Why Am I Not Married?

July 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm (Recommended reading) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Recently we posted a link to the “No Girl Left Behind” website.  A satirical solution to the “marriage crisis” (which, incidentally, we’ve not witnessed.)  Of course, the answer to the question “Why am I not married?” is not always, “Because you aren’t ready.”  It can also be, simply, the Lord has something else for you to do right now.  But if you’re single and don’t want to be, it may be helpful to consider what “accomplishments” make a women truly marriageable.  In response to the “No Girl Left Behind” website, the Botkin sisters have answered with a few thoughts for those who may be feeling panicked regarding marriage–or simply want to know what an “accomplished” woman should cultivate–and we think their thoughts are worth considering.

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No Girl Left Behind

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

a-time-to-laugh

Ladies, a crisis is upon us.

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

Until today.

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

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

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Lead Me

May 13, 2010 at 11:29 am (Family, Friends & Ministry, Marriage) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Nathaniel heard this song on the radio yesterday when he was driving home from work.  He found it very moving–and quite unique.  It deals with God’s call (and a family’s call) for men to step up and lovingly lead.  Here is the acoustic version with lyrics.  Hope this is encouraging to you all and your families!

Similar thoughts–from the other side:  One Man Against a Lion

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It’s Your Turn!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings!

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Confessions of an Idealist

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

Abigail’s Story

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

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

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

In Which I Came to Dread Being a Heart-breaker

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

In Which I Explain Why Romance Is Embarrassing

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

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

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

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

In Which I Decide to Fight Back

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

And I got very good at it.

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

In Which I Accept a Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Which I Discover that Boys Can Be Friends

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

Unwittingly, I dropped my guard.

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

In Which “Safe” Becomes the Enemy

I had my first crush.

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

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

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

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

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

In Which I Finally Grasp Marriage

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

In Which I Vow to Remain Single

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

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

In Which I Learn to Focus

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

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

In Which I Lose My Last Defense

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

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

In Which My Ideal Goes the Way of All Fairy Tales

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

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

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

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

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

In Which I Share the Moral of the Story

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

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

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

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

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“Lord Willing”

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

Ana Marie’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Pondering Death

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

Pondering Love

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

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Sarah’s Paradox

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

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

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

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

Was it difficult desiring a godly husband and home before the Lord brought it about? How did you guard your heart and keep focused on the Lord?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Chaste Bride

March 12, 2010 at 1:21 am (Family, Friends & Ministry, Homemaking, interviews, Marriage, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Amy’s Story

Abigail says: When I was nine or ten, my family began attending a small, Bible church half an hour away from us.  It was the fellowship and the precious people who drew us there.  My father had always encouraged me to learn wisdom from watching those around me, and he quickly pointed out to me three young ladies at the church whom he recommended as virtuous girls, worthy of imitation.  One of them was a young woman named Amy.  She seemed old to me at the time (about my current age ;)), but as I watched her cheerfully serve, teach, reach out to the younger children, I began to understand how powerful a woman’s single years could be, when devoted to the Lord.  I remember  Steve visiting our church with Amy’s family and watching their story unfold was like peeking over the top of the candy counter to see something exciting.  I think I might have been twelve when I sat in a cushioned pew at their wedding and watched Amy’s father give her away with a promise that has echoed in my mind ever since:  he promised Steve that she was a chaste bride.  When Lauren and I decided we wanted to share the testimonies of women who are seeking to live out the command to be sensible, pure workers at home, those words haunted me until I sent Amy a message.  Below is her story!

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

Amy W: I LOVE this question! I will share a typical scenario of how this conversation goes:

ME: (Enthusiastically) “Oh, I LOVE my job! I work with INVESTMENTS!” (Then I look them in the eyes, and SMILE !

THEM: “REALLY? Wow!” (They usually look very satisfied or impressed with my answer.)

ME: “YES! My top investment is my husband, and next to him, are our four beautiful girls!” And the compensation is really good too – actually incomparable! I know it will pay huge dividends in the end! It is a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun, too, and very rewarding!

THEM: (With a positive look of new revelation) Oh! Wow! That is GREAT! You know, that is REALLY TRUE!!

ME: I wouldn’t trade it for anything else! You know, I’ve never yet heard a woman regretfully say, “Yes, I’m afraid I spent too much time with my husband and children! I wish I‘d done more for myself!” But I’ve heard plenty of them regret that they missed so much because of other priorities.” (Then again, I look them in the eye and give them my warmest smile so they (Lord willing) know that I don‘t share the enthusiasm for my “job“ with any criticism toward their choices!)

THEM: Wow! That is really great that you ARE ABLE to do that!

ME: It does require sacrifices to live on one income, but the reward is definitely worth it!

P & D:  Have you always desired to be a homemaker? What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home? How did you prepare for marriage before it was an option?

Amy: Undoubtedly the little seeds of love for making a home were planted in my heart from my most tender years and onward by watching and adoring my own mother and father; desiring to be like my mama, and dreaming of marrying a man just like my daddy! Our home was very close and loving. In my mind, who would not want to make the same when they grew up? We were also encouraged to play with baby dolls, make mud pies, and develop our maternal qualities! My father wisely began training my mind and heart regarding young men while I was still very young, so as to help me not give my heart or emotions away before the appropriate time. I still remember sitting at the table as a family (the place where so many good memories and training took place) and my father looking at my sister and me and asking, “Girls, what will you do some day when a young man asks you to go out on a date with him? What will you say?” There were giggles and a few smirks from older brothers, but my dad instructed us that we should refer the young man to him. As we got older, this was not a command, but rather, through training and prayer there was instilled in my heart the desire to do what was right. So one way I prepared for marriage was by keeping my heart with all diligence; by not practicing divorcing relationship after relationship through dating.

Additionally, we memorized much Scripture during our schooling years, and this instructed my heart greatly! Just a small example: I remember reading Prov. 31 when I was about 14 and taking it very seriously. “…She will do him (her husband) good and not evil ALL the days of her life”. WOW! I thought ALL the days of her life? Does that mean today? I am not even married! I likely haven’t even met my husband-to-be. Yet I realized, as I pondered this question, that what I did today was not only a reflection on my father and my Heavenly Father, but also on the possible man who would ask me to take his hand in life. And how I invested my time now would also have eternal consequences. Another example I recall as a young teen was when I was memorizing Ex. 20:5. I remember thinking, “Oh, WOE is me! Any sin I choose to engage in (whether outwardly or in my heart) will have consequences on my own posterity!” So when tempted to do questionable activities, scripture instructed me, influenced me, and gratefully kept me from much sin!

Lastly, I was better prepared for marriage before it was an option by learning many skills that would be useful as a wife and homemaker. I was taught a sense of duty to our family. My sister and I both learned early to work hard, and enjoy working and serving others. We learned to garden, can and freeze produce, milk our cow and goats, care for animals, cut up meat for the freezer, manicure the yard, work along side our father to carry in firewood or help build a project, or work along side our mother to clean, organize, and decorate our home, sew and mend clothing, bake and cook nutritious meals, show hospitality, cut and trim hair, run errands, care for younger siblings and others’ children as well. We were also taught a sense of duty to our country. We learned to serve our community and country in love and care for the less fortunate, serve in-depth in political campaigns, teach children in various public schools, serve as interns at the state house and understand the world in the whole vs. our own tiny world of friends that surround us. And most notably, we were taught a sense of duty to God, the One who gave us life and breath itself! To serve and obey Him, and give Him our desires and our cares, to be a wise steward of money and other resources He has given us, and to live according to His design. Through building these skills, the Lord also built much-needed character into me to the same end.

Now as a married woman of 10 yrs on Feb. 5, 2010, I am so glad I did not wander aimlessly about on a bed of ease, or fill my time, heart, and mind with romance novels, frilly dreams, or frivolous short-term relationships. I have needed and used every single one of these skills I formerly learned, to serve my husband and family. I am so very, very grateful to the Lord for His Word and Spirit guiding me, and for my parents who trained , encouraged, and prayed for me in the way that I should go, as well as for others who influenced me toward more godliness!

P & D:  Did you have examples of godly women that you looked up to? How influential were your parents in your life and life choices? Were you close with your father? Were you close with your mother?

Amy: Yes, I had examples of godly women that I looked up to, but truly none even came close to comparing to what I saw in my own mother! I KNEW her! I lived with her! I saw and felt (to a greater or lesser degree) many of the struggles and challenges she faced through the years – which were nothing to scorn! I’ve heard many women come to my mother and pour out their aching hearts to her, and she always gave wisdom from the struggles and successes of her own life and walk with the Lord (which usually left them speechless and without excuse). Today she still supports and serves my father and youngest sister with sacrificial faithfulness! She is a prayer warrior! She taught me feminine virtues and the skills of womanhood! She has been a great comfort and inspiration to me over and over! Although she is not perfect, I cannot say enough! With the Lord’s help, I can only hope, pray, and strive to be half the woman she is! I was very close to my mother! I was also very close to my father! I felt I could share anything with them anytime! And I did! If ever I felt like I needed help or counsel for anything, they were there! Sometimes I had to wait my turn when another sibling was in line ahead of me, but they would always stay up as late as needed to talk and share with me! As I approached my later teen years and beyond, I would share with them everything about my relationships with others – particularly sharing with my dad my relating to young men. Any gentleman that became even a little extra friendly, I would share with my dad what I sensed from him. And I would also share with dad where I was with any young man.

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

Amy: I already shared briefly how I spent my single years: learning to rejoice in serving my family, gaining skills needed for the future, memorizing and studying scripture, watching and training children, volunteering time at church, kid’s camp, and neighborhood Bible clubs, tutoring or counseling juvenile delinquents in the inner city, working in my brother’s race for public office, serving as an intern for him at the Statehouse, teaching in the public schools, visiting godly widows, gaining artistic and secretarial skills and more.

My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time helping the younger families in our church and community! I had no idea how tremendously big a blessing and encouragement a single, godly, young woman could be to a very tired young mother who is convicted to only have excellent role models for her children until I found myself in these shoes! There are so many silly young girls who waste a lot of time on vanity, movies, dating, novels, etc… who influence young children in such a way that after she leaves, it takes more work (several days of consistent training) for the already tired mother to bring her children back to where they were before the single woman came, actually turning any help she gave into far more work instead! There are so few singles who offer to help, and much fewer excellent, godly role models that a young mother CAN accept genuine help from! By far the most help I have ever received was from those who influenced my children toward godliness through their own life example!

P & D:  Was purity a large part of your upbringing? What kind of standards did you have for relationships as you were growing up? Did they change or become more personal convictions as your matured?

Amy: Maintaining purity in thought and action was taught very early in our home, but it very soon became a personal conviction (again through the guidance and instruction of the living Word). It was my personal conviction to be with male friends in a group or public setting only, rather than alone. And I may have seemed a bit stiff to male friends if they were the continuously-huggy type with girls, but it was not what I felt I could express or portray. My father also helped me understand how very differently young men think! (I Thes. 4:4-7) An occasional little hug at a graduation or some other “occasion” was okay, but beyond that – no thanks! And a beautiful outpouring from these convictions was the pure joy of true fellowship with many young ladies and gentlemen without a trace of jealousy or envy intermingled in these relationships! Because of this freedom from jealousy, envy, and the like, we (friends and I) were able to focus on studying the Bible together, prayer, and many ministry projects we did together for fellowship! This also resulted in more joy from being a blessing to others! These single years were truly so rich and full of growth and joy, despite the inner struggles of desiring a husband and home!

P & D:  How did you and Steve meet and marry? What drew you to Steve? How did you approach purity in your pre-marriage relationship?

Amy: Whenever a gentlemen would request to go out, or spend time getting to know me in a singled out fashion or purpose, I always referred them to my dad. Often that was enough to send mediocre guys out the door for good, and I was very grateful for a father who cared enough for me to spend the time necessary to respond to the guys who had enough backbone to actually go to him. This definitely kept a heavy load off my shoulders as there was never a better filter for any girl than for her father to screen the young man and keep all but “Mr. Right” at bay. But one day something unusual happened. I was house-sitting with my older brother for a few months at the home of a godly, elderly couple who visited many churches during their travels. Eventually they returned to their home with a list of all the “wonderful young men” from which I was expected to pick.. They were confident that one young man in particular was THE man for me, and so Ramona commenced repeatedly to request my permission to give him my address. As you all know, for singles there is never-ending help to find Mr. Right. I was usually able to dampen folks’ enthusiasm, but all my experience was to no avail with Ramona! Finally out of desperation, I told her she could call my dad and ask him. Without a moment’s hesitation she turned and called his number! After talking with my dad, he thoughtfully gave his consent to give the young man my contact information. I was floored! My jaw HIT the floor! And Ramona laughed triumphantly at my shock and prepared to send my address. I couldn’t believe this new response from my dad. Previously he had always graciously said no! Later I inquired of him his reasoning. He said, “Well, honey, you never know how the Lord might work.” That was it!

Thankfully, nothing much ever came of Ramona’s gentlemen for me. But a short time later I was helping at a Bible Memory camp when an unusually godly older couple whom I greatly respected and admired, and whom I’d known since childhood came and talked to me and (much like Ramona) asked permission to give my phone number to a “godly young man” that they had gotten to know through their home church. I began to thank them but defer their offer when I remembered what dad had said. “Well, Honey, you never know how the Lord might work”. This was a very similar situation, so instead, I told them I would go home and ask my dad, and if it was NOT okay, he would give them a call. Otherwise, they could give it. They mentioned he was shy, so he might not call anyway. Regardless, I talked to my dad first thing upon arriving home. I don’t think he thought much of it either. But a few weeks later I got a call from “Steve… who???” He said the Clarks had given him our phone number and he wondered if he might come down (a 3 ½ hr. drive) and meet our family. Thus began a casual friendship with Steve. That first day he visited, we all (he and our family) went to a picnic fellowship outing with our Bible study group at a nearby lake. There we were able to get to know each other better and share how we came to know Christ, how the Lord had grown us in Him, and how He was presently working on us. By the time Steve returned home I felt I had another brother in Christ with whom to fellowship; a new edifying friend in the Lord.

(There are a lot of details that time and room won’t allow me to share here, so I am leaving out a lot of unusual details and just sharing the more pertinent parts.)

After Steve’s initial visit (which I learned by the way, he does not have a shy bone in him) he occasionally visited our family and attended our Bible study or church fellowship with us, and he kept me updated through email about the Christian group he led on campus at the secular college he attended. About a year later I realized that I was beginning to grow in my respect for Steve, and later began to struggle with my own emotions toward him. This was not a result of any infatuation or emotional dwelling on him. Looking back I see even more clearly, that it was the Lord who placed him on my heart. Truly, HE drew me to Steve as I saw in Steve a sincere heart to do the Lord’s will unconditionally, and live 100% for Him! At this time I began to feel inwardly vexed because I knew a few other young men whose hearts were also very fervent toward God, but I was not drawn to them with quite this same respect. I fervently wanted to be certain that I was not deceiving myself, becoming infatuated, or playing foolish emotional games. But I also knew I was genuinely doing all I could (focusing on the Lord, His word, quoting scripture during times I struggled to get Steve out of my mind, praying and crying outloud to the Lord, sharing my heart of hearts with Him, asking Him for help and strength, and truly desiring to be obedient even if it meant I never married.) Still yet I knew I was very human and realized that it was quite possible to fool myself. To be sure, I went to my parents and asked them if they thought I was infatuated or was deceiving myself. They encouraged me as they shared that they did not believe so. I also asked them if I should cease any emails or contact with him. (This would not have been easy at this point, but I was determined to guard and save every bit of my heart for my future husband alone.) There was a long silence as my dad thought through the question and slowly (to my surprise) said he didn’t think I should cease the contact, but that I should continue emailing and do my best to guard my heart. And so together we began praying that the Lord would either remove Steve from my mind and heart, or show us whether or not he was the man I would someday join in life’s journey as my husband. So Steve and I occasionally wrote and he continued his visits of fellowship with our family and church and was a very encouraging brother in Christ, but made no sign of any additional interest. And I was increasingly careful NOT to give him any indication of my inward struggle or growing respect for him because I wanted to know for sure that it was not ME, and that it was the LORD that would bring the right man as my future husband at the right time!

Then guess what? Yep, that is right! As the Lord would have it, after Steve finished college he bought a one-way ticket to ALASKA and began flying as a bush pilot/mechanic!! So I was sure I had my answer from the Lord! No more emailing, out of sight, out of mind, right? Uhmmm! Well, okay, maybe not quite! The no more emailing and out of sight part was accurate. But the rest….! No way! In fact this was definitely the most difficult time of all! I yearned to have a husband and home, and now I knew THIS godly young man, whose respect for him seemingly would not leave my heart no matter how I tried to keep it from being there, and yet there was SILENCE from him! It just did not add up in my mind. Was I somehow making it more difficult than it really was? More than anything else, I wanted to keep my heart, focus, and energy on living for the LORD! I did not want any distractions! If I was to be Steve’s bride, I wanted the Lord to show me so I could move in that direction knowingly. If not, I did not want to lose the struggle in guarding my heart. But there were many nights I went to sleep on a wet pillow after crying my heart out to the Lord!

P & D:  Was it difficult desiring a godly husband and home before the Lord brought it about? How did you guard your heart and keep focused on the Lord?

Amy: Difficult??? Yes, ALL of difficult! Sometimes the struggle was incredibly intense! Sometimes it was so difficult I didn’t even want to have the desire for a husband and home at all because it was heart-wrenching to desire a godly thing but not be the one to actively bring it about. All I could do was to pray, be content with where God had me, and work hard to guard my thoughts and heart! (It has always been my personal conviction and belief that God created the man to be the head of the home, [Eph. 5:23] therefore he bears the greater responsibility before God for the home, and likewise, he should be the one to initiate any relationship with the intent to marry, rather than the woman initiating.) I couldn’t count the times I told the Lord I really DID want HIS plan and timing, but it was very difficult to wait on Him and His timing! I recall asking the Lord if it was his will for me to remain single, would He PLEASE take the desire for a husband and home AWAY! But the desire only grew, which caused me to lean on the Lord all the more, and in time made my walk with Him even deeper and more precious!

Eventually I came to the place (while Steve was in Alaska) where I desired a godly husband and home more than ever, yet I could truly say from my heart of hearts, that I was content and totally joyful in Jesus Christ alone! If I never married, I was Christ’s! I know this was none of my own doing, but was completely a work of the Lord, alone!

Interestingly, it was only AFTER coming to grips with giving Him my desires, CHOOSING to be content and trusting GOD and His timing that the Lord opened the relationship with Steve beyond casual friendship. Waiting on the Lord, and trusting in Him became a choice I learned to praise the Lord for…praising Him for all the things He was teaching me in this struggle that I would not have learned any other way. Just for the record, I sure did not FEEL like being content and joyful at times. Initially it was an act of TRUST and OBEDIENCE, but eventually the emotions followed! And, ahh, so sweet was the rest in yielding my spirit!

One August morning, after Steve had been gone a little over 1 year, I received a call from him. He was back for a time with an Alaskan missionary’s airplane! He had brought it back from Alaska to completely refurbish it with new avionics, an engine overhaul, and other repairs, and complete it with a new paint job.

Now Steve resumed his occasional visits. However they became more and more frequent! He invited my dad to go on a three day road trip with him to get the airplane engine overhauled in another state. Steve had worked with my dad on several of Steve’s family visits, but this one-on-one time was especially growing for dad and Steve’s relationship. They were able to talk a lot! Dad wisely took the opportunity to impart practical wisdom with which any father would want to bless a young man!

In early October, unknown to me, Steve made an appointment with my dad for a private dinner at a nearby restaurant. There Steve asked for permission to ask me more pertinent questions relating to marriage and life. My dad granted him permission. During the next few weeks we spent a lot of time talking. (Again, time will not allow as much detail here as I wish.) Then Oct. 25th, Steve flew to my parent’s home (without my knowledge) and asked my dad for permission to marry me. Again, dad granted him his permission and blessing.

It was now October 28th, and I was about to complete my work day at the local home-care office when Steve appeared at the front desk with a beautiful bouquet of 12 red roses! I was shocked! His visit was very much a surprise, as well as red roses! He asked if I was ready to go! He said he had called my employer (in another city) and had gotten permission for me to leave work early! Once outside, Steve offered to take me flying. We went home, changed clothes, put the roses in a vase of water, and set out for the airport. An hour later we were flying near a well known lake in Missouri where we landed and walked quite a distance before arriving on the lake shore. It was a beautiful evening as the sun was just lowering behind the horizon. The pink and yellow from the sun was reflected in the water, and the waves swept gently against the rocky shore. Steve and I looked out over the water and I was taking in the awe of God’s creation when Steve turned and faced me. He took my hand and knelt down. I thought since he took my hand we must be going to pray, so I too knelt down beside him. Steve gave me a puzzled look as I knelt down beside him. Then his eyes looked deep into my own as he paused, smiled, and said, “Amy Joy, you are the love of my life! I believe the Lord can use us to serve Him better together than apart for the rest of our lives! Will you marry me?!!! It was only then I realized I was not necessarily supposed to be keeling down beside him. But no matter! I returned his smile, paused momentarily to choose my words carefully to reflect my true heart, and said, “Steve, I would be honored to be your wife! Yes, I will marry you!!!” His look of an eager question in full anticipation was replaced with extreme joy and relief! At first we were too joyful to speak. Just sat smiling and living in the moment! Then Steve stood up and worked his masculine fingers deep into his jeans pocket and brought out a soft, small wrapping. He knelt back down beside me on the shore and carefully unwrapped it to reveal a beautiful engagement ring with a single, brilliant diamond on the top! I loved it! (Of course!) How had he known? I was secretly hoping we would not go ring shopping together, but that STEVE would pick out a ring HE liked for me. If he liked it, I would love it! He slipped it onto my finger and exclaimed how much more beautiful the ring looked on my hand! The sun was quickly retiring, casting long shadows over the road as we walked quickly now, to return to the plane before darkness fell completely. On the way, Steve explained the significance of the ring he had chosen. There were four strong prongs surrounding a very pure diamond. Whenever I looked at my ring, he asked me to think of two of the prongs as representing Steve’s arms, the other two prongs, the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. He asked me to think of myself as the diamond with him and the Lord surrounding me, holding me secure!

Soon after our engagement, I remember thinking, “What if Steve really wants to show more physical affection as the wedding draws closer. How far is okay?” Immediately I prayed and asked the Lord. And just as immediately, the answer came to my mind. If Steve wanted to link fingers, or at most, hold my hand, that would be okay, but I would most prefer nothing at all until our wedding day. Not because the desire was not there to be more affectionate, because it was, but rather because our relationship had developed, first becoming one in spirit, and secondly, becoming one in soul (mind, will, and emotions). I did not want the focus to be on the physical aspect (which would be a natural outcome of becoming one in spirit and soul) until after our wedding.

Only a few short days later when visiting his parents’ home, Steve asked if we could talk about physical expression (or the lack thereof) before our wedding. He said the most physical he was willing to be was to link fingers or hold my hand if I wished, but that his first preference would be to save all physical affection until our wedding day so that our focus and priorities would remain on the Lord! My heart rejoiced as I heard him speak the words! The Lord had laid on both of our hearts the EXACT same desire; HIS desire for us! And although there were all the normal desires to express our love for each other through hugs and holding, we were grateful to have the support of each other and conviction and confirmation from the Lord that carried us in purity to our wedding day! The only exception to this was on the occasion that we prayed together. Steve always took my hand in his in prayer.

Since Steve wanted me to return to Alaska with him, and the missionary organization was needing their plane back as soon as possible, our wedding date was planned for Feb. 5th, barely 3 months away! I was now 24. After keeping my thoughts and body under submission for so long, and with everything now happening so quickly, the fact that I was now engaged to be married very soon did not even seem real. It was a very joyous and busy time, wrapping up my life there with so many, preparing for our wedding, and preparing to accompany my new husband to Alaska!

P & D:  At your wedding, your father promised Steve that you were a chaste bride. How could he say this with confidence?

Amy: My dad KNEW me, and we had an extremely close and excellent relationship! He knew my convictions and saw me live with the Word as my guide. He didn’t just know WHAT I did, but I also frequently shared my thoughts and motives with him and went to him for counsel and advice. From my youngest memories I can recall, there was a growing relationship with growing trust that was not unfounded. I trusted my dad, that he truly had my very best interest and welfare at heart. I strove to be as transparent as possible, realizing he would be best equipped to protect and provide for me in this way. And he trusted me as well! As I look back, I am still amazed how much he really did trust me, yet I knew it, and always wanted his trust to be backed with a genuine reality that I was worthy of such trust, not giving any false front, or sneaking anything behind his back. Again Scriptures such as Prov. Instructed and influenced my life. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” So, this is MY answer. But I thought rather than assume why he could say this, I would just call my dad and ask him why he could promise Steve, with confidence, that I was a chaste bride. Following are his words he shared with me:

“Why could I , with confidence, promise Steve that you were a chaste bride? Well, whatever I said to you, Amy, you listened to; what I had to say was important to you, whether it was regarding your car, or work, or your friends, or relationships. It did not matter. In all areas I could tell that you were paying attention to what I said. I knew you paid attention in many little ways. I knew there were no unusual responses that would have occurred if your relationships had not been completely pure. There was no rebellion. I never did sense rebellion in you, which was a tremendous sense of blessing to me. You were not afraid to ask some hard questions. You did at times. It was not like our relationship was superficial. Rather, it was very heartfelt! We were (and still are) VERY close! This made a tremendous difference! Even as you are asking me this question before writing Abigail back, you are not assuming my thoughts. You are willing to take my perspective on it! I appreciate that! I also knew the people that you associated with. And (with good reason) I trusted the people you roomed with. I knew the music you listened to, the services you went to and listened to… everything all figured in pretty well, so that I was confident that you were the person that I thought you were. Our relationship, and my trust was nothing that we cooked up over the last few days or years, but was longstanding since you were a very little girl! It was not a short-term thing. I had had some opportunities to counsel and instruct, pray and teach and work with other young ladies and young men in various situations in the past, and so I felt that it was not my own “think so”, but there was enough experience with others, that I was confident with what I was doing with my own family. This was not a brash, foolish, prideful confidence, but a confidence born out of ministry and experience from working with people for some years previous to your marriage. I believe the confidence that I had was born in our relationship and the understanding that I had of you, your situation, and your life.”

P & D:  You’ve moved around a bit–sometimes rather far from “home.” Has it been difficult and how have you worked to make a “home” for your husband?

Amy: LOL! Yes, as I write, I am 3700 miles from our folks and family! And if we excluded our last 2 moves, we have averaged moving about every 6 months. It was a lot easier the first couple of times with few to no children! I am glad I can laugh about it now because there was a time in our marriage that I would not have. I think this is so, because I was so deathly sick with pregnancies and Steve was gone working as a pilot so much of the time, (often days or weeks and occasionally months at a time!) It was extremely difficult for me! When single, I was VERY active in our church and community. It was not unusual for me to put 100+ miles on my car in one day. I love people, and I knew and interacted with many people! So to get married, and 10 days later move away from EVERY one and everything familiar to me, and arrive in the bush of Alaska, with the only way in and out by airplane or dog sled, with ice and blowing snow or dark clouds of mosquitos outside (depending on the season), this was hardly peaches and cream to a now pregnant and sick, outdoor-loving, tom-boy, country girl who had to stay inside, alone, day after day!

The Lord blessed me with severe sickness in pregnancy and unhealthy outdoor weather as it forced me to come to a complete STOP from the pace I was so used to. This was vital to my ability to be a successful wife and mother as I needed to learn to stop focusing on ministering to others all around me as I had done before, and to refocus on the Lord and my husband alone! This refocus also enabled me to keep my priorities right, and kept me from engaging in outside activities. This was very healthy and bonding in our marriage relationship. All my energy and creativity went into knowing, loving, serving, pleasing, and praying for Steve, keeping our home as a tidy and orderly haven for him and a center of hospitality and ministry, and reading and preparing for our coming baby!

Additionally, some of the greatest things I did to make a home for Steve were actually simple things that I learned in our home growing up; things that were strengthened in my single adult years as well, and applied on a more intense level within our own home and marriage. These were, to take great delight in my husband, focus on Steve’s strengths and overlook any weaknesses, strengthen my communication skills with him, find joy, contentment, and a grateful spirit in every thing (both the good and joyful times, and the very challenging and difficult times) and learn to take my cares to the Lord and TRUST HIM, rather than being a nag or striving to change things outside my jurisdiction.

P & D:  As a married woman, are there struggles to be content?

Amy: There is always the fleshly pull from the world we live in to lower myself to its illusion of what a woman should be. We get pressure from the news, through magazines, the beauty salon, schools, institutions of work, at the grocery store, on billboards, and from the next door neighbor. But in our many moves, I often found one of the most intense influences toward DIScontentment was surprisingly the church! It is easy to let my guard down at church when I am talking with a brother or sister in Christ, and suddenly feel great pressure from them to conform to the world‘s mold. I find that I NEED the influence and power of the Word and Spirit daily! It is Jesus Christ who renews my mind and spirit, cleanses my heart, keeps me pure, guides my way, restores my soul, and keeps my affections set on things above! It is His Word hidden in my heart that keeps me from sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). When I am not in His Word, then it is very easy to be discontent and even complain when there are so many blessings to focus on and for which to be grateful! When I am in the Word and living in the Spirit, I find I am truly grateful for everything – even the most painful, heart-wrenching or near death times, though they are very difficult.

P & D:  Is the purity struggle still alive?

Amy: Gratefully, the purity struggle for me was over at our wedding altar! Although not completely perfect, my wonderful, godly, masculine, self-sacrificing, loving, handsome, best friend, husband, and hero, Steve, truly has my heart! Absolutely, ALL of it! He was and is my only lover and I am so very grateful I never dated anyone else or gave them a single kiss or even a fraction of my heart! Steve is mine, and I am his!!! (SONG 2:16)

P & D:  You have how many little girls? Paul commands older women to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home. How has this affected your raising of your daughters?

Amy: Steve and I have been richly blessed with four beautiful daughters! (I had 1 miscarriage and do not know if this baby was another daughter or a son.) I have always loved kids and enjoyed and interacted with them a great deal when single, but I never realized just how deeply the joy could flow in having four daughters of our own! I am learning over and over again that children are often the very best at keeping us accountable to do what we say because all training of children is far more caught than taught! They see and know who we are by watching us more than by what we verbally articulate to them. They are true immulators. They also often show others who we really are behind closed doors by what they say and do when the doors are open! So Paul’s command to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home has influenced me to be all the more transparent, and live my life within my home for the Lord and for my husband with joy, and openly share my life with my daughters as I live it. I intentionally teach them the skills my mother taught me, and as we home educate our daughters and so spend each school day close together, I strive to view the “interruptions” of each day as teachable moments that God divinely appointed, and try to utilize them rather than hurry over them. I also strive to portray before them the joy I have in serving my Lord, my husband and my family, and express to them the love and delight I have for their father, and exemplify honor to him! Further, we are teaching them the Word of God so that they will recognize error from sound doctrine, so it will reprove them, correct them, and instruct them in righteousness. (II Tim. 3:16) They are also learning to hide God’s Word in their hearts so that they will be sensible and not silly women led away by man‘s “wisdom“, and so the Word will purify their hearts and minds and keep them from sin.

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

Amy: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I believe a sensible, pure worker at home is one who fears God rather than man, whose focus is on the Word of God rather than the ways of others. A woman who truly fears God launches into her work as a wife and mother with a passion, and uses her home as a base to minister the life of God to others. From there she can assist, encourage, and pray for her husband in a way that no one else could; she can train and disciple her children; she can use her talents to encourage, bless, and refresh other believers, help the needy and model the life of Christ. Her home/family is a reflection of her diligent work and faithful stewardship, seen both in her husband and children, as well as the home itself (as orderly and efficient as possible).

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

Amy:  * When God gives you a standard or conviction based on His Word, do not allow others to influence you to lower it in any way!!! MANY times I was told by many people that my “standard” was too high, especially at it related to a marriage partner. As my heart was tender to receive wisdom from older godly people, this was very difficult because I heard this from them as well! But I am SO, VERY grateful that I did not lower anything! And God (in numerous ways, over and over, too many to write here) confirmed that Steve was the right man at the right time, and I, as a married woman now, am truly eternally grateful to the Lord for HIS wisdom and guidance!

* I want to encourage all young ladies that feel like they don’t have the “perfect” father or situation, to seek counsel and help from a godly father figure – someone who can “screen” potential young men for you. A godly “father” will be able to see things that women cannot see in young men. They will be able to protect and help guide you and save you from substantial grief as a married woman!

* Write down your convictions as God reveals them to you. If they are written down, you can read over them and strengthen them in your own mind and heart so that when a young, handsome man tries to woo you, you will not deceive yourself or become emotionally charged and unable to see clearly, but can go back and look at your list, and think sensibly about him.

* Memorize God’s Word! It will reprove, correct, and instruct, you as needed! Surrender YOUR will, dreams, desires, and hopes to the Lord! Determine to obey the Lord no matter the cost! (It is really an invaluable investment!) I love what John Quincy Adams said. “Duty is ours. Results are God’s” You will never have regrets with God at the controls!

Steve and Amy just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary!  They are back in Alaska and about to move again…

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Part Four: Love and Marriage

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

Posted by Abigail

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

Created to be his help-meet?

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

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

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

Role vs. Purpose

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

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

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

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

Am I against marriage?

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

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

What does God want from women?

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

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

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

Godly women are to love

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

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

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

This is obedient womanhood.  This is worship.

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

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

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

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

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

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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.

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Love Means a Cross

March 2, 2010 at 1:51 am (Attitudes, Love, W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

When you are not yet married, or when your marriage is over and you look back on those years with longing, it is without doubt quite possible to idealize it.  But there is one thing which enters into all of life, one thing which will keep us from idealizing life’s best and will make bearable life’s worst, and that is the Cross.  The Cross must enter into marriage.  “Who loveth suffereth too.”

The Cross enters the moment you recognize a relationship as a gift.  The One who gives it may withdraw it at any time, and knowing this, you give thanks in the receiving.  Desiring above all else to do the will of God, you offer back to Him this greatest of all earthly gifts as an oblation, lifted up in worship and praise, with faith that in the offering it will be transformed for the good of others.

This is what sacrifice means.  This is why the Cross of Christ “towers o’er the wrecks of time.”  Love is sacrificial.  Sacrifice is giving, and offering up, and the meaning of sacrifice in the Bible is the giving of life to another.

~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman, 1976

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

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What Makes a Husband Jealous?

February 17, 2010 at 1:20 am (His Perspective, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, soul and mind,” Yahweh charged Israel in His greatest commandment, but the hearts of the people turned away to foreign gods and their minds strayed to sin and self.  “You have committed adultery against Me,” Yahweh warned.  “I am a jealous God.”  Through the prophet Ezekiel, Yahweh graphically described Israel’s adultery, painting a revolting picture of lewdness and impurity.

To the church of Corinth, Paul wrote as God’s emissary, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.”  (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The adultery Yahweh charged Israel with was in giving to another god what rightly belonged to Him—heart, soul and mind in worship.  Paul’s jealous guard over the purity of the bride of Christ was to preserve their minds in the purity and simplicity of devotion to Christ.  Devotion–the minds of believers rightly belong to Christ.  We tend to think of jealousy as an evil, but Paul speaks of a godly jealousy.  God’s jealousy was over what rightly belonged to Him.  Paul was jealous on behalf of Christ, over what rightly belonged to Him.

As I worked over the post dealing with God’s Will: Your Sanctification, I came head to head with the issue of defrauding—cheating, taking what rightly belongs to another.  With the words “The Lord is the avenger,” I was reminded of the jealous husband’s test in Numbers 5—and the curse upon the woman who had “gone astray into uncleanness.” As I pondered, I began to wonder what would be rightly considered a husband’s?  Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that the wife’s body belongs to her husband, and his body belongs to her.  Wouldn’t it be godly then for a husband and wife to be jealous over each other’s bodies?  What else might they be jealous over?  Each other’s emotions?  Devotion?  Time?  Affection?  Attention?  I’d often considered purity in relationships, but I’d never before thought of it in terms of what would make a husband jealous.  The traditional wedding vows proclaim to “forsake all others, clinging only to you.”  I began to consider the implications of Paul’s words to the churches of his day regarding purity and marriage.  Marriage should not be sought in lustful passion, as the pagans, but in set-apartness and honor.  He warned us not to go beyond and defraud—because God is the avenger.  This warning suggests that, even if no one else ever knows that we have “cheated”—gone beyond what was rightly ours—God knows and we will reap the consequences in our lives and hearts.

Ladies, what I’m proposing is that we carefully consider what rightfully belongs to God as the first step in purity.  “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Worship and serve Yahweh only.”  And we carefully guard and preserve that for Yahweh only.  That we consider what rightfully belongs to those around us.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  A sacrificial love, based on Christ’s love for us, offered without thought of gain.  This, too, is worship of God.  And, in purity, that we consider what rightfully belongs only to a husband.  Even if we never marry, there are some things that no one is authorized to claim outside of a marriage covenant.  I propose that we jealously protect and preserve this until such a time as, covenanted in marriage, we can freely and purely pour it out in worship to God.  God is the avenger, because our purity is an integral part of our worship of Him.

These thoughts in mind, Lauren and I constructed a survey to try and help us understand what things would make a husband jealous.  We created a series of hypothetical questions, based on many of the debates/teachings we’d heard regarding “purity” boundaries, placed those situations into a marriage scenario and surveyed 50 men from very different backgrounds and denominations–single men, dating men, courting men, engaged men, married men and men with daughters our ages—without giving an explanation for our questions.  We wanted unbiased feelings from a range of perspectives.  We reasoned that those things which provoked jealousy in a husband are likely to be good indicators of what rightly belongs to a husband only—and therefore what we should be jealously guarding from any man to whom we are not married.

We’ll admit that we were surprised by the clarity the results seemed to cast on “grey areas.”  We’re talking about activities that many youth pastors would advocate as still “chaste” and would leave a “True Love Waits” pledge unbroken.  Many of the men expressed that they were deeply disturbed in considering their wife engaging in many of these activities—few thought “jealous” even covered their feelings on the topic.  God used graphic word-imagery to express Israel’s adultery–to inspire our horror and disgust.  We’ve tried to be as discreet as possible in dealing with these issues, but this is a serious affair.  Impurity should provoke our horror and disgust.  We’re sharing the results with you and we encourage you to consider carefully guarding what these men express as provoking jealousy.  In the areas that are expressed as depending on circumstances, prayerfully, carefully let your actions be guarded by love—focus on the Lord first and what will bring Him glory and then pursue sacrificial love toward your neighbor–what will cause them to focus on the Lord.  The excellent wife does her husband good and not evil all the days of her life, and his heart trusts in her.

See the survey results here:

What Makes a Husband Jealous:  The Survey

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An Excellent Wife

October 31, 2009 at 1:24 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2
Lauryn and I, well, we’re both free spirits—independent thinkers. We get together and discuss important and fresh things: like marriage. Are you laughing at me? Why shouldn’t we discuss marriage? Perhaps it’s not a fresh topic, but it’s sure important. I’m convinced that nobody’s ever ready, considering simple things like lack of experience, but I’m doing my best. I dove into Proverbs 31 to study out what I should be working on—really to be an excellent woman, daughter, wife or whatever the Lord has in mind for me—and came up with an interesting bit of a list. But what really stood out to me was the virtuous woman’s purpose: all of these virtuous things she does, not as a pursuit of charm, beauty, vanity, money or power, but because she pursues the Lord.

Lord, may I never so seek charm
As to bring my Bridegroom harm
And may my beauty never be
A thing that could tempt eyes from Thee.

May my diligence prove more
To freely give to all Thy poor
That I can live my life content,
For Thee, my time and talents spent.

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When God’s Will meets Woman’s Emotions

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

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

Reposted from Abigail’s personal blog.

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

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

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

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

How pointless is all of that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Someday

March 5, 2009 at 10:55 am (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Singleness, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

someday

I was sixteen years old when my Grandma took me driving and told me I needed to be more aggressive. Five years have passed and this weekend found me pondering her words as I navigated Kansas City to visit her. She’s eighty-two and as far back as I can remember she’s been running a hundred miles and hour serving other people. She spent most of her younger days in a cult one step removed from Mormonism, but she met the Lord not long before my birth. A short time later, she lost her husband. She’s been a widow as long as I’ve been living.

At sixteen or twenty-one, it’s easy to rush forward, hurrying toward the next thing, dreamily planning the future. Marriage, children. How many of us look beyond marriage to a time of being single again? We think of our wedding day as signifying the day in which we have finally arrived, the day when our life is fulfilled. For those newly married brides, a baby is the next thing—the completion to fulfilled life.

When that dream ends, what comes next? When the nest is empty and we’re back to sleeping in a twin bed, then what?

I watch my grandma with pride and amazement. She lives simply, but always busily. She went to a ladies Bible study at a retirement home and took cupcakes and fruit salad. I’m willing to guess that most of the ladies present were younger than she is. She’s held more dying people than I can count, pouring love and tenderness into their last days. She’s sent parts of her carefully stewarded retirement overseas for the spread of the gospel. She studies God’s word and shares it with everyone she can find. She’s helped out young mothers. She eats lunch once a week with a troubled little elementary school girl. She keeps tabs on a destitute nephew. Prays daily for her large family: some know the Lord and some don’t. Offers smiles, encouragement and even rebukes to those she comes into contact with. Shares Jesus when she can.

From the other room I heard her answer the phone when a neighbor lady, another widow, called. After a few minutes, she gently said, “I’d rather not talk about other people like that. It doesn’t really do anyone any good.”

She’s about to have her knee replaced. “That’s just what happens when you get old and your body wears out,” she shrugged. “And I have to make an appointment to get my batteries checked,” she joked about her pacemaker. No bitterness. She laughs easily, teases lovingly and trusts the Lord in everything.

I think of my grandma and I think of Paul’s requirements to Timothy for widows “indeed.” The wife of one man, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality, served the saints, assisted those in distress and devoted herself to every good work. His greatest warning was that they be wary of becoming gossips. When he wrote to Titus he said that older women should be teachers of what is good—to the younger women.

It’s natural for young women to think and dream and plan for marriage, to strive to become godly wives and mothers, to look forward to that time. But being a godly wife and mother is not the end in itself. Being a wife and mother is not what fulfills a woman. Even a pagan can be a wife and mother. Serving the Lord, being obedient to Him, loving Him and serving His people—that’s what fulfills a woman, in whatever circumstances she finds herself.

My mind goes back two thousand years to another widow who lived her life serving the Lord. Anna, the daughter of Phanuel grew up in Israel and married, but her happily ever after ended seven years later with the death of her husband. Being a widow in Israel was especially difficult, yet Anna spent her days in the temple, serving the Lord with fasting and prayers, waiting for the Messiah. Then one day, when Anna was eighty-four, a young woman entered the temple with her husband and newborn son and Anna knew that the Lord had finally sent redemption. When I look into my grandma’s smiling eyes, I think I might know what Anna looked like.

Sisters, your whole life will be filled with someday. Someday you will likely be sixteen and driving. Someday you will likely marry. Someday you will likely have a baby. Someday your children will likely grow up and fly away. And then someday, someday you will likely be a widow. Through each someday the Lord wants you to recognize today—this is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.

For twenty-one years I’ve lived as a single woman on one side of marriage. For twenty-one years my grandma has lived as a single woman on the other side of marriage. The call to both of us is the same—serve the Lord.

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