When I found out our church was starting a MOPS group last fall, I was disappointed because it was on a weeknight and weeknights just weren't really in the cards for me. When they decided to change it to Tuesday mornings, I was pretty excited. When I realized however that childcare was provided so that the moms could hang out by themselves, I'll be honest; I got less excited. For some reason, I thought that MOPS was a mommy-baby hang out time. I love doing things with Sweet Pea, and well, we still don't have the separation anxiety thing under control. It's better, but it's definitely not gone, and just thinking about her getting upset and being difficult gives me knots in my stomach. But I know that there is no better way to deal with it than to face it, so I signed up and decided to hope for the best.
Guess what? I. Love. MOPS.
I think I felt a little like I didn't especially need "grown up" time. I'm pretty good at carving out time for myself, and I only have one child. I think deep down I thought it would be somehow selfish for me to give over my baby for two hours every other week so that I could hang out with my own friends during the work day. Boy, was I ever wrong. (And, honestly, I have to laugh at myself. When have I ever not been excited to spend devoted time to just talking with any given person/animal/wall in my life?)
Those two hours are so peaceful and refreshing. Add to the mix that there are always a couple of nursing babies tucked up under mamas' chins to ogle at and, well, I'm sold. Babies come in and out of the room and no one skips a beat. We mamas are pretty good at rolling with the punches (or, as the case may be, with the needy babies who need some cuddling).
Last week, after hanging out for awhile, one of the group organizers read Proverbs 31. Inwardly, I took a deep breath and braced myself because you know what? I kind of hate the Proverbs 31 woman.
(Stuff in parenthesis and italics mine. Obviously.)
The Wife of Noble Character
10 [b]A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies. (Man! Rubies are expensive!)
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value. (Sometimes he lacks dinner. Because I didn't make it. Good thing he doesn't complain?)
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life. (Except those times when I'm feeling PMS-y and moody and yell at him for no good reason.)
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands. (Uh, I don't know about "eager" so much as "whiney."
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar. (Costco?)
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family (Hahahahahahahahahahaha. HAH!)
and portions for her female servants. (Servants? HAHA!)
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. (I would probably be more inclined to buy myself a great pair of boots, rather than investing in something useful like a vineyard.)
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks. (Wasn't I just complaining about how my 19 lb baby feels so heavy she's going to break my arms?)
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night. (Well, it does, and I wish I had a Clapper. Then I wouldn't even have to get out of bed!)
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers. (Multitasking is just not a strong point of mine lately. Why can't I be more organized?)
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy. (There's always so much more I should be doing. When will I ever make more time for teen moms?)
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (Ok, this is true of me; I am the daughter of Chicagoins after all!)
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple. (Does it count if it all comes from the thrift store?)
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes. (How does she have the time for all of that? Does the woman sleep?)
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come. (If I could just do this, this anxiety thing would be kicked to the curb.)
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (Oh Lord, how will I ever be wise if I keep failing to make time with You a priority?)
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Ahem. I'm glad no one knew about that two-hour nap the other day...)
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.” (I want to deserve that.)
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (My heart knows that, but it's hard to believe when I'm looking in the mirror first thing in the morning.)
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Oh, Lord. How will I ever live up to this?)
Ugh, Proverbs 31 woman! You are just so dang perfect and awesome and how on earth am I ever supposed to be like you? That passage has all too often reminded me of how far I have to go when it comes to being the wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend I want to be.
I dropped my eyes as soon as it came time for the discussion questions. I've read and discussed this passage so many times, and I've always walked away feeling lame instead of encouraged. Our discussion leader picked up her paper and began to read the first question.
"What do you do well as a mother and wife?"
My eyes sprang back up in surprise. What do I do well? That wasn't the question I was expecting to hear. While listening, my mind had instantly jumped to all of things I don't do well, or at least don't do well enough. I don't do laundry enough. I don't talk kindly to my husband enough. I don't control my anxiety enough. I don't brush Sweet Pea's teeth often enough. I don't keep my car neat enough. I don't bring in enough income for our family.
Interestingly, that question seemed to catch all of us at the table off guard. As we blushingly smiled, it took some coaxing before we "admitted" to our positives. Why is that? Why are we so quick to judge ourselves? Before long, it came out all around our table that we were all intimidated by that Proverbs 31 woman. Our discussion leader gently reminded us that she isn't real, and that it's ok because this passage teaches us that we can't do this on our own and that we need Christ and we need others.
Somehow admitting my strengths completely changed my perspective of the rest of the discussion. Combined with the safety and often funny perspective of friends, I felt excited to conquer the areas I need to work on and felt peace in knowing that I can "do all things through Christ who gives me strength." I needed that encouragement, and I left MOPS that morning refreshed and renewed.
So, friends, it's your turn. What do you excel at as a woman in your home? I'm good at saving my family money, having joy in mothering, and keeping my family healthy. When you get discouraged, remember your worth and value!