The Tell-All ArticleBy: Lysa TerKeurst and Renee Swope
The Proverbs 31 woman. We love her, we dislike her ... and hard as we try we just can't be her. What a relief to realize that God uses imperfect woman, like us, whose only qualification is to say "yes" to His call.
We always grin when people call us "Proverbs 31 women." Many of us were tempted to ignore chapter 31 in the book of Proverbs the first time we read it. That woman had it all together, don't you think? And we're each quite a mess, really.
When God called us to form a ministry with the same name, well, that seemed crazy. But, we knew we loved Jesus, and we knew He loves to use imperfect women in crazy ways. So we each said yes, because maybe ... just maybe ... He could use us to shatter the myth that women have to be perfect to be loved and used by God.
What a relief to realize (once we stopped ignoring Mrs. P31) that "perfect" is never used to describe her. Aren't you glad?
This month, we thought it would be fun to give you a little peek into the imperfections that make up the lives of the two voices you hear on our Proverbs 31 Ministries radio show.
So, here we go...
Do you ever fight with your husband?
Lysa: Of course. I love my man like crazy. But I'll admit we have those days where we don't like each other very much. I can flat out aggravate him. And he can flat out hurt my feelings. I guess that's to be expected when you throw two sinners together to manage finances, raise kids, navigate PMS and try to figure out how on earth squirrels keep getting into the attic.
But at the end of the day, we both know what we put into our marriage is what we'll get out of it. So we try hard to be intentional with our love. Honestly, I think it's the simple things that make the biggest difference. He knows I like a bottle of water on my nightstand when I go to bed. And without saying anything, he often just places one there for me. I can't really explain why this makes my heart feel safe and adored, it just does. And I know he likes cut up fruit in the refrigerator. So I do that. And I smile. Not because I particularly love to cut up fruit, but because I like knowing how to love my man.
Renee: Yes, of course! Although not as much as we used to! But when we do, I have to admit it's usually my fault. I'm a verbal processor, so I say what I'm feeling while trying to figure out what I'm thinking. Many times, it's not so much what I say but how I say it. So I'm working on my approach. When I come across as critical, I try to apologize and re-communicate in a way that honors J.J. And he does the same. There is so much power in an apology and forgiveness.
Over the past 18 years we've learned to value our different approaches to processing life and managing a home. With endless laundry, carpool craziness, two teens, a toddler and not enough sleep, it's not easy. But we've found our arguments can lead us to a place of growth because they show us our need for God's grace. His love for us compels us to love each other better!
Victoria has a little secret ... do you know what it is?
Lysa: Nope. All I know is her secrets are scratchy. And they are too small in areas I feel are too big. You know what I'm saying? But I do love romance. I love going on dates. I love being a student of what makes my husband feel respected and loved. And he's discovered that I don't need rose petals and candles burning to get in a romantic frame of mind. Washing dishes, vacuuming carpets and putting the kids to bed are three of the most romantic things Art can do.
Renee: No, but I have a little secret of my own: We have a single bed mattress in the corner of our room where our three-year old sleeps! After two months of sleepless nights we caved in. We've been working through our daughter's severe separation anxiety since her adoption, and realized she needed our physical presence at night. So, I'd like to know if Victoria, or any of our readers, have a secret to help with that little situation. Let's just say we have to be pretty creative with romance around here.
How do you balance all that you do with family, ministry, writing and speaking?
Lysa: I'll be honest. Sometimes I balance things well. But sometimes things get completely wacky. The answer for me is involving my family in the ministry. It's not Mom's thing. It's our thing. And because we all sacrifice to make it happen, I make sure we all share in the blessings as well.
If I get invited somewhere fun to speak, I'll take some of the kids with me. Or, if I'm going to get to meet someone my family thinks is cool, I'll phone my kids and let them talk to that musician or pastor they admire.
Renee: This is my biggest challenge. My family's needs are constantly changing, so we re-evaluate every few months. J.J. and I try to sit down on Sundays to plan our week, our menu, divvy out responsibilities, and schedule family time, date nights and an extended work day for each of us once each week.
We also make all my ministry decisions together. Sometimes we decline great opportunities if they would put too much strain on us. Other times we feel God calling us to stretch, but we don't just add more. We prayerfully consider what we might say "no" to so we can be available to say "yes" to God's call.
Like Lysa, our family sees my writing, speaking and role with Proverbs 31 Ministries as "our" ministry. When possible, they go with me to events or we plan something fun together to bless them for sacrifices they make when I'm gone.
How do you make Jesus a priority?
Lysa: I used to say, "I put Jesus first!" That sounds good. But honestly, I don't think God wants to be first on a list. I think He wants to be the center of it all. He wants to be at the center of my heart ... home ... marriage ... mothering ... decisions and my ministry.
On a practical level, I have a goal each morning to exchange whispers with God before I exchange shouts with the world. What a difference this makes. Even if I only read one or two verses, I've discovered if I consume God's truth first thing, my heart is set on a pattern of seeking God that day. But, if I start with the world's demands through email, text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and all the other things screaming for my attention, I set my heart on a pattern of frenzy.
I can't really explain why, I just know it's true: I must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world.
Renee: I completely agree with Lysa. Before my feet hit the floor I start talking to Jesus. Otherwise, I'll start talking to myself and before I know it, I'll be overwhelmed by all I need to do and how much time I don't have. So I confess my doubts and worries and ask Jesus to replace them with His peace and perspective. Then I commit my day to Him and ask Him to lead me each and every minute.
Being in God's Word is so important, too. Yet I'm back in a season of life (with a little one) that makes it challenging to have a long quiet time. I do a short devotion each morning, pray as I go throughout my day, grab a verse when needed to help me process a hard situation and invite Jesus to interrupt my plans with His. I also try to get extended time in Bible study once or maybe twice each week.
We think you can see that God is using ordinary women at Proverbs 31 Ministries who have chosen to say "yes" to His call. It's not always easy, but being in the center of God's will is the best place to be. So the next time you hear Lysa or Renee on the radio, or read one of their devotions, we hope you feel a bit more connected by realizing that we really are more alike than you thought.
About the Author
Lysa TerKeurst and Renee Swope co-host Proverbs 31 Ministries daily radio program, airing on over 1400 radio outlets. You can connect with Lysa and Renee on their blogs at www.LysaTerKeurst.com and www.ReneeSwope.com.