Older women (or my life as a country song)

September happened. It was a big month in our household. There was Labor Day, Jason’s birthday, me and a friend hosted a ladies’ event called Something Beautiful followed up by a beach trip. This all made for incredibly packed days. Oh, so busy.

Also, I chipped this cup. My hurried state caused me to carelessly unload the dishwasher. It’s the family rules mug. The thing is, when it happened I wondered if perhaps more than a piece of Porcelain was broken. Common earthenware. I wondered if just maybe, the rules themselves had been broken…

Covenant vows, even. Alas, the notion was a a passing flicker and quickly faded.

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Yes, September happened. This photo showed up in my Facebook feed along with it. I can’t help but wonder if God wanted me to see it. Because I stared when I saw it. I just looked so different then. My smile reached my eyes. I looked happy. And thin. And I can hardly believe it… I had only one chin.

And I know this may come across as vain, but I think I look pretty then. Beautiful, even? Because youth has a way of making one shine. And six years ago, I was younger. I’d just turned forty.

In reflecting on the me of 2013, I know I was younger, bolder, and confident. I had something to say and wanted to be heard. More, I wanted to be seen. I wanted to insert me into the world because I’d taken up a platform. It had to do with the woman’s role. And it had to do with being on the outside. Way beyond my walls..

Yes, in my smiling eyes, everything important happened out there. Where one could be seen.

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Funny thing about being seen. As I planned that ladies’ event, Something Beautiful, I recognized the irony of it. I knew I’d never felt more un-beautiful in my life. And also, I did not want to be seen. Mostly because of my outward appearance.

See, my contours have changed. I’m not as angular as the 40 year-old me. I have wrinkles and bags under my eyes while my waist heaps over my pants. I have bulges where I never did before. Oh, there are lines in unsightly places and veins mar my legs.

So this past Sunday, shamefully, I skipped church. One, September had taken its toll. The busyness left me so tired. And honestly, thinking about what I could pour my body into was too much to bear. So I drank coffee instead.

Later, I motivated myself to stuff my rolls into clothing and rolled into town. There was a baby shower and I had to finish off the gift. That’s when I found a beautiful box of stationary. And I bless God for this gift. Because it serves as a reminder.

See, Ecclesiastes 3:11 was the theme verse for the ladies’ event. Something Beautiful had a lot to do with being beautiful, but from the inside out. Letting your outer match your inner. And this box was God’s gentle way of reminding me of what’s truly important. Goes back to the broken vows I mentioned earlier. And my insides…

Not my heart, though. What’s inside my walls.

Stand by Your Man…

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She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:12

September is always a big month. A seasonal time of reflection. More often than not, I find myself melancholy and enter a period of repentance. This is what September means to me.

Thus, I can’t help but reflect on a particular verse. Because in two days time, it’ll be the anniversary of Jason’s proposal to me. It happened October 4th, 1997. Yes, this man of mine got down on one knee and asked me to be his.

And that’s not surprising, really.  Because back then, I would have moved heaven and earth for him. I revolved around Jason. I’d follow him to the moon and back and pretty much did. Yes, I bent over backwards to please him. I was a woman who stood by her man. At least I did, then.

But the truth is, I don’t do that anymore. No, somewhere along the line, it became more important to do all the back-bending and flips out there in the public forum. That’s where all the credit is. And to be completely frank, I’ve given more time and energy to those on the outside than to those on the inside. I easily turn down a request from my loved ones but no rarely escapes my lips when someone from out there asks.

Yes, as I slide into the back side of forty, this is where God leads me. He has me seriously consider Proverbs 31:12. Particularly that word good. The bigness of it being it’s the same used in part of the ladies’ event. And it means just what you think… good, pleasant, agreeable, welfare, etc. But also, it can mean beautiful. Two times in Scripture, the word is used to describe a woman’s appearance. 

She does him good. She does him beautiful. She is agreeable and pleasant. But in September, I did not emulate this verse. And Jason called me on it.

That’s because no one knows better than Jason how I bent over backward for the ladies’ event. And please don’t mistake me, I’m glad I did. However, I let everything get upended at home. I had so much to uncover from afterward, it left me feeling pressured.

Thus, I cracked when Jason requested something extra of me. Oh, I didn’t say no but I let him know how inconvenienced I was. Not in words, mind you. Just my demeanor. Coldness. Silence.

Not at all like the woman I was way back when. And most assuredly, I was not beautiful inside or out at that moment. Sadly, my actions nearly nullified everything about the event… Something Beautiful. Almost.

And so, as I close in on my forty-seventh year, I comprehend what God wants…

He wants me to bend over backwards at home. Like I did when I first met Jason. He wants me to stand by him and support him. He wants me to treat those I love the most like the ones I treat on the outside.

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

Look at us. I knew I’d see my friend this past Sunday and I wanted another photo of us side by side. Because we were beautiful in our younger days. But God, He tells me we’re even more beautiful now. In a hundred ways….

And though I can’t speak for Carolyn and what she’s learned through the years, I can speak about her heart. Because in the words of Willie and Waylon, she’s a good hearted woman. Life’s thrown her curve balls and stumbling points but those seasons have created a softness inside. She always sees the best in people. She sees the best in me.

And when I think of our outer shells, I can’t help but wonder if our not-so-firm skin and less-than-angular contours mimic the softness inside. Our hearts being more tender than they were…

Because I think I am. Six years have made me older and wiser. And softer. Because I’m more pliable. And when I make a mistake, I realize it and own it quicker than I once did. Like the day Jason asked me to do something and I resisted. I apologized for my actions within an hour. The old me would have held to my rights and plans for days allowing the coldness to shroud our home. Plucking down my walls with my own hands.

But the new me? The older me?

Basically, I’ve come to comprehend I was nothing more than a self-made woman back then. I put all my effort into making me into what I wanted to be. Something more. And there’s nothing wrong with striving and goals.

However, all my goals had to do with what I considered the big things. Important things. All being outside my walls. Oh, I struggled with my maker for years and years, asking Him “why have you made me thus?” (Romans 9:20) I resisted His purpose for me, which is mainly domestic. At least for now. Because ultimately, that’s what He built me to do…

Yes, sometime in the past year, I submitted to God’s design. Instead of being a self-made woman, I became a God-made woman. And there’s relief in that.

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“It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper (one who balances him – a counterpart who is) suitable and complementary for him.” Genesis 2:20

I love how Scripture fits together. Take Proverbs 14:1 for instance. The wise woman builds her house. The word build is also used in Genesis when God made woman. He built a woman for the purpose of helping the man. Yes, God built me to help my husband.

Help meaning to aid or succour (assistance in times of hardship or distress). It comes from another word meaning to surround and this speaks to my heart today. Surround him…

A woman will encompass (tenderly love) a man. Jeremiah 31:22 

Because once upon a time, I surrounded Jason. My life revolved around his. I’d have done anything for him and I did. But then we got married. And that’s when I began to struggle. Jason’s time against mine. His plans against mine. All my plans being those that made me into what I wanted to be. A self-made woman all the way…

All leading to something outside my walls.

Ultimately, my plans conflicted with God’s. Thus, years and years of struggle with my Maker. But finally, this year came about. I raised my white flag in surrender and submitted to His will and to what He makes me…

Which is a wife and mother. These first. Above all else.

This is what God made me to be. It’s what He created me to do. He wants me to back-bend and roll over and surround those He’s entrusted to me. Joyfully and with all my heart.

Older women… 

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There’s a country song that’s been rolling around in my head. Read some of the lyrics…

Older women, are beautiful lovers
Older women, they understand
I’ve been around some, and I have discovered
That older women know just how to please a man.
Everybody seems to love those younger women
From eighteen on up to twenty-five
Well I love ’em too, but I’m tellin’ you
Learnin’ how to really love, takes a little time.
So baby don’t you worry about growin’ older
Those young girls ain’t got nothin’ on you
‘Cause it takes some livin’, to get good at givin’
And givin’ love is just where you could teach them a thing or two.

 

Call me weird, but I see Scripture in that song. It’s a bit like portions of the Titus 2 woman…

Older women… teach what is good and right… encourage young women to tenderly love their husbands and children.

A few years ago, I thought this verse was odd. Why would older women have to teach the younger to love their husbands and children? Well, now I know. And I believe the me of 2019 can speak wisdom into the me of 2013.

Because back then, I did not love my family as good as I could. I couldn’t because I gave too much of me to the outside leaving leftovers for those inside my walls. And that’s what much of Titus 2 touches on…

The younger woman is encouraged to be a maker of a home. It comes from a word meaning house/build. The maker of a home is domestically inclined and works at home. This is how a wise woman can build her house and love her family. It doesn’t mean she can’t go out or work outside the home. But I think it means a woman makes home a priority.

For years, I did not. What a hard truth to learn. And how many years it’s taken me to realize it.

But since I do now, I feel like my life somewhat resembles that country song. It’s taken some livin’ to get good at givn’ love. And I’m really getting there. And this is where I could teach them younger women a thing or two…

So what are my words of wisdom? You give the best of you to those inside your walls. Love them first. Then, after you love them good and well, go beyond your walls and love the others.

That’s what I’d say to younger women. And in truth, this is what makes us women truly beautiful inside and out. When we’re just as lovely inside our homes as we are on the outside. At least, this is what God has been teaching me these past few years.

I have to wonder. Is it too late? My broken rules and vows? Is it too late to do my husband good all the days of my life?

Though I cannot go back and change what’s been, I can surely change what’s to come. And I can surely do him good all the rest of the days of my life. I can. And the past few days give me hope it’s all true.

First, take a look at my little girl. This was Sunday (the day I skipped church because I felt so hideous). Well, she had on a t-shirt and shorts. After she saw me, she went back to her room and came out with the white blouse on top. She imitated me and truly, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. How precious that she wanted to look as I did.

Afterward, my son told me I look nice (he never does that). And then I found two sets of stationary with the messages “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and “Beautiful inside and out.”

I praise God for that. I do. Because despite my mess-ups (namely the one immediately following that ladies’ event with my hubby), He assures me a hundred ways I’m beautiful.

The best way, though, was through the lips of Annabelle. When I told her she was beautiful the other night, she quipped, “I know.” When I asked how, she said it’s because I love her. But she also said, “Because God made me.”

And ultimately, this is how I know I am beautiful. For I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God-made. Built to love my children. Built to love my man.

You know, I’ve come to this conclusion again and again. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about all things domestic. And experience teaches me the last thing my husband wants is another blah, blah, blog. Words not backed by action.

So this time, as a belated birthday and early anniversary gift (of sorts), I plan to give Jason my life as a country song…

In deed, I hope to be a good-hearted woman standing by my man all the rest of my days as an older woman. Because as the song goes, we make beautiful lovers. This is my vow to my husband. Till death do us part.

Operation Happy House (aka The Crazy House)

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Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

My friend posted this sign on Facebook. It happened to coincide with Operation Happy House. A home renovation project that began with a thought. It probably originated months back when I looked around and wondered why my house was so dull. And dark. Because I love color. Bright color. It was then I wisely deemed my dark surroundings played a large part in my dark countenance. Thus, I decided it was time for a change. I wanted the sun. Sunshiny yellow or orange would brighten my walls and lighten my mood. Here comes the sun became my motto. Yellow would fix me…

So not long after when my husband announced it was time to re-do our floors, I was all for it. More than ready. But I find the pig in a pancake series holds true in real life. Especially with home modification. See, if you give a pig a pancake, she’ll want some syrup to go with it. Likely, she’ll get all sticky and need a bath and will want to use your bath bubbles. And so on and something like that. Well, as for a home remodel, if you give a pig a new floor, she’ll want to paint the old cabinets because they just won’t do. And if you paint the cabinets, she’ll want a new wall color. Yellow. It had to be yellow… the color of the sun. And then, when you give her a new wall color, she’ll definitely want a new rug for the floor. And so on. This is where I’ve dwelt for months now. Consumed by color and placement. Faintly, in the far recesses of my mind I heard God’s warning…

Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? Haggai 1:4

But see, God wasn’t talking to me. He couldn’t be. Because I was going to fix up my house. I was going to fix me. The color of the sun. A bright reflection of His glory splayed across my walls and across my face. No, I must have heard incorrectly. And so, a month or so back, I began my endeavor. I started with the cabinets…

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Don’t worry. They’re not this color – creamy white went on top. I just wanted the other colors to peep through. Next, I painted my desk… yellow of course.

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And then, perhaps I went a bit overboard. I started painting everything in sight.

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Green and teal, yellow and orange. My husband said our house was going to look like a playhouse. And you know what… he may be right. For when you add in all the other colors of my house, it will in fact resemble a kid’s haven. All the colors of the rainbow. Jason began to affectionately (I hope) call it the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Come inside, come inside… if you dare.

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Needless to say, I’ve been busy building up my house. Or at least that’s what I thought I was doing. However, last night gives evidence to the contrary. Because I had a meltdown. A big one. Maybe one of the biggest ever. In fact, I was downright UGLY. So ugly.

But first, let me explain. Last Sunday, I was elated. Walking on air. Pumped. Because I was still in the beginning stages of the venture. My household was completely packed up. The old floors had been removed poised for floor installation the following day. And the icing on the cake? I saw a sign I wanted on HGTV. I loved it. And lo and behold, a mere hour or two later, I found such a sign for my very own walls… It was perfect. It seemed as if God were blessing our undertaking.

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Then came the week of the actual project. It was tiring. We lived in my mom’s basement. There was a lot of back and forth and juggling. Annabelle was out of her element and slept fitfully. Levi spent the week with Me-Maw and Pa-Paw, so he received extra attention. Extra spoiling. And I became tired. So tired. Come Saturday, it was time to move back in. And I was bound and determined to unpack every single box.

But my husband warned me. Let me just say how much I love him. A bit sarcastic. Very dry humor. And handsome to boot. However, no one can make me angrier. No one. And Saturday, he made me mad. MAD. Because he was the voice of reason. When I told him my plan to finish the house, he said, “Pam, that’s crazy.” He told me how tired I would be. He reminded me I would be up all night with Annabelle, for she had been sleeping fitfully. He told me how cranky I would get… And so, I felt mad. Nevertheless, I decided to heed his warning and stop around 8:00 pm.

Which lead to yesterday. The meltdown. My bit of craziness last night. Putting my house back in order ended up taking all weekend. Finally, the last item was in place. The floor was swept up, and it was time to unwind. But before I could relax, my plant leaked water all over the new floors dripping through to the basement. Next, the power went out. And me being me, I thought I could still take a shower. Turns out, you can’t. Once I was good and lathered, the water went out. Apparently, the water pump is electric.

But finally, finally, all was good. Annabelle went down early so I was able to fall asleep on the couch around 8:00. I was going to turn in early. And because Annabelle was finally in her crib after a week’s hiatus, surely she’d slumber through. Turns out she didn’t. When 8:45 rolled around, she did too.  The boys turned in and Annabelle woke up. And me? How was my countenance? Well, not sunshiny yellow like my walls. In fact, it was dark as night. For I was mad. MAD. I was tired. Overworked from the week of beautifying my home. Exhausted from building up my house.

I gave Annabelle a bottle to settle her and ever so quietly, placed her back in the crib. I had just settled on the potty only to hear, “Mom?” I remained silent. I did not want to wake my baby. Again, my son called out “Mom?” If I stayed quiet, surely he’d stop talking. Didn’t he know Annabelle was finally asleep??? Again, “Mom!” And that’s when it happened. I snapped. I yelled louder than my son called out. “Shut up!! I’m sitting on the pot!” Shut up is what I said to my son. Loud. Oh, there’s more to this debacle but you get the picture. And last night, after the fiasco, I was the picture of remorse. I was filled with grief.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” Matthew 7:24-27

So what happened? Where was my happiness? My joy? The walls were painted orangy-yellow. The furniture was in place. The new floors were swept. However, the house renovation culminated in me becoming a raving lunatic. The end result was not what I expected. I wasn’t fixed!

Finally, when my senses returned, I went to my son. My firstborn. It was 9:30. Past bedtime. I asked if he wanted a story. Amazingly, he said yes. I selected a picture book and the first story turned out to be the parable of the two foundations. One on rock, one on sand. And I heard God this time. He was talking to me… Is this a time for you to live luxuriously in paneled houses while my house remains in ruins? A portion of Psalm 127 reverberated through my heart, “Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain.” Yes, all my activity had been in vain. Because my foundation was shaky. For the entire last week of Operation Happy House, I neglected spending time with God. And the result was a brittle, frail, erratic, impatient woman. A crazy lady… see, my collapse was great.

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Ever hear the expression, “Charity begins at home”? Well, charity is another word for love. And though it’s not scriptural, it’s truth. See that picture above… those are my kids. My loves. And for some reason, those I love the most get the worst of me. See, I had good intentions. I wanted to be happy. I thought outside influences, like colors, would do the trick. But they didn’t. And because I was hell-bent on getting my happy house in order, I ignored the one thing I should have been doing. Quieting myself before the Lord.

See, I want to build up God’s house. I really do. But in order to build up His household, I have to start with my own. Because truth is, my kids are part of His house. They’re my first mission. And when I let myself get out of whack, they suffer. My house, which is God’s house, lies in ruins. I must begin with them…

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

See, color on the wall won’t do the trick. It’s the color of my heart that matters. For what’s inside eventually spills out. If I want orangy-yellow… the brightness of the sun and the reflection of glory… I need to put Him inside me. Truth is, He’s already there. I just need to tap into Him. His glory. That’s when I’ll find my happy.

Funny thing is, the night before I packed up my house I listened to a well-known Bible teacher. She taught on the blessing of Asher out of Deuteronomy. Asher. It means blessing, but also, happy. It means happy. Through that teaching, I learned something big. It has to do with the Proverbs 31 woman…

Her children arise and call her blessed.

It’s there in that word. Blessed. That’s Asher. That’s happy. And that’s what I want. More than anything, I want my children to arise and call me happy. Last night? If my son had the words in him, I think he would have arose and called me something else.

And so, my heart aches for this today. I want my children to witness a happy mother. And to know that they are the biggest part of my blessing. My joy. Will I ever, ever learn? See, I know what to do. I know what makes me happy…

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And I know what makes me crazy. And yet, crazy is my default. I get so busy. Hell-bent on accomplishing my stuff. Set on building up my house my way. With yellow. With paint. My happy house. My play house… As Jason said, it’s the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse… come inside, yes, come inside. If you dare.