“She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens… Her lamp does not go out at night… She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.”
Proverbs 31:15, 18b, 21
A few years back, I was that mother. Sending her kids off to school on the first frosty day with nary a mitten between them. After I dropped them off, I raced to the nearby grocery store to purchase whatever pathetic mittens I could find and drop them off to the school so that I didn’t have to own the “Negligent Mother” title that I felt was emblazoned on my forehead.
Living an hour north of Toronto for many years, you’d think I would have suspected winter would come. You’d think I would have realized by then that few mittens survive to warm another year. Frustrated by the stress I had introduced in my own life and the ruffled departure my girls had experienced that morning, I thought, I can do better than this.
The next quality that makes us a hero to our family is: Preparedness.
“Wow. So exciting.” you were saying to yourself. Oh wait. No you weren’t. I know it doesn’t sound glamourous. It might have been boring for you to read that. It was even boring to type. But stay with me. I promise that if we could see how preparedness blesses a family, we won’t disagree about its inclusion in the Super Wife list.
Think about it.
Prepared women are peaceful women.
Preparedness gives me options – I can make a better decision or purchase because time affords that luxury. Preparedness enables flexibility – If I live prepared, I can respond to last minute invitations, opportunities or needs because all is well and up to date. Preparedness produces peace – My mind is freer and my emotions lifted with each task completed and each precious one provided for. On the flip side:
Procrastinating women are panicked women.
Procrastination breeds tension – the jobs have to get done, but now they come strapped with the mental heaviness of a looming deadline. Procrastination costs more – It often generates greater costs because convenience has become a necessity or neglected maintenance has escalated to repair. Procrastination complicates life – Otherwise routine tasks are rendered significantly difficult by the compounding complexities of delay.
Though far from glamourous, preparedness is a marvelous gift to our families. Let’s look at three areas of preparation we are encouraged to pursue in our text. We should:
1. Prepare for our day.
“She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens”
We talked last week about how we can never create more time. That is true. But the excellent woman looks for ways to redeem or “buy back” time from less productive things. One of the simplest ways to do that is to become an early riser. When I get up early, I can get dressed, caffeinate myself, center myself through time spent with God, send my hard-working hubby off with a kiss and healthy lunch, take a peek at the day’s calendar, start a load of laundry, take meat out of the freezer, fuel the introverted side of my personality with the morning solitude, and my personal favourite: be ready and actually happy to greet my children. (Read First Greetings for more on that.) And all this before 7:00 in the morning.
Understand that I don’t get the “perfect morning attendance” badge to sew onto my proverbial sash – there are times when kids are up coughing in the night or womanhood wallops me good in the morning. But because of the peace and beauty that has flourished in my home from my morning preparedness, it is a standard practice I fight hard to keep. Whether or not you consider yourself a “morning person”, with the exception of nursing mothers, I believe this habit can be cultivated by anyone and it is a practice I highly recommend.
2. Prepare for our domain.
“Her lamp does not go out at night.”
I’m going to buck convention here and suggest that this doesn’t primarily mean that the excellent wife stays up to work the night away. Not that we don’t on occasion “burn the midnight oil” to get a project done or prepare for a special event. (Like writing a blog on Preparedness because Monday was a holiday and a child was home from school all day on Tuesday with a fever. Theoretically speaking of course…) But I can’t reconcile that suggestion with God’s divinely designed parameters for the human body. I believe that to consistently stay up late and get up early defies biblical concepts of prudence and shows a lack of humility in accepting the vulnerability and limitations that the human need for sleep should produce. In essence, what we are saying is: “My work is so important and I am so indispensable that I don’t need to acknowledge my built-in, physical limits.”
Though most commentaries suggest that this verse encourages us to late nights, my experience and observation tells me that habitually combining the exhortation to rise early with the suggestion to work late into the night creates a snarky, shrew-wife who gets physically sick and emotionally depleted. (Read: Not a blessing to her family.)
Instead, I believe this verse gives us a valuable tip about prepared living. Let’s borrow some logic from Jesus’ New Testament teaching. Though not the primary thrust of the parable, if you read about the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25 you’ll see that the reason the wise maidens’ lamps didn’t go out wasn’t because they stayed awake to keep them – on the contrary, they fell asleep. The lamps didn’t go out for one simple reason – they planned ahead and had enough oil.
We should view the “lamp not going out” example as an encouragement to keep our domain stocked and ready, as well as we can, given our specific financial situations. These days I don’t need to worry about keeping the lamp burnings so I can light the morning fire and bake bread. But it sure blesses my family when the bathrooms have toilet paper. The fridge has milk. The pantry has snacks for school lunches. The car has gas. The drawers have clean clothes. And the gym bag holds a washed uniform and (good heavens for the sake of the team) clean knee pads.
Instead of my family living in chaos and missing opportunities because we’re scrambling to locate or purchase or clean some needed item, our home can be marked by peace and readiness.
3. Prepare for our Seasons.
“She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.”
Not only do our days and domains require preparation, the various seasons that impact our lives do too. Christmas and birthdays come every year at the same interval – 364 days until the next one like it. Imagine that. A peek at our calendar and a little forethought means that they don’t have to keep surprising us.
Like I mentioned at the start of this post – winter comes every year in Canada and a bit of preparation means that my children feel cared for and won’t get any dreaded notes home from the teacher about “proper winter attire”. Spring usually means that torsos and legs have gotten longer and if I don’t pick up new swimsuits or shorts in time, we end up in lively discussions with teen Daisy Dukes and “cheeky” swimmers.
Not only does my family enjoy a greater sense of well-being when I invest the time to prepare for upcoming seasons, I can enjoy greater selection and sales because I haven’t limited myself by the time crunch or dwindling stock as the season progresses. I can get a killer deal because I bought an end-of-season clearance item for next year. I can purchase a more thoughtful gift because I wasn’t restricted to the one store I had time to visit before racing off to the party with the mediocre present I wrapped in the car with the gift bag and tissue paper I bought at the nearby Dollar Store. (Theoretically speaking of course…)
I think we know all this. But if we do, why do some of us struggle so much with creating a peaceful lifestyle of preparedness? It’s not a matter of ignorance – we are inundated with books, articles and blogs that give us every practical tip for living organized, prepared and stress-free. It’s not that we require more convincing – the contrast between a life of preparedness and procrastination is compelling.
The problem is a deficiency in the little character quality called “self-control”.
The truth is: it takes a boatload of self-control and discipline to work now for the pay-off later. That is increasingly true of each generation as we have no shortage of convenient distractions that are always easier to indulge in than planning and work.
We talked last week about consuming or investing time. This week I’d like to issue the challenge to each of us to redeem some of those passing minutes and hours spent on media and put that toward preparing for our family. Minutes – even five to ten minutes – of concentrated thought could streamline the week’s schedule, identify shortages in the home’s stockpile, plan a meal, book a needed shopping date with that growing teen, or iron out a scheduling wrinkle.
If you do that this week, let me know how it goes. And I’ll let you know how we did with swimsuits…