Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One project at a time...

I read a blog recently by a woman who was overwhelmed. She felt that in order to be "the worthy woman", she needed to be doing a long list of domestic enterprises all at once: canning, gardening, sewing, etc. As a new homemaker, she didn't know much about how to do any one of these, much less how to bring all of these skills together into a manageable routine.

I think, as women, we can often overwhelm ourselves by a lack of focus. For example, I once took a part-time job in a craft store. My husband was starting a new company, and we needed just a little extra cash. So, I chose a craft store because I love crafts. Needless to say, working among all of those supplies, I soon wanted to do every single craft in the store!

"Oh, that looks like fun," I'd think, as I rang up a customer's jewelry making supplies.

And, then came the person with the wooden bow-maker. "Oh, that's so neat!" I'd think.

And, then, would come someone who was knitting or crocheting. Behind her would be someone with scrumptious scrapbook supplies. And, behind her was the person who loved to paint. And, behind her was the person who was refinishing furniture.

And, then, would come the person with all of the glorious cross-stitch projects.

So, after spending too much of my paycheck and my lunch hour collecting supplies for projects I have yet to finish, I realized that I needed some focus. I made a decision about which crafts I can do now, in my season of life. And, even once I narrowed my list of crafts, I decided that I will do them one by one, rather than thinking that I can keep them all going at once.

I have learned that you can't do everything in one season and, also, that you can't predict just what a season will bring. We're having an unusually busy season now. My father has been ill; my mother-in-law just had to have surgery for a shattered knee-cap; we just got back from a lovely family wedding; an older relative's funeral is this week, and so forth.

So, I have had to think, realistically, what do I need to do right now to keep my home running as it should? I have also had to seek advice from my husband about how much work to take on for my at-home business. I've had to learn how to be flexible to needs, while, at the same time, still making and sticking to plans as best as I can.

I have also made a list of creative home projects that I want to accomplish, in addition to my church, home, and family responsibilities. I'm doing them one-by-one, as I can fit them in. And, I'm keeping myself focused on the one extra thing. I'm not letting my thoughts run ahead to the next, and I'm not fretting about what I can't get to.

For example, I started my garden in the spring as usual. Then came a late spring freeze, a summer and fall drought; dad's illness; and other pressing needs. I realized that this was not going to be a good year for me to garden, after all. So, I've left my plants to fend for themselves as best as they can. Once we have our first fall freeze, I will take them out and add some much needed soil to the garden. Now, I live not far from a place where I can buy fresh produce, and, failing that, I do have access to grocery stores. I can provide my family with fresh produce without gardening myself. If I lived somewhere where we depended on my garden for food for the family or to sell, I'd have made it a higher priority, in spite of the drought.

I whole-heartedly love the example of the Proverbs 31 woman and do think she is a model for us to follow. But, we have to think about how to apply her example to our lives. The worthy woman was skilled at the activities needed to manage her household in her era and in her country and in her culture and in her particular family. So, we have to pray, think, and consult our husbands and wise women about what that means in our day and our culture and in our country and in our particular family.

Now, this is one of the many areas in life in which I do not have all of the answers. It's something you will have to work out for yourself, under the umbrella of God's guidance, of course.

The major lessons of Proverbs 31, I think, are about the worthy woman's heart. She was dedicated to God, to her husband, to her children, to the management of her household, and to her outreach to the poor and needy. She was in her home and aware of what transpired in her home, so that she could take care of what was needed. She spoke kindly and wisely. She put her heart and her strength into her household management, and she worked eagerly, without complaining. She was wise. She was a good steward of financial resources. She planned ahead and prepared ahead. She lived life on purpose, rather than letting herself drift according to her circumstances.

Those points of character transcend time and culture. If a woman cultivates the attitude of the worthy woman, then the works of her hands -- whatever they may be -- will flow from a heart that has healthy priorities. As such a woman passes through the seasons of her life, she will do the best she can with what she has where she is and with whatever ability has been given to her. She will grow in character and in skill. And, no matter where and when she lives, her life will be a blessing to others.



Meredith said...

Thank you, Elizabeth--you always share such a balanced view of life! It is so easy to get caught up in everything we *think* we need to do.

Let me know if I can help you in any way during this busy time : )

Heather said...

Thank you for this post! I haven't visited here for a while and just thought I'd drop by while I had a few minute this evening - I am glad I did! I needed this reminder - badly! I feel so 'guilty' when I am not doing it all - and doing it well. That's not a balanced view. It's not what Gos has called me to. In this season of chronic illness and homeschooling despite it, I have enough to keep me busy! When I entend my energies to too many extra projects, I become stressed and unwell. I need to pray that the Lord will show me 'the next thing' to do and help me to keep focused on it until completion, rather than beginning everything at once and never finishing a single project!