No Girl Left Behind

July 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm (A Time to Laugh) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

a-time-to-laugh

Ladies, a crisis is upon us.

Here at the Pearls and Diamonds blog, we were entirely ignorant both of the crisis and of our patriotic duty to take a stand and right it.

Until today.

Visiting the “No Girl Left Behind Website” and learning of the Marriage Crisis…left no doubt as to the wisdom of the solution “proposed.”  Government is always good at solving “problems.”

We encourage you to visit the website and join the campaign.  Or at least the laughter.

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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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Just how old is she?

June 5, 2010 at 11:07 am (Announcements) (, , , , )

Today is Abigail’s birthday.

Just how old do you think she is?

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Systematic Theology on a Cross?

May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm (Food for Thought) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

I once tried to explain “systematic theology” to a Russian pastor of the Underground Church, who had never seen a whole New Testament.  Systematically, I began to explain to him the teaching about the Godhead, about its unity in three Persons, the teaching about original sin, about the Fall, about salvation, about the Church, about the sacraments, about the Bible as infallible revelation.

He listened attentively.  When I had finished, he asked me a most surprising question:  “Have those who thought out these theological systems and wrote them down in such perfect order ever carried a cross?”  He went on.  “A man cannot think systematically even when he has a bad toothache.  How can a man who is carrying a cross think systematically?  But a Christian has to be more than the bearer of a heavy cross: he shares Christ’s crucifixion.  The pains of Christ are his, and the pains of all creation.  There is no grief and no suffering in the whole world which should not grieve him also.  If a man is crucified with Christ, how can he think systematically?  Can there be that kind of thought on a cross?

“Jesus Himself thought unsystematically on the cross.  He began with forgiveness; He spoke of a paradise in which even a robber had a place; then He despaired that perhaps there might be no place in paradise even for Him, the Son of God.  He felt Himself forsaken.  His thirst was so unbearable that He asked for water.  Then He surrendered His spirit into His Father’s hand.  But there followed no serenity, only a loud cry.  Thank you for what you have been trying to teach me.  I have the impression that you were only repeating, without much conviction, what others have taught you.”

~Richard Wurmbrand, 1909-2001, founder of VOM, “With God in Solitary Confinement

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

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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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Life.

May 5, 2010 at 10:21 am (Announcements) (, , , , , , , , , , )

So, I’m sure some of you have noticed that some things on our blog have been put on hold.  It took us quite a while to get around to announcing the winner of the purity ring giveaway, and we haven’t posted anything since then.  Why, you might ask?

Life.

It happens.  We haven’t put blogging on hold for any determined purpose–no intentional “taking a break”.  Just living life in the real world and dealing with our own struggles and relationships and dirty diapers and crazy circumstances and successes and failures and repeated plumbing problems and sick loved ones and baby play dates and and and…

Life is full of joys and sorrows, ease and trials.  And we’ve had our fair share lately.  It’s been good.  And we just haven’t been blogging.

That said, our minds are always churning with ideas, so we can’t stay away forever.  So no worries, we’ll get back into it…maybe sooner, maybe later.  In the mean time, may Yahweh bless you and keep you, and may He make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you and give you peace–as you seek His heart.

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The Winner Is…

April 21, 2010 at 4:48 pm (Announcements) (, , )

…Ana Marie

3. I did here: http://bit.ly/bz3XVs

How cool is that?  Ana Marie, can you send us your ring size and mailing address?  🙂  Congratulations!

(Sorry for the delay!  Sometimes the things that ought to happen outnumber the things that are happening…)

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Purity Ring Giveaway

March 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm (Announcements, Purity) (, , , )

Well, we’ve wound up the posts…and now we’ve got one last thing for you…

Cornerstone Jewelry has generously donated a purity ring for one of our readers!  Cornerstone has lots of lovely rings with great messages–we recommend checking them out.  In fact, a ring might make a perfect gift or a great reminder of your commitment to purity.  The one they’ve donated for the giveaway is sterling silver and comes in whole sizes 5-9 and looks like this:

Cute, huh?

We’ll be holding a public auction…excuse me…giveaway starting now and ending April 9th at midnight.  And remember, purity is for married women, too, so anyone can enter!

Here’s how you can enter:

1.  Share with us a scripture that has encouraged or convicted you in your purity journey.

2.  Share your thoughts or purity testimony on the post “It’s Your Turn!”

3.  Share a link to the purity month posts on your blog, facebook or twitter.

4.  Subscribe to the Pearls and Diamonds blog by e-mail or in a reader of your choice (see the options in the right sidebar?)

5.  Come visit Lauren and me and help us with our housework.  Oh!  Wait, that’s shamelessly self-serving…never mind.

Giveaway ends April 9th at midnight.  Be sure to leave a separate comment on this post for each entry!

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It’s Your Turn!

March 17, 2010 at 1:08 am (Announcements, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We’ve spent the last week or so sharing purity stories (in case you hadn’t noticed)…each of us has been walking a path that the Lord has used to teach us the price and value of purity.

Lauren shared that purity in our lives reflects our relationship with the Lord–we’re not supposed to daydream about other lovers, but we’re supposed to love the Lord purely!  She also shared that meeting the “perfect” man wasn’t a signal to lay down her arms and give in–it was actually just a stronger call to keep fighting the battle–even protecting her physical purity during her engagement so that she could give herself entirely to her husband on her wedding day!  And as a married woman, she shared that the same love that inspires “keeping” as a single woman, inspires “giving” as a married woman.

Megan shared the power of God’s redeeming love as the basis for all purity.  With that in mind, pride doesn’t lead us to true purity.  She expressed that purity is far more than physical boundaries–that it begins with a pure mind and heart and humility!  She also shared how God’s powerful love can redeem even our mistakes and sanctify them for our growth and use them for our blessing!  As a wife and mother (with a fifth on the way!), a pure mind and heart are no less important now!

Amy shared that an invaluable secret to protecting “chastity” is godly accountability–particularly parents!  Contentment is an act of trust and the foundation for trust is knowing and understanding God’s character–that He is good and gives good gifts.  Even when “Mr. Right” entered her life, the Lord still had growth planned for her!  And even after her marriage, she has learned that contentment is still an act of trust!  The day we trust the Lord is only the beginning of a life of trusting.

Sarah shared the struggle of learning to balance preparation and training to be a godly wife and mother with the commands to guard her heart and keep her daydreams focused on the Lord.  One day she came to her parents.  “For my entire life you have been grooming me to be a wife and mother.   What am I supposed to do, erase 16 years of brainwashing from my head?”  She also shared the struggle of balancing a godly friendship with the teasing of “helpful friends” and her own desires for a godly husband.  She also shared how we can tend to trust “good things” that the Lord provides, instead of simply trusting the Lord.

Ana Marie shared the importance of filling our lives with the right things–nature abhors a vacuum, and where there is nothing, usually there is plenty of room for stumbling!  She shared the value of a tender conscience and also the power of confessing even motives to her father.  She also shared how necessary it is to guard our brothers–hearts and eyes–in worship to the Lord.

Abigail shared the danger of creating “high ideals” that are often founded in pride instead of in scripture–since they set us up for failure!  God doesn’t promise us our ideal–no matter how we behave.  He just commands us to obey Him.  She also shared the importance of understanding that both marriage and singleness are pure–and glorify God when submitted to Him.   And she shared the the call never changes–regardless of circumstances, pressures or temptations.  Purity must start and end in love–love for the Lord first and then love for His people–all of them.

Now it’s your turn!  We want to hear how the Lord has convicted you and how you’ve responded to the call to purity!  Leave your thoughts and/or post a link(s) to your story in the comments below!

Blessings!

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Confessions of an Idealist

March 15, 2010 at 1:25 am (Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Abigail’s Story

My Papa calls me a precocious child—and dramatic.  Add to that an aura of idealism and you have a recipe for trauma.  At least I can keep a secret.  Few know that I was once engaged.  After that, I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Tell of My Engagement, Such as it Was

It lasted an entire afternoon.  I was three years old.  His name was Colby and he lived a couple of doors down.  We were engaged, he said, reaching out to hold my hand.  It seemed like an interesting game—whatever “engaged” meant.  When my older brother began teasing me, I discovered that PDA equals humiliation.

In Which I Came to Dread Being a Heart-breaker

Almost as soon as I could speak, my Papa taught me to recite Ephesians 6:1 and explained to me that pleasing my parents was pleasing the Lord.  I might have been six when we visited an elderly aunt.  “What a pretty little girl!” she exclaimed, in elderly-aunt fashion.  “She will be a heart-breaker!”  My parents hastened to say something like, “Oh, no, that’s not what we have in mind at all!”  Their exact words are long gone, but I understood that heart-breaker was not among their goals for me.

In Which I Explain Why Romance Is Embarrassing

I was the girl who closed her eyes during the movie kiss.  When another neighbor boy tried to coax a kiss from me, I declined.  If holding hands earned teasing, I wasn’t about to risk the song “Abi and Colin sitting in a tree…”

Since my early childhood, I have kept myself to myself—my thoughts, my hands, my struggles.  I was always distinctly aware of my privacy and personal space, often excluding my own family.  Secret-keeping, while often masquerading as purity, was simply my method of self-preservation.  I’m introverted.  Intimacy equals vulnerability.  I hate feeling vulnerable.  As I grew and matured, I began stuffing my drama and emotions into a mental closet—to save embarrassment.

My observations of “romance” are deeply engraved in my childhood memories.  Girls acted like giggling goof-balls, said stupid things, tripped over nothing, turned red constantly and whispered secrets to their friends—who announced them to the boy in question.  Boys stole my headband, pestered me, bumped into me, told dumb jokes, invaded my privacy and acted generally obnoxious.  I resented their “immaturity.”  When the preacher’s son made a big ruckus out of sitting by me in Sunday school every week, I took up the matter with his father.  Friends told me, “He likes you” and adults consoled “He’s just sweet on you.”  If that was “sweet” I’d just go sit in the corner with the lemons.

My favorite fairy tale was a version of the Little Mermaid that concluded with the poor mermaid alone, broken-hearted and voiceless after unsuccessfully seeking the prince at whom she’d flung her heart.  Given the circumstances and her disobedience to her father, it seemed a realistic and appropriate ending.  The moral?  Romance is the perfect way to ruin a perfectly good life.

In Which I Decide to Fight Back

I was nine when we attended a small-town barbeque.  My brothers and I joined a group of kids on a squeaky merry-go-round.  Suddenly the boy seated beside me asked my name.  Duly answered, he wanted my age, my grade, and where I was from.  This impromptu interrogation concluded, he turned to his friend and announced, “I got me a pretty lady.”  My ears pricked, curiously.  “I asked her name,” he continued, proudly, “her age, her grade, where she’s from and bingo!  I got me a pretty lady.”  “You ain’t got nothing,” I thought bitterly to myself.  Arrogance!  He hadn’t even asked me!  My brothers thought it was hilarious.  Pondering the event later, it seemed so ludicrous, so stupid, that was almost funny.  I made a decision: if boys were going to be stupid and drag me into it, then I would make them look as stupid as possible.

And I got very good at it.

By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I’d mastered the art of humiliation.  One day after church, a visiting boy began furiously flirting with my buddy and me.  “He’s hitting on your sister,” a friend whispered to my older brother, Nathaniel.  “Just watch,” Nathaniel chuckled.  “It will be funny.”  In an act of deceptive kindness, I boosted the boy onto a trash barrel and into a tree where he perched happily, blowing me kisses.  Then I grabbed the trash barrel and rolled it away, leaving him stranded.  The audience erupted in laughter.  I never paid attention to how he got himself down.

In Which I Accept a Challenge

Before I hit thirteen, my Papa introduced us to the “Bold Christian Youth” seminar by a father and teacher named Jonathan Lindvall.  Lindvall’s message sprang from Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to be an example to the believers—in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.  He spent three sessions on the topic of purity, delving far beyond the basics of sexual purity and into the issue of emotional purity.  He introduced me to the concept of defrauding: taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  He shared the simple story of how he had met and married his wife, Connie, with his parent’s guidance and her parent’s blessing.  The simplicity, the sincerity and the utter lack of gush appealed to me and I was sold, lock, stock and barrel.

The concept appealed to me for several reasons:  First, it was clearly pleasing to my parents and to the Lord. Second, it made sense.  It didn’t waste time and energy.  And people didn’t get hurt.  (Right?)  Third, it was rather non-threatening to my personality and comfort zone.

I now had a Biblical foundation for battlements to guard body, heart, mind and emotions.  But as I developed my battle-plan and the rules that would protect my borders, I discovered that not everyone was on my team.  In fact, most of the boys I knew seemed like traitorous spies, intent on crossing boundaries at every opportunity.  I remember feeling entirely invaded when one guy friend chased me down and picked me up.  Instead of coming to my aid, several others just laughed (probably because they thought the “smart-mouthed girl” was getting what she deserved.)  With renewed energy and a misplaced zeal, I responded with down-right cruelty.  You pinch my knee, I stab you with a safety pin.  You repeat the offense, I repeat the punishment.  You mess with my hair, I slug you.  You flirt with me, I verbally tear you into sniveling shreds.  I resented any intrusion into my place of concealment and looked suspiciously on any act of kindness.  If I were kind in return, people might think I returned the sentiment.  So I loaded up with sarcasm, cynicism and subtle insults and fired at will.

My parents pulled me aside one day and explained to my horrified ears that “picking on” boys could actually be interpreted as flirtation—it was giving them special attention.  All this time, my efforts to ward off the enemy might have been drawing fire?

I withdrew.  I quit teasing, quit talking to boys, quit making eye-contact.

Chuckling, my parents exhorted me to be kind, to be friendly, but to avoid teasing, insults and “singling out” and to be honest and straightforward about boundaries.

In Which I Discover that Boys Can Be Friends

My mid-teens found me and my brother and involved in a homeschool speech and debate league.  The environment stimulated my mind and brought me out of my shell to look around.  The guys I met behaved like men (well, for the most part) and treated me with respect and friendship.  Most of them were solid believers with strong convictions and when I expressed my convictions and boundaries, they responded with sensitivity and respect.  “I don’t give hugs,” I explained and they quickly apologized.  They became my brothers.  Soon I was developing many friendships that had depth and substance and seemed non-threatening.

Unwittingly, I dropped my guard.

But as my circle of “safe” boy friends grew, something horrible happened.

In Which “Safe” Becomes the Enemy

I had my first crush.

I’d never really liked a boy.  Sometimes, in my early teens, I’d admired a godly young man (usually much older than I), but there was little reason to like anyone.  I was a Papa’s girl with two brothers close to my age.  If there were to be any praises, teasing, affection, drama, conversation, competition, antagonism, attention or good advice, they had it covered.  I’ve heard it said that crushes are a natural part of a adolescence.  So are pimples, but they’re still disgusting.  So when the first crush came, I was aghast.  The world had fallen, my heart had betrayed me, I had lost all vestiges of purity.

As soon as I discovered my heart’s betrayal, I gathered together my forces and declared war on my unsuspecting crush.  Mentally, I shot slime balls into his person and character until he simply wasn’t worth liking.  I focused on his faults, his weaknesses, his annoyances.  Bingo.  He was history.

After all, I wasn’t getting married.  Which made liking a guy the token failure of my purity standard.

See, as the Biblical call to purity had echoed across my heart, I’d felt a powerful desire to be an example to the believers.  If I was to be an example of purity, wouldn’t the best and clearest way be to prove that a woman could be entirely devoted to Christ for her whole life?  Marriage had never been paramount among my desires (remember, I had an intimacy issue).  Now my dramatic side embraced the concept of singleness—serving the Lord perhaps in work with orphans or the inner city.  After all, in a situation like that, singleness could be a decided asset.

Between the conviction that I would stay single for the glory of God and my fault-finding tactic, I survived rather splendidly.

In Which I Finally Grasp Marriage

My family was holed up in a cabin at a family camp in the Ozarks the summer I turned seventeen.  I’d spent the week watching my parents as they waded through some rough issues.  One night, as they sat whispering on their bed, I lay in the bunk above them and finally understood.  Marriage was beautiful.  Across the wooden panels of the cabin ceiling paraded the powerful wooing of Christ toward His church and the picture that a godly marriage could portray of Christ’s love and the church’s obedience.  It was a picture so sadly lacking in the culture I’d witnessed (even the Christian culture) that I suddenly understood the divine calling to live it out.  Marriage had always seemed fine for those who desired it, but I’d reasoned that singleness was better.  As I lay there, sleepless, I grasped for the first time that a pure marriage was just as powerful an example as pure singleness.  Both were from the Lord and both brought Him glory.

In Which I Vow to Remain Single

This revelation did not negate the value I placed on singleness.  Paul’s teaching on the freedom a single woman has to single-mindedly serve the Lord still hangs prominently in my heart.  But the revelation did make the single-mindedness a bit more difficult and I felt like I was battling towering odds.  My grandmas had made bets with my brother that I would be married at 18 and I ranked top on friends lists of “who will marry first.”  My obstinate determination not to marry had guarded my heart for so long, but with my growing appreciation for marriage, I began to feel exposed.  I’d been convicted of my cruelty in tearing guys down to avoid liking them and abandoned it for a more Biblical approach of kindness.  As I approached the magical age of eighteen, the romantic suggestions increased exponentially.  Now I actually thought marriage was cool?  With all of my self-defense mechanisms crumbling and my ammo tossed to the winds of the past, how could I ever stand guard over my heart?

Feeling vulnerable, I dug a trench.  I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Learn to Focus

My “vow” was really just a year-long commitment.  I promised the Lord that I would devote myself entirely to His service, refusing to consider marriage, but focusing on knowing and loving Him passionately.

I don’t recommend taking vows like this, but the Lord mercifully used the promise for good in my life.  I developed disciplines of taking every thought captive, ignoring “boy attention” and refocusing my thoughts to the Lord.  My spirit flourished and I fell so entirely in love with the Lord that year that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I could be single forever—and He would be God Almighty, my Betrothed.

In Which I Lose My Last Defense

During this time of focus, I’d leaned heavily on one last defense:  the art of evasion.  Like a timid hare, a single threat of romantic interest would send me scampering to hiding.  “Um…Charlie’s here,” my Mom announced as a guy I’d been kind to in the library turned up on our doorstep.  “I’m not!” I cried, and fled out the back door.

One day my dad gently explained to me that avoidance could also be a form of “singling out”—giving special treatment to certain guys.

In Which My Ideal Goes the Way of All Fairy Tales

I passed my eighteenth birthday, leaving my year-long vow behind, and my heart wavered again toward marriage.  I passionately desired to be a shining example of emotional purity and I pleaded with the Lord that I would be neither distracted nor a distraction.  I’d watched Nathaniel and Lauren struggle through four years of distractions and determined to guard myself well against a similar story.  My ideal had always been simple and practical—something that permitted me to be entirely oblivious until it suddenly became obvious that I could better serve the Lord married and married to Mr. X.  The end.  No drama.  No romance.  No struggle.  No distractions.  Let’s all just be sensible, can we?

But I’d overlooked a fundamental problem:  oblivion was never included in my many faults.

Over the next several years, my ideal broke into a thousand pieces.  You know how Cinderella wore glass slippers?  In real life, no one wears glass slippers.  My ideal was like a glass slipper—beautiful in theory, but unable to stand the pressures of real life.  Being pursued several times didn’t fit my ideal any better than struggling for four years—both were distractions.  We’re taught not to view every young man as a potential suitor, but what happens when it’s not my mindset I’m battling?  What happens when, like Amy or Sarah or Lauren, a girl thinks she might have met Mr. Right?  Or when a young man is pursuing in an upright manner?  Or when others are trying to “help”?  I wasn’t the only one lacking oblivion.  People asked nosey questions, made nosey suggestions, tried facilitate my “happily ever after,” pushed me, pulled me, poked me and prodded me until I felt like the weepy girl who’d been forced to center-stage.  I was anxious, nauseated, confused, disillusioned and battling resentment.  How was I supposed to guard my heart when it was constantly under attack?  I felt like my reputation was being dragged through the dirt as I was quizzed about one guy after another.  Did people think I just bounced from one guy to the next like that?  Did they think I didn’t uphold my own standards?  What was I supposed to say?  Or do?  I was convinced that to intentionally encourage, where I did not have the blessing of my parents as well as wisdom and my own conscience, was cheating!  As I struggled with distractions, I felt like I was failing my own purity ideals and I was haunted by the words “heart breaker.”  I just wanted the drama to stop!  This romance stuff wasn’t just embarrassing—it was a nightmare!  My dramatic, precocious nature was ready to build a tower with no door or vanish into a nunnery.

Slowly I understood that I couldn’t survive on my own—I was helpless, weak and confused.  I felt so stripped of my privacy and defenses that I was willing to open myself to intimacy with my parents.   And with my heart feeling as crushed as my ideals, I was driven to scripture to see what the Lord truly expected of me.  I’d always assumed distractions were bad, but “bad” things drove me to my parents and to the scriptures for anything to which I could cling.  I found that the purity battle is won, not on the defensive, but on the offensive.  I was trying not to “fall in love.”  Instead I should love.  The purity standard never changed, regardless of my circumstances.  I should love the Lord first, using everything that entered my mind to turn my thoughts toward Him.  When tempted to be distracted, to worry, to consider, I should springboard into praise, worship, truth, trust.  I should love my brothers—regardless of appearances or intentions.  I should seek my brother’s good, seek to turn their minds to the Lord, seek to treat them with kindness without showing favoritism, seek to encourage them.  I should love all my neighbors equally—even those who are prying into my heart.  I should extend grace to those who may not share or understand my ideals.  And I should seek my parent’s accountability and guidance.  I won’t pretend it wasn’t painful, but Christ’s sacrificial love drove Him to endure unfathomable suffering–trusting that He was doing right.  It is His love that controls us and enables us to lay down our lives for others.

From the ashes of my nightmare rose a powerful call to purity and love.

In Which I Share the Moral of the Story

This time you get the moral before the end of the story!  After all, I’m still living, and until I meet Jesus there is no “happily ever after.”

Looking back, I have no regrets regarding sexual purity—well, except perhaps holding hands during my “engagement.”  But until recently, I’d been ashamed of my emotional purity struggle as an overwhelming failure–a complete waste of time, energy and emotion.  I had completely failed all my own ideals.  What was the purpose?  I’d been intensely grateful to the Lord’s grace and to my parent’s wisdom in protecting me from any relationships, but it seemed like a battle I should never have had to fight.

Then I experienced a failed courtship—through the eyes of a friend.  As I wept with her over her broken heart and ideals, I understood God’s healing power.  Another friend recently married—the only guy who’d ever been interested in her.  “How nice,” I thought, but she shared that she had often felt discouraged and undesirable.  As I listened I understood that each person’s struggle will seem hard to them—“bad” to them.  “Hard things” are life and “bad things” happen, but God promises to redeem them for our good.    In fact, God never promises us our ideal—no matter how well we behave.  He just commands us to obey His word—to love Him and His people as worship.

Purity isn’t about ideals or rules that I make up—it’s about obedience to God’s word!  My actions and attitudes must flow, not from pride in my high ideals, but in recognition of my weakness!   I am forgiven for mistakes in my past, I am not to guess at the future and I am to live today in worship of Almighty God.  It’s encouraging to be reminded that I am not responsible for circumstances or results—I’m just responsible to obey the Lord and love my brothers. You don’t have to be strong to win the purity battle, you just have to depend fully on the Lord and His grace.  May the grace of our Lord be with you!

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“Lord Willing”

March 14, 2010 at 1:30 am (interviews, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ana Marie’s Story

Abigail writes:  When Lauren and Nathaniel started attending a church in Tulsa, they were attracted to the love of the brethren and the fellowship they found.  So was another family that started attending about the same time—Ana Marie’s.  Over the last several years, Lauren has gotten to know Ana Marie and in the few times I have visited, Ana Marie has reached out to me, as well.   We’ve both been encouraged by Ana Marie and her desire to use her single years for the glory of God.  Incidentally, a few months back I had one of those “aha” moments when I suddenly realized where I’d seen Ana Marie before.  On the chance that any of you were once readers of HopeChest magazine, so was I—and so was Ana Marie!

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

Ana Marie: For the past 2+ years, I have worked as an assistant to my father who is the Director of Administration at Literacy & Evangelism International. I have the privilege of doing routine financial work to enable him to focus on various other tasks. My work also includes researching/purchasing office supplies. Another job I enjoy is teaching violin, currently at Saied Music Studios. Occasionally, I have the opportunity to work election polls and do some babysitting. Entrepreneurship is an interest of mine, and I hope to run my own businesses from home.

P & D:  How did the Lord woo you and bring you to Himself?

AM: When I was 6 years old, I would daily write things I was sorry for in a “Sorry Book”. On one of those days, my mom explained to me the need for forgiveness and that God was the only One Who could grant the forgiveness I sought. That day, I understood what Jesus had done to save me from my sins, and accepted His payment for them. Since then, doubts about my salvation have come and gone, but it is reassuring to know that God’s grasp on His children is greater than their faith, and nothing will snatch them out of His hand. As I consider the growth He has accomplished in my life, I know that He continually works in me to conform me more to His image. Realizing that His work in me will be carried on till completion is a great comfort when I am discouraged with my own failures.

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

AM: For me, this means contentedly embracing the sphere God has placed me in and not running from the difficulties in it. Home may be the hardest place to serve, but it is the place I must learn to be content in if I am ever to be content anywhere else. How should a grown daughter in her parents’ home live? Good question! It is one I am studying myself these days.

P & D: Do you hope to marry and keep a home someday?  What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home? How are you preparing for marriage now?

AM: Definitely! However, I must preface that by saying “Lord willing.” It is an issue I seek to leave in His hand. Over the years, my desire for marriage has progressed from immature fantasy to (I hope) more mature consideration of the topic (such as how to prepare myself for being a godly wife and mother). I must rein in my desires, knowing that God brings along the right seasons at the right time. I credit Him with growing the hope for a family someday in my heart. Over the years, He has increased my appreciation for godly homemaking. The greatest preparation for me is growing in character and trust in the Lord. As I spend time with Him and seek to glorify Him in my thoughts, actions, and relationships, I am preparing to glorify Him in a future marriage and family.

Books such as Female Piety by John Angell James and The Family by J.R. Miller have helped me understand God-honoring womanhood and family life, respectively. These are reading material I highly recommend!


P & D:  How does a single woman balance a desire for marriage and preparation for that with keeping focused on the Lord and keeping your heart pure?  What are some ways you recommend for finding encouragement and focus?

AM: A big part of living pure lives, especially in the season of singleness, is filling our time with the right things. Spending excessive amounts of time watching movies, reading novels, and talking with girlfriends about guys is a sure way to nurture inappropriate thoughts. I have made decisions to not watch certain movies or read certain books or listen to certain music based on romantic content that may have led my mind the wrong way. I have also limited my reading of material on purity and courtship. While commitment to a godly approach to marriage is important, much time spent reading courtship stories can foster discontentment and impure thinking. Not everyone struggles with the same things, so it is important to evaluate your own tendencies and struggles. Ruthlessly refrain from or eliminate from your life those things and activities that could lead you to wrong thoughts. This is not about rules and regulations. This is about guarding our hearts for the glory of the Lord and honor of our future husbands.

It isn’t enough just to decide what not to do. Fill your time with worthwhile pursuits. Learn as much as you can about valuable topics. Develop skills. Start businesses. Mentor and be mentored. Build relationships. Serve. Read books that can teach you important things. Think deeply about things and journal your ideas/thoughts/lessons. Memorize Scripture. I have made New Years Goals for many years, but then promptly forgot about them. This year, I wrote down specific things I want to accomplish and posted the list on my blog. This provides some accountability, and though I may not achieve everything, I most likely will accomplish more than I would have without a public list. Now, I have something I can review every month, and my blog readers see my progress. Consider what method for accountability would serve you best, and then go for it!


P & D: Did you have examples of godly women that you look up to? How influential were your parents in your life and life choices? Are they influential in your purity battle?

AM: I have been blessed by several friends who have motivated me to pursue God’s best for my singleness. One friend would, during my teen years, regularly (almost every time we met) ask what God was teaching me. This motivated me to keep studying His Word so that I would not be without an answer! Friends who ask important (and sometimes hard) questions are a great asset.

My parents have been valuable companions in my quest for purity. Though it is the hardest thing to do, I have found peace and strength in sharing my struggles with them. Knowing that my dad knows how to pray for me is a source of encouragement to me.



P & D: How are you spending your single years?  Do you have any regrets?  What would you encourage younger women to pursue during this time?

AM: I am by far not a great example of how to spend one’s single years! The ideals I have had in my mind have not been fully accomplished. However, when I am tempted to be discouraged, I need to remember that God has ordained my path. Walking with and growing in Him is the main thing. My “accomplishments” do not matter that much. When evaluating my previous years, I wish that I would have fought the battle for purity with more zeal. I wish that I would have studied Scripture and academics more earnestly. I wish that I would have persevered in a schedule that it became an almost unshakeable routine. These are some things I would urge other girls to make priorities in their single years. I am grateful that God never gives up on me and has given me more time to grow in these areas.

P & D: What does “purity” mean to you?  Have you ever felt like you failed your own standards?  How did you deal with feelings of “failure”?

AM: According to the Webster’s 1828 dictionary, purity is “freedom from guilt or the defilement of sin; innocence; as purity of heart or life” and “freedom from any sinister or improper views; as the purity of motives or designs” among other definitions. Truly, a life of purity is a life of true freedom – the freedom from enslavement to sin. Because Jesus Christ washed me clean from my sin, I can walk in freedom from sin and pursue a life of purity. If you have not been set free from sin by Christ’s payment for them, this is where you must start. You will never be able to live purely without His cleansing.

I have found my motives to be one place where the battle for purity must be zealously fought. A few times, I have felt really guilty for certain things I did which maybe didn’t look wrong to anyone else, but I knew my motives were impure. Confessing those instances to my dad brought freedom.

P & D: What does it mean to you to treat young men as brothers in Christ?  How does this practically work itself into relationships?  Have your relationships with your own brothers been encouraging in this area?  How do you seek to avoid “defrauding”?

AM: Another area for me to work on! I am so grateful that God gave me brothers. It is definitely a good idea to not see each young man you meet as a potential suitor :-). It is beneficial to see each young man as someone else’s future husband. Seek to eliminate stumbling blocks for them as much as you can.

We should be careful about what we expose young men to. Is there anything in that picture (that I would so much like to post on Facebook) that could cause a guy to stumble? Is there anything in the way I carry myself that could attract inappropriate attention? Is my speech liable to cause their thoughts to go in a direction they shouldn’t? It is better to be too cautious than to cause our brothers to stumble. (Note: I do not believe that girls are the only ones to blame for guy’s thoughts, but do think it is important that we not allow ourselves freedoms which could ensnare them. This is a way to demonstrate godly love and care for the souls of others. Romans 13:8-15:7)

I sometimes think about what I want to save for my future husband alone. I try to guard the thoughts and hopes that I share when in mixed company. I think emotional and mental purity are as (if not more) valuable as physical purity. Being too open about feelings, hopes, and dreams when in the company of young men could result in regret for not saving those secrets for your future husband. Sharing your heart results in a kind of attachment to the one’s you share it with.


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

AM: The battle for purity is worth fighting! You will never reach perfection in this area, but you will not regret pursuing a pure heart, mind, and life. Make the most of every opportunity to love the Lord. Live life today in a way that would enable you to have a beautiful pure love story someday.

We encourage you to visit Ana Marie’s personal blog and the family blog she updates!  In fact, here’s a couple of places you might like to start:

Pondering Death

Valentine’s Day is coming up on Thursday.  While the world focuses on an imitation of true love and pleasures which soon fade away, what should Christians focus on?  This week, I will be pondering death.

Pondering Love

What is love?  Is it a feeling?  Is it deeply caring for someone?  Is it knowing you can’t live without someone?  Is it being willing to die for someone?  Is it something indescribeable?

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Sarah’s Paradox

March 13, 2010 at 1:23 am (interviews, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sarah’s Story
Lauren gives some history:  Sarah is a dear friend whom I met nearly 11 years ago when I first started attending a wonderful little Bible church back in my home state of Texas.  It was the beginning of high school, and I was a one-year-old believer.  I didn’t fit in all that well with churched kids, since I was mostly Bible-illiterate.  But Sarah was one of the first people to welcome me and made me feel right at home (dispelling any stereotypes I may have held about homeschoolers).  Eight years later my then-fiance Nathaniel and I attended her wedding to Evan, and a few months after that, she was one of my bridesmaids.  Nathaniel and I still try to get together with our wonderful friends whenever we’re in the same state!  It’s always a great time of fellowship, sharing what the Lord is doing in our lives.  I hope you’ll enjoy as Sarah shares her story.
P.S.  You might happen to recognize her husband, Evan…he played the evil reporter on “The Widow’s Might.”

Have you always desired to be a homemaker? What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home?

I have the blessing of being the daughter of a very godly woman, an amazing teacher, and a homemaker extraordinaire!  From as early as I can remember she poured her life into teaching me to love our Lord and others and to live to serve.  The older I get, the more I realize how she threw her intelligence, creativity, energy, diligence, and love into every task, even the most mundane, and how she shaped and guided my development as a young woman through her example and through her teaching.  By living in her home, I never saw homemaking as an inferior choice or something to be done in half measures.  It always seemed such a high calling, to be a teacher, chef, interior decorator, advisor, accountant, and so much more…just like my mother.  Now I am even more amazed at all she did and how her love for the Lord permeated her life at home.  I still want to be just like her when I grow up…

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?

One day when I was about 17, I realized the paradox of wanting to be a homemaker.  I sat down with my parents and said “Ok…so, for my entire life you have been grooming me to be a wife and mother.  When I help Mama in the kitchen it is “so that you can be a good wife.”  When I am playing with a neighbor’s child, you say “You’ll be such a good mom!”  When I am in charge of preparing meals one day a week, it’s so that I can be ready to run a home of my own.  When I work in the garage with Daddy, it’s “your husband will love working with you if you…”  When I get ready to teach the younger kids at our church, you say “Here’s something that you can do someday with your kids!”  Everything you taught me aims toward a husband and a home!  Then, as soon as I am close to the age to be able to actually think about having a husband and a home, all I hear is “Don’t think about it!  Don’t pursue it!”  What am I supposed to do, erase 16 years of brainwashing from my head?”  (As you can tell from this conversation, I am still learning the whole gentle and quiet thing!)

My parents have hearts that are captive to the Word of God, so they understood my dilemma and gave me godly advice for the next years of my life.  They told me, “You are right…there is a paradox there.  You (rightfully so!) desire something that you cannot actively pursue.  But here is what you need to do: Pursue serving the Lord.  Cultivate the gifts that He has given you to the best of your ability, and prepare to spend your life serving Him – either alone or with a husband.  That is what He has called you to do.”

We talked about my goal of going to school and earning a teacher’s credential lest I ever need one in order to homeschool my kids.  We talked about the love and facility that the Lord had given me for language.  We talked about some options that I should pursue with my life.  But I was still struggling.  “So you mean that you want me to just go on blissfully planning my life as a single woman and then just drop the things that I am pursuing if a man walks into my life?”

Their answer: “Quite possibly!”  Of course, my independent spirit rankled at the thought of having to set aside my own plans.  I would much rather have just married before I had plans I would have to give up!  Why go to all the trouble of making plans only to drop them like a hot potato?  Wouldn’t that mean that my plans were not really a part of God’s will for my life?  Was I being rebellious to pursue something other than being a wife and mother?

Then my mom gave me an analogy I have never forgotten.  “Sarah, when is it easiest to steer a car?  Can you steer a parked car?  No!  But when a car is moving at an appropriate speed, it is no problem to direct it wherever you need to go.  Think of your life like a car.  If you sit there, you are making it more difficult for God to steer you.  Just start moving!  He’ll guide the course of your life, sometimes in directions opposite from your plans.  But if you are willing to submit to His “steering”, you are not sinning when you start moving.”

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

With this advice from my parents, I went to college at Oklahoma Baptist University and earned a degree in Spanish Education, allowing me to be credentialed to teach K-12.  During this time, the Lord blessed me, taught me more that I could ever imagine, and prepared me for where He has placed me now.  My first year away from home I learned that all my life I had been saying that I trusted and depended on God, but when I was removed from all my “props” – my family, friends and church – He showed me that I had really been trusting in those good things rather than solely on Him.  It was a difficult but sweet time of drawing near to the Lord in dependence, realizing my desperate need for His grace and strength each day.  Through those four years, He blessed me with some wonderful, godly friends, and allowed me to learn how to be an excellent teacher through the classes I took.

How did you and Evan meet and marry? What drew you to Evan? How did you approach purity in your pre-marriage relationship?

Evan and I had actually known each other since junior high.  We had been quite good friends as young teenagers.  I loved the way he would sit and talk with me about things that mattered!  As we grew to be good friends, people started teasing us about liking each other.  I was so concerned that our friendship would be ruined that I didn’t even consider romantic attraction an option.  (Evidently Evan’s view differs here – he was just biding his time…)  As Evan started college and then I went away to school as well, we gradually stopped seeing each other as much at church and with our families, who were good friends as well.

As I finished my sophomore year of college, I spent a month in Venezuela with some missionaries, came home, and prepared for my junior year.  I felt that it was a point at which I needed to decide what I wanted to pursue after college.  If I wanted to be a missionary or a teacher, it would take planning to be ready as soon as I graduated.  I was very worried, and once again had a long conversation with my mother about what to pursue as a young single woman who wanted to serve the Lord.  Oh, and I should mention that the winter before I had developed a very bad crush on Evan…

Lo and behold, the very week that I finally stopped worrying about my future and trusted the Lord to continue guiding my life as I pursued Him, Evan asked me to start courting him!  We enjoyed a year and a half of deepening our already-existent friendship, thinking and praying about our futures, and spending time together without being teased incessantly by our friends.  We were careful to be together only in our families’ homes or in public places during this time.  Physically, we moved along slowly, only progressing to hand-holding after a year of going out together.  Looking back, we chuckle about the awkwardness of a relationship where you are aiming toward marriage but must be careful to remain pure.  Thanks to the Lord and to being surrounded by friends and family with high standards, we do not feel that we were overly tempted to be impure during our courtship.  Following our parents’ advice, and due to the Lord’s timing, we were only engaged for a short period of time (3 months), which was a great aid in maintaining purity.  Even those three months almost seemed too long to wait!  We were happily married in July 2007…after approximately 8 years of friendship and 2 years of courting.

How has God sovereignly worked in your life to prepare you for serving Him with Evan?

It has been so wonderful to see the small ways in which the Lord prepared me to be Evan’s helper.  My mom loved music, so I grew up in a home where it was always played and where I was encouraged to play and sing to the Lord.  Evan is a very skilled musician and a choir teacher, so now I can relate to the things he loves the most.  Also, while I am not the most spontaneous and flexible person, my father was, and my husband also is.  In learning to submit to and serve my father, I learned many little lessons that have helped me submit to and serve my husband.

What have been some of the challenges and rewards of making a home for your husband?

I think my favorite part of making a home for Evan is that he loves having people over to visit and fellowship.  It is so rewarding to prepare my home to be an inviting place where he can carry out his ministry of hospitality.  Ministering at his side in our home, at church, and with unbelievers in our community is such a privilege!

As a married woman, are there struggles to be content? Is the purity struggle still alive?

Um, yes!  It is SO important to realize that home, husband, job, child, and circumstance have NOTHING to do with being content!  Contentment is resting in God and delighting in His provision, no matter what is in my life at the moment.  The sad thing is, no matter how He blesses, my sinful heart still finds something to complain about.  It is my daily battle to find joy in the moments and the circumstances that God sovereignly places in my life.

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