A Proverbs Acrostic For My Daughter

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Kaylee McElroy only wears sensible shoes (if she has to wear shoes at all) and is passionate about pants with functional pockets (even her Sunday slacks). She has degrees in physics and electrical engineering, but has spent the last few years as a rather alarmingly domesticated mostly-stay-at-home mom.

Proverbs 31 holds a special place in my heart.  I found it using the “open the scriptures to a random page” method, and marveled at the wonderful and rare picture of a strong, capable woman. You see, I had been praying to know if I should get engaged to the man I now call my husband, and I felt a strong impression that a marriage with him would allow me to become a capable and praiseworthy wife like the woman depicted in the text. (We’re over a decade in, and I’d still call it a good choice.)

The Proverbs 31 woman is empowered and not oppressed. A while ago, I read a book that challenged my thinking of women’s place in ancient societies. Women’s Work – the First 20,000 Years discusses textile manufacture in a variety of ancient cultures.  The Bronze Age in the Near East was a time and place of relatively great freedom for women, and I was delighted to learn that the woman of Proverbs 31, while certainly idealized, was also based on historical norms.

I was also amazed when I noticed that the chapter was originally taught to King Lemuel by his mother.  This is not just scripture about women, but also composed by a woman!

And then, perusing the NRSV, I found another new and interesting tidbit: the annotations told me that verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem.  Each of the 22 verses begin with the subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. When I previously read Proverbs 31 in my LDS edition of the KJV, I hadn’t even realize the chapter was poetry.

Abecedarian (acrostic alphabet) poems were frequently used for sacred themes in ancient times. In English, however, acrostic poems are often written for children. When I was studying Proverbs, my oldest child, a girl, had a birthday coming up. I was having a hard time thinking of all the tween drama that is sure to descend upon my house any moment. She’s still so sweet. I wanted to tell her all about the wonderful things I would love for her to practice, before middle school eats her up. There are so few scriptures directly about women (no less girls), and I wanted something just for her. Not something for when she is a wife or mother, but something for now.

Inspired by my new knowledge of Proverbs 31 (and pieces of all three of my girls’ baby blessings), I took the acrostic form and wrote about the girl I wish I had known how to be—the girl I’m still trying to become.

A poem for my daughter
  you aren’t a little girl anymore
But entering an awkward in-between age.
 yet I hope you will still take
Council from your mother who understands
 a little of the challenges ahead.

For My Daughter

A girl of good character
is more precious than jewels.

B y her wealth of kindness and consideration
she wields the power to build unity.

C onfidence grows within her
heart, mind, lips, and limbs.

D exterity and strength increase
as she runs, plays, and creates.

E nergetically she chases dreams
and observes the world around her.

F ocusing on her interests
she plumbs the depths of knowledge.

G reat strength beats in her heart,
determination permeates each breath.

H er tenacious attempts stretch her
astoundingly large boundaries of capability.

I nviting friendship with many,
she helps all feel included.

J oy she finds in service:
noticing those in need,

K eeping a watchful eye
at home and in her community,

L ovingly helping friends and family
get through hard days.

M aking the best of a situation
she finds humor and brings laughter.

N ew perspectives are discovered
as she works alongside a stranger.

O pen arms of hers embrace the sad,
the lonely, and the discouraged.

P erceptively she listens and seeks
to understand their emotions.

Q uietly she comforts them,
lovingly she encourages them.

R espectfully she keeps confidences;
she does not spread hurtful words.

S he boldly presents her own opinions
and thoughtfully considers other’s arguments.

T ruth is found continuously in her words;
her mirror reflects authenticity.

U nderstanding that sometimes she will fail,
and sometimes others will disappoint her,

V ictoriously she will overcome many challenges,
generously she will forgive.

W hen she despairs of mom’s incomplete wisdom,
she seeks other eXemplary templates,
while those who love this Young lady
are amaZed as she forges her own path.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Lovely.
    If you like acrostics, you might like Psalm 119. It has eight lines for each letter, each section being marked by the applicable Hebrew letter. Studying that Psalm is a good way to learn the Hebrew alphabet.

  2. Shirlene Sill says:

    That is absolutely beautiful…a fitting tribute to a wonderful not quite a tween yet.

  3. Thank you!

  4. that is so lovely to read,