Thoughts on Convictions – 2

In the first post in this series I explained that while the Bible speaks clearly about how we should live, there is often freedom to apply its commands in various ways. In these second two posts I hope to give some examples of how this works. These ideas can be applied to many different biblical commands, but my intent here is to examine some of the bigger issues in conservative Christianity.

Education
                There is a clear command in Ephesians 6 for parents to raise their children in the Lord. Many take this to mean that the only form of education is homeschooling. This is supported by Deuteronomy 6, where parents are told to speak to their children of God’s laws when you rise up, when you lie down, when you walk by the way, etc.  Homeschooling certainly makes obeying those commands easier, especially with younger children who don’t yet have the discernment to sort right from wrong in a secular teaching environment.[1]
But I have seen families who homeschool neglect the spiritual teaching and even more, spiritual care of their children, and I have seen families who do not homeschool excel in raising their children in the Lord. Those families had to work extra-hard to disciple their children, but they most certainly did not neglect God’s commands in sending their children to private or public schools. Successes and failures aside, what really matters is not what worked for someone but what God says.
My understanding of those two commands (Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6) is that the place of education isn’t as important as the interaction between parents and children at home. Discipling your children and homeschooling are not synonymous. Neither is simply doing family worship at the end of a school day, whether that day was at or away from home. It is teaching your children when you rise up (but you can be getting ready for school or studies at home), when you lie down, and when you walk by the way (whether that’s the car to and from school or up and down the stairs of your house).
We see homeschooling as the easiest and most practical way of doing that and so have chosen to homeschool, but believe making that the only valid option for Christians is beyond the teaching of scripture.

                Post-high school education is often hotly debated. This is an area that I don’t believe there are commands in the Bible that directly apply. However, there is teaching on the company you keep, making wise choices, and the calling of God.

We don’t see college as the only or even best route, but one of many. What is most important is receiving what you need to fulfill any calling or passion God has given you – that might mean internship, trade school, online courses, college, or simply reading and studying this and that on your own. This goes for daughters AND sons. The aforementioned callings and passions should be shaped and checked by scripture (for example, only men are to be leaders in the church, so if a daughter aspires to that she must re-think her desires). First, one must study the Bible to determine what a Christian is to do and be, and then what a man or a woman is to do and be, and finally what they personally should do and be with the giftings God has given them. From there one can determine what the wisest route is – and that is never sitting idly at home!
Because of the above, I don’t believe a daughter must stay at home, but I do believe that after careful study of biblical commands to women, it would likely be the wisest route in order to prepare for the future. I do not see a career as being the norm for a woman; see “women working” below.

 

Youth group
                As with education, the clear command of scripture is for parents to raise their children in the Lord.
Does this mean others can’t be involved? No. But others should not take the place of parents in any way. There are definitely times when peers can gather and do peer stuff. Is it always wise? No. But should it be banned across the board or generalized as dividing the church into age-based factions? I don’t think so.

 

Women Working

“Older women… are to train the younger women to be… working at home.” Titus 2:3-5. (Other translations say “keepers of the home.” Strong’s concordance suggests that the Greek best translates into the idea of housekeeper.)
The understanding of this command does depend some on the variance in translations, as noted above. Because of that, some read this passage and believe that women may only work in and from the home. Others apply that only to a wife. And still others see the application as the keeping of the home being the woman’s first and primary duty, but once that is done she is free to work outside the home. Because of Proverbs 31, there is rarely any dispute over whether or not a woman may work from the home. The issue is not a woman generating income.

I tend to side with the latter two opinions, thus concluding that daughters have more freedom in this area (though living at home would perhaps be wisest, and if at home, any family duties must be fulfilled), and that there are times it is permissible for a wife to work outside the home.
Our view is that if a woman can still manage the home (which pre-baby could easily have been as little as 15 minutes of chores and an hour of cooking a day), working is not an issue (it should also be noted, however, that working from home can cause as much if not more of a distraction from wifely duties than working outside!). This means that it would most likely only be part time and not full-time or a long-term career. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the wisest use of her time.

Before we got married, Ezra and I decided that we were okay with me working part-time pre-kids if I wanted to. But his job is plenty to support us and we decided my time would be better used in other ways – like volunteering at the pregnancy center, writing, visiting people from church, etc. Not that it was wrong for me to work, but we saw that the better use of my time would be in these other ways that were more along the lines of how the women who were applauded in scripture spent their time. Also, just because you “can” do both on paper doesn’t mean it will play out that way. As a couple, you must consider what it really means to be a keeper at home, versus simply making dinner at the end of a long day.
I wrote about this more in 2012, and you can read that here.
I understand and have respect for more conservative views, especially considering the variance in the translation of the passage, but do not see it as an across-the-board rule.

Birth Control
                 The Bible does not say anything about birth control specifically, however, it does speak about how we should view children, the sovereignty of God, the sanctity of life, and also to issues of sin in our hearts. Some look at these teachings and conclude that using birth control is always sin, implying that if you don’t take “as many as God gives you,” then you’re not really seeing children as a blessing. Others believe we have freedom to use whatever birth control we choose as long as we still view children as a blessing. In the middle are people who would use only some forms of birth control, or only at certain times.
This is a complex issue that is often emotionally charged, personal, and has many facets.
                First, there is our mindset towards children. The Bible is clear that children are a blessing, can bring their parents great joy, and are like arrows in the hand of a warrior – “tools” for engaging our culture.
                Second, there is the sovereignty of God. God is in control of every area of our lives – which combined with point one say to me that the number and timing of children isn’t something for me to regulate. This is even more clear to me as I think about the timing of S’s conception and birth – with circumstances that were better than we would have chosen, but also ones we would not have chosen – yet still showing how God’s way is so much better than ours. To say “it’s just science” is to deny God’s hand in every day details of our lives, including the science of things like the rising and setting of the sun. It does not feel right to me to try to take control of that, nor does it ever seem to me like there is a “good time” to have a baby – babies are always work and life is always kind of crazy.
                Third, there is the sanctity of life. This applies to specific forms of birth control that can be considered abortifacients, and that therefore I believe are wrong for Christians to use. If after points 1, 2, and 4 are prayerfully considered a couple still chooses to delay or prevent children, there are other options to choose from that do not compromise life, some that could even be considered God’s design (ecological breastfeeding, Hosea 1:8). However, I think in most circumstances, after said prayerful consideration, the use of birth control will be excluded.
And fourth, there is sin in our own hearts. Ask yourself: why do I want to use birth control? It’s easy to want to wait for a better time, or a longer gap (side note: I do believe God can and does give us more than we can handle – but never more than HE can handle!), or to want to be done so you can focus on other things. Those are often complex and deep concerns that often belong to the couple (and sometimes their mentors) alone, but whenever steps are taken to prevent children we must check our hearts for sin, particularly selfishness. Selfishness can also show up in our ideals for what we want our children to have. Love is not measured by what things we can give them or activities they can do.

Within that framework, I know people who have chosen to use legitimate forms of birth control, particularly for health reasons (and I know people who have chosen to still forgo any birth control despite health risks – and both decisions were reached with much prayer), or in seasons of particular trial. Whatever the reasons, though, we must always check ourselves to make sure it’s not simply selfishness that leads our decision.

Whichever side we fall on, the decision seems to come from more general texts (Children are a blessing and God is sovereign) that combined with wisdom are lived out a certain way (If the above statements are true, are we really in a place to seek to prevent kids?).

On the other side of things, I don’t think it’s right for us to pry into others’ plans for children. I always felt that if people weren’t divulging that information, then that was their choice to keep it a private matter and that was completely fine. I think that someone in a mentorship position can and even should ask about that at times, especially if the couple is waiting to have children, to help check their motives.

I’ve also often found that behind the asking and/or the way it’s responded to, there’s usually an unspoken implication that they’re hoping you take the same position as them, which in our circumstances has been the mindset of leaving it up to God and it makes it awkward if that’s not what you’re doing.

But what clicked the other day was also that the way some people reply to pregnancy announcements (or ask if you are pregnant yet), implies that we really hope you are because it’s the best thing that can happen in/because of your marriage. I don’t mean by being annoyed at this that children aren’t a great blessing or that having them isn’t good for your marriage (the past months have been very good for our marriage, especially communication, and I think a fair amount of that is due ways we’ve grown because of S). But marriage is about WAY more than having children, and there are other blessings God gives as well.

 

[1] Unless a child has a clear profession of faith and fruit to match, we cannot claim they are a necessary “salt and light” in the secular schools.

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Thoughts on Convictions – 1

In the last two years or so, I’ve thought often about convictions, particularly the way they play out in conservative circles. I was raised with a lot of books and CDs from “ultra-conservative” circles  and benefited from them. However, I often accepted the rationales given for their values without question,[1] and there was definitely a time when I was lock-step with most of their teachings. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began wondering at some of what they said, so that I started studying to make sure that my thoughts were biblical and not just things that “sounded right” to me.

As a continuation of those thought processes, I re-read some of the books we own dealing with homeschooling, birth control, emotional purity, etc. I really started thinking about phrases being used and where they come from. Is guarding your heart really a biblical concept? Are we really supposed to “give our hearts to our fathers?” How “wrong” is youth group? How absolute is homeschooling? And what should a daughter do with her time? In the end, my convictions remained the same in their basic outworking, but my explanations for them changed. This was mostly due to one thing I kept seeing again and again as a pitfall in these circles: It seems that the clear commands of the Bible, such as parents discipling their children (Ephesians 6, Deuteronomy 6), are often blown out of proportion. Instead of acknowledging the freedom we have to apply such commands in different ways, the application itself becomes a further command: you must homeschool. This also happens in areas such as modesty, courtship, birth control, youth group, and women working outside the home.
I firmly believe that the Bible speaks to each of these issues. It is usually very easy to see exactly what God desires:  you shall not steal. You shall not commit adultery. Children, obey your parents. Flee sexual immorality. Parents, teach your children the ways of the Lord. However, as proved by the varied ways Bible-believing Christians apply the commands of scripture, it is clear that the simple commands of the Bible are not so simple to apply. The way a brief command interacts with culture is complicated. Sometimes, people use that to ignore commands of God, sweeping everything off of the table and saying nothing of those commands, refusing to consider the differences between our culture and what the Bible says. Other times, they make the commands to mean more than they are (as in the previous example of “bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord” becoming “homeschooling is the only form of education for the Christian family”).
There are many times when we have more freedom than some allow in the application of His commands. Things like homeschooling may be the wisest and most practical way to obey Him, but homeschooling is not the only way, nor is it a command from the Bible. It may be a right thing to do, but I believe it is the application of a law of God, not the law itself. I hope in the following posts to show examples of how this plays out in various issues. I hope by these examples to demonstrate that these things are important, but also delicate and require grace in the way we live them out.

[1] Despite my family’s use of the materials in a way that went to the Bible FIRST and applied any teaching with grace.

Modern-Day Heroes

It’s hard to move 19 months after you moved to a place. It’s even harder when that place is where you made your first home as a married couple, walked through your first pregnancy, and began the journey of parenthood – all supported and surrounded by loving people, who loved you when they barely knew you and didn’t relent in their loving when you were getting ready to leave.
It’s also hard to leave the first friends your baby had – the one that looks like her polar opposite with the ‘fro and chocolate skin, the one who handed down head bands and tries to play with her during church, the one people asked if they were twins – the blue-eyed fair-skinned blonde fall-babies of GBC.
As I think about leaving behind yet another place and another set of friends, I’m reminded yet again of what Eleven said in Doctor Who:
“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”
We may be leaving our home here, but we won’t ever forget the people we love here and everywhere. It’s hard to leave, but it’s easier when you remember that leaving doesn’t mean forgetting and starting life in a new place and enjoying it doesn’t negate how wonderful where you were before was.

As I look back on the last year and a half and the people we have had the privilege of knowing here, especially at church, I have thought a lot about the people who have taught me so much by their lives, from when I was a child through to today.
I keep thinking of a stanza from the Getty’s “O Church Arise” –
“As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.”

Some of those people I’m not in contact with much any more and we’ve grown apart. Others I have sporadic contact with but it’s the kind of friendship that we can just pick up where we left off. Most of the ones I write about below I don’t know that well but the way they live inspires me.
In “A Sacred Sorrow” Michael Card wrote,
“The deep things of the faith we learn less by didactic principle and more through people of faith and their simple stories. After all, the gospel is not a systematic/theological presentation to which we give assent or not in order to become “believers.” No, it is a story, which we enter into even as it enters into us. We, iint eh most real and literal sense, become characters in this ongoing incarnating of truth and of the gospel. Its story continues to be told in and through us, and along the way we begin to understand.
“I believe the same kind of incarnational process is at work in understanding lament. Eventually, when we are struggling to explain a difficult topic like prayer, faith, or perhaps servanthood, we resort to naming a person who incarnates that ideal. … When we seek to understand discipleship, we think of someone like Deitrich Bonhoeffer, not because of his book on the subject, but because his life and death validated everything he spoke about in his writings.”

I’ve found that the people I want to learn from most don’t have lessons they can teach you very well. The things I respect and love and want to emulate in them aren’t usually things they can tell you. They’re often lessons learned through trial. These people are often ships battered by many storms, yet coming out triumphant through the guidance of Christ.
There’s the woman at church who lost her husband to cancer soon after they remarried after they had divorced, and said “grieve, but don’t be downcast.” (Among so much other wisdom I can’t remember).
And another who shared wisdom on marriage (that also applies to parenting) – “He’s not irritating, I’m irritable.”
And the mother who commented that she had nothing to share about parenting, then said – “Jesus, help me! That’s my advice.”
And the one who stayed with her unbelieving husband, holding on through difficult times, and then God changed his heart.
And Amanda, who died of cancer a year ago, whose hope of heaven and joy in Christ was so beautiful to see as she shared her struggles with the church.
My cousin, Kristen, hanging on to life and finding joy in it through Christ despite long-term health issues.
My mother-in-love, who had to take care of new mothers just hours after giving birth to her fourth, braved homes with rats and lands with many poisonous snakes, and is such a wonderful example of godly marriage and parenting (as are my own mother and Mrs. C!).
Mrs. Y, who opened her home to me and gave of her time to let me come in and learn from her, the way they disciplined their kids with gospel, her joy in motherhood, openness in sharing things with me and letting me open up, choosing marriage and motherhood above a career.
The M’s – Mr. M who takes such care of his wife and has taught their sons to do the same, and in it all their use of their home for hospitality and evangelism. Mrs. M who digs down to the root of the issue and turns it so you can see it in the perspective of Christ, who so openly and clearly loves her husband, who has such a great strength from being steeled -yet also softened – in fire of trials where she had to let go and let the Lord work, and trust Him.

There’s M, who my dad discipled and endured persecution by co-workers for his new-found faith.
And my friends who lived in an Arab country filled with turmoil, staying for years after most others left even though it meant being “stuck” there and knowing every day could be their last. They were faithful during the trials, hard though days are with little water, gas, or electricity. These things they gave up and suffered for the gospel – because Christ and the souls of the lost Brothers are worth those hardships.
And two others who the world calls our enemies but who counted the cost yet had great joy in Him as their satisfaction and certainty in their faith in their Lord, a willingness to give their lives if necessary.
And another whose testimony I heard before I met him, how God saved him from a wild lifestyle. I met him and was immediately amazed at his humility, boldness, and intentionality. His favorite question to ask people is “What are you reading right now?” and he uses that to channel conversations to eternal things. He’s ready to be a martyr. He’s ‘planning’ on putting his life on the line in a place where Christianity is unknown – because he loves Christ and His glory so much more than life.

I think it’s people like this Hebrews has in mind when it says the world was not worthy of them.
What a privilege it has been to know each and every one of these, and many more, and some even greater that I just don’t have the words for because they’ve taught me so much (like our pastor’s wife, and my parents, and the C’s).
I’m excited to see who we meet in all of the places we live in the future and how God uses them in our lives.

“I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
I heard what I heard and I can’t go back
I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face, a memory
Your hope, a fire

Your courage asks me
What I’m afraid of
And what I know of love
And what I know of God.”
– I Saw What I Saw – Sara Groves

Current Events, the Church, and our Children

Sometimes I wonder what we’re doing having kids in today’s world. ISIS, Boko Haram, other terrorists. Our country spiraling down. Natural disasters. Violence in malls and movie theaters.
I want to protect any children we have from being affected by any of that, and I want to protect their hearts from being drawn to it, as I know is possible with the depravity of all human hearts. It’s terrifying whenever I think about it.

But in the midst of all the brokenness, it has been amazing to see the opportunities the church has to help and to see the church begin to step up to help.
Our church has been taking part in weekly protests at Planned Parenthood – and some have had opportunities to talk to those seeking PP’s services, and members also engage in weekly evangelism at a large, nearby park. We recently took food to a hurting neighbor next door, and Ezra has been able to talk and pray with him some. WORLD Magazine reports on a lot of the devastation in the world, but they also highlight many ministries that are helping people all over the world.
Caring for the poor, broken, and needy is not the job of the government, but of the church. Not in the sense of church programs, but in the body of Christ stepping up to the plate and working in the world around us.

As I paired these stories – though they’re not stories, they’re real life – with my struggle as we think about bringing more little sinners into this world, I was reminded of a phrase I heard John Piper say in a clip on birth control a few years ago.

“…Because the kids I’m going to raise are going to lift a million burdens.”

You Christian, you’ve got to believe that bringing kids into the world and being brought up in the Lord makes them burden lifters, not burden adders. They are in the world to lift the world, to save the world, to love the world.

You’re not just adding dead weight to the world when you bring a child up in the kingdom. You’re bringing up lovers of people and servants of the world.”

While what our children become is ultimately in God’s hands and not ours, it is my prayer and desire that our children – however many we have – will be children of change. That they will be men and women that will join with the body of Christ in showing His compassion to the sheep without a shepherd and rescuing those headed for destruction. That they alongside us will bring others to Christ and lift their burdens.
The world around us may keep spiraling down, but rather than cause for throwing up our hands in despair, it is opportunity for us to get in the trenches and come alongside both the hurting and the wicked with the hope we have in Christ.

O church, arise and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is “Love!”
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on ev’ry side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.

Come, see the cross where love and mercy meet,
As the Son of God is stricken;
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet,
For the Conqueror has risen!
And as the stone is rolled away,
And Christ emerges from the grave,
This vict’ry march continues till the day
Ev’ry eye and heart shall see Him.

So Spirit, come, put strength in ev’ry stride,
Give grace for ev’ry hurdle,
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.
– O Church Arise, Getty

Of Recent Events

One of the biggest things I was thinking about in May was the current situation with the Duggars. There was a lot going on in my mind, most of which it really isn’t my place to say and most of which has already been said. I hesitate to say anything about the Duggars, because the blog world and media are swarming with opinions about them already. This in contrast to ISIS – one man sins against five girls fourteen years ago, and the Internet is plastered with it, while meanwhile thousands are doing much worse to many more women, and the media is silent, also ignoring that pop culture embraces celebrities who have done much worse than Josh. Meanwhile, I write notes for this post on a shopping list for copy-cat s’mores frappuchinos. The levity of life here and our obsession with a “done” sin while the unspeakable is happening every minute across the water is something I cannot understand and yet struggle with myself.
It’s in the past, and it seems change and repentance are real, which is why I think it’s mostly irrelevant now (and the world without Christ has no categories for that kind of change). Yes, the Duggars chose to make their lives public, but it’s become just gossip, and people are saying either “don’t judge” or reveling in the scandal and calling the Duggars hypocrites. We shouldn’t judge, not because we’re not supposed to, but because we don’t have the information needed to form opinions on exactly who Josh is now or exactly what was done then. They’re not hypocrites because Josh is not continuing in this sin while speaking against gay marriage (though I do think the church shouldn’t zero in on gay marriage, but treat it the same as other sexual sin). I think the Duggars are handling it well now (especially after watching these interviews), and it’s the only time I’ve ever heard anything gospel from them, but whether that’s their issue or TLC’s I don’t know. It does bring up issues with Gothard and ATI, but I think the biggest – and perhaps only – thing that should be discussed publicly at this point is the proper handling of such a situation. I found this article helpful in that regard.

But I don’t want to say any more. Enough words have been said, while much worse happens while we are silent. Read this if you dare, but be warned (like I wasn’t) that it’s graphic and painful, especially as the mother of a little girl. I suppose I was naive, but I had thought death was the worst they were doing, and martyrdom was what filled my thoughts. But this is oh so much worse, and I pray daily for the women over there, especially the mothers and the young girls, and I hold my girl so much closer. After reading that, I really struggled for the rest of the week with being angry at God. Angry that anyone would do things like that to anyone, but especially to “my” Arabs, the warm, friendly people I grew up around, the relatives of the people whose living room floors I played on every week. And angry that a God who demands holiness could allow such behavior. I don’t understand it, but after a few days of reminders of His sovereignty, goodness, and omniscience being scattered in everything I was reading (particularly the Psalms, especially 60-65), and listening to (yes, even the book on investing!), the anger is much more subdued. Questions, sorrow, petitions for justice and salvation, yes. But He is lifting the anger.

I did just spill words about the Duggars, yes, but this is what really needs to be said and what really needs to be in the news, and what something really needs to be done about. We feel like we can talk all we want about the Duggars because it feels like we can actually have an opinion, might make a difference about it, and that most of us can talk about without having an emotional breakdown.
But something needs to be done, and there is not much we can do except give a little money, spread the word, and praypraypray. But maybe those little ways of faithfulness in caring for the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, and the oppressed will bear much fruit. No matter what, He hears us, and is doing something, though we may not see what just yet.

It’s a frightening world, both here and there. I was reading to the Munchkin out of the Jesus Storybook Bible the other day and read the part about Jesus calming the storm. It ended like this:
“Jesus’ friends had been so afraid, they had only seen the big waves. They had forgotten that, if Jesus was with them, they had nothing to be afraid of.
“No matter how small their boat – or how big the storm.”

P.S. Praise Jesus! And when I read this, the anger was fully lifted.  It is such a clear example of God answering prayer, because that’s one of the things I have been praying for so much. He’s not ignoring the evil there and letting it run rampant or turning a deaf ear to our petitions.

P.P.S. The other “big” news lately is Jenner. I’ve seen Christians take two stands on this: the one group saying that while we may disagree with what Jenner did and think it wrong, we should call him her/Caitlyn. The other implies that to do so is to condone the transgender mindset. I agree with both stands, depending on the situation. For a public figure like Jenner, I think referring to him by the gender God created him with is the right thing to do. However, I think the situation changes when you’re dealing with someone you know personally, especially if you met them as “Sophie.” In either case, we should strive for the “stone of stumbling and rock of offense” to be not our disagreement with their lifestyle, but the cross – and at some point that will include compassionately confronting their sin, just as it would any other friend living in any other blatant sin. Desiring God has good thoughts (and this article is why I take major issue with the tone of Matt Walsh’s), as does this writer.

Courtship & Legalism

In response to a recent article critiquing courtship, Ezra has written this blog post and I wanted to share it with my blog readers.

While Ezra’s post deals with the most glaring issue, there are a few smaller comments I wanted to make. Umstattd’s article did bring up some legitimate flaws in courtship, at least in the way he defines it. Apart from what Ezra pointed out (which, unfortunately, was not at all a part of Umstattd’s solution, as he turned to a new formula rather than God to solve the problem – perhaps the saddest and most disappointing thing about his article), the biggest “flaw” in the way he defines it is that the only difference between courtship & engagement is a ring & a date. I wanted to briefly outline how for us courtship was a completely different thing than what Umstattd makes it out to be.
– We didn’t view marriage as the only or even most probable outcome to our relationship. Courtship (as we defined it – and any time I use the word “courtship” from now on it has that caveat) was a time to get to know each other in order to determine whether or not marriage between us would be wise or glorify God. We would have still considered it a success if we had decided NOT to get married for valid, godly reasons, and it would have been a failure if we moved on to marriage when we shouldn’t have.
– Umstattd speaks ill of parental involvement. While I have heard of stories that parental involvement was taken too far, the roles our parents played were healthy and necessary, especially considering our circumstances. Our fathers were involved in our emailing, and they along with our mothers were our primary counselors throughout our courtship. This was in many ways by our choice, as we knew that they knew us well and could help us see things more clearly.
That said, they weren’t controlling. Most of our Skype time was on our own. While we were together in person, we had time with our families and friends, but we also had time where we could talk privately and without interruption, whether it was in the car, on walks, in the living room, etc. I was grateful for this, not only because it gave us time to talk through things that we couldn’t really talk about in front of others, but it showed that although our parents were involved, they also trusted us to know ourselves/know if we would be tempted/be mature and let us draw many of the boundaries (ie, WE decided not to have physical contact during our courtship).
– Many say that in courtship, you can’t really getting to know each other. However, with the involvement of our families and friends (in person and via email) we could find out if the other wasn’t being honest and genuine. I was also confident that Ezra wasn’t hiding anything or trying to “make it work” because he was clear and forthright about sin – past or present – and any theological disagreements, proving to me that his hope was ultimately in God and not our courtship, as well as that he wasn’t hiding who he really was.

I say all that not to provide another formula for others, but to explain that there are outer differences as well as deeper differences between the courtship Umstattd critiques and what courtship (or whatever you want to call it) means to us.
It’s not a perfect way, and even in the circles we run in has ways to grow, perhaps especially in men and women getting to know each other/be comfortable with each other on a friendly level, again with the purpose of glorifying God in ALL relationships, be they romantic or friendly – which is another discussion that needs to be had between communities – how guys and girls can get to know each other to even know if they’re interested in taking things to a further level.

looking back: 2013

just a few words and photos on 2013.

Midnight thoughts: last stars of 2013\don’t want to say goodbye to this year\”everything has got to end sometime. Otherwise nothing would ever get started”\first stars of 2014\I get married this year {sometime I’m going to go to bed in one year and wake up in another – the closest I’ll ever get to time travel}

Worship changed a lot for me. It’s become much easier to be delighted in God, especially in little daily things like clouds or stars, because I’ve come to see His hand in everything, and remember that everything comes from Him. Worship isn’t just praising Him but also beholding Him. And I think with that has come what I want my life to be about. I want to behold God, and want to help others behold Him, to see how great and awesome God is, not only in how He saves us but also in other areas, like how He orders creation.

All that thrills my soul is Jesus,
He is more than life to me,
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see!

Music also changed a lot. Throughout the year there were lots of mini-revolutions in the way I think about practice, technique, and music in general. Practicing slower to always practice it right. Using technique to get out of the way so the music speaks. Music showing the culture of its time. How music should be different for Christian musicians, in how we practice and perform and use it to communicate.

I realized how much this introvert really loves people, and also how much I am loved, and how worthwhile relationships are. This was made clear in both family and friends. With all the wedding and moving deadlines and other things I wanted to get done, whether it was practicing or otherwise, I was always reminding myself that people were so much more important, and because of that life was so much richer. And then watching the most recent Doctor Who episode, and watching others go through change and goodbyes and thinking about all the people the Doctor loves and helps and then has to leave behind – and some really profound quotes and thoughts and faces and feelings as I was thinking about change and goodbyes and all that {more on this coming}.

Marriage just around the corner, and wedding planning taking up time, energy, and creativity, but it was mostly enjoyable. And in just a few days, I’ll be married to Ezra, and we’ll start life together. I can’t wait!

Highlights of 2013
going to the US in April to visit Ezra and do wedding planning, have special cousin and mom time.

Csehy. That’s almost all I’ll say about it because I’ve said so much elsewhere and the words and highlights of Csehy overwhelm. But it sparked the musical and worship revolutions and also began the realizing of how much I love people and how much I am loved by people.


The trip Hannah and I took to RAK, two really special days with my friend of many years who’s like a twin sister.

seeing Sarah T. in Hong Kong

desert trips

Fontgoneano escapades

lessons and fellowship with Sarah M. (and baby Isabelle!)

the lovely shower the C’s and M’s hosted for me

playing music with DCO, NSO, DWB, and singing with the Dubai Singers.

last visit to the W’s.

snow mountain with my dad’s family}

stargazing & cloud chasing

playing volleyball

hospitality –all the varied and wonderful people we had in our home and who had me in theirs

Well Group

piano teaching

Nate getting Eagle

travels: Greece & Lyons, Bahrain & US

times with Cait, Joel, and Jacqueline

And 2014?
Getting married is the big one! So is moving across the ocean and starting a new life. And new stories and compositions and ensembles and people to love and foods to cook and thoughts for the blog {big ones coming after the wedding}.

Happy New Year!