Thursday, April 9, 2009

The “Ideal” I Strive for in Keeping House – Why I do This Part II

Now, for the wife being the keeper of the home. (See part I on being a stay-at-home-mom here) This is proving to be a more difficult topic to write about than I thought - I have to say I'm having a terrible time writing out my thoughts on this, so I may not be very clear. If you have questions, please do write them in the comments section, and I will try to answer them to help clarify what I mean.

I believe that God created men and women to be different. Each has different talents and abilities given to them, and each person brings different traits to the marriage. These different skill sets that husband and wife have help each one to be a helper to the other. In the most basic sense, I believe that the husband's role is to support the family by providing for their needs, and protecting them as the head of the household. He is to have the final say in important decisions, and he has a very important role in raising his children by demonstrating what a godly man lives like. A wife's job is parallel and yet opposite to her husband's - she is to oversee the home in a way that puts to greatest use what the husband has provided, and as keeper of the home provide a haven there where she, her husband, and her children can be safe and grow as a family. The wife is to respect her husband, and he loves her dearly. When both husband and wife are operating in these respective roles to their utmost, using their talents and skills that God has given them, the whole family will operate more smoothly than if each family member acted as an individual.

My goals in keeping the home for my husband are more about feelings and love and respect than actual written out "rules." I'm striving to be a "wife of noble character" as described in Proverbs 31:10-12: "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." The rest of the chapter goes on to list specific ways that this wife serves her family. I feel that each married couple will have a different list of specific ways that will best serve their family.

Each husband and wife has different likes and dislikes, and special skills and talents, so each family will look different in how it lives out those Bible verses. But, to me, no matter how the verses are lived out specifically, in general, to me the point is that both husband and wife are expected to have "noble character" toward each other, and that means that both husband and wife will be looking to the other's needs in a servant like attitude. As Christians, servants are what we all are called to be, and we must first be willing to serve those in our own home before we can effectively serve others. If I am serving my husband to help him be renewed and refreshed when he comes home, I am able to help prepare him to show Christ's love to those he comes in contact with - the same for my children. If I can serve them by training them with Christian values and guiding them and preparing them to go out into the world, as a whole our family will have greater impact for Christ than if each member of the family had to serve themselves, then leave the home and try to serve others.

I mentioned before in a much previous blog post that I had made up a list of goals I had for myself, and I think here is an appropriate place to share them. It shows some specific tasks or ideals that fit for my family because of our specific talents, preferences, and personalities.
  1. To make my husband know how much I love him by caring for him everyday and being a joy for him to be around. Proverbs 25:24 - "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife."
  2. To have a solid faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus, and be an obvious example to those I meet in all walks in life. In other words, I want to be seen as a Christian not only at Church, but everywhere I go; at the bank, in my home, by our family - everyone. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. . ."
  3. Make our home a pleasant place to be. Keep it clean and tidy, decorate it so that our surroundings are pleasing to the eye, all without spending too much money.
  4. Grow a flower garden around our home and landscape it in a pleasing way, so that we can enjoy our yard and feel proud of it, and eat produce from our vegetable garden.
  5. Raise children and teach them how to be creative people and to be strong Christians in a world where "anything goes."

#1 just makes sense because I know my husband - his "love language" (the way he best shows love and receives it) is by doing things for other people. He likes to take care of me - by changing the oil in my car, by taking care of things so that I won't have to worry about them. I want to strive to show that kind of love back to him (by making sure he has sweet tea in the fridge and a snack when he gets home, etc.), even though my main love language is different (I prefer to show and receive love by spending time, listening, snuggling, talking - and I "safely trust" that my husband is trying to increase the way he shows that to me, even though it takes him way out of his comfort zone)

#2 and I feel #5 in fact goes along with the stay-at-home-mom post, in that as I try to work hard daily to improve my faith walk and relationship with Jesus, my daughter as well as others will see that, and prayerfully she will see things that her mommy does by faith that she will be able to model as well. However, I first must be patient and kind and serving towards my family at home, or else how hypocritical will that look for my daughter when she sees mommy being so nice and patient to others, but I can't seem to keep my cool at home. This is an area for me that needs the fruit of the Spirit! I pray that I can be more and more Spirit-filled so I can have the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that a mother needs in ways that she can only have supernaturally! No mother (or anyone!) can have all of those qualities to the extent that she needs them alone - she needs God's help through the Holy Spirit.

#3 and #4 go together - You know that feeling you get when you check into the hotel or cabin you are staying in on vacation? A relief as you crash on the bed after hauling your luggage in after many hours of strenuous travel, "phew...we're here - we can finally relax and forget the stress of life, we're on vacation!" That is a feeling that I hope to be able to recreate daily in my home. I truly desire to make our home a peaceful haven of rest from a busy and hectic world, so that while I work in the home, when my husband comes home from work, while my children are learning and growing up, we can continually be renewed and refreshed physically, mentally, and spiritually. This is a lofty goal, but I do think it can be accomplished with diligence on my part, and a spirit of love and service on behalf of the rest of the family members. I don't think that this feeling can be accomplished without viewing keeping the home as a fulltime job.

Now, that numbered list and the explanations given are pretty obvious that they are specific to my family. Each husband and wife must look for ways to show their love for their spouse in ways that will be most obvious to them.

I just have felt so committed and convicted that being a stay-at-home-mom and keeper of the home is the best place for me to be, that I just have to share my conviction with all. I don't think there's any way I could accomplish all of this without devoting the bulk of my time to doing it, and thankfully my husband has seen the fruits of my labor and also values what I do. We both have made sacrifices financially for me to stay at home, but for us, those sacrifices pale greatly in comparison with all we have gained. In fact, we both have said that even if circumstances change (if Matt loses his job, or some other unforeseeable happens) we are willing to do much more sacrificing to ensure I am able to continue to do my work here at home, because it is a powerful work that can certainly really impact the lives of our children in such a positive way.

Being a keeper of the home is a job I wish I had begun since we were first married, so I would have been more practiced at it before our first child arrived. Having a baby to care for certainly makes keeping the home more difficult. Part of the reason I am writing this is that staying at home just was not at all a vocation I ever saw as valuable unless there were children involved. I no longer see this as true - a wife can do so much for her husband and her household with her time - she can use her talents and skills to stretch the dollar her husband brings home, she can show hospitality to others by inviting them into her home, she will have more time to serve others outside her home (mothers with newborns, helping the sick, volunteering...and so on). A lot has changed in our culture since it was no longer popular for wives and mothers to stay at home after th 40s and 50s, and a lot of that change has NOT been for the better. It is possible that if more wives and mothers stayed home and served their families first, that we might see a shift back to a lower divorce rate and other social problems.

After having made the transition to stay-at-home-mom, keeper of the home, and having seen how difficult it was for me to try to find a "job-description" and validity in a world that keeps implying that what I am doing isn't worth it, I sincerely hope that I can give validity to other women who see value in these same things, and to encourage them to make the leap, or continue to be diligent in their very important work as wife and mother.