Short-Cuts or Straight Paths?

July 9, 2010 at 5:21 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Submission, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A guest post by Abigail’s dear mother, Marcia

Our caravan consisted of the largest U-Haul available, a pick up pulling a trailer, three other well-packed vehicles, and 7 people.  Estimated loading, departure, arrival times—every detail—had been carefully, thoughtfully planned by my orderly husband. Included in the glove compartment of each vehicle were printed directions to the final destination of that vehicle in case of accidental separation.  The plan:  upon arrival at the new town, the moving van and pick up would take their cargo to the new house.  As leader of the other three vehicles, I was to proceed to a friends’ house where we would all spend the night.  We all understood the plan.

Six hours later, as we neared the exit where the caravan was to separate, I remembered another way I had been taken by the realtor.  A brief wrestling with my thoughts and I decided, “Yes, I’ll take it!  It’s a better way- a short cut!”  Brushing off noble attempts by others in the caravan to convince me to turn right, I confidently turned left.  After all, I knew the short cut.  Obediently, the two other vehicles slowly followed their confident leader.  Within minutes my confidence began to falter. “Surely I should have come to the short cut by now,” I thought.  As I passed the city limit sign for the upcoming town the truth began to haunt me.  In the darkness I had clearly missed my turn. My only choice now was a third road… the long way.  Eight miles of very dark, unfamiliar, and dangerously windy blacktop for one foolish leader and her trusting followers.  A shameful and repentant wife awaited her husband’s return that night.

What was I thinking?  Why did I second guess the plan?  How could my way have been better than the well-planned and communicated, previously tested one of my husband?

The spiritual lesson is so obvious and simple: Follow the directions carefully laid out for me by my loving heavenly Father in His Word.  I cannot simple hit the rewind button and re-tape my daily decisions.  Trusting Him means following His plan the first time…without question, without regret.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5,6

Tonight, two and a half years later, I took my husband for a drive…back to the place where I made that rash and prideful decision.  This time I turned the right way and properly followed his old plan to the original destination.  Of course, it wasn’t quite the same, yet in a small way it eased my aching conscience.  My husband, along for a nice ride, had long since forgiven and forgotten my offense.

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Lead Me

May 13, 2010 at 11:29 am (Family, Friends & Ministry, Marriage) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Nathaniel heard this song on the radio yesterday when he was driving home from work.  He found it very moving–and quite unique.  It deals with God’s call (and a family’s call) for men to step up and lovingly lead.  Here is the acoustic version with lyrics.  Hope this is encouraging to you all and your families!

Similar thoughts–from the other side:  One Man Against a Lion

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A Chaste Bride

March 12, 2010 at 1:21 am (Family, Friends & Ministry, Homemaking, interviews, Marriage, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Amy’s Story

Abigail says: When I was nine or ten, my family began attending a small, Bible church half an hour away from us.  It was the fellowship and the precious people who drew us there.  My father had always encouraged me to learn wisdom from watching those around me, and he quickly pointed out to me three young ladies at the church whom he recommended as virtuous girls, worthy of imitation.  One of them was a young woman named Amy.  She seemed old to me at the time (about my current age ;)), but as I watched her cheerfully serve, teach, reach out to the younger children, I began to understand how powerful a woman’s single years could be, when devoted to the Lord.  I remember  Steve visiting our church with Amy’s family and watching their story unfold was like peeking over the top of the candy counter to see something exciting.  I think I might have been twelve when I sat in a cushioned pew at their wedding and watched Amy’s father give her away with a promise that has echoed in my mind ever since:  he promised Steve that she was a chaste bride.  When Lauren and I decided we wanted to share the testimonies of women who are seeking to live out the command to be sensible, pure workers at home, those words haunted me until I sent Amy a message.  Below is her story!

Pearls & Diamonds: What do you say when someone asks “So, what kind of job do you have?”

Amy W: I LOVE this question! I will share a typical scenario of how this conversation goes:

ME: (Enthusiastically) “Oh, I LOVE my job! I work with INVESTMENTS!” (Then I look them in the eyes, and SMILE !

THEM: “REALLY? Wow!” (They usually look very satisfied or impressed with my answer.)

ME: “YES! My top investment is my husband, and next to him, are our four beautiful girls!” And the compensation is really good too – actually incomparable! I know it will pay huge dividends in the end! It is a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun, too, and very rewarding!

THEM: (With a positive look of new revelation) Oh! Wow! That is GREAT! You know, that is REALLY TRUE!!

ME: I wouldn’t trade it for anything else! You know, I’ve never yet heard a woman regretfully say, “Yes, I’m afraid I spent too much time with my husband and children! I wish I‘d done more for myself!” But I’ve heard plenty of them regret that they missed so much because of other priorities.” (Then again, I look them in the eye and give them my warmest smile so they (Lord willing) know that I don‘t share the enthusiasm for my “job“ with any criticism toward their choices!)

THEM: Wow! That is really great that you ARE ABLE to do that!

ME: It does require sacrifices to live on one income, but the reward is definitely worth it!

P & D:  Have you always desired to be a homemaker? What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home? How did you prepare for marriage before it was an option?

Amy: Undoubtedly the little seeds of love for making a home were planted in my heart from my most tender years and onward by watching and adoring my own mother and father; desiring to be like my mama, and dreaming of marrying a man just like my daddy! Our home was very close and loving. In my mind, who would not want to make the same when they grew up? We were also encouraged to play with baby dolls, make mud pies, and develop our maternal qualities! My father wisely began training my mind and heart regarding young men while I was still very young, so as to help me not give my heart or emotions away before the appropriate time. I still remember sitting at the table as a family (the place where so many good memories and training took place) and my father looking at my sister and me and asking, “Girls, what will you do some day when a young man asks you to go out on a date with him? What will you say?” There were giggles and a few smirks from older brothers, but my dad instructed us that we should refer the young man to him. As we got older, this was not a command, but rather, through training and prayer there was instilled in my heart the desire to do what was right. So one way I prepared for marriage was by keeping my heart with all diligence; by not practicing divorcing relationship after relationship through dating.

Additionally, we memorized much Scripture during our schooling years, and this instructed my heart greatly! Just a small example: I remember reading Prov. 31 when I was about 14 and taking it very seriously. “…She will do him (her husband) good and not evil ALL the days of her life”. WOW! I thought ALL the days of her life? Does that mean today? I am not even married! I likely haven’t even met my husband-to-be. Yet I realized, as I pondered this question, that what I did today was not only a reflection on my father and my Heavenly Father, but also on the possible man who would ask me to take his hand in life. And how I invested my time now would also have eternal consequences. Another example I recall as a young teen was when I was memorizing Ex. 20:5. I remember thinking, “Oh, WOE is me! Any sin I choose to engage in (whether outwardly or in my heart) will have consequences on my own posterity!” So when tempted to do questionable activities, scripture instructed me, influenced me, and gratefully kept me from much sin!

Lastly, I was better prepared for marriage before it was an option by learning many skills that would be useful as a wife and homemaker. I was taught a sense of duty to our family. My sister and I both learned early to work hard, and enjoy working and serving others. We learned to garden, can and freeze produce, milk our cow and goats, care for animals, cut up meat for the freezer, manicure the yard, work along side our father to carry in firewood or help build a project, or work along side our mother to clean, organize, and decorate our home, sew and mend clothing, bake and cook nutritious meals, show hospitality, cut and trim hair, run errands, care for younger siblings and others’ children as well. We were also taught a sense of duty to our country. We learned to serve our community and country in love and care for the less fortunate, serve in-depth in political campaigns, teach children in various public schools, serve as interns at the state house and understand the world in the whole vs. our own tiny world of friends that surround us. And most notably, we were taught a sense of duty to God, the One who gave us life and breath itself! To serve and obey Him, and give Him our desires and our cares, to be a wise steward of money and other resources He has given us, and to live according to His design. Through building these skills, the Lord also built much-needed character into me to the same end.

Now as a married woman of 10 yrs on Feb. 5, 2010, I am so glad I did not wander aimlessly about on a bed of ease, or fill my time, heart, and mind with romance novels, frilly dreams, or frivolous short-term relationships. I have needed and used every single one of these skills I formerly learned, to serve my husband and family. I am so very, very grateful to the Lord for His Word and Spirit guiding me, and for my parents who trained , encouraged, and prayed for me in the way that I should go, as well as for others who influenced me toward more godliness!

P & D:  Did you have examples of godly women that you looked up to? How influential were your parents in your life and life choices? Were you close with your father? Were you close with your mother?

Amy: Yes, I had examples of godly women that I looked up to, but truly none even came close to comparing to what I saw in my own mother! I KNEW her! I lived with her! I saw and felt (to a greater or lesser degree) many of the struggles and challenges she faced through the years – which were nothing to scorn! I’ve heard many women come to my mother and pour out their aching hearts to her, and she always gave wisdom from the struggles and successes of her own life and walk with the Lord (which usually left them speechless and without excuse). Today she still supports and serves my father and youngest sister with sacrificial faithfulness! She is a prayer warrior! She taught me feminine virtues and the skills of womanhood! She has been a great comfort and inspiration to me over and over! Although she is not perfect, I cannot say enough! With the Lord’s help, I can only hope, pray, and strive to be half the woman she is! I was very close to my mother! I was also very close to my father! I felt I could share anything with them anytime! And I did! If ever I felt like I needed help or counsel for anything, they were there! Sometimes I had to wait my turn when another sibling was in line ahead of me, but they would always stay up as late as needed to talk and share with me! As I approached my later teen years and beyond, I would share with them everything about my relationships with others – particularly sharing with my dad my relating to young men. Any gentleman that became even a little extra friendly, I would share with my dad what I sensed from him. And I would also share with dad where I was with any young man.

P & D:  How did you spend your single years? What were the blessings of this time period? Do you have any regrets?

Amy: I already shared briefly how I spent my single years: learning to rejoice in serving my family, gaining skills needed for the future, memorizing and studying scripture, watching and training children, volunteering time at church, kid’s camp, and neighborhood Bible clubs, tutoring or counseling juvenile delinquents in the inner city, working in my brother’s race for public office, serving as an intern for him at the Statehouse, teaching in the public schools, visiting godly widows, gaining artistic and secretarial skills and more.

My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time helping the younger families in our church and community! I had no idea how tremendously big a blessing and encouragement a single, godly, young woman could be to a very tired young mother who is convicted to only have excellent role models for her children until I found myself in these shoes! There are so many silly young girls who waste a lot of time on vanity, movies, dating, novels, etc… who influence young children in such a way that after she leaves, it takes more work (several days of consistent training) for the already tired mother to bring her children back to where they were before the single woman came, actually turning any help she gave into far more work instead! There are so few singles who offer to help, and much fewer excellent, godly role models that a young mother CAN accept genuine help from! By far the most help I have ever received was from those who influenced my children toward godliness through their own life example!

P & D:  Was purity a large part of your upbringing? What kind of standards did you have for relationships as you were growing up? Did they change or become more personal convictions as your matured?

Amy: Maintaining purity in thought and action was taught very early in our home, but it very soon became a personal conviction (again through the guidance and instruction of the living Word). It was my personal conviction to be with male friends in a group or public setting only, rather than alone. And I may have seemed a bit stiff to male friends if they were the continuously-huggy type with girls, but it was not what I felt I could express or portray. My father also helped me understand how very differently young men think! (I Thes. 4:4-7) An occasional little hug at a graduation or some other “occasion” was okay, but beyond that – no thanks! And a beautiful outpouring from these convictions was the pure joy of true fellowship with many young ladies and gentlemen without a trace of jealousy or envy intermingled in these relationships! Because of this freedom from jealousy, envy, and the like, we (friends and I) were able to focus on studying the Bible together, prayer, and many ministry projects we did together for fellowship! This also resulted in more joy from being a blessing to others! These single years were truly so rich and full of growth and joy, despite the inner struggles of desiring a husband and home!

P & D:  How did you and Steve meet and marry? What drew you to Steve? How did you approach purity in your pre-marriage relationship?

Amy: Whenever a gentlemen would request to go out, or spend time getting to know me in a singled out fashion or purpose, I always referred them to my dad. Often that was enough to send mediocre guys out the door for good, and I was very grateful for a father who cared enough for me to spend the time necessary to respond to the guys who had enough backbone to actually go to him. This definitely kept a heavy load off my shoulders as there was never a better filter for any girl than for her father to screen the young man and keep all but “Mr. Right” at bay. But one day something unusual happened. I was house-sitting with my older brother for a few months at the home of a godly, elderly couple who visited many churches during their travels. Eventually they returned to their home with a list of all the “wonderful young men” from which I was expected to pick.. They were confident that one young man in particular was THE man for me, and so Ramona commenced repeatedly to request my permission to give him my address. As you all know, for singles there is never-ending help to find Mr. Right. I was usually able to dampen folks’ enthusiasm, but all my experience was to no avail with Ramona! Finally out of desperation, I told her she could call my dad and ask him. Without a moment’s hesitation she turned and called his number! After talking with my dad, he thoughtfully gave his consent to give the young man my contact information. I was floored! My jaw HIT the floor! And Ramona laughed triumphantly at my shock and prepared to send my address. I couldn’t believe this new response from my dad. Previously he had always graciously said no! Later I inquired of him his reasoning. He said, “Well, honey, you never know how the Lord might work.” That was it!

Thankfully, nothing much ever came of Ramona’s gentlemen for me. But a short time later I was helping at a Bible Memory camp when an unusually godly older couple whom I greatly respected and admired, and whom I’d known since childhood came and talked to me and (much like Ramona) asked permission to give my phone number to a “godly young man” that they had gotten to know through their home church. I began to thank them but defer their offer when I remembered what dad had said. “Well, Honey, you never know how the Lord might work”. This was a very similar situation, so instead, I told them I would go home and ask my dad, and if it was NOT okay, he would give them a call. Otherwise, they could give it. They mentioned he was shy, so he might not call anyway. Regardless, I talked to my dad first thing upon arriving home. I don’t think he thought much of it either. But a few weeks later I got a call from “Steve… who???” He said the Clarks had given him our phone number and he wondered if he might come down (a 3 ½ hr. drive) and meet our family. Thus began a casual friendship with Steve. That first day he visited, we all (he and our family) went to a picnic fellowship outing with our Bible study group at a nearby lake. There we were able to get to know each other better and share how we came to know Christ, how the Lord had grown us in Him, and how He was presently working on us. By the time Steve returned home I felt I had another brother in Christ with whom to fellowship; a new edifying friend in the Lord.

(There are a lot of details that time and room won’t allow me to share here, so I am leaving out a lot of unusual details and just sharing the more pertinent parts.)

After Steve’s initial visit (which I learned by the way, he does not have a shy bone in him) he occasionally visited our family and attended our Bible study or church fellowship with us, and he kept me updated through email about the Christian group he led on campus at the secular college he attended. About a year later I realized that I was beginning to grow in my respect for Steve, and later began to struggle with my own emotions toward him. This was not a result of any infatuation or emotional dwelling on him. Looking back I see even more clearly, that it was the Lord who placed him on my heart. Truly, HE drew me to Steve as I saw in Steve a sincere heart to do the Lord’s will unconditionally, and live 100% for Him! At this time I began to feel inwardly vexed because I knew a few other young men whose hearts were also very fervent toward God, but I was not drawn to them with quite this same respect. I fervently wanted to be certain that I was not deceiving myself, becoming infatuated, or playing foolish emotional games. But I also knew I was genuinely doing all I could (focusing on the Lord, His word, quoting scripture during times I struggled to get Steve out of my mind, praying and crying outloud to the Lord, sharing my heart of hearts with Him, asking Him for help and strength, and truly desiring to be obedient even if it meant I never married.) Still yet I knew I was very human and realized that it was quite possible to fool myself. To be sure, I went to my parents and asked them if they thought I was infatuated or was deceiving myself. They encouraged me as they shared that they did not believe so. I also asked them if I should cease any emails or contact with him. (This would not have been easy at this point, but I was determined to guard and save every bit of my heart for my future husband alone.) There was a long silence as my dad thought through the question and slowly (to my surprise) said he didn’t think I should cease the contact, but that I should continue emailing and do my best to guard my heart. And so together we began praying that the Lord would either remove Steve from my mind and heart, or show us whether or not he was the man I would someday join in life’s journey as my husband. So Steve and I occasionally wrote and he continued his visits of fellowship with our family and church and was a very encouraging brother in Christ, but made no sign of any additional interest. And I was increasingly careful NOT to give him any indication of my inward struggle or growing respect for him because I wanted to know for sure that it was not ME, and that it was the LORD that would bring the right man as my future husband at the right time!

Then guess what? Yep, that is right! As the Lord would have it, after Steve finished college he bought a one-way ticket to ALASKA and began flying as a bush pilot/mechanic!! So I was sure I had my answer from the Lord! No more emailing, out of sight, out of mind, right? Uhmmm! Well, okay, maybe not quite! The no more emailing and out of sight part was accurate. But the rest….! No way! In fact this was definitely the most difficult time of all! I yearned to have a husband and home, and now I knew THIS godly young man, whose respect for him seemingly would not leave my heart no matter how I tried to keep it from being there, and yet there was SILENCE from him! It just did not add up in my mind. Was I somehow making it more difficult than it really was? More than anything else, I wanted to keep my heart, focus, and energy on living for the LORD! I did not want any distractions! If I was to be Steve’s bride, I wanted the Lord to show me so I could move in that direction knowingly. If not, I did not want to lose the struggle in guarding my heart. But there were many nights I went to sleep on a wet pillow after crying my heart out to the Lord!

P & D:  Was it difficult desiring a godly husband and home before the Lord brought it about? How did you guard your heart and keep focused on the Lord?

Amy: Difficult??? Yes, ALL of difficult! Sometimes the struggle was incredibly intense! Sometimes it was so difficult I didn’t even want to have the desire for a husband and home at all because it was heart-wrenching to desire a godly thing but not be the one to actively bring it about. All I could do was to pray, be content with where God had me, and work hard to guard my thoughts and heart! (It has always been my personal conviction and belief that God created the man to be the head of the home, [Eph. 5:23] therefore he bears the greater responsibility before God for the home, and likewise, he should be the one to initiate any relationship with the intent to marry, rather than the woman initiating.) I couldn’t count the times I told the Lord I really DID want HIS plan and timing, but it was very difficult to wait on Him and His timing! I recall asking the Lord if it was his will for me to remain single, would He PLEASE take the desire for a husband and home AWAY! But the desire only grew, which caused me to lean on the Lord all the more, and in time made my walk with Him even deeper and more precious!

Eventually I came to the place (while Steve was in Alaska) where I desired a godly husband and home more than ever, yet I could truly say from my heart of hearts, that I was content and totally joyful in Jesus Christ alone! If I never married, I was Christ’s! I know this was none of my own doing, but was completely a work of the Lord, alone!

Interestingly, it was only AFTER coming to grips with giving Him my desires, CHOOSING to be content and trusting GOD and His timing that the Lord opened the relationship with Steve beyond casual friendship. Waiting on the Lord, and trusting in Him became a choice I learned to praise the Lord for…praising Him for all the things He was teaching me in this struggle that I would not have learned any other way. Just for the record, I sure did not FEEL like being content and joyful at times. Initially it was an act of TRUST and OBEDIENCE, but eventually the emotions followed! And, ahh, so sweet was the rest in yielding my spirit!

One August morning, after Steve had been gone a little over 1 year, I received a call from him. He was back for a time with an Alaskan missionary’s airplane! He had brought it back from Alaska to completely refurbish it with new avionics, an engine overhaul, and other repairs, and complete it with a new paint job.

Now Steve resumed his occasional visits. However they became more and more frequent! He invited my dad to go on a three day road trip with him to get the airplane engine overhauled in another state. Steve had worked with my dad on several of Steve’s family visits, but this one-on-one time was especially growing for dad and Steve’s relationship. They were able to talk a lot! Dad wisely took the opportunity to impart practical wisdom with which any father would want to bless a young man!

In early October, unknown to me, Steve made an appointment with my dad for a private dinner at a nearby restaurant. There Steve asked for permission to ask me more pertinent questions relating to marriage and life. My dad granted him permission. During the next few weeks we spent a lot of time talking. (Again, time will not allow as much detail here as I wish.) Then Oct. 25th, Steve flew to my parent’s home (without my knowledge) and asked my dad for permission to marry me. Again, dad granted him his permission and blessing.

It was now October 28th, and I was about to complete my work day at the local home-care office when Steve appeared at the front desk with a beautiful bouquet of 12 red roses! I was shocked! His visit was very much a surprise, as well as red roses! He asked if I was ready to go! He said he had called my employer (in another city) and had gotten permission for me to leave work early! Once outside, Steve offered to take me flying. We went home, changed clothes, put the roses in a vase of water, and set out for the airport. An hour later we were flying near a well known lake in Missouri where we landed and walked quite a distance before arriving on the lake shore. It was a beautiful evening as the sun was just lowering behind the horizon. The pink and yellow from the sun was reflected in the water, and the waves swept gently against the rocky shore. Steve and I looked out over the water and I was taking in the awe of God’s creation when Steve turned and faced me. He took my hand and knelt down. I thought since he took my hand we must be going to pray, so I too knelt down beside him. Steve gave me a puzzled look as I knelt down beside him. Then his eyes looked deep into my own as he paused, smiled, and said, “Amy Joy, you are the love of my life! I believe the Lord can use us to serve Him better together than apart for the rest of our lives! Will you marry me?!!! It was only then I realized I was not necessarily supposed to be keeling down beside him. But no matter! I returned his smile, paused momentarily to choose my words carefully to reflect my true heart, and said, “Steve, I would be honored to be your wife! Yes, I will marry you!!!” His look of an eager question in full anticipation was replaced with extreme joy and relief! At first we were too joyful to speak. Just sat smiling and living in the moment! Then Steve stood up and worked his masculine fingers deep into his jeans pocket and brought out a soft, small wrapping. He knelt back down beside me on the shore and carefully unwrapped it to reveal a beautiful engagement ring with a single, brilliant diamond on the top! I loved it! (Of course!) How had he known? I was secretly hoping we would not go ring shopping together, but that STEVE would pick out a ring HE liked for me. If he liked it, I would love it! He slipped it onto my finger and exclaimed how much more beautiful the ring looked on my hand! The sun was quickly retiring, casting long shadows over the road as we walked quickly now, to return to the plane before darkness fell completely. On the way, Steve explained the significance of the ring he had chosen. There were four strong prongs surrounding a very pure diamond. Whenever I looked at my ring, he asked me to think of two of the prongs as representing Steve’s arms, the other two prongs, the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. He asked me to think of myself as the diamond with him and the Lord surrounding me, holding me secure!

Soon after our engagement, I remember thinking, “What if Steve really wants to show more physical affection as the wedding draws closer. How far is okay?” Immediately I prayed and asked the Lord. And just as immediately, the answer came to my mind. If Steve wanted to link fingers, or at most, hold my hand, that would be okay, but I would most prefer nothing at all until our wedding day. Not because the desire was not there to be more affectionate, because it was, but rather because our relationship had developed, first becoming one in spirit, and secondly, becoming one in soul (mind, will, and emotions). I did not want the focus to be on the physical aspect (which would be a natural outcome of becoming one in spirit and soul) until after our wedding.

Only a few short days later when visiting his parents’ home, Steve asked if we could talk about physical expression (or the lack thereof) before our wedding. He said the most physical he was willing to be was to link fingers or hold my hand if I wished, but that his first preference would be to save all physical affection until our wedding day so that our focus and priorities would remain on the Lord! My heart rejoiced as I heard him speak the words! The Lord had laid on both of our hearts the EXACT same desire; HIS desire for us! And although there were all the normal desires to express our love for each other through hugs and holding, we were grateful to have the support of each other and conviction and confirmation from the Lord that carried us in purity to our wedding day! The only exception to this was on the occasion that we prayed together. Steve always took my hand in his in prayer.

Since Steve wanted me to return to Alaska with him, and the missionary organization was needing their plane back as soon as possible, our wedding date was planned for Feb. 5th, barely 3 months away! I was now 24. After keeping my thoughts and body under submission for so long, and with everything now happening so quickly, the fact that I was now engaged to be married very soon did not even seem real. It was a very joyous and busy time, wrapping up my life there with so many, preparing for our wedding, and preparing to accompany my new husband to Alaska!

P & D:  At your wedding, your father promised Steve that you were a chaste bride. How could he say this with confidence?

Amy: My dad KNEW me, and we had an extremely close and excellent relationship! He knew my convictions and saw me live with the Word as my guide. He didn’t just know WHAT I did, but I also frequently shared my thoughts and motives with him and went to him for counsel and advice. From my youngest memories I can recall, there was a growing relationship with growing trust that was not unfounded. I trusted my dad, that he truly had my very best interest and welfare at heart. I strove to be as transparent as possible, realizing he would be best equipped to protect and provide for me in this way. And he trusted me as well! As I look back, I am still amazed how much he really did trust me, yet I knew it, and always wanted his trust to be backed with a genuine reality that I was worthy of such trust, not giving any false front, or sneaking anything behind his back. Again Scriptures such as Prov. Instructed and influenced my life. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” So, this is MY answer. But I thought rather than assume why he could say this, I would just call my dad and ask him why he could promise Steve, with confidence, that I was a chaste bride. Following are his words he shared with me:

“Why could I , with confidence, promise Steve that you were a chaste bride? Well, whatever I said to you, Amy, you listened to; what I had to say was important to you, whether it was regarding your car, or work, or your friends, or relationships. It did not matter. In all areas I could tell that you were paying attention to what I said. I knew you paid attention in many little ways. I knew there were no unusual responses that would have occurred if your relationships had not been completely pure. There was no rebellion. I never did sense rebellion in you, which was a tremendous sense of blessing to me. You were not afraid to ask some hard questions. You did at times. It was not like our relationship was superficial. Rather, it was very heartfelt! We were (and still are) VERY close! This made a tremendous difference! Even as you are asking me this question before writing Abigail back, you are not assuming my thoughts. You are willing to take my perspective on it! I appreciate that! I also knew the people that you associated with. And (with good reason) I trusted the people you roomed with. I knew the music you listened to, the services you went to and listened to… everything all figured in pretty well, so that I was confident that you were the person that I thought you were. Our relationship, and my trust was nothing that we cooked up over the last few days or years, but was longstanding since you were a very little girl! It was not a short-term thing. I had had some opportunities to counsel and instruct, pray and teach and work with other young ladies and young men in various situations in the past, and so I felt that it was not my own “think so”, but there was enough experience with others, that I was confident with what I was doing with my own family. This was not a brash, foolish, prideful confidence, but a confidence born out of ministry and experience from working with people for some years previous to your marriage. I believe the confidence that I had was born in our relationship and the understanding that I had of you, your situation, and your life.”

P & D:  You’ve moved around a bit–sometimes rather far from “home.” Has it been difficult and how have you worked to make a “home” for your husband?

Amy: LOL! Yes, as I write, I am 3700 miles from our folks and family! And if we excluded our last 2 moves, we have averaged moving about every 6 months. It was a lot easier the first couple of times with few to no children! I am glad I can laugh about it now because there was a time in our marriage that I would not have. I think this is so, because I was so deathly sick with pregnancies and Steve was gone working as a pilot so much of the time, (often days or weeks and occasionally months at a time!) It was extremely difficult for me! When single, I was VERY active in our church and community. It was not unusual for me to put 100+ miles on my car in one day. I love people, and I knew and interacted with many people! So to get married, and 10 days later move away from EVERY one and everything familiar to me, and arrive in the bush of Alaska, with the only way in and out by airplane or dog sled, with ice and blowing snow or dark clouds of mosquitos outside (depending on the season), this was hardly peaches and cream to a now pregnant and sick, outdoor-loving, tom-boy, country girl who had to stay inside, alone, day after day!

The Lord blessed me with severe sickness in pregnancy and unhealthy outdoor weather as it forced me to come to a complete STOP from the pace I was so used to. This was vital to my ability to be a successful wife and mother as I needed to learn to stop focusing on ministering to others all around me as I had done before, and to refocus on the Lord and my husband alone! This refocus also enabled me to keep my priorities right, and kept me from engaging in outside activities. This was very healthy and bonding in our marriage relationship. All my energy and creativity went into knowing, loving, serving, pleasing, and praying for Steve, keeping our home as a tidy and orderly haven for him and a center of hospitality and ministry, and reading and preparing for our coming baby!

Additionally, some of the greatest things I did to make a home for Steve were actually simple things that I learned in our home growing up; things that were strengthened in my single adult years as well, and applied on a more intense level within our own home and marriage. These were, to take great delight in my husband, focus on Steve’s strengths and overlook any weaknesses, strengthen my communication skills with him, find joy, contentment, and a grateful spirit in every thing (both the good and joyful times, and the very challenging and difficult times) and learn to take my cares to the Lord and TRUST HIM, rather than being a nag or striving to change things outside my jurisdiction.

P & D:  As a married woman, are there struggles to be content?

Amy: There is always the fleshly pull from the world we live in to lower myself to its illusion of what a woman should be. We get pressure from the news, through magazines, the beauty salon, schools, institutions of work, at the grocery store, on billboards, and from the next door neighbor. But in our many moves, I often found one of the most intense influences toward DIScontentment was surprisingly the church! It is easy to let my guard down at church when I am talking with a brother or sister in Christ, and suddenly feel great pressure from them to conform to the world‘s mold. I find that I NEED the influence and power of the Word and Spirit daily! It is Jesus Christ who renews my mind and spirit, cleanses my heart, keeps me pure, guides my way, restores my soul, and keeps my affections set on things above! It is His Word hidden in my heart that keeps me from sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). When I am not in His Word, then it is very easy to be discontent and even complain when there are so many blessings to focus on and for which to be grateful! When I am in the Word and living in the Spirit, I find I am truly grateful for everything – even the most painful, heart-wrenching or near death times, though they are very difficult.

P & D:  Is the purity struggle still alive?

Amy: Gratefully, the purity struggle for me was over at our wedding altar! Although not completely perfect, my wonderful, godly, masculine, self-sacrificing, loving, handsome, best friend, husband, and hero, Steve, truly has my heart! Absolutely, ALL of it! He was and is my only lover and I am so very grateful I never dated anyone else or gave them a single kiss or even a fraction of my heart! Steve is mine, and I am his!!! (SONG 2:16)

P & D:  You have how many little girls? Paul commands older women to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home. How has this affected your raising of your daughters?

Amy: Steve and I have been richly blessed with four beautiful daughters! (I had 1 miscarriage and do not know if this baby was another daughter or a son.) I have always loved kids and enjoyed and interacted with them a great deal when single, but I never realized just how deeply the joy could flow in having four daughters of our own! I am learning over and over again that children are often the very best at keeping us accountable to do what we say because all training of children is far more caught than taught! They see and know who we are by watching us more than by what we verbally articulate to them. They are true immulators. They also often show others who we really are behind closed doors by what they say and do when the doors are open! So Paul’s command to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home has influenced me to be all the more transparent, and live my life within my home for the Lord and for my husband with joy, and openly share my life with my daughters as I live it. I intentionally teach them the skills my mother taught me, and as we home educate our daughters and so spend each school day close together, I strive to view the “interruptions” of each day as teachable moments that God divinely appointed, and try to utilize them rather than hurry over them. I also strive to portray before them the joy I have in serving my Lord, my husband and my family, and express to them the love and delight I have for their father, and exemplify honor to him! Further, we are teaching them the Word of God so that they will recognize error from sound doctrine, so it will reprove them, correct them, and instruct them in righteousness. (II Tim. 3:16) They are also learning to hide God’s Word in their hearts so that they will be sensible and not silly women led away by man‘s “wisdom“, and so the Word will purify their hearts and minds and keep them from sin.

P & D:  What does it mean to you to be a sensible, pure worker at home?

Amy: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I believe a sensible, pure worker at home is one who fears God rather than man, whose focus is on the Word of God rather than the ways of others. A woman who truly fears God launches into her work as a wife and mother with a passion, and uses her home as a base to minister the life of God to others. From there she can assist, encourage, and pray for her husband in a way that no one else could; she can train and disciple her children; she can use her talents to encourage, bless, and refresh other believers, help the needy and model the life of Christ. Her home/family is a reflection of her diligent work and faithful stewardship, seen both in her husband and children, as well as the home itself (as orderly and efficient as possible).

P & D:  Anything else? Feel free to share anything that’s on your heart!

Amy:  * When God gives you a standard or conviction based on His Word, do not allow others to influence you to lower it in any way!!! MANY times I was told by many people that my “standard” was too high, especially at it related to a marriage partner. As my heart was tender to receive wisdom from older godly people, this was very difficult because I heard this from them as well! But I am SO, VERY grateful that I did not lower anything! And God (in numerous ways, over and over, too many to write here) confirmed that Steve was the right man at the right time, and I, as a married woman now, am truly eternally grateful to the Lord for HIS wisdom and guidance!

* I want to encourage all young ladies that feel like they don’t have the “perfect” father or situation, to seek counsel and help from a godly father figure – someone who can “screen” potential young men for you. A godly “father” will be able to see things that women cannot see in young men. They will be able to protect and help guide you and save you from substantial grief as a married woman!

* Write down your convictions as God reveals them to you. If they are written down, you can read over them and strengthen them in your own mind and heart so that when a young, handsome man tries to woo you, you will not deceive yourself or become emotionally charged and unable to see clearly, but can go back and look at your list, and think sensibly about him.

* Memorize God’s Word! It will reprove, correct, and instruct, you as needed! Surrender YOUR will, dreams, desires, and hopes to the Lord! Determine to obey the Lord no matter the cost! (It is really an invaluable investment!) I love what John Quincy Adams said. “Duty is ours. Results are God’s” You will never have regrets with God at the controls!

Steve and Amy just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary!  They are back in Alaska and about to move again…

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Ending Is Beginning

December 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm (Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Yesterday, my Mom and I crept in late to the funeral of a woman we had never met. Actually, she was the mother-in-law of a friend, and we had come to show support to the family. In front of us a lady folded a handkerchief around her finger and dabbed at her eyes.

Several months ago, Marlene’s Doctor had told her she had the silent killer: cancer. He gave her only a few months to live, without treatment. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s right.” Without a complaint, she accepted from the Lord that He was calling her home and refused any treatment. She was ready to go. “Herman the Vermin,” she named her enemy—cancer—and she looked to Jesus for certain release. On Christmas Day, at her son’s home, Marlene shed her earthly body and went to be with Jesus.

I looked at this woman’s beautiful paintings and wood-burnings, listened to the stories others shared, watched the slideshow of her life and listened to the notes she had written in her Bible. A hunger, a thirst for the Lord. A longing to be with Him. Even as an older widow, the preacher recounted how she had enthusiastically wanted to be part of an evangelistic team. In a letter she’d left in her Bible, she had expressed that she didn’t know how much longer she had, but she wanted to serve—the Lord and others.

As I listened, I struggled to understand. Why did the Lord allow this woman who loved Him to linger so long between this world and that better one? Why the dark cloud of certain doom? Why the struggle for her family as they watched her fading away? Perhaps, her attitude in suffering brought the glory back to the Lord. As the glory departed from her earthly temple, the glory of God shone more brightly to those left behind. Everyone I mentioned her name to had one thing to say: “Miss Marlene was a godly woman.”

Miss Marlene spent her life learning that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

How fitting. As one year draws to a close, we find we are beginning another. As Miss Marlene’s life ended, we are reminded that it is not an end—but a beginning. In life, with Christ, ending is always a beginning. Life with Christ begins with an end—an end of living for self and sin, of being enslaved to that which would destroy us. The end of every day brings us to the beginning of another—with new mercies and new grace. And when we come to the end of life, we discover that we are only beginning—to live. The end of the world marks the beginning of Christ’s eternal reign. Every fairy-tale finishes with the words “The End” but in God’s eternal story, “The End” marks the beginning.

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Fan the Flame

November 13, 2009 at 1:37 am (Articles, Family, Friends & Ministry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

fan the flame

Posted by Abigail

When we burned large brush piles, my brothers and I used to have contests to see who could get their fire going quickest with only one match.  Have you ever tried to build a fire?  The word “build” describes the process perfectly.  It takes careful insight, thought, preparation, effort and then careful nursing to get the embers blazing brightly.

 

Paul told his son in the faith, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift that had been given him—which appears to be evangelism.  If even a gifted evangelist had to be reminded to put on the heat, we should be encouraged that the work is the Lord’s, just as the glory is His.  I’m embarrassed to confess that I begged the Lord to send me someone else to lead in evangelism, claiming a lack of gifting and my timidity as excuses.  Paul spoke to me when he reminded Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and discipline.”  Sharing the gospel isn’t about having the right personality.  It’s about recognizing that the power comes from the Holy Spirit.  It’s recalling God’s lavish love for us and in dwelling on it, overflowing with His merciful love toward others.  And it’s about disciplining ourselves to obey—by the Holy Spirit’s strength.  The Christian life is hard work.  It’s a battle.  Always.  Any day that I am not fighting, I must realize that I have likely withdrawn to hide.  And any day that I go to battle without seeking the Lord’s strength, I am sure to fail.  Sharing the gospel is certainly no less a battle and it requires discipline.

 

As April, Lauren and I have talked about Christ’s command to “go,” we’ve sought to add fuel to the fire, considering how we can best discipline ourselves to do what we know is right.  Accountability has proven to be a great fuel so far.  It seems that each time April and I are together, the Lord sends an opportunity to one of us, and the other is left excited, to pray and encourage.

 

We’re all agreed that prayer is an important element.  We’re told to pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Scripture is clear that God is delighted when His eternal message is proclaimed, and He delights to use the simple foolishness of the God who became a man, to save sinners and change lives.  Paul said, “Pray for us that we might speak the word boldly as we ought to speak.”  Often through prayer, I find not that God’s heart was changed, but that mine was changed.  I have to plead for the Lord to give me the agony He suffered for those who walk in ignorance and enmity with Him.

 

Studying God’s word is an absolute necessity.  Constantly I am faced with question after question about God’s character, His goodness, His love, the end of the world, what about so-and-so, sin, God’s purpose in pain and suffering and on and on.  Ladies, sharing the gospel will drive you again and again to dig into God’s word to find the powerful truth that sets souls free.  Perhaps this is even God’s purpose in calling us to share His gospel?  It keeps before our eyes the very mystery by which we were redeemed.  And when you’ve been in God’s word, you’ve been sharpening your sword, and you’ll find that the Holy Spirit takes over and does the fighting.  Time after time I’ve parried a blow with a scripture the Lord mercifully brought back to mind.  Time after time I’ve found the perfect answer later and had to store it away for another opportunity.

 

Meditate on the gospel.  Study the gospel.  Seek to understand Christ, His work, His purpose, His claims and His offer of salvation.  The more you study it, the more you will discover the riches of the glory of the inheritance in Christ.  People can tell if you believe what you say and you will find that each time you share the gospel, you learn something more.

 

Lauren is a homemaker, who has expressed to me that she doesn’t feel like she’s a great conversationalist.  “I can’t put people at ease and relate to them,” she told me once, but her passion for truth often opens opportunities for her.  She can’t bear to hear error spoken of the Lord.  When the Jehovah’s Witnesses knock at the door, she doesn’t feel disgust while peeping through the curtains.  She opens the door and invites them in.  Each time she tells me about another encounter, I shake my head.  I don’t know how she does it.  I remember the time the Mormons came for a presentation in her college dorm and she insisted she wanted to go talk to them.  I felt sick as we rode down the elevator and Lauren began asking the Mormon missionaries hard questions.  Our friend, Emily, sat beside me silently praying the entire time—her priceless contribution to the spiritual battle.

 

April is a gifted encourager and she has always sparked my fire by her simple way of sharing what the Lord has been teaching her–to anyone who will listen.  Someone asks her how she is and she opens up and tells them what she read that morning in Psalms.  Or how the Lord has shown Himself strong in her life.  Or how He has been convicting her of the eminence of eternity and His love for her friends that don’t know him.  Yahweh commanded the people of Israel to tell to their children His mighty deeds so that they might fear Him.  When put on trial, Paul’s defense was always simply his testimony.  Whether a person knows the Lord or not, hearing His power manifested to another can draw them to Him.  April’s words are worship to God, and overflow from a heart in love with Him, preaching to others the reality of His work in her life.

 

I wish I could tell you of some way I take opportunity for the Lord, but I still lack much discipline.  I find when I ask the Lord for opportunities, He gives them abundantly, with people who stop me to ask me questions or need my help.  One day I was almost late picking Papa up from work because a lady was pouring out her heart to me as I stood in her small sewing machine repair shop.  Anxiously, I smiled and nodded, then rushed away.  But Papa put my heart back in place when I told him about it.  He said something like, “If people talk to you, that may be opportunity from the Lord.”  To keep this in mind, I am trying to allow myself extra time running errands, to leave room for eternity.  All too often I find that the urgent edges out the important for priority.

 

Lauren, April and I are all different, and each of us has a different story with the Lord and a different way of sharing what He’s done.  As we’ve talked lately, I’ve realized how the Lord can use each gifting, each personality to share His gospel in a unique way.  Your story is unique, your person is unique—but you are Christ’s.  He is yours.  And He has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and discipline.

April, Lauren and I have all found materials from The Way of the Master and Living Waters tracts to be very helpful in sparking conversations.

 

 

 

 

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Gulping Raw Eggs

November 9, 2009 at 1:26 am (Articles, Family, Friends & Ministry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

raw-egg-with-heart-yolk

Posted by Abigail

I had a friend who decided it would be healthy to eat several raw eggs a day.  The first one slid down his throat with a horrible gurgle that made him gag and retch.  But the next one was easier.  He only gagged.  The third one he swallowed quickly and managed to survive.  After that it grew easier and easier.  Then, one day, he stopped eating them.  Just stopped.  Something caught his attention and distracted him and he quit eating raw eggs.

A couple of years ago I prayed something like this:  “Lord, You know I’ve never been outgoing and I’m just not a gifted evangelist.  If I’m to marry, please be preparing a husband for me who has a passionate heart for evangelism—who will lead out in sharing Your truth and make up for my deficiency.”

In His own way of answering prayer before we ask, the Lord turned my request on its head.  He began giving me opportunities to share the gospel.  Not just little open-cracked doors, but people who flung open the door, reached out and grabbed me by my collar to drag the gospel out of me.  A worker stopped me on my way into Wal-mart with a simple, “What a cute skirt!”  I smiled, easily “Well, thanks.”  Her next question, “Are skirts a religion thing for you?”  There’s no escaping that one.  “Not exactly,” I admitted.  “But my dad prefers them, so I wear them to honor him and the Lord Jesus.  Do you believe in Jesus?”  Her questions were relentless.  And she was completely ignorant of the gospel.  Like I said, reached out and grabbed me by my collar.  A waitress in the Waffle house watched me pray with my friend and later commented, “Your headscarf is beautiful.”  Hesitation.  She wanted to ask more.  “I’ve never seen someone wear a scarf like that.  Do you always wear it?”  And I had to explain, “Well, actually, I just love the Lord Jesus and I just try to obey His word.  I wear a head covering while praying in obedience to His teaching about His authority structure—which leads back to His authority.  What do you believe about Jesus?”  Everywhere I went, people began talking to me; stopping me to ask me questions; commenting on this or that.  A Japanese girl approached me in the campus library asking for help connecting her laptop to the internet.  I knew the Lord was handing me another opportunity, but this time I chickened out and tried to stifle my conscience.  “I can never understand the Japanese students!  How could I explain something so foreign to her?”

After that day I realized what had happened and I began to pray for more opportunities to share the gospel.  The Lord showered them on me.  When I was alone in town I would go “fishing” in stores and small flea markets.  Soon it seemed every conversation turned toward Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.  It became almost second-nature.

For me, sharing the gospel was like eating raw eggs.  When the Lord flung open the doors and chided “Forget waiting for someone else to be obedient” I gagged and sputtered, feeling lost and embarrassed and confused.  But the Lord started taking over and it got easier and easier.  Then something happened:  I must have stopped asking for opportunities.  I began to hurry through stores and avoid eye-contact.  My heart wasn’t open to spontaneity and numerous eternal moments passed me by on their way to the check-out.

When my friend realized he’d stopped eating raw eggs, it took him a while to work up the courage to get started again.  And when he did, it was like the first time all over again.  The gagging, the wheezing, the disgust.  Almost worse because he had thought it would be easier this time.

Recently I was reminded of the reality of eternity—an eternity with or without God and His goodness.  Like coals that have lain silent, the burning embers of a passion for the lost are beginning to rekindle.  Again I see souls walking past me in stores, instead of clothes stretched over skeletons.  About a month ago, my friend, April, and I were at the fair, watching a booth for the Crisis pregnancy clinic at which we both volunteer.  After closing up for the evening, we wandered the carnival area, people-watching, our hearts and thoughts wandering the same direction: “fishing.”  The Lord had been working in her heart the same way, reminding her that His precious gospel was not something to be hoarded.  That night, as we sought to open up conversations, I felt like we were chugging raw eggs.  Gagging, gurgling, and choking.  Afterwards I felt horrible.  But the nagging reminder that eternity is just around the corner hovered over both of us.

A few weeks later, we were in the bathrooms at Wal-mart when we bumped into an acquaintance of April’s.  As they spoke, April accepted the heart-challenge the Lord was giving her and gave her friend a tract, expressing that she’d been convicted lately that she should express her love for friends by sharing with them her hope for eternity.  “That was horrible,” she sputtered afterwards.  “I said all the wrong things.”  But that wasn’t the point.  The point is that she was obedient, and as I watched her obedience, the Lord continued to stir in my heart.

Ladies, I’m extending a challenge to you.  Here at Pearls and Diamonds we seek to encourage young women in lives of obedient worship.  Oftentimes we highlight lifestyle, which is an important part of obedience.  We talk about marriage and submission and loving our families and dressing modestly.  Modern Christianity advocates “lifestyle” evangelism.  But lifestyle never saves anyone.  All too often, when I am talking with the young women who come to the pregnancy clinic I hear this message:  “Yes.  I should go to church.  I should be a better person.”  That is the gospel that our lifestyle preaches.  Unbelievers scour the world critically and see “lifestyles”—which they equate with salvation.  But for them to attempt reformation would be fruitless—they lack the empowerment for true obedience.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  And “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  The plea continues, “How shall they hear without a proclaimer?”

As I expressed in “Lest We Worship Godliness”, when I’m surrounded by positive peer-pressure, it’s almost easy to live a “holy lifestyle.”  It’s comfortable, for those of us raised in solid families, to talk about homemaking, grocery shopping, baby raising, home schooling and even theology.  Make no mistake, I am quick to agree that the value of woman’s position is preserved through the bearing of children—if they continue in faith and love with a pure heart.  But Paul said our good works are to adorn the gospel—lend it credibility for changing hearts and lives!  And it is the gospel that lends our lives credibility.  What was Christ’s last request before ascending to the Father?  He reminded all His disciples, men and women, of the authority that had been given to Him.  Then He said, literally, “As you go, therefore, make disciples…and I am with you always.”

“As you go…make disciples.”

As you go, open your heart to spontaneity.  Open your heart to purpose to share the only eternal possession you have—Christ.  Pray for openings—in spite of opposition.  The eggs get easier and easier to swallow—unless you stop.  Watch the souls around you traveling their weary way to hell and weep for them, mourn for them, catch hold of them and plead with them!  Do you remember what it is to be lost?  Sometimes I forget, but God’s word is sure to remind me: I was cut off from grace!  We were enemies of God.  Imagine your hope, your joy and your peace with God gone, then look into the eyes of that woman walking past you in the grocery store.  Forget excuses of wasting her time—the message you hoard is eternal!  Paul said he implored men to be reconciled to God!  Through God’s grace you hold the key to the narrow gate: Jesus Himself.

How shall they hear without a proclaimer?

Note:  I do not recommend eating raw eggs, ladies.  I do, however, recommend sharing the gospel.  🙂

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Someday

March 5, 2009 at 10:55 am (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Singleness, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

someday

I was sixteen years old when my Grandma took me driving and told me I needed to be more aggressive. Five years have passed and this weekend found me pondering her words as I navigated Kansas City to visit her. She’s eighty-two and as far back as I can remember she’s been running a hundred miles and hour serving other people. She spent most of her younger days in a cult one step removed from Mormonism, but she met the Lord not long before my birth. A short time later, she lost her husband. She’s been a widow as long as I’ve been living.

At sixteen or twenty-one, it’s easy to rush forward, hurrying toward the next thing, dreamily planning the future. Marriage, children. How many of us look beyond marriage to a time of being single again? We think of our wedding day as signifying the day in which we have finally arrived, the day when our life is fulfilled. For those newly married brides, a baby is the next thing—the completion to fulfilled life.

When that dream ends, what comes next? When the nest is empty and we’re back to sleeping in a twin bed, then what?

I watch my grandma with pride and amazement. She lives simply, but always busily. She went to a ladies Bible study at a retirement home and took cupcakes and fruit salad. I’m willing to guess that most of the ladies present were younger than she is. She’s held more dying people than I can count, pouring love and tenderness into their last days. She’s sent parts of her carefully stewarded retirement overseas for the spread of the gospel. She studies God’s word and shares it with everyone she can find. She’s helped out young mothers. She eats lunch once a week with a troubled little elementary school girl. She keeps tabs on a destitute nephew. Prays daily for her large family: some know the Lord and some don’t. Offers smiles, encouragement and even rebukes to those she comes into contact with. Shares Jesus when she can.

From the other room I heard her answer the phone when a neighbor lady, another widow, called. After a few minutes, she gently said, “I’d rather not talk about other people like that. It doesn’t really do anyone any good.”

She’s about to have her knee replaced. “That’s just what happens when you get old and your body wears out,” she shrugged. “And I have to make an appointment to get my batteries checked,” she joked about her pacemaker. No bitterness. She laughs easily, teases lovingly and trusts the Lord in everything.

I think of my grandma and I think of Paul’s requirements to Timothy for widows “indeed.” The wife of one man, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality, served the saints, assisted those in distress and devoted herself to every good work. His greatest warning was that they be wary of becoming gossips. When he wrote to Titus he said that older women should be teachers of what is good—to the younger women.

It’s natural for young women to think and dream and plan for marriage, to strive to become godly wives and mothers, to look forward to that time. But being a godly wife and mother is not the end in itself. Being a wife and mother is not what fulfills a woman. Even a pagan can be a wife and mother. Serving the Lord, being obedient to Him, loving Him and serving His people—that’s what fulfills a woman, in whatever circumstances she finds herself.

My mind goes back two thousand years to another widow who lived her life serving the Lord. Anna, the daughter of Phanuel grew up in Israel and married, but her happily ever after ended seven years later with the death of her husband. Being a widow in Israel was especially difficult, yet Anna spent her days in the temple, serving the Lord with fasting and prayers, waiting for the Messiah. Then one day, when Anna was eighty-four, a young woman entered the temple with her husband and newborn son and Anna knew that the Lord had finally sent redemption. When I look into my grandma’s smiling eyes, I think I might know what Anna looked like.

Sisters, your whole life will be filled with someday. Someday you will likely be sixteen and driving. Someday you will likely marry. Someday you will likely have a baby. Someday your children will likely grow up and fly away. And then someday, someday you will likely be a widow. Through each someday the Lord wants you to recognize today—this is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.

For twenty-one years I’ve lived as a single woman on one side of marriage. For twenty-one years my grandma has lived as a single woman on the other side of marriage. The call to both of us is the same—serve the Lord.

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Consulting with Father

August 27, 2008 at 5:11 am (Articles, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living) (, , , , , , )

“Sometimes I feel a little bit envious of you,” my friend Tabby confessed. “You know so many people and have so many opportunities to serve the Lord.” My mouth dropped open. So many people and so many opportunities. Yeah. And I miss most of them. Those that I see overwhelm me and leave me feeling helpless, small and alone.

There’s a lot of things I keep to myself. Many simply aren’t fit for sharing or could be embarrassing for others, but when I’m feeling low or alone I call Tabby. And I ask her to pray. Even if I can’t tell her why. On the days when I’m fighting tears and I’m stranded in the middle of an ugly situation far from a phone, I send a quick cry to Father and I remember Tabby. She prays for me every day. Every day I know that she’s been talking to Father about me. And about the people I know. She’s asked me for a list of names and she faithfully cycles through them, praying for me and the people the Lord brings across my path.

“What do you pray for me?” I asked her. “Mostly just scriptures,” she answered, shrugging. “That the eyes of your heart would be enlightened, that you would run with endurance, that your love would abound still more and more, that you would approve the things which are excellent…” she went on, quoting beautiful passage after beautiful passage—God’s own words which she prays over me every day as she talks with our Father about me. My eyes widened as I listened, suddenly realizing just how blessed I am to have such a faithful friend—a faithful comrade at arms. She lives states away now. I see her every few months. But in the spiritual battle we’re waging, she’s got me covered.

If you think there’s no ministry for you at home, think again! Perhaps you’re like me, thinking, “I don’t even know what to pray for!” Paul prayed often for those he loved. Tabby has patterned herself after him, consulting daily with the Father. Here’s a few of the passages she uses:

For believers:

Matthew 5:13-16 To be light and salt of the earth…

Matthew 6:33 To seek first His kingdom…

Matthew 22:37 To love the Lord!

Romans 12:1-2 To present themselves to God…

Romans 13:14 To put on Jesus!

Romans 12:9-13 To have godly practices…

Ephesians 1:18-23 To know the hope of His calling…

Ephesians 5:7-10 To walk in the light and learn to please the Lord…

Ephesians 5:16-17 To walk carefully, redeeming the time…

Ephesians 6:13-17 To put on the armor of God…

Philippians 2:3-5 To do nothing from selfishness…

Philippians 3:14 To press on toward the goal…

Philippians 4:5 To have a gentle spirit

Philippians 4:6-7 Peace!

Philippians 4:8 To have pure thoughts…

Colossians 1:9-12 To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…

Colossians 3:2 To set their minds on things above…

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 To rejoice always…

2 Thessalonians 3:5 To direct their hearts into the love of God…

1 Timothy 4:12 To be examples…

2 Timothy 2:21 To be vessels of honor…

2 Timothy 2:22 To flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness…

Hebrews 12:1-3 To run the race with endurance…

2 Peter 1:5-9 To gain these qualities…

1 John 3:18 Not to love in word but in deed…

1 John 2:15 Not to love the world…

For unbelievers:

John 8:32 To be set free by the truth…

Romans 10:19 To confess and believe…

2 Timothy 2:26 To escape from the snare of the devil…

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