Singing in the Rain

It is very gray and wet today in Petoskey.  Out the office window I can see the clouds gathering over the bay, where the rain makes the water ripple in little circles.  Pretty in one way, but rather dismal in another.

On these “gray days” I often wake up with a groan and bury my head back in my pillow.  What a way to start out the day!  No one likes to start the morning out with a sad, dreary outlook.  However, too often we wake up with that ‘rainy-day’ mentality — even when the sun is shining outside!

When our circumstances aren’t what we would prefer, it is natural for us to become sour and morose.  We want to pout or get angry, and our stormy attitude affects everyone that we come in contact with.  Emotion takes the lead and we follow where it wills.

One of the hardest things to conquer as a girl can be emotion.  Naturally emotional, many young women  allow their feelings to rule their behavior.  When it’s raining outside or if it’s in our hearts, it is our instinct to let those feelings run free and wild — no matter who we run over in the process.

Reining in our emotions is one of the greatest keys to success in life.  When a girl has emotional stability, she is strong in the face of stress, pressure, surprise and difficulty.  She is able to keep her head and heart in place.  Emotional control (also called self-control) is necessary in order to be effective in anything.

Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum: a life lived with free vent to emotion and feeling.  Women who live this way will be tossed by every passing whim, confused by circumstance, distressed by pressure, and unable to deal with the turbulent storms of life. 

The girl who learns to “sing in the rain” can overcome circumstances with a cheerful attitude.  This young woman will be sought out by friends, family, employers and opportunity because she is able to conquer feeling with faith. 

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature [womanhood], to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  (Eph. 4:13-16)

To Think About

  • Do you allow your emotions to rule you, or do you rule your emotions?
  • How can you strengthen your emotions under stress and pressure?
  • How does your goal to become strong emotionally bring glory to God through your life?

Lord, Only You Can Change Me

“Why? Why did I do it again?  Why do I fail You every time?” It seems that those words have filled my prayers more often than not.  I thought I was strong in one area, only to give in to temptation as soon as it tipped its cap my direction.  Frustration and tears were my constant companions during my time with God in the morning.  The condemning words of John 14:15 rang in my ears:  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  Did I really love God at all?

The doubt that crept into my soul was not conviction, though at the time that is what I considered it to be.  My guilt over sin brought me to repentance, but the fact that I failed in those areas again caused me to wonder if I had really been sorry in the first place.  Yet I knew in my heart that I hated the sin — and that I had truly repented to God.  I would be fine… until the temptation came again and I gave in. 

Guilt leads to repentance, but my failure and consequential remorse never seemed to go away.  I was in a circle of fail-repent-doubt-fail that never seemed to end.  It wasn’t until I read the words of Hannah Whitall Smith, in her book The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, that I understood where I was going wrong in my relationship with God. 

Hannah Smith wrote an entire chapter on ‘Failure’, and as I read it, I was astounded at what I read.  Failure will come, she said, and when it does, repent in earnest and then get up.  “But isn’t that impertinent?” I wondered to myself.  Hannah confronted that thought right away with an illustration:

If you were a mother, and you had a daughter who disobeyed you but came to you repentant of her deed, would you not forgive her?  Then when you had forgiven her earnest repentance, what would you think if sat on the sofa, still crying, because she didn’t believe you had really forgiven her?  Her lack of faith would be the cause of her own pain. 

The only way to conquer, Hannah wrote, is to “get up off your face” and walk in victory.  Christ has promised if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).  In my quest to not be “impertinent” I was slapping the face of the God who forgave me when I asked.  In my hopes to avoid “ungratefulness” I doubted the sacrifice He made on the cross.

The root of my problem, then, was striving to change myself into the image of God. I was doing things on my own, even though it seemed that I was doing them for God.  I missed the entire point of repentance to God:  He will change me, if I believe Him.  That is true surrender.  That is a repentant heart.

The Devil’s Radio

238568711Flushing angrily, I had leveled a steady glare at the person across from me.  “I am not a gossip!”  I articulated through clenched teeth.  “Well, what do you call it, Phy?” They answered flippantly.  “Just talking about people is not gossip,” I replied heatedly.  “And I don’t appreciate being called one, either.”  They shrugged and walked away.  I watched them go with a rock in my stomach, still stewing over their half-kidding accusation.  Me, a gossip?  What a ridiculous idea.

Truth be told, I didn’t know the definition of gossip for a very long time.  In my ignorance, I decided what was gossip and what wasn’t — yet if anything excited me, it was news.  Any kind!  Good news, bad news, old news, sad news — a story can always catch my attention.  Especially if I know the main characters. 

News of a marriage, a baby, a graduation, the loss of a job, the gain of a new one — all these are facts about life that, unless specified by the participators therein, are open for discussion.  I will tell you where these facts become gossip:  when they turn into an evaluation of the person herself.  You’ve heard the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice…” Yet even when we hear it, it seems that too often we just can’t put it into practice.

For me it began with an interest in what people were up to.  I still have this interest.  I love to know when someone gets engaged or has a boyfriend, or when someone moves or goes to college.  These are exciting things in others’ lives — plus they help me to have some common ground to talk about when I meet them.  However, my little ‘interest’ began to evolve into a more threatening figure as time went on.

Under the guise of discussing local news I, with the help of willing participants, was able to dissect other people’s character.  We established who we didn’t like, and why, but of course we would never say so to anyone and you had better not tell anyone I said that, I’m in your confidence right?  But of course you do know that Nellie has a rich boyfriend… (knowing looks exchanged). 

“Gossip needn’t be false to be evil — there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” (Frank A. Clark)              Many of those that we ‘dissected’ were people who we believed we had reason to perform surgery upon.  While these people may have been in the wrong biblically, this never gave me or anyone else license to degrade them with our words.  Yet in that moment, I held the power to change my listener’s perspective of this person.  If I didn’t like my subject, I used that power to make sure my listener began to doubt them as well. 

Insecure people gossip.  Those who cannot accept themselves in Christ, and accept others in Him as well, need to destroy others in order to feel built up.  Worse even, gossips are hypocritical and two-faced.  I will admit I have been this very thing — never realizing it in the moment because pride is blinding, and pride is perhaps the most common ingredient in the execution of anothers’ character.  Pride can’t take the second seat, and if it has to, it makes sure the person in the first seat suffers for getting it.  Women tend to use their tongues to accomplish this.

It’s not just your words, however.  Your face can say more than anything else.  A raised eyebrow, a knowing glance, a smirking smile out of the corner of your mouth, a wink… all these are as much gossip as the words you say.  Your actions are guilty as well:  a nudge, an elbow in the ribs of a compadre, a tilted chin, the impatiently cocked head… these speak just as loudly as your mouth.  As Walter Winchell said, “Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.”

Sarcasm is an offshoot of gossip that is one of the most unladylike and difficult habits to conquer.  Sarcasm is biting, insincere, and often immature.  Insecure people need sarcasm to achieve their own security.  I have met girls who had to slice other people to shreds in order to be ‘funny’.  They may be, in some instances, but this habit is not only unbecoming but not an attribute to be associated with a Christian woman.  Sarcasm and gossip are often rooted in envy and jealousy as well as insecurity.  Actually, Jealousy, Envy and Gossip are the three daughters of insecurity.  Those who cannot be happy for another’s good fortune become a missionary of misery to all they come in contact with.  These people are miserable indeed.

The word ‘gossip’ brings to mind a more lengthy conversation, but there are ways to be cutting and very to-the-point as well.  Even in church.  “Can you believe she would wear that here?  You’d think she would know better…”  “Ugh, here she comes… come on, let’s go in the bathroom — quick!”  These insinuate what gossip elaborates upon.  It doesn’t take much to get the message across.

Often we feel ‘safe’ with certain friends to share the world’s secrets.  Sometimes we even feel safe enough to be sarcastic to that friend, or about other friends of hers.  You can never know how much that hurts.  For me, it hurts worse to have a friend mock another friend of mine than to have her mock me.  Having experienced this, I evaluated myself:  did I mock my friends’ associations?  Did I stab them in the back when it benefited me to do so?

Know this:  if you are with a gossip, and she reams someone in your confidence, you can bet she will do the same to you.  Everyone is fair game.  I confess I have been a gossip, although it didn’t start that way.  In my pride I thought myself good enough to share my assessments of others’ character with the world — when those biased and unkind thoughts should have never left my mouth.  So I challenge you to evaluate yourself in all honesty.  Do you find pleasure in mocking others?  Do you believe it is alright to tear down a person’s character simply because you don’t personally approve of them?  Ask yourself:  would you like to be mocked?  How many people do you think don’t approve of you, and say nothing? 

There is one solution to gossip, and there are two steps involved:

Step One:  Submit to Christ.

Step Two:  Shut up.

An Iron Pillow

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Friendships are wonderful.  They are simply a blast.  Yet, I think girl friends are the best friendships of all (outside the family, which we will discuss later).  There seems to be an uncanny connection between coffee, chocolate and the giggling girls who use both!  I know that with one of my best friends if we are together, there’s usually only one thing between us — a table with coffee sitting on it.  Or chocolate.  Preferably both.  (That’s me and her above)

There is a reason girl friends are important.  This reason rests on the nature of women and girls.  Females are wired to be conversational:  nurturing, emotional and caring.  Face to face encounters are what they thrive on.  It makes us feel like someone wants to be with us, is genuinely interested, and is enjoying our company.  My friend and I work out the world’s problems in the Roast and Toast cafe!

Men are wired differently.  Have you ever noticed how they talk?  Picture first a bridal or baby shower.  It sounds like a hen house, with every voice raised to congratulate and encourage, all asking the whens and wheres and particulars of the specific occasion.  Men don’t do that, which is good, or we wouldn’t marry them.  When men talk to each other, or even to us, they often turn somewhat sideways rather than face to face.  Their emphasis is not on an emotional connection, but rather on an informative one. 

The reason I bring these things up is to reveal the importance that women place on conversation and social interaction in a relationship.  For most women (although I have met a few exceptions) talking about their lives with someone helps them to understand and deal with issues they may have.  In the world, these issues are never solved because their friends simply tell them to ‘believe in themselves’ and ‘do what feels right’.  However, for those of us fortunate enough to have godly girl friends, we have the duty and the blessing of encouragement in Christ within that relationship.

The Bible says that “iron sharpens iron”.  You can’t sharpen a knife with a pillow, you have to hone the blade with something that provides resistance.  It will grate on the blade at first, but when time has gone by, the knife will be of use because of its sharpness.  In a true friendship, the friends help each other grow in their walk with Christ by being honest.  This does not mean we look for faults to correct, but if our friend asks for accountability, the door is open to speak with her. 

But we can’t be all sharpness, either.  Our job isn’t to simply hone our friends into the women they are ‘supposed to be’.  We must also be there for comfort, hope and a cheerful word.  We need to have a softness about us that will temper the necessity of a harder word later on.  It is a combination of both honesty and compassion — one of the hardest combinations to maintain!  This goes beyond the cafe table to every area of life. 

So there is a challenge for you, me and every other woman, young and old.  Can you combine gentleness and honesty?  Can you be an Iron Pillow?

Desperate Measures

I think that the commitment to waiting, preserving purity, and going about relationships with accountability is definitely God’s plan for every young man and woman.  That commitment requires great trust and faith, as well as patience and fortitude.  The results of keeping that faith are true love, happiness and a deeper walk with God that glorifies Him always.

But there can be a negative side.

This side is not the ‘fault’ or responsibility of God — it is entirely the result of Satan’s temptation.  Yet it is so easy to give into this temptation, that often, it is not even recognized as such.  This is the temptation to desperation.

The positives of waiting far outweigh any negatives, but if there is anything I have noticed the ‘waiting girls’ have in common is a desperation to get married.  I covered this briefly in another post, but it can become such an overwhelming feeling that I am addressing it all on its own.  Desperation, frustration, discontent — I know them, and so do many other girls.  They cast a dark shadow on the beautiful purity of the committed life.  What is to be done?

Satan’s work begins entirely with the mind.  If he can capture your thoughts, he can capture your feelings, emotions, and eventually, your actions.  His is the little nagging voice that tries to gain a hearing with you: “Feeling alone?  I knew you would.  He’ll never come.  Why are you waiting?  Go out and look, you’ll never meet him otherwise…  you’ll be an old maid, an old, single, unhappy maid…”  If you give him the hearing he desires, soon those thoughts will take hold.  You will begin to believe them.  And when they take root, soon your heart will begin to turn.  “Why am I doing this?  It hurts!  It take too much!  I can’t wait anymore!”  Those girls who allow their feelings to guide their actions soon lose what was once precious, out of desperation for the love they are deprived.  Deprived?  Wait…

Satan wants you to think you are being deprived of something wonderful, and that God is the source of the deprivation. But let’s think back to another situation where someone felt ‘deprived’… her name was Eve. She had everything in the garden, but the one thing she didn’t have is what Satan used to bring about the fall of the whole world. 

You have no reason to feel deprived, because you are not.  God has given you everything necessary for the place He has you now; he does not allow the righteous to suffer, nor to starve.  Every good and perfect gift is from above.  And His grace is sufficient for you.  Does this mean you will remain in the state you are forever, because you have ‘everything you need’?  No.  You have what you need for where you are now, but down the road, God may give you more for the different position you are in. 

When those thoughts try to lodge themselves in the back of your mind, take them captive for Christ.  He is your King, your Heavenly Husband, the source of Contentment, and the Hope of the world.  You are not deprived!  You need not feel desperate for anything…  except for the love of the Man who died that you might be His.

So… Can I See You Again?

Girls who choose not to date in high school are making a hard but good choice.  Not only does it give them time to focus on God, but it also gives freedom in friendship and time for the family.  These girls are preserving their precious gift of purity as well.  We have already gone over the ‘dangers’ of dating and what to do in the time of waiting.

But now you are eighteen.  High school is over.  What now?

I have watched several girls go different directions when they finished high school.  For some, they ‘put in their time’, and were swiftly seen with a boyfriend, scruffy and short, as soon as their Open House was over.  Others continued on with the exact same commitment they had in high school, perhaps more stringent than before.  Others were married within the year.  Each family had a different system for what they deemed appropriate after high school, and their daughters, for the most part, followed that system.

I turned eighteen six months ago.  No one showed up on my doorstep with a pocket full of posies and ring.  But things do change when you turn eighteen, and how you deal with those changes will determine who you grow to be, who you meet, and how you go about relationships in this new adult life. 

Some of this will reiterate what I said in the post, ‘Can I Have Guys as Friends?’ and for those of you that haven’t read that post, I would suggest it simply so that you can see where I am going on this topic.  Truly, it all comes back to that question — can I have male friends, and how do I interact with them?  There are, however, two different answers.  The high school answer was used in the ‘Guys as Friends’ post, and I have a different answer for those who have graduated.  While very similar, there are a few differences when you become an adult.

Eighteen is the age where guys become bolder.  You are no longer in high school; you are recognized as an adult.  With this in mind, offers for dates will become more common.  How do you answer?  Young men will want to spend time with you in public places, or in groups.  How do you deal with that?  And what about when you can’t stand someone, and they won’t leave you alone??  I have an example of the last question, so let’s start with that one:

There is a young man at my local college named Bill.  I am only taking one class at the college (the rest are online) and it is at night.  So every night I go to class, and there is Bill.  One time, I repeat, ONE time, we walked back to the parking lot on the same sidewalk simply because both our cars were parked in the same lot, and I had no choice.  But he took that one little walk as a sign that we were meant to be.  The next few weeks he made sure we left class at the same time so we could walk again.  I was very much not interested in him, he is not a Christian and also, our interests are just too different.  So I got smart:  I parked in another lot closer to the building so we couldn’t walk together.  That worked at first, but soon he got smart too, and parked in the same lot.  He chased me down the sidewalk to ‘ask my advice’ about a speaking project.  So I got smarter:  my desk was closer to the door than his, so I made a run for it like Eric Liddle as soon as class ended, and by the time he maneuvered around to follow, I was gone!

Unfortunately, that method is not going to work with everyone.  I knew, though, that Bill was the type of guy who would ask you out on his fourth week knowing you if you gave him the time of day.  I was not interested, but I didn’t want to hurt him or make him afraid to ask other girls out, which can happen if one girl turns a man down rudely.  So I came up with a plan.  If Bill asked me out, I would say: ”I’m sorry Bill, we can be friends in class, but I am in a committed relationship right now and can’t date you.”  My parents helped me come up with this.  Am I in a committed relationship?  Yes — with Jesus Christ!  This answer will be true and also unoffensive to someone who enjoys your company but just doesn’t meet the standard.

But what about when you LIKE the guy that asks you out?  This is where it gets tricky.  I have another example for this one:

I went to a concert in the park this past summer, and although I had invited a mixed crowd, I was the only one that showed.  I was sitting by a pleasant older lady when a tall, dark and handsome young man came up to me.  (Yes, it’s true, but I didn’t believe it either, at first) He patted my dog and we chatted generically a moment.  Then it began to rain… or rather, pour.  Everyone ran, soaking wet, up to the Presbyterian church.  I put Lassie in the car and slipped quietly into a pew, dripping from my skirt and hair.  Who comes up but Mr. McDreamy.  “May I?” he asked, gesturing toward the seat.  “Yes,” I answered.  He asked me my name, if I lived around here, and all that stuff they ask in the movies, you know. “I’m Samuel, but you can call me Sam.” He said it as I were receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He went to tell me how well he sang, and how he had a paid lead part in a play, and how he knew all about voice techinique and where he was schooling and how old he was and what his dreams were.  Now, a man’s ego tends to take over a bit when he is nervous, but this was over the top.  He gave me a cordial farewell before joining the choir for the performance.  (He did a good job, too, at least he’s not a liar!)  Afterward, I left the church and walked down the tree lined sidewalk in the summer sun.  The trees were still dripping, the sun was gleaming…  I looked back, and there, on the steps, stood Sam, frantically looking over the heads of the crowd.  He spotted me and raised his hand.  I waved demurely and walked out of sight.  It wasn’t five seconds before he came running down the sidewalk hollering, “Phylicia! Wait!” I turned to face him and he said, “Can I see you again when I come back to town?  I mean, do you have a phone number?”  So I told him, “I don’t usually go out with people I have just met…” “I understand!” “But you can do something with me and my family, if you like.  You can call my dad if you want to.  Here is my card –”  His face had fallen. His manner grew cold.  It was like night and day.  “Alright then.” And he left.  I liked him.  He was proud, but he was friendly and attractive.  My human, girlish self liked him.  But as you can see by his change of manner, he didn’t want family involved.  He didn’t want accountability. And when he read the Bible verse on my business card, his face revealed he didn’t want that, either.  He wasn’t the right one.

These instances will become more and more frequent.  I would suggest planning your responses so you are not caught off guard.  Being distracted by these attentions can cause you to be either rude or unable to answer, which usually translates as ‘yes’ to the normal, confident male! Also, if not already, plan with your parents what you are to do after high school when it comes to relationships.  I will be getting into my own family’s methods next week.  However, now is the time to figure it out, because whether you like them or not, the suitors will eventually come!

Twiddling Your Thumbs?

This past summer, before I began working at the showroom, I worked as a waitress in a little diner a mile down the road.  I had to be there at 6:30 every morning to open, and then I stayed until 2 or 3 pm cleaning up.  The restaurant was very small — only eleven tables fit in the dining area — but I spent every day, all day, running back and forth and to and fro like a frantic hen.  People could be friendly, fussy, flirty or freaky — rude, rambunctious, Really Annoying… it didn’t matter what you felt, you were to wait on that person and serve them to the best of your ability. 

The title of ‘waitress’ implies that you are waiting on something.  Truthfully, a waitress ‘waits’ on the customer to order his food, ‘waits’ on the cook to produce it, and finally brings it out to be served.  Yet while she is waiting for these things to happen, she is alway moving.  She is not idle, she is not shiftless — she continues to work even while the food is not ready.

Waiting on love is the same.  As Sarah Mally said in her book Before You Meet Prince Charming,  waiting does not imply that you are sitting around waiting for something to happen.  You aren’t twiddling your thumbs and humming “Someday My Prince Will Come”.  On the contrary, this time of waiting is to help you become all the woman (or man) God wants you to be. 

The reason we wait is often lost in the occasional pain of the waiting.  Truth be told, you aren’t waiting to get married.  The goal is not to get married.  One of the problems that arises with the ‘wait not date’ mentality is that it produces girls who think that marriage is the end-all.  It becomes their life goal, their only calling, and any other services are either scorned or ignored.  This is not a right or true way of thinking.  Do you know I know?  Because I did it. 

Being a wife and mother is a wonderful thing, but there is a time for it.  Until that time, girls should not spend their days focusing on reaching that time.  This time, this day, this present, is where you live.  This is where you become effective.  You may be waiting, but keep moving.  Keep other goals!  Develop alternatives.  What if you never marry?  Then what?  What if you don’t marry till you’re thirty? What will you do with your time?  Make the most of the years God has given you.  While I do believe that singleness can be a trial, making the most of that trial grows you into a person worthy to marry another. 

Each day is given to you and me to glorify God and grow in our walk with Him.  While planning ahead and having dreams are fine in moderation, an over-focus on the future produces discontent.  As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:33-34) 

This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!