"She seeks out the wool and flax and works with willing hands to develop it. She is like the merchant ships loaded with foodstuffs, she brings her household's food from a far [country]." Proverbs 31:13,14

     Notice first that the Proverbs 31 woman "seeks out" the wool and flax.  Not only does she willingly do the work set before her, but she is disciplined and self-motivated enough to seek the work on her own.  Besides her household management responsiblities, she spins her own cloth from scratch in order to make good-quality garments for her family.  This isn't to imply that we, living in a modern age, should do exactly the same thing; but rather to show us that she is tireless in her efforts for her family, wants only the best for them, and seeks out ways to be ever more prudent with her resources, including her time.  This blesses her husband and is yet another source of his being able to entrust his heart to her safely and and confidently.

     One obvious point in this verse is that she is proficient in domestic things.  Part of her job as a wife and mother is to develop proficiency in running her household, specifically in areas that pertain to her own family and its lifestyle.  The Proverbs 31 woman also uses the time she saves to better serve her family's needs, and is ever searching for still more ways to do so.  It is a fortunate woman who has had a mother who taught, or even continues to teach, her daughter the art of organization and efficiency; but for those who need some guidance, there are many books, articles and websites which give insight and guidelines on household management, i.e. filing and organizing, scheduling, cooking, and even maintaining a housekeeping schedule.  You might check your local library or used booksellers for older editions on running a household -- those published in the 50's and 60's -- when we lived in a more traditional society.  Granted, we make adjustments for modern conveniences, but some things never change; the basics found in these older volumes are invaluable.  Sample from a lot of different sources and apply those principles that fit into your own family's life.

     A wise household manager will also see that she understands all of the tasks involved in running her home in particular, from the ground up, in detail.  Only then can she efficiently care for her home and family and effectively manage those whom she hires for additional help:  a worker assigned to a one-time task, a weekly maid, or lawn and garden care.  A professional household worker will have undoubtedly acquired some expert, time-saving methods over years of experience, but it's important that a wife fully understands what is involved in the tasks she delegates.  This will help her allot time and determine a fair price for services.  Even a newly married young woman who is fortunate enough to afford help would be wise to spend at least three to six months caring for her own home -- including one round of "spring cleaning" -- before hiring any outside help.  Then, as her life evolves, she can determine which tasks to farm out based on the family's finances, in order to use the time she saves more opportunely.  This doesn't automatically mean that she go out and get a job; rather, she might have a talent, or education in a certain area, where time spent will be beneficial to her family.  In making this determination, it's important that the benefits outweigh the cost of hiring someone to do those tasks that would otherwise take up that portion of her time.

     Proverbs 14:1 tells us that "every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands."  The footnote on this verse in Dake's explains:  "The wise woman through proper management increases the property, furniture, food, and raiment of the household, but the thriftless woman causes these blessings to depart." 1  (see Notes)  The Proverbs 31 woman is a perfect example of this wise woman; she takes the initiative and does so with a willing heart.

     Proverbs 31:14, the second part of the verse heading above, is so rich with meaning.  Dake's gives us a face value interpretation, saying that "she imports and exports," 2 (see Notes) in relationship to verse 24 of this chapter where she sells linen garments.  She doesn't simply incur expenses to supply her household's needs, but sells enough from her own manufacture to cover costs.  This trait is certainly fitting with her character:  as she sells items left over from her industry in supplying her family to those outside of their household, she is making the best use of every dollar.  Importing and exporting on a somewhat broader scale is not necessarily implied here; it is more likely a facet of her sales effort on a local level, possibly in working with local merchants who import and export goods, and only where her efforts flow easily out of her regular work each day.  It surely doesn't occupy her time beyond what she can readily spare.  In all likelihood, she deals with those merchants whose goods she routinely buys in supplying her household; that is, those with whom she has an established relationship and a well-developed trust, making commerce simple and stress-free.  It's doubtful that we would find this woman haggling with businessmen in the marketplace.

     In looking at this verse on a deeper level, try to imagine that your home and its necessities, its staples of life, are in low supply.  You look out on the horizon and see a merchant ship, loaded in abundance with everything your household needs for replenishment and sustenance.  There is a sense of "filling up:"  of having your base, your foundation of the necessities of life, being once more in ample supply.  This is what the Proverbs 31 woman provides for her home and family.  She fully supplies her husband and children in every way -- physically, emotionally and spiritually -- to best equip them to face the world and its pressures.  The source of this supply is her godly wisdom and the strength of her spiritual nature.  Her household's "food" in this verse, the sufficiency of her family's life and well-being, comes from a source outside of her physical surroundings; the "far country" being heavenly places, from the Lord.