Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
When I was 10, I had a mood ring. I was pretty sure that I was cool. As advertised, it would gleam blue, green, brown, yellow, depending on my mood. My friends and I would gather around our sophisticated jewelry and admire at how well our rings adjusted to the complicated life that is any 10 year old girl.
A couple decades later, throw in a marriage, kids, career, budget, trials and heartache of loved ones, and I often think back to my mood ring. Except this time, I strive to not be like it. Trying to maintain a spiritual walk includes the reminder that, day by day, we are to reflect God more and more, as opposed to our circumstances, or the attitudes of those around us. This can be tough. It is very easy to match our moods, mentality, and demeanor to those around us, particularly when the mood is “cranky, over tired, extra adventurous, likes to climb and jump off things little boy.” Another mood I can easily reflect is the “working mom, I live my life in 15 minute increments, hurry up, we’re running late, GO!” or the “oh, I wish the inside of my house was beautiful what is the point of cleaning with small children?” (I’m not sure what color these are, but they are not pretty).
They say accessories can make an outfit. In 5th grade, we were sure of it, anything looked better with that mood ring. I think this can still hold true, but now the accessories have changed. My favorite verse from the Proverbs 31 woman is not the unending list of stuff that she did, but how she was clothed: with strength and dignity and the ability to laugh at the days to come. What a cool woman. I’m guessing that she didn’t throw up her hands and scream “I am so overwhelmed!” (It turns out the overwhelmed could be the over-arching mood of my motherhood to date. Especially when I or we get sick. Again, not sure what color that would register on the ring, but there are times when my entire being looks that color.) Just how is this woman laughing? Her trust in God was so strong that she could literally just roll with it. Surely she wasn’t naïve and some kind of flighty optimist, she had been around the block a few times. She realized that while she wanted excellence in everything she did here on earth, this world was temporary, and her relationship with God permanent: and as long as she kept that in tack, she’s got this. Still, day to day, she looked out over her days and smiled, chuckled even at the variables each day brought, grateful at what was hers, and hopeful of what was to come.
Strength, dignity, laughter. Those all sound like really good things to wear today. Already, my day has started differently. I woke up early planning to write. I even went as far to call it a writing date, just me, the computer, and a quiet house. Our daughter woke up early too. Actually, it is was my doing. I had promised her that I would begin waking her up in time to say bye to Daddy, who leaves quite early. I had wanted that quiet house, but I was spurred to be a woman of my word. It has kind of worked out, writing, thinking, studying, while chatting, pleasantly with a 4 year old on shapes and colors and pencil sharpeners and the such.
At first, I wasn’t laughing, but I could muster a faint smile that then grew into a grin. Okay, God’s got this.
I am not a mood ring whose pleasantry or conviction is to ebb and flow depending on the tide of emotions and circumstance. I am designed to reflect and continually shine Him. I am designed for strength and dignity, and laughter – for today and the days to come.
Proverbs 3:21 “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;”
I’d have to say, that overall, I am a pretty laid back mom. That being said, I did over-react at the first time I really learned about independent play. Since her brother hadn’t been born yet, I had pretty comfortably settled into the playmate mode with our young daughter. And then I was 9months huge and hormonal. I actually climbed a playground at a fast food joint, caught a vision of me getting stuck in a tube and a sweaty, scared EMT delivering my baby. That was enough for me to pull the plug on the “always fun and ready to play mom.” The exhaustion and reality set in and I just couldn’t. I remember anxiously googling “independent play – toddler” during an online search one Sunday afternoon. I needed some convincing that independent play each day wouldn’t land me in DFACS for neglect, that I wasn’t assuredly stunting her development because Mommy was lame and just couldn’t build with blocks, play store, or take care of another dolly. (I quickly got over those insecurities. It is amazing what confidence you gain in otherwise troubling concepts when you…are…just…so…tired… 🙂
So, I have grown in celebrating independent play. But of course, its not like I drop her off in the middle of main street, or give her a bucket of knives. At the onset, I had “organized, appropriately placed areas at her level” to encourage such, independent play (Just like the website said.) And now, when independent play is needed (for her or me), its more like “go find something to do.” But I still maintain a general awareness of what’s going on in her world.
Before I knew God personally, I pictured him as the epitome of a micro-manager. I reckoned that He sat up in Heaven and ’tisked-tisked’ all the wrong doing in the world and decided who would get good stuff and who would get destroyed. I figured He was kind of like the Mac-Daddy of Santa Claus, always having a list, always checking it twice, always knowing who was naughty and who was nice. But instead of overseeing the making of toys, He oversaw the world.
Now, I think differently. Considering all the way back to the Garden, God didn’t micro-manage Adam and Eve. He didn’t ask for a progress report by 10:00am reviewing all the work that had been done including confirmation that no forbidden fruit had been consumed. In fact, how interesting that God, all knowing, didn’t intervene when the serpent sweet talked Eve into sin. Surely God knew, and He chose to not intervene preventatively. I think God is a proponent of independent play.
Independent play fosters the ability to develop a sense of judgment and discernment. These are qualities that the scriptures tell us to preserve – hold onto- to not let out of our sight. How are we to develop this ability if we are not first challenged to make judgments and discernments? Sure, it is hard when we watch our loved ones make poor choices and the consequences that ensue. We can love, we can pray, we can counsel, we can set the example. Particularly with our children, we should do all fervently. But at the end of the day, each individual is challenged to pursue and maintain a moral compass that points to sound judgment and discernment. Sometimes that compass is best found when only that individual is the one looking for it.
A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. (NIV)
Thank you Lord, that my pre-ker has a personality…and questions. Lots of questions. Endless questions about everything. Why? But why? So, what? So…..why? I have to pray to focus on thanksgiving for this trait, as the role of “question answerer” can leave one battle weary.
I forget, being stuck in that stage of adulthood, just how exploratory it is to grow up. If you tell a kid there is a reason for everything, well watch out…..they will want to know, sooner or later….the reason for everything. There can be a constant state of inquiring, reasoning, testing, suggesting, wondering, proposing, deciding, and determining. (These days, my favorite “ing” thing is sleeping). And how I respond to this – what seems like a constant barrage of trying to figure out how the world works – is more important than I initially realize. Does it matter if I am sharp tongued or hot tempered or impatient in having to explain, for the 4th time why the illustrator of a children’s book decided to make a character’s eyes red? Well, actually it does. Because no one else she knows now, or has ever met, has red eyes, why should this character? This is new, different, not matching, not making sense! There is already lack of peace present: reason and thought and ideas all quarreling around in one little brain. My reaction can either fuel the discord or calm the storm.
Part of what makes parenting exhausting is the role of referee/interpreter/detective of having to help make a sometimes nonsensical world make sense. This is an exhausting and vitally important role, and takes on different meanings at different ages and stages.
And so does this proverb, take on different meanings to me. This is not only a quick line on conflict resolution, though it is helpful in this regard. This is my reminder to remain calm, peaceful, joyful, PATIENT, in my speech, no matter how young the audience. Patience alone doesn’t supply all the answers, but it comforts during times of questioning, far more than hot temperedness. And questioning is awesome. I never prayed to give birth to a robot that accepted things at face value, without emotion or thought. All the more reason, that I should now pray for the patience that is required to help nurture a particularly inquiring and quarrelling mind.
24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
I realize this is not a shocker, but 3 year olds can be quite the contrarians. And as we learn how to train the contrarian, something else is becoming evident in our household: do not underestimate the power of the crankiness hangover. The crankiness hangover is the tired, frustrated, funk that hangs on when you should wake up refreshed. The cranky hangover thinks more about what pre-school battles await for the day, as opposed to how to help a household shine victorious with love, respect, and consideration for one another. My morning meditation focused on three items: 1) Lord, can I borrow the whale from the story of Jonah? I mean, I don’t really want my precious offspring swallowed by a sea beast, however it is a powerful illustration for obedience, 2) do they make boot camp for 3 year olds? and 3) maybe I should try calmly talking to this child utilizing wisdom from the scriptures.
(Not ashamed to admit that asking for a whale and boot camp came prior to the revelation that perhaps a spiritual approach would be better, case in point of the cranky hangover. )
Gracious words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Note, not “pushover” words. God intends for gracious words and discipline to work hand in hand. I am constantly reminded that God doesn’t intend to populate his world with spoiled brats, both of the child and adult variety. Gracious words allow peace to rule in our hearts. Gracious words prevent a cranky hangover from overtaking the day, and reminds that nothing should lower the standard of respect for the household.
I was heartened, this morning, when I tried the gracious words approach. The cranky hangover was indeed healed. As a household, we are “sorry for our behavior, we love, and we are ready to play.”