be still.

These precious hours seem to run by without a wince or a breath.

As the days get shorter, the cold becomes impenetrable, and the pale morning sun begins to settle behind fog veils on distant mountains, I find that my anxieties and stresses have multiplied – and no wonder. I’ve allowed myself, once again, to be caught up in my own shortcomings, responsibilities, and burdens, rather than leaving them where they belong at the feet of Jesus.

I suppose I’m just ready to be free of these weary bones I’ve become.

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So many nights I lay awake, expectations weighing heavy, questions begging to be answered, when it seems that no answers can be found.

And I’ve heard that all we have to do is be still.

But how? I wonder. What does that even mean? How can I ‘be still’ when my heart is pounding against my chest, awaiting my next big mess-up, or watching the news and shaking my head, not understanding how anything could be as it used to, or rushing to this meeting, worrying about that person, constantly pulling over for ambulances, holding a crying child, fighting the feelings we all know, but never talk about – how can I have this peace, this ‘be still and know’? ‘Know’ what?

That He is God.

That I am incapable. That I am weak. That I am weary. But that His strength takes root where hearts may fail.

To know that He is God, is, essentially, to understand that nothing is outside His hand. That nothing breathes without His breath. The very breath we sigh with, the sharp inhales of our sobs, the same breath we draw to utter curses against the bitter circumstances we are in … were given to us. But sometimes all we can do is stand still until the rage withers, waiting, waiting, until we meet the edge of ourselves.

This is where it starts – and ends. Perhaps we may not fully understand, or even fully desire God’s will over our own, but we can trust that the Author knows what He’s writing.

While I am still learning that the sun also rises, I’m taking a moment to be still, and say, “Thy will be done”.

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the things i wish i could say

Oh, how many times I have dreamed of being more than I am. Of being the person I wish I was. Of saying the things I wish I could say.

But words – such wispy, phantom things. And yet they have a way of either weaving the fraying strands of your happiness or ripping you apart.

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People always tell me that I am good with words, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They read what I’ve written, edited, and perfected in countless hours and tell me it must come easy to me. It doesn’t.

I walk up onto the stage, stare into bright lights, speak my heart, they applaud, I bow, and everything moves on. They tell me how gifted I must be and all I can manage is to murmur a thank you, and my words stumble over each other and they look surprised – disappointed even. Because not everything is as it really seems, and I am not the powerful wielder of words that they think I am, that I wish I was. When given a paper and pen, and the good part of the day, I may manage to write something that makes sense. But ask me a question in person, and I freeze. I stare, in silence, dumbfounded, no words coming to my aid for any coherent thought in my head.

The strongest desire of my heart is, that somehow or in some way, I could harness the power of words and use it to repair hesitant hearts, hurting souls, or a broken world. And how many times has the opportunity come, that all rhetoric and words flee my mind? That I sit there, stupidly, at a loss, grasping for phantom words hanging in the air between us to soothe and repair, only to end up mumbling something about God’s sovereignty or grace, and then sitting there in helpless silence.

Have you ever felt the brokenness of the world? Have you ever had to talk to a mother who spent sleepless nights surrounded by the rush of nurses and bright lights and white walls, watching her newborn covered in tubes and IV’s struggling to breathe? Or maybe it’s an older woman, crying into your shoulder after confiding about her abusive past which she still hasn’t recovered from. A hurting friend who doesn’t see how things can possibly get better. Or an 11 year old asking the tough questions you’ve wondered the answers to yourself.

And sometimes you question the extent and power of Christian love when words fail? I do. Sometimes I really do. If the balming, healing power of words can’t soothe, then what can?

But maybe, perhaps, that is enough. Maybe – maybe I have no power over words, or can’t summon my writing muse on command, but maybe … the truth of the gospel and of God’s unconditional love is enough, because really, when it comes down to it, we’re all just walking each other home.

As Christians, we are not called to always be able say the right things, to be skilled rhetoricians, or to have perfect eloquence. We are called to speak the truth of the gospel and to reach out to the needy with the open arms of Christ’s love. No special rhetoric. No fancy words. No perfectly scripted speech. Feeling incompetent or helpless in those situations doesn’t disqualify us from being used by God.

In the end, you listened and you loved and you cared and, sometimes, that is enough.

young women, it’s time to grow up.

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After writing my Wickam’s & Willoughby’s post, I thought I should maintain some balance by writing a post dedicated to how young women should improve.

These are some things I’ve learned over the years – and am still continuing to learn. Now of course, this isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive or legalistic list to make us feel guilty or beat ourselves up over. Rather, I pray that this serves as an encouragement to cultivate excellence and holiness in our day-to-day lives, and to strive to please God in everything we do. (This is in no particular order, by the way.)(Orange titles are linked.)

1) Preserving Feminine Mystique

(No, this has nothing to do with Betty Friedan.)

It seems nowadays that young girls everywhere throw everything to the wind. They dress less to impress, or sometimes emotionally throw themselves at guys whom they are attracted to.

Now you’re probably wondering … what on earth is “feminine mystique”? I’m referring to 1 Peter, the “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4 KJV). There are so many girls who are loud, attention-seeking, boisterous, or too public about personal affairs. (You know, the girls who plaster their Facebook wall with every emotional up-and-down, or drama.) There are some things a young woman should just keep quiet about, especially around young men, or when they’re out and about. Also she shouldn’t emotionally “dump” her private concerns and problems on her crush, her boyfriend, or even her male “just friends”.

This shouldn’t be something we do in order to make us more attractive to a godly young man. Instead, it should be something we do out of honoring God, and, really, it’s one of the best ways to display the beauty and mystery of the gospel.

Also, I’ve also learned (from experience) that preserving your feminine mystique does not mean hiding in a corner and going out of your way to avoid guys. It just means treating those around you with respect, and showing some respect for yourself with a modest attitude.

2) Never Forget Your “First Love” (Jesus!)

Young women, we tend to try to build our fulfillment on someone else. We want to be loved. To be cherished. To be wanted and desired so deeply by someone. We dream about the day we turn around, and there he is, standing there with that brilliant smile, looking at us the way every girl wants to be looked at. And, you know, there’s no shame in this. But I know it can be OH-so-easy to forget that our purpose isn’t found in this kind of relationship. It’s found in Jesus alone. Men will fail us. There will be times that they’re insensitive. Or they’ll ignore us. Won’t meet our needs. Push us away. Get annoyed with us. There is only One Person in the entire universe who loves and desires us more deeply than we could ever fathom.

3) Spend Your Time Serving (Not Searching)

This goes hand-in-hand with #2 above. Rather than squandering so many precious hours pining for love and matrimony, why not spend our time well, furthering and serving the kingdom of God ? And instead of doing things and going places for the purpose of nonchalantly bumping into — ahem — Mr. Right, we should be focusing our lives in a way that impacts those around us and displays the glory of God’s love. So often I see modern Christians who focus on such frivolous pursuits, or trivial conversations while there are so many more terrible things happening in the world. Just watch the news. There are sad and broken people in our churches, starving children in other countries needing to see God’s love manifested to them in a piece of bread, there are the youth of today struggling under society’s pressures, broken families, bullying, or being strong in their faith. Or look at the countries around us: ten yr old girls are prostituting themselves to make money to survive, and there are Christians in prisons being kept alive for no other purpose than to ceaselessly extract every ounce of pain from them day after day, for years, with little to no hope of ever escaping. And yet often we can only think of, “Poor me”? “If only someone loved me”? Plug yourself in to organizations like Voice of the Martyrs. Create awareness among your friends. Go on mission trips with your church. Start or join a prayer group, or even just pray. Connect with Youth for Christ. Change the world. Serve your fellow man.

4) Stay Away From Gossip/Drama

Don’t be that person who is always stirring the pot, talking about others behind their back, or starting rumors. It’s ugly, and it hurts others.

5) Rest With Full Assurance

6) A Kind Word Turns Away Wrath

I know that, in my experience, irritability is contagious. If someone else is in a sour mood, or snaps at me, I find it tempting to make a snarky comment back, or to become irritable myself. Swallow it back, and treat others with grace.

7) Let Go of Pride

8) Smart Dudes Aren’t Looking At Your Body

9) Modesty is a Heart Issue

There are countless books, and articles, and “check-lists” on this topic, so I feel like I don’t need to add a lot to the discussion. But one thing we should remember: modesty isn’t just a list of rules to follow in order to become holy — rather, it is a condition of the heart. What are my intentions? Am I wearing this to purposefully cause my brothers in Christ to stumble? Or to draw unnecessary attention to myself?

10) How to Take a Compliment

This is something I definitely need to work on …

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11) Femininity is Beautiful

You don’t have to “man up” to be a better woman.

12) Seek Not Fame Or Notoriety

13) Don’t “Objectify” Men

Now, I’m sure this sounds a lot more strange than I mean it to. What I mean is: don’t use men to fulfill your emotional desires (as men sometimes use women to fulfill their physical desires), because that’s not fair. Men are human beings, too.

14) Let. Him. Help. You.

15) Be On Guard

16) Do what is right, not what is easy.

17) Educate Yourself

Acting stupid is not cute. It’s stupid.

18) You Don’t Have To Be a Size 0 to be Beautiful

19) Happiest Girls Are the Prettiest

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier… A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”~ Roald Dahl, “The Twits”.

20) Don’t let your mood dictate your manners.

21) Be the Exception

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Don’t reduce yourself to be like typical teenage girls. Pursue excellence in conduct and manners. A young woman who is classy is timeless. There is something that is set apart about a young woman who carries herself and dresses herself with elegance and poise. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…”  (Phil 1:27) We need to remember that as young women – as Christians – we are ambassadors, we carry the image of God. We are literally walking, living, breathing representatives of God’s love, goodness, and beauty. Don’t lose your dignity, love.

22) Chivalry Being a Lady Is Not Dead.

How often do we young women complain about the lack of good men in society? Although this is definitely true, rather than merely talking about how men should rise up and be men, we should check ourselves to see if we are stepping back and letting them be men. Are we ourselves acting like ladies, and encouraging the men around us to act like gentleman? To an extent, a man’s behavior goes only as far as women’s expectations of him.

23) Dress & Act How You Want To Be Addressed

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living in a world with wickams & willoughbys: watch the signs

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Men can be deceiving. They can say all the right lines, and a girl is swept off her feet. He is good at his games, and knows how to act and how to treat you in order to gain your affections.

Now, NOT all men are like this. But, unfortunately, we live in an age where this seems to be happening more and more frequently. Boy meets Girl. Boy likes Girl. Girl is flattered. Boy pursues, wins, and uses Girl (physically or emotionally). Then leaves.

Now, I’m no psychologist, but the occasions I’ve witnessed, I could see what was happening. But that’s because my dad has taught me what signs to watch out for, and has warned me time and time again of the dangers lurking, even in our Christian circles. There are so many young men out there who are just … SO convincing, and seem very trustworthy and noble, and equally too many young women ready to trust and fall in love at the drop of a hat with any guy who shows her attention.

Another thing: I think God has gifted us women with intuition. If we tap into that, we can usually make good judgements about people. For example, if there’s someone that you just have a BAD feeling about, even though you have little “proof” for it, chances are … you might be right.

Here are the signs to watch out for.

#1  The “Christian” Guy

There are a multitude of young men who will play church long enough to win the girl — and have no real foundation or authentic devotion for the Word of God. He may be able to quote John 3:16, but is made of rocky and thorny ground and will only “believe” while it is convenient. He’s probably even a nice guy. To him, Jesus is just the Nice Guy Upstairs who is not judgmental of anyone, and is even worth wearing a cool “Jesus Freak” shirt for.

Also, just because he can play with kids does not mean he will make a good dad. And just because he wears a purity ring does not guarantee he will be a good, faithful husband. Character goes beyond good deeds. A guy who simply professes Christ is not the same as one who lives out Christ.

#2  Mr. Wandering-Eye

Sometimes you can just tell what kind of man a guy is just by watching him. Now don’t stalk him, or stare at him, but just kind of … *notice* how Mr. Guy treats women in general. And, yes, men — even good, solid, Christian men — struggle with lust. However, I’m talking about those guys who “discreetly” look women up-and-down, and very frequently, and pretty much gawk at any woman that passes by. The ones who don’t look at your face when you’re talking to them. (You know the kind of guys I’m talking about.)

They’re pretty easy to spot. Stay away from them. No — stay clear away from them, like, as far as the east is from the west. They’re bad apples.

#3  Sir Flirt

Now I must be careful how I word this, so I don’t step on anyone’s toes. There are a lot of young men  I see who display a lot of unnecessary or inappropriate physical contact with young women. Not just the occasional side-hug, but constant, every-day touching, playing with hair, flirtatious contact, or full-on-pushing-the-limits-frontal hugs. To me, I can’t help but interpret this as the young man (possibly) having less-than-honorable intentions. This may not always be the case, but there are some impostors out to push the boundaries as far as they can get away with. Titus 2 says that young men should treat young women “with all purity, as sisters”.

(That isn’t to say that hugs with the opposite gender are inherently wrong, but they can be abused, and I am just recommending caution. I know a lot of wonderful, affectionate people who clearly have no intentions of harm, and that’s fine. In fact, I often receive hugs from people I know have no ill motives, and they are sincere and gentlemanly, but it just takes discernment and discretion as situation calls for.)

And consider these questions: Is his “secret life” no secret? Does his life really demonstrate the kind of Christ-like behavior that can only be gained from a strong relationship with the Lord? Does he come across as a guy who is desperate to find a girl? Does he notice and take care of the least? Or is he always gravitating to where all the cute girls are? Does he give of himself to others, for the glory of God, and not for reputation or admiration?

Remember — no man is perfect! We are all in desperate need of the grace of God (Rom. 3:23). This shouldn’t be a way that we hold men to impossible or idealistic expectations. But his fruit should show out of not only an outward display of his faith, but also a private one.

Young women, be not deceived.

(** Just to clarify, I have never had a romantic encounter (?) with an impostor. But I have personally seen this happen to people I know, and have heard countless stories of young women having to go through this. It makes me so sad to see and hear about these things happening, and so I was inspired to write a post about it.)

(Sequel-Post Coming!)