Sunday, August 13, 2017

A 31 (year-old) Woman

That's not me. It's just a picture of a woman with her arms wide open to the sky. But it fits, right?

As my 31st birthday approaches (this Friday!), the "Proverbs 31 woman" has been on my mind quite a bit. I guess this is cliche since it seems the topic has been exhausted by women's Bible studies, devotionals, books, podcasts, sermons, etc., in recent years. For many, this Biblical paragon is an elusive model of Christian womanhood that brings with it a tinge of bitterness....but I believe that is a mischaracterization we can attribute to the downfall of sin, as with many other Scriptural misinterpretations (read: http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/161344-aubry_smith_why_i_hate_the_proverbs_31_woman.html). It's tempting to feel intimidated by the poetic representation of a woman who appears to "do it all", as verse 29 states:


“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Proverbs 31:29

She is a woman of talent and character, hard-working and always putting the good of others before her own... she seems perfect, too good to be true. And perhaps she is. A tiny notation on these verses (Proverbs 31:10-31, "The Wife of Noble Character") states: "Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet." Ah ha! These verses are poetic -- symbolic, even! This isn't a representation of a real woman, it's just a collection of admirable attributes, individual character traits arranged in alphabetical order towards which we might strive, clever and pretty-sounding.... like a Dr. Seuss poem.... right??

While that would be an easy out, I'm inclined to think not. God never expects less than perfection. In fact, He requires perfection, which is exactly what we cannot achieve. On our own. He sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to achieve it for us. Even the Proverbs 31 woman knows this, because she is a woman "who fears the Lord", and "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). She cannot become "a wife of noble character" on her own. She does not wake up every morning with a checklist to "bring good, not harm, all the days of her life." No, she begins with the fear of the Lord, the summation and binding factor of any praiseworthy deed. She is trusting in His provision to bring to completion the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6). And beginning with that trust, she can do all things in His strength.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

As I approach turning 31, I feel overwhelmed by all that I cannot do. This feels like a much larger hurdle than turning 30 last year. Even entering a new decade was not as daunting as approaching motherhood of three children 4 and under, while running a freelance design business, maintaining a functioning household, fostering personal relationships, and "extending my hands to the needy." These are all things the Proverbs 31 woman achieves. And still "she can laugh at the days to come"! Laughter is not the first thing that comes to mind when I anticipate the days ahead... unless it's the kind of hysterical laughter that accompanies insanity. But my fearful approach is not rooted in the fear of the Lord. He is the giver of all good things -- the greatest of these being our salvation in Christ -- and with the ransom He has paid comes an unquenchable hope, an undying joy. Suffering is inevitably a part of the Proverbs 31 woman's life, though this section of the poem does not recount it in detail. But, even knowing struggles will come, she can live without worry or anxiety, because she knows in Whom her strength is found.

"Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
Romans 5:3-4

So, as I welcome 31 and all that may accompany it, I am armed with this timely reminder of the 31 woman. Hers is a high calling, and a worthy one. And not so intimidating when I cease relying on my own strength to accomplish the "good works, which God prepared beforehand..." (Ephesians 2:10). These traits of "a wife of noble character" are achievable and it is very good to have a model (alphabetized in Hebrew, no less) by which to recount them. Will I achieve them all this year? Not likely. Perhaps not even all in my lifetime, if that is not the plan God has laid for me. But I will cease to fear the task laid before me, fearing the Lord instead, and rejoice in the sufferings -- and the hope -- that come along the way.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer Dining

After several weeks spent not wanting to cook dinner at all (thanks, all-day morning sickness), I'm finally back in the swing of things and enjoying the benefits of fresh summer veggies, outdoor dining, and cooking on the grill.

Since summer is prime time for fresh fruits and veggies, I try to incorporate these into every meal. We've been loving berries of all types (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries...all the berries!!), as well as fresh corn and tomatoes. Plenty of both around here! My favorite meals include a grilled meat, steamed veggie and grilled or roasted starch/carb. These meals are simple to prepare, relatively quick to cook (under 30 minutes), and healthy, too. We've also done pizza on the grill, which was a fun test -- the dough still needs some work, though.

Here are some shots of recent favorites...

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chili Fig Sauce      |      Grilled Prosciutto & Tomato Pizza

Pan Seared Salmon with Steamed Green Beans and Potatoes Au Gratin

Grilled Tenderloin Tail with Red Potato Wedges and Tomato, Corn & Avocado Salad

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kids Capsule Wardrobes

The concept of a capsule wardrobe works particularly well for children, who tend to outgrow their clothes every 3-6 months and need different items depending on the varying seasons. Summer is not yet drawing to a close, but I'm already thinking ahead to what my littles might need for the Fall/Winter season. I've compiled some items from my favorite online shops (ThredUp, Old Navy) and put together some sample outfits to show how easy it can be to dress children with intentionally limited apparel.

Tips for Children's Capsule Wardrobes:

  • Start with what you have - Review your childrens' existing items to see what might work for the upcoming season (and still fit for the next few months)
  • Work with a palette - This doesn't have to be super limiting, but I tend to notice that I prefer dressing my children in certain colors that just look good on them. My son tends to stick with reds and blues, and my daughter with pinks and purples. Occasional variations are fun, too, but your capsule wardrobe will mix and match more easily with colors that coordinate.
  • Size up when you can - I tend to buy clothing items a half size or so too big, because you know they will grow into it. And sometimes it means a piece will work for the next season/capsule as well. If it means rolling the sleeves or pant legs for a little while, I'm ok with that because it's economical!
  • Layering works - Especially for the cool weather season, planning outfits that can be created by layering items gets a lot more wear out of a single piece. Especially for boys, throwing a t-shirt under an open button-down shirt creates a new look with the same pieces.
  • Shoes/Accessories update the outfit - Shoes are one item not worth skimping on. Comfortable footwear that fits appropriately is key for growing kiddos. I like to buy shoes new, even if the rest of the clothing items are purchased gently used, because I don't want the sole molded to fit someone else's foot. Plus, changing up which shoes you wear with an outfit can create a totally different look!
  • Do all the laundry... when necessary - With limited clothing items, more loads of laundry may be necessary. At this point, I can still get away with doing laundry twice a week (typically 3 loads each time to account for my clothes, hubby's clothes and childrens' clothes). But this also may mean wearing an item more than once before it's washed. If there are no stains or particular stench, throw it back on the hanger wear it again! I apply this principle with my own wardrobe (especially denim), and it saves on the time and cost of doing laundry.

Young Boy's Fall Capsule Wardrobe

All items were found on ThredUp, except the shoes, which are from Amazon. The total cost of all items is less than $125! My son is almost 4 years old (in November) and currently wearing 4T/5T shirts, 4T bottoms, and size 10 shoes. I've included a selection of both sizes, plus size Youth XS and size 11 shoes in the below items. 

Below is just a sampling of outfits that can be created with these 13 items -- but all told, these pieces could create about 50 different outfits when you include layered options!



Toddler Girl's Fall Capsule Wardrobe

All of these items were found at OldNavy.com.  I wasn't finding the right pieces at ThredUp (which is usually my preferred place to shop for children's clothing online) and Old Navy is a close second. I love the classic stripe and polka dot prints, plus a floral which makes a great basis for the palette of navy + gold + plum. I typically like to put my daughter in leggings with longer tops or dresses, and I really like the peplum/flare style of the tops included below. Very cute. A classic cardigan in a neutral color will go a long way! My little lady is currently in 18-24 months size, and on the petite side, so we'll probably be able to get by with this size for a little longer before we promote her to 24mos/2T sizes. Currently wearing size 4 shoes, but I see size 5 in the near future!

I only included 10 items in this capsule, although realistically I would end up with more like 15-20 pieces. I typically do laundry twice a week, but toddlers do a great job of getting their clothes messy and sometimes an outfit change is required in a single day.

Fifteen sample outfits are shown below, and that doesn't even including layering with the cardigan!