Building a Woman Community

When I first started this blog, my husband said, “Well, are you the older woman or the younger woman?” I thought this was interesting because when I felt led to start this blog, age never crossed my mind, but I guess since the foundation of the blog is based on Titus 2:3-5, then I should probably have a clear perspective as to if I am an older woman or not.

It’s so cliché to say, “age is just a number,” but I believe that to be true. I think our life experiences define us more than our age. What events did we have to endure in our life to build our character, mature our thinking and rely fully on God? Those things are what makes us older women or younger women. The reality is, I’m not that old. I have been walking with the Lord for 16 years though, because he captured my heart and the young age of 14. I’m still young in my marriage (7.5 years), but my husband and I have been through a lot of things that most young marriages do not endure. I’m also still a new mother, but I have a high needs/spirited child, which is very challenging. I still feel young, although the more couples I meet at church, the older I’m beginning to feel! So, the truth is, by the standards of numbers, I’m young by age, but old by life experiences.

That being said, I’m not trying to justify to anyone whether or not I am too young to write a blog based on the Titus 2 woman, instead I’m just trying to talk about women supporting women. I may not be the exact Titus 2 woman that you’re looking for, but what I am is a young woman who the Lord has matured through many challenging times, who believes strongly in the connection and community building of women, which is what I believe God is calling us to do in accordance with Titus 2.

We live in a strange world. It’s amazing how often we women do not support one another, we tear each other apart with our words, our judgements and our attitude. We do this at work, at play, in parenting, on Facebook, everywhere. This is not how it was meant to be, we MUST encourage each other in ALL situations. This is something that has been on my heart for many years now and even more recently as I have become a new mom and realize how much we judge one another, especially in regards to “mommy wars.”  In order for us to love our husbands and our children more thoroughly  we have to start loving other women too. Loving and encouraging other women is what will help us all love our husbands and children more, which ultimately helps us live out the word of God.

Here are some things to think about when we relate to other women:

1. STOP JUDGING: This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT point about all of this. We have to stop judging each other. Stop it, stop it, stop it. I know this is easier said than done, but we really need to ask God to convict us of our judgements of other people. This is particularly important in regards to parenting. All of those things that you think matter don’t. It doesn’t matter if the mommy at the park next to you is raising her kid on organic food and you’re not. It doesn’t matter if you’re breastfeeding your toddler, but the other mommy formula fed their child. It doesn’t matter and quite frankly, it’s none of our business. Instead of passing judgement because another mom is doing something different, we should encourage that mother to keep trying her hardest to raise the best children she can. We don’t know what other moms are going through at home. Maybe they are a single mom and they are doing the best they can, maybe they are not only raising little ones, but taking care of an ailing parent. Maybe they just lost a loved one around the same time they gave birth to their child and they are just trying to make things work as best as possible. The reality is, we don’t know, so we have to stop judging! “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

2. YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD: Think about your relationship with God. Are you praying that God shows you how to raise your children? Are you praying that God will fill you with his spirit daily, so that you are guided in actions by him and not by your own means? Are you concerned about how God will judge you based on how you raised your children and lived out God’s calling in your life? If  you are doing these things and you feel confident that you are living out God’s truth in your family, then it shouldn’t matter what other people are doing with their families. If you are in constant communication with God and God tells you to be a stay at home mom, then that is great that God has convicted you in this way, but your relationship with God is just that, your relationship and not everyone has the same relationship with God and not everyone is convicted to stay home and not everyone is meant to stay home. My mom did not stay home with me and if it weren’t for public schools, I would not have become a Christian and even though my mom felt that was how she was supposed to raise me, I feel called to stay home. My mom and I are both Christians, but we are raising children differently and yet perfectly for the dynamics of our families. God convicts us all of different things in accordance to his will, so just remember when you are relating to other women, think only about your relationship with God and how those convictions may be different for you than they are for other women.

3. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE: Just love other women! Plain and simple. Say nice things to other women, stop gossiping about each other. Don’t be sneaky and tell someone that another woman needs prayer and use that as an excuse to talk about that person. That’s not nice, it’s manipulative and it’s a justification for gossip. If another woman needs prayer and you think you should share that, then either don’t say their name, or say their name and don’t say what the specific prayer request is. Send encouraging notes and emails to one another. Hug each other. Hug each other’s children. Love each other’s children as our own. Make meals for each other, go out to lunch, dinner, drinks, whatever. Share scripture with each other, confess sins to each other, offer biblical advice and be empathetic. Just Love!

My goal for this blog and for life in general is to build up other women, so that we can live our lives in accordance with God’s will. Ladies, we have to stop tearing each other a part and start lifting each other up. Please know that I am just as guilty of these things as well. God has been working on my heart for a few years now about how to relate to other women and I’m so thankful that God has shown me how ugly I can be.

Do you find yourself judging other women, do you find it hard to love other women? I encourage you this week to make an effort to make a difference in at least one other woman’s life. Pick a friend and pray for her all week, send her a note of encouragement and let her know you’re praying for her and if you have the time, maybe send her some cookies or offer to bring her lunch! It would mean so much to her!

I leave you with this prayer:

Lord, I ask that you convict our hearts of our ugly attitudes towards other women. I pray that you show us how to love the way you love, help us to see how important it is to have a network of women around us and help us to build, foster and lift up that community. I pray that your holy spirit will guide us daily in the way we interact, treat and speak to other women and that you will use us a vessel of your love to lift one another up. Amen.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

*Please know that there are certain circumstances when the way other people raise their children is our business. This is in regards to abuse and other dangerous or destructive situations. I am not referring to those situations and I am not a qualified professional to address handling those types of scenarios. 

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A New Fairytale…or not.

I was recently surprised at my reaction to a meme that was floating around Facebook. It had to do with “The New Fairytale.” It said the following:

“Once upon a time a prince asked a beautiful princess will you marry me? The princess said ‘no’ and the princess lived happily ever after and traveled around the world and met interesting people and learned new stuff and always put herself first and went to rock concerts and no one ever told her to ‘go make a sandwich’ and kept her apartment and all of her shoes and never got cheated on, period. And all her family and friends thought she was cool and made tons of money and the toilet seat was always down, like it’s supposed to be. The end.” -source unknown

Wow. There are so many things that are wrong with this seemingly innocent little meme. First, let me give you some background about myself. You see, there was a time in my life (and yes, I was a Christian at the time) where this little meme would have truly meant something to me. I was a woman on a mission. I believed that God gave me the gift of leadership and it was my responsibility to forget about men or find a man who didn’t care if I was successful and then make something of myself. I pretty much spent all four years of college becoming that woman. My career path was right in front of me and I was primed to be successful and make lots of money and travel the world if I wanted. Sort of… Ok, so really, I didn’t have a job yet, but I had the drive and my passion was for almost all of the things listed in the above meme. I went to an all women’s college, so the feminist movement was apparent and active in my life. What I didn’t know, at the time, was that God had a different mission; a mission to change my heart to be more like him and to realize that my true calling in life was a little different than what the 22 year old version of myself thought. So, when I saw this meme floating around, I was shocked at how my immediate response was an uncomfortable feeling.

So, let’s fast forward to now. I’m not anti-feminist movement, I believe I have a healthy balance of women’s rights and how that falls in line with God’s plan for families, but I will share more on that some time in the future. For now, I want to talk about some things that set off red flags in my heart when I read this meme.

1. If some prince had asked me to marry him, I’m pretty sure I would have been cool with that! Just Kidding! In all seriousness though, the whole prince/princess thing has gotten out of hand. When I was younger, I loved all of the Disney princess stuff, which wasn’t much then, and I loved any kind of princess costume, wand, crown, etc. I loved it, but I also understood that it was make believe. It wasn’t real. I wasn’t a real princess, in worldly terms anyway, I was a princess in God’s eyes, but the reality is the only royalty in my family was German nobility that happened many generations before I was born and honestly, I know nothing about it. What happened that caused this make believe world that little girls play in to become an adult fantasy? It seems to be more and more common where women get wrapped up in this fairytale land where everything is perfect and there are no troubles to work through. I find this confusing.

2. The next two sections I have problems with are, “The princess lived happily ever after… and always put herself first.” Hmm… Honestly, I’m not even sure how to respond to this. As women of God, we should not be putting ourselves first, contrary to what the world tells us about making ourselves number one. Our priorities should be God, our families/others and ourselves last. It is sound scripture and it’s what God calls us to do. God first, others second, ourselves last. “The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mathew 12:29-30)  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) Does this mean, as wives and moms, we should never care about ourselves? Absolutely not. I do believe that all moms need a break to recharge and be in the best condition to take care of her family, and I also believe we should take care of ourselves in outward appearance, but it should not be our primary focus.

3.  The last two sections I have a problem with are “and no one ever told her to go make a sandwich” and “made tons of money.”  First of all, my husband has never commanded me to “go make a sandwich.” I know that not all women come from good relationships and some husbands are dominating in a non-biblical way and command their wives to do things, but I’m not talking about sensitive or abusive relationships. I’m talking about your “average” marriage. If my husband “asked” me to make a sandwich, I would. I don’t see why this is a problem? I would love to serve my husband a sandwich and if I asked my husband to make me a sandwich, he would. The second part of this problem is the money. Obviously, we should not be making money our priority. Is it nice to have money? Sure. Does it sometimes make things easier? Yes, it does, but when it is our focus, it becomes our god. And God is very clear about that, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Ultimately, the above three problems aren’t the biggest issue I have with this meme, as I realize this meme was not intended for Christian women because if it were, then obviously loving God is the biggest issue. But given the fact that this is a secular meme, the biggest issue with this meme is how it demeans men. It’s putting in our minds that men are not important. It’s telling us women, that we don’t need our men and if we believe we don’t need our men, then we let our men know we don’t need them and the deeper and deeper this belief goes, the more truthful it becomes. There is a problem in this country and in our church, where we are constantly demeaning our men and teaching them to be passive and teaching them that they are not important and making them feel useless in the church, in the home and with our children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty of this as the next. It’s something I’m really praying about and working on and God is really working on my heart in this area. This whole idea, though, is very dangerous. We can’t make our men feel this way. God designed men and women to be partners to share in each others strengths and weaknesses and to need one another! We can’t keep bringing our men down, we have to build them up and we have to tell them why we need them and why they are important. We do this through loving them in all circumstances and encouraging them as their partner.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24

I encourage you this week to really work towards encouraging your husbands. If you do this already, great, keep it up. If this is an area you struggle with, then give it to God. Ask God to show you how to make your husband see that he is needed and how to love him in a Godly way. Do you struggle with sometimes making your husband not feel needed? I find this especially challenging with parenting. Is this an area that you need to turn over to God? Have you seen this same things happening in the church and around you?

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What is Love?

“Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.” Ok, that was my lame attempt at a throwback reference to Night at the Roxbury. But seriously, what is love? Did you know that the question “What is Love?” was the number one Googled question in 2011? Crazy, right? Out of all of the questions that could possibly be Googled in any given year, this question was number one! So here we are, wondering “what is love?” I’m asking too and yet, I know the answer, but do I really know the answer?

Scripture is full of the word love. In fact, depending on what Bible you read, the word love appears approximately 500 times. (Check out this cool chart breaking it down) The simple church answer to this question is obvious, God. God is love, but what is love in the way that we express ourselves to others? How do we show love? How do we know love? What exactly is love? Is it a feeling? An emotion? An action? God makes it very clear to us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How many times have you seen this verse and never gave a second thought? I’m pretty sure this is the first verse you learn when you’re a new Christian and it’s a verse we read over and over and yet, it wasn’t until recently that God really showed me what this verse was about. I have a wonderful mentor in my life and she recently told me that when I am frustrated or feeling defeated or feeling impatient to think about this verse, but instead of using the word love, replace it with my name or with I.

I am patient, I am kind, I do not envy, I do not boast, I am not proud. I do not dishonor others, I am not self-seeking, I am not easily angered, I keep no records of wrongs. I do not delight in evil, but I rejoice with the truth. I always protect, I always trust, I always hope and I always persevere.

Wow…I was speechless when she told me to do that. I’m still speechless sometimes when I think about this. This was a total game changer and completely, 100% convicting. How can I truly say I love someone when I am rarely patient when I need to be, I struggle with kindness, I envy “the easy life” that others have, I boast about my accomplishments, I’m proud when I do something that I think deserves attention. I dishonor others when I gossip or when I overstep my boundaries. I’m completely self-seeking, especially when it comes to my household responsibilities. I’m easily angered, especially when I’m tired, and I totally keep records of wrongs. Honestly, I’m the Library of Congress when it comes to keeping records of wrongs. I could tell you everything bad anyone has ever done to me over the past 30 years of my life. Seriously, it really annoys those around me because I can recall just about every wrong thing that they have done to me. It’s terrible. How can I say I love, when I have never truly applied this verse to my life?

So, people of the Internet, you ask, “What is love?” Love is God and God is love and love is being patient and kind and all of the above. Love is having a merciful God who showers us in grace and understands that we are not perfect, we are sinners and that we can’t quite figure this love thing out even when it’s right in front of us.

This week, I challenge you to replace the word love with your own name and remind yourself that when you love those around you, you should be practicing 1 Corinthians 13. I am so thankful that my mentor told me to do this. It was so life changing for me and I hope that you get as much out of it as I did.

Are you like me and you struggle to express love in the way God asks us to? Is God tugging at your heart to get you to love those around you unconditionally, the way he loves us?  My prayer for all of us is that we can truly love those around us and that God will help us have a clear understanding of What love really is!

5 Ways to Change Someone’s Attitude

My husband was in a crabby mood recently when he got home from work. I’m not really sure what made him upset, but he was very short tempered and obviously tired and/or irritated. As most humans, I feed off of the emotions of those around me. This is very important to keep in mind as a teacher. I always knew that whatever I was feeling in the classroom, my students were feeling it from me. Whenever my husband is in a icky mood, it always makes me feel upset, mean, frustrated, angry, you name it and I feel it. It’s amazing how much his mood sets off my mood, which in turn sets off our daughter’s mood. It seems no matter how many times I tell him that his mood affects everyone around him, he still doesn’t change.

God has made it very clear to me that it is not my responsibility to change my husband or anyone for that matter. God is responsible for changing, not me. So, what do we do when people around us make us feel bad, especially when they are people we love? Well, the straight answer is, we continue to love them, but to help you along in these situations, I’ve come up with 5 ways to change someone’s attitude:

1. PRAY:  This seems the most obvious thing to do, but if you’re anything like me, it’s not the first thing I think of doing. Usually, I’m so frustrated that the person around me is in a bad mood that the last thing I want to do is pray, but God calls us to humble ourselves and pray in all situations. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:16-18) Yikes! Did you see that? “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Do you know what that means? That means that if we refuse to pray continually, then we are not living the will of God, which means, uh-oh, we’re being disobedient. Given this command, I think it’s important that we make sure we pray. Not sure what to pray in these situations? Try a simple prayer like this: 

God, I want to praise you right now for this situation. It is hard for me to pray right now because I’m frustrated, but you said that it is your will for me to pray continually. I pray that you soften my heart towards this person and this situation and I pray that the joy in my heart to follow your will, Lord, will shine so bright that the person near me will absorb your spirit instead of a spirit of moodiness. Thank you for your spirit of peace, joy and kindness. Amen

2. REMAIN SILENT: Hmm… This.is.hard! I’m a strong willed woman. I always have been and I’ve been blessed with a strong willed daughter (more on this some other day). I was raised to speak my mind and stand up for myself. I also was grounded a lot as a child for talking back to my parents and I may or may not have always had to have the last words in an argument. God has taught me and is STILL teaching me how to tame my tongue. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21) Ugh, this one gets me every time. It is so hard to remain silent, but I need to remain silent in order to let God work in the situation. Remaining silent not only gives us time to evaluate the situations and to observe what is really going on, but it also gives us a chance to practice self-control on our own emotions and mood. Remaining silent is a way to catch our breath and not say something sharp to the other person

3. USE ENCOURAGING WORDS/STAY POSITIVE: Think about a time when you felt really bad, sad, mad, tired, angry or any other negative feeling. Has anyone ever said anything positive to you during that time? If so, it probably made you feel a little better. Our job in this situation is to say something positive. It could be something as simple as, “you look great today,” or “I know you’re probably tired, thank you for working such long hours for our family.” Maybe it’s a friend’s attitude that’s got you in a tizzy, you could stay positive by bringing up a funny memory with that person. “Hey, remember the time when…” We are called to encourage one another, so it is essential that we do this in all situations, but even more so in these situations. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thes. 5:11)

4. EXPRESS CONCERN: Politely ask your spouse, friend, whomever, if something might be bothering them. Tell them that you noticed they might seem a little on edge and you were wondering if everything was OK? This is not always my first reaction. My first reaction tends to be a snappy, “what’s your problem?” kind of response, which ultimately leads to a much heated argument. When we give attitude back to the person who is already grumpy, we are just adding fuel to the flame. It is important that we have genuine concern for the person and take an interest in finding out what really is wrong. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephs. 4:32) Ouch, another zinger! Be compassionate and forgiving just as God forgave me. Talk about conviction! Expressing concern makes the situation all about the other person and not about us and not about how offended we are by their actions or how “unjust” it is that the other person is upset and taking it out on us. When we love someone, then we should not be selfish, for love is not self-seeking. (1 Corinth 13:5)

5. OFFER HELP: Finally, offer help. “Do you need me to help you somehow so that you can relax?” or “How about you go ahead and spend some time enjoying a TV show or a cup of tea and I’ll take care of everything else tonight.” A simple gesture that could make all the difference in that person’s day. It is our calling to carry the burdens of our family and friends and anyone else. God’s will is for us to care for one another and help each other in all situations. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)

So there you have it, how to change someone’s attitude. If you haven’t caught on by now, the person’s attitude you’re changing isn’t someone else, but rather your own. If we change our attitude towards other people, ultimately, we may find that their attitude changes too. This has been a real struggle for me to realize and God has been telling me over and over how I need to change. I always like to say, “but that isn’t fair, ” at which point God reminds me that he is a fair and just God and that he knows more than I do and more than I ever will.

I encourage you this week to change your attitude towards someone else and see what blessings God will bring.

Are you like me and find it hard to change your attitude when you feel it’s the other person who needs changing?