Are you ever discouraged when you look around at other wives or mothers that seem to know how to effortlessly “do it all”? Are you ever embarrassed by your home, your teaching abilities, your cooking, or your organizational skills? Are you a “Home-Economics” flunky? Do you read things about being a “keeper at home” (Titus 2:5) and get really inspired only to then be reminded by your own inabilities that you don’t know how to sew or that you are the least creative person ever born? Are you good at a couple of things but would die for others to know your ignorance and even incompetence regarding a lot of other skills or knowledge about other things? Do you feel as though some people were just born being wonderful parents when you yourself still feel like one of the kids?
All of us are incredibly weak, including the “super woman” who seems to know how to do everything perfectly. We cannot see everything that goes on in people’s hearts and lives. All of us are also insecure. Some of us are a little more gutsy at trying new things and do not mind if it turns out to be a big flop, but deep down there is still apprehension and uncertainty. Others of us won’t branch out at all to try or learn something new unless we are absolutely certain that everything is going to go perfectly and we can achieve success the first time. A whole lot of life can be wasted if we allow fear to govern our lives. Sisters, if you want to move forward in being the keeper of your home, there comes a time when you just have to go for it!
Embracing your limitations
Do not do anything by your own strength. Humility and brokenness before Jesus is always the best place to start. Admit first that, left to your own ways, your own understanding, your own agenda, and your own strength, you will make a mess with your family and home. Confess and bring to light all areas and motivations of fear, pride, selfishness, laziness, anger, resistance, feminism, and worldliness that the Lord reveals are in your heart and life. Then honestly evaluate your skills and know exactly what your limitations are. What are you good at? What are the jobs you don’t know how to do?
Recently, a mama came to me and asked for help. She had already finished homeschooling her older children and has one more to go. She sat on my couch and admitted for the first time that she had not done a good job and wanted to finish well with this one. None of her kids are good learners—they “hate” school, abhor reading, and really have some gaps in their education. Their home is always clean, they are hospitable, everyone cooks well, and the children are respectful. When she went through the significant learning problems and how they did their school, she confessed that she had never wanted anyone to know how confused, hopeless, and intimidated she had felt. It’s not that her children have learning disorders, she just never knew what to do, and so she would bluff her way through or just not do anything. But when she came to me that day, she shared that the Lord had shown her that she had been too proud to admit her weakness and actually wanted to appear like she knew what she was doing. Through tears she made a huge step toward getting free that day and by confessing for the first time out loud, “I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m sick of pretending.” The last child is now reaping the benefit of her humility.
We do not have to be good at everything. In fact, we can even be completely ignorant of how to do certain things. The key is honesty and humility. If we admit, “I don’t know how to cook” or “I’ve never cleaned in my life and I’m a slob,” only good fruit can come from these confessions. Remember: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). It’s okay that you have lack and need! “When we are weak, then we are strong” for God’s “power is perfected in [our] weakness” when we look to Him in faith (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
So after (and only after) we embrace our limitations and weakness are we ready to confidently move forward. The first question to answer is: Where do you get your confidence? In whom do you place your confidence? In Jesus alone!!! We can do nothing. He, on the other hand, can do all things—all things! So if we take our inability and look to the Lord and His complete capability in faith, what is the outcome? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
I have encountered many women who have no trouble admitting they can’t do something, but that is where they stay. They simply “camp out” in “I can’t,” and sometimes even pride themselves in their “brutal honesty.” But where is the faith in that? When you realize that you stink at organization, cry out in humility to God and then, on the heels of that confession, take one huge step forward into “I can” because “He can.” Through Jesus we can become proficient keepers at home, loving mothers, and trustworthy, faithful wives. The world teaches us to put confidence in our own abilities. You will certainly fail if you place your confidence there. Big deal if you are a great cook or extremely creative or a really good teacher. Even though you may be naturally talented/gifted in a few areas, ultimately you cannot pull it all off and do it in peace while abiding in the Spirit! But when we fully see the whole picture of everything there is to be and to do as “keepers at home” and let Him fill us and lead us, then we can confidently tackle it all knowing He has made a way.
I would like to share a few examples from my own life of how the Lord helped and strengthened me in my great weaknesses. Through these stories, I hope that you will recognize that He can do the same for you in the areas where you have lack as you look to Him in faith.
When I was first married, I had a lot of “want to” but few skills. I did not know how to cook, clean, sew, or garden, and I certainly did not know how to write. But what I did have is a rich relationship with the Lord Jesus, a solid marriage, and a willingness to learn. I also didn’t mind trying and failing, though it was embarrassing sometimes.
I remember when I was first learning to cook that I attempted a few recipes that I got from some sisters. Two of them turned out okay but another one that I tried was probably the most disgusting concoction I have ever put in my mouth. Now you have to understand: Matthew loves Chinese food but I didn’t know the first thing about stir-frying or making a sauce. I had never eaten the stuff and so I didn’t even have an idea of what it was supposed to taste like. I grew up on food out of a box like Hamburger Helper or “Steak-n-Taters” TV dinners. We also occasionally had hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, Sloppy Joes, and frozen pizza. I had figured out how to open a can of green beans or corn and how to follow the instructions on the instant mashed potatoes box, but I had never seen a fresh vegetable washed or cut up.
Well, one dear sister said that she found a Teriyaki chicken recipe just for me, and that sounded a lot like Chinese food to me. As I read the recipe, it sounded nasty. The sauce called for 1 cup of ketchup and the juice from canned pineapples. Stir-frying the chicken went great and I added the frozen broccoli and frozen cut onions it called for. I dumped in these things called water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Then, very apprehensively, I poured in the disgusting smelling sauce and finished preparing the meal. My husband was so excited when I told him we were having Chinese food. We sat down at our small little newlywed table and both took a bite. I instantly began to gag and had to run to the potty. My poor Sweetie! He tried so hard, but, after his second bite, my extremely gracious husband couldn’t choke it down. I felt so stupid.
I embraced my weakness and sought the Lord for His help. I knew that if He had called me to be a “keeper at home,” then somehow He had made a way and would enable me to find it and function in a way that took good care of my family. Through the disastrous Teriyaki Chicken episode, I learned that just because something is an “official recipe,” it doesn’t mean it is good tasting food. That dish sounded nasty to me when I had read it the first time, so, from that moment on, I went with what sounded right. After stumbling through a few more recipes, the desire rose up in me to really learn to cook and not just follow recipes and I decided to go for it. I bought a couple of recipe books and went through them from front to back and I learned to cook. I figured out things like what thickens sauces, how bread rises, how to steam veggies, how to cut up a chicken, how long to cook roast, etc. I learned the taste of all the spices, and what things combine well and what things don’t, and many, many more cooking skills.
Before long, I became more confident in the kitchen. I even learned how to make really good Chinese food and have since even taught others how. I have now taught my daughters to cook the same way. I love to get to pass along what I know and I am so glad that, by the Lord’s abundant supply of grace, I did what it took to learn how to cook and not just put food on the table.
Tutored by pillowcase seams
Another example from my own life was with sewing. Two months after I got married, a sister gave me her old sewing machine that she had used for 15 years. Thankfully it came with a book! It was avocado green and had many things wrong with it. We didn’t have the money to get it worked on, so I read through the book, took some things apart, asked people questions, looked at other machines, cleaned the entire inside, refastened some parts, and even glue-gunned a toothpick to hold the spool on the top. I then got a pattern but was not able to grasp one single concept. I didn’t know anything about sewing, but I really wanted to learn how. I asked the Lord for His help and to show me how to get started.
Soon thereafter I was looking at a pillowcase and noticed how they did the seams and thought, “I can make a pillow.” I was beside myself when I made my first pillow. I took old sheets and people’s old throw-away clothes and made throw pillows for my new home and to give as gifts. Looking back, I snicker as I remember how proud I was of my new-found craft.
I then decided I wanted to make curtains for my house. I collected what I could—things like garage sale sheets and even unwanted garments that I had to take the buttons, ribbons, and pretty edges off of. I know that I know that curtains were never intended to be put together how mine were, but I loved them. I even managed to impress a few friends who asked what pattern I used. “Pattern? Oh no, not that!” I cringed every time I heard the word.
After my “success” at making curtains, I decided it was time to make clothes. I started with dresses and moved on to skirts. My “patterns” were dresses and skirts that I already owned. I would lay the whole dress or skirt on top of the fabric and cut enough for a seam allowance and gathers. I had so much fun and, through this process, I figured out in my own way how to sew. Since then, I have had friends show me how to use those dreaded patterns, but my favorite dresses and skirts for my girls are still the ones I make with my “quick method.” They fit better, they are simple, and it takes me only 30 minutes to a couple of hours to make each dress or skirt.
I am definitely not an exceptional seamstress and I don’t really even ever care to be. But I am immensely content with what I know and have figured out. I have let my girls sew as soon as their foot can reach the pedal. I give some guidance and help rip seams, but mostly I encourage them to experiment, create, and enjoy learning to sew. We all love it. I have found so many young women discouraged because they have “what’s perfect” as their goal. Who said it is ungodly to have a crooked seam? Who cares if mistakes are made? Some of my favorite pieces have been those where I had to cover a mistake somehow and it ended up even better. The point is to go for it, try, and let go of all your silly, unreasonable expectations. And I promise you will improve with practice.
Cleaning by doing
Learning to clean and learning how to enjoy it fell into place very well when I simply acted. Instead of hiding behind “I don’t know how to… [mop or keep my home clean, etc.],” I simply decided to keep my home picked-up and orderly and clean, and asked the Lord for grace to stay consistent. At first, I really didn’t understand how much time it took to keep up everything, but when I submitted to the reality that dishes do not wash themselves, potties become nasty if left unattended for too long, and floors have to be swept often or your feet will get filthy. It came down to common sense and principles of sowing and reaping. If you struggle in this area, I encourage you to open your eyes and honestly evaluate the condition of your home as far as cleanness goes. See what needs to be cleaned and determine how often you need to clean it in order to maintain overall, ongoing cleanliness. Be honest with yourself and be willing to be a hard worker. I guarantee that the Lord will empower you to become a pro at housecleaning.
Going from plant killer to green thumb
I remember the first plant I ever had—it didn’t have a chance. The poor things died of thirst in a dark nook in the corner of my living room. I love what is living. I love the beauty God has created all around us. But I did not have a “green thumb.” I honestly didn’t know the first things about plants, flowers, or gardening. I was not even able to tell you what the difference was between an annual and a perennial. Well, we had moved out into the country and I really wanted to learn more about gardening. I read a book about gardening in Texas from cover to cover several times over and also asked loads of questions (probably lots of dumb questions!) to anyone who seemed to know something.
I picked building flowerbeds as my first project. I started with some worthless clay soil in front of our house and dug it all up and dumped it out in the woods. I then found some good dirt and brought it in. To improve the soil, I got some broken bags of compost and manure from a nursery that was throwing them away. As I learned the names of all the flowers and what they needed, etc., I decided I liked perennials because they would come back to see me year after year instead of dying on me. We did not have any money at the time to invest in a flower garden so I found a nursery that didn’t mind me going through their dumpster. They even offered to help me load whatever I found when there was a whole bunch that had been thrown away. You wouldn’t believe what all I got for free! I got a lot of flats of beautiful flowers that they had thrown away just because they were not “perfect” for display and selling. There were even roses and bushes, and I was so excited when I came across a certain perennial that I had read about and had put on the list of what I wanted. Nursing plants back to health and working with the soil taught me a lot about gardening and, in the process, I discovered many wonderful parallels between gardening and our life in Christ. I also helped others in their yards and most of the time they would let me dig things up to replant and start in my yard. I absolutely fell in love with gardening.
After that I learned all about vegetables and this is where Matthew really became interested in gardening too. We involved our children and our family has enjoyed gardening together ever since. We sold our organically grown vegetables, herbs, and fresh cut flowers at the local Farmers’ Market for 3 years. This family enterprise taught our children basic business skills, how to talk with people in the community, how to see things through, and a whole lot more. Some of our favorite times together as a family have been in the garden. With each of our little ones, as soon as they can walk, they get their little toes in the moist soil and plant seeds, harvest tomatoes, and pull out grub worms.
Now, I am not one of those who equates gardening with godliness. But, for us, it has been very rewarding— practically, nutritionally, financially (a little), and even spiritually. Instead of involvement in sports, dance lessons, or movie going, we spend time working side by side, sweating and laughing. The context of gardening has always seemed to fit togetherness and simplicity and is more conducive than other activities for sharing life in Jesus. Had I been too proud to learn back there at the beginning of this journey, I would have missed something I believe the Lord has used in many ways.
Writing, or, Facing my Goliath!
Here is one area that I felt the most intimidated by. Quite a few years ago, I got a call from a precious sister (an incredible writer) asking if I would write a couple of articles for publication. She had heard some of my teaching tapes and the Lord had put it on her heart to ask me to put some of it down in writing. I had never felt weaker in my life. I love challenges and I love to learn new things, but writing?! My husband, Matthew, is the writer, not me. I stink! And that is an understatement. Yet at this sister’s request, I sought the Lord, wondering if He really might want to use me in the area of writing.
Now you need to understand how truly helpless I felt. Growing up in school, I barely made it through grammar. I tested out okay, but never understood what I was learning. All those exceptions to rules, parts of speech, etc., had no application for me. When I wrote papers in my English classes, the ones who helped me edit my rough draft would comment that my content was all one big run-on sentence. I didn’t know how to communicate with the restrictions of sentence structure, nor did I know anything about dividing my thoughts up into segments that flowed through written words, and then there was the matter of having to start and finish an actual sentence.
I love communicating—verbally. I use lots of gestures and facial expressions. I have been told I am quite vivid. When I see my children’s dramatic faces, I think “Man! That looks just like faces my Dad or my Mema (grandmother) would make.” I am amazed at how wide their eyes get and how much is communicated in these exaggerated contortions. Then it dawns on me once again that they are imitating me. I also communicate interactively. I love feedback and when I am sharing I say, “Ya know?” or “You got it?” or “You know what I mean?” quite often. If faces are blank, then I find another example or another angle from which to say it in order to help them understand. Then, when I see things “click” or “the light bulbs come on” and I can tell they got what I was saying, it brings a completion and a certain satisfaction that we have connected. But when it comes to writing and I look at my blank sheet of notebook paper, I am trying to interact but no one is there.
It has always been a joke between Matthew and me because I don’t know how to deliver my heart in written words but this is where he thrives. He will respond to emails for me (I still don’t do this—the computer part really throws me). I would rather sing to someone than to have to put my feelings down in a card. When reading over things I had written, my comments were always the same, “This is not what I’m trying to say,” or “This is too flat—my heart is not expressed.” Well, back to the sister’s request for me to write articles… I actually broke down crying and felt completely overwhelmed. Matthew looked at me and said, “Honey, this is the Lord. Just give Him your ‘five loaves and two fish’ and let Him feed the multitudes.”
I have learned a whole lot over these years through my husband being the wonderful editor that he is. My first few articles had lots of “Ya know” and “Do you understand” statements that my husband had to delete. In the margins of my rough drafts, I write notes to Matthew like, “Help this part, Sweetie, I can’t express what I mean here,” and he helps me reword them. I still write articles longhand in spiral notebooks because I can scratch out where I mess up and it still feels more comfortable to me than writing on the computer. Every time I get a letter or email from someone who has been encouraged by my writing or whose life changed significantly because of something they read by me, I am humbled! Truly humbled! I look at Jesus and say, “Lord, thank you for using the foolishness and weakness of man. You get all the glory!”
I am still continually blown away that I write. Even now, I just laugh out loud. I don’t have to tell you that I am not one of those eloquent writers who paint these beautiful pictures with their words and lead you on a journey where you get lost in the story. I am to the point and simple, and I will never be anything but that, yet He uses our weakness. I know this first-hand very well.
Don’t be scared to try!
I could share many more stories from my life, but, as you can see, I started my journey of being a “keeper at home” with a lot of handicaps, but I have found the Lord’s grace more than sufficient to flow through these very weaknesses to help me function according to His desire. In closing, I would like to leave you with these three encouragements…
- Quit comparing! 2 Corinthians 10:12 says, “…but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” You will never move forward if you are busy looking at others. How can you be who God intended for you to be when you are busy trying to be someone else? He has given it to you to “look well to the ways of” your family and yourhome (Prov. 31:27). Follow Him by first seeking Him (Matt. 6:33). Defeat and paralysis come quickly when we compare.
- Let go of any perfectionism and just start where you are no matter how small, weak, or foolish the first step is. The Lord grows capacities. The scriptures teach that if we are faithful in little, He will make us faithful in much (Matt. 25:21, 23). If all you have is a little tiny step, it is easy to then take one more little one, and then another one, and then you have momentum. Before you know it, you will have gained a skill or a new attitude. But as long as we have the standard of perfection on our backs, we’ll stay stuck and won’t budge. It’s better to become adequate and have the joy of the Lord than to be “perfect” and abide in death.
- Go for it! Trusting and placing confidence in Jesus does not mean or include seeing the future. Someone that is willing to act, knowing that He will lead you and give you grace, is someone who has learned to live by faith (Heb. 11:6). Remember, He has made a way and, because of this, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13)!
© Copyright 2007 Kindling Publications Used with Permission.