Letters From Mentors: “The Legacy I Want to Leave” by Linda

This post is part of the series where I feature letters (emails) I’ve received over the years from women I consider to be mentors online and in real life.  I LOVE hearing other women’s perspectives on raising a daughter (or anything I’m wondering about!), and when I see someone I admire or feel inspired by watching their life, I want to know their secret to the success they’ve had 😉  It’s so encouraging to me, to see women who are wiser, already in their 40’s or 50’s, and have worked to build the life that I want to create and am working to create.

Like I said in the last post where Stingray’s first letter was featured, we’re commanded in the Bible to get all the wisdom and understanding that we can.  There’s wisdom in having many advisers, and so forth.  I believe that as a young mom, it’s so vital to have women you look up to and whose lives you admire to be able to ask questions of, and learn from and basically model your life after.

This series is just so exciting to me because of all the wonderful advice and wisdom it will bring here for not only me and my daughter, but also for anyone of you readers who are interested in these letters!  

And if I ask you your thoughts on this subject of raising daughters, be assured that it’s because I really look up to and admire you and see something extremely valuable and beautiful in your life that I want for my own!  I don’t believe women are “island” creatures… maybe men can live like that 😉 (thinking Paul and John the Baptist), but most people seem to really get a lot of value from having deep relationships and sharing ideas that are insightful and life-changing.

Here is Linda’s letter titled “The Legacy I Want to Leave:”

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Stephanie from All Things Bright and Beautiful recently asked me about writing a post for my daughters.  What an honor.  🙂  It has really had me thinking.

I’m working on one post in particular, but in the meantime, to be honest, you could consider this whole blog a gift for my children.  My oldest daughter is in a serious dating relationship with a wonderful Christian young man.  My heart is aware that the time she will remain at home with us is limited…. probably one more year of community college, and then she’ll launch out on her own.

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{Oldest and Youngest, 17 years apart}

When she does leave, I know one of her wishes is to take family recipes with her.  She’s asked in the past about that, and about taking a sourdough starter with her–things like that.  Putting recipes on this blog to share with you, and others who have expressed an interest in classes, disciplines me to take pictures and get my home made recipes cataloged in such a way that I will be ready to put her cook book together for her, and all the other children as I know that the next 3 will be following her like dominoes.

My children love looking through old pictures and hearing the stories.  One day, they will enjoy looking through the updates on this blog.

And I don’t want my children to someday look back when I’m gone and think that they never really knew my heart.  I remember thinking that when I helped my mother clean out my grandmother’s home, and the fact that my own mother hasn’t spoken to me in over 14 years—well, we missed something, somewhere along the line!  My children will trust my teaching more if I am real.  I want them to recognize my strengths and understand my weaknesses, but when it’s all said and done, I want them to know me as a woman who pursued God and loved them deeply.  I want them to be secure in our family and have no regrets, knowing that while we’re not perfect and we make plenty of mistakes, we’re growing in God’s grace… a little more every day.

Every devotional I have written is something that my heart longs for my children to understand.  I pray, as they leave home, that we will remain close and be able to share the things that God is teaching us.  Perhaps they’ll visit here to see what Mom is up to.  Even now though, as I take time to share with you, I take every opportunity to teach my children what I’m learning.  Different ages understand different things, but I hope that no matter what I say, my life will reflect the changes God makes in my heart as I pray for God’s wisdom and holiness.  I learned first hand when I was growing up, where “do as I say and not as I do” was often the mantra, that it’s easier to follow an examplethan it is a list of do’s and don’ts.

As time marches forward and my children are growing up, I am realizing that though I have different concerns for my boys versus my girls, I really want them all to catch the lessons here.  What I want my girls to learn about seeking God and becoming Godly women is what I want my sons to come to expect and pray for in a future wife.  What my sons need to learn about being strong, Godly leaders is what my girls need to expect and pray for in a future husband.  Learning to help their father in so many ways will prepare all of them to lead, but also to follow, respect and support the many leaders God will place in their lives.

So what have we been learning this last year?  What kind of legacy do I want to leave?  I want to train up children who understand that:

If you want your life to add up to something, Abide in Christ, and never lose awe over what He has done for you.

In order to lead people to Jesus, you need to love them first.

In order to walk into the good works God has planned in advance for you, you do not have to wait.  God has equipped you with a relationship with Him, a unique story, talents, resources and spiritual gifts… you need only trust Him and be faithful with what is in your hands.

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{Our 3 oldest daughters, on worship team at church.  The oldest 5 girls sing for 12-20 churches and special events every year.  God has given them beautiful harmony.}

But no matter what you have in your hands, you are still a sinner, saved by grace, and so He has filled you with His Spiritto make your character like His so your testimony will be believable.

Don’t ever lose faith in God when people fail you.  God isn’t subject to our standards and failures.  He sets the standard, and he redeems our failures.

Remember that God fights for you, and though you may travel through dark and difficult places, and it is He who will bring you out.

And when you do go through trying times, remember that God never makes a mistake.  Trust Him with all your heart.

It is a blessing, a privilege and duty of every Christian to be faithful in prayer.

If you want to have an effective prayer life, run to confess your sin, live life with open hands– forgive others, and always put God’s will above your own wants–pray for His will.  Pray unselfishly.

So many other lessons I have yet to write down.  It takes time. 🙂  But this is a good start.

Linda

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Spiritual Post – Are There Really No “Levels” of Evil?

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My husband’s department just caught this man recently.  A fairly notorious criminal.  There are many out there just like him waiting to be caught.  It’s eye-opening to me when I see the photos and look into their eyes.  Which I have done… more than a few times.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw my husband on the news, doing the “Perp Walk” as they call it, bringing in a man who just shot a bullet into another man’s head over road rage (they were actually both at fault – the man inciting the rage kept fighting with him… apparently, that’s normal in road rages cases).

When he arrived at the scene there were brains all over the inside of the car, and a giant gaping hole in side of the man’s head.  He can see this kind of stuff and eat a sandwich at the same time – doesn’t even phase him anymore.

But looking into the eyes of the murderer my husband brought in (and seeing my husband there as well, looking like a darn hero – because he is!), really put into perspective the difference between good and evil, and how shallow Christians are when they try to say everyone is the same in their hearts just because everyone sins.

It is true though that just ONE sin will send someone to hell.  But not every person will shoot a bullet into the head of their enemy, let alone a stranger who cut them off in traffic. Not everyone harms children and goes about with no guilt… for decades, like pedophiles typically do.

Not everyone is a reprobate, and we should never judge all people by lumping them in with the truly evil and diabolic.  Everyone is capable of such evil to be sure!  But not everyone decides to act on their most evil fantasies and basest thoughts.  Everyone is a sinner, but there are different levels of sin and evil that is within someone’s heart.

Something I’m grateful for when watching from the sidelines what my husband deals with on the regular, is that it’s taught me things like this.  It’s taught me to be more appreciative of the normal sinners, even though they clearly still need God, they are not the same, and should never be judged the same by us, as evil doers.  His work and the stories he can tell, have even made me be able to judge character better from afar, which is a safety measure against potential harm and evil doers.

This video above is excellent in explaining the principle God has of reaping and sowing.

The man in the video plainly states that if someone continues sowing sin, they will eventually reap a much harder life for themselves, full of all kinds of problems.  The point is not whether or not they can be saved from their sin, and it’s not even asking whether “big” sinners receive the same punishment as “little” sinners.  No, the point is that some sins have greater eternal consequences and judgments!  If you’re a Christian, this is a super important topic to understand fully, lest you get it wrong and lead many other people astray by adding words to the Bible!  The Bible warns that “not very many of you should be teachers,” because teachers (male or female) will be rightfully judged harsher when they get it wrong or lead others astray, because they have a huge responsibility to first, get it right, and second, to be humble enough to admit when someone has pointed out that they were wrong.

Personally, I’ve found that the Christians who do make these mistakes, are typically not able to admit their wrongdoing, but instead keep plunging ahead into more sin themselves by continuing to lead others astray.  It’s a problem of humility, when we’re not open to corrective discipline or criticism.  Even if an enemy is criticizing you, you always have to check if there is truth in it.

In the video, the man also talks about how Jesus reveals there are different levels of sin (or degrees of evil).  Not only do different kinds of sin have different kinds of real world consequences, they also are viewed differently by God in that they seem to have different eternal consequences.

Either way, the point or “takeaway” should not be that evil people can’t be saved – the murderer that my husband brought in may someday repent – and that would be wonderful!  God tells us in Ezekiel that He craves people like that to finally someday repent, and that He allows them into Heaven, even if they repent right before their death! 

We can’t have a superior attitude that denies even the worst of sinners God’s acceptance if they repent – but we should have a good attitude toward them and accept them back in.

So the takeaway should be a warning that yes, there are different levels of sin, and all sin separates us from God.  Jesus speaks on the different levels of sin a few times, warning people who repeatedly sow evil, or do truly treacherous deeds, that their punishment is harsher, both here on earth, and also in eternity.

Our God is a just and wonderful God, who sees everything and judges accordingly.  For that, I am so so grateful!

Stephanie

Don’t Ruin Your Husband’s Love Toward You

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Painting by Tate 1863 – Part of a 3 piece composition dedicated to a “Woman’s Mission.”  This painting was to depict a loving wife being her husband’s companion, titled, “Companion of Man.”  It was said that the woman in the paintings strongly resembled the artist’s own wife.  He honored her so much, and was so grateful for her companionship, that she became his artistic inspiration.

You may think I sound dramatic in the title of this post.  I wish it weren’t true.  I wish that humans really could love each other easily, endure each other’s faults effortlessly, but I’ve found the reality of how we treat others is reflected back in how they end up treating us.  Grace or not, Christian or not, I believe God often allows us to reap what we have sown into the hearts of others – our friends, our family members, our children, but especially our husbands.

It’s not usually talked about in our culture, especially in regard to how women treat their husbands.  But the fact and spiritual principle of reaping and sowing, affects everything we do and everyone around us – whether we want to admit to it or not.

Think about this first painting.  How the artist was said to have used his own wife as the model and inspiration for his creations, because she fulfilled his deepest needs emotionally, and therefore inspired his love to greater depths than we normally see in average marriages.

Our society pretends that women won’t reap what they sow (even people in general to a larger extent).  This overwhelming problem is why I believe we’re having so much trouble with people not taking responsibility for their actions.  Acting (really manipulating others) through pretending to be victims, has become almost like the modern-day Westerner’s hobby!

Here is an excerpt (below) from one of my favorite books on a woman’s role in a godly marriage.  It reflects on how a wife can harm her husband’s ability to love her so terribly, that it almost becomes impossible for him to feel the same feelings toward her as he once did.  Keep in mind this doesn’t usually happen within the first 10 years or so of marriage. I think it happens after a couple or more decades… it’s a slow husband-love killer.

And I think we’d be wise to have a healthy fear of this.  If we love our husbands, we must take into effect that this could be possible if we continue in sin against him, always believing that tomorrow is another chance, and yet never taking the measures to truly change for good.

Here is the story of Leo Tolstoy and his wife….

When a wife constantly pushes or nettles her husband, it is like the bite of a poisonous snake and can cause the destruction of a could-be holy marriage.  One of the most tragic cases in history is that of the Russian novelist, Count Leo Tolstoi and his wife.

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In the beginning of their marriage, Tolstoi and his wife were so blissfully happy that, kneeling together they prayed to God to continue the ecstasy that was theirs.

Tolstoi is one of the most famous novelists of all time.  Two of his masterpieces, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are considered literary treasures.  He was so admired by his people that they followed him around day and night and took down in shorthand every word he uttered.

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Although he was a man of wealth and fame, after studying the teachings of Jesus, he gave away his property, worked in the fields chopping wood, and pitching hay, made his own shoes, ate out of a wooden bowl, and tried to love his enemies.  He gave away the publishing rights to his books and had the courage of his convictions to live a life he believed in.

But his wife never accepted him or his simple philosophy of life.  She loved luxury and he despised it.  She craved fame and the esteem of society, but these things meant nothing to him.  She longed for money and riches, but he thought these things a sin.  For years she made every effort to change him and his views.  She screamed at him because he insisted on giving away the publishing right to his books.  When he opposed her she threw herself into fits of hysteria, threatening to kill herself or jump down the well.

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After 48 years, this man who had adored his wife when he married her could hardly bear the sight of her.  And one of the most tragic scenes as when Countess Tolstoi, heartbroken and old and starving for affection would kneel at her husband’s feet and beg him to read aloud the exquisite love passages that he had written about her in his diary fifty years previously.  And as he read of those beautiful happy days that were now gone forever, both of them wept.

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His dying request was that she should not be permitted to come into his presence.

Wow!  I mean wow, right?!  His dying request was that she should not be allowed to be in his presence?!  They had such a perfect, blissfully happy prospect of marriage in their early days, and yet her decision to buck his convictions (which I think are beautiful and so touching he wanted to follow Jesus in that manner – how noble!), and had utterly no reverence for his deepest longings and convictions!   I think after decades of mistreatment, it makes sense logically that a wife will eventually reap what she’s sowing into the heart of her husband (or her children, friends, even enemies… it goes on and on with human behavior).  At the end of her life, she tried to make herself out to be a victim of his gruff behavior he had toward her in his old age.  But only people who were aware of how she secretly behaved toward him, truly understood she had caused his gruff behavior and grouchiness.

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Sophiya Tolstoi (his wife & children)

When I was in a marriage group some time ago, I would see women like Tolstoi’s wife come in fairly often – already usually a couple of decades into their marriage – and be desperately pleading with us on how they can turn everything around, all the while admitting that they’ve been treating their husbands horribly for the past few decades.  What motivated them to come to someone who could help them have a happier marriage?  Usually he had finally had enough, or reached some kind of “breaking point,” and he wanted out.  Or he had found another woman who treated him kind again – who admired him and loved him more than his wife seemed capable of.

It was usually apparent that it was already too late, but it was very interesting to watch these women go through psychological changes of first being extremely repentant and humbling themselves, eager to learn and read and practice trying to honor and respect him.  I often had such great hopes for them that they were truly changing in their hearts.  But when it didn’t work (and often times the husband wouldn’t believe their change was real or genuine), they would turn angry, they would get bitter, and then become very resentful even toward us as they believed our advice for happy marriages wasn’t true.

They would become indignant that their husbands’ didn’t accept their changes.  I would see these women start suddenly claiming that their husbands had really “emotionally abused them,” all this time, and that their (the wife’s) sin was in submitting to them too much.  Then they’d often blame sites like mine in creating women who submitted too much!  It was… like I said… very interesting to watch psychologically.  I talked about that here in this post a little.

Again, though, like in the Tolstoi example, this sort of behavior is actually tantamount to abusive in my opinion, toward the husband.  It falls under the “Borderline” or “Cluster B” disorders, which are extremely hard to fix, never-mind how hard it would be to live with someone with those psychological disorders.  A wife like this will usually never be able to admit she was verbally or emotionally abusive for years, until it’s almost too late, but it’s interesting how quick they are to act like they were the victim of emotional abuse, when just a few months before, they were admitting (finally) that they treated their husbands so terribly that they couldn’t believe he put up with it for so long!

If you’re a young wife reading this, I do think it’s good to have a healthy fear of ruining your marriage or your husband’s ability to love you in this way. 

I don’t think it’s healthy to have this idea that no matter how bad you mess up, no matter how many fights you start, or the terrible words you say to him, that it’s going to not have a devastating affect on him as a person longterm.  Men feel so deeply – especially when it comes to their wives’ opinions and treatment of them.  It would be like a husband abusing his wife for decades, and then expecting it not to have a diminishing effect on her ability to love him.

Can God redeem marriages like this?  I believe He can do anything.  But it’s not the norm that these marriages are ever fully repaired, so it’s best if you don’t ever fall into this pattern, as it all could have been so easily avoidable from the beginning.

And if anything, please remember Leo Tolstoi’s bitter marriage, and be on guard against women like his wife who suddenly tried to twist the truth in the end, in an effort to destroy her husband’s legacy and reputation.

Stephanie

 

Excerpt from Fascinating Womanhood

Raising Masculine Sons

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We just had possibly the best first day of Spring Break we’ve ever had as a family yesterday!  😀

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The beauty of spring is in full swing now here in Texas, and having our oldest home this week is exciting to me as I think of all the things we’ll be able to go and do!  But… staying in our own backyard is truly such a wonderful feeling of peaceful satisfaction.

And yesterday, that’s just what we did 😀

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In the early morning, I was able to do some gardening before it got to 90 degrees (yes!  In MARCH!!! :D).  And while I was digging and planting, my husband was teaching the boys some woodwork skills.

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Yes, that’s a 3 year old using a handsaw!!!!  My husband loves using opportunities like that to teach them, and I’m so grateful… because you know I’d NEVER use a handsaw unless my life depended on it LOL!  Much less be able to actually teach our sons those skills 🙂

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The reason why I don’t do any posts on “Things I Want My Sons to Know” is because although I have a lot of influence over them in understanding femininity, I can’t teach them how to be men.  I could never “raise masculine boys” without the constant help and wisdom of my husband.

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It’s been beautiful to watch his relationship with our older son, the way he’s diligently taught him throughout the years and given him a sense of confidence in his little masculine self ❤ !!

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Reflecting on these pictures this morning, I realized how far we’ve come from that first year with our dal.  Back in 2015 when we first got him and our oldest was only 5, he had a very hard time being confident and dominant enough in his personality that the dog refused to submit to him at all!  I wrote in detail back then here, how my husband’s guidance and fatherly instructions is what was raising our son to be far more masculine than I could ever manage on my own.  

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Here’s an excerpt from 3 years ago:

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My husband then came into the kitchen, I explained our walk and situation… he immediately took over control and began explaining to our son frame control, and having firm authority in establishing respect with the dog.

He took over and disciplined our son for acting fearful by making him stay with puppy, even forcing him to go outside with it. My husband stayed outside with our son, explaining to him what he needed to do in order to control his fear with the dog and show dominance.

It was so incredibly reassuring and relieving to feel the weight of control and discipline shift from my mommy-role shoulders, onto my capable husband’s.  A father’s unique masculinity and fortitude are so desperately needed as parenting is a million times easier with his strength and presence taking over to instruct or demonstrate.  I watched as he stayed outside a little longer with our son and the dog, teaching how to demonstrate dominant assertiveness, so thankful for his aptitude as a father and husband.  He then came inside saying that he wanted him to play with the dog outside alone for awhile.

Our son played for a good 15 minutes with the puppy, and then ran excitedly to the door and told us that he and his dog were having lots of fun together playing.  This was a dramatic difference from when he’d be outside alone with the dog before my husband had time to teach him confidence and authority.  Before, when he’d be outside letting the dog go potty, he would immediately run to the nearest chair or higher surface in order to escape any potential play-biting or jumping of the puppy.  Him being confident with the puppy and playing with him outside for a steady 15 minutes was a breakthrough!

When it was time to eat lunch, he came back inside and my husband had our son watch a few short videos of the Dog Whisperer explaining masculine dominance and calm authority in different scenarios with difficult dogs.  It led into an interesting discussion the two of them had where my husband explained leadership, and asked our son who is in charge of our family.  Our son undoubtedly answered that it was him.  And my husband asked him why he thought that was?  “Because you’re in charge.”  My husband then explained what it meant to “be in charge,” what that looked like in different situations or even environments with different kinds of people.  He explained why our son could sense that his father was in charge of our family….

My husband explained how even without violence or force you can establish yourself as a leader in any given situation.  He described how he is assertive in our family – he simply employs a feeling of authority in his manner, body language, and voice.  He used the example of how he has managed to show our extremely stubborn and at times rebellious cats, who’s in charge.  They obey him simply by his commanding voice – and its no small feat to get a cat to listen to you and obey you.  He doesn’t use violence or brute force, however, his voice alone has the strength and authority that makes them feel like they have to obey.  (From here)

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Now it’s so different!  They can go outside and run and play soccer (our dalmatian is WICKED GOOD at playing soccer, which is funny, because he looks like a soccer ball himself!).  They are becoming admirable little men because of my husband’s leadership in guiding them in that way.

Enjoy your Spring fellow bloggers and readers!  I am SO EXCITED about the sunlight, gardening, and playing in the sand and with our athletic dal!

I hope y’all have a wonderful Spring Break as well 🙂

Stephanie

 

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: You Will Grow into Your Feminine Beauty

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I am a major book worm.  In case you haven’t noticed that I’ve NEVER changed the cover of this blog in nearly 5 years!  Because books are life!  There is so much knowledge and wisdom and beauty to be found in other people’s thoughts, that I can never get enough of reading it seems.  I had a few favorite books growing up – but Jane Eyre is hands-down one of the most memorable ones, and one that I STILL cannot get enough of!  I loved Jane Eyre because I was (what I thought of anyway) an ugly-duckingly, and she gave me hope LOL!  Growing into my femininity and beauty has been a long journey for me, and one that I hope I’ll be able to help my daughter navigate well in the future.

We were out yesterday selling some clothes for extra cash and I found a little historic novel based on a true story about a young nurse, only 16 years old (!), who tended injured men during the Civil War.  She became known and loved among the men she tended to for her gentleness and kindness to them ❤ .  Many other girls who volunteered to help had actually run away once the war came to their area, but this one girl stayed and became remembered for her character.

I had planned to buy some earrings I found for a good deal to build up our daughter’s stock, but I put them back and decided to get them next time in lieu of this awesome book!  I told my husband, “it’s for her future ❤ 😀 !!!”  I want our daughter to understand that character is what makes a woman truly beautiful.  Outward beauty shows self-respect or graciousness to those around you, but who you are as a person is what people will fall in love with and want to be around.

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She is such a little beauty already – almost strikingly so, and her happiness and joyful laughter are SO endearing!  But I want to raise her to love good books!  I want her to enjoy knowledge, and to know and understand that true beauty comes from very deep within – from the soul of a person, and that it takes time to grow and flourish… and that it can be lost if not safe-guarded against bitterness throughout life.

And I want her to know that it’s a process of becoming.

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It doesn’t usually happen all at once – being truly beautiful inside and out – for most women.  In fact, I’m not sure “most” women achieve both inner and outer beauty to their fullest personal extent, at all sadly.

Just like outer beauty takes A LOT of hard work and diligence over time to achieve and then to also maintain.  Inner beauty takes even more work, discipline, diligence, perseverance and even then if you manage to achieve it, it is MUCH harder to keep over the course of different circumstances one will face in life.  It’s a constant process of correcting your own character flaws, and that takes a TON of self-reflection, introspection, and acknowledgement of your own failings.

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Hence why I think a lot of women (and men if you’re thinking about men in that way) don’t even try to maintain inner beauty, or they may try but then give up or give in to their natural states of ugliness… since human beings all have sin natures… and our sin natures make us VERY very ugly.  That and we constantly fail.  Success in this regard requires a lot of perseverance and endurance.

So becoming a beautiful woman over time is very hard.  The inner beauty work is very difficult, and since I’m Christian, I do believe there’s a spiritual aspect to this where knowing God, having his help to get through life’s difficulties, really TRUSTING Him with EVERYTHING in your life (all those ugly emotions feelings and such), is the best or most proven way to maintain a beautiful character throughout life.

Avoiding all the vices that come so naturally to us, and working hard to develop the virtues that come from the Holy Spirit – that takes constant coming back to God to prune and develop you – to grow you and break you.  It’s painful work – which is probably why so many avoid it!  He’s molding you into a reflection of Christ, but again, that all takes a lifetime to achieve, and one has to be really working out their salvation with fear and trembling in order to achieve it at all!

But sweet, sweet, joyful little girl, you will grow into your beauty and femininity, and your daddy and I will be there every step of the way to guide you in the way you should go.

Stephanie

 

 

Godliness Requires Choice & Action

I know this probably sounds like common sense – but go there with me for a moment.  I’ve only recently really thought about how weird it sounds when Christians make bold statements that whatever good things have come about in there lives, that it was ONLY due to God and had zero effort from them.

I know that I could not have done anything good enough or helped create a beautiful marriage with my own actions – there’s just not enough goodness in me to be able to do that.  So to God be the glory, for all things HE has done!

I know on the surface this looks pretty good and spiritual.  Let’s be honest, the way it’s worded, it’s supposed to look spiritual… but is it actually true?  Can we really be or do nothing good to “help” create a beautiful marriage?   I wondered why it sounded so spiritually fake, until it became clear a few months ago that it is a form of false humility.  False humility is when a Christian tries to look really humble, but in reality they have ulterior motives of pride buried beneath the surface of their spiritual statements.  Let me break it down piece by piece.

Normally, giving all credit to God is a good attitude to have toward our lives and the gifts we’ve been given.  To realize that yes, ,everything good given to us IS from God… but when it comes to being realistic with other people on actually achieving godliness, which realistically, is becoming more like Christ in our marriage, or with our kids, or toward our enemieswe should be honest that the transformation happens through our own choices in responding to God and in allowing Him to do the work in us that changes us.  That’s a huge piece of the puzzle that’s missing from statements like the one previously mentioned – the admission that we have allowed God to have His way with us, and to affect the way we behave toward others.  It is always a choice to follow Him, and a choice to develop godliness by clinging to Him overtime.  So yes, we can have the power to do good in our marriages, with our children, and toward our enemies – that power is given to us from God, but only when we submit to Him and allow Him to.

When thinking about this topic of false humility, these beloved verses came up below.

12 So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. 13 For it is [not your strength, but it is] [c]God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13 Amplified Bible

These verses have fascinated me since about 2009 when I really started to study them and ask Bible teachers and leaders what they meant.

It’s a two-fold process – we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (actively be pursuing God daily and growing in spiritual maturity… repenting when we’ve fallen or become discouraged).  AND God does His part by working IN us, making us want to please Him even more, and giving us real grace (power) to be able to do more than we could without the Holy Spirit in us, extending our abilities beyond what they would be.  

The latter verse would not be able to happen without the first.  That means God would not be working in us like that if we were not inviting Him in, pursuing Him and His ways, putting His will over our own as a daily thing, and constantly seeking to grow in spiritual maturity.

I think when it really hit me that the previous mentioned statement is a form of false humility meant to look super spiritual, was when I realized that if it solely depended on Jesus alone – if we had nothing to do with following Him and reaping those rewards – then everyone who was a Christian would look and act exactly like Jesus did by default. ALL Christians would have ALL the fruits of the Spirit down pat, and with perfection.  Obviously, spiritual growth doesn’t work that way LOL!

No… it’s just not true that we have no goodness in us or power to affect our spiritual growth, although it sounds true to give God all the credit for our good marriages, or relationships with our kids, or how we deal with enemies.  It looks good – very spiritual and “right.”  But unfortunately it’s deceiving to leave out the fact that a Christian who has developed godliness in their marriage… or with their children… they did so because they sought after Him.

Remember, the second verse (Phil 2:13) of God working in us, can’t happen without that first verse (Phil 2:12) where we decide to keep working out our salvation in fear and trembling.  We have to invite Him in so that He can have His way.

What a beautiful reminder that the grace God gives us – which is the power to go beyond what we’d normally be able to accomplish – is available to all of us if we only seek Him and live out Philippians 2:12.

Stephanie

Parenting – Teaching Your Children to Use Their Gifts

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Our oldest is just amazing.  I know I’m his mom and so of course I’m biased… but oh my gosh, God has blessed him with many talents and gifts!  He’s kind… he’s gentle… he’s a strong leader and he’s only 7 years old!!!!!  Watching him is so inspiring to me to be a better mom – to be the mom he truly deserves in life (and yes, I feel like I fail constantly)!  We all deal with some amount of “Mom Guilt.”

Anyway… his school was having a city-wide art competition, and right away I was like, “You have to do this.”  He doesn’t believe in himself, just like I was growing up and still have issues with at times.  But his raw talent and gifts can’t just be shut up inside him and never used or developed!

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This is something I wish I had learned earlier in life myself – that my gifts, whatever they were, were supposed to be used and practiced and developed and strengthened!  It’s nice to have people loyally on your side, watching you with a gracious intent, gently encouraging you to use your gifts, but usually none of us really have people like that around, so we develop self-consciousnesses or neurotic beliefs that we’re always wrong or not very good.

And I see them reflected in my son.  His self-doubt, his belief that he’s actually NOT a good artist, or that he’s not funny, and not that smart (when he makes All A’s and B’s and excels in things like math!!).  It’s weird to me how we can have such a distorted view of ourselves when in reality, we are given so much more than we see.  This is what I imagine Paul was referring to when he was encouraging Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was young, but to set an example for other believers and to USE his gifts, and practice them and develop them.

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Practice.

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Develop

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It took him 3 days doing it a few hours at a time, and I had to keep reminding him that he probably wanted to work on it or it wouldn’t be finished in time for the contest, and he did want to finish it.  The more he painted, the more he enjoyed it, too!  As he and our other children grow older, I’m not going to be harping on them as much so that they can learn that if they don’t hustle and do their work on time – or be consistent in it – they will miss MANY opportunities in life and some that they won’t get a second chance at.

 

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But for now, I’m like the woman Jesus talked about who kept pestering a man to do what she wanted 😀  I will encourage him, remind him, love him, prod him, and “train him up in the way he should go,” according to his gifts I’ve seen God has given to him.

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His art teacher came up to me with excitement yesterday when I picked him up from school, and told me with wide eyes that he had placed in the competition… out of THOUSANDS of other kids who entered all over our city!  He won his school somewhere between $1,000-3,000 in art supplies!!!  Of course we were so proud of him!!!

And I asked him in the car when we were driving back home, if he was glad that I pushed him to enter… because he never would have known if he could win if he hadn’t even tried.

I explained to him again that when God gives us special gifts like that, He expects us to USE them for Him, and that others are BLESSED through our gifts – but only if we have enough confidence in ourselves to decide to step out in faith act.  We are also blessed when we bless others!  As he found out when he won that much money for his art teacher!  It’s a blessing to be able to bless other people!

He’s heard about the parable of the talents, but it will probably be a deeper lesson saved for when he is a little older – that if we don’t use our gifts, that God may decide to take them away.  I know it sounds harsh, but we are stewards of the things God has given us, and that includes our giftings and talents.

May we all learn to be more confident in the gifts God has given us, and to use them, practice them, develop and strengthen them for His glory.

Stephanie

Overcome Evil with Good & Romans 12:19

This will be another post on the things my husband and I talked about this weekend on our long drives.  Although it’s a not really a “feel good,” romantic post, I thought it was a good spiritual growth topic to cover here.

How do you overcome evil with good, especially when someone has done something truly evil against you or someone you love?

How do you deal with Christians like that – true believers who engage in character defamation, spreading slander about you or your family, or worse, who make false accusations against you or your family members, and then go on to feel zero guilt over it?  So disturbing right?  And rightfully angering.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s much better to trust that God will be your Defender against such people, that He will help “set the record straight” when the time is right for things to be exposed.  And I do believe things are always eventually exposed.  It may take a long time, but God is a just God, and He brings to light that which people would want to be kept in darkness.  You can be sure He doesn’t let evil doers get away with evil acts.  Even more so His own children (Christians), as the Bible warns He punishes those He loves… because it’s the right thing for Him to do.

It’s good to trust God knows what He’s doing.  I personally find so much peace in resting on that promise.  And if you’re going through persecution for speaking truth, you can also rest on the promise that you are suffering through something that will ultimately be a blessing to you.

 

      11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 

12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

To me, this is a beautiful promise… we have hope through persecution, and can trust that God will deal justly with those who do insult us, slander us, and falsely accuse us of all kinds of evil.

It’s God’s job, ultimately, and it’s our job to trust He does right by us.

When we run around and try to “correct” any and every person who is mocking or insulting or even spreading falsehoods about us (which I definitely tried to do in the past… unsuccessfully), we’re more concerned about “people-pleasing,” and protecting our reputation than in trusting God.  I don’t think it’s always wrong to try to confront someone falsely accusing you of something, but in trying to, you take on the risk of being more tempted to sin.  So in my opinion it’s best to stand back and allow God to deal with ALL of it, I’ve found it’s much easier to have peace that way – which is what He would want. 

I have found I am able to trust that not only will He provide protection (and He has, God is so faithful!), but He also gives us the promise that He repays and takes vengeance for us.  As unChristian as that sounds, it’s right there in the Bible for a reason (probably to scare people away from doing evil):

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written,

‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’

said the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

Some commentary from Barne’s Notes on this passage and verse:

“For it is written – Deuteronomy 32:35.

Vengeance is mine – That is, it belongs to me (God) to inflict revenge. This expression implies that it is “improper” for people to interfere with that which properly belongs to God. When we are angry, and attempt to avenge ourselves, we should remember, therefore, that we are infringing on the prerogatives of the Almighty.

I will repay … – This is said in substance, though not in so many words, in Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Its design is to assure us that those who deserve to be punished, shall be; and that, therefore, the business of revenge may be safely left in the hands of God. Though “we” should not do it, yet if it ought to be done, it will be done. This assurance will sustain us, not in the “desire” that our enemy shall be punished, but in the belief that “God” will take the matter into his own hands; that he can administer it better than we can; and that if our enemy “ought” to be punished, he will be. “We,” therefore, should leave it all with God. That God will vindicate his people, is clearly and abundantly proved in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10Revelation 6:9-11Deuteronomy 32:40-43.

The part that my husband assured me of this weekend was so comforting to know.  That if someone does need to be punished, God will do it in His own time (or maybe He already has and you just didn’t witness it).  We don’t need to worry about infecting our souls with the poison of bitterness or hatred – although is it ever tempting to feel those feelings when you see someone get away with evil against someone you love!
My husband said that when someone gives in with actions to those toxic emotions and desiring revenge on their enemies, it affects them and makes them stoop to the same level – even disqualifying their witness.  It’s ok to desire justice, even through a legal system if need be, but it’s not good to take pleasure in seeing someone suffer more than they deserve.  Which is why it’s best to leave vengeance up to God – only He can truly understand “how much” punishment is deserved for someone who has wronged you.  There’s no way we could make that call, although I think it’s totally human (and biblical – think David in Psalm 109 where he asks for God to destroy his enemies in the cruelest of ways possible) to have those feelings.

My husband had me read some verses this weekend along these lines while in the car, and it was so good to hear his opinion on my questions.

One of the passages was David asking God to make his enemies ashamed and disgraced for what they’d done to him.  It’s so comforting to know how human King David was 🙂  I totally relate to his passage of desiring to see enemies be disgraced and ashamed of their actions.  It’s nice to know that he felt those feelings toward his enemies, and yet He was called a man after God’s own heart.  God doesn’t seem to hold our humanity against us regarding our strong emotions, ❤ but He loves us too much to let us stay in those emotions to the point where they would destroy us (and others).

Which brings me to the second passage my husband had me read with him 🙂 which was Jesus’ thoughts on loving our enemies:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor(fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, [n]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 46 For if you love[only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that?48 You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I seriously laughed at how these two passages seem so at odds with each other… and told my husband outright that I much preferred David’s response! 😀  I knew of both of them, but it’s always wonderful to hear my husband explain these things and talk it over him candidly. ❤

They do seem at odds… one calling for your enemies to be ashamed and disgraced for how they’ve treated you, and the next claiming that if you don’t also love them, you haven’t achieved spiritual maturity.  In reality, the second passage also lines up with overcoming evil with good in Romans 12:14-21.

14 Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. 17 Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap [e]burning coals on his head.”21 Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It ALL makes sense when you view it through trusting God to be the ultimate Judge and Avenger of wrongs.

We are supposed to be able to overcome someone’s evil toward us that may have truly harmed us by not allowing their actions to destroy our peace and love in our own lives.  The only way to do that is to be able to FULLY rely on God that He will repay, that we can be kind to them (which heaps burning coals on their head), and understand they are in God’s hands and that we don’t have to concern ourselves with their punishment.

He is just, and like He said… He will repay.

Stephanie

 

Christmas Season Joy!

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A half-done tree 😉  We waited until my husband got home to do the star at the top, which is always down by the youngest in house who is able to walk ❤  Watching my husband pick up our 2nd son and let him put the star on is like winning the lottery.  So. Much. Love.

We got our decorations up last week, it’s been so much fun decorating with the kids and seeing all the ornaments come out again.  I get so much pleasure from just seeing everything again – like seeing old friends… LOL.

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My mom got us this sweet decoration a few years back.  I know Santa is a controversial figure, but I do love the story behind him, the legend if you will.  And I love this decoration because it kind of epitomizes the importance of Jesus’ birth amidst all the craziness of Christmas shopping, Santa visits, or whatnot.  It’s really about this, when it comes down to it.  None of the other stuff matters, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.  We can have all the other joyful stuff, as long as Christ is still the at the center.

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Love lights ❤

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And at night….

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Our famous skyline.

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The top of the building in the center of the above pic, is where my parents bought their chunks of land in the country back in the 80’s.  All the way at the top in the penthouse.

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So cute… 😀

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Our river ❤  There were less lights for some reason this year.  It was still gorgeous and we can’t really complain – but apparently we have new boats that light up the water below them.  LOL

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Our cutie…

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Christmas Candle… I always try to get one every year and light it every night, at least through dinner.  It’s just a simple tradition, and the light is beautiful for the kids (and me) to look at.

LOL our mischievous one!  Wait… they’re both mischievous… oh well!

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Enjoy this season readers!  Please go out and have fun!  Do joyful things… go listen to some carolers, or watch a ballet of the Nutcracker.

Do something to remind yourself of beauty this season!  To recapture how you felt when you were a child.

Go see some glittering, brilliant lights around in your city.  Really look at a well-decorated Christmas tree at a hotel.  Enjoy some wine!  Go out dancing!

Do something this season to bring more joy into your life, please.

Stephanie

 

Single Women: Character Flaws Make a Girl Ugly & Unattractive to Men

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I love Lori Alexander.  I love her brutal honesty and how she just tells it like it is to younger women.

Yes, men will notice a beautiful woman when one comes by, it’s natural and designed by God in their masculine nature to be attracted to a variety of different kinds of beautiful women.  I think most women have to deal with little insecurities, especially at the beginning of a relationship or even the beginning of a marriage when they’re still finding out how deep their husband’s love goes for them.

But I’ve found that most men love their wives incredibly deeply. 

It is amazingly romantic to understand just how much a good man loves his wife!

So… as long as you’ve picked a man of good character, and you’re not neglecting him or making it easier for him to be tempted by porn or other women, you really have nothing to fear here.  

You DO have to fear, however, if you give in to your insecurities and become the traits that Lori mentions in her journal post.

Anger and bitterness ruin the character of a woman… it doesn’t matter what she looks like on the outside, these traits really do make her ugly and unattractive to even her husband.

The quest all of us should be on is to become what Lori writes here:

“Make yourself more beautiful to him

by becoming more kind,

more loving,

more attentive to his needs,

and more gentle.”

 

This is what your husband needs, and he wants all that in only you.

Stephanie