This is an annual update of a post I wrote last year around this time, which can be found here, if you have any interest. A good bit has been rewritten to include new material as my wife continues to do such an excellent job of exemplifying this passage. And as I said last year the point is not to brag, this is simply one of my ways to honor my wife.
An excellent wife who can find? Done! Not the brag, but I found one. Seriously, I am not trying to brag. I would like to take this particular post and honor my excellent wife, N. My goal is not so much instruction as to simply praise the really lovely woman I married.
First a few ground rules. We are only four years in so there are a few parts of Proverbs 31 that we have not gotten to yet. I take it that the description is of an older women, e.g. not a lot of preschoolers are rising up to call her blessed. Therefore in the areas that we have not reached in our marriage I will skip over. I also plan to revisit this yearly if we have covered something new and I will update.
10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
I mean really, N is just fantastic. If she were prideful enough to write this her exact quote should be, “nailed it.”
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
A few years ago a friend summed up N this way, “she can be incredibly irritating, but has character all over the place.” I realize this is a backhanded complement but live with anyone long enough and the truth of it sinks in.** Character outweighs any irritant, sometimes it is the irritant simply because it dictates what is right when wrong is calling out. The character N possesses is strong and it not only does me good but does for other people. I find it ironic how sometimes N is seen as an old school harsh because of her flat out honesty, but when the crisis comes she is the one people go to because she won’t lie to them.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
I am an avid indoorsman, I hate all things involving nature, up to and including lawn care. N, on the other hand, loves all things yard oriented. She mows the front yard twice, once in each direction, and then rakes it. Which is far more than I could be convinced to do. But more than that she wrangles her many flowerbeds and other outdoors projects. This past spring one of our trees fell across are yard. N, having half a day off of work, borrowed a neighbors chainsaw and cut a good bit of it up while I was at work. For weeks she drug debris to the curb… our curb, our neighbors curb, the other neighbors curb. If she thought she could have convinced the people across the street I am pretty sure she would have put limbs on their side too. So yeah, willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
Specifically Whiskey. Not only does this wonderful woman, when she is out traveling, look for things that we can’t find in Memphis; but sometimes she surprises me with a random rare whiskey. Recently it was a very good Kavalan. A very good Kavalan. From Taiwan. And then she found two more! The exact quote from my friends were “I would deduce that she loves you” and “that is true love.”
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
This time around I am going to focus on her providing food and portions. Recently I hosted a lads night where I contributed the whiskey tasting. But the entire evening would have been a failure had my wife not spread out a delicious meal for the lot of us. The portions were so huge and even after that was struck when Hudson was walking around with the bowl of remaining taco meat merrily forking it in. The gents were not exactly maidens but still they are adjunct to our household and the joy they express at her faithfulness in preparing and serving up such feasts is astounding. I can not think of a time when she has not planned ahead for hospitality and excelled in everyones expectations.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
We have not bought a field but she was the driving force behind us buying a house and land. I hate change and had burrowed into my apartment like the little tick I am. And the place was perfect for one (The horror on my landlords face when she realized I had painted everything and built floor to ceiling, wall to wall bookshelves was incredible.) That said she also does a lot of planting, we don’t have a vineyard… yet, but she did plant hops which are more valuable in home brewing.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
N does far better than me at making her “arms strong” She works hard at exercise, which I hate. With a passion. Beyond this, and I know this is a bit outside of the direct point, N has a strength of character and conviction that is intimidating to others. I hear pastors talking about wanting their daughters to, “grow up to be a beast.” Well I got one of those. Not only is she physically strong but she has the character to match.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
N doesn’t really sell stuff. We buy more from Etsy than we sell. She does a decent amount of sewing. She doesn’t like it, but she does it. And she does a good job several of my favorite shirts and sweaters have had their lives extended due to her. (If you read last years version there was a comment about our lamps all going out at night due to N’s thriftiness with the utility bill. In that time I have convinced her to leave three LED lamps on at night so I can see my way around if I need to.)
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
I will submit to the record an evening when I has meeting with an old friend, and as he and I sat on the porch with cigars and and scotch a rain storm blew in. As we enjoyed the exciting weather from the relative comfort of our smoky porch I saw a neighbor woman walk by, soaked to to bone and barefoot. My first thought was it was a typical midtown hipster out for a euphoric walk in the rain. But then she walked by a second time, on the third she turned up our driveway and walked weeping onto our porch. As I seated her and offered her water to drink she tried to apologize for walking up so suddenly, she had fought with her new husband and walked out upset. This was something of a bind. While this poor woman needed care, I didn’t want to kick out my friend who I had not seen for several years. Saw this predicament and came out. She comforted the woman for a while then welcomed her into our house. She subtly seated the woman so that they were still in eye sight, just in case, and cared for her while I was able to continue catching up with my friend. At the end of the evening he told me how he had never seen anyone spring into hospitable action like that or a married couple being so in sync on how they did it. It would not have been so smooth or even so effortless if it were not for the excellence of my wife.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Ok, I am a ginger so not a lot of scarlet is being worn by me. I’m gonna take this one to talk about how N is modest in her dress. She does not come off as the kind of homeschooler that sews their own gingham dresses. Nor does she follow every wind of fashion. N does a good job of presenting herself publicly. She is never ostentatious not shabby. With the occasional exception of a particular grey hoodie she won’t let die making an appearance, she is never an embarrassment to be seen with. Also she does a great job with bed linens, buying, cleaning, rotating seasonally… I feel like that goes with the, “Bed coverings” bit.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
If I may stretch this one a tad. One of N’s qualities is how she recognizes and respects the need for me to spend time with other men, unobstructed. In one of the episodes of Kevin DeYoung’s Life Books and Everything podcast he talks about how churches with women in elder meetings changes the tone of the meeting. And the principal applies to gatherings of Christian men. N hates to be left out of things but she has learned that when she inserts herself the point of the gathering shifts and sometimes the conversations that needed to happen don’t. Because she graciously gives distance not only are those time with men productive and edifying for all involved but she also gains their trust. More often than not it is my friends who invite her to join us, they appreciate her perspective and company. Her authority in our group grows not because she has grasped and grabbed for it but because she has accepted responsibility for herself and protecting things that matter. Conversely, I have a friend who’s wife does insert and assert herself and frequently it leads to everyone being put of sorts. Part of my good reputation with other men lies not in my own wisdom or charm but in my wife’s self-control.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
I pointed out last year that this section is about financial responsibility. And this year N’s work in this area really came to the fore. if 2020 was rough for the nation and great for me. 2021 has made up for lost time. We hit some major financial hurdles and N was not only prepared but had ways to navigate them where we were lacking. Money is yet another area where I have the competence of a P.G. Wodehouse lead. N’s planning and ability to figure out things was stunning to watch.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
This one is kind of N’s job description since we teach kids together as our work. That being said she teaches wisely with the young women she disciples. And though she does not like or always follow southern social mores she is very kind. Even when someone has been insulted they heard the truth in what N meant as a kindness.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
While we never went hungry as children, I can not say that my sisters and I ate “good food.” Which is what makes N’s culinary abilities such a pleasure. While not a great chef, she makes the kind of hearty, solid, generous fare that I love, and she makes it well. As I write she is working on some sort of steak and potato dish, similar to a shepherds pie but with an American twist. A great irony is that with my obsession with Hobbits or the British manor house, the idea of a packed larder has always deeply appealed to me. And now while not exactly a cool underground room with a wheel of parmesan to chip away at next to the wine rack (which is really a scotch shelf) she has us so well stocked that it’s almost embarrassing with the options available. N shops far and wide in our area finding deals and storing up. It is hard work, unloading her car after a grocery run is like a comestible Christmas morning.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
We still don’t have any kids, but I can testify to how my friends praise N. Over the past year my Thursdays have become a lads night beginning at my beloved Hammer and eventually moving to the house. Somewhere in that space food is needed to forfend the sin of drunkenness. N either prepares a meal or lays out a spread of snack-age. As the group has continued to grow, N’s renown has. Wether it is a mountain of cheese sticks with a volcanic center of marinara, or a cheese board stacked with creamy fromages that complement dark cigars, down to a pile of chicken nuggets with sauces; the fact that she feeds us and then leaves us alone gains her much praise. And the last bit is also an important part. As mentioned above I have sat with many men whose wives tend to treat them as one more of the children, someone to be supervised or must be attended to constantly. As Lewis describes through Screwtape: “A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. As a result, a woman who is quite far gone in the Enemy’s service will make a nuisance of herself on a larger scale than any man.” My N understands that taking trouble constantly produces the opposite effect of actually giving trouble. She has demonstrated many times that once we are set, and it is a night for men, we can refill our own water pitchers. This earns her much praise, from the other men who find our house to be a place where they can freely fellowship in a rough and ready way without interruptions or looking over their shoulder so as not to cause offense by merely being men. Rather than being resented my wife is praised both to her face and behind her back.
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Matt Chandler is fond of reminding young couples that are, for lack of a better description, horny and driven by attraction that, “Gravity wins.” Beauty is like chasing after the wind, even outside of human beauty which ages and fades, or even vogues determine what kind of girl is beautiful. Beauty in general is fleeting. Think of the flower in bloom that withers and dies and then in striving to hold on to the beauty is replaced with a fake version that gathers dust, cobwebs, and if left in the sun fades to one monochrome shade of yellow.*** Charm likewise can cover many flaws early on. But character, which is rooted in the character of Christ only grows and becomes more attractive. In the summer N and I work at a camp for three weeks and each week we have a new batch of young high school age volunteers. Many of them are in the bloom of youth and are attractive people, they are drawn to each other. But it always fascinates me working with the boys how at the end of the week the most beautiful girl can become unattractive because of how camp brings out the worst in people. It’s hard labor, and frankly always being outdoors in the mid south, in July, quickly renders the ability to remain dolled up impossible. Tempers can flare, irritation grows more quickly, 80 kids put a real harsh on romantic vibes. But the girls with character… They become more interesting to the boys, because they consistently manifest the fruits of the Spirit, even under pressure. Camp provides these young men with a perspective I have known for some time now. A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. And pursued.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
I love how this proverb returns us to the gates, where a person is held in honor. It is an exposition on a Biblical principal. Authority flows to those who take responsibility; not to those who grasp and grab for it. The modern thought is that respect should be demanded by women, they have to force themselves into the boys club. And many current writers trying to exegete this extended proverb assert this thinking. But the flow of the passage shows that the authority and respect are earned. After all of the other works are accomplished the public acknowledgement and reward comes at the end. Like everything else in life what matters most is not the first day, but the last one. Whenever N and I travel up north to her home it always stuns me how respected she is everywhere she goes. Churches bend over backwards to come have her speak about missions. She spent her entire life (up until I drug her down here) building up the kind of reputation where she is praised everywhere she goes. And she has started doing it here. Her work and character make praise naturally flow to her.
*Following Lewis example in his personal letters I am using first initials. Update 2021: I am still floored by the fact I get to say, “my wife.”
**Granted I could say the same thing about his wife so, it’s sort of a mutual thing.
***Stole that idea from Bekah Merkle.