Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Proverbs 31--Days 9-11

Okay, I didn't quite fall off the wagon, here, but it's been really tempting! Between working hard on prioritizing properly and getting criticized for not giving more to others and then going on vacation and not having internet access to post and then the aftermath of vacation, let's just say it's a struggle to get back into the practice. But here we go . . .

I actually typed out my S. O. A. P. for last Thursday, day 9 of the study, and now I'll copy and paste it here:

·         Scripture: Proverbs 16:20, 28:25, & 29:25

Proverbs 16:20—Whoever gives thought to the word [or matter] will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

Proverbs 28:25—A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.

Proverbs 29:25—The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

·         Observations: Trusting in the Lord brings blessings, riches, and safety; however, these terms are defined differently by God’s people (those who do trust in Him) than others. I don’t think I’ve ever associated strife with greed, but I know that I often when my attitude encourages less-than-peaceful interactions, it’s been prompted by my desire for having my own way.

·         Applications: I think it would help me to call my “strong will” and “independent, driven personality” as what it is—sinful greed. Greed isn’t just about materialism and money, after all. I think I excuse this mindset in myself all too often. If I want a peace-filled home and desire to raise my sons to be selfless servant-leaders, then I need to demonstrate the fact that I truly value the kinds of blessings, riches, and safety God promises when I truly trust in Him rather than my own fulfilled desires.

·         Prayer: Lord, help me to see my sin for what it is and recognize how I’m failing to trust you when I care more about my own desires or how others perceive me. You know I’ve struggled with this greatly this week, and You know that Satan would love to have that victory in my life. Help me to be willing to sacrifice my own prideful selfish ambition for the sake of others’ good and Your well-deserved glory.

Today is Wednesday, but I'm only on Monday's reading, so here's my day 11 S. O. A. P.:

  • Scripture: Proverbs 31:12, 1 Kings 11:4
  • Observations: Good versus evil--such a constant struggle, not just on a cosmic level but an individual heart level. I don't want to even admit that it's sometimes a temptation to do him "evil." While it's easy (and true and expected) to say I love my husband more than anyone else, I also know him better and can more easily become frustrated with his shortcomings--after all, I know those better than anyone else, too.
  • Applications: Lot's wife and Job's wife come to mind--and let's not forget about good ol' Eve! It's amazing the power we women can have over men. Of course, men of integrity can sometimes stand up even to our "womenly wiles," but we're still responsible for the influence we weild--or attempt to weild. (As a side note, I love how Dannah Gresh discusses this issue in "Secret Keepers"--the best book on modern, feminine Christian modesty, ever, but so much about feminity and the nature of sin, as well!)
On a side note, over our little vacation, I did finish reading an excellent work of fiction that made sense of the old adage about fiction sometimes holding significant amounts of truth. I'd highly recommend "By the Light of a Thousand Stars" by my college creative writing teacher, Jamie Langston Turner. It's more than a literary success--it's a story of life-touching-life and healing and all sorts of other winding pathways exploring biblical womanhood and goodness and godliness. Yes, it's really that good! It helped me recognized some sinful thinking patterns and ugly aspects of myself that I might not have realized through any other means.
  • Prayer: Lord, you know that sometimes I let my grumpy, discontented attitude spill over into my words and let them attempt to influence the godly man you've entrusted to me. Help me to be like the woman of Proverbs 31 and be a source of grace in his and others' lives.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 8

Okay, I've been writing like a feind today (10 articles! That might be a record for me! And I still fed and bathed my boys, played outside with them, did 1.5 loads of laundry, and went to church tonight! Amazing!) so this will have to be brief.

Day 8 S. O. A. P.:

  • Observation(s): One of the areas in which I know of many women who aren't trustworthy is in the area of finances, so it's interesting that the proverb about how foolish it is to trust in money is included in today's reading.

  • Application(s): For a brief hiccup of time, I was a Mary Kay "beauty consultant," and I'll never forget how appalled I was when the director in my area discussed what she called "the husband unawareness plan," which was a payment method we were encouraged to promote. Basically, women could pay part of their beauty bill in cash, part with a credit card, and part with a check. Pretty sneaky, huh?

    I'm glad my hubby and I have joint finances, and we track all our expenditures in a budget form, so I'm not even tempted to try to do such things! At the same time, I'm thankful that our budget allows for some "mad money," because we all need to splurge on chocolate or a manicure now and then, right? :)
  • For some reason, I've always thought about the "idea of trusting in riches" as something like trusting in them for the future or basic needs, but some life experiences have encouraged me to think of what my deceptive heart lures me to sometimes do--trust in them for happiness, security. "If I could just have XYZ, I'd be content." Yeah, right. The Devil is such a liar! And if I trust God instead of putting my faith in material things for my happiness, I'll be less likely to even entertain materialistic yearnings that could prompt me to go against my husband's wishes with my spending.

  • Prayer: Lord, help me not to believe Satan's lie that my security is wrapped up in finances, and help that knowledge to keep me from even being tempted or longing to be anything but upfront about my spending, so my husband can feel secure in allowing me to make wise choices of which he approves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 7

Day 7 S. O. A. P.:

  • Observation/Application: The idea that I as a wife am called to be a "good thing" or God-given blessing to my husband is definitely a challenge. While this definitely has various implications for different women, I'm pretty sure we all know what our husbands consider "good things."

  • Prayer: Lord, help me to be mindful of what my husband desires and considers good and selfless enough to be that to him, even when it means not being or doing what I would prefer. I know that by laying down my life for others, I will be most fulfilled as a woman and as your child. Help me trust you enough to do that instead of vying for my own way, the way you know I tend to do, all. too. often.

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 6

Here's yesterday's blog post, complete with an encouraging video from Angela at Good Morning Girls.

Yes, I'm a day behind, and hopefully I can rectify that by the end of the week. (Yesterday, I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. I did accomplish much, by the grace of God, but by evening, I had so little mental energy that I literally came close to arguing with my husband that 7 would be fewer than 6!)

This post really made an impact on me, and I've read part of the ebook mentioned. I'm finding that ending my day, however long and tiring it is, with a clean kitchen is truly key to starting out the next day well--and even at my exhausted, numbers-confused state of mind last night, I'm glad I went to bed with a clean kitchen!

Day 6 S. O. A. P. :

  • Observations: Pairing these two verses together was interesting. The contrasting thought in Proverbs 12:4 is quite an ugly picture: "She who shames him is like rottenness in his bones." Jewels or crowns speak of royalty and offset a person's already fine appearance. Rotten bones seem to refer to weariness and illness.

  • Application: One way in which I can "shame" my husband is when my attitude is less-than-content. I also struggle with selfishness far more than I care to admit. Another way is by not having our home organized and clean, and this is something God has been chipping away at me about through our serial moves in the past 2 years. I may have a ways to go, but I'm far less of a pack rat and more diligent of a home organizer than I've ever been!

I'd like to describe a little bit of my recent journey toward more effectively running my home:

  • Some came as a direct result of living in smaller spaces (amazing to think that a year ago, we were crunched into a 2-bedroom apartment that was smaller than the main floor of the home where we now live, and 2 years ago, we had 2 bedrooms total, in my parents' house--that after having a 4-bedroom house with an attached 2+ car garage at our disposal!) and moving (once you move a box a couple times and still haven't opened it, what's the point?!).

  • Some came from financial hardship that led to my starting to work part-time from home as a freelance writer--yes, even to afford our little apartment. (Pastors of small churches don't typically get paid very much, but those with an advanced degree in such a field looking for secular work aren't often offered high-level positions or salaries in the world, either.) That  huge addition to my to-do list required me to become more organized with my time. (Our resolve to have me prioritize the home was truly tested during that time--I'll write more about that, someday.)

  • During the fall "semester," I attended a women's class at our church in Madison, Wisconsin, based on this inciteful book by Carolyn MaHaney (wife of C.J. Mahaney). Terrie, the Bible study leader, encouraged us at the close of the class to come up with a couple homemaking goals for the new year. I had never been challenged to develop my homemaking skills or create goals. As a fairly goal-driven person, this gave me a renewed sense of purpose in my chosen and God-given full-time career.

  • Just like my dear friend Terri brought up in her introductory lesson in the class, this post discusses determining priorities and sifting out what doesn't belong in our lives--not that what we filter out is necessarily "evil," just that sometimes it's not the optimal use of our time, money, energy, etc., given our stage and station in life--and that's constantly changing, isn't it?!

  • My first goal was to get into freezer cooking for the sake of our family budget and nutritious needs. (We all have crazy days, and mine typically meant having easy, pre-packaged frozen meals on hand or diving into fast food--options we still sometimes do, just not nearly as often!)

  • Once we moved here to Linesville in January (a major answer to our prayers and desires, in so many ways!), I knew something had to give. My husband's much different work schedule meant that we'd have more together time, but that also dipped into what was formerly my prime writing time. Add to that, opportunities for ministry I hadn't had in a while, and I've really had to get organized if I wanted an opportunity to pursue my writing, at all.

  • After getting moved in, I started experimenting with freezer cooking, helped largely by this awesome Christian blog. You can see many of the pages I've printed and filled in for my "homemaking notebook" on my "I can get organized!" Pinterest board. My notebook is a full-sized 3-ring binder that includes sections for calendars (& flyers and invitations), medical information, coupons, my address lists, and then ideas I want to use. (I once had separate places and methods for all of that, but it's really handy to have it all in one size and place. I also have a half-sized binder for recipes, and most of them are all typed out and in plastic sleeves, like the larger ones I use in my homemaking notebook.)

  • I still have yet to get something official in line re: my other goal from last semester's class: setting up and implementing a cleaning schedule that includes weekly, monthly, quarterly tasks. (You can see a form I downloaded re: daily routines from Money-Saving Mom site on my Pinterest board I mentioned, but there it sits, with a few handwritten notes scrawled on it. You can also see a link to her "4 Weeks to a More Organized Home" series, which I followed semi-faithfully.)

  • Prayer: Lord, thank you for putting those seeming obstacles in my life that have actually become stepping stones that would encourage me to become a more virtuous woman that is an asset to my husband rather than a shame to him and to You. Please help me to be encouraged by how far your grace has brought me this past year, in this area of being a home-manager, and help me to continue to improve and master the skills with whch you've equipped me to serve You, my family, and others.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Making of a Good Works Quilt

I spoke at our church's "Mother's Day Banquet" last Satuday--what an honor to be asked! I was also on the program team, so I had part in deciding on the theme. If you know me, you know how much I love themes! We chose a patchwork quilt theme, and it came together beautifully! So much work went into every detail.

Our theme verse was Titus 2:7a, but the main verse I used for my challenge was 1 Timothy 5:10, a little gem I discovered sometime this winter. In some ways, it's an outline of the characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman, but I've never heard this passage used for a ladies' challenge--and I've heard more than a few!

I wasn't originally intending to publish these notes, but I thought maybe someone could benefit from them. If you want to use them as a springboard for a Bible study or challenge you're giving, I'd be happy to provide you with the PowerPoint I used (including the above graphics), as well. Btw, in case you're wondering, "Character Cameos" were brief first-person descriptions of the women mentioned, performed by women from our church.)


What is a successful woman? What does success mean to you? I’ve heard it said that the main difference between Super Man and Wonder Woman is that at some point, most men have stopped believing that Super Man is real.

Depending on which women’s magazine you pick up, you may see a successful woman portrayed as a flamboyant fashionista, a sparkling socialite, or a decorating diva.

If you find yourself closely resembling any of those ideal images, you may feel pretty good about yourself. However, if you know you don’t measure up, you may feel inferior. Or perhaps you’re the type of woman that doesn’t care about such unrealistic expectations: “I am who I am,” you say with confidence. Whatever your response to the world’s idea of success, I trust that we all desire to evaluate our lives according to the measuring tape of His Holy Word.

The difference between the world’s idea of a successful woman and God’s expectations, as shown in Scripture, is similar to the difference between an intricately designed pattern quilt made for show and a traditional patchwork quilt. The patchwork quilt originated in 1800s America, not for decoration but for a purpose. Fabric from old blankets and outgrown clothing was repurposed (upcycled, if you will) and pieced together into a quilt that would keep loved ones warm at night. As Christian women, we’re all equipped to do more than “sit pretty” in church each Sunday and be “good girls”: He wants the kind of good that works.


Let’s explore this idea of “the making of a good works quilt.” We'll look at 1 Timothy 5:10, where an honorable woman is described as follows: “Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”

Background of passage: Describing worthy widows, women deserving of God’s (and the church’s) approval and financial support

How many of you can multi-task? How many of you have forgotten how to single-task? Sometimes simply planning our family’s menus can be overwhelming, while we consider the sometimes conflicting priorities of nutrition, budget, time-management, and personal preferences. Many women face chronic fatigue, and some of that is because we try to do it all—not over a lifetime, but Every. Single. Day.

We can get burnt out easily when we do this to ourselves. I did this with my first quilt—to-date, my only quilt. Let’s not do this to ourselves or one another as we build our “good works quilts.”

Before you start to get overwhelmed by these biblical principles, keep in mind that this “good works quilt” you’re making isn’t your project for this weekend, this month, or this year. It’s the project of a lifetime, a resume of sorts.

2 Timothy 2:15—“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

“Rightly dividing” has the idea of measuring, cutting, and piecing together, much like you would various fabrics in a quilt. Paul, after all, was a tentmaker. He likely pieced together camel skins in order to make tents. Wisdom is skillful application of biblical truth; “rightly dividing” both God’s Word and our own lives in order to piece together a life that glorifies Him. 

Consider which good works God has best equipped you for, with your unique background, spiritual gifts, talents, and current life stage.

2 Timothy 3:16-17—“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Good works are the end use, or purpose behind studying Scripture; knowledge is not enough. God wants the kind of good that works.

Let’s look at some of the “works” God had in mind when He designed us as women and equipped us as believers.

As we look through them, you may think that some of the most obvious applications may not apply to you, at your age and your situation. But be creative—there are ways you can apply them!

The first good work listed in this passage is the idea of raising children. What better example to consider than Mary, the mother of our Lord.

·         Brought up (raised) children—Mary, the mother of Jesus—character cameo

Of course, not all women biologically bear children. Note that while the idea of having one’s own children to care for full-time is the implication of this verse, I praise the Lord for many women who do not have their own children but purpose to impact other children in their families and in their church.

For young women today, you’re growing up in a culture that promotes the pursuit of self-centered dreams and careers over a commitment to marriage and family. You should know that when it’s your kid, the diapers are still gross, and the wakeful nights are still exhausting. But the selflessness that motherhood requires is a huge part of how God designed us as women to serve Him and receive fulfillment.

I once heard a man say that he wasn’t raised, but rather “yanked up by accident,” describing the less-than-purposeful way that his parents approached his upbringing.

Excerpt from “Why Youth Stay in Church WhenThey Grow Up” by Jon Nielson on The Gospel

The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church. The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Questions: Are you willing to live sacrificially in raising your children? Are you just rolling with the punches, focused on surviving the day or your children’s current stage, or strategically orchestrating their influences and experiences, training your children with purpose?
·         Have lodged strangers (practiced hospitality)—Tishbite woman—character cameo

This scenario was unique in that God directly spoke to His prophet, who told this woman to care for him rather than her own son. Usually, any good works should be focused on our families, first. In a way, she was prioritizing her family in that she believed that they would be blessed if she obeyed God’s Word. (Illustration of deacon’s son)

That shouldn’t be an excuse not to minister beyond our own households, but an incentive to manage our households wisely. By being industrious, we can make the most of our limited resources of time, energy, and finances, in order to have some “extra” with which to serve others.

There’s a distinct difference between entertaining and showing hospitality. This isn’t about friendship, but about ministry. (I was once challenged to think of all friends as ministries, and that would help me not to get hurt. Guess what?! It works!)

Luke 14:12-14—“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”

I’ve heard it said, “What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today.” Well, I have a new spin on that idea: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only those possessions with which you were willing to serve God today?” The tithe is supposed to represent the idea that we realize that we’re only stewards, not owners, of all that we possess.

How can you truly minister to people if they don’t let you into their lives? How can you expect them to let you into theirs, if you don’t let them into yours? Nothing represents your life like your home, and when you let people in, you invite them to connect with you in a unique way that they otherwise would not do.

·         Have washed the saints’ feet—Mary, the mother of John Mark—character cameo

Proverbs 3:27—“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”

Hebrews 10:24--"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:"

·         Have relieved the afflicted (helped those in distress)—Rahab—character cameo

Run to the problem, & be there for people. It may mean providing a meal, helping with others’ kids, writing a note, or listening or lending a shoulder to someone who is hurting. It’s being a true friend.

You can’t help unless you know the person and the situation. Getting to know people to the point that they’ll share their burdens with you takes time and intentional interaction, beyond the surface. Developing a “radar” for hurting people takes practice, intention, and opportunity.

·         Diligently followed every good work (exhibited all kinds of good works)

In that list, we have women with a variety of less-than-ideal circumstances and backgrounds—a Gentile prostitute, a wealthy single mom, an impoverished single mom, a young Gentile widow, a good Jewish teenaged virgin whose character was questioned by many. God is not concerned with your heritage or history, but with what you allow Him to piece together to create a unique patchwork quilt of your life.


Warning #1: This is not in place of trusting Christ, but on top of it.

Isaiah 64:6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Ephesians 2:8-10--For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Warning #2: This is not a contest!

“Steps To Making a Good Works Quilt”

Step 1: Measure out what you’ll need & set goals for adding to your quilt

Step 2: Cut Out some activities and priorities that aren’t part of your quilt

Step 3: Find a mentor to advise you in designing your quilt.

Step 4: Gather Materials you need for your work.

Step 5: Get to Work on your quilt, realizing it will come together, piece by piece

Step 6: Trust God to help you stitch it all together into a masterpiece!

One thing that’s great about this list in Scripture is that it kind of gives us a set of goals or lifetime “to-do list.” Whether or not we measure up to the world’s standards of glamour, we can feel satisfaction knowing that we’re prioritizing the qualities God honors.

Fringe benefits of developing a “good works quilt” include lack of boredom and loneliness that comes from the self-centered lifestyle encouraged in our world. Proverbs 31 pits the world’s emphasis on popularity and outward beauty against what’s truly beautiful: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 4

This will be another quick one. As I've been trying to more diligently follow the already-familiar example of this phantom woman, God is truly blessing my efforts! Even though I didn't get up *quite* as early as I'd planned, I was able to write 5 articles (I wrote a total of 4, all of last week, so that's major progress!), straighten 2 rooms, do 2 freezer meals in addition to our lunch (my favorite mac-n-cheese using this recipe, only I add in ham cubes) and make up some peanut butter granola for snacks and then baked oatmeal for tomorrow morning in addition to one to freeze. Whew!

(By the way, all those recipes turned out well, except that the granola was really piec-y and crumbly--maybe too much oatmeal? Everyone likes it, though, and it's great with yogurt or as an ice cream topping! Anyhow, one new chicken recipe I tried for the first time this week is
this amazingly easy one, and everyone loved it! Yea!)

Beleive it or not, everyone was taken care of and fed and everything, too, and now I'm about to snuggle with a very tired gardener who's just getting out of his shower while we watch our favorite shows!

One more thing: Here's a great post by Angela about parenting intentionally, for God's glory! (Especially if you don't have the money for a Disney vacation, this post should be an encouragement to you!) You'll also see my family's picture at the bottom because I decided to join her link-up party--yea!
Okay, without further adieu, here's my S. O. A. P. for today.
  • Scripture: Proverbs 31:7-9
  • Observation: She is teaching him to speak up for others, not on his own behalf. This reminds me of Proverbs 27:2--"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;A stranger, and not your own lips" as well as Philippians 2:3--"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." So different from a worldly focus on self esteem and selfishness!
  • Application: While I want to teach my sons to stand up for themselves, I also need to make sure to teach them to look out for one another and for others around them.

    This is an interesting thought for me this week, because I was thinking just last week about something similar, when my hubby had the opportunity to show his true manliness by pulling a man who was beating his 14-year-old daughter off of her: As much as I tend to focus on my boys' safety at their young ages (1 and 3), ultimately, I'm preparing them to be willing to do what isn't safe, for the benefit of others and God's glory. I want them to be courageous enough to run into a burning building to save a child or risk their very lives to share the Gospel.

    I really should upload a picture of my sorry first attept at homemade granola, never mind the "P" part, but my tired gardener is ready to snuggle and veg. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 3

This will be a short post--fitting, after yesterday's novella!

Here's my "S. O. A. P." for the day:

  • Scripture: Proverbs 31:5, 6
  • Observations:
    1. The idea of alcohol as a danger because it may result in a person's forgetting what's important is interesting. In fact, of the many arguments against drinking I've ever heard, this has never been mentioned.
    2. Both verses point out concern for the less fortunate ("in distress," "perishing," "afflicted"). This is truly a mark of nobility and leadership.
  • Applications:
    1. I think the idea of being distracted from what's important connects well to today's post by Courtney about the danger of rat-race living. (By the way, anyone read this book, on the same topic? Looks interesting!) I think that our busy, busy lives and overload of information and entertainment can easily become as distracting as a mind-altering substance.
    2. Even though I do tend to be politically conservative, I think many similarly conservative Christians can come across as real jerks by being anti-welfare, etc. I understand and can empathize with the idea of helping people voluntarily, rather than out of mandatory taxes, and I realize that many do abuse the "system." However, I strongly believe that we need to be cautious not to come across as uncaring about the needs of others and raise our children to do the same, not to assume anyone in need has been foolish or in some way intends to "take advantage" of others' kindnesses. That kind of cynical view is quite unlike that of Christ.
  • Prayer: Lord, help me not to forget what's really important in my parenting. May I raise my sons to be concerned about the needs and difficulties of others, whether those problems are self-inflicted or innocently endured.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Days 1 & 2

Yesterday, I started a 14-week Bible study about my hero--the woman of Proverbs 31. I've had a longstanding relationship with her, starting with memorizing the 21 verses that describe her, when I was just a teenager. (I've also read this hilarious book and done this study--anyone read the teen version? I'd love to read it and possibly do it as a young ladies' Bible study with girls at church, sometime.) This year, though, I've been convicted that I really have a long way to go in emulating her. I've made some pretty major strides toward being a more diligent home manager so far in 2012, but I still have a looooong way to go! (You can see some ideas I've implemented on Pinterest, if you have interest--ha!)

When a friend from high school put a shout out on Facebook about forming an online accountability group for this study, I jumped at it. The fact that that friend was one who modelled Christian character and the fruits of the Spirit to me at a young age made connecting with her even more appealing.

Our little accountability group includes former classmates and both former and current church sisters of mine, a one-time co-worker of Eydie's, and even a former student of mine, haling from IL, MI, MN, OH, OR, PA, TX, & WI! Life stages range from the single to young moms, moms of teens, and even empty nesters. I love the diversity!

To be quite honest, I really lack discipline in many areas of my life, including daily Bible reading. I'll do fairly well for a while, and then sluff off. I know this is terrible--I'm a pastor's wife, for heaven's sake! I've also been a beliver since I was a young child, and I do love the Lord and enjoy spending time with Him and studying His Word. I'm just more of a "binge" reader than a regular, steady student of the Word, like I yearn to be. The opportunity for accountability and community surrounding this study isn't just a bonus for me; it's a necessity.

Without further adieu, I'll link up and do my journalling. Here are links for Day 1 (Monday, May 14):
*When you sign up, you'll get an e-mail with the daily blog posts, along with the ebook, at some point. Since you won't get the ebook right away, though, as long as you did sign up, feel free to download it right away with this direct link.
Monday's S-O-A-P:

  • Observations:
    1. In the NIV, it's translated/interpreted as "listen," which seems more natural to the way we talk than the "what" in my usually preferred translations (NASB or ESV), but the fact that it's repeated gives the idea that she's really trying to get her son's attention on this one. Like most of us, King L.'s mom probably had plenty of instructions she gave her children (if she had more than one--anyone know?), but she really wanted to emphasize this one.
    2. The fact that she calls him "the answer to my prayers" is just beautiful! She's wise in reminding him of her love for him, as a precurser to her instructions.

  • Applications:
    1. I've realized in my parenting lately that by highlighting everything, I'm emphasizing nothing. If I have the same serious (or, let's be honest, LOUD) tone when telling my boys not to splash me with the bathtub water as I do when they run dangerously toward the busy street, I'm doing them a disservice. Even though right now, we're dealing primarily with safety and simple obedience issues, I need to be cautious about determining what really deserves my getting. their. attention.
    2. Sometimes it's good to remember how many answers to prayer we enjoy on a daily basis. In my busy mommy-ing, I sometimes yearn too much for quietness--which I enjoyed profusely during the years in which I ached for a husband and children.

  • Prayer: I'm not much for scripting prayers, but the prayer of my heart today goes something like this: Lord, you know that I begged you for years for these little people that regularly interrupt my meager attempts at having "me time" and make each task on my to-do list take much longer than I feel like it should. Help me to remember that they're the ones for whom I prayed and to be thankful for them, like I should. Please forgive me for my impatience and for failing to appreciate your many good gifts in my life. Please help me to emphasize what's truly important--not what inconveniences me, but what will equip my sons to ultimately prioritize that which honors you best.
Tuesday's (today's) Link from Courtney--If you haven't watched the video of her on Rachael Ray, you need to check that out! More thoughts on that and her blog post tomorrow--I've written far too much already,  for today!

Tuesday's (today's) S. O. A. P.:

  • Observations:
    1. The parallelism of verse 3 seems to imply that some women (most women?) are ones who destroy kings. I think of Samson in the Old Testament, and even the way would-be first women in the U.S. either make or break their husbands' reputations and candidacy.
    2. The idea of true masculinity is quite counter-cultural. Many men today see drinking alcohol as a sign of being a man, but King L.'s mom warns him that drinking something that would compromise his reasoning powers is not befitting of a leader.

  • Applications:
    1. Like Dannah Gresh points out in her excellent book on modesty (I so wish I'd been exposed to her Scripture-saturated approach, rather than the rules-based approach, as a young woman!), we have power as women. We need to use it for good, not evil. Although I am happily married, I'm never "above" being tempted toward impurity.  (By the way, Dannah Gresh has another great one out there about growing in purity, whatever your past. she does an amazing job of weaving the concepts of pursuing purity with God's forgiveness for past sins.) 
    2. I'm reminded that the principles with which I want to raise my sons is counter-cultural and will be criticized--that goes with the territory. I need to be "thick skinned" enough to be ready for that criticism, when it comes, maintaining a balance between being ready to answer others' questions about my parenting choices and sometimes just letting it lay.

  • Prayer: Lord, please help me to continue to grow in purity and to model for my sons the kind of trustworthy woman who will edify and support them, rather than ruin their lives. Please show me any areas where I need to be more cautious about my own purity and to be braced for the reactions that come from being counter-cultural in my parenting.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You Go, Girls!

I'm not much for holiday-ish posts because, quite frankly, I don't post very regularly anyway. So I guess it's somewhat ironic that I'm posting a holiday-ish post on a pseudo-holiday: "Sadie Hawkins Day." If you don't know anything about this role-reversal idea, you can click on the link above for an overview of its history. The basic idea is what I'm writing about, though--girls pursuing guys. Or at least showing interest in them.

I want to encourage the young, unmarried women in my life to feel free to step out and make it clear you're looking for a romantic relationship, if in fact, you're at an age and maturity level to pursue a marriage-bound relationship. (For now, we won't get into what I think that means.) 

I want to tell you a little bit about my thinking and my real-life "love story." If you know me at all, you likely know I've been happily married for nearly 6 years, now, and Jonathan and I have two adorable little boys. That also means that I was single until age 28, though, and I'd likely still be single if I were the type to sit around and wait for God to drop him in my lap! Not that being single for life is necessarily a bad thing, but if that's not what you want, I just want you to realize that it's okay to go after your dreams!

For those of you who don't know, we actually met on a Christian "dating" site called "Christian Cafe" (the link takes you to their site). Despite the constant jokes we make about "not being able to trust anything you find online" and "you get what you pay for" (I was only on a free trial--Jonathan had a paid membership!), I really think that how we met is great for the thinking person, for several reasons:
  • You have the chance to find out what the other person believes and to see if you're philosophically compatible before physical attraction and all those related goopy emotions can get in the way.
  • You literally have to learn to communicate with one another because basically, that's all you have.
  • You don't run as much of a risk of "wasting time" building a relationship with a guy who isn't interested in more than "hanging out" since travel is often required for an in-person meeting.

Like anything else, you need to be cautious because, like my dad mentioned to me, all you know about a person you meet that way is what they tell you. You do need to check up on that.

For those of you set on waiting for a guy to make the first move or waiting for God to literally drop him in your lap, I wonder if you feel the same way about a degree program or career. Did you wait for those to come to you, or did you get out there and pursue what you desired? Just sayin'.

Here's how it worked for me. When I went on Christian Cafe, there were about 3,000 guys. When I narrowed the search to "Baptists" and those who don't drink or smoke and were within a few years of my age (and taller than I am, and maybe a few more qualifiers), the field narrowed to 30. Two of those guys were in the church I was attending at the time (that was a little awkward). I messaged several of them and asked them to tell me what they liked most about their church. (Not very romantic, I know!)

My Jonathan replied to that message in a very thoughtful way, and thus began our first weeks of dialogue (or grilling each other, however you want to term it!). He was a youth pastor in Oregon at the time, and I was teaching at a Christian school in Michigan. We had both attended Bob Jones University for 3 1/2 of the same years, but we'd never met. (We're still finding out about mutual friends and acquaintances--crazy!) Our first phone conversation was in April 2005, he flew out to meet me in June, and I flew to Oregon in August, which is when he officially proposed. We were married in March 2006.

Nearly six years later, I'd consider us one of the many on-line love success stories! God has taken us up and down some windy roads, but we're thankful to have each other and, of course, our two little balls of energy!

I'll tell more of our story in another post, but the main point of this one is to encourage those single Christian girls out there to feel free to make a move, today on Sadie Hawkins Day, or any day!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Our Home Sweet Parsonage--A Pictorial (& Video) Tour

Well, I figured that if I kept waiting until everything was completely decorated and how I want it, I'd be waiting until my hair's completely gray (and no, I don't have ANY . . . yet!), so I settled for doing this when it was at least clean.

It's been just over a month since we moved here to Linesville, and we absolutely love it here! After getting completely out of boxes in just a few days, some minor illnesses and just plain L-I-F-E has gotten in the way of my big plans of getting completely settled in within a week. You'd think we'd have this whole moving thing down to a science by now, but the whole moving-out-of-state deal comes with some extra challenges like new bank accounts, insurance, drivers' licenses, etc., etc., etc. Oh, well.

We absolutely love our new church family and have had so many opportunities for fellowship with them, starting the day we moved here. We had 3 or 4 different offers for people to watch our boys during while the big stuff was coming in, and after I dropped them off at another home, I came "home" to about a gazillion (okay, maybe just a couple dozen, but still!) helpers that had already unloaded the majority of our belongings. They even helped set up and make our bed and unpack about half my kitchen. They'd burned a lot of boxes before we left to go down the road to the church for a fabulous dinner prepared by others in the church.

I must admit: It was a little odd having people whose names I didn't remember (and had met only once or twice, in the past couple months) asking me where to put furniture pieces in a house I'd briefly toured in late November, but hey!

Without further adieu, here's the grand tour of the first floor:

When you come in the front-ish side door (there is a front door, but there's no real access to it--weird, I know), you come in through (drum roll, please!) the coveted spacious mud room!

If you were visiting in person, you could sit down and take off your shoes or boots (depending on the day of the week or time of day, this crazy winter!) and then hang up your coat on either the wall-mounted rack behind the door, to your right, or on the rod to your left. Either way, you'd then want to follow that well-placed carpet remnant to your left to what was once the side door.

Once you walked through it, your view would be something like this one, with the arched doorway slightly to the right of being directly in front of you:

Don't you just love the white trim and chair rail against the tan walls?! We do! And note the berry swag you can barely see above the arched doorway--I just had to put in that Pennsylvania touch--along with candles in my windows, of course!

The window-type opening above our extra-long sofa leads to the kitchen, so it's a semi-open layout. (And yes, I know that there's a hole in my photo arrangement--like I said, I'm not done yet!) By the way, to the right of that incompletely decorated wall is the door to the pastor's study.

(As a side note, we are adjusting to his working from home again, never mind the first-shift-ish and somewhat flexible schedule--there are both positives and negatives to all of that. It's especially hard for the boys to understand that when Daddy comes out to get a cup of coffee or something, he's not really home. One way we've tried to explain it to them is to tell Caleb that the play room is his office. I love it when he tells me he's working in his office! lol Then, today, he told me that the kitchen was my office. How cute is that?!)

Moving on, if you were to look to the right of the door to the study, here's what you'd see:

If you stood in front of the door to Jonathan's study, here's the view as yo look a little to your right (just past the arched doorway you saw before):

In the top right corner, you can see our nonfunctional front door in front of which is the staircase to the upstairs, which includes three bedrooms (two of which are very spacious!) and a large full bath that includes a ton of storage. (Maybe I'll give you a tour of that sometime next month. . . . if there's any interest.)

Standing at the same spot, here's what you'd see if you looked a little to your left:

You can see the (second) door you came in, there to your left. And sure, it's a little quirky to have a window to my mud room, but that's obviously where the house once ended. Besides, window treatments are in the works, and I just love having that informal but highly functional entryway!

Might I point up our new electric fireplace? It's my Valentine's Day/Anniversary/Mother's Day/probably a few other holidays gift from my man! Ain't he the greatest?! We had the TV on the bookshelf you already saw, until we bought that last week, and now the pictures need to be rehung because they don't look quite right, but that's okay!

Okay, back to the tour. If you turn to your right and walk through the arched doorway, turn to your right, and you'll be in my kitchen! It's not huge, but it's not tiny, either, and there's plenty of cabinet space--woo hoo!

Past that is our dining area. It's a little too white for my taste and the valances were here when we came but don't quite match my not-yet-hung decor, but alas . . . these things do take time! Anyhow, if you were to walk through the doorway and look to your left, this is what you'd see:

Walk along the counter on the left and look back the other way, and here's the view:

If we moved the buffet, we'd have room to use all four leaves to extend our table for plenty of guests. By the way, that back door is functional, and it leads to a small cement landing with a few stairs to the spacious, evergreen-shaded back yard.

Why don't you walk over to the side window (the one not along the same wall as the back door) and look out. Here's what you might see (depending on the day, this odd-ball winter):

Yes, there is a creek and plently of wooded space out back--such a great place for two boys to explore as they grow up! Now, jump back in the window, and turn toward the kitchen, and you'll see one of my favorite spots inside the house:

I must give credit to Jonathan for this brain child--if we hadn't used this little nook as a coffee corner, I'm sure it would be wasted space--speaking of space, this place has TONS of storage, like the cabinets placed below the coffee pot!

Back through the kitchen, I must point up a feature I just love--no, not the old-fashioned phone--the pantry! I've never had one of these before, and I just love having the extra space to stock up on food. Our church family did a pretty good job of getting us started out with plenty of canned goods and some easy meals, so some of those are still in there, too.

Okay, going back to the living room, when you came through the arched doorway, you turned right to come into my kitchen. If you'd gone straight, you'd go into a small full bathroom (sorry, no pics--it is clean, though!).

If you looked to your left, you'd see our basement door (it's unfinished and has a low ceiling, but we're grateful for the storage space and washer and dryer down there). Like all the interior doors downstairs, the door to the basement has a fabulous vintage doorknob with a (working) keyhole you can peek through, like this one:

To the left, just past the basement door, is the door to my favorite place in the whole house--the play room! (Originally, this was one of two bedrooms in the house--so glad they added on!) But we'll save those pics for another post. For now, you'll have to settle for the sneak peak in this very amateurish, completely unedited 4-minute video tour linked here.

Thanks for popping over to see our new home. We're very grateful to the Lord for providing it and to Calvary Baptist Church of Linesville for all the hard work they've put in to keeping it up for nearly 6 years without a pastor to live in it.

Hope you'll visit in person sometime, friends! Just give me about an hour's notice, and I'll even feed you. :)