5 Things I’m Learning About Stewardship

stewardship

Adulting… Call me basic or a stereotypical millennial, but I adulting is hard. There are some helpful tidbits for adulthood that nobody tells you in time. Or the grownups told me when I was too young and stupid to listen. Either way, I’m having to learn a lot of things the hard way now. But, if you share my philosophy of learning, some of the best-learned lessons in life come through trials and mistakes. So, here are a few things I’ve been realizing about stewardship lately.

1. Stewardship applies to everything.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

For us, as Christians, this definition needs definitions. Who is entrusting things to us? What is being entrusted to us? Thankfully the Bible is really clear on that. God owns everything because He created everything, so everything we have had to come from God and, therefore, be given to us in trust that we will steward it. So, what is being entrusted to us? Everything we have. Who is entrusting it to us? God, the creator and ruler of all things.

We can think of the Christian definition of stewardship this way:

Stewardship is the active acknowledgement of God’s ownership of everything.

Everything means everything — property, money, body, relationships, the environment, community, time, gifts and talents, etc. If God gave it to you, he’s inviting you to take care of it. Fill in the blank: “Knowing God gave me ________, how would He have me use it and care for it?” (That question is a challenge to me, as well!)

2. Stewardship is not glamorous.

Okay, so, stewardship isn’t always toil, but often times it is. A picture of our financial spreadsheets is not going to garner a lot of likes on Instagram. It’s no great fun to spend precious spare time budgeting for home repairs instead of having wine with the girls. Sitting in a counselors office to work on a relationship is not easy. Nobody mends torn clothes or lost buttons anymore; they just buy a new shirt.

For me, an unabashed social media addict, stewardship of money and time are some of the hardest things. I love the convenience of keeping up with relationships and current events, but with that comes a barrage of advertisements. Amazon always seems to know what I’m wishing for! That sweet area rug, or a perfect Halloween costume… fresh home decor, and that contour kit I saw on Instagram — yes, please!

But, it hit me the other day that, not only would gaining all my wishes fail to bring me true satisfaction, it would also show me to be a total fool. Why? Because we need a new roof! Because my car is still damaged from a small wreck last month! Because the kids need winter clothes! I hunger to appear that I have my life together without actually doing the un-glamorous work of actually having my life together. You can’t make this stuff up.

And I live in a culture that supports that lifestyle… the lifestyle of buying shiny new things with a shiny new 0%-down-for-six-months credit card or personal loan, where mortgage lenders and car dealers knowingly approve buyers for loans they cannot afford, and good things don’t have to wait. Everybody else seems to be doing it, and here I am driving a dented 2002 Toyota Corolla and wearing clothes I’ve had for ten years like a big loser. But the Bible doesn’t call delayed gratification a loss. God calls it wise.

“The rich rules over the poor; and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)

“Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts.” (Proverbs 22:26)

“It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” (Proverbs 25:27)

3. Stewardship helps us know God better.

As un-glamorous as stewardship can be, it can also be really sweet.

One of God’s graces to us is that it’s hard to be happy and stay happy when we’re not obedient in caring for those things He’s entrusted to us. God doesn’t give us stuff to take care of because He’s trying to make us miserable; He gives us good gifts that are best enjoyed when we care for them. How caring it is for the Father to make stewardship a means of having deeper joy in life!

“Every good gift and every perfect is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17)

In Genesis, at the beginning of the world, God shows his care for mankind’s needs by providing plants and fruit-bearing trees to feed them. He shows care also for man’s capacity for pleasure by making sure the trees and fruits are beautiful to the eyes and delicious to eat. He does these kinds of things for mankind because He loves us.

Care is not just a feeling. It’s also an active display of love.

When we care for the gifts God has given us, we are living in God’s image, as we were created to do. Sin makes it hard to do, but in our journey to have a changed heart toward obedience in stewardship, we get the added bonus of better understanding how the Father cares for us and growing in our relationship with Him.

4. Stewardship has an impact on your life now and in eternity.

Stewardship requires a lot of perseverance because oftentimes the results aren’t immediately apparent. (This is so hard for me and my impatient heart!) But, the results do come!

Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial teacher, always says, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

I don’t love the way he says this, but he has a point. Stewardship usually looks like working hard and rejecting the constant barrage of temptations to laziness and gluttony… but if I can stop going to Chick-fil-A every day and just avoid the hypnotizing draw of Target’s dollar section and make a DIY Halloween costume instead of buying the awesome one I saw on Amazon, then one day we might have the money to replace our roof without going into debt!

Okay, so good stewardship has a lot of practical benefits. It also has eternal benefits. Stewardship is a God-given responsibility. It is a way in which we reflect His image and bring Him glory. Therefore, Satan is against it. Sin is against it. The world is against it. Everywhere we look, we’re told that God’s way isn’t joyful.

But, in Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist the temptation to doubt the benefits of doing life God’s way. And, when we practice fighting sin and taking our thoughts captive, we grow in righteousness. And, while I’m not sure how much detail the Bible gives on this, I do know that there will be a reward for righteousness in heaven.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

“…whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows in the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7b-9)

5. God gives grace as his children grow in practicing stewardship.

Just because I just wrote all this stuff about stewardship does not mean that I have it all together! It’s probably fair to say that none of us have mastered stewardship, and even when we are trying to be obedient and trying to learn from God’s wisdom, we make mistakes.

Knowing that stewardship is an area of obedience that touches nearly every part of our lives can be both a captivating and overwhelming thought. How can anyone juggle that much? Thankfully, God gives us grace when we make mistakes.

Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

If we were required to live God’s way without His help and without room for failure, we would be crushed under the burden. The truth is, God does require perfection. But Jesus is our substitute, so, if you trust Him to forgive you of your sins and submit to Him, you are free to live God’s way without fear of punishment when you mess up and have His help to learn and grow beyond what you’re naturally capable of! Thank you, God!

“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

 

Hope for a Fatherless Father’s Day

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Image Source: http://www.AFA.net

Father’s Day

Holidays are good. Even in the Bible, there are special days set aside for celebration, for giving thanks to God for His faithfulness and good gifts, for enjoying those gifts to His glory. The same is true for our contemporary holiday of Father’s Day.

A father is a good thing, a gift to be celebrated. A Father is a blessing to his family. He loves, provides, teaches, nurtures, and serves. He is a source of stability and security for his children and a strong partner for their mother. This is God’s design for the family unit.

In a perfect world, every child would have a living father, a loving father, and a present father. But our world is not perfect. For many of us, this upcoming Father’s Day is a sad, even angering, reminder of the fatherlessness we experience.

Fatherless

I know how that feels. Shortly after I was born, my parents divorced, and my mom won full custody. Although my father had visitation rights, he never exercised them, so I’ve never met him. My mom remained single, and we never got a single child support check in the mail.

He abandoned us.

Though I’ve never known a different life, I still felt a desire for a dad as a young child. I remember when I was five or six years old asking Santa Claus for a daddy. I was asking for a miracle, hoping that my longing would be satisfied. Now, as a mother myself, I can only imagine the grief and hurt it must’ve brought my mom to have to pen a special letter from “Santa” kindly explaining why this special request could not be done. No mother should ever have to do that. I remember my disappointment reading that letter as a little girl.

This was not the first nor the last time I felt his absence.

I felt it at every friend’s house whose dad was there. I felt it in being unable to imagine what it feels like to have a dad. I felt it when my family needed a provider, and the man who should’ve been there wasn’t. I felt it in preparation for my wedding, trying to navigate the etiquette of who is supposed to go down the aisle with me in the absence of a father. My whole life, there should’ve been a huge love in my heart for a dad, but instead there’s just gaping disappointment.

A New Father Figure

One of the greatest shows of love is to see an empty role and step into it, no strings attached.

That’s what my granddaddy did.

When I was very little, maybe three or four years old, he was walking with me hand in hand. With all the innocence and boldness of a child, I asked him, “Can I call you Daddy?”

It’s heartbreaking for a child to have to ask anybody that. But it is also beautiful that, on that day and every day since, he said, “Yes.”

granddaddy

Granddaddy being awesome with my sister and me.

 

Despite being way past the age of parenting little kids, he took up that mantle again for me and my sister. In nearly every way my real dad failed me, my granddaddy didn’t. He provided financially for us in many ways, helped us have a roof over our heads, clothes on our bodies, food in our tummies, and college educations. But he’s been so much more than that. He played with us, let us cook with him, even live with him at times, encouraged us, and hugged us. I don’t know if he meant to, but he filled my heart with that big love for a daddy that I was meant to have, and that’s who he is to me.

He cares. I know he does. It’s evident in all these shows of love and faithfulness. He’s not a coward who shirks responsibility for his family. He’s a hero for embracing responsibility that wasn’t originally his. He saw my need and felt compassion, and he accepted me as his own. My granddaddy didn’t just show me personal love; he also demonstrated an example of the greater love that my Father in heaven has for me.

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Granddaddy walking me down the aisle on my wedding day (Photo source: Saxon McClamma Photography)

A Father to the Fatherless

Fatherlessness can look really different for a lot of people. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have someone like my granddaddy to be a surrogate dad. Many people don’t get that privilege. Others may have had the best dad ever, but he passed away, and they know exactly what loss feels like. Father’s Day is tough for moms who’ve had to be bear all the responsibility of parenthood with half the manpower, as my mom did. Or Perhaps this Father’s Day isn’t hard in any way for some, but one day it probably will be.

It’s natural to experience a sense of hopelessness here, but there is hope.

The Bible says in Psalm 68:5, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” That truth has been a balm to my heart many times, comforting me when I feel the weight of my fatherlessness.


“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”

(Psalm 68:5, ESV)


Growing up without a normative father hurts. Being an adult now and not knowing how my real dad fits into my life hurts. One day, my granddaddy will be gone, and that will hurt even more.

My Father in heaven doesn’t ignore those pains, but, instead, He promises to make it right, to wipe away my tears, and to heal these wounds (Revelation 21:4). He promises to adopt me into His family, to be my father (Ephesians 1:5). I am securely loved with my Father in heaven because He promises to never leave me or fail me (Deuteronomy 31:6). The gap in my heart where my biological father would be is now filled with a joyful cry, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6)!

I’m no longer fatherless. I’m father-full.

Fear & Faith: Courage in Pregnancy after Miscarriage

 

fear and faith

Photo Credit: JoAnn Marrero (From Labor To Love)

A Legitimate Fear

In one of my husband’s biblical counseling classes at SBTS, he had to read a book about anxiety and fear. In it, the author made a distinction between anxiety and fear: anxiety is a feeling of fearfulness that is based on worry and unlikely dangers, while fear is more of a natural response to a legitimate and likely danger. (Perhaps, more on that topic in a later post.) For me, miscarriage is a legitimate fear.

Studies show that an average of 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. There is even a slightly increased risk for miscarriage if the mom has had one in the past. In my post from late 2016, Grief & Grace: Losing a Child & Learning from God, I share about my personal experience of having a miscarriage.

After that loss, Seth and I decided to try again. After about three months of disappointment, I was ready to throw in the towel, at least temporarily, for my own sanity. But, by the time I’d made that decision, we quickly found out we were again pregnant. And, along with all the joy and excitement that brought, the news made me afraid.

Rainbow Announcement

I am still currently pregnant with my “Rainbow Baby,” Samuel Asher McGee. The weeks leading up to my 20-week diagnostic ultrasound were fraught with fear for me. On one occasion, I was even sure I was having another miscarriage. Now that I’m at the beginning of my third trimester, it’s a lot easier to feel unafraid. We’ve made it this far, and now there’s a strong chance for survival in the event of early delivery. Even so, there is not a single day that I take for granted. Every day, I know that Samuel’s life is in God’s hands, and that can mean that he might meet Jesus before he meets his mommy. I’m not here saying that I’ve conquered fear and anxiety in my pregnancy, but I’ve learned a lot about trusting God, both in the midst of a failed pregnancy and, now, in the midst of a thus-far successful pregnancy following the trauma of miscarriage.

Trusting the God of Life

Here’s what tragedy, grief, and life in a fallen world have taught me: trusting God is less about having confidence that I won’t suffer and more about having confidence in His enduring character.

When I started bleeding two days before my miscarriage, I prayed. In all the horrifying moments between then and the final hour of fate, I prayed. I begged God not to take my baby’s life, not to take him or her away from me. Did God hear my prayer and answer it? Yes, He did. The answer was just not at all what I was hoping for. It would have been easy for me to take from that experience a view of God as a capricious and unkind higher power. Instead, He proved to be quite the opposite by drawing nearer to me with more sweetness, patience, tenderness, comfort, and truth than I could have ever imagined. God proved himself to still be God, the God of the Bible, the God who is trustworthy and good.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

(Psalm 23:4, ESV)

Throughout this current pregnancy, I have known two things. First, Samuel’s life is wholly in God’s control, and that might mean that he doesn’t live to be born. Second, and more importantly, I can trust God to stay by my side and be good to me regardless of what happens. He has shown me that, even in the worst case scenario, He is still good. No matter what suffering he may ask me to endure, He will be with me all the way. I may lose every good thing imaginable in life, even very, very precious children, but I can never, ever lose the Best Thing, the intimate and life-giving relationship with my Heavenly Father that Jesus Christ bought with his own blood. Because of this, I can say with confidence that there is great cause for courage in the face of fear and possible suffering.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

(2 Corinthians 4:8-10, ESV)


 

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Samuel Asher McGee is a name that represents hope. He is named first after the prophet/judge Samuel from the Old Testament, who was not only a great man of God but also was born to his mother, Hannah, who prayed earnestly for a child while suffering with barrenness, and Samuel was the answer to her prayers (1 Samuel 1:1-20). He is named second after Asher, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “happy” (Genesis 30:13). Samuel Asher is the answer to our prayers, and he is a gift from God that has made us very happy.

Bride on a Budget: Frugal Wedding Tips

frugal wedding tips

Photo Credit: Saxon McClamma Photography

Wedding Bliss > Wedding Stress

If you find yourself engaged, first let me sincerely congratulate you! Marriage is a beautiful gift from God, and weddings are such a sweet celebration of that gift and also of the Giver. But, if we’re being honest, the wedding planning season can be very stressful, especially if you’re a bride on a budget.

In a season full of planning, it’s important to remember Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” You’re going to be faced with a lot of inconveniences and unmet expectations, to be sure. However, in terms of money, there can be a whole new level of confusion and even discouragement while you’re trying to put together a beautiful wedding day.

I would say that it is a shame for a tight budget to steal the joy of a bride’s engagement period! You want this season to be joyful. I want this season to be joyful for you, as well. So, without further ado, allow me to share some simple, practical tips for cutting costs (and stress!) without sacrificing specialness in your wedding plans.

(Disclaimer: These tips are only suggestions and not meant as a critique of weddings that won’t/didn’t do things that way. The cost-saving tips that are right for your wedding are up to your discretion.)

10 Frugal Wedding Tips

#1: Know your budget. Commit to that boundary. Stay organized.

Once you know your financial limitations, you’re much better equipped to decide exactly how much you can afford to spend on the various things on your wedding checklist. I made a spreadsheet for mine

wedding budget spreadsheet

My actual wedding budget spreadsheet…

(shown) that broke down my entire checklist of purchases into large categories (i.e. “Attire,” “Reception,” etc.) with each item having its own box for cost/person, amount needed, subtotal, tip/tax/shipping, total, and a checkbox for when that item was finally paid for. It sounds like a lot, but once you have the big picture and little details of your wedding purchases laid out like this, you will feel a lot more confident about your ability to manage your resources wisely.

For example, some items have a lot of wiggle room for cutting cost (i.e. food) while for others it’s best to set aside larger budget portions (i.e. venue). And you can see exactly how much wiggle room there is for those things when you know your limits and get organized.

#2: If you have a special account for your wedding budget, choose some smaller purchases to come out of your regular income instead.

Everyone’s money situation is different, but, if you’re like me, you probably have a special bank account for your wedding fund that is separate from your regular checking account. If that’s the case, it can be super helpful to pick several of your smaller purchases ($200 or less) to come out of your personal income and save your wedding money for the bigger purchases.

For example, I decided to buy my bridesmaids’ gifts out-of-pocket because they were affordable with my income at the time, and that left somewhere between $100-$200 for my wedding funds to be put toward a larger expense, like my photographer. There are a lot of little things on your checklist you can do this with that will pay off with a greater sense of liberty with your budget for those big, intimidating purchases, so have fun with it!

#3: Start calling in favors.

frugal wedding - favors

Photo Credit: Saxon McClamma Photography

You are surrounded with friends and family who have talents and resources. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help! You never know who may be willing to contribute to your wedding for free or at a discount. Even if someone can’t help you, often times you can find a friend who knows a vender you can reach out to who’s more affordable than the bigger businesses.

For example, one of my good friends from college majored in art, and she graciously painted our thumbprint guest “book” (shown) pro bono when I asked. Need some decorative accents, like a basket or nice frame? Ask your mom or grandmother or whoever; odds are they have those things on hand and would be happy to lend them to you. Don’t settle for the first price you’re offered for alterations at the bridal boutique. Ask around for local alterations! I did and ended up paying less than $100 for excellent, custom alterations on my wedding dress. The friendly favors and discounts are out there if you’re willing to do the asking!

#4: Shop with non-wedding-affiliated vendors first.

Have you noticed that when a business knows you’re shopping for a wedding that they suddenly think you’re a money tree? It’s so frustrating, but the good news is that you can find a lot of the same or similar items you need from businesses that don’t specialize in wedding stuff. For example, you can find beautiful white dresses outside of the bridal boutique for a whole lot less. (Disclaimer: I personally bought my dress from David’s Bridal, but I know I saw good, affordable options at other places I shopped!)

#5: Browse what’s included with your venue.

You may not need to rent reception tables third-party if your venue offers them for free or at a discount included in your booking. My venue had a whole utility closet full of centerpieces, vases, mirrors, cake stands, etc.! It may not all be the exact thing you had in mind, but with a little flexibility, you may find those freebies still look good and will be a satisfactory option.

#6: DIY, DIY, DIY!

wedding bouquet

Photo Credit: Saxon McClamma Photography

Alrighty, crack your knuckles and get searching on Pinterest! There are TONS of great tutorials online for different DIY projects, and a lot of them can really save you money if you’re able to put in the time and effort. Why pay someone else to do what you can do yourself?

For example, I made my floral arrangements myself using online tutorials and silk flowers from Afloral. The total cost was less than $150, which is a tiny fraction of what real flowers cost, and they look the same in photos, and they never die. (In fact, most of the arrangements I have in our apartment now are recycled flowers from my wedding bouquet.)

DIY veil

Photo Credit: Saxon McClamma Photography

Another example: my grandmother and I made my veil by repurposing my mom’s old wedding veil (with permission) and sewing it onto a personally hand-decorated hair comb/clip. You can also do your own hair and makeup, your own wedding stationary and signage, and so much more… There are a lot of simple items like that that you could save hundreds on just by being creative and doing it yourself (or with the help of an artsy friend)! (The DIY ideas are probably another blog post by themselves!)

#7: Consider having a smaller wedding party and/or guest list.

wedding party

Here I am with my three trusty bridesmaids! (Photo Credit: Saxon McClamma Photography)

Your wedding is a joyful occasion. It’s hopefully the biggest celebration of your life! With that in mind, many brides-to-be (including myself, in that season) are eager to invite and involve everyone she possibly can to share in this happy day. It’s not wrong to want a lot of bridesmaids and to invite as many guests as possible into your celebration. In fact, I believe it often comes from a pure heart. However, one or both of those lists may be areas where you would be wise to scale back a bit in order to steward your budget well.

Here’s why: bridesmaids and guests actually cost money. They do! Bridesmaids are your sweetest, closest, most kindred friends, but, depending on your budget, buying ten to fifteen gifts kinda adds up. Also, many wedding expenses go up depending on how big your guest list is (e.g. invitations, wedding cake, catering, venue space, etc.). I wish this wasn’t the true story, but it is…

If you’re on a serious budget, like I was, those extra ten bridesmaids or one-hundred guests are perhaps not something you have money for. If that’s a cost you don’t want to wiggle on, that’s fine. I do want you to know that it can be really good to experience the benefit of shaving down those lists a little and, thus, having more flexibility from that to be even more generous to your final lists of bridesmaids and guests.

In terms of would-be bridesmaids, it’s also helpful to know that there are other ways to involve your other good friends in your wedding and honor them by giving them some alternative special role in your wedding, so don’t be too discouraged or feel like you’re letting people down if you make the choice to shorten that list.

#8: Book an up-and-coming photographer.

I always tell brides-to-be, “Don’t skimp on your photographer!” The reason for that is that your wedding can go all kinds of ways on the actual day, but a quality photographer can take and edit pictures in such a way that the mementos you keep for the rest of your life only highlight the joy and goodness of your wedding day.

Now, it may seem contradictory to say that as I’m also advising you to cut costs in this area, but hear me out… A lot of times there are photographers that are young in their careers but who are also truly talented and professional. These gems charge hundreds, sometimes thousands, less than the super-established photographers and give you more for your money. This is where a lot of asking around can become helpful; you may not personally know of such a photographer, but you probably know someone who knows someone, so do a little digging, and I bet a solid option will come up!

#9: Schedule your wedding in the early afternoon.

wedding food

Photo credit: Saxon McClamma Photography

This seems like strange advice, but it makes sense when you think about the etiquette for your reception and the cost of food. If your reception occurs during a regular mealtime, like lunch or dinner, it’s appropriate to then provide a full meal. However, providing a full meal to 100+ guests is extremely costly. So, if you’d like to avoid that higher cost, my suggestion is to not have your wedding during a mealtime. 2 o’clock in the afternoon is a sweet spot for that goal. By then, everyone has already eaten lunch, and the reception should be over before dinnertime. That way, instead of being expected to provide a full meal, all you really need is some light finger foods, punch, and (obviously) the wedding cake.

 

#10: Most importantly, rest in your identity in Christ and the holy purpose of your wedding day.

Being a bride on a budget is usually not a lady’s first choice, so it can really sting to let go of certain “dream wedding” ideals and accept a nice and more-affordable option. It requires more planning, creativity, and sacrifice. Some choices you make to save money may be unpopular to one or more people in your life, as well. It’s up to you to decide what cost-saving tips will be right for your wedding.

Once you’ve made those budget choices, it can still be really hard in the trenches of wedding planning to feel secure about the whole thing. Part of that is our human tendency toward discontentment and fear of man, but I also think there is extra spiritual warfare around wedding planning and everything else about the engagement season. Satan hates engagement and weddings because they are the closest earthly example we have of the beautiful message of the cross and the covenant relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). For this very same reason that you face extra spiritual warfare around this season, you also have reason to be joyful and find rest and peace… because you know that Jesus is your ultimate bridegroom and that, despite any feelings of unworthiness or discouragement, you are His beloved bride.

No matter what your budget is or what anyone’s opinion of your planning is, you can always know in your heart that your identity rests in that beautiful gospel truth of Jesus’s love and covering over you. And may that truth not only comfort you in the stressful moments of wedding planning but also encourage you to meditate on the eternal, beautiful significance of the marriage covenant you’re preparing to enter into and encourage you to have boldness in planning your wedding to primarily glorify God and proclaim the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Top 10 Articles: First Anniversary Highlights

First Anniversary Highlights

Thank You!

Today marks ONE YEAR since my blog became live! (Woo hoo!) As exciting as it is for me to reflect on the first year of my mini-adventure as a novice blogger, the most important thing is YOU, the reader. (Yes, you!) You are the reason I do this… to share life with you and grow in Christ together. So, THANK YOU to all my readers over the last year for making this whole thing worth it! I love y’all!

Top 10 Articles

#1: The Un-Wasted Life of an Educated Housewife

educated housewife

The Story: I gave birth to my first child the day after my last day of senior internship in college. One day, I was a college student. The (literal) next day, I was a stay-at-home mom. As a stay-at-home mom with a college degree, I’m often considered to be “wasting” my education. In this article, I share why I disagree with that assumption.

Favorite Quote: I love my role. I love that it frees me to focus on intentionally raising up my child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I love that it has the flexibility to make room in my life for ministering in the church and community in ways that an 8:00am-5:00pm job doesn’t accommodate. I love that it puts family in the center of my schedule instead of the margins. I love that my teacher education has equipped me to knowledgeably facilitate my son’s learning. I love that I get to be a helper at home so that my husband is free to focus on his work, school, and ministry. And the best part is that I know that this is where God has me, and the most spiritually peaceful place for me to be in in his will.”

#2: The Mysterious Providence of God’s “No”

mysterious providence

The Story: In a season of being between jobs, between leases, raising a newborn, and waiting for answers, God revealed to me my serious contentment problem. Apparently, wanting good things doesn’t mean God has to say “yes!” Sometimes, He says “no,” and you and I both have to learn to embrace his wisdom in that answer.

Favorite Quote: “Whatever it is, I want to affirm for you that it’s not sinful to want a good thing. It is not evil to want a child or a happy marriage or a healthy body. It is legitimate suffering of some degree to have an unmet desire. You were designed by God to experience shalom. That’s why it hurts. That’s why it’s confusing, even shocking at times. I’m not here to shame you about that hurt and confusion. I want to invite you to feel it, grieve it, and give it to God.”

#3: Bright & Pure: A Bride Clothed in Christ’s Righteousness

bright and pure

The Story: Today, I am a married woman with a beautiful child at home, one in heaven, and one on the way. My husband and I didn’t so much as kiss before engagement and never went beyond that until our wedding night. By all measurements, our relationship has been an example of sexual purity from the start. But, I was not always this girl. I made a lot of mistakes before meeting Seth. The shame and feeling of defilement from those mistakes haunted me even after becoming a blood-washed Christian. But, praise be to God, the righteousness of Christ covers me completely!

Favorite Quote: “A Christian bride can and should feel free to wear white at her wedding, not as proof of her righteousness, but as a celebratory display of Christ’s righteousness bestowed upon her by the shear grace of God.”

#4: How to Love Your Neighbor (Who Didn’t Vote Like You)

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The Story: This recent election cycle was contentious to say the least. Particularly after the DNC and GOP candidates were announced, voters on both sides and within each party have been at each other’s throats. In a time when political tensions in the U.S. are high, we as Christians need to consider how to live as citizens of Heaven in our response to those who didn’t vote like us.

Favorite Quote: “In a hostile war-zone, both sides are pointing their fingers and guns, ready to fire hurtful blows at their enemy. Both sides are armed and ready, waiting for the other side to yield, ready to force them to do so. Both sides suffer casualties; nobody walks away unscathed. Neither side wants to be the first to yield; their pride and cause is on the line. But, I would like to submit to you that the only way to have peace with each other is to take the initiative to lay down your pride and lay down your arms, regardless of the risk, for the highest cause of loving your neighbor, even your enemy, as yourself (Matthew 5:43-48).”

#5: 6 Reasons for Scripture Memory (and FREE cards!)

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The Story: Scripture memory often seems like a dreaded task among Christian disciplines. I myself am weak in this area. But, the fruit yielded and spiritual battles won from personal Scripture memory is proof that this “dreaded task” is in fact wonderful and extremely worthwhile!

Favorite Quote: “The hardest thing for me as a Westerner to wrap my mind around is that it’s important to memorize Scripture. Why is it hard? Well, because I know I can always simply open my Bible or pull up the app on my phone… I can access God’s Word without the discipline of memorizing it. So, why bother? [Six Reasons following…]”

#6: Grief & Grace: Losing a Child & Learning from God

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The Story: In mid-September 2016, my husband and I experienced the shocking and devastating loss of our second baby during the first trimester. The grief I experienced from that event was real, intense, and horrible. But it was also a time when the grace and presence of my dear Lord were closer than ever. Although this season of life was extremely difficult, it was also a special time of learning new and deeper realities about God, His church, and myself. I share those lessons in this post.

Favorite Quote: “For the sake of brevity, let me just simply say that God’s ways and wisdom is infinitely higher than mine, such that they sometimes appear to my severely limited understanding to be “crooked and strange” (Thomas Watson, “The Providence of God”). My miscarriage is by far the most profound evidence to me of that reality. I am ashamed to confess that I have several times shaken my fist at God for taking my baby. But, thanks to God’s incredible patience and mercy and grace, he never leaves me there. He always gently and kindly brings me back to remembrance of that bedrock truth, that anchor for my soul, that He is GOOD.”

#7: When God & I Have Different Plans…

 Plans

The Story: Trusting God is an elusive Christian virtue, isn’t it? We learn to trust God in one area and quickly find another thing we’d like to maintain control over. Often times, it’s in the littlest things that we find we truly don’t trust God’s judgement in the ordering of our days. When our plans conflict with God’s, it is always ours that must yield.

Favorite Quote: “As Christians, we are called to trust God with all our heart, to surrender to him all our ways. Let us make it our ambition as his children to put that trust and submission on beautiful display in everything that comes our way, big or small. He is worthy, and he will not lead you into disaster. He is a good King.”

#8: 7 Reasons Why Modesty Matters

Modest Matters

The Story: Modesty is tough. It’s not cool by cultural standards. It goes against our natural vanity. It’s hard to shop for modest clothes. And, depending on your curves, it can be really hard to accommodate your individual figure. With all these cards stacked against us, it’s tempting to throw in the towel (or sweater) and give up on modesty. That’s why it’s important to remember why modesty is important by God’s standards.

Favorite Quote: “[…] what it comes down to is obedience vs. disobedience. Please don’t read “legalism” here! I am not saying that you have to earn God’s favor or supplement Christ’s work with your own. But when you are trusting Christ for your hope, righteousness, and guilt-removal, it will result in obedience. This honors the Lord! It is an expression of love for him, trust in his wisdom, sharing his values, and submission to his authority. Rather than look at this is another “rule” you have to follow, I would encourage you to celebrate modesty as another area you can joyfully honor your Savior.”

#9: 8 Benefits of Going to a Secular College as a Christian

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The Story: The choice of where to go to college requires a lot of discernment. It’s a big (and expensive) decision. As Christians, we must also take into consideration how our choice of college can honor the Lord. There is no right or wrong answer across the board for us, but there are clear benefits to either attending a secular or religious college. Whether or not those benefits are the best fit for you is between you, your parents, and God. In this post, I share my thoughts on the benefits of going to a secular college and share resources for other viewpoints.

Favorite Quote: “[…] because we our His workmanship, being transformed daily into His likeness, we have a special privilege of being mini-examples of God’s character to the world. Secular colleges would not have a light for Jesus on their campuses without students like you choosing to study there.”

#10: From Orphan to Heiress: How God Saved Me

orphan to heiress

The Story: Like every other Christian in the world, I wasn’t born one! In my first 19 years of life, I went from being a moralistic deist, to a resolute atheist, to (hallelujah!) a born-again Christian. The events of that journey were (and continue to be) messy, but the end result was that Jesus ransomed and rescued me from my sin and hell by his perfect life, death, and resurrection! I love sharing my personal testimony and hope it can encourage believers and non-believers alike that Jesus is the One True God.

Favorite Quote: “There is no word more accurate than “humbling” to describe the feeling of having denied, mocked, and hated the God of the universe your entire life and have him return to you a personal pursuit, love, grace, and mercy. As far as this amazing gift of cleanness offered in Jesus, the clearest word from God was something like, I want you to have it.”

 

Scripture Memory for Contentment: FREE cards!

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Your Battle Weapon

I have posted in the past about the value of Scripture memory (including other free Scripture memory cards). In short the reasons are this:

  1. It helps renew our minds to be in line with God’s truth.
  2. It helps us take our thoughts captive by providing a reliable standard to measure our thoughts and desires against.
  3. It equips us with truth to share with believers and non-believers about the hope of Christ.
  4. It gives us ammunition with which to fight off sin and spiritual attack.
  5. It trains us in righteousness and equips us to disciple other sisters in turn.
  6. It is a means of simply delighting in the Lord.

Contentment is a battle that we all need help with! Not only do we have a natural selfishness and greed for earthly treasure, but we’re also inundated constantly with messages from the world telling us that we need more stuff, more money, more love, more social status, more… everything. Add to this the fact that we do live in a broken world where even the best of desires are often not met, and we have ourselves a dangerous cocktail wherein discontentment easily creeps.

It’s important that we recognize our weakness in the fight for contentment. Nobody can truly say they have “arrived” in contentment, and the moment we start believing we’re doing pretty well with it, we’ve made ourselves vulnerable because we’ve let down our guards. Contentment, like every other Christian virtue, is an ongoing battle. Our flesh, Satan, and the world do not fight fair.

Although it would appear that the cards are stacked against us, we can have a humble confidence knowing that the LORD is here to fight for us in this battle. HE provides the truth (i.e. Scripture). HE provides the endurance. HE provides the repentance and victory. On that note, here are some helpful (and FREE!) Scripture memory cards to sharpen your sword for the battle! Enjoy!

(P.S. I’ve written more about the topic of contentment here.)

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Grief & Grace: Losing a Child & Learning from God

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Grief

On September 14, 2016, death visited my womb. About a month earlier, my husband and I were overjoyed to learn that we were once again pregnant. Our son would learn to be a big brother, and our home would multiply in love. We dreamed about the life that was growing inside me and the future it held… two beds instead of one in the nursery, double strollers, and mid-night cuddles. But our dreams did not come true. They became a nightmare when mild, easily-dismissed symptoms of miscarriage worsened, then quickly escalated, then unfolded into the horror of that precious child’s life slipping through our powerless fingers.

We were devastated. I was devastated. I still am. It has been two and a half months, since I lost my baby. It feels like an eternity without him or her, and yet the pain is as fresh as if it were only yesterday. A dear friend whose womb has also been touched by miscarriage once told me that you never “get over it,” and I am persuaded that must be true. How can you? Not one person is the same in the wake of losing a loved one, especially a child. Yet, though I walk in some degree of grief every single day, I do not walk alone.

Grace

I could say a lot about my miscarriage. But, I want to focus on what is good, right, and true… encouraging, edifying, and uplifting. While I feel as though my life has been marked by broken-heartedness, it has also been marked by God’s kindness. There is an old hymn, “The Love of God,” that I always think of when I try to count the ways that God has been kind to me:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”

Translation: Even if we had limitless ink, limitless paper, limitless pens, and limitless writers, we could never fully express the depth and breadth and height of God’s love for us.

On that note, I confess that I cannot in my own wisdom recount every single kindness and lesson that God’s given me as I’ve walked through suffering and anguish, but I can share what I can, and I hope it will be somehow beneficial to you.

Lessons from Loss

1. I have absolutely no authority over life.

After our first baby (un-planned) was born, it was easier then to say, “The LORD establishes [our] steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Then, we had a baby to prove that God was in charge of our fates. With a miscarriage, it has been a far more humble and contrite confession to say those same words. We planned this baby down to the week, but we had no control. Our baby was inside my own body, but I had no control. And that powerlessness never felt so real as the night I had no choice but to endure cramps, bleeding, and holding my lifeless baby in my hand. I’m not in control.

2. God has all authority over life. He gives and takes away.

In the Old Testament story of Job, Job lived in prosperity but was afflicted by Satan and stripped of every worldly blessing and comfort he had: his property, his children, his health, to name a few. Immediately after receiving news of his children’s deaths, he worshipped God, saying “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). And he did not accuse God of any wrongdoing.

It is hard, hard, to guard my heart against being bitter with God. Despite all his kindness to me and knowing that he is good, righteousness, and perfect in all he does, I sometimes look at him and think, You could have spared my child. Lord, forgive me! Yes, the Lord gave to me, and he also took away, but he took nothing that was not already HIS. He did nothing wrong against me or my family. God has all authority, but he is no tyrant. Often his wisdom and ways are beyond my understanding, but the flaw is not in his infinite wisdom and love but rather in my sinful and finite understanding. Because I know that God is good, that same divine authority which allowed my child to die is also where I find rest and peace.

3. It’s better to grieve in community than in isolation.

In the earliest and most intense days of grief following our miscarriage, I honestly wanted to just crawl into bed and be alone indefinitely. We shared the good news of our pregnancy with a lot of good friends, and I didn’t want to have to contact all those people to tell them it was over. It was nearly impossible to articulate my feelings well enough to talk to anyone. And I was kind of a loose cannon in terms of sudden bursts of weeping. I wasn’t presentable.

It’s easy and comfortable, in a manner of speaking, to grieve in isolation. There, I am safe from the awkwardness of making others uncomfortable… safe from the inevitable “comfort” faux pas from friends and family… safe from watching everyone’s life go on while mine is still frozen on that one event… safe from, well, feeling hurt. But I also lose out on so much healing.

Thanks to God’s prompting, I often made the hard and conscious choice in those earliest days to let people in, a choice I still have to make. When I let people in, I received in return the immeasurable benefit of their prayers, practical help with childcare and meals, hands to hold, and deeper fellowship with my sisters in Christ who’ve also been touched by miscarriage. I did not then, and do not now, need to grieve alone. This is precisely the sort of time that God has best suited the church to be a ministry of healing and mercy, and I would be remiss to refuse that blessing.

4. Though my heart weeps, I must rejoice with those who rejoice.

God calls us as Christians to love one another such that we “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). If this command seems easy to you, you might need to clean your glasses, because this commandment is stinking hard. Although there are many applications for this, I’m thinking particularly of rejoicing with my friends who’ve been blessed to keep their pregnancies.

Several of my friends have shared, whether privately or publicly, that they are pregnant since my miscarriage. Evangelical Baptists are a proliferative bunch, and I feel like the pregnancy announcements just pop up everywhere, all the time. Many of them have due dates very close to what mine would have been. One of my best friends even announced her pregnancy on Facebook less than a week after my miscarriage. That, my dear friends, is not easy.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice has become a duty and discipline of love for me. It is a choice. It is a choice that I can only make faithfully by the shear grace of God picking away at the sin in my heart and inclining me to choose selflessness. I hate that others’ news of joy kind of hits me like a ton of bricks, but it does. And I cry sometimes. But, by God’s grace, I don’t cry because I’m jealousGod, be quick to convict me should I ever feel jealousy of another sister’s gift from You! I do not have a quarrel with God’s providence in giving others the blessing that I want. God has given them a very good gift, and it is my duty to choose to see past my own weeping well enough to sincerely rejoice with my pregnant friends.

5. Grief does not make me less fit for Kingdom work.

Right after my miscarriage, it was natural for me to feel like I was incapable of doing anything… cooking a meal, folding laundry, reading to my son, one quick errand, anything. For a while, that was appropriate and healthy, I think. But, in all stages of grief (even months after the event of loss), it’s easy to slip into feeling like I am so weak that I must defend my resources, lest they run out. And in times of scarcity, sharing those precious resources seems like suicide.

One of my all-time favorite hymns, “He Giveth More Grace,” by Annie J. Flint (another saint whose life was marked by suffering), has this to say to me and my apprehensions to serve:

“When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.”

It is a true test of faith to choose to spend those precious emotional, physical, and spiritual resources serving others when I am myself in so much need. To do so necessitates some degree of trust that God will provide for my needs even when they seem to be all used up.

The first place this was tested was with my husband in the days following our miscarriage. He was grieving, too. He needed the tenderness and service of his wife to come alongside him and comfort him. My suffering was great, but that suffering did not excuse nor disqualify me from serving and loving him. Rather, my suffering made me uniquely qualified to meet his needs. By God’s grace, I have tried my best to think of my husbands needs in the wake of our loss ahead of my own. It’s not perfect, but it’s all by His grace. And, guess what… I’ve never “[reached] the end of [my] hoarded resources.” Thanks be to God.

6. God is trustworthy and kind.

I could write all day about this. For the sake of brevity, let me just simply say that God’s ways and wisdom is infinitely higher than mine, such that they sometimes appear to my severely limited understanding to be “crooked and strange” (Thomas Watson, “The Providence of God”). My miscarriage is by far the most profound evidence to me of that reality. I am ashamed to confess that I have several times shaken my fist at God for taking my baby. But, thanks to God’s incredible patience and mercy and grace, he never leaves me there. He always gently and kindly brings me back to remembrance of that bedrock truth, that anchor for my soul, that He is GOOD

I believe it is for times such as these — times in which my soul feels like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, with no up nor down, no rhyme nor reason, no time nor space —  that God has commanded us to always remember his faithfulness. The same authority that called creation into existence, that opened the Red Sea for the Israelites, that shut the lions’ mouths for Daniel, that incarnated Himself by the womb of a virgin, that defeated death on the cross, that called my own soul out of darkness and into His light, THAT authority is TRUSTWORTHY.

And, oh, to speak of the kindness and tenderness of God… Who would condescend to be nearer and nearer to me though he is so holy and powerful. Yes, God is KIND. He is sweet and merciful and loving and tender. The Bible promises us that he is “near to the brokenhearted,” (Psalm 34:18). I’m not sure I understood how true that is until our miscarriage. The comfort of God does not negate the reality of grief; the Bible makes no pretense of faith making life a big bed of roses, but the comfort of God absolutely changes the grief experience in ways only explainable by his love and help and the truth of Scripture. It has been in my hours of deepest pain and confusion that the soft, tender, kind touch of God’s love and truth have been most clear and apparent to me… so much so that I feel as though learning the kindness of God is one of the biggest takeaways I’ve gained from infant loss.

7. Finally, death has lost its sting.

Finally, the most comforting grace that God has reminded me of so strongly in the wake of miscarriage is his proclamation of victory:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

(1 Corinthians 15:55).

He brought that to mind when we were driving home from the hospital, after we just found out our baby was dead and were absolutely overwhelmed with shock and sadness. And God made me unable to ignore those words of victory over death. I felt such tension between my present grief and those words… How could death have lost its sting when it does sting so much? What could God mean by making me think on this? And I later realized that the point isn’t that death is suddenly okay, or that it isn’t incredibly painful and wrong; the point is that, despite all those things, death does not have the final say.

Without Jesus’s redemptive work, there would be absolutely no hope after death, no peace. That’s the sting of death. But with Jesus, there is hope and peace after death for those who belong to Him. And because I know and believe that my baby was taken up to Jesus to spend eternity in joy and peace, I can believe that death has lost its sting. Death does not have the final say in my baby’s life. Jesus does.



In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested           by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

(1 Peter 1:6-7)

 

 

How to Love Your Neighbor (Who Didn’t Vote Like You)

 

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Source: rantchic.com

Lay Down Your Arms.

I’ll start with something we can all agree on: this election cycle has been completely nuts. At least half of each party didn’t get the nominee they wanted, and about half the nation didn’t get the president-elect they wanted. We all saw this coming… someone had to win and someone had to lose. I, along with many others, hoped that the final conclusion of every counted vote would settle our national unrest and in-fighting. Sadly, it is abundantly clear that voters on both sides, and everywhere in between, are more up-in-arms than ever before.

In a hostile war-zone, both sides are pointing their fingers and guns, ready to fire hurtful blows at their enemy. Both sides are armed and ready, waiting for the other side to yield, ready to force them to do so. Both sides suffer casualties; nobody walks away unscathed. Neither side wants to be the first to yield; their pride and cause is on the line. But, I would like to submit to you that the only way to have peace with each other is to take the initiative to lay down your pride and lay down your arms, regardless of the risk, for the highest cause of loving your neighbor, even your enemy, as yourself (Matthew 5:43-48).

How to Love Your Political Enemies:

  1. Pray for your enemy (Matthew 5:44). This may sound trivial, but I challenge you to try it and experience how significant this simple act can be. When you approach God’s throne in prayer for your enemy, the presence of God forces you to humble yourself instead of seeing yourself as better than them. Communion with God also helps you to develop a sincere concern for your enemy’s well-being, dissolving the animosity in your heart and replacing it with love and sympathy. This is vital to any true reconciliation.
  2. Remember that we all have one common enemy, and it’s not each other (Ephesians 6:12). It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we are very prone to see others as our enemy. You may perceive that your political opponents believe, say, and do evil things, and that may in some cases be true, but the Apostle Paul encourages us to recalibrate our understanding of “enemy” and remember that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against […] the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Even if your “enemy” is actually evil, they are only evil because they are diseased with sin and oppressed by Satan. The only way to fight that is to fight spiritual forces with God’s tools laid out in Ephesians 6. The only way to win is for your “enemy” to be redeemed and reconciled to God, not your political party.
  3. Ask questions instead of making assumptions (Proverbs 8:13). Proverbs 8:13 says: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Whoever you voted for, you cannot know for sure why any individual voted for the other candidate. You cannot know for sure that Susie voted for Clinton because she loves killing unborn children or that Betty voted for Trump because she’s a white supremacist. You don’t know that. Instead of assuming the worst of the person who voted differently than you, sit down with them and let them explain their own hearts to you. (Don’t interrogate! Just gently and open-mindedly try to understand their motives.)
  4. Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). Democratic voters voted for Clinton because they sincerely believed it to be the best choice and likely believe that Trump spells doom for America. They believe they have suffered a serious loss and are grieving in accordance with that. If Tuesday was a victory for you, you still need to have mercy and sympathy for those who mourn. Republican voters experienced a victory after eight years of being under a Democratic administration, and for that they are thankful. If Tuesday was a loss for you, you still need to acknowledge and accept God’s providence in allowing Trump to win and be glad for those who rejoice.
  5. Look for the commendable in them (Philippians 4:8). You may be repulsed by many of the ethical/political convictions of the people who didn’t vote like you, but there is always some good to be found in their beliefs because they are still God’s image-bearers, although affected by sin, and God is wholly good. For example, you could choose to only see selfish pride and reverse-sexism when you look at feminism, but you could also choose to see a high value of women’s inherent dignity that is given by God in equal measure as to men. See? There is always some good to find. Find it, and commend it.
  6. Do not repay evil with evil (1 Peter 3:9). Many Democratic voters are victims of prideful and insensitive gloating from Republican voters. Also, many Republican voters are victims of finger-pointing and bitter accusations from Democratic voters. There have been casualties on both sides. But we should strive to forgive when we feel hurt rather than tear each other down to feel better and exact some twisted justice. God will judge all evil one day; that is not our job (Romans 12:19). Our job is to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [ourselves]” (Philippians 2:3).
  7. Don’t argue to win, but discuss to learn (Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 15:18). If you only want to talk with the hopes of winning some argument, you’re already off to a bad start. A heart that prioritizes winning is prideful and isn’t seeking true reconciliation. Treat your other-partisan friend the way you want to be treated by listening with sympathy and seeking peace.
  8. Accept ahead of time that you will likely still disagree (Romans 12:18). If you read all of Paul’s Apostolic letters to the church, you’ll notice a theme: loving each other is hard, but we are called to love. In Romans 12:18, we are encouraged to live peaceably with others as much as we can. Notice with me how that does not mention a requirement of agreeing with each other. Our simple instruction is to, instead of trying to control someone else’s attitude, to control our own by choosing peacefulness. Agreement is never guaranteed between each other, but we are nevertheless to choose peace in our own hearts and actions.
  9. Respect and celebrate the dignity they have as image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27). When you identify and define someone as your enemy, it is easy to also cease to see them as a human being. But they are human beings. And, above all, you must remember that every single human being, whether they be a Republican, Democrat, or somewhere in between, is an inherently valuable human being with inherent dignity by virtue of being created in God’s image for his glory. Whoever pops up in your head as a “political enemy,” ask God to help you remember that you also were once His enemy, which is the worst of all kinds of enemies, but that he considers you both worth the blood and suffering of Christ to be reconciled to Him (Romans 5:10). If God values each person this much, you must also value them this much.

Stand Firm When Professors Challenge Your Faith

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Photo Source: National Geographic

Do not be surprised…

Do not be surprised when you are sitting contentedly in class and your teacher directly attacks Christianity and Christian morals. We are not living in a world that is in submission to Christ. We live in a world that is in darkness, blind to truth, and hostile to God and His servants. The natural thing for people to do is to position themselves against God.

Do not be surprised. Be ready.

“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

(1 Peter 3:14b-16)


Prepared to make a defense…

In the book of 1 Peter, the Apostle Peter instructs us to “[prepare] [our] minds for action,” or, in other translations, that is to “gird our loins” for action. The significance of “girding your loins” is that it’s a battle stance. It’s a posture of readiness. It means you are prepared for action. As a Christian student, here are some helpful tips to help you gird your loins:

  1. Be in the Word. For Christians to be prepared for action, we need to be in the Word. No, you do not have to be an apologist or Bible scholar or preacher to be equipped to give an answer. You can be a 12-year-old girl who faithfully reads her Bible, and God will use you. The more Bible you know, the better equipped you are to share biblical truth with outsiders.
  2. Be courageous. Not all of us enjoy public speaking, particularly when it involves disagreeing with a teacher. There is the possibility of our peers disliking us or any other unpleasant social consequence. And it’s intimidating to defend Christianity to a professor who is much smarter than you… But Jesus did not call the strong. In making Jesus our Savior, God used the foolishness of the world to shame the wise and the weakness of the world to shame the strong. The Apostle Peter himself was a coward (Mark 14:71-72) and uneducated (Acts 4:13) in himself, yet, by God’s power at work in him, he was possibly the most influential apostle in helping establish God’s church. You too can be brave because your strength and boast is the King of the universe.
  3. Be gracious and respectful. Disagreeing with anyone, especially an authority figure, is a delicate matter. Anyone can get their feathers ruffled and pointedly give someone a reality check. But, as Christians, we are called to meekness. (Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is bridled strength.) Practice diplomacy and gentleness as you give your defense.
  4. Be firm. This is obviously held in tension with #3. But you should never feel the need to apologize for God’s truth. God’s truth is not something to be timid about. Yes, be gentle, but only to be gently resolute.
  5. Be an example in your conduct. Before and after the inevitable encounter with an authority figure, before and after you’ve had to give a defense for your hope, show your hope in action. That means do your homework… Be a diligent student, “so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good conduct and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
  6. Remember it’s not about winning an argument. It’s unlikely that your professor or peer will be awakened to the beauty and glory of Christ and repent because they lost an argument. Christians need to check their pride when giving a defense, very carefully. The ultimate purpose of defending your faith is to make much of Christ and to see a lost soul won to Jesus, just like you once were (1 Peter 2:10). The goal is not to showcase how smart or brave you are! Yes, be resolute. Yes, be prepared to give a defense. But it’s OK if you can’t persuade your lost professor or peer change their mind or even care. If you have shared biblical truth, you’ve can rest in God’s sovereignty to handle the rest because the Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11).

3 Examples of Giving a Defense:

It happened to me… in the Bible belt, at Auburn University, I, on several occasions, faced some form of persecution from professors. I could write all day about it, but here’s just 3 brief examples.

1: The time a professor accused the Bible of teaching misogyny…

He pulled up a slide with Ephesians 5:22-24, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, as in himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” And he exclaimed at how the Bible could make such a woman-hating statement. Immediately, that Spirit-led adrenaline hit me…

Should I say something? What can I say? I’m so angry. What if he argues back? What if everyone can tell I’m shaking?

I raised my hand. I respectfully, but firmly, explained to him that, if he kept reading on in Ephesians 5, he’d see that a much larger paragraph is devoted to telling husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v.25). I explained to him that Christ’s model for love is that he literally sacrificed his life; therefore, husbands are called to sacrificially love their wives, and, in light of that, obedient husbands have a much more difficult calling than their wives.

He didn’t say much and moved on with his lecture. And I spent the rest of the class period trying to regulate my panicky heartbeat. But, later that day, I received an email from him commending me for my critical thinking, and he even admitted that my argument was compelling and that he was going to reassess his interpretation of that passage. Win for Jesus!!

2: The time a professor asked me to apologize for talking about the doctrine of grace in a presentation…

During a personal presentation, I read a Max Lucado book. (He’s a Christian author who’s written many allegorical children’s books, if you aren’t familiar.) After reading the book to the class, I had to share a couple curricular uses for the book. One of my shared ideas was that I could use it to teach the doctrine of grace, that salvation is a gift of grace, not of works, that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

A few days later, my professor asked me to stay behind when everyone left at the end of class. She reprimanded me for making Max Lucado’s book about Christianity and using a lesson plan idea that is illegal in public schools. I was totally shocked. I wasn’t sure what to say, but I just tried to reassure her that Max Lucado is a Christian author, and his intent in his books is to teach Christian doctrines. And I reassured her that I was already aware that I couldn’t say that in public schools, but that I was free to do so in private schools and in the Auburn University classroom.

I was trying very hard to be respectful without capitulating on my convictions, but she did not like my answer. Her response was basically to tell me she wanted to me apologize for talking about Jesus in her classroom. And I was then in an awkward position of needing to submit to her as an authority but also needing to submit to God, and wondering how I could do both. I had to decide then that God’s authority trumps hers, but I needed to still be respectful to her. So, I had to tell her I couldn’t apologize. I couldn’t yield to her. It was hard. It did not end well. But I survived, and I did just fine in the class.

3: The time a professor publicly told me to take Scripture references out of my essay…

Side note: My philosophy is that, when incorporating Scripture in an assignment, you should always be sure it supports your scholarly response to the prompt. Always make sure the relevance of your chosen references is evident somehow. (Otherwise, you may get a bad grade that you deserve for not answering the prompt. That is not persecution.)

One time, I submitted a rough draft for review, and when my literature professor was passing it back out, he publicly told me to remove the Scripture references in my essay. But I answered the prompt thoroughly, and I explained in my essay the relevance of every reference to Scripture. I knew he was only criticizing my references because they were from the Bible.

My response was to respectfully, but firmly, defend my right to use those Scripture references. I told him that I would be keeping my Scripture references because they supported my thesis. And, you know what, he didn’t argue back. And, you know what else, he never challenged me again for using Scripture references. I ended up being one of his favorite students, and I did just fine in the class, and I got to use Scripture in any written assignment I wanted with the knowledge that every time this lost professor read it, he was reading God’s life-giving word that could save his soul.


When (not if) you must act…

I hope you will stand firm. …Not because God needs you to fight for him, but because God has commissioned you to make disciples and to have an answer for the hope you have in Christ.

I hope you will be gentle and respectful because you are most like our dear Savior when you do not return evil with evil but rather respond with grace.

I hope you will trust God to give you the words to say and to ensure that his Word that you share does not return void. You never know how impactful your witness can be to someone, but it is.

I hope you will endure suffering if you must because you just might later share the joy of glory with God in heaven with someone who benefited from your witness. And that is the best possible outcome.

 

The Mysterious Providence of God’s “No”

mysterious providence

That’s not fair!

As a Christian, I’ve never thought I struggled with discontentment or envy. I spent a year in 2011 buying only second-hand clothes, just for fun. I used fake flowers at my wedding and printed my invitations at home just to save a buck. I let it go when I got pregnant unexpectedly, thwarting our financial plans. I grew up on food stamps, but I still loved my wealthier school pals. I’m not envious or discontent… am I?

The first time I met my “green-eyed monster” face-to-face was when I realized that, yes, I am envious, and I do struggle with contentment.

It was the summer of 2015. My husband and I had a 4-month-old baby to care for. We were basically homeless, temporarily living with family. We were “between jobs,” which I’ve decided is just a nice way of saying “running out of savings and feeling a little desperate.” It was a season of waiting and wondering. During that time, I just wanted what I think every mother wants: stability, security, flourishing. But I was waiting on God’s provision, or so I thought.

Then, out of nowhere, my Facebook news feed popped up a picture of a beautiful home that someone just bought. She was single, about my age. It was exciting, happy news. And my immediate thought was, that’s NOT FAIR. I’d already decided she didn’t need a new house as much as I did. I mean, I had a baby, for crying out loud! Shouldn’t I be the one getting a house?! This was a cosmic calamity of the highest order.

In the middle of my mental hissy fit, the Holy Spirit gently but firmly brought this verse to mind: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…” (Exodus 20:17).

It threw cold water on my thoughts. It doesn’t get much more plain that that. I was coveting my neighbor’s house, literally. I was wrong on so many levels.

My desire for a house, which often laid dormant, had taken root and become an idol. I was unconsciously holding that physical security and social status of being a homeowner with a closed hand, unwilling to fully yield it to God and say “Thy will be done.” My want for a good thing warped into jealousy and bitterness whenever another person got the blessing I’d been waiting for. I felt like I’d been dealt a bad hand in life, like if I could just have that one thing, life would suddenly fall into place. It was very discouraging.

What good thing are you wanting and not getting?

I don’t know about you, but this struggle generally occurs for me when what I want is an inherently good thing… something that seems perfectly reasonable and healthy to want.

It doesn’t have to be a house. It can be a good job. Or a child. Or a happy marriage. Or relief from some illness. The list goes on. What is it for you? What good thing are you wanting and not getting?

Whatever it is, I want to affirm for you that it’s not sinful to want a good thing. It is not evil to want a child or a happy marriage or a healthy body. It is legitimate suffering of some degree to have an unmet desire. You were designed by God to experience shalom. That’s why it hurts. That’s why it’s confusing, even shocking at times. I’m not here to shame you about that hurt and confusion. I want to invite you to feel it, grieve it, and give it to God.

In God’s mysterious providence…

I’ll tell you the most liberating thing that a biblical counselor told me: “In God’s mysterious providence, he has not given you that.”

Here are 3 reasons why this is a good and comforting truth:

  1. As a providence of God, it is good and loving, because God is good and loving.
  2. A providence of God cannot be mere chance, meaning that your world is not spinning out of control.
  3. God will never withhold from you the one thing you truly need, which can richly satisfy all your heart’s desires. The only thing you truly need is Jesus. With him you have everything. Without him, you have nothing. If you have him, you lack no good thing in the scope of eternity.

“All which I took from thee, I did’st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms.”

(“The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson)

Paradoxical Peace

Sister, one of the supreme blessings of the gospel is that you can have shalom in your heart even without shalom in this world. That’s because our treasure, our wholeness, our hope is not here in this world; it’s stored up in heaven with Jesus, safe and sound (1 Peter 1:3-9). So treasure Christ. Believe that in God’s right hand are “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Consider his worth weighty enough to persuade you to hold all good things with an open hand that you may cling more tightly to the best thing (Philippians 3:8Hebrews 12:1-2).

We cannot know for sure exactly why God says “no” and “not yet” sometimes. That’s the mysterious aspect of his providence. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and his wisdom is unsearchable and inscrutable for us (Romans 11:33, Isaiah 55:9). What we do know, what really matters, is that God is good, and all of our desires have their “yes” and “amen” in him, and our endurance of present suffering is producing a faith that is more precious than gold.

Whatever the reason may be, I hope we find the reality of God’s mysterious providence to be a soothing balm on our weary hearts and replace our discontentment with peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7).

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

(“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Lemmel)

Other posts about trusting God’s will and wisdom: