Proverbs 31 woman
Proverbs 31: 27, She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
My daughter and I were talking yesterday about how different my grandmother’s life was from ours. My grandmother Anna–after whom I was named–was born in 1891, in the post-war South to a poor family in central Alabama. She grew up and married my grandfather, Andrew Taylor–or Uncle Bud to all who knew him, and they settled down and raised a family in a small town called Tallassee. I never got to meet my grandmother as she passed six years before I was born. Not meeting her is one of the great disappointments in my life.
Grandma was a small town Proverbs 31 woman who raised chickens, pigs, and cows, grew and canned vegetables, had a once a week laundry day when she’d boil and scrub her family’s clothing, and who cooked three full meals a day. She raised a family, took care of her home, helped those who had less than she, fed hungry hobos who would exchange a day’s work for a day’s food, attended church, read the Bible by the light of a kerosene lamp and, much later, under the light of real ones.
My grandmother crocheted, made quilts for her family, and sewed and mended her family’s clothing. She was an excellent cook who knew how to take a little bit of nothing and fill empty bellies with tasty goodness. She was such an excellent cook that she was sometimes hired by companies to cook for the men working on the roads, bridges, and other projects that my grandpa was hired to work on.
Grandma’s yard had not a speck of grass because she preferred to keep her yard swept clean so children could play on it. She also didn’t want to waste her time or energy keeping up greenery that wasn’t food.
The gift of home
This Proverbs 31 woman raised six children. She also took in many a young man who needed a place to stay. Many times when I was little Mama would introduce me to a man who had “been raised by your grandma.” If she knew a boy had a troubled childhood and needed a place of safety or simply had no one else, well–they now had her. They loved her as if she were their own mother. In many ways, she was.
My grandmother was a hardworking woman who prepared three full meals a day every day until she got to the point that she couldn’t. Her home was simple, as most homes were then. There were first none and later few electronics so few cords. Little in the way of clutter. This precious lady would pull all of her furniture outside in Spring in order to air it out. She’d repeat that process in early Autumn. She had no carpeting but would haul out the rugs in the house, hang them over the clothesline, and beat all the dust out with her broom. Her hands were busy day and night.
A simple home
My grandma’s home was open to all, rich or poor, black or white. Her friends were those of different colors and backgrounds. This Proverbs 31 woman took her Scripture seriously and mentored young women, starting with her daughters. She provided for and sheltered her sister who never married. Before my grandfather died when he was just 45, they would host barn dances for the youngins (youth, teens, young adults) so they could have a safe wholesome environment to relax and have some fun. My grandfather played the fiddle and kept things lively and my grandmother cooked and took care of everyone.
A young widow
My grandfather was killed in an accident when she was 42. She never remarried. After his death, she tried to go to work in the local textile Mill to provide for her children but was told she was too old to work. That’s when my mother went to work to take care of her brother, her sister, her mother, and herself. Mama was 14 at the time. Grandma succeeded in getting a job in the Mill for awhile during World War 2 because they were desperate for workers.
A music lover
Grandma loved all kinds of music, including–shockingly enough–rock and roll. She was especially fond of a cute up and coming singer named Elvis Presley. This immensely practical woman had ballet type house slippers with tiny gold records around the fronts of them that she loved to wear. They’d been marketed to teens but she had to have a pair because she was just that crazy about Elvis. If that’s not adorable, I don’t know what is.
She also loved Hank Williams and despised his wife Audrey; even more-so after she heard a less than flattering interview with Audrey on the radio. My mother came home from work that day to find my grandmother seething and about to blow. She was upset at the way Audrey had talked about Hank. Grandma just couldn’t fathom how a loving wife could say such things.
Grandma cried when Elvis’s mother died. A photo was published in the newspapers that showed Elvis weeping in his father’s arms on the front steps of Graceland; after seeing it, she cried some more. Just a month later, she herself died and stepped into eternity at the age of 63. Truly it could be said of her, she hath done what she could.
An enduring example
Though I was never blessed to know her, I think about my grandmother nearly everyday. Her life inspires mine. She, more than anyone I know, exemplified what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman. She was who I want to be.
Our lives were different in many ways and much the same in others. On the one hand, we both centered our lives on God, home, and family. We both loved our Southern homeland. We both spent our lives cooking, cleaning, and taking care of domestic affairs. And we both loved the music of Hank and Elvis–and many, many others.
Because of the era she lived in, Grandma did far more cooking than I do. Three meals a day, prepared from scratch, from home-grown, self-canned, wood-house smoked, root cellar stored foods, for men working in the fields and laboring on roads, for family and friends, kept her busy most of the day.
I love to cook from scratch. I have a garden that I love. But I also have far more short-cuts than this sweet Proverbs 31 woman ever dreamed of having. I buy my cornmeal, she took her corn to the Mill to get it ground. I have a drip coffee maker, a grill, electric oven, a food processor, and a blender. She had an an old-timey stove-top percolator, a wood-stove, and a hand beater. I buy my meat from the store. She helped to kill, process, and smoke her meat.
On the other hand, because of the era I live in, I have a fair amount more housework than my grandmother had. Not only have I had three more children to take care of, but I’ve had to pack and move dozens of times whereas once Grandma married she lived in the same town, in only two different houses, until her death. Plus, whereas she had the simple furnishings of a early then mid-20th century woman, I have the far more cluttered home of a reluctantly modern woman. Having televisions, computers, and such, as well as blenders and microwaves, and such, leads to more things to take up space and more things that demand dusting, upkeep, and cleaning. Her work was harder no doubt; mine is more continuous. Hers ebbed and flowed with the seasons; today our work stays more or less the same despite the seasons.
Both grandma and I sought to be faithful to our calling as wife, mother, and homemaker. And both she and I
found it to be so much more than drudgery.
Proverbs 31 has been maligned, ignored, laughed at, redefined, and twisted. Women are told it’s not something we ought to strive for, that in fact it would be impossible to fulfill the duties contained within. My grandmother didn’t think so and I don’t either. Obeying Scripture’s commands are never onerous. It’s life-giving. It’s where we find God’s greatest blessings.
Read this with me, will you? I mean, slow down…and really read it. Take it in. Think about it. Pray over it. Ask yourself if you are living it. Ask the Lord to help you to want to.
Proverbs 31: 10-31,
10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
An example for today
What’s the point of my telling you about my Grandmother? Just this: Grandma lived out Proverbs 31. She was a true Proverbs 31 woman. She is my greatest example.
Scripture commands women to do and to be certain things. The essence of how we are to live out our lives to please the Lord may change due to culture or the times or even the events of our lives but the substance of it remains the same. We are to glorify God by being keepers of our homes, and keeping busy in our homes doing whatever it takes to love and care for our husbands and our children.
Sisters, we are called to impact this world through the glory of godly womanhood. We’ve been long lied to about our roles. Feminism has robbed so many of so much. Even our churches have been affected by feminism’s lies. Our importance, ladies, isn’t rooted in what we can attain out there in the world but rather by in investing ourselves in the lives of our husband, children, our church, and in the lives of others.
The glory of being a homemaker is far, far more than dusting and diapers. A wife, mother, and keeper of the home is to be the person behind the scenes giving of our time, talents, and prayers, as we come alongside of our husbands, supporting his vision, as together we raise up godly seed for God’s glory. Our lives are meant to be a blessing to many, the soil out of which future generations get their start.
Our lives might not look exactly like those of our grandmothers or mothers, or even of our neighbors but they’re not supposed to. We are called to serve God by serving the family and home that the Lord has given to us. We are not just homemakers but home builders. My grandmother was just that. She is my Proverbs 31 woman.
My grandmother wasn’t what you’d call old when she died but she had a lifetime of love and service behind her. Because of her Native American blood ancestor, she had high cheek bones and long black hair that she pulled up into a bun. She was feisty when she had to be and as gentle as the day is long. She was a good woman. My grandmother’s hands are long stilled now but her work, her influence, and her life lives on in me and in my daughters. She was who I strive to be: a true Proverbs 31 woman.
Soli Deo Gloria!