Why You Just Might Be the Proverbs 31 Woman

Why you just might be the Proverbs 31 woman: the part about this chapter we overlook. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com. “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.” Proverbs 31:15-16

I used to feel badly that I’m a WAHM (work-at-home-mom). If I didn’t have to work, I could spend more time with my kids, clean my house more, be a better wife, blah, blah, blah. Half of that is genuine mom-guilt, the emotion that plagues nearly every woman to have birthed a baby. The guilt is usually nonsensical. When they’re a baby: guilt that I don’t hold her enough. Guilt that I hold her too much. When they’re a toddler: Guilt that I don’t discipline them enough. Guilt that I’m too hard on them. See a trend here? But the other half of the reason I drag my feet about working is that the idea of having one less thing on my plate is simply heavenly.

Why you just might be the Proverbs 31 woman: the part about this chapter we overlook. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.
For some reason, despite multiple readings of Proverbs 31 (mandatory, of course, for every Christian wife, especially due to the shortage of descriptive biblical material on the subject), the overarching theme of the passage seemed to elude me. I think most everyone who has ever referenced the chapter has done what I do, focus on this verse:

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

An excellent verse. But it does not sum up the content of the section. It is not the theme of the Proverbs 31 woman. Instead, ninety-percent of these verses describe how this godly woman who is to be praised is a working woman. Not a SAHM. Yeah, I understand, cultural differences and stuff. But I think it’s astounding how applicable this is today. The main idea, that it is honorable for a wife and mom to bring in supplemental income to her family, is extremely applicable. Today it is rarely considered supplemental income! Oftentimes both the husband and wife have to work just to pay the bills.

Why you just might be the Proverbs 31 woman: the part about this chapter we overlook. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.

It is interesting that for years it has been thought proper for the wife to stay at home while her husband worked. The wife’s place is in the kitchen, at home, with the children. But according to Proverbs 31, not only is it acceptable to the LORD for the wife to be bringing money to the table, it is considered honorable and commendable.

This is not a knock on the rare SAHM variety. Everyone’s situation is different, and every season is different. But if you are able in any way, shape, or form, to bring a little extra income to your family, even if it’s working from home, selling crafts or vegetables from your garden – whatever, be creative! Use your gifts! This is something God delights in. He sees us, and our day-to-day struggle with our family and our busy lives. For those of us able to push it further and “(select) wool and flax, and (work) with eager hands” (HaHa, okay, maybe not those materials, exactly) God will give us the strength and blessing to do it.

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My 5YO reads chapter books and it’s not my fault

My five year old reads chapter books and it's not my fault

This post may contain affiliate links. Or not. I’m not really sure what I’m doing. 

Kayla’s brother Jac, who’s three, is autistic and barely puts two words together. Kayla, who just turned five last month, had a 100-word vocabulary by the time she was one. At eighteen months she was speaking in sentences… lots of them … and knew her alphabet. Not my fault. I didn’t grill her on it or anything; she just learned herself. 

my five year old is reading chapter books and it's not my fault

Soon after Kayla’s chatter turned incessant. Still is. Around three is when she started to learn to read. My husband insisted on teaching her as she was clearly demonstrating potential. We bought her Hooked on Phonics for IPad, and she really took off. Then we bought her Bob books, which are helpful because they start your child reading right away with real basic stuff. 

Kayla finished five or six sets of the Bob books when she was four, and by then I decided she was ready for real books. I began homeschooling her when she turned three and a half, which was really just me doing textbooks and workbooks with her thirty minutes to an hour, three days a week. 

My five year old reads chapter books and it's not my fault

So it’s no surprise that Kayla is zipping through her first grade books right now. Well, math is probably plodding along. For some reason, despite showing aptitude she has little patience for it. 

But it’s not my fault. At least, not entirely. You see, after reading the list of Kayla’s early childhood accomplishments, you might think I’m one of those parents: type A personality, perfectionist, who always has a clean house, and has sky-high expectations of their kids. Umm, yeah, anyone who knows me can debunk that. I have shown perfectionist-type traits in regards to music, writing, and maybe design. But overall I tend to maintain a “no worries; it’ll be okay in the end” attitude. 
my five year old reads chapter books and it's not my fault

Okay, so what AM I teaching Kayla? I started off with some basic preschool stuff, this book to help her learn how to write, this book with general preschool activities, and something similar to this to help her cut and paste. For kindergarten I used this textbook: What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know. I supplemented with this math book and this spelling book. I also had her use a general kindergarten workbook similar to this, which is so huge she’s not done with it yet. For first grade I gave her Spectrum Math, Spectrum Sight Words, and Science and Geography

I’m definitely not pushing my kid. She LOVES to read. As you can see, she keeps tons of books with her in bed so she can fall asleep reading and wake up reading. Some people are just like that. I happen to love reading also. And while I’m pretty thrilled that she’s so fond of it as well, her unusual skill at it is mostly, well, it’s her fault. 

The Day My Anxiety Left

The Day My Anxiety Left: read about how I stopped stressing out so much. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23

I never called it “anxiety” until it was gone. In fact, I justified it: I had three small kids, one with autism, and I was a WAHM. Obviously, I was stressed out! People around me justified it also. “I don’t know how you do it.” Not with grace, unbeknownst to them. Certainly not with patience, or faith that everything was going to be okay. The only person who seemed to know I had a problem was my husband, and I could NOT tolerate him pointing it out. He didn’t call it anxiety either, and I resisted fiercely his attempts to loose its grip on me. I clung to it. I’m allowed this, I thought. Or, I have this under control.

Then I thought I was pregnant. Ha. You have to understand, when we first got married, we wanted five kids. Now we have three. So pregnant is good, right? Not when anxiety has stealthily gained control of every aspect of your life. So when the test said “Pregnant” I was NOT thrilled with the grain of life that God had (supposedly) gifted me with. Way to reveal my heart, God. Soon after, my temper with my four year-old was so short, my husband actually took her to work with him so I could spend some time alone in prayer. Yikes. During this time when my anxiety had escalated so that God could reveal its nature and ultimately break its power over me, I actually thought I was losing my mind. Seriously, I called my mom and asked if she thought I might have some kind of mental illness (she did not support THAT hypothesis).

The Day My Anxiety Left: read about how I stopped stressing out so much. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.

At this point I had actually started to increase my prayer life a little bit, the absence of which I easily blamed on my children. So during my time with God, I realized I needed to repent. The stress and feeling of being overwhelmed that had consumed my life was a slap in the face of God’s sovereignty. If I truly trusted God that He would take everything, why was my life characterized by fear that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done? I don’t mean a little worry or nagging in the back of my mind. I mean a constant berating, before every activity, during every time my children made things take longer by simply being children: throwing everything upstairs downstairs, escaping poopy diapers without my help, not getting dressed in a timely fashion before church. All these things sent me into panic mode. And if two of my kids were screaming or needing me simultaneously, forget it. Mama’s losing her mind. Romans says that everything that is not of faith is sin. I needed to accept that my “panic mode” was not cute, was not normal behavior, and did not, in the slightest, bring glory to God. When I realized this, I confessed my sin to God.

Coincidentally, at this time, the small groups at our church were doing a study on the Holy Spirit. This of course, bringing to mind the certain fruits of the Spirit that were absent in my life. In particular, my children and husband were taking the brunt of this lack. So no lie, I Googled “how do I get the fruit of the Spirit in my life.” That goes to show you what my Bible study skills had devolved to at this point. Not surprisingly, they all pointed out that the way to get the fruit of the Spirit was to cultivate relationship with God through a regular devotional time. I was already praying and reading my Bible, but literally either in between kid tantrums or after they had gone to sleep and I was completely exhausted. For the first time in years, maybe ever (?) I initiated a routine of having my time with the Lord in the morning before the kids woke up (well, technically after I had dropped Jac off at the bus, but before Zac’s morning chatter turned into screams demanding crib extrication). It was amazing. Just me, God and coffee.

The Day My Anxiety Left: read about how I stopped stressing out so much. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.
What I felt from the Lord at this point was that I was to pause at every moment where I felt the temptation to freak out, to complain, to yell, whatever, and to ask Him for help to handle it well. The first few days were okay; I did much better than I had been doing. I actually was able to choose the right attitude. The emotions that were driving me to anxiety were basically there, but I was somewhat able to control them. Then another thing that helped was I started to journal, just short entries that helped me see what worked and what didn’t.

This is where God gets the glory. After a few days of struggling to not let the anxiety take control, GOD TOOK IT FROM ME. Entirely. For every situation, there would have been the expected clutch of the stomach, the spinning of the mind, the loss of rationality and entrance of complaining and stressing out. There was nothing but peace. There IS nothing but peace. This has transformed my life. I had no idea how miserable I was, barely surviving from day to day, being crushed emotionally and exhausted physically. Now I have joy. Now I have peace. I still occasionally experience the stressed-out feeling, especially when I’m getting the kids ready to go somewhere, but anxiety is a conspicuously missing element of my life.

I hear from so many people who struggle with anxiety and depression who just own it. They like to explain what it like so we can be empathetic and not judge them. I remember what that felt like. Just understand me. But those are chains we don’t have to wear. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” If you repent of your fear and lack of trust in God, if you seek His face earnestly for freedom, He will break the chains. You can be free from anxiety.

Managing Ministry with Small Children

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“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt. 6:33

My husband and I have been in ministry for years, even before we met. We’ve always known that we would have children, and that we would be serving in church in some capacity. I studied music in college. But we didn’t consider much what those early years of leading worship and participating on the worship team would look like with squirmy toddlers in tow.

Silly Kayla with face painting

When we had our first two kids, we were at a much smaller church than we’re at now. There was no nursery. But I didn’t want to stop my involvement in the worship ministry until my kids were old enough to manage themselves. So I kept leading worship. There was always someone to watch my kids, but I didn’t always know that until the last minute. And sometimes my daughter would come up to me during worship and want me to hold her. This was a little stressful for me, even though I considered it a privilege both to have children and to be able to minister.

At the church where we are currently, there is a nursery service, which is a huge blessing! There were times when I would keep my youngest with me to nap during church (when I wasn’t on the worship team), and times when either one of my boys did NOT like me leaving them, but currently I’m enjoying child-free worship at church, which is a breath of fresh air.

Involvement in church is still nothing like it was when I was single. Back then I gave it 100%. Now the amount of preparation for one single service is substantial. My husband is the worship leader, so he always arrives at church quite a bit before I need to be there, leaving me to get all three ready by myself. As my middle child has autism, he has a tendency to run off without regard for his own safety, so that means the two youngest are always restrained in public, either in a stroller or a car seat, or someone’s arms.

It takes a perspective shift when you decide to do ministry with children. There are some things you must realize.

First, your children are better off watching you serve in ministry.

Jac on the playgroundWhen we first had kids, my husband and I were running a non profit Christian after school program called Starfish Learning Center in the inner city of Chicago. We lived in the same building we worked. I remember walking my kids home from the grocery store one day and hearing gunshots across the street. Some would argue that it wasn’t the best environment to raise my kids in, but my littles were able to see me minister on a regular basis to the children of that neighborhood (although only my oldest will remember). It’s the same for missionary kids all over the world. You need to trust that God has your children’s safety and welfare in His hands. Growing up watching you model Christ is one of the best gifts you can give your kids.

Second, every moment counts. Yes, serving your children is serving the kingdom of God, but do you really want to take a break from serving others until your kids are grown?

I talk more about this in my blog post Diaper Blowouts and the Meaning of Life. You will find your life is more satisfactory and has more meaning when you are serving other people outside of your family. Even if it is only in small ways, letting yourself get consumed by your and your family’s needs for an extended period of time is not healthy.

Third, this season will pass soon enough.

When your kids are small, everything is a ton of work and completely exhausting. It’s exhilarating also, as your children are charming and captivating and love you unconditionally. This stage is a whirlwind, but it isn’t forever. Make the decision now to make the sacrifices necessary for you and your family. Don’t say it isn’t possible. Believe me, I’ve done so many things that others consider impossible, and I’ve seen other moms do crazier things. Take a step of faith. I encourage you: doing ministry with small children is not only possible, it’s very rewarding.

Why Comparison Is Killing You

IMG_6593“…When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

Most women struggle with comparing themselves with other women. The logical conclusion to this empty exercise is the pride/insecurity scenario. If you win the comparison battle, it puffs you up and makes you feel a little better about yourself, at least temporarily. If you lose, you end up feeling badly about yourself, as if you’re lacking something.

scenic cliffs

Before kids, you might have compared your looks, money, personality, skills, or education. After kids, what I have found is pretty common among moms, is to compare who has it harder. It’s really silly and ridiculous, but when we’re struggling to get everything done and to be a good mom and wife, we look to see what life has dealt our fellow mothers, and see how they’re handling it. We actually justify it by telling ourselves, “if they can do it and they’re in such a harder situation, then I should be able to do it.” As if that will magically give us the strength and peace to complete the task God has put before us.

When I think of the futility of comparing ourselves to others I think of these lyrics by Rich Mullins:

Well, I am a good Midwestern boy

I give an honest day’s work if I can get it

I don’t cheat on my taxes; I don’t cheat on my girl

I’ve got values that would make the White House jealous

Well, I do get a little much over-impressed

‘Til I think of Peter and Paul and the apostles

I don’t stack up too well against them, I guess

But by the standards ’round here I ain’t doing that awful

However, the Bible says that it’s unwise to compare ourselves with ourselves (note it’s not unwise to compare yourself with Jesus). It’s not helpful. It won’t help us grow. In fact, it might even keep us from growing. The truth is that you need to take your eyes off other people, unless you are looking at them with compassion and asking God how He can use you to point them to Jesus. If you want to look at someone in a way that will help you grow, consider this:

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

We are all running the race. We’re redeemed, purchased, made holy by Jesus’ blood. But we’re on a journey. We are going from glory to glory. It’s our journey. It’s different for everyone. Gazing on Jesus will help us get to the next level, not looking at our friend who has three more kids than us, a full-time job, and still manages to look fantastic every day.

siblings kiss

Another mistake we make sometimes is looking at others in an easier situation than us and thinking arrogantly, “Oh, come on. I have it so much harder. If I can do it, you can.” I had a friend do that to me, telling me, “the more kids you have, the harder it’s going to get.” She was right, in a sense, because I did have issues in my heart that needed to be dealt with. But telling me this in this way wasn’t helpful. She had more kids than me, so if she could do it, I should be able to! I remembered this when my sister had her first child. I had two kids at the time, my second one having health and developmental issues, and I was working at home part time. I easily could have adapted that same attitude towards her. “C’mon, Laura! If I can do it, you can!” But I remembered. I remembered what it was like with my first child. I also remembered how I felt when another mom did that to me. It’s unwise to compare yourself to someone else. It’s hurtful. Her journey is different. Her kid is different. Unless I actually AM her, I don’t know what she’s feeling or experiencing.

This journey is not about proving anything to ourselves or to others. It’s about becoming more like Jesus, teaching our littles to become more like Jesus, and helping others see him, his love and his ways. The best way we can do that is to have our eyes contemplating God’s glory, not the strengths and inadequacies of others, as opposed to our own. Let’s focus on things that help us and others, and not engage in useless habits that tear us down.

Praising God with a Broken Heart

Attachment-1-1“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:20

I have never experienced grief, fear, and depression like I did when my first son, my middle child was born. It was a completely healthy pregnancy, and relatively easy labor. But when he emerged, Jac was turning blue, and no one knew why. That special moment when mom meets baby and they share “skin on skin” and bond as they meet face to face for the first time was stolen from me as they whisked my baby to the ICU and prepared to have him transported to Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital. As I waited to learn of the fate of my child, I was left alone with some painful postpartum contractions and my thoughts about how God
fit into all of this.Attachment-1 (3)

Fortunately for me, I had unwittingly prepared most of my life for this. Years at the Prayer Furnace of Chicago, seeking God’s face and learning of His character in the Word; before that, private worship times of reading the Bible and encountering Him through song: all these laid a foundation that supported me during the most difficult time in my life. It basically came down to this: was I convinced enough of God’s character to trust Him and believe that He is good no matter the outcome of the situation? Could I like, Job, acknowledge His sovereignty and refuse to be offended when He allowed life to deal me a cruel card?

In that moment, because of my history in God, I was “like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8a). I was able, though brokenhearted, to say to God, “whatever you allow to happen, I believe that you are good, because I trust you.” I could see that God had given me so many blessings in my life, up to that point, that even if He did not allow my son to live, the many good things He had graced me with would far outweigh this one tragedy. As Job said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

IMG_8950God did allow my son to live. They discovered that he had a rare heart defect, and he had heart surgery when he was one day old. After that came a new journey: learning to live with all my son’s subsequent health problems and the corresponding plethora of doctor’s appointments and medication that came with it. I also had some postpartum depression to deal with, which, along with my return to work with my two small children in tow, made this a very challenging season. I wish I could say that my heart was always in a good place every time I struggled to juggle everything in my new life. Unfortunately, I was often overwhelmed and stressed out. You would think that if I could trust God with my son’s life, once he was no longer in danger, I would be filled with joy and relief.

But I have learned that it is impossible to triumph every day without continual communion with God. The externals are unimportant. God is not sitting in heaven, judging you based on how many times you managed to drag your unruly horde of (beautiful!) children to church, or if you finished a forty day fast, or if you pray for two hours every day. The crucial element is your heart. Is it tender towards God? Is it grateful and joy-filled? If it isn’t (which is something I have struggled much with since the advent of children) the only way you can be a blessing to your family and the others God has put in your life is by allowing the transformation of your heart through spiritual disciplines.

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The years I spent before the throne of God anchored me in a time when my faith could have been shaken. But if I want to have victory every day, and joyfully praise God in every hard moment, I need to walk with God daily by sacrificially spending time with Him in prayer, worship and Bible reading. I’m not doing those things to win His pleasure. He already loves me. He’s already pleased with me. I’m doing those things so that my heart grows receptive to the whispers of the Holy Spirit in the instances where I’m tempted to fall back in despair (how on earth am I going to get everything done!), snap at my children in frustration (stop throwing your food, Zacky! Jac! You’re not eating yogurt again! I already answered you three times, Kayla! Didn’t you hear me?), or complain once again to my husband about how crazy my day was. The Holy Spirit doesn’t automatically make me a better person, but He reminds me in the moment to watch my response, helps me build healthy and godly habits, and eventually changes my attitude and outlook towards the blessings that God has gifted me with.

Hard times are inevitable this side of eternity. Our Christian testimony and our own personal happiness are dependent upon our heart’s response during difficult situations. It is essential to have both a foundation of knowledge of God and the continual habit of communion with Him to craft positive instinctive reactions either when tragedy blindsides us or when we remember that the dryer isn’t working. Still. The littles and the rest of the world are watching.

The Glorious Mom

The Glorious Mom: rising above the stress of daily life to live gloriously. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10

Being a mom is fantastic. Nothing like having little tiny look-alikes who think you’re the best thing since sliced bread. And who need you constantly. I read these memes online that basically say: “If I were gone, would anyone miss me?”, and I’m thinking, “Yes! Way too much!” All three of them, often simultaneously need me, plus my husband needs me as well.

I regularly suffer from what I call “Mommy moments” -yes, I have a Facebook group that goes by that same name- where everything that can possible go wrong does, and everyone who can possibly be screaming at me, convinced of an imminent apocalypse should I not intervene, yells at the top of their lungs. This stresses me out, often resulting in me yelling back that I am only ONE person and there are THREE of them, as if my eighteen-month-old and three-year-old autistic son have any idea what that means.
The Glorious Mom: rising above the stress of daily life to live gloriously. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.
Then it clicked all of a sudden. When I’m in the thick of it, whether it’s because I’ve been unsuccessful at cloning myself in seemingly necessary situations, or I just don’t have enough time to adequately care for my angels, my house, my worship ministry, and my work-from-home job, and things start spinning and I start thinking “I CAN’T DO THIS!”: that’s actually my moment to shine.

There is serious GLORY in being a mom. I don’t mean the dazzling, radiantly beautiful Shekinah glory that God inhabits. I mean glory as in greatness. As in supernatural strength in the midst of glaring weakness. In the midst of my “I CAN’T DO THIS” moment, I lift my gaze up to my Strength and do the same thing that I would do if I were freaking out that it was too much and I couldn’t handle it. I deal with it. But my heart is different. My attitude is changed. I relish the moment of difficulty, in confidence that God has my back and I glory in the fact that I’m going to soar through this.
The Glorious Mom: rising above the stress of daily life to live gloriously. Check it out at gloriousmomblog.com.
I turn my Mommy Moments into Glory Moments. When I emerge from the bathroom to find that my tiniest toddler has found a way to climb the dining room table at the same time that my older toddler is naked AGAIN, and likely to pee all over the couch like last time, and my daughter is incessantly talking, trying to involve me in YET ANOTHER pretend game, instead of my heart racing, my face lights up in response to the challenge before me. Maybe not every time. Mommy Moments slip in here and there. But I am glorying in my position as a mom. 

This is a different kind of glory. This is Motherhood Battlefield Glory. It’s not for the weak or faint of heart. This is the glory that comes from laying your life down (most moments of) every single day for little sentient creatures who can hardly do a thing in return besides render affection and adorable snuggles.
“The greatest among you will be your servant.” – Matthew 23:11

When I hear this, I think, I must be on the path to greatness! I serve little children all day long. The hard part is that this glory is largely invisible. I can’t always see it, the world sure can’t see it, and my kids for real don’t see it. But my heart’s desire is to please God and make an impact in the kingdom of God. It takes faith to believe in the moment that powering through the Mommy Moments with joy is actually glorious, but it is. I’m a glorious mom.