Her phone dings through the Bluetooth speaker on the counter and she knows who the text is from but the message will have to wait. She’s elbow deep in toilet bowl cleaner and smells like wild orange, baking soda, and white vinegar; a concoction she’s been blending since her first little girl, Sarah, was born and she was afraid of her toddler discovering a cabinet full of cleaning chemicals and using them as toys.
As she’s scrubbing, her middle daughter, Kaylee, runs in the room and slams a suitcase on the ground, making a declaration for all who would listen: “I am sleeping at Gram’s tonight! I love you, Mommy, but I need to go to Gram’s.” At the sound of her sister’s triumphant voice, the third baby girl gives her a swift kick in the side, which reminds her to wipe off her hands and check her text message.
“I love Jaymeson! Adding the ‘y’ is perfect,” it reads. She’d been texting her girlfriends asking for thoughts on names for the third little girl that will be joining her family in a few months. “But, you know me. I love different names,” her friend, Chelsea, adds.
Chelsea is a woman of unmatched grit. Her husband is a former professional athlete so, in social settings, most people see him first because of his size and confidence upon entering a room. But, it doesn’t take long to realize that standing next to him is a woman whose strong character, deep intellect, and fierce loyalty are worth noticing.
She’s known Chelsea for a few years and learned so much from their friendship. When Chelsea’s husband developed a drug addiction that nearly destroyed their family, she watched as this woman blossomed from a single parent struggling to find her footing to a woman committed to keeping her family together against all odds. At a time when no one would have blamed her for filing for divorce, Chelsea chose to find herself instead of a lawyer.
Today, Chelsea and her husband run a thriving ministry sharing their story of overcoming addiction, but more importantly their story of fighting for one another instead of against each other. In a world that would have understood, and even applauded, if Chelsea chose to leave and air out the dirty laundry of their marriage, she chose to bring Truth and challenge to their household. Chelsea chose to fight for who she knew her husband could be and he had the humility to recognize the good, not harm, she was bringing to their household.
Her pregnancy emotions are out of control as she’s scrubbing toilets and reflecting on the joy she feels over the woman Chelsea is today. Casual housework becomes a holy practice as she praises God for the redeeming work He does.
She’s feeling the exhaustion of the afternoon and heads to the kitchen for a pick-me-up. As she opens the cabinet to choose her flavor for the day, she giggles as she thinks of how this cabinet full of Arbonne ended up filling her shelves. Her friend, Denise, had been after her for years to try these products, but with the postpartum depression following her second little girl, she couldn’t handle the stress of changing her routine. Every time Denise brought up the idea of health products it felt like a glaring reminder of her body failing her and the hormonal issues that caused a miscarriage, kept her from being able to nurse her girls, and was leaving her in a dark mental state.
Of course, Denise had no way of knowing this; she was just trying to be a good friend and bring the healthy lifestyle that worked for her into the homes of her friends. It didn’t help their friendship that she was too exhausted to process her thoughts and communicate them with her friend. The resilient woman that she is, Denise stuck around but kept her distance until the timing was right to reconnect. She was bothered by the disconnect, but focused on what God had for her and her family.
Denise travels across the country growing her business and bringing back wisdom and resources from afar. Every mornings, she makes smoothies for her daughters to start their days, then she jumps on video calls to share with her growing team of women how Arbonne can pay their bills and Jesus can pierce their hearts. A planner to her core, Denise has encouragement and tasks ready for her team every time they gather. She adores her kids and husband, values every person she leads, and has become the chef and business leader she never dreamt possible.
“Passionfruit La Croix with the pink champagne fizz stick is the combo today. Literally amazing,” she texts Denise. As she hits send, she thanks God that he helped her swallow her pride and bridge the gap that had formed in their friendship. She knows it was her fault, but it took years for her to process the mental place she was in.
“You are the fizz combo queen! I have to try that,” Denise responds.
Thank the Lord that his redemptive process is never on a timeline but always just waiting for us to desire reconciliation more than self-preservation.
Turquoise Target cup in hand, she heads to the next room to keep cleaning. She checks on Sarah and Kaylee to make sure they’re actually cleaning their bedrooms and not fighting, only to discover they’ve emptied their drawers of every stuffed animal they own and are deep in another argument over what the baby’s name will be.
“Girls, finish picking up your things. Somehow, you’ve made more of a mess than when you started cleaning,” she interjects. They stare at her, unaware of when she entered the room but very aware that they are caught. She heads to the next room to start putting away the clutter her family has left sitting around during the endless days spent at home.
“Hi, it’s me, Hannah BigHair,” her speaker suddenly says. She laughs every time this song begins. Her friend, Hannah, sent her a recording of a song they wrote together. She liked it, so she added it to her playlist but didn’t know how to edit out the beginning and end where Hannah was talking to her in a voice message. She eventually decided she liked it better with the quirky introduction anyways.
As the song plays, she sings along and thanks God for her friend. Her children look up to Hannah and have come to love music because of how they watch her lead worship at their church and in their living room. What her girls will someday learn is that Hannah is also one of the hardest working women around. She is an accountant, just twenty-five years old but already promoted multiple times by the firm she works for. During tax season, she works upwards of sixty hours per week and her clients sing praises for how well she handles their accounts. Hannah is one of those people whose energy changes a room for the better. Accounting is her job, but faith is her passion.
She’s picking up dirty socks off the ground and her mind wanders to her friend, Mel, a quiet soul she met through Hannah. She’s made it a habit to pray for Mel each time she comes to mind, and to sometimes send her humorous cat memes when she’s finished praying.
Mel is a deep and complicated soul. She cares for marginalized people groups more intensely and tangibly than most others can fathom. As a social worker, Mel’s job is taxing in so many ways. Her prayers for Mel are usually surrounding mental health, physical strength, and the discipline to care for herself spiritually.
Caring for multiple case loads at a time, Mel’s days are filled with meeting the needs of others, opening her arms wide to whatever chaos comes her way. She takes her cases seriously and ensures that any house under her supervision has the clothing and necessities they need, food for every growing belly, and a parent that is mentally prepared for whatever emotions come with the day. She knows what it’s like to feel despair and her heart’s desire is to be tangible hope for others.
“I miss my women,” she sighs and says aloud. They are in week seven of quarantine in Ohio as the governor is attempting to protect his state from the global coronavirus pandemic. It’s a weird season where she is finding herself thriving from the results of a slowed down life and becoming a better, more patient mother to her children. However, she is beginning to miss conversations on front porches enjoyed over hot coffee and early morning catch-ups with her old roommate at the local bar that serves the best breakfast in the city.
“Mom, can we go play with Theo and Shiloh?” Sarah asks as she takes yet another break from cleaning her room.
“Not today,” she answers. “But, why don’t you color them some pictures and we can leave a surprise in their mailbox?” The girls don’t understand why they haven’t seen their friends in weeks, but she’s working on distractions to pass the time.
Jordan, Theo and Shiloh’s mom, is among the women she used to see the most. Their families have been friends since before any of them were married and she has always been amazed by the endless talent that Jordan is. She can sew anything and their house is decorated in some of the most beautiful and calming ways. If you entered their home without knowing her, you’d think Jordan was an interior designer by how thoughtfully curated every living space is put together.
However, Jordan is a licensed professional counselor with far more wisdom than most people her age. Her husband is one of those people that literally everyone knows, and the way he brings her up in every conversation is priceless. He has adored Jordan since their first years together in college and any person who knows him knows that his heart belongs to her.
“I should tell Jo we are thinking about naming the baby Jaymeson,” she thinks. “With Jordan’s sister being named ‘Jamison’ she will probably love that.”
She sends the text then clicks the blue bubble to check her notifications. A few other messages have come through since the start of her cleaning frenzy.
A text from Roz with another YouTube video.
“I wonder what this one is,” she thinks as she clicks the link to listen and gathers up the last of the dirty laundry.
Roz has been sending her new worship music regularly since the start of their friendship. She’s always admired Roz’s ability to find God at work in every situation, good or bad, and to never lose sight of her thankfulness for all he’s done in her life. She is one of those friends that seems to never run out of kindness.
A single mother, home owner, and endlessly hard worker, Roz is an inspiration to so many women around her. There’s not a thing that happens in her home or family without her knowing it, and though at times she worries, she is endlessly confident in God’s protection over her future. She’s a women who draws people to her without even realizing it. Roz’s laugh is joyfully contagious and one of the most endearing things about her. She misses hearing her friend’s laugh.
Her back is beginning to ache and warn her that it’s time to rest.
“This is a good one,” she responds to Roz as she drops into the bean bag in the family room.
“I haven’t talked to mom today,” she realizes. “Girls! You wanna Facetime Gram?”
“YEAAAA!” the screeching shout is paired with feet moving as quickly as they possibly can. They dive into the bean bag next to their mom and the trio prepares to see one of their most cherished women on the screen.
Gram, as she is most affectionately known, has three children who adore her, three in-laws who she loves as if she held them at birth, and six grandkids who unanimously sing her praises. Her husband is a successful businessman who, while critical of many, would lay down his life to take care of his wife. All who encounter her know that she is a woman of unquestionable character and more precious than any possession on this earth.
Of all the women in her life, her mother is by far the one she loves the most. As a child, a mother is loved because of all she does to care for her you. But, as an adult, a mother becomes the heroine and friend you cannot imagine being without.
All she knows regarding how to live out her faith she learned from watching her mother. She learned to love Jesus and live with quiet boldness by simply observing the way her mother cared for others and gave away her possessions. For as long as she can remember, her mother has poured over her Bible, studying it as if it were going to come to life before her eyes. She remembers being a child and watching her mother sit in the recliner in their family room, writing down study notes from her bible wrapped in a pink, lace-trimmed protective covering that she sewed herself. Her prayer is that her daughters can learn even half the lessons from watching her life that she has learned from their Gram.
“Ok, girls, it’s time to say ‘bye’ to Gram and get ready for bed,” she tells her girls. Of course, they argue and refuse to hang up the phone, but eventually they oblige.
After what seems like an eternity, she finally gets her tiny princesses clean and in their beds. As they’re cuddled up, saying prayers, and listening to bedtime songs, an idea comes to her mind.
“I may be temporarily separated from the people I love, but that doesn’t mean I have to be without them,” she thinks. When the girls are settled, she kisses them goodnight and heads to her bedroom.
“These women, the tiny and the grown, make me better. They challenge me. Together, we reflect Jesus to the world around us,” she journals.
“She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:12
“She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.” Proverbs 31:15
This is Denise.
“She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.” Proverbs 31:18
“She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20
“Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders.” Proverbs 31:23
“She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.” Proverbs 31:27
Well, if that isn’t Roz…
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Proverbs 31:29
“It’s no wonder I miss these women,” she thinks. “We need each other. Together, we are better. Together, we are the fullness of womanhood. Together, we are Proverbs 31.”
Proverbs 31 has been the nameless woman that’s plagued too many women for far too long. This poem was never written to prescriptively tell women who they should strive to be, but rather to descriptively celebrate women for who they already are. In its original context, Proverbs 31 was a conversation between a mother and her son where she was listing for him all the things women bring to the table. She was encouraging her son not to choose a wife based on her looks, but to look below the surface and value women for much more than their appearance.
In Jewish culture, husbands memorized Proverbs 31 and recited it at the dinner table to their wives to celebrate them. Proverbs 31 was written for men, not women.
And, what is perhaps the most liberating truth of all is that Proverbs 31 is not one woman. Proverbs 31 is all women, collectively, living out who they are created to be and together representing God’s goodness to the world.