For Women Only

We know we will be fine.

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I am posting this on Monday, the day that I am dropping my youngest daughter off at college. I wrote this post a few days before we left as I started really thinking about what my new life will look like. You see, with her new college adventure, we start our own new adventure, as our nest will officially be empty. It has been quite an interesting summer trying to sort through all of the emotions that surround this moment. Actually, I have been trying to prepare myself for this for quite some time now. (But, honestly, can you prepare for this?)

As my regular readers and real-life friends already know, I tend to be pretty transparent both here on the blog and in day-to-day conversations. And, so, over the last few years, I have shared my thoughts, fears, and emotions regarding this new transition in my life fairly openly. The one thing I was not prepared for was the range of responses I would get from other women. While some women share their own struggles and warmly encourage with tears in their eyes, others casually tell me I will be fine. Still others share how excited they are for this new stage and some even imply that I am somehow being sinful or ridiculous in the struggles I am experiencing as I deal with this new transition.

And so I am writing this post to the women who don’t struggle through this empty nest transition from those of us who do not find it quite as easy. There are some things that are important to share–

First, our sadness over this transition is completely separate from the absolute joy and excitement we feel for our kids. We are thrilled to watch them take this new step of faith. We couldn’t be prouder that they are doing exactly what we have been planning and preparing for all of these years. But this joy for our kids doesn’t take away the deep sadness we feel for ourselves as we approach the end of an era. In fact, this mix of emotions can be rather overwhelming and confusing. Are we happy or are we sad? It changes constantly.

Second, we know we will be fine. Seriously, we understand that things will settle into a new normal. But we need time to grieve. We need just a little time to mourn what was. Please help us if we stay in that place too long or we fall into a pit of despair, but we are going to be the ones who will need a few days or weeks or months to process. One lady recently told me it took her three years until she grew used to her new normal. For many of us, our whole lives were wrapped up in our kids. We never even thought about life beyond them. While this might not have been the wisest thing, it is what it is. Give us a little time to just work our way through it. We are in the process of getting used to a whole new life. We know we will be fine but it’s going to take awhile.

Third, remember that everyone processes things differently. Let’s offer heaps of grace to one another. We are all so different and this is a good thing. Let’s embrace our differences rather than judge one another for them. I am not talking about sin issues here, of course! But when it comes to personality differences or preferences that have nothing to do with biblical standards, let’s just let people be who they are. Some of us will take longer to work through these changes than others and–as long as it doesn’t lead to sinful actions or behavior–this is okay.

Fourth, we already know there are amazing advantages to this time of life. We are looking forward to quiet evenings for reading, hobbies, or walks. We are excited about having a cleaner house. And experiencing freedom we haven’t had in years is very appealing to us. But our enthusiasm for these things doesn’t eliminate our sadness.

Fifth, the sadness we feel is not a reflection of our marriages. We love our husbands and are looking so forward to spending more time with them.

And, sixth, we would love for you to pray for us. Even if you can’t understand us, would you pray for our comfort and strength as we face the end of a much-beloved era? All of the changes that life brings come with their own special challenges. And this one is no exception. We humbly admit that we can’t do this on our own. We need the Lord’s help. Your petitions to Him on our behalf would be such a blessing.

This particular era in a woman’s life tends to be a rather crazy, unpredictable time but if we submit to God and yield to this new season that is upon us, He can use this time to draw us to Himself in a deeper way. As we all process through these changes just a little bit differently, let’s be sure to offer lots of grace to one another (did I say that already?)

So to those of you who were able to have a pretty easy time of watching your birdies fly away, we just want to say: We know that you know we will be fine and we want you to know that we know we will be fine. We just have to work our way through it all.

Because we are all different.

And that’s okay. :)

 

PLEASE NOTE: I talk to a lot of different people, both online and in real life. This post is not geared towards any particular person or conversation. It is simply my hope that this post will encourage all of us to offer grace to one another.

 

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!

It’s About Love

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.

 

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