When my husband and I met he had no idea I was a scarred and broken young girl. He only saw a funny person who shared his hopes and dreams of wanting a large family, a small homestead, and a way to serve God. He was an honorable young man who had walked with integrity while waiting for his one true love. I, on the other hand, was a used and abused child. Several family members and friends had taken liberties with me when I was young. As a bride standing in my bright finery, it never occurred to me that what had happened to me as a little girl would come raging through my life and remain there, crippling both me and my beloved for more than eight horrible years. But it did.
Each day was a cloud of tears as I begged him not to go to work, calling him repeatedly over some minor issue until he despaired of not getting his work done, or worse, losing his job. There were nights when I would curl up into a tight ball and weep as far away from him as the bed would allow. I avoided him so much it is amazing that I did conceive each year. As one baby after another came, my emotional state worsened. My days were filled with crying babies, fighting toddlers, cooking, big messes, piles of laundry, cows to milk, and all the other chores of the homestead. I was overwhelmed and thought I would surely die. But for my Beloved it was worse. He worked long days in the bitter cold only to come home to a distraught wife, five children under five years old that were crying, hungry, and demanding. There was firewood to chop and bring in, animals to attend, and a thousand other odd chores. And when he climbed exhausted into his cold bed with his even colder wife, he stared into the darkness and wondered why.
This man needed a miracle. He needed divine wisdom to set his home in order. He needed a way to lead his wife to overcome and find her life. My husband is a simple man; slow, steady, hardworking, and steadfast. But after all the years of sacrificial giving, he was running out of hope. Why would God allow this to be his lot? Had he not honored God in his youth? Had he not sought to do the right thing? Had he not had a vision of ministry? There seemed to be no end to misery, and there certainly were no loving arms to help ease his daily toil.
One day he told me to get out my mom’s old camera and start practicing taking pictures. Somewhere in this simple man’s heart God had planted an idea. Woman was not only meant to be a help meet and mother, she was meant to be a person who had dreams, challenges, and drives. She was meant to be a Proverbs 31 lady who was full of enterprising adventures and money-making ideas. My husband knew my interest was in art, so the only thing that came to his mind was photography. Maybe I would find an outlet to distract me long enough for him to work ten hours a day so he could make a living for our growing family.
Let the miracle unfold! This busy homesteading mom got busier! I rushed through my chores, assigning my children small chores to ease the load. For the rest of the day I took lots of photographs of loved ones. I loved taking photos, and people loved my work. I loved art in every form, whether it was painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpting, or taking photographs. My creativity was explosive. I started a photography business after taking a risk to buy a digital SLR camera. Instead of pulling my hair out in bitterness as I had been doing, suddenly every day was spent taking hundreds of photos. I got a second-hand computer from my dad and started learning Photoshop. This was hard, but a challenge that I knew I had to master. The kids and I would play all day, deciding what kinds of pictures we could take next that would be added to my portfolio: my oldest kid wearing a straw hat or climbing up the big tree in the front yard, the girls dressed in their pretty dresses looking out the window, teddy bears clutched under tiny arms, and, wonder of wonders, I stopped calling their daddy every hour. I stopped with the tears and frustrations. I built a good schedule so that I could have a couple hours early in the morning to focus on the computer work before the kids woke up, and a couple hours while they napped. And when Daddy came home, we would run to tell him what we did that day and show him all the pretty pictures Mommy took. I was satisfied as a human being; I was successful, creative, and fulfilled. I stopped dwelling on my fears, hurts, frustrations, boredom, and anger; I was too busy growing and changing. Within that one year the sad, broken girl was gone and in her place was a vibrant young woman, a loving wife, a happy mother, and a money-making entrepreneur. Instead of pulling my husband’s soul down, I was giving back. It was a miracle. I fell into my husband’s arms with joy and thanksgiving. Finally the good man was being rewarded for being so loving, kind, and patient.
Just like what happened to the virtuous lady in Proverbs 31, money started flowing into our home. The first year I made $12,000 taking photos of children, families, school graduations, and weddings. The second year it doubled. The third year it again doubled. I would get referrals from people who had their photos taken by me and loved my work. I would set up an appointment to meet their family at a park and take my kids along for the fun. They would help carry bags and pack the minivan as we would plan out a picnic and play time around my work. My children had fun meeting other kids their age, and when the other kids would throw fits, we had fun talking about how silly it was. It trained them more than if I stayed home all day fighting against my mind and discontentment. A few years later, the business grew to a six-figure income and my husband learned how to take videos at the weddings so we could work as a team. We both stayed home and went to a wedding once a week together, just the two of us. It was like a date. We would talk on the way there as we planned the event.
This morning I woke up before daybreak, as I usually do. It is a time I set aside for work that does not interfere with mealtime, homeschooling, and spending time with family.
I opened my computer and started looking through hundreds of old photos. Tears began to flow as I thought about the past and how fleeting life can be. There was one photo of the kids toddling across my bare wood floors with mischievous smiles on their faces. Other photos told the stories of the babies smashing birthday cakes with their tiny fists and then stuffing their little mouths. I rejoiced, knowing that I had finally come to appreciate the good that God had given me, and that I had let go of the evil the devil had sent.
During those black years I felt it would never end. Maybe you didn’t bring into your marriage the baggage I did, and maybe your husband is a mean, lazy jerk or even a pervert, but pity, despair and bitterness will not set you free from your own state of nothingness, lack of productivity, wanting of challenge, or any real rewards. Do you know what I am talking about—working and never seeing the end of it? It is the everyday grind, the repetitive tasks, the thankless labors, and being tired of just living. I remember how desperate and lonely I was. I lived in blame toward those who had hurt me, or criticizing others who hadn’t rescued me. I was unsettled all the time. I felt as if I was sinking on a vast ship of five screaming, demanding passengers, with no life vests to save us. None of the children could possibly understand how tired I really was. They could not help me, and they could not carry on an intelligent conversation, as I so craved. I piled all my needs onto my poor husband who had no clue how to make me happy. He would come home to a frumpy, crabby woman in tears, desperate to take whatever he had left to give at the end of the day, and I would draw out whatever bit of life was left in him until he could give no more.
Before my husband encouraged me to work harder, I was a young mother handicapped by her own mind. I had no idea that my mind was self-absorbed in pity and frustration and that my energy was being drained by my bitterness. All those years are gone forever. I am sad that I did not enjoy my babies and the husband of my youth as I should have. It is a miracle that my husband did not pack his bags and leave me. I know I would have if I had been treated the way I treated him.
I am ashamed of that time, yet I am thankful that my husband loved me through it. He came to see that all I needed was more to do, not less. And he was right. How could a mother give more? How could she possibly stretch her wings farther than the children she was working so hard to tuck under the safety of her wing? I needed structure. I needed something to pour myself into so I would not get consumed with myself. Proverbs 31 is written for us ladies to take note and follow. It is an instruction manual written to show us how to find our way as wives and mothers who are created in HIS image. We were created to excel.
My children are almost grown, with my oldest only three short years from adulthood. As my children move on with their own lives, it is humbling to look back on those years and see how fast they flew by. Each child was given to me as a blank slate. I could have continued sowing frustration and discontentment into the pages of their lives, blaming everyone, bitter at my lot, and putting pressure on my husband to meet my demands. Thank God HE freed me from all that. Instead I worked and taught my children about work. Thankfully, they only remember a hardworking, happy mom who taught them the trade of photography, among other things.
Today I had a nice conversation with my very mature, sober-minded eleven-year-old daughter who is now taller than I am. I told her about my early morning tears as I looked at the photos of her as a wee baby. I mentioned that many of those years I worked so hard that it seemed as if I did not get to cherish every little mundane thing of life. She looked back at me and said, “Mom, you worked so hard that it makes me want to work hard, and you always said working hard is a good thing. I think we had a lot of fun together, working hard.” That glorious answer will ring in my mind fifty years from now when I am all wound down from life, and it will always give me a sense of real accomplishment.
To all you young mothers out there who are tired and lonesome, and waiting on your husband to fill a need he was not designed to fill, get busy! Find some way you can work with your kids to fill a need. Read Proverbs 31 and ask God to show you how; whether it be in service, business, or ministry. Let the miracle unfold!
Read Erin’s blog: KeeperOfTheHomestead.com
Since Erin became a Proverbs 31 lady, she made the Homesteading for Beginners DVDs with her entire family, helps at No Greater Joy doing graphics and photography for NGJ Magazine, and recently illustrated Debi’s new book, The BIG Book of Homeschooling. What could have been a depressing life turned into a glorious life filled with beautiful works of art.
Check out Mark & Erin’s DVD series Homesteading for Beginners available at http://nogreaterjoy.org/shop