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,

Advertisements

Permalink 5 Comments

Praise Not Me

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

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

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

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

Copyright Lauren 2011

Permalink 1 Comment

Things I’ve Learned in the First Year

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

Posted by Lauren

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

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

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

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

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

Permalink 3 Comments

Keeping “Godly Homemaking” in Perspective

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

Posted by Lauren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to come on this subject…

Permalink 19 Comments

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!

Permalink 4 Comments

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.

Permalink 2 Comments

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!

Permalink 14 Comments

Redeeming Love: Megan’s Story

March 10, 2010 at 1:18 am (Purity, stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Megan’s Story

Megan Graham is a fellow sister and friend who I have enjoyed getting to know over the past two years. She is a hard-working wife and mother of four (with a fifth on the way!). Abigail and I think her story is absolutely beautiful—a wonderful tale of God’s redeeming love and His power over our sin—whether it is in the open for all to see or hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts. We hope you’ll rejoice in what the Lord has done in her life as you read her story! Here’s Megan:

To write of what God has done in my heart and life, to speak of Him who redeemed me, is truly a joy and an opportunity I’m so very thankful for. While writing out my testimony I’ve been able to review God’s faithfulness, love, and mercy towards me. And there is so very much to speak of! During my review of the abundant grace I’ve been mercifully shown, words penned by William Cowper have run over and over in my mind:

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

I was born 30 years ago in Tulsa and was raised in the same house until I moved away to attend college. My brother is eight years older and my sister two years younger. Early memories consist of my mom taking my sister and me to the little Free Methodist church down the road each Sunday while my dad stayed home. I do not remember too much of the theology I was taught, but distinctly remember learning that Jesus Christ was God’s son and that He died on a cross for sin.

It was during this time period, I’ll say I was around seven years old, that I remember driving home with my mom one evening and asking her something along the lines of “how do I become a Christian or how do I go to heaven?” My mom told me that I needed to acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, ask for forgiveness, and ask Jesus into my heart. So, I remember turning to look out the window and praying for Jesus to come into my heart and make me a Christian. I told my mom what I’d done and we soon went to our pastor, who talked with me and shortly thereafter baptized me. I knew the gospel message, but I knew nothing of a holy God, the sinfulness of my sin, nor was I convinced that I deserved punishment for my sin. My life reflected this as I grew.

Although my mother, sister and I attended church often, church was very separate from my home life. My father was, and still is, not a believer. There was no biblical training and little example of godliness. I saw much of the world and the sin of man, both of which were appealing to me. While I was not raised in a Christ-exalting home, I praise God for the parents He purposed to give me. I love them dearly.

As a child, pride was the prominent attitude of my heart. I was involved in many activities; I was a good athlete and made excellent grades. It was easy to think I was the golden child of my family. While I was doing so well in school and getting complimented on what a nice young lady I was, my older brother was an alcoholic and drug addict by the age of 15 and my younger sister struggled terribly in school and was labeled as ADD. I took great pride in being the good girl. I can remember a friend’s mom saying on several occasions, “why can’t you be more like Megan?” And I loved hearing this. Along with a heart full of sinful pride, I longed for the praise and approval of man. I would have said that I wanted to please God, but the attitude of my heart and my actions proved that Megan was the person I wanted to please most. As a teenager I may have performed well, but at home I was a hateful, rebellious girl with a serious attitude.

During this time I was attending an independent Baptist church where knowing the date and time of your salvation was given great importance. I didn’t know that date and time of my prayer as a young child and thus proceeded to walk the aisle and be baptized around the age of 13. J.C. Ryle writes that “men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus, unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need.” I had a date and time to write in my Bible, but I didn’t truly have a need for a savior.

Although I was active in church, the world was so very appealing. I knew full well what was wrong in the sight of God, but I did what was right in my own eyes.

One week after my 16th birthday I found myself sitting in a Planned Parenthood office with a positive pregnancy result and a counselor asking me if I’d like information on an abortion. God graciously pricked my conscious and gave me a heart that knew I would keep the baby. I praise Him for the blessing of a child, even in the midst of sin. My sin grieves my heart, yet I am so very thankful for the gift of my daughter Kaitlin. Children are a gift of the Lord, even to a rebellious, unwed 16 year old child.

Becoming a parent at the age of 16 caused me to grow up fast in some ways; but, more than growing up, it brought out more of my prideful, sin-stained heart. I graduated high school a year early and moved Kaitlin and myself to Norman to attend the University of Oklahoma. My family, friends and even strangers praised me for being such a success story. And remember, I loved to be praised. What people couldn’t see was a heart that was determined to prove to the world and to God that I could make up for my sin. I truly thought I could show a holy God that I was good enough. I put a burden on myself to excel that was very heavy, not to mention impossible.

My time in college was used by God to show me Himself and to open my eyes to the sinfulness of my sin. The Lord surrounded me with believing friends and involved me in a church that challenged me to study scripture. I can’t tell you a specific date or time in which I truly humbled myself before the God of the universe, but I can look back over my life and see this time as a turning point in the desires of my heart.

Shortly after graduating from college I moved back home to Tulsa and began working for a large accounting firm as an auditor. Through events that could only be the meticulous work of God’s providential hand, I became involved in a solid, Bible teaching church and was surrounded by Believers who sought to follow Christ with all of their lives. Many weekends were spent in the home of a Godly family where I saw what God’s design was for a husband, wife and children and how disciples who truly loved the Lord lived lives committed to Christ. Over the next year, God prepared me through His Word, other Believers and books for the next course of my life.

Fourteen months into my career as an auditor, I was married to Gabe, my Beloved, and was able to retire. For the first time in eight years as a single mom, I was able to stay home with my daughter. God is so very good! When married, I left my church and joined Gabe’s Southern Baptist Church. This first year of marriage was difficult, not in terms of my relationship with my Beloved, but because God used it as a time for me to wander in the wilderness, so to speak. I was no longer hearing meaty sermons or being fed spiritually. God showed me that much of my faith had been lived vicariously through the lives of those around me and He graciously and mercifully showed how lazy I was, both spiritually and practically. He caused me to learn to depend on Him and live out my own faith.

Over the past few years I’ve been learning more of the nature of sin, the attributes of God, the Bible, and my own heart. I’ve been challenged in ways that have made Christ increasingly beautiful to me. God has taken me to new depths by challenging me with the words of a dear saint who said, “The great thing about the kingdom is the King!” I remember hearing that and thinking “Is Christ what I’m most looking forward to?”

God has done a mighty work in the heart of this sinner. I can stand before the Lord clothed with the righteousness of Christ. My heart sings a new song:

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.


Praise the Lord! Tomorrow we’ll hear from Megan again as she shares with us on the topic of purity.

Permalink 6 Comments

Purity and the Bigger Picture

March 9, 2010 at 1:00 am (A Slice of Life, Godly Living, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Lauren’s Story

A number of our readers have asked questions about my personal “purity” experience: What were some of the boundaries you set when you were single? Did those change when you got engaged? And what about now that you’re married—how do you relate to men other than your husband? I hope to address each of these questions as I tell my story below, and I’ve divided my life in to five “phases” that I hope will help to illustrate spiritual and practical changes that have taken place in my life.

Phase One: The Formative Years

Though not raised in a Christian home in my early years, I was certainly blessed with very conservative, loving parents who wanted to teach me right from wrong and protect me. Somewhere around the age of 8 we had a discussion about dating and sex. My parents told me that I should save sex for marriage and that the house rule was no dating until I was 16. It all sounded very reasonable to me, so I agreed without hesitation.

Even having those barriers in place, my little heart was already all astir with romance. I remember dragging a boy around by the arm on the playground in preschool—forcing him to marry me. And later, in second grade, I remember wishing I could kiss a little boy in my class. Most people see this as cute and innocent. But it was lust on a lower level. Disney movies probably didn’t help. And as I grew older and my movie selection broadened to romantic comedies, I was carried away by my own romantic daydreams. Isn’t it amazing how little-girl daydreams turn into bigger-girl fantasies?

So my thought life was less than clean, even at a young age. I had accepted my parents’ rules without question, but my heart had its own fun in the meantime. I seriously thought I’d get my first kiss when I was 16 and able to date—as though some wonderful guy was waiting for me to hit that magical age and then sweep me off my feet! Thankfully, the Lord saved me when I was 13, and the Spirit began His work in my heart…

Phase Two: Decidedly Single

I had a sincere relationship with the Lord from the time I was 13 and on. So as I actually approached the legal dating age, I began to evaluate my life and wonder if I was ready to date. I figured that dating wasn’t a good idea until I was comfortable with where I was in my walk with the Lord. This seemed very wise at 15, and others commended me for my view. But in the back of my mind I wondered, “When can I ever say that I’m happy where I am? How can I say, ‘OK, God, we’re doing fine, I’m deep enough with you now, so I can afford to be distracted by a boyfriend’?” At that crucial point, my mom heard about I Kissed Dating Goodbye and bought it for me. That book, though I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, helped fill in the gap on the dating question. If I’m not at a point where marriage is an option, I don’t need to date at all! I’m free to focus on the Lord and not worry about a relationship for now!

That was great in theory, and for the most part it worked in practice—I’ve never dated anyone but my husband, and that is such a huge blessing! On the other hand, purity goes a lot farther than “not dating” or “saving it all” for your husband in the way we usually understand it. Purity is a heart thing. And I’d developed some bad habits of clinging to crushes, imagining myself marrying them, and allowing my thoughts and emotions to be swept away by someone who wasn’t my husband. That was anything but pure. And to top it off, I was really shy about liking boys, unwilling to open up to my parents (especially my dad) about anyone I liked. So not dating actually made it easier to hide what was in my heart from those who loved me most. While I do recommend not dating, I don’t recommend keeping your heart from your parents.

So my high school years were a constant struggle against lust and raging emotions—old habits that had been around since preschool. Looking back it makes me sick to think that I obsessed over certain guys like I did. No, I wasn’t “boy crazy” in the since that I drooled over any “cute” guy that walked by, but when I did have a crush, I certainly paid him too much attention—attention intended for only one man–allowing my heart to wander from the Lover of my soul.

Phase Three: The Real Battle Begins

Something different happened when I met Nathaniel in the first week of my freshman year of college. Maybe I was a little more grown up, a little wiser, the Spirit having a little more sway on my heart, but when I met him and found we were like-minded (and I was interested in him), I told my parents as soon as I went home for Labor Day a week or two later—and I openly told my dad.

This new person was unlike any of my old high school crushes. Not that I thought marriage wasn’t an option with the guys I liked in high school, but when I met Nathaniel things were much more realistic. Here was a guy I really could see myself marrying—to the point that it made all my previous crushes seem silly. After I knew Nathaniel for only about 2 months, I was fairly certain I wanted to marry him. I can’t say that’s exemplary (or wrong, for that matter), but it’s my story.

Now, meeting the man of your dreams four years before marriage is a viable option makes for quite the difficult journey! And it was rough on his end, too. I remember reading and re-reading Elizabeth Elliot’s story in Passion and Purity and asking, “Lord, are you really going to make me wait four years like you made her wait???” Thankfully, unlike Mrs. Elliot’s case, Nathaniel said nothing to me about “us”. He worked very hard to guard his own heart and mine—refraining from expressing his feelings for me—until he would ask me to marry him almost four years later.

One thing that impressed me about Nathaniel, and that will give insight into my own personal standards of purity in guy-girl relationships, was that he never tried to hug me—in fact, he didn’t really touch me at all. That was quite refreshing, as I had developed a somewhat hands-off approach to guys since high school when a friend hugged me quite tight and made me uncomfortable. “Casual” barely begins to express the way guys and girls related to each other in college. Physical contact wasn’t thought to be a big deal—long hugs were given in every direction. So to find someone who had never dated, wanted to save every expression of physical affection for marriage, and who sought to guard a girl’s purity about as much as his own was an amazing blessing. That’s not to say that other guys weren’t also a blessing in that area, but Nathaniel was exemplary (then again, I may be partial…).

There were a few points of compromise over those four years. Though we both thought it best to avoid spending time alone with members of the opposite sex, we happened to end up running together when after two weeks the rest of our running buddies dropped out of the habit. We continued to run together until the end of the semester, and then just never brought it up the next semester—both of us convicted that we didn’t need to be spending that kind of time together.

Another point would be playing the “slug bug” game on road trips. Granted, these road trips included more friends than just ourselves, but somehow I think Nathaniel and I enjoyed punching each other more than anyone else…

So the standards we each (separately—we never discussed “us”) sought to uphold were not to spend time alone together and not to express any kind of romantic interest or affection—physically or verbally. I can’t say we did this perfectly, but those were our goals. I thank the Lord for guarding my heart on more than one occasion when I felt helpless to guard it myself. There were times I was dealing with something and I wished Nathaniel would have hugged me—but I’m so thankful that he didn’t. He gets to give me plenty of hugs now. And I learned to better rest in the arms of my Father at that time.

About half way through college I wrote a poem that dealt with the struggle of surrendering my dreams of marrying Nathaniel to the Lord. The poem continues to bless me every time I re-read it, and I hope that it will be helpful to others, as well.

It honestly doesn’t seem like most of college was especially difficult until the last semester. We were just friends, after all, and we enjoyed our college experience without the drama of a relationship–or of a potential dating relationship.  It was easy to keep things at this level since we both knew that marriage wasn’t an immediate option (I’d heard along the way that Nathaniel didn’t want to get married until he finished college and had a job lined up to support a family).  But when graduation was on the horizon things were different.  That “far off” time when something might come of our friendship was staring me in the face.  And much to my chagrin, I had to make plans for my life after college without expecting anything. I applied for jobs, even got offered a good one, but I was miserable trying to figure out what to do. Nathaniel had wanted to propose earlier in the semester, but the Lord delayed things on his end, which made my struggle wane on, but allowed my heavenly Father to work in my heart a complete surrender. I praise Him for His timing! During this time, I still saw Nathaniel as a close friend, but was letting go of my desire to be with him. It hurt. Misplaced emotions eventually have to be dealt with, and it’s not a pretty sight. Praise be to God that only a few days after my final surrender, Nathaniel did ask me to marry him!

Phase Four: Betrothal/Engagement—Have the rules changed?

Having been promised in marriage to Nathaniel, my life took a new turn. Where before expressing our feelings and longings would have been inappropriate (for lack of a commitment), now we were supposed to let down our guard emotionally in anticipation of our coming union. I don’t think I really “fell in love” until about three days after Nathaniel proposed—when the initial shock wore off and the last line of my defenses laid down their arms. Having worked so hard to guard my heart up until this point, I can honestly say I’ve never been in love with any other man. Despite my less than admirable infatuations in my earlier years (which now seem so trivial), I can rejoice that my heart is fully my husband’s.

In the physical sense, Nathaniel and I vowed not to touch each other until our wedding day. No holding hands as a couple, hugs, or anything. In effect, our “physical relationship”, which was non-existent while single, remained the same during our engagement. At this point, we could claim each others heart, but not each others body—that would come later, in one package. And so the way I related to other men didn’t change either. I was still guarded emotionally and physically. Hand shakes, high-fives, and holding hands in a group prayer was about it with anyone. Thankfully, our commitment was not too hard to keep since Nathaniel was in Oklahoma and I was in Texas during this time. That kind of long-distance engagement was quite nice as it encouraged communication—which we had much to do having not talked about sharing a life together before this point! We talked about all aspects of our upcoming marriage. It was a great time of anticipation and preparation!

Phase Five: Purity in Marriage

We shared our first hand-holding, kiss, and hug at the altar on our wedding day (which are a very special part of the “whole package” intended to be shared in marriage). I’m getting giddy just thinking about it. The pay-off from having saved everything was just wonderful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Now that I’m married, purity has taken on a new dynamic. It is pure to give myself away now—to my husband. One of the best ways to guard mine and my husband’s purity is to completely and continually give what I’ve been saving for so long!

As far as other men are concerned, I’m surprisingly a little more relaxed in my standards. I don’t get offended as easily when someone tries to hug me, though I do try to turn it into a quick side hug! There is somewhat a difference to me now. I’m secure in my husband’s arms, and when there is a brother in the Lord who has a pure reputation and consistently hugs everyone around him to greet them, it doesn’t bother me—especially when we’re with another couple who we’ve known for years. There’s just something about knowing both a guy and his wife that makes things a little more comfortable. That’s not to say every woman should act as I do, but that’s my own experience. I still do shy away from any man who strikes me as flirty—even if he’s not apparently biased with his hugging. There are a few people who make me uncomfortable enough that I would work hard to avoid getting a hug from them! And in general, I don’t offer hugs, just hand shakes and high-fives! And Nathaniel is fine with my “standards” for relating to other guys.

On non-physical issues, I don’t find myself “needing” to have deep conversations with any other man. I may ask a teacher a question every now and then, or join in a group discussion over a meal, but my practice is to pick my husband’s brain and enjoy talking to him about everything! In doing this, he and I grow closer to each other and grow together in the Lord—which is the real goal of purity anyway!

My Story and the Bigger Story

I hope that what I’ve shared can help you to pursue purity in your own relationships. But beyond mere temporal application, I hope you can see the beautiful design God has for His church, and what kind of pure love we are to have for Him. You see, we were all once daydreaming about other lovers—some of us even acting on those dreams. But then this One guy came along…

When we come to see Jesus for who He is, we begin to see how petty and even ugly our devotion to other lovers has been. This brokenness leads us to plead for His mercy, and to our astonishment, He not only pardons us based upon His own sacrifice, but purifies us and makes us His bride! But we’re only enjoying the thrill of the betrothal or engagement now. One day He will come for us, and then the real celebration begins. For now we are to fall more and more in love with Him—in preparation for going to live with Him forever. We forsake other lovers, purifying ourselves because we have this amazing hope of seeing our God face to face! That is the real purity we pursue: Pure devotion and obedience to our Lord and Savior. If we miss this, we’ve lost sight of the purpose of our living as Christians. Purity in relationships here on earth is just one small part of the bigger picture! Get excited!

Share this Post

Permalink 8 Comments

Part One: Love and Purity

March 3, 2010 at 1:43 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Several years ago, I received a Facebook invitation to take a “purity quiz” and see how I rated.  Curious, I clicked over.  Not surprisingly, I ranked something like “angelic”—entirely due to activities I had or hadn’t participated in–including marriage.  I shook my head and blinked—had Lauren been taking this quiz, she’d have lost “purity points” simply by virtue of being married.  In fact, her reputation would have been severely tarnished by the fact that she kissed her husband—never mind that it wasn’t until their wedding day.  Girls I know who are now shining examples of purity would have been ranked something like akin to purity’s pond-scum due to pre-Christ actions—forgiven actions.  Oh, friends, a girl could obsess about boys, flirt with boys, read romance novels, fantasize—even look at pornography and still come out “angelic.”  But she couldn’t be married.  She couldn’t have kissed her husband on her wedding day.

It wasn’t that long ago that Britney Spears was held up as an icon—a “good girl”–a “virgin.”  Now her name conjures up shudders of horror.  Something happened.  What went wrong?

As I clicked the browser closed I thought, “Something is terribly skewed with our perception of purity.”

For what is “True Love” waiting?

Swimming against the current is never easy, and when it comes to the issue of purity, sometimes it feels like we’ll be swept away in the filth of modern “love.”

We easily recognize the destruction of “love” by a society so devoid of anything holy.  In the name of love, God’s commands are broken, vows are broken, marriages are broken, hearts are broken.  The world surrounding us has a broken image of love glorified in the public unveiling of sex and the rampant cheapening of romance.  Both have become a commodity sold on billboards on every highway, advertised by every form of media and sported on a million living models.  To the world “love” is a multi-million dollar industry—a never ceasing effort to capture in a tangible way the elusive spark of intimacy.

In the midst of the madness, some say purity is coming back into style.  In an effort to swim against the “Love is Sex” current, the “True Love Waits” campaign has spawned a fad of rings and t-shirts and banquets and merchandise to encourage “purity pledges.”  But the statistics surrounding the “True Love Waits” movement are hardly encouraging.*

As godly young women see the “True Love Waits” advocates being swept into an ocean of temptation and technicality, they wring their hands and cry for answers.  In the effort to protect “true love” the boundaries are often pushed back, one step at a time.  “True Love Waits” preaches purity as “saving sex for marriage.”  A boundary of “saving sex for marriage” is like starting down a water slide thinking you won’t get to the bottom.  So, where do we draw the line?  Well, kissing leads to sex, I won’t kiss.  Holding hands leads to kissing, I won’t hold hands.  Dating leads to holding hands, I won’t date.  Emotional attachment leads to dating, I won’t get emotionally attached.  Friendship leads to emotional attachment, I won’t be friends with boys.  Talking leads to friendship, I won’t talk to boys.  Eye contact leads to talking, I won’t make eye contact with boys.  Being in the same room with boys leads to eye contact, I won’t be in the same room with boys.  HELP!  There are boys everywhere tempting me to break my purity pledge!  They keep walking into the room!

From our fogged understanding another skewed perception of purity is formed.  Subconsciously we are accepting the word’s definitions and understandings—“falling in love” leads to sex and purity is saving sex for marriage, so if we are really going to accomplish purity, we’re going to have to protect ourselves from “falling in love.”  At least until we marry, at which time suddenly we will fall in love and ta-da!  Everything will be perfect and pure.  Essentially, we’re not supposed to love boys.  Which breaks down, in so many words, to a horrible lie:  that love is impure and purity is unloving.  If we want to be pure, we can’t risk loving.  So we create rules:  no dating, no best guy friends, no talking to guys, no looking at guys period!  And no matter how pure our intentions are, how well we keep our own rules, they simply don’t work.  I promise.  Suddenly one morning, we wake up and realize that we’re crushing on a guy we’ve never even looked at.  (He sure gives good answers at Bible study, though.)  In anguish and frustration, we tear out our hair crying “How did this happen?  I did everything right!”

Be an example—in love and purity!

Paul left his son in the faith—his protégé–Timothy, in Ephesus, strengthening the church, establishing order as Paul’s apostle and wrote him some guidelines for his conduct as a younger Christian.  “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”  (1 Timothy 4:12)  He charged Timothy to be an example—in love and purity!

An example in love and purity—to those who believe.  Love and purity not only do coexist, but must coexist!  Scripturally, love is not something a person can “fall into.”  Neither is impurity.  Both are choices that we make, often one tiny moment at a time.  To understand just what the Lord wants of us, let’s get back to the Bible for our definitions of love and purity.

>Purity

The Bible uses the word “purity” to refer to doctrine, wisdom, thoughts, religion, hearts, devotion—and in its most simple form it means: undefiled. **

>Love

Scripture commands two kinds of love:  phileo (Greek–brotherly affection) and agape (Greek–sacrificial love).  It also speaks of several forms of romantic love (various Hebrew variants of ahab).  All are created by God and intended to be pure.  And all must flow first and foremost from devotion to God.  ***

The world has a terribly skewed perception of purity for a simple reason:  purity is not a set of rules.  It’s not a have or have not check-list.  In many cases acts are, of themselves, not impure, but motives direct whether our actions are pure or impure.  Jesus said “out of the heart proceeds…impurity.”  And “he who looks at a woman to lust has committed adultery already in his heart.”

Purity is a heart issue.  And rather than denying love, it is actually empowered, guided and guarded by love.

If you want to be pure, you must love.

Because love is pure and purity is loving.

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

*READ WITH CARE:  A study done by the New York Times reveals that, of teens who take the “True Love Waits” pledge, the majority break them.   Many Christian girls perceive purity as a “technical virginity”

**A few appearances of purity:  Job 11:4; Psalm 12:6; Psalm 18:26; Psalm 24:4; Proverbs 15:26; Proverbs 20:11; Zeph. 3:9; Matt. 5:8; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; Tit. 1:15; Jas. 1:27; Jas. 3:17; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 3:1.

** *A few appearances of agape:  Matt. 5:43; Matt. 6:24; Matt. 19:19; Matt. 22:37; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:33; Luke 6:27; Luke 7:42; Luke 10:27; Luke 16:13; John 5:42; John 8:42; John 10:17; John 13:34; John 14:15; John 15:9; John 15:12&13; Rom. 5:8; Rom. 8:28; Rom. 8:35; Rom. 12:9; Rom. 13:8; Rom. 13:10; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:14; 2 Cor. 12:15; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:2; Eph. 5:2; Eph. 5:25; Phil. 1:9; Col. 3:19; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:19; 1 John 4:21; 2 John 1:6.

A few appearances of phileo:  John 21:15; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Tit. 3:15; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 3:19;

A few appearances of romantic love:  Gen. 29:20; Judg. 16:15; 2 Sam. 1:26; 2 Sam. 13:4; 1 Kin. 11:2; Pro. 4:6; Pro. 5:19; Ecc. 3:8; Song of Solomon; Ez. 16:8; Ez. 23:11; Hos. 3:1.

Share this Post

Permalink 3 Comments

Lust: It’s Not Just a Guy Thing

February 20, 2010 at 1:21 am (Articles, Attitudes, Modesty, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

Most of the time when we think of lust, we envision someone of the male species taking more than a glance at someone of the female species. But lust is hardly limited to this scenario.

Lust is a strong desire. In our understanding of it, it is a strong desire for something withheld or forbidden. For us ladies, this can rear its ugly head in two very different forms.

The first could be synonymous with “boy craziness”, though it is not as innocent as it sounds. Before I went to high school I had heard that guys talked nasty in their locker rooms. But what came as a shock was that girls did, too, as I discovered while being a part of my high school’s softball team. But should it have been a surprise? Looking back, not really. This kind of thing began in elementary school, when girls would talk about how they wanted to kiss so-and-so, or in middle school when they thought Jonathan Taylor Thomas was so “cute” or “fine”. At some point that seemingly innocent interest in the opposite sex graduates from preschool and jumps straight into “higher education”. Really, it’s sin at every level—it’s lust at every level. It just gives way to more lust, more sin.

The girls who talked about guys in the locker room are not the only ones with a “problem”. Those of us who have enough sense to keep our mouths shut can have just as much filth on the inside. We need to watch over our hearts with all diligence, for from them flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). If we’re not careful to guard our hearts, they’ll end up polluted and will produce filth rather than beauty. This goes for lusting after marriage as much as it does for a random guy who just walked down the hall. A lust for marriage turns into a lust for the blessings of marriage—emotional and physical. What’s worse is we often pick a guy who we are currently interested in and toy with the idea of marrying him, imagining all that goes along with that. So where does a healthy desire for marriage turn into sinful lust? That’s a tough question. A better one would be: Has my healthy desire for marriage turned into an idol that robs God of the affection He deserves? Have I paid more attention to a certain person I like than to the Lord and those whom He has given me to love already (parents, other family members, my sisters in Christ)? If there is an idol—even if your thoughts are not about sex at all—there’s a problem. And deeper sin is just waiting around the corner. Stop now and turn around. Seek your parents’ counsel and accountability either from them or a wise, trusted friend (keep in mind that friends your age might be wise for their age, but they may not be very helpful to you if they struggle in the same area). Determine what steps need to be taken to remove stumbling blocks. Are you reading romance novels or courtship stories that fuel the fire? Stop reading them. Are you watching movies or TV shows that make you long for your own happily-ever-after? Stop watching them, and keep in mind that TV and movies are very unrealistic. Are some of your friends trying to get “juicy details” out of you rather than encouraging you to guard your heart? Explain your struggle and ask them to stop, and if they don’t you may need to stand up to their taunts or simply distance yourself.

This is tough stuff, isn’t it? Feels like tearing away pieces of yourself, doesn’t it? But that’s what Jesus calls us to do in our fight against sin—and lust in particular.

Matthew 5:27-30 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.

So is it wrong to think someone is attractive or to desire to be married one day? No. But if those thoughts or desires are left unchecked our sinful hearts can take them where we know we shouldn’t go.

As if that weren’t enough already, there is another kind of lust that plagues women—single or married: the lust to have another woman’s body. We face it every time we check out at the grocery store—magazines and tabloids sporting fabulous photos of famous people who have flat stomachs, perfect figures, and pretty faces. I find it much harder to ignore a beautiful woman than whatever guy is the latest definition of “hot”. In fact, marketers know this and use it to their advantage—both men and women are attracted to a beautiful woman. The men want her and women want to be her.

This, again, is a problem of the heart. And we deal with it in much the same way as we dealt with guy-directed lust. What is causing you to stumble? Magazines? TV shows? Movies? Friends who obsess over their appearance (and yours)? Going to the beach? Is your definition of beauty one that is informed by Scripture, or are you chasing after the super-skinny super-models (be they scantily dressed cover-girls or squeezed-into-a-corset Jane Austin heroines)? Renew your mind in God’s word and focus on His beauty. And don’t try to dress “sexy”. This will certainly be a blessing to your brothers in Christ, and it will likely help you to be less focused on looking like a model.

And for better advice and clarity than I can give, check out this article: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Curves. For a more thorough study of lust, Joshua Harris’ book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) does a wonderful job of handling this subject biblically and tastefully.

Fighting lust is a tough battle for both of the sexes. So if you’re a girl that struggles with lust, be encouraged that you’re not alone. And be even more encouraged that God gives us grace to overcome our sins as we depend on Him and renew our hearts and minds in His word.

Share this Post

Permalink 8 Comments

Lust is the Problem

February 19, 2010 at 1:46 am (Purity, The Book Shelf) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) by Joshua Harris
Original Title: Not Even a Hint
Multnomah Publishers, Inc. 2003

Book Type: Christian Living, Purity

Rating: 10 out of 10

Recommended? Absolutely, with parental guidance

Overview: Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, tackles the tough subject of lust in this concise and practical book. Mr. Harris helps his readers to understand the way God has made them as men and women, and how they can fight temptation and seek to live pure lives according to God’s standard. Full of insight and advice, this book is a must read for anyone who struggles with lust, offering encouragement and pointing to God’s word to find strength for the battle.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The only thing really ugly about this book is the subject matter: lust. That may be an uncomfortable subject for some, but it is handled in a very godly manner.

Praises: This book really does help. If taken to heart, it can provide a biblical perspective on lust (and sin in general), as well as give guidance to those willing to put that sin to death. Mr. Harris challenges us to examine our hearts and submit our thoughts in obedience to Christ, with the goal of there being “not even a hint” of sexual immorality in our lives.

Concerns: I liked the original title better. It was a bit more delicate and brought Ephesians 5:3 to mind. That said, this book is excellent no matter what you call it.

Tips for getting the most out of this book: Be prepared for serious heart-searching and confession. Sin is not to be dealt with lightly and this book will challenge you to fight it full-force. Have index cards ready to write out Scriptures to memorize, and journal about your struggles and victories if that helps. Above all, yield to the Holy Spirit’s prompting as He calls you to “put off” your former lusts and “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ.


Buy the book on Amazon.com

Visit Josh Harris’ Blog

Share this Post

Permalink 2 Comments

And Who Are You?

January 18, 2010 at 1:28 am (Announcements) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Our stats reveal to us many interesting things:

Popular searches for our blog include all things itchy (due to Lauren’s pemphigoid), the simple word “pretty” (any explanation?), and questions about waiting for a godly husband (What Are You Waiting For?), rebellion (The Root of Rebellion), modesty (Situational modesty) and Elijah’s depression (The Elijah Syndrome).  Thankfully they’ve left off on the “Lauren is beautiful…I want to marry Lauren” vein.

Our top referring site is the Young Ladies Christian Fellowship–due to Lauren and Nathaniel’s betrothal story.

We receive close to  a hundred hits a day (more if we post a hot topic…)

And…

Our two most popular posts ever are the pages “The Lauren and Nathaniel Story” and “About Lauren and Abigail.”

Which means that we’ve got some lurkers who know plenty about us…and we’d like the chance to meet you.  🙂

Don’t be shy!  Just step up and leave us a comment telling us your name (or a nickname), your blog address (if you have one), how you found us/how long you’ve been visiting and a favorite book…or something else about yourself!  Are you married or single?  Christian or something else?  Do you prefer tuna or spam? Feel free to make it long or short!

Looking forward to meeting you!

Permalink 23 Comments

Mean Texas Chili

January 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm (Counter Culture) (, , , , , , , , , , )

It’s that time of year–cold, overcast days are upon us–which means it’s the perfect time to eat chili!  This is my family’s recipe.  I’ve lived outside of Texas for about 6 years now, and though I’ve tried some very good chili since my exodus, I can honestly say that “cain’t nobody make it like them Texans can make it!”  And especially my parents.

Just a warning:  The title is quite accurate.  This is a mean Texas chili.  If you don’t like spicy food and would rather eat “wimpy” Texas chili, omit the cayenne pepper.  😉

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons oil

2 onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or about a tablespoon minced garlic from a jar)

3 lbs. any (or any combination) of the following:  sliced steak, chili meat, or ground beef

3 cans diced tomatoes

1 small can of tomato paste

3 tsp salt

8 Tbs good quality chili powder–I find mine in the Hispanic/Latino section of the store

3 Tbs ground cumin

1 Tbs cayenne pepper

1 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp oregano

1 cup of water

2 cans of beans (pinto, red, or kidney work well)

Directions:

Heat oil in pan.   Saute onions and garlic.  Add meat and cook until done.  Pour into slow cooker.

Add diced tomatoes and all seasonings.  Stir in one cup of water.  Cook on low for about 4 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving time add drained beans.

My family always ate this over rice with canned pears on the side to cut the heat.  You can also eat it on its own or with Frito’s, as Nathaniel likes it.  It’s great topped with sour cream and cheese.  This batch should make at LEAST ten servings (filled my 5 quart Crock Pot to the brim!).  🙂

Permalink 3 Comments

Leftover Pie!

December 10, 2009 at 9:46 am (Homemaking, The Domestic Economy) (, , , , , , , , , )

When Nathaniel was out of town for a couple of days I wasn’t very motivated to cook for just one person. Fortunately, I had made a huge batch of taco meat (5 lbs) before he left. We had tacos at least twice, then I figured I’d munch on it the rest of the week while he was gone. But after about 3 days of taco meat, I began to have mixed feelings.

So, I decided to make use of the leftovers in my fridge—using them to jazz up my taco meat. I had some creamy corn leftover from a church function, some rice from stir-fry night, and some green onions just begging to be eaten. Toss in a can of beans and cream of mushroom soup, top with cheese, bake, and voila! A new meal! I was even able to mix it all in the pan—so very few dishes to clean! This filled a 13 x 9 inch baking dish…so I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’m tired of my taco meat in this form…freeze it???

This was fun and just reminded me of a tip I could share on living frugally. Since the baby has arrived, it’s been a challenge to keep up with normal household responsibilities. I asked and Nathaniel agreed that I could cook in bulk and we could eat the same thing for several days in a row if necessary. This saves me time and money. Eventually, I’ll turn this into cooking in bulk and dividing into portions to freeze so we have a greater variety during the week. But for now, this works, and works well. And it has given me lots of opportunities for making “Leftover Pie”. In the past I’ve been less-than-praiseworthy when it comes to using up items in the fridge before they go bad. This has been a fun way to avoid that! Having a few cans of cream of mushroom soup, corn, beans, and other staples on hand means you can stretch out just about anything!

What kind of “Leftover Pie” have you made lately???

Permalink 9 Comments

Next page »