“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9
3.) Worship brings complete pleasure.
“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9
“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:11
I was thinking this morning as I sipped my morning coffee (seriously, I have to find a decent tasting decaf brew, because I hate caffeine…) and I thought about how much my views and opinions have changed since I was in high school. Let’s be honest here, I’m still called “kid” by the vast majority of individuals I spend time with. My husband and I drastically lower the average age of our church’s chancel choir. Last night, we were mistaken for high school students by the new pastor. Establishments check our ID’s in every possible circumstance. I’ve only been a high school graduate for 3 years, my husband for 4. My point is, I’m incredibly “young and foolish” so it just downright shocked and awed me when I noticed how much more conservative I am now as compared to when I was in high school because I’m still seen as fairly liberal by my church friends who are in their mid to late 60s.
I wondered then what changed my mind on so many issues… I don’t wear bikinis to the beach, or even go to the beach if my husband isn’t around, I no longer feel a fascination toward body piercing or tattoos, nor do I have any, I don’t now nor have I ever consumed alcohol for the purpose of getting drunk, I don’t wear make-up every day or even every time I go out in public (*GASP*- I know this may seem shocking to my mom and sisters 😉 ) I love wearing cardigan sweaters, and putting my hair in buns. I don’t like wearing high heels over 3 inches tall, and I wake up by 7:30 AM and prefer to go to bed by 10PM. There are those little things, and then a whole host of other more political issues on which my opinions have changed, or slid slightly more to the right.
I came to the conclusion that getting married did something to my brain. Having that one person in my life, to whom I am to give my utmost respect and support changed the way I do the little things. I’ve found I WANT to make those little changes out of respect for my husband. It’s not because I struggle with body image, or self-confidence, or modesty, or anything of the sort, because honestly, I’m in awesome shape and by society’s standards, have what it takes to “show it off.” The point is that I choose not to because before I do anything, I ask myself what my husband would think. I want nothing but to bring him honor, and to remain upright in integrity and discretion. If that means dressing more conservatively, then that’s what I’ll do, without question. If that means being cautious about my actions in public, that’s what I’ll do.
I first discovered I was making the transition to “old lady” sometime in college, when people were talking about their feelings toward porn, erotica, or general “benders” of any sort. I’m not willing to do anything that could compromise the integrity of my relationship with my husband; I’m not willing to sacrifice his trust and respect for doing something “fun” for its own sake. I don’t want to open doors that could lead to potential marital complications in the future; i.e., no porn, no erotica novels, no drinking without my spouse, no emotional/marital sharing with someone of the opposite sex, no revealing clothing (yes- this even applies to my husband and his pair of jeans with the duct taped rear, and proclivity for mooning…) and full disclosure of anything that could potentially be seen as an indiscretion (like the “make her famous” texts, with which I have MAJOR issues.) What is right for us as a couple may not be right for anyone else, but so far, our marriage works, and we don’t have to have the petty arguments because we place each other’s feelings and concerns ahead of our own. We are aware of one another’s struggles and failures, and rather than create stumbling blocks for each other out of pride, we just avoid what we consider “the taboo” altogether. It doesn’t matter that I think the length of my shorts are just fine as compared to that other woman’s shorts, because I’m not that other man’s wife. It doesn’t matter if my husband doesn’t think his caboose hanging out of his jeans that are more hole than pant is a big deal (though I’ve caught men and women alike checking out his rear), because he’s not their husband. We guard each other’s hearts, out of a mutual trust and respect.
He has full confidence in me, because I don’t test the boundaries (except for that time I bought a Cosmo because of a random “how to tone” article, which we’ve already discussed and I just tossed the mag.) He knows that I’m not nagging him when I ask who’s texting him, because he knows (or at least he will after he reads this) that I’m just trying to 1.) legitimately make conversation, because there are times we just sit in the same room, each surfing Facebook, and not say a word to the other, and 2.) guard our marriage. He doesn’t mind my questions, because he has nothing to hide, and he knows he can have full confidence in me when he has to be away.
It’s our system, it works for us. Like I said before, what works for us may not be right for anyone else, but it’s not for us to judge them, nor for them to judge us, because it’s not about that-it’s about honoring God and my husband and if that takes me setting up some boundaries so that I am able to avoid failure or disappointment, I’m cool with that.
It was recently brought to my attention that I was doing a lot of talking about my opinions and beliefs but had shown no action. Well, that just won’t fly. So, here it is.
I saw an article entitled, “Military Wives Strip Down to Raise Awareness About PTSD: Battling Bare” in which it was stated that military wives were part of a campaign called Battling Bare, in which they posed topless (bare backs, not fronts) with a poem written on their backs. You can click the link to see the article and the pictures.
Now while I feel the photos were tastefully done, I am of the mindset that there are more modest ways to advocate a cause.
In a profession such as the military, in which a woman’s husband can be gone 75% of the year, is this really the best way to combat stress? Yes, I understand the symbolism of the images- an attempt to capture the feelings of the suffering soldier, or marine, or airman, or sailor; stripped bare, and feeling empty, and alone.
My problem is not with the cause they’re advocating, nor with the pictures themselves. My issue lies in the fact that women have decided that the only way to bring attention to a subject or cause is to show skin, or pose nude. Why not take the same pictures of an ACTUAL soldier, marine, airman, or sailor? Because the media has figured out that sex appeal sells an issue, and they’re exploiting that. But what comfort can a husband possibly gain from his wife willingly posing nude, tastefully or otherwise? It’s okay if it’s for PTSD and there are sunflowers and a clever poem written on her back, but under any other circumstances it would be frowned upon! There’s a point at which you have to ask yourself, “okay, it’s for a good cause- what are the limits?” Like the commercials advocating breast cancer awareness a few years ago… People were outraged that the busty woman in a bikini was the vehicle of choice to convey the message, and they were all about “preserving the dignity of women.” That’s great, but either you believe that, or you don’t. There seems to be a double standard; as long as your nipples, butt crack, or other unmentionables aren’t showing, it’s okay! Newsflash- nudity is nudity whether it’s full frontal, or partial. My problem lies in the fact that it’s okay, but just as long as you don’t go too far. Why test the boundaries? Why risk injury to your reputation or dignity? It goes back to my belief that one should remain above reproach.
My husband and I had an interesting conversation along these lines yesterday while we were watching the Today Show… They were interviewing an actor who stars in the movie, Magic Mike. Mitch watched the clips they showed from the movie and the following (paraphrased/condensed version) conversation ensued:
Mitch: “Now… I assume this movie has to have some kind of plot to back up the fact that it’s basically just a stripper movie for chicks to get their jollies fantasizing… But why isn’t it getting the controversy of like, Coyote Ugly?”
Me: “You think I’m at all interested in this movie? First off, to answer that question, no. Second, I have no idea. Coyote Ugly got reamed for bar-top dancing in “scant clothing” so I don’t understand the lack of issue people are taking with this movie.”
Mitch: It’s just that if the same movie were made featuring female strippers as opposed to men, it would be unthinkable and women everywhere would be appalled! Why isn’t this movie condemned in the same way?”
While that conversation was somewhat off topic, I believe there is a central theme, being that women can’t in one breath want chivalry and respect from men and in the very next condone or support the exploitation of their bodies or sexuality. They are conflicting ideals! If you want to be seen as having self-respect, dignity, grace, and honor, your behavior must reflect those qualities. Until you demand those things for yourself, you will continue to be denied them by society.
The issue with the article in question is that the problem of PTSD being advocated by nude women is that in so doing, you risk the message getting lost among the sensuality, sexuality, and the like. Why not instead maintain modesty and become advocates in a more direct way? To this question, I say “Challenge Accepted.” I haven’t figured out how yet, but I will raise awareness for PTSD. I will raise money for the National Center for PTSD, and I will do it with my shirt on.
I feel like people are misunderstanding my opinion of the whole thing. It’s not that I found the pictures to be pornographic, or offensive. It’s the fact that when you use “skin” or “nudity” to advocate a message, you risk injury to the integrity of the intended message because inevitably, those pictures will be seen or used as something for which they were not intended. Why not remain above reproach? Why not take a modest route? Why not use intellect and a rhetoric to get the same point across? Because society doesn’t think that works anymore… I’m out to prove them wrong. I don’t know how long it will take me, but I am passionate about this cause. And I will pursue it.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Ok, I did it- the cliché passage from Ecclesiastes… But you know what? It felt relevant today and for whatever reason, I feel like God is calling me to it.
I wasn’t even reading from Ecclesiastes this morning. I was reading from Genesis in my study of the Hebrew words used to describe/ refer to God. Today I learned El-olam, which I read comes from another word literally meaning “to be hidden” or “the vanishing point.” Olam was used to describe God’s infinite, everlasting, and eternal qualities (Genesis 21:33), specifically focusing on the concept of God transcending what we can see and measure with our finite senses.
This of course triggered a waterfall of thought and reading because I found it interesting that Abraham used El-olam to refer to God in Gen. 21 but wasn’t tested until the next chapter when God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. It pulled me in deeper- after a lifetime of wandering around, hesitating to trust and learning to let God be God, and walk by faith, Abraham finally acknowledged in Gen. 21:33 that God knew what was up, so to speak, by acknowledging that God far surpassed what Abraham could perceive on his own. At that moment, Abraham finally put his full trust and faith in the Lord. That makes the entirety of chapter 22 make more sense! Before when I had read it, Abraham comes off kind of callous, almost like he’s operating out of fear rather than faith. The whole time I always felt awful for poor Isaac because he had to have been confused and terrified the entire time. Before, I thought that the “moment of truth” was when Abraham lifted the knife to sacrifice his son and was stopped by the angel of the Lord… Now, I understand Abraham to have had a steadfast trust the whole time; he had already come to that point of absolute faith in God and he was confident that God would spare his one and only son. The test was just to “seal the deal” and prove with finality that Abraham had in fact put God first and foremost in his life.
As I pondered it further, I started to wonder how the experience shaped Isaac and his faith in God. Up on that mountain, he was shown ultimate faith and trust in God, but I don’t think he ever really “got” the message. Yes, he served the Lord, but I feel like he kind of missed the point that God made with his father, Abraham, and I’ll explain why.
1.) He hard-core played favorites with his sons, Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:28)
2.) He didn’t trust God to protect him and Rebekah so he lied to Abimelech (Gen. 26:7)
3.) He wasn’t a firm leader within his household; he was repeatedly deceived by both his wife and his son (Gen. 27:1-46; Gen. 28:1-9)
It was as if neither Jacob or Esau had a firm example of the devout and unwavering trust/faith of Abraham, because instead of spending their lives trying to serve and please God, they each sought to win Isaac’s favor, and in the end, it caused them all grief. Jacob was taught by his mother, Rebekah, that rather than accepting the place God had given him and the role he was to play in life, he had to deceive, lie, and scheme to get what he wanted, rather than be content with the blessings he was given, and trust God to provide for his needs and bless him with his wants. I read further in Genesis, through chapter 32, where Jacob wrestles with God and is left with a permanent limp as a perpetual mental note of his weakness on his own; a physical reminder that he needs God… And while he also served God, I don’t think Jacob ever fully understood either, because he too played favorites with his sons, Joseph and Benjamin because they were his children with Rachel, whom he loved most.
I processed the history within each of those generations of God’s chosen people… God had a plan that was accomplished in the end, regardless of the choices, decisions, or mistakes that those men made. There was season for everything and a time to every purpose, all of which ultimately achieved God’s desires for his people.
This is SO relevant to today’s society. I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with one of my sisters… We were discussing dating, marriage, and children, and she said something that made me aware of how lost people her age are because they rely on their own strength of will to get by… To paraphrase what she said, “You just have to do what feels right; there’s never going to be a right or perfect time. If you wait around forever, you’ll never do anything about it.” And I thought, wow- I thoroughly disagree, and understand the message God has been trying to drive home the past few weeks. There IS a right time. There IS perfect timing, and it’s God’s, not mine. I don’t want to go through life constantly struggling against my current situation, missing out on the joy of the present time I’ve been blessed with because I’m attempting to fill my life with the things I want or think I need in the heat of the moment. I don’t want to feel like Jacob, struggling for control, and fighting God’s will for me. I don’t want to limp by for the rest of my life, wishing I had just trusted God from the beginning to fulfill his promises.
I turned from Genesis to Ecclesiastes 3:15- “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”The footnote after the word “account” clarified verse 15 to say, “God calls back the past.” I understand that the frustration of waiting I’m experiencing, or the unnerving feeling of being the only one to have ever felt like they’re in a limbo situation, holding out for what is yet to come, but stuck in waiting for the time being, is something ancient. It’s been felt and experienced by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… They’ve all dealt with that spiritual tug-of-war with God. Nothing I’m experiencing now is new, or different from what challenged people’s closeness to God back in ancient times. What IS different is that I have their experiences from which to draw wisdom. I’m never going to stop feeling those periods of insecurity, because I’m human. I just can’t let myself forget that God has a plan, and no matter what, it WILL be done. My role is tiny, and insignificant in the vast scheme of things, and to place my part above any others is foolish and ignorant, and contrary to everything I’ve read in scripture. I have a role to play, yes, but it isn’t for me to decide the order in which my scenes play out. That’s God’s job, and I’m resolving to daily offer up to him the control I continually try to seize. It will be a challenge to which I look forward.
I’ve made a recent discovery; faith in God is so simple, it’s difficult. That is, so simple, we over-complicate it… or I do, anyway…
I’ve been doing a study of the various names for God used in scripture and how the various Hebrew words and their meanings all bear significance in identifying God for who He is. For example, “El” was a Hebrew word meaning “god” little “g”. But we see something in scripture that can’t be explained by the “rational thinking” people of that time- El gets hyphenated and added to in order to reveal characteristics of the one, true God. For example, Elohim- describes the nature of God and his plurality, yet unity; El-Shaddai-God Almighty; El-gibbor- Mighty, or Heroic God; El-de’a- the God who knows; El-emet- God of truth; El-kabod- God of glory… All of these are used to refer to the same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The only problem is that I often times forget that my God is the God of ALL THINGS, and not just the God of some, or most things… I forget that I don’t have to struggle, or go it alone, because I have God on my side.
Too often I ask myself why I experience periods of doubt and uncertainty instead of just leaning on God and relying on His promises… the answer is simple: instead of turning to God, I turn inward and attempt to control that which is beyond my comprehension. It’s like when our lawn mower mysteriously went on the fritz (We bought it in April, so there’s really no reason for it to not be working…) We tried everything… I replaced the air-filter, Mitch siphoned the old gas, and we added new fresh gas, we checked the oil, we changed the spark plug… We consulted the owner’s manual… Now all that is left for us to do since after all our attempts to fix it have failed is to contact the manufacturer and have it replaced or exchanged…
As annoying as the whole lawn-mower ordeal is, what it’s taught me is that I have virtually zero knowledge of small engine repair and/or maintenance… So why do I continue to pretend I do rather than just consult the maker of the product? Why in my life, do I assume I can deal with the stresses and problems that crop up on my own without regard to the One who made me? You see where I’m going with this? I’m not saying to call Husqvarna every time you struggle with anxiety or depression, but I am saying that when there’s a problem in your life you can’t fix, consult your manufacturer God.
Huh… What do you know? I’ve taken an annoying homeowner’s issue and used it as a teaching opportunity… maybe I can be a teacher after all… 🙂 Blessings to you all!
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Have you ever been in a situation that catches you off guard and just completely stresses you out? Take my dog, Cyd for example… We had scheduled repairmen to come and do some last minute things to the house so that we can close on it, and she was completely unaware, so when the guys got to the house and started hammering shingles, and scraping the window sills, she freaked out a little and was sprinting around the house barking like a maniac. There was nothing she could do to change the situation or make it stop, but she was freaked out none the less, because she didn’t understand what was happening or see it coming.
Well, that happens to me on a semi-regular basis. I get hit in the face by an unexpected curveball, and I run around the house trying to figure out how to “fix” the issue without stopping to realize that God is in control from the beginning. It’s not my job to solve every problem. If it were, I would be God… and we all know via “Bruce Almighty” that man in God’s role doesn’t work out so well…
Anyway, I suppose what I’m getting at is that when those times in our lives inevitably come up, we have to remember to sit down, take a deep breath and let God work it out. You’ve heard the expression, “Pray hardest when it’s hardest to pray…” ? Well that’s some advice I’ll definitely be heeding. There are so many instances of potential stress in my life; applying/registering for classes this fall, doing the ETTP to be able to substitute teach, Mitch’s numerous field ops leading up to Japan, various family situations… What it all boils down to is not whether or not I can handle all of those obstacles, but whether or not I will pray without ceasing and trust God to show me the paths I should take, and lead me where I should go. Then the potential stress turns in to zero stress. And I think we could all use less stress in our lives, am I right?
There are so many things that I would not plan for myself that God may have planned for me. The truth is, I don’t know what lies ahead. It might seem scary, it might be exciting, it might be unnerving, but as long as I trust that God knows what he’s doing (and that’s kind of an intrinsic property of having faith in God, or even acknowledging God to be God) then I know that everything will be okay.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I was reading my devotional today, on Genesis 14:22, and it triggered further reading and thinking… I pondered Genesis chapters 14-37. I thought about Abraham’s incredible story and the many struggles he faced in his life. He went through his life struggling to have faith in God’s power to deliver him from his enemies, to provide for his family, and to fulfill his promises. I started to think about how the faith of our fathers before us affects our walk and relationship with the Lord…
Isaac struggled with trusting the Lord to handle things and he lied to king Abimelech and told him Rebekah was his sister… and Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau… Jacob was constantly pulling away from God and doing things his own way because he didn’t trust that God’s way was better. Then I thought about Joseph and how even through being sold into slavery by his own brothers and later being sent to prison on false charges, Joseph never lost faith that God was taking care of him, and that there was a plan for his life. Joseph kept the faith and accomplished great things! That’s how I want to be remembered. I hope that my obituary goes something like this:
She was a genuinely good woman. She loved and feared the Lord and she was faithful to God and her husband. She faced many obstacles in her life, but she overcame all of them because she trusted God to lead her through. Her husband and her children were strengthened in their faith by her example. She served God in all she did, and He blessed her and her family.
I want people to look back on the life I lived and say, “Yep, she did everything for the glory of God, and you could see Christ through the way she lived her life.” I want my husband to see me as a faithful woman of God, and to have full confidence in me. I want my sisters and my brother to look at my life and see that to live according to God’s will is the ONLY way to live with perpetual joy and happiness. I want my parents to look at my life and be proud of the woman I’ve become. I want my future children to remember me with love, and I want to be the kind of mother that my daughters admire, and model themselves after; knowing that having modesty and a gentle and quiet spirit is far better than conforming to society’s ideals of beauty and femininity. I want my sons to grow up to be respectful gentlemen; men of God like their father. I want them to see how a woman is supposed to treat her husband, and for them not to settle for anything less than a Godly woman. I want to give my children the perfect illustration of marriage between myself and my husband, so that they might see Christ through us every day in our home.
And the more I thought about how I want people in the future to see my past, the more I started to think about the present… (Well, actually I thought about “The Butterfly Effect,” and how you can’t change the past, or you’ll alter the future, and it’s usually not for the best…) I thought that the best time to start writing a past that reflects my passion for Christ is to start living that way in the present. My present will soon become my past, and what better time than now to make sure my past is a reflection of faith? I can’t go back and change the things in my life that have already happened. I can only look back on them with a new-found wisdom, and move forward, growing in faith and spirit to become the woman God intends me to be.
It frequently frightens me to think about the great unknown which is my future. But in looking back on everything that has happened in my past, there has been a reason for everything. Every misstep, every failure, every struggle and every achievement, blessing, and victory have brought me to where I am now. And while I couldn’t see how the story was unfolding then, it makes perfect sense to me now. That’s how I know that I have to walk in the faith. I have to live according to God’s word. I must have faith and trust in the Lord. That’s the only way to get to the place I ultimately want to be. I know it’s going to be difficult, and I’m not so naive as to believe that I won’t stumble and fall. But I have a road map, and I have people surrounding me that are cheering me on toward the goal. I have a husband that loves the Lord, and who is strong enough in his faith to correct me when I drift, and point me back on track. That’s what gives me the courage and the faith to carry on.
From time to time, I get this anxiety that overwhelms me; I feel like I have to make all the right choices and if I don’t, I will have drifted off course from where God wants me to be. I recently re-read a journal entry I made a year ago, and I had written a quote from the pastor, Michael at Cornerstone Church. He said, “Our demands to get the decisions ‘right’ are most often based on pride, not righteousness… Community, unity, and order, are more important that getting all the decisions ‘right’.” I have to remind myself of that when I’m stressing out over what we should or shouldn’t spend our extra money on, or where we should go on vacation, or what I should cook for dinner, because ultimately, none of that matters. What does matter is that in all of those little decisions, God comes first. If it’s a matter of a new outfit or giving to a worthy cause within the church, I hope I think of God first, and choose the church. If it’s a matter of going to Orlando, or to some place decimated by natural disaster to help people rebuild their homes, and help to inspire them in faith, I hope I choose the faith. If it comes down to a nice dinner out with my husband, or a home-cooked meal with some friends who are having a rough time, I would hope I choose to be there for our friends. The choices don’t matter, because as long as God is at the center of all I do, my choices will always be the right ones. And when I need to refocus, I pray that God continues to point out my pride, and my selfish ambition and corrects me, whether it be by epiphanies that come through reading the Bible, or through loving gestures of guidance from family and my husband.
I know my God is able. And that’s what will help me to leave a legacy that my family and friends will be able to one day reflect upon after I’m gone and say, “She truly was a woman of God.”