The Bread of Idleness

Welcome to Ruby Tuesdays. Today and next Tuesday, if you leave a comment, you get another chance to win an "Afternoon Tea in a Basket" which includes my infamous chai mix, yummy shortbread and a copy of "A Tea for All Seasons."

"...(she) does not eat the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:26b

We've talked about the Proverbs 31 woman for a couple of weeks now. You know I see her list of accomplishments as a list of possibilities and not expectations. And that rather than having to be all of those things before we 'count,' we have a lifetime to explore the opportunities presented.

But with all that in mind, what do you think keeps you from being the wife/mom/businesswoman, etc that you really want to be?

For myself, I could list lots of things--lack of time or training or skill--but I do wonder sometimes if a lot of it isn't attributed to not being "industrious" enough. Ok, maybe lazy.

I don't want to be. And I don't mean to be. Sometimes it comes from having so much to do that I don't know where to begin. Or I get involved in one project that takes me to another room where I get distracted by something else that needs doing. Or the kids interfere, either by interrupting me every 4.5 minutes or by trying to "help" which usually involves undoing what I just got done.

A lot of the time it's just the awareness that any of the above is likely to happen as soon as I embark on a task and I kind of short-circuit and give up before I begin. On a good day, I get started but give up as soon as any of those factors factor in.

And those are just the unintentional distractions!

I think we all have our pet idlenesses. Sometimes it can even be disguised as something good, but in our heart of hearts, we know it's idleness just the same.

TV is probably the most obvious and often targeted. It's easy to get lost in some program or other, only to find that hours have slipped away without accomplishing anything productive. The internet can be the same way.

My biggest vice for many years (after my parents got rid of the television) was reading. On the surface, that doesn't sound so bad. After all, reading is a good thing, right? But it's possible to read even good books or magazines to such an extent that we neglect other things that need to be done.

We may turn down opportunities to serve because we "don't have the time." Or maybe we shut out family members while we're absorbed in our latest read. Maybe the material itself fills our heads with "possibilities" that lead us to ignore the realities of the life right in front of us.

Idleness can also come in the form of socializing. Whether over the phone or over tea (or over Facebook), it's easy to spend so much time that dinner gets started late or the laundry doesn't get done, or the checkbook doesn't get balanced (and that little math error made last week turns into a major budget crisis).

Idleness is something I've always struggled with, but I think I'm making some progress. And I think mostly God just wants us to be balanced in our lives--in our work and our play.

I've found some ways to become more productive. Set time limits on "pleasure" reading or computer time. While watching a favorite TV show, fold laundry or clip coupons. With cordless phones, time spent catching up with a dear friend can also be used to fix dinner or straighten up.

It's still not about looking at a checklist of "perfect." For me, I think the challenge is to look at the idleness in my life and see how it can be overcome. It's an ongoing struggle, but success along the way makes the struggle worth it.

And one of the benefits as I see progress being made is knowing that my time is being used well and that I won't have to make excuses or explanations. Ultimately, I hope that as I begin to achieve this balance in my life, "(my) works will praise (me) in the gates," and the respect of my family and others I have opportunity to serve will follow.
What's your pet form of idleness? What do you do to combat/overcome it?
PS--Check out the recipe following this post to try the "Bread of Industriousness."

Take a couple minutes to follow these links and see what some other people are thinking today. If you've got a Proverbs 31 post or blog (meaning just about anything related to home and family, working from home, gardening, teaching, etc), add your information to Mr. Linky and link back here from your blog. (Remember to link to a specific post, and not just a general blog link.) Thanks for joining us!

Bread of Idleness vs "Bread of Industriousness"

Scones are the simplest and most common of the traditional tea breads. I like to think the Proverbs 31 woman might eat this "bread of industriousness." There's no fiddling with yeast or letting the dough rise, but a scone fresh-from-the-oven with some jam and cream (try it with the cream; it really does add something special) is sooo worth the minimal effort it takes. Just taking time to make the scones and sit with a cuppa something and your Bible can be a great reminder that 'the bread of industriousness' is much sweeter and more rewarding than the alternative!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, chilled
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a baking sheet.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and sugar. With hands, rub butter into dry ingredients until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Add milk, mixing after first 1/3 cup, adding remaining milk a little at a time, if needed. Blend together just until ingredients form a ball. Dough should be stiff and not sticky.

Turn dough onto a floured board and gently knead into a round, about 1 inch thick. Slice dough into equal wedges, or cut into rounds using a 3 inch biscuit cutter or glass. Place about 1 inch apart on buttered sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot from the oven with jam and whipped cream (since it's hard to find actual 'clotted' cream in the US).

Variations: Before adding milk, mix in 1/3 cup of your favorite: dried cranberries or cherries, raisins or currants, chocolate chips or pecans.

Tips: Don't overmix or knead the dough too long. If you want to prepare them ahead, mix dry ingredients and set aside, adding milk just before baking; or mix together, cut into shapes, then freeze the dough until you're ready to bake.

Ruby in the Rough

Welcome to Ruby Tuesdays. Join me and others every Tuesday as we blog something related to Proverbs 31. My theory is she's in the Bible to inspire and uplift, not discourage us. If you're visiting from the Ultimate Blog Party, I'm glad you stopped by. Leave a comment letting me know you were here and I'll enter you for a chance to win an "Afternoon Tea in a Box."(follow link for details)
"An excellent (woman) who can find?
Her worth is far above rubies ."
Proverbs 31:10

Have you ever seen rubies straight from the mine? To the untrained eye they look more like aquarium gravel than precious jewels. But once a master jeweler gets finished with one—grinding, polishing, cutting, shaping, and even refining it with fire—the beauty that lay hidden beneath the marred surface is exposed for all to admire.

It's an exacting process to take a rough chunk of mineral and create a valuable jewel. It's not easy—a ruby is second in hardness only to a diamond. And it takes the skill of a master to see the possibilities in each stone—to choose just the right size, shape, and pattern of facets to best display the gem's inherent beauty. A properly cut stone is perfectly balanced, so the light that enters the face doesn't pass through, but reflects from one facet onto another, creating a fascinating, ever-changing kaleidoscope.

Brilliant. Shining. Multi-faceted. Colorful. Sparkling....words used to describe a fine gem. The same words can describe a fine woman.

Proverbs 31 describes a lady who's "a real gem." 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 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.

I used to resent her when I was under the impression that this woman had her act all together from the start. But one of the things that came with my new perspective on Proverbs 31 is the recognition that it's not about being a 'finished product' right from the start. This passage is looking back at what a virtuous woman can become over a lifetime. That seems do-able.

That's what Ruby Tuesdays is about. It's a closer look at the many possibilities our lives can include. Based on characteristics that made one ideal gem of a woman beautiful, each post will explore one element that can add radiance to our lives as well. Every Tuesday we'll look at aspects of life such as:

  • Financial management and investing
  • Interior decorating
  • Working from home
  • Cooking
  • Teaching
  • Serving
  • Caring
  • Knowing God almost unlimited combination of pursuits. Some of the facets may not fit into our lives just now; others may not belong there at all. And we don't need to perfect each of these traits; we need to see that the aspects of life that seem so ordinary are actually reflections of the character and nature of God. We'll find the meaning in the mundane by considering the spiritual as well as the practical perspective of these pursuits.

And the most important thing to remember is that we aren't expected to become shining, brilliant reflections of God by our own efforts any more than a pebble of corundum becomes a sparkling ruby without help.

The Master Jeweler knows what we were intended to look like from the beginning. He works carefully and slowly to shape us perfectly, creating just the right combination of characteristics to reflect His light in our lives. And He has promised that little by little, with His help, we will become the fully faceted, beautiful women he created us to be.

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

If you blog about any of the topics listed above sometime during the week, you're welcome to use Mr Linky so others can see your post (please use the URL from the specific post itself, not just your blog URL).

You can also grab the Ruby Tuesdays code and place the button in your sidebar so more of your bloggy friends can come along. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesdays to discover more ways we can become the 'gems' God intends us to be. (And don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. Mention Ruby Tuesdays on your blog and get another entry. Winner chosen on April 7.)

Related Posts:
Endless Possibilities

A Woman of Strength

Cookin' Up Something

You Can't Cook if There's No Food in the House

Welcome to the 'No Food in the House' Club

No Fear

Welcome to the Ultimate Blog Party

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

I've been doing this blogging thing for less than a year, so I'm new to the parties and festivals and such. I decided to take the plunge though, and join the biggest of them all, The Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom (where I've found many of my favorite blogs).

For the next week hundreds (thousands?) of bloggers will link to their party page and invite the bloggy world to stop by for a visit. And there are plenty of "party favors" being given away as part of the hoopla.

I had fun with my first giveaway a couple of weeks ago, and decided to offer something for the blog party too. A lucky participant will get and "Afternoon Tea in a Box;" one of my special giant shortbread cookies and my personal chai blend (trust me, it's better than anything you can buy at your grocery store). I'm including a copy of my devotional book "Tea and Inspiration."

So if you're interested, you'll follow this link to the prize page, then follow the directions for letting the coordinator know which prize(s) you'd like to be entered to win.

But wait! There's more!

I'm going to offer another "Afternoon Tea in a Box" to one lucky visitor to Refreshmoments. If you're interested, leave a comment on this post, or one of the next three "Ruby Tuesdays" posts (March 24, 31 or April 7). I'll give you one entry for each of the posts, so if you stop by all four dates, you have four chances to win.

Sometimes a smile isn't what it seems...

The backs of our cars have always been pretty much unadorned. No "My kid can beat your kid at chess" bumper stickers or little stick figure families complete with names and pets clinging to the back window of the minivan. The closest we've ever come to automobile messaging is our university alumni license plate holders.

So when the kids came home from an outing with Hubs and said something about a 'smiley face' on the back of the car, I didn't really think much about it. When I went out later and saw the quarter-sized yellow decal just above the rear windshield wiper, I figured it was cheerful and innocuous enough to leave for a little while.

Until a few days later when I went to get the sand toys out of the back of the car and I got a better look. It wasn't just a run of the mill smiley-face sticker; it's a Walmart smiley-face sticker.

Now, I'm not entirely anti-Walmart. But in the Walmart/Target war, I'm firmly in the Target camp. If I lived in one of those small towns without any other department or variety stores, I'd probably shop Walmart with the best of 'em, but I don't. I have lots of choices and I mostly choose other places first.

So I realized that I'd been driving around promoting a store that I rarely go to, let alone want to advertise personally. There was a message behind that little smiley face that isn't exactly what I thought I was putting out there.

That got me to thinking about how often there's something hidden behind our smiles. In casual passing an acquaintance asks, "How are you?" We smile and respond with the expected and socially acceptable, "Fine/good. How are you?" We all keep going, sometimes guilty of not really telling the truth, other times guilty of not really seeing the truth behind the smile.

It's a dilemma for me. I know I've been guilty of the former many times over the past year or so. There were plenty of days when things were neither "fine" nor "good," but I gave the requisite response anyway.

Maybe I wasn't really at liberty to give details. It's possible there wasn't a solid enough relationship to risk putting the whole story out there. In some cases I probably didn't believe the other person really wanted the truth of the matter.

And I've been just as guilty of seeing that flicker of "Things aren't really fine," in someone else's eyes, but I didn't stop them to hear the details.

One of the things that has always been important to me is to not be fake. I'm still not sure how to balance my desire to be 'real' with my need for self-preservation from trusting people with details that don't belong to them, but I think I want to try.

So, I'm challenging myself to go ahead and smile. But may it be a genuine heartfelt smile, even in the midst of trying times.

And I'm going to work on giving a genuine answer to a genuine question (I still might not stop and 'spill' when I don't know that the hearer really wants to hear it).

And I will try to take the extra step to ask the follow-up question when I encounter someone whose "fine/good" rings with hesitation.

Will you join me?

No Fear

(Winner of last weeks' giveaway is announced following this post.)

Welcome to Ruby Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I'll blog something based on an excerpt of Proverbs 31. My theory is she's in the Bible to encourage, not discourage us. As the world around me becomes more uncertain and I strive to do the best in the areas that I can influence (the people and space within our four walls), she's an inspiration to me. I hope she will be to you too.

"She has no fear for her household...
...she can laugh at the days to come."
Proverbs 31:21,25

Can you say you have no fear for your household--or that you "can laugh at the days to come"? I know I feel more uncertain of the future now than I ever have before. Paycuts, lack of side work for me, plummeting home value, uncertain health and well-being of family can be hard not to entertain a little fear here and there, and it's certainly not easy to laugh about it!

Under the circumstances, I have to say that I'm looking more closely at the Proverbs 31 woman than ever before. Why did she have no fear? What did she know that can help me?

From what I can see, she wasn't Wonderwoman. She was prepared. I think she can laugh at the future because whatever may come, she's ready for it.

There's enough warm blankets for a cold winter, enough food put away for a bad harvest. She's got skills she can fall back on if needed. She's strong and capable and confident.

I have to say, the more I watch the news, the less of all of those things I feel. Our house value has tumbled like everyone's and we bought near the peak of the market. There hasn't been any recruiting work for me in over a year, and no one goes into ministry for the money.

And that's just the stuff at my door. The further out I look, the more things I see to be concerned about. But, all of that makes me want to focus on the things that I can control/influence.

These days I find myself drawing closer to home--cooking good food that costs less and feels like more; trying to make our environment more comfortable and attractive so its the place we want to be. I look a season ahead and shop for the boys when things are inexpensive so I know they'll be well dressed as they grow and the seasons change and budgets become more uncertain. I have a decidedly brown thumb, but I'm even slightly tempted to plant a vegetable garden this summer (of course, that's only if they decide not to ration our water).

And even though it's tempting to want to keep everything we have for ourselves, I'm actually finding ways to give more than I have in previous seasons. Somehow having something that can be shared makes this time seem less fearful. If I have more than we need, we're not doing too badly after all.

In these days of rising unemployment and falling stock prices, businesses closing and tent cities opening, it isn't always easy to say, "I have no fear for my household." But by keeping my focus close to home and looking for my confidence in the Lord, I can take each day as it comes and not let fear overtake me. After all, we've got promises like this to rest on:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

What do you fear? The literal storms that rage outside? The figurative storms that blow inside? Economic hardship? What are you doing to combat the creeping concern that things may get worse before they get better? I'd love to hear verses that comfort you, or steps that you are taking to keep fear at bay when so much of what we're hearing seems to imply we should "be afraid, be very afraid."

I know many of you blog from a P-31 perspective too; if you make a Proverbs 31-related post sometime during the week, you're welcome to use Mr Linky so others can see your post (please use the URL from the post itself, not just your blog URL). You can also grab the Ruby Tuesdays code and place the button in your sidebar so more of your bloggy friends can come along. I hope you'll join me on Tuesdays to discover more ways we can become the 'gems' God intends us to be.

And the Winner Is...

Elizabeth M. Thompson is the winner of the first RefreshMoments giveaway, a copy of Donna Partow's book, "Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be." I hope it will be inspiring to you.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the first Ruby Tuesdays by leaving a comment or linking to a post of your own. I look forward to interacting with you all more.

Pearls of Great Price

Note: You can still enter the giveaway for Donna Partow's "Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be" by leaving a comment on this post.

"Here Mommy, look what I got you!" Bug thrust a small, lumpy, kindergarten-wrapping job bundle into my hand as I picked him up from Sunday School.

"Now remember, she's not supposed to open it until Christmas," admonished Teacher Nancy. "Unless it matches something she's wearing before then."

That was enough--for the moment--to get him to agree to take the package home and put it under the tree until Christmas. A little later though, his excitement won out and he begged me to "open (my) present now."

And thus, I became one of the legions of moms who cast fashion and personal preference aside to honor the sweet generosity of my firstborn. He "bought" the beads from the Sunday School store with the gold nuggets he earned by coming to class, bringing his Bible and learning his memory verse. He could have spent his wealth on more Hot Wheels or a game or puzzle, but he chose the pretty pearls first.

He did a good job shopping for me. This lovely orchid color is one of my favorites; I just happen to have a couple of sweaters in exactly that shade. I have a beautiful necklace that I typically wear with said garments that always garners compliments. But I know that from time to time I will forgo the fashion statement to be adorned with these priceless pearls.

I think much of what we offer God is like these beads; not exactly what He'd have chosen Himself, but precious to Him when it's clear we were thinking of Him and doing our best. He even says that one day all our childish efforts to please Him will be turned into jewels that we can lay at His feet.

These pearls will always be a sweet reminder of how blessed I am to be Bug's mom, and infinitely more blessed to be God's child.

Introducing "Ruby Tuesdays" (and a giveaway)

If you've stopped by now and then, you can probably tell that I'm a fan of the Proverbs 31 woman.

I didn't used to be. As a 20-something young woman without a home to 'make,' no husband to 'do good and not evil' toward and no children to groom in hopes they'd 'rise up and call (me) blessed,' I was more than a little annoyed with her. She seemed just one more stifling example of biblical womanhood--one that required a home and a family in order to really be all God intended for me. And then one day I got a new perspective of her.

Now, I think she's included in scripture to let women know the many possibilities and opportunities our lives can hold; a life that encompasses caring and creativity and career and community.

I know there are a lot of other fans out there as well. Many of you have blogs inspired by her or write posts in acknowledgment of her. I poke around cyberspace the best I can to find what's out there, but I'm sure I'm missing a lot.

So, I'm launching Ruby Tuesdays ("her worth is far above Rubies..."). If you have a P31 blog, or make a P31-inspired post on a Tuesday, you're invited to add your link to Mr. Linky so others like me can find you too. Grab the code for the button and post it on your blog as well to invite your readers to check out the goings-on. (A P31 post can be anything related to something mentioned in Proverbs 31: cooking, crafting, gardening, working from home, serving (your family or the community), child-raising, husband-encouraging...just about anything most of you are already doing!)
Then come back every Tuesday to see what Proverbs 31 women around the blogosphere are up to.

And to get us off to a good start, I'll be giving away a copy of a great new book on the topic. (My very first giveaway!) Donna Partow's "Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be" is a 90-day devotional journey on the quest to find your inner gem. If you'd like to win, leave a comment here. You get a second entry if you mention Ruby Tuesdays on your blog and link back here. I'll leave it open for a week and announce the winner here next Tuesday.

I hope you're as excited as I am about seeing what other women are doing on the journey to being a 'real gem.'

Use your words!

"Use your words!!" Bug's command followed Boo's loud screech.

Boo gathered his thoughts and shouted back, "Don't DO that!!"

My three year old has an extensive vocabulary and expresses himself very clearly for his age, but when he gets emotional he seems to forget that he can speak for himself. Instead we are regaled with a variety of screams, screeching and other forms of self-expression.

I've tried to reason with him, calm him, and so forth in those moments, but I often forget to tell him to slow down and "use your words." I can't fix the situation for him until I can actually understand what he needs.

We do the same thing with God. Life throws us a curve-ball and we throw a fit, figuratively (or literally) stomping around, making sure it's clear we aren't happy but never really expressing the trouble.

Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you." (Luke 11:9) We have a heavenly Father who wants to meet our needs, but sometimes He wants us to stop screeching and just say it.

Something new is coming to RefreshMoments! Stop by on Tuesday, March 10 and find a new way to connect with others in blogdom and give them an opportunity to find you as well. I'll be hosting my first give-away too!

What lies beneath...

2 boys + 2 shovels + 1 patch of dirt + 1 bucket = worms!

It's funny, but in the two-plus years we've lived here, I have never seen a worm. It never even occured to me that the squirmy little creatures wriggle just below the surface of our sod. Out of sight, out of mind I guess.

Growing up just a hundred or so miles north of here, worms were commonplace. For some reason they'd pour onto the sidewalk after every rain. My nose still remembers the musty, pungent odor of squished squigglers.

But rain or no rain, I've never seen one of the creepy crawlers rise to ground level here. Funny how I just assumed that what I can't see isn't really there.

I think sometimes I assume/hope that the ickiness in my life works that same way. If it can't be seen on the surface, it must not really be there.

The truth is though, that for every stray misdeed that works its way to the surface, there's a tangled network hidden below. And unlike the pail full of earthworms that occupied my sons on a recent afternoon, what's buried under my surface would be more likely to disgust them (and little boys aren't easily disgusted! What's up with their appetite for snot-covered germ balls?).

For all their repulsiveness though, worms are useful. They aerate and fertilize the soil making the earth more suitable for growing plants.

I suppose there could be a parallel there too. Seeing the ugliness within reminds me of my need for the Master gardener to till the hardened soil of my heart so it can be used to cultivate His fruits.

Lord, please take the things that I try to keep hidden and bring them to my awareness. Use them to help me see the work You are doing in my life. Take what is ugly and seemingly harmful in my life and turn it around to create fertile soil ready to cultivate all the really good things You desire for me.

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