Women of Valor...Pinterest Aside
by Jen Hatmaker on December 21st, 2012

This fall brought some wonderful things with it, starting with Back to School (whatever, this thrills me and I don’t care what you say), Haiti and The Legacy Project, kids who can read (this is a thing), a sister/mom trip, the discovery of When Parents Text, Uganda, Remy’s prayers, good friends, good times.
[Click below to listen to Remy’s prayer in two parts…you won’t be sorry. Note: 1.) Gavin and Ben lost Brandon's hammer in the woods and had one day to find it until they had to pay the piper, and 2.) part of the Elm Grove Elementary Leadership Curriculum includes the concept of being “proactive” which will become apparent to you in two minutes.]
"Thank you, THANK YOU for...me."

But it also brought something else for me: a crushing sense of failure. My inner critic is destroying me. I can’t escape this nagging sense that I am doing bad at everything.

Sound byte: Brandon and I are speaking at two marriage conferences this spring, and we sat down to hammer out material, looked at each other and said, “Um. Who thought we were good candidates for this?” Parenting? I can’t even talk about it except to tell you that as my kids left for school Tuesday, these were my parting words: “If you come home fighting, I will turn this house into a monastery and every one of you will be forbidden to speak until tomorrow. Not one word. Have a good day!” Fitness? I can only hope my unused gym membership at the YMCA is somehow going to feed orphans or whatever it is the Young Christian Men do with my cash.
And then my friend Kristen convinced me to join Pinterest.
Now it’s confirmed: I am a failure, because evidently I haven’t taken a fall picture in my size zero skinny jeans and haphazard scarf standing on railroad tracks, I haven’t chalkboard painted mason jars to organize my Arborio rice and lentils, I clearly don’t know how to do eye makeup, and I’ve never cut my children’s sandwiches and apples and carrots into a whimsical seascape.  Nor have I made this craft with my kids, but it is only because I love them:
Pinterest, please put yourself in timeout.

Between the Top 10 Lists everywhere, impending New Year’s Resolutions, freaking Pinterest, and the Advent Calendar (excuse me, but I have never done anything for 25 straight days in my life), I am in dire need of some different goals. Not the “try this new behavior system” kind. Not the “how to be more organized” type. Not the “becoming more awesome” lists.
No, I need something different this year. We all do.

I came across some profound teaching by my friend, Rachel Held Evans, that I can only deduce was divinely timed. After I read it the first time, I literally thought about it for weeks. It was so liberating, so refreshing, so carefully examined and studied in Scripture. She took a biblical passage that women have used as a battering ram - on themselves - for far too long, and it's high time we begin to change the banner we wave over one another, over ourselves.

From Rachel:
Why You Don't Need Pinterest to be a Proverbs 31 Woman

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I never loved the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Actually, that may be an understatement. Truth be told, I secretly hated her.

The subject of a twenty-two line acrostic poem found in the last chapter of the book of Proverbs, the “wife of noble character” is cited at nearly every Christian women’s conference as the ideal to which all godly women must strive. The bad news for the domestically-challenged among us is that the life of the Proverbs 31 woman is like a Pinterest board come to life: She rises before dawn each day, provides exotic food for her children, runs a profitable textile business, invests in real estate, cares for the poor, spends hours at the loom making clothes and coverings for her bed, and crafts holiday wreaths out of coffee filters. (Okay, so that last one was straight from Pinterest, but you get the idea.)

Growing up in the Church, I sat through many a sermon explaining how domestic exploits like these represented the essence of true womanhood, and over time, I began to see myself as less-than, falling short of God’s ideal each time I turned to Sara Lee for dessert or called my mom to help me hem my own slacks.

So when I decided to commit one year of my life to studying (and at times, practicing) everything the Bible says about women as part of my “Year of Biblical Womanhood,” I knew I’d have to come face-to-face with the Proverbs 31 Woman in a way I hadn’t before.

I started by attempting to turn the poem into a to-do list, which resulted in a 16-item list that included everything from lifting weights each morning (“she girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong”), to making a purple dress to wear (“she makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple”), to knitting scarves for my husband (“when it snows, she has no fear for her household, for all of them are clothed in scarlet”), to making a homemade sign and literally praising my husband at the city gate (“her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land”).

I had a bit of fun with that last one, but the rest proved exhausting. Within a few weeks, I’d started and unraveled at least two scarves, broken the old second-hand sewing machine I’d dug out of my closet, cursed at the picture of Martha Stewart smiling glibly from the cover of my cookbook, and embarrassed myself at Hobby Lobby by crying in the fabric aisle.

Finally, I consulted Ahava, an Orthodox Jewish woman I had befriended during the project.

“So do Jewish women struggle with this passage as much as Christian women?” I asked.

Ahava seemed a bit bewildered.

“Not at all!” she said. “In my culture, Proverbs 31 is a blessing.”

Ahava repeated a finding I’d discovered in my research, that the first line of the Proverbs 31 poem—“a virtuous woman who can find?”—is best translated, “a woman of valor who can find?” In fact, the structure and diction employed in the poem closely resembles that of a heroic poem celebrating the exploits of a warrior.

“I get called an eshet chayil (woman of valor) all the time,” Ahava explained. “Make your own challah instead of buying? Eshet chayil! Work to earn some extra money for the family? Eshet chayil! Get promoted at your work?  Eshet chayil! Make balloon animals for the kids at a party? Eshet chayil! Every week at the Sabbath table, my husband sings the Proverbs 31 poem to me. It’s special because I know that no matter what I do or don’t do, he praises me for blessing the family with my energy and creativity. All women can do that in their own way. I bet you do as well.”

I looked into this, and sure enough, in Jewish culture it is not the women who memorize Proverbs 31, but the men. Husband commit each line of the poem to memory, so they can recite it to their wives at the Sabbath meal, usually in a song. (The astute reader will notice that the only actual instruction found in the entire poem is that a husband celebrate his wife for “all her hands have done.”) The praise is meant to be unconditional.

But the blessing goes beyond the family. Ahava explained that her Jewish friends cheer one another on with the blessing, celebrating everything from promotions, to pregnancies, to acts of mercy and justice, to battles with cancer with a hearty “eshet chayil!”—woman of valor.

The biblical heroine Ruth is called an “eshet chayil,” in fact. And she is called that at a time when her life looked nothing like the life of the Proverbs 31 woman, when she was a poor, childless, widow, who, far from exchanging fine linens with the merchants, spent her days gleaning leftover grain from the fields.

“All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character (eshet chayil),” Boaz says to her.

I liked it.

No, I loved it.

So I set aside my to-do list and began using Proverbs 31 as it was meant to be used—not as yet another impossible standard by which to measure our failures, but as a celebration of what we’ve already accomplished as women of valor.  When my friend Tiffany’s pharmacy aced its accreditation, I congratulated her with “eshet chayil!” When my sister beat out about a million applicants for the job she wanted in North Carolina, I called her up and shouted “woman of valor!” When my mom overcame breast cancer, I made a card that said “eshet chayil” on the front.  When I learned that three women had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I shared the new with my readers in a blog post entitled, “Meet Three Women of Valor.”

As I saw how powerful and affirming this ancient blessing could be, I decided it was time for Christian women to take back Proverbs 31. Somewhere along the way, we surrendered it to the same people who invented airbrushing and Auto-Tune. We abandoned the meaning of the poem by focusing on the specifics, and it became just another impossible standard by which to measure our failures. We turned an anthem into an assignment, a poem into a job description.

But according to Ahava, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor.

And that’s worth celebrating…with or without a Pinterest board.

Rachel Held Evans is a popular blogger and the author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which recently released. She has recently been featured in Christianity Today, NPR, The Huffington Post, Slate, The Today Show, People Magazine, and The View.


AMEN, Rachel. Thank you for this profound teaching that has so liberated me from yet another list I cannot conquer. Women, as we tie up 2012 and head into 2013, may we call forth the best in one another, the best in ourselves. Rather than listening to the voices that assure us we are failing, lacking, losing, let's celebrate moments of honor and valor with a loud, strong "eshet chayil!" For we are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and we strengthen each other when we name the goodness we see, when we cheer one another on. Let's take back Proverbs 31 indeed.

Mamas raising the littles and toddlers and babies...eshet chayil!

Women working so hard, using your gifts...eshet chayil!

Wives committed to their marriages, digging deep...eshet chayil!

Those of you teaching your children of Jesus this Christmas...eshet chayil!

To those who care so much and serve so beautifully...eshet chayil!

Women of valor, I HONOR YOU. So proud to be your sister.

Who can we honor together today? Tell us about the women of valor in your life, and let us speak "eshet chayil!" over their lives. Who has loved you? Inspired you? Moved you? Cared for you? Done something worth celebrating? Done something worth celebrating that would never ordinarily be celebrated? May this feed turn into a cheering section, because I think we can all agree the ugly, critical voices have gone on long enough.

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Sarah - December 21st, 2012 at 11:48 AM
The videos are saying they are private...can't watch them. :(

THANK YOU for sharing this today, Jen! Blessed by that Word from Rachel and from you today. Blessed.
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Fixed it! Sorry about that! Go back and listen...so hilarious.
Jen - December 21st, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Loved that chapter so much I had to post about it as well. http://www.simplegirlblog.com/1/post/2012/10/taking-back-the-proverbs-31-woman.html
I am so thankful for blogs allowing us to just jump on-line and get real with one another. Maybe as we accept grace for ourselves we'll allow others to accept it for themselves.

I also had to rant about this after I read the chapter on beauty...How much really is enough.

Thankful for you and Rachel!
Tracie - December 21st, 2012 at 11:54 AM
I love this word about the Proverbs 31 woman. I never heard this side of it before.
Alysa - December 21st, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Thank you for freeing us! It is tiring trying to live up to our own expectations when we compare ourselves to the ultimate highlight reels - Pinterest and the misused Proverbs 31 woman.
Laura - December 21st, 2012 at 12:02 PM
To my mother, who serves her children long after we should be serving her...eshet chayil! To my friend Donna, for scrubbing the stove and bathroom in our next house...eshet chayil! To my dear friend Leslie, for extending me grace upon grace, eshet chayil!
Name - December 21st, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I hate Pinterest and the 31 catelog. I like you, your family and your blog. Merry Christmas.
Yvonne - December 21st, 2012 at 1:18 PM
Thank you!!!! I always wondered what selling overpriced, embroidered lunch totes had to do with being a woman of valor!
Jamie - December 21st, 2012 at 2:12 PM
Yvonne, the Thirty-One company is not "about selling overpriced embroidered lunch totes." The mission of the company is to Celebrate, Encourage, and Reward women for being the fabulous creations we are. Which is PRECISELY what this blog is about.
Laura - December 21st, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Love this, Jen!
Wendy Hagen - December 21st, 2012 at 12:17 PM
What you need to know about Proverbs 31 is this: "She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants."
She had servant girls. I could do a lot of pinning and what nots if I had a house full of servants.

Rachel H. Evans - December 21st, 2012 at 12:21 PM
When I tried to follow the poem literally, I ended up breaking down and inviting some "servant girls" (aka: my friends who know how to sew) over to the house to help me out. I fed them cupcakes. Figured that counted as "portions." :-) It's always important to note that the poem is said to have been passed down from a queen to her son, so Proverbs 31 reflections a royal household, not the average Ancient Near Eastern household. That's why it's so important to point to Ruth, who is also called an eshet chayil, even though she had no servant girls.
Carrie - December 21st, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I would love to know the correct way to pronounce this because when I say it with my Ky accent it sounds like I'm cussing! I can picture it now, if I were to shout this blessing at one of friends!!!
Rachel - December 21st, 2012 at 12:28 PM
haha, oh my word, I can't help you with the pronunciation, but that gave me a good laugh.
Rachel Held Evans - December 21st, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Oh I understand, Carrie. My Tennessee accent creates a similar problem. I skyped Ahava to get her to pronounce it for me...slowly. :-) "Eshet" is basically how it sounds, with two long "e"s. In "chayil," the "ch" should sound like an "h," from the back of your throat.

The rabbi in this video says it several times, so listen close: http://on.aol.com/video/proverbs-31---eshet-chayil-64467759
Francie - December 21st, 2012 at 3:15 PM
I've been wanting to know how to say it right! Rachel, I love that we are putting our Southern accent on it.
Sarah - December 21st, 2012 at 12:39 PM
lol! I just told some friends I'm going to have to see if google can help me out with that pronunciation!
Rachel H. Evans - December 21st, 2012 at 1:17 PM
Oh Carrie. With my East Tennessee accent, I TOTALLY understand. Bungled it myself a few times before skyping with Ahava to get the correct pronunciation. "Eshet" is pronounced as you would guess, with short e sounds. The "ch" in "chayil" is pronounced like an "h," kinda from the back of your throat. So it's: "e-shet-hi-yil." I'll post a video of a rabbi saying it next.
Rachel H. Evans - December 21st, 2012 at 1:27 PM
Here's a video in which a rabbi says it a few times. Listen close! http://on.aol.com/video/proverbs-31---eshet-chayil-64467759
Carrie - December 21st, 2012 at 3:53 PM
Kelly - December 21st, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Oh Jen this is such a blessing... I laughed at the title because this month my women's group is starting the Media month of 7 and I thought... well bonus I'll be putting Pinterest aside! I am a pinterest addict mostly because I am a visual person and love art and color and I know that you would be saddened by my party gift bags, but for me it's a nice outlet, but alas cooking is a daily battle that I strive to conquer daily and still suck at. Thankfullly your post has me thinking of all my amazing friends that are so gifted in so many of the Proverbs 31 ways that I can't wait to start showering them with eshet chayil! But along with my severe lack of cooking skills I have horrible linguistic skills... how do you pronounce it? I don't want to be actually cursing them out in Hebrew or something because of my mispronunciation.
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:36 PM
I'm totally not saddened by other people's awesomeness! Make those gift bags, girl! Eschet chayil!
Mackenzie - December 21st, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Amen and Amen!! eshet chayil!
Jess Mease - December 21st, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Love everything about this! So appreciate your heart. Merry Christmas, Eshet Chayil!
Rachel - December 21st, 2012 at 12:33 PM
This is too much goodness. A breath of fresh air. I love Pinterest, my Christmas decorations prove it. It's funny I get put into a group because of it, but at the same time, I look at others that I put into a group above me, the "better at x than me" group. Silliness.
I tried to avoid Proverbs 31, cause I already knew I wasn't cutting it. haha. Terrible. But with that better understanding, it is beautiful.
Camille - December 21st, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Love it!!
Can we get the phonetic spell out of how to say the words for those of us that read those 2 words a hundred different ways while reading it to see how it sounded best? haha :-)
Lauren - December 21st, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Eshet Chayil to my sweet little girls, 5 and 4, who made the decision to take a chance and try to love us even though they had already been disappointed by many through the maze of American foster care. So grateful they put themselves out there to try and love new adults in their lives, even though they had been let down so often. They are the bravest little ladies I've ever met.

Little Women of Valor!
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:30 PM
This is just too precious. Little Women of Valor! We cheer you on!
Ami - December 21st, 2012 at 3:18 PM
Making me bawl like a baby, Lauren!

Eshet Chayil to your little women of valor!!
Erica - December 21st, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Thank you so much....this brought me to tears and has lifted a cloud over me as well! I always appreciate your thoughts.
Rachel - December 21st, 2012 at 12:39 PM
My mother, eshet chayil. For sure. She is giving and compassionate and just beautiful. For many reasons, but one...last Christmas, she had wrist issues and made my boy's quilts. Who does that?!
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:34 PM
So lovely. Send her over here and let her see where you honored her.
Sarah - December 21st, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Sarah - December 21st, 2012 at 12:47 PM
As I sit here guilt ridden among failed attempts at homemade Christmas gifts, leftover pizza (again) for lunch, a cluttered home, not the faintest idea what my husband will get for dinner and rocking a FINALLY sleeping, worn out little teething 7 month old...I have breathed my first sigh of relief reading this post. I've had a mostly public hatred for the Proverbs 31 woman myself. I KNEW we modern Christians had to have it all wrong :) Thank you for this. What freedom we have been missing out on!
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:34 PM
You are raising a 7-month old! Eschet chayil!!
Julie Blauwkamp - December 21st, 2012 at 12:54 PM
A huge eschet chayil to my mom who passed away of cancer on Easter Sunday. She fought her battle with such valor- just like she did with everything else in her life.

One of our last serious, mother-daughter lectures, I mean heart to hearts was about 10 months before she died-I'd just given birth to my surprise at 41 son n had come home from China with our surprise adoption 6.5 after that-this going from 2-4 kids in 6.5 weeks. I was feeling just a tad bit overwhelmed. Mom sat me down and told me to stop taking myself so seriously n to escape the notion that I had to do it all for all of my kids. So liberating and it gave me glimpse of how she was able to act with such valor in so many areas of her life.

Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:31 PM
Eschet chayil to your mom's lovely legacy, Julie!
Karen - December 21st, 2012 at 12:54 PM
The Women of Valor series is SPECTACULAR! It MOVES me! The post today is.....just WOW!
Ashley - December 21st, 2012 at 1:03 PM
After finding out at 10 months of marriage that my husband has a porn addiction and had been unfaithful (online, not physically), I made the difficult decision to stay... But have felt like a failure all along because I have lost my faith. Your encouragement that I am a woman of valor and worthy of praise for digging deep and committing to my marriage made me weep. Thank you.
Jen - December 21st, 2012 at 2:01 PM
Praying for you Ashley, been there myself. If you want to talk to someone who knows what it's like feel free to contact me mrsjoeroberson at gmail dot com.
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:33 PM
Standing up, clapping for you. Eschet chayil, Ashley! Fighting for a marriage is sometimes way harder than walking from it. You are a woman of valor.
KD - December 21st, 2012 at 3:29 PM
Eschet chayil, my friend. You are such a woman of valor and God esteems you!

Years ago, I chose to stay with my husband after finding out about his 4-year long affair. Even through all the pain, I'm so glad I stayed. I'm praying and believing that God will give you the faith you feel you've lost, and then some. I have much hope for your marriage!
Rachel H. Evans - December 21st, 2012 at 1:04 PM
If you're interested, we've been doing a Women of Valor series on my blog for several months now, with readers sending in contributions that honor the women of valor in their lives: http://rachelheldevans.com/women-of-valor
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:31 PM
It's so good, Rachel. You rule. Eschet chayil, friend!

Brandi - December 21st, 2012 at 1:07 PM
Thank you for blessing me by sharing this.
Laura - December 21st, 2012 at 1:32 PM
and, thank you for jen hatmaker who makes me want to be a better person, woman, wife, mother, and Christ follower every day!
Rachel - December 21st, 2012 at 1:50 PM
A very sweet dear friend of mine has been on a very long road we call life. Between battling cancer, losing her home, her husband struggling to keep a job, and all the while, homeschooling her children (bless her) she manages to emulate Christ in such a way that everyone that comes in contact with her cannot help but walk away in awe of her grace. So "Eshet Chayil!" to Miss Kelley.
SAHMmelier - December 21st, 2012 at 2:03 PM
Loved this. "The praise is meant to be unconditional" Oh, that we can give it to others, that we can ACCEPT that from others, that we can give that to ourselves, that we can truly ACCEPT it from God.
amy - December 21st, 2012 at 3:29 PM
Friend, that was beautiful until you made me squirm. "That we can truly ACCEPT it from God." I spend a lot of time saying "I just keep lowering my standards", trying to be an *Anti-P31*, but I'm afraid sometimes I confuse my standards for my worth. If we could all accept that unconditional praise, our true worth would be realized and this whole discussion could fall away.
Beth Anne - December 21st, 2012 at 2:05 PM
Love this! Thank you for teaching what Proverbs 31 is really about! Lately, the women of valor I know all came together to create a surprise nursery for our friend who was blessed to adopt a premature infant with a medical condition at 2 days old and had to spend the first 4 weeks of his life in the NICU. Six women (with 11 children and one on the way between them...) came together to plan and create this nursery to be a blessing for our friend who has waited and prayed for years to become a mother. Confession time: we used a whole lot of Pinterest inspiration in creating our blessing!! And no, we did not permit it to make us feel inadequate at any point during our planning or execution :) Merry Christmas to you and your family, Jen! Your words are always grounding and encouraging!
Jen Hatmaker - December 21st, 2012 at 2:32 PM
Women of valor!!!
Angela - December 21st, 2012 at 2:12 PM
This is the "you go girl" of the Jewish people. I needed this today. This is good news.
rebecca - December 21st, 2012 at 2:31 PM
BLESS YOU - for writing this - I needed this more than you may ever know! I enjoy pilfering through Pinterest - but not so much doing any of it.... we are all created different and I think there is freedom in that...even in Prov 31
Bethe - December 21st, 2012 at 2:33 PM
I'm 10 weeks pregnant and have round-the-clock morning sickness and have felt (and looked) like total death for 6 weeks now. Today I hit my wall where I felt like I'll never make it to that glorious second trimester where I can eat real food again. Trying to choose joy but it's hard when you're hugging a toilet. So today, thanks to you and the Proverbs 31 woman, I will claim eshet chayil! I am a woman of valor!
Rachel Held Evans - December 21st, 2012 at 2:41 PM
Whew! Eshet Chayil to you today, Bethe. Hang in there! I often wonder if Mary got morning sickness with Jesus. :-)
Tara - December 21st, 2012 at 2:57 PM
You know she must have! The devil would have brought her any discomfort to make her doubt what God had done for her...like making her have her baby in a manger! Can you imagine if all the hospitals turned you away and you just had your baby in a lawn?

Thanks so much for this post, Eshet Chayil to Jen and Rachel and all these amazing women posting :)
Adrienne - December 21st, 2012 at 2:52 PM
To my mom, who has stayed with my dad for 31 years, even though he has struggled with a pornography addiction all along. And for raising us 10 children (TEN!). Mom, your actions and love mean more than you could ever know. Eshet Chayil!

Jen, thank you for this. I was just feeling overwhelmed about how I didn't hand-make everything this year, and that I simply can't do it all. Thanks for opening my eyes to the freedom of Proverbs 31!
Amanda - December 21st, 2012 at 2:57 PM
My friend, Amelia - who came over on a recent Saturday to play with my small children and told me to go take a nap. To my mom, who sent way too many Christmas presents for my kids and told me to put our names on them since we lack funds. To my grandma - who faithfully prays for her family every day. To my son's preschool teacher who teaches him to use scissors because the thought of that makes me want to pull out my hair. To my other son's therapists - who are helping him learn to walk and talk.
Lauren - December 25th, 2012 at 9:06 PM
Women of Valor--especially all preschool teachers!
Sara - December 21st, 2012 at 3:01 PM
I just read this with my husband. Now he's singing to me from the other room about how wonderful it is that I put away the groceries. The little things...

We just moved from American to England and have like no friends except a Jewish neighbor - who invited us over for Christmas! I can't wait to ask her about how she and her friends look at the Proverbs 31 woman!
Kelly - December 21st, 2012 at 3:11 PM
A Bible teacher told me once to look at what a passage DOESN'T say as well as what it does say. Have you noticed Prov 31 never mentioned what the woman looks like. I tell myself she must have been ugly, becasue if she was really hot, her husband would have mentioned that first. I tell my husband that "no, I'm not a Proverbs 31 wife; I'm a Proverbs 32 wife. I cannot say on social media what this entails except that Proverbs 32 is one short sentence an contains attributes/skills that are imortant to most men. Whatever, it works for us;)
KatieLCurry - December 21st, 2012 at 3:13 PM
Eshet Chayil to my mom Leigh. When my dad died unexpectedly almost 2 years ago, she could have locked herself in her bedroom and never come out, and we would have understood. But instead, she has chosen not to waste her suffering, but to get up every day and minister to other ladies with her testimony. She knows God keeps His promises, and while she misses my dad every day, she never hesitates to tell people of how God has kept his promise to "give [her] a full life in the emptiest of places."

And if any of you readers haven't read 7 or A Year of Biblical Womenhood, do! Life-changing, and freedom-giving.
Create Hope Inspire: Miriam - December 21st, 2012 at 3:34 PM
A fantastic post as always - thanks for your voice and your encouragement. x
Jen - December 21st, 2012 at 3:46 PM
Oh, sweet grace! Thank you, Jen and Rachel. These words are water to a tired, weary heart. I have struggled with soul crippling perfectionism and have secretly hated the Proverbs 31 woman as one more example of what I'm not doing well. What a fresh perspective! Of course it's a blessing! Lord, I pray that our hearts would take this in and find healing in your Word.

Sarah - December 21st, 2012 at 3:49 PM
I'm so over Suzy Homemaker. I had a brunch for friends... Purchased all the food at SAMs club and Tim Horton's. I use Pinterest to steal ideas I'll never think of on my own:). Thanks for the post!
- December 21st, 2012 at 4:14 PM
This is so freeing! I am so far from the Proverbs 31 woman as we have understood her. I'm a terrible cook, feed my kids too much junk, I struggle to teach them respect for me and each other and I'm a crappy homemaker. I often think that my husband got a dud when he got me. But, reading this I can see where I have other strengths that are valuable, in addition to my weaknesses.

The first woman of valor that came to mind was a dear friend who lost her battle with cancer recently, but who NEVER lost her faith and fought so bravely. There's a picture of her in the ICU, weak after 51 days in the hospital, but with hands lifted to heaven singing. It's beautiful. I miss her.
Jada - December 21st, 2012 at 4:31 PM
"Eshet Chayil" to so many amazing women who've walked my life's journey with me, but specifically to my moms. To my biological mom, who at 47 years old, gave me the gift of life. And to my adoptive mom, whose life reflected Jesus to me, and I now have eternal life.
Penny - December 21st, 2012 at 5:10 PM
Wow! I so love this perspective! I have lived with guilt over "not being perfect" for years!!! I just wish you had more young readers who you could rescue with this insight. I will definitely "pay it forward" and share the good news and blessing. :)
Amanda - December 21st, 2012 at 5:54 PM
This was so LIFE GIVING. I realized as I read this that The Lord has already freed me from a list of expectations. I have stopped comparing and feeling guilty and have started approaching each day with the gifts He has given ME and the people He puts before ME and I just ask that He will equip me. That I'll be faithful and that I'll love well. And it just never involves sewing clothes or being a brilliant chef or crafter. Not for ME.

Thanks for this!!
Krystal - December 21st, 2012 at 6:42 PM
THANK.YOU. Such a gift to my soul today.
Jennifer - December 21st, 2012 at 6:49 PM
Thank you for that. It made me celebrate all the amazing things I was able to do today!
Brooke Morters - December 21st, 2012 at 7:18 PM
Audible breath of relief. Simply....beautiful.
Cindy - December 21st, 2012 at 7:47 PM
Eshet chayil-Kathleen Kennard! A joy to be around. Wife. Mom. Friend. Gift giver. Last year our office exploded Christmas. This year...not so much. Her smile, laugh, caring heart. And now she is kicking breast cancer in the @$$! Of all the women I know, she is the eshet chayil that came to mind when I read this post!
Wendy - December 21st, 2012 at 7:49 PM
My friend Kris is married with 3 young children. Her husband Josh was diagnosed with a grade 4 brain tumor in April of 2011. She is simply amazing. She is an inspiration to me and all who know her. You can read a bit of their story here... http://thejoshmottfamily.blogspot.com/
Lindsay - December 21st, 2012 at 7:52 PM
Eshet Chayil to my mom who never once turned her back on my brother while he was doing his best to destroy our family and himself. She loved him unconditionally, stayed the course and walked with him back to a healthy place. She will forever be the best real-life example of the father in the Prodigal Son I have ever seen in real life.
Sheri - December 21st, 2012 at 8:09 PM
Eshet Chayil to my dear friend Cindy who battled breast cancer twice and was there for me during my battle.
Cori - December 21st, 2012 at 8:29 PM
Oh the freedom of not seeing every list as a "I'm not good enough list."
Abby Norman - December 21st, 2012 at 8:33 PM
I teach at a public school and have in the past taught in some ROUGH places. Now that I am at a typical suburban high school I get told "thank you" and given presents for Christmas I often think about how I never got that before when my job was harder! To the ladies working in the inner city schools. You are doing a good job. You are working a mighty work. Eshet Chayil. May God bless you with the rest you need this Christmas.
Christy - December 21st, 2012 at 9:12 PM
When my son Zeke married Melissa five years ago, she and I started a little thing between us that when certain situations arose, one of us will raise our fist and say, %u201CStrong Dorr women!%u201D then the other would do the same. We would giggle a little when we said it. When my son Colt married Skye, we added her to the clan and got her to say our little phrase with us, and then we%u2019d laugh together. A few months ago when Melissa miscarried their first baby they were awaiting with great joy, I read a precious message Skye sent to her. One of the lines of the message: %u201CStrong Dorr women.%u201D Our little chant we had giggled over the last few years had suddenly become our deeply personal mantra%u2014reminding us who we as women, as family, and most importantly, who we are as sisters in Christ. None of us FELT strong that day, but we all knew who is our Refuge and our Strength. In our dark moment, we knew that we were in need of nothing; the clothes we were wearing were His strength and dignity (from Prov. 31). I watched my precious daughter-in-law rise up in the midst of her grief and declare that the Lord is good, and that He is everything she needs. What dignity she displayed at the tender age of 25!
Liz C - December 21st, 2012 at 9:44 PM
AMEN! I LOVE Proverbs 31 and can't stand the stigma that Christianity has placed on it. This is incredible.
Katie M - December 21st, 2012 at 11:16 PM
THANK you for posting this Jen! I've always struggled with the misogynistic burden Proverbs 31 places on women and reading this was like being given FREEDOM. I have Rachel's book on my Kindle but hadn't started it until today -- and now I can't put it down! What a beautiful blessing.
Crystal Campbell - December 21st, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Tears running down my face! I am stuck under unrepentant piles of laundry that go on for infinity. Such a new way to look at this verse. Physically felt a burden lifted from my soul when I read this article. Validation for what I do accomplish feels so good. Not worrying about what I don't do is priceless. Bravo Jen! eshet chayil!!!!
LaughingMouse - December 21st, 2012 at 11:38 PM
A wonderful friend of mine posted this on her facebook wall. For whatever reason my mind defaulted every one of the 5 times I saw it to thinking "she can't possibly be talking about me." Tonight somewhere between the 6th and 8th time I decided to just read it and see.

I am blessed. The words are encouragement which I desperately need these days. As I'm sure quite a number of people have similarly shared. I wanted to share my own tidbit because the short list of suggestions on where to start with eshet chayil-ing each other DID NOT EXCLUDE ME AS A SINGLE WOMAN! So often those types of lists and posts inherently exclude me whether it be up front and obvious or as a simple lack of acknowledgment of "my" presence in this world. I got to the list and actually looked, immediately, for the ways the items were excluding me, and I only found one or two that did. I am not a parent and not married. So, I just wanted to share that your post blessed me in spite of myself and my heartfelt appreciation that you acknowledge women who are doing something other than raising kids and being married. Thank you.
Valerie - December 22nd, 2012 at 1:24 AM
I'm still stuck on the fact that WE ARE BUILDING A FREAKING SCHOOL!!

That's like so epic...so totally off the charts...its NOT EVEN LISTED in Prov 31! Take that personal guilt trips...we, all of us, are actually EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS as far as I am concerned!

Eshet Chayil! We kick butt!!!
Jennifer - December 22nd, 2012 at 4:57 AM
Actually God kicks butt...we are just the humans that get the HONOR of doing His work. Keep Christ first, give Grace to yourself and others, All the rest will fall into place...eventually. :)
Joani - December 22nd, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Is this what @jonacuff calls a Jesus Juke? :)
Billie - December 22nd, 2012 at 7:10 AM
I LOVE this!!! I would like to honor my mother. What a woman of valor she truly is! Technically, she's my stepmom, but she's more of a real mother to me than any woman could've been through biology. It is a true woman of valor that will raise and love children that aren't her own. She courageously and faithfully withstood all the hardships that can come along with a blended family. She taught me how to be honest, trustworthy, faithful, modest and feminine not just by teaching, but through her example. A year ago she was in the middle of chemo treatments for ovarian cancer. I watched her trust God and remain strong through it all. Since finshing chemo, she is healthier and more beautiful than ever. The last 6 months have been difficult for her since my grandmother has been diagnosed with alzheimers along with some other serious family drama. She bears the weight of it all as our matriarch. Through everything, she remains strong and true to her faith in God. Her prayers never cease. Faithfulness to God and family through anything is the most valuable thing she's taught me. I will forever arise and call her blessed! She is a true Proverbs 31 woman.
Katie May - December 22nd, 2012 at 7:45 AM
My "women of valor" are the wives of IHI! IHI (In His Image) is a family medicine medical residency program, and while we have both men and women going through the progam to become family medicine docs, today I have to celebrate the wives of the male residents. Almost all of these women set aside their own pursuits of career to be present in their husbands' pursuit of becoming doctors. These women love their husbands in the midst of crazy work hours and irregular schedules that change monthly. These women take on extra responsibilities in their homes so that their husbands can focus on the program. These women often load up their kids and a dinner (home cooked or take out!), lugging it all up to the hospital when their hubands are working just to get a few minutes together for dinner as a family. Today, I celebrate them! They are truly women of valor!
Adrienne - December 22nd, 2012 at 8:23 AM
It saddens me to hear how Satan has contorted this passage to discourage so many women! I'm thankful that studious women continue to take it on and seek God's truth!

I love to look at Pinterest, but I hate that no personal creation or craft is a surprise anymore!! No one gets to celebrate their own idea because people assume they saw it on Pinterest!! So yesterday, with the Target gift card we were able to give our children's fabulous teachers, I included a little typed slip of paper that said, "Let's make a deal. Please accept this giftcard and pretend I made you something pretty from Pinterest, and I'll pretend you sent me a thank you note!" Everybody wins!

Just like P31 laughs at the days to come, I think we all need to just laugh at ourselves a lot more and accept some of the abundant grace God gives us!!!
jeannett gibson - December 22nd, 2012 at 8:25 AM
The Proverbs 31 woman...anxiety. I have rolled my eyes and used her "name" sarcastically more times than I can count. Women's Ministry conferences could be boiled down to three elements: roses, doilies, and THAT woman. Gag.

But I love this new way of looking at that text. I'm totally going to have a talk with my husband about it. Is that against the rules? To say, "Hey, you need to praise me whenever I do something cool."?

One of my favorite things I have seen recently (and I keep whispering to myself this holiday season)...found on Pinterest ironically...is a graphic that simply says "Stop the glorification of busy." I love that. No...LOVE. You don't get brownie points in heaven for making your own skirt out of your husband's t-shirt and mittens out of sweaters. At least, I don't think you do...
Jessica - December 22nd, 2012 at 9:59 AM
I cried...i did not see that coming. This is release, freedom.
Cooking Up Faithc - December 22nd, 2012 at 10:01 AM
To my grandma who was a quiet woman with a loud laugh. I somehow got her Bible when she passed away and can see all the scriptures she underlined and drew strength from through her joys and struggles. Even though she is not here on earth anymore she is still setting an example to me of how a woman can draw hope, strength,and love through Christ.
doug - December 22nd, 2012 at 10:34 AM
wow. I'm inspired. once again i humbly need to come to scripture with the context in mind. I have it all wrong. I will live the questions. I'm so saddened how scripture has oppressed woman rather than free them.
Jenny - December 22nd, 2012 at 4:26 PM
Scripture has never oppressed me - only freed me and from SO much. It's only our own ignorance that oppresses us - never God's Word. There have been times I didn't understand scripture and had to ask God to help me understand it. Through sermons, a talk with a frond, or my own revelation He has always given me understanding when I asked for it.
Tracy - December 22nd, 2012 at 1:07 PM
I was just in Petionville today :) ...would love to see the site of your project! Our family lives in Leogane (actually, a really small village outside of Leogane), and has truly been blessed to be a part of God's work in this country. We would love to get in contact with you during one of your travels here and be a part of what you are doing! Thanks for answering God's call!
Kathy - December 22nd, 2012 at 3:29 PM
I am 52 and many many years ago (about 20) our 12 member young mothers Christian women's bible study studied this passage. When I read it, then and now, I see ALL my woman friends and all the wonderful things they do for their own families from dawn to dark. No one person might do ALL the homey bits of it ALL the time but they all do work tirelessly to make their families better and more loved. That's how I taught this passage back then and it opened up a lot of eyes. We all see this woman much more clearly in each other than we ever do in ourselves. But she is in us too.
Kim - December 22nd, 2012 at 7:10 PM
Ba ha ha- I hate pinterest and I love it and I've broken up with it twice only to reactivate my account at a later date looking for some cute school snack or some DIY project to waste money on;) Modern technology is not always a blessing!

Neither is our achievement oriented culture that tells us we have to be everything in order to be anything. Our children will rise up and call us blessed not because we fit a mold, but because we loved them with the gifts God has given us. I LOVE this insight on Proverbs 31. Love it and will be making this blessing a regular part of encouraging others. THANKS for including!

She is an authentic woman whose prose God uses to encourage others....eshet chayil, Jen Hatmaker!
April - December 22nd, 2012 at 10:23 PM
I love you Jen! Thank you for this. Can't wait to see you all at the Christmas Eve Eve service!!!! Xoxo
Christie Brasser - December 23rd, 2012 at 3:09 PM
Okay so I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this but...

I want 2013 to be a year of giving for me. Or should I say a year of purposeful giving. I'm not sure how it will all unfold but this post resonated with me. So first, thanks for that. Second, I have this idea of getting some magnets with "Eshet Chayil" made and attaching them to a card with a portion of this post quoted. Can I have permission for that? The idea is that I can pass these out to "women of valour" through the year. One for them and one for them to pass on to others. I just don't want to break any copyrights or anything.
Rachel Held Evans - December 27th, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Do it! What a great idea. My dad made "eshet chayil" plaques for me, my mom, and my sister this year. It belongs to all of us.
Holly - December 23rd, 2012 at 3:16 PM
A woman of valor is a woman whose valor is only found in Christ. Of course we can't live according to the standard of Proverbs 31. Would you consider, however, that our solution isn't found in "a celebration of what we%u2019ve already accomplished as women"? That is doing nothing but exchanging one kind of works-based righteousness for another. We don't stand on what we've done. We stand on what Christ has already accomplished. We celebrate and praise His works, not our own... and we marvel at the fact that His perfection is ours to claim. That is the only thing that will free us from impossible standards and motivate us to be women of valor who seek His glory.
Christie - December 24th, 2012 at 8:36 AM
To me, it's not just a celebration of what we have done as women but a celebration of what God has done in us and with our lives! How awesome that He would choose to use us?! He could use anyone to care for children but he gave US these children. He could use others to care for the poor, feed the hungry, help the sick but He calls US and gives us the strength to do it! I can only pray I'll stay open enough to feel the nudges on my heart.
tamara b - December 23rd, 2012 at 10:51 PM
encouraging. thank you.
NE - December 24th, 2012 at 10:24 AM
Thanks for this word. As a single woman, I find Pinterest to be a particularly special kind of suck. There are certain "crafts" and recipes I'll always marvel over (like - homemade twix. What the heck? Like, is the price point of a twix problematic?). But it's becoming this gigantic brag board full of wedding pictures and baby pictures and it makes the missing places feel bigger. I get so bitter over it. Of course, I love Jesus and I'm following hard after him, but good grief, I'm ready to meet a great guy. (When Paul says if you're burning up with lust you should be married? THAT.) On good days, I can look at the LOADS of wedding stuff on there and be okay, but sometimes it just hurts. And it makes me feel like poo because I'm not a domestic diva either, and don't really enjoy cooking and baking and mending clothes and all those traditional "P31" things. There's a constant hiss in my ear like, "No wonder you don't have a man yet. You aren't enough, see?" But I know that's crap. Pinterest (and sometimes Facebook, too) do a darn good job of giving me shade at my private pity pool. But if I get away from them, I realize all the crazy blessings in my life, and I get over myself. (I still pray for a man, but I'm not whiny about it ;) And truly, I don't want to live an edited life. I don't want to spend so much time at home, in front of a computer, pinning some idealized future that I never actually get out and LIVE. Mason jars, be darned (unless you're full of my mom's strawberry jelly ... then Mason Jars, be mine! :)
Renee - December 26th, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Thank you thank you thank you.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - December 26th, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Okay, Remy. Oh my stars. I cannot. I can't take it. I died over proactive. And the mean people. And Ben's kisses. And her little voice. And the words. And the curls (I went ahead and pictured them in my mind.)

As for me, I'm staying up late reading blogs in solidarity to my husband who is presently tiling our backsplash. Eshet chayil! ?
Kate - December 27th, 2012 at 12:41 PM
What a fantastic truth and encourager for women everywhere. It was definitely something I found encouraging and I am so thankful that you shared this and that Kelly shared it on her blog so that I could find it.

I'll be keeping up with yours from this point forward.

God Bless!


Viv - December 27th, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Thank you so much for posting this
Flower Patch Farmgirl - December 28th, 2012 at 2:33 PM
Just made Cory listen to the prayers. FYI. And now I would like you and everyone with a child under the age of 7 to record any/all prayers forthcoming. It could be a new "thing". The end/Amen.
Jen Hatmaker - December 29th, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Seriously, right? This needs to be a trend, because for the love. The cuteness is too much.
Stacie - December 28th, 2012 at 3:09 PM
I struggle with this as well -- even as someone who *tries* to make "pinnable" posts! Pinterest makes everything look perfect, and sometimes the Proverbs 31 woman looks perfect, too.

I just give up and fall in the arms of Jesus. His perfect covers my imperfection, and I'm grateful a zillion times over for that!

Thanks for giving us another look at Proverbs 31. :)

Auntie J - December 28th, 2012 at 6:50 PM
I got tossed into the deep end of parenthood at the very beginning, going from no kids to three kids, ages 18 months (twins) and not quite 3, with about 9 days' notice. There were days I felt I barely survived. Heck, there are still days like that. Sometimes, motherhood is so exhausting that I count the minutes until bedtime...and I feel horrendously guilty about it. Or I look at my supermom friend, who has 7 kids, homeschools them all, and hardly ever seems to lose her cool, and I feel even more like a failure.

And Proverbs 31 constantly was a source of discouragement.

There were days the kids didn't get out of their jammies. There were days I didn't get out of my jammies. There were days when I was so completely overwhelmed that I called my husband, in tears, less than an hour after he got to work, wanting to know when he'd be home.

I'm no domestic goddess. I'm not a fabulous cook like my mom. My house is always one tea party away from total disaster. I hate folding clean clothes. I seriously do not have the gift of helps (which irritates and then amuses my husband). I'm so far from any perception of even close to the "traditional" Proverbs 31 woman.

This...this is FREEING. I'm not failing to be this perfect wife and mother as biblically described. Proverbs 31 as a celebration of the things I do, day in, day out? I can totally get on board with that.

It means that making my kids' lunches for school is an act of valor. That washing my middlest's duckie so that it's clean is an act of valor. That setting my work aside to let my girls play with my hair isn't procrastination; it's valorous. That even taking a nap or snuggling with my kids, even if it means I'm not vacuuming and my house teeters on the verge of a toy box detonation, is still a worthwhile venture.

Debby Morden - January 6th, 2013 at 6:35 PM
You are a woman of valor for just jumpin feet first into this AWESOME responsibility! Parenting is the hardest & most rewarding job you'll ever have!! Sounds like you need your friends & family to help out - Am praying for you!! God gives all you need - I celebrate You!!
Debby Morden - December 28th, 2012 at 9:31 PM
Thank you- Thank you -God wants to free us from burdens & celebrate who we are-His precious children & women of valor- To my Mom who raised 7 children to be successful loving people & is so compassionate for hurting people & my Aunt Ginny who is one of the kindest most giving people on this planet- Eschet chayil!!!! Remy is so precious -wish I could smother her with kisses!!
Tammy - December 29th, 2012 at 9:53 PM
Being a single mom to my 3 recently adopted (soon to be 4) precious loves, I am overwhelmed by the realization that God himself sings this over me. "Doing" life without a spouse, with no one to refute them, I often allow the negative thoughts bouncing around in my head to become my truth. It's time to quiet the noise and listen to HIS singing of truth and love. Thanks so much for sharing - Eschet chayil!!!!
Kelli - December 30th, 2012 at 7:35 AM
Amazing post~ THANK YOU! Raising 4 daughters overseas has it's own set of challenges for sure but I was just thinking recently about beginning to teach my oldest 2 (ages 13 and 11) about Proverbs 31 and I decided against it since I've alwasy been so bitter about it! This view is so refreshing though and I'm so thankful for it! And, yeah, pinterest- ughh! For some reason it's SOO much harder being away from the American culture because I look at it and think, REALLY!? People do this stuff?! Thanks for the perspective!
Christine - December 30th, 2012 at 9:26 PM
I'm not able to "follow" your blog for some reason. I couldn't even get to your information on Facebook through the link, though I did find you by just doing a name search. Anybody else having difficulties?
Cassidy Robinson - January 1st, 2013 at 9:54 PM
This is so great. Affirming. And perfectly timed for my season of life right now. Thank you!
Lisa - January 1st, 2013 at 10:12 PM
But seriously, thank you.
sandi - January 2nd, 2013 at 12:59 PM
i am with you on the doing something for 25 days in a row thing! i laughed tears at that statement! pinterest and facebook are not my favorite things.. always showing the good about what is going on and not the everyday reality. thanks for these words as we start the new year with a right perspective.
Grey - January 3rd, 2013 at 2:51 PM
Dude! the creepy bunny thingy is like the thingy from "The Maker." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDXOioU_OKM Don't diss the art! My classmate in AP 3D design has connections with the person who makes the dolls! Cute prayer, btw. Kids praying is sweet.
JoAnn - January 4th, 2013 at 9:28 AM
Once my husband tried to quote the P 31 lady and he said, "She goes out and chops firewood". I was CONVINCED that part wasn't in there. I mean, we have to draw the line SOMEWHERE. So even now when we chat about good wives he says that they chop firewood. It's a special joke between us, but you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to sort of mention that he might want memorize that passage better so he can tell me how great I am. hehehe.
Holiday - January 7th, 2013 at 11:20 AM
I think you are so funny, so courageous and out of this world! Your rawness and compassion is so perfect for our dying world...You make me laugh and encourage me to continue on...
Thanks for putting on His armor every day and battling honestly!
Holiday Zimmerman
Marie Thompson - January 8th, 2013 at 2:50 PM
To all mothers of teenagers----you are women of valor!!!

(And according to my friend Cathy, we do have servant girls--Miss Maytag. Miss Jenn-Air. Etc.)
Christina - January 9th, 2013 at 1:24 PM
I'm so glad to see that Rachel has learned how to discern the prescriptive from the descriptive. I personally saw that as a huge failure of her book. Why couldn't she apply this sort of analysis to all of the Bible? (But Kathy Keller said it way better than I could in her review.) :)
Holly - January 10th, 2013 at 8:01 AM
well I love Pinterest -- it's meant to be a design board to inspire not condemn -- but I also love this!!! :) (Some of Rachel's stuff, eh I'm not sure her interpretations are correct but this is great!)
Linnea - January 10th, 2013 at 8:19 PM
What a great look at Proverbs 31. Thank you for that. One of my resolutions was to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman, but not in the perfection, Pinterest perfect, do everything right way. I read Sara Horns book "my so called life as a proverbs 31 wife." I took from it that trying to live out Proverbs 31 is really a mental shift. Once you start seeing your husband and kids as people to serve as Christ wold serve us it changes the wife and mother you were. Does that make sense? So I'm thankful for yet another refreshing perspective on this topic. I hope to cheer on the woman around me more!
Wszaqas - February 6th, 2013 at 8:14 PM
Sarah - March 6th, 2013 at 1:23 PM
Can I use this for a bridal shower devotional? And by "use" I mean read verbatim. ;) This is SO good!
Amy - March 7th, 2013 at 7:48 AM
Wonderfully liberating. Thank you for this. I will share it with my friends and they will be encouraged, too.
Mukti - July 13th, 2013 at 7:41 PM
Thanks for this post.

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