Thursday, October 3, 2013

Advice to the Bride, My Wedding Gift to You

Dear Daughters,

I'm so excited that you are reading this letter, as it means that you are on the brink of marriage.  The days leading up to your wedding day are full of excitement, worries and lists of things to do.  You glow when you think of your betrothed.  His smile shines when your name is mentioned in his presence.  Your wedding dress is hanging in your bedroom and you can not wait to put it on and wear it for him to see.  In your quiet times you wonder what it will be like to be his wife, to wake up with him by your side, to fix him breakfast and spend an entire day with him.  And each day flies by and brings the day you walk down the isle one day closer.

I hope and pray that your preparations for your wedding day are small in comparison to your preparations for being a life time friend and help-meet to your husband, because the wedding is just one day, but marriage is for a life time.  Marriage is the biggest influence in your life as to your happiness and joy besides your love and commitment to serving God and bring glory to Him in your life.  Marriage can enhance your relationship with God and be used of Him to glorify Himself through your relationship with your husband.  But it doesn't always.  But I won't dwell on that now, our world is full of examples of marriages that have failed miserably, so I do not need to spend anytime dwelling on that.  I want to share with you the things that I have learned that have made my role as a wife a blessing to myself, my husband, my family and brought honor to God.  I know there are so many books to read about being a help-meet, a loving wife, a devoted fan of your husband and so on, so I'm not going to deal with generalities.  I'm going to share with you specifically things that I have learned and implemented as a wife for nearly 30 years now.  If you haven't read it yet, I have lots of general "preparation for being a help-meet" in my earlier post, Honoring Your Father, Loving Your Husband, so you might want to start there.  I might overlap here, but I'm going to be doing this a little different, in light of your impending wedding!

But, before I do that, I think I need to share with you why I think I should even do this.  What qualifies me to even begin to share anything for your benefit (besides the fact that I am your mom, if that is the case!).  When I married Daryl, I knew a few things.  I knew how to cook a handful of meals, I also had some rudimentary homemaking skills, and I had some idea of what makes a man enjoy a woman.  But I was not well prepared.  I had a lot to learn!  Through the years I've made my share, and then some, of mistakes.  But I've also done many things right (some of those came from learning from my mistakes!).  But now, 28 1/2 years later, I am happily married to my best friend.  I still want to share things with him before anyone else, and I'd rather go on a date with him than have a girls' night out!  Daryl and I enjoy doing many things together, and we even chat online while he is at work (I try not to keep him from working though!).  We talk on the phone during his breaks, and if one of us is not at home it feels like something is missing and everything is out of order.  In a day and age where over half of all marriages end in divorce, and many other marriages are not exactly paradise, I believe that my relationship with my husband qualifies me to give advice to anyone who asks (and even those who don't ask!).

So, where do I begin?  Well, most importantly, the best thing you can do for your marriage to become/remain strong in your relationship with your Heavenly Father.  Having a regular time of reading the scriptures and talking with Him is ESSENTIAL to a happy marriage!  Your husband can not possibly meet all your needs, or even some of your needs - that is God's job...but more on that later!  You will need to cling to your Savior as you ride the roller coaster of early marriage.  Run to Him when things do not go as planned.  Beseech Him for wisdom for each and every day.  Pray for grace to carry you through the difficult days.  And Praise Him for the good days!  If you haven't yet, please read my letter, Becoming a Woman After God's Own Heart for more on growing in your relationship with your Heavenly Father!  If you do nothing else for your marriage, guarding your daily time with the Lord should be it.

One of the first lessons I learned as a young wife was that using birth control pills was ruining our marriage.  I had mood swings and PMS so bad that I was beginning to think I was losing my mind.  So that is my first advice - don't even go there.  The risks associated with hormonal birth control (and there are pills, implants and other ways to get hormonal birth control) are very scary, and most also allow fertilization of the eggs, but do not allow implantation causing miscarriages instead of preventing life.  I recommend not using any form of birth control except that only one that really works - God!  It's 100% accurate - you will only become pregnant when it is in His design and plan for you and your husband!

The next thing you can do for your husband is to begin to pray for him daily.  A few years back I read the book The Power of a Praying Wife, by Stormie Omartian, as well as her other books on similar themes (praying parent, praying woman).  I purchased some journals and started writing out my prayers.  As a busy mother, this was indeed very handy, as I could be interrupted by my children and yet get right back to where I was and what I was praying for!  I have one journal for my general prayers (prayers for myself and my friends or any urgent prayer requests), and one for Daryl, and one for each of my children.  I rotate through the children's prayer journals (there just isn't enough time in the day), but Daryl's prayer journal comes out every time I have my quiet time.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in our marriage is that I came to marriage with the mindset of what I was taught in all those princess movies and romantic movies - that my husband would be my knight in shining armor and we would live happily ever after, because he loved me and would meet all my needs.  WRONG!  I learned the hard way that our world is out to deceive young women to believe that lie!  What better way to set up a marriage for failure than to come to it with unrealistic (might I say sinful and selfish) expectations!  As I mentioned earlier, that is God's job.  But beyond that, be sure to keep a close relationship with your parents, siblings, friends and church body. Your relationship with your husband is second only to your relationship with God, but you still need the support, prayers and encouragement from your greater circles of relationships.

Daryl and I agreed early on that we would never publicly ridicule or insult each other, and that we would not share each others faults and foibles.  This is a wonderful thing to do.  We even try to never bash the other general sex - so often a group of women will bash men/husbands in general, even when those men/husbands are present and hearing the comments.  Uphold your man, support him even when he is not present.  Never say anything derogatory about him to anyone.  If/when you are struggling with something in your relationship with him or something he does drives you mad, first pray for you to accept him as he is and that God would change you/grant you grace.  You might also read my other letter, Dealing with Daily Frustrations and Trials for more on that.  Then, if you still need to, talk with him about it in a loving way.  If that doesn't make any headway, privately and lovingly talk it over with your mother or mother-in-law (she did raise him and many times sons are very much like their fathers!).  But remember, that God made your husband exactly the way he is, and only God can change your husband.  It's your job to see what God is doing in your life through each and every circumstance.  It is not your job to change your husband, that is God's job alone!

Something that I took a long time to learn was that marriage was not a 50/50 proposition.  It's 100/100.  Many women expect their husbands to "do their part" around the house.  This is a recipe for a disaster.  For a great marriage, both husband and wife need to put 100% of themselves into the marriage, not expecting anything in return.  And even when one of the marriage partners is a totally failure, if the other partner is 100% committed, that marriage can still be a good marriage.  God talks about marriages like that in the Bible, and says that even an unsaved spouse can be won to Christ by the godly life of the other spouse (I Corinthians 7:12-14)!  If you expect anything from your spouse, you can and will be disappointed.  If you never expect anything, then anything they do will be a blessing to you!  For more about this, you can read my other letter, Great Expectations!

A big part of being 100% committed to making your marriage work, lies in the bed.  Literally.  As a wife, your job is to meet the needs of your husband when it comes to intimacy.  And visa versa.  But this can be difficult during times when you are experiencing poor health, fatigue, pregnancy, the newborn stage, toddler, long school days (if you are home schooling), teenagers (they keep you up late), and other life stresses.  Did you notice that I included basically all that can be included in being a wife through the years?  There always seems to be something that makes me tired at the end of the day, or not wanting to wake up early in the morning.  But that does not give me an excuse to withhold what my husband needs.  Granted, there are times of critical health crises, but those are the exception.  Give your husband what he needs when ( or at least close to when) he needs it and you will never regret it.  When you are lacking enthusiasm, that's OK.  It's not about you - it's about him.  It's your job description.  Read I Corinthians 7:1-5 if you don't believe me!  If you do not meet the needs of your husband, you are opening him up to temptations and you do not want to be the cause of that.  And he will love you all the more for it - even when you are less than enthusiastic, he'll know and he'll appreciate that you gave of yourself for him even when you would have rather been doing something else, like sleeping.  I know, I've been there more times than you can imagine (remember, I've been pregnant 14 times now!).

Please, do not manipulate your husband.  There are so many ways that women can manipulate men.  Using excuses to not meet your husband's need for intimacy is the NUMBER ONE NO NO!  I can not urge this enough.  Never use intimacy as a bargaining chip.  It will destroy your intimacy.  There are many other ways to manipulate.  Pouting, the silent treatment, flirting, whining, nagging.  You name it, some woman has done it to get her way.  But the rewards are dismal.  Getting what you want by manipulating your man will never satisfy you.  And it will cause bitterness in your husband.  Just don't do it.  If he does something that hurts you, lovingly tell him.  If you need something, lovingly ask him.  If he is not meeting your needs, prayerfully, lovingly and humbly share this with him.  If you have been wounded and he does not recognize it, admit it, or ask for forgiveness, forgive him.  Christ has forgiven all your sins, so don't hold your husbands faults against him.  You can choose to forgive him even if he doesn't ask, and even if he doesn't change or ever plan to change.  Remember Christ said that we are to forgive 70 X 7 for the same offense.  That means that you husband do the same thing that hurts you over and over again, and you should still forgive him.  That's a tough thing to do, but as I have heard it said by our pastor, "God's Commands are His Enablings."  If God tells you to do it, He will enable you to do it.  So when you feel unforgiving, as God to give you forgiveness and wisdom and He will do it.

Another temptation for many young, and not so young, wives is to put your children first.  It's so easy to allow your husband to drop down a notch or two (or three or four or....) when you are busy with the blessings that God sends your way.  Children have a way of being impatient and demanding your attention right now, and being in your face about it.  Never allow your children to interrupt your conversation with your husband.  I have failed so many time with this, but I'm doing better as I get older and have so much practice at this!  When your husband is at home and wants to converse with you, give him your undivided attention as much as you are able to (granted, a screaming baby is not exactly conductive to a great conversation, so do what it takes to be able to pay attention as quickly as possible).  This is one very important way you can daily make your man know that you are number one earthly priority in your life.  You will reap the benefits of a lifetime for this one little thing you can do for your husband.

Another way to make your man know that he is your priority is to stop anything you are doing and go great him when he comes home.  Show him that you are glad that he has returned home.  We try to do this everyday, and Daryl will expect it, but sadly, I forget at times.  Take a few minutes before he comes home and brush your hair, drink some water, do something that refreshes you and greet him with a kiss and a lingering hug.  It helps to release the tension of his work day!  And ABOVE ALL, do not bombard him with all the details of your day!  Even if there was a crisis and there is pressing/urgent business to attend to, it can wait a few minutes at least.  Allow him time to defuse, rest and recover - imagine yourself settling into a warm bath after a cold day, it's like that.  He's had the rush and stress of his business day all day and he's finally home - his home - his place away from the world.  Let him think that home is heaven for at least a few minutes!  If he is greeted with the cares and woes of home life every day the moment he comes home, his ride home will be not one of great anticipation, but of reluctance to face the onslaught of domestic crises.  Even if you are tired and have had the worst day of your life, take a deep breath when you hear him pull into the driveway, put on your "I love your more than life" smile and great him like he is your prince charming...the rest can wait a few minutes.  Better yet, wait until after dinner if at all possible before launching into the list of crisis!

Now, I want to talk to you about something you can not even imagine every happening right now.  Loving your husband even when you are not completely infatuated with him.  Right now you can not imagine ever losing that wonderful glow of being "in love."  But that is yet another lie that our world has gifted to us.  You do no "fall in love."  Because if you can fall in love, then you can fall our of love.  To fall into something means that the something is a noun.  But LOVE in marriage (and any human relationship) is not a noun, it is a verb.  It is an action.  Love is something you do, everyday.  Love is something that you need to do even when you don't feel loving towards your spouse.  Real love means rubbing your husbands back while he is sick, making breakfast for him when you were up all night with a colicky baby, overlooking the mess of a toothpaste tube, again, picking up his dirty laundry from the floor, again, and washing it, putting the his clean clothes in his drawers so he can find them in the morning, even though just lifting your arms feels like you are lifting weights.  You get the idea. It's the little things that show that you love him.  Meeting his needs even when your needs are unmet.  Doing the things for him that you know will make his day better, even if he doesn't realize it.  Granted, during times of sickness, these little things need to be left undone, but in the general scheme of things, remember to show him your love in the things you do for him and the things you overlook too.

And lastly, please "date" your husband!  This will help so much in keeping the glow in your relationship.  And it is doubly important when things are not going as well as you want, and when life is busy with babies and children!  Make a regular time of going out together.  If your budget is tight, get some grandparents to babysit (yep, I'm volunteering), and make a picnic (eat in your car if it's winter!), bring a game and just enjoy some quiet time together.  You could even just do this at home, but make it special in some way - candles, music.  And when you can go out for "real dates" - dinner, movie, dessert, long walks, bowling or whatever you enjoy doing together.  It's so important to keep your relationship close and alive, especially when life gets so busy.

I hope this letter is not a downer, I know I've had to share some of the many things that can make keeping your marriage strong and healthy difficult, but it is the difficult times that will make your marriage shine or crumble.  What good is a good marriage if it can't stand the test of trials?  Standing together through the tough times, the every day irritations, and the good times will make your marriage a wonderful thing.  You relationship to your husband will improve with the years.  He will become your prince and you will be able to see past his faults and see the heart of a champion - your champion.  He will value you more than any other earthly prize, for he will have found one of the best prizes in this life, a godly wife.

So enjoy your wedding day.  Make the most of your honeymoon.  Appreciate every day that is trouble free, and remember my advice when you need it.  And thank God every day for the blessing of your husband.

With All My Love,


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Book for All My Daughters

No, no new letter yet.  But I have something just as good!  Last fall I was asked to contribute to a book about childbearing years.  The authors all have two things in common.  They have all given birth throughout their childbearing years.  Some had many children (like me) and some had only a few, with long time spans between having babies.  The second thing they all have in common is that they are women of faith.  Faith in the God of the Bible, and they each recognize that He is the author and creator of life, and that God uses our childbearing years to create us to be Christlike.

Relinquishing control (or perceived control) of our bodies to the creative work of pregnancy and childbirth has many correlations to the walk of a believer.  We have to take a back seat in order to really see the glory of what Christ is doing in us.  If we fight against God and choose to give in to our natural desire to control our lives in any way, then we are not allowing God to be Lord of our lives, and we will suffer for it.  If in no other way, we suffer from stress.  Because we are not God, we are not created with the ability to control most things, so when we try, we are putting stress into our lives.

Anyway, all that to say that this book is a great collection of stories.  Stories of faith and trust.  Stories of learning to recognize God's hand even in times of difficulty.  Stories of triumph and stories of intense heartache.  I wish all women of faith could read this book and learn of these women who have, in so many ways, "Been There, Done That."

Three Decades of Fertility was released in paperback and E-book on July 29!  You can use the link near the top of the right side bar for ordering (I will get a commission on your order so thanks in advance for ordering using my link!  With two trips to an Eastern European to rescue Priscilla, I'm sure any extra income will come in handy!).

But without further ado, please watch the trailer below, and click on the image in my side bar to read more about this book, and get a sneak peak at some of the stories, as well as other parts, of the book!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Daughters....

I know this isn't a "letter", but bear with me as I have some very exciting news about my daughter, present and future!

We will be adding to our list of daughters in two ways this year.

First (at least probably first) we will be adding a daughter in law!

Engaged 6/8/13
Jeremy and Sam  (as she prefers to be called), first noticed each other over a year ago. Jeremy spent a few months getting to know her father (more like her father getting to know Jeremy) about a year ago.  Last December, Jeremy was given permission to court Sam, and she was very happy to be courted by Jeremy.

Just shy of 5 months of courting, Jeremy planned a very special day at a local park.  At the previously planned appointed time, his brother, Jonathan, would "disappear."  Jeremy very sweetly asked Sam to marry him, and she agreed!

There is no date set yet, but the ring is gorgeous - Jeremy did an excellent job of picking it out all by himself!

Photos courtesy of Sam's sister, Ali's Shutter Bug Photography Blog
Needless to say we wholeheartedly approve and are so proud of Jeremy in being such a godly young man and seeking to glorify God in this and every area of his life.  Sam has been raised in a family very similar to ours, and I am sure she will be an amazing help-meet to Jeremy.  Her heart for the Lord and homemaking is wonderful to behold.  We look forward to adding Sam to our list of godly daughters!

And secondly, we are in the process of adopting Priscilla (we will be giving her a new name once she is officially ours).  You can read all about our adoption on my new blog, A Seventh Sister!

(yes, I "photoshopped" that bow - I also changed the "blue" to lavender!
I just couldn't stand to see her in boy colors!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


My Daughters,

I want to share my heart with you about living simply...being content in whatever financial situation God has place you in.

I would love to be given the trial of riches, but so far my Lord has not seen fit to send me this trial!  I say that to be funny, but in many ways it is true.  I can be so easily tempted to desire for more than I have been given.  It's so easy to worry about tomorrow and how we will pay the bills and make ends meet.  I am slowly learning that this is not what God wants me to be doing.  He wants me to trust in Him, in His provision for me.  I need to remind myself so often that He knows what is best for me and my family.  If this means poverty, then so be it.  If this means riches, then I hope that I will be a good steward of all He blesses us with.  We seem to always be somewhere in the middle.

Money, finances and stewardship are talked about in scripture a lot:
Proverbs warns three times against being surety for another person (6:1, 11:15, 17:18) as well as warning against borrowing (Prov 22:7 "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender").

Jesus told the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14 - 30) .   Jesus also told a parable about the man who hoarded his wealth, storing it up in barns, yet he died before he could enjoy his wealth (Luke 12:17 - 12).
Paul stated emphatically in Romans 13:8 "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law."
Paul also admonished Timothy of the potential evils of loving money in I Timothy 6:10 - " For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
Jesus said in Matt 25:29, "For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. "

First and foremost, I want to share with you about tithing.  God required the Israelite tithe 10% of everything.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that God loves a cheerful giver.  Out of thanks in our hearts for all the God has provided for us, we should give back to God from our "first fruits". Give to God (via your church of Christian ministries) first from your income, then pay your bills, and live/save from what is left.
Next, let's talk about debt.  Going into debt to purchase something is really showing a lack of trusting in God.  I know that sounds extreme, but I believe it to be true.  If God had wanted you to get that item, He would have provided the resources for obtaining it without incurring debt.  Being content with what He has provided can be a very hard thing to do, but it is so important.  If there's something you need/want but don't have the funds to purchase, pray about it.  Pray that God would provide the means to get that item, or that He would cause you to be content without it.

The one possible exception to this rule is that of housing.  Owning a home is nearly impossible today without borrowing money, but some have been able to do it.  I recommend looking at other ways to acquire a home without borrowing money, or borrowing as little as possible.  Living in a low rent home while saving up the money for land, and then building using cash would be the ideal.  You could even live on the land saving the money that would be spent on rent.  This can be a very real sacrifice and can make the day to day living difficult at best, but I have known of people who have done this successfully.  I have also known of people who have purchased a home that was in need of lots of fixing up, so the cost of purchasing was low, requiring little or no borrowing of money.  Then they fix it up and sell it for a substantial profit once it is in great shape, and then they do it all over again, with a larger/better home.   That way they work their way up into a beautiful home that meets the needs of their family.  This takes a lot of hard work, but can be very rewarding.
Living below your means, whenever possible is the ideal. 

 Keeping your living expenses below your income will keep you out of financial troubles.  If you can save a portion of each paycheck, then you won't be caught when large expenses, unforeseen, show up.  This can also prevent you from being tempted to borrow to purchase, as why would you borrow money if you have money saved up?
Keeping your living expenses low can be something you work at everyday - turning out lights when you leave a room, turning down the thermostat, making things from scratch instead of buying them store-bought (like bread, cookies, ice cream, pizza),  staying home more/combining trips to lower fuel consumption, using cloth diapers, feminine pads, washcloths and napkins instead of disposables diapers, pads, paper towels (reduces waste too!), use natural and alternative medicines when appropriate to save on the cost of doctor visits, shop once or twice a month instead of every week, do without instead of making a special trip to the store for a missing ingredient, give up luxuries like eating out, espresso drinks and pedicures...look through your bank ledger and see where you are spending your money and be creative in trying to reduce all expenses. Make it fun - see how little you can live on, recording milestones like "our power bill just hit a new low record"!

Budgeting can sound like a bad thing, having to stay within your budget can be a downer if you don't have the right attitude.  But a budget can be a powerful tool!  I highly recommend using a computer software program like Quicken to keep your bookkeeping.  There are many functions in the program for you to use to track your spending.  I also recommend that you keep it up to date as much as possible - recording your expenses at least weekly.  This can also help you plan for bills and recurring expenses, and allow you to project your income and expenses for the next week.

After tithing and monthly bills like rent/mortgage payments, power/gas, water, garbage have been paid, what's left is called discretionary spending. Discretionary money needs to be allotted for items like savings, food, clothing, household items, fuel/licensing for vehicles and such.  Saving up money can be challenging at times, but if you make it a priority it will be such a blessing.  I'd suggest you have an account set up that will automatically put a certain amount of money into your savings account every payday.  Or use cash every week for shopping and put any left over money into savings (we never seem to have anything left over so that doesn't work for us).

When it comes to clothing, you can save so much when you get creative!  I suggest that you never buy new unless you have tried everything else first!  I also suggest that you make use of your local consignment store.  Turn in clothes/toys that you don't use anymore, and use the credit to purchase what you need there, or take the credit out in cash and use it to shop elsewhere.  Be picky about what consignment shop you use, as some of them are not reputable and may close their doors, take your stuff and cancel your credit (this happened to me once!).  You can also store clothing that you are not using now, but might again someday.  If you're a mom, then save the out-grown clothes that are in good condition to pass down to your younger children.  When you need something, shop at the consignment shop where you have credit first, then go to the second hand stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army.  You can also make use of garage sales, but they can be hit and miss as far as finding the right clothes needed, plus you might lose some of the savings if you use a lot of gas to go running around to the sales.  When we went to garage-sales frequently, we'd check the ads and make a map of what sale we plan to go to, making the least amount of running around.  This saved time and money! One other way to save if you can't find what you need second hand, is to go to the discount stored like TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning or Ross where they have close out items marked way down, but sometimes it can take a lot of time to find what you need there.   You can also get household items there as well, but go with caution as this can be a place of great temptation to impulse shop - purchasing something just because it's such a great price, but it's not what you were shopping for!

Another expense that can get out of hand quickly is groceries.  I've heard that some people stop at the grocery store every evening to purchase what they need for dinner and the next days meals, or they eat out for every meal!  Crazy!  The best way to handle aquiring the needed food for you/your family is to plan ahead!  Never enter a grocery store without a list and/or hungry, you will purchase items you don't need and waste your hard earned/saved money!  Set aside one day a week to plan your menu (I do this the same day I do the bookkeeping), using your local grocery store ads/coupons and big store coupons to help you decide what you will have for meals. I have found it very helpful to have a list of the items I usually purchase at different stores and list the usual price. This helps with budgeting and I can also use it as a reference to find out if the grocery store "special price" is truly a savings over the regular price at the big stores like Walmart and Costco. I'd also recommend that you keep an inventory of what you already have, update that weekly, and try to make use of what you already have when you create your menu.  I hope to install a dry erase board on the door to our garage to have an inventory in sight of the items in the garage fridge and freezer to help with this.  It might also include a list of what's in the pantry too.  

Once you are ready, put together your menu for the length of time between shopping trips, using your inventory and good deals to help come up with ideas for the meals.  If you have an inventory item or great deal on something you are not sure how to use, go to the internet and search for recipes that use that ingredient - we did this recently and found a wonderful bean soup recipe - Pinterest is great for this!  I like to include all meals in our menu, plus a list of snacks as well.  Then you create your shopping list from your menu, making use of the sales/coupons that you have found.  If you live far from the big stores like Costco and Walmart/Target, you might want to budget in such a way that you can make a big shopping trip once a month, or twice a month, and get only perishables at the local grocery store in between.  This can save a lot of time and money, but it takes a lot of planning to have enough cash on hand to purchase so much at once!  We also keep a running list on our dry erase board of thing we notice we need (especially staples like flour, salt, sugar or things like toilet paper that we don't purchase regularly), and use that to help us get everything we need each week, hopefully eliminating extra trips to the store in between shopping days.

Once you have your menu created, it's time to compile your shopping list.  I like to use a computer spread sheet (Open Office is a great, free resource for this) for this using one column for the item name and the next column for it's approximate cost.  This way I can program it to come up with the totals for each store for me and it makes for easy editing if the list goes over budget.  I like to put my list for each store in the order that I usually shop - for example, putting the produce/dairy/dry goods all together and in the order I go through that particular store as this helps prevent missing an item or having to spend more time and energy to go back through the store for an item I missed.  I often make up my lists by hand (not on the computer), but I usually end up writing it twice or it's quite a mess by the time I'm done due to edits or adding items missed on the first run through.  When I think I'm finished with my list, I read through my menu again to be sure I have all the items needed for the meals, and take a quick look at our staples to try to make sure we have everything on the list that we need.  Then it's time to see if the shopping list is within our budget.  If it isn't it's time to get creative.  You can reduce your grocery list to meet your budget by changing the meals selected to lower cost meals, removing items that are not truly necessary, purchasing smaller amounts (like getting a smaller pack of toilet paper from the grocery store instead of the huge pack at Costco).  If your list is on the small side, consider just going to the local grocery store and then you can use what you save on gas for more food items (this works better if you live a ways from the big stores).

One way we have recently found to add to our available food, especially produce, is to join a gleaners group.  We go there 1 - 2 times a week and come home with at least a box full of produce/breads for less than $15/mo!  It takes a little time and effort, but it's well worth it as produce and breads can break you budget faster than anything (besides meat)!  You can also find out where to glean in farmer's fields throughout the summer months.
And then there is preserving of food.  This is a great way to provide for your family!  Purchasing produce and meats in bulk when the price is good/it is in season and then preserving it for future use is a great way to reduce your costs, especially if you can grow/raise it yourself or glean from farmer's fields!  Canning, freezing and dehydrating are just some of the options for putting food up for later.  If you haven't learned how to do these, or don't have the equipment, find someone who does and learn from them/borrow their equipmenc (or learn via the internet/Youtube videos) and work toward being able to do it on your own - it's well worth the investment of time and energy!

One last category of living expenses I'd like to talk about is that of vehicles - cars, trucks, recreational vehicles.  I highly recommend purchasing your cars used and do not owe anything on them.  You'll pay far less in car maintenance and repair than you would ever pay in car payments with interest.  Also, by owning your vehicles outright, you are not required to have comprehensive car insurance on your cars and this lowers your insurance expense more than you can imagine.  Due to the high price of gas, think twice before leaving the house, and try to use the most efficient car for errands whenever possible.  I would recommend never purchasing a new car, or even a newer used car.  Shop around, get a mechanic to look over a car you are interested in, and l Learn to do some of the repairs/maintenance yourself - oil changes, for example, can be done yourself and save a lot through the years, and find a local, reliable auto mechanic for the big jobs..  Shop around for the best deal in auto insurance if you are required to have that.  I suggest that older children don't get a driver's license until they can afford to pay for their auto insurance so that they learn that responsibility goes with the privilege of driving.

There is one gift from God that we can all too easily take for granted and squander needlessly - Time.  Many times in scripture God tells us that our time on this earth has been set by Him - we can not add to it, and no one can snatch us from His hand - no death is early as God is in control of our time.  Living in fear of sudden death is unbiblical, but living like you'll live forever is too.  Each day is precious, every hour priceless.  No one knows how many days have been allotted for that lifetime - some live only a few hours/days/months, others live a hundred years or more.  Live like everyday might be your last, because it just might be.  Don't squander your time on fruitless activities (movies, video games to name a few) but try to make every moment count for your gain and His glory.  Invest in the people in your lives, invest in the pursuit of godliness.  I'm not saying that recreation is evil, and that you can't ever watch a movie, but be careful in the choices you make.  Start every day asking God for wisdom to use your time wisely.  Try to plan your day by making a list of things that need to be done, but also be willing to be interrupted, as God quite often will interrupt our day to bring blessings (like a little child wanting to go for a walk or a friend calling to get together), but if we are so set on our plan for the day we might miss out on a blessing.

Now I'd like to talk about stewardship for what God has already blessed you with.  It's so easy to take for granted what you already have - your home, your vehicles, your furniture, your clothing, your food, your equipment, your time and your health.  All of these are blessings from your Father in heaven and they each need to be cared for in order to preserve them and make the most out of them.  Repair things when they are broken, mend clothing when they are torn, eat left overs before they rot, properly clean and care for your kitchen appliances, and use your time wisely. Exercise, take vitamins, get proper sleep and eat healthy to preserve your health.  Thank God for His provision and show your thankfulness for taking good care of what He has given you to show yourself faithful and He will reward your faithfulness.

 I saved this for last, but it really should be first.  If you have a need, pray about it!  So often we worry and fret over our budgets and things that we seem to need.  Listen to what Jesus told us in Matthew 6:

"Do not be worried about your life,
as to what you will eat or what you will drink;
nor for your body, as to what you will put on.
Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?   Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they?
And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today
 and tomorrow
 is thrown into the furnace,
will He not much more clothe you?
You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying,
‘What will we eat?’
or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

When you are in need of something, turn to the One who ones the cattle on a thousand hills and ask Him to provide for you.  Look for His provision, recognize it when it comes and take time to thank Him for it.  But also remember that He might deem it best for you to do without, or wait for a time.  This is when you must learn to be content, as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:

"...for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
I know how to get along with humble means,
and I also know how to live in prosperity;
in any and every circumstance I have learned
the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."

Be creative, make do, stretch your resources, care for what you already have and learn to be content.  Ask God daily for wisdom, self control and a spirit of contentment.  Those are the keys to learning to be a good steward.  I hope and pray that when you and I stand before my Lord and Savior that we will hear these blessed words:
"Well done, good and faithful servant. 

You have been faithful over a little; 

I will set you over much. 
Enter into the joy of your master."
 (Matt 25:21)
You have been faithful over a little;
I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master."
 (Matt 25:21)

All My Love,


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Homemaking 101

My Daughters,

I am not an expert on homemaking or housework, but I can share with you what has worked for me, as well as things I have learned about all things home-ish through the years.

The first thing about homemaking and housework is that it can be fun!  Seeing chaos turn into something pleasing to the eyes can be very rewarding.  In order to find pleasure in working around your home, you need to have the right perspective - and seeing it as just plain old work will make it tiresome.  Yes, some "chores" are very repetative and even boring if you come to the work without a good attitude, but it doesn't have to be that way.

In Titus chapter 2, Paul encourages women, both young and old, to be "keepers at home."  To me this means that women are to be the guardians and caretakers of the home.  Not that we can't leave our homes, but that it is our privilege and duty to take care of our home and make that a very high priority in our lives.  Our homes should be the one place in all the world where each member of your family wants to be to relax, feel at ease, accepted and loved.

The first part of homemaking is creating a place of refuge from the world for our loved ones and this is a great way to show them your love.  And your refuge from the world can and will be a refuge for others as well - extended family, friends and acquaintances will come to your home at different times, and if your home is pleasant and well cared for they will sense this and be able to relax, de-stress and enjoy your hospitality so much more than if your home was in chaos.

I am not talking about making your home look like something from a magazine (most of those homes do not look inviting to me at all as I'd be afraid I'd mess up the perfection just by being there!), and you don't have to have invested a lot of money either.  Using what God has provided for you to create beauty does not require lots of money, just careful planning.  I'll go more into this later.  The important part is that you work to create an environment in your home that is pleasant, both in appearance and in mood (screaming, uncontrolled children, for example, would not create a great mood - but that is for another letter my dears!).

So what does it take to make a house into a home that meets the needs of your family?  There are a lot of things to consider when trying to create a place of refuge for your family.  The most important is to consider the likes and dislikes of your family, especially the man of the house! If your father or husband hates the color green, then you shouldn't decorate using that as a primary color.  If he likes to come home to a tidy home, then making a time to tidy up before he comes home from work should be a primary priority.  Ask your dad or husband what makes him feel well cared for when he is home, what colors he likes, what kind of furniture is he the most comfortable relaxing in. Does he like a cozy place with lots of things to look at, or does he prefer a wide open room with very few decorative items.  Some men may have no idea what they like, and if that's the case, ask them to think about homes they have been in where they felt like they could relax and enjoy the company, and see what he remembers about the atmosphere, furniture and decor thatwas there.   You could even check out books on interior design and look through them with him and see what appeals to him.   Once you have some idea of what will work for him, then you have a place to start!

I believe color is very important when planning to create atmosphere!  Reds are aggressive and powerful and can lead to feelings of irritation or even anger, whereas blues and greens are calming - Check out this article about creating a mood in a room using colors.  Lots of color can make a small room seem smaller or help make a large open room seem more cozy. Pale or cool neutral colors can make a small room feel larger or make a large room feel starched or cold.  The color you use should flow through the room - paint (maybe one wall will be a darker color while the others are lighter), wall paper, borders, pillows, wall hangings, knick knacks and the furniture may be in the color(s) of the room, but having some things in neutral colors (white/black or woodgrain) or a complimentary color can really create a nice blend, and not make the room overwhelmingly one color.  You may also find a theme for the room - nature, mountains, grapes. antiques or light houses for example.  Start simple and add items to the room as you find them/can afford them and over time the room will become exactly what your family need.  Make use of second hand stores and garage sales to purchase decor for your rooms to save even more money!  Making items for the room yourself is a great way to make your room really personal too!

I found "The Homemaking Arts" blog and I highly recommend it!
But where do you start?  Creating a peaceful home can't be done in a day, and whether you are a young girl in your mother's home, a young woman engaged to be married planning her future home or a mother of many who needs to transform a home of chaos into a place of refuge it can be a daunting task.  Start with the room where your family spends the most time, whether that's the kitchen or the living room or the family room.  Start there and create a refuge in that room, and then move on to the next room from there.

If you are a young lady in your mother's home, do this in your bedroom.  If you share your bedroom with a sister or sisters, work with her/them to find a way to create a place of refuge that you both/all like.  Creating a pleasant bedroom, maintaining it's order and keeping it clean (like washing windows and walls) is a great way to prepare yourself to be a keeper of a home someday!

But what about living in this place of refuge.  Doesn't that mean that it won't remain in perfect order all the time?  I've been in homes where perfect order was maintained at all times in beautifully decorated rooms - and the children felt like visitors in their own home, choosing to hide away in their bedrooms or stay away from home as much as possible rather than risk upsetting their mother by making any disruption to the perfection of their home.  Creating a refuge for your family means that they feel free to experience the room, make a little mess at times and relax.  A place that is inviting means that it will be lived in and will end up looking lived in, but that isn't all bad!  It means you did a good job of making the room inviting and your family has enjoyed using the room together!

So that brings me to the second part of homemaking - maintaining a home!  Maintaining a home can be as important as creating a refuge in the first place.  If you create a refuge, but allow clutter, messes and chaos to take over, it will no longer be a refuge!  If you keep your home tidy, but never do any cleaning, it can and will become anything but a refuge before long (who feels comfortable sitting under a huge cobweb or walking across a sticky/dirty floor!).

I hightly recommend creating a daily/weekly/monthly plan to keep your home tidy and clean! Large Family Logistics is a great book to help you to do this.  It helps you plan your week around the things that need to be done every week in your home.  It also helps to plan for the less frequent jobs, like dusting, washing windows and spring cleaning.  A very helpful part of the book is in the back where she talks about how to keep things going around your home when the going gets tough, like when mom is pregnant, has had a new baby, or is sick,  or when a child is in the hospital.  Very practical help for any mother, whether or not she has a large family!

Cleaning the house and keeping it tidy are those repetitive/boring chores I talked about earlier.  But to make them pleasant and even enjoyable, take time while you are working to thank God for the family He has given you.  Think about the pleasure a tidy/clean room will give to the members of your family.  Another way to encourage yourself and your family to keep things in order in your home is to actively plan hospitality events!  This may include making a list of families in your church or homeschool group that you want to get to know better and plan to invite them over for a game night or meal.  This could also include planning bigger events like a potluck, a game night or a tea party.  Knowing that you will be having guests is always incentive to get things looking their best.  But remember, while you are getting ready for an event, you need to be careful not to make your home a stressful place, causing your loved ones to feel stressed about preparing for guests or making them feel like they are causing problems.  Your home will not feel like a refuge if you are stressing about the housework!

But what about the knitty gritty of how to clean a home?  I highly recommend finding ways to make your own cleaning solutions.  Research on line, ask your friends what they use.  I have found many ways to make our own window cleaner, tub scrubbing compound, counter cleaning spray and more.  I just did some online research and found lots of recipes to try!  This saves time (you don't have to go shopping) and money (homemade is always cheaper!) and will be less harmful to your health (many store bought cleaning supplies contain harmful chemicals!).  Make up a basket of cleaning supplies for each bathroom, the kitchen and the laundry room and put it under the sink, then when it's time to clean that room all your supplies are right at hand and you don't waste time collecting them.

There is no right way to clean, but there are some great helpful books and websites out there.  I did "Flylady" for a while, but found it impractical for a large family.  "Large Family Logistics" is a lot like Flylady, but tweaked to make it work for a large family.  I do think it's good to have routines in place so that in the course of a month you get everything in your house cleaned, and that way if something doesn't get done one month, it will get done the next and things stay nice looking!  The best advice I can give you is to clean up messes when they happen (this applies to dishes especially). When the mess is fresh it's easiest to clean.  Second to that is to use water to do the work for you!  If you have a sticky/dirty mess to clean up, spray it with water or water that has some dish detergent in it, go do some other job and then come back.  It will wipe right up, and if not, wipe up what will come off, spray it again, go do something else and come back.  No need to scrub, just let the water do the work for you!

Esther (2 1/2) unloading
the dryer!
The most important things a mother can do to make the workload lighter is to delegate.  As long as there are children in the house old enough to walk, there is a workforce that needs to be tapped!  Even toddlers can put away spoons, sort socks or fold washcloths!  While teaching children to do chores can mean more work for the mom at first, the benefits in the long run are huge.  For the mom is relieves her of some of the day to day workload allowing her to be more of a mom and less of a maid.  This is really important if the Lord blesses the home with more children as many hands make light work, but many bodies who don't help make for an overwhelmed mother and a crazy house.  For the children, learning to help with the housework and doing them on a daily basis is training that is so important for preparing them to take care of their own homes someday!  I believe in training my sons to do all the housework as well.  Yes, women are to be the main caretaker of the home, but knowing how to tidy and clean and do things like dishes and laundry can be very important for men.  There may be a time when he is living on his own, or his wife is ill or away from home.  When his family is young and the workload is daunting, having the young husband lend a hand in the evenings and on weekends can mean so much to a your mother!

One more trick I will share with you is to tackle big jobs a little bit at a time.  When you are facing a big mess, start in one corner and work for 15 - 20 minutes (start a timer).  Have a garbage bag, a box and a bin.  Put garbage in the garbage bag, things to give away in the box and things to put away in other rooms in the bin.  Work steadily from that corner across one wall, work diligently, leaving a very tidy path behind you, and do not allow yourself to get distracted.  When your timer goes off, leave the room!  Go do something fun or enjoyable for 5 - 10 minutes (use a timer), and then go back to tackling your big job.  If you can't finish the entire job in one morning/afternoon/day, then be sure to maintain the areas you have cleaned and tackle the rest again the next time you can!  This is especially great for areas like the garage, attic or family room (especially after an illness in the house and the housework was left undone for a while).

Lastly, making your house a home and keeping it that way will have its ups and downs.  Sometimes as a mother things get down to survival and the home can suffer for it.  When that happens, focus on just the most important things and let the rest slide.  If you can plan ahead for the tough times (like having a new baby), simplify as much as possible (put most of the toys away in the attic for example).  When you find yourself  physically challenged, overwhelmed and understaffed, try to get help.  Especially if you are injured or unable to do the work for a while.  Ask other women and/or families to come and help you with specific tasks that are beyond your capabilities.  Allow them to be blessed by helping you in your time of need.  And be willing to do the same for others when they need the help and you are able to do so - offer to help before they have to ask for it!

Homemaking can be such a rewarding part of being a keeper at home.  Do it purposefully and out of love for your family.  Make your house a home where the Lord is glorified and others are blessed.

All My Love,


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oh Be Careful...

My Daughters,

Purity has taken some hits through history.  Hundreds of years ago, those who wanted to worship God in pure, undefiled worship, completely unrestricted by the state church, were labeled "Puritans".  This was not a compliment, it was an insult. But they liked the name and took it as their own.  Many who take purity seriously today are labeled as "legalists" or worse.  I'd like to talk about purity and it's place in our lives as believers and followers of Christ.

So, what is the definition of purity?  Hagnotes definition is "chastity, uprightness of life".  Merriam-Webster defines it as "the quality or state of being pure", and defines "pure" as "free from moral fault or guilt" . Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines purity as "pure from defilement, not contaminated" and says it is from the same root as "holy".  

When I was a very little girl, I learned a song that we often sang in school that is all about purity, even though I didn't know it at the time.  The words go like this:

Oh be careful little eyes what you see!
Oh be careful little eyes what you see!
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see!

Oh be careful little ears what you hear!
Oh be careful little ears what you  hear !
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little ears what you  hear !

Oh be careful little hands what you do!
Oh be careful little hands what you do!
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little hands what you do!

It was such a fun song to sing because it had great hand motions to go with it.  The words are so good for children to learn too.  It's so easy for children to see, hear and do things that they shouldn't, and the memories can last a lifetime!  But this song isn't just for children!  We must all be very careful what we allow ourselves to see, hear and do.

Casting Crowns recently released a song called "Slow Fade", and they included children singing a verse of the "Oh Be Careful" song in it.  This song has a great message for all of us.  It's so easy to allow things into our lives that seem insignificant at the time, but they can quickly grow and take over our lives, destroying our relationship with God and our families.  Take a moment to watch and listen to this music video:

It's so easy to let our moral purity slide in today's culture, but it can start in childhood.

As children, there is a purity of mind, a naivety, that is something to protect.  While all are born with sin, babies and young children have this purity if they have been sheltered from the evils of our world.  They assume that all people are good and would never hurt them.  They haven't been exposed to corrupt things that seep into their thoughts.  At least most children.  Sadly there are many children who have been exposed to evil through the movies and music their parents and family watch/listen to, and even more tragic are the children exposed to evils purposely by corrupt adults.  But that is not what I am going to be dealing with today.  I want to talk about what we allow into our lives and the lives of those around us.

Children need to be protected from evil influences.  Images, songs, and actions that children see, hear and participate in can stick with them for a lifetime, robbing them of some of the joys that most of us take for granted.  Young adults are bombarded in our culture at too early an age with images and songs that encourage them to think about boy/girl relationships and expose them to adult temptations long before they are mature enough to withstand them.  Today homeschoolers have been accused over and over again of sheltering their children.  These critics say that when these sheltered homeschooled children get "out in the world" they will freak out - go off the deep end.  That they will not be able to "handle" all that the world will throw at them.  They would rather see us begin to expose our children to the ways of the world while they are young, so they are used to it when they become young adults.

I believe that the philosophy of the world is flawed, and that there is great merit to sheltering our children.  I have heard it likened to a green house.  When a seedling sprouts it is unable to survive in the climate outside until it is strong.  The green house completely protects the seedling until it becomes prepared to go out into the garden.  A green house is usually equipped with the ability to open the windows and ceilings, allowing in fresh air at the warmest part of the day.  The time the plant is exposed to the elements (cold, rain and wind for example) can be slowly increased until the plant is determined to be hardy and then is ready to be planted in the garden and thrive.  This process is carefully planned and controlled by the owner of the plants and green house.

I believe that our children are very much like those plants.  If they are exposed to the evils of our world without any filter or protection when they are young and vulnerable, they will succumb to these influences and their purity will die.  If, however, our children's purity is carefully guarded in their childhood, and then with careful thought and the help of their parents allowed to learn about the world around them and the evils therein, supported by conversation and teaching them go to the Word of God in order understand what God has to say about such things, our children can develop a world view that is godly and biblical and be prepared to refute the philosophies of this world and, with God's help,  stand up under the temptations they will encounter.  If parents are not careful about what their children are exposed to, and are not there to discuss what God's word has to say, they can compromise their children's purity and ability to process the world around them.  In Deuteronomy 11:18 - 19  it instructs parents saying "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul....You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up."  It is the responsibility of parents to be with their children as much as possible, teaching them the truths of God's word and applying them in every circumstance.

But how can we, as young women and older women, be pure?  What does that look like?  Let's take a look first at what the Bible says about purity:

I Timothy 4:12 says "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."

2 Timothy 2:22 says "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart"

Titus 1:15 says "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled"

Titus 2:5 admonishes women "to be sensible, pure. workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

There are several things to consider when applying the concept of purity to our lives as women.  As seen in the scriptures above, it can involve our thoughts, speech, conduct, love and devotion to God.  I believe it can also involve how we act and how we dress.  It also involves what we expose ourselves to - garbage in, garbage out, so to speak.

First let's talk about our thoughts.  It amazes me that our minds seem to never stop thinking, unless we are asleep, but even then our thoughts can effect our dreams!  Until reading the book "Loving God with all Your Mind" by Elizabeth Elliot, I had never really thought about my thoughts and whether or not I could control them!  She explained that in 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul tells them that "we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" and that in Philippians 4:8, he admonishes them by saying "Finally, my brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  It is so easy to allow our thoughts to wander!  Sin originates in the mind.  First we consider the temptation, then we think about giving in to it, pondering the sin, and then we act.  The mind is a powerful thing, and can seem out of our control at times.  But God can give us the ability to control our thoughts and turn away from impure thoughts.  It is important that we do this, because impure thoughts can and will lead to impure speech and actions.  If you wouldn't say or do the things you are thinking about in the presence of Jesus Christ, then you have no business thinking about it at anytime - remember your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit!  When you find yourself having thoughts that are not pure, quickly ask the Lord to take away the thoughts, to purify your mind, and then purpose to think on something else that is acceptable before the Lord.

One part of purity of the mind is being careful what we expose ourselves to.  Images and videos can stay in our minds permanently, coming back to haunt us when we least want them to.  Lyrics from songs can play over and over in your mind, even though you thought you weren't listening to the lyrics.  Would the images, videos, movies and songs you are exposing yourself to pass the test of Philippians 4:8?  Oh, be careful little eyes and ears - garbage in, garbage out.  If we feed our minds on the trash of this world, we can not expect our thoughts to be pure.  And our thoughts are where our actions and speech originate from.  So think twice about what you choose to expose yourself to, because you may never be able to get it out of your head.

Now let's consider our speech.  Does your speech always reflect purity?  Would someone you don't know well, but has heard you talk, consider your language and speech to be pure?  Would your speech make them aware of your faith in Jesus Christ, or would the revelation that your are a Christian surprise them?  There are many things that women participate in that can defile their speech - gossip, coarse joking, insults and snide remarks, sarcasm, flirting, and curses to name a few.  I'd like to talk about a kind of blasphemy and curses that is often overlooked.

You probably don't think you curse or blaspheme, but let's take a closer look.  Do you say "Oh my god"?  That is so common in our culture that many Christians take our God's name in vain on a daily basis.  What about using "OMG" in your texts and facebook status updates?  What about "Gee", "Golly," "Jees" and "Oh my Gosh" (Webster's Dictionary says "Origin of GOSH. euphemism for God", Origin of Golly is euphemism for God,) ?  There are more out there, but these are all derivatives of our precious Lord's name and can lead to true blasphemy.  Are these words used in a way to make our speech beautiful?  Pleasant? Or are they just substitutions for blasphemy?  I consider them nicknames, and they are a stepping stone into true blasphemy.  God does say in the Bible not to take His name in vane, but he never said we can't take our name in vane...if you must, say "man"! Let us not use our mouths to express the name of our precious Savior who died in our place in a careless way, and then use that same mouth to praise that name on Sunday morning!

"But I'd never say a curse" you say?  Do you ever say "dang it", "dang nab it" "darn" "darn it"?  Those are all substitutes for saying "damn".  Did you know that "damn" is defined as a verb that is "God condemning a person to suffer eternal punishment in hell: "To be forever damned with Lucifer".  The original phase is "God damn it," which you can hear on occasion, .  Really?  Should we as Christians say anything like that?  Is there a need for it?  These words are usually used in anger, a sin by the way.  So instead of speaking out in anger and cursing someone of something to the depths of hell, we should be asking the Lord for grace to stand under the daily frustrations (which, but the way, He has ordained for you to endure in the process of becoming Christ-like!).  What about "heck" "sam hill"?  Those are referring to hell.  Is there a need for a Christian to speak of hell on a regular basis?  And then there's the all to common "What the..." This leaves the listener to fill in the blank, and even godly individuals have probably heard the unsavory endings to this enough that their minds will fill in the blank, corrupting their minds in that moment, almost without their ever having time to stop the thought from happening.  Ephesians 4:29 says "Let no unwholesome word proceed from  your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."  Let that verse be the filter that all your speech passes through before you utter it. God is interested in our speech, if you don't believe me, check out this list of verses about our speech!

What about our conduct?  We need to think twice about the things we agree to be involved in.  For example, take dancing.  If you have made a commitment to remain pure until your wedding day, saving that first kiss for your husband, what about physical contact?  I must say that slow dancing, close bodily contact, is giving part of yourself away before the alter.  Would your future husband want you to be holding hands with, or holding your body against, another man?  If you knew who your future husband was, and he was watching you dance with someone else, would you feel uncomfortable?  What about the feelings and thoughts you are probably causing in the young man you are dancing with?  Would you feel comfortable dancing with that young man if his fiance was standing there?  What about participating in that conduct in front of your parents?  Your pastor?  Your Savior?  What about the movies you see?  The restaurants/bars you frequent.  What about smoking, drinking or getting tattoos?  Consider carefully if you would do that if Christ were by your side, and if you wouldn't, then you shouldn't do it - He's in your heart, seeing everything you do.  Our lives should be a reflection of our faith in Christ.  We are to be growing Christ-like.  If Jesus wouldn't do what you are doing, should you be doing it?

The last things I want to talk about is how we, as women, choose to dress.  This is a very sticky subject, and I may step on some toes here.  I do not want to give you a list of what is modest and pure the wear, but to address the heart of the matter.  Men are visually oriented, and they were created to appreciate a woman's figure and to be attracted physically to their wife in a sensual, visual way.  Women are emotionally and physically oriented - we find fulfillment in our relationship with our husband (future husbands) through physical touch and emotional connection.  We women need to be very careful in how we dress.  Men can easily be tempted by the sight of a women who has dressed provocatively.  I know that it can feel good to have a man appreciate our beauty, but we should not be seeking that by dressing in a way to draw attention to our bodies.  I do not mean that you have to dress in a gunny sack, but you should not be dressing in such a way as to cause your brothers in Christ to stumble.  Let me be frank with you - showing your thighs or cleavage, or wearing clothes that reveal the curves of your body is defrauding to your brothers in Christ.  When you dress, check yourself in the mirror.  Bend over, sit in a chair.  Does your clothing draw attention to certain parts of your body?  Make sure that your womanly features are carefully hidden.  Save them for your husband!  You can dress femininely without being immodest.  If you are unsure, ask your father if he approves of your choice of clothing?  Your brothers?  Your pastor?  Would you want your daughter to dress in that manner?  What about your future husband - would you want him to be exposed to another woman wearing what you are wearing?  Let your true beauty be that of your inward self.  Let others be attracted to your personality and wit.  Let your clothes be outward adornment, adding to that inner beauty.

You might be saying in your heart that I am being a legalist - don't drink, don't dance....But it is a matter of the heart that I am talking about.  Are you living to please yourself or to please your Savior?  If you truly love your Lord, then you will plan your life around doing things that please Him and reflect His image in your life.  Are you living your life as a sacrifice of holiness to the one who lived a sinless life yet hung on a cross, dying a gruesome death in your place, or are you trampling on His sacrifice by claiming to be a Christian yet living as though you are not.  Romans 12:2 says "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Your conduct does reflect on God if you claim Him.  But most importantly, your conduct reflects your love for Him, :

What about young women who have not been sheltered and bear the scares of exposure to the evils of our world?  What then?  Then start today.  Ask the Lord to purify your mind of the memories and images you have that are defiled.  Purpose to live a life of holiness, with God's help and grace.   Do not dwell on where you have been, holding onto bitterness or making excuses.  God is writing the story of your life, and He will use all of your life to be a testimony of His grace.  He has given you a garment of righteousness in exchange for your garment of defilement.  Claim this every time you are tempted to consider yourself less that your sisters in Christ.  We are all sinful, we all sin.  But the good news is that forgiveness is available through Christ's shed blood, all we need to do it ask.  And He doesn't only forgive, He forgets, and so must we.  Use your experiences to show God's amazing grace in your life, but don't let them drag you down, make you feel defiled or hinder  your serving your Lord in purity and truth today.

So be careful to be pure, be careful of what you allow into your life so you can be a fragrance of purity in a world of defilement.

All My Love,


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Trusting God - Dealing with Fear and Worry

My Daughters,

Trusting God may be one of the most important thing to do as a Christian. It begins when you trust Him for your salvation.  Trust is tied to belief - if you don't believe someone, you don't trust them.  Trust is like the second step we take as baby Christians.  First we believe that the Bible is true and the it is the Word of God, and then we trust that God will fulfill His promise to save us if we confess our sins and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died to pay for our sins.  That is the first step of faith/trust that we take as a new believer.  But that is not the only step of faith that we need to take.

Once we have taken those first steps of faith and trust, we need to keep on walking by faith and trusting in God's promises!  Many people "pray the prayer" and figure they have their ticket to heaven and they are good to go - back to living life the way they want to and only thinking about or praying to God when they get into a situation they can't fix - like God is some kind of first aid kit, or supernatural fix-all.  But that is just not how it works.  I believe that there will be many who come before God as they enter eternity and find that their "ticket" is not valid!  Heaven is not a carnival and God is not a ticket taker - He is our loving creator and wants to have a vital relationship with us - one based on daily trust and faith.

But what does trust and faith have to do with fear and worry?  EVERYTHING!

I have said on more than one occasion that where there is faith, there is the absence of fear, and where there is fear, there is the absence of faith - it's a sliding scale - as fear grows, faith faith grows, fear flees!  I have learned this the hard way - there have been time when I was living in fear, debilitating fear, but God was faithful to me and taught me that I needed to believe in His promises and trust Him for everything.  I still battle this at times, but I try to turn fearful thoughts into prayers for increased trust and faith in God's loving sovereignty.

But you shouldn't take my word for it - let's see what God says in His word about worry and fear (fear leads to worry - when we worry, we are fearful - they go hand in hand).   We will also see what the Bible has to say about trusting in God and believing His promises.

Here is a sampling of verses I found that talk about fear - the majority of verses that came up on my search talked about fearing the Lord, or not fearing Him and the blessings or consequences of that, so I found it interesting what this first verse says about who/what you should fear!

*Deut 6:13  You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.
Deut 31:8 The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 46:1-3 1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; 
3 Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. 
Wow - I think I'd be tending to being fearful if all that was going on!
Prov 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.
Isaiah 41:13 For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, 
Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’
Luke 12: 6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

After reading all those verses, it's very clear that God does not want us to be fearful of anything - except that we are to fear Him.  Let me clarify what is meant to "Fear the Lord."  This does not mean that we live in fear of what God will do to us, like He's some cosmic bad guy out to make our lives miserable.  This type of fear  is more like standing in awe of Him - believing that He is omnipotent, sovereign, and omnipresent.  Those are big words that mean that He knows everything that has, is and will happen, that He is in control of everything and that He is present everywhere, all the time.  If you take time to think about all the God is and all the He does, and then think that God loves you personally and that He is intimately involved in your life even to the point of caring about the small details and daily struggles you are dealing with, it creates a sense of overwhelming appreciation, and a sense that God is even better, bigger and grander than our human mind can comprehend.  Kind of like the little boy on the trike in the movie "The Incredibles", where he seems to always be waiting around for "something amazing" to happen, and then we see what God has done or is doing and our reaction is, just like that little boy, "That was TOTALLY awesome."

Now let's take a look at what Jesus said about worry - and I think worry is definitely tied to fear - when we fear something, we begin to worry about it, right?  Just like Faith leads to Trust, Fear leads to Worry!

Matt 6:30-32 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

Luke 12:22-31 And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Clearly we can see from these two passages that God is aware of our needs and that He will provide for our needs, and that we are not to worry about them at all.  Now please note, this is talking about our NEEDS, not our wants.  God promises to meet our needs of clothing and food.  Most of us are expecting God to meet our wants, things we don't really need, but make our life easier, more pleasant.  God may provide for our wants, but He only promises to meet our needs!  

The Bible teaches us over and over that God is our provider - read some of the stories about the never-ending flour and oil for the widow, shoes that don't wear out as well as manna and birds for the Israelites to eat while they were in the wilderness,  Jesus feeding thousands at a time, and so many other stories of God's amazing providence for His people!  God still provides for His people - it might not be an overabundance, but you will have what you need when you need it.  Worrying accomplishes nothing.  Worrying can cause problems though - stress to our minds and bodies - high blood pressure, ulcers, depression, psychological disorders and more can be the result of worrying over things that we have no control over!  

Another less obvious result of worrying about the future is the lack of thankfulness!  When we are consumed with worry about how we are going to get what we perceive we need, we fail to appreciate what we have already received!  One cure for worry is to take time to count your blessings when you find yourself worrying about anything in your  life. Especially take time to remember times when God has met your needs in the past and thanking Him for His providence.  If you are constantly looking for things to be thankful for, you will have not time or opportunity to worry about what you are missing!  It can also be helpful to take time to look up and memorize passages of scripture, like those above, that tell of God's promises, storing them up in  your heart and mind!

So we can see from scripture that we are not to be fearful or worry about anything.  But can we do this on our own?  Of course not!  What do we need in order to avoid being fearful or worrying?  We need to believe God, ask Him to supply our needs and trust Him to do it.  

Let's take a little time to see what the Bible says about trusting in God:

Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 32:10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Psalm 56:3 - 4 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. 4 In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
Psalm 62:8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. 
Psalm 91:1 - 3 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 
2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” 
3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.
Psalm 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.
(That is my personal favorite!)
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.
Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.
Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.
Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.
Daniel 6:23 Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
Phil 1:12 - 14 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

Did you notice that many times men trusted in God even when imprisoned and facing probable death!

That is a lot said about trusting in God - and there were many others I didn't include!  I believe that when God talks a lot about something in the Bible, it is very important to Him!  Trusting in God is not something that comes naturally - it is learned!  It is based on a foundation of faith in God - believing that He is who He says He is, and that the Bible is His word, and that He will do what He says He will do.  Once you have you faith in God, you have the foundation necessary to develop trust.

I refer to developing trust because that's just how it works, unless God miraculously instills trust in your heart!  When we are in a relationship with another person, we will not share our deepest needs, biggest fears or personal struggles with that person - we will need to get to know them better.  We build up trust in someone through the events in life - are they trustworthy?  Do they keep your confidence or do they blab what you have told them to everyone?  When you ask them to do something, do they follow through or forget that they promised to help you?  When they say they are going to give you something, do they follow through?  The same is true of our relationship with God, except that we can see His track record through scripture!

The first thing to begin to build trust in God is to read His word, paying attention to how He cared for His people and provided for them!  Watching how He always fulfilled His promises and always did what He said He would do!  

The next way to build trust is God is to watch for His hand in the events in your life - even the little ones, even in things that you didn't ask Him for!  God knows our needs and loves to provide for them even when we don't realize we need them until they are provided.  For example, recently I had some shopping to do, but being over 6 months pregnant and 48 years old, I was getting tired and knew that I was limited in what I could accomplish that day.  I didn't stop and think about this, but noticed that day that I always got parking places very close to the doors of the stores I had to go in, and that the lines I got in for checking out were far shorter than any others in the store!  God knew what I needed that day, and provided for me even though I didn't even think to ask for it!  If we are looking for how God provides for our needs throughout the day, we will begin to grow in our trust, and then when the big things happen in life that can shake us to our core, we can trust God even then!

We also build our trust in God by actively placing out trust in Him.  Trusting in God and not being fearful or worrying is a choice.  Our natural, sinful nature will always have a knee-jerk reaction to trials of becoming fearful and worrying about anything and everything.  But we need to develop a habit of making the choice to place our trust in God and keeping it there.  Sometimes, when things are especially difficult, I have found myself stating for myself what I believe - "God is Good, in everything and in every way!"**  "God loves me and cares for me and is doing this for my good and His glory."  "I WILL TRUST HIM"  In times like that I  try to remember what Job said after everything was taken from him, and nearly all his family was killed - "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (KJV).  Our hearts will follow our minds.  Even when you don't feel like God is doing this for your good, you must place your trust in Him and state what you know to be true!

I  also want to share with you the blessing of placing your trust in God, in any situations - peace.  God grants us peace when we place our trust in Him.  This peace can be an inner peace even in the midst of terrible suffering and turmoil.  Here are some of God's promises about His peace that He gives to His children:

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

And here's my favorite verse to remind me of what to do when I feel worry and fear creeping into my heart and mind, I try to quote these verses and place in His hands the concerns facing me:

Philippians 4:6 - 7  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Now that's a promise you can hold onto - I have experienced this peace.  When our Esther was just 3 months old, we had to hand her over to the nurse to take her in to have open heart surgery.  I had prayed and prayed that God would keep Esther safe, but I had also prayed that God's perfect will would be done.  Handing her over was one of the most difficult things I have ever done as a mother.  I cried hard for a little while, and then my husband and I went to the waiting room.  I laid down on a couch and fell asleep!  God's perfect peace had come over me and enabled me to sleep!  I had hardly slept the night before, but I slept soundly for over an hour.  Only God can do something like that!  Soon we were back with Esther and she had started a nearly miraculous recovery from her surgery and has never had any heart issues since that time.  But even if God had willed things to turn  out differently, I know that He would have been there for me and would have been granting me peace as long as I was holding tight to the promises of God.

Have you ever noticed how many New Testament letters start or end with the phrase " Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." some variation of that?  Nearly all of them!  Sounds like having God's peace is something they valued - and well they should as they were experiencing some serious persecution!  But imprisonment and probably death could not rob those early Christians of the peace that God gave them - and there's nothing in this world that can rob you of God's peace unless you allow it to happen by letting fear and worry get a stronghold in your heart and mind! 

Lastly, I want to share with you something I have learned the hard way.  God gives grace for us in every situation He ordains in our lives, but He doesn't give grace for the "What Ifs".  When we take on tomorrow's worries, we are on our own.  Matthew 6:34 says “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  We rob our today's of joy by taking on tomorrow's worries.  And we go there without the grace God would/will give if/when the "what if" you are worrying about comes about. When you find yourself worrying about the "what ifs", ask the Lord to give you a peace about tomorrow, and then "take every thought captive" (II Cor 10:5).  When your tomorrow's come and they bring those things we are tempted to worry about tomorrow, you will be given the grace to endure, and a peace the passes understanding, but you will not be given those things ahead of time by worrying.

So whenever you find yourself being fearful or worrying about anything, stop and pray and place whatever it is that is bothering you in God's hands and watch to see God move in your life to grant you peace, provide for your needs and fulfill His promises in your life!

All my Love,


* I have used to do my scripture searches, and unless otherwise noted, all scripture is quoted in New American Standard version
**my friend, Debby Gustafson's favorite saying, even as she was dying from cancer