She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. Proverbs 31, verses 14 and 15.
Yesterday we talked about clothing; today let’s chat about food and more. In fact, I’m writing this early in the morning after getting up with my wife while it was still dark out. That’s our routine. More appropriately, during the work-week, that’s her routine. She gets up VERY early, usually about 3:30 to prepare for the day and be at work by 6 AM to open the pre-school where she works. We spend part of the morning together, sharing a cup or two of coffee in bed, doing a couples devotion together, and sometimes having breakfast. When she goes to work, I usually head to the gym or get started on my own day.
This is a routine we’ve done since she moved back into the house. Two years ago, we separated but during that separation we decided to start doing some kind of devotion. When we got back together, it made all the difference in our marriage because it’s been one way God has worked on us. Even though we’ve been through some rocky times since then, we’ve kept up the routine. It’s not just because of her work hours: it’s because of God, her and us (pretty much in that order). That’s such a good thing that my paltry words have a hard time really expressing it. Those of you who like to sleep in are probably thinking we’re insane. 3:30 AM? Are you Terry’s crazy? Well, maybe a little bit, but I prefer to look at it as doing my part – doing our part too – for her to be a successful Proverbs 31 woman.
For that to happen, she likes to attack the day on her own terms. I think this helps to position her – emotionally, spiritually, physically – to be pro-active in things instead of always having to react. Very often, I’ll get up to make that breakfast, and we use that time, too, to talk over things, sometimes pay bills, watch the morning weather, maybe even play with the dogs (we have two). When I don’t get to spend this time with her, my day is off. I won’t speak for her, but I’m betting she could say something similar. If she gets to work with a few small successes already in her pocket, it becomes easier to stay on top of small crises that develop in any workplace (especially in one where the teachers like to ask for time off on the same day).
I don’t know if she realizes how her working helps provide food for our table. As a couple and family, we’re doing better than we have in years, but it still is a huge help to have her extra salary. Her job is a good thing, both to provide her with meaning and calling of her own, and to provide us with extra income that is more than just handy. It means that, in these tough economic times, our pantry is always full and our cupboards are rarely bare. She’s always been good at making weekly menus as well, which helps to plan both our grocery shopping and keep variety in our lives. Sometimes, I get grouchy if we have to spend hours going from store to store to get the best deals; our weekly shopping usually involves some combination of Target, Kroger, Sam’s Club, Market Street and Aldis. She plans the shopping to not only economize our income but also to spend some time together. This past weekend, she was home sick; got that way after pushing herself to hard. That gave me the opportunity to help out and do the shopping. Four stores and a bunch of those reusable bags later, I was exhausted.
It gave me an insight. I don’t get to do it all alone very often, though I usually go to the store every day or so to pick up a thing or two. I’m not one of those husbands who would fall apart if he had to do all the shopping, cooking and house-tending by himself (nor is she the kind of wife who would fall apart that way either). Both of us have survived on our own, so it’s nice to know that someone will do such tough work for me and our kids. I work all week, too, and I got a reminder of how tough it can be for one spouse to do all the shopping and provision for the other. Kids of every generation have to learn anew that life is a tough, working proposition. If you don’t work, you don’t earn income. If you don’t have income, you don’t have a place to live, or car to drive, or food in your belly. If you don’t have those, it becomes awful hard to enjoy that party-all-nite-lie-of-a-lifestyle that Snooki and her pals seem to glamorize. I think many of today’s American kids have an especially rude awakening when they discover that it takes work to run a home, even a small one of their own.
That work is what my wife of noble character does all the time. Her work at the school provides money for our family. Her work at fulfilling our needs for food and clothing provides us with basic necessities. More than these, however, her work provides portions for her servant girls. I’m maybe reaching a little here in saying this; we don’t have servants at my house in Middleclassville, North Texas. Heck, we have teenagers who demand to be served on; good luck with that!
Instead, I’m talking about her vocation and her calling in the community. The work she does on her job – scheduling, billing, working with kids, personnel management, staffing – provides a productive, safe, and structured workplace for people who provide a childcare and education service to customer parents. Very often she comes home frustrated, downloading her hectic day into my waiting ears, talking about how she had to shift people around to keep classrooms in ratio because the company is chronically short-staffed. It takes real effort to make sure 160 kids are all taken care of while trying to meet the desires and needs of people who usually don’t take that into account. Lately I’ve taken to my own kind of work, trying to encourage her that she’s in a calling, witnessing God’s love in a practical manner through her efforts at the school, through her always smiling face, through doing what she does every day. If you have little kids, you’d want them to go to the school where my wife works because it’s a fantastic place to get a good start. One of the biggest reasons for that is because of her and the work she does.
As long as she keeps to this schedule, I’ll do my best to support her in it. Even when I’m away on travel, we still spend time together on the phone in the morning. It’s our fueling time, sharing that coffee, God’s word, and some conversation together, fueling us for the day ahead and how we get to feed and nourish others. It takes work to prepare for work, then to do work, and it takes work to maintain and grow a relationship. But this kind of work is a pleasure. The adage is true that, if you make what you love into your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. When you work to feed your family and you feed them on God’s love in your life, it isn’t work at all, even so early in the morning.