I've always read this verse and applied it to my household and my job (when I worked outside the home). However, God has been teaching me recently that this applies to every area - even in my playtime with my children.
I have not been very quiet about or hidden my recent battle with depression. It has hung over my head like a dark cloud and has consumed everything about me. It has sapped my strength and energy. Forget being a hard worker! It was a struggle just to get out of bed each morning. I would get up only because I have 3 little children that could not take care of themselves. I did my chores each day, but only the necessary. I didn't do the little extras - like organizing things or even lighting candles - because it was just too much work. I did do laundry and dishes and cook and buy groceries and pay bills because I HAD to. Those things are necessary in order to keep a home functioning. Though I did all of those things, I could not be considered a hard worker. It would not cross anyone's mind to label me as energetic and strong! I did what I had to do to get by.
**I know this depression thing sounds like I'm just making excuses for my behavior. If you've struggled with this or know someone who has, you know that's not at all what it is. If you haven't dealt with this before, please understand that that is not at all the case.**
All of that said, the lesson God taught me through this verse has nothing to do with chores or my home or job. It has to do with making memories with my children. It has to do with having fun with them. In years and holidays past, it was just another day come and gone. We celebrated the actual day, but there were no fun things leading up to the day/event. The thought of baking cookies with young kids was exhausting. It seemed like too much work to pull out craft supplies and make something. It was much easier to put them at the table with a piece of paper and a crayon and leave them to it. I didn't have the energy or strength to be involved. The more children I had, the harder it became to do those things.
However, this year I've been taking medicine and (with the exception of a couple of days out of town for a wedding and then a REALLY dark day afterwards because I forgot to take my meds while out of town) we have made a "Countdown Chain" to count down the days until our trip to Houston. Each day has an activity that has to do with Christmas. The first few days are Christmas activities that have more to do with Santa and the "secular" side of the holiday. Then they slowly migrate towards the religious side of things and end up with the Christmas story being read while we're in the car traveling.
I have to admit that I didn't plan this very well. I was very excited about starting this because I finally had the energy. It didn't feel overwhelming. I was able to work hard at gathering supplies and because I'm only doing crafts that I already have the resources for - no purchases!!! - I spent time researching craft ideas and searching my house to see if we had the items. I say I didn't plan well. It was more that I didn't organize well. The first night we read a book about Rudolph and two nights later we did a reindeer craft. Those should have gone together. :-/ Oh well. I'm still getting the hang of this.
Anyway, God has really blessed my efforts in this by providing the resources and the ideas and helping me carry them out. He has also really helped me to see - through Proverbs 31:17 - that while it is "playtime" and we are having fun, it also involves hard work, energy, and strength. I'm seeing that making memories with my children is something He sees as an attribute of a virtuous woman.
Here are some pics of the things we've been doing. We're a little behind, but maybe we'll catch up on it tomorrow! Maybe . . . :-)
Here is our Countdown Chain.
There's not much to it, but we got a late start!
I didn't get any pictures of the girls actually doing the painting, but if the number of pictures they did is any indication, I'd say they enjoyed it!!!!
Here is our Christmas book for the night. We also ended up watching videos on YouTube of different people singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". I think Alvin and the Chipmunks was their favorite version!
I'll do a separate post for the rest of the days. I was just too excited about what we've been doing that I thought I'd share the first day!
I don't know what God is telling you through this verse, but don't be stuck on how you've always interpreted it. Open your heart to God, and let Him show you what area in your life needs a makeover to receive more of your energy and time and hard work. You may be just the opposite of me. You may spend so much time with your kids' playtime that He wants you to focus on your home or chores or job more. Don't be afraid to ask Him what He wants for you. Just be ready to jump in and obey!!