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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resting with full assurance // heb. 10:22

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It seems like forever ago since I started my blog.

I remember struggling and hoping that, maybe, if I wrote to the world, if God willed it, my words would help soothe a worn, cold soul desperate for the same truth and warmth God had given me.

For the past few weeks, I have been looking on some of those difficult seasons with almost fondness, knowing that, because of it I was refined by fire — and I still am, forever growing, ever changing as I go through this up-down, curving, twisting thing called life.

In light of those times, I feel that I am finally emerging from one of the greatest struggles I’ve ever had — and that is what this post is about. Realizations, things I wished someone had walked up to me and just told me. I’ve been working on this post for some months now. Editing, perfecting, striving, fumbling for the right words, stumbling in articulating utterances of the soul, where no one goes. I pray that maybe you can make sense of the messiness I can’t convey.

~*~

Today I grabbed a dusty dictionary from a wood bookshelf while the skies cried and the sun said hello to look up the word, grace – unmerited divine favor.

Excellence, not perfection, I whisper to myself,

My feelings are not reality.

I am very much an introspective person. Taking a shower, laying in bed, peeking at the stars, I evaluate how “I did today”. Was I good? Was I kind? Was I worthy? I have a checklist in my mind …

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Good: told the girl at the bagel place she had nice hair – check.

Good: opened the door for the elderly gentlemen in the wheelchair – check.

Good: smiled and laughed and didn’t show how much it hurt when she said my legs looked fat-check.

Good: didn’t talk about how cold I was so people wouldn’t think I was seeking attention (or something) – check.

Good: didn’t ask for help when I needed it so I wouldn’t bother him or make anyone feel obligated to go out of their way for me –check

Bad: accidentally snapped at someone because I was tired

Bad: said something today that could’ve been taken the wrong way

Bad: forgot someone’s name

Bad: didn’t read my Bible

Bad: my quiet time with the Lord was too short in comparison to the time I spent watching a movie

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There are times I think about the ways that I fall short of the Glory of God, which are ever far and wide and numerous. But I think I get some of them confused with the things that fall short of the Glory of Rachel.

Time and time again I find myself caught between the sweet grace of God and the corruption of my sinful soul.

 Sometimes I feel more like a “true” Christian when I am convicted of something and motivated to change. And if I’m not convicted of anything in particular, then I think that I am falling away from God, which could be true sometimes. But that’s not what “being a Christian”means.

Being a Christian isn’t finding more and more ways to feel convicted so you change. It’s resting in the work of Christ on the cross, and obeying God’s commandments out of love and gratitude for what He has done. We are called to, yes, repent of our sins and turn away from them – but nowhere in the Bible does it say we’re called to self-condemnation. We are not called to purposeful, self-inflicted pain in remorse where there is none necessary. Christ took on that pain for us, and in wallowing in our own guilt we are losing sight of what is important – placing more focus on our fallen condition than we are the saving, redeeming love of our Savior. This is where my tendency towards introspection leads me down a path I don’t belong.


 

But His mercies are made new each morning.

How comforting it is to know that, I, yes, am a sinful heart and will bend towards the ways and stresses of the world, and yet, no matter how much I fail, how far I fall, how far I have to reach the mark, and yet God does not love me any less. And that I don’t need to read my Bible every day to be good enough. I don’t have to go to church to be worthy. I don’t have to do Christian things in order to have value in the eyes of God. In fact, really, I don’t have to do anything to be a child of God (John 1:12). That title is not based on my performance, but on the blood of Christ on my behalf. And I try to do those things not so God will love me more, but because my heart rests in the work of Christ and desires to please Him. A woman shouldn’t serve her husband so that he may love her, but because she loves him. Right?

Christians, I’m looking at you. Let’s not be check box Christians. We don’t have to do or be a list of things to deserve His love. We can’t put limits on God’s grace – that’s what the Pharisees tried to do. Saying that grace is only reserved for those who deserve it, genuinely, but it can’t be for the adulteress, the tax collector, the prostitute, or the unclean is presumptuous. We shouldn’t be motivating each other by guilt, but by grace.

Learn the difference between conviction of the Holy Spirit and self-condemnation. If from the Holy Spirit, we are driven to turn away from our sin and towards freedom and restoration in God. Self-condemnation is turning away from God in shame and agony, and continuing in the dangerous path we’re on because we believe we deserve no better.

“There is a simple test to see if you are experiencing condemnation by the enemy or gentle conviction by the Holy Spirit. Guilt and/or shame will draw you further away from the Lord deeper into sin. Conviction is the Holy Spirit nudging us to confess and turn from the sin as He provides the power to overcome.”

{Robin Samson of Heart of Wisdom.com}

 

More often than not, I catch myself thinking that my sinful nature is too chasmal, too wide, too dark to be covered by something as beautiful as God’s grace. And maybe I was forgivable last time around, but I fell again and His grace is running out of the hourglass. How can God keep on loving me when I’m so undeserving? Why would He continue to put up with me and my mess?

But I remind myself: His Grace is like a relentless river — it cannot be controlled by man no matter our efforts. It doesn’t hesitate. It doesn’t even blind itself from our sin. It looks right at us, as we’re sitting in the mire, the slough of despond, and it pulls us out. Of course, grace is not an unlimited free pass to sin whenever we want and get away with it, but it’s the enabling power of God not to sin, and unmerited favor in His sight. Whether we stand tall or stumble, we are just as beautiful and pleasing to Him as ever. (Is. 43:4, S.o.S. 4:7)

Don’t let your remorse and heartache determine your theology. There are times that my doubt gets the better of me, and I have to remind myself that I am a Christian regardless whether or not I “feel” like one. He has assigned us far more worth than we could possibly develop or accumulate on our own. And the Bible never says, “Well done, good and successful servant”. He says ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. He doesn’t call us to be perfect, but to be faithful in the hard and holy places.


 

Oh, how I am caught in His grace and His loving-kindness.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

{romans 8:38}

There is no choice I make that will change that. Nothing I say or do that will make me disinherit Gods love. Neither my fears for today, worries about tomorrow, nor the anxious concerns of my past – not even the dark, fuming powers of hell determined to sever my relationship with God – can separate me from His love.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

{hebrews 10:19-23}

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

{hebrews 4:16}

I stand in awe.

 

 

and every breath is a hallelujah.

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I like to understand things. I want to understand why these things happen, to know the reason, have some kind of explanation, and put it in its Sunday best, smooth out the wrinkles and straighten the starched collar, and fit it inside a box, make sense of it all.

But I suppose there are some things that go well beyond my meager comprehension.

Honestly, it’s so much easier to hear about shootings in other states, in the papers, on facebook, or on the news. It’s distant. It’s very saddening for sure, but it’s not here, it’s not personal. I’m safe here. We’re safe here.

The only thing I can compare it to is like being inside your house, where you’re comfortable and warm, and staring out the window at the lightening storm outside. It’s happening for sure, but we’re inside, we’re safe. We have nothing to worry about. And then, suddenly, all of that is ripped away — and now you’re standing outside, in the storm, now exposed to the wind and the rain, afraid, with nowhere to hide, nowhere to be safe. And at times you cry out to God and all you can hear is your voice echoing in these empty walls?

This is my hometown. I knew some of the students, some of those who were in the rooms next door, the buildings nearby. The familiarity, peace, and security of my small community has been breached.

I just hardly know what to think anymore.

It’s easy enough to stifle the questions threatening to slip from the corners of my eyes and roll down my cheeks, but the pain … the pain is something that demands to be felt. I may not have been directly impacted, but my body is numb and my mind feels everything. It’s like I’m walking in a trance, like I’m just moving my arms and legs here and there, completing every-day tasks that need to be done, but I’m not here. I’m not sure exactly where I am — caught somewhere in-between reality and emotion.

I know I am just rambling, but I hardly know how to put it in words. My thoughts are as unstructured and messy as my writing. I suppose there really are no words for this.

It’s important that we remember that we are all part of the Story. We are in that Story, and everything, big or small, finds its meaning and significance in the grand scheme of things. The basic story line is this: God created the world, man sinned, God redeemed man through Jesus Christ, and there will be a final consummation when God judges, conquers, and restores all things. You see, as humans, we can’t see the forest for the trees. We are living within the moment, and our knowledge is limited by our perspective, but God sees (and is in control of) the bigger picture. He knows what will happen because He is in control of what will happen.

I have heard people say that Christianity is just some crutch we use, an illusion, a fictitious hope that there is a reason for everything — a fairy tale for grown-ups. Why would God, so Omnipotent and perfectly Good, allow all this to happen anyway? Why did He create Evil if He hates it so much? Where is justice or mercy in that? Because – after all – if He could have stopped it, He would, right?

This did not take God by surprise, nor was He wringing His hands or pulling at His collar trying to come up with Plan B. We know that God is not the author of evil (James 1:13).  But if He is indeed in charge of everything, why does He allow the wicked to flourish (Ps. 92:5-7)? This shouldn’t discourage us, it should give us hope (Rom. 8:19-25). We can take comfort — evildoers will not last forever (Prov. 16:4; Ps. 37:1-2 7, 9-10, 12-15, 28; Job 14:2), and there is nothing God does not rule over (Dan. 4:35). The wicked — though they will to do wrong or harm — are merely instruments that God uses to demonstrate the fullness of His glory (Ps. 76:10, Rom. 9:22-23, Is. 10).

“Are you a Christian?” — are words echoing in my mind, in a steady rhythm, like a pendulum, sometimes loud, sometimes soft. I cannot tell you how much it floors me, the bravery these fellow believers had to stand up and say, “Yes”. In the heat of the moment, when adrenaline is pounding in your veins, and you are shaking, staring into the end of a gun’s barrel and the hateful eyes of a calloused heart, would your first response be to stand in the name of Christ?

Although we see this as a tragedy (which it certainly is), really, and truly, what more honorable way to die, than for our Lord and Savior? For the One who poured out His life for us? To live out the words: “to live is Christ; to die is gain”? Everything we suffer here on earth will not even be able to compare to the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). They are now Home, celebrating and being rewarded for their bravery and their devotion to Christ.

So despite my fears and waves of emotion, I know the One who is in control of it all. I look to the heavens and remember, gratefully, even in rain, there is Someone greater than ourselves, Someone beyond the unfathomable.

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You yourself are the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”

— C.S. Lewis

Be still, my heart. Selah.

where the quiet things are

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Oftentimes I sit next to sun-lit windows, reading books or sipping tea or listening to music to fill the empty spaces — and these are the moments I contemplate the great complexities of life.

You know one of the things I love about romance movies?

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Gets me every time. The girl is just doing something not particularly special, or trying to be beautiful, but the guy is captivated nonetheless.

Have you ever met one of those people, who just had no idea how incredible and breathtaking they really are, and that just made them that much more beautiful? And usually it’s in those moments that are usually considered mundane, or seemingly insignificant, and they just look … beautiful?  What’s more, this person is perfectly content with being unnoticed. And it makes you wonder why the world hasn’t shined its light upon them to highlight them in this moment. Being around them, watching them, soaking in their quiet presence of greatness, leaves you in a daze of wonderment and awe for a few seconds, and yet they have no idea they’re doing it. Is it because they are so confident in their being that they don’t need attention? It’s like part of what makes them beautiful is that they don’t need recognition, or even want recognition, they just simply are.

One of my favorite quotes is from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:

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The anchor of the movie is really photographer Sean O’Connell’s scene where he tells Walter that, when there’s a moment he loves, he doesn’t take the picture. Sometimes the camera just gets in the way. It’s more important to live and breathe in the moment for yourself, without the distraction of the camera. He tells Walter that “beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”

It’s this scene that distills what the whole movie is about. This is “the quintessence of Life,” as Sean says to Walter — and it puts everything that Walter’s done into perspective. This is revealed at the very end, when he finally finds the missing negative, the incentive of this entire journey, and he doesn’t bother to look at it. It’s irrelevant. Walter has found the beauty of truly living life and it can’t be captured in a single frame.

I’m starting to think that beauty attracts attention, but the same beauty doesn’t seek it out.  And yet, true beauty doesn’t stay hidden forever.  Like the snow leopard, or Walter Mitty, or Mother Teresa, or many other beautiful souls. Good things don’t demand attention. Nor necessarily do they want to.

Could a beautiful life be, at least in part, one that doesn’t demand attention? Jesus seemed to think so. He warned of the dangers of doing things to be noticed, doing things to secure the praise of others, doing things for the attention it would garner. He pointed to the beauty of goodness done in secret, far from the greedy eyes of others, insulated even from our own voracious appetites for praise. Another thing that comes to mind is this verse:

“. . . He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.”

Isaiah 53:2

I think this verse is proof of the fact — or idea — that beautiful things don’t ask for attention. We are told Christ came as a humble servant to His people.  He came in humility.  Everything — His birth, His position, and even in His appearance.  In some sense, He wasn’t seeking attention.  He was truly beautiful.  The attention came to Him, sought Him out. By outward appearance, He was average.  But, really, He was anything but.

Also, look at 1 Peter:

“Let not your adornment be merely outward,

but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart

with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,

which is very precious in the sight of God.

This amazes me. Does this mean that part of beauty, in essence, encompasses humility? What we see in this quote is that the truly beautiful seek not fame or notoriety.  They are content.  They’re content in living their lives. Beautiful things don’t beg for attention, they draw attention because they’re beautiful. Does that make sense?

We live in a society where everyone wants to get noticed. Everything is broadcasted. When an event or a very simple moment is not captured on camera and documented on social media, it’s as if it didn’t happen at all. Beauty makes a booming entrance, with a pop and a BANG! It grabs attention. It struts down the aisle, forcing everyone to take notice. Our culture does a fabulous job of telling us that the ordinary is just not enough. And beauty is found in what sparkles, catches the eye at first sight — and some beauty certainly is! That isn’t to say things like the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas aren’t beautiful because they demand our attention. But let’s not forget that sometimes where the quiet things are … there’s beauty too? Yes? And oftentimes we live by the rule, “If you have it, flaunt it.” The more attraction you get, means the more beautiful you are, so do whatever it takes to get attention.

But what if I told you, that you don’t have to get attention to be beautiful. You already are. And I know it may seem at times that the things you do are small and unnoticed by others. But God notices them and they are not small to Him.

So maybe we should remember … the ordinary can be extraordinary if we let it, and we are all most beautiful, most attractive when we don’t try to be. We shouldn’t need anyone to notice our appearance, because God will and that is more than enough. Perhaps we should stop fretting about how we appear, and just enjoy life as it comes, and leave it up to that someone, somewhere, admiring us from afar, to find us in those few, fleeting moments of beauty.

(*update: read this post 🙂 )

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