Common sense, family life, healthy living, Homemaking stuff, Uncategorized

Monday!!! – or – the week, on purpose

This is a good reminder and strategy for moving forward after the holiday madness ends. So I’m reblogging it.

BAY boxwood

Happy Monday!  I hope you’re well and off to a great start this week!

We had an active weekend – I use “active” on purpose, because we weren’t merely busy, we were doing fun things, running kids to different activities, hanging out at the house, discussing Thanksgiving plans, cooking a slow Sunday supper.  It was good – loosely planned,  edited as necessary.  Way better than busy – in fact, I detest being busy.  I enjoy active, though.

I don’t do particularly well with a rigid list of to-do’s, particularly since I’m a recovering over-scheduler (read: busy work maker) and even after 20+ years in Houston, I do not have a grasp on the reality of the relentless traffic.  Every hour is rush hour, here, and somewhere between errands 3 and 4 things go off the rails, timing wise.  Still, an outline is necessary, because I have goals, and people who…

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Common sense, el's rabbit trails, family life

Els-isms

Things that I say or have said to my kids at some point, and which I hope they take to heart and remember.

~ Life is full of little inconveniences and unpleasantries that have to be done anyway.

~ God sees even if no one else does.

~ Respect people’s right to be different from you.

~ Skirts and dresses cover a multitude of flaws that pants can’t help but accentuate.

~ Family will tell you to your face what other people will only say about you behind your back. Don’t be so sensitive.

~ Leisure is earned. We get work done before we play.

~ Take care of yourself while you’re young so it’s already a habit when you’re older.

~ You can change friends but you can’t change your family.

~ Women have more rights than men do now.

~ Don’t buy into the lie that not screwing, drinking, and partying means you don’t have a life.

~If drunkenness impairs the woman’s judgement, then it can also impair the man’s judgement.

~ Not everything we want to do is a right.

Some of these can lead off onto tangents that make my kids laugh at me, because they know what’s coming next is a cultural rant lecture.

 

Common sense, cultural absurdity, healthy living, real living in a virtual world, spirit led living, things that make me go hmm....

Saturday Stream of Consciousness

Mountain stream

Some thoughts rolling around in the streams of my mind while my beloved works and our firstborn has commandeered our kitchen for business purposes. With some time between loads of laundry, I came here to ramble before I start reading The Children’s Homer  and putting some effort into making a skirt.

~Boring testimonies?  One of my kids shared with me this article from Christianity Today. Because I know intimately some of her struggles, all of my girls’ in fact, I was glad she ran across this piece as she was looking for something else.

I was on my way to having a similar testimony but my inner rebel reared her ugly head in a spectacular way just before I turned 21 making it easier for me to identify a need for repentace. Even still, it was years later before I understood the depth of my depravity apart from Christ and that it was so from the moment I was born into the world. I was totally gripped by ” But I’m a good person” syndrome for a good long time.

~Exercise lethargy: Missing workouts for just 10 days has made me feel like I am back at the exercise starting gate. I know I’m not, but it just feels like it. I’m getting back into the swing of it however. Making proper sleep and tending to the needs of someone else the priority over my early morning workouts was absolutely the right move, but I am glad to be getting back into some semblance of a normal routine. 

It’s kind of eerie really, how the rest of the world keeps moving when ours stops, and how they (gasp!) expect us to somehow get it together and start moving again too.

~Couple dynamics: Spending some time with my stepmom last night highlighted for me how powerful couple dynamics are. It has always been pretty obvious that my dad was the more socially active, community minded of the two of them (even though he was more than 20 years older than her). However, his presence made the dynamic less apparent while his absence has made it almost palpable. It made me think about our couple dynamic. I am much more social than my mom, but my husband is the relational guru of this duo, and it would be a struggle for me to keep our connections alive and relevant without him.

~The prosperity gospel is about more than just wealth and health: There is an unspoken but nearly ubiquitous belief among American Christians. Namely, that if you do everything *right* then you deserve good things to happen to you. Conversely, if you’ve ever been a rank sinner in your life (which supposes that there is anyone alive who never was), then you don’t deserve for good things to happen to you.

It’s another form of the prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all. Matthew 5:45 springs to mind, but more than that, where does any one of us get off declaring evil those whom God has called among His redeemed? This is why I echo what David said: Please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” Which brings me to my final thoughts:

~Making the perfect the enemy of the good: My e-friend Scott has been thinking, which may or may not be dangerous. His is one of the few sites I bother to dialogue at anymore, even though he espouses a few ideas with which I disagree. His latest post made me think, and not just about the topic at hand, even though I agree with his thoughts there.

Specifically, I was thinking about how most people, in various areas of life, are pragmatic and appreciate that reality will do, even as we strive for the ideal. It’s not like I don’t understand why this tendency breaks down when the subject is our most intimate relationships, but I wonder how many more marriages, families, and children would be spared to later thrive in something closer to the ideal if we weren’t being conditioned to believe that we all are fabulously unique and specail creatures wh only deserve the very best all the time. Actually, that wasn’t my final thought.

~ Musings from the stats page: I sometimes  look back at an old post when I see on my insights page that someone recently read it. I’m not much one for looking back, or even remembering, the details of what I wrote 3 months ago, let alone more than 6 months ago, so it’s kind of neat to re-read some of those posts on occasion. After reading some of the things I wrote this spring and summer, I noted how closely my thoughts were dovetailing with a verse of Scripture I read this morning in 1 Thessolonians about people being busybodies, minding others’ matters.

Being really big on the idea of “live and let live”, I find anyone’s fixation with things which are really none of their concern equal parts fascinating and grating. I suspect it’s probably just part and parcel of being a denizen of an Internet “community” which is hihgly concerned with orthopraxy as well as orthodoxy, but it really does grate on my nerves when someone teaches a wife to do things that are actually her husband’s business, or mind what someone else should read, write, or comment on. Additionally, there is a lot of Romans 2 on display, which is an excellent reminder for me to stick with discussing issues, and never people. I’ll close this stream of consciousness with one of my daily prayers, which seems apt:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my Strength, and My Redeemer.

You can find that one in Psalm 19 for anyone interested.

 

 

 

Common sense, Life hacks, real living in a virtual world, Uncategorized

Friday Frivolities 11: Proper focus edition.

I was thinking about modern life, and how to enjoy our novel conveniences and creature comforts without internalizing the worst traits modernity opens the door to.

For example, being healthy and fit is good. Health is not a frivolous pursuit. Being obsessed with health and fitness to the point of obsession, however, reduces it to vanity and creates a frivolous pursuit of perfection at the expense of dealing with weightier matters Hearthie dropped a few links in the comments sextion recently which brought this to the forefront of my thinking.

The Dreamstress offered two posts exploring the shifts in what was considered the “ideal figure” in generations past. You can take a look at those here and here. As I read through them, looking at the advertisements and pictures, it struck me that most every one of the body types offered as ideal were within striking distance of most of women simply through eating moderate amounts of real, fresh, food, and eschewing junk food. In addition, by just avoiding a sedentary life; not sitting around all the time.

Today’s ideal however, is out of reach for most normal men and women without copious amounts gym time and usually cutting out whole food groups (cookies are not a food group). In other words, it requires that we spend a lot of time thinking about things that we wouldn’t have had to think about so much in a different time and place.That’s not an indictment of any person’s chosen path to good health. After all I’m starting a Whole 80 myself this month. I am just as modern as the next person, but it still strikes me more and more recently.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is the culture of distraction. It started as I read Magistra’s posts (here and here) on the book Deep Work, by Cal Newport. That book is on its way to my house as I type. I hope. I also picked up The Organized Mind during my recent library trip. I guess it’s obvious that clarity of mind is on my list of things to discover and/or recapture.

In the meantime, Hearthie shared this video with me which -in about 20 minutes- offers a Cliff’s notes version of Deep Work with strategies we can start today:

Have a great weekend!

Common sense, family life, healthy living, wife stuff

Friday Frivolities 6: Getting real edition

I’m a little under the weather today (the past few days, actually) and the down time is frustrating because I haven’t done as much, but it’s also been an opportunity to think about some of big questions and important principles.

Too much self-analysis is antithetical to Christian growth.

With a birthday approaching, this is a contemplative time. The Benevolent Dictator and I have hit this phase of life with reverence, gratitude, and awe which makes for a stronger connection.  Birthdays invoke more evaluation of where we are and how we live than either New Year’s or anniversaries. Primarily the questions revolve around, “Do our words and actions impart life to the receiver?” Life is not interpreted in our house as 100% good feelz. Sometimes (oftentimes?) Truth stings.

There’s a delicate balance to be struck here, and it’s something I consider a lot of late. The key to seeing things from a realistic perspective is by looking into the mirror of Scripture. Nothing is better for both the comfort and humility needed to live a sane, healthy life.

The second point piggybacks on the first: giving the direction, opinions, perspectives of my husband a place of preeminence is a key factor in growing and accomplishing goals as well. If it were not for him I would have run myself into the ground by now trying to play *super wife*.

So basically, looking at the mirror of Truth and being open to the man’s guidance is better for me than leaning into my own understanding of myself. To thine own self be true is suspect counsel, at least in my book.

Character is the thing we do when -we think- no one is watching.

This is cliche, and we’ve all heard it, but it’s very easy to forget in a world where technology provides ultimate “privacy”. And yet,  the only place you can be -99%- certain no one is watching is in the privacy of your own bedroom or bathroom. We have simultaneously more opportunities to do things in secret and just as many opportunities to get caught.

For me, this admonition is more aptly applied to making sure I do what needs to be done even when it’s inconvenient or I won’t suffer in the short term for neglecting it, but the principle is the same whether it’s about doing the right thing or not doing the wrong thing.

I have long lamented American obsession with propriety over piety, but it’s always good to be cognizant of the fact that even if no one else in the world can see what we’re doing, we know when we’re doing something wrong, and when we’re not doing what’s right to the best of our ability.  Both are damaging to one’s soul.

Conventional Western medicine heals trauma, but it exacerbates lesser ailments.

Did I mention I have a birthday upcoming? 46 I will be. I’m totally cool with that, which as I mentioned earlier, didn’t happen over night. There are a lot of factors that have aided in my ability to embrace 46, not the least of which is that life is peaceful, marriage is blissful, and health has been pretty good on the main. It also helps to get incredulous responses to revelations of your age, your children’s ages, or the length of your marriage.

However there are *things* that come with middle age and they often assert themselves in ways that demand they be addressed. So we go to the doctor. One of the sticky points in our relationship is that the Dictator has a bit more faith in the word of doctors than I do. My less than formal research tells me we are not at all unique in this regard. More time to read and research makes housewives -in general- more crunchy about these things than our husbands tend to be.

Recently however, we found ourselves on the same page on a suggestion offered by a doctor that neither of us liked. It was a surprising irony as I’d already determined not to rock the boat, but he did it for me. It just smacks of the same old tendency we have in our overall culture of treating the symptoms rather than healing underlying issues.

Band-aids on bullet holes and an old fashioned game of kick the healthcare can. It’s the Western way!  Of course, you can’t sell as many pharmaceuticals with a focus on real healing, now can you?

That’s enough musing for one Friday. Sorry if it’s lacking appropriate frivolity.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

 

 

 

 

 

American identity, Common sense, Humility is important, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world, wife stuff

Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

Common sense, family life, healthy living, Uncategorized

On the contrary: Getting proper sleep keeps you young.

One of the wonderful things about a household where there are multiple adults is that there is always good conversation to be had and myriad perspectives to consider.

Among the topics du jour this morning was the subject of sleep. Like most Americans, we struggle to get enough and when I have gotten six hours, I consider it a good night. My goal is seven hours, but I only hit that twice a week. On a good week.

Of our older daughters, one in particular is pretty zealous about her sleep, and during a discussion with co-workers about how little sleep they all get, she mentioned that she makes sure she gets 7 hours of sleep most nights. The questions started:

“What time do you get up in the mornings?”

“5:30”

“Even when you don’t have to work?”

“Yes, I run with my mom and sisters the other mornings and we have to do it at 5:30.”

“What time do you go to bed?”

“10:30.”

“That’s so specific! You’re like an old person!”

We laughed at that because not only is she routinely mistaken for a 16-year-old (she’s 21), she is also pretty energetic. She’s not the only one of our daughters who prioritizes sleep and that decision doesn’t in any way indicate a staid, dull, life lacking fun or vibrancy.

They go out with friends, got to movies, go to concerts, out to dinner, and travel occasionally, things that cut into getting a full night’s sleep.  In short, they live like young, single people with the exception of those norms which violate their faith and values. They’re not living like senior citizens, although I know quite a few senior citizens who don’t live “like senior citizens” either.

Of course, no one goes to dinner with friends or concerts every night, so when home, rather than stare at screens or text until the wee hours, they go to sleep. I reminded them as we discussed it to mark this day because the time will come when their good sleep and health habits will be more evident than ever as they grow older alongside some of these friends.  As if on cue, I ran across this today:

Too little sleep can increase risk of stroke or heart disease.

This article, however, targets people who are already at increased risk to begin with (and most young people are not), so I wondered about the general population, and found this:

How sleep deprivation affects your heart

And since I am personally interested in staying sharp, I did another few clicks and found this:

The Science of How Sleep Changes Your Brain, from Infancy to Old Age

There really isn’t anyone regardless of where you research, who would discount the importance, restorative power, and preservative nature of sleep.

So the next time someone tells you, “You can sleep when you’re dead”, let them know you have no desire to speed up the process unnecessarily just to have one more drink or catch a television show that you can stream tomorrow without the annoyance of commercials. And got to sleep.

I’m feeling like a power nap before I cook dinner.

 

 

 

American identity, Common sense, cultural absurdity, Humility is important

Commitment as long as it works for you isn’t commitment.

During a very edifying time with a friend, we got on to the subject of the innate problem most Americans, including Christians, have with commitment. We weren’t discussing marriage.  Although there is certainly an argument to be made even on that subject, there have been (literally) no divorces in the relatively large circle of families we have been blessed to have fellowship with over the past five years. A couple of close scrapes, but they weathered the storms and came out on the other side, usually happier it seemed. So no, this isn’t about marriage commitments.

It’s about the kinds of commitments that make a viable Christian community over the long haul possible, but which no one -myself included- really want to commit to. At some point the needs of my family, my kids’ education, or my perspective may change in a way that continued commitment to that community won’t work for me anymore. By won’t work, I mean become inconvenient, not comforting, non-affirming, or in some other way fail to add measurable benefit to my life as needs dictate at that time.

The freedom to go for the gold, forge our own paths, rebel against “tyranny” and maximize our potential are what it means to be an American. There are few things in life worth giving up that kind of autonomy for, so in order to spare ourselves the messiness of disentangling from one thing to seamlessly move on to another, we resist committing to anything. Then we wonder why there is no depth of Christian community nor sufficient support, socialization, and connections between believers so that our young people aren’t floundering when it’s time to find a good job, Christian social lives, or a suitable Christian mate. Or why some of them have already determined that family life is not worth the risks or the sacrifices. It’s because we’ve set a poor example.

This admonishment is as much for me as anyone else. After all my impressive rhetoric (according to my friend), when she proposed that I might be the perfect person to fill a particular role, my immediate response was, ” I don’t know, [Carol]. That’s a big commitment!”

…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

Common sense, healthy living, Life hacks

Moderation- in moderation- is better than extremes.

I was reading Hearth’s Unified Field Theory: Food this morning and it was s reminder to me of why moderation -in moderation- is best. She is about to embark on one of my favorite dietary resets (the Whole30) and so writes a bit about her philosophy of food and health.

I don’t think that the ideal involves us making food an idol, either.   And I’m not even saying everything in moderation – I think differently.  I think we should have feasts, and special times to enjoy the most wonderful flavors and sensory experiences that we can conjure up.   But I believe that we should SHARE those experiences so that we enjoy them for a moment, and then that moment is over.

Bad food is like wearing weights.  You don’t want to burden yourself with the bad stuff on the regular, you don’t want to eat party food on the daily.  On the day to day, you want to eat good food that makes you feel incredible, that makes you feel strong and smart and clear and light.

Whatever that prescription is for you, that’s what you should eat.   And you should drink lots of clean water, avoid other chemicals as you can, put clean things on your skin and hair – do as much good for yourself as you can.

I like this approach, as it mirrors my own approach to health and fitness. The older I get, the more I recognize the inherent problem with conflating what works for me into a bedrock principle which everyone else must follow. I’m referring to practical matters here, rather than issues of morality and faith.

There are actually lots of Biblical examples to confirm my understanding of this idea, and I have resolved to one day compile them all since this seems to be such a terribly difficult thing for most Christians to process and internalize. It won’t be today though, as I am thinking more about the practical application of the snippet I posted from hearth’s post.

She is right that there are times when moderation in “all things” needs to be set aside, although these times are to be the exception rather than the rule. Daily feasts necessarily diminish the significance of a feast in the first place. I suspect this is why we see so much dissatisfaction, snark, and general disdain surrounding times and seasons that once were universally considered times of great joy.

When the Elder Brother’s* father killed the fatted calf for his reclaimed son, it was noteworthy because it was not something they did every day, even though the father with his wealth, certainly might have been able to enjoy a fated calf more than once in a great while. This is one of the ways we approach certain foods in our house.

Because the craving for a sweet, fatty treat is pretty easily sated in our culture (we have 4 Publix supermarkets within 10 minutes of our home), we have resolved that unless we want it enough to get in the kitchen and prepare it ourselves from scratch, we don’t really want it. With a few exceptions, this easily limits cookies, cakes or pies to a weekend treat, usually Sundays.

This is easily transferred to just about anything, not just sweets. Fried chicken, french fries (which need to be cut, then soaked in ice water, and deep fried twice to get the fast food effect), or any number of foods that would require a fair amount of time and effort to prepare at home.

Imagine if everyone had this limitation (like many of our grandparents did!). We’ve taken this approach with a lot of foods over the years and it dramatically increases the propensity to just grab a banana when we get hungry.  And then, when we get around to baking a treat, we enjoy it all the more.

Moderation in most things -in moderation- is a good rule of thumb.

*This parable has been forever transformed in my mind to the Story of the Elder Brother, rather than the parable of the Prodigal Son, and this is why.

 

 

 

Common sense, Homemaking stuff, Humility is important, wife stuff

Modern practice and ancient principles aren’t mutually exclusive…

…but they are differently applied. Expecting the lifestyle of a suburban Christian family of 2017 to look like the lifestyle of a family who lived in 1900 -or even 1950- is an invitation to all kinds of battiness and heading off the rails.

I’ve considering several different takes on the subject of the Proverbs 31 wife and how she translates in our current era. Depending on where you look and what you listen to you, can find countless books, commentaries, and discussions on the topic. For example, here and here.

Many debates, in my opinion, miss the point of the “ideal woman” vignette and it’s too bad, because there is a lot to be learned from it, and most of that has little to do with the practical matter of how one keeps house. That matters, but too much criticism and too little thought are given to the strains of postmodern homemaking because a lot of the physical demands have been mitigated by modern technology.

Life today offers many opportunities for leisure and with that the attendant mischiefs. I often think about Maslow’s hierarchy and how perfectly his pyramid applies to postmodern life.

maslow-pyramid

In the absence of a need to focus on survival, we fall prey to distractions, some of which seem good, but are their own form of mischief. One of the ways this manifests is in our insistence that the solution to today’s problems is to live life exactly the way it was lived when the struggle for survival occupied the majority of people’s time and thoughts. And so wives are advised:

  • We should sew our clothing even though it’s often far less expensive to buy comparable clothing ready to wear.
  • We should grow large portions of our food even if we live in areas or climates which again, can make this difficult and expensive compared to buying produce.
  • We should eat the cheapest food available to save money even though we know that many of those processed foods are not nutritious or good for our long-term health.
  • We should have one car while having many children despite living in areas where public transportation is inconvenient to nonexistent.
  • We should spend all our time at home, with little contact or support from other believers. Even though this is not how families and mothers lived 100 years ago when multi-generational and woman to woman support was a significant part of family life.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but as I contemplated it I remembered something written a few years ago by a prolific blogging friend of mine, and she pretty well captured a lot of the inherent problems with trying to pretend that we can live a simplistic, 19th-century lifestyle in the context of the isolated, atomized 21st century with its complicated economy, proliferations of choice, and higher expectations and standards which most all of us embrace:

We are incredibly mobile now, and getting my children in and out of the car is so stressful that we need 30 minutes head-start in order to get everyone buckled in without a meltdown. There is one day in the week where we undergo that particular torture 4 times, and by the end of the day, I’m exhausted even though I haven’t really done anything. I’m increasingly purchasing with local businesses, many of whom will deliver for a small fee, in order to spare myself a bit of that pain.

Visiting friends and relatives is equally grueling, as everyone lives at least 15 minutes drive away. We visit grandma at least once per week, and it’s a 1.5-hour drive in each direction, longer if there’s traffic. And there’s usually traffic. In my MIL’s homemaking days, everyone lived in the same neighborhood and visiting her sister entailed walking two blocks down the street. She was also never in the position of caring for her children while nursing a fever, or alternating making them snacks and vomiting up her own lunch.

I’m lucky that my husband supports me letting the children play outside, and that our house is small and sparse enough that cleaning it is short work, but other women aren’t so lucky. I know women who clean four bathrooms twice a week, as opposed to my 1.5 baths, and cleaning the floors takes them hours and involves lugging a vacuum cleaner up and down stairs to clean their wall-to-wall carpeting. The truth is, anyone who had a house larger than mine “back in the day” also had a cleaning lady or shared the house with other women who could help her.

Yes, you have a washing machine in your basement, but you used to only have three changes of clothes per person, and many had their laundry washed for them. I know this for certain, as my aunt’s family used to run a laundry service and she swears that her family washed the laundry for the entire urban neighborhood. Women bought washing machines, which killed the washerwoman business, but then everyone’s wardrobes grew exponentially.

For all of the talk of “pioneer women”, they were a small minority of women and tended to all be dead before they hit 50. Most women 100 years ago were doing a similar level of housework and homeschooling as I am, but they didn’t have to take on the additional chauffeuring duties, they weren’t as isolated, and they weren’t expected to look like a lingerie model and turn tricks in the bedroom that would put some prostitutes to shame. The workdays were also shorter before cheap electric lighting and most people got more sleep.

So spare me the rewriting of the past. Spare me the rewriting of the present, as well. Far from the “Desperate Housewives” meme, the majority of homemakers are in the lower and working classes. The equation has flipped precisely on its head: the middle-class homemakers are now middle-class workers and the lower-class workers are now lower-class homemakers. And the latter are increasingly male.

I’m not complaining, as I enjoy my life, just pointing out the obvious: then and now aren’t really comparable.

Am I saying that the Proverbs 31 ideal woman is irrelevant or obsolete? Absolutely not! She is more relevant that ever, in context. One of the first areas of the passage that I focused on when I stopped running from it several years ago was this:

The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

This alone encompasses a lot, and when I focused on this with my whole heart, a lot of things came into clear focus and instantly fell into place. Along with that, every single item on my bullet list above? It became unnecessary or at least pared down significantly.

Most of my days are quite full, although without very young children underfoot, I certainly get more breaks than a mother of many littles. The priorities of my days are the priorities which will keep me in line with the verses I highlighted above, and my husband is very much a postmodern American man. Take that as you wish, but coupled with faith,  this means a combination of modern things executed in the spirit of eternal truth. Mostly it means lots of editing: of memos and emails, or other stage management type deals. Also, lots of cooking. The proliferation of food choice has certainly infected this family.

So, while there is a small garden, a bit of sewing, and even homemade bread from time to time, for me Proverbs 31 means that at the end of my child-rearing years, I will prayerfully be able to look back over the decades and see where I struck all the ideal woman notes. I cannot get it all done today. Trying to do so would illustrate a stunning lack of regard for the priorities of the man whose heart’s trust I am trying to maintain and the ultimate goal of a life which represents a woman who fears the Lord.