Thursday, May 25, 2006
Don't Give Up
Every once in awhile throughout your endeavors as a wife , homemaker, or a grown daughter serving at home, you may be thrown into confusion and self doubt about what you are doing. There is a popular saying, "Expect to suffer for doing right."
I've known this saying for many years, but criticism and condemnation always surprises me and can temporarily debilitate me. My emotions take over my will and I am lost in self doubt until I come to my senses.
Some people are de-motivated and depressed in their spirit by cruel and thoughtless remarks regarding their profession at home. Others are crushed so much after such verbal attacks, that they cannot concentrate on anything worthwhile. Have you ever picked up an object at the grocery store and were unable to read the label, because you had such a burden on your heart? Have you ever lost your ability to concentrate on anything worthwhile? Have you ever wanted to run away?
Remember that you are right. Keep your confidence, and let all this resistance from others, even those within your own family, be a confirmation that you are doing well, and doing right. Instead of letting it crush you, convert it to fuel. The more you are scorned , the more you can do to make your home successful. One area that you can use this negative energy, is in the realm of house cleaning and house keeping. Every time someone says something that discourages you, pick up a broom, a mop, a dust rag, or open a drawer and unload it, clean, sort and cull. If we all did things like this, we would be able to tell who was persecuted the most for becoming a wife and homemaker. This is how you get the upper hand on these people. Insulted again? Guess I'll clean up the bathroom. Oh, you think I'm out of my mind? I'll clean the garage. Keep hurling the insults and I'll get my flower beds weeded. One more remark like that, and you'll get me so stirred up, I'll make a goodie basket for you. Take that.
I am afraid that I picked up this habit way too late in my life, and that I sufferred needlessly from taking cruel remarks seriously. When I was told I was worthless, mindless, not contributing an income, shouted at, or shown great disrespect, I tended to nurse my emotions curled up in a ball, unable to eat or sleep.
In the 80's there was a stark absence of support for people who wanted to be like the Proverbs 31 woman, or be wives and guides of the home, as in I Timothy 5:14. Not only was there very little support (most women were gone to work and the houses were empty--there was no one to call or visit), but women in my position were sometimes told that the Proverbs 31 woman was "engaged in commerce," which justified women leaving the home to go into the workforce full time.
Some people even went so far as to claim that this example of an ideal woman was in real estate! I did find out that the "field" that she bought was about the size of the vegetable garden in my back yard, and that it was a common custom of the times, equivilant to the responsibility that many women have today of choosing the appliances for their homes, or the best car for their uses.
This woman is often interpreted in such an extraordinary way that people say she was not a full time wife, mother and homemaker, but a shrewd business woman who stayed up all night and sewed things to sell. A careful study of it will reveal something more realistic. The larger principle in this description is that she made good use of time, and was not idle, but someone whose major concern was the success of her family spiritually, physically and mentally.
Rather than being impressed with the care and concern she had for "the ways of her household," there is a tendency to magnify the money-making aspect of her life, which, I suppose is on everyone's minds in our times.
Challenges like this, which can shake your confidence, can be used as a hint that you need to better yourself. After the next negative remark, think, "Is my work done?" Think about something that has really be neglected. Maybe it is something that you never seem to be able to get around to--such as that overflowing closet or bathroom cabinet.
Getting in and beginning to straighten, organize, and clean, takes away the taint of these awful things that people say to discourage you. When the mind is flooded with sorrow, it can be soothed by cleaning and organizing, (as strange as it sounds.)
We are all emotional, but I think especially as a young homemaker, you can take some of these things too much to heart. I remember being so grieved at criticism levelled at me that I wept until I sank into depression, and my home and family were even more neglected.
One day I decided to get the better of it.
I am not saying that people were always levelling rude comments at me, but that it happened periodically and it always devastated me. The day that I decided I would not put up with it any more, is the day my life changed for the better, and I became more successful at home.
I remember clearly that a relative of mine made a cutting, sarcastic remark about me "never doing anything." I remembered what the Bible said about doing good to those who treated you in a despiteful way. I excused myself and went and put on the tea kettle. (Oh the blessings of making tea--even if you don't drink it!).
"I'll be right with you," I said. "I'll make us some tea." In a few minutes I brought out some beautiful tea cups and fragrant Celestial Seasonings herbal raspberry tea in a pot. I poured the tea and offered some scones. I then reached over and got a huge basket of laundry that I had been folding before she dropped by to see me.
I began to fold, occasionally showing her some piece of clothing or a towel that I liked, and making a comment about where it had come from or what I used it for, and when I had finished, I put it away and brought in another basket. As she sipped her tea, I put away the children's toys. Then I invited her into the kitchen and began to work on washing the dishes, talking in much the same manner as I had while folding clothes. "This plate was a wedding gift; these are the children's special glasses my mother gave them, " etc.
You can be sure I never heard another discouraging word from this woman. She, in fact, became inspired to go home and clean her own house, because of the way I was doing it, with joy. Do remember this when critics are watching you work: you can't act like an oppressed woman who doesn't enjoy her work, if you want to win the approval and support of others.
Another thing that really helped me claim my territory and establish my borders, was to do something benevolent for the person who was displeased with me. Inviting a disgruntled critic for dinner, or giving them a love-basket full of things that delight a woman's heart (candles, soaps, teas, a beautiful book), usually nuetralized her and I heard no more of her talk.
Showing these people that being a homemaker enables you to be rich in good works, (I Timothy 6:18) can help to open their eyes. I remember once a woman who was in business where my husband worked, constantly asked why I wasn't in business with him, and what I did all day.
It was reported to me by several people that this woman just couldn't quit talking about me, so I extended an invitation to her and showed her around my house, explaining what I was doing in every room, and what all I was responsible for. She and her husband enjoyed a meal with us and they became good friends. She later made a heartfelt decision to be a full time wife, mother and homemaker. If I had retaliated towards her thoughtless remarks, I doubt this could have been accomplished.
My mother did this once with a neighbor who came by daily and just wanted to sit around and complain. In those days mother was an avid gardener. Her visitor followed her to the garden, where my mother pulled weeds and picked strawberries. This memory came to me when I decided that I would not let these remarks and challenges hold me back.
Are you letting popular opinion hold you back? Do you lack group approval and motivation? Are you hurt by those remarks? You can use it as a driving force to do good, instead. Each criticism, each disappointment, each accusation, can spur you on to something useful. It can be like a signal to do something beautiful: - arrange a mantel, a table-scape, or make a bed in a special way.
My husband (who only wants me to be happy) told me once that I could reward myself with something I wanted, every time I sufferred such disappointment, if I wanted to. I learned to look at it in a completely different way, thanks to his attitude.
Shortly after that, a woman told me that my daughter wouldn't always think the same way about life as I did, and that she would rebel. We were both horrified. How dare she suggest such a thing. I felt like my stomach had rolled over inside of my body and my heart had constricted into a tangled mass of muscles, unable to move. Normally, an insulting remark like this would have debilitated me for days, where I would experience heavy anguished sobbs intermintent with a blank, hopeless stare...but this time, I remembered "the reward", --and so, as a reward, I sewed her and myself matching dresses, a personal luxury for us, which began a tradition that has not stopped. As time has gone by, I find I don't need rewards. Rising above it and being able to conquer the hard challenges of homemaking, is reward enough.
One woman with whom I am acquainted was constantly derided by her teen son, who thought that his mother was very stupid. He criticised her constantly, and she found she could not win an argument or convince him of her reasons for being home, so she began to clean his room. It made an amusing sight to see her folding and putting things away, while her son berated her. Who was doing that which was right?
It is interesting to watch critics. They talk much, and achieve little. If we could only think, when we are criticised unfairly, to "check the fruit on the tree," or have a good look at their own lives, we would not waste time and energy feeling sad and wounded at their thoughtless words. Just keep working, and you'll have victory over the housework and victory over your own self.
At the risk of making this entry a bit too long, I really must add that it is more than housekeeping that you will find yourself guarding. It is the values that you hold dear; that of marriage, loyalty, the house as a refuge and a place to be respected, the family as a cohesive unit that supports one another and cares about each others feelings.
You will instinctively be guarding your home against things like selfishness, rebellion, disrespect, and any thing that devalues its impact. There will be those that shake its emotional foundations by challenging your right to maintain these values.
Remember that you are right. Resistance to what is good and beautiful is only an indication that you are being effective. If you have to reward yourself after a battle, then do so, and eventually you will find that success is reward enough, and that it was worth the price you paid.