"She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff." Proverbs 31:19

    The spindle and distaff are parts of the spinning wheel, which is still used by some artisans to make thread, or yarn, from raw material such as wool.  The distaff is the part upon which the wool is rolled or tied, and the spindle twists the wool into strands.  Apart from its literal meaning, a few characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman are evident in this verse.

     First, she must be physically fit and energetic, not only to have the ability to run a spinning wheel and lift bolts of wool, but also to fit such a laborious activity inot her schedule of responsibilities, which we've seen can easily fill every moment of her day.  Her thriftiness is also apparent.  Rather than buying garments, she not only makes them herself, but takes it a step further and makes the fabric as well.  In her manufacture of these garments and other textile items, she tends to her family's needs first; but we'll see in verse 24 that, because of her efficiency, she is able to produce additional pieces for sale to others.  Here we see that she takes advantage of extra moments and adds to the household income -- perhaps even covering the expense of the raw material, and thus her family's entire clothing budget.

     Her skillfulness is also evident in her ability to operate a spinning wheel.  She might have learned this craft from a family member, but would have taught herself if necessary.  What pops out from this verse is her skill in an area of activity that equates to the highest and best use of her time, as it provides the most savings to a household possible for a wife living in her era.  This is evident when we think of all the household items requiring cloth of different types, to be turned into end products:  not only clothing, but other items mentioned throughout the chapter such as coverlets, cushions, linen garments and tapestries.  We know she is able to work with more than one type of material, for both wool and flax are mentioned earlier in verse 13, and the implication is that she is adept in working with as many types of materials as are necessary for her family and household requirements.  She does high quality work so that her family is beautifully clothed, and her home nicely decorated within her budget.  Her talent is developed in an area that greatly benefits her household in terms of money saved and quality of goods.  In comparison, we might speculate that carpentry would be the highest and best use of her husband's strength and excess time, as it relates to thriftiness and benefit to his home.  This skill would enable him to build and maintain at least part of his family's dwelling, its furniture, and many of its tools and utility items.  In this context of biblical times, it's interesting to note that Jesus was a carpenter, as was His earthly father, Joseph.  What Jesus didn't learn from him, His heavenly Father filled in with, again, the sophia wisdom --  cleverness and skill -- found in James 1:5.

     It's also significant that the amount of time which the Proverbs 31 woman spends at the spinning wheel is more profitable than in her doing routine tasks.  We know from verse 15 that she has maids in her employ, and although we can assume she is well-equipped to do their jobs in order to properly direct their activities, she utilizes others for at least some of the daily household work.  This is so that her time might be spent handling those larger household responsibilities which she alone can fulfill.  Because of her continual thriftiness, and prudence in running her home and family, their household has reached a size where some staff is required and their budget can accomodate it.  The cost in terms of wages and/or room and board for her maidservants is adequately covered.  Remember also that she is the operations manager of her household, which is implied to be quite large, with many facets of activity.

     Let's look again at the idea that her skill is developed in something that serves her family well by providing garments for them, as well as adding to the household budget through sales of her piece goods to others (verse 26).  Any woman would best serve her family by developing an expertise that is eceonomically advantageous to her family.  A "hobby," on the other hand, is done in spare time for rest and relaxation.  The Proverbs 31 woman is talented in the arts and crafts associated with homemaking, as well as in her ability to manage or contribute to certain local civic and church events.  But she is honest with herself about whether her time spent on these activities is really being put to its best use.  Does her home, or more importantly her husband and children, suffer in her absence?  Does the money she might earn in the marketplace selling handmade items, or what she generates for a local cause or event, benefit greatly enough to make up for what might possibly be neglected at home during her time away?  She as a wife and mother certainly has a right to and need for some leisure time, but her home and family do not suffer in the very least due to her spending time elsewhere, focused away from them, on these occasions.  And if she ever finds this to be the case, she reprioritizes, putting their needs first.

     Titus 2:5 tells us that the older women of the church body should teach the younger wives to be "keepers at home" (King James version).  As archaic as this sounds, a well-tended, well-managed home will produce a husband who is effective and prosperous in his work, and children who are healthy, well-balanced, and successful in their activities, thus putting in motion the cycle of abundance and well-being for a family's life and its generations to follow.  Just as our husbands have the responsibility of providing for their families, we as wives have the responsibility of efficiently managing our homes.  A woman who recognizes the importance of this and who joyfully accepts the challenge will reap its benefits:  a home that runs smoothly is stress-free, and a joy for all who live there.

     Lastly, Titus 2:4 admonishes wives to "agape" love their husbands and children.  Agape, which we've come across earlier in our study, is a Greek word for love which has nothing to do with emotions, but is rather a willful choice to act in a loving manner towards another.  It differs from eros, which is a romantic or passionate love, and phileo, which refers to affection and human kindness.  Agape, as it applies to our husbands and children, includes a dedication and devotion to them with a consistent involvement in their lives.  If we find ourselves frazzled to where we need a constant escape from this involvement with hobbies and outside activities, that is a sure sign of the need to assess the source of the stress factors and adjust our priorities and schedules in order to remedy them.  A well-run household is calm, peaceful and replenishing to the body and spirit, for us as wives and mothers, and for everyone living under our roof.  Anyone who comes in contact with this kind of household will feel its serenity, as well.