, right?).  My arms are hefty and waddle, but I can manage to pick up my cup of coffee without spilling it, anyway.  And yes, there is always a night light on so if one of them has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night they won’t wake me up because they are scared of the dark.  ok.  again, too self serving, so I can’t own this either.
  • Profitable trading“.  Nope, not me.  I don’t trade.  Although for a time there I really liked buying things on the E-Bay.
  • “Holding a distaff and holding the spindle with my fingers”.  I have no idea what that means, but I can steer the car with my knee while brushing my hair and putting on mascara, so maybe that will do.
  • “Extends her hands to the needy and helps the poor“.  Yep—I give to Goodwill whenever I can, and dear Lord, everybody in the family and our circles of friends who has needed a place to stay has lived with us at one time or another, so man oh man, I have got this one down!! woo hoo!  I’m getting there!
  • “No fear for the household”.  Really?  Is there ever a day that has gone by since giving birth that my heart wasn’t in my throat if they were out of my sight for a minute?  Totally fail this one.  I battle fear for them every day.  Sigh….
  • Makes coverings for the bed“.  Well, I did make a bedspread once for my daughter’s room, so yep—that’s me! Although I don’t actually make the beds–unless closing the bedroom doors so no one can see them counts as “covering” them.
  • “Clothed in fine linen and purple“.  hmmm…I would imagine that a woman of that era clothed in fine linen and purple was kind of like June Cleaver vacuuming in a dress, heels and pearls.  Nah..not me,  I am strictly a jeans and sneakers kind of gal.
  • Husband respected at the city gate“.  Well, everyone loves Jim and respects him, but I don’t have anything to do with it.  In fact, I’m quite sure most people pity him for getting me as a wife.  He could have done better, really.
  • Speaks with wisdom; faithful instructions” …   Well, if wisdom and sarcasm are the same thing, then ok.  And if “I swear by all that is holy if you kids don’t get in here this minute and clean up I’m going to throw out everything you own” counts as faithful instructions, then I guess, maybe, ok.
  • Watches the affairs of her household and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness“.  um,,er..well. Honestly, in those days, I loved some idle time when I could sit and watch the affairs of General Hospital and overload on carbs, so no, no way on this one!
  • Her children arise and call her blessed“.  ummm…snicker..giggle..tee hee hee…snort…gufaw…snort… ..bwaaahahahahahahah.  oh my…I was doing this little study during the teenage years.  I hardly think “blessed” is what they were calling me.

ok, so I was a total failure.  My house was clean, but clutter didn’t bother me much in those days, so it was always a little untidy.  Packing lunch for the kids?  Well, I would just grab a yogurt, an apple and some peanut butter crackers and a tastykake and give them milk money and send them on their way.  Our son was ok with it, because he said everyone always wanted to trade with him since his whole lunch consisted of snacks.  But my daughter told me once that she was jealous of other kids’ lunches.  One girl came to school everyday with a thermos of home made soup and a sandwich, and her mom cut the sandwich into shapes like hearts and would write little “miss you” notes on her napkins.  (I just figured that mom was doing crack or something and had all kinds of unnatural energy to use up.  I mean, really, who does that?) I have always been a really good cook, though, so I thought I was good there because I made great dinners every night from scratch.  Until some church lady super mom told me I was poisoning them with my carb-laden, fat-laden Italian cooking and I should be making my own granola and stuff and feed them raw stuff and no more meatballs and sausage.  Heap on the guilt. And, I worked.  Part time in the early years, and then full time when the oldest was about 15.  So I missed some of the sports and after school activities.  yup. Total failure.  That was me. It was a wonder I hadn’t put them all into diabetic comas with my cooking and snack lunches.

So I tried to change my ways and become the perfect little wifey and super mom that I thought would make me fit the mold. I started making the beds and doing Suzie homemaker tasks. I made vegetable soup and bought a thermos and packed PB & J sandwiches. I tried to find recipes for home made granola (did you ever try to find recipes for that kind of stuff before we all had computers and internet?)  I subscribed to Mother Earth News and seriously tried to talk myself into making a compost heap.  That concept only lasted until I realized that critters like rats love compost heaps, so I never even started it.   I turned off the General Hospital (going into Luke and Laura withdrawal), and tried to stop poisoning them with my Italian cooking.  Yep, I was on a roll!  I still worked outside the home, but we really needed the income to pay the bills, so that’s the way it was.

Child #1 complained that the soup got cold in the thermos and the PB & J got mushy.  Child # 2 was upset because he no longer had any lunch time trading power.  Child # 3 said the sheets were “too tight” since I started actually making the beds and not just pulling up the covers. Jim thought I was crazy.  It seems that he never wanted a “yes” woman, a woman who hung on his every word and waited on him hand and foot.  He couldn’t believe it when I got up with him and packed his lunch, but he didn’t like that I wrapped his sandwich in plastic wrap instead of waxed paper.  I upset his morning routine. He was used to having “alone” time at 6:00 a.m.  I thought he was going to have a heart attack when I started doing his laundry again (I hadn’t done his laundry for about 15 years [a story for another time], and when I started doing it again he started complaining that his clothes were too soft because I used fabric softener.  Seriously?!?!  I am trying to be a Proverbs wife here, buddy!  Geez!!!!  Now I have to repent again for evil thoughts!  Man, I missed the General Hospital and idle carbs!! The kids didn’t seem to like me any better, either.  So, God, since I’m such a failure, I’ll just go back to to the way it was and repent morning, noon and night.  Which is exactly what I did. My efforts at super woman lasted about a week.

The years went on, the kids grew up and survived me as their mother.  Jim is still happily doing his own scratchy laundry, and I am now looking at the Proverbs 31 woman through older, wiser eyes.  You see, there is the final verse that I always seemed to ignore: ” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”    Ahhhh.  I see it now.  It doesn’t matter what era of mankind you live in, 400 B.C. or 2014 A.D.  The Proverbs 31 woman is summed up as one who fears the Lord.  You see, it’s not our works that make us pleasing, but the fear (love, reverence) of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, our desire to please Him, and allow Him to mold us, that will make us the Prov. 31 woman.  This is what will make our husband praise us, our children honor us, and those at the “city gate”–those that don’t know the Lord, will want to have what we have.  As we submit to the mighty Hand of God in our lives, we reflect Christ, and that is the secret!  It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom, a working mother, a single mom, and childless wife or a single woman. It doesn’t matter if you pack snacks and make beds.  It matters that you try to be the best “you” that you are, and build your relationship with God. You will be a Proverbs 31 woman when you let go and let God lead and guide you. The only way to become that woman, is to yield to Him, and let Him clothe you in His righteousness. I can really get into a very deep study about this, but that is for another time.

I am humbled to know that I am a work in progress, being honed by the refiner’s fire. I love my husband and I do honor him.  I know how blessed I am to have him.  I especially appreciate how he has always loved me just as I am: sarcastic wit, unmade beds and all.  I look back on my life and see many things I could have handled differently and better, especially where the children are concerned, but I can honestly say that I tried my best, and all three of them are pretty amazing people.   I count it all as part of the learning process, and accept that fact that perfection is not possible, but the process of being perfected is pretty awesome!  So yes. Yes. I am that woman, in 2014!

I am reminded of of one of my very favorite verses: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”. (1Peter5:6)