Tastefully Trendy

A life and fashion blog by Sarah Beth

Tag: Polyvore

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: Hagar

I had planned to talk about Sarah this week.   She’s the mother of Israel and probably has more scripture dedicated to her than any other woman in the Bible who wasn’t the mother of Jesus.  Also, she and I have the same name, and apparently, she was smoking hot (see Genesis 12 and 20).

For these reasons, I really want to like Sarah. I just have trouble finding much that is redeeming in her story.  I tried this time to read it with open eyes and ears, but still nothing.  God’s going to have to show me something else about her at a later date if He wants me to talk about that woman. Today is not that day.

What reading Sarah’s story did accomplish, though, was pointing me to another woman of the Bible: Hagar.  I’ve always felt so sorry for Hagar.  To catch you up, Hagar was Sarah’s servant.  When Sarah realized she was barren, she sent Hagar in to sleep with Abraham (Sarah’s husband), so that the family line would be preserved.  (This, by the way, is sex trafficking.  Just thought I’d point that out.)

Predictably, when Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarah gets jealous and mistreats her servant.  In her pain, Hagar runs to the desert where she experiences one of the sweetest interactions with the Lord in all of Scripture.  Here is a poor, knocked-up, abused servant girl, lying in the desert, unsure where to go, but thinking anything was better than where she had just been.  And the God of all creation – the one who had promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations – speaks to her in that lowest point.  He promises that He will bless her son, too, and that she should name him Ishmael, meaning God hears.  Then, every time she called her son, she would be reminded that God had heard her and was taking care of and loving her, even when life wasn’t.

Hagar is so moved by this encounter that she also makes up her own name for God, calling him: The One Who Sees Me.  It’s with this comforting knowledge of a God who sees and hears that she then goes back to Sarah as a humbled woman who knows that her God is with her, no matter what else may come her way.

Fast forward 14 years, and Sarah finally has a son, Isaac – the son of God’s promise.  Again, Sarah does not like the threat posed by Hagar and Ishmael, so she sends them away.  In a rather dramatic but obviously desperate moment, Hagar leaves Ishmael alone, walking away from him so that she won’t have to see him die.  She has already forgotten the reason she gave her son his name – God hears.  She’s already forgotten the name she gave to the Lord – the One who sees me.

But, God is merciful in our forgetfulness.  He speaks to Hagar again, reminding her that He still hears, and He has not forgotten His promises to make Ishmael into a great nation.  He remains faithful, even if the circumstances have changed.

How many times have I done the same?  God shows me His faithfulness in such profound ways, and a few years/months/days/hours later, I’m doubting again, convinced that He’s forgotten about me, He no longer sees or hears, and that surely I will (metaphorically) die in the wilderness.  God’s promises might have been true once, but are they still true now, I wonder.

Hagar’s story proves that they are.  God is not a man that He should lie (Number 23:19), and all His promises are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 2:10).  So, why do we forget and doubt?  Who knows.  Maybe it’s just human nature.  Maybe it’s old age.  Regardless, I’m glad that my forgetfulness is not a disqualifier for God’s faithfulness, but that He is patient and kind, even when I question and doubt.

What are some of the promises God has given you that you’re questioning in the “wilderness” of unfulfillment now?  As you reflect on those, take another moment to think about the past times when God has seen and heard you and spoken right to your heart.  He does not change, so if He was there for you before, He will be again.  Cling to that, no matter how desperate the situation seems, and be encouraged by all that God has done in the past, as you seek Him for the future.

Hagar

 

Wednesday’s Woman: Ruth

Ever since I decided to start this new blog feature (so, like, 10 days ago), I’ve had Ruth on my mind.  Growing up in the church as a female, of course I was very familiar with one of the only two women in the Bible who has an entire book named after her – she and Esther get a disproportionate number of Bible studies and women’s meetings assigned to them.

Yet, it’s never really been one of my favorite stories.  There are a whole lot of cultural things going on here that I just do not understand (the mother-in-law/daughters-in-law relationship; the kinsman redeemer; sleeping on the floor at a man’s feet…), and although I obviously like the “romance” and happy ending, I’ve never focused much on the book.

For some reason, though, Ruth’s was the only name that kept coming to mind as I thought about who to discuss this week.  So, I decided to re-read her story and see what God had to show me.  And, of course, I found something I’ve never noticed before (I love that about the Bible).

If you’re unfamiliar or less inundated in Ruth’s story than me, take a minute to go check it out.  It’s a quick read.

As Ruth goes out to the fields to gather the scraps left behind by the harvesters so she and her mother in law Naomi wouldn’t starve (side note: I’ve been told if this type of gleaning were common practice, we could end world hunger.  Food for thought.  No pun intended.), she winds up in a field that belongs to a man named Boaz.  Here comes the cultural part I don’t quite understand, but the gist is that Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s and one of the only men who could restore to the family what had been lost through the death of Naomi’s husband and sons.  Ruth didn’t know any of this; she was just out trying to get some grain.

The NIV says that Ruth went to work, and “as it turned out”, found herself in Boaz’s field (Ru 2:3).  Other versions says, “she happened” to stop at his property.  I LOVE THAT!!!!  Here is Ruth, simply caring for her MIL, going about the daily business of being impoverished, and as if by sheer coincidence, she “happens” upon the field of the man who can completely turn things around for her.   Only, of course, it’s not coincidence at all.  God knew exactly where Ruth needed to glean, and He led her to that field, where Boaz would notice her and His whole perfect plan would be set in motion.

So often, I’ve found myself wondering how my life is going to work out – where I’ll meet that guy or what my 5 and 10 year plan will be, worrying about how all the pieces will fall into place. There is so much that I don’t know or see, but in that little “as it turned out” clause is a sweet reminder that God’s got things under control.  As I’m going about my daily business, He’s working behind the scenes, leading me each step of the way so that I am in position when the plan begins to unfold and I can finally see the fruit of what He’s been doing all along.  My responsibility is simply to remain close to Him so that He can lead me and show me all that He has in store.

A friend recently (and quite out of the blue, which made it even better) reminded me that God is always working, and that the answers to our prayers can come in a day, just like they did for Ruth. Her divine “meet-cute” set things in motion that would lead not only to food on the table, but an escape from poverty altogether, a marriage, a new family, and a place in the lineage of Jesus.  And as is always the case when God works in our lives, His plan wasn’t just a blessing for Ruth, but many other people benefited as well: Boaz, who gained a wife and soon after, a son; Naomi, who went from bitter to blessed; and God’s own Son who would be a direct descendant of Ruth.  It boggles my mind to try to comprehend God working so many different moving parts – and parts with free will at that – into a cohesive whole that blesses all of His children and also glorifies Him…but He’s amazingly big enough to do all of that.  It’s pretty spectacular to think about.

So, just as Hannah encouraged us to keep praying last week, let Ruth encourage us to have faith behind our prayers, because in one day, God can completely transform our lives, doing exceedingly above all that we could even ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20 – one of my favorites).  And that transformation can have an impact that will live on for millenia, if we will only trust Him to do His work in His time, while we simply walk in obedience to what we know to do right now.

Oh, and by the way, we’ll talk about Rahab soon, I’m sure, but she, the prostitute from Jericho, was Boaz’s mother.  Apparently, he came from good stock, and because his own mom was a non-Hebrew, perhaps that made him more willing to marry Ruth, a girl from Moab.  Just one more way that God is working even before we’re born to prepare us for His great plans.

Ruth

 

Wednesday’s Woman: Hannah

You may have noticed a new category along my fancy menu bar at the top of the site – “Wednesday’s Woman.”  Allow me to explain…

Sometime last week, my boss was looking for stories of women in the Bible who were industrious.  We thought of a couple off the tops of our heads, but I said I’d do some research.  What I found was there are a MILLION women in the Bible!  None of the stories I found were ones I didn’t know, but I’d never seen them en masse, and the collection was such an encouraging reminder of how much God really loves women.  While I’ve been fortunate enough never really to have experienced gender discrimination – either from family pressures, the church, or society at large – I know many women have.  But, that’s so not biblical!  God used women in so many different ways, giving them credit by the most incredible means possible: telling their stories in Scripture!

So, although it’s not directly related to either fashion or that single life, I wanted to study these women more, and I thought you might want to join in.  So, every Wednesday, I’ll feature a different woman from the Bible and we’ll discuss her impact.  But, because I don’t want to completely abandon why I started this blog in the first place – and because I think it will be fun (for me, anyway) – I’m also going to create an outfit that I think captures the essence of the woman in discussion: her character, lifestyle, etc.  Basically, what she might wear, were she alive today.  If you’ve ever seen the DisneyBound tumblr (if not, go check it out; it’s so fun!), it’ll be kinda like that.  Only from the Bible.

I hope you’ll like this series.  I’m excited about it.  If you hate it, let me know, and I’ll see how I can adjust.  But, if you do like it, have thoughts, comments, further insight, encouragement…whatever!, please don’t hesitate to share.  Let’s all join in on the fun!

I know this post is already a little long, but I want to go ahead and start with the first Wednesday’s Woman, if that’s alright.  So, refill your coffee or grab a snack, and let’s dive on in!

——

Hannah is very special to me, and I thought she was the perfect first Wednesday’s Woman because of how God has used her to encourage me in That Single Life, too.  If you’re unfamiliar or a little rusty on the story, I’ll do a quick summary (the whole thing can be found in 1 Samuel 2).

Hannah was childless.  This was a big deal.  Not only because of cultural and biological pressures, but because her husband’s OTHER wife was not childless, and she mocked Hannah relentlessly.  (Pause for a moment – can I just express how happy I am that I will never have to be a sister wife?  I cannot even imagine.)

Anyway, while Hannah’s husband loved her deeply, despite her inability to give him children, her heart’s desire was for a child.  She cried out to the Lord year after year, begging him to hear her and grant her request, eventually reaching a point of prayerful desperation where the high priest asked if she were drunk.  Of course she wasn’t, but her cries did not go unnoticed, and God did hear Hannah, giving her a son, Samuel, who would eventually become one of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history, and the one to anoint both Saul and David as Israel’s first and second kings.

I love this story for many reasons.  One, God cares about the desires of our hearts.  I don’t say this in a name it, claim it kind of way.  But He knows what’s important to us, and because we are important to Him, He cares about that.  That’s precious to me.

Two, while Hannah did have to wait for God’s answer, it came.  And it came in a big way!  God not only answered her actual request, but He answered the one that she hadn’t asked – that her son would become a great man who would be a leader of the entire nation.  When God says He will do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21), He means it.

But, the real reason I love Hannah’s story is because God reminded me of it at a desperate time in my own life.  I had just stopped seeing someone who I did not love, but had nevertheless allowed to stomp on my heart. I was sad about the loss of him, but (as is often the case in my breakups), I was more upset about the loss of something.  Without that guy, I was back to nothing – with no prospects in sight.  Again.

As I was praying about it – and crying – something reminded me of Hannah.  Other than the Holy Spirit, I have no idea what prompted me; hers is not a story I really think about often, or even knew that well.  But in that moment, I eagerly flipped to 1 Samuel, and as I read, my heart was encouraged.  Hannah cried out to God, and He heard her.  God doesn’t mind our tears.  In that moment, I felt like He was saying, “It’s OK to cry.  And it’s okay to keep asking!” Hannah asked year after year for her son; God doesn’t mind us coming back to Him over and over about those things that matter to us.  Actually, He encourages it!  He sees the tears, hears those deep cries of our hearts, and He is there.  And He will answer.

But that wasn’t the only encouraging thing.  I’ve long struggled with the question of whether or not I even would get a husband.  What if I were one of those people, like Paul, on whom God had chosen to bestow the “gift” of singlehood?  People always told me that if that were the case, God would have given me a different desire, and I would be okay with not being married.  But, what if I were just being resistant to God’s will, I thought. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop that God’s perfect plan for my life required me to be alone.  And probably living in Africa somewhere.

As I read about Hannah, though, and felt the Holy Spirit encourage me to keep praying about what mattered most to me, I realized that God would not encourage me to pray about something He was going to deny me.  That’s not kind, and God is kind.  It may not be universally applicable, but for me, when I read Hannah’s story, I was overcome with a peaceful knowledge that God does have a good plan for me – and that plan includes a husband.  Also, it’s okay to keep reminding Him of that.  I don’t know when He will answer (the sooner the better…), but I know that He will.

That’s what Hannah’s story means to me: a compassionate God who hears and answers.  I just love reading about her, and I hope that encourages you: whether you are single like me, childless like Hannah, or simply growing weary of asking God about that thing most dear to your heart.  Don’t give up – He hears.

Hannah

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