Friday, December 27, 2013

Proverbs 31:25-31 She is to be praised!

As promised, today’s verses which describe the “excellent wife” of Proverbs 31 turn from what she does to to the essence of who this woman is, to what makes her tick. Today we look at her heart. 

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

    and she laughs at the time to come. 
She opens her mouth with wisdom,

    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 
She looks well to the ways of her household

    and does not eat the bread of idleness. 
Her children rise up and call her blessed;

    her husband also, and he praises her: 
“Many women have done excellently,

    but you surpass them all.” 
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 
Give her of the fruit of her hands,

    and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:25-31)

This woman has an inner strength that carries her through all of life’s circumstances. She conducts herself with dignity. She is not one who lowers herself to the common denominator in a world of gossips. She holds her tongue when others rush in to fill the void with words. When she does open her mouth, it is to add wisdom or to say something kind and encouraging. That reveals her heart more than anything else!

Jesus told us that “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34, 15:18-19) Her words reveal a heart of kindness and compassion. Of all of her traits, this is the most challenging one for me. Anyone can be busy. Many can manage to multi-task like crazy. But few have the self-control and kindness that can rule the tongue! That takes a heart that has been transformed!

This woman has the love and devotion of her family. Even those who live with her day in and day out, who see her without makeup, who see her tired and in her worst moments, praise her! Wow!

I love that she laughs at the time to come. She knows where her future lies, she is certain of her eternal destiny, because she fears the Lord. She belongs wholeheartedly to Him first, so she knows that she need not fear old age, or, worse, illness.

You have followed the news of my sister, Jodi, and you have prayed for her over the past three years with the sudden loss of her son, Justin, and through her battle with multiple myeloma. On Christmas Eve she received news from her doctor that the cancer has spread to her lungs. This was a blow to the stomach! There is never a good time to receive bad news, but on the day before Christmas it just sucked the air out of all of us.

I spoke with her a few hours after she heard this. We both shed some tears on the phone. There is much Jodi would still like to live to see. Jodi has fourteen grandchildren of her own, and five more were just added as Justin’s widow, Stephanie recently married a widower with five of his own who join her four! Talk about the Brady bunch on steroids! So, the news of cancer in the lungs hit her hard. She’d love to see them all married.

However, Jodi is a woman of great inner strength and she is trusting the Lord with her days, weeks, and, hopefully, years ahead. She spoke of the multitude of blessings she has had in her life and was able to laugh with me about much. All in our family call her blessed! Please continue to pray for her as she goes forth with a lousy chemo regimen that zaps her physically and requires her to fight to remain positive. I know for certain that her husband says with the husband mentioned in verse 29, “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.

Finally, in the last two verses of this wonderful, practical book of wisdom, we see the key to being the woman of God we all hope to become: the “excellent wife” is a woman who, above all else, fears the LORD! We were told in Proverbs 1:7 that the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” And here, the book finishes with the same thought. This is wisdom: it is all about Him! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Apart from Him we can do nothing!

When Jesus stepped into history, taking on the form of a helpless baby, with the sole purpose of saving us from our sins, He offered Himself as the greatest gift of all. He offered this gift of salvation to ALL, but few receive it. He said that the way to destruction is broad, and many choose to take it. Few take the narrow way. There is nothing in the Bible that says we will all be in eternity with Christ. Only those who choose to receive Jesus as the only way to the Father.

With all of the wrappings off of the gifts under the tree at your home, did you leave that one package unopened? I read somewhere that the Christmas tree of God is the cross. It didn’t have lights around it, but it carried the Light of the world. Look to Him even as the Proverbs 31 woman does. He is all we need!  Don't deny that most precious of gifts!

Praying you will come with me into 2014. I’m heading into the book of Galatians for some strong teaching from Paul. I can’t wait! Meanwhile, I covet your prayers for Jodi and her family. Praying 2014 will bring her physical strength and miracles from God.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Proverbs 31:16-24 Superwoman??

She considers a field and buys it;

    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 
She dresses herself with strength

    and makes her arms strong. 
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

    Her lamp does not go out at night. 
She puts her hands to the distaff,

    and her hands hold the spindle. 
She opens her hand to the poor

    and reaches out her hands to the needy. 
She is not afraid of snow for her household,

    for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 
She makes bed coverings for herself;

    her clothing is fine linen and purple. 
Her husband is known in the gates

    when he sits among the elders of the land. 
She makes linen garments and sells them;

    she delivers sashes to the merchant. (Proverbs 31:16-24)

Ye gads! This is one busy lady! She works in real estate, has a vineyard which she apparently oversees, and somehow runs a handmade-goods business out of her home. No wonder the “excellent wife” needs to dress herself with strength! While she tends to the needs of her family, staying up well into the night to complete her work, she remembers that she needs to be strengthened herself. I’m certain that this would mean that she keeps herself plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, because there is no way any of us, in our own strength, could accomplish what she does.

But, it would seem that she also remembers to take care of her body, for she makes her arms strong. Are you telling me, LORD, that she EXERCISES??? This is too much for me! :) The reality is, though, that without taking care of ourselves, we cannot take care of anyone else either. Does parking in the farthest parking space at Costco and walking in count??

Notice that while she herself is a tireless worker, she does not look down on those who cannot fend for themselves. She has compassion on the poor, opening her hand (which I take to mean that she supports the poor financially), and reaching out her hand (which I would guess means that she also does volunteer work where she interacts with the needy). No wonder the passage tells us, “She is far more precious than jewels.” (vs. 10)

I am actually amazed at the number of women I know who meet the description of this incredibly productive woman. They work inside and outside of the home, volunteer in multiple organizations, clothe and feed their children, run them all over town to different activities, supervise the homework, and make sure all are bathed and in bed on time! The hard part is keeping the relationship with the husband central in all of this busyness. It’s difficult to keep the husband a priority when being pulled in so many directions. In fact, I’d say it’s impossible apart from a healthy relationship with the LORD. 

This particular set of verses is about a WHOLE LOT of DOING! So lest we think that her sainthood lies in all that she does, remember that we are loved by our Father because of who HE is, not who we are. God is love, and the quality and quantity of that love are not changed by what you and I DO. Any good that we do in our lives is related to His power and strength being manifest in us. So when we look at the final verses in this chapter, we will find encouragement instead of feeling overwhelmed by the bar set here. Hang in there!  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Proverbs 31:12-15 Multitaskers arise. . . early!

We are going to see that the Proverbs 31 woman is the ultimate multitasker! Just reading what she does exhausts me! Her description could actually discourage us as we pale in comparison, but we should actually be encouraged. So, while we be looking at all she does, I want to reemphasize that the underlying message is who she IS. Her description is capped off by her commitment to her LORD, and that relationship is evident to all around her by how she prioritizes and by what she accomplishes. So keep that in mind as we marvel.

I’m going to back up one verse as we begin to look at the plethora of duties that the “excellent wife” performs.

She does him good, and not harm,

    all the days of her life. 
She seeks wool and flax,

    and works with willing hands. 
She is like the ships of the merchant;

    she brings her food from afar. 
She rises while it is yet night

    and provides food for her household

    and portions for her maidens. (Proverbs 31:12-15) 

First of all, this wife is a benefit to her husband. She supports him in all he does, and seeks to build him up. Jon Courson mentions that in doing him “good” and not “harm,” she is obviously NOT the woman who spends her husband into bankruptcy to fulfill her own needs. She honors her husband by the decisions she makes.

She is not sitting at home on the couch eating bonbons. But, please, do you know ANY woman who sits on her butt all day??? If you’ve got toddlers and babes at home, you are NOT sitting! Whether we work inside or outside of the home, we women have so much to do in a day! This woman is seeking wool and flax. She’s seeing to the needs of her household.

The noteworthy thing about the “excellent” wife is in her attitude: she works with willing hands. She isn’t doing the dishes while she gripes about her family, she’s not folding laundry cursing the children who fill the laundry basket daily. Now she MAY be huffing and puffing at the workload, but she sees a purpose in what she does, because she wants the best for her family. She sees them as the gift from God that they are!

The working woman may be overwhelmed by the stack of papers on her desk or the number of emails waiting to be answered, but she gets that whatever she does, she does for the glory of God, not herself. And it’s that attitude that those around her witness.

And the key here? She rises while it is yet night! Truly, when my girls were little, if I did not get going a full hour before they did in the morning, I would be behind all day. And for me that was not only because my vanity demanded that I be fully dressed and made up before presenting myself to the world [ although that actually was a huge motivation - in fact the main reason I never joined a gym to exercise, other than the fact that I detest any form of exercise, is that I could not see the point of showering and getting made up to go to the gym, working out, then coming home to shower and make up all over again!!! ]. But I also knew that I needed some quiet time just getting some input from God each day! I could not, and still cannot face the world if I haven’t had some time realigning my will with His by searching His Word and enjoyed the only silence of the day.

While you may find yourself already a bit annoyed by the seeming perfection of this woman, hang in with me to see her in all her glory to get a glimpse of what God truly wants for all of us!  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Proverbs 31: 10-12 Excellent!

“Make good choices!” This is one of the mottos in my classroom, because it is so important that these kids choose wisely in areas that they can control. I tell them to choose good friends, who encourage them to be the best they can be. I tell them to choose to be good students - do homework, listen actively in class, participate. And I tell the girls to choose to marry a nerd! Nerds make great husbands (I know ‘cuz I married one). They have a great sense of humor, they usually make a good living, and they will cherish you!

So, I can totally relate here with Lemuel’s mother, who wants the very best for her boy! She is trying to persuade him that there is only one kind of girl worthy of him: the “excellent wife” (English Standard Version) or “virtuous woman” (King James Version).

An excellent wife who can find?

    She is far more precious than jewels. 
The heart of her husband trusts in her,

    and he will have no lack of gain. 
She does him good, and not harm,

    all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:10-12)

In the verses that follow, we will see a list that elaborates on the type of women a man should seek, but the primary attribute is that she is “excellent” or “virtuous.” I looked up virtuous in the dictionary and it said “morally excellent; chaste; pure.” So, even though many of us will read the remaining verses and think that her worth is in all of the things she DOES, the reality is that the number one quality is in who she IS. She is a woman who makes decisions based on a moral foundation. She has made a choice to keep herself pure for her husband.

The world would scoff at this one, but it goes to the heart of who this woman wants to please: God. A woman who can stand against the overwhelming messages of our modern world and can defend herself against the raging hormones of young men is a woman of strong character who has confidence in her own worth because she knows whose she is. Most would scratch their heads and say with Lemuel’s mother, “Who can find such a girl? She’s more rare than jewels!” The truth is that there are many girls who make the decision to save themselves for their husbands. Our job is to come along side and encourage them!

Such a woman can be trusted by her husband. He knows she has his best interest at heart and will not betray him. This gives him freedom to conduct the rest of his life in confidence and peace, because he knows he has partner who values him. She actively looks for ways to benefit him, to help him develop and grow into the man he was designed to be. She is not competing with him, but complementing him. No wonder purity is the first requirement for Lemuel’s prospective wife in the eyes of his mother. 

Mothers of boys, are you catching this? Remember that the responsibility for keeping girls pure is shared by the boys! They must be taught to respect women and to value purity themselves. The double standard of boys “having fun” at the expense of girls is intolerable in God’s eyes. As we begin to look at all that the description of an “excellent wife” encompasses, we need to keep in mind the role of the husband in helping a woman become this wife. And it starts with purity.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up!

Before moving on to the subject of the “excellent wife,” Lemuel’s mother offers another piece of advice for a leader. Besides watching personal behavior with women and drink, she insists that her son speak out for the oppressed, those who have no voice:

Open your mouth for the mute,

    for the rights of all who are destitute. 
Open your mouth, judge righteously,

    defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

God is just and loving. He is an advocate for the needy. He sent His Son for the needy. In this sinful, fallen world, there is much injustice and evil. God wants us to be defenders of those who cannot defend themselves. He wants us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves: unborn children, abused women and children, the poor, the sick, the hungry. These, who have no power, need others to advocate for them. So, naturally, a leader must be one whose heart is for the oppressed and helpless. 

Jesus modeled this perfectly when He was on the earth. He touched lepers, He spoke forgiveness to sinful women, He demanded that children be brought to Him, He healed the sick - even on the Sabbath. His companions were not the influential and wealthy. Besides his hodgepodge crew of disciples, He liked to hang out with cast-offs of society.

There is so much need in our world, that sometimes it overwhelms us to the point of inaction. “How can I do anything that will make a difference?” Well, this is the heart of organizations like World Vision, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse. We CAN’T possibly solve all of the problems of the world. But we can make a difference in the life of one child, his family, and his community by supporting a child or children through these organizations.

Christmas is the perfect time to make a difference and to advocate for the poor. Go online to one of these organizations and check out the many ways you can help! I love that World Vision has a gift catalog that allows you to purchase things like a goat for a family. What a great idea! I like the challenge of supporting a child, because it takes you beyond the Christmas season. If you have little children in your own home, this is such a great way to model God’s love for them, by teaching them to serve others.

King Lemuel’s mother was one smart cookie! I can’t wait to read what she has to say about the “excellent wife!”  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Proverbs 31:4-7 Skip the wine!

Today’s verses are timely for the holidays! After giving her son advice against carousing with loose women, Lemuel’s mother warns him about another area which can become a slippery slope to destruction: drinking.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,

    it is not for kings to drink wine,

    or for rulers to take strong drink, 
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed

    and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. 
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
    and wine to those in bitter distress; 
let them drink and forget their poverty

    and remember their misery no more. (Proverbs 31:4-7) 

Lemuel’s mother is warning him that, as the king or leader of his people, he needs all of his faculties at all times. You and I may not be monarchs of a country, but we are definitely in leadership positions, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our churches. So this warning applies to us. 

Jon Courson refers to Paul’s admonition to Timothy that those who serve as elders should not drink (1 Timothy 3:3). He also quotes Isaiah, who decried the use of wine by priests and prophets: 

These also reel with wine

    and stagger with strong drink;

the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink,

    they are swallowed by wine,

    they stagger with strong drink,

they reel in vision,

    they stumble in giving judgment. (Isaiah 28:7) 

Then Courson comes to the following conclusion in his commentary: 

The Christian community is increasingly accepting of alcohol as an option. I am not legalistic about drinking. People are welcome to drink if they want - but it’s not for kings, not for princes, not for priests, prophets, or elders. In other words, it’s not for people who want to make an impact. (Jon Courson’s Apllication Commentary: Old Testament, Vol 2, P. 270). 

Note who Lemuel’s mother says the drinkers are:  those who are perishing, those who are bitter in spirit.  Those who are miserable.  Don’t want to be counted in that line-up! 

Of course we have the freedom to drink, and we are not to judge others in their drinking. But if we truly want to make an impact for Christ in our world, we need to remember that others are watching us: little eyes in our homes, teens who are beginning to experiment with rebellion, co-workers, and neighbors who are prone to stumble or judge because of our drinking. So we are free to choose to drink, but we need to count the cost. 

A good reminder for a time when we gather for family celebrations, office parties, etc. People are watching. How will we lead?  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Proverbs 31:1-3 Stay away from the “wrong kind” of woman!

The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him: What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb?
    What are you doing, son of my vows? 
Do not give your strength to women,
    your ways to those who destroy kings. (Proverbs 31:2-3 ESV)

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, paraphrases these verses this way:  

“Oh, son of mine, what can you be thinking of!

    Child whom I bore! The son I dedicated to God!

Don’t dissipate your virility on fortune-hunting women,

    promiscuous women who shipwreck leaders.” 

Right off the bat, Mama is using a bit of emotional manipulation with her son. We all know how to do this, right? She reminds him that she gave birth to him, therefore, she has a claim to him and has the right to chasten him. True enough! However, can’t you just sense her attempt to appeal to some guilt here? Even the best of us sometimes likes to play the part of the Holy Spirit. . .

When Emmy was in her teen years and pushing the envelope, I used to remind her that I trusted her to pray when making decisions and to honor Christ in all she did. For instance, when she was in eighth grade she ordered five CD’s for 99¢ from a BMG promotion. When they arrived she opened the package while we were in the car, and when I saw the cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers album I freaked. It looked totally satanic!

Emmy gave me a deep sigh (the kind that only middle schoolers can give), and said, “Oh mother!” So I calmed down, and, like Lemuel’s mother, I used the guilt card! I said to her, “Okay, honey, I know that you know what is good and right. So I’m just going to trust you to listen to the lyrics and ask yourself if this is something Jesus would want you to listen to.” Yep, I knew how to manipulate in a righteous way! :) It worked! She ditched the CD.

Note that the first piece of advice Lemuel’s mother gives is about women! She did not want some hussy digging her claws into her precious son! I like the phrase in the ESV translation: Do not give your strength to women. . . Sex is a very powerful bond between a man and a woman, which is why God tells us to limit it to the confines of marriage. When you give yourself in such an intimate way to another, you are indeed giving over some physical, emotional, and spiritual control to that person. It’s why sexual sin is so devastating. This Mama did not want her son hanging out with the wrong kind of woman! We’ll see later in the chapter what her standards were for her son.

From the time my girls were young, I had two main standards that I was holding for my future sons-in-law and which I articulated to the girls often: the young men must love God above all else, and they must cherish my daughters. I wanted godly men who would take my girls by the hand and say, “Let’s go serve God together.” And I wanted men who truly appreciated my daughters and who would protect and adore them as gifts from God. Thank you, LORD, for Kevin and Nathan, who answered my prayers beyond what even I could dream. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, I get where this Mama was coming from! You can bet that when Beau and Colin begin to bring girls around to meet Nanny, I will be looking them over VERY carefully! And I will be holding Lucy, Penelope, and Georgia to the same standards. Hmmm... LORD help me to have your heart of love and mercy when this happens!! And LORD, help me to refrain from using guilt as a manipulating tool, but rather let your Holy Spirit do the work!  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Proverbs 31: 1 A Mama’s boy?

I’m so excited to finally be at this last chapter of Proverbs. If you are a woman who has been around the Bible for any length of time, you are probably familiar with the last half of this chapter which tells of the “excellent wife,” or the “virtuous woman,” as the King James Version calls her. We will get there soon, but I first have to focus on the first verse, which I have never noticed!

The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him... 

Now, first off, this chapter claims to be authored by King Lemuel, whose name means belonging to God. Most Jewish scholars and Bible scholars believe that this was Bathsheba’s pet name for her son, Solomon. Regardless, the first nine verses, at least, are considered the advice of a mother to her son. In that case, I don’t see why we might not also attribute the last 22 verses to her, as well, as advice about the type of woman her son should marry. After all, isn’t that the most important advice a mother would pass on to her son??

I’m the youngest of four girls, and had two daughters, so it wasn’t until I had my first grandson, Beau, that I finally got the whole mother/son relationship. It’s completely different. It’s a very strong bond, and I finally see why mothers of sons have a bit more difficulty in the mother-in-law arena! So, as I read this chapter, it’s with the thought that this is advice I would pass on to my two wonderful grandsons - especially those last 22 verses. I want them to find “excellent wives!” And certainly I want them to stay away from corrupting women! :)

Knowing this wisdom comes from a mother, just gives me a different take on this chapter. So, I’m anxious to get into it - and we will begin tomorrow!  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Proverbs 30:32-33 Cover your mouth, please!

I have frequently said the following to my students: “You have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” We get into far less trouble when we just listen! It’s when we open our mouths that we risk saying something foolish, or worse, something hurtful. Our final verses in Proverbs 30 affirm this:

If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,

    or if you have been devising evil,

    put your hand on your mouth. 
For pressing milk produces curds,

    pressing the nose produces blood,

    and pressing anger produces strife. (vs. 32-33)

It is always foolish to exalt yourself! If you have to “toot your own horn,” you have issues! I remember once, when I was a new Christian, I had done what I thought was a good deed. The Holy Spirit had very clearly told me to do it in secret. In fact, I knew well the verse from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3)

But I just could not resist making it known in my Bible study group one morning. As soon as I’d revealed what I had done, feeling pretty good about myself, one of the women, not realizing she was the voice of God speaking directly to me, said very matter-of-factly that what I had done could possibly produce more hurt than good. She did not say it to put me down, but the LORD surely used her to put me in my place! I almost laughed out loud! I silently thanked the LORD for that much-needed humbling!

Yes, a hand over the mouth is much better than bragging on yourself! But worse is the mouth that speaks from an evil heart! Better to put duct tape over your mouth than speak from a heart that seeks revenge or plots evil. I recently learned of someone spreading evil about a close friend. My friend and I have not attempted to counter or defend the gossip, but it has been interesting to watch as God does the defending.

. . . pressing anger produces strife.

The word strife so clearly describes the stirring up of emotions and the unsettling effects of speaking from anger. The atmosphere becomes toxic and the tension unbearable, rendering everyone ineffective and unproductive, with hurts piling up. Christ calls us to be peacemakers. So, if we find ourselves in the middle of strife, what should our response be?

Well, because I don’t trust my own emotional reactions, I prefer to let God handle it. We need to allow for a cooling off period, and then we need to pray for the one who has hurt us or who is causing the strife. Let God do His work, because He is so much better at dealing with hearts that need correcting (including our own)! Then, as we are lead, look for opportunities to take positive steps of reconciliation. I don’t think we need to feel warm and fuzzy about someone causing strife. We don’t need to (and probably won’t)make such a person a close friend. But we do need to act out love, which includes forgiveness expressed in a tangible way.

Most people who create strife are miserable. Is there any way we can show Christ to a person who so desperately needs Him, just as we do?  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Proverbs 30:7-9 More than enough!

Two things I ask of you;

    deny them not to me before I die: 
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

    give me neither poverty nor riches;

    feed me with the food that is needful for me, 
lest I be full and deny you

    and say, “Who is the Lord?”

or lest I be poor and steal

    and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)

The prayers offered here by Agur appeal to my heart: “Lord, help me not to lie,” and “Lord, please just give me what you know I need.” These are the very things which I want in my life - to speak the truth and to be content with what the Lord gives me.

I want the words which come from my mouth to be uplifting and pointing to Christ. And, yet, I struggle with a sarcastic tongue that engages in gossip. YIKES! Deliver me, God!

Because the Christmas season is upon us, I’ve been bombarded with hundreds of emails offering Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals (funny how those deals are still popping up on Tuesday...), and my real mailbox seems stuffed to the brim with “covet books.” You know, those glossy catalogs designed to make you want to completely remodel and redecorate your home and your wardrobe?? I’ve learned to toss them out before even flipping through them.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6)

Here in South Orange County, an extremely affluent area, it is difficult to maintain an attitude of contentment! “Wants” are confused with “needs.” Homes are large and “Facebook” perfect! Cars are new and leased so people can continually drive the latest and greatest. You won’t see a lot of “clunkers” on the road here! Parents often worry about the long-term affects of raising children here. Their expectations are that EVERY elementary school child owns a laptop and an iPhone! If the child loses the iPhone, Mom and Dad will just replace it. It’s a place where being content is a challenge!

Now, I honestly don’t mean to sound judgmental about this. I LOVE living here, and am so thankful for the many wonderful families that live in my community! It’s a great place to be - and I think it’s a terrific place to raise children. You just have to be so intentional about modeling for your children the concept of contentment!

I grew up in Newport Beach. More specifically on Lido Isle, which was where all of the rich and famous lived. However, we did not have a lot of money. All through high school I owned one pair of sneakers and one pair of black flats! But that was two pair more than 95% of the world! I’m the youngest of four girls, and my mother would have delighted in treating us to large wardrobes - it just wasn’t possible. But I always had all I needed. I don’t remember ever hearing my mother lament not being able to keep up with the rest of the neighbors. We believed we had the best life possible - and we did!

So when Don and I were raising our girls, I was actually thankful that we did not have the means to spoil them. They couldn’t enroll in the ballet and gymnastics classes their friends had, but they were able to do a few weeks in the cheap YMCA offerings. We participated in the inexpensive or free activities offered through Girl Scouts, the library, and church! I couldn’t afford the Cabbage Patch dolls at $120 each, so I made them their own.

Some of the best gifts the girls received for Christmas were “kits” I put together. I went to an office supply store and got them a stapler and office stamps (“PAID.” “RECEIVED,” date stamps) and stamp pads, receipt books, etc. They had a restaurant kit that included an order pad, a bell, menus (I laminated “to go” menus from local restaurants), etc. One year I made them a felt board and cut out letters, numbers, and shapes from felt so they could pretend they were teaching. They played with these for HOURS! The best part was that these kits required the girls to use their imaginations!

We have so very much here in the U.S! We are the only people who will actually pay rent to store our surplus that we never use! Yet our Savior didn’t have a place to lay his head! Father, help us to not only be content with the abundance you have provided, but to be overwhelmed by your goodness. Teach us to use the gifts you have given us to bless others, especially at this time of year! Remind us of the most precious Gift, that cost us nothing, but cost your Son His life!