Category: Christian womanhood

The One Thing You Need for This Summer

 

get a bikini body

This post contains affiliate links. I also received a copy of this book for free for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own. See full disclosure here. 

I remember the first time my body image took a hit. It was nearly 15 years ago, but I still remember it vividly. I was at Awana one Wednesday night in 4th grade. As the other girls chattered, I quietly washed my hands. One girl had gotten her ears pierced recently, so everyone was pulling their hair back and showing off their earrings.

I did not have pierced ears, but I subconsciously pushed my hair behind my ears so it would be out of my face.

Laura, you have such little ears! Look at her ears, they’re TINY!

I pulled my hair back over my now red ears and tried to maintain a sense of dignity as I walked out of the church bathroom.

Now, this was a really stupid incident that probably shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. And you know what? I didn’t get my ears pierced because I was so self-conscious about them and I thought earrings would draw more attention to their weird size.

Would you like to know how long it took me to get over that? EIGHT YEARS. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.

I attended a Christian university. Among the freshmen, perhaps the most infamous course was “women’s evangelism.” I personally did not take this course, but one of my friends did. And it drove her insane.

“I am a BEAUTIFUL creation of GOD!” she told me in a sing-song tone. “We have to say that at the beginning of every class. Just ugh.”

After a while, my friend started saying “I am a depraved wretch saved only by the grace of God.” (She’s a rebel like that).

While I dodged the bullet of taking that particular class, the ideas presented are fairly common in Christian culture.

It’s what’s inside that counts.

Everyone is beautiful in their own way.

Every woman who regularly attends church has heard those two things approximately 872439 times. And if they’re like me, they tuned out on the subject around age 14.

Compared to Who? by Heather Creekmore takes a different approach to these issues. Instead of telling the reader that she just needs more self-esteem, she deals with the root cause of body image issues: idolatry.

“I didn’t realize how my body image issues kept me bound and, truthfully, dead. I couldn’t experience the freedom of new life in Christ because I was held captive to the belief my answer was in fixing my appearance. I tried to justify myself by making my ouside pretty enough to earn acceptance. It’s been my experience that a lot of self-named “good girls” like me never ventured into obvious rebellion, yet still engage in a desperate search or worth, value, and joy in ways contrary to God’s plan.” – Heather Creekmore, Compared to Who, p. 75

Buckle your seatbealts, friends. It’s a convicting ride.

My favorite part of the book was when Heather contrasted the modern concept of self-esteem with what the Bible actually says about loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves. While I have grown up in the church and have heard countless discussions about self-esteem, Compared to Who gave me some ideas that I had never heard.

When we battle body image, there is a root issue at work. When we say things like “Oh my goodness, you’re so skinny! I hate you,” we’re committing the sin of envy. When we covet what another has, we are sinning. When we think that being thin would be that ONE THING that would make us happy, we’re making that one thing an idol: something that we serve instead of God.

Friend, if you claim Christ as your Savior, if you say you are saved, I want you to ask yourself, honestly, if you’ve really allowed Him to rescue all of you. Do you believe He can help you with your body image issues? Do you believe He can replace your affections with a greater affection for Him? Do you believe that you can find true and transcendent joy and peace in Him alone, or do you still think that maybe one of your idols will deliver? – Heather Creekmore, Compared to Who, p. 119

Until we’re honest with ourselves about our sin, we will never be free from the shackles of the comparison trap.

The key distinctive of Compared to Who is a focus on the root issues paired with an emphasis on Scriptural truths that point the reader towards the Lord and how He would want us to live. At the same time, it’s not confusing or technical. I would recommend this book for Christian women of all ages. Moms of teens may want to preview, since there is a mention of sex towards the end of the book.

Compared to Who is being released TODAY, June 13th, 2017. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, and wherever Christian books are sold. To learn more about the author, Heather Creekmore, check out her blog at comparedtowho.me.

                   

Married By His Grace

Why You Need Community (And How to Find It)

you need community

Every woman needs community.

Allow me to preface this post with a confession: I’m not good at this. I’m awkward. I’m the wrong age. I can be a little unconventional. I move all the time.

With all that said, I think finding community is worth the effort. I hear over and over again from readers that they feel lonely, and that’s a pretty natural feeling when you’re alone with little children most of the time. Little children are lovely, but they can’t carry on adult conversations.

If you crave friendships with other adult women, you are not being selfish. Let me shout this from the rooftops!

I used to feel guilty about wanting to socialize, but it’s really not frivolous. I tend to feel badly about leaving my toddler with my husband for a couple of hours so I can go to a ladies’ event at church. Which is really kind of ridiculous if you think about it. He’s with his dad. He’s going to survive.

Another common stumbling block is exhaustion. We are run ragged to the point that going to one. more. thing. just feels like too much to bear. There are times to say yes and there are times to say no, but most moms need at least one chance to get out of the house per week to stay sane.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

It’s healthy. It’s normal. It’s good.

Sunday school Our church has a class for young married couples that we’ve really enjoyed. The class occasionally gets together outside of church time. We try to attend these events when we can.

Small groups – On Sunday nights, we do a large group teaching time, and then a small group discussion time. As an introvert, I’m so bad at small groups. My comfort zone is to sit in a large lecture-style meeting and then leave without chatting with anyone. (Terrible, but true.)

However, when I force myself to overcome the awkwardness and contribute to the discussion, I find that I get to know others on a deeper level. Deep relationships are good for the soul.

Service opportunities – This was hard for me when my son was tiny and not staying in nursery consistently yet. Even now, I feel somewhat limited in what I can do. I hope to get plugged in with Awana next year, but in the mean time I take meals to people. While it seems like a little thing, a warm meal can encourage those who are dealing with loss, a health issue, or some other challenge.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ – Galatians 6:2 ESV

MOPS – MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope to in the future. I’ve heard great things about it!

“But I don’t have a _____.” Maybe none of these ideas work for you. Take a few minutes to brainstorm an alternative.

Perhaps the most important reason to cultivate a community is this: it helps us to remember that we aren’t alone in our struggles. In the age of social media, sometimes we get trapped into thinking that everyone else is living a charmed life and we’re really the only ones with problems. However, Instagram doesn’t tell the entire story of one’s life. Nothing better combats that idea than getting to know and speaking with people on a regular basis.

How have you cultivated community in your life? Is it something that comes easily to you?

Why I Quit Pinterest

why i deleted pinterest

When I was 18, I quit Pinterest.

Pinterest is not inherently good or bad. It’s a tool. However, my Pinterest use was getting out of control and causing me to sin. At the time, I was newly single. Like many 18 year old girls, I had a wedding board on Pinterest. I saved pictures of wedding gowns, reception decorations, and flower arrangements.

When I became single, I didn’t think I would ever get married. I spent a lot of time moping about being “forever alone” before I realized that seeing pretty pictures of wedding ideas on Pinterest was only adding fuel to the fire.

Matthew 5:29-30 says “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (NASB).

Pretty harsh, right? In context, Jesus was talking about lust. Pinterest wasn’t causing lust in that sense of the term. However, both discontentment and lust are rooted in the same cause: wanting something that you cannot have.

I wanted a pretty wedding, a dress with a full skirt, and a handsome man who loved me. Desiring to be married wasn’t wrong, but focusing on it at the expense of other beneficial things wasn’t good.

After some consideration, I ultimately decided that I couldn’t handle Pinterest at that time. I deleted my account and said goodbye. I did not touch the site again for a long time.

I ended up getting a Pinterest account again a couple of years later when I was engaged. At that point, I was searching for things that I could use right then, not for things that were off in the distant future somewhere. Since I was using it that way, it was a healthy thing. After I was married, I found a lot of helpful recipes and meal planning ideas by using Pinterest.

Even now, I sometimes take a step back from Pinterest. Occasionally, I’ll browse through my feed, only to find titles along the lines of “How to Make Your Child a Complete Genius Who Speaks Three Languages and Only Eats Organic Vegetables” or “How to Look Like You Have Never Had a Baby Before.” I made those titles up, but I’m sure you can envision what I mean.There are lots of things on the internet that have the underlying message “you are not enough, and here’s what you need to do more and be more and be better.”  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by an onslaught of that sort of information.

Maybe you don’t struggle with a certain website, but you struggle with discontentment in other ways. I think through these three questions when I evaluate if something needs to stay in my life or not.

Is this causing me to ignore the responsibilities of the present and excessively daydream about the future?

Am I striving for more when I ought to just be still? (Psalm 46:10)

Is this causing me to sin?

Have you ever eliminated a type of social media from your life, either for a season or permanently?

When God Doesn’t Fix It

suffering

This post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, click here.

I’ve started to write this post a hundred times. Today I’m finally finishing it.

My son was born in April of 2016. It did not go well and things were scary towards the end, but he was born alive. His cries were the sweetest sound I’d ever heard. I was hurt very badly. (I did not have a c-section. Everyone asks that. It is in fact possible to have a baby without a c-section and still need emergency surgery. Who knew??)

The precise details of what happened to me are not important. This story is not really about me. It’s about Jesus, and how I found hope in Him.

The days passed. The pain was excruciating. I could not sit down for the first month. I told myself that this was normal. After all, six weeks of maternity leave is standard. No one at the hospital said that my recovery would be any different from anyone else.

Six weeks passed and the pain continued. Maybe I’ll just need eight weeks, I thought. Some people who have c-sections say it’s more like eight weeks. I did have surgery. Maybe it’ll just be more like that.

Eight weeks passed. Twelve weeks. Sixteen. All through those sixteen weeks, my baby cried. They told me he had colic. It only added to my growing sense of failure.

When my son was 4 months old, a lactation consultant who was otherwise completely unhelpful and insulting made a passing comment about how it would take a year to recover from the type of complication I had.

Every month that passed brought new discouragement as I, the healthy 21 year old, continued to live with chronic pain. I carefully calculated how long I could sit per day. There would be no snuggling with my sleeping baby in the rocking chair for hours, as I had imagined when I was pregnant. I tried to tough it out, but I just couldn’t. It hurt too much.

Mondays were the worst. I would sit through Sunday school, a morning service, and an evening service on Sundays. I paid the price on Mondays. I went to everything because I thought it was the right thing to do.

Why am I suffering so much from doing the right thing? I wondered. It didn’t seem fair.

After six months of this, I reached my breaking point. I felt the Lord say “Laura, do you trust me?”

I ignored the question for weeks. Then I finally decided that I didn’t need to hide what I was thinking from God. He knows everything anyway.

No, Lord. I really don’t. I don’t trust you. I did all the right things and made good and moral choices and this is how You repay me.

That’s awful. I know it’s awful now, and I knew it was awful then. But being honest with God about it was the first step towards healing spiritually.

Christianity doesn’t guarantee an easy life.

This is the question: Are you using God to get something from Him? Or is God Himself the goal of your striving? – Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ to Die is Gain

When I first read that quote from, it hit me hard. That IS the question! Am I a Christian because I think I’ll get more perks and have an easier life if I do the right thing? I certainly shouldn’t be!

Think of Paul, who was perhaps one of the greatest Christians who ever lived.

Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. – 2 Corinthians 11:24-27

Does that sound like someone who followed God because it made his life more comfortable? Certainly not! This concept of only serving God because it makes things easier slips in subconsciously at first, but it is toxic. Nowhere in the Bible does God make the claim that bad things only happen if the person deserves it.

We don’t always know why things happen.

I wish I could tell you that I have arrived, that I am so thankful to have started living with chronic pain at the age of 21, and that I completely understand why this happened to me. Those things would be lies.

What I have learned though, is that we have to believe that there is a larger story at work here that we may never know this side of eternity. I will have questions when I get to heaven, and I think that’s okay.

As I write this, it is April 2017. While the pain has dulled somewhat, it is still there. Sometimes my friends will ask me if I’m going to get better. Honestly, I don’t know. I still hope so, but I just really don’t know.

But I’m no longer placing my ultimate hope in a pain free existence.

Too often, my hope is in my ever-changing circumstances. I say things like, ‘I really need the baby to take his nap this morning,’ which is a fine thing to say and a fine thing to look forward to. But if, come lunchtime, the nap hasn’t happened, and I’m so emotionally wasted by it that it ruins my afternoon, then I’ve probably put more faith in that nap than in the never-changing circumstances of the gospel. – Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full

My hope is not in getting better, it is in the knowledge that I’ve been saved from the depths of hell by a Savior who loves me. It is the knowledge that I will be in heaven someday.

Sometimes God doesn’t fix it, at least not to my human standards. But He is there. And He is good.

My Homemaking Mentor

This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here.

Becoming a homemaker is a transition. Even if you helped around the house a lot as a teenager, managing your own home is a new level of responsibility. As a society, we treat home management as something that is easy. In fact, it is supposedly so easy that it should come automatically. In reality, that’s not the case for many women. It certainly wasn’t for me!

While homemaking might not be easy or natural, it’s certainly worth it. The woman has the power to set the tone in her home. When I manage my home well, it becomes a haven and place of rest for the whole family. When my home is out of control, I feel stressed. My stress trickles down to the rest of the family and everyone is less relaxed.

About a year ago, there was a Kickstarter campaign to build an online training academy for Christian women to learn homemaking skills. I was one of the initial Kickstarter backers, so I’ve been with this project from the beginning.

My Homemaking Mentor is a collection of 15 courses on topics such as meal planning, cleaning, spiritual disciplines, motherhood, marriage, and modesty. At $99 for lifetime access, it’s actually a really great deal. Most of the online courses I’ve seen have been priced at $30-$40 for a single course. My Homemaking Mentor includes 15 courses from 12 mentors.

There will also be a bonus course that will be taught LIVE in the private Facebook group for My Homemaking Mentor members! The live course is starting April 1st.

One of the best things about My Homemaking Mentor is that you never have to pay for updates. When the academy first launched, there were 10 courses. Since then, five more have been added, but I never had to pay an additional fee for access to the new content. Pay once, enjoy forever.

Additionally, there is a brand new printable companion guide with all of the lesson notes. I can’t wait to download mine!

If you prefer auditory learning, all of the video lessons are also available as an audio download. The courses can be accessed from any device, so you can learn via your computer, tablet, or phone.

My Favorite Courses

  1. Jolene Engle teaches “A Wife Who Cultivates a Fulfilling Marriage.” The marriage courses in MHM are taught from a complementarian perspective. Contrary to popular belief, submission does not mean being weak. I love how Jolene evidences that in her course. Just from hearing her speak you can tell that she is not a weak person!
  2. Marci Farrell teaches “Simple Routines to Keep Your Home in Order.” The key to maintaining a home is consistency and habits. The videos show precisely what she does in various rooms to maintain order.
  3. Jennifer Ross teaches “Encouragement for Weary Moms.” I love how she asks questions to get to the root of your weariness. As the mom of eleven, she’s walked through many seasons of motherhood. I like her perspective on how different things need to be most important in different seasons.

I’m currently approaching my second wedding anniversary and my son’s first birthday. In the last year, I’ve gained so much knowledge and confidence in my homemaking skills. Putting the things I learned from these courses into practice has transformed my home.

Enrollment in My Homemaking Mentor will be closing on April 3, 2017. It will re-open at a higher price in the fall.

To secure lifetime access before the price increases in the fall, click here!

Discernment vs. Fear

New moms face choices as they enter the fray of the mommy wars.

Fat is bad. Carbs are bad. Sugar is bad. Stevia is bad.

Don’t have caffeine when you’re pregnant. Don’t raise your arms over your head when you’re pregnant. Don’t sleep on your back when you’re pregnant.

Don’t have a c-section. Don’t use formula. Don’t breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed in public. Don’t breastfeed with a cover.

Don’t have children. Have children, but not too many. Have as many children as physically possible.

For mothers of young children, life can seem like an endless series of choices. No matter what choice you make, someone will be there to let you know that it was wrong and that if you really loved your baby, you would have done X instead. It’s enough to drive a person crazy.

In light of this, lets talk about two concepts: discernment and fear.

What is discernment?

It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements. – Sinclair Ferguson

Discernment is good. It is good to examine the information you have and to make an informed decision. Christians are in situations where discernment is required every day.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:14

This verse is part of a passage about the different needs of new and more mature Christians. As we grow in our walks with the Lord, we learn more about what He would want us to do in various situations. The right choices become more clear.

What is fear?

The Bible mentions two different types of fear. One type of fear is meant to convey being in awe and being reverent towards God. Fearing God in that way is a good thing. We ought to respect God.

The other type of fear is being scared of something or someone. That sort of fear is discouraged. Many verses begin with the phrase “Do not be afraid.”

Both types of fear are different from being discerning.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – John 14:27

In John 13 and 14, Jesus was talking to His disciples about how things would be after He ascended to heaven. He talked about His deity, His power, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to Christians. In a passage rich with theological depth, Jesus began to conclude by commanding His disciples to be unafraid.

By definition, the distinction between discernment and fear seems clear cut. Reality is not always as obvious.

When making a parenting decision, I try to think through these questions:

Am I making this choice because I’m afraid? Is it a healthy or an unhealthy fear?

I’m afraid of my baby getting hurt if we hypothetically got in a wreck. That’s a healthy fear, so I make sure he’s securely fastened in his car seat every time we get in the car. Fears of rejection, unpopularity, and loneliness are not healthy fears.

Am I making this choice so someone else will be impressed with me?

What impresses someone else isn’t necessarily what’s actually best for my child. Parenting is not about me and my own self-glorification.

parenting is not about me

Does the Bible speak specifically about this issue? If not, is there a more general Biblical principle that I could apply to my situation?

The Bible contains examples of many situations, but there are some issues where we are left to wonder if we can apply a general principle. Further, there are some situations where there is no morally right or wrong answer at all. The Bible does not discuss cloth diapers, though we know historically that’s what everyone was doing. Disposable diapers are not a sin.

Outside of the parenting realm, healthy living tends to fall into this category. Individual dietary needs vary, as I personally discovered in my own family. There is more than one way to be healthy.

Use the information you have. Pray. Choose. And do not be afraid.

Have you had to fight between fear and discernment in your life? How did you decide how to make the best choice?

I’m linking up to Christian Marriage & Motherhood.

Hospitality without a House

hospitality without a house

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. – 1 Peter 4:8-10 NASB

From this passage, we learn that hospitality is one way to serve and show love to others. In certain situations, it can take more creativity to invite guests into your home. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 37% of Americans are renters. Of those who rent, 51% are under the age of 30. Most young couples will live in an apartment at some point during their married life. I’ve lived in two apartments since I got married in June 2015. I’ve enjoyed both of my apartments and believe that God has put us in them for now.

Apartments do present some challenges while entertaining guests, but they do not have to eliminate the possibility of hosting altogether. The purpose of hospitality is to show the love of God to other people. The purpose is not to impress other people with your fancy house.

I’ve previously written about how some of the simplest gestures have had the most impact on other people. Sometimes chatting about Jesus over a simple cup of coffee is the best way to serve your guest.

Some of the best ways to make your guests feel comfortable do not involve having a large space. Be sure to ask if anyone has any food allergies. If you don’t already have children yourself, invest in a few toys at Goodwill. After thoroughly disinfecting them, keep them in a small basket or box to have on hand when you have youngsters visit.

Simple Ideas for Practicing Hospitality in an Apartment:

  • Prepare one of your favorite crockpot meals and invite someone over for lunch after church. The crockpot eliminates stress. I put all of my ingredients in the removable part of the crockpot and then refrigerate it overnight. The next morning, I set the crockpot in the base and leave it on high while we’re at church. Setting it up in the morning takes maybe 2 minutes at the most.
  • While hospitality is commonly put into practice by hosting people in your own home, it can also be shown in other ways. If you know someone who has recently had a baby, gone through a surgery, or lost a loved one, bringing them a meal is usually appreciated. One lady brought me a dish full of chili soon after my son was born, and it was so helpful! Even if you have minimal space in your own home, dropping off food is a fantastic way to bless another person.
  • Invite someone over for brunch. Brunch can consist of a menu as simple as coffee, orange juice, and bagels with cream cheese. Older ladies who have lost their spouses often enjoy just having a conversation with another person. Living as a widow gets lonely.
  • When the weather is warm, pack a picnic and head to a local park with another family. Sandwiches are simple and kid friendly. Enjoy God’s creation together!
  • Host an afternoon tea. In addition to the tea, serve a pretty dessert. Now that I can have dairy again, I like cheesecake. This one might be better if you have girls.

Have you invited people over when you had a small home? Share your ideas in the comments!