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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The Trouble with Edward

November 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Lauren and I don’t really stay up on trends for several reasons. One is that we simply don’t care, for the most part. The other is that we simply don’t have time, energy, emotion or money to pursue them. But the Twilight trend definitely caught our attention—from the posters in Wal-mart, to the constant advertisements, to the books lying on the coffee-table of the house I clean—we simply haven’t been able to avoid it. In fact, it’s been difficult for me, at least, to resist the luring tug to at least find out more about this sensation and understand exactly what has “bitten” the women of our world. I’ll confess that I picked up and paged through the books as I dusted, and even looked up the story-line on Wikipedia. “What is it,” I wanted to know, “that is so compelling about this unoriginal story?”

This past weekend we were together at my aunt’s house, trying to talk over the TV, when something caught our attention: two women coming out of the “New Moon” premiere. While her friend stood there weeping, one woman shouted, “I would leave my husband for Edward!” Anyone else hear that? For a fictitious character, she would leave her husband. Does that make you get warm fuzzies or what?

This morning when I turned on my computer (for the first time in a week—it’s been nice), I discovered two excellent articles exploring the root issues in the Twilight craze. It’s so nice to know others see the same ominous danger lurking behind Prince Charming’s “perfect” face. Jasmine at Joyfully Home and the Botkin sisters at Visionary Daughters, both share some excellent insights that go beyond the issue of vampires and trading your soul for love.

As Lauren and I read these articles, recalled our own brushes with the “bitten” and discussed the raging controversy, we began to realize that the trouble with Edward isn’t that he’s a vampire. It isn’t even that he doesn’t exist. But the fact that he doesn’t exist points us to the real issue—the trouble with Edward isn’t Edward. It’s us.

Should Edward leave his fictitious realm and woo that woman I saw on TV from her husband, the day would come when she would discover that even perfection leaves her wanting. When she’s having a bad hair day, she’d snarkily respond “Quit staring at me!” and someday she’d want some personal space—“Seriously? You watch me 24/7. Why don’t you ever go do something else?” She’d quickly tire of his protection and provision and begin complaining about how “smothering” he is. If Edward were her husband, she’d soon be ready to leave him for some fictitious character.

How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it. And I’ve done it. Ladies, how often do we leave our perfect Betrothed Bridegroom to pursue some fictitious hero? We spend hours curled up watching a chick-flick, only to go to bed and replay every sensitive word and intonation. But we still are not content. We complain that there is not enough of him—the story ends too soon. Eventually, we pass on to the next fictional character. First it was Prince Charming, then it was Mr. Darcy, now it’s Edward. It’s nothing new. While our Perfect Bridegroom stands forsaken, we pursue cardboard cutouts. Oh, we can shudder at the woman who declares “I’d leave my husband for Edward” but we do the same thing. Is Jesus just not good enough? The problem is not with Jesus—it’s with us.

We devour books like Twilight, complete with the ever-perfect Edward, and we get our Jane Austen fix, or come home with our arms full of Beverly Lewis books or Cinderella stories. Or we scour the internet for true (though slightly idealized) courtship stories. Why? Because we want to escape a life we think is dull. Because we want to imagine the next thing—that will be better than this present thing. We’re bored and we think that being with someone perfect would solve our boredom. We sigh, thinking how happy we could be. Or will be. Or wish we were.

It’s a big, fat, slobbering deception. Why? Because we have Someone perfect. Are we content? He watches us 24/7, but we push Him out of the way. He is jealous of us, but we want to be free to pursue other lovers. He offers us counsel and protection, but we aren’t listening—we have our golden oldie love songs turned up. We flee His presence, forever seeking empty emotional escapes. Sure He’s perfect, but He’s boring.

Being with someone perfect only reveals our own imperfections: we are human, and we are discontented, irritable, irrational, easily distracted, selfish, rude, rebellious, ungrateful, unloving, unholy and bored with divinity.

That’s our attitude toward the perfect Lover.

Why do we think it would be any different with anyone else?

The problem for that woman isn’t her husband. The problem for us isn’t the men in our lives (or the lack of them). The problem certainly isn’t Jesus. And no matter how much we wish we could blame it on fictitious characters, the problem isn’t fiction. Romantic books and movies don’t cause our discontentment and selfishness–our obsession with them is because they appeal to our discontent and selfishness. Our obsession with Edward–or anyone else–is really an obsession with ourselves. The trouble with Edward isn’t Edward. It’s us.

When I mention “courtship stories”, I am in no way attacking those who have shared the way they have come together as one in the Lord. Nor am I suggesting that all details should be made public. A good story includes only those details which further the story’s conclusion. However, each reader should recognize that this literary fact leaves even “true” stories idealized. And we should be aware of our intentions and hearts if we are constantly on the hunt for another courtship story. Are we just looking for another “pure” love story, with which we can get emotionally involved and live vicariously through? Are we measuring the events in our lives to see if they have the “potential” to be a “beautiful courtship story”? When pouring over “love stories” of any kind the temptation is to lose sight of our divine love story and let our hearts run ahead of us with “romanticized” and “idealized” perceptions of men, circumstances and perfection. If we are truly enthralled with hearing “what God hath wrought” we should be at least as eager to pore over the Acts of the Apostles and to hear our brothers’ and sisters’ Christian testimonies and read of gospel breakthroughs in other countries, and we should certainly be delighted with the gospel—the divine wooing of Jesus Christ.

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Staying Joyful at Home

May 30, 2009 at 4:11 am (Announcements) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

joyful at home

Being at home is one thing.  Being joyful at home is another thing entirely.  Jasmine at Joyfully Home has made it her mission, not only to be joyful at home herself, but to encourage others striving for the same goal.  She just wrapped up an excellent series on the topic that we’d encourage you to check out.  Even though her series is geared toward single young ladies, there’s application for the married homemakers as well!

From the top down ways to stay joyful at home:
Way Number One: Build a strong relationship with your mother.
Way Number Two: Find your sufficiency in the King of Kings.
Way Number Three:  Stay busy and useful in the sphere where the Lord has placed you.
Way Number Four: Learn to be a supportive daughter.
Way Number Five: Learn to accept reproof and filter criticism.
Way Number Six: Don’t be afraid to answer legitimate questions; but don’t let speculation cause you to fear.
Way Number Seven: Get to know your siblings.
Way Number Eight: Find the blessing in difficult circumstances.
Way Number Nine: Be a seed-planter.
Way Number Ten: Contribute to a joyful atmosphere.

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