Tastefully Trendy

A life and fashion blog by Sarah Beth

Category: Wednesday’s Woman (page 1 of 2)

Anchor for the Soul

When I first started studying hope, I thought God was encouraging me to be hopeful about a certain situation, and I was pumped. I couldn’t wait for how I thought things would work out, and I was excited to prove the naysayers wrong. But, as my friend had predicted, that situation did not work out how I’d “hoped” at all. Like, not only did the door close, but it was slammed in my face, locked, and the key thrown away – that’s how much it did not work out.

So, then I had to decide if I was going to practice what I preached. It wasn’t hard to be hopeful when it looked like things were going my way; it’s much harder when it actually went opposite of what I wanted, and there was no evidence in sight that things might improve in the future.

But, as we discussed yesterday, we do have evidence of better things in the future because God is good and His promises are that He gives good gifts to His children. His plans are to give us a future and a hope, and He has never let His people be forsaken.

Hope is a choice.

That is the conclusion I’ve come to. Like almost everything else in our lives, we can choose to be hopeful. We can choose to believe that God’s Word is true, that He loves us, that He’s working things out for our benefit, and that “this too shall pass.”

OR

We can choose to stay stuck in self-pity and fear and worry and doubt and all the other things that tend to creep in when we’ve lost our hope.

Since beginning this study, I’ve learned that Romans is a book chock full of hope. The book I’ve always viewed as very theology-heavy and cumbersome to read is actually full of inspirational verses about this confident expectation. Two of those verses are in chapter 5 (verses 3 and 4): “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Hope is a result of strong character.

We’ve all heard cliches about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or, as my best friend in college used to say, “it builds character.” But, cliche or not, that’s what struggles do – they make us stronger, and out of that strength, we can have hope. Hope is not a passive, Pollyanna outlook on the world that ignores real life pain. It’s a choice that looks at pain and decides to take God at His word and remain hopeful, knowing that He is working all things together for good (also in Romans – 8:28).

Continuing in chapter 5, the very next verse says that this hope – the one that rises out of strong character, the one founded on a decision to persevere while maintaining hopefulness – does not disappoint. Why? Because of God’s love. Even if the circumstances are disappointing, our hope was not for nothing.

Hope is an anchor for the soul.

This same hope that buoys us also grounds us. When the peaks and valleys of life threaten to throw off our equilibrium and toss around the proverbial ship of our lives, hope keeps us steady. It keeps our emotions from going all over the map. The highs and lows of unmet expectations do not shake us as much because our hope is grounded in the One who is unshakeable.

And when we choose to have hope, when we choose to be grounded, we can also find true joy. Because knowing that this hope does not disappoint, we can, as Romans 12 says, be patient in troubles and joyful in hope!

I want to have hope.

I want to walk in joy. And, I want to live an exciting life that’s buoyed by the happy expectation of what God’s going to do in me and through me, and grounded in the knowledge that no matter what comes my way, God is working it for my good.

And yes, I want a happy ending “in the land of the living.” But, as Gigi from my favorite movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, says, maybe the happy ending is learning to live in hope, no matter what. Then, can we recognize and enjoy the happy ending that God had in mind all along.

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait and HOPE for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. – Psalm 27: 13-14 (AMPC, AMP)

(Part 3 of a 3-part series)

Hope Deferred

There are a lot of really great reasons to have hope.
  • By focusing on the possible positive outcomes, you take your mind off the negative possibilities, relieving yourself of that worry and anxiety.
  • The expression “hope floats” demonstrates hope’s ability to keep us “buoyed” – our spirits are high when we are looking forward to something good.
  • Hope motivates us to action. When you’re believing in a positive outcome, you take steps toward making that happen. Just like a pregnant woman prepares her nursery in happy anticipation of her child’s arrival, hope enables us to take measures to prepare ourselves for the good things coming down the pike.

I think the main reason most of us don’t actively hope is fear. When you have been hurt or disappointed so many times, you want to “guard your heart”, as the Bible says. Only, I don’t think “guarding your heart” means exactly what we’ve often interpreted it to mean. I don’t think it means do whatever you can to keep pain out. Rather, it means surrounding yourself with those things that give life to your spirit, with people who encourage you, with Scripture that speaks truth, and with faith, hope, and love. In doing so, you will protect your heart – not from pain ever getting to it, but from being crushed under the weight of that pain.

But, I get that fear.

I have been very disappointed in one particular area over and over again, and that’s the area where I struggle to have hope. When I go shopping, I have no trouble hoping that I will find some cute clothes; my experience has taught me that is likely to happen. I also find it easy to hope that when I go out in downtown Nashville, I will hear good music and talk to interesting people. I’ve learned to have a confident expectation of that result.

But, what about those areas where I haven’t had good results? Where I have been rejected or overlooked or turned away time and again? Those areas that actually really matter to me, deep down? What about those hopes for each of us of getting married, or having a child, or being matched for an adoption, or getting a promotion, or passing the licensure exam, or fill in the blank… How do I have hope when everything seems to indicate I really should keep my expectations low?

Those are the times when hope is absolutely the hardest. But, those are also the times when we must have hope. We must fight for it, for all the reasons mentioned above, and so many more.

If a situation is certain, there is no reason to have hope. At that point, you’re essentially just stating a fact. Yes, I have hope every night that when I go to sleep, my bed won’t collapse; however, that’s never happened, and I know the wood in my bed is sturdy and assembled well. So, I’m really just assured of fact at that point.

I mentioned yesterday that there was one more definition of hope according to Merriam-Webster. Technically, I guess it’s a definition for the expression, “hope against hope”, but it says, “to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment”. Similarly, Romans 8:24-25 says, “…[H]ope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

We can’t wait until things look like they’re going in our favor to have hope. We must have hope now and confidently expect God to move on our behalf.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Many of you are probably familiar with this proverb. I’ve heard it a million times and always thought it meant that hope unfulfilled makes the heart sick. And, I think it does. But, I also think that it refers to putting off hope. By trying to protect ourselves from pain by delaying having hope, we’re doing the exact opposite. We’re depriving ourselves of the peace and joy that comes from anticipating that God will move in our lives. We’re giving room to anxiety and worry and becoming pessimistic. And we are limiting the joy we can experience when something good does happen as a culmination of our hopes and dreams.

I think putting off hope also can create self-fulfilling prophecies. Earlier I mentioned how hope motivates us to action. The converse, though, is that if we don’t have hope, we are motivated to inaction. How many great things never happen because we’re too afraid they might not work out? By failing to act, we create the very scenario we were afraid of in the first place. You’re afraid the boss might find you too forward if you mention taking on more responsibility, so you stay silent; he assumes you aren’t interested in a promotion, and you get passed over. You’re afraid you might not be successful in that career, so you don’t pursue licensure and stay in a dead end job you don’t love. You think long-distance relationships seldom work, so you break up before you have a chance to try.

However, hope actually minimizes disappointments.

To use my earlier scenarios, I don’t lose hope if I shop and find nothing. I’m bummed, of course, because I like new clothes. But, I have the confident and happy expectation that the next time I shop, I’ll find something. If I go downtown and the band sounds terrible and no one talks to me, I might wish I’d stayed home and watched a movie instead, but I don’t assume I’ll never hear good music or meet interesting people again. And I certainly don’t think something is wrong with me. I just assume it was an off night and have hope that the next time I go, it will be better.

Disappointments always come. It’s a part of life, especially since while we know that God’s plans are best, we don’t always know what those best plans are. But, if we have hope, we can bounce back quicker from that disappointment. We can take things in stride, knowing that something else good is around the corner. God’s Word promises that since even human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, our Heavenly Father does even more. It also says that the righteous have never been forsaken or God’s children had to beg for bread (Ps. 37:25).

So, while we may not have, as M-W says, “any basis for expecting fulfillment” in our particular situation, we do have basis to expect God to do good things in our lives because that’s who He is, and He has before. Just like David knew God could equip him to kill Goliath because he’d killed the lion and the bear, so we can look back on our experiences and see the many ways God has worked in our lives, even in ways we didn’t anticipate or in circumstances that seemed, well, hopeless. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so if He came through before, He will come through again – sometimes in the exact ways we’re hoping, sometimes in ways that exceed what we hoped for, and sometimes in ways that are completely different than what we imagined. But, He always comes through.

Where have you been deferring hope in your life? Have you put it off because you’re afraid of the disappointment? Think through the worst case scenario, and imagine what it will be like if you do have hope versus if you don’t. If the end result is going to be the same, won’t it be better to go into it hopeful, and then emerge still hopeful? And maybe, in the process, we will find what we were hoping for all along. But, as the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace said, EVEN IF we do not, we are able to still praise God because He is good, and so are His ways in our lives.

(Thank you to Joyce Meyer and her book, Get Your Hopes Up!, for inspiration on several of these points.)

(Part 2 of a 3-part series)

The Upside of Downsize

I don’t know if any of you have ever been downsized at work, but it’s not the most fun thing in the world. In fact, the emotions and thought processes are very similar to a breakup: you envision the perfect argument (after the fact, of course), wonder how long they knew, what you could have done differently, why you didn’t get to do the dumping first. Rejection. Even when they say “it’s not you, it’s me”, and you know it’s for the best, at the end of the day, it still hurts your feelings.
Schmidt gifBut after you spend a few days wallowing in New Girl and Double Stuf Oreos, you get yourself together and start reflecting on the positives. In my case, it is so obvious to me how God has been working on my behalf even in these less than ideal circumstances, that I can’t help but be encouraged and excited about what’s next (also, moving to the perfect city helps).  Here are a few of those things:

  1. I actually had a dream a week before my position was eliminated that it happened. There have been at least 4 times in my life where God has warned me about something through a dream. Of course, I don’t recognize it and assume my subconscious is just in overdrive. But, when my dream actually happens, I find encouragement in knowing that God knew all along. It’s like a hind-sight way for Him to remind me that He’s got it under control.
  2. My leasing office worked with me. This is a miracle, as anyone who’s ever rented an apartment knows. Those agreements are ironclad, and when they say 60 day notice, they mean 60 day notice. And the penalties for breaking the lease are hefty. But, my lease was already set to expire October 14 – nothing to break, and they even waived my 60 day requirement, bringing it down to 30, which released me of further financial obligation while giving me enough time to pack and get everything in order.
  3. Maybe the most significant of these points (which are obviously in no particular order) is that I’d been praying about moving, anyway. Georgia and I have never been a good fit, and I was considering not renewing my lease. But, I didn’t want to “run away from my problems”, and I wasn’t sure if this was my idea or God’s. So, I just prayed, and as the days got closer to my lease renewal date, got a little nervous about when God was going to answer (and what He was going to say…)  Well, per usual, He answered right on time, and even gave me the answer I wanted, if not in the way I was expecting.

I could go on, but that’s enough for now. Bottom line, God is faithful. He gave me a verse once: Isaiah 60:22 – “In its time, I will do this swiftly.”  While there was a specific application of that at the moment, He’s reminded me of it a couple more times since – now, being one of them. I’d say 27 days from downsizing to Nashville is pretty swift, especially when it came completely out of the blue.  While I don’t ever know when “its time” is going to be, it’s kind of exciting to watch things unfold so quickly before my eyes.

What are you praying and believing God for?  Has He given you promises about it?  Have you ever seen God just “swiftly” take care of things for you – were they in the way you expected?  I’d love to hear your stories, too.  I hope mine encourages you, but if nothing else, writing it all out re-encouraged me.  So, thank you. 🙂

Wednesday’s Woman: Bathsheba

In the David and Bathsheba story, arguably the biggest scandal of the Old Testament, David gets all the attention.  He’s the main character of at least 7 Old Testament books, so perhaps that’s understandable.  But, the story would not exist if not for a beautiful woman taking a bath…so let’s talk about her for a few.

Laying aside the fact that David was a king and the political pressures that might have accompanied his request, Bathsheba did come when the king called her.  She was married.  And when she discovered she was pregnant, she was apparently complicit in David’s plan to hide the pregnancy by sleeping with her husband and calling the child his.  Only, their plan didn’t work, and as you probably know, David then had her husband killed so she could marry him and no one would know their secret.

My point in retelling this story is that Bathsheba was not innocent, and she paid the price for her sin when her son died, just like David. If that’s where the story ended, it wouldn’t be very hopeful.  But, that’s not where it ends.  Bathsheba conceived again, and this son, Solomon, became the wealthiest, wisest man to walk the earth; an ancestor of Jesus; and was nick-named Jedidiah, meaning, “beloved of the Lord.”

I love the end of this story.  David and Bathsheba messed up – no way around that.  And because God is just, there were consequences for their sin.  But, because He is also merciful, the consequences did not go on forever.  God does not hold our sin over our heads, making us pay for the rest of our life.  Instead, He forgives us, removing our sin “as far as the east is from the west”, and then goes back to blessing us beyond anything we could imagine.

Sometimes, especially in the post-Jesus’ resurrection world, God’s mercy even spares us the consequences of our sin.  Regardless, though, if you’ve messed up – as I have, more times than I would ever want to admit – I hope it encourages you that you’re not doomed.  God can take our failures and turn them into the biggest blessings of our lives, if we’ll just allow Him to be Him.

Have you seen God do this in your life – take a terrible mistake and work it for good?  Isn’t His kindness incredible?

Bathsheba

 

Wednesday’s Woman: the one who doesn’t exist

There are a billion (slight hyperbole) examples of women in the Bible that we can study and learn from.  I love that, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve spent the last few months looking at them on Wednesdays.  The women in Scripture have a lot to teach us.

But you know who’s not in the Bible that I really wish were?  Someone exactly like me.  Someone who grew up in the church, became a Christian at a young age, wrestled with some things and came back to the Lord, still wrestles with some things…

We get a lot of snippets of women in the Bible, but there’s not really any character that we get to follow throughout her whole life; certainly none that we see on a daily basis.  Other than Jesus, there aren’t even any male characters we get to see the whole way through – some of the kings, maybe, and Moses.

Perhaps, David is the best example – we see him as a shepherd boy, then killing Goliath, then as fugitive, then as king, then as father.  But other than the glaring sin of adultery with Bathsheba, David kinda seems to have it all together.  Sure, he laments his fate in the Psalms, but ultimately, he stays pretty tight with God throughout his whole life.

I want to see the Bible character who really struggles through his (or preferably her) faith.  Who isn’t necessarily committing the big, notorious, make-it-into-the-Bible sins, but who agonizes over wondering why, if God really loves her, she doesn’t quite feel that way.  Or who trudges through the questions of why she isn’t married or doesn’t have children or has lost a loved one.  Someone who questions what it actually means to live “in” the world, but not “of” it, and maybe sometimes (often) fails at that.  Someone who legitimately “works out her salvation with fear and trembling”, and in the end, comes out victorious.

That’s a person I could really relate to.  I take encouragement from the snippets of stories we read in the Bible, and glean the appropriate applications.  But, really, there’s no one just like me.   So, sometimes, I feel a little alone in my struggles – like I’m completely dropping the ball, while all the other good Christians out there are winning gold stars on their heavenly report cards.

Of course I know that’s not the case. I realize that no one is perfect, and that even David committed more than just the one sin recorded in Scripture. But wouldn’t it be nice to really see an example of the struggle?  To have someone to look to that did have doubts and questions and difficulties, and yet overcame?  Someone whose spiritual journey wasn’t just rainbows and butterflies and unwavering faith?

While that person may not exist in the Bible, God does still manage to find ways to encourage me when I’m, well, discouraged.

If you haven’t read the devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, I highly recommend it.  Each day’s reading is short and sweet, but always so uplifting.  Here are some excerpts from yesterday’s (July 14) entry:

Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you.  Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway…the journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Someday you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction…

What I most appreciated about this devotion was the acknowledgement and validation that it’s okay for me to struggle.  God knows my walk is hard; He knows that I want to be close to Him and don’t feel like I am sometimes.  But, He’s not about instant gratification, and, to paraphrase my favorite verse, He knows I will reap a harvest if I will not give up (Galatians 6:9).

So, while we may not have a true Biblical example of a real-life journey, I hope perhaps the lessons I’m learning will be encouraging to you.  Or, if not mine specifically, that you can find your own Jesus Calling – a devotional that speaks to your heart – and some examples of other people who have been there, done that, lived imperfect lives, and still managed to keep going, reaping a harvest all along the way.

Who inspires you in your walk?  Have you found a Biblical example you can really relate to, or do you more closely look to other mentors and leaders as examples?  What are some of the ways you keep yourself motivated when the going gets tough?  I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday’s Woman: Proverbs 31

I’ve grown a bit feminist in my old age.  Not in the bra-burning, women are better than men way (that’s just reverse sexism, which is no better), but in a women are just as valuable as men kinda way.  I think that’s part of why I’ve been writing these Wednesday’s Woman posts – I want to focus on how much God values women.  Because if He does, certainly we (as individuals and as a society) should. So, this post is going to be a bit more opinionated than perhaps some of mine are.  My opinions are right, of course (just kidding…but seriously), but please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.  I think we could really get a healthy discussion going.

If you’ve been around the church for more than a minute, you’ve likely heard of the Proverbs 31 Woman.  She’s the subject of many a Mother’s Day sermon, women’s ministry meeting, and more than a few men’s “what I’m looking for” section on Christian Mingle.  There’s even a radio ministry named after her.  Throughout Christendom, this probably figurative woman has been held up as the gold standard for what women should be.

And I’ve hated her.

Of course, I know you’re not supposed to hate something in the Bible.  And truth be told, it wasn’t really that I hated the P31W, so much as I hated how abused her example has been.  Every time I’ve heard a sermon on her, it’s been ladled with subconscious guilt and shame: “Here is the epitome of perfection.  Live up to her, or you’re failing as a Christian woman.”  Or, perhaps even more significantly to me, she has been used as a proof text for “barefoot and pregnant”.  I may very well want to stay at home and have 10 children (just kidding, I’d like 2), but I don’t believe that is the only Biblical calling for a woman. However, almost every citation of the P31W has implied just that: women should only stay at home and breed.

I know I’m not the only woman who has felt this pressure from within the church.  I’ve talked to many other women who, like me, have grown tired of hearing how perfectly docile we’re expected to be, thanks to the Biblical example.  The problem is, though, that’s not the Biblical example at all.  To anyone who reads the chapter, it’s pretty clear that the P31W was actually kindof a badass (pardon my probably blasphemous French).

So, here is my defense of the Proverbs 31 Woman, my redemption of her oft-quoted portion of Scripture, and my challenge to all who have misused her verses to subject women (intentionally or not) to a benevolent sexism and a “cult of domesticity” (that’s a 1900’s historical reference for you.  You’re welcome).

  • Vs. 10 – Noble character.  I think we can agree that this is a valuable characteristic in anyone, male or female, and broadly defined.
  • Vs. 11 – Her husband has full confidence in her.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that means in more areas than just birthing children and making sandwiches, especially in consideration of the following verses.
  • Vs. 13-14 – she makes clothes and food – ok, I’ll concede these are more of the traditional “in the kitchen” variety, but she is doing the buying and negotiating here, so the woman had to have had a brain; her husband trusted her with the money.
  • Vs. 16 – she buys property out of her earnings.  I love this verse for several reasons.  First, I’m not totally sure where these earnings are coming from, but they are hers. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a joint-checking account, but I like that Scripture recognizes that she has her own income. Even more interesting to me is that she’s buying property.  Major financial decisions are being made by the woman. Now, perhaps she consulted her husband. I would recommend anyone talk to their spouse before buying fields.  But, we don’t know what P31W did.  Scripture only says that her husband has full confidence in her, so maybe he just gave her a proverbial blank check to use their money as she saw fit.  Regardless, she’s out there getting things done.
  • Vs. 17 – her trading is profitable.  This woman is smart and business savvy.  She’s knowledgeable in more than Pinterest recipes and cleaning hacks.
  • Vs. 21 – she’s not afraid of snow.  A little white stuff (I honestly didn’t know that existed in Israel) is not going to send this damsel into distress.
  • Vs. 26 – she speaks with wisdom.  This woman can think and speak for herself and it behooves those around her to listen.
  • Vs. 27 – she watches over the affairs of the household.  She is not a slave; she’s a supervisor.
  • Vs. 28 – her kids and her husband respect her.  They see all that she’s capable of and give her the credit that is due (note: this is also a figurative ideal)
  • Vs. 30 – she fears the Lord, which is worth more than all her domestic works combined (see: Mary and Martha)
  • Vs. 31 – the whole city rewards and praises her

This is not a picture of a meek, mousy woman.  P31W is a girl who knows how to get things done – with integrity and kindness, sure.  But, with a brain, a drive, and a commitment (to the Lord, her family, and her work) that brings her recognition through the whole area.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m in no way disparaging Stay-At-Home-Moms or even Biblical ideals of submission in a marriage relationship. I think staying at home is noble and valuable, and honestly something I hope I’ll one day get to do. But, I am trying to illustrate that for moms who can’t or aren’t called to stay at home with their children (or for women who don’t have them), there’s no shame. God gives each of us different gifts, and we can see so many of them reflected in our Biblical prototype here.

So, don’t let anyone guilt you into being anyone or anything other than what God has created and asked you to be.  And whenever someone tries to misuse our new friend, P31W, just remember me calling a Biblical character a badass, and then hopefully you’ll smile and be reminded that God is not sexist.

P31W

 

Wednesday’s Woman: The Woman at the Well

Yesterday, I shared a story from Humans of New York on my facebook page.  Since I think probably all of you are my facebook friends, you may have seen it.  But, in case not, here it is:

“Seven years ago, I was sitting on the ledge of a thirteenth floor window. I’d tried to quit drinking so many times but I couldn’t do it, and I’d finally given up. My mind was racing through all the shameful things I’d done, and I kept hearing this voice saying: ‘Jump you piece of shit. Jump you piece of shit.’ So I put my hands over my ears and started rocking back and forth on the window ledge. Suddenly I heard this small, still voice: ‘Say a prayer,’ it said. And I didn’t want to hear it. It was kind of like your mother knocking on the door while you’re watching porn. But then I heard it again: ‘Say a prayer.’ So I started praying, and I totally surrendered, and I felt an evil presence leave me. And I just kept saying: ‘I can’t believe you still love me. I can’t believe you still love me.’ Then I cleaned up my room, threw away my baggies of coke, took a shower, and went to work.”

I’ve been wanting to talk about shame for a couple weeks now.  It’s something that I’ve struggled with, that many of my friends have struggled with, and based on this guy’s story, I’m thinking that people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and experiences struggle with.

I’m guessing that it’s also something that the woman at the well struggled with.  Take a minute to re-read the story in John 4.  Jesus is traveling along and stops at a well for water, where a Samaritan woman comes to draw water.  I’m not going to get into all the cultural things about Jews and Samaritans, but suffice it to say, the Samaritans were not a well-liked people group.  This woman probably carried shame simply because of the race she was born into.  And, the fact that she was drawing water in the middle of the day suggests that she was trying to avoid meeting other people at the well – perhaps because she was also ashamed of what we soon learn about her: that she has been married 5 times and was currently shacking up with a 6th man.

When Jesus met her, though, He engaged with her in a way that did not leave her feeling shamed or condemned.  Don’t get me wrong, He didn’t let her get away with her sin – He’s the one that introduces us to her past in the first place.  Yet, somehow, instead of running away and avoiding her pain as has been her pattern, when Jesus spoke to her, this woman heard something that drew her closer to the only One who can take away her disgrace, the only One who can help her once again love herself, despite her past.  This woman was so moved by her encounter with Jesus that she went and told her whole town about Him and as a result, many of them were also forever changed.

So often, our sin makes us run from God.  It makes us abandon our quiet times because we just feel too guilty.  It makes us try to bury the pain in food or busy-ness or, like the Samaritan woman, unfulfilling relationships.  It makes us doubt that God could still love us and makes us want to stop trying altogether, even if not in quite as drastic a fashion as the guy in our Humans of New York story.

Yet, that’s the exact opposite of what God’s plan is!  When we engage with Him as the Samaritan woman did, He doesn’t let us get away with our sin, brushing it under the rug, or pretending it doesn’t matter.  But, He points it out in such a kind, gentle way, that instead of making us feel terrible about how bad we are, it makes us want to change – and gives us the ability to do so, just like our coke-addicted friend above. And, this change makes us want to know Him more, and to tell everyone else about it. This ripple effect is a perfect example of His strength being made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  He takes even our sins and uses them for His glory, working them for our benefit and for that of those around us (Rom. 8:28).

Are you carrying a burden of shame around with you?  Speaking from experience, I know it’s so draining and depressing and exhausting.  While I’ve never sat on the ledge of a 13th story, I can understand this guy’s sentiment of being so ashamed of what you’ve done that you just want to give up.  But, let’s not give up!  If God can heal a woman as broken as the woman at the well, lifting her shame and using her to bring many more people to freedom, He can – and will – do the same for us.  Let’s not run away anymore, but give our shame and disgrace and pain to God and see what He will do.

Samaritan Woman

 

Wednesday’s Woman: Esther II

I’ve been thinking a little more about our queen, Esther, and I think she deserves another post.  Not because I didn’t like my first one – it was inspired by Tim Tebow, so of course it was moving.  And not just because she’s a queen, although you know I love royalty.  But, Esther has a lot more to teach us and speaks to a place I’m currently in.  I suspect maybe some of you are, too.

Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that Esther was, essentially, trafficked and probably a very scared and lonely teenage girl.  We’re not told much about her emotions in this story, but I think it’s safe to assume what I said above was true (especially, since she was an orphan, anyway, and now had been taken from her cousin, too).  However, in her captivity, God gave Esther a friend in the eunuch, and he helped her prepare to be the best candidate for queen that she could be.  Esther followed his advice to the letter, and in the end, she was chosen to be the queen, and as a result, positioned to save her entire people from destruction.

While she was in this holding period, Esther could have – and would have had every justification –  pouted, felt sorry for herself, and completely wasted her preparation time.  She could have disregarded the eunuch’s instructions, as he was the king’s employee, and therefore, part of her captivity.  She could have been proud and assumed she knew what was best for her life.

Instead, Esther was humble and obedient and made the most of her time (12 months) of isolation and beauty prep (honestly, though – I would have a hard time saying no to 12 months of beauty prep).  She did not lie around in self-pity or try to take short-cuts to speed up the process – she followed through on what was required of her, and in the end, her hard work and diligence paid off in a major way for her, her family, and her people.

When I first moved to Georgia, I decided that I was going to treat my transition period (which has turned out to take longer than I expected) as a season of preparation, focusing on myself and personal growth – spiritually, physically, and just as a general well-rounded person.  Of course, in my mind, I was preparing for marriage – becoming “Mrs. Right”, and all that.  I suppose I needed more prep than most.

However, I haven’t always been faithful to focus on this growth.  I think in some ways I’ve matured, but in many other ways, I’ve spent a whole lot of time feeling sorry for myself and resenting being alone.  So, I’m challenged by Esther to change my attitude and make the most of this season as I’m waiting for the next.  One of my mentors always said, “preparation time is never wasted time.”   Really, we’re all in preparation for something – whether that be marriage, kids, empty nest, education, a new job – so, if we wasted our time when we should be preparing, we’d never be ready for the next step.  And, perhaps most significantly, as we prepare ourselves for the future, we’re bettering ourselves in the present.

What are you in preparation for?  Have you been a good steward of your time, or have you, like me, squandered it in self-pity or mindless/unintentional “waiting”?   I’m making a pledge to take some active steps towards preparing myself for the next season of my life, and here are a few of my ideas:

  • Physical goals: taking care of my skin and body.  I want my husband to be happy with his choice, even if we don’t get married until we’re 85 (an increasingly likely scenario) – I’ll be the most toned 85 year old that nursing home has ever seen.
  • Financial goals: thanks to Dave Ramsey, I’m super inspired to get my finances in order.  I’ve never been in bad shape financially, but I don’t really have much to offer a future partner (or even future me, for that matter).  With Dave’s plan, I’ll probably be a millionaire by next month.  (Or at least, have paid off my student loans).
  • Spiritual goals: to find my validation solely in the Lord so that when my husband doesn’t validate me as I’d like (I’m realistic enough to acknowledge this will happen eventually), my world doesn’t fall apart, even if only temporarily.

Those are some of mine that I’m working on right now, to become a better me today, so I can be a better wife (and mom) tomorrow (figuratively, of course, but I’d be okay if that tomorrow was literal).

What are some of your goals – do you have some practical steps to take to achieve them? Please share some of yours and let’s inspire each other toward greater versions of ourselves!

Esther pt. 2

 

Wednesday’s Woman: Anna

There are three little verses in Luke that I just love.  Since it’s such a short passage, I’ll just write it out here:

 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,  and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  – Luke 2:36-38

 It’s not a particularly profound passage; if you blink, you miss it altogether.  But, I love it for the beautiful gift of honor God bestowed on this faithful woman.

The Scripture is unclear as to whether Anna was 84 or had been widowed for 84 years.  Regardless, she was old, and she had spent those years in complete service to God, worshiping Him day in and day out.  And God rewarded her in the most unbelievable way possible – He allowed her to meet His baby Son.  After serving God for so long, I can’t imagine Anna wanting anything more than to see the promised Savior, and that’s exactly what the Lord gave her.  Not only that, He ensured her legacy of faithfulness would continue for millennia by recording her story in the Bible.

Isn’t that sweet?  Of all the people who could have met Jesus at the temple that day, God chose one of them to be a woman, demonstrating His kindness not only to her, but to all women by including them in His Son’s story.  And, He showed us that the rewards for faithfulness to Him are truly above and beyond anything that we could imagine (you know I love Eph. 3:20-21).

So don’t give up, friends.  Sometimes serving God is really hard.  But, He does not forget about us – even when we’re 84 – and He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).

Anna

I can’t help but think Anna was a little bit of a hippy.  I really wanted to find a t-shirt for her that just said LOVE on the front, but I had trouble locating it.  You’ll just have to imagine.

Wednesday’s Woman: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

I’ve been a Christian for a really long time.  Yes, I was born into a Christian family, but I consciously prayed a prayer of salvation as a 3 year old and was baptized at 12…so, it’s been a few years.

Recently, though, I’ve found myself – for the first time in my life – questioning things of the Bible.  Not that I don’t believe they are true, per se, but more that I want to believe them for reasons beyond just a cultural upbringing.

I was trying to think of a woman who questioned God in the Bible, and at first, all I could think of was Sarah, and I was not about to write about her and her laughter again.  But, after some more deliberation, God brought to my mind a woman who instead is an example of great faith: Mary, the woman chosen to be the mother of Jesus.

While we regard Mary as a paragon of virtue (and for the most part, rightly so), Mary did ask questions.  When the angel first appeared to her and said she would be the mother of the Son of God, she asked how that would be possible.  When Jesus disappeared as a 12 year old in the temple, she asked Him why He’d made her worry.  I’m sure she asked many more about this life and son she had been given but couldn’t possibly fully understand.  But what I like about Mary is that her questions drove her closer to the Lord.

Several times throughout scripture, we are told that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.”   Pondering to me implies some questioning – some trying to figure things out.  While we don’t have any elaboration, I think Mary was meditating on all of the things happening before her, wondering the meaning, perhaps even wondering if it was all true.  Instead of getting frustrated with what she didn’t understand, though, Mary reflected on it, and worked through it with the only One who had the answers.  At the same time, she reflected on God’s past goodness, knowing that His character never changes and His promises are always true (see Mary’s song in Luke 1).

What a great example to us of what to do when we have uncertainties about our lives and our faith.  It is so easy to get bogged down in our present circumstances, asking all the “why”s and “how”s, even sometimes growing angry with God.  But, if instead we reflect on who God is and what He has done for us in the past, and we spend time meditating on His Word, we’ll find that we come to know the Lord even better, and in that, our faith grows, even if we still don’t have all the answers.  God welcomes our questions and doubts because if we turn to Him in them, He can really show off assuaging them.

My challenge to myself (and to all of you) is to do what Mary did and really “ponder” the things in the Bible that I don’t understand.  I want to meditate more on the Word, rather than just read it through quickly as I often do, so that God has an opportunity to reveal some deeper truths as I wrestle through harder things.  And, in the meantime, I want to choose to trust Him more by praising Him, no matter how many questions I still have unanswered.

What do you think of Mary’s example?  Do you think her questions strengthened her faith, or just served to show its weakness?  How do you do at “pondering” and working through the hard stuff?   Let’s chat!

Mary

 

 

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