Four Things Women are Designed to Host

My almost twelve year old son still loves to snuggle up against his mama’s warm winter robe. And sometimes the kids will say, “Mom, can you please gain some weight so you feel cozier?”

I always laugh because “feeling cozy” is a goal of mine for my kids but gaining weight for that goal is not my objective. However, there’s a reason children want mom to be a place of warmth and safety.

I love watching my children’s eyes pop when they realize, for the first time, that mama hosted them inside her womb. That they grew to be a little human inside of me astounds them and I use that opportunity to tell them how they are part of me and share my DNA, that I love them unconditionally, and will always be here.

Children with broken homes need to hear mama say, “I’m not going anywhere. For the rest of my life, I’ll be here.”

Most moms are naturals at loving and hosting their children. We are easily mama bears, and even those of us who don’t like fighting will come to arms over our babies whether they are kids or adults. But, I want to us to consider that our ability to “host” goes far deeper than our children.

Let’s look at four different ways women are called to host:

1. We are called to host the Presence of God.

Women are powerful assets in the kingdom. We are not to shut down and hide behind dishes and diapers, but are called to study the scriptures and bring aspects of the gospel into every part of our world.

We study apologetics so we can teach our children why and what we believe. We do this before they enter college with atheistic professors who will win an argument they’ve never been taught to engage unless we take our calling seriously.

If you feel ill-equipped, find a class or another adult to take your children deeper into the why’s of their faith. For awhile, I taught my children from my couch and for awhile, I took them to an apologetics class taught by a friend. Whatever the case, talk to your children and help them face their own doubts openly.

The Spirit of God wants to permanently reside in your soul to where your default attitude becomes hosting a God atmosphere. (Your children absorb what is caught even more than what is taught—atmosphere is everything!)

The flavor of Christ in our child’s world is hard to ignore. Even a struggling child will often say, “What you taught me doesn’t go away.”

You are a light bearer and a life giver because you host the Giver of all Life.

2. We are designed to host a nurturing environment.

Why do women take joy and pride in their homes? We love making things beautiful!

We are called to turn houses into homes.

Little things that may seem insignificant add up to create a wholesome environment. Imagine with me for a moment—no dinner means the rest of the family comes home hungry, needing to figure it out rather than gather around a loaded counter top or table.

No clean bathrooms means they enter smelly rather than refreshing spaces to groom and shower.

No décor means their world is bland and uninviting.

Stepping into a lovely, clean bathroom can make someone’s daily routine refreshing rather than frustrating.

So take heart, mothers who put in a lot of effort into creating and running an efficient household. Your children will grow up with good memories of home if you embrace everything that doesn’t feel good in your daily moments.

I’m here to say—cleaning a toilet and making a meal has dividends beyond what you see or feel today. You are not just doing menial tasks; you are creating meaningful homes.

Fill your fruit bowl and buy an elevated cake stand pretty enough to load up with muffins and stay on your counter top. Invite your family into your world by creating spaces they enjoy and need.

Home is where the hugs are.

3. Wives are designed to host, even in sex.

Think with me for a minute about the natural design of our bodies. Whose body hosts and receives, invites and welcomes?

There’s a reason sex is a picture of Christ and the church. A man comes into his wife and gifts her his seed, which can create life. We host that life and give birth to a child, placed in us by the man we welcome into our body.

Sex is a beautiful thing designed to bring joy, connection, and satisfaction to both parties. Nurture this area of your life as you live fully in the beauty of your womanhood.

Just as Christ indwelling us brings us greater joy than anything else we know, so a married woman’s joy increases by her husband’s presence in the bedroom. If this is not happening, take time to address it, discover the cause of it, and make healing it priority.

(As shown in one survey), there is not supposed to be a 47% gap in sexual satisfaction for evangelical wives. And the gap will only be bridged if we are brave enough to uncover the cause. God has so much joy for wives in passionate and fulfilling sex. Until we discover and embrace it, we only enjoy part of our womanhood.

It is time for Christian women to be loved and honored in the bedroom and in all areas of life. Be free, be real, and step into all you are and want to be!

4. Host a Welcoming atmosphere.

Yesterday I taught a class of kids in low-income housing, seated at a picnic table and surrounded with beautiful brown faces.

But before I could do that, I had to walk with friends through apartment complexes, inviting kids to come. We showed them our bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies and invited them to join us. And when they came, we let them eat cookies while they heard the story of how God visited Samuel in the night even when his father was absent.

Most, if not all, the children there had absent fathers.

I got to watch my friend Lisa go out of her way to hug kids and even drive them to the grocery store for extra snacks. She carried such warmth about her as she hosted in that open air space where participation was uncertain for awhile. What child could resist her presence?

See this—women are called to bring warmth and belonging everywhere they go, in whatever capacity they are called to. It doesn’t look like doing as much as it looks like BEING.

We can only give what we already are.

When you know how much value you have as a woman, you can give value to everyone else.

You can host because you are fully convinced you have something worth giving because God has placed in you and with you and through you something of value that He calls you to share.

You are no longer desperate to be included or even to be loved because you are so fully convinced that you are already loved by God. Why focus on a human man, woman, child, church, or group when you are already focused on the Son of Man who became human just so He could enter your need?

Our focus on Jesus needs to be all in. Only there, fully at peace, can we give out the Prince of Peace.

With that knowing will come grace and space to give the same thing to others—whether that’s your husband, your children, your friends, the world, a stranger, your online community, or within the walls of your home—all will benefit from your presence.

The world needs women. God needs women. And you need yourself to be fully woman, taking a brave, bold dare to be fully alive.

Sending Love,

Sara

Six Ways to Show Hospitality in a Twenty-first Century Culture

My parents set an extra plate at our long family table so often that it became almost as common as eating by ourselves.

‘Ourselves’ included ten children seated around a massive table with dad and mom at the end. Feeding an extra person or two made no difference because the pans of food were so large that there were always leftovers, anyway.

Only years later did I realize what a gift my parents were to others. Back then, I didn’t understand why large pots of homemade soup was considered kings food. We were plain and simple—but we had what all humans long for–family, belonging, and a space for one more (or five more).

In later years as a married woman with a large house, I loved hosting. Cleaning, decorating, and cooking delicious food for large crowds was my favorite thing to do—and as a single mom, I’m still passionate about hospitality. But, I’ve had to find creative ways to love others because my schedule is crowded and time/energy is less.

Life looks different at different times, but love always looks the same.

I’d love to inspire all of us toward a hosting life-style with these six do-able options.

1. Every morning, ask God to bring people across your path.

The most ordinary days can be charged with extra-ordinary influence when you’re not only willing to be used by God—you’re begging God to send you. Keep your eyes and heart peeled.

Ask God for creative ideas. Some carry a “God pocket” of cash in their wallets and see grateful tears as someone’s prayer was answered by their God-appointed gift. The Spirit of God wants to lead, speak, and walk us toward people everywhere. Stay tuned to your waitress, cashier, or co-worker. What does God want to do for someone, today, through you, that would not be done otherwise, without you?

My friend Elizabeth’s porch, where all are welcome.

2. Use your phone.

I know we all talk about phone addictions, but what about phone community? Next time someone pops into your mind over and over, stop your day for a few minutes to send a text. If time allows, make a call. Do you know how many people in this world need to know someone’s checking in?

Texting someone takes about thirty seconds and can change the course of their entire day. You don’t even need to write a hand written note like the one I keep in my Bible. 🙃

3. Use your couch.

Your couch is for more than TV. Mostly, your couch is for spending time with those you love. Not just immediate family, but friends and people you meet.

I remember meeting a family on the beach and inviting them into my home. Ten years later, they are still some of my very best friends. Through the years, we’ve done holidays, walks on the beach, talks in our homes, meals and coffee together. If I had given in to the thought of “It’s too weird to invite people into my home that I’ve just met”, I would have missed out on a LOT.

4. Join a church that has inner-city or homeless ministries going on.

A church body is for more than sitting in tidy rows singing and listening to theology. Your building is not the church—YOU are the church!!

Go downtown and have Bible studies with kids in low income housing, chat with the moms, join in on homeless ministries. When you do join in, do more than ladle food onto plates; actually sit and talk, relaxed and comfortable, with fellow humans who need to be treated with dignity and respect. Remember to love, speak, and join rather than distance yourself and preach. Preaching is good in it’s time and place, but always be mindful that those in need are consciously aware of their need, and want to feel like you are sitting with them more than preaching at them. In that space, God will fill you with words, prayers, and tangible love.

Our homeless ministry taught me a lot. As a woman, I thought I’d feel uneasy around homeless men but each Friday night I am so full of peace and I genuinely enjoy interacting with people I would otherwise pass by at stoplights on a busy work day.

Remember that every man or woman on the streets is some mother’s son or daughter. And when a mother can’t help her grown child, perhaps Jesus wants you to help him.

There are few prayers so deep as that of a mother asking God to rescue her child from the streets. The beds we make, food we serve, and talks we share over dinner have little to do with chicken and blankets, but everything to do with love, community, and sowing seeds of hope.

I can sow hope into the man who wants to help me carry out trash when I’m struggling not to drop an over sized load. I can walk with him, talk with him, and let him feel like a genuine help, because he was. I want him to remember what it feels like to help and feel good about himself. This is done by one simple act of accepting his help and treating him as I would any other man.

We are not saviors—we are servants pointing a better way toward a Savior.

5. Invite people into your home.

It’s okay if the bathrooms didn’t get cleaned and the food is simple. Live with an open door policy where neighbors feel comfortable knocking on your door for that one ingredient they don’t have and don’t want to run to the grocery store for. Start by asking your neighbor for something when you need it so she knows she can do the same.

Invite your friend over for a walk in your neighborhood or a talk on your porch. Purposefully create spaces for hospitality, and purposefully invite people into those spaces.

6. Stop at Church.

It’s easy to say “I don’t like small talk”, and quickly run out the door after church. How about changing that by scanning the room and noticing a new, uncomfortable person who needs to feel welcome?

People often choose to return to churches based on how welcome and included they feel. One of my very best friends is one whom I reached out to when I noticed she was new. She told me later, “I came back partly because of you.” To this day, even though we now live on opposite coasts, we feel like blood sisters and love each other deeply. For years, she has been one of the best gifts of my life.

Jesus stopped to speak to the woman at the well, and it led to an entire town hearing the gospel. (John 4:1-42)

Paul and his helpers stopped to speak to the women at the river, and it led to Lydia’s entire household being saved. Later, she begged them to enter her home if they thought her worthy. Lydia knew that hosting was an honor. (Acts 16:13-15)

Paul tells Timothy to treat the younger women as sisters and the older women as mothers. He didn’t say ignore them or by-pass them. Timothy was to be a brother to girls his age and a son to mothers in the church.

Jesus loves people. He is passionate to reach those He created in His image, and He wants to use you and I to do His work. What does He have lined up for someone that may not happen unless we open our eyes?

For the cause of love,

Sara

A Call to Community

I watched a young mama shiver in the cold and wind, and as I went to give her a hug, these words reached my ear, “I don’t have a coat.”

She was smiling and beautiful, surrounded with her children and wanting to stay for the Christmas party our church was throwing for the community kids.

We’d spent a lot of time wrapping gifts and setting things up for fun, food, and even some preaching. The kids were aglow and everyone heard about Jesus, got their tummies filled, and lined up for a wrapped gift at the tables.

The kids who had attended weekly Bible lessons under the tree got their own special, labeled bags of gifts for their families. And here I was, a mama myself with my own child running around with the rest.

I wore my favorite parka, one my own mother bought me, one that wrapped me up snug and warm each winter with thoughts of her. It fell just above the knees and hugged me close on cold, wintry days, a little like she did.

I watched the young mama shiver in the cold, determined to stay for her children. Then, I knew what I needed to do. I walked over to her and wrapped my parka around her. “Stay warm”, I whispered.

The smile on her face was lit up with gratitude. I walked away to two friends who both offered to give me one of their jackets. I accepted, and before long had layers to ward off the cold.

Community becomes a circle of love when we allow it. I could have refused the help for myself but as I watched a friend walk to his car to find an extra something for me to wear, I knew this one thing—we’re all supposed to give, receive, and be part of a circle larger than ourselves, no matter where we are.

What if America returned to community, where we invite each other into our homes and extend our tables regardless of status, wealth, or even if the bathrooms are clean enough for guests?

What if Christians went into their communities to serve on soccer fields, town events, and anything else that would help them connect with people? What if we had TIME?

Even things like coaching soccer turns into more than a sport; it is an avenue into children’s hearts and a way to connect with parents on the field. What better way to connect with parents than to love and help their child?

Every child might not love Bible lessons under the tree each Saturday of the year, but every child loves Christmas—and when the same people show up for both, eternal impact can be made.

We are to be in the world but not of the world.

Often, we live as though we are not in the world at all. We build our own Christian empires of Godly homes and safe, theologically sound churches. As long as we keep the world at bay, we feel “Godly” and are convinced that our children will grow up to be the same.

But what if we’ve turned out to be focused more on feeling good about our methods than being in touch with the goodness of our Master?

I’m inviting all my sisters in Christ to join me in a quest for ways to love on our communities. Not as saviors or mini redeemers, but as fellow humans wanting to love all with the love of Jesus Christ, invite all into a place of belonging in Christ, and lengthening our dinner tables as we celebrate and give to others as He gave to us when He entered this world to live with us so He could die for us.

Does it settle into our souls that HE CAME?

Jesus Christ ate with us, spoke with us, and became human when He was fully God.

He walked and lived here when He could have stayed in perfection.

He carried our sins so we wouldn’t have to.

Perhaps the ache in our souls for more is because we were created for more. And as women, we don’t need to wait for our churches or husbands to carry out all we’re longing for. We were born to nurture, create spaces for love, and invite others into them. Here is where the power of Godly femininity comes into play—imagine the impact women could have on their communities if we all did one thing for others that made us uncomfortable?

I can walk past the new mama on her doorstep of that same community, or I can pause, say hi and comment on her baby. I can get her number and ask if I can visit her and her baby.

It took me awhile to get back to her and when I did, this is what she said, “I thought maybe you forgot about us.”

My heart ached a little. Here, I almost didn’t stop to take her number. I almost forgot about her because I didn’t know if she’d want to be remembered. Yet, months later, she remembered a complete stranger and wanted to know I had not forgotten about her.

I entered her apartments days later and sat with her in her own space, holding her baby and chatting about life. The gift beside me wasn’t about the gift but about love—because when you gift a mama’s child, you gift HER in ways she can feel.

How can we walk toward others this Christmas season and into the New Year? How can we live new, reborn, remade—where our minds are set on others and we intentionally walk toward them in ways that make us uncomfortable?

About three hours later on that cold, windy Saturday, the young mama walked toward me. “Did you give me this coat?”

I hesitated and thought of my mother and our shopping day where she’d made sure I had what I needed to stay warm. Then, I looked at my new friend’s young face and her bright eyes surrounded with the same warm fur that had kept my own face warm.

I nodded and wrapped her up in a big hug. “Yes, I gave it to you.”

I spent the following week listening to podcasts (familychurchnetwork.com) on how to show our neighbors the love of Christ. Friends, it looks like so much more than attending church or even inviting others to join you there.

We must be WITH the people Christ came for if we are to show love TO the people Christ died for.

Lengthen your tables, meet your neighbors, show up to volunteer in your communities—and through it all, watch for spirit led ways to bring Jesus.

“For our sakes, He became poor so that we might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) As Pastor Faw says, “His birth was for His death, and His death was for our LIFE.”

JOY to the world, for He has come!

Love Always,

Sara

Not Everyone’s a Narcissist

A few words are swirling around our Christian culture lately and I can’t help but broach the question on the infamous word narcissist.

Is every selfish person a narcissist?

I’d have to say no. And I’d love to speak into this a little because I think it’s important for christian women not to label people (and especially their husbands) too quickly.

Sometimes, someone’s just selfish, tired, clueless, or socially and emotionally unaware. Or, a person has a driven personality and just needs to learn to also think of others. These are good people with some basic needs who really don’t want to hurt others and feel badly when they do so.

And here’s a big one: sometimes the very person who doesn’t quickly apologize actually wants to grow and easily says “I’m sorry” when he or she is outside of a constantly critical atmosphere.

Self protection can kick in quite hard when a person feels under attack or scrutiny all the time. This can make them less quick to apologize and therefore, come across as unwilling when the opposite is actually true. They just need a safe space.

Everyone needs to know they have space to make mistakes.

A culture of honor creates space for the mistakes of others. As Bob Goff says, “Grace looks unfair until it is our turn to need a little.”

We all need so much grace.

Someone can also have narcissistic tendencies without being an overt narcissist. Take the person who easily blame shifts and justifies actions, BUT apologizes the next day and, when he/she makes a huge mistake, repents in tears because the gravity of what was done settles in.

Let me assure you, no matter how quickly a person like this justifies him/herself on a habitual basis or how fast a temper flies, this person is not a narcissist.

So, what constitutes actual narcissism? I believe it important to know the difference because some of you are in despair when you don’t need to be. You’re simply dealing with an emotionally immature or unaware person who has not yet learned the graceful art of loving well.

Others of you are confused and live in mental agony because, as you already know, a narcissist will never change apart from a heaven sent miracle.

If this is your person, and especially your spouse, you need fortitude, understanding of what you’re up against, and a whole lot of wisdom to know how to keep yourself intact.

Let’s look at a few things that allow you to identify what’s going on.

1. A true narcissist will pull off abnormally hurtful behavior but will want you to act as if nothing’s wrong.

This can look like a lot of things. A husband may disappear into the wee hours of the morning, yet blame his wife for “ruining his night” when she’s in tears when he comes home.

He may mention the possibility of having an open marriage someday, yet become angry when his wife no longer wants to spend time with the people he’s discussing it with.

He may give extra-ordinary time and attention to other women, yet want his wife to be silent and happy as if nothing’s wrong.

If she’s not happy, he may tell her that he doesn’t want to be in a marriage where his wife isn’t happy. She tries to tell him that she is happy, except for these things.

One of the clearest signs of narcissism is an inability to see the pain of others, caused by his/her own actions. Do what they will, awful as it may be, the only thing that “works” with a narc is giving admiration and approval. Or, at the very least, silence and acceptance.

When you’re under extreme pressure to be approving in spite of abnormally hurtful behavior, your brain can be at constant odds within itself.

The mental manipulation and confusion has only begun—and I’m here for any woman who wonders why under heaven her brain feels foggy, her heart pounds for no reason, and she can’t make sense of the mental confusion.

Hear me carefully—the greatest tactic of the enemy for abuse to thrive unchecked is the silence of its victims. Christian women, why has the church bought into this lie?? Why are women everywhere wanting help but too afraid to reach out for it?

Remember this one thing: if your husband makes you feel like you need his permission to get help, you can and should find help immediately.

I want you to know that none of this behavior has to make sense, and you can stop trying to find a way to justify it.

I want you to do one thing. I want you to sit with reality, painful though it is. Let it sink into your head that your husband has a problem and you will no longer live in denial.

Taking that one mental step will clear your mind, but that is just the beginning. Day after day after day, you will need to rewire your brain with truth, even if the truth is ugly.

Owning the truth of it all is difficult and means you will need to have some honest talks with your husband where saving your marriage is important, but saving your mind is also important. You will speak truth even if he packs his bags.

Some of you may need mentors flanking you on either side just to help you take the steps necessary.

Some of you will need to wade through overwhelming false guilt, just to find your voice.

You can and should decide not to study the topic of open marriage, and let him know that.

You can now tell him, “I will no longer sleep with you if porn is an unapologetic part of your life.”

If he stares you down and asks, “So it’s your way or no way?” you can calmly reply, “Yes, because this is God’s way. I’m going to take a stand on this thing but I’m willing to give on other things.”

Ladies, if he loves you and God, he’ll do what it takes to be with you. And if he doesn’t, I’m here to tell you that being alone is not worse than being in an abusive marriage. Your mind deserves to be clearly loved rather than chaotically confused.

A lot of you are hidden, silent, even in the church.

Christian women confuse a meek and quiet spirit with silence and mental quicksand. But what if we were so dependent on Jesus that we were no longer willing to have our brains twisted? What if the light of freedom was so inviting that we no longer cowered under cult-like oppression and abuse?

What if we walked in truth and gave the results to God? Because God, not us, can save our marriages—and we are not the only deciding factor. In fact, God can do more when you walk in truth rather than cowardice. If silence and intimidation is what it takes to keep your marriage “intact”, let me assure you that is not God’s way of saving and is really not saving your marriage at all.

You are not saving your marriage by silencing your voice.

Sister, you can try to be a perfect wife til the cows come home—but if you’re dealing with a narcissist, your efforts for perfection will drive your own soul mad—and hear me carefully, they will not save your marriage.

It’s time for you to give your marriage to God and allow Him to clear your mind. Say it with me, “I will walk in truth. I will no longer hide or be confused because God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”

Then, find yourself trustworthy people who will support you on all sides. Never, ever walk this way alone.

Peace is coming. Clarity is at your door. Mental healing and emotional clarity are your next greatest gift whether your marriage heals or not.

Not everyone’s a narcissist, but some people truly are. Surround yourself with great people (there are a lot of “normal”, really great people out there).

And on this side of heaven, I’m here for you, all the way. Until next time, all is grace and grace is here for YOU.

Much Love,

Sara

What Every Girl in the Purity Culture Should Know

“I wasn’t ready,” she shared with me soberly. “My dad and my boyfriend set up the engagement dinner. I was surprised, and it felt too soon.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the scenario, or something similar—until the word courtship makes me cringe.

Christian parents focus on courtship because they want something better for their daughters. They want sexual purity and a beautiful wedding night with no previous regrets.

But, what if there are other needs just as great as sexual purity, yet often go unmentioned?

What if a girl’s life is in shambles later, because she didn’t feel like she could say no?

Recently a friend shared a dating podcast by one of the most prophetic people I know. She walks miracles. People get saved simply by watching the glorious power of Jesus change someone instantly or by hearing words of knowledge that can only come from supernatural wisdom.

Yet, even she says this: “I refuse to give prophetic words about who someone should marry. Every girl must be given choice. You cannot say yes until you first know that you can also say NO.”

1. The “prophetic” words or signs you think you may be seeing, may or may not be signs from the Lord.

In order to know, you must have peace on every front. Your humanity comes into play in a real way when you choose who you will live with for the rest of your life. So, if you think the “signs” are pointing you a certain way, yet are fully aware that there are major incompatibilities, I want you to know that you can and should pause.

Never deny or brush aside those things. Never pretend they don’t exist because you’re basically convinced “God brought us together”. Doing so will only bring heart ache and unhappiness in the end.

There are some very human and practical areas of your heart and life that must be in place for a happy marriage. Just as a man gets to observe you and choose to pursue you or not pursue you, so it is your privilege and responsibility to observe him and choose to be pursued (or not be pursued).

Remember this: when God truly brings a couple together and the timing is right, there will be no insurmountable issues. You won’t be scrambling to fit yourself to him, or try to fit him to you.

When God does something, it fits well. Even if there are problems to work through, there is also raw happiness, joy, and peace in the process sooner or later. If you don’t have that, please don’t allow any perceived “signs” to convince you to push forward into marriage.

Humanity is a gift. You are not just spirit, and you should not pretend to be. Your human needs matter and you get to speak up.

2. Modesty is important, but it doesn’t stop there.

How many girls are taught sexual purity and modesty, yet are not taught the equal value of beauty and sexuality?

When you raise a girl to be sexually pure, you also need to raise her to be sexually aware. Talk with her about everything from an early age. Speak as often of the beauty of committed sex as you do about the dangers of non-committed sex.

Many girls are raised with warnings about sex, but are not brought into an equal awareness of the beauty of sex. Thus, the efforts by well meaning parents for a beautiful wedding night are thwarted because a girl is often not ready to abandon herself fully after an entire lifetime of warnings about “purity”.

As a young girl, she’s been taught to cover herself well so that “she doesn’t cause men to lust”. This often translates into “I’m an object that must be fully hidden or every man will lust after me”. She begins to walk around with a subconscious feeling that she is a threat to men, an unwelcome distraction, and that every man in the room wants her.

This is not true. The world is full of good and noble men who respect women and treat them as humans worthy of engagement and interaction on a decent and moral level. Not every man wants her. Not every man will lust over her. What’s more, she is not every man’s type, even if she and he were both available.

Painting men as basic canines with little ability to control themselves unless they’re in the company of shapeless women is demeaning to both parties. There are many good and decent men who will make a beautiful girl feel entirely safe and whole in their presence.

Again, this is not purposefully done but happens easily when girls are raised with constant focus on modesty and boys are hearing constant warnings against the sin of lust. In many instances, sexual sin becomes worse and we see rape, incest, and a constant “lust struggle” being talked about rather than human beings living community in a healthy, happy manner where love, in all aspects, is embraced and enjoyed.

What we focus on, even if we’re focusing on the sin of it, is often what ends up invading the atmosphere more than ever.

Fear based parenting can fill the atmosphere rather than faith-based celebrations of the absolute goodness of God in all areas of gender and sex.

The key here is to take our attention from the evils we could be talking about constantly and replacing that with joy in good and beautiful relationships, friendships, and happiness in human interaction.

3. Purity Culture parents say they don’t believe in arranged marriages, yet it can feel the opposite.

What a girl experiences emotionally in other areas of life will affect her decision making abilities when it comes to dating. Train your daughters to be discerning, thinking, reasoning human beings with the ability to make decisions and decide what she wants in other areas of life. Ask her to be more than to “be quiet and submit” as you raise her.

A girl can be told she has choice in marriage, but honestly, a lot of things can make her feel undue pressure.

A boy is told to ask her father (before herself) if he can court (rather than date) a girl (with the intentions of marriage).

Yikes. That might sound good to some, but take a moment to reflect on the out workings of that.

The first person to say yes to potential courtship is the father, not her.

The boy then comes to the girl with her father’s yes, and expresses that his intentions are marriage. What often happens is that the girl’s parents come to her with their already spoken approval of the boy, and let her know she is wanted for courtship.

Usually, the parents have talked and prayed about the boy already and have come to a “peace” that this boy is the one (or at the very least, a good option) for their daughter. The young man will likely say that he has prayed for months and is at complete peace that this girl is God’s will for him. And on the first date, while the girl may be feeling tentative and unsure, he will likely express love and intentions of marriage.

Consider with me for a minute how this “good” and “pure” way of courtship can create havoc in a girl’s heart and life. She has no idea who she is, how to use her voice, or even what she wants and doesn’t want.

Then, when two men in her life are already saying yes to a serious relationship, she can feel untold pressure and confusion, even if she has the final say. She will reason that the young man is Godly, parent approved, and will be confused as to why she doesn’t feel better about this relationship as well.

Girls in the purity culture are taught to submit to men. The scenario she suddenly finds herself in can make her feel utter distress. For the first time in her life, she is told that two men have prayed and have peace about this, but she gets to say no if she wants.

This has never happened before. In fact, no man has ever asked her to pray into the will of God for direction and a sense of His heart. She is taught to listen well to preaching and to submit herself to church leadership. She knows that if her convictions (after much study) were to be different than the church’s, there would be trouble. So it is only too easy for her to feel inadequate when it comes to discerning the mind and will of God.

In this way, she easily falls prey to pressure as to who she should marry and may wake on her wedding morning with a pit in her stomach that she can’t describe.

The marriage is not arranged, per say, but the pressure a girl feels may as well translate into an arranged marriage.

4. I want us to consider that dating is GOOD.

Dating allows a girl to spend time with a guy without pressure. They can hang out, enjoy conversation, and get to know each other, not with certain intentions of marriage, but with the intentions of getting to know each other to see if they want to keep spending time together and POSSIBLY move forward in the future.

As one very wise mama of teens told me: “I do not think marriage should be discussed at the onset. A couple who are interested in each other should go out, have fun, get to know each other, have hard conversations, have fun, get to know each other more…….repeat, with intention. After a season of that, they ought to either define their relationship as boyfriend/girlfriend or move on without each other.”

Yes, it’s great when it works out; but it’s more than okay for one or both to decide not to move forward because there are incompatibilities or lack of connection.

Yes, there are many happy endings to “Godly courtship”. But, there are many casualties as well. Dating carefully allows the casualties to prevent themselves by exposing problems as a couple dates without pressure.

Every girl should know what it’s like to have fun with a guy, without pressure. Remove the immediate pressure of intended marriage and you will stand a far greater chance of seeing a marriage.

5. God created our humanity.

There is so much fear of promiscuity that there is little room left for humanity. When people parent out of fear, they harp on all the bad that could happen rather than make room for the good that would happen if there was space for it.

I want us to consider that our humanity is part of our spirituality. God created us, body, soul, and spirit. If you have external “signs” that are leading you into relationship while you have major internal distress, you may be stuck in an environment that has not allowed your voice, your heart, yourself to be alive and well.

In some ways, it is just as sad for a girl to end up in a tragic marriage as it is for a girl to end up in sexual impurity before marriage.

Parents, your daughters should be thrilled and excited and happy on their wedding day. Weddings are cause for great celebration and out-of-this world JOY. Wedding nights are made for passionate lovers to enjoy each other, and to keep loving each other all the days of their lives.

Let your daughter date a guy who will not talk of marriage on the first date.

Let her enjoy appropriate time with him alone. No need to have someone else in the car all the time to “make sure they stay pure”. (If these kids aren’t mature enough to handle themselves appropriately, they’re not mature enough to be dating.)

And parents, let your daughter embrace her guy. Let her be held by him. Let her feel the goodness of his physical presence. Again, if one cannot remain sexually pure simply because they’re holding hands, hugging, or sitting close, they are not ready to be dating at all. Self control is a sign of maturity.

A girl who knows what physical closeness to her man feels like is often more ready to enjoy her wedding night than a girl who has been told her entire life not to even hold hands with a man. When you make every touch out to be impure, it can be difficult to translate every touch to something good just because a wedding occurred that day.

There are heart wrenching stories to consider here.

I’m asking parents of the purity culture to consider that fear based parenting in these areas of life have caused grief and trauma that are usually unmentioned.

I want girls of the purity culture to know that sexuality is as good of a thing as sexual purity. When you embrace your humanity, you can save it for marriage, but when you shut down your humanity, it can be shut down for your wedding night.

God created you sexual beings. Parents of the purity culture need to embrace their daughter’s sexuality as well as their son’s sexuality. Girls need to know they are not hidden threats; they are beautiful human beings created to love and be loved by a man they will be HAPPY with.

As to arranged marriages, let family members and church leaders allow a girl to use her voice, her heart, her humanity to fully choose her partner for life. When we say we don’t believe in arranged marriages, let’s make all girls fully aware of that by giving her choice and freedom in dating to get to know someone well, without pressure.

I’m not advocating loose dating with no purpose. I promote sexual purity wholeheartedly. But I am grieved that girls feel pressure from day one and head into marriage, expected to be alive and happy when every part of their humanity and voice has been molded and shaped to fit what is expected and wanted by others more than herself. Or, she’s saying yes because of “signs from the Lord” while ignoring her own heart needs that are also very much created by God.

Either way is tragic. May God help us lessen casualties by exposing deficiencies. May He help us value the voice of women, honor the way she was created, and place her needs on the same level God did when He created her to be exactly who she is.

For the cause of love,

Sara

How Joy Can Replace Happiness

Most of us have never met someone who thought it was more fun to be sad than happy.

The human race longs for happiness, but few of us know that happiness is not the thing to strive for. If it was, some of us wouldn’t stand a fighting chance of experiencing joy.

As a teen, I remember watching an elderly man who had lost everything—wife and home—and now lived alone, working as a barber. He had the best and kindest smile, along with the most joyful outlook on life.

I was fascinated. When I got married, he gave one of the most generous gifts even though he had little. Almost nineteen years later, every time I turn on my Kitchen Aid mixer, I think of him. That absolute peace in spite of his blown apart world had to come from something.

God took me on a journey of discovering JOY when my life fell apart and all I could do was weep. I learned, in those months, that because I knew sorrow, I was now able to touch JOY.

Finding my space with God became a touch of heaven on earth, where my soul was made free to experience something far greater than anything a human could offer.

Finding this with God makes for a better life than having a perfect life without this touch of the Spirit.

Eternity is meant to inhabit your soul, now.

When the Spirit of God sets your soul ablaze, heaven starts long before death. Eternity invites itself into your soul, here and now, only to continue forever when you die.

When I see this, I see value on everyone around me.

When I experience this, I find joy in spite of circumstances. It is a powerful, holy Presence that steadies you, keeps you, inspires you, and allows you to walk with power even as you weep.

Hang onto that Presence, and you’ll see that Hope is still alive. Joy is still here. And love is still beautiful.

Things of the Spirit are always difficult to put into words, but let me just say this: The pathway to JOY is to stop grasping for happiness. Joy comes when you realize that inner satisfaction isn’t based on who or what’s around you. Your value and dignity are so much greater than that.

What if it takes a person devaluing and discarding you to help you understand how valued, kept, and loved you truly are?

What if the prop of people has replaced your utter need of resting your soul on the PERSON of Christ—and when the prop falls away, your soul rests in the only place it was ever created to find purpose and dignity?

As St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

I can hear that all day long, but not experience the truth of it until I walk in what feels like the valley of the shadow of death. Year after year after year can find us grasping for happiness from people, friends, and things—until we become weary of our quest and anchor our minds in Someone constantly faithful.

What if even what I’m doing for God becomes a prop?

What if I’m in love with working for Christ more than I’m in love with Christ Himself?

For some people, even doctrine becomes more important than the Divine.

I’m here to say that when you find yourself stripped is only when you find your God sufficient beyond your wildest dreams.

Sisters, even a marriage that leaves you wanting can be the means to your soul finding what it truly wanted all along. You don’t need your husband to be happily perfect in order to be perfectly happy. Or should I say, rather than be perfectly happy, you’ll be perfected in JOY.

I want us to see that salvation means being saved from the actions of others as much as it means being saved from our own sin. Your husband can have gaping needs that leave you wanting, but I promise you, if you lean into Jesus and learn from Him what true freedom is, you’ll be surprised at the gift of Joy in spite of it all.

Our value as women is internal and with Jesus, not external and with humans. We need relationship and we need voice, but we have that with God even when people don’t give it to us. And when we get it with God, suddenly people can no longer keep it from us. This is a powerful, holy experience that will change our lives entirely.

You can have the best family photo shoot and the most wonderful, thoughtful husband, you can eat all the kale and lift all the weights, have the cutest kids and the yearly shopping trip with your mom—but if you lean into external things for JOY, you will never find it.

You are worth so much more. You get to walk around a messy kitchen with dignity of soul, get to have unmet needs fully met with Jesus, get to know the thrill of value, purpose, and grace. And I’m here to say, no matter what.

Once you find internal satisfaction, you’ll live differently, hold your head erect, and enjoy all the beautiful things of life far more than before. Because when you’re no longer dependent on things for your happiness, they suddenly become an even greater avenue for your JOY.

We get to enjoy what we refuse to depend on. No longer grasping, all of it becomes gifting. No longer desperate, we now become divinely equipped to rest in our identity that nothing and no one can take away.

Women like this are real queens. They get to use their voice, exercise their gifts, and live fully without becoming obnoxious, grasping for the approval of others or demanding perfection in those who surround them. (Girl, that includes your husband.)

A queen lives with dignity in body, soul, and spirit.

As Ann Voskamp inspired me many years ago, life is all about daring to live fully, right where we are. And in this November month of Thanksgiving, I’m most grateful for the Ultimate Gift Who helps me enjoy Himself most of all.

Cheers to all women who dare to live!

Love Always,

Sara

Dear Single Mom, Part 4

Flight, fight, freeze, or fawn—which one are you, and which one is your child?

Everyone reacts differently to pain. You might have one child who runs for protection, another who tries to be strong and fight her way through life in order not to be hurt again, and another who feels depressed. You may have one who struggles with addiction.

Whatever the case, your own reaction to trauma may look very different than your child’s. And if you have multiple children, you will most likely be navigating their different ways of getting through while you stand, puzzled and unsure of what to do to help them.

By nature, I’m flight or fawn. But, I had to learn response rather than reaction during the worst pain of my life.

There is one kind of pain when your spouse packs his bags and dates a sixteen year old girl; there is another kind of pain when he takes your four children right into that mess and you get to spend a weekend alone wondering if they’re okay.

There is divorce, then there is UGLY divorce. Mine was the latter.

Let me just tell you that being forced to send my children into a bad environment was almost more than I could handle.

The children were reeling and emotional trauma took on a whole new meaning.

Single mom, I want you to know that you may have to go to plan B when it comes to raising your children. Never impose your “perfect” scenario onto a situation that is so messed up you will only do more damage if you insist on the way you’ve always done. Allow God to come into plan B and show you alternative ways of handling situations that don’t seem as good as your plan A, but that are definitely best in the situation at hand.

Don’t despair, never give up, hold steady, and always, always put your children first. Remember that grief has no time-line, and after four years you may hear a child say that he or she is only now fully grieving. Trauma can lock the brain–and when others think “he/she “should” be healed, they may only now be able to face facts enough to begin healing.

Refuse to compare and remember to walk patiently with no expectations except constant prayer for your children.

1. Respond rather than react.

When it comes to reaction, let that be your children while you hold the line of mature response. They are not able to process what happens and desperately need you to be there, 24/7 in a calm, steady way.

At this point, even seeing you in your kitchen making them lunch or dinner can help them feel steady. Any routines you had before need to stay if at all possible. Keep your home tidy, keep food on the table, and keep spending time with your children as you always did.

If you need to go to work as I did, make sure your left over time is dedicated to your children. Go out of your way to be there for them. When you have your children, it should be all about mothering them and creating an environment that is as close to the previous one as possible.

Please don’t be one of those moms who starts drinking too much, dates prematurely, and tries to drown her own sorrow with less than Godly pleasure. Your children need to see you lean into the Lord and getting your comfort from Him and from healthy people. I’m here to tell you, regardless of how long and difficult your days and nights feel, choosing rightly will only help you.

There is enough trying to pull you down, but the honest truth is—no one but you can wreck your life. This is a time to be on guard even more than before. Don’t let yourself be your greatest disaster. I cannot stress this enough—CHOOSE RIGHTLY.

Because here’s the beautiful truth: every hard thing God asks of us ends up creating the most beautiful thing.

Girl, you can run after what you think will heal you, but your soul won’t find rest until it stops to rest in Christ.

2. Surround yourself with Community

Mothers, keep attending the same church you attended before. Don’t run, hide, or try to play life as if nothing’s happening. The only time to switch churches is if things are truly better for you elsewhere. Don’t change out of embarrassment, shame, or a need to hide what is going on in your life. Again, keep things steady for your children.

3. Learn what each child needs.

Single moms need to re-evaluate every part of their parenting in light of what their children are going through.

One year, I had a child who wanted to do online school at home. I decided to let her try, thinking maybe the social pressure at school was too much for her. I registered her for online school, but oddly, nothing worked out and I had to tell her she needed to go to school. In a few weeks she was bubbling with anticipation for cross country, getting up at 5:00 in the morning to prep for her 6:00 practice at school, and asking me to take her shopping for supportive shoes. I had to switch gears quickly, do lots of paperwork, run her to the dr. for a physical at last minute, and drive her to school at 5:45 each morning for practice.

It was a lot, but the sudden joy and motivation on her face let me know it was right. Physical exercise is one of the greatest combatants for depression and anxiety. The same opportunity would not have happened at home, so this is a good example of staying open to various options. Only God knows what is truly best for your child.

4. Make good use of mentors.

My boys needed more than just me. Daily, I was keenly aware that raising boys couldn’t be done on my own. It wasn’t always easy to ask that family if my youngest child could come over for the day. But I knew he needed animals, four wheelers, and a houseful of boys with two healthy parents, so I asked multiple times in order to get him into that environment.

This couple knew what my son needed and gladly took him even though it wasn’t always convenient. And when they asked how they could help, my response usually was, “Pray, and spend time with my boys.”

A younger son will need play dates and time with a healthy father, even if it’s someone else’s father. He needs to feel what it’s like to be “one of the boys” on a manly adventure. Here is where the church comes in—single moms need families who reach out to invite their children to join them in active, fun, and meaningful things. This is one of the best ways you will ever help. It may seem small to you, but it will be big to a single mother.

An older son may need mentorship in extensive ways. Teen boys desperately need adult men to come alongside them and give of their time, energy, wisdom, and resources. To those who’ve done it for my boys, I cannot thank them enough.

Single moms may need finances, but even more, they need family. To the ones who showed up for my boys when I was begging God for it—you will never know what an answer to prayer you were, or how you impacted our lives.

5. Learn to recognize symptoms.

Do you have an angry child?

Let me tell you, what he/she is fussing over isn’t the real issue. This child is in ‘fight’ mode to protect him/herself from being hurt more. Learn to look past the angry voice and ask deeper questions. Do it in the moment to help them see you care more about the real issue than about the anger shown in the moment. Probe deeper and never walk away without showing you care, even when you want to protect yourself from anger. (This is me, and I’m still learning this one).

You may well find your angriest child melting into your arms crying vulnerable tears and telling you what’s really going on. Or, you may have one who is just angry for awhile. This takes a lot of strength to get through and you will need every possible resource to help both you and your child regain emotional clarity.

Though you show understanding for your child, never excuse ugly behavior. Your child needs to know, no matter how much they’re hurting, it is never right to hurt others because of it. Talk to them often of ownership and how no one can ever ruin their lives. Listen carefully to their feelings but always, always steer them away from a victim mentality.

This may look like listening one day, holding them, and just being there. Another day it might look like having them spend time with other adults who can help them. There is no pat answer here. Single moms with traumatized children need endurance, patience, wisdom, and a whole lot of daily faithfulness in order to keep providing stability for their children as best they are able.

There’s much to be said, but for now, dear single mom—keep your head up and know this is not the end of the story. And when you can’t hold on any longer, God holds you longest.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

James 1:12, NIV

Much Love,

Sara

Dear Single Mom, Part 3

Recently a mom asked me to write about practical tips for staying healthy and feminine in a busy life style. I told her I’d be happy to do so, because this is an important and fun topic for Christian women, but it seems only a few (and especially one) aspect of Godly femininity is usually mentioned and taught.

There is so much more to a truly beautiful woman. Godly beauty starts inwardly, yet shows itself outwardly.

Many Christian women read 1 Timothy 2:9 and interpret the Greek word used for “modest” as covering themselves appropriately. We are taught from an early age not to show too much skin and to cover our bodies in public. But I want to say, this is only part of the meaning of modesty.

“….Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9

KJV translates the word for modest with this: “orderly; that is, decorous; of good behavior, modest”

Though I believe appropriately covering our bodies is important, it is difficult to argue that this is the primary meaning of the Greek word “kosmios”. Rather, I see that God wants us to wear clothing that is pleasing to the eye in a modest manner. We are to take care of our appearance and make sure it is orderly and even decorous. In short, women who are pleasant in their appearance bring glory to God.

The Christian church has focused on “modesty” (their interpretation of modesty) more than on health. I’ve watched the results—many fully covered, unhealthy, unhappy women who are not taught the actual meaning of “kosmios”.

Here are a few things I believe are vital for Godly womanhood:

1. Do what you can to stay healthy.

One of the first steps to spiritual, emotional, and physical health is to keep our weight in check. Buy the weight loss program if you have to. Make it priority—rule over food rather than allow food to rule over you.

Buy a good scale and watch your weight–and if you’re married, do this even while pregnant. “Eating for two” doesn’t mean inhaling two donuts or five pancakes. Double up on the veggies, protein, and vitamins instead, if you need to. If we’re really eating for two rather than eating for ourselves, we’ll be eating in ways that are actually good for our baby and our body. Remember, you’re eating for your baby to form in the healthiest way possible.

The scale is your friend. Use it often and if you see numbers go up, do what it takes to stop the incline before you have serious regrets. This includes while you’re pregnant. If you consume too many empty calories while pregnant, the scale won’t drop easily after the baby is born. (Don’t allow yourself to gain 80 pounds if you only need to gain 40, etc.)

I’m not talking about being a size 2. BUT, I believe women need to encourage each other to stay healthy. Emotionally eating ourselves to ten sizes larger than we should be is not becoming for Godly women. This is a sensitive topic and not one we hear taught, but we need to start hearing it! Physical appearance matters and it affects us more than we know. Let’s not label health and fitness as worldly, but realize this is an area where the church often fails to live exemplary lives. Others look on and wonder why Christians preach against addictions, yet are addicted to over-indulgence with food. Do not all addictions harm the body, and why should teens accept preaching against nicotine from a father or mother who is grossly overweight and literally killing him/herself with sugar?

These are tough questions. But strong women are not afraid to face tough questions. It is high time for us to have worthy answers for those looking on.

Let’s face it—all addictions (not just some) are harmful and unbecoming to Christian women. And often, the more “religious” a group is, the numbers of overweight and unhealthy people increase. Religion labels certain things, but the Spirit of Christ sanctifies ALL things.

2. Exercise.

Getting active is vital for our health as moms. For many years, I pushed two or three babies in a used stroller for my exercise. I walked into town with them, walked around blocks before dinner, pushed them up and down a dusty country road. Wherever we lived, I did what I could with what I could.

Later years allowed for Cross Fit, weights, etc., but even then, the gym was a treat rather than a constant. Busy moms can even get on their living room floor and do leg lifts, crunches, and squats. We can do jumping jacks with our kids and have the best laughs watching them try to co-ordinate their limbs as they jump!

After each of my babies was born, I’d lay on my floor and lift my legs a few inches off the ground to tighten my stomach muscle. The burn and tightness in my abdominal muscles was entirely cost-free, took ten minutes, and could be done with my children all around me. My exercise was incredibly simple some years, but the point was to get moving!

In olden days, a woman’s regular day brought natural effort to their bodies. Scrubbing clothes by hand, hoeing a garden, or walking for water all fostered community and exercise. In today’s world, we can throw laundry into a washer, throw rice into an insta pot, and turn on a faucet for water. The end result is ease but no exercise. So, we have to be intentional about health as never before.

3. Don’t over-spend.

In today’s world, you can wear attractive clothing for only a few dollars. Don’t buy into the lie that it’s okay to walk around looking terrible because you’re a mom and don’t have extra money. Keep yourself fresh and clean, especially if you’re married. (You don’t necessarily need make-up—you just need health, peace, kindness, and good hygiene.

I’ve had very little manicures or pedicures. My hands have callouses and I usually stare wistfully at beautifully maintained finger nails, but I simply don’t have the time or money to spend on pedis and manis. Honestly, I’d rather head to a garden or a barn than into a nail salon, but that’s my Amish farm girl coming out. Those who know me best know I’m happiest out with the animals and dirt, or scaling a mountain.

I buy inexpensive jewelry. When I get compliments I often have to say, “This cost me $5.” I don’t own expensive jewelry and I’m okay with that.

So for those of us who think we can let ourselves go because we don’t have money for a gym membership or clothe purchases, just know that you can purchase a few outfits at Goodwill and work out at home. Even healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. Be content and be disciplined!!

I put aside the cotton over alls I wanted due to price. I did purchase the $13 Walmart dress. Choices like these help us manage both our wallets and appearance!

4. Let go of the lie that in order to be pleasantly dressed you have to be into the latest fashion.

Truth is, I dislike some of the latest fashions and the other truth is, I don’t want to spend money being up to par with all of that. BUT, I do study clothing and body shapes. Some of us look terrible in what others look great in. Some things are appropriate for one body shape but too revealing for another. Whatever the case, I’ve found joy in a simple approach to clothing where I ponder what looks good or doesn’t look good, yet am not a slave to keeping up with all the latest fads.

We are not Hollywood actresses or fashion models—but hear me carefully, Christian women—our physical appearance is important when it comes to staying healthy and knowing how to dress.

Our bodies are not our own and are to glorify Christ. He is all goodness and love. Do people feel inspired when they look at us?

5. Don’t gain attention by showing too much skin.

Real women don’t have to show everything in order to know they are worth more than anything. Be beautiful, but keep your sexuality for the bedroom. When in public, have class and dignity about you that attracts appreciation and respect more than whistles and leers from player men.

A truly beautiful woman is a faithful woman who loves her husband and strives to be his best friend.

And if I can put a word in for swim wear, here: girls, some of your bikinis aren’t even bikinis anymore. If you’re okay with wearing one, at least cover your bum. Enough said. 🙂

6. Skin Care.

I’m not rigorous about the perfect skin care routine, but it is important to put at least moisturizer on your face twice a day. Wash and care for your skin. Take daily showers, especially if you’re married. The beauty of a woman is the cleanliness of a woman more than the expense spent on a woman. In other words, a healthy, clean woman is often more attractive than an unhealthy woman who spends hundreds of dollars each month to doll herself up.

So don’t stress about skin. You can go as easy as a natural coconut oil if you like. Most of us can’t afford dermatology or expensive skin care and that’s okay! Health comes from the inside out which means what you put into your body affects your skin.

And as you age, forget about getting as tan as you can in summer. Protect your skin more than you used to, to avoid brown spots and leathery skin. Especially if you live in the South! Staying tan is difficult in winter anyway, but healthy skin can be enjoyed year round.

7. Embrace Aging.

What is more needed and lovely than a radiant grandma?! I don’t know about you, but I need grandmothers with grey hair, soft arms, and fires burning in their hearth, heart, and homes. I need grandmothers whose bodies may be growing feeble while their hearts burn with wisdom and insight more than ever.

Only a selfish woman who thinks her value comes from youth and outer beauty will fight and kick the aging process. Having this as your focus leaves you empty, with nothing for the soul of others to connect to. Stay healthy, active, and pleasant—but don’t fret the wrinkles! Just smile a little more as you grow older and allow the joy of you to override the aging of you.

7. Worship.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman who worships her way through life. Honor God by worshiping Him through your tears. Truly thank Him for the joys of life. Be a thousand times grateful for the one time critical or negative.

Remember that your soul can be beautiful regardless of who or what is around you. What atmosphere do others get in your presence? Who are YOU—because who your soul is matters more than what your circumstances are.

Christian woman, remember there is so much more to modesty than what is usually taught. Be a lovely, feminine, attractive person in your soul, and strive to show that in your appearance. Even if you’re a tomboy who hates girly things and finds herself out shooting guns and riding horses—be a real woman and be proud of it!!

Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

Psalm 34:5

XO,

Sara

Dear Single Mom, Part 2

Yesterday I walked the mall with my children in search of back-to-school clothes. I played pool with my little boy, took him for a bike ride, watched our favorite show with the two youngest, and had Bible time. And when the oldest daughter came home from work I was available to do some silly dancing with her even while protesting every moment of her goofiness.

I’m listing all the above because the day felt like a miracle.

When I became a single mom and went to work, the most difficult thing was not working hard; it was leaving my children.

I had four children, a large home to maintain and care for, and I had home schooled for ten years. The four were my heart and soul walking outside my body—and they still are.

I had very little experience in the working world even though I grew up working harder than most children or young adults. Life as an Amish girl equips you well in certain aspects, but (and here I’m being vulnerable beyond what is comfortable), when I became a single mom, I didn’t know where to turn for a job.

I knew how to turn out enough food in the kitchen for an army in a matter of a few hours.

I knew how to kill a chicken and turn it into a meal.

I knew how to sew, garden, and even use power tools.

I could write and speak and publish books.

But I started at ground zero when it came to the business world. Painstakingly, I learned all about paying bills, starting a business, and running an air bnb.

And I’m here to tell you—how it all worked out was a God thing, because I was in tears.

I lived in a beautiful part of the world where mountains meet the sea, so the basement of my large home turned into a cozy air bnb. I got to use my love for hosting as almost each night in summer filled up with guests from around the world. They were a balm to my aching heart and the bank account filled up until I could purchase the car we so desperately needed.

The day my company showed up in white cars and it struck me all over again. 🙏

I’ll never forget that Christmas month when I drove a lovely white Kia Sorento home to my children. “Look what God did!” Four years later I’m still driving that car and thanking God for it.

I didn’t know how to purchase a car. For the thousandth time, I knew I needed to learn, or get help. I chose the latter. God had me randomly run into a couple who had already wanted to meet me, and we became fast friends. They parented me through the entire process until all I had to do was head to various places checking out cars, and write a check for the one we all decided on. What a beautiful God process that was.

Once again, my weakness was perfected by his strength—and a large part of that was through God’s people who came alongside to help.

I owe them a lot, but here’s the beautiful thing—we both know we owe God everything.

In this part of God’s story, I’m the receiver and they are the givers—but the marvelous thing is that we both know the Ultimate Gift.

I never dreamed I could buy a car with cash. And as I drove it around town, this lovely car became part of my healing.

I could do this.

I was going to make it.

I discovered how incredibly easy it is to pay bills online. I ran my air bnb and slowly built up clientele for a cleaning business. Day after day after day, I learned, planned, and worked to rebuild my life and care for my children while at night my pillow soaked wet with tears and I begged God for grace to get up the next morning.

The right thing is almost never the easy thing. But doing the hard thing will create blessings for the duration of your life. Never forget that choosing the next yes to God is the best thing you will ever do.

Never mind the struggle—always mind your God.

The need to move out of state with the children became obvious, and once again I was faced with firsts.

There was a house to find and rent online.

There were plane tickets to buy, a large homestead to clear out, and four children to move across the country.

And when we got there, a start over on business.

Let me tell you, delivering 3000 flyers to mail boxes is not my cup of tea. Neither is starting a business while Covid hits.

Friends warned me not to bank on it. “Business can take years to build up,” they realistically said. But God came through once again, and as I got one client, then two, then three, they started putting word out and business flew off the roof.

The days were long, grueling, and hot. Southern summers are smotheringly hot and cleaning is not easy. Again, day after day after day of struggle to get through work while mothering four children in a new area was anything but easy.

I cried out to God for grace and learned to accept help from family and friends. I would not have been able to do what I did without accepting help, and I owe these beautiful people a lot–but, some things you can never repay and that is the beauty of giving and receiving.

Rather than file my own taxes, I hired an accountant. When the time came to visit my parents, I flew rather than drove. I said no to multiple things so I could say yes to the effort it took to make life function.

Single mom, I see you. And I’m here to say, if you have offers to help, accept them. Say yes to all of them because you’ll need help. The part of you that also needs rejuvenation hasn’t died with the rest of your life, and when friends offer, that means they know, they love, and they truly want to be there.

Hear me on this, and let it sink it every day—you weren’t meant to do this thing alone.

God never designed you to run work, family, and home without help. You need things and people in place to fill in every gap you can fill while you let yourself off the hook and out of the lie that you should be able to be everything for everyone, even still.

Single mom, don’t try to be superhuman. Just be a real human relying on grace and love to create the best you can of your life in spite of the worst thing that happened in your life.

Before long I was turning down work—and after two years I am sitting in a cozy cafe with my little boy doing my favorite thing of writing while two employees handle the work load for the day. I still had to pray my way out of the bed this morning, because four years of single mothering has me wanting days (not hours) of rest.

But this girl who knew nothing of the business world has a registered business running without my hands today. This fact alone speaks of the tender loving hand of God watching me all along with His own plans for my life. When I could see nothing but another hard day, he could see ahead to a beautiful plan.

Like Job, I sat in the dust and whispered, “Though you slay me, yet will I trust you.” (Job 13:15)

I learned to give thanks in everything rather than for everything. Big difference! God doesn’t cause the bad in your life but because He’s God, He wins over it all and brings the winning good right into the bad to over ride it and display His grace.

Job didn’t know he was on trial, that Satan was trying to bring him down, but God knew he’d pull through and would not put the name of God to shame by turning his back in a place of pain.

God brought Job through. And He’ll bring you through. One way or another, however it happens, God will bring you through. Allow His people to help you and lean heavily into Him where you’ll find sustaining grace.

I tell my daughters all the time, “God’s peace doesn’t always remove pain, but it over-rides pain because it’s greater, bigger, and on the winning side.”

Teach your children that grace wins and they can be part of grace. Be patient as they flounder and struggle through trauma. Hold your ground steady so they can see something steady in their blown-apart world.

Community matters, and you are such a great part of community. Honestly, I can’t wait to have more time on my hands so I can host the part of community I care about so deeply—single moms who unexpectedly find themselves alone.

And yet, I want to tell you, dear single mom, you are not alone. If you stay with Christ, you have the God of angel armies always by your side. That army surrounds you in the court room, on the job front, and as you mother your children. That same God enters your room at night when you feel alone and gives you grace to rise for another day.

When you stay with God, you will heal—because God can do nothing else. He is all goodness, all healing, all love, and all grace.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)

Regaining Emotional Clarity—Don’t Live by Your Emotions, Part 8

Every once in awhile my eyes roll to my head when I’m listening to teen girls gab about boys.

Yes, the boy thing. And how do you tell them that this boy most likely isn’t the future husband when all the emotions say otherwise?

During those moments I see clearly what God must see so clearly about us—that much of our lives are based off immediate emotional reactions rather than deliberate Godly responses.

Girl sees cute boy and bam—all the natural emotional responses start rolling.

It takes self control to wait, decide what you want with life and relationships, and work on character rather than premature dating. A wise parent will do her best to encourage the latter even when emotional responses from a child would cause her to buckle.

But teen love and dating is not the only thing that can be ruined by natural emotional responses. What about us? As fully grown adults, how do we live?

“The irony of the term “self control” is that it is not about our act of taking control, but rather about our surrendering control to God.” ~Jennifer Ussleman, Choosing to Choose Better

https://www.amazon.com/Choosing-Choose-Better-Changes-Everything/dp/1637324553/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?crid=25M269BN3ZHP7&keywords=choosing

I don’t think there’s really any way we can force our emotions in line with the will of God. Usually, emotions over-power better knowledge. But surrendering ourselves to the Lord makes us new creatures, which means there’s an inner response more powerful than a natural reaction.

As a friend once said, “When God does something, it’s like there’s an aroma of the Holy Spirit that is just different than something outside of His will.”

We can’t always show our children the difference until they experience it personally, but we can, as parents, do our best to guide them toward wisdom.

This is our responsibility.

This is our duty.

This is our job.

(My babies plus one more from Slovokia. We love you, Tampka!)

But back to ourselves. Living above our emotions affects how we discern the will of God (not the easy way, but the right way), how we eat, speak, and run our businesses. It affects what atmosphere people sense when they’re around us, how much life they glean from our presence in the room.

What atmosphere do you bring to the table?

And what about this—living above emotions even affects how we eat. We’re suddenly able to choose for health rather than weigh our bodies down with excess junk.

Eat to get your emotions comforted and you’ll end up emotionally uncomfortable when you step on the scale or go clothes shopping. Making the better choice in spite of emotions ends up setting your emotions free.

Eating for life instead of emotions is a good picture of what happens in all of life when we choose higher than feelings. Suddenly, we start feeling better.

Get this—when you no longer allow your feelings to run your life, you suddenly start feeling better and living a better life.

(Nutritious and deliscious–curry chicken salad, brown bread, and all things fresh.)

Our emotions are here to guide us, not rule us. They are one factor, not the greatest factor. They are useful tools, not the end of wisdom. This means that if your emotions are leading you astray, you reign them in and follow wisdom instead.

Your feelings can even be swayed by religion. Amish people are taught that owning a car is worldly. Because their feelings have been conditioned by culture and decades of religion, they will truly feel guilty when they purchase a car.

(My world as a child.)

A muslim woman will feel guilty for exposing her face. And I, as an Amish girl, remember hiding behind the refrigerator when a man from church knocked on the door. My feelings told me that for him to see my hair would be shameful.

Even religion has to humbly exchange itself for relationship, and bow itself to the pure, holy, written Word of God that will change or bow to no one and for no one. It is not God’s job to fit our interpretation of His will; it is our job to surrender to His perfect Word and will, even when it collides with what we’ve always been taught.

Ironic, isn’t it? At the cross, we kneel low so our souls can rise high. All of us, inside and out, need to bow at the cross and subject ourselves to a Greater Word.

Whatever we feel in the process will eventually be exchanged for greater grace than we’d ever know, were we to bow to anything less than the Word of God.

Choosing rightly may never change your circumstances, but it will absolutely change your heart. And that, my friends, is a greater miracle we can only know when we’ve experienced the beautiful, loving presence of Jesus Christ. Emotions can lead us astray, but He will always lead us upward, onward, and into freedom.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)