Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

Thank God for Laundry, Heartache, and Fleas

Female prisoners gathered when the Red Cross arrive at Ravensbrück in April 1945. The white paint marks show they are prisoners.

Female prisoners at Ravensbrük. Image credit: wikipedia.org

My youngest child has long outgrown his crib, but it’s still in my room serving as a giant laundry basket.  After the clothes come out of the dryer, I heap them by the armful into my son’s former bed.  There, the clothes wait for days, occasionally weeks (OK, usually.  Who am I kidding?), to be folded, hung, or picked up by the older kids to be put way in their rooms.  One afternoon the pile was especially high, but right before a groan came to my lips, I resolved that I was not going to complain about having so many clothes to fold. SO MANY clean clothes, for my whole family, as well as clean towels and clean sheets. Isn’t that a nice problem to have?  Realizing that it is indeed very nice, I turned on HGTV and set to folding.

Actually, I think that was kind of an easy test. Laundry is a chore, but it doesn’t hurt.  It’s a little harder to be thankful for things that hurt, like marital problems, or not being able to pay your bills.

When my husband and I look back on the financial setbacks we faced early in our marriage, we are glad that those challenges knocked down our pride a few notches. Our lifestyle had centered largely on earning and consuming.  But after our income shrunk dramatically, our mixed up priorities were rearranged, and we’re grateful for it.  Now.

And it’s when our relationship has been the most strained that I’ve clung to Jesus as if my life—from moment to the very next moment—depended on Him. It always depends on him, but I tend to forget that when things are rosy and cozy. So, in retrospect, I’m thankful for those days that made me intensely aware of my need for God, and intimately aware of his mercy and faithfulness.  But do I thank God for the heartache at the time?

James 1:2 exhorts us to count it all joy when we face all kinds of trials.  The “when” catches my eye, because it doesn’t say “after.” It doesn’t say “five years later,” or “after the sting fades.”  But while it’s happening!  Why should we rejoice? Because the testing of our faith produces patience.  And why did Paul delight in weakness and hardship? Because he had learned that Christ’s power was made perfect in his human weakness.  “For when I am weak,” Paul confessed, “then I am strong.”

One woman who appeared to have mastered joy “while it’s happening” was Betsie ten Boom. Her sister Corrie wrote about it in The Hiding Place.  I read this book in high school (Junior high maybe??  Both were a long time ago.), so I had to refresh myself on the details. But to this day I still remember, “Thank God for the fleas.”

The “fleas” incident took place at the Ravensbrük concentration camp in Germany.  The sisters’ long journey there began in the Netherlands, where the Nazis had arrested their family for hiding Jews in their home.  Corrie and Betsie had been transferred to a barracks that was swarming fleas, and Corrie cried, “How can we live in such a place!”  Betsie’s response was to pray.  Then, remembering what they’d read that morning, Betsie asked Corrie to read it again.

In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is: Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbrük.

“Go on,” said Betsie. “That wasn’t all.”

“Oh yes: …Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances! That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!” I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“Such as?” I said.

“Such as being assigned here together.”

I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”

“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” I looked down at the Bible.

“Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”

“Yes,” said Betsie, “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!”

She looked at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded.

“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.”

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–”

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted.It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Days later, the sisters learned how they had been blessed by the fleas.

There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.

“You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well–I’ve found out.”

That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t,” said Betsie. “She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.

Thank You for the fleas!  It’s practically beyond my imagination how Betsie was so grateful in the midst of their hellish circumstances, or how Paul wrote letters from jail about rejoicing always and giving thanks at all times.  But surely if God commands us, it’s possible.  And I can start by thanking God for my own trials, however big or small.

Thanks for stopping by,

Susan

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A Woman’s Work

Work Zone sign

image credit: state.ma.us

For the past eight years, I have had the great blessing of working from home.  It started as a full-time job outside of the home, and I was able to begin telecommuting after my third child was born.  Over the course of marriage and motherhood, I have also stayed home full-time without an income, worked from home as a consultant, and I have worked part-time while my husband, mother, or close friend watched the children. All of these scenarios have come with challenges and advantages, but I consider myself very fortunate to be in my current situation.

Whether a marriage starts with one income or two, that number may change (multiple times) as the family grows in size and as financial needs change.  Whether and how a wife will earn an income affects the entire family and can be a difficult decision.  As I have learned from experience, that decision can be even more difficult and a source of conflict if she (or he, for that matter) does not fully understand their financial situation. In other words, sometimes a husband and wife don’t agree on this issue because they don’t both have a clear picture of the budget.

While knowing your total income and expenses doesn’t guarantee that you and your husband will be in agreement, it’s important information to have as you consider this decision together.  If you work outside the home, for example, but your heart’s desire is to stay home, would leaving the workplace require small adjustments or major changes?  Would you and your husband both be willing to make those changes?  If not in the short-term, is it a goal you can work towards?  On the other hand, you may have a desire, or sense a need, to return to the workplace in some way.  After factoring in commuting, childcare, clothing, and other work-related costs, would the net increase in income be worth the effort?  As you add up the numbers, seek the Lord for wisdom, direction, and unity (see James 1:5, Proverbs 3:5-6Philippians 4:6-7, and Ephesians 3:20 for encouragement), knowing that ultimately, the Lord can change any heart and any circumstance.

For many moms, working is about more than money.  Moms who stay home may find themselves envying their commuting counterparts, who get to enjoy adult conversation during the day, and perhaps put some of their skills and education to work in interesting ways.  There may be added pressure from friends and relatives who do not understand a woman’s decision to focus her energies on the home, as taught in Titus 2.  But God sees that investment, even if others do not recognize its value.  And even without earning an income, a woman can bless her family financially through wise management and learning the “state of her flocks.”

It’s also tough on the other side.  While it’s nice to be able to go the bathroom without small people following you, balancing family and professional responsibilities is extremely challenging.  And here, too, there may be judgment from others who disagree with a family’s choice.  But the wife who earns an income can thank God for the skills and experience that enable her to bless her family in this way.  I rejoice that God has given both me and my husband wonderful work opportunities, and provided beyond all of our needs.

Above all, whether we work at home, outside the home, or both, let’s remember this:

~~ Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV) ~~

Thanks for stopping by,

Susan

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Hide-the-Word Wednesdays

Treaure Chest

Often when I am worried, confused, discouraged, or tempted, a Bible verse will come to mind that gives me God’s perspective on the situation.  Or, part of the verse will come to mind, and then I will have to look it up because I don’t quite remember the whole thing.  But it would be nice if I did.

~~I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  (Psalm 119:11, NIV)~~

The New American Standard version says, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart” (emphasis added).  What a beautiful and apt way to describe how much we should value God’s Word.  And when it’s in our hearts, it is always with us, ready to counsel us at just the right time.  So every Wednesday I will choose a Bible verse to memorize, to plant in my brain, to hide in my heart.  This week’s verse is from the Book of James.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

What are some of your favorite verses, that come to mind when you need comfort or wisdom?

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