Proverbs 31:10-31… a beautifully common passage of Scripture when it comes to describing femininity and the multifaceted work of a godly woman. This is a passage which is both loved and scorned, because of its depth and breadth, because of its high aims and claims. How many of us, especially women who have been churched for years upon years, have done studies on this passage? can quote it by heart? know its ins and outs, ups and downs? who cling to it with joy and promise? who maybe even look at it with doubt and worry, wondering if we can ever live up to it?
Well. Today I’m not here to encourage you in the paths of Proverbs 31, to exhort you to pursue these many feminine graces, to show how God wants to accomplish these incredible things in you and through.
Today I am here to honor my mother.
Today is my mother’s birthday, and today I am recalling what an excellent woman she is in so many facets and incredible ways. I am musing upon the mighty works of the Lord in her and through her, for her and by her.
Today I am looking at Proverbs 31:10-31 and contemplating just a small handful of ways that I see God has worked out these wonderful deeds and characteristics in my own mama.
Today I pray for God’s continued hand to be resting mightily upon her, for Him to bless her with grace and glory because of Christ, for Him to lift her spirits and strengthen her body, for His power to continue being evident through her words and her deeds ~ she belongs to Him, and I am just so thankful to say that He has given part of her to me too.
Mama, I love you entirely, deeply, and forever. Thank you for being my mama. Thank you for being my babies’ grandmama.
Happiest of Birthdays to you, and many happy returns.
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
My mother was, of course, already a wife by the time I knew her. She had been married for over eight years by the time I was cradled in her arms. My father knew her well… they met when they were only ten years old, and were married at twenty-one. I have known my mother for thirty years, and never have a seen a wife more trusted than she; and never have I doubted that she does good to and for my father all the days of her life. He has never had a reason to doubt her, and their hearts are united in such a way that they simply beat as one.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
My mother has always been industrious. Some of my earliest memories of her, and definitely some of the fondest, include spending time at Michael’s craft stores or Jo-Ann’s fabric stores and watching her collect items that she would then work on to make into beautiful and functional things. I have early memories of gardening and grocery shopping with her, and a library full of memories of cooking, baking, sewing, creating, decorating, party-planning with her. We weren’t a processed food kind of family… she always cooked from scratch, baked our bread, catered meals and parties and office luncheons from menus she created herself and concocted frugally with ingredients she picked up in the freshest places we had available. My mom always made sure there was more than enough: never “just enough” but always with an abundance. She has been frugal and wise and capable. She emphasized productivity and industry with her purchases yet beauty and aesthetic with her finished products. She can make anything look beautiful, and make anything taste delicious. She spends money with a deft hand: she saves it with wisdom. The Lord blesses this kind of balanced insight, and He causes the increase. I’ve seen this in and through how my mother has planned, prepared, purchased, planted, and produced.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
One funny thing about my mom is what a night-owl she is, and always has been. I’ve always smiled at the thought that her lamp does not go out at night. But what I wanted to focus on here is strength. My mother is a strong woman, in body and in spirit. She is no limp noodle. She has always shown me the value of physical exercise, of bodily exertion, of eating healthy, of taking care of the physical body God gave to me—and she has, even more, shown me the value of spiritual strength. My mother is continually seeking to grow more and more in the knowledge of the Lord, deepening her understanding of Scripture, widening her girth of ministry, advancing her battle-waging prayers, and becoming ever closer to her Father and Brother and Comforter. She does not grow weary in these things, and does not give up when things require extra strength—she digs in her heels, grits her teeth, and uses all the strength God has given her, while continuing to ask Him for more. Whether speaking of spiritual graces or materials works, my mother is diligent and labors industriously, for the good of others, for the blessing of her family, for the glory of God.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
My mother is a generous woman. If she hears of a need, she does what she can to fill it. She loves to share things with people. She loves to give. She gives gifts, she gives money, she gives food, she gives cards, she gives phone calls, she gives counsel, she gives time, she gives countless prayers. She would never be the first one to tell you—in fact, most often, she keeps her generosity rather a secret unless you’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of things, because while she is very generous, she is very discreet and loves to share of her bounty and her graces behind the veil. God blesses her for that, and I love her for it.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Even when my parents were young and dirt-poor (yes, there was a time when they didn’t have two nickels to rub together), my mother sought to beautify her home to create a haven for their family and for those around them to whom they would open their doors. Those were the days when sewing and crafting were the frugal way to do things rather than simply the chic way… so she could pull together clothes, curtains, table linens, wreaths, and bed sets on pennies and grit. She took delight in doing that. As time has changed and the Lord has blessed my parents with more than two nickels through the years, she continues to seek wise and beautiful care of her home and her family. She knows that these things are a gift from the Lord, and she puts herself to use in being a physical conduit of His grace in these ways.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
If there’s one thing my father has never been, it’s hidden. He has always been well-known, and he has always used that for God’s glory. He is well-respected, well-honored, well-loved—and with good reason. Not only is he a jack of all trades in the sense of being a true Renaissance Man, excelling in everything from plumbing to doctoring to woodworking to preaching to composing poetry, but he is an adamant lover of God above all else. This is something that my mother has loved about him and encouraged in him since they were teenagers. My mother is not ashamed of his position in our community as a well-known, popular, albeit somewhat controversial (hey, that’s what being an outspoken conservative Christian will get you these days!), medical professional—nor is she offended by his incredible love of learning Scripture, continual desire to deepen his knowledge of God’s character, his sharpening by & of other Christians by discussion and reading and asking and searching and praying. My mother is constantly encouraging him and uplifting him, honoring him and seeking his good.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
My mom has always been a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn’t mean she has not worked in the marketplace during my lifetime. I remember when she would host craft fairs with a friend of hers… I remember when she would make things to sell… I remember when she taught our church’s monthly craft night for women and led Bible studies. She also spent years catering the office luncheons my father held for his staff, and when begged for recipes, she even put together cookbooks of her favorite things. She has always been a woman who has done good work, things that people enjoy and value—and she has taken delight in various ways at various times in sharing these things with others around her.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Strength, dignity, laugher, wisdom, kindness, speech—I really feel like these things particularly embody my mother. If you know my mom at all, you know she loves to converse, and never on a superficial level. My mother, if she’s anti anything, is anti-superficial. Have you ever heard the saying, “still waters run deep”? That describes my mom. A good part of that comes from her depth of wisdom and kindness, which the Lord has graced her with by His merciful care. And she is stalwart: strong and dignified, never wondering where God’s sovereignty is going to land but confidently resting in His plan with peace. These are some of the things that God has equipped her with that have specifically blessed me in recent years of my own struggles and griefs. My mother is the type of Titus 2 woman every young woman should have in her life, not because she has all the answers, but because she has the characteristics that God delights to give older women who are resting and growing and passing His fruits of the Spirit on to others through love and good deeds.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
I’ve heard of women who, once they reach the stage of empty-nesting, take up all kinds of hobbies (whether self-serving or otherwise)… that’s not something my mother has done, nor has she any desire to do it. She continues to give of herself, her time, her love, her resources to look well to the ways of her home and family. She does not sit around reading novels or watching soap operas. She doesn’t even sit around quilting or knitting or gardening, even though those would be delightful and creative and profitable things to do. She gives herself to caring for her home, nurturing her family, teaching her descendants about God, and spending time with Him and His people. Some people have come into my parents’ home and made the comment to my father that he has done pretty well for himself, and I recall him once saying, “my wife does a wonderful job with what the Lord has given us.” She is not idle, and she cares well for what the Lord has put under her care.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
My mother is mama of two, mama-at-heart of two more, and grandmama of sixteen so far (that’s a pretty good return on investment right there). Nobody takes more delight in this honorable, delightful, godly, wise, kind, competent woman than her husband, children, and grandchildren. I think that’s because we are ones who are blessed to know her most intimately. She is a humble woman, but we are not necessarily humble about her—we love to tell the world how marvelous she is, and we love excuses to tell her how much she means to us. We don’t want to wait to tell the world about her until she has died and we have to write memorials and obituaries—we want her to know now what a blessing she is, and in what ways God uses her in our lives.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
My mother may be charming and beautiful, but her fear of the Lord is the most prominent thing about her. The fruit of her hands is obvious and abundant but honors and praises her in delicately sweet and graceful ways. She has been a lifelong homemaker (full-time for the last 33 years), and her home continues to be a place of beauty and rest and hospitality. She is the matron of a God-fearing, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled family of children and grandchildren who cling to her, body and spirit, with joy and dedication. And I think that is one of the most rewarding fruits that have been thrown from her fruit-laden branches—the generations that are following her are following her example of faith—and these are fruits that will not return to dust but will flourish throughout eternity.
Mama, I love you completely and thoroughly. I want to be like you when I grow up—I pray the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree so that I can grow and drop the same kinds of fruits you do. They’re delicious. Happy birthday, and may you have many more fruitful years and joyful birthdays. MJ