Wisdom for Wives

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

Hide-the-Word Wednesday: Pillow Talk

I’ve shared before that it usually takes me only a few minutes—if that—to fall asleep every night. But last night I was so anxious about a situation that sleep did not come right away. After a while, I thought about how all this worrying can’t be good for my health. Then I realized that I was worrying about worrying! What a mess!!

Thank God for an idea better than counting sheep:  why not “Bible myself to sleep?” I searched my memory for any long passages of Scripture. My kids memorized a big chunk of Philippians 4 last year, and fortunately I picked up some of it, too. And so I started: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice …”

I don’t know for sure how long I lasted, but I’m pretty sure that I was asleep before verse 19.

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:19

image credit: Jimmy Palma Gil under Creative Commons

Do you find yourself lying awake with worry? Or is bedtime your one-on-One time with the Lord?

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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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Praying “At” Your Husband?

Silhouette of a woman in a hard hat hammering a board

image credit: microsoft.com

If you have been married any length of time, you have probably heard a sermon, read a blog post, or purchased a book encouraging you to pray for your husband.  Five years ago, I met with a group of ladies every Saturday morning for a few months to pray for our husbands.  If you search the New King James version of the Bible, you will find over 300 uses of “pray,” “prayer,” “supplication,” or “intercession.”  Prayer is essential, and that includes praying for your husband.

But do you ever find yourself praying at your husband? What do I mean? Well, I imagine praying at your husband to be kind of like looking at God and saying, “You and me, God, we’re here.  We understand each other.  Can You help him get with the program?” Or maybe, “Fix him, Lord.”

Perhaps you would never utter such words in prayer. But I’m talking about a very wrong attitude you can have in your heart, even while doing a very good thing like praying for your husband. This attitude is also characterized by:

Being more concerned about what your husband does (or doesn’t do) for you, than about his spiritual, mental, and emotional welfare
Priding yourself on your “spiritual maturity,” while overlooking the areas of your own walk that require “fixing”

And how do I know so much about praying at your husband? I have to admit, I’ve had lots of practice.

For a picture of the right attitude, let’s look to Jesus.

~~ Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:3-7) ~~

But what if your heart is too hurt, too angry, too tired? What if all you can manage is attitude prayer? Should you just not pray at all? How can you shift to truly praying for your husband?  Again, God’s Word has the answers:

1. Confess.
Speak to God honestly, from your heart. There’s no point in lying to Him anyway. 🙂 Confess your anger, pride, and bitterness. And ask Him to reveal to you the issues that you don’t even know about.  Whatever is, lay it all before Him. He has good news for you.

~~ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) ~~

I have also confessed my pride to my husband, but I wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know from my words and demeanor.  (Even when we think we’ve disguised those attitudes really well, sometimes they seep out anyway.)

2. Consider who your husband is in Christ.
A few years ago, my husband and I took a video course based on the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. During the third session, Thomas says, “Your wife isn’t just your wife, she is God’s daughter … If you want to revolutionize your marriage, think of God as your Father-in-law.”  When you go to God in prayer for (or at) your husband, you’re talking to God about His son, too!  (Why was this mind-altering to me? Isn’t it obvious??)  This doesn’t mean that you should sugar-coat or “spiritualize” your prayers.  Again, be straight with God.  He cares about your heart’s desires. But He cares about your husband’s just as much. You are—both of you—precious to Him. And if you both confess Jesus as Lord, then you are both His chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, and special possession (1 Peter 2:9). Meditating on that is bound to change the way you pray for him.  I encourage you to download this PDF and meditate on more things that God says about His precious son and daughter.

3. Keep praying!
I hope I haven’t given you a complex about praying at/for/about/around your husband!  We really don’t have to wait to “get right” before we can pray.  We are invited to boldly approach God’s throne, where will receive grace and mercy.  He can change our hearts, work miracles in our relationships, and give us indescribable peace.

~~ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, underline added) ~~

Just remember when you pray, that it’s not you and God against your husband.  He loves both of you very much.

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 Wednesday: Peace That Doesn’t Make Sense

How do you respond to a stressful situation? Do you try to plan the uncertainty out of it? Or do you sit paralyzed, playing all the dreadful possibilities in your mind (as I’ve been known to do)? Well, planning is usually wise, and waiting is often necessary. But prayer is the action plan that will lead to peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

image credit: office.microsoft.com

What verses help to calm your worried mind?

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