To The Woman Who Feels She Has To Do It All:
We are honored to have as a guest blogger today, our good friend Jasmine Womack. Jasmine is an amazing wife and mom who has a passion for learning about God and sharing with others. She is a go-getter with an indomitable spirit and a heart that loves others deeply. Since we have been focusing on living intentionally and creating margin, we just knew you had to hear her story her unique insights. We hope that you will be as blessed by her words as we have been.
Grace & Peace,
Summer & Melissa
To The Woman Who Feels She Has To Do It All…
For much of my adult life I have been obsessed with being the “Proverbs 31 Woman” described in Proverbs 31:10-31. She is a woman who can do it all. She manages her household, has a career, knows her place in the world and is loved and respected by her family and the people she meets/works with.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night, she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
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 is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
My journey toward being the ultimate Proverbs 31 Woman began as I looked for a role model and example of who I wanted to be. Growing up without any positive female role models in my life, I didn’t really know how to be an adult. I didn’t know how to buy toilet paper, let alone understand God’s expectations of me as a woman, a servant and a follower. What I did know was that the Bible has answers. So I started reading and looking for a plan, and the Proverbs 31 Woman seemed like the perfect blueprint for a plan. She was exactly who I thought God wanted all women to be like.
I felt like God had given me a distinct and clearly laid-out plan and true to form, I was eager to get started and determined I could do it all in one day. For someone who has always felt insecure, unsure and unimportant, this plan was everything I was looking for. It made so much sense, until the plan changed.
At just 24 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer. At the prime of my life, when everything seemed to be going well and I felt unstoppable, I had cancer. I didn’t know what to do. This was not in the blueprint. The Proverbs 31 Woman didn’t have cancer, she didn’t have surgery 2 months before her wedding or radiation right after her honeymoon. She didn’t have to give up on her dreams of being a first generation college graduate and have a scar in all her wedding pictures to remind her of some of the most challenging times of her life. Most of all, I thought if I couldn’t be like this woman I had been reading and studying about, then I was failing God, myself and my family.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Cancer was a short term difficulty and a long term blessing to my life. It was life-interrupting enough that all I could do was hold on to the hope that God gives us. I learned that I couldn’t do all the things on my own, I had to rely on Jesus and the joy that He gives in all circumstances.
When you get to a place where all you have are Jesus and hope, it allows you to put the lens of Christ over everything you say, do, and care about. You can love people through pain, anger, and fear, and you see things in a new way. It is freeing and gives you perspective. I realized that God loved me for me, at my weakest when I couldn’t do anything on my own. When I was tired and fatigued from treatment and frail during recovery, God loved me, exactly as I was, not for what I was or wasn’t doing.
Today, I am 10 years cancer free, still married to my wonderful husband whom I was engaged to when I was diagnosed, and I have a 9 year old son. I finished my degree and go to the same church. Overall life has been pretty even keel. I was working full time, had an internship, was running my household and helping with a few ministries at church. I felt like I had regained the rhythm of being the Proverbs 31 woman again. But before I knew it, circumstances took a turn and I was falling apart, overcommitted and stretched thin, trying to function on my own strength and stamina. Extended family members encountered some serious issues, a beloved family member passed away, and another one had a mental breakdown, and I was called upon to take care of things because I was the one who could do anything. (Note my sarcasm here).
I broke down under the pressure and was devastated. I somehow managed to see my commitments through and then backed away from everything completely. I was disappointed in myself and upset that I had allowed myself to get back into thinking that being the perfect Proverbs 31 woman was the blueprint for what God wanted and expected.
I took a few months to cool off, focus back on Jesus and pray prayers of gratitude. I then noticed something about the “Woman of Noble Character” that I have read 1000 times and had never seen before. In verse 15, it reads, “She gets up before dark and provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”
She had help! She didn’t do everything on her own! This one verse has changed everything about how I see myself. All this time I was operating under the understanding that the Proverbs 31 Woman could do it all herself. I thought I had to be the evangelist, homemaker, wife, mother, business woman, volunteer, caretaker and whatever else popped up. For years I had been running from work to home to make dinner, wash dishes, run to soccer practice and church, serve on every committee, thinking I had to do it all on my own. Then I read that she had help.
Since this realization I have been trying to be more intentional about my commitments and how I spend my time and energy. I am careful not to fall into the trap of believing I have to do it all to honor God and my family.
This allows me to focus on the things I am good at, and bless people with those things, which is a better stewardship of the gifts God has given me. And it allows others to do the same. I don’t have to be the one to do it all! I have help!
I prayed for God to show me what my ministry was going to be. After being faithful to the stillness and prayer, God started opening ministry doors in a couple ways by people approaching me asking for prayer.
As I would pray in my regular prayer time, I would get frustrated because people would pop into my head. Didn’t my mind know that I was praying? After a couple times I reached out to people and said “you have been on my mind lately. What can I pray about for you?”
You know what? Those small seemingly inconsequential little moments have led to some of the most enriching conversations and moments of my life. It opened my eyes to how often people don’t feel connected to church, friends, and family. This prayer time kept leading me to people who I thought were already a part of my community but were actually in need of meaningful relationship within that community.
It has been my greatest honor to pray for my community. It has provided me with consistent focus. It sometimes doesn’t feel like I am doing enough, but then God says to me during a prayer time to be still and pray. And sure enough, another person pops into my head so I pray for them. Turns out, I’m not the only one who needs help and can’t do it all on her own. We are all in this together!
If you are like me, and tempted to try to do all the things all on your own, know that God never intended for us to run ourselves ragged, mustering that last bit of strength only to run out completely. He is listening to our hearts, knows what we need and provides it when we need it most. He gives us community and friends and family, to walk alongside us and be comforters, and helpers. Ask God to show you where you need people to help you and where you can help others. Maybe it’s carpooling so you don’t have to drive your kids to school everyday, or letting a friend cook for you or fold your laundry when you are sick. Perhaps it is empowering your own kids to help out more at home or letting a family member or friend sit with you while you grieve. It does not make you “less than” to accept help or to have someone share the load. On the contrary, knowing when to ask for help, and how to lead and delegate responsibly, is noble. Having this margin built in to your everyday life will free you to focus on the priorities that God has given you. It will allow you to be “clothed with strength and dignity; and can laugh at the days to come” because your energy is spread evenly and your strength supplied by God.
Dear friend, be still and lean into God. He is with us always, in the silence, chaos, tears and laughter. He will help you to discern where you need help, and how you can help others in turn. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.