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Much increase comes by the strength of an ox

I was paying a tab recently when the employee behind the counter asked me how many of our children were expecting babies.

“Three,” I answered, smiling ear to ear.

As I walked away, though, I overheard a sigh and something to the effect of “like rabbits.”  The slight nuance of negativity was not lost on me.

Clearly, not everyone embraces the truth of Proverbs 14:4.

One of my daughters-in-law says it’s a biggie in her mom’s arsenal of verses, though, and that’s why she shared it at a shower for Daughter No. 1. The theme of the gathering was “Welcome to the World, Baby,” and along with all the atlases and globe decorations there was a map of Mississippi stretched out across an easel. Its sole purpose was to provide a spot for the posting of parenting advice, which is why M. picked up a sharpie and wrote the words of that proverb plain and clear on a blank spot somewhere north of Greenwood.

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a clean trough, but I think I get the point.  You can have an ox, with its accompanying plowed field and crops, or you can have the spic-and span scenario. Take your pick.

Moms especially need to consider this concept, because the temptation is always there to obsess over trough issues – keeping the house nice and tidy, avoiding stretch marks, having sufficient “me” time. The world is big on such things. What we don’t hear much about is the potential for increase, the good stuff that comes from investing your life in something better than clean carpets and bigger than your self-esteem.

So is there anything wrong with wanting a well-kept home? Nope, as long as it doesn’t keep you from pulling out the play dough. The question for moms is, how much do you want it?  Can you put House Beautiful on the back burner for a season? Because the reality is, raising kids can be pretty messy. They come here with mess clinging to them, and it’s a battle to keep them cleaned up for several years thereafter. They have teeth to brush and mouths to wipe (and occasionally wash out). They step in things they shouldn’t (on purpose). Their noses run. They produce approximately 208 loads of laundry to wash per year.

And that’s just exterior maintenance.

But somewhere along the way, in the midst of all that scrubbing, moms have the opportunity to wash themselves free of some of the fluff of life and find the layers that really matter. What a gift, because here’s the real rub: if caring for our children day in and day out doesn’t cure us of our selfishness/love of clean troughs, that stain just might cling to us for an entire lifetime.

(Can I get an amen here?)

So the trough gets dirty and you clean it.

And the trough gets dirty again, and you clean it again.

Because if you’re very fortunate, after years of such mother work, you may find yourself at one of life’s big moments, say your child’s graduation or wedding. It will be just like a slow-motion scene from a movie, and there will be Kleenex involved.

(I have it on good authority that during such occasions you do not think of stretch marks or cluttered closets or how much “me” time you missed.)   

And the mom in the audience will realize that she has become what she never thought she could be and figure out that yes, raising kids was messy, but there is no other investment that can yield quite the same dividends.

She will have embraced the truth of Proverbs 14:4, and perhaps be found smiling ear to ear – in spite of nuanced comments from those who don’t.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.