What are practical ways we can redeem the years following the completion of our formal education and prior to marriage? How can we be extremely intentional as we prepare to be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5); young women entering marriage capable of efficiently managing the affairs of our homes so that it can be said of us: “the heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain” (Prov. 31:11))? As young women also desiring to one day be godly mothers raising our children as arrows for the Lord (Ps. 127:4-5), we have been entrusted with an eternal assignment, that of training and discipling the souls of the next generation. How can we prepare now to one day “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6)?
Recently, I quietly listened as a conversation took place between three teenage girls. They discussed their futures and lack of direction for what to do upon high school graduation. All three shared their desire to eventually get married and have families. Two of the girls spoke especially about their lack of a desire for spending the years following their graduation from high school pursuing a college degree that they would most likely not need. They concluded that they certainly didn’t want to just sit around waiting for their future husband to arrive, but they didn’t know the best way to spend the unknown amount of time between high school graduation and marriage. My heart went out to them, because I understand their desire and sympathize with their quandary.If someone were to wish to practice law, they would spend several years studying law before taking the bar exam and becoming a lawyer. If someone desired to become a doctor, they would invest many years in medical school before they would receive their credentials. While these careers are very important and vital in our communities, ours is a calling of eternal significance! We can’t approach our future occupation flippantly, so we must use our time wisely in preparation.
Since I am still in this season before marriage, I don’t endeavor to sound like an authority on this subject. I am confident that one day, as a married woman, I will look back and see many areas in which I could have sharpened or better prepared, as well as frivolous activities I should have spent less time pursuing. The five points that follow are simply the thoughts and opinions of a fellow sojourner.
– Cultivate a Servant’s Heart
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
Just because my blog is named “Striving to Serve at Home” and one of the main focuses is to “encourage younger girls as they cultivate a servant’s heart in their homes” absolutely does not mean that I have “arrived” in my journey of servanthood! I must consistently ask the Lord to help me to have a servant’s heart, placing my family’s desires above my own.
We can begin by making it our practice to be heavily involved with our families, not looking for the first opportunity to run off to our bedroom to read a book or talk on the phone. It should be a given that we are fully engaged in our family’s household responsibilities such as cleaning, meal preparation, laundry, helping with younger siblings, etc. We can ask the Lord to give us a cheerful heart and joyful countenance as we fulfill our duties.
I live off of “to-do lists” and like to stay very organized, so my greatest struggle arises when an unexpected job spontaneously comes up and throws off my precisely scheduled day. Just this morning I had already neatly written my list of items needing to be taken care of today when, as I washed the breakfast dishes, I overheard a conversation taking place in the dining room. My name repeatedly came up when a discussion arose regarding not one, not two, but three of the farm’s freezers that needed to be thawed and cleaned. One of the freezers, used to store chicken necks and backs (for chicken stock), is infamous for its wretched smell upon even opening the door. I listened as my younger brother, Elliott, explained that the smell was actually from a collection of spilled cream and chicken blood, which had leaked at some point in the past, and was now caked onto the inside of the freezer. Then I overheard another brother, Oliver, bluntly remark, “Meredith can take care of that.” I had all sorts of mean things running through my head at that moment! Needless to say, my heart was not excited about the job ahead of me. It was then that I had to remind myself to ask the Lord to give me the strength to keep my very negative thoughts to myself and practice servanthood.
I was very glad that I had not gone on and on about how much I was dreading the job because I was very blessed this afternoon when Elliott mentioned that there was actually only one freezer for me to clean because he and Oliver had extra time and went ahead and cleaned the other two.
All day long choices arise where we must decide whether we will serve with a cheerful, willing heart or if we will serve grudgingly. Although it is often difficult and we often fail, we should strive to follow Jesus Christ’s example and serve in a selfless manner without expecting anything in return.
– Guard Ourselves Against Idleness
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:27
The old adage, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop” is a very valid statement. Allowing idleness into our lives is not only unwise; it is dangerous. In my own past, I can see a direct correlation between “having too much time on my hands” and seasons of justifying compromise in my life. If I do not pursue productivity, it becomes much easier to substantiate small areas of compromise, which can so easily turn into big areas of compromise. Wisely stewarding our time is not only an important trait we must acquire as unmarried daughters at home, but this will also be an invaluable characteristic in our futures, Lord willing, as wives and mothers.
For me personally, the Internet is my worst enemy of productivity! How often could I be accused of getting online to do something as simple as finding a recipe, and instead find myself guilty of wasting 10 minutes looking at the photo album of a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook? This is not wise time management! Being a wise steward of my time is an area in which I am continually striving to become more disciplined.
It would be detrimental to misuse the time God has blessed us with. We can’t simply wait around for the next chapter of our lives. We need to practice wise time management and become extremely intentional in the use of our single years (and our entire lives, for that matter). Our generation severely lacks vision, purpose, and direction. We should strive to be among the rare few that are intent on preparing for our futures, seeing to it that we are using the time God has given us to bring Him glory in all of our endeavors.
– Learn to Accept Criticism
“To inoculate me from the praise of man, He baptised me in the criticism of man, until I died to control of man.” -Francis Frangipane
If we choose to live at home until marriage, we will face criticism. If we do not choose to pursue a degree or a full-time career, we will face criticism. If we choose to wait on the Lord to bring the right man into our lives and trust our marriages to Him, we will face criticism. When we make choices that seem to go against the grain of what is expected in our culture, we will face criticism.
Sadly, it sometimes appears that those closest to us seem to feel the most at liberty to voice their criticism regarding our choices. Furthermore, it has been my experience that fellow believers are often more critical of my decisions than non-Christians! Rather than sulking in self-pity, we can find encouragement in scripture.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
When we are criticized for obeying what God has called us to do, we have the opportunity to experience the slightest glimpse of the persecution Christ went through while on earth. This should cause us to be all the more grateful for His sacrifice on our behalf.
“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23)
If we allow others’ thoughts about our decisions to unduly influence us and distract us from what God has called us to, we are becoming ‘slaves of men’. When others are critical of my decisions or unhappy with me, I must ask myself, “Is God happy with me?” If so, I need not heed others’ opinions.
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
When people ask where I am attending college and I respond that I am not, inevitably a look of confusion and/or disapproval often seems to quickly come across their face. This can be discouraging for me, because I don’t like for others to think that I am a stereotypical uneducated country hick! I find comfort in reminding myself that our culture’s tremendous emphasis on a college education is based on “human tradition and the basic principles of this world” and is not necessarily God’s plan for everyone.
We don’t know what the Lord may have for us in our futures. He may be using this time where we are subject to a lot of criticism to refine us and prepare us for much greater criticism as we continue to seek His will throughout our lives. We must learn to find our satisfaction and fulfillment not in man’s approval, but in the assurance that we are within God’s will for our lives and that He is pleased with us.
– Become a Wise Steward of Finances
“One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much…” Luke 16:10
How will we be prepared to be efficient managers of our homes if we have never exercised frugal spending practices? As unmarried young women, we should learn to be wise and thrifty with our finances.
By apprenticing under our mothers and taking on a substantial role in our families’ financial affairs, we can gain valuable experience. Possible ways to do this would include helping our mothers with family budgeting. As you prepare meals for your family, ask your mother to help you set a budget of what you can spend for a week’s worth of food and learn how to best use the allotted finances. Often when I go thrift store shopping, Mama will send me with a list of items (i.e. men’s white sz. 11 Nike’s, boy’s sz. 8 Levi’s, etc.) she needs for the family. This provides an opportunity for me to become acquainted with the prices and quality of clothing, so I might be better prepared to dress my own family in high quality clothing at discounted prices.
We should also take responsibility for our own expenses and learn wise accounting. We can read books about finances, avoiding debt, and using money prudently.
Are we going into marriage as an asset or a liability to our husbands? This is something we should thoughtfully consider. We may not be bringing an additional income into our marriages, but we can certainly be thrifty with the hard-earned money our husbands provide.
– Study the Woman of Proverbs 31
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” Proverbs 31:10
I am fascinated by the woman of Proverbs 31. What an enthralling portrait of biblical womanhood! Not only is this godly, wise woman managing her home with excellence, she is also an entrepreneur involved in many facets of the business world, all within the context of her home and family.
One way to avoid idleness is to use the creativity God has given us to pursue business ventures. Since I happen to love business ideas and marketing, this is something that tends to come naturally for me. However, every idea I have attempted has not been wildly successful. Even the unsuccessful business endeavors provide exceptional learning experiences that will be useful in the future.
A sharp mind for business is only one of the many attributes of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. She is a well-rounded, capable, intentional woman and we can gain a wealth of wisdom from studying and emulating her.
It is my hope and prayer that the few things I have learned (and continue to learn!) will be an encouragement to others as we each individually seek the path the Lord has chosen for us and wholeheartedly pursue His calling for our lives!