Wednesday, March 1, 2023

BOM block 5 The Virtuous Wife...


I wrote about handmaidens a couple of years ago, and my thoughts have not changed since then, so I will share them once more for they resonate well with the March block in our Virtuous Wife BOM. 

In some versions of the bible, Proverbs 31:15 refers to our lady of the house as caring for her maidens, and in other versions, handmaidens. These handmaidens were women who did much of the homemaking duties, though we are quite aware in reading Proverbs 31:10-31 that the wife herself was not idle, but proficient in working within the home and prospering her family by wise purchasing and decision making (as described in verse 16).

I often hear women say "Well, she had maidservants, I don't!"...but let's look at this again, because it always astounds me how they have completely overlooked the handmaidens in their own homes today. I think Mrs Proverbs 31 would have loved some of the ones that work in my own home.

Growing up I saw my Nana work hard each day, never begrudgingly, and for us not having a fridge or washing machine or vacuum cleaner or hot water in the home was quite normal. I did not realise that some people around us had a real refrigerator, a twin tub washer, or that they could turn on a hot or cold tap right inside their own house. My little world revolved around the home Nana and Pop made for us, and in comparison to many of their peers, it could even be called primitive by 1960's to early 70's standards. In fact I was thirteen when Nana and Pop moved into a different flat, one which had hot and cold running water at the kitchen sink (though we had to light the gas for hot water). Up until then Nana boiled water in the old copper (which doubled as her washday tub as it had a detachable wringer) and every few days she'd carry bucket loads of hot water from the copper, up the back yard to the bathhouse and pour them in to the old bathtub for us to take turns bathing in. 

Then the water had to be emptied from the tub, bucket by bucket, and the bathtub cleaned and dried. On in-between days Nana, Pop and I would scrub our hands, faces, feet, behind the ears and wash our hair under the cold tap outside the back door. This was our normal life and I never imagined it to be different.

I can still remember the Ice Man arriving every week to deposit a huge cube of ice in the Icebox because until I was thirteen we did not have a refrigerator. 

Now you know, I love the old days, the old ways, and enjoy learning the skills of those times, and there was a time where I expounded over and over how if it was good enough for Nana then we should all aim to step back and do things the way they used to be done. But things change. A child, which is still what I call myself before God, grows up and the Lord instils a bit more wisdom and common sense along the way. 

When Nana finally got a twin tub washing machine in 1972 it was a gamechanger for her. She was getting older, around the same age I am now, and she did not have the strength of her younger years, so for the next ten years she delighted in her new handmaiden until she passed away in 1982.

And one day this came home to me as I studied Proverbs 31:10-31...the fact that if Nana were alive today she would love a front loader like mine. She would have thoroughly enjoyed using my vacuum cleaner and steam mop. She would definitely find my two refrigerators quite a step above the small second hand Kelvinator she eventually got around the time we moved in 1972.

My dishwasher, iron, sewing machine, coffee machine, blender, oven, cooktop, hair dryer, hot and cold taps, water filter...every one of these is also a maidservant in my home, just as they are in yours.

Pondering how well my Nana kept house, how everything she owned was appreciated because my Pop worked hard to purchase them, how her little abode twinkled and shone with care and homemaker pride, how her days reflected a gentle unchanging rhythm of habits and routines...I'm often struck by my own lack of appreciation for all the modern appliances which fill my home and make the rhythms of a homemaker life so much easier.

Though our homes are larger today on average, I can easily mop a three bedroom house far quicker than Nana could scrub the one-bedroom walk-through on her knees.
I don't have to shop every day or two for fresh produce as she did, but can shop weekly and store it all in a larger fridge and freezer as well as the walk-in pantry.

My washing is done one load per day, on a 30 minute eco cycle, before I hang it all out in the sun on the clothesline. Nana spent many hours every Monday doing the weekly wash and until we got the twin tub (which was still far more work than our modern machines) she did it all by hand.
Nana would take all the rugs outside and hang them over the clothesline to beat them with a huge broom to dislodge the dust each week. I just vacuum.
How wonderful are our handmaidens?!

Let us ponder this today, because like most things in life that we take for granted, a lack of appreciation for what we now consider basic everyday items, can creep in to our hearts. The Proverbs 31 wife cared for her handmaidens, and I wonder if we care enough for ours? Are they cleaned and maintained regularly so that we can keep them running well for many years to come?

Throughout March, as you and I fill the washing machine, vacuum the carpets and rugs, cream butter and sugar in minutes with our electric mixer (Nana had a hand beater that took forever), brew a coffee, heat up leftovers in the microwave for dinner, or attend to any number of household requirements, let us give thanks for each of our labour-saving handmaidens, okay, and care for them well. 

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Bless you heaps,

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Susan said...

Excellent points, Jennifer. I think, too, the Proverbs 31 wife was also taking care of her handmaidens - maybe some were relatives with no means of support, or more elderly women who were widows. It wasn't a case of just having maids, most likely. There was responsibility involved, I believe.

I grew up in a home with an ice box, too, until I was almost ten. The ice man would chip off a sliver of ice when he delivered, and that was as fabulous in hot west Texas as any Popsicle could have been! We didn't have any modern appliances, no vacuum, etc., though my mother was given a Maytag washer the last few years of her life. She, too, hung clothes out to dry.

I think of all the things I'm spoiled by ... my dishwasher broke and stayed broken for several years until Christmas when my son bought a new one for me. What a luxury it seems like now! My best handmaiden is my sewing machine, though. That one gets a real workout!

Lin said...

Wise words Jennifer. xx

Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,
Sitting down to read this post this evening with fresh brewed decaf :)
Computer wifi Internet heating, lighting, so many things we use from the time we get out of bed to when our heads hit the pillow. Thanks for a great post !
Time for a fefill :)
hugs, take care,

Quilting Babcia said...

Words well said! We take so many of our luxuries for granted these days; we are blessed beyond measure. I remember my mom using her old wringer washer in the basement, and us both hauling the wet laundry upstairs and out into the back yard where everything was hung on the line "just so". Drying on lines in the basement in winter months. I was reminded of those days just yesterday driving to our quilt ministry group meeting, passing by an Amish farmhouse, the front porch filled end to end with adult and children's laundry, the baby's diapers hung on a line stretching from the side of the house to a tree about 50 feet away. She had no electricity to assist in any of her chores, it was raining lightly as I drove past, so those diapers would not be dry by day's end. Blessings to you!

dianne said...

I live in South America and enjoy your blog posts. Is there a February 2023 tea towel pattern?

Jenny of Elefantz said...

Hello Dianne :-)
The annual January Tea Towel pattern is just that, a January gift design. I do it every year as a way of kicking off a new year. :-)

Emma Christian said...

I am so thankful for the technological 'handmaidens' in my home, they are absolutely amazing. When we first moved here totally off-grid and needed to build our systems from scratch I got a peak into what life would have been like. Hauling water, cooking big meals in a camp oven in a campfire, washing clothes by hand, no phone access and barely serviceable internet.....It was incredibly physical, but I did get quite nice arm muscles and felt very strong! It was very time-consuming though. It is a hard way to live if there is a season of injury or sickness though. I am very thankful for our modern conveniences. Especially the vacuum, dishwasher and washing machine. Though I still prefer to cook in the wood-burning oven and am thankful when its cold enough to do so.

A lovely post, am continuing to hold your family in my prayers Jennifer. I pray blessings over you all.

- Emma xx

Tammy said...

Dearest Jennifer,
What a beautiful block you have created. My handmaidens are very important to me. Growing up poor on a farm raising the majority of our foods ourselves.. It was a hard living . And during summers we worked on tobacco farm as well for a local farmer up by 4 am each day of summer and in bed as fast as we could after dinner. And we truck farmed produce to the farmers market and mother worked in a sewing factory. I knew nothing of laziness or idleness growing up. so trust me when I say I love my handmaidens. They are adored and well used. Even as a cancer patient I still do everything at home that needs doing. Even though husband has been having to take over some of the cooking for me of late as I am extremely exhausted these days. I seem to be slowing down a lot this last year. And I am afraid more is gonna have to fall his way. As I just can't keep up these days. Lots of love to you my friend and a big thank you to all the ladies and you that participated in the prayer circle for each lady that asked for prayers . It was so nice to request prayer and pray for everyone. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the top.

Mary-Lou said...

Hi Jennifer, what a lovely blog! It brought back so many memories forme living I Cork in an old stone houseof3 storeys! The old wringer washing machine, the clothes line over the aga and a line in the kitchen and outside I the back garden! Opening the aga door to heat my bum when I came home from school! Hearing Dad's footsteps and closing it in a hurry! I remember painting our stone tiles! We have SOMUCH TO THANK OUR HEAVENLY FATHER FOR EVERYDAY! XX❤️