The Blessing of Family Dinner & {Family Conversation Jar}

photo family dinner

Do you remember family dinners?

I do.  From toddler-hood, my siblings and I {all 5 of us} were expected to sit through family meals.  But in particular, evening dinners were non-negotiable in participation.  Dinner-time was sit-down.  But mostly, dinner-time was focused time to bond as a family.

Our meals were never extravagant.  My Mom still jokes about stretching a pound of ground beef between all 7 of us, to keep finances in order.  But the conversation during meal times, was rich beyond words.  And to this day, I credit talking though dinner one of the key formative experiences of my childhood.

Each night the pace varied.  Sometimes we would read a book together.  Often, we would share stories from our days.  One time, we were tasked with taking turns writing reports to present to the family, as my parents felt like the family was in a negative-chatter rut.

family bible

But always, my Dad opened the Bible and we read.  Sometimes just a few verses, but time in the Bible was stone-set.  And we followed reading with family prayer.

Every night without fail, my parents maintained this small but critical thread in our routine.  In fact, I can still recall my Mom sadly wondering about how to continue our tradition when we were teenagers with cars and jobs – it had become such a part of us.

When Pat and I married, we set out to fight for the value of family dinner.  Not for any heightened moral sense, but due to the healthy impact we knew it to be.  Though our routine is a tad different, nonetheless family dinner and worship is our daily groove now, too.  The kids are old enough to participate, and so sometimes, we let them lead.  Other times we rotate turns praying.  But always, we read a portion of the Bible aloud to them.

These evening times together are often the spaces where vulnerability and need is revealed.  These collections of time are where we get to know our kids better and deeper.  And we all go to bed a little stronger, because of the mutual bond of sharing and knowing we are supported.

My friend Christina, has designed a wonderful printable I want to share with you today, in the hope that it might assist any of you who are desiring to create a more intimate setting for family dinners.  Christina has designed a PDF called The Family Conversation Jar.  The Family Conversation Jar is a collection of questions that can be used at meal times, to encourage conversation in a family.

 

Conversation-791x1024

This list is a prompt, meant to initiate healthy talking, and perhaps create a new way of experiencing dinner together.  I have printed this list off, and hope to utilize it this Summer.   I find that many nights we talk about and pray about the same items – which is certainly not a bad thing- but I do want the kids to think beyond the “same old”, too.

If you find that your dinner-time or family-time is lagging, consider printing off Christina’s PDF.  You can do so by clicking here.

30 crockpot meals

And as a little extra boost, above you click here to find a link to 30 easy crock-pot meals.  So often, lack of time is what eats away at our family growth.  But time is gained in such simple ways.  And the crock-pot has got to be one of the best means of simplification that God has given us :).

Consider developing a plan for family dinners as a powerful piece of your defense plan for your children.  A study performed recently compared 2 groups of teenagers: those who ate family dinners two or less times per week, and those who ate family dinners five or more times per week.  And here is what it found:

Teenagers who ate family dinner two or less times per week were:

  • Three times more likely to try marijuana.
  • Two-and-a-half times more likely to smoke cigarettes.
  • One-and-a-half times more likely to drink alcohol.

In addition, the study revealed that more frequent family dinners produced children who experienced:

  • Lower levels of family tension.
  • Teenagers who more often said that their parents are proud of them.
  • Teenagers who more often said that they can confide in their parents about a serious problem.

I am so grateful for the effort my parents poured into defending our dinner table.  Because in essence, they were defending us.  Our characters.  Our futures.  And though at the time, we wriggled and balked sometimes against what felt like a strict boundary, I can see now that family dinners saved us from a great deal.

family dinner 2

One last link above, meant to simplify dinner plans.

Now go turn the crock-pot on!


Parenting Older Kids {A Series of Untidy Packages}

little gifts

I was recently intrigued by a conversation some friends had about the social-media hush from Moms with older kids.  We tossed some thoughts around – but the consensus we came to about our more mature Mom-friends went something like this:

Raising older kids is not a series of pretty little packages.

The baby years are tough in their own rite.  No new mother would claim that her existence is anything but taxing.  Very quickly it is learned that your life is lassoed by these tiny people, and you are ruled and reigned by them.  Yet, in most of these moments there are sweet and innocent themes.  After all, a toddler is a toddler and at the end of the day, you are still kissed with sticky hands pressing against your face.

But Moms of older kids are drowning in a different pond altogether.

One of my children recently remarked: Mom, sometimes I feel like you enjoy nagging me.   And though there was prompt addressing and forgiveness asked, nonetheless these are the types of statements kids with maturing understanding level.

It is sobering to sit beneath the razor-sharp mirrors of their growing discernment.

 

gumball stirrers

The Cute Factor

So where are the Moms of tweens and teens?  In a quick scan of Facebook statuses and blogs, it is easy to note that most updates of any sort come from the little-years camp.

We are just beginning to dip our toes into life with bigger kids.  But already, there is more at stake.  Our fear is greater.  Our concern for their future is greater.  The future always felt so far away, but suddenly it is looming on the horizon.  And sadly, there are already a handful of regrets trailing behind.  So, there is simply no time to waste.

But it is also not as cute in the bigger-kid years.

It is not cute having to install open DNS on a computer, so that pornography cannot destroy your children.

It is not cute to find a man old enough to be her grand-father, following your daughter on Pinterest.

It is not cute to note character concerns which will affect them down the road, and realizing your reign of influence is limited in its power to harness them.

 

ice cream bars

And yet, I wouldn’t trade these years for anything.  For as I have grown to see, as I raise them, they are raising me.

My sin used to be better buried beneath piles of paper drawings of “me with Mom”.   The affirmation was constant, and the trust unchallenged.

But, since they are developing consciences of their own, they are bringing to light what I would prefer not to see.

But isn’t that always the way with sin?  We only acknowledge it if we have to.  And bigger kids force our hand in the arena of sin and repentance.

Moms of Older Kids need a Different Kind of Faith

As I arrived at the airport a few days ago, I stood next to several couples who appeared to be jetting off on honeymoons. It was fun watching them- all body contact and whispers and smiles.  Newlyweds have made promises which they fully intend to keep, but the faith in the marriage they have begun is vastly different than the faith that will keep them married.

They just do not realize it yet.

cupcake straw

Likewise, the faith that Moms with tiny kids possess, is exactly what is needed.  But that faith is much different still than the faith it takes to not give up as big kids begin to flex the muscles in their minds and wills.

As my own children become older, I can anticipate the temptation to disappear.  Especially on days where every drop of emotional energy has been wrung out. But I come back to Satan in the desert.  Standing with Jesus, he knew the opportunity was great.  You can have all this, he motioned.  Because he is conniving, he knew the wide-open vulnerability of solitude.

Likewise, a solitary Mom is a desert.  She is lonely, discouraged, and maybe even hiding her fears and inadequacies by staying where no one can see her.

But part of continuing to help our kids get to the next step, is leaning on one another.

We might go a few inches under-ground when it comes to social media- and perhaps this is even wise- but we need to stay above ground in our willingness to reach out and ask: Can you pray for me?

There is a marked powerlessness in walking solo.

But there is great power in humbly relying on a village of other parents to help you raise your child.

 

 

 


Mary de Muth: An Open Letter to Sexual Abuse Victims

mary de muth family

Over the past few years, God has opened up conversations with several friends, in which I have gained a glimpse into the devastation of sexual abuse.  There is nothing like knowing a friend is struggling with what cannot be undone.  Such a helpless place to be.

Sadly, the current statistics now claim that 1 in 3 females are victims of sexual abuse.  And those are merely numbers of those who eventually tell.  Sexual abuse is a highly secret pain, one that stays buried as long as it can, but often seeps out onto the surface of life as adults grow older.

My heart’s desire in this space, is to encourage those of you who have been torn apart by the shame and breath-taking pain of sexual abuse.  I know that your memories are difficult, and this makes every-day functioning of marriage, sexuality and mothering, difficult too.

And maybe you have never told anyone.

 

marydemuth-headshot-square

Today, I want to introduce you to someone who may encourage you, if you are wrestling through the aftermath of childhood victimization.  Mary de Muth has become a well-known speaker in the Christian realm, courageously sharing her story of childhood sexual abuse.  And an equally powerful message of healing and hope.

Mary wrote a letter to women who have experienced sexual abuse.  I wanted to include it today, as I believe the realm of sexual abuse to be one of the biggest kept secrets among women.  The shame of sexual abuse holds so many captive, and as Christian women, I hope that we can be “safe” and helpful to our friends who have suffered.  And this letter may be a good place to begin

 

*******

Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor,

I don’t really like the word victim. Even survivor has a strange connotation. And I’m not too keen on victor. None of those words encapsulate what happened to you, the devastation sexual abuse enacted on your heart. But we’re strangled by language sometimes–even writers can’t adequately express horror.

I much like the word BRAVE. Because it’s so darn brave to walk away from something like that. It’s brave to forgive. Brave to live your life in the wake of sexual trauma. Brave to hold your head high.

brave arrow

First let me say I am sorry. I’m so terribly sad that sexual abuse is part of your story. It’s not right. Someone chose to take something from you–your volition and your body. That person (or people) violated you. They used their power and bully persuasion to overwhelm you with their sinful desires. And now you’re the one left feeling dirty and used–while so many perpetrators walk this earth free. 

It’s not fair.

Some of you feel shame and guilt in gigantic measure, heaped upon you. Some of you feel that you invited the abuse. The way you dressed. The hole in your heart that longed for attention. The equating of sex with love and affection. You feel you wooed the perpetrator somehow. Let me say this: A person who adores and loves you would NEVER EVER violate you. Never. Instead of violation, they would protect. They would pray for you. They would honor your boundaries.

Someone’s selfish gratification is not your fault. Don’t own that. Dare to believe your worth, and allow yourself the feel the grace that God grants you. Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. You were abused. You didn’t want it. Someone took from you–like a thief. They may have used slick words, threatened you, persuaded you that you wanted it, but it’s not true. Thieves are often liars.

In sexual abuse’s aftermath, you’ve possibly thought of suicide. You’ve cut your skin until the blood came. You over-ate. You spent years hard as rock, bitter as horseradish, always vigilant–ready to fight. You’ve protected your heart with ironclad resolve. No one will EVER hurt you that way again. Not on your watch.

All these coping strategies had good purpose a long time ago. They protected you. But now they’re strangling the life out of you. I only say that because I’ve walked the path of isolation and withdrawal. Actually, I spent about a decade of my life keeping the sexual abuse secret. And once I let the secret out, I decided I’d been healed, so I tucked it back away for another decade and lived inside myself–not daring to deeply engage my heart.

mary demuth quote

An untold story never heals, friend. Isolation only masks the problem.

That’s not living. It’s existing. It’s pushing stuff down that you hope stays submerged forever. Unfortunately, our stories have a way of coming out–almost always in our actions. We end up hurting those we love. Some people become perpetrators because they never deal with getting better.

I know there are questions. I have them too.

  • Why did God allow this to happen?
  • Why didn’t He step in and rescue?
  • Why do I have to suffer seemingly forever for something someone else did to me?
  • Why can’t I ever feel normal?
  • Will I ever be able to enjoy sex?
  • Why does my spouse have to suffer for something someone else did to me?
  • What’s wrong with me that I kept being violated?
  • Was I put on this earth to be stolen from?
  • Why am I here?
  • What was it about me that perpetrators found irresistible?
  • Why do other people keep telling me it was a long time ago and I should be over this?

I want to assure you that these questions are entirely, utterly normal. And you should ask them. You should wrestle with them. Some of them will not be answered this side of eternity.

When I feel overwhelmed by the whys and the whats, I stop a moment and consider Jesus. This may not resonate with you because you might be mad at Him. That’s okay. I hear you. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus understands.

He took on the sins of everyone, including sexual sin, upon His holy, undeserving shoulders. He suffered for everyone’s wicked crookedness. And when He hung on a cross, He did so naked. Exposed. Shamed. Humiliated. Bleeding.

That’s why, when I write about sexual abuse recovery, I have to involve Jesus. He has been the single best healer in my journey. He understands. He comes alongside. He “gets” violation.

Sexual abuse is devastating. It pulls the rug out from under your worth. It keeps you scared. It infiltrates nearly every area of your life, consciously and subconsciously.

mary and husband

But I am here to let you know there is hope. Though the healing journey is long, it is possible. When I tell my own story now, it feels like I’m sharing about another person’s sexual abuse. I’ve experienced profound healing. It didn’t happen passively or quickly. I had to WANT it, pursue it. I had to stop shoving it down and bringing my story into the light–with praying friends, with counselors, with my husband.

Today I enjoy sex. I can share my story without getting that vomit-y feeling in my stomach. The flashbacks are less and less. I still have moments, of course. But I am so much farther along than I had been.

I want to end this letter with this truth: You are amazing. You survived something traumatic and horrific. You are reading this letter blessedly alive, connected to others. Your story absolutely matters. Don’t let the trauma steal your story of hope today.

Joyfully free,

Mary

********

If you find this letter helpful, please forward this post on to family or friends who may benefit.  Mary’s candid approach to healing from past abuse, has helped so many.

And in the mean-time, if you are 1 of the 3 women who have experienced sexual abuse, know that I am praying for you today.  Your hurt runs so deep, and I pray that you find God’s grace and love to be the first facet of your healing.


Guest Post by Grace: Why I am not “Lucky”, but Thankful to be Home with my Children

 

Today my sister, Grace, writes about the word “lucky”, in regard to raising small children at home.  I think you will enjoy her thoughts on this topic, as she addresses thoughts I have heard others wrestle with.  Enjoy hearing from Grace today!

*********

Since becoming a mom, I have been told that I am “lucky” to stay at home.

Our desire and our decision that I stay at home with our girls is not a luck-based decision, but rather a well thought-out and purposeful choice.  Here is a little history as to why I am thankful, but not “lucky” to stay home.

*****

 In 2006 I met Justin.  It was love at first sight. It was also very intense from the beginning.  He was 5 years older than me, and knew he wanted to get married.  Fast.  We had many very intentional discussions covering everything from faith, to theology, to our future marriage and family.  We both agreed we wanted a traditional family.  He would work and I would stay at home.  After past relationships where this had been an area of dispute, he was thrilled to find that we were on the same page.

Justin once told me he had given up thinking there was a woman in the world who wanted to stay at home.

 

grace wedding

We were married in 2007.  I still had not finished school.  I moved from Tennessee to Justin’s home in Georgia.  I started the admission process at a local school.  Through a lot of really hard and emotional conversations we decided I would not continue to pursue my Social Work major.  A 21st century woman, without a degree.

The reality was that I wanted to be a mom.

In 2008 I got pregnant with Cora, and gave birth to her in 2009.  So began my long-awaited vocation as a stay-at-home mom. And let me tell you: I was really silly enough to think it was going to be the dreamy, romantic, fictional job it’s made up to be.  I thought I would have wonderful days of pink dresses and bonnets, long walks in the sunshine, my perfect baby on my somewhat larger hips.

cora easter

Instead I spent day-after-day, night-after-night, hour-after-hour with a screaming baby, one that never slept. I cried a lot. I was so lonely and I became very depressed.  Suddenly, the life I had chosen seemed to be the very worst choice I could have made.  The constant,loud, relentless, never-can-have-enough-patience career called being a full-time mom.

My only means of survival was the ever-present help of our good and gracious God.

It was during this first year of being a mom that He began to break and refine me in ways I did not think possible.  If I was going to be a good mom, I was going to have to change.  I was going to need to learn to live day-by-day and hour-by-hour with never ending neediness and no one to lift or relieve me of that need. I was going to need to learn to meet needs with kindness, with love, with patience.  I was going to need to choose joy when all I felt was failure.

 

grace and e

So as I began mothering two girls I faced the next big hurdle.  Humility.

The reality that staying-at-home does not guarantee a good or perfect child.  Actually, it also does not guarantee that I am a good mom.

Just like any other job it takes hours of intentional time and planning.  It takes constant hard work-both mental and physical.

I recently had a talk with a dear friend.  She was facing the reality of going back to work…having to leave her two boys.  She is an amazing mom and I reminded her of how blessed her boys are to have her as their mommy.  She is so intentional and loving. They know that they are her priority. I can be at home all day long but if I don’t pour into my children, then what use is my being with them?  I don’t have someone looking over my shoulder asking me, “Is it done yet?  Have you finished it? Is it done right?”  I have to be my own accountability.  That is not easy.

As Justin left for work yesterday, Cora was crying.   Elinor was going three places at once, and the house was already in total disorder.  He cracked the door and he said, “You have the harder job.”  

 

grace and girls

Do I really have the harder job?  No, not every day, but maybe yesterday my day was harder and maybe today his job will be harder.  It really doesn’t matter.  We don’t live life to prove we have it harder, that we do more than the other person…we live to glorify Him.

Would I say I am blessed to stay at home?

Absolutely.

Am I thankful to stay-at-home?

Yes.

Would I say I am lucky to stay at home?   No, because the definition of luck is: success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

grace girls

I give thanks to God for his sovereign will to put me in our home, in our town, as wife to Justin and full-time mom to Cora and Elinor.

A job I pray I carry out in grace, in gentleness, in patience, in humility, and intentionality, that I might glorify Him.

 


Summer Reading Goal: 10 Least Popular Books of the Bible

In a recent info-graphic, The Overview Bible Project produced a flow-chart of the 10 least popular books of the Bible {HT: Challies}.

I have never considered before that there are pieces of the Bible that are rarely read, but I suppose it makes sense that sadly, popularity extends even to Scripture.

 

Infographic: least popular books of the Bible

 

In a quick overview of this chart, I was interested {but not surprised} to note that 6 of the 10 books are prophetic.  The Old Testament prophets were not well-received even in their day, so it is not a great shock that in modern-times they are still not our favorites.

God’s prophets were no cowards.  Tasked with speaking out against ungodliness and God’s judgment if hearts remained hard, these men lived taxing, lonely lives.

Prophets have never been popular.  In fact, did you know that nearly all of the Old Testament prophets were martyred as a result of their stand for Truth?

This Summer, I plan to familiarize myself better with these bold men and their teachings.  To spend a little more time refreshing my memory on the lives of these courageous heroes.

Photo:{www.meggielynne.tumblr.com}

Photo:{www.meggielynne.tumblr.com}

And I plan to walk through the other “un-popular” books too : 2 John, 3 John, Philemon and Jude.

I would love for some of you to take on this challenge with me, and compare notes at the end of the Summer.  These books are all short and will require mere minutes of your day to read, so they are a perfect Summer-day length.

Would you like to explore the 10 Least Popular Books of the Bible this Summer?

Click here for more information on the context of the books.  And let me know if you plan to get reading.  {My husband is going to read along beside me, as a means of accountability}.

I would love to compare notes with you in 8 weeks. I read Jonah this morning, and already my pencil has been busy noting themes I have not focused enough attention on in the past.

And maybe if enough of us read, we can bump the 10 least popular books of the Bible out of the running, and into a better-respected category.


Miss Kay Robertson: “I Told God that I would FIGHT for my Marriage”

phil-robertson-i-am-second

By now, we are all familiar with the Robertson Family, A & E network’s Duck Dynasty royalty.

Miss Kay, Willie and Jace have nearly become household names as they chronicle their lives as business owners and as members of a tight-knit family.

Theirs is large, happy,  and functioning unit- full of quirks and resulting humor which makes them easily identifiable.  But the Robertson’s are perhaps best-known for their Christian convictions. They are strong advocates for traditional family.  And they are equally determined in their outlook on marriage

Kay-Robertson-300x200

To look at the Robertson family, you might assume that theirs has been a “simple” journey of boy-meets-girl meets the American Dream.

But written behind the story-line of what we all see on television, is a back-story.    A story of a 14 year-old girl,alone and vulnerable.  Married at 16 to a 17 year-old boy, angry and addicted to alcohol.  A girl kicked out of her house by this self-destructive husband, left to fend for herself and her three little boys.

A teenage-Mom, lost and found by God, when brought to the end of herself.

duck-dynasty shot

Kay Robertson vowed as a young woman, “I will FIGHT for this marriage”.  And fight she did.  Praying each night with her young sons, Kay begged God to change her husband’s heart.  To work repentance into him.  And over the course of months, God began to work in Phil.  One day he showed up at the house where his family was living, wanting his family back.

He was changed.

As Phil Robertson claims of his new-found understanding of the Gospel:  “It was profound.  That Jesus had died, been buried and rose again.  I had never heard that before”.

“I decided I was going to live as hard for God and my neighbor, as I had been living for the Evil One”.

Profile-Black-Kay-Robertson

Phil and Kay began working to put together a solid marriage.  And Phil slowly began to earn his family’s trust.  “Is the Devil is going to leave Dad this time?” the boys would ask at times, insecure in their trust of their Daddy.  But Phil and Kay persevered.  And slowly, they built a family.

“It takes a lot of time to learn the fruits of the Spirit: to be patient and kind”, Kay acknowledges.  But God was with them in their “fight”.  And ultimately, His love won.

Phil and Kay have been married now for 47 years now.  And Kay still calls Phil the “love of my life”.

Yesterday, I wrote about the ease with which divorce is handled in our culture.  But today, a journey of a nearly-broken marriage, redeemed by a gracious Savior.

Phil and Kay Robertson’s story is inspiring, because ultimately, their is a story of all of us.

Of being lost, and then found by God’s incredible, saving grace.

 


“He Walked Out” {And Why Divorce is Too Easy}

hands held

Standing in the aisles of Target, I was sorting through purchases.  Sufficiently distracted enough to nearly miss an old friend, standing just a few yards away.

We greeted one another, and with that keen fondness of a few shared memories, began to sort through the past handful of years.  Kids, jobs, life.  Noticing she had not mentioned her husband, I inquired.

How is Jay?

And without missing a beat,  Oh, he walked out on us last Christmas.

Heart sunk and confused, I remembered Jay as a great Dad and a sensitive husband. 

Oh no!  What happened?

Well, my friend replied,  I still don’t really know.  He hasn’t said. 

But I think it is just too easy to be divorced these days, and he chose the easy way.

 

Unhooked

My friend at Target made a keen observation that day.

Divorce is easy these days.  Too easy.  Whereas a century ago there was tremendous stigma associated with the notion of breaking a married commitment, to post-moderns adults, divorce is easily explained.

Be Happy is the cry of our entitled hearts, and marriage not-withstanding, we will attain it.  In the world of 21st -century singles, self-fulfillment trumps even promises.

be happy

Lauri Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked, has written a fascinating book on the problem with marriage in the 21-century.

And one of the most discerning observations Strauss has made upon speaking with many now-singles, is that the partner who splits and runs often places blame on “the marriage”.

The marriage was not connected. 

The marriage was difficult. 

The marriage was stifling. We just could not make the marriage work.

To many, The Marriage is handled as an impersonal object, devoid of singular responsibility.

On Forgiveness

Dave Harvey, author of When Sinners Say I Do, challenges this laissez-faire approach to commitment.

People do not fall out of love, Dave reminds.  They fall out of repentance.

Married love is a climb.  And due to life’s obstructions, one requiring enormous perseverance.

roots

Alistair Begg preached a sermon a while back, and in it he noted:

Many find that when they cannot reach the summit with all that they hold in their hands, they let go of the summit and pitch their tent in the plain. And the plain is so very full of tents.

Often, marriages stop flourishing when both partners stop climbing up in accountability to God, and fall out of fellowship with those who will hold them to His high standards.

In turning our backs on who and what builds up, we easily turn our attention toward things that slowly undermine us.  Without intending to, we find a home in the plains.

And statistically speaking, over 52% of married couples are now pitching their tents there.

Two Good Forgivers

Ruth Bell Graham likes to say that a happy married relationship is a bond of “two good forgivers”.

forgivers

Don’t you agree?

It is not so much the commonalities shared, mutual agreement, or even perfect sexual connectivity that makes a union “work”.  Good marriage is built upon layers and layers of forgiving the un-forgiveable.  And this theology of forgiveness links right back to our understanding of God.

Because His grace covers all, our grace needs to do the same.

A marriage grounded in humble repentance can scale the highest mountains of anger and disappointment and still find someone to love at the top.

As Alistair Begg reminds, it IS easier to pitch our tents in the plain.  Avoiding the last great haul toward the summit, with all of our baggage strapped on our backs.

But it’s the view from the top we miss if we give up.

And the sun doesn’t shine as bright in the plain, either.


So Many Sisters: And the Opportunity to “Do Good” to One Another

emma anna 1

I once heard it said that “sisters are the perfect best friend”.

And as the oldest of 3 sisters, my heart cried: Yes! to this sentiment.

My sisters and I are loyal, long-suffering.  We are unconditional in our love.  And we are unbreakable in a bond held together by genetics and history.

Anyone with a sister understands the near- mysterious bond of two women joined by the parents – and in many ways, the same life.

It is moving and it is beautiful.

 

emma finger

In a similar manner, as Christian women, we are called into a Family of another kind.  One that dates back to the beginning of time and will persevere to its End.

Regardless of our families of origin, in God’s great Family we inherit countless new relationships.  And included in this collaboration, are dozens of sisters.

emma josh anna1

Sisters in the Lord- What Does that Mean?

As North Americans, we are highly autonomous people, aren’t we?  We raised the flag of freedom back in 1864, and we have been fighting to remain independent of authority ever since.

But is this fierce independence a help to our relationships as women in our churches?

Galatians 6:7-10 advises us that God desires our accountability to one another: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.  In other words, God wants the first-fruits of our kindness and compassion and time to be given to those within His Body, the Church.

Our sisters should come at the front of the line-up of our priorities, and not in the back.

Hard to wrap our minds around, right?

emma 1

 

Why might it matter to God, that believing women “do good” to one another, ahead of all other loyalties?

Well, the single greatest reason is this:  Church is the place where God’s power and glory are most on display.  It is in the healthy functioning of the Church, and the love of its people toward one another, that God Himself is made to look beautiful!

And we, as hard-working hands and feet, are necessary components to creating that beauty.

Doing Good – But I am Tired!

School, sports, doctor’s appointments, a house to clean.  We are busy people, not looking for any more ways in which to be tired.

Doesn’t doing good look like just more work?  Well, yes.  Which is why Paul encourages the Galatian church: “Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up”.

Doing good will be work, and will inevitably make us weary.

But the confidence of a harvest is our focus, not the labor of our sowing.

emma following

 

Doing Good – What Does it Look Like Practically?

The “going good” that Galatians references, will have varying faces.

Doing good might look like picking up an extra nursery shift, so an over-extended Mom can take a week off.  Or Baby-sitting children not your own, so a friend is freed up for an hour.  Doing good might look like encouragement when a marriage is facing difficulty.  Or it might appear as a note in the mail or a mid-day phone to call that friend who has been on your heart all week.

Doing good might mean serving when there are no other hands to serve, and the Church is tired.

And in our tithe of “doing good”, rather than being emptied, we are filled.

Rather than remaining independent, we instead become inter-dependent.

And the vulnerability of needing that frightens, gives way to the most precious love – because we see that we can need, we can rely.   And out of that willingness and love, emerges something breath-taking: The visible Church.

emmajosh1

So for those of us struggling with commitment to our friends at church, let’s continue on and not give up.

It is hard work to give and to love.  But, let’s do it.  Let’s give of ourselves and place one another in high priority.

Let’s make Him look beautiful by our love.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Lizzie Valasquez, the “Ugliest Woman in the World”: A TRUE Beauty Hero

ugliest woman

While Kim Kardashian is hard at work building her empire- including her {nearly} one million-dollar make-up room –  there are women embracing a much different approach to beauty.

And Lizzie Valasquez is one of them.  Lizzie’s story is remarkable – both for its unimaginable pain, but equally for her courageous response to that pain.

Yesterday, we met Kim.  But today, let’s meet Lizzie.

*****

Imagine it is an ordinary afternoon.  You are 11 years old and just home from school.  Finishing up a snack, you sit down at the computer and begin visiting your regular sites.  And you click over to YouTube.  YouTube is a favorite, and there is always something entertaining to be found.

And then you see it.   A video with your name on it.  How strange.  You cannot recall posting anything.

Curious, you click on the video.  And there, an 8-second clip without sound.  Just a still-shot of your face.

A single image.  And underneath your photo, the caption:

“Ugliest Woman in the World”.

ugliest woman2

You reel in shock.  In horror.  Your mind cannot process what you are seeing.

Is this a hoax?

You scroll down a little bit more, and glance to the right of the video clip.  And there you see it:

4 million views.

4 million people have found a YouTube site in your name, entitled world’s ugliest woman.

You scroll the comments for clarity.  You are confused.  Surely this is a terrible, cruel joke.

But it is not.  In those comments are remarks so vicious, you are knocked breathless.  There are suggestions as to how you can kill yourself.  Jokes about your abnormalities.  And offers to assist you in your suicide.  Because, you know, you are so ugly.

Not one comment has been made in your defense.

Photo courtesy of: {www.wonderfullymade.org}

Photo courtesy of: {www.wonderfullymade.org}

 What does an 11 year-old girl do with a cruelty imposed on her like this?

Well, at first you cry.  You cry for yourself, for your broken heart.  And you cry for your Mom, because when she finds you, her mother’s heart will split in impossible pain.  You weep for a cruelty you cannot comprehend.

But then, if you are Lizzie, you grow contemplative.  And you turn over in your mind what might be gained in an innocence that has been lost.

If you are Lizzie, you wipe your tears and then, you get to work.

Identifying an inner determination, you decide to channel it and raise a flag in honor of true beauty.

Ugliest Woman3

If you are Lizzie, you stand up in the face of cultural beauty-mandates, and you dare to re-define them.

You stand up for yourself, because in so doing you stand for others who have yet to find their voices.  And step by small step, you begin to change things.

You walk onto a stage in front of high-school students drowning in insecurity, and you show them that beauty is found in what God has made.  Nothing is without value that He has made, you say.

And people begin to see what God sees.  Their minds grow bigger.  Their hearts grow softer.

And you, the “ugliest woman in the world”, become a living illustration that He makes everything beautiful in its time.

In your determined, heroic beauty you show that sometimes it just takes people a little while to see it.

 

 

 

 


TRUE Beauty and the Lie that Kim Kardashian Believes

tarte photo

When is the last time that you had 3 hours a day or $20,000 a month to spend on your beauty routine?

This, a record of annual time and money spent by a well-known Hollywood celebrity –  and this number just the cost to maintain body and face.

In fact, according to a recent statistic, more money is now spent in the United States each year on beauty, than is spent on education and social services combined.

A fit, trim figure is now the expectation for women on into their 50’s and 60’s.  The cosmetics industry waves its fist at us and warns: Do not age.  You are not supposed to, nor are you allowed to.

nail polish

Yet, we are aging.  Each year, we succumb a little more to gravity’s pull, struggling to keep ourselves buoyant, fresh and youthful.

Culture has introduced an unfair fight, and as our consumer-dollars convey, we are more than willing to participate.

So does the Bible offer any wisdom to women as to how we should perceive beauty?

Or are we left alone to battle a message of: Looks Matter? 

 

Confronting The Lie

We cannot help but be aware of reality star, Kim Kardashian. And according to entertainment news, the celebrity is up to something new.  Kim is building a house!  And as part of the design, her new space is to include a “glam-room” where Kardashian can apply her make-up.

 

kim kardashian hat

Price-tag for the room where Kim will become glamorous?

$870,000.

To state it lightly, Kim Kardashian’s life is hardly about reality!

Traeling to the Garden of Eden, we see that the very first curse to fall on humanity was that of deception. Satan whispered untruth to Eve, and since that time, the world has been under a curse of whisperings of its own- of lies that pose as truth.

One of the primary lies spun to women, is that perfect beauty can be attained.  And if it is not, we are destined to be miserable.

As Carolyn Mahaney observes in her book, True Beauty, Satan is in charge of a master-mind plan, intended to distort our beauty-reality.  Placing trust and hope in our physical beauty, Mahaney warns, is to fall for Satan’s original Ponzi scheme.

true beauty

You may remember the Lehman Brothers, notorious for embezzling billions of dollars out of Wall Street accounts.

Well, they came, they lied, they conquered.

We cannot afford to invest our own theology of beauty in a house of cards.

 

A Theology of Beauty

What is a right theology of beauty? 

My friend, Gloria likes to say that: Women don’t have time for false hope.  And nowhere do these words ring truer than in the sphere of culturally-imposed beauty standards.

  inner self beauty

Let’s re-visit the Garden of Eden for a moment and engage with the truth.

Does it astound you that upon completing the work of creation, God stood back and declared everything: GOOD?

Nowhere in Genesis do we encounter a God standing back, declaring Eve BETTER  – as though a few tweaks, stitches and augmentations might make her complete.  No, God declared Eve GOOD because she was made according to His creative design.  In His image, for His good purpose.

Your body and face likewise, delight our God.  His is a meaningful and unique creating, with purpose mapped out in every freckle, with every extra pound.

you are beautiful

 

So, Now What?

Don’t we love to parrot phrases to our girls?  Like, it’s what is on the inside that counts.  But in order to be substantive, confident women, there must be something on the inside or they {and we} will be led swiftly astray in our thinking.

 

set you free

The prophet, Zephaniah is just one man who speaks of God’s joy in His people :

The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty to save.  The Lord will take GREAT DELIGHT in you.  He will quiet you with His love.  He will REJOICE over you with singing.

Self-acceptance is based in a God who delights in us- mind, soul and body– and it cannot be bought.  Kim Kardashian’s millions can never purchase what God freely gives.

But we know better.  By God’s grace, we have the Truth. 

And the TRUTH will set us free.