Naked no more: Clothed in Strength and Dignity

I doubt I’m the only woman who finds the Proverbs 31 woman intimidating. Last year, I wrote a post about this, a paraphrase of that infamous chapter.

However, when I read the chapter in light of my One Word for 2013, a tiny segment of verses stands out. Verses 25-27 seem to skip away from her laundry list of to-do’s and been-done’s. Instead those three little verses give me a peak at her personality, what she’s really thinking and feeling. And surprisingly, in the midst of her busyness, she seems genuinely happy.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.”

While many in my generation revel in the greatest comfort our word has ever known: myriad conveniences, technology, progress and wealth, there are not many of us who Laugh at our future. What would it take? Where can we find the inner peace and joy to look forward and laugh? I want to laugh even when the stock market crumbles, even when I disagree with political decisions, even if I am unemployed, even if my loved ones die. I want to laugh at the future.

The Bible says this woman is clothed with strength and dignity. The Hebrew words strength and dignity can also be translated “to be fixed (strength) and to claim honor (dignity)”.

Those words remind me of Hebrews 12:2-3

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

If I were to resolve in this new year to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman, I would start here. I will fix my eyes on Jesus, becoming steadfast and immovable –  strong. And I will claim honor by despising shame. I will not accept defeat, shame or discouragement. Instead, like my Savior, I will claim the honor that is rightly mine as a child of God and I will laugh at the future. 

Project 333

This is a scary post. In fact, I want to write a caveat allowing myself to rescind it later. But, well, let’s just see where this goes.

A few months ago, on Shalom Mama, I read about something called Project 333. I like to think of myself as a minimalist, but after spending 5 days with my in-laws, I doubt I qualify. I grew up on a different planet, but I love they way they live. My youngest sister, who spent a lot of time with my in-laws when she was in college in Stillwater, OK, can attest to the fact that there is an unparalleled peace in their home. There is no pretension, no chaos, no frills and no expectations. My mother-in-law dresses nicely for work, my father-in-law does too, wearing one of 2 pair of identical pants and one of 3 identical shirts. When relaxing, Julie always wears a pair of her running pants and a lightweight t-shirt. Her only accessory, “You’re naked without a necklace.”

Their home is quiet and spacious. There’s a futon to sit on in the living room and only a tiny 13″ TV if you must watch something. If there are too many people to squeeze on the futon, feel free to pull up a floor cushion! I’ve never heard anyone complain. Instead, the feeling of family togetherness is enhanced by fewer distractions.

So, back to Project 333. There are levels to the program, but I’ll start with the basics: Whittle down my wardrobe to 33 items of clothing (including jewelry, outerwear and shoes) for 3 months. I like to think I don’t have too many clothes, but the truth is I frequently find items I had forgotten I owned. Really, I don’t WEAR too many clothes, it’s easiest just to wear the same things over and over.

So, I guess this qualifies as a New Year’s resolution, or a three-month resolution. Do you think I can do it? Do you want to join me? I will add on the resolution to actually take more pictures. That way I can show you what I’m doing. You can laugh at my incongruous outfits or compliment me on my simple style.

Next week, I will lay out the schedule for February’s posts. However, I will commit now to sharing my Project 333 progress with you each Friday. Wish me luck!

I Am Resolved To Lose Control

That doesn’t sound like a very good New Year’s resolution, does it? But then, I told you I don’t like to make New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are mean’t to be broken; they are almost laughable. I work at  South Run RECenter, so already this year I’ve met hundreds of good intentions cloaked in tired bodies. I’ve sold probably 50 years worth of memberships, most of which will never be worn out, for that matter neither will the Asics on the feet of the purchaser.

We have all met (or made them ourselves) the individual swearing to start journaling this year. Or, they promise to get more rest, or get up earlier. We, or they, pledge to spend more quality time with our kids or spouse, to control our eating or spending, to get a grip on our gossip habit.

What do each of these examples have in common? We want to take control of ourselves! We long to to master our circumstances, our desires, our impulses and even our relationships.

I just picked up a new book recently. As usual, I heard the author interviewed on Janet Parshall’s show. Chantel Hobbs is the woman you want to hate. She is scary gorgeous and used to weigh 350 pounds. She’s the author of several books, the one I’m reading is called, Love Food and Live Well. 

 You know my story. I have had a ridiculous fear of food since the age of 14. So, the concept of loving food is foreign to me. I’m not interested in Hobb’s weight loss prescription. At least I didn’t think I was. But Chantel takes a whole new, holistic approach. I’m not talking about organic products, deep cleanses and special herbs. I’m talking about taking a look at your whole body, spirit and soul. Hobbs doesn’t separate the belly fat from the idolatry of food lust. She doesn’t endorse sit-ups and long-distance running, ignoring the exercise of faith. She doesn’t encourage you to get a grip on your physical appetite, while starving your spirit.

Personally, most of my recovery from anorexia has been overshadowed by the discouraging thought that I had to get my behaviors right before I could get my fellowship with God right. Once I had control of my idolatrous behaviors, THEN I could ask God to take control of my life. Do you feel that way?

Too many of us confuse love with control. In the past, most things I really loved I loved poorly. I know this becasue as I tried to control them I always felt out of control. Whether it was food, friendships, jobs, or material stuff, I lived in fear – the fear of losing whatever I was trying to possess. – Chantel Hobbs, Love Food and Live Well

Ouch. How true of my perverted love. I noticed recently that I feel angry when I think about my sisters – the three women I love more than anyone in the world. I can’t control the fact that they can see each other every single day and hold my niece or drive to my mom’s house. So, feeling disconnected and out of control way over here on the east coast, my love for them simmers – poisoned by anger.

I say that I love working out. I don’t even know if that’s true on any level. I do know that I love the feeling of being in control of my body. Take away that control, tell me I can’t exercise tomorrow or that I have to take a week off, and my “love” just might explode in deadly rage.

So, I will set a New Year’s dissolution. I resolve to dissolve control.