Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Week III Day III -- Continuing On!


Today's our last "class" day before our "Thanksgiving" break, though, of course, the keeping of our homes will continue on through the holidays. Having y'all along with me on this journey is inspiring me. It's been motivating me not to coast in keeping my home, but to renew my enthusiasm for my role.

I don't know about you, but I'm still thinking about Julieann's lovely article from day before yesterday, as well as about the image of a sealed fountain and an enclosed garden from yesterday's post. I printed out Julieann's article to read over again from time to time, and I sent it to my married daughter, as well.

Here are three goals I have set for myself after reading Julieann's article:

1) Review my day as I drop off to sleep and think about something I'd like to accomplish the next day. Pray about it. I noticed that one reason why Julie is able to maintain such enthusiasm for her role at home is becuase she sets her motivation the night before.
2) Review my appearance and tend to it. (I bought a cute outfit to wear when DH and I are enjoying some time together late in the evenings.)
3) Train my thoughts to be cheerful and to set about my chores cheerfully -- to remember how much my husband depends on me to keep the household functioning. He actually depends as much or more on that now as we've gotten older, because he has more responsibility elsewhere.



How's it going memorizing our verses? I'm still working on this.

Are you finding lovely things to write about in your book of days? Be sure to jot down any happy family moments that you enjoy this weekend.



What better time than Thanksgiving to talk about the care and ironing of tablecloths. I've included some videos about how to iron. Each of the videos is very short, so you have to go on to the next one to get the complete thought. I wish they had put them together in one video, but, still, the videos have great tips. I've included some links to articles, as well. Be sure to check out Ivy's tip for placing your ironing board next to a table so that you can move the ironed cloth onto the table and keep it from wrinkling.

How to Find Grain When Ironing a Tablecloth -- powered by eHow.com


How to Prepare to Iron a Tablecloth -- powered by eHow.com


Tips for Ironing a Tablecloth -- powered by eHow.com


Dealing with Stains & Storage of a Tablecloth -- powered by eHow.com

More on tablecloths:

From Martha Stewart
From Ivy
From E-How editor
From Mary Ellen


Homework: Let's take a little care of our personal garden/fountain today and through the holidays, so that we can be a fountain of joy. Here are some ideas:
1) Get a little fresh air, if it's possible according to the weather in your area.
2) Read something inspiring.
3) Take 15 minutes to an hour sometime during the next few days to just relax and listen to classical music, or just relax in quiet. Close your eyes if you like. (If you live in a warm climate or in a place where it is spring instead of fall, you can spend your quiet time outdoors if you like.) Instead of slouching in a chair, lie down so that all of your muscles are supported. If you have small children in the home, do this while they are napping. If they are beyond the nap stage, ask them to have a quiet period in their rooms, too. Allow them to have a toy or two each on their bed and ask them to play quietly. A little quiet will be good for their spirits and yours, too.
4) Jot down 25 things you are thankful for.
5) Take a bubble bath, trim and buff your nails, polish if you like, put extra lotion on dry areas -- do something "girly." If you have preteen and teen daughters in the home, you can spend time together while putting on a facial mask or brushing each other's hair, or what have you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Enjoy!
elizabeth

Monday, November 24, 2008

Week III -- Day II -- A Bubbling Fountain and Sink Organization

You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. Song of Songs 4:12

Let's add this to the passage we talked about memorizing yesterday. Memory wise, we'll camp out on these two verses for a couple of weeks. If you're like me, you can only commit to memory a couple of passages at a time.

This passage, Song of Solomon 4:12, can say several things to us. Some scholars see the whole book from which it is taken as an allegory of Christ's love for the church and vice versa, while other scholars think it applies strictly to the love between a husband and a wife. I'm no scholar, but I tend to think that the writers in the second category have a good case. Either way, this is a beautiful verse.

If we are married, we are a garden enclosed and a sealed fountain for the Lord first, and then for our husbands. If we are single, we are a garden enclosed and a sealed fountain for the Lord and, if the Lord wills, for the husband we may have one day.

Why is the garden enclosed? It is set apart, protected from being trampled on by every passer-by, protected from foraging animals, kept safe and lovely and useful for its rightful owner. Why is the fountain sealed? It, too, is set apart from common use, protected against any impurities that might muddy it, and kept fit for its rightful owner. We wall and seal things that are of great value to us -- things that we want or need to protect. Here's an example: the most intimate areas in the love of a husband and wife are private and special, sealed off from wrongful intrusion by outside parties, wholesome and delightful, and belonging only to the Lord and to that couple.

I think we've all seen and admired enclosed gardens. When I think of enclosed gardens, I especially think of gardens in cities like New Orleans and Charleston. In those areas, the old homes were built close together and close to the street. They all had gardens that were separated by a wall and a gate from the hustle and bustle of passers-by. When you walk through those cities even today, you get just a glimpse of those lovely gardens. However, the gardens are mostly sealed off from view. They serve as a private haven for the families who live in those houses-- a place where loved ones can gather and enjoy beautiful flowers in privacy or a person might walk out alone to catch a bit of fresh air. If I had one of those gardens, I would be sure to have a fountain in it. Wouldn't you?

According to Elizabeth George, houses were built this way in the old part of Jerusalem. They had walled courtyards with a fountain in the center. Everything in the household was built around that fountain -- the garden, the verandah, the house, and the walkways. Elizabeth visited one such house, a U-shaped structure supported by seven pillars.

"In the very center of this lovely scene was a fountain! Imagine - coolness and shade and water and grass and greenery after the dust and heat of the street! Imagine -- silence after the clamor of the crowds, hawkers, and animals! Yes, it was paradise!

"But, I want to tell you more about that fountain...Singing with joy, that fountain provided the only sound we heard. With its gurgles and gushes, its bubbles and busyness, that lovely fountain (at the center of the household) said, 'Welcome to a place where everything is cared for and every care met!'

..."You see, as God's beautiful women, you and I are to be a fountain of joy at the heart of our home...Proverbs 31 is all about being a fountain of joy --- of life, of love, of nourishment -- for others....of joyful energy, a faithful and diligent worker who willingly, enthusiastically and continually makes home happen."

So, she describes the keeper at home as a fountain and a garden that provide an enclosed haven for loved ones and guests, one who knows her purpose and who is set apart for her calling, one who overflows with love for every member of the household, and who happily sees that the needs of the household are continually being met. Whew, that's a tall order! How can we remain such a continuous fountain of love and joy and energy in the heart of our home? We can't -- on our own power, that is.

When I first read these lovely and true words by Elizabeth George, I was enthralled with the idea of being a loving, bubbling, joyful, beautiful fountain at the center of my home. Yet, despite the fact that I was in a relationship with the true source of Life -- the Lord- -- my poor little fountain sometimes trickled drip by drip, rather than overflowing and singing with the loving abundance I dreamed of.

Looking back on it, I can see why. For one thing, I was trying to make myself into the fountain, rather than just trustfully obeying the Lord and letting Him flow through me. Don't get me wrong; great discipline and effort are needed on our part if we want to be noble keepers at home. However, our works and obedience need to be motivated by faith, rather than as an attempt at self-improvement.

Also, along with my right motivations of loving the Lord and my family, there was a good deal of wanting to be that bubbly fountain for my glory -- to receive appreciation from my loved ones and others. I missed the mark there. Jesus said to be careful not to do what you do for the praise of men, but to do it out of your private devotion to the Lord. Matthew Chapter 6. (Notice again, the idea of a private, enclosed, and pure source.) When we do let our light shine before men, it is to call attention to His glory -- not ours.

There are many reasons why a keeper at home might feel that she is a slow leak rather than a bubbling fountain. That's why we always need to go to the Lord, who is the true fountain at the center of our home. He is the source, the wellspring, the garden of our life. We need to spend time with Him in quietness, resting with Him just as one might enter an enclosed garden to find peace and rest. We need to set apart our hearts and our lives as a garden for His purpose, devoted and kept holy for Him. When we do, God provides the strength and the motivation that keeps us "working willingly with our hands." Proverbs 31.

Second to that, if we are married, we need to keep a flourishing, loving relationship with our husband, who is -- under Christ -- the head of our home.

With those two priorities in place, we will bubble and sing and overflow like a beautiful fountain at the center of our home. We won't be able to help it. People and all living things who are rightfully connected to the Lord and who are in the center of the Lord's purpose for their lives, can't do anything other than overflow with His goodness.

Isn't that a lovely thought? We can be a garden enclosed and a sealed fountain for the Lord, set apart and made holy to Him and by Him for His purposes. We can also be a fountain overflowing with love to meet the needs of our family and guests.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. Psalm 52:7-9

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8.

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7:37-39.

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:36-38.

See also A Garden Enclosed.




The Sink Center:

Do you realize how much time a day you spend at your kitchen sink? If you're like me, you end up there several times a day. It's wise to spend a little time thinking about how to organize and maintain this part of your home.

It's so important that Flylady uses it as the central cleaning point of a home. Her reasoning is that if you keep the kitchen sink clean consistently, day after day, you'll have one central point of your home always looking nice. That, in turn, can motivate you to move out from there to keep an organized home. For information about how to keep a sink clean, see here.

The sink will be especially important during the holidays, when we cook even more than usual.

Here are some ideas:

1) I think we all know it's a good idea to keep glasses, coffee cups, etc., near the sink. (However, if you don't use tap water, you might re-think this. The reason I keep mine in a cabinet near the sink is really more for the sake of that cabient being right above the dishwasher, which is right beside the sink.) I used to keep my coffee center there, as well, but I have moved it to a little table in my kitchen. I don't mind the extra steps it takes to fill the coffee pot, as we use it more for guests in our home than for ourselves. It actaully serves me well to have everything for the coffee set up a bit away from my sink than right by it. However, if you fix coffee daily, consider setting up your coffee center as close to your sink as possible.
2) Pitchers and colanders are handy to have near the sink if you have the room.
3) Paring knives and veggie brushes are handy to have near the sink. Mine are near the sink, but they are in a drawer along with other items. My little project will be to gather them together in a little container so that I can grab them quickly and turn back around to the sink.
4) If you ever design a home, I'm sure you know to put your dishwasher near the sink. However, it's worth mentioning, just so it's not one of those little details you forget.
5) A dish strainer and dish pan are handy to have near the sink, as are cleaning supplies to keep the sink fresh. My mother in law knits dish drainers out of a special yarn. She made one for me. I store it with my dish towels and such. When I have items that I want to hand dry, I bring it out, unfold it on the counter, and place items on it. The yarn soaks up any water that drains. Then, I just toss the item in the washer. If anyone's interested in this being one of our knitting projects, I'll ask her for the directions.
6) Most people already know to keep their trash containers near the sink.
7) Tea kettles and such are great to store near the sink.
8) Deniese Schofield of an organized home uses dishpans to help carry items from the table to the sink to be sorted, rinsed, placed in the dishwasher, or hand washed. This can save time over carrying items one by one. She also uses clean dishpans to carry items to the table to be set. She enlists her children to help with both steps.
9) Be careful about storing cleaning things underneath the sink if you have small children in the home.
10) Don't cram the area underneath your sink with too many items. It's good not to pile things up so much that they interfere with seeing the sink pipes or the garbage disposal. In case of trouble, you need to be able to take a quick peak underneath to see where the problem might lie. Also, these things need room to funciton properly. I have made the mistake of piling cleaning rags up so high that they bump right into the bottom of the disposal.

enjoy!
Elizabeth

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Week III -- Day I -- Today's topic: Loving what we do, thoughts from Julieann

Here's a wonderful article Julieann wrote for our little project in economics. Julieann not only has a natural love of home and family, she has learned how to discipline her thoughts toward that direction, as well. If ever I'm flagging in motivation, I zip on over to her blog. She always has something cheerful and inspiring to say about keeping a home. This heart is reflected in her words:

"Have you ever heard that saying about finding a career? "Do what you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life" When I heard that one day over the radio, it made me smile because that is exactly what I am doing---I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do. I am a wife and mother--and doing something so incredible I thank God everyday, for this opportunity. I wake up every morning so excited to start the day---I think what we wear at night is just as important as what we wear during the day--I have pretty nighties and nice little slippers---I love to jump into bed just as much as I like to jump out of it, and put on a pretty dress....

I will lay in bed at night and go over the day, I will think of things I did that could be done better. I think of things that I want to cook, bake, clean, iron, etc. I make mental notes in my mind and then I say a prayer and sleep on it. I wake up full of excitement to start my day. I adore taking care of my husband and children. The beautiful home, my husband provides for us. I work hard myself being frugal and trying to make each dollar stretch as far as it will go. My husband depends on me to run the house--the meals to be made, the laundry to be done, a clean and safe home for the children.

I also love to take care of myself, I enjoy so much being a girl---I love to have long hair, and keep it brushed and clean and put it up pretty, I like to wear feminine girly clothes--even if you must where sweats--make sure they are clean and pink (Smile) You don't have to go out and get an expensive manicure--just make sure your nails are clean and filed---your toes are painted a pretty color--use lots of lotion to keep your skin soft--and use a perfume--smell pretty---we are women--our husbands love it when we smell nice.

Before my husband and I were married we discussed what roles we wanted to play in our marriage---and we agreed that as long as we had children in the home, I would be the one staying home and raising them--they would not be put in daycare. Yes, sometimes financially it is hard---and then we get through that with rewards. Many rewards, not always monetary, but sometimes a big hug, kiss, a picture----your babies first belly laugh, I would not have missed that for any amount of money in the world!!

Now, of course their are days that I am not as motivated as others---but I MAKE myself do it--and then pretty soon I am just as motivated as ever---Some days I am sad--yes, I get sad too--I miss my mom a lot--but then I turn around and see my children and I smile. Dr. Laura once said, if you have too--PRETEND you are happy and then after awhile you will be happy. You have to look for the positive in things, try to stay away from the negative. I 100% believe that things happen for a reason--yes I do--we may not always agree with what is happening but I completely believe that God knows best and we have to have faith. God does not make mistakes, ever!

Women are nurturers--we can have babies--isn't that just wonderful? We are able to nourish our little babies from our own bodies. God is just so wonderful how he worked out all these wonderful details. I have said this many, many times---I am a wife and a mother, there is nothing more satisfying to me then what I am already doing."

But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
Sing to God, sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds
his name is the LORD—
and rejoice before him.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families,
Psalm 86:3-6a

Who will memorize this passage with me? Let's start hiding words of God in our heart that will help us keep our homes.




How's your home management going? What have you been doing around your house this week? I pulled out annual flowers and tomatoes that were ready to come out after our area's first hard freeze. I also trimmed the dogwood bushes by our front door. I accidentally hit the cord we were using with our electric trimmer, so further pruning will have to wait for a new cord. I also planted more daffodils in an area where we are trying to naturalize them, as well as some tulip bulbs. Despite the cord accident, it felt good to be out, sprucing up my yard before winter sets in. Jot down in your home management notebook any projects that you've accomplished that bring you satisfaction.



For Your Book of Days:

Include a pretty drawing of your own, a photograph, or something printed from the Internet along with an inspirational quote. Here's an idea for a quote, but choose something that is meaningful to you:

"It is a greater achievement to establish a Christian home than it is to produce a second-rate novel filled with filth. It is a far, far better thing in the realms of morals to be old-fashioned, than to be ultra modern. The world has enough women who know how to be smart. It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need woman, and men, too, who would rather be morally right than socially correct."
~ U.S Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall



Holiday Check List:

1) Have you started your Christmas cards, if you are going to send them? Do you have cards in hand? Stamps? Have you addressed any? No matter where you are in this process -- already done or haven't even taken the first step -- work little by little toward the holiday celebrations.
2) Have you purchased all ingredients for dishes you will fix for American Thanksgiving? Canadians and citizens of other countries, you can breathe easy on this one.
3) I wait until after Thanksgiving Day to decorate for Christmas, though some people decorate earlier. Our family really likes our Thanksgiving traditions, and my family members do not like me to skip ahead to the next holiday before we've celebrated that one. If you, like me, are waiting to decorate for Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzza) after Thanksgiving, use the first few days of the week after Thanksgiving to evaluate the decorations you already have stored away in your attic. Do you have everything you need? Do you have too much? Is anything broken and in need of repair or disposal? Do you need to clean out storage tubs or clean stockings or do anything else to make things look clean and to cut down on the dust you will bring into your house? Does your holiday storage area need a good sweeping and dusting before you drag boxes around or walk back and forth to get things? If you clean this area ahead of time, you'll track less dust through the house.
4) Here's an article to help you save on holiday food.
5) Have you and/or your children gone through rooms and put up or given away or otherwise disposed of outgrown items, broken items, toys that children no longer play with;excess kitchen wear (how many measuring cups or cookie cutters do you really need?), etc. During the winter holidays, we often receive many gifts, and we bring new things into the home. Our families will enjoy these wonderful new gifts more if we make room for them. It's refreshing to bring gifts into a well-ordered, de-cluttered home; it's nerve-wrangling to add more stuff to a home that's already cluttered. The time is drawing near, so you may not be able to get everything into exact order the way you want it before the holidays. Just do the best you can in the next few weeks, and whatever you accomplish will be an improvement. (Also, this is a great way to train children the value of neatness and also of giving. If a child has many more toys than he or she really plays with, the child may enjoy donating one so that a child with few toys can have something for Christmas. Young children can sometimes be overwhelmed by too many toys and clothing. One good idea is to put up some toys and leave some down. Exchange the toys in three months or so. The child will feel as if he has new things to play with.)
Enjoy!
Elizabeth




Friday, November 21, 2008

Week II -- Day V -- Making a House a Home -- Outpost of Heaven

An outpost of heaven...

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Phil. 3:19-21

As keepers of our home, it's so easy to get caught up in our present duties that we forget the real Christian's true home is not on this earth, but in heaven. Our homes are, or should be, an outpost or colony of heaven on earth.

In one sense, the Kingdom of Heaven has already come to us. Paul urges Christians to give thanks "to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Col. 1:12-13. Jesus identified part of his kingdom with the church he would establish on the Day of Pentecost. This came true when Peter preached the first sermon about how to become a Christian, using the keys that Jesus had given him to open up the door to entrance to the kingdom. See Matthew 16:13-17 and Acts Chapter Two. Jesus also identified his Kingdom with the rule of God in the hearts of men. "Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there! For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

In another sense, we are still waiting for the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven. "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. I Cor. 15:24." See also Revelation Chapter 21.

In a way, followers of Jesus are a colony of heaven on this earth, here to be ambassadors for the true Kingdom. While we care for this earth and its citizens, we long for the day when we will be truly at home, face to face with our Holy and Beloved King. Imagine a U.S. ambassador who is sent to help a poor and war-torn country. He may deeply love the people there, and he does his best to help them. Yet, he is not a citizen of this war-torn country. He is an American, subject to the laws of the U.S., and representing its interests. He may even feel homesick for the U.S. from time to time. We could think of ourselves as being in a similar situation. We are living in a world that rightfully belongs to God, but in which sin is waging a terrible war. We are here to be Ambassadors of the true King, pointing people to the true path of peace. Yet, we are not citizens of the rebellious, sinful kingdom that pervades our world. We are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, subject to its laws, and representing heaven's interests. At times, when confronted with the sorrows of this world, we may become a bit wistful. I think that's a sort of homesickness for heaven. It's also a gift that drives us to seek God even more in prayer and in the study of his word.

Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But, I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better, yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake."

The true Christian has great joy now. She has fellowship with God; fellowship with other Christians; and fruitful labor to perform out of love for her Lord. Her life now has meaning, purpose, and beauty. Yet, she also looks forward to the complete joy that will come when Jesus comes again. She is happy to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

So, in making our houses feel like homes, the most important thing we can do, imho, is to put our treasure in heaven. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:20-22.

This is a verse that many of us have been familiar with since childhood. Sometimes, I can be so familiar with it that I don't think about it deeply enough. Where is my treasure, really? Some of the fears that have popped into my mind regarding the economy and political situation have made me see how much hope I was putting into a secure economy, rather than in the Lord's provision.

An exhaustive study of what it means to put our treasure in the kingdom of heaven versus the worldly kingdom is beyond the scope of both this post and my ability to write about the subject. But, let's think about a few things the keeper at home can do to live in her home as an outpost of heaven.

1) We can conduct ourselves in our homes and everywhere we go as citizens of heaven. One place to start is by meditating on the beatitudes and seeking to live them out. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5. What if everyone of us in a home or a neighborhood or a church conducted ourselves in this way? Wouldn't that be...well... heavenly?
2) We can align our values with God's values. This may mean re-thinking some of our most cherished beliefs and desires. Look what Jesus said to some religious leaders, who had high standing in their community: "He said to them, 'You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.'" Luke 16:15. We need to be wary of just drifting along with the world, with religious tradition, or with every inclination of our own hearts. We need to make prayerful choices that are informed by God's word. Sometimes, it's a struggle in prayer to give up our ideas, especially when they look easier to us than God's path does at the moment. But, oh, how happy our hearts are when we do get them in harmony with God's will.
3) We can enjoy an intimate relationship with our Father! What wonderful grace it is that, for the true Christian, Jesus and His Father along with the Spirit make their home in our hearts! "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21. "Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."

For your home economic book, outline Acts Chapters I and II

What platters, serving utensils, cloths, etc., will you need to serve Thanksgiving dinner or to take food to a Thanksgiving dinner at someone else's house? Are these things clean and ready? What about preparations for visiting family? I'm washing quilts and sheets today. I need to get out the silver polish soon!

For your book of days: Here are some questions to jog your thinking for journaling: What does it look like outside your window? What scents do you smell in your home? What gave you special pleasure in keeping your home this week. Read Revelation 21 and write down what you think heaven will be like.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Week II Day IV -- Making a House a Home, Forcing Bulbs

Making a House a Home

Have you asked your family members what makes a house feel like home to them? I asked my hubby, and the first things he mentioned were neat and orderly, being able to find things when he needs them, having laundry done on time, and the like. I tend to think first of decor. My guy is definitely a function over form engineer, while I'm a form over function artsy type. :) So, it's good for me to keep his needs in mind. I think most men enjoy a home that functions well. My father and son are much the same way.

Dh doesn't naturally think about how the home is furnished, but when asked, he does come up with some preferences in that area as well. He is not comfortable in rooms that are overly formal or overly floral, though he does like real flowers. He enjoys comfortable seating and good lighting for reading or working.

When dh comes home, he is often carrying burdens from work or from his role in church, so he likes a few minutes to relax and collect his thoughts when he comes in.

What do your family members think is homey? I'd love to hear what you found out.

Extra credit: Read David Copperfield or watch one of the many movies made from the book. Compare Dora to Agnes. What good traits did each woman have? What weaknesses did each woman have? In what ways was Agnes more mature and more prepared for real life than Dora? How did she make things homey? What motivated David to marry Dora? Was his choice wise and based on real love, or was it based solely on infatuation? What motivated David to marry Agnes? Was this a more mature love?

For your homemaking notebook: Take a tour of the inside of your house. Notice things that please you. Also jot down things that need to be done. Remember, we're making a master list of things to do in the next several months. Don't try to tackle everything on your list at once.


For your Book of Days: Use some of these questions to help you think of things to journal about: What does it look, feel, smell, and sound like outside today? Has my pet or farm animal done something cute today? What are my children learning today? What am I cooking today? What textures, smells, and colors are involved in today's cooking? Have my husband and I had a few moments of laughter or joy together in the past twenty-four hours?




Winter Project Idea
Forcing bulbs indoors is a way to bring a little bit of spring into the house, even during the winter. Paperwhites are some of the easiest and quickest bulbs to bring to an early indoor bloom. If you try this, please take photos and leave a link to them in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Week II -- Day IIIB -- Does someone want to walk us through an advanced project?

I'm starting a fabric apron project which is suitable for sewers of all levels. While we're doing that, does anyone want to try one of these knit or crocheted aprons on their blog and post their progress for us to see? This could be an advanced level project.

Party apron
Daisy apron

If no one's up for it, we may tackle one of these patterns all together in the coming months. But, if you'd like to go ahead and get us started, feel free. Just leave a link to your blog in the comments section.

Week II -- Day III -- Making a House a Home Plus Project

Making a House Feel Like a Home and a Starting Project:

Food for Thought: "Housekeeping comprises the ability to find, evaluate, and use information about nutrition, cooking, chemistry and biology, health, comfort, laundry, cleaning and safety. Above all, housekeeping must be intelligent so that it can be empathetic, for empathy is the form of intelligence that creates the feeling of home. Good housekeepers know intuitively what needs to be done in their homes because they know how their homes make people feel. We should not overlook the relation of personal style and character to the character of a home. These are complicated subjects, but we can at least remind ourselves here and how deeply they are involved in the subject of housekeeping. We can all observe for ourselves that warmhearted, reasonably well-organized people, not surprisingly, tend to keep well-functioning, cheerful, and welcoming homes... (Emphasis mine)." Cheryl Mendelson

"The traditional woman of the past did more to make her home feel alive and warm than dusting and cleaning. Someone could be hired to do that. Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home. Of course, this did not always turn out well. A controlling woman might make her home suffocating. A perfectionist's home might be chilly and forbidding. But it is more illuminating to think about what happened when things when right. Then, her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens and good meals; her memory in well-stocked storeroom cabinets and the pantry; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home, her good humor in its light and air...Part of her relation to those (people) she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made." Cheryl Mendelson.

Paraphrased thoughts from Cheryl Mendelson: Today, there are no uniform societal standards for what constitutes a clean house. If a woman of today was not taught the basics by an accomplished role model, she may feel totally at sea when it comes to knowing what to do to keep a house and when to do it. Thus, some people skimp even on the essentials of keeping a reasonably healthy, clean, and orderly home, because they don't realize how important these things are. Others go overboard and set such impossible standards for keeping a home that they wear themselves and their families out in an effort to achieve what they imagine must be home keeping perfection.

Consider your situation, consider your husband's wishes if you are married, and come up with a reasonable standard for order and cleanliness in your home. Letting things go is unhealthy; likewise, "order and cleanliness should not cost more than the value they bring in health, efficiency, and convenience."

Enemies of homeyness:

1) A lack of peace with God; lack of peace in your heart; allowing disorder in the heart to spill over into how you keep your home; insecurity about your home keeping; feeling an inordinate desire to apologize for little housekeeping mistakes so much that you make your family and guests feel uncomfortable; never feeling that you are doing enough; never being able to just enjoy your own family and your own home because you don't think you've done a good enough job in keeping your home.
2) Caring more about what you like or about what other people will think of your home than about what makes your family feel "at home" and comfy. Valuing things over people. Valuing your routine over people (A successful home manager is able to keep a reasonable routine, yet is also flexible when appropriate.) Keeping a beautiful home, yet not having places in it where people feel comfortable enough to relax.
3) Indifference; lack of confidence that making a welcoming and orderly home is an important part of life; bowing to societal pressures to undervalue what you do in the home; not caring for your current residence because a) you're single and you don't see a need to keep home until you are married, or b) you're living in temporary quarters or you don't like your current living space.
4) Moving through life in a disorganized way; living from crisis to crisis rather than consistently investing in the things that make for a peaceful life and an orderly home.
5) Lack of knowledge; being unsure of what are good standards to set for the management of your home;

Friends of Homeyness:

1) Finding your peace and security in your relationship with the Lord; keeping your home for His glory, not yours; more concern for loving others than about what people will think or about making everything go your way; taking little homemaking trials or mistakes in stride, knowing that we all have them; learning to be content and to focus on what you were able to get done in a day, rather than dwelling on what still needs to be accomplished.
2) Valuing people over things and over your routine. Being in touch with what the people in your home need. Caring for people without going to the extremes of neglecting them or smothering them.
3) Developing the conviction that how you live in your home is valuable. It is important. Being okay with the fact that home keeping can be a thankless task at times, but being secure anyway that what you are doing counts in the long run; doing the best you can with what you have, even if you are single now or you don't like the place where you are now living. Do what you can to make your current space feel homey, and you will develop habits that will serve you in good stead. Not only that, but you'll feel more at home and more comfortable in your life now, and that's a good thing.
4) Learning how to be both consistent, yet flexible. Making daily investments in your relationship to God, the overall picture of your life, and in your home.
5) Studying, noticing, learning. Pick a few good role models and watch how they keep home.

Extra Special Friends of Homeyness:

1) A cheerful heart is not only good medicine, it lights up a home. There are many times to weep in life, and we need to be in touch with those times. It's important to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. However, we can train our basic mood to be cheerful, and that does a lot of good for our attitude and for our family's sense of home. Sing, laugh, praise, and be grateful. Think on wholesome things. Pray for a cheerful heart.
2) Keep your appearance neat and feminine.
3) If you make your bed every day, take care of your dishes, fix a good meal, and keep one room picked up, you'll have gone a long way toward making your home welcoming for the day.
4) Unless you have health restrictions that would dictate otherwise, consider airing your house frequently and opening curtains to let the sun in. Nothing smells so clean in a house as fresh air. Since dh and I have allergies, there are times when we have to forego this pleasure. But, the extra oxygen in a fresh breeze does so much to create a peaceful atmosphere in the home.
5) If you and your family enjoy the color yellow, decorate with a few touches of it throughout the house. Even a glass vase filled with lemons and a sprig of mint adds a touch of sunshine to a kitchen, for example.

Who will make an apron with me? I plan to start mine in December. If you'd like to sew along with me, you might want to collect materials now. If you like, use Christmas fabric.

Here's what you will need:

Note: If you don't have a sewing machine, but you do have the time, you could hand sew this.

Two yards of 45" material -- Cotton, or cotton blends recommended.

One yard of contrasting color material.

Matching thread or a neutral beige or white thread, if you don't mind the stitches being seen.

Scissors

Tape measure

Pencil or chalk for marking material

Pins

Hand sewing needle for finishing touches

Iron

enjoy!
Elizabeth

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Week II -- Day II -- Making a House into a Home


The wise woman builds her house,

But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

Proverbs 14:1 NASB


Making a House a Home


An Essential Key: Love is in the Details:


The most beautiful things in life consist of tiny, often intricate details. All of God’s nature is a display of this truth about beauty. The beautiful, white snowdrift is made up of tiny snowflakes. A towering tree is composed of many branches covered with single leaves. The loveliness of a rose is found in the velvety petals. God created beauty out of infinite details, set in an orderly fashion and following the rules of His creation. Certainly, as women, we should strive to follow the pattern set by our Creator.

A woman’s life is composed of details. From her appearance to her home, there are hundreds of details combining to make a picture of orderly beauty, of hundreds of details combing into make a picture of a mess. Details must always be carefully thought out and completed.

When we do a task, such as setting a dinner table, we should set a nice table, perhaps even with a small vase of flowers or a candle for a centerpiece.

(unscented candles are better with food). It need not be elaborate or expensive, just a thoughtful touch. Step back and think “Is anything missing?” (salt and pepper, for example).

Doing dishes and cleanup requires attention to detail. Dishes and silverware need to be clean. Sticky counter tops need a thorough wiping.

Proper personal appearance is dependent on the details: body cleanliness, trimmed fingernails, clean hair, well pressed clothes, polished shoes, etc. Details comprise the whole.

Details in the daily schedule are important as well. Being able to calmly handle all the occurrences in a day is often just a matter of prioritizing and scheduling all those details!

Details in decorating, sewing and crafts are mandatory to an item being made well. Do we not admire a handmade quilt with beautiful even stitches? That is not talent. It is patient attention to detail.

Details in relationships are the most important of all details. If we care for the details of our family members, especially our husbands, it is possible to have a harmonious relationship. Caring for details takes thoughtfulness on our part. It means thinking about what the other person needs and trying to provide those needs. It can be something as simple as having the house straightened and peaceful when a husband or roommates walk through the door. The secret of life of beauty if found in the details of that life. Everywhere you go, and in everything you see, notice the details. Your example will teach others to notice the details as well.

Adapted from an article by

Keepers of the Faith

(Note: There is a balance. You can get too caught up in the details and miss the big picture, as the Pharisees who focused on the externals and missed God’s heart)



Detail to consider: Is your calendar of birthdays and anniversaries up to date? Mine's not. I'm going to take advantage of being around families during the holidays to update my card list. I have a "Special Occasions" Notebook made especially for sending cards. It has a pocket for each month of the year, where you can store cards for occasions, and a place on the pocket where you can write a birthday or some other occasion that occurs annually during that month. Whatever system you use, remember that keeping track of our loved ones special days makes them feel cared for.


Another detail to consider: How's it going with your holiday gift list and your holiday card list?


Check out this list of free holiday crafts.




Remember: It will never be all done. Once done, it won't stay that way forever. The key is to be consistent, but not compulsive about creating a warm, welcoming, orderly and love-filled home.


Holiday gifts to encourage the arts of keeping a home:


I hear many older women lament that young girls are not interested in the home arts today. Yet, when I worked in a craft store a few years ago, I was happily surprised by how many young people were among our customers.

Here are some ideas for gifts that might encourage an interest in the home arts. Of course, these gifts will go over better if a girl has shown some interest in learning the home arts and crafts. However, you never know what lifelong pleasure you may give to a young person if you intrigue their interest in domestic arts at a young age.

Here are some ideas to spur your thinking:

Girls ages 3-6: A doll; a pretty doll dress; offer to make a dress for a girl's doll and let her help you pick out material and trim; storybooks about happy families; cooking and/or cleaning toys; doll furniture; a plastic tea set; a real tea cup and saucer that mother keeps in a safe place and brings out for special occasions (could be a flea market find so that if it does get broken, it's no loss); children's apron

Girls ages 6-9: Craft store certificate; cross-stitch kit based on girl's skill and interest level; craft store apron, tote, or T-shirt and trim and fabric paints to use to decorate it; offer to teach her how to make doll dress and let her help you pick out the materials; children's cookbook, children's sewing book; kit for growing flowers or herbs in pots; if you know the family has a garden -- her own pretty little gardening gloves and a pastel handled trowel; kit to make garden stepping stone and offer to supervise. Flea store find tea cup and saucer

Girls ages 9-12: craft store certificates; sewing basket filled with things needed for hand stitching; Knifty Knitter and supplies; children's cookbook; children's sewing book; jewelry making supplies; candle making supplies; craft kits appropriate to girl's interest and skill level. T-shirt, tote, or craft store apron with items to decorate it. (With some items, ask mom first as many will require some level of supervision). Tea cup and saucer

Girls 12-18: craft or sewing store certificates; T-shirt or tote; art books, sewing books, cooking books, or craft books, especially ones geared to that age; take a cake making or sewing class with your daughter (this can be expensive, so count the cost first); jewelry making supplies; Kniftty Knitter and supplies or knitting needles, yarn, and a simple pattern; keeper vase with fresh flowers in it; scrapbook supplies; beginner's quilting kit

Young ladies 18-25: craft or sewing store certificates, cookbooks, sewing books, books on household management; scrapbook supplies; a homemade notebook with family recipes, home keeping tips that you collect from friends and families and pretty pictures;

Enjoy!
Elizabeth


Monday, November 17, 2008

Week II -- Day I -- Making a House into A Home




Hooray! I've got my home office workspace in order again (pictures to come), I've got my "Active To Do" file waiting for me to do some office work, and I've got my purse re-organized. It feels so good to have re-vamped my home management center, and I'm so thankful to God for giving me the time and the energy. I'm also thankful for all of you who are following along with me, as your accountability is helping me take my home keeping skills higher. Thank you.:)

How's it going for every one else? The next logical thing to talk about would be our calendar or home management notebook. I'm going to save that for December, however, so that we can start next year with our calendar in hand.

I figure that everyone's into holiday shopping, cooking, and crafts right now, so we may put off doing some more complicated craft projects -- such as advanced knitting and quilting -- until January. It's always nice to have a creative project going when the holidays are over and the really cold weather of winter hits. (Since I live in Tennessee, some of you in colder parts of the world may laugh at my definition of really cold weather.)

So, for this week, let's talk about this fundamental basic: Making a house a home. We'll try to work in some Christmas crafts as well. Julieann's working on an article for us about the attitude of the homemaker. Those who read her blog know that this is one lady who's so happy to love her family and her home.

Now, on to making a house a home:

Assignment #1 for your Homemaking Book -- Think about it, write about it!

Ask each person in your family what makes a house feel like a home to them. If you are married, be sure to start with dear hubby. While there are some universal things that most people respond to, there are differences in what makes a house feel like a home to one person and what makes it feel like a home to another.

Assignment #2: Choose one of the following: a) Study John 14:2 and Bible references to heaven, the home that Jesus is preparing for us. b) Study every verse in Proverbs related to the home c) Study about the widow and her husband who hosted Elisha (II Kings 4:8-10) and verses about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who hosted Jesus.

Pray for God's will to be done in your home and to know God's desire for your home.

If you are a child, teen, or young adult still living in your parents' home, ask yourself what you can do to contribute to making your house feel like a home. Also, ask yourself what you can do to make your personal space feel homey. If you learn to keep your personal space neat and homey now, it will help you when you have an apartment or home of your own to manage later on.

If you are single or widowed and live alone, do not think that this does not apply to you. Your physical and mental health will benefit if you keep your living space neat and homey. Also, you will feel more inclined to have friends and family members over if you know you have created a homey space. Even a shared room in a nursing home can have homey touches.

Take a "tour" of your home. Bring your home keeping book and a pen or pencil with you. Jot down things you feel happy about and things that need to be done. Start with just the outside for today. As Ann Ward who wrote Training our Daughters to be Keepers at Home says, "A neat, well-cared for yard, garden, walkway, and home area speaks of good stewardship and organization. It says someone cares."

Does the front door need repainting? Do the door handles, knobs, and kick plates need polishing or replacing. What season is it in your area? Do you need to do some work to prepare for a change of weather? (We're still experiencing a long, sort of summer fall, but we've also just had our first good frost. So, I have some perennial plants to cut back and some annuals to take out.) If you're already in deep snow by now, there may be only so much you can do at the moment. But, take an inventory anyway and remember it for when you can get to it. People in the Southern hemisphere may be transitioning from winter and spring to summer, so they may be planting flowers. Others live where there is little variation in season. Tailor your outdoor plan to where you live.

What about outside lighting? Step outside of your home at night and approach your house as if you were a family member coming home after dark or a guest coming over for dinner in the dark. Does your house have a soft light that feels welcoming? One beautiful look is a soft lamp inside seen shining out through sheer curtains. You don't have to run the electricity bill up. In these days, it's best not to leave every light in the house burning so as not to use up resources and money. However, one small welcoming lamp in the entry way is nice on occasions. A large candle might work as well.

Also think about outside lighting for safety reasons. Thieves work under the cover of darkness. Burgers are much less likely to approach an area with at least a little outside lighting than they are a dark place.

How are your outside door mats. Do they need cleaning or replacing? Mine clean up with a good rinsing from the hose.

What about outdoor lawn furniture? Does that need to be cleaned, put away, covered with plastic, or -- if you live down under -- brought out of storage and freshened up?

How is your mailbox?

Do you have any dreams for the front of your house and lawn?

How are gutters? What about porches or decks? Does your driveway need to be sealed? Do you have a mental or written checklist of what exterior home maintenance needs to be done for your house? Are you aware of seasonal things that need to be done for the exterior. Your dear hubby or father or son may take care of this type of maintenance. If so, be sure and express gratitude. Also, be aware of what is done in case you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to ask or hire someone to do it. My hero is working hard to clean and seal our deck, and I am so appreciative! He's saving us a ton of money by doing it himself, rather than hiring someone to do it.

Do you plan to do any decorations for Thanksgiving? Christmas? Any other winter holiday? Do you have something up already?

Don't overwhelm yourself. Don't feel that you need to take care of all of these things at once. We are just making a master list that can be worked on as you have time, money, favorable weather, and energy. Even small changes in your home's exterior and yard can do much to brighten your home and make it welcoming. If you have several children at home, organize an outside work time on a mild day and let them help you make the house look neat and welcoming.

If you built your house or found your dream house on the market for the right price, you are probably happy with the exterior style of your house. On the other hand, you may have had to settle for what you could afford or what was available at the time, and the exterior may not be your favorite style. It's best not to fret about that. Concentrate instead on what you can do to make the house look welcoming. Window boxes, a climbing rose, potted plants on a stoop, and new window shutters are some examples of things you can add to soften the front of a plain looking house. Be grateful for what you have and do the best you can with it, and you'll be snug and happy in your current nest.

In the book Gone with the Wind, Tara -- Scarlett's family home -- was not a pretty house. It was a farm house that had been added on to, and it had awkward lines. But, Scarlett's mother made it look pretty by the way she arranged plants around it.

I live near an area of old ranchers, and I love driving or walking through that neighborhood to see all of the creative little things that people have done to individualize their houses. Some of actually rebuilt the fronts, but others have done wonders with inexpensive, yet charming, touches. These houses probably looked very much the same when they were built decades ago, but, over time, they have each taken on their individual character. You can speed up the process of giving a home that loved-for and lived-in feeling by adding a few cosmetic or landscaping touches to your exterior.

While we're on the subject of yards, houses, etc., notice other people's houses and exteriors -- not in a critical way -- but in order to gain ideas that you might use. Or, read home and gardening magazines at the library and take some notes.

Your yard and exterior don't have to be fancy. Sometimes, simple is actually prettier. The key is for it to look neat and welcoming and neither run down nor forbidding.

Some brand new neighborhoods can be a bit bleak, as the landscaping is still bare in many years, and neighbors may move in and out so frequently and stay so busy that you may feel somewhat isolated. If you live in such an area, try this: make a chart of the streets in your neighborhood. Take note when someone new moves in. If you hear that someone has a baby, also take note. Bake goods and take them to these people. Invite people for dinner. Don't give up if people are busy and it takes a while to get them over; plan a month ahead if you have to.Wrap them well in case no one is home and you have to drop them off. Be the woman (or family) who prays about every street and every house. Do what you can to love your neighbors and make your neighborhood feel like a community. This will, in turn, bless you by making your home feel more like a home.

My friend did this in her neighborhood. Once, when the woman across the street from her was concerned about another family's crisis situation, she asked my friend what this family needed. When my friend told her, she said, "I knew you'd know." My friend lived in the only rental house in this established neighborhood of long term neighbors. Yet, it was her love and thoughtfulness that became the unifying thread in the neighborhood. You never know how great the influence of one persistently kindhearted person will be, even if that person faces some rejections along the way.

This idea will also work for those who live out in the country and whose neighbors may be spread out over several miles. For generations, the same families lived in the same rural area, and everyone knew everyone. That's how my parents grew up. Today, however, even rural areas are experiencing people moving in and moving out. Do what you can to foster a community feeling.

Also, while we're talking about a welcoming exterior, what type of welcome do you give your family members when they come home. Consider especially your dear hubbby, if you are married. While it is not always practical, try to have noisy work done before your family members come to the house. This means doing your laundry and running your dishwasher in the morning or in the evening, after supper. Again, this is not always practical, but if you can manage to have a quiet household when family members come in from the day, it's soothing to them.

Check your appearance a few moments before you think your husband is going to come in. People make fun of this tip, which was often mentioned in old-fashioned home economics books and ladies' magazines, but it's a good one to follow. Men are very visually oriented. It is soothing to them to arrive home to a woman who has put herself in order. (Lest we get down on men for this, don't you like it when your dear hubby looks neat, too?). Giving a little thought to your appearance says to your husband that you care for him. Don't worry if you are no longer as young as you once were or if a few wrinkles and white hairs have set in. Just take pains to be neat and fresh.

While your children are very young, teach them to wash hands and comb hair before coming to the dinner table. The whole family benefits if everyone brings a neat and clean appearance to the meal. Remember, we're not talking about fancy or glamorous. We're just talking about showing basic consideration for others in how we present ourselves.

Do you stop your work to greet each family member who comes in? Do you have a hug and a kiss for each one? What about having a filling snack on hand, if the timing is appropriate, or the smell of something delightful cooking in the oven? Those little things mean so much to our husbands and children! Other little things you can do are to have a scented candle burning (especially on those winter evenings when dark comes so early), to have some soft music playing, or to have the main family area picked up and in order. Find out what makes your family members feel welcomed.

Teach children to greet parents and siblings, as well. If you are a child or teen at home, what can you do to help each person feel special when they come home? Have you given Mom a hug and a kiss today?

What do you do to make yourself feel welcomed when you come home? What about keeping fresh flowers by a favorite chair your Bible or a good novel open on a nearby table? How about leaving out a tea bag and your favorite cup? What makes you feel as if your house is a home?



Extra resources:

Your entryway/foyer

DIY: exterior improvement section
winter home maintenance
summer home maintenance
A widow talks about homemaking

Also check your local extension service/garden club/university garden pages for information about your areas lawn and gardens.



Remember: We're trying to go from kindergarten to earning our Ph.D. in home keeping in just one year, so we're posting a lot of material. Just work at your own pace and choose what works for you. My plan -- Lord willing -- is to leave this up for a few years after we finish so that you can refer back to it as you have time. The purpose of studying home keeping is to increase our satisfaction in our homes, not to stress us out. So, work at your own pace and according to your own interests. Make of this course what works for you!!



Enjoy!
Elizabeth

Friday, November 14, 2008

Week I Day VII: Laying a Foundation: Food for Thought.

Day VII: Food For Thought -- An exercise for your Home Management Notebook

We're still on the fundamentals. Last post, we talked about purse organization. We've been looking at some specific skills that are useful to the keeper at home. Today, let's think about the heart of a keeper at home. We'll use the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 as our example.

Remember, the verses about the Proverbs 31 woman are a portrait of a wise woman who was skilled in the arts necessary to keep her household running in her place and in her time. Why was spinning and sewing such an important part of her life? Doubtless, there were merchants who sold materials and seamstresses who could be hired. Yet, she simply did not have the access to the abundance of ready-made clothing that we have today. If she wanted to keep her family clothed well, she needed to create materials and fashion them into garments. Sewing was also a source of outside income. Why was keeping her lamp filled with oil and burning so important? From what I've read, the woman of a household at that time would get up at least once in the night to make sure that her lamp was still burning. The lamp provided needed light should anyone have to get up during the night. It also served as a welcoming beacon for family members or friends who approached the house after a long journey. It was the source of flame from which the cooking fire was lit the next morning.

On the other hand, the Proverbs 31 woman did not drive a car, nor had she ever heard of a computer. She had never purchased a vacuum cleaner or a refrigerator. She would not have known how to help her child construct a model of the solar system for a learning assignment. Our example may have possessed some skills that you don't possess, but you certainly have skills that she didn't have, as well.

Some things about her life, we might find to be surprisingly similar, yet different at the same time. She packed for journeys on donkeys or camels; we pack for trips on airplanes or in cars. She haggled in the village marketplace; we clip coupons to use at our nearby grocery store.

Of course, the things we most have in common with her are that she feared the Lord and loved her husband and children. She also looked well to the ways of her household, because she cared about the people who lived in it. Whatever she turned her hand to, she did it with care and with skill. Our life and activities may not be identical to hers, but we can imitate her heart. We can also do whatever we need to do to provide an orderly household in reverence for God, knowing that He is a God of order.

Proverbs is an Old Testament book about applying God's wisdom to daily life. It's nice to learn some of the domestic skills in the passage, if we so desire. Yet, I think you can be a godly home manager whether you sew your own clothing or buy it and whether you garden or buy your produce at the market. What we're really after is applying the heart of wisdom described in these verses to managing our home in our time and in our place.

For your notebook:

1) In what ways do you think your life circumstances are similar to or different from the example in Proverbs 31?
2) What are the character traits of the virtuous wife? What is her heart like? Go through the verses in Proverbs 31 and examine not just what she does, but the heart behind what she does. Look at who she is in character. How would you imitate her heart in your time and in your place? How can you apply her character traits to your daily home management activities?
3) How is the virtuous woman's heart similar to the character that the Lord desires to develop in all of his followers -- men and women? Are you committed to growing in your household management with diligence, faith, and patience? Even more importantly, are you committed to a lifetime of growing in Christ-like character? Have you set your heart on obeying Christ's commands out of faith and love, depending on his grace to help you? John 14:15. Or, are you frustrated with your progress? If you are frustrated, how could Paul's words in Phil. 3:12-14 help you?
4) Have you ever studied what it was like to live in Old Testament or New Testament times and places? Would you like to? What have you already learned or what do you think you could learn from such a study?
5) Did you know that each letter of the section on the virtuous or excellent wife begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet? It covers all 22 Hebrew letters, beginning with the letter aleph. This acrostic style of literature appears in several places in the Old Testament. It's kind of like saying, "This is the ABC's of the virtuous woman, or here is everything from A to Z about the virtuous woman." The idea of an acrostic is to give a "complete picture" of something. Some have also speculated that acrostics were also used to make memorization easier.
6) One lesson that boys can learn from Proverbs 31 is not to choose a wife simply for her pretty face, but to consider her character. Likewise, girls can learn not to put their confidence in their physical beauty, which can fade, but to place their hope squarely on the Lord. Mothers, are we praying for the future spouses of our children? How can we teach our children to look for and appreciate true values in a potential mate?
7) The example of the worthy or virtuous wife belongs to the Old Covenant or the Old Testament. The Proverbs 31 passage has some parallels in the New Testament, however. Compare Proverbs 31 to Titus 2:1-5 and I Timothy 5:9, for example. Do you see any similarities?

Just for fun: Write a little poem for each of family members just by jotting down a positive characteristic for each letter of a person's name. Here's an example: Jenny -- Joyful, Encouraging, Neat, Nice, and Youthful.

Enjoy!
Elizabeth