After I tried to post a summarized version of the ways and means of this change, I realized that some of these experiences need ample room for themselves. I hope you can find some inspiration, too!
A Woman After God's Own Heart. You may remember that I created a reading list for myself this year. I only read 3 of the 10 planned books, as well as 3 that weren't on the original list. Since I'm not an Achiever, I'm not at all bothered by this lack of completion. The point is that I read something and that I allowed the Spirit of God to speak to me through those books. Not by accident, a friend of mine happened to select one of my books for her reading list as well, so in February, we discussed Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart. Sparks flew!
This book typifies what I'd consider a fairly standard conservative Christian perspective. The title suggests that any woman could read this with purpose but 97% of the material is geared towards marriage and parenting. I feel that this implies that a woman cannot fully be close to God unless she is married and has kids. Many of the author's encouragements could easily ride the line of legalism (i.e., if I don't do what she says, then I'm not a good Christian) and much of her hermeneutic [what the Bible means and how to use it] is flawed. I completely understand why women would not like this book.
With that said, the Holy Spirit was hard at work on my heart during my reading. I actually circled 4 chapters in the Table of Contents (those that dealt with a woman's home) and wrote in the margin, "Life Changing!". I was convicted of my laziness and selfishness regarding the cleaning and beautifying of my home. I had always used the excuse that I was not a good (thorough, attentive) cleaner and that I had so many other more important priorities to attend to, so it was ok that my home was not well maintained. I considered this a permanent weakness, rather than something I could - like other weaknesses - turn over to God and have him change.
Here are some of the small nuggets that God used to encourage and empower me from this book -
every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her own hands (proverbs 14:1)
"building" my home = creating a safe space that strengthens and renews each family member
every day, I can do just one thing to improve my house; if all I do today is vacuum, it has made my house better than if I didn't do it.
[the excellent wife] watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness (proverbs 31:27)
"watching" over my home = actively guarding, protecting, saving, and attending to what is precious to me
in all labor there is profit (proverbs 14:23) = Newton's 1st law of motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. = "KEEP MOVING". In other words, as long as I am awake, I do something productive. Often that means playing with Maren, but as it applies to my home, it means that if I see something that needs doing, I do it rather than idly pass it by.
what I am at home is what I am.
I was challenged to consider that how I manage my home reflects how I would manage 'bigger', 'more important' ministries that God would entrust to me. Do I treat my responsibilities at home as character-building opportunities to bless my family and serve God?
Elizabeth George is far more detail- and plan-oriented than i will ever be. But at the end of this section on homemaking, she shared 13 promises that she had made to God about the care of her home. This inspired me to do the same - and I am going to share them here, because it helps me to remember how I felt back in March, when I wrote this.
- I will start each day thankful for the Lord's "new mercies" (Lamentations 3:23) which he affords me.
- I will "make the most of my time" (Ephesians 5:16) and "not eat the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:27)
- I will work diligently to help my husband in every way he needs.
- I will prepare healthy, delicious meals for my family and preserve mealtimes as special times for us.
- I will cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in my heart and home in order to provide a haven of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
- I will strive to keep a clean and orderly home.
- I will put my husband before my child(ren) and my family before everyone else.
- I will not lag behind in diligence but instead, be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering in times of trial, devoting myself to prayer, giving to those in need, and practicing hospitality (Romans 12:11-13).
- I will discipline myself for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7) and faithfully teach what is good (Titus 2:3).
- I will honor each member of my family in a fun, personal way that celebrates them and makes them feel loved.
- I will intimately acquaint myself with my husband and child(ren)'s strengths, gifts, and passions so that I can encourage them to pursue the abundant life God has prepared for them in Christ.