Monday, April 02, 2012

Her Children Call Her Blessed


I wrote this paper for my Hebrew Poetry & Wisdom class a few weeks ago and got 10/10 for it.

The author of Proverbs 31:10-31 gives a model for women to be excellent wives and mothers. The title of these verses in the ESV is “The Woman Who Fears the Lord”, setting a standard right at the beginning. There are a number of qualities and attributes listed, and then the title is echoed in verse 30 saying that such a woman is to be praised. This passage has been used countless times as a checklist for heartsick bachelors and young maidens hoping to catch the eye of a potential spouse. The problem is, today’s society has discredited many of the items listed and has made men and women believe that beauty, above all else, is the key to happiness. While these attributes are seemingly hard to come by, they are not unattainable. I have seen all of them in a few women I know, and more specifically in my own mother. I was inspired to write a poem parallel to what I saw in her using this passage for mother’s day in 2006 (copy attached).
            As I myself have grown in the years since, I have come back to Proverbs 31 numerous times as a reminder of the standard to which I am held as a woman of God. At times, the expectation has seemed daunting and impossible, and at others an inspiration that has spurred on changes and hopefully improvements to my character. Admittedly, I am not an early riser unless forced, I have no one but myself to cook for, which is unsatisfying, and I have never mastered sewing or farming. However, this year alone I have begun to learn what it means to fear the Lord and certain ways and actions in which to present myself in a way that honors God. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is a guideline of the type of woman I hope and aspire to be like when it is time for me to take on the role of wife and mother.
            I have been blessed in having been taught scripture from a young age and to have a set standard of something more than the empty, materialistic happiness the world presents. Not only has the world’s perception of a successful woman been completely turned backwards to that of the biblical standards and calling, it has made marriage something easy to get out of rather than to be worked on and cherished. Divorce has become a quick fix to marital dissatisfaction, and is hard to ignore by statistics, celebrities, and the effects of broken family dynamics. Verses 10-12 and 23 speak of the blessing on her husband’s life as a result of her noble character. It is wonderful to think of such a woman who, in her meekness exudes strength that is noticed by the elders of the town, yet doesn’t overstep her husband’s authority and role in the marriage.
            The art and beauty of knowing how to wisely run a household that is not only peaceful, but brings profit, has greatly been lost in our present culture. It has become acceptable and expected for women to seek work outside of the house, and we are met with derision if we aim to be “simple” housewives. Often circumstances call for both spouses to have jobs, but it is evident in history that if as young women we learn practical skills we can be successful at home while instilling Godly values into our children. This goes against so much of what the feminist movement of the 20’s and 30’s fought for, and yet I believe so much good could be restored if we could return to the biblical model. Not merely to stay home cooking, cleaning and raising children, or sending them off to daycare, but to work diligently, willingly, using our skills to supplement and support our husband’s hard work.
            Unfortunately, this is not the case for most women and is passed over as some ancient fairy tale of a super woman. It has been viewed through an over-romanticised lens so that at a young age we are led to believe that women like this are few and far between. A woman of this calibre would be completely out of the context of today’s society and fast paced culture that we fail to even think it could be possible. On the other hand, they are out there; women who fear the Lord, make wise decisions for the good of their families, and do not give way to idle living.



Proverbs 31 Woman
She chooses wool and cotton
and sets the knitting needles to work.
She awakes in the night
and prays for her family and coworkers.
She sees potential in the dirt
and a garden grows from her insight.
She opens her arms to the poor
and her hands and heart to the needy.
She does not fear the snow;
she has clothed her family in warmth.
She has quilted a blanket for each bed
and their warmth is always appreciated.
She is clothed in fine fabric
and is admired by all for her youthfulness.
She makes clothing and toys
and sells them at the market for a fair price.
She provides others with her wares
and the world applauds her creativity.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks in kindness and wisdom
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She conducts her household with efficiency
and is not caught in idleness.
Let her children stand and bless her
and acknowledge her good works.
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
These are the words we praise her with.
Although outer beauty may fade,
the radiant light will shine forever.
This is a woman we should praise
for she fears and trusts the Lord in everything.
No earthly trinket can express
how much you mean to me.
I can only attempt to tell you
what an inspiration you have been.
To me and the world
you fulfill the woman of noble character.
So here’s to you, my true Proverbs 31 woman,
my mom.
Written May 14, 2006

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reflections of a Cafe Experience

This evening I went with my roommate to a local coffee shop to get some homework done. I got very little work done, but that's not what this is about. There were only a few other people in the shop, and after settling in and enjoying a few sips of my caramel macchiato, I couldn't help but overhear two women's conversation who were sitting next to me. I really couldn't help it because they had no discretion for volume, language or content. From what I could gather, they knew each other well, but it seemed like they hadn't seen each other for some time. They discussed jobs, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, family, and eventually began to talk about their struggles with mental illnesses.
I was shocked and slightly discouraged at their viewpoints, which were clearly from a non-Christian, and terribly hopeless sense. One thing that they said is they remembered growing up with their individual disorders and how utterly alone they felt, which I completely understand. Their families didn't know about their struggles and at the time it was polite to remain silent. Another point that saddened me was one said "Depression is a lot more common and seems to be catching on" as if it were a new trend. It saddened me because I know how true it is. Depression seems to be on the rise, and is emerging in people younger than ever before in history. It could be that society has become more open about the issue of depression and suicide, which is good, but I feel can be very dangerous in causing its appearance to be chic and modern. Please hear me when I say that depression or thoughts of suicide are not something to be ignored, covered up, or overlooked. Because it is more acceptable in society to admit a struggle with depression, help is more readily available and experts are more educated on how to help in these situations. I urge you to seek help if you are feeling hopeless, worn out, or have any thoughts of suicide. I promise you that you are worth it. The battle won't be easy, but it is worth the fight to live.
I have been back in my dorm for over an hour, and their conversation has stuck with me and I felt the need to unravel some of my thoughts. Like I said, it saddened me to hear them speaking from such a hopeless perspective. I have battled with depression and anxiety for 11 years and yet I am overjoyed with the knowledge that I have the tools and support to overcome it on a daily basis. The journey I've been on has included late night phone calls to friends just to stop the harmful thoughts or actions, years of being on and off (currently off) of medication, countless friends and family praying for me and encouraging me, months of counsel from professionals and pastors, and opportunities to share my story with others who I may not even realize are going through the same thing. Through all the years I have become very open and unashamed of my sad (pun totally intended) little brain that can't quite decide which chemicals to produce. For me, it is worth the risk of being judged by an individual in order that they might grasp even a grain or a whole truckload of the hope and joy that I have found.
It is true and undeniable that my hope is wrapped intricately in my faith and the love of my savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ. I am so confident in this that I have those three words, Faith, Hope and Love, tattooed on my wrists (Faith and Hope as an ambigram) which provides a good opportunity to share with those curious enough to ask about my ink. Most times it is brushed off as a reference to 1 Corinthians 13:13, and often I'm happy to leave it at that because that's usually as far as the level of interest goes. As I said, I am open to deeper questions about the meaning behind the words and always know I have the choice to share as much or as little as I am comfortable with. See, the counseling worked in making me assertive and confident!
To wrap this all up, there is hope. Please don't be afraid or ashamed to seek help. You are not alone. You are not broken or defective and there are options and ways to live with and overcome daily the darkness of depression. I still have bad days or sometimes weeks, but each day I get through is a victory in my eyes. I can now see and know that I am stronger than depression, and even when I am at my weakest, I have confidence in knowing that Jesus is stronger and has overcome every disease.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

To Be Continued

All day, I could only think of going to the campus visit at Briercrest. I was so excited that I became nauseous. Its not that I have extremely high expectations for the weekend, I'm just looking forward to knowing more about what I've gotten myself into. Seeing friends there, making potential new ones and rocking with live bands are just the perks. Getting out of town on a long weekend is an added bonus. I've decided to postpone my fruits of the Spirit writings until I'm back. I'm not sure how much writing I'll get in at the school, but I will try. Most likely I'll just write in my journal and post it online when its possible. The hour is late and the departure early, thus I bid thee good night.
P.S I didn't write for 30 minutes. Will do better next time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

L'Amour

I thought I would take a break from the fruits for today and pay homage to the day. St. Valentine's Day. It's been mentioned already, but I've had some time to really think it over. Since late junior high to mid high school I, like most other singles, have grown to hate this day. Why should there be a lead up to an entire day where I'm constantly reminded that I'm "alone"? This is bovine feces!

Now, don't go jumping down my throat about being anti-V.Day. I said I've thought it over, and have come to an understanding, epiphany if you will. This is not a day to be hated or to spend feeling sorry for myself. It is just another day. When I realized that, I had a very good day. Work was the same as always, but that's okay. Since Mondays are the days my young adults group gets together, I figured we should still meet. Then the couples quickly reminded me that they would have other plans. Thankfully, I still had a lot of fun having fondue with the guys.

This afternoon I was reading a post by Jamie from To Write Love On Her Arms and a thought popped into my head. I may not be in love, but I am alive. That makes it a happy Valentine's Day. One day out of all the others should not have the power to make me feel lonely or unworthy of love. I am not alone and I have many people who love me unconditionally. I am healthy, happy, growing and learning new things all the time. There is no reason to get upset about what I don't have right now, no need to rush into something I might not be ready for. No need for any of that added pressure, at least not right now.

That being said, in no way am I shutting the door to a relationship. I'm just saying that today was a good day of being single. I love sharing my life with my friends and don't even know where to begin in that crazy ocean of fish. But who wants a smelly, old fish when you can keep your feet on land where the man of your dreams is? Unless they actually find some Gillywig to help us live underwater. No, then you have to deal with cross-breeding different species, and aren't humans complicated enough?

Patience is a Virtue

Feb. 13/11

Not one of my strongest characteristics. I was on the phone with my work's accountant trying to fix things one day. She was waiting for her computer to start up and said something about being impatient. I said even microwave food takes too long! Maybe I should work on improving my patience. Nah, it will probably take too long. Just kidding, I'm not that hard core.

Patience is something that I do need to improve on, but I'll take it a day at a time. Just like everything else in my life that I have little control over. Waiting for things to happen, change to come or people to show up can be overwhelming. Remind yourself to take a breath, relax and do everything possible to do your part.

One of my favorite waiting games is getting mail. It's also addicting when you shop online. I think we should go back to snail mail correspondence, for some things like birthdays and the just because occasions. Obviously, the internet is faster and more convenient, but those silly square papers and packages addressed to you are much more exciting. Spoken like a true shopaholic. One thing I miss about my grandparents is getting cards and letters from them. I've kept up some form of the mailing system close, because I still like sending gifts and letters to my best friend.

So what are you waiting for? A new house, new job, a spouse, new plan, a child, to grow up? There are so many things in life to look forward to, but often require a lot of patience. We've all heard that good things come to those who wait, so just hold on. It's like kids waiting for Christmas morning; it seems it takes forever, then its come and gone and they wait again for next year. I'm sure if they can get through without spontaneously combusting, I can wait for a package in the mail or for the time before I leave for school. Could it just hurry up though?

I've Got Peace Like A River

Feb. 12/11

The world has seen many times of war, sadness and dark days. Through ever-changing ways and progressing years, humanity has somehow got by. When the war is over, the famine fed, flood waters receded and we can take a breath again comes the time of peace and restoration. It's silly, but when I was a little girl, I thought all the kings, sultans and emperors should just sit down to tea and work things out like civilized men. I've since realized that tea parties don't solve the world's problems, but they sure are fun!

In my own life, there's been no war, famine, drought or floods, but I've seen each too often in the news. I haven't known any men or women who've not come home from war, but I thank them for fighting for the freedom I have and for future generations. I have however lost people I know and love to the 'Big C', accidents and old age. Death has left behind widows, widowers and orphans. For those who remain, we must carry on living and walk on towards peace.

I don't have all the answers to ease the world's pain, just the opportunity to share the ones I've found. When I remember, the pain is still there a bit, but time has brought healing and I can say I've found peace like a river. Rivers can start off as a gentle stream, then bubble over the rocks of a new brook. Continuing on, the banks swell and surge. On the surface things may still be in a raging turmoil, but underneath there is a strong, sure current.

I can't remember where I heard it, but someone once said, "What is life if we haven't got love, and what is love if we haven't anybody to share it with?" Or something along those lines. One of my answers to peace is having people who love me and have experienced losses like my own help me along. People who have gone through their own pain joining together to form a mighty, rushing river of peace.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Joyful, Joyful

Today is brought to you by the fruit of the Spirit, Joy. Oddly enough, all of my coworkers are extremely grouchy today. Not me though, I'm just glad it's Friday and that I'm feeling 83% better than I was at the start of the week. This makes me joyful. If you take that word apart it becomes Joy Full. Full of joy! If you have a container that is completely full, you can't put anything else in it. Except maybe rice and sand which seems to get into everything, but that's beside the point. When we say we are joyful, we shouldn't have anything else in us. Not hurt, anger, anxiety, pride or fear. Sometimes we can be so filled with joy that it pushes things out, like tears. Those kind of tears are the only ones that I don't mind shedding. Other tears mean I've experienced loss, hurt or great fear. Not my idea of a good time.

Things can bring you momentary happiness, but I think joy comes from sharing our lives with others. Being a help or encouragement to people, or committing an act of random kindness can bring joy. A child discovering something new brings them and the people around them joy.
In fact, I think children are great vessels of joy to the world. Most of the time they are just doing life the only way they know how and don't realize how precious they are. They can't always communicate, but often know when we need a surprise hug or sweet smile. What amazing little creatures they are, what great gifts to our lives!

Another aspect of joy is when we rejoice. It's when we have so much joy in us that we can't do anything but share it. The prefix "re" is so good for words. Recreate, reproduce, rejoin, renew, revive, rejoice! How great of an impact we can have on someone else when we revive our spirit with joy and begin to rejoice, even in our trials. Nehemiah 8:10, the last part of the verse says, "Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength".

In whatever you are facing, you have the joy of the Lord available to be your strength. Through times when it feels like all your strength is gone and the fight to go on seems too hard, cry out to God. He is the savior of the world and the real joy-giver.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Divine Inspiration

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. These are the fruits of the Spirit. We are taught these at an early age in Sunday school, VBS or camp. Nine little lessons and guidelines on how to live a good life found in Galatians 5:22. The verses directly before (19-21) are things not to do. If I were to write about each one, good and bad, I could have a topic for 24 days! That would be so much easier than just writing random things every day. Even though I'm sure you all love my random thoughts.

To start us off is the best one of all: love. Ah, love, it is the cause of happiness, the victim of heartbreak and the reason to live. Tis' the season of love in the Western and parts of the Eastern world. It seems everywhere I look, I'm reminded that the days are short before National Singles Awareness Day. More commonly known as Valentine's Day. The only day that can compete for flower sales is Mother's Day, which wins out. Thank you Mom's everywhere. Chocolate, flowers, stuffed animals, lingerie, dinner for two, the works. Odd that all of this came from the martyrdom of a few men; one which was illegally, at the time, marrying couples in secret.

Let's get back to the main topic, shall we? We've all been asked at some point, "What does 'love' mean to you?". There are so many possible answers. To a six year old it could be a cuddly puppy or kitten. A ten year old might say its when their sibling or friend shares a favorite toy. Thirteen year old boys think that love is gross and girls have cooties. Thirteen year old girls think romantic movies are great, but the boys they know have cooties. They grow up a bit and dip their toes in the dating pool. Only if their parents are letting them date before they're 30, none of this sneaking around business, right? Not likely, with the rate of teen pregnancies, but that's off topic. To a person in their 20's, love is either all around you with friends getting married, or it seems to avoid you like the plague. Now you've reached those middle years, and there's still hope! Don't have a mid-life crisis just yet. For those in their 50's +, congratulations if you're still with your spouse! The odds are getting slimmer of a successful marriage while the divorce rate has sky-rocketed from what it was when you were a kid. You have something very special if you've put up with the same person for that long! It is amazing how love can grow with you.

That is just one kind of love, romantic, or Eros in Greek. There's also Storge (stor-gay) or familial love, Philia, friendship love, and Agape, selfless love for others. And of course, God's love.
The love a parent has for their child is unlike any other. These little carbon copies of yourselves will melt and break your heart more than once in their lifetime. You are their greatest example of how to show love to others. How to love their family, their friends, and how to feel compassion for strangers. Somewhere along the road you may have to sit down and have the "Talk". In total, parent's can teach us every kind of love.

So where do they get their knowledge and wisdom from? I'm not a parent, but I think the best source is the Bible. Every one of the four loves is displayed in there. Seriously, Song of Solomon would make a sailor blush! There is a great hymn that says, "The love of God is greater far Than tongue or pen can ever tell...To write the love of God above Would drain the oceans dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky".
I've written four pages in a journal and not all about God. I could continue, but even the ocean as ink and the sky as parchment can't hold it all.

Love. Live it, share it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Making Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Or lemon meringue pie! Today I had to somehow suck up my strength and get through the day. I came down with a cold on the weekend, and was hit hard today. In this case, when life gives you a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, aching, fever, sneezing batch of lemons, you reach for the Kleenex. Since that's a specific brand, I guess I should just leave it at "facial tissues". I thought of taking a picture of the contents of my garbage can, mostly tissues, but that's not something the public internet world needs to see. You get the idea.  The thing that bothers me the most about being sick is I get so cold! I normally have the heat higher than the average person, but desperate times call for space heaters and extra layers of clothes. If I could be sick, but stay warm, I wouldn't mind as much. Of course, there's the whole being sick part that's not much fun either.

When I was little, I didn't mind it so much. I stayed home from school a lot with various illnesses, both real and imagined. I did have some pretty good ones in there, like appendicitis. Oh, wait that happened during the summer and I didn't miss any school for that one. I need to work on my timing! Now that I'm older, I don't enjoy it so much. Being sick, not fun. Missing work and not getting paid for a day that I was awake for anyways, major stress factor. Having a foreseeable financial goal (school) makes the income more valuable.

My head is full of mucus-y pressure, my body is aching and I've got slippers, three shirts, a blanket wrapped around me and the electric fireplace going. I've been staring at the screen trying to think of intelligent things to say, but this is all I've got so far. Here's hoping tomorrow is a better day.

Gesundheit! I just learned this doesn't mean "Bless you", but "Health". Irony strikes again.