imperfect prose on thursdays: laughing at the days

(post and photo by suzannah paul)

When she said, “Where better to look than Proverbs 31?”
my heart sunk hard and I lifted tea to lips in lame disguise.

I am Suzannah’s complete lack of enthusiasm

In this sorority, we’re tested veterans,
survivors of grueling initiation.
Keepers of the homefront in sweltering season
where husbands serve God and other mama’s kids
from dawn ’til taps, repeat.

We labor, too, in ops covert.
Hidden in plain sight, your gaze bore through, unseeing.

Accustomed to solo kid-wrangling
(although not proficient by any stretch),
we manage baths and bedtimes,
quell meltdowns and pray against takedown
by fearsome torpedoes, devastating in beauty and will

Adult conversations are rare as rubies, or solitude;
it’s a shame this one’s so much about trying harder.
Being Better. Doing More.

That Proverbs 31 gal, she’s a first degree doer:
working vigorously
providing planting
making sewing trading
spinningspinningspinning
She does not eat the bread of idleness!

Her character praiseworthy,
her competence incomparable.
Her lamp does not go out at night
and she rises before the sun.
Her agenda leaves me dizzy and I wonder,
is there joy deep in the serving, in the honor of hard work?

Does she serve to please her King or prove her worth?

Does she know Whose she is when striving slows,
when illness strikes or the money runs out?
When drought presses heavy, can she
trust the Gardener who makes all thing grow?

Be still, dear one, and
Know. Abide.
Laugh at days to come, for

he gives to his beloved sleep
and rest to weary souls

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114 Comments

  1. I love …love this…Does she serve to please her King or to prove herself worth…right there is where bondage and freedom live side by side…just a thin veil between the two. You bring it all around to where we need to be…still…knowing we are loved and then we can rest and laugh at the days to come. You are amazing sweet lady…xoxoxo to you my friend:)

    Reply
  2. How many times have we looked at that Proverbs 31 woman and sighed? I wonder how she would have described herself. Probably not with the lofty accolades we read.

    My favorite of that passage is, “She opens her mouth in wisdom and laughs at the days to come.”

    Oh, that I can learn to laugh at the days to come in the midst of “not eating the bread of idleness.”

    Reply
  3. you know, as i have grown more into womanhood, the more i struggle to marry the thoughts of the prov. 31 woman with one that “laughs at the future” i have to fight hard against my childhood preset of being a first-degree doer and fall at the feet of grace. when i find myself there, i find the laughter. beautiful, as always, Suzannah.

    Reply
    • it is a strange contrast, the busy coupled with the lack of worry. she must have known the discipline of sabbath. i wish we knew more.

      grace and laughter–i like that pairing:)

      Reply
  4. Does she serve to please her King or prove her worth?

    YES, YES, YES!

    This is the problem as I see it. Prov 31 was never intended to be a to-do list, but rather to be an encouragement. Each of us has our own to-do list, and they may all look very different, but that doesn’t make mine right and yours wrong.

    Thank you for this : )

    Reply
  5. smiles….nice look at this…i can fall into the doer trap very easy…easy to follow a checklist, but…the self worth thing…yeah….nice ping…smiles

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  6. I’ve given up on Proverbs 31. My mom’s achieved it. I’ll never. I’m mostly ok with it, but I have my nagging doubts, sometimes. You spin words, Suzannah; I think that’s cooler than spinning wool or whatever else.

    Reply
    • some women are built that way…but we lead and serve and love out of our gifting, and we’re all so very different!

      brandee, you bless me:)

      Reply
  7. I know why God put this passage in the Bible … because He knew that every woman likes a good mystery to solve, a knot to untangle. I’ve been untangling this one for decades but love the way God brings new light to it every time I come face to face with Him. Great post, Suzannah!

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  8. I appreciate the direction of this as it bent toward real – love it!

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  9. beautiful poem! gives me something to ponder today–i want this balance in my life. thank you.

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  10. Sometimes we can get caught up in the works instead of the grace and compassion….at least that is how I see it….love the thought provoking questions in this Emily…it is always an inspiration to stop and read your words. :-)

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  11. Sorry….i think i accidently linked twice…i went back and did not see it the first time….oooops… :-)

    Reply
  12. “Does she serve to please her King or prove her worth?” Love this. I think it is far too easy to become susceptible to law (the legalistic things we prescribe to) versus love (living a grace-soaked life rooted in Him).

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  13. Emily – Oh not the act, but the heart and motivation of the act. That is exactly what God has been teaching me. We are Proverbs 31 women who “do” because we are loved…not hoped to be loved so we “do”. Why do I sometimes get it backwards? Am reminded constantly that we can love Him because He first loved us. And while we were still wretched sinners (out of love for us) He died for us. Now that makes me want to serve my King! Blessings this beautiful day my friend, Jen

    Reply
  14. I’ve wondered the same about that Prov 31 woman, and I’m sure she knows for whom she does it all for and why..but sometimes I forget. And it takes me awhile to remember. Loved this!!

    Reply
    • i forget, too. all those diapers and spills and laundry…and the discipline and the (my) getting it wrong. grateful for those mercies new every morning and moment:)

      Reply
  15. Loved this post – your reaction to Prov 31 is exactly mine – and a small pit of dread. I read an interesting blog a few months back posing the question whether Proverbs 31 was supposed to be an ‘idealised’ woman – who doesn’t exist. I’m not sure about the idealised part – but I am quite enthusiastic about the idea that she might not exist…!

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  16. oh how this stirs the glad in me:)
    thank you….ever so much of a thank you!
    -Jennifer

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  17. That Proverbs 31 is not for the feint of heart :). Isn’t grace the best thing? I really enjoyed this reflection, Suzannah :).

    Reply
  18. this gripped me hard.

    sometimes, i read that passage and i cringe, wondering how my mother could be this way, but i fall so far short.

    refreshing to know that i can be me, and not her, and most certainly, not this woman of Proverbs 31…it’s okay to just be me.

    Reply
    • yes! we image our creative God uniquely. you, me, ms. proverbs…and your sweet marian abigail. he in not God of small boxes or carbon copies but freedom and great grace.

      Reply
  19. Beautiful, Emily — the Bible gives us Godly examples, not only the Prov. 31 woman, but Jesus Himself. We all fall short, but He loves us in our imperfections, and one day we shall be as He is.
    Love to you, dear one.
    Laurie

    Reply
  20. “Does she serve to please her King or prove her worth?”

    I have never thought of that. That totally puts a new spin on it. I love that thought.

    Reply
  21. I too try over and over to unravel Proverbs 31. I love how you’ve done it, Susannah. Great post.

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  22. Beautiful weaving of words, Suzannah! I stand with you in believing that God calls us to agendas of serving that will be deep, deep wells of joy in our lives. That is the glory of God — living fully alive — yes?

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  23. One of the best things I’ve read lately.

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  24. I already left a comment for Suzannah. But I need Emily’s help now. I tried to put your new book’s picture with Amazon link on my blog, but it comes out too small to see all the words on the cover. Can I have a link for a larger image that takes the reader to the Amazon site? Sorry I am technologically challenged. :) Thank you! I am sorry if you’ve already provided this and I missed it.

    Reply
  25. Depending on whether I am feeling discouraged or upbeat, that Proverbs 31 woman is either a God-send or an excuse to eat a pint of Hagen Daaz!

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  26. This is beautiful because it is so honest. I let go of the list of doing in Proverbs 31 and look at her character instead. The way she lives her life is admirable but I don’t have to be exactly like her in order to be acceptable.

    Reply
  27. love this, suzannah. knowing and abiding. rest for weary souls. all things i’m heavily doing these days, and love to read of others who remind me to keep on.
    blessings. . . holding on with you,
    steph

    Reply
  28. Yes, that place of abiding is where He desires us to rest. Without, there is no Proverbs 31 woman or man, no strength, no love…

    lovely post

    Reply
    • your words make me think of jesus seeking out quiet places for prayer in between ministering to the crowds. thanks.

      Reply
  29. While she doesn’t eat the bread of idleness – I so hope the Proverb 31 woman knows how to pause, wrap a hug around her children and just stop. I’ve always considered the Proverbs 31 woman a holistic woman – the buying and selling of land her hearts hobby that brings blessing to the family – Then I think about how she had servants to organize and clothe – there is much said and unsaid there – I think she was a woman fulfilled where she was – and that is the key!

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  30. Rest was on my mind today, too.

    Thanks for this.

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  31. I have been procrastinating writing a piece about how Proverbs 31 kept my faith stagnant and false for a great many years. It was the passage I kept coming back to, the one thing as a new Christian, new wife, new mom that I knew I was “supposed” to do… and never could. Then I read this and… wow. I can’t believe how much exactly what has been swimming around in my head lately regarding this is right here in this post.

    And let’s not forget, the Proverbs 31 Woman had servants. ;)

    Reply
    • right?? i’m remembering that slate piece about how the highest rates of depression are found among low-income stay at home moms. having a village–or the ability to hire help–goes a long way…

      Reply
  32. it is a strange contrast, the busy coupled with the lack of worry. she must have known the discipline of sabbath. i wish we knew more.

    grace and laughter–i like that pairing:)

    Reply
  33. it is a strange contrast, the busy coupled with the lack of worry. she must have known the discipline of sabbath. i wish we knew more.

    grace and laughter–i like that pairing:)

    Reply
  34. some women are built that way…but we lead and serve and love out of our gifting, and we’re all so very different!

    brandee, you bless me:)

    Reply
  35. some women are built that way…but we lead and serve and love out of our gifting, and we’re all so very different!

    brandee, you bless me:)

    Reply
  36. How important…that…Laugh at days to come…is there. Perhaps we put the spinning from our vantage point.

    I love that you coupled the laugh at the days to come with resting, abiding, trusting. They sound like lack of work.

    Teach us, O Lord, how to rest, trust, and abide as we surrender to the work of our hands that He has given us to do.

    Reply
  37. i forget, too. all those diapers and spills and laundry…and the discipline and the (my) getting it wrong. grateful for those mercies new every morning and moment:)

    Reply
  38. i forget, too. all those diapers and spills and laundry…and the discipline and the (my) getting it wrong. grateful for those mercies new every morning and moment:)

    Reply
  39. yes! we image our creative God uniquely. you, me, ms. proverbs…and your sweet marian abigail. he in not God of small boxes or carbon copies but freedom and great grace.

    Reply
  40. yes! we image our creative God uniquely. you, me, ms. proverbs…and your sweet marian abigail. he in not God of small boxes or carbon copies but freedom and great grace.

    Reply
  41. Really hard to keep striving. Hope you are well. k.

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  42. Miss Suzannah -
    It’s fascinating how you started out the poem from your vantage point and your own self at the center and morphed it to the opposite by the end with God as a woman’s focal point.

    Proverbs 31 is part of the entire package — not the whole lot of who we are as women. Thank you for sharing this piece here today.

    Blessings.

    Reply
    • yes, the whole package! the psalm “unless the Lord builds the house” echoed in my mind–and much about sabbath and grace. 31 is the start of a conversation–not its last word.

      thanks, darlene.

      Reply
  43. “Be still, dear one, and
    Know. Abide.”

    Suzannah, Oh, yes, I know the shame and exhaustion of striving, and I love the truth He brings — of our rest in Him giving us any energy, any motivation, any vision and prompting we need to live the good of the life He’s given. Your poem is such a gift to my heart. Thank you.

    Reply
    • mmm…vision within rest. not vegging or tuning out, but real, life-giving rest as place that propels us into faithful service. you’ve got me thinking, friend!

      Reply
  44. If I’m judged by my gardening or sewing skills, I’m in big trouble. And exhausted. But if I use the gifts He’s given me and if that doing flows out of being, I’m energized.

    And it takes a wise woman to stop to admire a sunset or a butterfly or just sit with Him.

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  45. Simply brilliant.
    I am bookmarking.
    And sharing.
    xx

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  46. Beautifully written. I need that rest now for my soul is so very weary.

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  47. right?? i’m remembering that slate piece about how the highest rates of depression are found among low-income stay at home moms. having a village–or the ability to hire help–goes a long way…

    Reply
  48. right?? i’m remembering that slate piece about how the highest rates of depression are found among low-income stay at home moms. having a village–or the ability to hire help–goes a long way…

    Reply
  49. yes, the whole package! the psalm “unless the Lord builds the house” echoed in my mind–and much about sabbath and grace. 31 is the start of a conversation–not its last word.

    thanks, darlene.

    Reply
  50. yes, the whole package! the psalm “unless the Lord builds the house” echoed in my mind–and much about sabbath and grace. 31 is the start of a conversation–not its last word.

    thanks, darlene.

    Reply
  51. mmm…vision within rest. not vegging or tuning out, but real, life-giving rest as place that propels us into faithful service. you’ve got me thinking, friend!

    Reply
  52. mmm…vision within rest. not vegging or tuning out, but real, life-giving rest as place that propels us into faithful service. you’ve got me thinking, friend!

    Reply
  53. your words make me think of jesus seeking out quiet places for prayer in between ministering to the crowds. thanks.

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  54. your words make me think of jesus seeking out quiet places for prayer in between ministering to the crowds. thanks.

    Reply
  55. Suzannah–I don’t know if it’s that I’m tired, or hormonal, but I like to think it’s not. And even if it is, then it’s only highlighting that which lies within cannot be thought through or analyzed or diplomatically say, “I see both sides.” Rather, I am broken by these words. Broken that I strive for that in times of my life. Broken that I know so many women who do not eat the bread of idleness. Broken for those who use grace as an excuse who do nothing. We know by the searching of the Spirit where we land on the paradigm, and only through the ‘Gardener’ can we take delight in working the garden & feasting in the garden. You’re words bring these awake more vividly in my depths. thank you sweet friend.

    Reply
    • to work and to feast in the garden–i LOVE how you see hospitality everywhere! this perfectly ties in, and you are right, we err on both sides. sometimes, my work and rest are both unfaithful…some of these ways we “rest” have little to do with sabbath, and it does not equip us to serve as we’re called.

      Reply
  56. Oh that Proverbs 31 woman; she makes me sigh deeply. I am ever hopeful that she, this “ideal woman,” is there to encourage us to be the best “us” He created us to be. It may look a bit different with each of us, but I am grateful for grace and knowing that He looks on the heart.

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  57. Suzannah, “he gives sleep to his beloved and rest for weary souls” is a joyful melody to me, and truth. Also the line: “Does she know Whose she is when striving slows?” Yes, Whose we are is the source of my strength and rest.

    Thank you, Abba daddy.

    Thanks, Suzannah, for this.

    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

    Reply
  58. “Accustomed to solo kid-wrangling” loved this line. Great images here. Thank you for it!

    This my first time here. I really like whatcha got going on :)

    Amanda @ http://www.the-cadence.com

    Reply
  59. I look around my home and wonder where is this bread of idleness I must be eating? and wonder where to find my spinning wheel and the lamp to light at night? is it because i don’t have servant girls that i can’t measure up? is it enough that my husband and children arise and call me blessed? proverbs 31 may be the most terrifying piece of scripture for me. you summed up all my fears here.

    Reply
    • oh genevieve, it is enough. we are enough in christ by grace.

      my husband and i had a conversation about what it looks like to honor and serve each other, and he confirmed that what he needs and desires has little to with a spotless kitchen or all the laundry put away. that love language guy is onto something–we ought to love how others receive it, and that may be in time, sex, affirmation, or gifts as much as service.

      Reply
  60. to work and to feast in the garden–i LOVE how you see hospitality everywhere! this perfectly ties in, and you are right, we err on both sides. sometimes, my work and rest are both unfaithful…some of these ways we “rest” have little to do with sabbath, and it does not equip us to serve as we’re called.

    Reply
  61. to work and to feast in the garden–i LOVE how you see hospitality everywhere! this perfectly ties in, and you are right, we err on both sides. sometimes, my work and rest are both unfaithful…some of these ways we “rest” have little to do with sabbath, and it does not equip us to serve as we’re called.

    Reply
  62. oh genevieve, it is enough. we are enough in christ by grace.

    my husband and i had a conversation about what it looks like to honor and serve each other, and he confirmed that what he needs and desires has little to with a spotless kitchen or all the laundry put away. that love language guy is onto something–we ought to love how others receive it, and that may be in time, sex, affirmation, or gifts as much as service.

    Reply
  63. oh genevieve, it is enough. we are enough in christ by grace.

    my husband and i had a conversation about what it looks like to honor and serve each other, and he confirmed that what he needs and desires has little to with a spotless kitchen or all the laundry put away. that love language guy is onto something–we ought to love how others receive it, and that may be in time, sex, affirmation, or gifts as much as service.

    Reply
  64. It’s a rare Christian woman who doesn’t dislike that paragon of Proverbs 31. Poor woman, whoever she was!
    I’ve been thinking about her lately, and wondering… she didn’t write this of herself. Someone else wrote it – an outsider to the thoughts in her heart and her self-image. I too wonder what it would read like if she had written it herself.
    I have been startled lately at several other women’s comments about how relaxed and peaceful I seem as a mother, when I feel completely frazzled and stressed and are glad they don’t live next door to hear me yelling!
    Maybe the Proverbs 31 woman would have written something quite different. Maybe her experience of her life wasn’t at all like the perception of the person who wrote about her. Maybe she had doubts and guilt and never felt like she managed to get the balance right.
    Maybe instead of disliking her for her perfection, we should give her some grace and remember that other’s perceptions of ourselves are never 100% correct :)
    Thank you for your thought-provoking piece.
    Handsfull

    Reply

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