Wednesday, October 12, 2011

~hail to the sleeve~

Remember sleeves?  What ever happened to them?  They used to be all the rage!  There's all kinds of sleeves.  Long sleeves, short sleeves, capped and even three quarter sleeves.  I still wear them daily, but unfortunately I see them quickly disappearing.  I love sleeves!  I refuse to go without them!  Whoever invented the sleeve is a genius in my book!

All joking aside, I find myself browsing through websites or magazines and I feel the need to cover girls up with a blanket.  The only thing that seems to be more common than the missing sleeve is the severely short skirt accompanied by bare legs and mile-high heels.  I'm not judging.  Really, I'm not.  I understand the pressure to fit in.  I haven't always been a prude!  I too, tried to push the envelope where hemlines and necklines were concerned when I was a teenager - and I sometimes I succeeded. That's what kids do - they push limits.  And who could blame them when their role models - like Beyonce`, Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan, just to name a few - are leading in the cause to abolish the sleeve (and most other parts of the dress)?

Parents are supposed to set limits.  That's our job.  And when our teenage girls come crying about how everyone is dressing that way or no one is wearing what we've bought her, our job is to hold on as tight as we can to the limits.  I'm not talking about never compromising.  Compromise has to happen at times.  Give in on style or color.  After all, (and I know this goes against everything we've been taught) sin is ugly, but ugly isn't a sin.  Modesty should not be compromised!   

I searched the Bible for counsel on the matter and here are a few of the verses I found on the subject of modesty:

Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control. - 1 Timothy 2:9a

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. Proverbs 11:22

And as a parent, perhaps the most convicting verse of all...

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! Matthew 18:6-7

As the mom of a daughter, it frustrates me to fight against the "norm" on a daily basis.  I've been told (more than once) by well-meaning people that I can't protect her from everything.  This is so true.  I'm fully aware that I'm not capable of protecting her from everything.  That's actually not my intent - or my job.  God won't even choose to protect her from everything!  My job is to set limits and lead her, pointing her to Christ who will guide her by the Holy Spirit - if she will yield to Him, and to pray, pray, pray.  Modesty is not about covering up so no one will notice her (but would that be so bad? Ha!).  It's about the condition of the heart.  It's about obedience.  God's word is clear.  He expects obedience.  

As well as having a daughter, I'm also the mother of a pre-teen son (gulp).  The older he gets the more I notice the behavior of girls around him.  Girls have become significantly more forward since I was a girl!  Part of how girls relate to boys is in how they dress.

And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily (or deceptive) of heart. - Proverbs 7:10

Recently I was looking at pictures of kids who had attended a dance. (I'm not opposed to dancing, by the way:) ) It was a conversation with a friend about these pictures that inspired this blog post.  Pictures had been taken before leaving the house and the happy couple was all smiles.  After pics of the couple by themselves, there were group pictures of several friends and their dates.  When I looked at the group photo, I was amazed!  Each girl looked like the next!  Their dresses were almost identical - and they were all missing sleeves (and most were missing much more!).  The longer I looked at the picture, the harder it hit me.  These boys would be heading off to a dance where there would be hundreds of girls dressed just like this.  Hundreds!  In an attempt to normalize our daughters, we've put our sons in the middle of a no-win situation!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." - Matthew 5:27-28

I wonder if we realize what we're doing to our sons.  We train them to respect girls, then in the most awkward years of their life, when they're barely old enough to shave, we put them in a sea of scantily dressed girls their own age who've been dressed to look 10 years older and tell them to mind their manners.  Look but don't touch?  Matthew 5:27-28 tells us that's not good enough!  How is a boy suppose to keep his thoughts pure, let alone his actions, when he looks up and he's surrounded by a roomful of teenage girls dressed like sexy adult women?  Do we expect too much from our sons?  Or are we expecting them to give into sin, so we quit trying to keep the temptations away?  Grown men lose the battle with lust, and we throw our boys in the fight?  I've often heard "Boys will be boys".  Really?  We're giving them a pass on obedience because of their gender?  God never excludes anyone from accountability.

Please hear my heart.  I don't believe it's our intent to dress our daughters so as to require every ounce of self-control of every boy they cross paths with (and the prayers of their mamas), but I do think our society as a whole is clueless as to the reprecussions.   Our daughters are beautiful just the way God made them.  They don't know that unless we, as parents convey that to them - in our words and our actions.  After all, what's wrong with a fourteen year old that looks fourteen?  It's okay to dress up and look pretty - it's not okay to look sexy. 

For our daughters who are being told they're worthless unless they bare all (or most), and for our sons who battle daily against lust within their own hearts and minds - say you'll join me in the fight to retrieve the sleeve! 


Monday, October 10, 2011

~characters of character~

I'm proud of my kids (like most moms), but I don't want to sin or cause them to sin, by bragging (not that that always stops me!).  After praying about it, I've come to the realization that I'm not bragging on my kids - or on their parents, when I notice godly character in them, but on God and His work in their lives.

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord."

It seems like after finding out I was pregnant with our first child, I had a fear of failure hanging over me.  Feelings of inadequacy and thoughts like, "What if we screw this kid up?" crept in many times over the years.  Over time, God has given me a peace about it.  Not that we'll do everything perfect, or that they'll be perfect or turn out just like I want them to, but that if I pursue godliness for myself and for my kids, God will be faithful to guide and direct our steps. He has, in fact, been faithful to do just that, and based upon past experience, I can only conclude that He will continue in His faithfulness.  Afterall, who wants our kids to be godly adults more than God, Himself?

     The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.
                                                     Lamentations 3:22
There have been many questions we've asked God  to answer for us.  "Which doctor is trustworthy?  Which babysitter? Is it really okay to put them to sleep on  their belly?  Is it really okay to put them to sleep on their back?  Do we spank? Do we make them do chores?  What age is okay to spend the night with friends? Do we give them an allowance? Do we homeschool?  How do we homeschool?  How do we keep them safe?"  Time after time, God has answered our questions and put our minds and hearts at ease when we've been afraid of taking the next step -  afraid of messing up.

Lately, the kids have been in rare form.  Bickering has been at an all time high and egos and bad attitudes seem to be bursting at the seams!  Last week I was once again, questioning God.   "Are you sure we're supposed to homeschool?  Have I taught them anything good?"  I went to a place lower than I had been in a while.  To make it worse, these things weren't just happening at home.  Nothing stings worse than open sin.  It's easy to spot sin at home and deal with it before anyone knows about it.  When they choose to sin in front of people, it can quickly become about the embarassment instead of the sin.  After 14 years of parenting, this is still a challenge for me.

Knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.                                                                                                                         Romans 5:3-4

Two weeks ago, at a bible study, while laughing with some women about R's odd sense of humor (he's just like his dad), G ended up making a hurtful comment to me, calling me 'critical' - in front of several people.  I laughed it off, but I was hurt and she would later get a lecture I'm sure she won't forget soon (unless, of course, she zoned out!).  It was apparent, after talking to her that she didn't intend to hurt me, she just spoke before she thought - something I'm guilty of often.  Quite frankly, her words weren't nice - but they were true and I needed to hear them.  God has spoken to me through my kids many times.
After praying about it, speaking with her and then sharing what happened with Glen, I dropped it.  I chalked it up as a learning experience and I left it alone.  Last week, however, someone who witnessed "the incident" brought it up.  I was mortified!  The same feeling of embarassment came over me that had the week before.  I immediately started thinking bad thoughts.  "What am I doing?  I'm a horrible parent!  Why am I a leader?  I can't even lead my own kids!"  Just when I was convinced God made a huge mistake by allowing me to be a parent, He began to show signs of growth.

      Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
  Proverbs 22:6

Friday night, I had a leader's meeting for bible study and G was singing with the choir at the Homecoming game.  I hated to miss it, but Glen and R were there.  In typical teenage fashion, G asked to sit with friends after she was done singing.  Later she shared with Glen that a friend of a friend came to sit with them and began cussing - "the really bad words!".  When Glen asked what she did, she said she told her, "Hey, I don't talk that way!"

Since allowing her to attend school a few hours a day, I've wondered how she would react in situations just like this.  I know she's far from perfect, especially in my critical eyes, but God is working in her.  She has always had a boldness about her, and still does when dealing with me, but I haven't seen that in a while in her friendships.  God allowed me to see that He's refining her, but not removing those qualities.  Speaking boldly to me has gotten her in trouble more than a few times, but if I give her a safe place to be bold (as long as she's respectful), then she's more likely to speak boldly when she's away from me.

Instead of playing in our town, R played soccer in a nearby town this year, with brand new coaches and brand new teammates.  He was so nervous on his way to his first practice, his hands were shaking!  The season has been wonderful!  They haven't won a game yet (there are 2 left), but we've seen him step up and be a leader on the team - and his gift of encouragement shines on the field!  He's the first to give a "great job!" or "nice shot!" to a teammate.  I've seen God stretch him this season, but use him as well.

Last week we received a call that R had made the allstar team.  He's made the allstar team for several years in our town, but playing in a new town in front of all new faces, we warned him to not get his hopes up.  When the call came, we were all so proud of him!  Even G was yelling out, "Awesome!" and giving high fives!  When Glen spoke to the coach, he said, "We've taken notice of R.  He's a fantastic goalkeeper."  Words that would swell any dad's chest.  What an honor it is to be recognized for being good at what you love to do!  While we were excited for him, we were quick to warn him of the dangers of pride.

While we're proud of him for his accomplishments, perhaps the best words came today.  I took R to his first allstar practice and after meeting the coach, was told, "R is a very hard worker.  He has outstanding character on the soccer field."  I thanked him, then immediately gave thanks to God for His faithfulness.  God is faithful to show us where He's working when we ask.  Just when I allowed myself to think God wasn't working, He proved again that His work isn't evident overnight.  Thankfully He allows mistakes and He works through imperfect people like us.

Just to keep me humble and prove to me that the work is His and not mine, as soon as we got in the car, R was in a terrible mood and wouldn't speak almost our entire 45 minutes home. In my mind I was thinking, "If only that coach could see you now!"  God was gracious enough to allow this episode to be private.  He is faithful!
       Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
                                                                           1 Peter 5:7

It's silly to think I could do more for my kids than the Holy Spirit, but keeping the responsibility resting entirely on my shoulders instead of giving it to God is, in effect thinking just that. 

Parenting isn't for wimps!  Some weeks (or months) feel like a roller coaster ride with lots of hills, valleys and sharp turns.  Then there are periods of what feels like running in place - lots of energy spent, but no ground gained.  It's also not meant to be done alone, in our own strength.  Knowing that God is directing each step is the only thing that makes it worth while.  Only He can see the finish line.  He is faithful!  We just have to keep the goal in mind and daily surrender ourselves to Him and His plan for our lives and the lives of our kids.