Career Wives Pt. 2

"So are you going to school? Are you studying to be a doctor?"

I get asked these questions at least once a week by my well-meaning patients. I usually get caught up in the moment and wonder, Shouldn't I be doing more with my life? I feel like many people wonder if this is it for me, a low-on-the-totem-pole research position that merely provides an income and quasi-satisfaction. It seems that many want to see me step up to the plate, so to speak, and pick up a dream career.

This feeling is always very fleeting, since my heart tells me differently. I long to be home, to focus on being my husband's helpmeet, to one day raise children for the Lord. I dream of making a house our home, of serving and ministering to my husband, and rearing godly children.

I'm stuck in the middle. I'm not in a successful career according to the world's standards, but I'm not at home either. Sometimes I can't be content with where God has place me for the moment. I get so focused about how things aren't fair, like there is a broken record player in my head. I should be at home taking care of my husband, I think, over and over and over. My heart is at home, Lord! Why am I working full-time when I want to be home? Whenever I think about my lot in life, I usually become so dissatisfied, miserable, and unhappy.

However, I know that this mindset cannot possibly be biblical. We should be trusting God with the plans of our lives, for He has known us from our mother's womb, and he even knows the number of hairs on our head! He has known us since the creation of the world. He will take care of our needs according to His purpose. Our comforting is that! We needn't worry about where we are in life, and how we can get to where we want to go. To everything there is a season, and for me, my season is working.

Whenever I feel discontent, God plants it on my heart that I should pray. God delights in hearing our prayers! We should be bringing all our troubles to Him. Paul writes:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Phil. 4:6

Praise the Lord for such comforting words!

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Career Wives

Sometimes I feel like I'm doing everything wrong. I read blogs about women who feel strongly that their place is at home and not in an office, and I feel like I'm failing my husband in some way. I told him this past week that I wanted to quit working full-time, and he seemed really apprehensive. He knows me better than anyone else, and he knew what the issue was.

"Are you sure that's what you want to do, or is it just peer pressure?"

Ah, yes, the blogs I've been reading. All these wonderful women who stay at home and do all these admirable things for their husbands. They have done everything right from the beginning - they have learned to cook and sew, they haven't gone to college so of course no college debt, and they have married a man with a salary enough to support a family and they are able to stay at home. Now, just for the record, I think it's great that so many women are able to do this! To be honest, I'm jealous. I want to stay at home, and I want my sole responsibilities to be cooking and cleaning. I want to greet my husband at the door with a kiss and dinner on the table. I want to go grocery shopping during the day, and not as an afterthought in the evenings.

But to be honest, it's not where God has me right now. He led me down a path that included university and a career in graphic design - something I truly love and something that I can use for His glory. He also led me to marry a wonderful man with a good job. However, even though my school loans are minimal, his loans are not, and he can't support both me and pay off his loans without me bringing in a steady income as well. That's the truth of the situation, and that's how it has to be - at least for right now.

Now, when I say I'm a career wife, I do have to clarify something. I do have a university degree and I am in a job where I utilize that degree. I make a good living and I love what I do there. However, my family is first and foremost. Right now, my family consists of my husband and two cats - and a 700 square foot apartment. The minute I am needed at home full-time, then I will be happy to quit work. I am not after climbing the corporate ladder, so I'm more focused right now on doing the job I really enjoy. I do plan on quitting when we have children, and I plan on doing freelance graphic design from home after that as I am able. Right now, we are putting 100% of my paycheck (after tithes, of course!) toward our student loans to relieve as much of that burden as possible before we have children. Because, to be honest, I'd rather stay home and have all day to perfect a homecooked meal. But that's a goal for me to look forward to, and I need to be content with where God has me right now.

With the conveniences of our modern day and age, I believe it's entirely possible for women to work full-time and have a happy marriage. Sure, some things have to be sacrificed - I don't have time to bake my own bread or sew my own clothes, but I do have the money to give to missions and help others in need. Meals are not fancy and often out of a box, but I hate to cook anyways. There are so many benefits to staying home, and I honestly look forward to that. In the meantime, I am focusing on the benefits of working. I am able to sharpen my skills and knowledge in graphic design daily, using the company's resources. If I didn't work here, I would have to shell out the $1200 to buy the software myself. I have daily interaction with people, which is something I need, especially since I don't have a lot of friends here. I have a lot of interactions with nonbelievers which is not only a great opportunity to witness, but I also get to hear their point of view which not only challenges me, but helps me to relate to them better. I get to dress professionally every day, which is something I enjoy. I am helping my husband by relieving some of the financial burden, which he appreciates and allows him to pursue opportunities that will help him ultimately in his career. Most satisfying, though, is the knowledge that with every paycheck, our debt is going down that much more!

Is it biblical to work? I believe God made every woman differently, and it would be wrong to put every woman in a box and tell her she must do this. He has blessed us with so many talents, and I think it's a good thing to have Christian women in the workplace. Even the Proverbs 31 wife worked; she buys fields and uses her earnings to plant a vineyard (vs. 16), and she makes and sells garments (vs. 24). Some women I believe God created to be the homemakers. He's given them a desire to be at home, and a gift for all things homey. Other women are created to use their gifts in the workplace. I think the most important thing is that a woman put her family first, and keep them first over her career. Some women find it very difficult to do a 40 hour workweek and keep their husbands first. Some have discovered that they are better able to do this by working from home or working only part time. Others can work in an office by day and run a home in the evenings - and still are serving their husbands. I think this is a decision that is between a woman, her husband, and God - through much prayer and weighing of the options.

As for me, I look forward for the day when I can work from home. But that's not where God has me right now, and I have to be okay with that. I can't let others' convictions make me unhappy with where He's put me. And that's the hardest thing for me to learn.

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Practicing Hospitality: Banana Bread

I may not be much of a cook, but I do love to bake. When I was growing up, my mother would always make banana bread and give it to our neighbors or people just moving to town. I remember many a day, wrapping up banana bread in saran-wrap or foil to take to someone. I hope to continue the tradition on my own. This weekend, I made banana bread and brought some with me to visit my dear friends, the Garrisons. I used my new mini loaf pan that I got from Pampered Chef. It makes the cutest little loaves that are perfect for giving away. Here is the banana bread recipe I use:

Banana Bread
1/2 cup shortening or 1/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1-2 beaten eggs, optional
2-3 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon of lemon juice, optional
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine shortening, sugar, and water. Then add eggs, bananas, and lemon juice. Combine separately and add flour, salt, baking soda, spices, and vanilla. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 375 F for 45-60 minutes.
The result is delicious! You can also add chopped nuts, but I usually avoid that since so many people are allergic to nuts.

I think overall, the point is to practice hospitality. Whether you bring banana bread, or just a kind word, it is much appreciated!
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:8-10

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The Great Closet Clean-up

In light of Ashley's latest post, I thought I'd get inspired and tackle the decluttering of my closet. I was planning on getting to this soon anyway ;-).

Hmmm. This might take some work. I'll have to break it down, section by section. And I'm going to have to throw away a lot of junk! I'll try to keep you posted on my progress. Pray for me!

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Decluttering and Yard Sale-ing

I think one of the things that makes a room look messy is clutter. I can't stand it, to tell you the truth. I just want to hide it all away - I'm a big fan of junk drawers, trunks, etc. I am a minimalist when it comes to decorating - a few well placed decorations, now that makes me happy. :-)

Recently, Paul and I have been going through our things trying to get rid of all that is unnecessary. We have already taken one load to Goodwill and are about to take another load. As we empty out and organize the closet, I keep saying over and over, "Is this really worth taking up space?" Our apartment isn't that big, and we will be moving at least twice, and probably more, in the next few years.

I was thinking about this when reading Amy's post today about Reduction Production. Of course, she was referring to more financial aspects, but I think it can apply to material goods too. I also came across this post at Sparrow's Nest about Yard Sale Etiquette. She had a lot of great tips about having a yard sale. We don't have enough things for a yard sale (nor do we have a yard!), but I thought some other people might find it interesting and helpful. :-)

This weekend will be back to sorting, organizing, cleaning, and parting with junk. :-)

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A Servant's Heart

A few months ago, I volunteered to be head of a volunteer committee at work. My bosses put a great emphasis on giving back to the community, so they have an annual community service project we participate in as a company. This year, I did some research and discovered a place called Cafe 458 in downtown Atlanta - a cafe-style restaurant that serves free meals to the homeless with the respect they deserve. It was a neat opportunity and I'm glad we got to go. However, it got me thinking about what service means, and why we even bother to do it.

When I was in high school, NHS (National Honor Society) was a really big deal. They only let a select group of about 10-12 people (out of 400 in the school) into NHS each year. Throughout the year, we did a lot together - retreats, fund raisers, community service projects, etc. Some of my best high school memories were from the 2 years I was involved in NHS.

I remember we were in the midst of planning the induction ceremony at the beginning of my senior year. It was always a big deal - a school-wide assembly/ceremony, with the top-secret new members being announced. We usually had members of NHS each do a speech, and at the time they were looking for a fourth person to do a speech on "service". For some reason, I raised my hand and volunteered.

I was really nervous, and spent a long time preparing for it. Afterwards, a lot of people came up and complimented me. I was glad that I had taken the opportunity to do it, and I am thankful to God that He gave me all the right words to say!

Below is a copy of my speech that I gave that day in September of 2000. (Notice some concepts taken straight from the Bible!)

The candle I just lit represents service.

When I sat down to write this speech, I started really asking myself, “What is service?” I knew I wanted to say something along the lines of service not being just going to Community Service. But I really didn’t know how to say that.

So I enlisted the help of some friends, posing two questions. One: “Is service about attitude or action?”

Mother Teresa once said, “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing.” Service is stereotypically about heroically donating your time to be with a poor person dying in the hospital. Yet, if that’s the attitude you have, then is that really service?

Service should be a sacrifice, not an obligation or something that looks good on your transcript. Service is looking to the interest of others. It’s a willingness to do your best. It’s perseverance; pushing on even when it might be easier to quit.

The second question I had was: “Is service for yourself or others?” This is a bit more difficult, because it is hard to distinguish who benefits more, the giver or the receiver. For, as someone once said, “You can’t help someone up the hill without getting closer to the top yourself.”

We should do nothing out of selfish ambition, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. Humility goes along with attitude- being humble about the time and money you spend helping others. Mother Teresa tells us, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

Service shouldn’t have expectations. If you anticipate something in return for every hour you spend helping someone else, then it isn’t really service. It’s a business deal. Service results from an honest feeling of compassion and a desire to help others.

The best thing about service is that it can be demonstrated in almost any situation. A lot of people think that service is only visiting orphanages or organizing fundraisers. Many overlook the small, unnoticeable aspects. Being there for someone who needs a friend. Helping a new student find a class. Brushing off a little boy who fell on the sidewalk. All of these are good examples of service. Putting a smile on someone’s face can be just as important as donating $1000 to charity.

So why is service so important? It’s something that everyone can do. You don’t have to have high grades or show strong leadership skills or have outstanding character to help someone. Because, in the end, everyone involved is affected.

Thank you.

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Birthday Dinner

I mentioned that yesterday was my hubby's birthday--so here is the chicken I made for him. It's a recipe adapted from Southern Living. I say adapted because I changed a few things from the original. (I've never been known to follow a recipe exactly!)

So without further adieu, may I present:

Birthday Chicken

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbls butter (the real stuff, this is birthday chicken!)
2 Tbls olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots (about 3 medium)
1 pkg. (8 oz.) fresh sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Champagne
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream

Stir together the first 3 ingredients in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken in flour mixture; place on a wire rack. Let stand 15 minutes Dredge chicken in flour mixture again; return to rack.

Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove chicken to a plate.

Add shallots to skillet; cook, stirring often, 2 minutes or until golden brown. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook, stirring often, 10 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Stir in Champagne and thyme; bring to a boil, stirring to loosen browned particles from bottom of skillet. Reduce heat, and return chicken to skillet. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until done.

Transfer chicken to a serving plate. Stir cream into mushroom mixture. Cook 5-6 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve sauce immediately over chicken.

I served this over hot orzo, which is a small, rice shaped pasta. You could also serve this over rice or egg noodles.

To save money, I purchased a $4 dollar bottle of Champagne, which was plenty for the recipe, with some left over for a birthday toast! This recipe makes plenty of sauce, which I saved and plan on serving again over pasta. Bon appetit!

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A Little Luxury

Yesterday was my dear husband's birthday! To celebrate, I bought these adorable flowers for our apartment and made him a really good dinner. The flowers were only 4 dollars, but they make the apartment feel homey.

I change the water every day, and to the water I add 1 tsp. of bleach and 1 tsp. of sugar. The bleach kills any bacteria or fungus that could prematurely kill the flowers, and the sugar provides food. I'm hoping that they will last a week!

I love thinking of creative ways to make a house feel more like a home, a place where we can get away from the world and be together. I hope to create a place my husband loves to come home to! For me, flowers are such a great way to give a home personality and warmth. They are so beautiful, and many can perfume an entire room. Some at the grocery store are even really cheap! Feel free to give me some suggestions and tips for creating a homey environment--I'll post some of them next week!

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I would just like to point everyone to an excellent post over at A Gracious Home. I really appreciate Sallie taking the time to write it.

"Everbody's got problems and convictions. The question is..."

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Homeland Missionaries

There are a few things I am passionate about, and missions is one of those areas. It mostly has to do with my background: growing up on the mission field, seeing firsthand what amazing things God is doing in other coutnries, and how much more still needs to be done.

One of my desires is to raise my kids to be missions-focused. I have been thinking about the best ways to do that, while Paul and I don't necessarily feel that God is leading us to the mission field right now. However, that doesn't mean we have to be silent! Here are some ways I've thought about:

Support missionaries regularly and actively. We have several friends who are missionaries, both in the United States and to other countries. Not only do we send a check, but we actively pray for them and we write to them, showing interest in their work and trying to encourage them whenever possible.

Put a world map up in the dining room. Hang missionary's prayer cards around the map, using yarn or string to draw a line from their picture to the place on the map where they are serving. Use this as a reminder to pray for missionaries and God's people around the world before dinner each night. (And throughout the day!)

Send care packages to those on the mission field, especially those abroad. Not only are they much appreciated, it's always good to get a little taste of home! Besides, it tells the missionaries that you care about them and that encourages them so much.

Go on a short term missions trip to a third world country. I think this is an incredible way to get out of your comfort zone and widen your horizons. The Mormons require all of their members to spend a couple of years as a missionary and I wish we did that too! Imagine what a difference that would make in our heats, being open to where God would have us serve.

Open your home to visiting missionaries. Most missionaries return to their home country on furlough every 4 years or so. They use this time to raise support and funds, further schooling, reconnect with family and friends, etc. They usually spend large amounts of time on the road, visiting and speaking in churches. I want to regularly have missionaries over for dinner and staying with us as necessary, to get a chance to fellowship with them.

Get involved with local missions and charity outreaches. While third world countries may struggle more with poverty and lack of education, first world countries are not exempt from these issues! There are many organizations that seek to minister to the physical and spiritual needs right in our hometown! Committing your time to help in these areas is a great way to be a missionary yourself.

Join the missions board or missions committee at church. This can be a great opportunity to help the entire church body be more active in missions.

Pray, pray, pray! There are so many countries around the world that need Christ, and so many hurting people. A GREAT resource that I highly recommend is the book "Operation World" by Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk.

Jesus prays for all believers: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." John 17:20-21
There are many different types of great missions and organizations, but for me personally I am partial to Bible translation. Therefore, I am going to do a little plug for Wycliffe Bible Translators. They have some great ways of how you can get involved in missions on their website, as well as some specific areas of prayer. I am excited to be able to take the ways God has blessed me and reciprocate them to others who need it. Isn't God amazing how He uses us to fulfill the needs of those around us? I am constantly blown away by it... But I've mentioned this before. :-)

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The Migraine

Everything always seems to be going so well. I think I've finally got my life back on track--I'm loving my husband as I should, working hard at my job, keeping the house clean, not eating too many cookies, and so on. Then things come to a crashing halt. I break down, God grabs me by the face and looks in my eyes and says, "Focus on Me, My child."

Yesterday was when my uptight, perfect world came unraveled. Work has been hectic the past week--several new projects have been thrust upon my lap, and I have been eager to get started. After a few days of this, I unfortunately found myself extremely stressed, unfocused, and worried. I was feeling almost jittery from nerves, like I had had too many cups of coffee (heavy cream, hold the sugar). That's when I was knocked out cold.

I came home yesterday with a major migraine.

I couldn't function. I couldn't cook, do laundry, read, or even watch TV. The pain from my eye strain (I've was looking at a computer screen way too much!) was nauseating. I am certain that the best way to relieve that kind of pressure is to have an elephant step on your head. (They can crush a watermelon like a human can pop a balloon!) All I could do was sit with my eyes closed, praying for relief.

It was then that I realized that I was so focused on myself, my stress at work, and my accomplishments at home. I was so prideful of finally getting everything done the past week that I wasn't focusing on my relationship with God. My life was so crazily out of my control (even though I thought I had it), He finally had to stop me and refocus my attention. He reminded me of something humble Amy had said earlier in the week:

"When it is quiet, I can remember all that God has called me to be and do."
I know that the headache was sent to slow and quiet me down, and refocus my attention. In the quietness of the room, in the midst of the pain, I prayed for God to change my focus to Him.
"Be still, and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10a

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Daily Musing

While driving back from Dallas, my husband and I were amazed by this gorgeous rainbow that was developing over the plains of the Texas Hill Country. The clouds were ominous and dark, and as we were driving they parted, letting the sun shine through. It was subtle at first, but as we drove farther south and went around the bend in the highway, we could see it in its full glory. It instantly reminded me of God's promise to Noah:

"And God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.'

So God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.'" Genesis 9:12-17

How amazing are God's promises! He loves the world so much that He made a covenant to never destroy it with water again. Not only that, He gave us something so beautiful as a rainbow to remember it by. Thanks be to God for such incredible beauty!

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Called to Be Encouragers

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13
This past week, my husband and I did a lot of walking through cute shops in little tourist towns. At one point, we were tired so we perched on a bench right across from a place that was selling bumper stickers. As I have the habit of reading anything my eyes see, I was perusing them.
"I got a gun for my wife. I thought it was a fair trade."
"I always wanted children, so I married one."
"Forget the dog, beware of children!"
They made me somewhat uncomfortable as most were bashing an immediate family member. I couldn't help but wonder if those types of bumper stickers really do hurt the intended party, even if supposed to be a joke.

One thing I love about Christianity is our interaction with each other. God didn't create us to be alone, but He uses other people to minister to us and keep us renewed and strong. Life can be really hard, and sin is a terrible thing. There is so much to put us down, so God has called us to be encouragers to one another whenever possible.

It just seems to me that when you sport derrogatory bumper stickers, even in jest, we're doing the exact opposite of what God commands. This goes beyond a bumper sticker, though. How often we are out with friends, and we start complaining about our husbands? How many times do we get angry and all we can think of is to yell? When we see someone looking discouraged, do we simply glance the other way, saying it's not our problem?

My husband is a wonderful man. Sure, he can frustrate me sometimes, but there are so many qualities about him that I admire. I want to be the wife that makes him feel confident about himself, not the other way around. I want to be the mother who is her kids' #1 fan, not the one who openly complains about them. I want to be a friend who is refreshing, not self-centered and spiteful. Life is hard enough without the people you love bearing down on you!

I am thankful that God has provided for us in this way. He really is an amazing God. The more I think about it, the more I am blown away by Him. So I challenge everyone to take a moment and encourage someone you're close to, especially if they are feeling particularly down. Think of how great our world could be if we all did this.

Fun and Games

My husband and I are looking for some fun activities to do together. Lately we've been at a loss for what to do with ourselves. Since it is so hot outside, we've pretty much been stuck inside, and there isn't much to do. It would be great to have some activity or game that is free or relatively inexpensive, even better if it can be done inside (at least until October).

For example, we love to play disc golf. Actually, there is a gorgeous course near our college in Cloudland Canyon State Park. We would go all the time in the fall and spring, when the weather was absolutely wonderful. Now that we are in hot ol' Texas, we don't play nearly as much. It's just too hot to play! We each have a few discs, and there is a free course right near our apartment, but it's not the same as back at school.

Other than that, we are clean out of ideas! Any thoughts?

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on Homemaking

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1

Before "meeting" so many encouraging women through the blogosphere, I was extremely lazy about homemaking, especially because it felt like a second job. After work I would come home, and the last thing on my mind would be cleaning. Actually, I found myself wasting countless hours in front of the TV. I felt that it was my "right" to spend the time how I desired, since I had been at work the majority of the day. But I was so unhappy. Not only was this not honoring to my husband, it was not honoring to God. I had to ask myself--Is this what I was created for? Am I supposed to be idling for 4 hours a day?

It was so encouraging to read about other women who struggle with selfishness and their own desires, and how God is moving them to be more focused on Him and on home and family. I've read so many great blogs lately about homemaking, that I thought I'd post some excerpts.

Here is a great excerpt from Erin's blog:
I happen to believe that homemaking is a calling higher than any repetitive manual task. Successful homemaking requires creativity well beyond reusing dryer lint, far more intellectual power than necessary for sock-matching, and a wealth of skills beyond scrubbing toilets. It is one of the most diverse positions available . . . I am discovering new growth opportunities within the field of homemaking every day. In fact, were I to work 24/7, I don't think I could expand my horizons far enough to exhaust all the possibilities! The days just fly too fast to allow for more than merely scratching the surface.

I'm so excited about this possibility! I cannot wait to be the wife God has created me to be. It can be so discouraging to hear the feminist perspective that homemaking is a waste of time, and I know I was hearing this view too much. I encourage everyone to head over there and read her whole post. It's a bit lenghty, but so wonderful to see how she lays out what homemaking truly is.

I've also just finished reading The True Woman, which was written by Susan Hunt. In it, Susan discusses the virtues of homemaking:
Domesticity means a devotion to home life . . . The virtue of domesticity begins with an untroubled heart that has been redeemed from sin and is focused on our heavenly home. This virtue is expressed as we prepare places on earth that depict our heavenly home. This is accomplished as we reflect the character of Jesus in our homes and churches, thus making them homey places where troubled hearts find rest and safety. So domestic deeds are rooted in our theology.

I long to be the "true woman" that God wants me to be. I know at times I won't be able to get past the routine and mundaneness of some chores, but I'm doing it for a reason--to focus more on my heavenly home by reflecting Jesus in my earthly one.

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