Table for a Meek and Quiet Spirit: Honoring Limits

" Have you ever thought about what is behind this craving for all things old-fashioned? This inclination is especially evident among women in the 20-50 year old age group. Why? I know there is more to this than just wanting to decorate one’s home in the latest fashion fad. I believe this trend bespeaks a deep and powerful yearning in the hearts of modern women. It is a longing, not just for the trappings of a particular time in our cultural history, but for the very lifestyle itself.

It’s not too hard to understand this hunger for simpler times when one considers the current condition of the family, and especially women, in our society. Here are just a few of the sad statistics:

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Anti-depressants are prescribed for women at twice the rate of men.

Women ages 26-49 are twice as likely as men to have suffered from serious mental illness

78% of all autoimmune diseases occur in women. The occurrence of autoimmune disorders has dramatically increased in the past few decades.

Women are 2 to 3 times more likely than men to have anxiety disorders

Most of these conditions have increased by 2, 3 and 4 times over the past 50 years. And, these are just a few of the statistics I have found... It is obvious that our enemy has declared all-out war on God’s plan for the family to be the backbone of any healthy society. And, guess what ladies? WE were target #1...

When we (counter this and ) make this seemingly simple and humble decision to be obedient to the biblical call to be home-centered, we have really stepped up to the front lines of a vicious spiritual battle. The last thing in the world the enemy wants is for us to be more rested, peaceful, content, and quiet."--Longing for a Vintage Life by Lisa Vitello

I love that qoute. Keeping at home really IS spiritual warfare becuase it puts us where we actually can come back to center and on track-ness in life, "be more rested, peaceful, content, and quiet" and so come to things from a good place. Or rather it should be such. But for many of us, the expectations we are bombarded with pull that very thing away actually, even when we try and keep at home. Becuase i see what's actually out there...if you are home based its assumed for some reason you can suddenly turn into superwoman slash Donna Reed. Now i love Donna Reed actually, but i sure dont have her built up skills or her health and energy. And today if you are a stay at home woman its assumed you must be crafting up a storm, baking your very bread from scratch, frugal to the extreme, volenteering your heart out whenever you can too, and humming all the while.

Reality check. ..It is NOT that simple for some of us. There are many things that can legitamately limit us, chronic illness being one of them. And though this is not the only limit out there, i am focusing on it here becuase it is one of the least understood, particularly when our conditions are
not visible to others. The following qoute gives an idea of the impact chronic conditions can have on keeping at home:

"Being a homemaker can be a very frustrating experience if you’re living with a chronic illness. You have so many dreams for a comfortable, beautiful home, but you just don’t have the energy to make it so. You wish your home to be a haven of peace, but your illness may make you peevish and irritable. And you probably feel envious of those who make housekeeping look so easy...We have so many dreams for our home and no strength to make them happen. My dream was to live on a small farm, keep chickens, and grow a huge garden. I would can jars and jars of jam and pickles. I would also home school my children in a charmingly decorated house. I’ve had to let go of all of these dreams, because they are simply impossible due to my illness. Search your soul, and accept that we can’t do everything we wish to do. That being said... Embrace Your Strengths: Decide what is most important to you, and focus on those activities. Don’t take on more responsibility than you can bear (but also know you) have gifts and talents just like everyone else..."--From Keeping House When You Have a Chronic Illness by Corinne Hansen

And from Anna of Anna's Musings is more food for thought, from

"Lately, I received several emails about my posts in which I talk about how I view my calling as a future wife and homemaker. And here's something that was repeated in all of them (I'm summarizing it): "Baking cookies and making your home look pretty is nice, but don't you think your husband could benefit more from an extra income? The modern wife serves as a helpmeet to her husband by having her own career and helping earn money for the family."

Let's get this straight once and for all. What does being a helpmeet actually mean? It means the wife is supposed to encourage her husband, have unconditional faith in him, cultivate his feeling of accomplishment. She is called to help him – not do his job for him. And yes. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that men are supposed to be breadwinners. Even if I someday start a home business, give lessons, grow vegetables, write a book or do anything else that brings some extra cash from home, I still want my husband to feel our family depends on his income alone. I want to be able to drop whatever extra activities I might have when that is needed...

I certainly don't claim there's only one way to be a helpmeet. I might as well make a disclaimer here: I'm far from judging anyone's personal situation. We are all different. There are many different situations; I could never say for example that the only way to be a godly wife is to raise a dozen children, grow all of your family's food, grind your own flour etc. What about childless women? And what about women with certain disabilities, which might make them unable to take care of all the household duties? Are they less of a helpmeet to their husbands? Of course not!

What we need to pay attention to (rather than these outer cookie cutter molds )is the attitude..."

The attitude. The "meek and quiet spirit". Back to Vitello's article:

"Does He, as our Creator, know more about us than we know about ourselves? Is it possible that He gave such instruction in the scripture because He hard-wired us in such a way that we require a mostly home-centered life in order to attain to the gentle, quiet, meek and holy spirit He finds so precious in us?

Is it also possible that our enemy, having some clue as to this inherent need for hearth and home built into the woman’s soul, might be doing his very best to keep her busy elsewhere?"

Yep, and more--even through the Keeping at Home little movement we finally have, we are turning home for some of us into a place to still lose rather than build up that peaceful meek and quiet spirit because we sure dont aquire a meek and quiet spirit when we are stressed beyond reason. And a cookie cutter expectation for those keeping at home can do just that. I truly do think folks need a reality check here. Back to Anna's post, here was
a comment left there by Michelle of The Walled Garden:

"What about childless women? And what about women with certain disabilities, which might make them unable to take care of all the household duties?"

I'm so glad you pointed that out! I'm in that exact situation - childless and with an injured ankle that hampers my domestic abilities. My house is TRASHED and my father-in-law keeps ordering me to produce an heir!!! (He's an interesting old man...) I sometimes feel like a complete failure on the Helpmeet front as I barely scrape together a meal and serve it in a messy kitchen - and my husband does the dishes."

She goes onto say she tries to focus on the emotional support of her husband and not stress out about the physical limits she has. Luckily, her husband supports her in this, or at least has come to over time. Early on there were problems in this area, problems those of us with chronic conditions know mega well. And though in her post she is dealing with conditions she sees as temporary, she still gives a good taste of the impact of chronicness (just intensify it by picturing it the norm in one's life rather than the non-norm), from

"Having a lazy afternoon now-and-then is great and very refreshing. But sitting around on my backside (or sleeping off a virus) is downright boring. It takes more effort to be lazy then it does to be employed with housework or gardening!!!! I have never, in my life, been so close to depression as I am now!! My mood has sunk several levels ever since I started the physical therapy in December because in-between virus strikes I'm STILL stuck sitting around! (Whereas before at least I could be out and about.)

Yet I have done my best to move beyond my boredom and my ankle pain and to be happy and cheerful. And I have not filled Erlend's ear with my woes.

So today when I told him I couldn't go to the lambing course in town (a class for new shepherds that are trying to learn about lambing ewes) he was totally annoyed. I tried to give him a soft explanation of, "I'm still sick so I can't go" but to him that wasn't good enough. Michelle is sick? She sure hasn't been acting sick!

Well, he doesn't know that for the past two weeks I've spent the hours before lunch and several hours after lunch in bed with a fever! And that even though I go outside to feed the sheep or walk around in the sunshine I spend ten times as much time on my butt in the livingroom with my leg propped up!! He hasn't seen this because I have kept it to myself and made sure I was well-rested before Erlend was due to come inside for a meal! And I've made sure that when he is inside - or he is with me - I am smiling and happy and not some poor pitiful thing.

So today he was upset and annoyed (even angry?) that I was backing out of the lambing course and not getting lots of housework done for no apparent reason. In other words, "Michelle is lazy."

I have tried not to whine or complain but where has it gotten me?"

Its shifted now, she has his support now thank goodness. But many don't, and whats worse even other keepers at home don't often support the very real limits that a women might have, they simply expect her to have the same limits as they do themselves, and for those with greater limits thats often just utterly unrealistic. And Michelle's example above is actually on the lower end scale as it is now under support and treatment at this point (see
here). She wrote the above stuff when her chronic pain was at its height, before a way was found to help treat it and she could jump a bit more into "normal" life, as shown by her lambing and such on her blog. But some folks have things that are less treatable and actually remain very much in that sort of high chronic pain much of their lives, and their keeping at home cannot help but reflect that. Still, Michelle does give a really good feeling for living with chronic conditions when she wrote back when her pain was at its height, so i'd like to share some more of her stuff, as it gives an idea of what many folks actually go through, just picture it more lifelong (ie more as the norm in their life rather than the exception), from here:

"The worst part about being disabled... people. That must sound strange so allow me to explain!

When you are disabled you suddenly find yourself having to live life very differently then the folks around you who have pain-free bodies. This really isn't a problem because we humans are very good at adapting and finding creative ways around limitations.

The problems arise when other people do not respect the disabled person's creative solutions or their limitations. It's basically impossible for someone to truly understand what it's like to be in constant white-hot pain 24 hours a day or to have a body part (or an entire body?) that does not function properly. So it is not surprising that a person's disability is not always remembered by their friends and family and co-workers unless they have an outward sign like a brace, crutch or wheel chair. It is very easy for "everyone else" to forget about their disabled friend's limitations or pain and push them a bit too far and then say, "Gee what is your problem?" when that person tries to slow things down or rest. This puts a lot of humiliation onto the shoulders of the disabled person...

THE most famous line I am constantly running into is, "I just don't understand______?"

"I don't understand why you don't want to walk - it's only a short distance!"
Yes, short to you with your sound painless legs.
"I don't understand why you need to sit down and rest. We've only been walking around for twenty minutes!"
For me twenty minutes is my limit and now I must rest.
"I don't understand why you don't want to drive much - it's not hard!"
It's not hard for you. But it is terribly painful for me. And then, after I park I have to walk all over the place and stand in line and try and carry things and then drive home. Each of these activities causes excessive pain. Would you enjoy doing all of these things with a big tack in your shoe?

Having a disabled friend or family member costs a lot of love. You have to be willing to meet them where they are. They can still go out and have fun - but they have to have fun in a way that they are capable of. I can go for hikes and I love hikes! But I have to be able to rest my leg often. Also, I am limited to about two to four slow miles on relatively even terrain with plenty of rest stops. So if you hike with me you have to be willing to accept this without grumbling and questioning me with, "I just don't understand - we stopped for a long rest twenty minutes ago!" It is not easy to hang out with a disabled friend unless you are willing to tailor your activities so that both of you have a relaxing and rewarding time...

I don't know how many times I've tried to find solutions to my limitations without whining about my disability. Ok, so I can't hike non-stop? No problem! I'll hike with stops. I can't ride for long in a saddle? Ok, I'll do a gentle ride bareback. It's painful to stand up on a chair and reach objects on high shelves and it's painful to squat down and sort around the lowest fridge shelves? No problem: I'll bring the shelves down and the fridge up and voila! I can do my job just fine. But why is it that I am constantly questioned and resisted when I try and implement creative solutions? Everyone knows that I am disabled. They know I am in pain and have difficulty squating, walking, standing and lifting. So why do they persist in questioning me and challenging me every step of the way? Is it because no one pays attention or takes the time to remember? In a way the old adage of "mind your own business" applies here: if your disabled friend needs to sit down and rest then just sit down and rest without being nosey and demanding to know why! If your disabled family member or spouse needs to modify something in the house or yard or whatever (and you can't remember for some odd reason that they are disabled) then at least mind your own business and let them get on with it! If someone says, "I need to use the bathroom" you don't say, "Why? I just don't understand!" The same applies to the person with the throbbing leg that says, through gritted teeth and cold sweat, "I need to sit down and rest."

When a disabled person makes the decision to do something it is often far more complicated then you think! When you are asked to accompany a friend to the store you say, "Sure!" and you hop in the car and go. When I am asked the same question I have to consider several things: where will I sit in the car? Can the seat adjust so I have room to keep my leg straight? How long will we be driving? If the trip is going to take a while is there time for me to get out and walk about? (My leg can't tolerate being in one position for more then an hour in a car.) How long will we be walking around? Is there time for frequent rest stops or are we going to be hitting ten stores in a row? Can we walk at a medium pace or are we in a rush? Is my friend open to me sitting on a bench while she stands in line or will she be offended?

You get the picture.

I was told by a friend recently that she was concerned about me as I did not seem to be getting out much and making very many friends. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I used to get plenty of invitations to go out with new friends but I had to constantly turn them down due to the above questions. It's not surprising that the invitations trickled to a stop. If the situation does not fit my disability then I can not join in..."

And again, picture this kind of thing not just for awhile but chronically, where you know by now that it will be lifelong basically, that makes a big difference believe me. Your keeping at home is going to look prettty different from your it should. Ditto if your limits are emotional (in grieving, anxiety disorders, etc), those are just as real. We are human, not machines, and we truly vary in what we can offer in our life. And i feel its high time we started understanding this. Isn't aquiring a meek and quiet spirit, in whatever way that needs to happen for a particular woman, far more important than fitting a cookie cutter mold of how we should keep at home?

(Image from Mrs Pea of Our Very Own Little House, from

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