"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
May 4, 2011
Happy Mother's Day
Before we got married, Jon and I made the conscious decision not to have children; for many reasons. Had we been 10-15 years younger when we met and got married, we may or may not have chosen differently, but agreed that for our situation, not having children was the wisest choice. It's not a decision that we've regretted, and to be honest we're both glad not to be in our forties and raising small children. We enjoy spoiling our nieces and nephews kids occasionally, and that's enough for me to get my "kid fix". We have wondered what a child we would have created together would look like, but were never curious enough to take on the responsibility of raising a baby in our middle-aged years. In fact, we both find that we can only handle kids in small doses. Many times we've been out and seen a child misbehaving or being obnoxious and have looked at one another, and with a big sigh of relief, gratefully said, "Thank you!" With Mother's Day coming up, Jon jokingly told me that perhaps he should buy me a "thank you for not being a mother" gift.
It's always difficult for me to think of something to write for this particular day. No one likes to hear "mothering" advice from someone who has no kids. And trust me, I could give out plenty, if I chose to do so! I've written about my own mom in the past, and last year I had my sister write something. Until something was mentioned at church this past weekend, I had completely forgot that Mother's Day was coming up so quickly. I mistakenly thought it was a couple weeks away.
I have to be honest, even though I bought cards for Jon's mom and my step-mother and got them in the mail today (Tuesday), I really didn't even consider that I had neglected to write something special for this week until I randomly opened my Bible and was flipping through Proverbs when a couple scriptures caught my attention. So I hurriedly copied and pasted what I had originally wrote for this week into a devotional for next week, in order to write something for this special occasion. The verses that caught my attention are not exactly moving, encouraging words; and I had to chuckle when I read them and it reminded me of my forgetting to write for Mother's Day. And they are:
Proverbs 12:4 "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband; but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones."
Proverbs 21:9 "Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, then in a house shared with a contentious (or quarrelsome) woman."
Proverbs 14:1 "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands."
So let me go with those for a moment! Aren't you excited?! Perhaps I can't speak as a mother, but I am qualified to speak as a woman and a wife.
Related to the first scripture, Proverbs 14:30 says, "A sound heart is life to the body. But envy is rottenness to the bones." Envy, even in small quantities, can cause a feeling of discontent to reside within us. And if we're honest, we can all say that there have been times when we've had a little envy within us. We can look at other women and compare ourselves to them, and find ourselves coming up short. Women are the worst for doing this. We look at how another woman decorates her home and how nice and clean it always looks, and become discontented with ours, thinking it looks drab. We see a woman who always looks attractive, regardless of what she wears, and it makes us feel like a slob. We eat the cooking of another woman and it seems as if she is a regular Betty Crocker, who never burns or scorches anything, and everything she makes taste wonderful; so we feel inadequate in the kitchen. There are those women who always seem so organized and orderly, and we feel like we are always surrounded by clutter. We are always finding someone to compare ourselves to, and we end up with the short end of the stick.
I find that I normally compare myself to women that I wish I could be like. I had a pastor's wife a few years back that was very petite and attractive. No matter what she wore, she looked like she stepped out of a catalog. I've seen her in jeans and it looked like she'd put together a complete outfit; not like she randomly threw on a pair of jeans. I've seen her in Walmart and she had on a casual sundress with matching sandals and looked very put together and cute; and I felt dowdy and sloppy standing beside her in my shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. I have found myself envying her, wishing that I was built like her, just knowing in my mind that I would look as cute and attractive in my clothes as she does, if only I had her figure.
I heard someone comparing themselves, as a mother, to my niece. My niece is a good mama, and likes to read books and play with her son. The other lady felt like she must be a bad mother because she didn't read to her son and do all the things that my niece does. What she probably doesn't realize is that in order to spend the time that she does with her son, my niece doesn't have the most orderly, clean home. She will give up folding and hanging up laundry, cleaning the kitchen and having her house spotless in order for them to do things together. But she's perfectly contented to have a messier house in order to have quality time with her baby boy. She works outside the home and her priority when she is home is her family. Even though she'd prefer her house to be clean and orderly, it's not her main concern, so her compromise is to focus on her little boy and husband and have a messier house. That would drive some women nuts and they couldn't live like that.
When we compare ourselves to others, we're almost always going to come up short. But we can choose to handle that one of three ways. We can either allow that to make us feel inferior and fill us with envy; or we can learn from others and enhance our own abilities; or we can choose to see where our strengths lie, thank God for those, and be contented. No matter what it looks like from the outside, we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. Some are just better at covering up their weaknesses than others are. Perhaps it's because they don't focus on those areas and bring it to everyones attention. Have you ever noticed how many of us will blurt out to others what we're not good at? It's as if we feel that we have to apologize for being inadequate in a particular area. In reality, does it really matter? It's only a big deal if we make it a big deal.
I am pretty good at cooking. I do a fair job of keeping our house clean and our yard mowed. I generally do pretty well at handling our finances and keeping our bills paid. I am organized, to some extent; although it's not an obsession with me. I keep my clothes and Jon's clothes clean and make sure we have decent looking clothing to wear. I am not a huge shopper, although I do like shoes and purses, and don't like spending a lot of time at it. But I do like to make sure that Jon has nice looking shirts, jeans and shoes to wear to work and church. I try to make sure what I wear out in public looks nice and presentable. I am pretty good at multi-tasking. These are all areas that I would consider being a few of my strengths.
But I know there are a lot of areas in which I am greatly lacking and weak in, especially when I compare myself to others. My sister, Janie, is a gifted teacher. I wish I was, but I have a hard time verbally expressing my thoughts. I feel as if I ramble from one point to another without really saying anything when I try to speak to a group. I am not good at being disciplined regarding exercise and healthy eating habits, like some women are. I can hang things on the wall, but I'm not a gifted decorator. People do not walk into my house and ooh and aah over my decorating skills. I'm fine at small family gatherings, but I'm not a gifted hostess. I'd rather people come in and help themselves and make themselves at home. I don't want to have to serve them and would be uncomfortable in a formal dining situation. I can match clothes, but am not talented when it comes to matching whole complete outfits together; from the jewelry to the shoes to matching purse. Another sister is great about thinking to take meals to families after someone has had surgery. She has baked cookies and delivered them as a thank you to their Sunday School teachers and deacons. I don't even think about doing those things, and wish I was more thoughtful. I have a friend who is always thinking to send cards to different individuals on the anniversary of their loved ones death to let them know that she remembers and cares, or because they're going through a tough time and she's thinking about them, or to congratulate them because something great has happened. I may send graduation cards if I get an announcement, Mother and Father's day cards, sympathy cards, or buy cards for Jon on his birthday and our anniversary, but otherwise I don't remember to send out cards. It means a lot when someone randomly sends me a card, but I often don't think to send out cards to people. I could go on with the list of my weaknesses, but that's not my point.
Why is it that we always think someone else is better at things than we are, and we never recognize our own strengths? If we look hard enough, we'll always find someone better at something than we are; and someone who is worse at something than we are. And if we're not careful, we can become a little boastful when we find something that we excel at better than someone else. We all have areas where we are gifted. We all have strengths. Instead of focusing on where we don't compare well, we need to focus on the abilities that God has blessed us with. We were not created to be superwomen! We cannot do well in all things, and need to stop beating ourselves up because we don't succeed at everything. As the scripture says, "Envy is rottenness to the bones." There is no good that comes from it. Envy destroys self-confidence and makes us feel inferior. It sucks the life out of us. It can also make us feel inadequate, which leads to us de-valuing ourselves. We don't recognize the worth that God places upon our lives. It not only causes us to be miserable, but causes misery to our family.
I can be an excellent wife to Jon, without being a perfect wife; and there is a huge difference. I don't have to know how to do everything and don't have to be perfect. In fact, I don't have to succeed at everything I try to do. But I can love my husband and care for him. I can make our home a comfortable place filled with peace. I want to be a wise woman who builds our home, not a foolish one who tears it down. How do we tear our home down? By our words and actions. If we are constantly criticizing our home and what we have, it's going to make our husband feel as if he's not a good provider and will cause conflict. We can foolishly tear down our house with our words. I don't want to cause Jon shame, which Proverbs says would be like rottenness in his bones. Our negative words do affect our spouses, and cause them to feel weak and sick. Wouldn't you rather speak words filled with life that brings joy to your husband? I don't want to tear Jon down with my words, but want to build him up and encourage him. In return, he speaks words that build me up and bring life to me.
If you're a mother, you don't have to be supermom who involves your kids in every single activity available; who bakes cookies and whose home is the place for all the neighborhood kids to come; and who is perfect in every way. Don't spread yourself so thin that you are constantly on the run and don't thoroughly enjoy the growing up years with your kids. The day will come when they'll grow up and be gone from the home. What memories do you want your kids to have of you? Someone who was constantly busy "doing", or someone who took the time to listen to them and spend time with them? Don't try to be the mom that you think everyone expects you to be, but be the mom that your kids need. Kids don't constantly need activities to stimulate them, but need time to rest and relax with mom and dad and have that quality family time. Don't feel guilty when someone says, "I do this with my kids" or "It's so important that mother's always do that"; and it's something you're not doing. There are other areas where you may excel with your children that they don't.
Life is not a contest, and we need to stop making everything a competition. God didn't put us on earth to compete against one another to see who could be the best wife or best mother. But He will give wisdom when we pray and ask Him how to be our personal best. Enjoy being you, see your worth and value, and thrive on being the woman that God created you to be.
The first scripture stands out to me in particular, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband; but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones." What is it that lets people know that a king is a king? It's the crown he wears, of course.
And how can people tell that I have a wonderful wife? It's the smile I usually wear. Wearing clothes that match and respectable shoes are a clue if you knew me years ago, but not everyone recognizes that. My ring is also a pretty good clue, but I'm sure it's the smile that really gives it away.
Does it sound like I'm laying it on awfully thick? Well, maybe. I suspect waiting till we were well into our 30's before we got married has a lot to do with appreciating each other so much. We've each found those things we love about each other. And the rest really isn't that important. My weaknesses are often Loretta's strengths: clean home, good cooking, good clothes, organized, etc. And her weaknesses are often my strength: plumbing, tiling, and computer stuff.
I think a crown is a good metaphor how Loretta makes me look good. But I wonder what a good metaphor would be for
...well, that's my 100 words. Till next week.
Strawberry Vanilla Cake
1 Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe French Vanilla Cake Mix
1 container Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Buttercream Frosting
1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round pans. Prepare, bake and cool cake following package directions for basic recipe. To assemble, place one cake layer on a serving plate. Place 1/4 cup frosting in small, resealable plastic bag. Snip off one corner. Pipe a bead of frosting on top of layer around outer edge. Fill remaining area with strawberry jam. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting on sides and top of cake. Slice strawberries; decorate by placing strawberry slices (point side up) side by side around the bottom of the cake. Can also decorate top of cake with strawberry slices or place 3 or 4 whole strawberries in center of cake. If you really want to get fancy, dip strawberries in chocolate and place in center of cake and around the perimeter of the serving platter.
This is a family picture taken in 1965 -- I'm the baby that Mama is holding on her lap. Left to Right: Linda, Shirley, Janie, Daddy, Mama with me (Loretta) on her lap, Joyce. Mama loved being a mother and taking care of her family. My sisters and I feel so blessed that God chose her to be our mom. I'm proud of the godly moms that my sisters have all been with their children, and the example they have been as women of faith. I see that now being passed on through their children to their grandchildren. What a wonderful heritage, and I feel honored to be a member of the Doyal and Bonnie Horton family.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing; but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 3:30)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon