Voices of Encouragement

As women of faith, how often do we really encourage each other? Do we allow others to see that we need encouraging? Or even better, do we even realize we need encouragement?  I didn’t.

yellow daisy flowers in bloom

Photo by Brandon Montrone on Pexels.com

At the end of last month, I had the privilege of attending a woman’s conference that was hosted by the organization, Voices of Encouragement (VOE)  VOE Logo

 

Now, how I came to be there is an interesting story. I have a neighbor, Edna, whose daughter is the same age as my son. When our children were both in high school, they hung out together, but Edna and I never really seemed to find the time to connect and get to know one another. We were friendly, saying “Hi,” when our paths crossed, but we didn’t really have too many shared activities. I had heard about some kind of vague reference to her starting a non-profit to encourage women, but I didn’t really think it was relevant to me.

tobymac-main

Then around December, I was looking for someone to go to a concert with me, someone who might enjoy the kind of music that is not typically appreciated by many middle-aged women. I timidly asked her husband first if this musician was someone my neighbor enjoyed, and was pleased to hear that yes, she did like the musician, and she might be interested in going to the concert.

 

We finally got together to discuss the concert plans, and in the course of our discussion, we began sharing and finding more things in common. For example, she wrote a Bible study devotion for her youngest daughter to take with her to college. She had it published, shared it with me, and I found it to be quite perfect for the busy college freshman’s life. I shared with her that I had written a Bible study for my daughter, and I shared it with her as it is published on this website in the form of the Daughters and Disciples series.

From this conversation, Edna invited me to attend the VOE conference as her guest, and encouraged me to consider what else God might want to do with this blog and the Daughters and Disciples.

So, I went.

The theme of the conference was on Wisdom, Wealth, and Wellness. These are similar to the themes I wrote about in Daughters and Disciples. The speakers were amazing, the women were very accepting and welcoming, and yes, I was encouraged.

See, I was sitting at a table with a group of women who were invited for one particular reason or another, and none of us knew each other. As we began to share how we came to be there, I tried to describe how it was that Edna thought I should come and referenced the blog. One of the women asked what it was called, and I said, “Moving Forward in Faith, but I know that’s not very original. I am looking for a better title.” And let me tell you, my apologetic, I know it’s not very good, disparaging comment did NOT go over well with these women. Lovingly, but firmly, they responded that I should embrace what I have done, and keep “moving forward.” That really stopped me in my tracks, and I realized that I have not developed the confidence in what I’m doing nearly as much as I thought I had. I didn’t even realize I needed encouraging. So, even while I am in the midst of my final semester of getting this school counseling master’s, I realize I cannot just stop posting, even if I can only do so once a month.

VOE Table Photo

There are two things I want to share with you that different women shared at that conference. The first is an affirmation statement by J.L. Bolton, and the second is a poem by Anita Gill-Anderson.

The affirmation statement inspires me because I know the unkind thoughts, the tendency to disparage and devalue my work, are habits I need to break. I haven’t written my own affirmation statement, yet. But, I will. Just read it and see what I mean –

Spiritual Affirmation 

 

My life is a mess,

There’s just so much stress!

NO, those thoughts are history,

I now live in victory! 

I’m fearfully, wonderfully made.

On me, holy hands have been laid.

My help’s from above,

I’m redeemed by his blood

Sometimes there’s attacks,

But then there are comebacks!

With those I grow stronger,

Defeat is no longer. 

God gets the glory,

For my winning story. 

Plus there r twisters,

He gave me some sisters – 

I got V.O.E.

To always lift me. 

With God on my side,

There’s faith in my stride. 

The devil…wants me brokin’ 

But JC, he ain’t jokin’

I AM said I AM,

I AM J-L Bolton!

 

I am thankful that Ms. J.L. Bolton allowed me to share this with you. What if we all reminded ourselves of the things we know to be true? What things do you need to remind yourself of each day?

Anita Gill-Anderson has given me permission to publish the poem on this blog, and she asks that if anyone would like to share it, to please make sure you give her the proper credit. If you would like to contact her directly, just send me an email, and I’ll share your contact information with her. (The comments button is at the top of the page, and direct messages can be sent to me on the Contact page.)

Here is the link to her poem, “W” to the 5th Power “G”

The first line is, “We are Wise Women Who Walk With God.”  It’s powerful.

I am so thankful for Edna and the other women I met at the conference. If you want to see what else is happening with Voices of Encouragement, go to the website:   voicesofencouragment.com

The next conference is scheduled April 27, 2019. You’ll be blessed for sure!

Kindness Counts

nature-sunflower-plants-summer-597039.jpeg

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. 

pexels-photo-712098.jpeg

 

 

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?

pexels-photo-120271.jpeg

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.

Haters Gif

 

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

Read on . . . .


Confident with Strength and Beauty

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1a32

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?

summer to christmas 2005 083

Strong and Confident!

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

pexels-photo-567983.jpeg

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!