The Stillness and the Truth

Some many days I feel like I’m just treading water–struggling to keep afloat but not really going anywhere.  Waves come at me over and over, but for the most part the water is still and there is no current.

I used to love being still.  I treasured it.  These days, however, more often than not the stillness is suffocating…and inside my heart is anything but peaceful.

Can I be honest with you for a moment?  Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom is a really lonely place to be in.  Many of my days don’t even involve conversation with another adult.  Amidst the loneliness, I am constantly being bombarded with thoughts that I am not enough…that other women do so much more ministry and work and reaching out to others than I do.

Yet, even with all the stillness of not really “going” anywhere, I struggle to keep my head above water.  My days are full of repetitive, mundane, and yet inexplicably stressful tasks.  My house is never clean like I want it to be, and the laundry is never done.  I can’t even keep up with the “simple” tasks of a stay-at-home mom, let alone find time for “ministry” or “work”.

But then, God speaks to me like He did to Martha.  “Caitlin, Caitlin,” He says. “Do you not know that I have called you for such a time as this?  You worry about many things, but one thing is needed.  Your identity and worth and daily goals should be from Me alone!”

And I look into the beautiful blue eyes of my children, and realize that in the bustle of trying to “do enough”, I have neglected to really look and listen to them lately.  I have forgotten what my days are supposed to be about…training and teaching these sweet little gifts in the fear of the Lord.  I have forgotten to make this the sole focus of my days, and have forgotten to delight in this work as my life work for this season.

And I look into the pale blue eyes of the man who won my heart, and realize that I’ve also neglected my relationship with him.  I’ve forgotten that spending time with him is a must and a need.  I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to stop working and just sit and watch a show with him on the rare day he comes home early from work.  I’ve forgotten to seek out and do what would help him better to do his work.  I’ve forgotten to seek and pursue him.  In my self deprecation I have forgotten that he could care less if the house is spotless as long as it’s tidy.

And I look around at the wonders of creation, and realize that I’ve neglected my relationship with the Creator of it all, my First and Truest Love.  I’ve neglected to sit with Him, listen to Him, and delight in Him.  I’ve forgotten how to just sit and open my eyes to the gifts He’s given me.  I’ve forgotten to see those gifts around me and within nature, and to thank Him for them all.

 

Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful calling You’ve set for my days in this season of life.  Forgive me for focusing on what I’m not doing instead of on what You’ve called me to do.  Help me to find joy in this season of life.  Help me to find joy in the stillness and repetitive tasks.  Thank You, Lord, for the gift that is this stillness.  

 

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Dear Single Girl: What The Bible Says About What Matters in a Man

There is nothing sweeter and more innocent than a couple in the blossoming stages of young love.  The other day my 3-year-old asked me why I was smiling so big, and honestly it was because I was reading a text from a friend who is in the throes of it.  She was experiencing what almost every young woman hopes to experience.  Sadly, though, as the years inch ever forward, I still find myself with many, MANY single friends still aching to experience that and marry the “man of their dreams”.

I don’t think their singleness is their “fault” by any means, and I absolutely do not think that marriage is the end-all goal for a woman.  But I do know the growth and happiness it’s brought me, and I know that many of these single women do long for and dream of marriage.  Yet, there seems to be a general pickiness that is throwing road blocks in their path to love and marriage.

Sometimes the pickiness comes from their own high standards and expectations.  Other times, the pickiness stems from their parents and friends having too high of standards for them.  Don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing wrong with having high standards!  Only, sometimes I wonder if these standards are really biblical…and whether these women might be much happier and much less single if they stopped holding fast to man-made “spouse shopping lists” and relied instead on just the Bible.  

Another friend of mine, who is very happily married, shared with me the three things her father and her thought were important in a spouse for her.  In almost every case, if the answer is “yes” to these three things, then there is very little that wouldn’t be able to be worked through.  I think these things are highly biblical and I share them with you today:

1.) Does he love the Lord and have a real relationship with him?

Frankly, I think this one should be an obvious necessity.  Why would you want to be married to someone who didn’t serve your Savior, who will not be a spiritual leader in your home, and who will not be nodded and prodded by the Holy Spirit?

But if you need more convincing than that, look no further than 2 Corinthians 6:14:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 

If marriage isn’t a yoking together, then I don’t know what is.

But, really, if he’s seeking the Lord first and you’re seeking the Lord first, then what can’t be worked through?

But how do you know he has a real, active relationship with the Lord?

Obviously there are a lot of fakers out there (Josh Duggar, anyone???).  But the Bible is pretty clear how we know the truth from the lie…look at the fruit.

Luke 6:45-45 says:

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Sometimes a lack of fruit is the sign that something isn’t quite right.  A guy can talk a great talk, and even talk up his Bible reading and memorization…but what fruit is there in his life?  What ministries is he involved in?  Furthermore, does he not just attend a local church, but is an active member in it (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31)?

Finally, watch for the little signs of fruit.  One of the biggest assurances to my heart of my husband’s salvation is after we’ve had a fight.  I know that the times when I hold my tongue and just pray, he will undoubtedly come back to me and apologize and make things right.  The Holy Spirit is constantly tapping on his shoulder, and he’s listening.

2.) Does he love you?

Again, this seems like an obvious one, but it means so much more than that feeling of being in love that’s a crazy mix of emotions and hormones that people call “being in love”.  That’s usually what starts it, but from there it becomes a daily choice to love and cherish you, no matter what.

But let’s look at what the Bible says.

Ephesians 5:25, 28-33a (and I love these verses in the Amplified):

“Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own body, but [instead] he nourishes and protects and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members (parts) of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become [e]one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of lovingkindness]…”

The Bible doesn’t say, “Husbands, make sure you have an amazing job for your wife.  Husbands, be perfect for your wives.  Husbands, be able to stand on your own two feet without your wife.”  Its merely says love your wives, sacrificing yourself for her daily.

No man can love you perfectly as Christ does, but if he’s genuinely trying and loving you out of a love for Christ, then you’ve got a catch indeed.

3.) Will he take care of you always?

I’m not talking about providing a big house for you and making all of your dreams come true in that area (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing either!).  I’m talking about he will always work hard to provide the necessities plus some for you and your family.  Titus 2:5 says that the older woman are to exhort the younger women to be “keepers at home”.  It would follow, then that a husband is supposed to be able to provide so that his wife can do that.

1 Timothy 5:8 says that:

 “…if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

So, obviously there has to be a balance.  He can’t just sit on his rear end all day and expect money to fall off of trees, nor should he expect to be able to provide for all of his families needs by working a minimum wage job his entire life.  Yet, providing isn’t the same thing that most equate it with today.  The Bible says absolutely nothing about a man having to be ambitious, have high aspirations, or have a “good” job.  (Because we all know a “good” job means nothing more than a very well paying one.)

Look closely at other verses in the Bible as well.  The Proverbs 31 woman is bringing in money for her household  (I’m not advocating that every woman has to work, just that her bringing in money didn’t make her husband “lazy” or a “bad provider”).  The Proverbs 31 woman blesses her husband and he gains because of her.  He is lifted up to a place of honor and respect because of her.  My guess is that he wouldn’t be where he was if he didn’t have such an amazing wife standing behind him, helping and supporting him.

There’s also Matthew 6:25-34, that tells us not to worry about what we’ll eat or wear, but to seek first the kingdom of God.  And the qualifications for church elders and overseers in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus mention that he must not be a lover of money or greedy for gain.  1 Timothy 3:3 says specifically that he “must not be a bully, but gentle”.  How many “successful” men in the world today could be considered “gentle”?  Are we looking for men that are successful in the world’s eyes, or God’s?

Finally, I would add a fourth standard…

4.) Do you love him and want to marry him?

He may be a great guy and he may be crazy about you, but don’t even think about marrying someone unless you feel the same way about him too.  Make sure you know your heart.  Make sure you know that you could honor and respect and love him.

Furthermore, think carefully about whether the dreams and callings in your heart line up with his.  If he feels called to be a missionary in Africa and you feel called to raise a family in your local city, then there’s a problem right there.  Do your God given missions line up?  Can you serve God better together rather than apart?

Think of Priscilla and Aquila in the Bible.  They were an amazing husband and wife team that served the Lord together (how many women in the Bible are mentioned by name alongside their husbands?).  They were a team in occupation (Acts 18:3 says that they were tentmakers), they were a team in their knowledge and proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 18:26), and they were a team in their sacred calling and mission.  Do you feel like you could serve together in that way?    (This article is a really interesting read for more on them.)

So think hard about whether you want to marry him.  Going all the way back to Genesis 24, Rebekah was given the ultimate choice whether she wanted to go and marry Isaac (a man she had never met) or not.  Her parents wanted her to stay longer, but she agreed to go right away.  It was her choice.  Her heart.

Your friends and parents and even the guy you’re dating may love you dearly and want what’s best for you, but they aren’t you.  They don’t know the secret things God has laid on your heart, and they certainly can’t know what’s in your heart.

So don’t marry a guy just because everyone thinks you’re “perfect” for each other.  Don’t marry him even because he’s crazy for you.  Marry him because you love him and want to marry him.  Marry him because you know without a doubt that God is calling you together, for His ultimate glory.

 

 “Then Adam said,

‘This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.’

 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:23-241936213_10209013585717488_7295882737241859114_n

We Waited

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Hilary (my sister): Did you see what T___ wrote on her friend’s Facebook wall?

Me: Yeah, I guess she and her hubby actually waited to have sex?  It surprised me a bit.

H: Yeah, me too

Me: That’s sad that it’s so surprising when a Christian couple actually waits to have sex.

My youth group years were spent smack dab in the midst of the “True Love Waits” campaign.  I signed the pledge, bought the purity ring, and watched the Joshua Harris videos, along with countless numbers of my friends.  Sex, or at least the saving of it until marriage, was talked about almost every Wednesday night.

Some years have passed and those friends and I find ourselves in our mid-twenties.  Some still single.  Many more married.  Some with kids.  The sad reality, however, is that of all those friends, I could probably count on one hand the number that actually ended up waiting to have sex until they got married.  My otherhand could probably be added to include those that ended up having sex, and then later waiting (claiming their “secondary virginity” the term coined by former-Bachelor-now-married Sean Lowe).

In light of that saddening fact, trying to save sex for marriage would seem pretty hopeless and futile for those that are unmarried, whether they be weekly youth group attendees or thirty-something and not-yet-married .  But it’s not.  I know it’s not…because my husband and I waited.    

I’ve been dreading writing this post.  I’ve had it on my heart for a very long time, but I’ve been too afraid to actually share it.  I just know that someone, or perhaps many people, will be offended or take it the wrong way.  I worry that people will think I’m prideful or judgmental or haughty.  Please believe me when I say that that’s not at all how I want to come across or what I want to portray.  My purpose in sharing my heart is not to make anyone feel guilty, but instead to bring hope.

My husband and I waited to have sex not because we were saints or prudes or not attracted to each other.  We waited because we firmly believed that that was God’s best and, by His miraculous strength, we stuck to our commitment.

It’s been over five years since our virginal selves said “I Do”, and I can tell you without a doubt that it was so worth the wait.  Sex is a beautiful, unifying, transforming blessing within the safety and confines of marriage.  Yet, so often, waiting to have sex gets a bad rap.  People’s motives are questioned, the term “legalism” is brought into play, and those that did end up waiting, like myself, find themselves almost embarrassed to admit that they did.

Now, before we go any further, let me be very clear about something: In proclaiming the value of waiting, I am in no way saying that if you didn’t wait your marriage won’t be as good as it would be had you waited.  The good Lord knows that, while I may have saved sex for marriage, my own past is full of its own set of sin and regrets.  Do those things play into and effect my marriage and my future?  Of course they do.  That’s just life…but that doesn’t mean that my marriage or my future is destined to be any less glorious than the next person’s.  On the contrary, the depths of my past mistakes only serve to illuminate the glorious redemption of Christ’s sacrifice.  However, that doesn’t mean that I want my children to repeat my mistakes.  I know that someday they’ll look back with regret about their own set of mistakes, but my hope and prayer is that they won’t be repeats of my own.

So, please know that if you weren’t a virgin on your wedding day, I am in no way condemning you or trying to shame you.  I just want those coming behind me to know that waiting is possible…and that it is very much worth it.


Waiting Is Not a Punishment

My husband is currently building the coolest treehouse for our soon-to-be 3-year-old son.  It already has three towers, a tunnel, a tube slide, a swinging bridge, and a bomb crows nest.  And this thing keeps growing.  The other day my husband asked me if I thought our son was too small for a complete-with-a-harness zipline from the top of the crows nest down to our shop (100 yards away).

“Andy,” I said (probably in a less-than-excited way), “You do realize that every other dad is going to hate you for completely out doing them?”

“Yeah, so?” was his response.  “Miles is going to love it.  The Bible does say that a good father knows how to give good gifts to his children.”

Touché

He was totally right.  In our day and age waiting to have sex is often seen as an arbitrary rule made by a god who doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves or have fun.  The truth is that that isn’t our God at all.  Our God loves us…and He knows how to give good gifts.  Sex happens to be one of them, but you cannot fully appreciate and accept that blessing unless you enjoy it solely within the confines of marriage.

Bringing it back to my children again,as a parent I really truly want them to be happy.  Sometimes, though, that desire comes across as me being mean.  For instance, my infant daughter may see her brother’s legos and want to play with them.  You better believe that she thinks that playing with those legos will make her happy.  And you know what?  Playing with legos would be really fun for her.  As her mom, though, I don’t let her play with legos.  Why?  Because she currently puts everything in her mouth and she could choke on them.  I know that the thing that she thinks will bring her happiness and joy could in fact hurt her.  If it hurts her, the happiness that it brought will quickly dissipate.

She doesn’t understand that.  She thinks I’m just being mean and don’t want her to be happy, but you know and I know that that’s the furthest thing from the truth.  A few years from now, when she’s not trying to eat everything in reach, I’ll gladly let her play with the legos and I will enjoy watching her enjoyment of them.  I will be confidant in the fact that her enjoyment of the legos won’t dissipate with one getting lodged in her throat.

It’s the same way with God.  He created sex as this beautiful blessing, but He knows that if that blessing is enjoyed before the right time or in the wrong setting, then the enjoyment and happiness we experience from it will be incomplete.  He knows that sometimes that thing that was meant to be a wonderful blessing could, in fact, hurt us.  He doesn’t create arbitrary rules to steal our fun and make our lives miserable.  He sets specific parameters for the blessings He has given us so that we may experience and enjoy them to their fullest.


Waiting Isn’t Antiquated

In the culture we live in, saving sex for marriage is seen as an old fashioned notion.  To forfeit pleasure until you’re married is seen as a ridiculous and near-impossible idea.  Everybody has sex before marriage these days.  It’s a normal and healthy way to get to know someone.  How else are you to know if you want to marry someone if you don’t know if you’re sexually compatible?  And if you know you’re going to marry your partner eventually, why deal with the stress and tension of waiting any longer?

Of course, all of these are selfish reasons born out of a self-centered culture.  In her book Passion and Purity the late Elisabeth Elliot writes:

What do women want today? What do men want? I mean, deep down. What do they really want? If ‘times’ have changed, have human longings changed, too? How about principles? Have Christian principles changed? I say no to the last three questions, an emphatic no. I am convinced that the human heart hungers for constancy. In forfeiting the sanctity of sex by casual, nondiscriminatory ‘making out’ and ‘sleeping around,’ we forfeit something we cannot well do without. There is dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized. By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.

The sad fact of the matter is that we can’t actually find true fulfillment when our lives are so self-focused.  Momentary happiness, perhaps, but that soon fades.  You see, when we are so consumed with self-gratification, we actually miss out on true love.  True love is self-sacrificing.  True love wants what’s best for the other person.  If we really loved our partner, wouldn’t we a) recognize that God wants us to wait to have sex for our good and that b) if we really wanted our partner’s good, we would wait for their sake?

Waiting to have sex may be antiquated in our culture, but the reasons behind waiting are not.


Waiting Is Possible

To be honest, everyone who didn’t wait has an excuse.  Usually those excuses are completely understandable and relatable.  Things got out of hand.  We were hormonal teenagers.  We had a long engagement.  We knew we were going to get married.  All valid, but all overcome-able excuses…and I can say that from experience.

The truth is, my husband and I didn’t have chaperones or a short engagement to keep us from straying.  We were alone together a lot, and we were engaged for 13 long months.  Yet we were still able to wait.  You see, excuses may explain the temptation, but they don’t validate the sin.

And we are not alone.  They may be hard to find, but there are others that waited too.  You don’t have to be in a fundamental courtship to be able to save sex for marriage.


Waiting Is Worth It

Don’t get me wrong…saving sex for marriage isn’t easy.  Far from it.  When you love someone, are intensely attracted to them, and know you want to spend the rest of your life with them, withstanding the temptation may not seem worth it.  But I can tell you, it is.

My husband and I have a special bond because we have something that is sacred and special to our marriage.  We may have loved each other and enjoyed being with each other pre-marriage, but marriage knocks dating and being engaged out of the ball park.  Our wedding day brought to a close a very long time of waiting.  So, instead of the world’s view of marriage as a ball-and-chain that ties you down, our marriage has always symbolized freedom.

Furthermore, by waiting to have sex, we avoid a myriad of issues that come with having sex.  Birth control, unplanned pregnancies, regret…these were not problems that we had to worry about until our wedding day.

Finally, there’s also something incredibly unifying about knowing that you were tempted and overcame temptation together.  You enter into marriage without regret, and with an ability to persevere through adversity together that those who didn’t wait lack.  It really is a beautiful and peaceful thing to experience a blessing of God exactly as He intended it to be experienced.


Waiting Starts Now

But what if you’ve already had sex?

The point in all this is not to shame.  We “all have sinned and fall short” [Romans 3:23], remember?  But you know what the wonderful thing about that is?  Christ died for us and washed our slates clean.  If you’ve chosen to accept this gift, then you are a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17] and no longer a slave to the flesh [Romans 6:15-23].  This doesn’t mean that we will no longer be tempted, but that God will give us the strength to withstand temptations when they come [1 Corinthians 10:13].

We may not be able to erase our pasts, and that’s where God’s glorious grace comes in, but we do get to choose how we go forward.  We get to choose whether to let our flesh or Christ’s righteousness reign in us.  Just because you’ve already had sex outside of marriage doesn’t mean you have to again.  It’ll be hard and take some guts, but let me remind you that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  Saving sex for marriage doesn’t have to be a one-time-and-you-blew-it thing.  It’s not something that you already lost the ability to do.  Waiting starts now.


Sometimes, I almost feel embarrassed to admit that we waited to have sex, because I feel like I will be singled-out…seen as a judgmental prude with above-average self-control.  That’s really, really sad.  If you and your spouse waited to have sex, whether your entire life or just for a time before marriage, I’d encourage you to join me in sharing that.  Share a picture of you and your spouse on Instagram with the hashtag #wewaited .  Let’s show our unmarried friends that waiting can be and has been done…and that it’s worth it. 

This is a touchy subject.  Feel free to comment and discuss…but please be respectful and kind.  

Of Young Love and No Longer Being a Newlywed

My sister-in-law is getting married.  It’s all romantic and rushed in a we-can’t-wait-to-be-married way.  Then there’s the handful of others in my life getting engaged or planning futures together, in the midst of young, blossoming love.

All of it has me thinking back on our own love story.  Five years isn’t a long time to be married, yet that first year of marriage seems like ages ago.  It’s hard to recall what life was like before houses, babies, and crazy work hours.  It’s harder still to remember what it felt like to first be in love: the butterflies in the stomach, the ache to just be near each other, and the promise that you’d never take for granted the gift of not having to say goodnight.

In five years, life happens.  Some days you feel like ships passing in the night, and you most certainly take for granted not having to say goodnight, because only getting to see each other then just isn’t enough.  And one day you realize you’ve almost forgotten what it was like to be that young girl in love with a boy and willing to give up everything you’ve known to be with him.

And yet, the love hasn’t faded.  The giddy, early love has perhaps, but it has been replaced by a constant, truer love.  A love that takes work and sacrifice.  A love that ebbs and flows with the days, but is steadily getting stronger and stronger.  A love that is untouched by a big fight or a season of long work hours.  A love that delights in the easy times, and perseveres in the harder ones.

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Thanks to some airline miles and saving, Andy and I were able to get away for a few days for our 5th anniversary.  It was so weird to be without the kids for that long, and we certainly missed them, but we needed that time with just the two of us.  Truth be told, I’m not the same girl that first fell in love with that cowboy.  She was just a shadow of the woman God is molding me into.  He’s not the same boy I fell in love with either.  If we didn’t take the time to get to know each other over and over again as we grow, we’d find ourselves waking up one day not knowing the person we were married to…and that’s a very dangerous place to be in.

Sometimes I may forget what it was like to be nervously holding hands with Andy, watching love stir and grow in my heart for him.  My love for Andy and with Andy may have its seasons and changes.  Yet, he’ll always be my cowboy and I’ll always be his girl…and that’s enough for me.  


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