A Letter To Christian Teenage Girls About Modesty From A Mother of Three Teenage Boys

I saw you at the pool today walking with your friend.  Your body barely filling out the teeny tiny string bikini you were modeling during your numerous walks around the pool grounds.

I saw you at the party walking ever so gingerly and carefully in your oh so high heels and itty bitty little shorts.  You were afraid to move the wrong way because there was no room for error with the height of your shorts and the depth of your shirt.

I saw you hanging out with your friends.  Your bra straps and cleavage taking up more space on your body than the teeny tiny “shirt” you had on.  Skin tight pants with an obvious thong…there was nothing left to the imagination.

I saw you…my boys saw you.  I imagine any male, young or old,  saw you and took notice.

You were made for so much more than this.

I do not write this with a finger waving at you in the air.  I do not write this thumping my Bible and preaching to you.  I do not write to you to cast blame or judgment.  I write to you to tell you that you are beautiful. You are treasured and created in beauty.  You are fairer than diamonds, more precious than the finest gems.  You are a masterpiece of the Lord, created just the way He wanted you to be, crafted by His hand.  You are like no other.  You are special, unique.  Your are beautiful.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.  Psalms 139:14

I wish that I could run up to you and look at you in the eyes and tell you that your beauty goes far beyond outward appearances.  Beauty is something within.  It’s a comfort in being you.  It is a feeling that exudes from a woman who knows that she is a child of the Lord and that her true value comes from Him.  Beauty actually has very little to do with a pretty face or a nice body.  Beauty goes much deeper.  It is found in a quiet, tender spirit.  Take away the fancy clothes, pretty hair, lovely make-up, and sparkling jewelry, and see that beauty is still to be found.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… . Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. I Peter 3:3-4

True beauty has little to do with appearances.

I was recently food shopping and found myself stuck behind an older gentleman.  He was likely in his late 50’s or early 60’s, and with each aisle we traveled, I watched his head turn and his eyes survey many young women.  There was one commonality in the women he took the time to check out.  They were all barely dressed.  Not surprisingly, very short skirts, spandex pants, tiny tanks, and barely there shorts were to his liking.  His motions were very obvious and his gaze lingered in an eerie way.  I also noticed that there were some women who escaped his glance all together.  They must have been “ugly”, right?  Not so.  Those equally attractive women were dressed in loosely fitting shirts,  modest skirts, or knee length shorts.  They weren’t hanging out of their shirts or barely dressed.  This man had no interest in modesty.  He sought to disrespect and get a free peep from women with questionable attire.  It was completely nauseating.

You are worth so much more than the wandering gaze of that strange man.

I hope you realize that this is not a call for you to wear turtlenecks and floor length skirts or to have your hair in a bun and to throw away your lipstick. Not at all. It is a challenge for you to think about why you dress the way you do.  Are you looking for attention?  Do you want to feel sexy?  Trying to fit in with your friends?  Wanting to get the attention of a specific boy?  Looking for ways to intentionally challenge your parents?  I can’t answer those questions for you.

Please know that I can relate to you.  During the first two years of college (when I was young and thin), I absolutely found power in a low cut shirt and a tight pair of jeans.  I found that I could turn heads, meet guys, and get attention.  I also found out that the guys who were interested in my low cut shirts and tight jeans really had no interest in getting to know me for me.  I gave the impression by my choice of clothing that I was an easy pick-up.  I wasn’t interested in casual hook-ups; I was looking for a relationship.  Thankfully the Lord opened my eyes and showed me that He valued me and was actually interested in a relationship with me.  I found worth and the freedom to just be me in Christ alone.

I want you to know that there are parents who are raising their teenage boys to respect you.  They are being taught that your true value is not found in your outward appearance, where beauty can change and fade, but instead they are being taught to look for inward beauty, in your heart and mind.  They are being taught that a lady’s first love should be the Lord, as should theirs.  They are being taught to steer clear of temptation or anything that will cause them to stumble or fall.  They are being taught that you are more than just a pretty face or a nice body.  They are being taught that they are accountable to the Lord for the way they treat you.  I hope and pray that they follow what they’ve heard and what the Bible says, just as I hope that you will do the same.

There are young men who are being taught to love and respect you and to appreciate the beauty of a modest young woman.

I pray that you will realize the great love your Heavenly Father has for you.  I hope that you realize what true beauty is.  My desire for you is to respect yourself enough to think about the way you dress.  Think about why you dress the way you do.  Please know that there are young men who are being taught to value you for who you are.  Seek them out.  Wait for them.  Don’t compromise yourself.

 

This post was first featured on Life in the Van.

Being Generous With The Little You Have

A poor widow.  Two small, seemingly insignificant, copper coins sat inside of her hand.  She was among the others who had come to present their offerings at the temple treasury.  Others had more than her; many gave more as well.  Yet,  Jesus was there watching,…observing.   He saw the rich give much.    He saw the widow.  She gave but a few cents…all that she had…those two small coins.

 “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on’”  Mark 12:43-44

Insignificant?  Not so.  Jesus saw this woman’s heart.  He saw her willingness to give all that she had…not out of her surplus, but out of the little that she had to live on…to survive.  Those two copper coins had value, great value in the eyes of the Lord.

A drought filled land.  A woman gathering sticks to build a fire.   She was to prepare the last of her rations for her and her son.   Elijah arrives in Zarepath and encounters the woman.  He requests a bit to drink and some bread to eat.  She explains her dilemma.  She has but a handful, a mere handful, of flour and a bit of oil in a jar.  Elijah’s instructions? Go and do as planned, but she was to bring him the first little cake of bread.  She was not to feed herself or her son first, but to meet his need.

 “For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’  So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days.  The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.”  I Kings 17:14-16

A tight week, with little food.  Mouths to feed.  Empty wallet.  A smiling face at the door.  A tin foil wrapped package.  A bit of extra ham to give.  A need met.  A lesson learned.

What is the common thread in each scenario?  Each woman followed the prompting of the Lord and gave not out of her surplus, but out of the little that was had.

The widow gave all that she had to live on as an offering.  Surely the Lord would have understood if she had kept a coin for herself.  There were others, wealthier people, who would give.  How would she survive?  Yet, she listened to the prompting of the Lord and gave all.

The woman at Zarepath had but a handful of flour and a bit of oil.  She was prepared to eat with her son, then die, for there would be no more flour, no more oil left.  There must have been others with more food, others with more resources to care for this man Elijah.  He would not want her son to starve.  Surely he would understand.  She followed the prompting of the Lord and served another first with the little she had.

The friend with a bit of extra ham.  She had a husband and five children to feed at home.  Leftovers could make a meal or two for them.  She wouldn’t have to cook tomorrow night.  But there’s this family.  Times are tough for them right now.  Oh, but what good would a little bit of ham do?   She’d be embarrassed to offer something so small and insignificant.  There must be others who are helping them, others with more than her, others who could better meet their needs.  She too followed the prompting of the Lord and has been the basis for a life lesson that has literally changed my life.

There are many people who believe that generosity is exclusive to those with healthy bank accounts.  They believe that giving must be out of their surplus…their extra…the part that they really don’t need.   They believe that others who are better off are better able to meet the needs they see around them.  They believe that a little gift won’t go very far or do much good.   I am here to tell you that all of those assumptions are false.  They are lies.

The Lord can use the little we may have to not only be a blessing to those around us, but to show His goodness and provision to them as well.   We have no way of knowing what good a few dollars will do.  What impact a winter coat or a pair of shoes could make.   How a bit of food can not only fill a belly but a heart as well.  We do not have the foresight to see how the Lord may take our seemingly small gift and multiple it.

We simply need to do a few things.

  • We first need to pray that the Lord would open our eyes to the needs of the people around us.  Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own lives that we can be blind to what is going on around us.  Pray for eyes to see.
  • Secondly, we need to follow the prompting of the Lord.  If you see a need, have means to meet that need, and sense that the Lord is moving you to action, do it!  Pray for ears that hear the Lord’s prompting.
  • We need to trust the Lord.  We need to have faith that the Lord will take our little gift and use it in a mighty way.  We need to trust in His plan.  Pray for a heart that trusts in God’s plan.
  • Finally, we need not advertise our giving.  If the Lord allows you the privilege to meet a need, that should be between you and the Lord.  There is no need to announce it to the world.  If it’s possible, I would encourage you to give in secret as well.  Pray for lips that are restrained.

If you doubt how far a humble gift can go, I leave you with this:

There was a boy with a five small barley loaves and two fish…

 

 

Lessons from Dad

Father’s Day comes and goes each year.  It’s one of those bittersweet days.  I love to celebrate my husband and the wonderful dad that he is to our boys.  Yet, inevitably, at some point during the day, I reflect on my own dad.  Our journey as father and daughter was an interesting one.  I learned some of life’s greatest lessons from my dad.  Our story is marked by a sad beginning, a turbulent middle, and redemptive ending.  I hope you’ll stick with me.

It was Thanksgiving evening.  Dinner was done, guests had said their goodbyes, and the house was in a bit of disarray.  I was only five years old, my younger brother a year and a half.  I obviously don’t remember the specifics of the day, but nonetheless, that Thanksgiving would be a momentous one.  For on that day my dad left.  Simply took his belonging and walked away.  Our lives were changed in an instant.

My father returned to the Bronx where he took up residence in his mother’s spare bedroom.  To my father’s credit he remained involved with my brother and me.  We regularly spent time with my dad and grandmother.  He helped my mother out financially and maintained the house.  And while I was too young to fully understand our new family arrangement, it all just seemed odd to me.  However, I looked forward to those weekend trips.

I remember one specific visit where my father introduced my brother and me to a new “friend”.  She was apparently someone that my father had known for quite some time.  It was then that my young mind began to put the sordid pieces together.  My mother would fill in the gaps for me.

Within two years my parents’ divorce was finalized, and soon after, my father would remarry.  His new wife, the woman with whom he had been involved with while married, was young, and I frankly never gave her a chance.  I would not allow myself to like her.  I would not allow my heart to be open to her.  My mind was made up.

Future visits with my dad were marked by tears, unhappiness, and loneliness.  And as my father and wife began their new lives together, my sadness would turn to anger.  While my mom struggled to put food on the table, when there were times when the electricity was shut off, when birthdays went by without a gift, my father seemingly basked in the glow of his new home, new car, new toys, and new children.  Our twice monthly visits would become monthly visits, then every other month visits, then holiday and birthday visits, then would simply fade away.  Our visits were replaced with phone calls that were more obligatory than anything else.  My anger was slowly turning to hatred.

I entered high school seemingly happy on the outside but longing for love and acceptance on the inside.  I am fully aware that many young people in similar situations can get themselves into trouble, can wander down the wrong path, can look for love in all the wrong places.  I was fortunate, for the Lord put a father figure in my life in high school.  I was in the band, and the band was my life.  Our band director really became my dad during those vital years. He took a genuine interest in my life.  He went so far as to having me over to his house for dinner with his family.  I imagine that there were plenty of fellow classmates who envisioned a “Mr. Holland’s Opus” story line, but no, that was the farthest thing from the truth.  To me, this man was the closest thing I had to a father.

While high school graduation was a happy time for most, it was terrifying to me.  All of the stability, acceptance, and love I received from friends and others would dissipate as we all went in our separate directions.  I remained local and commuted to a nearby university. It was there that I realized how easy it was to find love and acceptance in the arms of all the wrong people. I was desperately looking to fill the void. I look back on that time now and see how the hand of the Lord protected me. I put myself into some precarious situations, some, downright dangerous. Yet, amazingly I was kept safe. I should have been an 11:00 news story.

By this time in my life, I was a strong, independent, self-reliant young woman, but on the inside, there was that little girl, immature, vulnerable, naive, and hurt. The gap between my father and me was now a wide chasm. I hated him. I vowed that he would never earn my forgiveness for he was too undeserving. I would never allow all the years of pain and hurt to be erased. I would never give him a pass. He would never walk me down the aisle. I remember making a statement once that I wouldn’t even care if he died.

Those feelings don’t just happen overnight. There is a progression. Hurt – Sadness – Anger – Hatred – Bitterness. Each one building off the last; each one defining more of who I was. I realize now what I couldn’t see then: hatred and bitterness did more to harm me, than my dad. I carried around a backpack full of burdens everywhere I went. It dragged me down into the muck and the mire. My deliberate attempt to hurt my father, resulted in only one person being hurt…me.

For those of you who know me, you may have picked up on the fact that there is something missing from the above story: the Lord. I was saved early and grew up in the church, however, the older I got, the more I simply ran through the motions of religion. There was no relationship with the Lord, and that was obvious. It was during those turbulent college years that the Lord would grab hold of me. In reality, He had never let go of me, but He had to shake me pretty hard in order to get my attention.

Through accidents, sickness, and heartbreak, the Lord would bring me to my knees. He would open my eyes to the self destructive path I was on. One night after returning home from class, I sat on the hood of my car and stared out into the starry sky. I broke down in tears and cried out to the Lord. Life wasn’t good; I had no joy, no peace, and no hope. It was then that I realized that the love I had been searching for all of those years was always there. It wasn’t to be found in my earthly father but in my Heavenly Father. I took a vow that night, a rededication of sorts, to simply stop what I was doing. I was going to let the Lord direct my path.

Not surprisingly, our faithful God did direct my path. Within a few months he ordered my life and brought stability to it. I met my future husband, graduated college, and got into the workforce. In due time I would become engaged, and as I began to plan for my new life, the Lord reminded me that I still needed to deal with my old one. He impressed upon me that if I didn’t deal with my dad and my feelings, I would bring a lot of baggage into my marriage. After much prayer I decided to write a letter to my father. It was a long one. It was respectful but honest and blunt. I intended to mail it to him, but the letter never made it to the post office. This would be something I needed to do face to face.

I called my dad and told him that I needed to talk with him. I warned him that I needed to get some things off of my chest. So we set a date and my fiance and I sat down at my father’s kitchen table with my dad and his wife. I read my letter to them. Twenty years of hurt and anger were laid out on the table. There wasn’t much conversation to be had, just a lot of listening. He didn’t dispute anything I had to say. At the end, I told my dad that I forgave him, words I never thought I would utter. With that, we left. As the door closed behind me, I felt the weight of that burdensome pack fall off. I hadn’t realized how the weight of hatred had been holding me down. I felt free…literally.

Soon after, I was married. My father attended the wedding with his wife. My mother and brother walked me down the aisle, not out of spite, but out of love. I danced with my brother, not my father, again not out of spite, but out of love for my brother.

With time, my husband and I would reach out to my dad. It was a bit awkward at first for everyone, but new beginnings have to start somewhere. We had occasional phone conversations and a visit here and there. We didn’t focus on the past but on the present.

Within a few years I would give birth to my first child. This event would really test my heart. I remember calling my dad when my son was born. He and his wife came down to our house within a few days. They brought dinner and a shower of gifts. They were exuberant, like grandparents should be. However, this new found excitement did not sit well with me. Phone calls from my dad would become more frequent. Requests to visit were common. Random gifts were commonplace. What was up? Then the dark part of my heart spoke up. I told my husband, “So my dad thinks that he can just waltz into my life and be grandpa. What about all the times I needed a dad. What? Am I supposed to just forget about those times?”

Yep. That’s exactly what I was called to do. I had forgiven my dad….or so I thought I had.

“I, even I, am He who wipes out your transgressions, for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Isaiah 43:25

That verse hit me right between the eyes. What does true forgiveness look like? It is choosing not to remember the past. It is putting it away, far away from our minds. I don’t believe that we can truly forgive and forget. Our minds are not set up in a way to completely forget. All of our life experiences make us who we are. We just can’t pretend they aren’t there. But, we can choose to not remember them. When I looked at my dad, I still saw a little bit of the hurt. I hadn’t let that all go.

So how do I really accomplish this forgiveness thing? Well, I didn’t need to look far to find the perfect example in God himself. I surely was not (and am not) without sin. I had done some downright ugly things. I turned my back on the Lord. I was in need of forgiveness. I sought forgiveness and it was granted to me. How did the Lord view me?

“If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. The old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Once forgiven, the Lord doesn’t look at me the same. He doesn’t look at me and see my sin; He sees me as new. He chooses not to remember my sins. If the Lord did that for me, how could I do anything less for my dad?

And from that day on, I chose not to remember. I chose to see my dad for who he was now, not who he was then. And as a result, the Lord blessed me with a good relationship with my dad. I looked forward to visits with my dad. I found joy in seeing him be a grandpa. I enjoyed our conversations. I would chuckle as he would call me from Target to find out what size the boys were wearing or ask me if the boys would like a certain toy. And with time I heard something from my dad that I never heard before, “I love you.” And for the first time in my life, I knew he meant it. Priceless.

The Lord would grant me only but a few years to enjoy this new found relationship with my dad. Oh, but how thankful I am for those years no matter how short they were.

So, today I remember my dad for the good dad he was, for the great grandpa he was, for the changed man he became, and for the great lesson of forgiveness and love I learned through him.

Love and miss ya, Dad!

 

The Night God Arrived For Dinner

dinnerIt was nearly dinner time.  For the first time ever, I wasn’t sure what I was going to serve for dinner.  It wasn’t for a lack of inspiration or that I hadn’t planned, it was because my pantry was nearly bare, my refrigerator was just about empty, and my freezer was a vacant wasteland.  I had three little mouths to feed and an empty wallet.  Payday was tomorrow, but I still needed to get through today.

With the economy in a downward spiral, my husband’s employer had spent the last two years making cuts.  People were let go, benefits were cut, co-pays sky rocketed, hours were slashed, and mandatory unpaid furloughs were put into effect.  While I was thankful that my husband still had a job, there was no denying the fact that we were struggling to just survive.  That was also the time that I was at my sickest with Lyme Disease.  I was barely able to function and live, nonetheless be employed to help with the bills.  And as for the bills, there were many.  The doctor bills and lab bills flooded our mail box.  It was a tough time for us….a humbling time for us.  Yet, it would be during that time that we would see first hand the Lord’s promises played out.

I went to my kitchen and gathered what I could.  There was a bit of rice and some veggies left in the fridge.  “It will fill their bellies,” I thought, “and I’ll find a way to make it yummy.”  I remember one of my boys asking what was for dinner.  I was honest.  I told him that I didn’t have much, but we would enjoy dinner nonetheless.  My husband came home from work, and I told him to expect a pretty humble supper that evening.  I was broke, and I didn’t want to use my credit card…we didn’t have any way to pay for it.   I continued to cook.

Then, there was a knock at the door.

I opened the door to find a familiar face.   It was a woman that I worked alongside of in our homeschooling co-op.  We had a working relationship; we would attend meetings together and talk “business” on the phone.  We rarely, if ever, had a social get together or a casual, non business related phone conversation.  Yet, she was one of the few people who knew of our struggles.   She always made sure to ask how my husband was, how work was going, how we were doing.

Standing on my porch she sheepishly told me that she had cooked up a large ham for her family and had some leftover meat that she felt led to bring over to us that evening.  I think that she was unsure of how I would react to her offer.   Sometimes personal pride can cause us to act in ways we shouldn’t and turn down things that we need.  I thanked her and told her that I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for that evening’s meal.  I accepted the tin foil wrapped package, hugged her, and waved goodbye.

As I turned around I saw the eyes of my three boys looking on.  “The Lord provided dinner for us this evening, boys.  I never want you to forget this moment.  I always want you to remember that when God promises to meet your needs, He will.”

And with that, I cried.

So, that night as a family, we sat down to enjoy our rice, and veggies, and ham, and we thanked God for meeting today’s need through our friend.  We thanked Him for impressing on her heart our need, for her listening to His prompting, for her taking the time to drive to our home, for her not questioning what good a little ham could do.  We thanked Him that we were able to lay aside our pride and receive.

My children were all old enough to remember that night.  We still talk about it.  Wrapped up inside of that little foil packet was more than just a meal, it was a life lesson like no other, one that none of us will ever forget.   We saw scripture and promises come to life.

 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

In the year to follow that same smiling face would greet me at my front door several more times, each time with something to offer.   A winter coat for one of the boys.  A shirt for me.  Some homemade soap.   A bag of clothes for the kids.   They were all little expressions of her care and concern and big reminders from God that He had not forgotten about our needs.

My husband would tough it out at his job for nearly two more years until making the excruciating decision to leave his long time employer in search of something more stable.  Those years were rough, but the Lord would continue to provide in many ways:

  • $300 left anonymously on my front porch
  • grocery store gift cards given to us by a neighbor
  • a church member buying us a freezer and providing some groceries nearly each week
  • great success in selling unwanted and unneeded items on eBay
  • neighbors, friends, and complete strangers hiring my husband to do work on his unpaid days off
  • cards with money or giftcards
  • small successes as I started out in my venture of competitive cooking

Each event, gift, or opportunity came at just the right time to meet a very specific need.  These were not coincidences…I do not believe in coincidences.  They were evidence of God’s provision…of His care.  They were reminders to us that God knew of and was very aware of our needs, and that He had it all taken care of.

The same God who provides for the birds of the air, Who has numbered the hairs on my head, is indeed concerned about my life and my needs.   They do not slip His mind; He does not turn a blind eye.  No.  He knows me;  He hears my voice, my cries, and knows it is me.  He is aware of my needs even before I am.   He not only cares, but He WILL provide in His perfect timing.  It is a promise that He has made to His children.   I’ve seen it first hand; I’ve lived it.

I do want to caution you here.  Sometimes the things that we see as needs are nothing more than wants.  The list of what we really need to survive is actually quite small.  On the evening detailed above, my family did have food.  It was humble and not plentiful, but there was food.  I am keenly aware of that.  Yet, God chose to provide a little bit more, not with the plan of filling our bellies, but with a plan to fill our hearts and give us the hope that would be needed to endure that very rough time in our lives.

I want to leave you with a few verses that mean a great deal to me.  They remind me that God knows me.  He sees my needs and will provide.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Luke 12:7

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:12-13

Come back next Monday as we look at how generosity is not exclusive to those who have much.

 

 

Beautiful Words and Dirty Laundry

It was just a few hours before they would arrive for dinner.  A family from church would be coming over.  They had never been to our home before.  I honestly was a little stressed, as I typically am before guests arrive.  My house is not fancy or big or full of Pottery Barn decor.  I, like many of you, lead a hectic life, with a lot on my plate.  I don’t always keep my house as tidy as I should.  What if they see a dusty end table?  A stray sock in the living room?  A sink full of dishes?  What will they think?  More important, what will they think of me?

I bet some of you can relate.   You want everything to be in its place.  You want to give the impression that you’ve got things together. Surely if my house is not up to standard they will think I am lazy and will judge.

“We need to vacuum and dust and get the laundry off of the sofa.  Someone needs to get on their hands and knees and look under the sofa and all of the furniture.  They have little kids; they will find everything.  Make sure your room is clean.  Tidy up the porch. I’ll clean the refrigerator.  Make sure the dishes are put away.”

There was no shortage of commands to be handed out that day.  Everyone had a job to do.  I am not exactly sure why I thought that it was important to clean the refrigerator.  Who in the world is going to be looking inside of my refrigerator? But, you never know, so better to be safe than sorry.  What utter lunacy!

“Mom, where do you want me to put all of this laundry that is on the sofa?  I don’t know if it’s clean or dirty.  It’s not folded?”

“Just put it on my bed and be sure to close the door.  I’ll figure it out later”

And with five minutes remaining until arrival, I gave one final run through.  All looks well.  Okay, I think we are done.   I could finally breathe a bit.

“They’re here.  They’re here.” And with that we opened the door and welcomed our friends inside.  The dads and kids went sleigh riding across the street, while the moms stayed inside and chatted.  We would share dinner and dessert and enjoy some wonderful conversation and fellowship.

At one point in the evening I excused myself to head upstairs.  Our first floor restroom was out of service due to some renovations.  So everyone had been directed to make their way to the second floor if need be.  Our house is kind of small.  When you reach the top of the stairs you have a bedroom to your left, right, and directly in front of you.  The bathroom is in the hallway off of the master bedroom.  As I made the turn toward the bathroom I paused and there before my eyes was a gigantic, mountainous pile of clothes.  My bedroom door had been left open for all the world to see.  I tilted my head back and dropped my shoulders.  There was no mistaking the fact that everyone had seen it.  I was kind of mortified.

So, I went downstairs and looked at my friend, “So, I guess you saw my huge pile of laundry.  Sorry about that.  I just didn’t get around to it.”

I call her response that followed “the most beautiful words any mother has ever said to me.”  They are words that have been etched in my mind and continue to warm my heart each time I think of them.

“Oh, I was so glad to see that.  It is beautiful.  I just wish that the pile was bigger.”

I wanted to cry…cry tears of joy.  With those few words I felt all of that pressure to be “together” dissipate.   My huge pile of laundry made both of us feel normal.

I began to tell her of the craziness that had occurred just before her arrival.  How I wanted to make sure that everything was just so.  Why do women do this?  Because we wonder what people will think.  I tried my best to give the impression of togetherness, but my “dirty laundry” was still visible for all to see.    As moms  we try to measure up, and we endlessly compare ourselves to the next woman…to her home, her kids, her clothes, her cooking, her whatever.  We feel inadequate and view everyone else as “super mom”.  It is so destructive.

After this little episode the Lord began to show me that outward appearances do not always represent reality.  Someone who appears to have it all together on the outside may very well be a mess on the inside.  And vice versa.  People have a tendency to do exactly what I did: they paint a picture that they want the world to see.  Oh, they likely have some “dirty laundry” that they want to remain hidden, but regardless of how well it is stowed away, it’s still there.

How thankful I am that the Lord is not concerned about the outer man.   The inner man, the heart and soul of a man, the part that no one can see, is what really concerns our Lord.  The Lord sees through walls and facades; He is not tricked by our outward efforts to appear “with it”. He is not impressed by fancy homes or beautiful things or finely coiffed hair.  Fine clothes and fancy cooking are of no worth.  The Lord looks at the heart.

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with keeping a lovely home or having nice things.  We are certainly not called to be slobs either.  It again all comes down to our hearts.  What is our motivation?  Is it to impress people?  Is it to make sure people think that we have got it all together?

I urge you not to do that to yourself.  Do not compare.  Do not assume that everyone else but you has it all together.  Be concerned with your heart, for your inner man, for that is the Lord’s concern as well.