A Wife of Noble Character
I haven't baked anything that required kneading for a few months, due to a trapped nerve causing pain and numbness in my left hand. Kneading bread is not, for me, a unidextrous activity. Now much improved, I enjoyed getting stuck into some dough - first cinnamon buns, then a couple of white loaves. Everyone else came downstairs to find me up to my elbows in flour and yeast.
We then set about tidying the garden, which had never been properly 'put to bed' for the winter owing to the floods of last Autumn. I'm a fair-weather gardener. Today's sunshine brought me outside, and I spent a happy couple of hours waging war on buttercups and the mint that had invaded the vegetable patch.
We paused for hot coffee and cinnamon buns, steaming from the oven.
It is a longstanding joke of ours that The Man, on finding me in full-on domestic mode before he has had chance to wipe the sleep from his eyes (to be fair, he is on holiday) will call me his blessed wife. It refers to an amusing passage in Proverbs (chapter 31 verses 10-31), which describes the ultimate 'having it all' woman. I used to think it made out that the perfect wife was a domestic slave; rereading it today, I am struck by the description of a woman who is skilled both in the home and in business. So how am I measuring up?
She gets up while it is still dark, and provides food for her family.... Check.
...bringing her food from afar. Clearly this passage has not got the concept of food miles.
She selects wool and flax, and works with eager hands... well, I have yet to succumb to the current trend for knitting, though I rather like the concept of yarn-bombing. I do make quilts though, so She makes coverings for her bed is, um, covered.
She has no fear for her household, for all are clothed in scarlet...she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Note to self: must stop buying grey clothes.
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat amongst the elders of the land. Does a recent trip The Man took to London to lobby the education minister count? I think so!
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. That's me off to the garden centre later.
Her lamp does not go out at night. Is this a euphemism?
She is clothed with dignity. Um...
She speaks with wisdom. Er...
She does not eat the bread of idleness. I refer you to point one, M'lud.
I'm not doing so well on the business bit, although nursing makes 'extending arms to the needy' pretty much compulsory. And then there's the last bit: yes I think my family are grateful, and say so. But I'm not sure this culture allows me to think that fleeting beauty is as unimportant as the writer of Proverbs believes.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
In our culture the 'complete woman' is a success if she does most of the above - being a domestic goddess is fine, so long as we also succeed in our chosen profession, in an appreciation of culture, in some sort of spiritual pursuit - albeit in a self-serving, wishy-washy kind of a fashion - in altruism, and in beauty. You may not be born beautiful: but by golly there is a price to pay if you don't work hard to make the most of what you've got. Constant grooming is the order of the day, coupled with the ability to dress well for any occasion, like a walking talking Barbie doll. One with flour beneath her nails, obviously.
So, here's to failing spectacularly. Here's to wearing a grubby grey tracksuit all day, and forgetting to wash your hair. Here's to bad bakes and soggy bottoms. Here's to buttons that fall off, and hems that fall down. Here's to inappropriate laughter and spare tyres. Here's to lie-ins and slobbing around for half the day in your dressing-gown. Here's to generous hospitality that forgets to tidy up first.
And here's to significant others calling us 'That Blessed Woman...'.