Moving Back

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Our family is moving again – as was planned.  This will be the third time moving back to our house, to a “home base” as you might call it.   If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you would know I began writing this  blog when I faced major upheaval in significant areas of my life (The Rock Tumbler), and that I move frequently (See About and Let Me be your Home).  ‘Where are you from?’ is never a simple question to answer.  The short one is ‘Texas’, or the place I last lived.

Due in part to my life’s frequent relocations, building a community of friends is a challenge because it takes time to develop enough shared experiences, to build trust, and to get to know people.  I’ve learned how to get involved just enough to not be too lonely, to appreciate those people who share of themselves, and who allow me to share with them.  It’s a vulnerable state of living to always be the “new girl”.

I just want to share two quick things here that I’ve learned while living in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This small, retirement community, centered on America’s colonial history, is quite relevant in today’s modern world.

First, I’ve learned how important it is to maintain one’s health now, so that I can still kick butt when I’m 70 and older.  Just because there are a lot of older people here does not mean people aren’t engaged in athletic activities, like running, yoga, cycling, and so on.  Watching women several decades my senior working out with better strength, cardio, and endurance was inspiring.  I want to be that person when I get there.

Second, the Christian community here is thriving, and God is moving across so many lines.  I attended the Williamsburg Community Chapel (The Chapel), and the opportunities to engage across the community are phenomenal – intergenerational and racial diversity are celebrated assets.  One such opportunity is a collaboration with the Historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg.  This church was officially established in 1776, by slaves, and is still vibrant and active in the community.  These two churches are working together for the Williamsburg community to make things better.  I had the privilege to attend and meet several members of this church last summer and was overwhelmed with the spirit of unity among their members.  I am so encouraged to witness how God is moving in these two amazing churches, and I imagine the impact this collaboration will have on their community, and throughout the Christian family.

As we leave the small town of Williamsburg and return to the crowded and fast-paced Northern Virginia area, I wonder what the next year will bring.  It’s another short-term and temporary move.  I know how easy it is to get caught up in work and worries, to not engage with others on a meaningful level. We’ve lived there several times, and each time is a new experience.  Things change so quickly, that each time is like moving to a new place.  Will old acquaintances be welcoming?  Will I need to start new?  I expect it will be a mixture of both.

Pastor Travis Simone of The Chapel wrapped up the sermon series of the Kingdom Mission by talking about what partnering with God looks like.  To my amazement, he pointed out that the mission involved partnering and leaving.  I’m leaving Williamsburg, but I’m leaving having been strengthened by the community and partnership of the many believers at The Chapel and others in the community.

I’m moving back to Northern Virginia.  We typically stay only a few years at a time, and that hinders the ability to create lasting friendships.  Each time has had a significant atmosphere and set of friends/experiences.  I wonder what God has planned for this next stay.  So, I’m moving back while still “moving forward in faith“.

I Know Better

Expectations and hope are not the same things.

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I’ve been reflecting on the differences between expectations and hopes as I wrap up my practicum internship in a counseling office, and as I consider Mother’s Day quickly approaching. Expectations can get us in big trouble. Hope can pull us through trouble.

When I started the internship at the counseling office, I expected that by the end, I would have developed enough skill and confidence to feel like I knew what I was doing in at least one area. However, as the end of the semester neared, I became impatient and concerned because I wasn’t seeing the progress I thought I was supposed to see. Instead of feeling more confident, I was feeling less capable and overwhelmed with all that I didn’t know. It turns out, according to my supervisor, that’s quite normal, and it’s a good sign. This is how good counselors are made. I decided to trust her experience, allow myself more time, and hope that I develop into that kind of counselor. I’ve had more than one professor tell me to trust the process.

The concentrated experience of the practicum learning curve gave me new insight into the learning curve of being a parent and daughter.

As a child, I was obedient, kind to others, ready to serve, and put my needs aside for the sake of others. This is what I was taught to do, and how I believed God wanted me to live. I expected that my sacrifices and kindnesses would be noticed, appreciated, and I would be more liked and favored. I would earn being loved.

That didn’t happen.

Disillusionment gave way to festering bitterness and anger that almost destroyed some of the most important relationships in my life, especially with my mom. Having an analytical nature, I formed opinions for when I was going to have the opportunity to be in control, to make my own decisions. And when the time came for me to leave home, I told my mom –

I know better.

From my 22 years of life experience, I believed I had the answers to making things work out the right way. I just needed the opportunity to prove it. My husband and I had similar ideas of what raising a family was supposed to look like. He and I did a lot of things the “right way.” We weren’t perfect, but we worked together as a team, complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We practiced demonstrating love in such a way that we expected there would never be any doubt in our children’s minds of how much we loved them. Families are like recipes, you put in the right ingredients, follow the instructions, and everything comes out like the Instagram perfect picture you expect. Right?

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Mother’s Day Breakfast

Well, now I know better.

The truth is, my parents loved my siblings and me. They still do. But when life is hard and there are things beyond our control, we don’t always feel loved. Sometimes, we get angry and reject the love of those who love us the most. We compare our lives with someone else who seems to have something better, and we feel gipped, neglected, or that we somehow missed the mark and are the ones lacking. The truth is, we live in a fallen world where even the best love we have to offer can be missed, misunderstood, or even misapplied. As a parent, I know there have been times I misapplied my love. Who among us can show perfect love?

But then there’s hope.

Instead of expectations based on my abilities, I am learning how to be patient with myself, and with others. I am learning how to extend and accept grace in ways I could never imagine before now. And to be perfectly honest, I see now that I don’t have as much control over the outcome of things as I imagined. Letting go of expectations makes more room for hope. Honest hope and faith. My children are now young adults, and guess what, I’m still on a learning curve. I thought I had it figured out back when I started, and if not then, certainly by now. See how those “I know better” expectations can trip you up?

Mother’s Day is on my mind. With my children no longer dependent on me for daily living, Mother’s Day feels different, like somehow, I’m no longer really part of the mommy club. That makes me consider how my mom must have felt as we all became adults. I regret the pain I inflicted on my mom with the words I said to her. Over two decades later, my mom and I have worked very hard to find a new way to relate and understand each other. Neither one of us gave up hope. And she’s still my mom.

God continues to teach me new things, new ways of relating to Him. I still fall into the trap of trying to earn God’s favor (love) by trying to do things the right way. We can’t earn God’s love. We already have it. My mom forgave me and never stopped loving me. My own children have my and my husband’s love no matter what. We know that, but do they? Did we make that clear enough? I hope so.

As a counselor, I recognize the trap of placing my own expectations on my clients. That doesn’t help anyone. It actually can make things much worse. Ah, but what does help is guiding them to find hope. Hope that things can get better, that the way things are now is not how it will always be.

The trials of my life caused me to doubt God’s love for me, my parents’ love for me, and my self-worth. As a young adult, I thought I could do things on my own, my way, and get it right. I thought if I read enough and gave enough, it would be enough.

I know better.

There’s a learning curve to life. Things don’t always work out how we expect. And here I am, still learning how to trust God. God is patient, and I know he sees how much more practice I need to learn how to do this parenting thing. He reminded me recently, I am His child. My husband is His child. My children are His children. He is enough.

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Hope leaves room for more possibilities!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it – in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits – we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18 – 25 (HCS)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

Kindness Counts

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I have been struggling to publish this last lesson in the series, “Daughters and Disciples”.  I’m not really sure why.  I have plenty of valid excuses, but not really good reasons. I decided to go ahead and post tonight due to some gentle pressing by friends and strangers who did not realize what their words and actions were stirring in my heart. 

Several new people have decided to follow this blog even though I haven’t posted in a while.  Thank you! I’m honored that you found what I’ve written to be interesting  enough that you wanted to keep reading more.

Today, a friend challenged me to be more open, to be more vulnerable.  This isn’t the venue we were discussing, but I do know I’ve added something to this lesson that makes me feel quite vulnerable.  It may have something to do with why I’ve been putting off posting it.  And another friend with whom I was sharing some of what’s been heavy on my heart encouraged me as she always does.  I am so blessed to have these two powerful encouragers in my life.  

Then tonight, I attended the small group with these lovely ladies.  Most of them are far wiser than I, but as I listened to some of what was being shared, I realized the theme of vulnerability, of being real, of being honest, was present there, too.  So here goes . . .

The final lesson in the Daughters and Disciples study – Lesson 6

Kind words

The objective here is to gain a better appreciation for how we speak to one another. We all know how difficult it is to maintain self-control over our words, but if we are more aware of the impact of what and how we communicate, we may find it a little easier and develop a habit of using our words for good rather than harm. We may also find ourselves better able to forgive others when their words cut us.

Proverbs 31:25 – 26 (NASB)  Strength and dignity are her clothing,  And she smiles at the future.  She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Discussion Questions

  • What was the result of the TBH (To Be Honest) trend on Facebook from several years ago? (If you participated.) How many of you learned some neat things people thought about you, or hurtful?
  • What are some of the most encouraging things someone has told you? What was the result?
  • Define snarky. Is it really ok to speak in this way?
  • What does it mean to speak with “wisdom and faithful instruction?”
  • When might you have the opportunity to speak this way?

Our lives are filled with relationships, good and bad. These relationships alter our moods, can change the way we think or act, and effect more than just two people. The way we treat and talk to each other has a greater impact than we realize.

The level of jealousy and contempt, the competition for Abraham’s affection, the realization of promises made and misunderstood, all these things served to breed an ugly outcome. One thing that again stands out in this story is that even though it was through Sarah’s lack of faith in the promise that led to the birth of Ishmael through Hagar, God was still there for Hagar and Ishmael even though the covenant promise was meant for Sarah and Isaac. Sarah and Isaac, as well as Hagar and Ishmael, endured hardships due to a lack of faith, and both mothers and sons received blessings from God.

Questions To Consider

  • Can you imagine the little looks, the words, and the gossip whispered in each other’s tents about and by these two women?
  • Do we ever look at each other and judge whether or not we think another has received a blessing we thought we should have for ourselves?
  • Does the impact of what we say have an expiration date? Where it no longer contains any power?
  • Notice how God took care of Hagar and blessed her. What do you think that means?

Why It Matters

The words we use to communicate, how we communicate, and the actions that go with those words have far reaching effects. The book of John opens with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God” (John 1:1). In Hebrews 4:12, the Word of God is described as being sharper than a double edged-sword. We have the love of God in us, and we are living, breathing, and speaking examples of Christ to the world. Our words matter to the ones who hear what we say, whether they are the intended audience or not. Knowing what to say and when to say it is part of being a wise woman. Our words show us the condition of our heart. Pay attention! Learning how to speak with wisdom and kindness takes practice, and all of us mess up. Thank God for His forgiveness and grace.

TBH – So, as I have mentioned previously, I wrote this lesson several years ago. And even though I know I want to be kind, I sometimes mess up in a HUGE way. Not that long after I wrote this lesson, I said something less than flattering to another mom about one of my son’s teammates. I strongly suspect that teammate’s father was listening to what I said. I did not know the father when I said it. Those unkind and critical words came from a place of my own insecurity, and I still regret the likely impact on the father. The family was going through a difficult time dealing with significant illness and eventual loss. There is no way I can take any of it back. My words likely caused more heartache for that dad instead of being an uplifting and encouraging experience when he really needed it. It also reflected poorly on my witness, my son, and altered other relationships in a negative manner. Unfortunately, that is not the only time I said something ignorantly. Another huge mistake was sent in written form with some anger and frustration expressed. I extended an apology right away, but again, I know my words did not reflect the love of Christ. Sometimes, the opportunity to ask for forgiveness is present, and sometimes, the damage remains – with or without forgiveness.

I know that I am careful most of the time. I am certainly more careful since the two examples mentioned here. It grieves me to know that as I try to walk in the light, to be a light, I may have caused others to stumble, to doubt God, to have a lesser opinion of what Christians are like. Oh, I know I won’t be perfect. It’s hard to always know what to say, when to say it, and how to say things in the right way. Basically, if what I want to say is a negative opinion that really doesn’t have a purpose other than to vent frustration, I think it’s better left unsaid. Now, I pray I may continue to choose to follow what I know to be true.

My Story

In middle school and high school, it is a rite of passage to deal with the very issue of mean-spirited comments and thoughtless gossip. I certainly dealt with it. It got so bad for me that I viewed even a compliment as a possible attack. Because of this, I didn’t trust other people for a very long time. I learned to keep people from getting close to me. How can we, who are revered for our beauty, gentleness and nurturing nature, be so mean and vindictive? How much do we internalize and believe well beyond the time and circumstances of those moments? Often, those words are echoed over and over until we believe the lies or let the root of bitterness go deep in our hearts.

It took God’s patient and persistent love to break down the walls I built around myself for protection. In trying to avoid the risk of being hurt, I realized I also created a barrier between God and me. The first time was out of rebellion, and the second time was out of fear. There is nothing more painful to me than to realize I cannot hear or feel God’s presence, especially by my own doing.

Not long ago, a few other moms and I were talking about at what point we realized we needed other women in our lives. Each of us tried living our adult lives by being self-sufficient. Eventually, we had all reached a point in our lives where we realized we needed the help of other women. Opening my heart to other women still leaves me feeling quite vulnerable (It looks like that’s still a work in progress!), but trusting God to help me navigate through the perilous waters of female friendships allows room for Him to work through those relationships – for His good purposes.

It’s not only friend relationships that get tricky. Every relationship is affected by how we speak. This includes our relationships with our siblings, our parents, and our spouses. I love my husband, and it kills me when he lets me know my words have made him feel unloved or less valued. That is not being the kind of blessing, or desperately needed helper, I want to be.

It is through my trying to speak words of love, life and kindness that I realize how much I fail. It is by these failures that I am able to learn where I need more work, and to not let the words of others cut so deeply, especially when I know they may not realize how they sound. Grace abounds.

The Big Question

  • How do you speak to the people in your life?
  • Are you speaking with words of wisdom and kind instruction on your tongue?
  • Who in your life can you practice speaking encouraging words to?
  • Here is a challenge. Either for your parents or siblings – Speak only encouraging and grateful words to them and notice the responses or changes in reactions.
  • Write down the results.

  Dig A Little Deeper

  • The Book of James
  • Proverbs 10:31 (HCSB) The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be cut out.
  • Proverbs 4: 23 (HCSB) Guard your heart above all else, 
for it is the source of life.
  • There are MANY verses throughout Proverbs about anger, gossip, kindness and the right time to speak.

Let kindness be on your tongue!

If you want to leave a comment on this page, I take the time to review any comments before they get posted.  If your comment doesn’t show up right away, I will likely respond by the next day. 

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Confident, Strong, and Beautiful!

Have you ever considered the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?

Who finds you “beautiful?

Who is “beholding” you?

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I have long thought the pressure placed on young women in the entertainment industry to look a certain way, to be constantly judged, has to be part of the reason why so many self-destruct. Who can handle that constant barrage of criticism? And how can we expect adolescents who are in the middle of developing their self-identity to do so in a healthy way?  We ALL go through awkward stages of growth.  That passes, but the messages we identify with about who we are can stay a LONG time.

Yet, here we are with all of our social media apps, filters, swipes, and likes. The strangest things can go viral, being seen by millions. And with all those views – inevitably – critical, judgmental, hateful comments are posted by those who don’t care, and honestly, whose opinions really don’t matter.

Haters are gonna hate.

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Oh, but friend, there’s Someone who beholds you who calls you beloved.

Read on . . . .


Confident with Strength and Beauty

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I’m still learning  to trust God’s love and His plans.

The objective here is to understand the difference between what the world says is beautiful, and what is beautiful to God. It is summed up in the lesson title. We take our confidence in the knowledge of our value to God, His plans for us. It’s ok to care about how we look, but our evaluation of beauty uses a completely different standard than the world’s standard. We clothe ourselves with dignity and beauty befitting a princess, a daughter of God, not spoiled, but using modesty and an internalized confidence.

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
 for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
 she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
 and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
 she can laugh at the days to come.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
 her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things,
 but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
 but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
 and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Discussion Questions

  • What does a beautiful woman look like?
  • Do you agree with the phrase, “Pretty is as pretty does?”
  • How often do you compare yourself to someone else and concentrate on your physical “imperfections?” (Or someone else’s)
  • Does it even matter if someone is beautiful, or feels beautiful?
  • Is it ‘Confidence creates beauty’, or ‘Beauty creates confidence’?

I think most of us recognize the importance placed on physical beauty. But I also believe there is spiritual beauty. Some may have one without the other. Is this something God cares about? How does this matter to our being daughters and disciples? Let’s look at a few verses that mention beauty, glory, and confidence.

  • Zechariah 9:16 – 17 (HCSB) “The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people; for they are like jewels in a crown, sparkling over His land. How lovely and beautiful they will be? Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine, the young women.”
  • Revelation 19: 7 – 8 (HCSB) “ ‘Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.’ For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.”  (Note: This is a reference to the bride of Christ, the church.)
  • Psalm 112 (HCSB) Hallelujah! 
Happy is the man who fears the Lord, 
taking great delight in His commands. His descendants will be powerful in the land;
 the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, 
and his righteousness endures forever. Light shines in the darkness for the upright. 
He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous. Good will come to a man who lends generously
 and conducts his business fairly. He will never be shaken.
 The righteous man will be remembered forever. He will not fear bad news;
 his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord. His heart is assured; he will not fear. 
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He distributes freely to the poor;
 his righteousness endures forever.
 His horn will be exalted in honor. The wicked man will see it and be angry; 
he will gnash his teeth in despair.
 The desire of the wicked man will come to nothing. Don’t get caught up in the male pronouns here. Read it with your name substituted where appropriate.

Questions to Consider

  • How does what we wear contribute to our appearance of beauty?
  • If even God recognizes that fine clothes and jewelry are significant items to show beauty and honor, then is it considered vanity to care about them?
  • Does being confident in the love of Christ for us really cause us to be beautiful?
  • Where does that confidence and strength come from?

Why It Matters

When a woman is truly loved and she knows it, she carries herself with a confidence that speaks louder than her physical features or her clothes. There is nothing wrong with the desire to be seen as lovely. However, thinking that our outward loveliness is in direct correlation to our worth proves to undermine the very value God has for us. There is something wrong when we accept a definition of beauty that contradicts what is true and destroys the confidence that we can have in God’s love. Again, we fall into a trap of listening to the lies that the world tells us, trying to compete in a system that leaves us frustrated and inevitably on the losing end. God’s righteousness, that which we have received through the blood of Jesus Christ, is what makes us beautiful and worthy to be clothed in fine linen and jewels. Collectively, we are the bride of Christ as members of the church. When we trust God, we have nothing to fear for nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

My Story

In Stasi Eldredge’s, Your Captivating Heart, she discusses a woman’s beauty. Beginning on page 39, she writes, “God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. She expresses beauty in both. Better, she expresses beauty simply in who she is. Like God, beauty is her essence.”   She compares how it feels to be caught in loud, smelly city traffic and to be in a quiet, beautiful place like a garden. “Amid beauty, there is room for your soul.” She describes how beauty brings in peace. “That is what beauty says: All will be well.”

When life gets chaotic, uncertain, and mean, we have the Prince of Peace in our hearts. We know God loves us. We are confident that He is trustworthy. Bad things are going to happen, but we are not lost. Hard things will come our way. It is especially at these times that we can call on our Heavenly Father to provide us with a way, with hope, and to help us through them. This peace and assurance is beautiful. We can stand up straight and face the day with strength.

I came to this section thinking mostly of the strength and confidence part. I am not considered traditionally, physically beautiful. There are days I don’t feel too unattractive, and other days I would rather not be seen. By God’s design, I found someone who finds me beautiful and appreciates me for who I am. God has shown me over the years, that a beautiful woman is one who trusts Him. The strength of His love for me gives me the confidence I need to face all of life’s uncertainties. He causes me to be able to handle the trials of the unknown with grace. Anytime anxiety comes over me, even if it takes me a while to recognize it, I know I can go to Him to find peace. This joy, this level of confidence, this certainty that He hears me, knows me, loves me, and wants to spend time with me helps me find the grace I need. By His grace, I am made righteous, meaning one day, I will be adorned in fine linen as a member of the church. The knowledge and belief that His love – for me – endures forever gives me peace, confidence, strength and beauty.

I didn’t always have that assurance. At least I didn’t recognize it. (The world’s standard is in direct opposition to the firm foundation we find in Jesus Christ.) Our appearance is one of the frontlines for this battle. He patiently helped me work through the lies that kept me from being able to receive His love. Sometimes, I still get lost in the turmoil of relationships and life. There is so much more to learn. I look forward to the day when I will be able to fully comprehend His love for me without sin and the confusion of this world getting in the way. I long for you to have the unshakeable knowledge of God’s love for you, too.

The Big Question

  • Can you see how being confident in God’s love for you brings you grace and honor?
  • Does it make you feel beautiful?
  • Knowing you are a beloved Daughter of God, does that change the perception you have of yourself when you look in the mirror?
  • What can you do to make yourself more available to hearing and recognizing God’s love for you? Watch for it, He’s reaching out to you every day. Listen. He’s singing a song over you.

Dig A Little Deeper (HCSB)

  • Proverbs 11:16 A gracious woman gains honor,
but violent men gain only riches.
  • 2 Samuel 1:24 – Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with luxurious things, who decked your garments with gold ornaments.
  • Zechariah 9:16 – 17 The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people; for they are like jewels in a crown, sparkling over His land. How lovely and beautiful they will be? Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine, the young women.
  • Revelation 19: 7 – 8 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.
  • Matthew 6: 28 – 34 “And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you – you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But see first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
  • Ephesians 6: 13-17 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waits, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
  • Zephaniah 3:17 Yahweh your God is among you, 
a warrior who saves.
 He will rejoice over you with gladness.
 He will bring you quietness with His love.
 He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”
  • Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Your Captivating Heart, Pages 37 – 43, Stasi Eldredge


Here I am, several years older and a little bit wiser from when I first wrote this post. Many things have changed, and I am experiencing the truth in the fading of youthful beauty. I’m okay with that. It doesn’t mean I’m not coloring my hair or using certain moisturizers designed to slow down the forming of wrinkles. I’m going to make the most of the resources at my disposal. But, I’m also learning how to place my trust in God daily, and I find my confidence is increasing even when, and especially when, things seem to be out of control.

Earlier, I wrote a blog post, What is Beautiful? I think that message corresponds well with this one. It speaks more of how God works through our brokenness.

Who is beholding you?

Whose beloved are you?

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Strong and Confident!

All These Things

Hello Friends!

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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

This verse was put into a song we often sang growing up.  I remember wondering, “What ‘things’ will be added unto you?

Today’s post is about being a good steward, and money. This is something I feel quite uncomfortable posting about since I still have a lot of growing and trusting to do.

But a quick note about what happened after my last post on work –

So, I was confronted with the reality that I do not know how to maintain a healthy work-home balance. Last Thursday, I stayed up past midnight doing some organization work for my practicum. I completely let that keep me from posting the next lesson. Please forgive my inconsistency. Plus, I realized I have put in almost half the hours needed for my practicum designed to cover a 16 week period within a 4 week period. I obviously need to create a more healthy balance!

Back to today’s lesson –

I’ve been thinking about the struggles I found from the last lesson on work, and the known struggles I have about money. I read what I wrote originally, and I realize that what I wrote is still relevant, but I sense I have an opportunity to be a little more honest and direct about why I struggle so much with this topic. Which brings us back to Matthew 6:33.

If you read Matthew 6:33 in context, you’ll find this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Starting at Matthew 6:19, Jesus begins talking quite specifically about treasures, money, and anxiety.

Over the course of my life, I have lived with anxiety surrounding not having enough money. There have been times of seemingly insurmountable debt, and times of plenty. Anxiety over income and financial security goes hand in hand with the work balance struggle.

Right now, I am adding to our family’s debt by taking out loans for the school counseling degree. It adds to my anxiety, and my desire to earn my own way to pay for it once I can work. When I used loans to pay for my undergrad debt, I didn’t really trust God regarding finances. I doubted His provision. While I did work for a couple of years, my husband pretty much paid for my school. I am so grateful to him. So, in a way, God provided through my husband. But, we struggled, and it wasn’t easy.

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My incredible husband!

This time, I have made a conscious choice to Seek God first, and His righteousness. I have seen how He has blessed this time for me to be in school, to follow this path that I believe is a calling from God, and to be encouraged to do so by my husband. Through the doubts in my ability to achieve academically, to handle the workload, and the guilt that wants to press in for increasing debt, God has shown Himself faithful through the encouragement of my husband first, my children, the support of friends, and through the ability to get the work done. I am learning to how to turn my anxiety over to God. When I feel anxious, I pray and re-center my thoughts towards the foundation of God’s promises.

I’m still growing and learning. I hope this post leads you to trusting God more, and at least, having a prayerful conversation with Him on this subject.  Like the last post, I added a few thoughts in blue!


Lesson 3 Good Steward/ Wise with Money/ Generous

The objective here is to understand how to handle the money, profits, and blessings earned and gained from our work. We do not work to have money just for our own benefit, for selfish ambition, but to be able to use our resources responsibly. These resources aren’t just in the form of money, but also time, material goods and service to others. Again, we do these things out of love and honor for God and others.

She selects wool and flax
 and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships,
 bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night;
 she provides food for her family
 and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it;
 out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
 and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff
 and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor
 and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
 for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes linen garments and sells them,
 and supplies the merchants with sashes.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think are the biggest differences in the worldly view of money and God’s view of money?
  • Do you think He cares about how much money we make, or how we spend it?
  • How much debt is OK?
  • Is there something wrong with being wealthy?
  • Do you think poor people have themselves to blame for their poverty?
  • Can someone be too generous or irresponsible with his or her generosity?
  • Is being a good steward only about money?

The Bible has a lot to say about money, how to spend it, how to handle loans and borrowing, and taking care of the poor. Jesus often spoke in parables using the wealthy and servants alike as examples to describe conditions of the heart or what the kingdom of God is like. Proverbs is full of wise financial advice among other topics. In the book, Ecclesiastes, we find a different kind of take on wisdom about money and work. Take a look at this.

  • Ecclesiastes 5: 10 –11, 18 – 20 (HCSB) The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth (is) never (satisfied) with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes? . . .  18 Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart. 

Questions To Consider (I wrote this while living in a wealthy suburb near Washington, DC. You can adapt the questions according to your circumstances.)

  • How does living in an affluent community affect your ideas of earning and giving?
  • Do you feel pressure to have certain things that other people have, even if you have to borrow to get them?
  • Do you believe your attitude towards money affects your spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and God, the Father?
  • Have you ever had to trust God to provide when there seemed no way you could do it on your own?

Why It Matters

There is a very specific verse that says, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” Matthew 6:24 (HCSB) If we allow the love of money to take first place in our heart, then we have broken the very first commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. We find ourselves no longer looking to God to be the one we trust, but instead, we put our trust in money. That is no good. Did you notice in Ecclesiastes where it says to enjoy your work and wealth is a gift of God? If we can enjoy the fruit of our labor without becoming consumed by the appetite for more and more, we can thank God for that is a gift.

My Story

I can tell you this is an area in which I struggle. I am still learning how to trust God with money. In college, I made some irresponsible choices that had far reaching consequences. I am sharing some of the choices I made with the prayer that God uses them to let you learn from my negative examples. Some of my choices came from outside influences, some from ignorance, while others came from weak areas in my own heart like envy, self-centeredness, and impatience.

Some of my mistakes to avoid:

  • Getting a credit card when I didn’t have steady income – and using it.
  • Getting married and having children before our school loans were paid off.
  • Looking at the way others lived, allowing envy to cause discontent.
  • Allowing my financial status to affect my belief in my value to others and God.
  • Having a lack of self-discipline in setting boundaries for expenditures.
  • Forgetting to trust that God will provide. Doubting that God will provide.
  • Thinking that God won’t provide because of my disobedience and lack of trust.

Now I’m in a transition period from being a stay home mom to working outside the home. As I begin to earn more, I see how easy it is to let financial success become my source of security and purpose. It’s easy to think I have control where I don’t and to let the responsibilities of the job squeeze out time with God. It takes trusting God to a new level. It also gives me a new appreciation for my husband’s role as provider for the family, and his fight to keep balance within his own spirit. The verse, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you,” Matthew 6: 33 has taken on a deeper meaning for me.

(As I mentioned earlier, I find the struggle remains. Since I am currently back in a non-earning position while going through the master’s program with school loans, I am deciding to actively pray and apply Matthew 6:33 to my current situation and the unknown future job and loan repayment. I look forward to seeing how God works through all of this.)

Finally, regarding generosity, when we had so much in the way of expenses, and so little to share, I would look for other ways to practice generosity. Even though my debt amount was large, I still wanted to give. In limited capacities, I had time, possessions, and friendship. I tried to be respectful of the things we did have so I could pass them on while they were still in good shape to others who needed them. Being creatively generous is a way to honor God and to show your gratitude for the things you have. Gratitude helps block the feelings of discontent and envy. It also shows honor to the one who is working and providing. For me, that was and still is my husband, and for you who are not yet earning your own income, it’s your parents. This is all a part of being a good steward and honoring God.

I can sum up my experiences with this: avoid debt, be patient, learn how to be content with what you have, prepare and plan for the future, but don’t forget that God is the one we trust. Watch out for those things that will distract and trap you from benefitting from good, honest work. Guard your heart!

The Big Question

  • How can you seek the kingdom of God first?
  • How is God showing you He knows what you need?
  • Are there things you are doing that keep you from being grateful and content with what you have? 

Dig a Little Deeper (HCSB)

  • Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’
  • Proverbs 22:9 A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
  • Ephesians 4:28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
  • Romans 12:13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
  • Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
  • Matthew 13: 44 – 45 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”
  • Luke 12: 15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
  • Luke 16: 19 – 31 Lazarus and The Rich Man
  • Luke 21: 1-4 The Widow’s offering
  • Matthew 6: 19 – 34 Treasure, Heart and Need

Read through Proverbs, the verses about money are plentiful.

For two websites on managing money with a Christian perspective, check out:

http://www.crown.org/   and  https://www.daveramsey.com/

Several years ago, I went on a nature walk as a time of prayerful meditation. This was about the time I was deciding if I was supposed to work full-time, questioning if teaching was really what I was supposed to do, and deciding to trust God with the unknowns in my future. It was a cold, gray, and muddy day. I put on my rubber boots and waded through several icy streams. Looking at the ice on the banks, the clear water flowing by, I felt as if God was saying to me that the ice was kind of like gifts or promises that were being stored until the time was right.

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Money ebbs and flows. Time, like the stream, flows at an unstoppable, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, pace. Being anxious doesn’t help, because God is in control of it all. I just needed to trust Him, and things would work more smoothly if I did. It’s still kind of scary sometimes, but I choose to be brave.

 

 

Work!

Work only counts as work if there is movement.

That’s the simplified, paraphrased definition that applies to physical science as taught to my third grade students.

Definition+of+Work+In+Physics,+work+means+more+than+something+that+requires+physical+or+mental+effort.

Experience, time, and knowledge can change our understanding. As I read the lesson, I realized how much more there is to add, how many different ways there are to think about what work is and what it means! Purpose, Laziness, Balance, Traditional Family and Career Roles vs. Non-traditional Roles, etc. . . .  All of these I touched on in the original lesson, but each idea can be enriched so much more. 

At the time, I was about to start teaching full-time for the first time after being primarily a stay-at-home mom. When I started this blog a year ago, teaching was something I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do the way I wanted to do, and I was going through some major soul-searching. Today, I am a full-time student starting the practicum part of becoming a school counselor in an office where I am learning what counseling work looks like, feels like, but I don’t get paid for it.

Essentially, my perception of work has changed a bit in the interim. And I need to simplify tonight’s post because I still have a lot of work to do tonight!

 

Maynard Work

So, I’m going to post the original lesson with a few comments and a wrap up at the end –


Lesson 2 – Working Hard

The objective here is to understand that each of us has work we are supposed to do. We rely on God’s provision of the gifts and talents He has given us to use in order to share, to build, and to grow in faith. We should also understand, as we carry out our work, God blesses and encourages the faith of others. Whatever kind of job we may take, if we are working with the knowledge that we are using our skills and talents for the Lord, we can trust that He will “delight” in our service and obedience. We will also respect and appreciate others who are doing different jobs.

  • Proverbs 31:13-19, 27 (NIV) She selects wool and flax
 and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships,
 bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night;
 she provides food for her family
 and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it;
 out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
 and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff
 and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
 and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some things you have had to work hard to get – grades? – job? – sports? – something else?
  • How did your efforts benefit you? Others?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • Do you find it difficult to stay motivated to work hard in any areas?

Personally, I find it tiring just reading all that this proverbial woman did. I struggle a bit with being lazy at times, and working too hard at times. I have to make an effort in keeping things balanced and not give in to selfish ambition or self-centeredness.

Balance is something I lacked while teaching. I missed a lot of my daughter’s senior year of high school. I was trying so hard to do a good job at school and still be available to my family, but I essentially burned out. I stopped going to church, and my prayer life became one of panicked cries for help on a daily and hourly basis. My family was incredibly supportive, but it was too much.

  • Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB) For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
  • Colossians 3: 17 (HCSB) And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Ephesians 4:28 (HCSB) He must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
  • Proverbs 20:13 (HCSB) Don’t love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you ever let the efforts of your work consume you to the point of damaging relationships?
  • How do you handle it when the work required of you seems unimportant?
  • Does God only care about our work if it’s for church ministry? Why do you think so?

Why It Matters

Some people think God is only interested in our church activities. If that is what we believe, then we can behave in a way that is contrary to Christ living in us when we aren’t in a church setting, and our testimony and the fullness of Christ’s love in us is not complete. To be a disciple of Christ means we follow His way in all areas of our life. All things are under His authority, including our job, and how we do it. If we have to do work that is mundane and tedious, we can still bring glory to God by doing it with a positive and uncomplaining attitude.

My Story

As you read the following paragraphs, you will see that my concern was primarily with my purpose and my role as a woman. I don’t know that this question has really been answered with any sense of finality, and I don’t know that it ever will. I do know this; I want to be open to growing, learning, and experiencing all that God has for me. I’ve learned to enjoy being surprised and flexible.

While I was in college, I was intent on discovering my place in the world, the church, and God’s plan for me. I decided at an early age that I would become a teacher. I also wanted to stay home to take care of my family when I had kids, but I often felt like there was something more that I could do. Dissatisfaction settled in my heart. While I could see the value of the traditional roles with which I was raised, I was also curious about the restrictions and boundaries placed on women. How much did I agree with the feminist idea that women and men should be treated equally in all situations? Could I stretch what was traditional and still honor God? Did God want me to do something different? Was I limiting myself if I chose to be a wife and stay-home mom? I wanted to explore all this in a way that honored Him. I decided I should start from the beginning of the Bible and read all the way through making notes of whenever women were mentioned and what their roles were. Were they honored? Did they please God? How?

My dad is a carpenter and a preacher. Both of these are very traditional, male roles especially in the area in which I grew up. In kindergarten, they let us use saws, hammers, and nails. I was delighted since my dad didn’t let me use his tools. I loved the feel, smells, sounds, and the creativity of working with my hands and the wood. I told my dad I wanted to be a carpenter like him. He responded with a resounding, “No Way! No daughter of mine will ever work in construction.” Obviously, anything related to carpentry was not going to be supported by my parents. However, as I read through the Bible, I found a place where the Israelites were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Each family was responsible for their part of the wall. One man had several daughters but no sons. Guess who helped build that section of the wall? His daughters! (Nehemiah 3:12) There were female carpenters in the Old Testament! And, they were honoring God with their work. It was notable enough to mention in the Bible. Hmmm.

Dad and me with toolbelt

My dad still wears his tool belt to work every day!  I grew up being proud of my dad’s strength.

I resolved my questions about the female role in this way. God made each of us with unique desires, skills and abilities. Whatever we do, whatever role, whatever work, and whatever relationships we encounter, we should always look to honor God. It is not beneath any woman’s intelligence or capability to stay home to raise her children and support her husband. Not is it wrong for women to use the intelligence and abilities He has given them to be successful in business, science, or even carpentry. As long as we are humble, loving and serving Him, I believe we are living inside His Will and fulfilling His purposes for us. This honors God. Finally, we are not limited to only one role throughout our lives. My time to be a stay-home mom is coming to an end, and I am about to begin teaching full-time. I may never get to become skilled at carpentry, but I have done my best to “build my home” and raise my family with the knowledge and love of God. I am satisfied with that.

There is so much to say and consider about the role of women and work. That is certainly another topic for another time. However, I can’t believe I failed to mention in this section Proverbs 14:1 –“ A wise woman builds her house . . .” It does get more attention in a later lesson.

The Big Question(s)

  • What work do you believe God has given you to do, and how has He uniquely made you for that work?
  • How are you honoring God with the way you do your work?
  • Do you believe and trust that He has prepared you for certain good things for His purposes?

Dig A Little Deeper (All HCSB)

For even more verses, check out this website: http://workmatters.org/resources/workplace_scripture/ 

The specific link inserted here no longer works; however, workmatters.org is an active program with a lot of good information for those wanting to learn how to combine faith in all areas of work. There are resources available for young people who are just starting careers, and those of us with more experience.

Finally, I just have to share that the church I attend is currently doing a series on Kingdom Wisdom, which falls right into the same theme I intended for this Bible study. After the first sermon, True Wisdom, I told Pastor Travis that he was preaching my sermon! Just last week, the Kingdom Wisdom topic was work, and I want to share the link to it here.

Kingdom Wisdom – Work

You know that song, “God is on the Move”? Every time I hear it, I am reminded of the verse that says God is at work even now (John 5:17). His movement is certainly good work!

“God is on the Move” by 7eventh Time Down

 

 

 

Precious and Valuable

Last week, I posted the first lesson from a Bible study I wrote, Daughters and Disciples, several years ago before my daughter graduated high school.  Purity was about having a pure heart devoted to following God. However, it’s kind of hard to want to follow God completely if you don’t really have a close relationship with Him.

What keeps us from being in a close relationship with God, with Jesus?

I remember in junior high school, this boy was interested in me. At some point while we were at the local skating rink with a group of friends he told me he loved me. I was like, “You don’t even know me.” His declaration of love turned out to push me away instead of causing me to be more interested.  How can someone who doesn’t know me use such strong language of affection?

red-vintage-shoes-sport.jpg

 

Many of us have heard and seen the message that – Jesus loves you!

Jesus loves you

But do you trust that? I wrote about trusting God’s love for us last January in the posts, Blind to Love and If You Love Me . . . .  I could really take the time to explore how well God knows us, but I think I did that very well in those two posts.  You can also read Psalm 139 if you want to read more about the depth of care and thought God has for us.

This lesson is more about our worth and value. It may be helpful to read Proverbs 31: 10 – 31 before reading further.  I’m adapting the lesson for the blog, and I’m going to try to make it a little shorter than last week – more user-friendly.  So here goes:

More Precious than Rubies – You are precious and valued by God

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The objective here is for you to gain a better understanding of your value in who you are, who God made you to be – each in your own unique way. My hope is that you will come to appreciate the love God has for you, how He delights in you, and to not be susceptible to the world’s idea of who – and what – is valuable.

Read the first line of Proverbs 31; then read the next section on wisdom.

  • Proverbs 31: 10 [b] (NIV) – 11 A wife of noble character who can find?
 She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her
 and lacks nothing of value.

 

  • Proverbs 3:13-20 (NIV) Blessed are those who find wisdom,
 those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver
 and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand;
 in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways,
 and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
 those who hold her fast will be blessed. By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
 by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
 and the clouds let drop the dew.

 Discussion Questions:

  • What are the things that make a person valuable?
  • What does our society value in a woman? What about the church?
  • What do you think about the way different cultures value women?
  • What does God value? Does He value women differently than men?

I find it interesting that the comparison of a good and virtuous wife to rubies is similar to the comparison of wisdom.

Check out this verse:

  • Psalm 111:10 (HCSB)  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
 all who follow His instructions have good insight.
 His praise endures forever.

Questions to Consider:

  • What value do you have for yourself?
  • Do you feel valued by the people in your life? For what?

Why It Matters.

If we don’t think we are valued, we are susceptible to all kinds of harmful actions and feelings. We become vulnerable to the lies the world tells us. We will be more prone to making choices that lead us down dangerous paths, depression, and despair. If we don’t understand our own value, then how will we recognize when others devalue us?

My Story

From my early childhood, I heard, I sang songs about, I believed – Jesus Loves Me. I heard about God’s goodness, His promises, and His love for me – going so far as to allow His Son to die for me on the cross so I could be with Him in heaven. Of course I wanted Him in my heart. I thought if I was good, then I would see good things in my life, that the promises I heard about were meant for me.

However, even though I grew up in a Christian home, there were a lot of things that weren’t good. Even though I was in church all the time, singing in the choir, memorizing verses, praying, obeying my parents, and trying to be kind even when others weren’t, I didn’t experience peace or gain confidence. In fact, many things seemed to reveal the opposite of what I thought was supposed to be true. This mostly came from the way other Christians acted towards me, my family, and even within my family. Additionally, I observed that men were considered more important as leaders and for their strength. I was a girl, too small and insignificant to matter. I was not valued. The result was I didn’t trust or believe God’s promises were true for me.

God has taught me over the years, that is a lie. During college, I was torn between wanting to please God, pleasing myself, and others. Sometimes the lie – that I really didn’t matter – won. Sometimes, I was able to hold onto the hope that I did matter to God. Overall, I lacked the confidence in knowing how much God really loved me. I don’t want you to have those doubts, and I want to share with you God’s word that reveals the truth.

  • Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB) The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring (you) quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.
  • Ephesians 1: 3–8 (HCSB) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

It has taken me a while to recover from the lies I believed about myself, and my place in God’s family. As a woman who fears the Lord and who seeks to live by His wisdom, I am more precious than rubies. I am honored by God, and I am honoring God.

The Big Question (Personal Quiet Time)

  • Do you think God values you?
  • Do you feel valued by God? How?

Sometimes, we have to dig deep, searching as for buried treasure, or go through trials that are difficult, but when we sincerely, and determinedly seek Truth, the outcome is a treasure – a pearl, and each pearl is unique. Don’t forget to look at the scriptures surrounding the ones referenced to get a better idea of the context in which it was used. Doing so gives you a more complete understanding and allows the Holy Spirit to teach you in a personal way.

Dig A Little Deeper (All HCSB)

If you want to learn more about what the Bible says about our role as a wife, take a look at these verses specifically about being a virtuous wife: Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:14; and Ruth 3:11. There is also a book, Your Captivating Heart, by Stasi Eldredge. I found it very inspiring, and I use it when I fall back into the trap of undervaluing my role as a woman and wife. On pages 118 and 119, she explains the search for the best definition of the Hebrew phrase, “ezer kenegdo,” used in Genesis 2:18 when God makes Eve. It comes to mean, “desperate helper,” as in a helper who is desperately needed – not a desperate housewife!

There is so much to say about our value as women, in society, in the church, as individuals, wives, and mothers.  That would require several posts – maybe this coming summer. . .

Many of the verses I include do talk about women who are wives; however, I don’t think we have to wait to be married before being valuable to God or implementing what makes us wise women.  We are valuable to Him because He created us.

Sisters, you are valuable and precious to God, no matter what the world says. And we would be wise to remember that!

 

Purity

***As an update, my mom’s surgery went very well, and she’s doing great.  She still has a lot to do to adjust to her new situation, but I know she can do all things through Christ who gives her strength!***

A few years ago, I wrote a Bible study I wanted to do with my daughter’s age group. She was nearing the point of graduating high school and about to head to college and adult life. I kept thinking about all the things I had tried to teach her over the years, and I wasn’t sure I had done a good enough job. I wanted to deliberately put together the lessons with scriptural foundation as a sort of reference source, or arsenal of truth that could be brought out when needed. As she was beginning to make a lot of her own adult decisions, I knew some of the battles that she would face – things she would have to deal with on her own. I wanted to do my best to help prepare her with Godly wisdom.

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I am so blessed to be her mom!

 

**Please know this, I created this study from the perspective of my own experience and Bible study. I am not a theologian and do not have a degree in ministry. I pray that as you read and consider the questions, thoughts, and scriptures, you will allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through God’s word. Whether you are younger or older, may you be encouraged and draw closer to God according to His will.

As I considered the themes of each lesson and gathered the scriptures I knew applied, I learned a lot about myself. I found I was challenged in my own spiritual journey even as I was writing from experience. Realizing the lessons I compiled for these young ladies were still just as relevant to my current stage in life, I decided I should look at them again. This is the first time I am revisiting the lessons since then, and I am adapting the lessons for the blog. I know there will be some revising. I also expect fresh insight and applications as I go through them with you.

The lesson themes are: Purity, Value, Hard Work, Money, Beauty, and Kindness. Each lesson was designed for group discussion and private reflection with additional scripture references and questions to think about over a week’s period. Since we’re doing this online, take your time with it. You may share with others if you would like to have your own conversations. Keep a journal if that’s your thing.

I hope you will interact by posting comments. I do read and approve the comments before they are published, so if you submit a comment and there’s no response right away, just know I may need a little time to get to it. I should be able to do so within a day.

So, without further ado, here’s the lesson on Purity!


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Purity in Spirit

The objective here is to understand more fully what it means to have a pure heart, completely dedicated to God. Purity is more than abstaining from sexual behavior outside of marriage. It is more than just being good, which is often hard enough. Our righteousness comes through our faith in Jesus Christ. Our sanctification comes with growing in faith, knowledge and experiences. Having a pure heart comes from being open and willing to follow God’s will through whatever trials will make us stronger.

Proverbs 31: 29 – 31 (NIV) “Many women do noble things,
 but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
 but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done,
 and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of when you hear the word, “purity?”
  • What is purification?
  • Who is pure?
  • Describe some things that are refined and the processes that they go through.

If we are all born into sin, how can any of us have a pure heart? That’s the whole point! We can’t – not on our own. We can’t ever be good enough in our own strength. We can’t earn anything, we can’t give enough, we can’t serve enough, and we can’t be kind enough. Our activities do not make us pure. It is only by the grace of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, that we can come to have a pure heart.

  • Psalm 12:6 (HCSB) The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times.
  • Titus 3:5 He saved us – not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
  • Psalm 51:10 – 12 (HCSB) God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.

Questions To Consider

  • Once you accepted Jesus as your savior, were you able to make all the right decisions and avoid sin?
  • Do you get tired of trying to be good?
  • What matters more, what you actually choose to do, or your thoughts and desires?
  • Does God see a difference?

Why It Matters

The distinction between what we do and what is in our heart is significant because our actions originate from what is in our heart and our thoughts. Without a heart that is seeking God, our desire to do the right thing is coming from the strength of our own will. We are constantly in battle between the desires of our flesh and the desires of God’s spirit living in us. Our desire to be able to live in our own strength is at odds with trusting God. You can’t do both. And when temptation comes, we won’t have the ability to withstand it if the strength we are using is from the flesh. The selfish desires won’t stand against other selfish desires. It is our constant dilemma in being Christians. God knows this, and that is why He has given us a way through Jesus Christ, the Scripture, His Holy Spirit, and each other.

Let’s look at this dilemma as recognized in scripture.

Romans 7:14-20 The Message (MSG) I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

My Story

Towards the end of my college years, I read a book, Passion and Purity, by Elisabeth Elliot. After reading it, I remember thinking it would have been better if I had read it earlier, like when I was in high school. In it, Elisabeth describes the courtship between her and Jim Elliot, a missionary. They were truly dedicated to waiting for God’s plan and timing to work out in their love for Him and each other. They didn’t know what was going to happen. When I read it, I realized that even though I professed to love God, I didn’t completely trust Him with all parts of my life. I did not have a pure heart.

It has taken a long time for me to understand the things that kept me from trusting God. It has taken a long time to allow spaces for God to show His love for me in different parts of my life. What I’m sharing now is an exercise in that trust and faith. I am giving space for God to use what has been broken in my heart and challenging in my life to encourage and shine a light for you to see how to go forward stronger and more confidently than I did. God has been so patient and gentle with me. I am learning every day how to trust Him more and in more parts of my life. I want you to see it now, at the beginning of your adult choices.

It comes down to this word from me to you. Having a pure heart means you trust God in all areas of your life. Gaining a pure heart means you have to go through trials that will show areas of weakness in which God will renew and strengthen if you let Him. A pure heart means crying out to Him when you are weak, when you mess up, or when you feel lost and alone. Having a pure heart means joy and praise as you worship the One who made you and loves you best – laughing at the days to come. Trust and faith in the certainty of God’s love for you will give you the confidence you need to be a woman as described in Proverbs 31.

Be encouraged, it doesn’t matter if you’ve already made mistakes, those are opportunities for you to let God work in those areas. Step forward with confidence. Be it choosing a college, a career, or a spouse, God is with you wherever you go. His love endures forever. Run to Him, pray and seek Him in everything. Watch as He creates a peaceful, loving, joyful and beautiful spirit in you. You are a daughter of God!

The Big Questions

  • Are you willing to let God create in you a pure heart even though it may sometimes be hard?
  • In what areas do you recognize that you aren’t really trusting God?
  • In what ways has God shown you His faithful love?

Digging A Little Deeper (HCSB)  The following are supporting scripture references that you can look at during the week as you ponder what purity means.

  • The Book Of Ruth – About purity and loyalty
  • Psalm 73 When we see things around us that make us feel foolish for pursuing purity
  • Jeremiah 29:13 When you seek me and find me when you search with all your heart.
  • Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
  • Colossians 3:10 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator.
  • Acts 15:9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.
  • Hebrews 10:2, 14-17, 22-25 Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshippers, once purified, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?; For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after He had said: This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts, and I will write them on their minds, He adds: I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts. 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled (clean) from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promise dis faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away form our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
  • Romans 5:3-5 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
  • Daniel 12:10 Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.
  • 1 Peter 1:3-9 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 2: 12 – 15 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, (enabling you) both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life.
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Love and Loss

I’ve been pretty quiet for the past few months, but it’s been for good reasons.  School is intense, but I am doing well. There have been plenty of times I would have loved to share some insight to what I’m learning in my school counseling classes, but I haven’t had the time to put into a post the proper effort.

It’s been a year since I first began my blog, and although I’ve had a dry spell in posting, I haven’t given up. I hope to begin a series in January based on a devotional Bible study I wrote a few years ago. It isn’t anything too big, and it certainly wasn’t published. But, I put a lot of time and heart into it, and I think the blog is just the right place to share it a little at a time. So look for new things in January!

Right now, though, I just need to make it through the cold, dark days of the beginning of winter. I have never enjoyed the cold or short days. I much prefer the sunshine! At least the Christmas season is made more beautiful with all the lights and candles.

Mosaic Candles

This Christmas has been difficult for a number of reasons – but to sum it up with two words – loss and absence. The loss of one family member seems to bring to completion the loss of another, both of my in-laws are home together no longer dealing with pain and suffering. Bittersweet grief.

Our family is scattered, and this compounds their absence by not being able to physically be together and keep traditions. There are other losses that are difficult to handle because of the absence as well. Today, my mom undergoes surgery to have her foot amputated. I can’t be there.

So, here is a bit of public acknowledgement of praise and gratitude for peace, for love, for family, and truth.

My husband and I married each other 23 years ago. Our wedding was planned in just a few months time because we didn’t want to wait to get married, and I really didn’t care about too many of the wedding details. I just wanted to be married to him. One thing I wanted, though, was a small Christmas tree made out of tulle with a symbol of the present love and the promise of our future. Something that would be brought out each December to remind us of our wedding day and the love we shared. My mom helped me cut up her wedding veil and create this little Christmas tree. We glued small little “love knots” all over it, and each year, I put it out with our Christmas decorations.  The tree and the love knots represent to me the bonds between his family and me, our new family, and generations of love.

Anniversary Tree

My husband’s dad was his best man. His mom encouraged me, loved me, and provided wisdom that will be passed down through generations.

In counseling, there is a philosophy called “existentialism”. You may have heard of it. One of the things about existentialism is learning how to cope with being alone, the kind of loneliness that even when you are surrounded by others, you still feel alone. This philosophy resonates deeply with me because of all the times I’ve had to move. The times of not being known, the losses of friendships and opportunities to keep building relationships required I deal with existential issues.

Even now as back then, my source of strength is found through the promises of scripture.

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells the disciples in the great commission, “I am with you even until the end of the age.”

In a promise to Israel, God says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

I used to sing the words of an old hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus” to get through some lonely times growing up. Amazingly, I just learned the story behind the lyrics include separation as well. Here’s a link to a brief background of the author, Joseph Scriven –

https://reasonabletheology.org/hymn-story-friend-jesus/

In the end, “love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13: 8). In all this loss and absence, I hold onto this promise.

As an adult, I have friends who are supportive and kind.  I am so grateful for them. I have family whom I love. The physical distance is irrelevant.

1 Corinthians 13: 12-13 “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I will know fully as I am fully known.  Now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

I am grateful for the love that has existed in the past, the present, and the future.  Amen.

 

Rights, Right, and Righteous Indignation

I am an idea person. I have all these great big ideas, but I am rarely in a position to actually make many of my ideas happen. And right now, I have this idea, but I’m not really in a position to make it happen.

You see, like many of you, I have been following the current debate over the protests related to “taking a knee” during the National Anthem at the beginning of football games. Personally, the older I get, the more emotional I become when I hear the National Anthem played, especially since I understand what our freedom means after living outside our country. Many people whom I love and know have served in the military, and I love the United States of America.

Because we live in the United States of America, we have unalienable RIGHTS as stated in the Declaration of Independence and specifically in the Bill of Rights, to freedom of expression.

Yet, many people do not think the protests are being done in the RIGHT way. This then leads to RIGHTEOUS indignation by parties on both sides of the issue. And that is not the only issue of disagreement. Every subject seems to bring out strongly expressed opinions.  My heart is so heavy when I see so much mean and hate-filled comments.

But wait, this article is not a political post. And my idea is coming.

See, we have become a nation divided, and there are so many different sides and issues with people engaging in RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION over the absolute certainty that they are RIGHT and the other side is wrong, that there is no room for grace and mercy in our interactions.

I follow the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s First 5 App, Proverbs 31 First 5 app, and this morning’s devotion was on Lamentations 3:40 – 66. Lamentations is about suffering due to disobedience, and yet, still finding hope. I like to read comments, and I read three that gave me an idea. Darline spoke about moving forward even when things are hard and taking that next step, Diane referenced Elisabeth Eliot’s radio programs and Ms. Eliot’s encouragement to “Do the next thing” when feeling overwhelmed, and Sonja included a prayer asking that we could take a knee to pray and not protest.

So, here’s my idea, or my question. . .

What if we organize some sort of Christian response to pray on our knees for our country and ask for forgiveness?

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people would humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive them and heal their land” (NIV).

Our land is definitely broken, and in our righteous indignation, we are practicing pride. We feel justified to judge and criticize.

In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are given the first commandment, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” In Matthew 22: 37 – 40, Jesus expands on this while being tested by the Pharisees, “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most import command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

As Christians, we are to love God first, and others second.  Yet, it seems expressions and acts of Christ’s love seem to occur more rarely than judgmental and angry statements.  It feels like were being manipulated into a false sense of self-righteousness and defensiveness. Perhaps we have made being RIGHT more important than loving others.

I don’t currently attend any football games, and I don’t know what it would look like to be able to do this without adding to the disrespect to our flag if done during the playing of the National Anthem, but it’s an idea. Maybe it can be done before or after a game. Or maybe at a specific time, like even during halftime. I don’t know. It’s an idea.

What would it mean to have such a public expression of humility and prayer for forgiveness? What would it mean for Christians, and what would it mean for our nation?

Maybe this idea is something someone else knows how to implement. I’m just saying, we aren’t heading in the right direction with all this pride. Let’s continue to pray for one another and treat each other the way we are commanded – with the love of God.