Set Apart Femininity

"God's sacred intent for us goes far beyond just saving sex until marriage, wearing one-piece swimsuits instead of skimpy string bininis, or idolizing Christian bands instead of secular ones. It is not just making sure we tack on some Christian morality to our self-indulgent lives. His sacred intent for you and for me is nothing short of absolute abandonment to Jesus Christ, entire separation from the pollution of the world, and ardent worship of our King with every breath we take." ~ Set Apart Feminity, p. 28

My bus-reading this week was Set Apart Femininity, by Leslie Ludy. I arrived to work each morning feeling that my heart was about to burst with love for Jesus, and couldn't understand why people didn't mention the glow on my face. Maybe they think I'm pregnant. ;) Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. I have shared its impact on my life with pretty much everyone I've talked to this week for more than 10 minutes.

Leslie uses God's Word, her own story, and stories of faithful Christian women of the past to unveil God's beautiful, incredible plan for femininity. She challenges the status-quo of Christianity, convicting me on each page that Jesus wants more of me.

I was especially convicted on how I spend my time. It's so tempting after a long and stressful workday, making dinner, doing dishes, playing with the little man, and putting him to bed, to just turn the TV on and veg. And in our society, it's perfectly acceptable and normal to do so. But think about this:

"One of the ways that you can tell something is an "idol" or "other lover" in your life is that you are unwilling to let it go; you can't picture living without it....Most of us verbally declare that Jesus Christ is more important to us than our fetishes for music or movies. But what do our lives say? Where do we spend the best hours of our days? What do we turn to for enjoyment and comfort?" p. 79, 81 (bold mine)

That last sentence hit me hard. Do I turn to Jesus for enjoyment and comfort? More likely, I turn to reading a blog or Facebook, or watching TV, or reading a book. And yet the enjoyment I get from spending an entire day doing those things is nothing compared to spending a few minutes in focused prayer, a few minutes studying God's Word.

I will confess, I have rarely set aside a consistent time in my day just for God. After rising early for Bible study and prayer for the past two weeks, God has transformed my heart, renewing my passion for Him. While I once considered "quiet time" a chore that I rarely "had time for", now I can't imagine not making time for Him, and desire to spend every possible moment knowing Him more. I am so amazed by the great love He has for me, that He would lay down His life for me; how can I not love him with every ounce of my being, every minute of my day? I can't wait to see what He will do with this life, now that it is completely His. Please pray with me that God would continue to reveal His will to Kyle and I, that we would know how we can be most effective in our service to Him.

If you've been in a dry season in your walk with God, I urge you to take 30 minutes each morning to read the Bible. (Really, what's the difference between 6 or 6:30? Or in my case, 5 or 5:30.) Proverbs and 1 John have been my books of choice lately. I would also highly recommend the Precept Upon Precept Bible studies, if you benefit from a more structured study. Then spend some time talking with God, letting him know what you're feeling, what you're thankful for, what you want Him to do in your life. Ask Him to show you who He wants you to be, because I assure you that His plans for you are probably more wonderful that you can even imagine. Delight in who He is, in His great love for you!

Oh, and pick up a copy of Set Apart Femininity. :) For the guys, her husband also wrote a couple of books that are more geared towards men - "God's Gift to Women" and "The Bravehearted Gospel".


Family Planning, Part 3

After re-reading the theology of family planning at silentvoices.org (see the direct link in Part 2 below), I don't think I have much to add! So I've decided not to waste time re-doing the hard work they've already done, and just direct you there, to your Bible, to your significant other, and to your brothers and sisters in Christ to research God's view of family planning. :) I've been thinking long and hard about what to post in Part 3 now. I want to share about three things: God's love and forgiveness, my current struggle to trust God with family planning, and the great wisdom of God.

I don't have it all together. On a topic as touchy as family planning, I just want you to know there is no condemnation here for those who are seeking to follow Jesus. If you have made choices you regret, there is abundant love and grace in the arms of Jesus! Tell Him you realize you were wrong, turn away from doing wrong, and follow Him! If you aren't sure what decisions to make, let Him make them for you. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Prov. 3:5-6).

That said, I have a confession to make, which some of you have heard before. I am so much more nervous to get pregnant with baby #2 than I was for #1. The Lord must have given me a gift of faith before #1, because I had very few fears or worries before or after we got pregnant with J. I trusted that God would provide, and that we were in His will. I am having a hard time trusting God, now that I can "count the cost" of having a child. I have no clue how things will change once we have two kids. I have no clue if we have enough money, or energy, or mental ability. I am so worried about me, it's just ridiculous. God provided when we had one meager income, one tiny apartment, and a very new marriage. He will provide again. Please pray with me that God will help my husband and I to trust Him with our next child (if another one is His will), and that He will provide!

The most important thing I have learned as I have studied God's views of family planning: "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength" (1 Cor. 1:25). God always knows better than I do. And he definitely knows better than the ways of the world. I've found myself examining the different facets of my life to see if I am following man's "wisdom" or God's Wisdom. Am I lusting after things, success, power, or recognition? Or am I desiring the incorruptible treasures God longs to share with me? Am I trying to do life all by myself, my own way (or trying to be someone else)? Or am I giving my life over to God, seeking His narrow path? (1 Jn 2:16-18)

This passage showed me so clearly that God's wisdom can definitely plan my family:
Prov. 8:27-33
I [wisdom] was there when he [God] set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
"Now then, my sons, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not ignore it."

Lord, help Your people to turn from man's wisdom to Your wisdom. Help us to live radically different lives that shine Your light and love to the world. Let us not become complacent with traditions, rituals, or expectations, but to seek correction and discipline from You that we might become like You. Let us truly be Your hands and feet, Father. Amen.


Family Planning, Part 2

Family Planning, Part 2

NOTE: This post is PG-13. If you don’t care to hear about my personal family planning choices, please read no further.

Soon after discovering that The Pill is an abortifacient, I happened to have a conversation with my pastor about birth control. “Children are a blessing from the Lord,” he exclaimed, “so why would you try to limit God’s blessings?” I had honestly never thought of family planning in such a way. Our culture certainly doesn’t see having many children as a blessing! So often I hear people maligning large families, and speaking of the parents of large families as if they don’t understand the “facts of life”. It is seen as irresponsible (oh, that carbon footprint!) to have many children. More on a theology of family planning later…

Later that week as my fiancĂ© and I drove through the countryside, I brought up the idea of trusting God with our family size, and foregoing B.C. After much discussion, we decided it wasn’t the right plan for us at the time. With me graduating a month before our wedding, and no employment plans on the table, we knew we would need time before having a baby.

So, I began researching other options. It became clear that the only other family planning methods that would work for us would be Natural Family Planning (NFP), barrier methods, or some combination of the two (the Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM). Based on our theology of family planning, we determined that NFP was the best option for us. It allowed us to remain open to the possibility of conceiving, while also allowing us to naturally avoid pregnancy.

I began charting my fertility signs right away (in November) in preparation for our marriage in June. I won’t go into the details of how this works… but if you’d like more information on how to use NFP, I recommend the resources offered by the Couple to Couple League. Their FAQ page on NFP is here. If you’re going to use NFP, I highly recommend at least a few months of charting before actually using it to postpone pregnancy. This gives you some time to build confidence and understand your cycle.

Some pros and cons of NFP:

1. Openness to life
2. Works with the natural signs of fertility
3. No hormones/chemicals/barriers to worry about
4. Encourages communication between husband and wife
5. Encourages non-sexual affection
6. Highly effective when properly practiced

1. Abstinence during fertile times
2. Time and stress of properly charting fertility signs
We used NFP for the first 6 months of our marriage, before conceiving in December. No, my pregnancy wasn’t a mistake (nor was it a perfectly thought out and planned decision!). It was God’s perfect plan, though! At that point, we both had steady jobs, and God has been so faithful to provide all we needed.

Our dear son was born in September. Knowing that breastfeeding is not 100% effective at postponing another pregnancy, we decided to use FAM until my signs of fertility returned.
Hopefully this isn’t all way too much information. My intent is not to gross anyone out, but only to share what has worked for us in the hopes that others will be inspired to follow God’s leading in choosing a method of family planning. I am open to answering your questions, and if they are too personal to post as a comment, feel free to leave your e-mail address and I will contact you.

And alas, I am out of time and will need to cover a theology of family planning in Part 3. But in the meantime, here is one of the sites I found while researching my theology of family planning: http://www.silentvoices.org/birthcontrol.html#biblep. I think they have a great biblical perspective on birth control.