What is left when all is taken away? A look at VIRTUE

What would happen if you took away all the “accomplishments” of the Proverbs 31 woman? All the housecleaning, handwork, industry, labour, and meal preparation? What would be her adornment if she was rendered incapable of all the above? I think lately I’ve been regarding this virtuous model far too much in the lens of what she does rather than who she is: a virtuous woman. Virtue! It’s not attained by rising early, working hard, working late, or even serving others the best that you know how. It isn’t a fruit of endeavouring, it is a fruit of the fear of the LORD. She isn’t virtuous because she’s industrious; she’s virtuous because she fears the Lord, and she’s industrious because she’s virtuous!

This is what the Proverbs 31 woman is at the very core, a woman who fears the LORD, who loves Him, and obeys Him with reverence and devotion. This is why her tongue is ruled by the law of kindness, why she ministers to the weak and poor, ultimately why her husband safely trusts her, and why she is truly a blessing and blessed. Oh! I am so ashamed for my lack! For focusing on outward things and letting the heart go undertouched. Virtue. Image

Considering and meditating on what this precious fruit of the Lord’s fear is, put simply, it is an outworking of true love. “Moral excellence” is the dictionary definition, and the more I dwell upon it the more I am convinced that charity is the chief virtue, such that all others flow from it: “the greatest of these is charity.”

Love is so much more than feelings of contentment and delight. Which is a good thing, too! because wifing and mothering isn’t always delightful.

There will sure be a lot of that though, like when your 8 month old plants a big, wet, wide-mouthed “kiss” on your cheek, or your 2 year old daughter comes running into your arms for the best hug in the world, or your 3 year old son pulls his chair up beside you as you cook and says “I love you, mother”, or your 4 year old hands you a bouquet of weeds with the most beautiful smile to accompany it, or when your husband talks with you about a common goal and dream, praying with and for you, encouraging.

There is a wealth of treasures in wifehood and motherhood, for sure!

But, there will be days. Days where you wake up to your 8 month old’s hollers after waking up to them all through the night, and before groggily attempting to go back to sleep you will hear an outcry from your 3 year old in another room which you will know instinctively is because he didn’t make the toilet in time, and after you clean up after that and start the dishes you couldn’t wash the night before because your sink was too backed up, your 2 yr old will start her shrill screaming to get out of bed, your husband is “sleeping” through it all, and just when you think perhaps the excitement is dying down, your 4 year old wakes up and starts arguing with your 3 year old about which one is George Washington. Yes, there will be those days, too.

Yet, charity suffereth long, and is kind. Yet, charity never faileth.

This is my fail! Oh, for more charity! for kindness being the law by which my tongue is guided and by which my hands find the will to serve; for a love for the Lord that only grows truer and deeper as He is learned through His word and fellowship; for a hunger for this that will not die; for right fear and true virtue; for charity! not easily provoked, not seeking her own, rejoicing in truth.

The virtuous woman is a woman of charity. There is only so much one can “endeavour” when it comes to this, for love is a fruit of the Spirit, and not the fruit of her hands. Let this be our focus, however. Let us sow to the Holy Spirit, and we will reap of the same. Goals, lists, resolutions, organization: they’re all good, and they are important. But they are not the fear of the Lord, they are not virtue, and they are not charity.

May the Lord make and find us women of virtue indeed.

“She seeketh wool” — DIY — wool dryer balls

As the warmer months approach here’s another DIY thing to consider: wool dryer balls. It’s exciting too, how this fits in so perfectly with one of the current endeavours: “she seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands”.

I hadn’t even heard of wool dryer balls until quite recently, but they act as a fabric softener and theoretically as an energy saver as well. There’s some divided opinion about that. Some people swear by them–have their dryer time cut by 50%–others don’t detect a difference at all. I think it may just have to do with the volume of balls you’ve got in your dryer. 😉 Some people use up to a dozen for large loads!

Back a few months ago I was all set to order some wool from a friend but since shipping was going to be more expensive than the wool I decided against it. Then while shopping at JoAnn’s I spontaneously bought a couple skeins of fisherman’s wool with 50% and %40 off coupons. It made 4 balls and *still* cost me about $12 to make. One thing I can say for sure is that they are wonderful for softening clothes. Commercial fabric softeners are filled with harmful chemicals and aren’t good for your dryer either, so I hadn’t been using anything, and definitely noticed a difference right away when using these. Not sure about the drying time yet.

After spending what I did and then going back to find out what the price for wool plus shipping would be to get unwashed wool from my friend I’ve realized it will be much less expensive to go ahead and get some from her, even with shipping being what it is. I wasn’t keen on the idea of having to work much with the wool before using it, but in consideration and remembrance of this verse “she seeketh wool…and worketh willingly…” I’m so excited to make the plunge! especially if it means we will spend less on energy for running the dryer and the a/c to compensate for the dryer.

Some of you are way ahead of me and are already only hanging out all your clothes. Can’t save more on dryer time than that! My man is going to put up a new line for me (last one broke), but if you have a dryer I still encourage getting at least enough wool for a few balls, for the softening it will do for your clothes if you simply toss them in for an hour on the “no heat” setting before hanging them out, since hanging clothes out usually means stiff clothes! I’m also still planning on making my dozen balls so that I can use them on rainy days or terribly busy days where hanging them out just isn’t an option.

When I’ve got my dozen I’ll be sure and let my captivated (I’m sure!) audience know how well they work on cutting dryer time. 😉

For a picture tutorial on how to make your own dryer balls from yarn, go here. I’ll be doing a good deal of searching to learn how to process wool into roving, and for anyone interested in that process and knowledge will share about that once I have figured it out and executed it. So excited about blessing my husband by saving where I can!

Can any of you think of ways to save more money by conserving energy, or other ways?

Do any of you have experience with wool dryer balls? How do they work for you? Is your dryer time reduced?

If there be first a Willing Mind

We’ve had sickness in our house this past week, which has made the usual routine kind of wonky, and definitely made changes for the better much harder to keep up. It’s so easy to fall desperately behind your ideal when your ideal is a grand one but hard to attain even with all other things being ideal! Make sense? That said, one thing is ever, ever important: a willing mind. What will follow from this is willing hands, and is next on our “list” to observe: “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.” Proverbs 31:13

If you’re anything like me, being overwhelmed is a killer to motivation. It always seems like the opposite should be true, but it always tends to give me the blues and doldrums.

Just the other night we got back from a family reunion on my husband’s mother’s side, we did a bunch of errands afterward, and didn’t get home until almost 8. Nobody had eaten yet. We had just unloaded the van, adding it to our nice little mess that we already had in the house from leaving in a fairly rushed manner. Bithiah had overloaded her diaper. Abel had to be nursed. And, I was sick. And Nathan had to go back out. A look at the clock and a look at the house and the list that kept getting longer as I thought upon it mounted pretty quickly, but my husband, hearing of my depression (I’m pretty vocal about these kinds of things), before he left did a simple and powerful thing. He simplified it. “Just get them dinner and put the refrigerated things away and we’ll tackle it together when I get back. You can do this, my ‘endeavourer’.” You want to know how it really went? No? I’m boring you? Sorry!!! Anyway, just simplifying, making it sound doable, gave me a willing mind. Then I not only wanted to do, I wanted to do it all, before he got back. I love a good challenge. 🙂 I had 30 minutes. I got everything done except for making the sandwiches, which worked out fine since he had our eldest with him.

So if you’re “behind” where you want to be, here’s the challenge: Simplify! What are the absolute necessary things to get done, and what would you just like to get done? If you are at all competitive, as I am, one thing that helps is to “race”. Since I don’t have anyone to race I race myself against the clock. If it usually takes me 45 minutes to fold all 4 loads of laundry, I give myself 35. Since I often clean the kitchen in 30 minutes, I give myself 25, etc. Make it challenging enough to motivate you, but don’t make it impossible or it’ll just be depressing all over again!

A willing mind means willing hands! The verse in the Bible that talks about the willing mind is actually in reference to giving: “If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (can’t remember where that’s found, probably II Corinthians 8 or 9) The principal applies very well to this same thing, though. Just work, work willingly, work joyfully. At the end of the day more than likely you won’t have a husband who is saying “Why isn’t [this] done or [that] done?” Your work will be accepted. When you give you aren’t rebuked for what you didn’t give if you couldn’t give it, and in the same way when you work you will not be rebuked for what you didn’t do if you couldn’t do it.

Our offering is always to the Lord first, and He will always accept it if it is offered with humility and love.

Down to the Nitty Gritty

Knowing this would happen may have prepared me, but it’s still hard. Remember that post, Motherhood is for Quitters? Well, it’s starting already! Frankly, this endeavouring thing just isn’t as exciting as it was when first started, and consequently momentum from excitement has waned. Every worthwhile thing requires work and diligence, though, so now’s the time to resolve.

A bit of change needs to happen in this new month to make the goals outlined in “She doeth him good” a reality. One is to wake up earlier. Another is to regulate my time wisely so that writing about these endeavours doesn’t keep me from endeavouring! Also, to be more organized. But mostly, seeking His grace for it every day, and not trying to accomplish anything by my own might or power, only by His Spirit. It is so innate in me to be proud. Even after going through horrible times of humbling where I can see how wretched I am, when His grace again is given my foolish heart boasts not enough in the Lord and desires vainglory for it, as if it were me! Thus, I am often reminded of my weaknesses, again by His grace. Just want to be done with it, my foolish pride be killed!

As an attempt to organize the week here’s a rough outline:

  • Sunday–Lord’s day!
  • Monday–Wash day; catch up on all laundry and iron clothes
  • Tuesday–Kitchen day; mop floor, wash windows, clean fridge
  • Wednesday–General house cleaning; dusting, sweeping bedrooms, cleaning bathrooms, hubby’s office
  • Thursday–Go with the flow! Nathan’s day off!
  • Friday–Misc; research, DIY type things, laundry again
  • Saturday–Handwork day

Start day by: 7:00
Have breakfast on by 8:30
Have house tidied and laundry started by 10:00
School until 12:00
Lunch, clean-up, reading, then children nap at 1:00
Computer stuff, crochet until 3:00
Goals for the day accomplished by 4:30 (including laundry on laundry day, but started from day’s beginning)
House tidied and dinner done by 6:15
Kitchen cleaned by 7:30
Free time! Children to bed by 8-8:30
To bed by 10-11:00

The idea too is to have the children involved with a lot of what’s going on, when appropriate, and to try and leave enough time for things to be done in to allow for playing and snuggling with the baby and the Bit in between.

So now that there’s this rough draft of goals and any readers are quite thoroughly bored, as it is after 7 now, it is time to “start my day”. 🙂 Probably more baby and Bit snuggles in order for the day though, as they are a little bit sick.

I never do very good with schedules, although they always look so nice on paper! What about you? Are you the organizational type? do you have a good outline that works for you? Always open to hear ideas or critiques. After all, I’m fairly young yet, and have a lot to learn.

The Lord bless you this mid-week day!

 

Wash day–Laundry Soap recipe

All right, ladies! A new week of work is beginning after a wonderful day of rest and worship.  Sundays aren’t always so restful, but this last one was, and I hope yours was as well. Now, then! Time to roll up those sleeves. “Monday is wash day” according to our foremothers, so paying deference to their wisdom it will be mine as well (though laundry is still done throughout the week).  Gather up all those towels and sheets, the dirty socks under the bed, and any/all baskets of laundry about the house, and get started as early as possible, because ironing takes place today, too.  And bathrooms. Yes, admittedly, I never did those bathrooms last time (at least I only said “they needed doing” and not that I would do them! because conveniently there wasn’t enough time to after the laundry was folded before dinner needed starting. What a shame. Do any of you out there like to clean bathrooms??  Can you teach me how? to like it, I mean? Or, would you come over and do it for me? 🙂

Since it’s laundry day, I’ll share my recipe for all natural laundry soap; it’s very, very cheap!  A good friend of mine gave me a recipe a while back, and I’m so grateful she did, because homemade laundry soap had just never even crossed my mind before then, and it’s so economical! If you have never made your own laundry soap I do hope that this post inspires you to do so, because

  1. it’s a money saver
  2. it’s done in bulk, so you don’t have to worry about running out for a long time
  3. it’s free of synthetic fragrances and other harmful chemicals present in commercial laundry detergent
  4. it’s satisfying to accomplish

While there are many recipes out there for laundry detergent the one I use and like the most is more concentrated than most you will find searching, which I like very well since I have hard water and need more umph, and because I like for it to last longer.

The ingredients are simple and few:

  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 4 cups grated natural soap (I use Kirk’s castile, you can get it scented or unscented (preferably unscented); CVS and Publix carry it)
  • 4 cups super washing soda (this is different from baking soda, you can find it in the laundry aisle at Walmart)
  • 4 cups borax (again, laundry aisle)
  • 4 gallons hot water

Put water on to boil, grate soap. When water is boiling stir in soap until it is all melted, and then let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour soap into a 5 gallon bucket and add the washing soda and borax.
Stir until it is all dissolved, add and stir in 4 gallons of water.
Pour into gallon jugs (leave a couple inches from the top, so you can shake it up effectively)

And that’s it! After several hours (overnight) it will thicken and gel, but not uniformly. The chunky globby look is normal. 🙂 Just shake it up, it’ll get pretty smooth. Granted it’s not my favourite job to make the stuff, it takes a bit of time, but it lasts so long it doesn’t have to be done often. The recipe I used for this says to use ¼ cup per load. I always use more because hard water requires that, and I usually have something wet (i.e. from a potty training accident or overnight pull-up over-maxed) but see what works for you. You won’t regret it!

Consider. If you can get away with using only ¼ cup: at 16 cups per gallon, and 4 ½ gallons, you have 72 cups. 72 cups x 4 is 288. You just made enough laundry detergent for 288 loads!

Additionally borax and super washing soda can be purchased for about $7.50 and the 3 bar soap-pack  for about $2.00 (plus you won’t be using it all) So for under $10 you’re set on laundry for the better part of a year! or at least a big part.

When I run out I’ll post up a picture tutorial of the process, but don’t wait until then to get started, because it won’t be for another couple months. 🙂
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Lest I deceive, I should disclose that the bulk of the material in this post was written last night, because I wanted it up earlier rather than later and still am not an early bird. “She riseth also while it is yet night” will be another focus for another month, I’ve already got “her candle goeth not out by night” down pat since it usually “goeth not out” by 12:59 ;). This month’s focus is “she doeth him good” and for me that means more cleaning and timely meal preparation.

So, let’s dedicate this brand new day and new work week to the Lord Who made it, with thankfulness and grace. Love that husband. Kiss that baby. Hug those children. There’s so much richness of good in the calling we’ve been given!

The Lord bless you with light and joy today, dear saints.

Wash_day[1]

“She doeth him good”

Since we’re Endeavouring Proverbs 31 here, it makes sense to start in the beginning of the passage that so thoroughly outlines the virtues of this classic role model. This is the first thing listed that she does:

She doeth him good…”
It would be easy to write pages of applications to this simple directive, while at the same time it is so clear that no exposition is really necessary. She doeth him good. We all know what good is! It’s just so much easier to say than to do, but she doeth him good.

So this is the month’s goal: (I do realize we are only 2/3 through March, but I hate to put off a good thing till later just because it might be “neater” to do so. Besides, this month’s goal is multifaceted so we (or at least I!) can certainly use the extra 10 days.)

Write a list! All the areas lacking that the husband would be blessed by. All the areas where his wishes have already been made known but for whatever fleshly reasons they haven’t been faithfully executed. My list may differ greatly from yours, because every husband has different expectations and every wife has different areas she excels and delights in fulfilling and others she just doesn’t. It’s the ones she “just doesn’t” that are often neglected.

So here’s my list. I’m being transparent here, folks. You’re going to learn my many failings, and that’s humbling.

  • Make him breakfast every morning
  • Send him to work with lunch and a note of love and appreciation
  • Pray for him throughout the day
  • Homeschool the children as per his wishes
  • Make sure dinner is at least almost ready by the time he gets home
  • Clean more often! Dust the living room, clean the bathrooms, mop the floors, wash the windows, iron the clothes, and clean out the fridge (the fridge??) yes, the fridge, at least once a week
  • Before heading to bed make sure the whole house is clean

When I told Nathan of this month’s plan and how I would be including that last item on my list, he said “Oh, good! You mean the children’s room too?) SO, yes, the whole house means the whole house. 🙂

“She doeth him good, and not evil…”
Again, a very clear instruction. Evil sounds so terrible, of course we shouldn’t do him evil! It’s just awful though to think of the little areas I do just that. It is often easier to add to than to take from, because a habit is easier to make than to break.. One could very well fill out a whole list of things to start doing to bless her husband and succeed at every one, but it takes a special grace of God to stop doing the damaging things.

“…All the days of her life
All the days! The “good” days and the “bad” days. Even the “hormonal” days, she doeth him good. She doeth him good, even before marriage. She keeps herself for him alone. (For you dear women of God that have a “past” before your husband, I’m not saying you can’t be Proverbs 31 women, any more than any wife who has ever said “no” to her husband. It is a blessed, comforting truth that we are washed and made new by the cleansing blood of Christ. In that promise and victory then, let us press on!)

What are some tips you have for blessing your husband? for doing him good? Please share!