This Is Your Time!

Whether you are in high school or graduated, if you have committed to maintaining your heart purity for a man who will commit to you, there will be waiting involved.  During this time, we have established several things:

1) Marriage isn’t the goal.

2) Good male friends can be beneficial and healthy.

3) Jesus Christ must be your focus and the Love that satisfies.

4) Finally, this isn’t a time to ‘twiddle your thumbs’ – and this is what we will talk about today.

I am naturally a procrastinator, and have tendency to do the things I like before the things I don’t.  Thus, all the things I don’t like end up having to be done on the same day.  This wouldn’t happen if I did them during the week, but as it usually occurs, my weekends are spent catching up and trying to finish everything before college, church and speaking deadlines.  I’m working on it! 

Now apply my method of organization to your life as a young woman or man.  If the years before marriage are spent daydreaming over a mate who isn’t there, or spent ‘just being a teenager’, or wasted on more trivial things than how to run a house, cook, and clean, what do you think will happen when you ARE married?  Serious catch-up time!  You will be learning by the seat of your pants, and wishing that there had been a few less movies and a few more hours in the kitchen.  Am I a gourmet cook and amazing laundress, who cleans the bathroom every day and scurries about like a magical Mary Poppins?  Far, far from it.  And none of us will ever have every day to be and get things done perfectly.  But these years are years of preparation, not just play.

How do we maximize this time?  There are several things I think are essential for any girl to learn if she hopes to get married.  I have not learned them completely; most are very much still in the works.

Cooking:  “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is actually very true.  Henry Ford proposed after eating his girl’s apple pie.  Bob Evans married his wife because of her buttermilk biscuits.  Learning to cook is essential to raise healthy children, have a happy husband, and to keep the family finances within budget as well.  Meal planning and using the grocery flier is necessary to make economic choices.  Fast food and eating out are fine once in while — for dates, or when you are in a hurry — but if it is a regular occurrence, the bill soon racks up.  Cooking from the home is a talent too many girls lack and all should learn.  I’m one of them! 

Cleaning:  I don’t know about you, but I hate cleaning bathrooms.  It never lasts longer than three days anyway.  And dishes too — every meal there they are again!  Unfortunately, this will be the story of our lives for… the rest of our lives!  Proper, thorough cleaning has to be done not only for a good presentation, but for health and comfort.  And not surprisingly, there is a way to clean a house that is indeed the ‘right’ way.  Swiffers and dust wipes aren’t going to cut the mustard — or the dirt.  They are great for quick cleanups on an already mostly-clean room, but for a regular cleaning hands-and-knees mopping, dishcloth dusting and edge vacuuming are what make the difference.

Sewing:  I hate sewing.  I don’t have a bit of patience for it, and I always do it wrong. I was the one that sewed the sleeves shut on a jacket and put the interfacing on upside down.  But still, this is a very beneficial talent to have.  My mom taught herself and has been able to sew costumes, nightclothes, dresses, formals, and all the valances in the house.  My best friend is an amazing seamstress.  Not only does she sew her own clothes, but she designs them as well!  While these days buying patterns, buttons and fabric can make sewing just as expensive as buying clothes, there are many times this talent is of great benefit to the family.

Budgeting:  Learning about money and how to use it is the most important thing to learn in these years.  I am still learning it myself.  With the economy in its current state, and with our new president soon to bring much ‘change’ to the nation, we need to be prepared to be frugal.  And we need to know how.  I am reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” on my mother’s recommendation, and I would suggest it to other girls as well. Learning these things now is essential, because learning them on the fly in a marriage will just cause extra stress and strain.  One of the primary reasons for divorce is finances. Educate yourself in budgeting and using funds — help your parents with the bills, and watch how money is spent and what it is spent on.

Interpersonal Communications:  Can you talk to a bank teller?  Can you talk to the JC Penney clerk?  Can you call a company on the phone and get the refund they didn’t give you?  Can you talk to an angry person without getting angry yourself?  If you can’t communicate, you can’t marry.  Them’s the breaks, Binky.  Communication is what makes the marriage.  ‘He says, She says’ has to be constantly worked out with understanding and love, and if confrontation makes you angry, or incites a collapse into tears, not much will be accomplished.  This is the time to learn to listen, and think before speaking.  This is the time to develop excellent phone and computer skills.  This is the time to learn how to get what you need from a clerk, teller or other employee.  I was terrified of clerks when I was younger.  What finally broke this was working in a retail environment.  Suddenly, I was the clerk!  I was forced to learn to communicate in many different ways.  I think this is unfortunately a weakness of many girls.  Practice now!  This is the time.

Work and Education:  I guess you could call me a stay-at-home daughter if you wanted.  I am living at home, and staying with my family.  However, I am not ‘staying’ at home in the sense that I am there all the time.  I work Tuesday through Saturday, and Mondays assist as stage manager to a drama troupe.  Sundays I have a few ministries at church to help with as well.  I am also midway through my second year of online college.  I do not intend to have a career in any way, but I have other reasons for getting my degree.  Homeschooling is becoming more and more threatened, and with our government changing hands, it may one day be illegal to teach children in the home without a Bachelor’s degree.  Am I wasting money on a chance occurrence?  Not in my mind.  I am maximizing my time: working to pay for college and insurance on my car,  teaching young ladies in the drama group, helping in my church and gaining a degree in something I love.  If you are at home, rather than just waiting to get married, make the most of these years.  If you don’t get married, what would you do with your life?  Do it now! 

What this comes down to is faith.  My dad told me this.  Did you see Facing the Giants, the movie?  The old man in the movie told a story.  There were two farmers whose land was suffering because of a drought; both men prayed to the Lord, asking that they might have rain.  One farmer prayed and kept waiting for a downpour.  The other prepared his fields to receive it.  This is what we are to do.  God blesses those who ask in faith and then go to work for Him, maximizing the talents they have been given.  Don’t just sit!  Go, seek, find, pray, work and learn.  This is your time.

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High Expectations

“You’re such a good person Phylicia,” exclaimed Debbie. “You don’t swear, you don’t smoke and you don’t drink.” “Yeah, she’s so nice, she doesn’t even know HOW to be mean,” added Amy.  “And to never have dated!” Continued Debbie incredulously.  I really didn’t know what to say.  “Um, thanks?”  “Er, okay…”  “Yeah, you should try it!”?  On schedule, these conversations will come up —  always involving the inevitable analysis of my character.  And the diagnosis always comes out the same:  I am a Good Person.

Being the Good Person consists of several attributes, all of which (by my co-workers’ admission) I possess:  you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you aren’t living with someone, you don’t swear and as a general whole, you’re “nice”.  “Nice” means you don’t yell at people, backstab your boss, call co-workers names or kick the coffee machine when you’re mad.  As a whole, the Good Person is a very likable, friendly individual.  But there’s one problem:  the Good Person is expected to be Good on a consistent basis.  As soon as she fails, everyone is right there to watch her crumple.

Being the Good Person is an effort.  Once you have established yourself as the resident Goody-Two-Shoes, you have to maintain the persona.  You have to continue to live up to the expectations of the people around you.  There is no room for weakness, no room for mistakes, and certainly no room for failure.  Every morning you wake up to face them again — forced to be a person you’re not sure you truly are.  Everyone will fall.  Everyone will fail.  But you must be a pillar of strength, an example to all.  You have to meet the expectations of the people who are watching, or you and the God you represent are fodder for mockery.

How do I know the life of the Good Person?  Because I have been her.  I have been the Good Girl on the job; the one who wouldn’t swear, wouldn’t joke about crude and ungodly things, wouldn’t drink or condone drinking.  But after only a little while, I couldn’t do it anymore.  It wore me down… trying to live to impress, to be an example, to be the Difference.  I wasn’t making a difference.  I was just… different. 

In living this life, I came to understand something.  We aren’t here to be the Difference.  We aren’t here to be the ones who are good and moral by the world’s standard.  And we certainly aren’t here to try to do it all and be it all to all people.  We can NEVER meet the standard the world will set for us.  Sure, we’re “good”.  We do the right things.  We abide by a moral standard.  But to try to keep up with the world’s expectations for us will wear us down, tire us out and ultimately, plunge us into discouragment and despair.  The standard can’t be met… on our own strength.

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.  It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal.6:11-14)

Those who want to make a “good showing”…  I ask you, are you that person?  I know I have been, and I still struggle with a tendency to be so.  I want to please People.  I want them to think well of me, because in my mind, if they think well of me, they’ll think well of Christians and Christ himself.  But there is the untruth.  Jesus said:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your father who is in heaven.” (Matt.6:1)

God uses us for His glory in ways we may never know.  The best way to bring glory to Him, to attract people to Christ, is to love Him, live Him and let Him lead.  Let Him draw others to you, asking about your faith,  but do not work to attract them with your good deeds.  In the end, you will be pursuing an ever fleeing goal: the goal of gaining the approval of men.  Their expectations may never be met.  Seek to meet God’s expectations for you, and all else will fall into place.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt.6:33)

I can’t boast in my own strength, because I am unable to maintain the life of the Good Person.  But I can boast in one thing: the cross of Christ.  It is through His sacrifice alone that I can stand in righteousness today.  I will boast in the Lord my God; I will boast in the One who is worthy.  Because I am not.

His Ears are Open

Today, instead of a normal church service, my church did what they called a “concert of prayer”.  It was a new idea, but it was so amazing, so powerful and so touching that I think it is something that should be done perhaps two or three times a year.  It wasn’t an over-spiritual, emotionally-charged event — it wasn’t meant to be that way.  It was simply a gathering of believers, praying in adoration, supplication, thanksgiving and preparation with some songs sung in between.  We would separate into groups and pray in the specified type of prayer until Pastor read some verses aloud.  It reminded me of Pentecost, simply in the way that as we sat there praying, I could hear the murmur of 175 other voices — all lifted up to the same God.  All offering their praise, their thanks, their requests, their burdens… to the only Lord.  And He heard every one.

“Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.” (Ps. 55:17)

What is so amazing about the Christian faith?  It is the fact that our God takes an interest in us.  More than an interest — He has a relationship with us.  My favorite part of relationships is the fact that we can talk to each other — about each other, with each other!  And that is what we can do with God.  I am learning to talk to Him about everything.  My family has told me recently that I tend to talk a little too much at home — and that is understandable, as I am a very talkative person.  So rather than dominate their time, I have begun telling God about my day… all the details that might bore anybody else.  And He listens.  And He guides.  As I tell him what happened at work I might feel in my heart something saying, “You could have handled yourself better in that situation,” or maybe “I was proud of you then.”  God is always accessible to us through prayer. 

Unfortunately for Christians, I don’t think they take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to converse with their Creator.  Many people (like me) will just throw in a five minute prayer in the morning and call it good.  And it is.  But what we miss when we don’t stay, and talk to him longer!  It’s like cutting a conversation short with a good friend, and never discovering his dreams, plans, hopes, and loves.  You are missing out on who He really is.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 4:6-7)

Not only are we blessed with the privilege to talk to God whenever, wherever and however we wish, but we are also guaranteed His peace to guard our minds.  I know that His protection of my thoughts is necessary, because that is where sin will always begin for me.  As the Guardian of our minds, and the Bearer of our burdens, we are free to be “anxious for nothing” and obtain the peace of God… a peace that surpasses understanding!

I would encourage my readers in one thing, and that is to pray diligently.  What I do, and what I suggest for other young women, is that you begin your day with prayer.  I used to get up at 6:30 and decide to read and pray for one hour.  I made a prayer list, based on one in Sarah Mally’s book Before You Meet Prince Charming (Very good, by the way!), and would pray for five minutes on each topic.  After three weeks it became the highlight of my day — my mornings were precious to me.  And all throughout the ensuing hours He was ever there to guide me.  But keep in mind that the Enemy is ready to attack, and his best tools are discouragement and distraction.  Be wary; protect your prayer time, but be sure that whenever, wherever or however you do it, that you PRAY!  His ears are always open.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers…” (1 Pet. 3:12)

 

Early I Seek You

In my last post I talked about God’s plan for us, and how we must seek Him in order to have the abundant life He promises.  This morning, as I sit on my bed looking out the window at the dawn, I am reading Psalm 63.  Not only did David seek God, but he specified when he sought God… early in the morning.

“Oh, God, you are my God; [early] I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisified as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” (Ps.63:1-7)

I don’t know about you, but I love the morning.  I get up as early as possible, while everyone is asleep and all is quiet, and watch the sun come up over the trees across the road.  The dew is usually all over the grass, and the sun glistens on each individual blade, making our lawn shimmer in the light.  The horses’ backs reflect the sunlight as they graze in the pasture, and all the chickadees and doves start to sing.  I get myself a cup of tea and read my Bible while the sun continues to rise.  It’s the perfect time to be with God. 

I once read a sermon called “Meeting God in the Morning” by the Reverend Matthew Henry.  Although it was written in the 18th century, everything Mr. Henry wrote still holds true today.  He held that the best time to pray and read was in the morning because it is then that we are not yet burdened with the cares of the day. We are fresh in body and mind, and we are beginning our day in the thought of God so we may continue in that vein for the proceeding hours.  David held to this same concept:

“Oh God, you are my God; early I seek you…” (vs.1a)

The word you may read in your Bible for “early” may be “earnestly”, but the actual Hebrew translation can be read both ways.  Early in the morning we earnestly seek Him.

“…my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (vs.1b)

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.  Where do you get that living water?… Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.””  (Jn. 4:10-13)

“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” (vs. 2-3)

When we pray, we enter into the very presence of God.   We are talking to Him; conversing with Him.  Sometimes I find that I have to stop praying and just be still… not keep talking AT God but more WITH Him.  You can’t converse with a person who does all the talking herself, nor can God speak with you when you are all talk and not much listen.  When we are listening, praying, we are in God’s sanctuary.  My room is my physical sanctuary in the morning, when all is quiet and peaceful.  Jesus himself said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:6)  But what about during the day, when we need Him just as much or more than in the morning?  It’s so easy to feel like you’re in God’s sanctuary when all is quiet and peaceful — but what about in the hectic whirlwind of the other 24 hours?  Catherine of Siena said, “Build yourself a cell in your heart and retire there to pray.”  No matter where you are, that “cell” is there… that “sanctuary” is with you always.

“So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” (vs.4)

His steadfast love is better than life to us…  or is it?  I have to ask this question sometimes.  Sometimes life seems more appealing than steadfast love.  We can’t physically feel God’s love; we have to take it by faith.  Of course, we can grow to know and understand it more and more, but occasionally, life on earth can be all we desire.  If His love is better than life to us — if He is really the center of our world — we will indeed bless Him as long as we live.

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips…” (vs.5)

Being satisfied in Christ is hard for me, and I know for a fact it is a common struggle among homeschooled young ladies.  We have been raised with the mentality that to serve and love a husband and family is the crowing glory of a woman, and it is right and good to desire it.  But too often the desire gets out of control.  Every girl I know has at least some part of her that yearns to be loved by a man, and to have a beautiful wedding and someday a family… but the hard part comes in being content where she is.  She needs to be satisfied by who God is.  He promises to be very satisfying, too… David described Him to be something like a Krispy Kreme donut!  “Fat and rich food” sounds very good to me. 🙂

“…when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night…” (vs.6)

And so we come full circle.  In the morning we are with God, and at night we are still with Him. We seek Him in the morning and remember Him at night.  If every thought is taken captive for Christ — if we are living in the thought of God from morning to evening — then the day can be lived in victory, because He is the recurring theme throughout it.

“…for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” (vs.7)

He is our help from the morning till the night — seek Him early on, and He will be with you the rest of the day, and in the shadow of His wings you will find contenment and freedom from every care.