The End of All Things Is At Hand

February 14, 2011 at 1:40 am (Announcements, Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

At sweet sixteen, my Shadow and I decided to start a business, catering tea parties.  We’d grown up hosting them and it was high time to cash in our experience and make our etiquette pay for itself.  “Tea by Two” we called our party hosting, and drew out menus, business cards, flyers and wrote up advertisements.  We collected dishes and hats, tried out recipes and bought up ingredients.

You might think I’m going to say the venture flopped.

It didn’t.  It took off before we’d gotten in the cockpit!  Without even advertising, we landed several parties in less than a month, with requests to go out of town for more.  We turned over all our investments and pocketed a tidy little sum each.  It looked like we were gearing up for a roaring business.

Then something happened.

You might think I’m going to say that the venture crashed.

It didn’t.  But my Shadow came to me and said, “Um…I can’t keep up with this.  I hate to do this…but can I bail before this thing is flying too high?”

I was relieved.

We were sixteen.  Still trying to wrap up school and keep up with serving our families.  Neither of us had our own car.  Neither of us really wanted to dive into filing self-employment taxes.  We didn’t really want to travel very far for parties.  We were borrowing my family’s kitchen and freezer space.  We really only did it for the fun of having a little side deal.  And, we discovered, the pressure of performing made the tea parties not quite the same as the ones we’d hosted for friends.  After a few, it was okay to put that in our file of things that we could do in the future.

Folks seemed surprised when we relegated the project to “good memories”, deposited our earnings in the bank, gave away our dishes and hats and moved on.

But sometimes we have to lay aside even good things or things that are going well and refocus on priorities.

This blog has been a bit like my catering experience.

See, Lauren and I had become such good friends and, after she and Nathaniel got married, we talked so much about women’s issues and what we were learning—and how it was really the same, married or single—that we got excited.  First, we were going to write a book.  But book writing was a bit more intense than we were really shooting for.  That’s how we settled on a blog.

I don’t think either of us expected it to take off quite like it did.  We’re nobodies.  We don’t have famous dads or husbands.  We’re not really a part of many of the conservative movements.  We didn’t really even know there were other girls out there like us online.

Then came the dilemma.  Should we actually work this blog and try to go big?  After all, blogging is a platform to voice the things we think are true.  We were beginning to get advertisement requests, giveaway offers, reposting requests, awards, listings and even guest writing requests.  And of course, the inevitable mountains of spam as well as a few nay-sayers.  As we began to look around the web at other websites, we began to understand just how seriously blogging could be taken.

Slowly we began to be a little disturbed by how many girls there were online—and how much time was spent online—and how much girls were being influenced by online teachers whom they had never even met.  Including us.

We’d always agreed to keep the blog low priority.  I suppose some can call it ministry, but our primary ministry will always be to our families and to the folks God has placed in our sphere of natural contact.

As time has passed, Lauren now has, not only a big man to take care of, but also a little man to train and teach in the ways of the Lord.  She’s developing relationships with a great church body and trying to outreach to neighbors.  She’s been fine-tuning budgeting and homemaking skills and learning to balance time.  The internet can sure knock a hole in good time management!  And now she’s discovered a new blessing and responsibility, due in September.

So when she told me she needed to stop blogging, it was a relief.  For me, handling the webmastering had been complicated, since I’ve never actually had reliable internet.  Aside from difficult, it also made me feel guilty.  It seemed like, if we were going to blog, and people were going to read it, it needed to be done well.  Plus, we both appreciate presentation.  You know, new content, nice layout, domain name.  The works.  And I didn’t have time or accessibility for “the works.”  For both Lauren and I, we discovered that blogging began to suck the life out of our private relationship with the Lord.  If we discovered something in scripture or were convicted about an area we needed to grow in or if something rankled us or if we learned a powerful lesson or walked through a hard time, we felt compelled to share.  Like we were withholding something valuable from ladies who depended on us.  It became difficult just to worship humbly before the Lord, because others were watching.  And we became increasingly aware that, well, neither of us really need to be putting ourselves forth as teachers right now.

We’re both young women.  With lots of life to live and people to serve.  And things to learn.  And it’s lovely to share what God is doing and teaching us, but our priorities still have to be our families and those whom God has placed in our natural sphere of contact:  those who know us and see our lives, who can encourage us and grow with us and teach us and hold us accountable to practice what we preach.

And we encourage you to make those your priorities as well.

Yes, we’re bailing before this thing is flying too high.

From Lauren:

First I’d like to apologize that this post didn’t make it up a couple of months ago.  And I would cite this as just one of the many reasons I am glad to be saying good bye to blogging.  I have a lot to learn about time management (among other things)!  And, in truth, it was about six months ago that I first talked to my husband and then Abigail about quitting.  What prompted me?  Well, I read Jasmine’s good-bye post on her blog where she described the upcoming release of her new book and her excitement over all the things she would be free from and free to do once she stopped blogging.  Strangely, I found myself feeling jealous—no, not of her having a book published (that had me quite excited!), but of the freedom she expressed.  I took a walk and wrestled with what I was feeling and took it to the Lord in prayer.  It seemed quite clear that blogging was getting in the way of the things that I really needed to focus on.  And with Nathaniel and Abigail in support of the decision, I pulled away.  And what a time of refreshing it has been!  Since I am less focused on an audience, my God has made very, very clear what He wants to accomplish in my heart—and let me tell you, there’s a lot of work to be done!  His word is indeed a mirror that shows us what we really are, and His good Spirit highlights the messes He wants to deal with, accomplishing His good purpose!

And, of course, as Abigail mentioned, finding out Nathaniel and I are having another little blessing, and being currently swamped with morning sickness, taxes, and a host of other things…I have no regrets.  J  Well, except for all the unfinished series and anticipated articles that never were written…but I trust you all will forgive me and rejoice in what the Lord is doing with us now.  Maybe we will write a book one day.  😉  Blessings to you ladies who have joined us on this journey.  Your thoughts and encouragement have been much appreciated!

From Abigail:

Friends often accused me of being content.  But I declare myself innocent of the accusation!  The facts are, I rarely wept the deadly tears of the unmarried simply because I had other dreams that plagued me more than marriage.  Dreams that seemed undefined, but still powerful, hopelessly far from fulfillment and even, at times, irreconcilable with my convictions.  Sometimes I fought with myself over whether or not they were even godly.  I wrestled these dreams into a slumbering state of contentment over and over and over again.  This summer they came to life with more ferocity than ever.  In frustration, I cried out to the Lord, “You gave me these passions.  Now what am I supposed to do with them?”  Many of you have made the same demand.  Some of you face the paradox of the “godly desire” that is still unfulfilled.  For many, it is marriage.  For some it is missions.  For others it is motherhood.  For some it is just more.  Disatisfaction is a necessary part of growth.  But of this I am certain—that desires are not godly or ungodly in themselves.  Because we can worship “godly desires” by desiring them more than God.  And anything that takes precedence over God is certainly ungodly.  Godly desires are desires that are made to bow, yielded, to pay homage to God, to His Word and to His timing.  And when they are prostrate before the King, they may be pursued, time and truth permitting, as a pursuit of Yahweh Himself.  Since deciding to “exit” the blogging world, I’ve been trying to focus my pursuits.  The pathway has been very up and down!  And I begin to see how truly God is a God of creativity and ingenuity and that He abundantly bestows both as we make our way through a transient life.  I’m thankful for the ways that He’s been shaping my character, strengthening my backbone and stretching me—whether it’s finally studying medical stuff or navigating the real-estate market or negotiating services and compensation or—as of the past week—nannying a handful of children.

Once upon a time, before there was Pearls and Diamonds, I kept a personal blog.  Perhaps you will find me there.

We hope you will live your moments in light of God’s redemptive sacrifice of His Son, the Holy Spirit’s powerful filling and the eminent return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  To Him be the glory both now and forever, amen!

Blessings,

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Praise Not Me

February 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm (Attitudes, Godly Living, Poetry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Praise not me
But praise the Father
Who draws and gives
Of life the water
Who shines that we
Might see His glory
Praise not me
This is HIS story

Think not of me
Think much of Christ
Whose work of love
Paid the price
For all the deeds
That I have done
Think not of me
Think of the Son

No power I weild
But ’tis the Spirit
Of Grace who reveals
The Truth when I hear it
Who opens eyes
And changes hearts
Who seals God’s child
And never departs.

Copyright Lauren 2011

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God Wants Me to Be Happy

September 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm (Announcements, Attitudes) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Or does He?  This is a phrase we’ve encountered often—usually used as a loop-hole to escape obedience—when disobedience sounds like more fun.  It’s a lie.  From multiple angles.  Here are two of our top concerns:

First, our happiness is not God’s primary concern.

Second, disobedience never really makes us happy.

Agree or disagree with either?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Weigh in and tell us what you think.

We hope to cover this issue someday—maybe even soon.  In the meanwhile, Mrs. Parunak at Pursuing Titus 2 handled this issue in a pretty straightforward manner in her article “Wouldn’t God Want Me To Be Happy?”  We encourage you to take a look at what she has to say.


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It Will Be Well

August 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Trust, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I’m losing a baby.

My client left the dimly lit counseling room where we’d been talking for the past couple of weeks, still intent on abortion.  There was nothing I could do to change the outcome.  The hardest part was this:  I’d known from the beginning that I was fighting a losing battle.  As soon as I heard the facts stacked up against her I knew that abortion would sound like the overwhelmingly best option.

But even as she walked out, and I ran upstairs to the bathroom and cried, the tears were just a cleansing.  Because God is not dead.  This path I had walked was rugged and hard, discouraging and wearying.  The whole way I was trembling, aware of just how fragile and how stumbling I was.  But I had seen God’s hand.  God’s work.  God’s power.  God’s provision.

Lately, I’ve been walking a lot of these paths.  As I round a bend in my life and I see the valleys stretched out below, I cringe.  I can see the path and I don’t want to walk it.  I’ve walked it before and I know what the end looks like—heartache, failure, confusion, tears.  I hate feeling fragile, wrestling for wisdom and pleading for clarity.  I hate making decisions that seem right, when my heart is torn.  And the lies!  The lies that assault me at the end of these valleys—that the outcome is my fault, that I destroyed what might have been good, that I didn’t do enough, that I was unworthy, that I spoke faulty words, that I have rendered a terrible testimony of the Lord—beat against me like fiery darts.  When I see those valleys loom in the distance, I start looking for short-cuts to avoid that path.

I am a wimp.

Because God is not dead.  The pathway is not about a destination.  There is only one destination of which I am assured—eternity with my Bridegroom.  And this is assured because of the pathway that He walked to purchase my spirit from bondage.  The end of that pathway was death.

Or was it?

Let me tell you a story of humanity.  There came a day when the prophet Elisha passed over to the Gentile city of Shunem.  There he was shown hospitality by a prominent woman.  As time passed, she and her husband built for him a room on the roof of their house.  In his gratitude, Elisha sought for a way to repay her kindness.  Regardless of her wealth, her good marriage, her comfortable circumstances, she lacked one thing: a child.  So Elisha told the Shunamite woman that she would embrace a son.

Her reply?  “Oh no, man of God!  Do not deceive me!”

I can only imagine that this woman’s heart held wounds from years of lack.  Perhaps years of loss.  And as she looked down a path that frightened her, she was afraid of the end.  Because a pathway that might end with joy, also might end with sorrow.

Soon she conceived and gave birth.  And almost as soon, her son suddenly died.

Quietly she laid him on Elisha’s bed and told her husband that she was going to run down to the man of God.  “Why?” her husband asked.  Her only answer:  “Shalom.”  Peace.  It will be well.*

When she came near Elisha, his servant came out to meet her and inquire about her family.  Her only answer, “Shalom.”  Peace.  It will be well.

Then she came to Elisha and flung herself at his feet and her words rushed out in a confused, hurt torrent.  “Did I ask a son from you?  Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’”

In this moment, it seemed that the pathway had ended in death.  Heartache, failure, confusion, tears.  And she had seen it coming.  She had been afraid.  She hadn’t volunteered to walk this pathway.  Hadn’t she said “Don’t deceive me?”

But along the way she had groped for God’s purpose.  She had gone straight to the source.  To others who asked, she said, simply, “Shalom.”  Peace.  It will be well.  Her grief found expression in trust.

God was not dead.  In a dramatic display of power, which proved that it was not Elisha’s staff, nor even Elisha who held life and death, God raised her son.  About eight-hundred years later, He raised His own son.

The destination of these paths was neither death…nor resurrection.  Those were things that happened along the way—for God’s glory.  The destination was trust.

The pathway Jesus walked opened a way to God—through trust.  His example was trust in the Father as He entrusted His soul to a faithful Creator in doing what was right.  And He gave us something in which to trust—a tangible proof that God is with us.

The results of a pathway are in the hands of a Sovereign God.  But we can look at the pathway Christ walked and the power of God in His resurrection and have hope.  We confidently expect that God will bring us through life…and death…and resurrect us to an eternity with Him.  And if this is our eternal destination, why should we fear any path that lies before us?  If God is for us, who can stand against us? Immanuel means “God is with us.”

When my client walked into the clinic asking about abortion, it was an opportunity.  That hard path I dreaded was an opportunity to do what was right—and trust God to do what is right.  And it was not a path I walked alone.  Not a battle lost, the victory just looked different than I assumed.  And the victory belonged to God.  I’m not losing a baby.  The baby isn’t mine.  What God has done never ends at death.  His work goes on.

As I’ve come down what seems to be the end of several hard and painful paths—torn between hope and hopelessness—I’ve wanted to curl up, cover my head and hold as still as possible.  Maybe it won’t hurt.  Maybe I won’t have to see paths like these again.

But I know I will.  My life may be long ahead of me.  Or it may be short.  But the valleys will always loom ahead until I pass through the last valley.  And trust means that I don’t have to fear the valleys, because the Lord is there as well.  I must view them as an opportunity to do what is right—and trust God to do what is right.

He always does.

It will be well.

*The story of Elisha and the Shunamite woman is taken from 2 Kings 4.  According to Keil & Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament, pg 220), the word “Shalom” that the Shunamite woman used means, literally, “Peace.”  It could be used as a simple greeting, but in her case probably denoted more of the concept of “It will be well” or “everthing is fine”—with a goal of politely avoiding questioning.

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What You Seek

August 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm (Attitudes, Poetry, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I seek a remedy for pain

You only seek my greater gain
I look for breast to rest my face
You give me suffering’s embrace
What is my pain compared to Yours?
My splinters measured by Your thorns?

I seek to walk in comfort’s ways
You seek to teach my lips true praise
I cry because of aching bones
You wish I’d worship at Your throne
What are my tears to darkened stars?
My stitches measured by your scars?

I seek to shun my misery
You seek to teach me harmony
As You Yourself once learned to kneel
So You would have me, e’er You heal
What is my suffering to Your shame?
My aching measured by Your pain?

You do not seek that I would bear
A cross You will not also share
Nor do You seek to cruelly break
What You do not seek to remake
And any pain that leaves me torn
Is lesser then the weight You’ve borne.

This house of clay is not my home
But You teach patience through my bones
I face the fire You’d lead me through
And see the road emblazed by You.
Your suffering puts my pain to naught
This is the lesson You have taught
This is the outcome You have sought.

by Abigail Copyright 2005

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Things I’ve Learned in the First Year

August 19, 2010 at 10:34 am (Announcements, Attitudes, Mommy-isms) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

That’s right.  Elijah turned a year old at the beginning of this month.  It’s hard to believe.  Nathaniel and I have been so blessed by this little gift from the Lord.  I feel as though I have grown up faster in the past year than in any other year of my life so far!  And we have been delighted to watch Elijah grow up to become an energetic little boy who is about to take off running (once he figures out walking for more than 5 or 10 steps at a time).

I really have learned a TON in this past year.  Some lessons have been delightful and funny.  Others have been very difficult and perspective-changing.  All in all, I am beginning to see how God uses little people to make us adults more like Christ.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Parenting is a lot harder than I thought!
  • Babies need lots of attention.  And lots of love.
  • My mood affects my son.  If I have a bad attitude, his behavior will reflect it.
  • Likewise, if I am inconsistent in training him, his behavior will reflect it.
  • When friends (seasoned mothers) tell you to cherish every moment with a newborn, because the time will fly by, they’re absolutely right.
  • Resting is a major responsibility of a woman who has just had a baby.
  • Maternal illness does seem to affect the bonding experience with baby.  😦  Especially when the mother’s illness prevents her from holding her baby comfortably, or from even changing his diaper.
  • God doesn’t give us babies for us—as though they exist to fulfill us emotionally or to complete our checklist “What I need to do and/or have to be a godly woman”.  God gives us babies to love and train in His ways, and to show us that we need much more training in His ways as well.  He gives us children so that we will be made more like Jesus.  And so that we can train them to love and be like Jesus.
  • Most baby toys are overrated.  A nine month old will be very happy with paper, an empty raisin can, and a joyful mama.
  • Cloth diapering is so much fun!  Really!  It is!
  • Making sure your baby takes regular naps is very important.  When I wasn’t diligent to provide structure and consistent nap times, Elijah wasn’t getting the sleep he needed and it affected him.
  • Nursing a baby for the entire first year really is a hard milestone to reach.  I wanted to give up so many times!  A supportive husband makes a big difference!
  • Once you hit the one-year mark and are still nursing and your pre-toddler becomes less and less interested and you can see that your nursing relationship may not last much longer…you wonder why you ever thought of giving up early.
  • But once your one-year-old gets sick for the first time and you get to nurse him almost twice as much as usual that day, you think that maybe we can make it to two years… (OK, so I learned that this week, not technically within the first year…can we call that a bonus lesson?)
  • Making your own baby food is not that big of a deal.
  • Getting outside each day is so so important.  The sun, the rain, the heat, the cold…all gifts from God in His time.  All to be enjoyed and shared with a baby.  (Going out in severe weather not recommended.)
  • There is much more involved in training and caring for a young infant than getting them to sleep through the night.  Seriously.  Try to avoid having the tunnel vision that I did.
  • If you didn’t have any “motherly instincts” before having a baby, you may not have too many of them once baby arrives.  SPEND TIME WITH BABIES BEFORE YOURS COMES ALONG!!!  I had almost no baby experience at all.  Praise the Lord we’ve survived!
  • To Train Up a Child is a very good book.  One I think I will be reading often over the next 20 years or so.
  • Kisses from a baby are about the sweetest things ever.
  • Infant potty training works.  It goes really well until you have a pre-toddler.  Then it all goes down the drain.  (At least we’re at an impasse right now…)  Puns intended.
  • Laziness and motherhood do not go together.  Don’t even try it.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding as a form of birth control does not work for everyone.  Not even for a month.
  • My husband is an amazing man.  I knew this already, but I get to see it in so many more ways now that he is a papa—and husband to a scatter-brained mama.
  • Natural childbirth is hard but good.  Wouldn’t do it any other way, as the Lord allows.
  • Vaccinating in the first year wasn’t necessary for Elijah.  No vaccines yet.  No sickness yet (until a stomach bug this week…then again, it may have been that I mixed asparagus in with his re-fried beans…).  I’m going to guess that breastfeeding is better than any vaccine.  (We may consider some vaccines in the future.  But we are very happy to have held off for the first year.)
  • When the doctor expresses concern over something, don’t panic.  Especially if the area of concern is something you lived through (very small baby according to weight gain charts, heart murmur, etc).  Ask questions.  Ask lots of questions.  And don’t worry—trust the Lord.  Most tests come back negative.  And many doctors who know you have insurance don’t hesitate to recommend testing any little deviance from “normal” or “average”.  Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t a liability issue.  Just ask lots of questions.
  • It would be nice to have had a good understanding of health insurance and/or cost of procedures and services before having a baby.
  • Elijah is a little boy.  He is all-boy.  He loves things on wheels, throwing things, banging things, rough housing with his Papa, making noises, army crawling, climbing, chasing…but he is still a baby, still needs to be held and nursed and soothed when he’s hurt.  I love the mix of independence and dependence.  So sweet.
  • Elijah was fully capable of understanding and disregarding our basic instruction “No” by 8 months old.  And he has been testing us to see if we really mean it ever since.  😉  Babies are clever.
  • Having someone (a sister-in-law, perhaps) to stay with you and help you around the house during the first week or two after giving birth is absolutely invaluable!  And especially while you are waiting for the drugs to kick in to bring your auto-immune disease under control so that you can actually function.
  • Rice cereal may not be the best first food for baby.  Elijah apparently could have used something with a lot more calories!
  • Boppy pillows are great.
  • You don’t need a crib or a changing table.  A pack-n-play that you got for $40 at a garage sale (thank You, Lord!) will do just fine—and it can be moved easily.
  • Hand-me-downs and second-hand are the way to go for baby clothes.  Of course, when you’re given new clothes, that is perfectly acceptable, too.
  • Elijah was 7 lbs. 9 oz. when he was born.  He is 18 lbs. 9 oz. at one year.  Not all babies triple their birth weight by one year.  And just because they don’t doesn’t mean they are unhealthy.  Guidelines are only suggested norms.  They do not take into account that every baby is different.  My little guy is little, but he is very healthy.  Looking at his parents, we shouldn’t expect him to be big!
  • I am way more disciplined and diligent now that I have a baby.  I wish I had been this productive before he came along!  Imagine what I could have accomplished!
  • I have no idea how working moms manage.  No idea.
  • I’ve had many moments where I feel as though I really love my son for the first time.  It just grows…
  • It’s difficult to accept a debilitating illness as a blessing from the Lord.  Especially when it seems to taint what is supposed to be one of the most incredible moments of your life.  But God is calling me to trust Him.  I know I did not have the right attitude when we found out I had gestational pemphigoid.  And I honestly don’t know that I ever really had the right attitude.  I of course pray that it will not return in future pregnancies (though that is likely to happen), but I can see now that the Lord had a purpose in it, and He may still be seeking to accomplish that purpose with the same tool in the future.  And I will desperately need His grace, His word, His love, His Spirit to endure whatever trials may come and to entrust myself to the faithful Creator in doing what is right–indeed He does all things well!

Any other young moms out there?  What has the Lord been teaching you?

*Any opinions shared on medical issues (vaccines, testing, etc) are not intended to tell you what you ought to do.  They are simply my own musings over my own experience (as is most of this list).  Use your best judgment to care for your own baby.

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Keeping “Godly Homemaking” in Perspective

August 11, 2010 at 6:29 am (A Slice of Life, Attitudes, Homemaking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

Last night Nathaniel and I (along with Elijah) attended a Bible study where a man named Titus from Nigeria shared about what the Lord is doing in his country and the need for literacy so that people can read God’s word for themselves.  It was a wonderful presentation, and a great wake-up call to consider how we can be supporting the suffering body of Christ around the world–through prayer and giving.

During Titus’s presentation, he took a small portion of time to discuss the problem of finding clean water that is an everyday reality for most rural people in Nigeria (and all over Africa).  A picture popped up on the screen of a woman carrying a very large pot on her head–so that her family would have some to drink and some with which to wash clothes.  This of course had an impact on my heart, realizing how incredibly blessed we are to have clean, running water, and how important it is to consider the needs of others, but it also made me think of how foolish we can be sometimes over here in the West, trying to paint an elusive picture of the perfect homemaker…of the “godly” homemaker.

The women in the picture had to walk miles for the water they needed, carrying a large pot and sometimes a little baby the whole way.  This could take HOURS.  Imagine if three or four hours of your day were spent walking and gathering water.  Would you have time to pursue “godly” hobbies like sewing or knitting or baking cookies?  Would you have the time to attend a ladies brunch and Bible study?  Would you have the time to post to your blog (assuming you do not have a smart phone)?  Would you have time to teach your kids Latin?  Make all of your own clothing?  Prepare every meal from scratch?  Would you have the money to buy only organic produce (because, of course, that is the most “godly” thing to do)?

How can a Christian woman in Africa be “godly” when she cannot do all the things that many conservative Christians in the West say a “godly” homemaker should be doing?

These thoughts only added to a lesson my Father has been teaching me lately.  Being a godly wife and mother isn’t about being the best housewife on the street, it’s about being godly in the role God has given me as a wife and mother.  It’s not about the outward stuff, as though the kingdom of God consisted in eating and drinking…or frugal shopping or an 1800’s-like lifestyle or wearing nice clothes.

The kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

I’m afraid we can get all too consumed with outward tasks and outward adornment (modest, of course), and outward actions, that we forget about the fruit of the Spirit.  That we fail to be godly because God is barely in the equation anymore.

Being godly starts with God.  It starts with His work in humble hearts.  Seeking Him is of far greater value than making your own bread or using cloth diapers or growing your own organic vegetable garden.

The point here is not that any of these things is wrong.  The point is that they do not make you godly.  Nor are you ungodly if your house doesn’t look or function just like Susie Homemaker’s.   Godliness is seeking Yahweh, being empowered by the Spirit and motivated by love to obey God and joyfully serve Him in whatever life-situation or role you find yourself in.  It speaks more to attitudes than to actual tasks.

So let’s revisit our Christian wife and mother in Nigeria.  How can she be godly?  She undoubtedly rises early to prepare food for her household.  She praises God for His provision.  She cares for the needs of her husband and children–her heart is grateful to God for them and compassionate towards them.  She walks however long it takes to find water for her family.  And along the way she is perhaps meditating on what little bit of Scripture she has access to this week.  Or maybe she sings praises.  Or maybe she delights in the sunshine or rain that her Father has given her that day.  She lovingly nurses her infant, and shares what she knows about Jesus with other women along her path.

She may be very godly.  And all you would see is a woman walking a long way to get water.  And then working hard when she returned home.  A woman who, at the end of the day, may have nothing more to show for all of her labor than this:  she, her husband, and her children … are still alive.

(Assuming they were not attacked by Muslims that day because of their faith in Jesus–another reality of the Christian life in Nigeria).

She is godly because she is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and manifests the fruit of His work in her heart.  She may not know as much as you and I about theology.  She may not even be able to read the Bible for herself–only clinging to the slivers of light that came through the teaching she heard at the small gathering of believers that she attended earlier that week.  But every word of God that she finds, she devours.  And she trusts in Him to provide and protect, and to keep His promises.

May we consider that our Western, task-driven, formulaic, and sometimes legalistic view of what it means to be a godly woman might just crumple when held up to the light of God’s word.  We are not to compare ourselves with each other or with a cultural ideal.  We are to seek the Living God.  May we be Spirit-filled believers who put the skills and gifts God has given us to good use in the roles that He has placed us in.

More to come on this subject…

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Commitment…then Intimacy

July 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm (Attitudes, Food for Thought, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

Commitment produces intimate relationships, in that God-given order.  The order God established is not an intimate relationship then commitment.  God shows Himself to you in different ways and allows you to choose Him.  Before there is a solid commitment you do not enter the Holy of holies, into the most sacred dwelling place with our Savior, into communion with His Spirit.  You are not intimate with Him until that most significant step is taken: commitment.

Heather Arnel Paulsen, Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart, 2001

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

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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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My Prayers of Dust

June 24, 2010 at 10:45 am (Godly Living, Poetry, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I plead a cause I think is just

With eloquence that man applauds

My guilded prayers melt into dust

Before the mercy seat of God

Is He who formed the mouth impressed

With many words and colored speech?

My empty prayers He sees undressed

And into dust He turns them each

But when I bow my knees and sob

That is a sound His spirit knows

Its measured beat meets with my throb

And cries to heaven overflow

And every word is deeper far

Than all the wells of earthly voice

No sounds of mine could ever mar

The pleadings of that Spirit’s choice

And when my God my prayer receives

It is not empty words He holds

His spirit intercedes for me

And turns my prayers of dust to gold.

Copyright 2004 by Abigail

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Being a Loner Really Stinks

June 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm (A Slice of Life, Attitudes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

That title may be blunt, but it is so, so true. I can be quite the introvert.  So much so that despite being blessed with amazing friends, I still manage to be a bit of a loner.  But as I struggle to fight selfishness in my heart I realize that I can’t do it alone. Sure, the Lord is with me, and I can overcome sin by the power of His Spirit, but He Himself has chosen to make me a part of His body, the church, so that, by His word and by His Spirit, I might be encouraged to press on in godliness all the more as I interact with other believers. Sure it’s possible to grow when it’s just “me and God”, but that is NOT what God intends. He has so designed it, and so designed me, that I should find my greatest growth when I am pursuing Him alongside other believers, seeking their good and they seeking mine.

With this on my mind recently, I was delightedly reminded of my need for fellowship and accountability today when I visited At The Well and checked out their summer Bible study: We Are the Body.

Today’s study began with the question, “Do you have something in your teeth?” You know, it was a reminder that your truest friend is one who will tell you when something isn’t quite right. It might be unpleasant to have to be the one to break it to your pal: “Your breath stinks.” But in the end, you’ve done your friend a favor. Trust me on this one–one of my life-long best friends proved her love to me in 6th grade by telling me I needed to brush my teeth! My dad had always said, “Your friends don’t love you like your family does–they won’t tell you if your breath stinks, for example.” Haha! Thank you, Meredith, for proving him wrong!

I digress…

The point is, we need to be the loving kind of sisters that gently confront each other and encourage each other–even when it’s uncomfortable. That’s part of being the body of Christ. That’s part of being a true friend in the Lord.

Along those lines, the study left me with two questions to consider:
Do you daily study your “reflection” to see if you have “something in your teeth?” (James 1)

And:

What kind of accountability of believers do you have in your life right now?

These are good questions! First off, I shouldn’t neglect my own responsibility to seek God’s face and dig into His word, pleading with Him to show me where I need to change and listening when He does. I’ve needed this challenge recently–I all too easily get an attitude when someone falls down on their job of keeping me accountable: “Humph! If you’re not going to hold me accountable, I’m going to show you just how much you’re failing me! I wouldn’t be doing so poorly right now if you had just checked up on me!” I shake my head in shame….

The second question highlights a particular spot in which I am very needy. I am surrounded by amazing godly women at church on Sunday and during a weekly Bible study held at a lady’s home. But I’ve never sought out one of them to hold me accountable. I’ve thought and even prayed about it for a long, long time. But still haven’t acted. I’ve been an island for far too long. God forbid that I put off seeking the wisdom of a godly older woman any longer!

This comes into play when I consider this blog. Abigail and I began writing with a desire to be Titus 2 women, encouraging younger ladies in the Lord. And though we will continue to do so as long as the Lord allows, I am realizing more and more that I am one of the “younger women”. I need to be taught how to love my husband and my son (and future children), to be a sensible and pure worker at home, to be obedient to my husband–to keep God’s word from being spoken of as evil. I am not there. I need guidance!

And so I pray that my “loner days” are soon to be over. Praise God He is always with me and He has given me a godly husband to lead me–but I am eager to praise Him for what I will learn from one or more godly older women in my own local church!

His design for His people is so good! I can’t wait to be more and more a part of it!

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Feminine, Feminist, Feminazi

June 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I visited a young ladies’ blog the other day. While skimming the sidebar, a chicklet caught my eye: the image was a young woman, dressed in a frilly blouse and a curly hairdo from the 19th century with a “charming smile” pasted on her face. Printed across the top were the words “This is what an anti-feminist looks like: Fear us!” I sat back in the leather desk chair and chewed on that simple statement for several minutes, my thoughts in a spiral.

I know the intent of the image is to prove ridiculous the accusations and fears of the militant liberals, but I’m afraid the label sometimes fits Christians: anti-feminist. Read: reactionary. How often do we react to feminism, even changing the label to variations such as “feminazi”, only to completely miss the point? The complaint about the error of “feminism” is that it is a reaction. So, why are we reacting to a reaction? Why are we complaining about the caricature drawn of us, when we are returning the favor? Are we in danger of becoming militant anti-reactionaries on the other end—militantly feminine, militantly anti-feminist, “feminazi” in our own right?

How many feminists do you know? To be honest, I have an aunt who would describe herself as a feminist. She’d have voted for Hilary Clinton. She would likely counsel women not to be in a hurry to marry or to have children as young as she did. I’m quite certain she’d support a pro-choice cause. She would encourage higher education (college) and pursuit of fulfillment (career) for women. I disagree with my aunt on many points of practice, but my aunt is not my enemy. I love her. In fact, she is quite possibly the most supportive member of my extended family. She has praised and encouraged my rather counter-cultural practices and even applauded me for work at a Crisis Pregnancy Clinic. Since visiting Nathaniel and Lauren last year, she’s developed a profound care and interest in Lauren, as well. You might find it interesting that I would consider my aunt to be very modest in her manner of dress. She’s also very wise with finances. She’s a devoted grandmother, has been happily married for over 40 years, is an excellent listener, a wonderful cook, a talented seamstress, takes good care of her home and is even interested in healthy, wholesome, natural eating. And she loves Jane Austen.

You might be surprised by how much you have in common with the average feminist.

The fact is that the feminists have some legitimate concerns. They are concerned about women being domineered by selfish men. They are concerned about women who are overworked, exhausted, unfulfilled and unhappy. They are concerned about women who have no respect for their minds or bodies. They are concerned about women who are unsure of their identity. They are concerned about women who dumbly, blindly, unthinkingly do whatever they are told just for the sake of tradition. Quite frankly, they are concerned about half of the curse that followed sin in the Garden of Eden. Yahweh told the woman, “Your man shall rule over you harshly.” And in their eagerness and enthusiasm to liberate women from this curse, they often bow down to the first half, “Your desire shall be to control and manipulate your man.” Feminists are not the enemy. They are the prisoners. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, principalities and forces of darkness.” They have been taken captive, deceived, manipulated and mistakenly continue actimg out the curse–just like every lost person. What the feminist doesn’t know is this: in the crushing blow that He dealt to sin and death, Jesus liberated women. It is finished.

Through Christ’s liberation from sin and death, we are free to be all that God intended, and obedience to Him is the ultimate fulfillment for women. The feminists are concerned about women. They claim they want what’s best for women. Christ’s work offers that and His word enumerates it. When we respond to the charges of being “anti-woman”, let’s be wary of responding with personal opinion, nostalgic appeal, or tradition. “Feminine” is a shaky stronghold from which to fight. Let’s be wary of reacting to lies and simply focus on acting according to the truth. Christ holds the answer to the feminist argument. Let’s respond with the truth that liberates.

See, a mental image of Jane Austen or “traditional” femininity leaves room for much that is ungodly.

Gossip? Check. Silliness? Check. Laziness? Check. Wastefulness? Check. Self-absorption? Check. Discontent? Check. Flirtation? Check. Plenty of women are “feminine” without being godly.

I remember seeing another blog poster declaring something about “getting back to Biblical femininity” and scratching my head. Biblical femininity? In all my recollection, I couldn’t remember finding the word or any variation of it in scripture. Another time a young lady posted a picture of a pair of ruffled, pink, spike-healed shoes with the comment, “I love, love, love them! Aren’t they so adorable and feminine?” My thoughts were something more along the lines of frou-frou and impractical. And I actually chuckled at the “anti-feminist” picture, which lookedl to me, exactly like the pictures of young suffragettes in the 19th century. How did the image of a wild young woman in one century come to typify the “conservative” of another? Old-fashioned does not equal godly. Girly does not equal womanly. Traditional does not equal true. I’m not trying to attack femininity–or those who promote it. My concern is that we might inaccurately portray femininity as the standard of godliness and so find ourselves in an indefensible position. There’s nothing wrong with femininity. Feminine simply means womanly. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with being womanly. It’s just that the term is so ambiguous that it can hardly be held up as a legitimate argument for anything. Much of the time it’s an issue of personal taste. One young lady found a pair of pink heels to be feminine, while I thought they were silly and unattractive. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating femininity, with appreciating beauty, with appreciating nostalgia. There’s nothing wrong with liking to wear a flowy white dress and tuck daisies into your hair—as something that appeals to an individual woman. My concern is that we might inadvertently portray an our favorite image of femininity as an image of godliness.

But the Bible, the ultimate yardstick, tells us what God intends women to be: strong, wise, hard-workers, courageous, able to give an account for what they believe and practice, able to evaluate all that they hear, helping younger women, good managers, shrewd stewards, and well-satisfied to be women. (Check out Proverbs 31, 1st Timothy chapters 2 and 5, and Titus 2.) Does that resonate with femininity or feminism?

When the feminist is concerned about women who are weak, why would we hold up pictures of languid women, dressed in white muslin and doing fine-needle-point doilies? Let’s model for them the woman who is dressed in strength and dignity, who girds her arms with strength and makes her arms strong. When the feminist is concerned about daughters at home who are wasting their lives, bored, wandering aimlessly through the house and singing “Someday my prince will come”, why do we hold up pictures of damsels in distress and talk of how we dream of marrying someday and pine away because our biological clock is ticking? Let’s model for them that godliness that is accompanied by contentment, that the Lord has appointed a time for everything, and that serving the Lord in any situation is a joy and a delight. When the feminist is concerned about women being uneducated or ignorant, let’s take our cue and prove that God gave us a mind and commanded us to be innocent, yet shrewd. “Get wisdom” says Proverbs. Study of God’s word is greatly deepened by studying grammar, language, history and logic. When the feminist is concerned about women who must find their identity in a man, we should prove that our identity is safe with Christ. He is ours and we are His. In Christ we have everything pertaining to life and godliness. But Christ is no male chauvinist, as demonstrated by His sacrificial relationship with the church and this is His picture for marriages to be. Not domineering men and manipulative women, but unified couples. Let’s picture for the feminists, what God intends for marriage to be—another avenue for serving God and others. When the feminist is concerned about women who are frumpy on the one hand or obsessed with being beautiful on the other, let’s prove that the virtuous woman dresses in scarlet and purple and that she possesses a self-control which never fades. When the feminist is concerned that women are permitting themselves to be objectified by flaunting their bodies, let’s not respond in shame, but with reverence for our bodies, as temples of God. When the feminist is concerned that women are marginalized, let’s point out that women are unique and the Lord has uniquely gifted us to carry life. We recognized that women are indispensable to society. We are equal with men, yet different, and we don’t feel the need to compete. We certainly have a production edge when it comes to children—yet it’s not something we accomplish on our own. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating “femininity”, but let’s stop hurling “feminine” images and start modeling godly womanhood. Sometimes we can learn from our critics.

If we are upholding Biblical truths, we’ll be demonstrating that we have achieved with Christ what the feminist cannot without Him: we are happy, intelligent, fulfilled, strong, confident women. Happy because we rejoice in the Lord. Intelligent because we know what and why we believe, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fulfilled, because we are doing what we were created to do and therefore are able to do it well. Strong, because the Lord is our strength and we are working out our salvation. Confident, because who is there to alarm us when God is our shield?

And isn’t that what the feminists want to see? If they are honestly looking for the best interests of women, your unapologetic obedience may lead them to Christ. There’s no call to go to battle against the feminists. There’s no call to set our goals up as opposite of theirs. Why react against a reaction? Our best defense is simply to live a purposeful, cheerful, godly lifestyle, to share the truth of Christ’s liberation by our words, to offer love and kindness to all, and to let the Lord prove that our lives, our talents, our minds and our hearts are not wasted or enslaved, but are full and free.

“When a man’s way is blameless, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” ~Proverbs 16:7

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Part Six: Love and Today

March 8, 2010 at 1:00 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I can look back on the past 20 years of my life with entire confidence that, when it comes to love, I’ve been an overwhelming failure.  Praise the Lord, His love never fails, and it stretches to mercifully cover my short-comings.

God’s commands for purity are not for yesterday.  Certainly there are consequences to our poor choices and we should do our best to rectify our mistakes, but the past is a part of something the Lord has bought back and promised to redeem for our good.  He is in the business of using even bad things for His glory and our good.  That is the power of God’s redeeming agape love.

Today we are commanded to seek to love purely—the Lord first and our neighbor as our self.  It’s not something that just happens–it’s a battle.  The command to “keep” our heart bears connotations of surviving a siege.  As long as we are fighting, we can overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  A purity battle fought is not a purity battle lost.  We lose the battles when we stop seeking the Lord, when we give up, when we sit down and give in to temptation or greed or discontentment—in any form or appearance.

I don’t intend to impose law, but to lift up the Lord.  “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)  My challenge to you is the same I extend to myself:  Pursue the Lord!  Flee youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with those that call on God from a pure heart.  This is worship.

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Part Five: Love and Matchmaking

March 7, 2010 at 1:34 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Nathaniel and Lauren each arrived at college quite certain that they would not meet their future spouse there.  Two weeks into the semester they had met and both were beginning to have second thoughts.  Long before the first semester of her freshman year was over, Lauren had measured Nathaniel by her list of character qualities and found him to be exactly what she’d hoped for.

Thus began an epic four-year purity battle.

And when she should have had friends rallying behind her, helping her “keep” her heart and focus on the Lord and serving others, many were traitors, firing cupid’s love-darts behind her back, making suggestions, asking questions, “helping” her to snatch the pen from the Lord’s hand and write her own love-story.

Sometimes I wanted to grab shirt collars, knock heads together and shout the rebuke that these well-meaning friends needed to hear.  Perhaps I’m a little over-dramatic, but few heard Lauren’s heart weeping and bleeding as she struggled to gain control over her desires.  Few saw her weariness and tears the way I did as she struggled to tie each dream to the altar and burn it in worship to Almighty God.  Few knelt beside her on the battlefield, as she bowed her head, too tired to get up and keep fighting for focus.  It seems like a pretty story, reading of her four-year struggle and final triumph in giving up at the marriage altar, but the struggle wasn’t pretty.

In fact, as I watched, I made a solemn promise to myself.  “That is never going to happen to me!”

Ladies, never make a promise concerning something that is entirely out of your control.  You will assuredly break it.

I thought that if I was careful enough, guarded enough, chaste enough, no one would ever have anything to question, tease, prod or poke me about.  Apparently there is no such thing as enough.  I gave it my level best, but found myself harried at every step.  Everything from questions, teasing and “help” regarding particular guys, to unsought “sympathy” and “encouraging” prophecies of coming marital bliss were flung at me under a cover of smiles and nods.  Much of the time I felt entirely bewildered.  What in the world was I doing to make people say such nonsense?

The greatest part of the difficulty lay in treating my brothers with love—while being questioned or teased about them.  The self-protection in me wanted to push them all away as harshly as possible and save the remaining scraps of my focus.  Ah, but to do so would not be loving.

What was awkward has proved for my good in forcing me to search out godly responses (at which I don’t always succeed).  Perhaps you’ll appreciate the results of my dilemma.  *

Love your enemies

The fact is, sometimes when you’re fighting a purity battle, those well-meaning matchmakers feel like enemy forces.  “Friendly fire” they call it when your team is shooting you up, but the bullets whistling around your head hardly feel friendly.  Friend or foe, God’s call is for you to love them.  (Luke 6:27)  The fact is, most people who seem intimately interested in your romantic status probably are interested because they appreciate you.  They want to see you happy (which they’ve decided means married—or at least hopelessly in love).  And sometimes, they honestly just don’t know what else to talk about.  A gracious woman attains honor.  (Proverbs 11:16)  Learn to think and answer graciously because, I promise, the situations never end.

Accept what is said as intended in love.

1 Corinthians 13 says that love believes all things.  Commentaries suggest this means “believes the best.”  Giving folks the benefit of the doubt will hardly harm them, and will actually protect your heart from frustration and bitterness.

They say:  “I don’t know what all the guys are thinking.  If I had a son, I’d be sending him to talk to your dad.”

I think:  “Since you don’t, how pointless is that to suggest?  Besides, I’m glad you don’t have a son.  I wouldn’t marry any son of yours anyway.”

A proper response:  Recognize that this person just expressed confidence in me as a person of character as well as someone they would appreciate joining their family.  That is the Lord’s grace on my life and I should be encouraged that His hand is evident in me.  Probably no verbal response is necessary and no mental reflection should be enacted.

Turn sympathy into a chance to praise the Lord.

Paul told the Thessalonians “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all things.  This is God’s will for you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  As women who want to do God’s will and bring Him glory, we should take every opportunity to proclaim the Lord’s goodness.

They say:  “You’re not married yet?  Well, you’re so (insert flattering comment) I’m sure there’s an amazing man just around the corner for you.”

I think:  “People have been telling me that for years.  How do you know what’s just around the corner for me?  It could be ten more years of singleness.  Besides, what does (insert flattering comment) have to do with deserving an amazing man?”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is meaning to be kind, then declare the Lord’s goodness.  “The Lord has been really blessing me with opportunities to serve Him as a single woman.  I know He’ll do what is right and good.  He has always been good to me.”

Refocus the conversation on the Lord.

Paul wrote to the believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, making the most of the time, teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  (Ephesians 5:15-21)  Sometimes a conversation simply needs to be nudged back in the right direction.

They say:  “So, is there a special man in your life?”

I think:  “Define special.  When there’s someone special enough to be considered special, I’ll let you know.  You’re not special enough to be privy to special information.”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is interested in my life and doesn’t want to miss anything exciting that’s happening.  *without the eye roll, Abigail*  “You know, I’ve really been learning a lot lately about what the Lord wants from me as a godly woman…”

As you trail on about the encouraging things you’ve been learning and how you’ve been learning to love the Lord and keep your eyes on Him, your interrogator may do one of two things:  be encouraged and uplifted or sink down in a chair with their chin sagging on the floor—never to ask you questions like that again (we hope).

Answer a fool according to his folly.

Proverbs says to “answer a fool according to his folly.”  (Proverbs 26:5)  Some questions aren’t anyone’s business.  Some don’t deserve the dignity of an answer.  Some don’t have an answer.  Just because it was asked, doesn’t mean it requires your reply.  Indiscretion on another’s part doesn’t require indiscretion on your part.  Impertinence needn’t be satisfied.  I recommend the shrug as a very effective tool for expressing “that’s none of your business, but you don’t know any better, I suppose.”

They say:  “You know what?  Something’s missing from your house today.  Where are all your suitors?”

A proper response:  *shrug*

Some suggestions don’t even deserve a serious response.  You can pass them off and move on to other topics.

They say:  “You don’t have a boyfriend?  I have a very handsome grandson you should meet.”

A proper response:  “I’m sure you’re proud of your grandson.  How long have you lived in AR?”

Some can simply be made light of to relieve embarrassment.

They say:  “So, Abigail, when are you getting married?”

A proper response:  “Oh, I’m thinking next May.  Of course there are some minor details to work out before then.”

Sometimes you should pass the buck.

They say:  “So, how many of these young men are head-over-heals in love with you?”

A proper response:  “Maybe you should survey them and find out.”

Like water off a duck’s back

After you’ve answered, you should refocus on the Lord and forget about it.  My biggest weakness is a festering frustration due to the “helpful” people in my life.  I over-evaluate everything, assuming their nosiness is caused by something I’m doing wrong.  Do I look like I’m pining away for a husband?  Am I acting like I’m “in love” with so-and-so?  Do they really just think I’m like that—from one guy to the next?  It doesn’t matter.  Be pure before the Lord.  That’s well-pleasing to Him.

Are you the enemy?

From the other side, if you’re the nosey matchmaker, I’d like to challenge you with a few thoughts.  You may think you are expressing love, encouragement or care for a person.  Beware lest you are actually adding to a load of frustration.  You may be aiding and abetting the enemy.  Anything that you do which encourages another person to become distracted from whole-hearted devotion to the Lord and from selfless and unselfconscious love for their neighbor is actually fighting against their best interests and the Lord’s glory.

What is she supposed to do about it?

What are your motives in the questions you’re asking or the suggestions you’re making?  Remember that if you’re speaking to a young lady, there’s not a lot she can do when it comes to taking initiative.  Nor should she be particularly encouraging attention from a young man who has not been approved by her parents.  You may be usurping her parents when you appear to offer your blessing to something they have not blessed.

On the flip-side, if you think she may be too forward or is encouraging attention, you may have reason for questioning.  Encouraging attention without intent or without parental blessing is false advertising.  If your questions are intended as a gentle rebuke, you should be clear in explaining your perceptions and concerns—please don’t leave her to her own deductions.  If you aren’t clearly encouraging her to keep her heart pure you may appear to condone a “defrauding” situation.

What are you encouraging?

Scripture tells us to encourage one another and build each other up and to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:24)  If you’re encouraging distraction from the Lord, you’re actually tearing down the very things you should be building up.  If you’re encouraging young ladies to be discontented, you are like Aaron, who knew better even as he built a golden calf from the Israelites’ most prized possessions.  (Exodus 32)  Love is encouraging each other to worship the Lord.

Are you usurping?

If you know something she doesn’t, you may be usurping another’s place to tell her.  Perhaps her parents want to talk to her about a situation and know her heart.  Perhaps a young man is pursuing, but she doesn’t know—to protect her in undistracted devotion to the Lord.  If your desire is to “be the first one to know,” check your attitude for selfish motives.  Be very careful that you do not reveal secrets.  The would-be bride in Song of Solomon warns the town maidens not to question her about her admirer.  “Do not arouse or awaken love before its time!”  (Song 2:7)

Are you gossiping?

Scripture warns against being busybodies and gossips.  When you’re playing the “matchmaking” game, are you being a gossip?  Why is the information you’re asking important to you?  What do you hope to accomplish by it?  Are you going to tell others?  Why would you tell others?  How will it build you up and encourage you to focus on the Lord?  How will it encourage a young lady to focus?  Does it build up the body of Christ?

Love extends through every relationship at every time.  Whoever you are, whatever your situation in life, you should be practicing love—sacrificial love.  Your words and actions should be guarded by love—love for the Lord and love for your neighbor.  Jesus says if you cause one of His little ones to stumble, it’s a grave offense!  Purity isn’t a check-list of dos and don’ts—it even includes what we encourage in others!  We’re to be examples in purity and love.  We’re to think on things that are pure.  We’re to love from pure hearts.  Keep the Lord first.  Love your neighbor.  That guards purity.  That is worship.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  The examples I shared are all  things that have been frequently said to me.  I’m not advocating the thoughts I expressed as being either pure or loving, I’m just being honest.  I still need to work on accepting what is meant in kindness.  If these don’t represent your responses, you may appreciate hearing how someone else thinks—especially if these are the kinds of things you have said to others.  If these examples are expressive of things you’ve said or done, I’m not trying to pick on you—just trying to give you another perspective on what you may be (unintentionally) accomplishing and challenge you to consider your motives—are they pure?  Are they bringing the focus and glory to God?

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Part Four: Love and Marriage

March 6, 2010 at 1:33 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Once upon a time I found myself in the middle of a conversation with a young woman.  The topic?  Romantic relationships.  She was aghast when she discovered that I “don’t date.”  “But—but—but,” she spluttered.  “How will you ever get married if you don’t date?”  “Hmmm,” I stroked my chin, enjoying her perplexity.  “I’ll have to think about that one.  How many guys have you dated?”  She thought for a few minutes before answering something close to a dozen.  “And you’re still not married?” I opened my eyes wide, pretending shock and horror before smiling.  “Well, if a dozen attempts haven’t found you hitched, it doesn’t really seem to me that dating is making marriage happen for you.”

Created to be his help-meet?

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he commanded them to go about “romance” in a set-apart way—not in lustful passion like those who don’t know God, and to be careful of defrauding.  In so-called “conservative” circles, we recognized the devaluation and pollution of marriage and the entirely impure routes many take to get there.  Often we denounce dating as “lustful passion” and “defrauding.”  We also see the rejection of God’s wisdom in creating men and women with unique roles.  And soon we are creating models and stereotypes of how a romance must progress and preaching slogans like “I’m saving my heart for my husband” and “Biblical courtship” and talking about being maidens in waiting. *  We proclaim the importance of marriage and the beauty of being wives and mothers, but sometimes I think we get caught up in the means and forget the end.  I think we’re confusing ourselves when we insist that we were created for marriage and child-bearing.  Before you stone me and throw me out of the synagogue, hear me out.  I counsel crisis clients at a pregnancy center, and every time I go over the information about conception, baby development and birth, I’m overwhelmed by God’s genius in creating women with the unique ability to sustain another human life.  You’ll never catch me devaluing that as a woman’s “saving” service. **  And yet, there’s a bigger picture.  You weren’t born married.  You could have been, but you weren’t.

Let me explain.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And He created a man to care for the earth.  But the man needed a helper.  So God created a woman and brought her to the man.  Eve might as well have been born married.  Adam had to have a wife to help him fulfill God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.  Eve was created to be his helper.  No questions asked.  That was the role God gave her when he brought her to the man.

But there was a bigger purpose.  Turn to the end of the Book—the Revelation given to John—for the unveiling of why God created the world, why He created man and woman.  “You created all things,” the saints proclaim the worthiness of the Lamb “and for Your pleasure they existed and were created.”  (Revelation 4:11)

Role vs. Purpose

The revelation is that you and I were created for God’s pleasure.  For His glory.  To do His will.  And we weren’t created married, which means that His pleasure, His will and His glory are more far-reaching than simply being married.

See, when an actress performs in a play, her purpose can’t be simply to play her role.  Her role will fall flat and empty if she focuses only on her character.  Why?  Because she’s missing the bigger picture.  The purpose of a play is to tell a story.  In order to tell the story, a play incorporates individual characters.  So the actress must make her purpose to tell the story, to express the story by playing her role.  She must make her role serve the story.  She is a part of a whole.

My concern is that, all too often, we miss the bigger picture.  By holding up marriage and motherhood as our purpose, we are actually stealing from the story.  What I see seeping through the cracks in the marriage goal are a few subtle lies:  that marriage will fulfill my needs; that I serve God through marriage, so, in the meantime, I am being prevented from really serving God as I was created to do; that single years are wasted years; that if I am not married, I must not be godly/mature enough; that my reward (of marriage) is based upon my performance (contentedness/purity/domestic skills/etc); that unmarried people are incomplete—just waiting on a spouse so they can truly be useful; that I would be more useful to God if I were married (I know better than He does). As we swallow these lies like our daily vitamins, we come to be self-obsessed.  Instead of looking at the bigger picture, the story that God wants to tell of His power, His love and His glory, we’re focused on our role.  Instead of making our role serve the story, we just want God to hurry up and write our lines.  When will it be my turn to come on stage?  How does my costume look?  Is this the guy for me?  I’m content now…Lord, where is my husband?  Soon we are pursuing our role instead of our purpose.  We’re obsessed with being wives and mothers, when we should be obsessed with God’s glory.

Ladies, even a pagan can be a wife and mother.

Am I against marriage?

Absolutely not!  Godly marriages glorify God.  But discontentment does not.

Our purpose is to glorify God.  We do this by seeking to understand our role—learning to be obedient women.  Being submissive wives and loving mothers is not the end.  It’s the means to the end—glorifying God.  And it only brings God glory if it springs from submission to God and love for His people.

What does God want from women?

For several years now, I’ve been searching the scriptures to see what God commands me to do.  I found an interesting omission.  God never commands me to marry.  He doesn’t command me to save my heart for my husband.  He doesn’t command me to court.

He commands me to love Him with my entire heart.  He commands me to love my neighbor as myself.  He commands me to view my body as His temple and abstain from sexual immorality.  He lays out the blessings and responsibilities of marriage.  In fact, He holds forth marriage as a picture of Christ and the church—that’s a pretty glorious role to play—picturing here on earth a spiritual truth as large as God’s eternal plan of divine love and redemption.  He also lays out the blessings and responsibilities of singleness.  Those whose roles find them unmarried or who have chosen to audition for unmarried roles are to be single-minded.  And Paul insists that singleness presents more freedom for service to God.  Neither is to covet the role of another.  “If you have a wife, do not seek to be free.  If you are not married, do not seek a wife.”  (1 Corinthians 7:27)  He lays out guidelines for relationships—single and married and in-between.

We are not commanded to have a mindset of marriage.  We are commanded to have a mindset of love.

Godly women are to love

Love, Biblically speaking begins with Christ’s love for us which enables us to have agape (sacrificial) love for all men, which progresses to phileo (affection) toward Christian brothers and sisters and finally (if God so wills) to romantic love—the deepest human fellowship, reserved in the Lord for one person.  When we divorce romance from agape, we have what Paul calls “lustful passion.”  Which is impurity.  For each of us, it must be agape that inspires phileo and controls romance—within the pure bounds of marriage.

The commands to believers over and over and over again are to love.  We are to love Yahweh with all our heart.  We are to love our neighbor as our self.  Your neighbor always begins with the one closest to you.  Married women are to love their neighbors, as well—their husbands and their children.  (Titus 2:4)  We are to look out for the interests of others, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor.  Our mindset shouldn’t be marriage, but love.

Love Yahweh with all your heart.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

This is obedient womanhood.  This is worship.

It is also the foundation for a marriage that mirrors Christ and the Church.

One day it may be these two loves that lead you into a godly marriage.  What is marriage if not complete and sacrificial giving of oneself—love?  When you understand your purpose is God’s glory, then you can joyfully accept a role of singleness or marriage—for however long the Lord prolongs it.  You can understand that God must always claim first place in your affections and that you must always love others as you love yourself.  Married or single.  This is obedient womanhood.  This is worship.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  I’m not trying to attack the goals or purposes of phrases like this, but none of these terms is actually found in scripture.  I’d encourage us to be careful to lift the actual scriptural principles higher than our extra-Biblical models and phrases and to be sure our models and phrases are supporting and fitting into the grid-work of scriptural principles.  I’ve seen each of these terms pasted on rather varying explanations.  Those who advocate these ideals certainly can be/often are upholding Biblical goals, but its not subscribing to a “courtship approach” or claiming to be a “maiden in waiting” or to “saving my heart for my husband” that makes us pure.

**  I use the term “saving” role in reference to 1 Timothy 2:15, which speaks of the woman being “saved” or “preserved” through bearing children.  It is not her eternal salvation in view here—as though salvation were by works, especially a work over which she actually has little control—but the salvation of her importance in human society.  Modern women think they must compete with men to establish their importance, but men cannot compete with women in the thing God considers their most important task.  What will become of the human race if women cease to raise children?

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