Friday, December 20, 2013

Peace

The rare moment when an inexplicable peace fill you.  When contentment washes over you and you feel a spark of joy fill you.  There's no real reason.  I'm not sure where it comes from.  Sometimes it lasts for a long time.  It may be only seconds, or minutes, but it's always fleeting.
You can't hold onto it, and if you try, it surely will not last.
The best thing to do is to pause, wherever you are, whatever you may be doing, and relish the feeling.  Take note of where you are, and be thankful for the fact that at this moment, by what can only be divine intervention, you feel at right with the world.
My favorite are the times of peace that make no sense.  When I am in the car, on my way to work.  In the middle of a bad day.  In the middle of the crazy, busyness of life, somehow we can still be given those rare moments of peace.
I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Friendship

An amazing concept, and one that sometimes I feel I know so little.  I have friends, I am a friend, yet when I sit down to truly think about it, I am amazed at the expansiveness that friendship is.

You have your family-friends.  Family members with whom you build close bonds with, they become not only family, but friends.

Then there's friend-family.  Friends that you've known for so long, or grown so close to, that they are family.

Immediate friends.  The ones you meet, and you just know you are going to be fast friends.  The relationship blossoms naturally, with little effort.

Slow friends.  Sweet friends.  The ones you might know you're compatible with, but the friendship is slow and steady in development.  This one is always lasting, in my experience.

Since we were little friends.  These guys have their own little category.  They're usually friend-family too, and it seems like your relationship is more like a sibling relationship than anything else.  It doesn't really matter how you change, or how different you become from each other, you're stuck with these friends for life, and it's a good thing.

Far off friends.  That person.  Over there.  He/she seems cool.  We should be friends.  How do we become friends?  I hope we become friends.

Lost friends.  The one that got away.  We grew apart.  We moved.  Hurt.  Forgiveness.  We changed.

Found friends.  We knew each other once, and can you believe?  Here we are again!  Life has a funny way of bringing things full circle.

Thrown together friends.  You met because your friends are friends, by default.  You keep getting thrown together, and slowly, your own friendship develops.

Laughing.  Crying.  Joking.  Sharing.  Eating.  Wailing.  Supporting.  Strength.  Loving.  Calming.  Listening.  Wisdom.  Peace.  Patience.  Freedom.  Gentle.  Quiet.  Present.  Forgiving.  Honest.  Hard.  Real.  Pursuing.

Worth it.




Friday, October 11, 2013

Modesty. The finale.

I know that it may seem that the past couple blog posts have not exactly been about modesty, but I believe that the condition of the heart determines the way we act and carry out our lives.  In general, as your relationship grows with Christ, and you become more like Christ, it is natural for you character to be changed.  It is this internal change, the image of Christ being grown in you, that makes you modest.  There are so many ideas about what is ok, and what is not ok, and there is just no way that you can please everyone.
What's a girl to do?  
Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and do your best.  "Do not do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2).  Don't wear something to feed your own vanity, but consider your brothers in Christ.  Probably a good general rule: when in doubt, don't.

Beauty does not come from outward adornment, despite the fact that our society emphasizes this aspect so much.  I think it's perfectly natural and good to feel beautiful when you are outwardly adorned, but I do not believe that we should find our identity in our outward appearance, or in how others respond to our outward adornment.  Christ is the essence of beauty, and this is where true beauty is found.

I really and truly believe that if you are seeking the will of Christ and seeking to please Him, the way you act, dress, and live, will reflect that.  Mistakes happen, and bad decisions will be made, without doubt, but what matters is the heart turned toward Christ.

I often consider where my desire to be seen comes from.  *If you read back through the last few posts, you know that I don't think it's a bad thing to be seen, because often my desire to remain unseen is one of fear.*  What is the condition of my heart in my desire to be noticed?  How am I trying to be noticed? I think that the root of this desire can be very telling.  Trying to be seen by a form of dress, or action, when the heart is truly examined, can be a form of manipulation, and mistrust.  Manipulation, by the fact that I am trying to control the way a situation unfolds with my manner of clothing, and the way I interact with others.  Mistrust, through the fact that I am attempting to take matters into my own hands and I am failing to believe that God will carry out His will and purposes in my life.

I will say, there's a grain of salt with this, because while you could go to the extreme and say even if I look like a complete bum, God will take care of me, and will carry out His will, etc, and it doesn't matter.  I can be a complete slob. Whewhoo!   Yet, I'd say there are certain cultural norms and expectations, which are probably good things to consider.

So, when I step back and realize that the heart behind my actions is not pure, I must reconsider myself, and place my trust back in God.  Modesty is a condition of the heart, and it's a lifelong process of being joined with the heart of Christ.

And with that, my friends, we are going to step back from the topic of modesty for a while.  I'm not sure what we will set out to conquer next, but I'm sure it'll be great fun.

Good night, and thanks for checking in.
Cheers.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Modesty- Part 4. I ain't afraid of nothing.

"Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.  For this is how the holy women  who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.  And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."  -1 Peter 3:3-6

And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.  

I love that.  I think a lot of times men get all the credit for being brave and courageous, and I'm not saying they aren't, but I think that women are often overlooked in this area.  It's a different kind of courage, but I think it's quite a fearsome sight to behold.  (Warn me if I start to sound too feminist, or crazy, but I just get all excited and riled up about this stuff)

 The holy woman who does not fear anything that is frightening brings to my mind the Proverbs 31 woman.  Don't you worry, we can get more into her later, but I want to focus on one specific aspect of her right now, the, "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come," (Proverbs 31:25).  Yes.  That part. 

There are so many things that we can fear, and so many negative things that can come from fear.  A woman who is afraid is a woman who is not confident, a woman who nags, who is always anxious, and who is unable to enjoy the present because she is afraid of what the future might hold.  

Fear can stem from many places, but for me, I think the most common fears that I have arrive when I allow myself to get carried away with the "what ifs".  That downward spiraled rabbit trail of: what if I do this, and then this happens, and then I miss out on this, and then this happens, and then I miss that, and then, suddenly, I'm fifty years down the road and I've managed to become the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons, speaking gibberish and randomly throwing cats at people.  Happens every time.

However, a woman of God does not fear anything that is frightening.  Easier said than done.  It can be very hard, but I think it comes down to trust.  Do I trust that God is with me?  Do I believe that I have been given the Holy Spirit?  Do I believe that I am saved by grace, and not works?

There is a song by Jason Upton called, "Never Alone Martin," and I would recommend checking it out if you have never heard it.  The song recollects a story about Martin Luther King, Jr. when his family was being threatened- obviously a situation where it would be very easy to be afraid.  In the story, King prays to hear God in all of this chaos that he is experiencing, and he hears God say, "You are never alone."  It's amazing to me how powerful that one idea is, especially when you start to realize exactly who it is that always with you.  The King, Maker, and Author of this universe is with you.  

Do I believe He is who He says He is?  If I trust Him, I have no fear. 

The greatest thing about all of this is that it is not out of our own strength or merit that we trust in God.  It is not our own strength and dignity.  He gives us even that.  When I am afraid, I pray for strength, I pray for trust, and He answers me.  A woman who trusts in the Lord is a fearsome sight to behold.  She is strong.  She is dignified.  She laughs at the future because she trusts that her God will be with her, and that He will never leave her.  She is beautiful.  

No matter what comes, I can rest assured that I will not have to face it alone.  I will have someone with me who can bring healing, meaning, and purpose to even the most seemingly hopeless situations.  I can laugh at the time to come because I believe that He is good, and He is with me.  


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Modesty: Part 3-the s word

Regardless of whether you're a man or a woman, being married means that you are no longer living only for yourself.  There's a sense of a loss of individuality that comes not only with marriage, but with having kids too.  I think we struggle with the idea of submission because we feel that to live in submission is to lose oneself.  A dear friend and I had a conversation a while ago about this very idea.

Sometimes I tell God that I'm ready to head in the direction of that marriage path, but one time when I told Him this, I got an unexpected response.  I was like, what up God?  And He was like, Really?  Do you really think you're ready for this?  Cause you won't be your own anymore.  Every decision, every action, isn't only your own, it doesn't affect only you, but another person.  Are you ready for that?  I said, shucks.  I don't know that I am.  However, He wasn't done yet.  Next came this bomb:  You've thought  that growing up means becoming more of an individual, standing more on your own, and becoming less reliant, but you're wrong.  Growing up in Christ means becoming more reliant.  It means becoming less and less of your own and more of His.  Instead of becoming more independent, you are and should become more dependent.

Oh.

It's like that whole humility thing.

My finances, my decisions, my life, isn't my own to begin with.  In marriage, you don't lose these things, because you don't have them in the first place.  I, and they, belong to the Lord.  It is His to give and take, and His to decide what to do with.

The entire idea of submission is changed in this light.  Both spouses are first submitted to the Lord, they belong to Him first, and each other second.  You cannot lose that which you have already lost.  "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-26)

In this light, submission doesn't seem so bad to me.  My life is already lost to Christ.  I am His, to do with as He may.

*I will acknowledge that I'm young, and obviously not married, so I have a lot to learn.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Modesty, Part 2: Beauty?

"Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.  For this is how the holy women  who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.  And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."  -1 Peter 3:3-6

Now, I know a couple women probably bristled reading the section that has the word "submit" in it, but I put the whole bit in there because I think that the first half of these verses is often used, but we leave off the second half so we don't have to deal with it.  However, as I read these verses, I decided that the context was important, and it would help us understand what Peter is really trying to get at here.

I've always kind of gotten hooked up on the whole idea of external versus internal beauty.  I heard this verse a long time ago, and I thought it was nice, but I didn't really know what it meant.  If you read Part 1, you know how that story goes: I was a tomboy, afraid to look nice, blah blah, learned about makeup, etc.  Also, just in case you were wondering, I now have a job at a store with pretty clothes and I wear pretty clothes that are feminine, and that make me feel (you remember we talked about feelings too- feeling pretty?) like a woman!

Apparently the past two years have just been a season of learning how to be a woman for me.  Obviously,  a lot of it has been external, but I believe there has been internal workings as well.  One of the things I've always been really passionate about is girls and women learning what it means to be not only a follow of Christ, but a follower of Christ as woman.  We are all one in Christ, but God did create us man and woman, and I think that men and woman are made to demonstrate different aspects of Christ.  There is something incredibly beautiful about a man being a man after God's heart and a woman being a woman after God's heart.  They are different, and they display different aspects, but they are both lovely.  Somewhere along the way, I think we've lost some of this.  (Now, don't take me for one of those anti-modernist types who doesn't think progress is good- equality, ability to vote, etc aren't things that I would like to see go, ok?)  (Although, I would say I don't like things about modernism, or post-modernism- especially the part where we kick God out of the picture, but perhaps that's a discussion for another time.)

Anywhoo.  Back to the verse.  I don't think Peter is saying that you can't braid your hair or wear pretty things, and my helpful notations also point out that Peter is by no means saying that women shouldn't wear clothes (thank you notations for keeping me in check, I was about to go wild).  However, he IS saying that your beauty doesn't really come from these things.  So, I think we can gather from this that TRUE, real, beauty, the stuff that is the image of God, and the stuff that God looks at and says, this is good, is not the stuff found on the outside.  However, let's remember that we were created in the image of God, and I think that means internally and externally, so I do think that God can be seen in our physical selves as well, but we also must remember that we are in fallen world, so that beauty is often distorted and messed up.  Don't think  me dangerous, but I think that despite our fallen-ness, the image of God can still be seen in all humanity, but it can't outdo the weight of sin without Christ.  (I know that was a lot, just read slowly)

So, here's the kicker, I think the "gentle spirit" comes from the Holy Spirit, and I think it involves us being transformed into the image of Christ.  Sometimes I get confused about what this really means, because if we are all transformed into the image of Christ, and if that's made complete one day, doesn't that mean that we're all the same?  Maybe it's just the fact that I've been raised in a society where being different and unique is important, at least sometimes, but the idea of everyone being exactly the same seems kind of bleh to me.  So, maybe that's influencing my thoughts here, but I don't think we all become the same by being formed into the image of Christ.  If we were all meant to be the same, I don't think God would have created woman in the first place.  Woman was created as a companion for man, a help-meet, a perfect fit, someone different, but complimentary.  I also don't think that the body of Christ would be as emphasized as much if we were all being made into the exact same thing- you know, one body, different parts, not one part of one body.  So, I think that me being made into the image of Christ is going to look different than you, or you, or you, being made into the image of Christ.  Not only because we've had different experiences and struggles, but because we were each uniquely made- Psalm 139, baby!

So what does this gentle spirit, that is being formed by Christ, and that represents the image of Christ, look like?

I think we are going to have to address the entirety of these few verses in a couple segments, because I think we need to address, shhhh, submission, and my personal favorite, the, "do not fear anything that is frightening," bit.  It's my favorite because I actually think there is something very womanly, feminine, and beautiful about being courageous and not afraid.  We'll get into that, don't you worry.

Hopefully we'll answer all these questions that I keep posing.  Let me know if I don't, and maybe we can work on that.  (Not yet though!  I'm not done.)


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Modesty, Part 1.

It seems to be a hot topic as of late.  Perhaps because we are in the midst of swimsuit and sun dress season.  I've read a few different articles, and let's be real, there are a lot of different opinions about what it means to be modest.  There are all sorts of reasons why women should dress modestly, and honestly, most of the ones that I've read haven't really hit home for me.

It's not that I don't think the reasons are good- not being a stumbling block, guys are visual, looking at a woman with lust in your heart is committing adultery (paraphrase), etc.  I read these arguments, and I think, the idea is good, but there's something still lacking.

In reality, I don't really think about modesty that much.  For the most part, the clothes that I tend to be the most comfortable in are pretty modest.  I don't usually have to question if something is appropriate, perhaps because I trained myself early in these terms, and I think my personality/style simply leans towards the modest end.

When it comes down to it, I think these discussions lack the idea of womanhood.  We say, "Don't, don't, don't.  Spare him, don't wear that, respect yourself, don't wear that.  Save yourself."  Yet, we don't really offer anything in return for the no, no, no.

In my experience, when you are denied something, or when God breaks something in you, or removes sin in you, He replaces it with something else, mainly, Himself.  He takes, so that Christ can be filled in.
It seems to me that a lot of the modesty questions hit the surface, but they never really go to the heart.  I wonder if the idea of modesty should start, not with what I wear, but with my heart.

Do I even begin to understand what it means to be a woman of God?  Why am I woman?  How was I created differently than men?  What unique gifts do I offer to the world as woman?  How is what I offer innately different than what most men offer?

I'm going to be vulnerable with you for a minute.  Growing up, I was never super interested in fashion, makeup, or the likes.  I'd describe myself as part tomboy, part I didn't know what the heck to do with makeup, or clothes, only knew how to apply mascara, and didn't like to wear heels because they hurt and I'm already pretty tall.  So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled into selling Mary Kay makeup for a season.  It was terrifying in some ways.  Me, who had never learned how to apply eye shadow properly in her 23 years, was now teaching others how to apply eye shadow, and use other makeup products that I didn't even know existed?  Crazy.
However, it ended up being really fun.  My background makes me feel a little sheepish about makeup, but I know how to use it, and I actually like it now.  Who would have guessed?
When I first began wearing makeup more frequently, it was really scary for me in someways.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't really even wearing that much, but that small effort did make me feel more noticeable, and that scared me.  In some ways, I felt that wearing makeup perhaps brought out my beauty more, making it harder for me to feel like I was hiding.  Turns out that being seen, or noticed, for my beauty, scared me.  (Disclaimer:  I'm not saying that beauty comes from makeup.  It doesn't.  However, I will say that there is something about wearing makeup that can enhance beauty, and there's something about making an effort, or "primping", that makes me feel beautiful, even if it doesn't really do anything in reality.  Whether or not I'm noticed more with makeup isn't really important, I just feel more the possibility of being noticed because I have made an effort)

So, I found out that part of my reason for not wearing makeup wasn't because I wanted to be natural, or because I didn't know how, but because I was afraid.  It seems kind of weird, but I think that the basis of my fear was revealing myself to other people.  If I wasn't seen, I wasn't known, and I didn't have to show myself.  When I wore makeup, I was making an effort concerning the way I looked, and by doing so, I was acknowledging that I was worth being seen, and I was asking to be seen.

Now we are finally getting down to the root.  I think I can safely say that immodesty- being scantily clad and the like, is often the way that women in our society think they can be seen.  So, when thinking in these terms, to be modest would mean that you go unseen.  I'm not saying that those other articles are telling women not to be seen, but I think that's the conclusion that our minds jump to.  What I want to say is perhaps we want to see less of your skin, but we want to see more of YOU.  This, my friends, is what I want to get into with this topic.  How do we demonstrate our beauty as women, in a godly way?  How do we maintain the mystery, and what does it really mean to be a woman of God?  What is the true heart of modesty, and how do we work it starting from the inside?