Monday, April 27, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom

Abigail and I are both very blessed by God to have been given two amazing mothers. They have been two of our closest friends and always a great source of wisdom. Our moms have both chosen to be fulltime home school moms and have invested greatly into our lives in a multitude of ways. They also both greatly enjoy writing. Abigail's mother blogs at Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground and has written a fantastic book, "In Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me". My mom hasn't had the chance to get her own blog up and going, or to write a book yet (though it's a dream for her), but still loves writing. (Scratch that! My mom just started a blog, Radical Womanhood, go check it out!)

With both of our moms being the holders of much wisdom, and with their mutual love for writing, Abigail and I decided to share our mothers with you all once a month. Hence the new feature, "Pearls of Wisdom". Every month, our moms will answer two of your questions each. To ask a question, just comment on this post. Make sure to add the "Pearls of Wisdom" button to your sidebar, so your blogging friends can come over and check it out too!


We both hope that God will teach you through the wisdom of our moms the same way He does every day of our lives. Now, go comment with your deep and thought provoking questions! :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Modesty - An Act of the Heart

Olivia recently wrote a post called “Modesty and Pride”. Modesty is difficult to define, and even harder to apply to your personal life. Because of this, I decided to write my perspective on the subject. I believe the best way to finding true modesty is to examine your heart—in Christ, all of our answers lie. The answer to modesty is not laid out in black and white; but with our Father’s voice inside of a chaste and moldable heart, the grey fog can become a work of art.

For the new Christian, developing young woman, etc. modesty can be completely confusing. When I first started to develop a womanly figure, I didn’t know what to do with it. I grew up on a farm, and for the first 10 years of my life my typical garb consisted of overalls, a sweatshirt, and rubber boots. I was never into fashion, because I had no one to tell me that fashion was important…my best friends were (and still are) my family, and they were the only people I cared to please.

When did this change? Well, it’s hard to say exactly when, but as I neared my teen years, I met a few girls who dressed more fashionably than I did. I found myself constantly trying to impress them. At this time, I started trying to weasel my momma into buying me a pair of low rise, flared jeans by claiming that “they were more comfortable” and “I was all about comfort”. What was wrong with this? Was it the fact that I wanted to wear fashionable blue jeans?

The truth is I don’t believe modesty can be physically defined accurately. We are supposed to be set apart as daughters of the Almighty God—but how do we achieve that? Are we supposed to dress in only jumpers and tennis shoes? Are we supposed to quit wearing makeup? Are we supposed to wear our hair long? I’m not here to say that the people who do those things are wrong. If that is what you have been convicted is right, then I commend you. As long as you are in passionate pursuit of Christ’s favor, then you are righteous in His eyes.

I constantly come back to the importance of the new covenant. With Christ’s death, our heart attitude was given the upmost importance in the acquisition of righteousness. So, when determining what is “modest”, what we really need to be asking ourselves is “Why do I want to wear this?” This can apply to both fashionable and conservative clothing. I know, from my family’s experience, that it is easy to get caught up in the pride of being “holy”. In Christ’s eyes, this is the very definition of an immodest heart. What may physically appear to be the “holier” way is often the result of a soul that craves the feeling of being noticed. God is more interested in our hearts. If our hearts are focused on pleasing God, our clothing will be a little thing. God wants our hearts to be constantly yearning with every little ounce of fervor that they hold to honor Him in everything that they do.

Dressing in something that fits our personality isn’t sinful—it’s actually a good way for people to get a feel for who we are. I dress in my favorite fashions all the time…it feels good to look nice. Is my motive to make people look at me? There are days that I think too much about that, and I have to confess that to God—but should that make me abandon all prompting for self control and examination that Christ so desires us to give ourselves? I want to beat the odds, not crawl in a hole and cower at the first sign of sunlight threatening to burn my virgin skin. I want people who haven’t found Christ to look at me as someone that they can relate to, but also someone that has something that they don’t—something that they want. Life with Christ is eternal gain! What we choose to wear is so miniscule in comparison to that fact. Dressing in something that suits our taste isn’t any different than decorating our house with furniture we like, or listening to music that brings us inspiration or makes us smile. To me, modesty is, of course, partly about covering parts that might cause a male to lust, but modesty is also about showing discretion. Modesty doesn’t mean looking drab or frumpy, but rather looking like we care more about what God sees in us than what other people see on us. If we live life for the glory of Life, everything else will fall into place.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Unnamed Bride

I have many heroes and most of them are those heroes of the faith. Those people that have been so in love with God that they have given everything to Him and have served Him with a fierce passion. On my personal list of some of the best women of the faith there is Mary mother of Jesus, Glydas Aylward, Elizabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, and the unnamed bride.

Not many have ever heard of this unnamed bride, she wasn’t even given a name in Richard Wurmbrand’s book Tortured for Christ, telling the story of Christians behind the iron curtain in Romania. But her story left a strong impression on my heart. Her amazing passion for her heavenly bridegroom was one of the most beautiful displays I have ever heard of. Her story is as follows:

“One of our workers in the Underground Church was a young girl. The Communist police discovered that she secretly spread Gospels and taught children about Christ. The decided to arrest her. But to make the arrest as agonizing and painful as they could, they decided to delay her arrest a few weeks, until the day she was to be married. On her wedding day, the girl was dressed as a bride -- the most wonderful, joyful day of a girl’s life! Suddenly, the door burst open and the secret police rushed in.

When the bride saw the secret police, she held out her arms toward them to be handcuffed. They roughly put the manacles on her wrists. She looked toward her beloved, then kissed the chains and said, “I thank my heavenly Bridegroom for this jewel He presented to me on my marriage day. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.” She was dragged off, with weeping Christians and a keeping bridegroom left behind. They knew what happens to young Christian girls in the hands of Communist guards. Her bridegroom faithfully waited for her. After five years she was released, a destroyed, broken woman looking thirty years older. She said it was the least she could do for her Christ.” (Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ pg. 37 & 38)

Now that is a beautiful woman if I’ve ever seen one. That is a woman in love with her prince. That is a woman who I want to be like, whom I admire. That is the type of woman that we should be striving to become.
I know few woman who would have her attitude towards suffering for Christ. Who in their right mind would take joy in being taken away from you husband on your wedding day to be thrown into a horrible Communist prison? Only a person that is completely consumed with passion for the gospel and is filled with the power of the gospel.
No human power can do what our unnamed bride did. We aren’t strong enough in and of ourselves to serve Christ to that magnitude. If fact, we aren’t capable of doing that on even a small scale. It is only the power that the blood of Jesus holds that enables us to serve Him. Only the fact that He died for us gives us strength to die for Him. Paul says that the cross may be foolishness to the unbeliever, but to Christians it’s the very power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18)

This is what the cross can do to a person. This is what Jesus can do to a person; make them so wholeheartedly in love with their Savior that they would see suffering as pure bliss. When everything within us cries to become bitter and get mad at God, Jesus gives us the strength to stand firm in our faith. We are called to not be ashamed of the gospel because, as we saw in the previous verse, it‘s the very power of God! (Romans 1:16).
As we look back on our Easter celebrations, remember what Christ has done both to deliver us and to strengthen us. His blood is our strength and our life and that is an amazing thing! To think of what the blood of Christ means for women, what once was fearful and weak can become strong and brave through the power He has given. For “in him we live and move and have our being”. (Acts 17:28)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Serving Your Family With Joy

Today was a very unusual day for be for one particular reason. I cleaned.

Now you might be thinking, “uhh, that is something unusual for you, Olivia?” and might be getting worried about me. Don’t worry, I do help a lot with chores around the house and the cleaning. So it’s not the cleaning that is unusual, it was my attitude towards it.

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am not a type A and organized person. I’m a crazy, free spirited hippie chick that is a packrat and rarely notices clutter. But today felt different.

My mom and my younger siblings were going to the church gym with some other moms with young kids and were going to have lunch there and let the kiddos burn off some energy. I stayed home to get some rest from helping out with the boys all morning on top of getting over being sick. I had noticed before they left that the house was a little messy. The countertop was dirty and cluttered and the floor needed to be swept and there were dishes and laundry to get done. So I decided I would surprise my mom when she got home by doing some cleaning.

I ended up cleaning the entire house.

I swept, did dishes, laundry, tidied up the entire main level, swiffered the hardwood floors, cleaned the countertops, and even cleaned up my own room. And I enjoyed it! I felt such a thrill from serving my family. My mom is organized and loves things clean and tidy. Sadly, no one else in my family is like that and we tend to be a constant source of stress for her. But today I was able to serve my mom and truly the rest of my family because as we all know, if mom is happy, everyone is happy.

I felt very domestic and I felt a sense of purpose and fulfillment in serving my family in this way. In a way, I felt as if I was truly doing what God wanted me to do. It was very “Proverbs 31 Womanish”. I felt this way last fall also when I fixed a nice supper for my older brother and younger sister when my parents weren’t home that evening. I hadn’t made supper for my family in a long time because I had been busy. That feeling of doing what God created me to do was wonderful.

But how often do I forget how it feels to be in service to my family? How often would I rather sit down on the computer and IM my friends instead of getting off and fixing supper? How often do I groan and complain about chores? The answer to all those questions is “far too often”.

Though we shouldn’t blame the culture for everything, it plays a huge part in how we as women see fulfillment. Feminism has taken a toll on our world and on the church as well. There is nowhere that you can hide from it. It’s constantly telling us that we will find our purpose and joy in a career, that our families are annoying, and that we should spend as little time at home as we possibly can. Teenagers are also expected to never be at home, not know their family at all and find them annoying, hate their parents, and be selfish and lazy.

I don’t have to tell you how easy it is to get sucked into it. Everyday we must fight it off because it’s not only our culture but it’s our sin nature speaking. One of the attributes of the adulterous woman of Proverbs 7 is that “her feet do not stay at home”. We are often not content with our role to stay at home and to rise up to the job that God has given to us. I think this is part of the curse that women were given at the fall that we would want to rule over men. It’s part of our sin nature and it’s something we have to keep breaking down.

So how do we do that? The first obvious thing is prayer. We need to ask God to give us a heart for our homes and families and a willingness to serve them with a glad heart. The other obvious thing is to work on not grumbling and focusing on the bad. It’s so easy to do things grudgingly and with an “if I have to” sort of attitude. Prioritizing is a huge thing too. Working on making our families a priority in our lives, especially those of us who are teens or unmarried, it takes a little bit more effort to really invest in our families because we aren’t the parents.

One last thing that I want to mention is for you “older” women reading this, teach us! In Paul’s letter to Timothy he talks about older women teaching younger women how to love their husbands and children. You example is a huge help, but also your investing into our lives in great too. I love having godly women who are a few steps ahead of me in life to look at and have to surround me with love, encouragement, and teaching. Currently I’ve been finding a ton of encouragement from single women in their 20s and their example of serving their families while unmarried and redeeming their single years for Christ. No matter what you age is there is someone younger than you and someone for you to take under you wing and train.

There is such joy that comes from taking on the job of serving your family. It’s a joy that time and time again we forget about and we habitually don’t look at it with a joyful heart. But when we do look at serving our families as a calling from God and do it in order to ultimately serve Him, we can find such satisfaction is doing so.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Modesty and Pride

“Mommy, I want THAT dress!” cried my younger sister Corina while shopping with my mom one day. The dress in question was a huge, frilly, fancy dress and we don’t have any formal event coming up.
“That dress? Where would you ever wear that to?” my mom asked.
“To church.” she said simply.
“To church?” she asked perplexed. “Why?”
“Because then people would look as me and say, ‘what a beautiful dress you have!’ and everyone would talk about my dress.” (To which my mom commented that we don’t go to church to show others what we wear but to worship God.)

The dress that Corina wanted was modest. But the motive behind it was prideful.

We often focus strongly on being modest with our clothing. Any girl and woman knows the struggle with figuring out it an outfit is too high, too low, too tight, or too something else that could make it immodest. But how often do we take a look at the motives behind our modest clothing? Are we seeking to draw others attention to ourselves or have others think of us as beautiful and stylish? Do we seek to make ourselves “the best dressed” in order to pump up our pride?

Now I am very guilty of this. I love the feeling of wearing something that I feel really pretty in and I know that others will tell me that I look nice. It boosts my already far too big ego and pride, meanwhile killing my humility. The desire to be in the spotlight has been a lifelong struggle for me and as God is shaping my heart and life he’s shaping my pride; actually, it’s more like stomping it out slowly.

Pride can be deadly and it’s the root of all our sin. The first sin was pride, thinking themselves above God’s rule and desiring to be as great as Him. Our sins have continued in that pattern for thousands of years. We seek to glorify ourselves, so accomplish our own means, and to put ourselves before others instead of glorifying God and turning all men’s eyes to Him. We are told in Matthew 5:16 that “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” So how does this concept relate to how we dress?

When we dress immodestly or provocatively we are seeking for attention from people to go to a part of our anatomy, not to God or what He’s done for us and how He is sanctifying us. We are distracting the men around us from God and from things that matter more than our bodies. In I Timothy 2, Paul talks about how men should lift up holy hands in prayers and “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” What often times is the biggest distraction for men to pray with holiness is women around them that are dressed in a way that distracts them and makes them lust.

Sometimes it isn’t even about lust, sometimes what we wear can just be a distraction. On the “Christian” channel on cable (TBN) they had this one show on that we watched part of once and they had this lady with blue or pink hair walking around on stage while the preacher was talking. It was horribly distracting. She was modest, but the way she did her hair and makeup was taking all the attention off of the message of the sermon (which wasn’t any good actually). Like the story I shared earlier about Corina, the outfit was modest, but could easily be a distraction from worship.

Next time you get ready in the morning to go somewhere or go shopping for new clothes, ask yourselves what your motives are behind what you wear. Are you seeking to be modest in order that men will not see just your body but see character? Will the clothes you wear and the attitude you have draw others to Christ or to yourself? Are you wearing these clothes out of trying to obey God and represent Him well, or because of your pride and the desire to be noticed? These can be tough questions that we need to search our hearts for the answers. If and when we find that the answers aren’t so pretty, we need to rely on the power we have from the blood of Christ to fix the issues. So keep your eyes focused on Christ and bringing Him glory in all we do.