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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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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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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Root of Rebellion

October 14, 2009 at 9:11 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

root of rebellion

With the great response to “Identity Crisis“, I thought you ladies might enjoy a peep into the past–a look at the literary outcome of my first Identity Crisis, when I was about sixteen.

There it is again: those horrible feelings of rebellion, that I seem completely unable to stifle. The “I don’t care what my parents think, I don’t want to do it!” is back in full force, and I can’t seem to quench my snotty attitude. I love my parents—I really do—but this is more than I can handle! I’m just so sick of obeying!…Why?

In the midst of such feelings the tears come, and in the desperation aroused by my frustration and depression I beg the Lord to show me my sin. Where could I have gone wrong, that such emotions could gain a stronghold in my heart? Am I wrong to blame my parents? Am I wrong to seek my own way?

I want to share with you an answer to my perplexing questions—a cause for my strange feelings of dissatisfaction, the result of these feelings, and a solution to my frustration with my parents. These emotions are not the natural result of my parents’ actions. They are not caused by tyranny, overwork or flustering requests. They are caused by myself—in reality, they are the product of my own imagination.

Let’s begin with the cause. Rebellion starts with dissatisfaction—a dissatisfaction with myself. I am not pleased with who I am. Whether or not my frustrations ring true, I have come to feel that I am inadequate in some way.

I may be dissatisfied:

  • With my appearance—I feel ugly, fat and unattractive. My face is broken out, my hair is straight and limp or frizzy, my nose is too long.
  • With my wardrobe—I feel out of place in modest clothing, my outfits don’t fit well, or they simply do not flatter me. I am frustrated trying to find cute, comfortable, modest clothing that doesn’t look old ladyish and isn’t miles too big; I envy others around me.
  • With my personality—I feel insecure, unconversational and uninteresting, I feel like a dead-beat, a bore. I feel like I simply don’t fit in—anywhere.
  • With my intelligence—I feel stupid and slow. I am a failure: I just don’t have it. Others expect more of me than I can give; others are smarter than I am.
  • With my talents—what talents? I am not actually good at anything. I try, but I simply have no time to work at or practice anything because my parents…whoops! Feeling a little rebellious am I?

Lastly, when I have become entirely dissatisfied with myself, my life, and anything else about me, I become unhappy in my spirit because I am starving it. But what stands in the way of my changing these areas that I feel unsuccessful in? Shall we say my parents, and the fact that I don’t run my own life? I can’t just turn the house topsy-turvy because I wake up in the morning feeling ugly.

And my parents? “Honey, you look fine!”

Ok, so I’m not so pleased with myself. Now let’s move on to step two—link this all together, and explain what the result of disatisfaction is! How in the world do “fat days” affect my obedience to my parents?

I have noticed, that when I am not satisfied with myself, it becomes very difficult for me to believe that anyone else is satisfied with me.

I hear “Honey, you look fine” but I know she is thinking, “Well, you really ought to lose about 10 pounds, and I don’t know what we’ll ever do about your acne! I really wish you would bring your math scores up, and stay on top of your chores, and your attitude stinks. I think you need to get right with the Lord.”

“I already know that, now would you just shut up!” I feel attacked, before my parents even say anything, because in my mind I am already defeated.

I am a failure. I have failed my parents.

I am a loser—a rotten loser. How could anyone like me? How could anyone enjoy spending time with me? Why would anyone want to put up with me?

I can’t do anything right. My family must think me a burden. I’m just a hump on a log, a disgrace to mankind. <sniff>

I haven’t stopped loving my parents. I haven’t lost a desire to do well, to please them, to honor them.

I have merely given up.

I’m beat. Striving for success feels pointless. I can’t please my parents! Why try? I can’t succeed in anything! Why try? I can’t please God! Why try?

And all she said was “You look fine.”

She never expressed any dissatisfaction with me, or anything I had done. I imagined it, and the insecurity washed over me, causing the rebellion spring up.

It’s just not fair! I try to please them—they don’t care! Think of all the things I do, yet I get scolded for the one tiny responsibility that I happen to forget. It never ends—the same jobs over and over again, and nobody ever thanks me, nobody realizes how much I do! I am so sick of trying to be good! I am so sick of myself! I am so sick of this place! I am so sick of everything I do! I am so sick of my family! I just want out of here!

Like a slow burning fuse, the bitterness builds up until I snap.

And everyone stares at me in holy horror.

I can’t help it! I just feel ugly today!

Is it it possible that maybe I can help it? I believe there is a solution, if I will accept it.

But what can I do? I didn’t plan the rebellion. I didn’t want to explode. I don’t even know where these feelings came from! I’ve been submissively trying to cut out my rebellion, haven’t I? I’ve crushed it down every time it tried to rise, haven’t I? I haven’t been trying to nurse resentment, have I? So why in the world can’t I conquer myself?

There is a reason—a good one, even. I can’t cure my problem, because I am attacking the symptom, not the cause. Every time a weed of rebellion popped up, I cut it down. But the root of bitterness and dissatisfaction continued to grow. Rebellion will come up again in other areas, and I can keep cutting it out, but the root will keep growing until it explodes. I need to attack the root, and the first step is locating it.

Thankfully, I now know where the problem lies, due to much prayer and fasting. This doesn’t mean that stamping it out is easy. There are many things about myself that I am unable to change—ever.

  • I will never be taller than God intended me to be. I can’t change the shape of my face, or the build of my figure.
  • Modesty is a must, though my culture makes it very difficult and awkward.
  • My personality is there—it is my identity. I can hone it, but I can never change it.
  • My intelligence has a limit. I can work hard, but I will never be a genius. It just isn’t there.
  • If I just don’t have certain talents, I just don’t have them!
  • I can’t change the unchangeable.

But I can be yielded. I may not be satisfied with myself through the eyes of the world, but I need to remind myself who I am through Christ.

Why would He love me? I can’t see a logical reason, but He does. He sees the future, and he will perfect me…in His time.

Basically, my rebellion boils down to a lack of trust. I am not trusting God to work through my parents. I am not trusting God to complete what He has begun. I am not trusting God to change me. I am not trusting the God who made me.

I simply need to shift my focus from what I can’t do, to what He has done, and the weed will wither and die—from the root up.

The rebel can submit.

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When God’s Will meets Woman’s Emotions

June 15, 2009 at 4:50 pm (Attitudes, God's Will, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ladies, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything of substance. Actually, I’ve been working on a two-part article about emotions and controlling them and a series on the will of God. And then something happened today which brought the two into head-on collision and gave me a huge reminder of just how silly I am. I’d like to share my story, so that when I get my articles written and posted you’ll know that truly I am writing reminders to myself–like the sticky notes I leave on my desk.

Reposted from Abigail’s personal blog.

See, it’s like this: it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, beware. Today I was riding an emotional rollercoaster–and it looked like a suburban. It’s been building up for a couple of weeks. No, actually, it’s been building up for a year. A year’s worth of build-up can be pretty nasty. And to top it off, several things this weekend resulted in a complete drop-out in the careful nest of my emotions–mostly due to relief, partly due to confusion and a lot of bewilderment. Why did I have to go through all that misery, confusion and pain, trying desperately to do the right thing–and there’s no point to it?

Then along comes the reminder that I still haven’t sold the suburban. That suburban that I’ve had for a year to sell. That one goes like this: Papa gave me the suburban (sort of) to sell with a caveat. See, the money I get from the suburban is supposed to pay for my wedding. Whenever. That’s the missing link for all those people who keep pestering me to find out when I’m going to get married. I can’t until I sell this suburban. (That’s a joke…I think.) The problem is that I never wanted the suburban. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing, so I never explained to anyone why my parents gave me a suburban. In olden days girls had countries or lands or cows for dowries. I have a suburban. It’s not very useful to drive in the meanwhile and if I never sell it, it’s not exactly the kind of vehicle I care to start out with. In fact, on the surface it feels like the kind of gift where the giver says, “You know, I’ve got this thing I don’t want anymore. And someday soon, I’m going to have to pay for her wedding. So, why don’t I just give her this thing I don’t want anyway and tell her to sell it and pay for her own wedding.” And I feel just that valuable. Which isn’t very.

Is that the truth? Tell me, dear Searcher of Hearts, since when were emotions dependent on reason or truth? My wish-wash emotions aren’t terribly interested in the truth. So this gift I have has been weighing on my will, mind and emotions for a year now. And I’ve tried everything that doesn’t cost money out of my pocket in order to sell it. Oh people are interested until it comes down to a price and then they aren’t. At least not in a reasonable price. Or they’re super interested, but wait? You live in D-town? That’s too far to drive. Nevermind. More trouble than it’s worth.

And today Papa expressed his frustration that we still have a suburban. You must understand, this suburban and I are both still at home for one simple reason: the right person just hasn’t come along yet. The right person who needs just this special vehicle (which is really not so much special as not in demand) and is willing to pay the price. Yet here we are, still paying tags and taxes, trying to keep clean and spiffy and advertised something that no one wants. And here I am, trying to sell a suburban to pay for a wedding when no one even wants to marry me.

How pointless is all of that?

I fought tears and crashing emotions all the way to work where I dropped Papa off and wished him a good day and noticed that the gas was on empty. I hadn’t even been the last person to drive it, but I would get to fill it up–and I was already late for Choices. I drove away feeling frustrated, lost and unloved.

Remember, emotions are not always reasonable. Or based on truth.

Trying to talk truth into my weeping soul, I began reminding myself, “Nobody promises results, Abigail. You’re just supposed to do your best and seek to do what’s right anyway.”

“Yeah,” I argued with myself, “But that’s just not fair. I’ve tried so hard! I’ve been honest and forthright! I’ve researched, I’ve posted ads, I’ve tried to please my parents. I don’t get why hard things always happen to me. Why I’m always frustrated and hurt and confused. What am I doing wrong?”

That was a rhetorical question, you know. When I ask, “What am I doing wrong?” I don’t expect an answer, or I expect to hear “nothing.” Because, clearly, no fault lies with me.

Instead a verse in Philippians drifted over the current of my complaints. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. This is God’s will for you.”

Great. The good ol’ rejoice always passage. Smiling is God’s will for me.

But the truth began to sink in deeper than my level of self-pity. In everything give thanks…in all honesty, I had always resented that suburban. I had viewed it as a burden, something I hadn’t asked for, which would be sold to pay for a designated purpose I never sought. Gee thanks. Some gift. In all my recalling, I could never recall being thankful for that suburban. In all my recalling, I could recall being irritated about trying to park it, or having to park it at the library for advertising and walking to Choices, or having to wash and vacuum it or having to get gas. I certainly was not grateful for that gift. A generous gift from my loving parents.

Then began the sermon. I’m very eloquent when I preach at myself. “Abigail, be grateful! You be grateful! Be grateful!” I signaled and shifted into the turn lane on Main street. “You be grateful for this suburban!”

And the suburban died. Right there in the middle of the busiest intersection in town at two o’clock in the afternoon, this suburban that I was going to be grateful for died. And it wouldn’t restart.

Two possibilities–absolutely no gas, not even fumes. Or the battery, which we’d just replaced and had worked on, since the battery light was on. Becky called to tell me there was no power at the clinic and we were closed and I sniffled into the phone as I explained where I was anyway. Kindly she offered whatever help she could. Then I called Mom to see if Josiah could tell me anything about what my next course of action should be. I didn’t relish braving oncoming traffic while checking on the battery if I just needed more gas. I tried starting it again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Even on empty, surely I could have made it that last block to the gas station.

Then I heard sirens and saw the flashing blue lights. By now I had tears streaming down my face. So much for being grateful, I was ready to call a wrecker and have this stupid car towed. And plan a fifty dollar wedding. Fifty years from now. I feel terribly sorry for the police man who approached my door. He probably has enough to do dealing with one emotional woman at home. When I opened my door I was both laughing and crying. And I know I must have looked like a tiny teen who didn’t know squat about cars. He quickly noted the for sale signs and asked, “Are you just test-driving?” Ludicrous. I don’t WANT this car. Can’t you tell that just from looking? (I’m sure my parents never guessed. I still need to be sure I’ve thanked them.) I tried to explain my situation as best I could and he nodded in sympathy. “Can you start it for me?” Which I did and nothing happened. Then he said, “Do you have it in park?” Well, no. I’d been driving when it died. And I was already emotionally nuts by then. Of course I didn’t think to put it in park. I shifted into park and turned the key. And it started. “I feel stupid,” I said and laughed and snorted and choked on tears. “You’re okay,” he smiled. “See if you can make it to 2nd and Arkansas and I’ll follow you.”

I made it. And filled up. And went home. And washed the suburban. Vacuumed it. And sprayed that silly foam on the tires to make them shiny. Because everyone is looking for a car with shiny tires, you know. Then I posted up some new ads. And I whispered, “Thank you for this suburban. I don’t understand. I don’t get it. It doesn’t seem fair. It hurts. It’s annoying. I don’t see the point. But thank you.”

Because I don’t have to understand. Things don’t have to go right. Things don’t have to make sense or have a point. But I have to be thankful. That’s God’s will.

Now, the temptation is to say, “Look, Abigail! You learned your lesson! You’re thankful now! God can bless you now!”

But the Lord is not a genii in a bottle. Rubbing Him right doesn’t earn me three wishes. Doing the right thing doesn’t equal getting what I want. I assure you, I want to sell this suburban. Trust means doing the right thing and believing that He sees it, is pleased and will reward it–sometime. Someway. His way. I can’t make anyone buy that suburban. I can’t make things happen by believing–that’s humanism, paganism–not Christianity. But by believing, sometimes I can see things that are happening in a new light–I can believe God’s promises that He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly, that He works all things for the good of those who love Him, that trials produce proven character and that His will for me is my sanctification–that I would be made holy like Him. With those promises in mind, I can look squarely at anything thrown my way and say “Okay. Thanks.”

Thank you, Lord, for an excellent reminder.  Please make me holy.

And…when You get around to it…please sell my suburban.

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Behind the Scenes on My Vanishing Act

March 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm (Announcements, God's Will, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Hello Sisters! I realize I’ve been missing in action for several weeks now…at least in the online world.  Many small factors have played into my absence, and you deserve an explanation.  My Mom and Papa were in a minor motorcycle accident about three weeks ago and Papa broke his collar bone.  It seems to be healing well (though still swollen, green and painful), but he’s been on temporary disability which leaves him home—for at least a month.  Always, anything unexpected brings both unexpected blessings and stretching.  You see, I’m a person of projects.  My projects always seem, to me, to be of great importance—whether blogging or taking pictures or journaling or designing literature.  But sometimes something “interferes” with my projects and I must learn the secret of priorities—the priorities the Lord has created for me.  Blogging is something that has blessed me and been an enjoyable outlet, as have writing, music and many of the other “projects” in which I’ve engaged—but it is not a God-ordained priority.  The Lord has set up priorities that start with my relationship with Him and continue to serving my family, then to outreach to those in my immediate life.  With my father off work, I’ve been super busy.  At first, my heart stubbornly resented the intrusion into my “projects” and “goals” at first, but the Lord is patiently reminding me what’s most important.  Honestly, I’ve come to enjoy the break from my project-driven mentality.  I know that I’m doing God’s will, serving the Lord, when I simply obey and serve my father.  It’s pretty freeing.

The blessings have been surprising as well!  I’m an idealistic realist, which means that I don’t believe ideal exists but I’m holding out for it anyway.  J Over the past several months, frustration had built up in my heart:  frustration with status quo, with the mundane—with things I struggle with perceiving as unnecessary wastes of time.  Why do people have to eat, anyway?  A couple of weeks ago, I came to Papa in tears with a pile of questions taller than I am.  Having him home gave us some time to work through some of my confusion and frustration and bring me back into focus—reminding me that God is the One who works miracles and that many mundane things are for my own good—to prove my character.  And my hopeless tendency to forever reevaluate what I’m doing has been God’s very tool for honing and strengthening me.  He forever reminds me that He still works through things that aren’t ideal and that I simply must depend on Him to work in His perfect way.  I wasn’t redeemed to serve God—as an end in itself.  He has angels who constantly do His will.  I was redeemed to be restored to an intimate relationship with Him—as Adam and Eve once walked with Him in the garden.  All the working and learning in the world are empty eating from the Tree of Knowledge without a relationship with God—the author of wisdom.  And no matter where I am or what I am doing, I can walk with God.

This time of year my life always turns upside down with crazy busyness (you know, weddings, graduations, “projects”, people) and I struggle to balance everything.  The Lord has given me a simple reminder to prioritize and rest in Him, knowing that only one thing is truly important:  being with Jesus.

So, ladies, whether or not I make it back online any time soon, my cry remains the same:  Love Jesus!  Be with Jesus.  Serve Jesus.

Blessings in Christ,

abigails-sig1

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Why Don’t You Open That Door?

February 25, 2009 at 12:20 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

open-that-doorHaving my own bathroom sounded glamorous. As soon as we moved in, I set to work stripping off disgusting grey wallpaper, sanding down the uneven walls and painting it a delicious color of green. (Well, Lauren doesn’t like it, but it’s not her bathroom, now is it?) I hung new towels and put out the perfect canisters and soap dispenser, but I soon discovered that my “beautiful” bathroom has a nasty problem: mildew. Tucked into a back corner of the house, the humidity is high and the slimy black stuff appears from nowhere, crawling across the ceiling or down the shower wall and clinging to the tile grout.

I’ve rolled up my sleeves and scrubbed with bleach water (thought I’d ruined my hair when I accidentally spilled some on my head!) more times than I care to recall. For a couple of days the tile shines and the ceiling glows white again, then one morning I wake up to realize the mildew has crept back into life. Where does it come from? How does it get here? Why does it keep coming back?

One day my ever-wise mother responded to my frustrations: “Why don’t you open that door?” I blinked. I didn’t even realize that I do keep it closed, until she mentioned it. Of course, I have a cartload of excuses. For one, I don’t want everyone who comes into my room being tempted to use my bathroom–or even being able to see into it. You know, sometimes I have sweaty work-out clothes hanging up in there. Or dirty work jeans. Or the dirty clothes become restless and tumble out of the closet–it’s my bathroom, none of their business. In these cold winter months, it stays warmer than my 45-degree bedroom, which is nice for showering and getting dressed in the mornings. “So,” she said, “Close the door when you’re showering and dressing and leave it open the rest of the time so it can air out.”

Are you wondering why I’m going on and on about the mildew infiltration in my bathroom?

The mildew offered to me a prime picture of my heart. When I trusted Jesus it got cleaned up, adorned with good things and I thought it looked pretty good–for a while. Slowly, so many nasty things began to creep in. Where did they come from? How did they get there? Where there’s a bathroom, there will be mildew to fight. Every heart is deceitful and full of wickedness. When I notice the mildew in my heart, I go for the bleach and scrub brush and get to work cleaning, scrubbing, purging, repenting, weeping, praying. For a couple of days I seem like a shining, new individual on the inside, and then the mildew comes creeping back. Always, it comes creeping back. Always it will come creeping back, but “Why don’t you leave the door open?” Mom said.

Leave the door open? What in the–?

Accountability. Instead of closing myself up inside, hiding behind a white-washed door, I ought to be seeking accountability, opening myself up to scrutiny. Not to everyone (I don’t invite everyone into my room), but to my parents, to my siblings, to my closest friends and sisters in Christ. Not necessarily about everything. Some things are private-like showering–but do I really need the door closed when doing my hair? Putting on make-up? Or even cleaning? In fact, I might need accountability for those very things! What are the sins and struggles that keep creeping back into my heart and life, those nasty things I try to hide from everyone else? Thinking my agenda is so important, my bad habit of reading everything I see, or beginning to focus on outward appearance and worldly success. Or the fact that I don’t pay attention when Mom is giving me instructions because I think I know what is and isn’t important. Or not being disciplined about personal study or prayer time.

Just like getting some air into a mildew infested room can slow down the mildew’s growth, being transparent about my failures can often spur me to overcoming them and can dampen the temptation. Having someone know that I am tempted in a certain way can strengthen me to resist. After all, they might ask, or they might notice that mildew growing now the they know what’s behind that closed door. They can guess what I might be hiding when I say, “I’m doing fine.”

Seeking accountability involves more than just sharing struggles. There’s little need for a mutual pity party. Accountability involves action on both parts: prayer for each other, suggestions, Biblical guidance. When I seek accountability, I should be praying and seeking prayer. I should be seeking suggestions, tools and ideas for overcoming and resisting, for cleansing and purifying. And I should be looking for root issues. When I seek accountability, I should be implementing suggestions and expecting follow-up inspection. The goal is a mildew-free environment, not just an open-door policy. It’s not that I want people to have to look at my disgusting bathroom. The goal is to become presentable: a bathroom fit for the King.

“Why don’t you open that door?” Mom said. It’s habit now to close it-at least most of the way, but when I see itjames-5-161 standing closed, a white wall barring the view into my “inner” room, I open it to let it air out. Sometimes it means I actually have to put those sweaty work-out clothes away, or wash that hand-towel, or get more toilet paper, or even go to work on that mildew when I’d rather be doing something else. I’m trying to learn to open up my heart to accountability, as well: let it air out to help slow down the mildew’s growth, implement other’s suggestions for cleaning, seek root problems and deceitful heart issues. Hopefully, at least, I’ll notice more quickly when the black slime begins to spread.

And perhaps it will encourage others to see that there’s hope. We all have mildew in our bathrooms and our hearts, but a little accountability and a lot of bleach can go a long way in the cleaning process.

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