Eight Ways to Have a Happier Household in Times of Stress

Life can be so stressful. While there are many wonderful times, there are also times that are not so wonderful–like when we take on more projects than we should, our calendars are too full, or we are assailed by several minor–albeit extremely frustrating–trials. If we aren’t careful, we can quickly find ourselves overwhelmed, which often turns us into…hmmm…shall we say not our best selves?

Unfortunately, these times generally affect our whole family. I remember hearing many years ago that I, the mother of my home, was responsible for the tone of my household. This seemed rather unfair at the time. But fair or unfair, it was true. We moms do set the tone for our home. If we are angry, frazzled, and stressed all the time, our kids will be, too. If we are short-tempered and irritable, often our entire household will follow suit.

So how exactly do we keep our households happy even when things are crazy busy? I feel a little hypocritical even writing about this because I am not the best under stress (just ask my family!) but I have learned a few things that do help a lot when I actually put them into practice. Here are eight things that have helped me to have a happier household when I am overwhelmed.

1.  Do not skip Bible reading and prayer time. This is often the first thing to go during stressful times even though it should be the last thing to go. Spending time with God helps us to keep a proper, eternal perspective and gives us strength for the day. Keeping this priority is critical during these times.

2. Be grateful. It is easy in stressful times to forget the good things. Taking a little time each day to express our gratitude to God and to our loved ones is like a balm to our soul, building our relationships and reminding us that there is more to life than this stressful moment in time.

3. Listen to hymns or doctrinally-sound praise and worship music. Listening to good music makes such a difference to me when I am going through a tough time. Music is so powerful. What we choose to listen to during these times can lift us up and help us cope or it can frazzle us even more.

4. Don’t let anyone manipulate your emotions. My dad told me recently that his dad used to say this to him. While I have been working at this concept for a long time now, I had never heard it put quite like this. Isn’t that so profound? What this means is that we shouldn’t let our emotions be driven by those around us. If our spouse is angry or our children are grumpy, this should not change our emotions. We shouldn’t let anyone have power over our emotions–even bad drivers on the highway and cranky clerks at the store! This is extremely difficult (at least for me) but when we can control our emotions instead of letting them wildly take over when things don’t go our way, it makes all the difference in the world.

5. Keep your home free of clutter. I know few people who aren’t affected negatively by a house that is constantly untidy. Clearing counter tops, tables, and dressers, washing the dishes, keeping up with the laundry, and sweeping the floor truly doesn’t take that much time and goes a long way in helping a family feel more peaceful–especially in times of high stress. I would like to add here that as a young homeschooling mom of four this was especially difficult to do! Every time I turned around a new toy or game was on the floor. But after several years of frustrating my husband over the clutter, the kids and I got in the habit of cleaning up every day before daddy came home. It took awhile to instill this new practice, but with some effort, it was possible and did really help!

6. Remember how fast time goes. If you have young children, you may feel like this time will never, ever end. Your days are filled with endless requests, duties, and demands. But trust me–all too soon, you will be watching your last one pack up their things and move away. You are just in a season. Before you know it, the next season will arrive, with its own challenges and frustrations. Remembering this during stressful times would always help me.

7. Examine your calendar. I can remember several times through the years with my family that I had to step back and evaluate our schedules. I would start paring it down until it became doable again. It is okay for your kids to be home doing nothing. In fact, it’s better than okay! It’s necessary for their maturity and emotional health. Don’t cram your schedule so full that there is no downtime and if you have done that, start eliminating things. As I learned from experience, your child will be just fine without the gymnastics, dance, or piano lessons. They will suffer no ill consequences if they aren’t on the soccer or basketball teams. Review your schedule with your spouse, determine your priorities for your family, and then, together, choose one or two of these things that fit best with your priorities and let the rest go.

8. Be careful of your high expectations. This was always a hard one for me. I not only wanted life to be perfect– I expected it! I can still find myself there if I am not careful. We have expectations for our spouses, our kids, our jobs, our homes. When they aren’t met we can become grumbly and grouchy. But when we can accept that life will not be perfect on this earth and lower our expectations, we can find contentment. True peace and joy are not dependent on circumstances. Instead they come when we accept our circumstances– knowing we are in God’s sovereign care–and we persevere through them.

There you go–eight things that have helped me! It seems funny even writing this as we are now preparing for an empty nest here in a few weeks. But I have learned so much in my parenting years. And, while I didn’t always put them into practice, when I did, they really helped! I hope that these eight things may have inspired you to make your home a happier place today.

On Being a Mom to a Mom

Five Generations

Last weekend, our world changed forever. Our first grandchild came into the world and our lives will never be the same. Many people had told us just how wonderful this moment would be, but, just as becoming a parent truly defies description, so, too, does becoming a grandparent.

As I held this miniature human being in my arms, I couldn’t stop staring in absolute awe at the miracle of this new life (evolution is categorically impossible on just this one point alone). Staring at the tiny, perfect features of my first grandson, I felt blessed far more than I deserve.

When people would talk to us about becoming grandparents, most of the talk centered on the grandchildren (of course!) but one thing I didn’t really think about until this week is how this new life changes the relationship with my daughter.

We have been gently discovering this since her wedding a couple of years ago and have been learning to pass the baton on to the next generation. But with the birth of their child, it feels more official somehow. And I recognized that my husband and I are stepping off of center stage and are now moving into a support role.

It is a strange feeling and will take some adjusting for me and yet the time is so right. It is my turn to be for her what my mom has been (and continues to be) for me. She provided unwavering and consistent support as I took on one of the hardest jobs in existence: Motherhood. She provided godly counseling and sometimes just let me cry as she listened to my heartaches. And she rejoiced with me, almost as excited as we were when a baby started to walk or a child lost a first tooth. Oh, how I desire to do the same for my daughters and daughter-in-law as they take their turn at being a mother.

The picture above was taken over 70 years ago. The only person alive today is my aunt, who is the young girl in the photo. My grandmother is the beautiful lady standing on the left. At the time, she probably had two children. She went on to have two more, my mother being her fourth. When this photo was taken, she was experiencing the sleepless nights, the strong wills, the sibling rivalry, and the endless cleaning and cooking that comes with raising a family. It was her turn to face the challenges of motherhood. But time passed, the years went by, and it became my mom’s turn. And then it was my turn. And now, all these years later, it is my daughter’s turn.

As our roles are changing now, I have been giving a great deal of thought to how important it is for us grandmothers to find a balance between interfering bossiness and cold indifference. Somewhere between those two is the loving balance of being there when they need us and yet giving them lots of space to grow together as a family without our “two cents.”

I am starting to understand why some families have so much trouble. Some mothers are just not ready to step off of center stage and take their support role. This can cause a lot of stress in families where there is great effort in trying to keep “Mom happy.”

As I have been thinking on how to take on this new role, the little phrase I used to say to my kids comes to mind: Be a blessing, not a burden.

I want to not only love my grandchildren deeply and fully, but I want to do the same for my kids and their spouses. I desire to encourage with my words, rather than be the constant critic. I want to build up and offer support as they take on this new role of parenting, rather than fill them with self-doubt and frustration.

I recognize that our actions and reactions as grandparents can make all the difference in the world in our family dynamics. I want to make sure grudges and bitterness find no place in my heart. And that I love my in-laws with the same love with which I love my own kids, instead of making them feel like outsiders.

I won’t do any of this perfectly, of course. But this who I want to be. Who I want to become. 

And so time marches on and I am now in the grandmother’s spot in that photo above. I still have to shake my head a bit as I ponder it all. It feels just a bit surreal. But I am quite confident that I am going to like being the mom of a mom. Sure, it will take a little getting used to, but I am thrilled to watch my daughter and her husband with their little guy, knowing that he is in the hands of two people who love the Lord and love each other. I am deeply grateful in knowing that these new parents desire nothing more than that this child they have been entrusted with grows up to love and serve Jesus.

Really, how blessed can you get?

 

How to Know If You are Too Busy

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For many years now the Mommy Wars have raged. Should mothers work? Or shouldn’t they? Are kids better if their mom is at home or worse off? What if Mom has to work? Is it sinful? And what exactly are the acceptable conditions for a mother to work?

Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about all this in a long time. But a few days ago someone asked me to review an article on this very subject. And it got me thinking.

A brief walk through history shows us that mothers working outside the home is a relatively new phenomenon. It may have started during the World Wars–particularly World War II–when men went off to war and women were left to man the factories and businesses they left behind. As we moved into the sixties, women cried for independence and the feminist movement really got going and continued to rage through the 70s. The 80s taught us to want more and more stuff. And through all of these changes a new world was born. A world where most mothers work to support a lifestyle that is now deemed as necessary.

But this post is not really about whether women should work or not but, instead, about a common thing I see happening whether a mom works or not. This “thing” causes our kids to wonder if we care. It relegates our husbands and families to the background. And it turns our homes into unorganized chaos.

Any guesses?

It is busyness.

Maybe it’s a little unfair to talk about busyness during December. This seems to be one of the toughest months to reign in our activities. But coming off of two incredibly hectic weeks, I came face to face with the fact that I dropped a few balls. It is almost inevitable if we are too busy. And this is okay for a few weeks here and there. But when we live a lifestyle of being over-committed and involved in too many things, our families will suffer.

Scripture tells us that, as women, our homes and families are to be our main concern. We see this in Proverbs 31, Titus 2:4-5, and I Timothy 5:14.

So many of us, if asked to write our top priorities, would most definitely put God and family at the top of the list. But, practically speaking, this can sometimes be hard to live out, can’t it? People ask us to do things and we just can’t say no. We get our child involved in sports and music lessons and karate. We have birthday and holiday parties. We feel pressured to get involved in PTA and ministries at church. And, soon, if we aren’t careful, every night of the week has us going somewhere. There is little time left for playing games, doing puzzles, and cuddling on the sofa with our kids to read a story.

And this is tragic.

As I look back over my years as a mother, a few realities have become clear to me that I couldn’t see in the midst of the chaos. While I enjoyed sitting by the sidelines watching my kids play soccer, I miss the times reading stories and playing games with them far more. I miss the discussions with their big life questions that had me digging in the Bible for answers. And I miss the loud dinner conversations that made up our life here.

Last night, my husband and I had the wonderful privilege of having our whole family home for a spontaneous pizza night. It was a wonderful, chaotic time full of fun, laughter, and loudly-spoken opinions. But those times are now few and far between. And it made me think about something I heard my husband say to the Sunday School class he was teaching yesterday.

We are studying Shepherding a Child’s Heart (if you haven’t read this book by Tedd Tripp, I hope that you will. You don’t want to miss this book if you are a parent!) and the class has been learning some wonderful lessons about parenting. But my husband reminded them that changes with how we parent cannot be relegated to someday, like most other goals can. The future of our children and their children and their children rely on us changing now.

Life can become so hectic. We are all given just so many hours in a day. And it’s just so easy to say yes to too much. So how do we know if we are too busy? Here are five questions to determine if you are over-committed–

  1. Am I easily irritated by small things?
  2. Is my home chaotic and unorganized?
  3. Are my children defiant and disobedient?
  4. Do I miss my devotions and prayer time more often than not?
  5. Do I always feel overwhelmed?

I am not the judge, but if you have said yes to more than one or two of these questions, then you are probably over-committed.

So what to do if this is the case?

All I can do is tell you what I did when I found myself in that very same place many years ago. Let me back up and give context. At the time, I was homeschooling my four kids, doing all of the books for our company by myself, and was super-involved in church. My beloved family and home got lost in the shuffle of my over-commitment and I had to make some decisions. So I sat down with my husband and we decided what could go and what was non-negotiable. And then I started eliminating some things.

As a little side note here, let me just add that while I did discontinue a few church ministries, I did continue to be involved. It is incredibly important for our kids to see that church is a priority in our lives. Church should never be the thing that is eliminated from our schedules.

Sure, it was hard to pick and choose, but in the long run, it was the best thing for my family. Life will not stop if you step down from PTA. Your church will continue its Sunday School program, even if you cannot teach Sunday School for this season. And your children will not be permanently disadvantaged if they don’t take music lessons or play baseball. Know your limits and don’t let guilt or pressure from others push you into something you know is too much for you. Keep your family and home your priority–whether you are home full-time or find yourself at work everyday.

And someday, far too soon, you will have plenty of time to get involved in ministries and community groups. Take it from someone who knows!

Practicing Joy When It’s Hard

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Sometimes the world around us seems so hopeless. We watch the news on TV, we age and our bodies grow weaker, and we hear so many stories of brokenness and tragedy. We come face to face over and over again with the hard reality that we live in a fallen world in a body headed for death.

These tough truths also come to light in the books of the Old Testament Prophets. These men of God predict the sword, famine, and pestilence on God’s chosen people. They have turned their hearts to idols and God has decided enough is enough. How would it have felt to be in Israel during that time? What would it have been like to live with the knowledge that the wrath of God was coming?

Could it be a little like right now? Oh, I know we aren’t Israel. And I know that the wrath of God fell hard on them in a way that will probably not be repeated until the Tribulation. But don’t you sometimes wonder how long the wrath of God will tarry for a nation that kills its babies at a rate of 2000+ per day? Or a nation that has declared God to be null and void and prefers to give credit to the ludicrous and illogical theory of evolution? How long can a nation last that lives like there are no moral absolutes? What can we expect when we turn our back on God’s chosen people, Israel? (Genesis 12:3)

I don’t tend to get dragged down too often by the state of this nation, but every once in awhile it just hits me. This is not the same nation it was. It is changing so fast it sometimes feels like it’s hard to catch your breath. And in the back of my mind is always this question: what will it mean for the faithful? What is ahead for us in a country that is becoming increasingly hostile towards anyone who follows the Jesus of the Bible?

This week, while I was thinking a bit about this, the Lord brought to mind my dear friend, Bea. It’s not often that you are good friends with someone who is 35 years older than you are, but we are a glorious exception. God has blessed our family tremendously by knowing her. She has functioned for many years as my kids’ third grandmother and as a source of godly wisdom for me.

I decided that I would ask her her thoughts on finding joy when things are looking dark. She has a lot she could be discouraged about. Her health is starting to fail and life is very different than it was even ten years ago. Looking to the future doesn’t bring much hope, as her body will probably continue to grow weaker. And yet when I stop in she always has a genuine smile on her face. A smile that comes from her heart. I asked her how she finds joy in the midst of discouraging days.

She had some great thoughts and I know that you will benefit from them as much as me. As always, her practical wisdom is so helpful. When I asked her how she fosters joy in her life, she gave the following thoughts–

1. Count Your Blessings.

She went on to share just how good God has been to her through the years. She prayed for her husband’s salvation for 32 long years and God answered that prayer. And now this husband treats her like a princess, loving on her in a way that wasn’t possible in their busy, younger days. She enjoys the more relaxed, living-in-the-moment that they are able to do now. And she looks for even small improvements in her health or other situations. She says there are always plenty of blessings to be remembered.

2. Talk to God a Lot.

She elaborated here and told me she talks to Him all the time. She asks for strength to get through the day. And to help her find a lost earring. She talks to Him about her feelings of discouragement. And she prays for others. Instead of just (or perhaps along with) one designated prayer time for the day, she keeps a running conversation going with God all day.

3. Choose to be thankful.

This kind of goes with the first one, but it is a bit more intentional. She thanks God for her good days. And for the healing that is taking place despite her aging body. She thanks God for the blessings that are in her life. Even the smallest blessing is worthy of gratitude.

4. Press on through the discouragement.

When I asked if she had anything more, she added this final thing. And perhaps this may be the most important of all. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, continuing in the service God has for us, no matter what the task. Bea’s tasks have changed considerably over the years and she now finds herself in a place where she can’t do that much physically. But she can still pray and she can still encourage others. She can still cook and do some things around the house. And she can still love her husband and her family. When we are tempted to stop walking in our difficult places, our focus turns inward and we withdraw from life if we aren’t careful. We often end up in a fog of depression and misery, oftentimes curled up in a ball in our beds or zoned out in front of the TV. Self pity doesn’t make things better. It makes things much worse.

Instead we need to keep pressing on through the pain and the discouragement, remembering the future that is in store for us if we are saved and always prepared, with hope, for the return of our Lord and Savior. Isn’t it just wonderful to contemplate a life without pain and without sorrow? It seems almost beyond the realm of our comprehension. But that is what we have been promised if we are God’s! This life is not the whole picture. It’s just a tiny part of the whole.

I guess you can tell how much I love my dear friend. She has been such an inspiration and godly example for me. And not only has she been a great role model, but she has always been willing to share her struggles and her heart with me. Ladies like this are rare and I consider it a great privilege to have her in my life. I want to keep learning from her as long as possible and continue mining the treasure of her 80+ years of experience.

I hope this post has inspired you to find joy in the hard places! But I also hope it has inspired any of you who are women to find a godly woman whom you can talk to and learn from. One who is willing to be open and honest and who has years of experience and can help you avoid some of the pitfalls we tend to make as wives and mothers.

And, as I write this, I find myself encouraged that perhaps it’s not so hopeless, after all. Sure, the world isn’t going anywhere great, but we can’t quit. We ordinary women can make a difference by building into the lives of others and sharing the things we have learned from God’s Word. Oh, we probably won’t change the world, but we can help the people that God places in front of us. And, according to Titus 2:3-5, perhaps that is what we are supposed to be focused on, anyway.

Joining the Dance

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On Saturday, I finally worked up the courage to clean my son’s room.

I knew it would be the very last time I would clean it for him. When he moved away, he had left a sundry of assorted items on the floor and on the shelves, along with a basketful of items that he said weren’t his. That, along with a few other things, have sat in that empty room since he moved out in June.

I told myself that I was just too busy to get to it and had reminded myself that it wasn’t really any hurry, but I knew full well why I was putting it off.

Cleaning that room was going to make me sad. And it was going to remind me that my life was never going to be the same again.

But Saturday was the day.

And so I gathered some garbage bags, the vacuum, and my courage, and opened the door.

As I glanced around the room, I could almost hear echoes of the past. A little boy’s laughter. A sibling argument. A middle-schooler pesting a sister. A parent-teen discussion. It was all in the past. A loud, trying, crazy, happy, chaotic past.

I tried to find perspective as I cleaned the room. I thought of the possibilities and what I could do with the extra space. I eyed up the closet and contemplated filling up its shelves.

And, yet, somehow it just didn’t seem right–this filling up of a space that had been–and would, in some ways, always be–our son’s.

In the midst of my melancholy, I recognized the importance of pushing on and of finding the good in the now. Of seeing the possibilities and potential of this time in my life. Yes, life is changing but it’s not all bad.

God is teaching me and drawing me to Himself in a deeper way right now, as I am able to spend more time in His Word. I cherish the relaxed time I have with my youngest child and husband. And I love spending time with all of my kids (this includes the wonderful kids that have joined our family).

And, so, as I cleaned the room, I was also trying to clear away the last vestiges of sad nostalgia that had taken up residence in my mind this past year as, one by one, I have watched my three oldest kids start their own lives. And I somehow grasp the importance of enjoying this moment. There is so much to take in and savor and to love about life right now. When we get hung up in yesterday–whether it be a good or a bad past–we miss so much.

Life keeps changing. Some changes are good and some are not. Some change we can control, but there is much we can’t control.

But there is always one thing we can control: Our attitude. We can choose to dance and move in step with the change or we can choose not to. Growing sad or depressed won’t keep change from happening, it will just make us miserable.

And so on Saturday when I finished that room, I was ready to join the dance of change. Oh, I know I will still have my moments of tears and sadness, but I am ready to intentionally grab hold of my new life with joy and expectation. I had prepared that room for new opportunities–just as I am becoming prepared for new opportunities.

 

It’s About Love

Modesty

I had an interesting conversation with my kids the other day.

“Your shirt’s a little low there, Mom,” said a daughter.

I self-consciously pulled it up and mumbled, “I know. This stupid shirt…”

Upon which my son said, “no worries, Mom, no one is looking at you, anyway.”

Uhhh, thanks.

But, hey, while it was a little hard on my ego, I also realized that it’s mostly true.

So why should I worry about modesty as an older woman?

Perhaps we should first answer the question of why all women–whether young or old–should worry about modesty at all?

I think there is a really good reason that God tells us to be modest (I Timothy 2:9). Let’s look at why that might be–

When most men get a glimpse of a breast or see thighs and bottom barely covered or covered by skin-tight pants, they are sexually aroused. This is how God created them.

I don’t know why He created them like this. I just know that He did.

Not only is this the way they were created, but then we read in Matthew 5:27-29 that to lust sexually is counted the same as committing adultery. We also know from the context of the passage that both of these things are considered serious sins. So this natural tendency that men have is something they must fight every day.

And over the past 50 years or so, this battle in their minds has become almost minute-by-minute combat which they can’t escape, often even in our churches!

We also know that God tells us in His Word that we are to love others (Matthew 22:39). If I would ask you what loving someone looks like, you would probably mention doing something special for them or being nice to them. And this is a part of love, for sure. But let’s leave the status quo definition of love behind for a moment.

Couldn’t we women also show love by keeping ourselves properly covered? Dressing modestly is truly an act of genuine love, encouragement, and protection for all men who see us, especially for our Christian brothers in the Lord.

For some reason I have not quite ever been able to understand, we Christian women have just seemed to completely forgotten that God calls us to modesty and that He does so for a reason– to protect us and to protect the hearts and minds of the men around us.

Our love for God and our obedience to His Word should be an even more important reason for us to obey Him in this area. And here is what I have found out– what we wear is just the first step in demonstrating modesty. The true heart of modesty is humility and grace. Think of it like this– when we dress immodestly we draw attention to ourselves. When we dress (and act) modestly, we are much more likely to draw people’s eyes towards Jesus instead of distracting them with our outward appearance.

Perhaps it is not you who dresses immodestly but you have allowed your daughter to dress in such a way. I never cease to be amazed at what Christian parents allow their daughters to wear. Parents who I know genuinely love the Lord and have a wonderful testimony, otherwise.

Inevitably, when you have this modesty question, some woman will loftily announce that she can’t be held responsible for a man’s mind and where it goes.

Yes, that is true. He has a responsibility to turn his eyes away. But how loving and kind it is to dress in such a way that men do not have to do that when they look at us!

So back to the original question– what if no one is looking at me, anyway? What does it really matter if my shirt is too low or my skirt too short?

This is a pretty relevant question, because as women head into mid-life, they sometimes grow a little panicky in all the life changes. And in a reaction to that panic can sometimes dress in ways that are slightly more immodest or not age appropriate. And, honestly, I can understand why. This time of a life is a really strange place to land as a woman, and everything feels topsy-turvy. But we still need to dress modestly.

Let’s go to Titus 2:3-5 to find out why–

the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

It would seem pretty clear from these verses that we have an obligation to dress modestly for the sake of the younger women around us. We need to be the example they are to follow. That is our responsibility as we grow older. We never get to stop caring. We always need to be intentional about what we wear.

Now, I admit dressing modestly can be extremely difficult for all of us women–whatever our age–for a number of reasons–

1) We won’t fit in with those around us. A really good example of this is if you are a young woman on the beach. If you aren’t wearing a bikini, you almost stand out like a sore thumb. You don’t quite fit in with the crowd. Which is actually exactly what we are supposed to do — not look like the world– but it can be a bit uncomfortable and we have to be willing to part from the crowd. And that is never fun.

2) We can’t find modest clothes to buy. I have found this one to be especially challenging. It seems that fashion has dictated that cleavage is in and modesty is out. It is downright difficult to find a shirt that doesn’t slink its way down in the course of the day or give a full view if you bend over. And let’s be honest– most of us don’t want to live in polos or turtlenecks. But should we be sacrificing our modesty for that cute shirt? I am especially challenged as I write this, because I am ashamed to admit that I have made some exceptions for some “cute” shirts.

Is there ever a reason that we can in good conscience be immodest? Like is it okay on your wedding day? Or at a beach where no one knows you?

Answer this question: Are there men there?

If there are men there, then the answer is always no. There is, however, one glorious exception– we can be as immodest as we want with our own husbands! No modesty is necessary in the bedroom!

This has got to be one of the most confusing times there has ever been to live out our Christianity. We are told conflicting opinions about almost every topic. Modesty is no exception. But let’s stop listening to the placating excuses for why we can dress the way we want and let’s start turning our eyes to God’s Word, where we not only find the clear command that we need to be modest, but also find out why.

If you are in the habit of wearing low shirts, short skirts and shorts, tight yoga pants, or immodest swimwear, may I challenge you to do your own study of God’s Word in this area of modesty? Let’s stop following the crowd and drawing attention to ourselves and, instead, turn our focus towards pleasing God in this area of our lives.

 

Thighs are jiggly in the real world

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I saw a video on Facebook the other day that showed real women exercising. Their bodies weren’t perfect, their thighs jiggled, most had a little tummy, and they broke a real sweat. They looked like they were having a great time. It was a commercial put out by a foreign athletic company for the same reason that the Dove soap commercial came out a few years ago with Jamie Lee Curtis–to present the truth about women. And it was beautiful.

Sometimes I get so weary of trying to be perfect, don’t you? We are constantly barraged by photos on our computers, tablets, and smartphones that tell us we do not measure up. We’re not skinny enough, our houses aren’t beautiful enough, our kids aren’t perfect enough. There is always this elusive, impossible standard that hangs over our heads.

That standard didn’t really exist even 25 years ago. It was just starting to affect us. Now it can control us if we aren’t careful. A big problem in our pinterest-facebook-instagram world is the standards and expectations we set for ourselves because of the pictures we see.

It reminds me of a blog I landed on a few weeks ago. It was a young mom’s home and she had taken some holiday pictures of it that were gorgeous! She obviously has an eye for decorating and design. But even as I scrolled down through, I felt inadequate.

Now, don’t get me wrong– I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with posting beautiful pictures. Our world is a much more creative place now that the online world is filled with blogs and Pinterest. But, oh, how careful we need to be as we surf the online world.

Life is so much more than the pictures you see on social media. It’s full of jiggles and cellulite. It’s full of dirt and messes. It’s okay if our houses don’t look like they belong on a blog post. It’s okay if we have a little tummy pooch. Who in the world ever gave us the impression that’s it’s not? And why do we listen to them?

This post is not about losing weight or enjoying interior design but, instead, about trying to be someone we are not because of pictures we see. It’s about young, healthy moms who think they are overweight because they don’t look like the single girl they graduated with ten years ago. It’s about being discontent with our body shapes and our possessions. It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?

And if we get into that cycle of discontentment, all gratitude is gone. And without gratitude, we lose sight of our many blessings — a critical part of a healthy relationship with God.

We need to be careful of the subtle call of discontentment and view it for what it is and then take necessary steps to change it. Because life is just too short to try to be something we aren’t. Let’s instead live lives of joy and gratitude and turn to God’s Word for our standards of living. Because, in the end, the fruits of the spirit and a godly life will be so much more important than any external change we may have made.

I Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

 

 

No Personality Transplant Required (for women only)

GroupWomen

 

I usually try to write for any Christian. But today’s post is just for women. Of course, men can certainly read it, but I don’t think they will really get it. I heard something yesterday in church and felt like I just had to write about it, because I am thinking that it may not just be me that struggles with this particular concern.

We Christian women have been hearing the phrase “gentle and quiet spirit” forever. For years and years, I have felt so incredibly guilty because I am just. not.

Really, it has been one of the most discouraging things ever for me. I naturally tend to take charge (even when I’m not asked) and I can talk too much, if I’m not very careful. I am not gentle. Or quiet. And I struggle with being submissive, too. There. I said it. (You can click here for my post on submission. I won’t write much about that today).

I used to watch Christian women who were “gentle and quiet” — at least in how they portrayed themselves in public– and get a little jealous. Why couldn’t I be more like them? Dignified. Quiet. Even shy.

As I have gotten older, I have gained a much deeper understanding into this. I have seen “godly” women–quiet, shy ones– who years later are not exhibiting much fruit. Their kids have walked away from the Lord. They aren’t really ministering in any area of their lives. Or I have found out that they are pernicious gossips behind the scenes. Of course, there are many quiet, shy women who are truly lovely women of God. And that’s really the whole point. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.

So let’s go back to what I heard yesterday in church. We watched a video in our ladies’ Sunday School class that really brought this all together in my mind.  At one point, Nancy Leigh DeMoss said something like she believed for a long time that she would need a personality transplant in order to be godly woman. She just knew she didn’t have a quiet and gentle spirit. I had never heard the struggle put that exact way before, but as soon as she said it, I could totally and completely relate. It struck something deep inside me.

In many ways, I have felt like I have left my Savior down, my family down, and my church down just by being me. I have felt like it is impossible to be a godly woman.

But here’s the thing–

Perhaps we haven’t defined the words correctly. I remember that when I wrote the Sermon on the Mount in a Nutshell  post that I was surprised by the actual meaning of those verses in Matthew 5. All my life I had defined certain terms in that passage completely wrong–words like “mourn” and “meek.”. Perhaps the same thing has been true of these words “gentle” and “quiet”.

And logic would dictate that if we start with the wrong definition, we end up with the wrong conclusion.

So let’s define these words, using the specific Greek terms (keep in mind that I am no Greek scholar by any means)–

πραέως (praus): This difficult-to-translate root (pra-) means more than “meek.” Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God’s strength under His control – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness; humble.

[The English term “meek” often lacks this blend – i.e. of gentleness (reserve) and strength.]

ἡσυχίου (hescuchios): (an adjective derived from hēsyxos, “quiet, stillness”) – properly, quiet (still), i.e. steady (settled) due to a divinely-inspired inner calmness; (“calmly quiet”) describes being “appropriately tranquil” by not misusing (or overusing) words that would stir up needless friction (destructive commotion).

As we read these definitions, we begin to understand that being gentle and quiet has absolutely nothing to do with our personality and everything to do with surrendering our will to God’s and living obediently, according to His Word.

You see, this verse is for all of us. As we mature, we should be cloaked in “divinely-inspired inner calmness”– whether we are an introvert or an extrovert. As we grow up in the Lord, we should be demonstrating humility.

And let’s keep in mind that being an extrovert does not mean one is filled with pride, just as being an introvert does not mean one is filled with humility. A quiet person can easily be more prideful than a talkative one. Sometimes we get a little confused on this.

NOW– all that being said– there are some things we need to face.

No matter what personality we have been given by God (Psalm 139:13), it can be used for God’s glory or for our own. Challenges abound for us, no matter what our natural bents are. The key is to recognize the area in which we struggle and, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to work at changing it.

For example, a strong personality may struggle with speaking words at the appropriate time while an introvert may struggle with developing the courage to speak words at all. One woman may struggle with responding with love and compassion, while another may struggle with enabling people in their struggles.

We need to recognize that God has uniquely designed (and blessed) us with the gifts, talents, and quirks that we have. And, along with that, we need to realize that each and every one of us– no matter what our personality is– has struggles and victories and needs and blessings.

No matter what personality we have been given, we have the glorious opportunity of using it to honor and glorify Christ. So let’s make sure that we grab that opportunity and, by God’s great grace and mercy, use it to the best of our ability.

If you have found this post helpful, I would sure appreciate if you would share it. Thank you!