Endless Possibilities

Do you remember those "Magic Eye" pictures? The ones where you'd kind of squint and let your eyes go blurry and you'd see an image hidden within the picture.

That's kind of how I look at "the Virtuous Woman" of Proverbs 31. Hidden in the picture of this role model of efficiency and accomplishment is another image that doesn't get discussed as often.

The thing that initially made me give this woman a second look was that she had "servant girls." She had household help! I like that idea. (Someday...) Beyond that though, she was a woman who made the most of her time and found activities in which she excelled.

She's the type of woman that a mother wants her son to marry—respected by the community, praised by her family, industrious, wise, resourceful, enterprising. And while we might resent if someone else holds us up to that seemingly impossible standard (and the implication that we're not really okay the way we are), we still make our own efforts to become just such a woman.

Let's face it; we want to be more attractive, more fit, more interesting, more accomplished. We buy magazines and books by the armload to try to "improve" ourselves. We stand in the checkout line with our basket full of good intentions, deciding whether this week we will take home instructions for "Foolproof Chocolate Cheesecake," "A Romantic Bedroom Makeover in a Weekend," or "10 Easy Steps to a Whole New You."

For many years, before marriage was even a faint possibility for me, I found myself frustrated by what I perceived to be a limited number of options for Christian women. It seemed like most of the descriptions of women in the Bible were about being a wife and mother. I was neither. What was I supposed to do with the gifts and abilities that God gave me? And was I ever going to actually be happy in a life of "cooking, cleaning and babysitting" as I unflatteringly referred to it?

Those feelings of limitation were transformed the first time I realized that Proverbs 31 is not a checklist of accomplishments or a yardstick by which to measure my own achievements. It is a portrayal of the endless possibilities of a woman's life; a poetic description of a life of creativity and career, caring and commitment. Here was a passage that spelled out what my heart had always known—life wouldn't begin on my wedding day or end the day my last child left home. Instead, married or unmarried, I have a lifetime to learn and grow and become the woman God created me to be.

I am so not a "woman of excellence" in many ways. I don't particularly like to shop or cook; I heartily dislike the "E" word (exercise) and didn't marry until I was in my 30's.

So what do I find exciting about Proverbs 31? The possibilities.

I am excited and challenged by the idea that there's more to life as a Christian woman (and homemaker!) than that old cooking, cleaning and babysitting. And as much as I may have to learn, I am encouraged to know I've got time to work on it. In the same way we're allowed a lifetime to become Christ-like, we have all the time in the world to become creative, caring, committed women.

Is there something in your heart that you've longed to pursue, but you've been afraid it didn't fit the picture of a Godly woman? As you read Proverbs 31, take another look at your life and find a new way of viewing the endless possibilities God has given you.

"...of this one thing I am certain, He who began a good work in you will perfect it."
Phil 1:6

Recipe: Afghans
The name of this cookie reminds me of the woman of Proverbs 31 who "makes coverings for her bed." If you "squint and make your eyes go blurry," this chocolate version of the traditional lace cookie looks like crochet. Serve Afghans as a reminder of the endless possbilities God gives to women.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft but not melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1'/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line baking sheets with parchment or grease generously.

In a medium bowl, use electric mixer on medium speed to beat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla until well blended. In a small bowl, stir together flour, unsweetened cocoa and salt. Add to butter-sugar mixture and beat until smooth. Gently stir in oatmeal.

Drop batter by level teaspoonfuls three inches apart onto prepared sheets (cookies will spread). Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake five or six minutes or until edges begin to firm.

Let cookies cool briefly on sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes approx. 36 cookies.

Photo from Fine Cooking. Recipe originally published in Coffee, Cookies and Inspiration, 1999, Mary Pielenz Hampton. All rights reserved.


Renee Swope said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your story. Please don't ever apologize for a long response. I loved it! My looonnng post warrants some looonnng comments. Makes me feel like we're all having this lingering conversation. I love that each of us has different stories. So glad you shared your!

Love your blog. Very inviting and REFRESHING. I'll be back to visit again!

Have a wonderful Sunday!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I'm over here from Renee's blog. I love your perspective about the P31 woman. She's always frightened me. Your thoughts about possibility over rigidity really make sense. I read the passage with fresh eyes this day.

Keep to the pen. God will use it to his glory as only he can.

PS: Love Brother Lawrence. I read a few words from him every night!

Genny said...

What a great analogy, and I love your perspective here. Great post...made me think! Thanks!

Truth4thejourney said...

I'm visiting from Lysa T's site. This is a very tough verse. I used to get angry when I read it. But now God has shown me that I've grown to become more like this woman over the years.

I had a sweet friend tell me once that this veryse to her, represented God pointing out ALL of the things we do, as women. He wants to recognize us for everything we're doing. :)

Nancy said...

I enjoyed visiting your blog.

Mel's World said...

WOW...great post...loved the recipe, loved the insight, and love the whole look of the REFRESH blog!

It's so nice to meet you!! I love what you have going on over here...will most certainly be back!

Take Care,

Tracie Miles said...

I just found your blog by linking from Renee's site and its great! I love the new perspective you put on how we see the P31 woman - she is truly is to be an inspiration to us all, not an unreachable status of a role model. Thanks for sharing!

RefreshMom said...

Welcome to all my new guests! I'm so glad you found me. Stop by any time you're looking for a "time of refreshing." I look forward to visiting with you here and your place(s).

Marlo Schalesky said...

Great post on the Proverbs 31 woman. I love your perspective and insights!

:-) Marlo

Chatty Kelly said...

Visiting from Lysa's site. Loved your post!

Bonnie said...

A wonderful site to add to my repetoire, Mary.

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