Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is Modesty?

Recently, I took my daughter shopping for her 9th birthday.  She wanted clothes this year which made me sad all in itself because that alone screamed she’s not a little girl anymore!  I mean, it seems like yesterday that her birthday lists comprised of baby dolls, stuffed animals, and princess accessories so when she begged me to go shopping for maxi dresses, casual outfits, and jewelry, my heart sunk!  I officially have a tween!  Even typing that makes me shake my head!  It just doesn’t seem possible that my first born baby…that chunky bundle of joy I held in my arms for the first time as a mom…can already be a tween.  People told me to cherish every moment because they go by fast, but come on people…no amount of words could have prepared this momma’s heart for how quickly those moments and years really pass by!  Yet, here we are…raising a tween daughter.

As we entered the store on her birthday, there was so much excitement.  Anytime I get a chance to go shopping without impatient little ones, that’s something to get excited about…even if I’m not shopping for myself!  As we started looking through the racks, what I thought was going to be a fun moment for me and my daughter quickly turned into a sad life lesson.  We didn’t even make it past the first few racks before my daughter made a comment about some of the outfits not being very appropriate.  Sadly, she was right.  I quietly watched my daughter as she looked through the clothes.  I saw her spot an outfit on the racks and excitedly scurried over there only to watch her smile turn slanted as she held it up and realized the entire back of the blouse was backless.  Then again, I saw her face light up as she saw some bejeweled jean shorts only to be disappointed to unfold them and see they were so short that the pockets hung out the bottom of the shorts.  I listened as she asked me why people even make these kinds of clothes. 

Modesty is not a foreign topic in our home.  We talk about what is appropriate and inappropriate to wear.  We discuss often that we should honor God in what we wear and in all that we do and say.  In my effort to raise children who are modest, I have learned that modesty has far more to do with the heart more than what you wear.  Let me explain.

I grew up in a Christian home where modesty was taught and encouraged.  I can remember being mindful as a teenager to make sure my midriff was covered and cleavage concealed.  I don’t necessarily remember doing these things in an effort to please the Lord as much as dressing modestly out of respect for my parents and myself, as well as not giving the wrong impression to guys. 

As true as this is, I have since learned that modesty has far more to with a person’s heart than it does the clothing they wear. 

When I became a mother, there was a shift in my heart that took place when I truly understood the magnitude of my responsibility to raise this human being.  To hold that miracle baby nine years ago and realize that God chose me to be her Mom…I was in awe that He entrusted me to love her, care for her, and guide her to become the woman He created her to be.  When I realized what gift The Lord had given me, oh how I wanted to cherish that gift and do a job well done.  My heart opened up that day to God’s correction like never before.  I desired to please Him more than my own desires.  Things that used to not bother me, all of a sudden began to make me squirm and my view of modesty was one of those areas.  Things that I once ruled to be okay for me to wear, didn’t seem so appropriate when I imagined my daughter wearing the same thing.  I wanted better for her.  We do that as moms, don’t we?  How much more does our Heavenly Father want for us?  He is so good.  As my heart began to open up to the understanding of His goodness, there was something in me that desired to please Him more and more and that was and is what I continue to teach my children today.  We will never be worthy of all that God has done for us and all the blessings He has poured into our lives.  We can’t do anything to deserve His love…He gave it freely.  However, as we seek Him more and come to know Him better, there comes a point where our greatest desire is to please Him because He is good, not because we want to be good.  We no longer make decisions based on man's opinion of good or bad, religious expectations, or other people’s rules…after all, those standards all change with time.  Instead, it comes down to "What does your Word say?" and “Is this pleasing to You Lord?”  It was this process and shift in my heart that lead me to seek scripture about modesty as I desired to please God in the way I raised my daughter. 

1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Do not let your adorning be external---the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear---but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

1 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness---with good works.”

As I studied these and several other scriptures on modesty, I took away a few things…

1.     Modesty is dressing in a way that draws others to see our hearts before our bodies.
2.     Modesty is revealing the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit instead of revealing the beauty of a body that we worked hard for at the gym.
3.     Modesty is respectable.

As I began to pray about these nuggets that I took away from scripture, the Lord began to expose some areas in my life where I very well desired the attention from others and I became painfully aware of why I had chosen to wear certain things.  It exposed a proud and haughty spirit, not the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that The Lord finds so precious.  I repented and asked God to forgive me and this is why I have chosen to raise my daughters (and son) to be modest.   I don’t want my children to grow up with a set of rules of what they can and can’t wear.  Instead, I want them to ask themselves, does this outfit please the Lord and does it draw attention to me or does it still allow others to see my gentle and quiet spirit?   

Modesty is much more than an outfit.  Our attitudes can be immodest just as much as our clothing!  I just had to teach my daughter this lesson not too long ago.  I had bought her some yoga pants with a cute top from Old Navy a few months ago and she loved it!  I didn’t realize it when I bought it, but when she tried it on, I noticed the back of the shirt had an opening up at the top that showed part of her back and then it was split about half-way down the shirt.  I probably wouldn’t have bought it had I seen that in the store, but after seeing it on her, her hair covered the opening on her back and the split just showed a sliver of her back because her pants covered everything else so I told her it was fine.  I didn’t think much about it, until I started noticing she was wearing that outfit almost every day.  On the days it was dirty, I’d find her digging through the hamper looking for it and asking me when I was going to do laundry.  She acted like it was the only outfit she owned!  I began noticing her looking in the mirror over her shoulder, holding her hair up so she could see her own back.  She was becoming very obsessed with how “cute” she looked in this particular outfit and fished for compliments every time she wore it asking, "What do you think, do I look cute (insert pose)?".  To anyone else, this outfit would have been deemed modest…it was pants and the top was a tunic style that covered her rear.  However, the Lord began to open my eyes to a change in my daughter’s heart that was directly related with this outfit.  This outfit made her feel older, sexier, prettier, and better than her other outfits did.  She wore it with a proud heart and her actions revealed that prideful spirit.  Let’s just say she was working it in the mirror and thought she was pretty hot stuff!  

When I brought it to her attention and told her what I had noticed, she began to cry.  She’s extremely sensitive to spiritual matters and she told me that she felt ashamed the first time she wore it because she knew it wasn’t respectful to God, yet she wore it anyway because I told her it was fine.  She explained to me that one of her friends wore an outfit like that a lot and she wanted to be “cool” like her friend.  It broke my heart to hear her words for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I pray daily that my children would be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would be their guide.  It broke my heart that I silenced that leading by telling my child something was okay even though I knew when I saw it that I wouldn’t have bought it had I known it looked like that in the back…I should have listened to that initial leading.  I made excuses as to why I thought it was okay even though I knew it wasn’t something I would have purchased had I seen it in the first place because it wouldn’t have passed the question of “Does this please and honor God?”.  Secondly, it broke my heart because we have to teach our girls that their value does not lie in the opinions of others, their physical beauty, or in their abilities.   Rather, their value and true worth comes in their identity as a child of God!  They need to know WHO they are IN CHRIST!  When they do, their quiet and gentle spirits will shine and they won’t need to adorn themselves with outfits to draw attention to themselves.  I am determined to teach my children their value because that’s where true modesty will be learned. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lessons Learned

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d love to dedicate today’s post to the greatest woman I know…my beautiful mother and dear friend, Shirley Roberson.  I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this woman and how much she means to me.  It would be impossible to tell you all the things I love about her.  There is simply too much to write in one post! 

For those of you who don’t know my mother personally, she is full of Godly wisdom!  She is a mother to many because people are drawn to her sweet spirit and wise words.  She’s a Proverbs 31 woman through and through!  Today, I’d love to share some wisdom that my mom has imparted into my life over the years.  If I have learned anything over the years, it’s that Mom’s words are always filled with truth and wise counsel.  Once again, there are too many lessons learned to mention them all, but here are a few that have been life-changing for me.  These lessons ultimately made me a better person and shaped me into the person that I am today.  So thankful for a mom who chooses to speak truth into my life even when it wasn’t what I necessarily wanted to hear.  She’ll never know how her words have impacted my life.  I pray that as I share some of these valuable lessons from my mom, may her words speak life to you as well!  Be blessed friends as you soak up her wisdom!

Lessons Learned from Mom:

Lesson #1- Establish  Healthy Boundaries

The week before I got married, I can remember laying in my room talking to my Mom just as we did pretty much every night before I went to bed.  I can remember talking about the wedding and I broke down in tears and told my mom that I didn’t know why I was crying!  I explained to her that I loved Nathan so much and couldn’t wait to marry him, but that I was so sad about leaving home at the same time.  My heart was being pulled two different directions and I was having such a hard time making sense of it.  I had such a close relationship with my Mom and Dad and I was dependent on them for so many things that even though I was only moving a few miles away, I literally felt like I was preparing myself for a death in the family!  I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but that’s how close we were.  My heart felt such a void just knowing that I wasn’t going to see Mom every day and get to have our talks at the end of the day, or have her there to help me through my panic attacks, or have her lay hands on me and pray for me anytime I needed.  I was so confused about my sad feelings in the midst of such a joyous occasion! 

I remember Mom telling me that my feelings were completely normal and she assured me that it would get easier.  She told me it was time to start leaning on my soon-to-be husband for those things and that as I did that, our relationship would change and she assured me that was okay too!  I can still remember telling her just a few days before I married my husband that there was no way I would or could love Nathan more than her! 

During those first years of marriage, there were some defining moments.  I still called my mom several times a day and because we were close, I even stopped by often just to hang out.  There were times when I was struggling with fear and anxiety that I would call Mom in the late hours of the night just to have her pray with me.  There were days when I was sick and I just needed my Mom.  As a mom now, I could see where that must have made Mom feel so good and met a desire to feel needed.  I’m sure the separation was just as hard on her, if not harder, so I can only imagine how easy it was for her to just jump back in to the role of being my caretaker and go-to person when I reached out to her for help!  But being a wise woman and a woman of the Word, my Mom taught me something in that first year of marriage that changed my life.  She taught me boundaries.

I know my Mom well enough to know that setting boundaries was probably one of the hardest things she had to do, but she had to let me go no matter how much she wanted to hold onto her baby girl.  And she did.  There came a time where my Mom started to tell me she loved me, but that I needed to turn to my husband.  She recognized that I was never going to put my husband first as long as she kept allowing me to turn to her for advice, for spiritual nurturing, and care.  As much as she desired to help me, she knew it would eventually cause marriage trouble if she continued allowing me to turn to her anytime I needed something.  When I’d call her for advice, she began responding with, “Well what does Nathan think about that?”  When I’d ask her for her opinion, she’d respond, “I think that’s a decision that needs to just be between you and Nathan.”  It was a process, but my parent’s actions taught me such a valuable lesson by setting those healthy boundaries in our relationship.  They taught me what a marriage should look like and they taught me what the role of my husband should be in my life.  Over the first few years of our marriage, these healthy boundaries ultimately lead my husband and I to becoming each other’s lifeline, confidante, and best friend.  Although I never thought it was possible, I began to see my heart shifting and my husband eventually became the most important person in my life.  He’s my very best friend and I love him more than anyone else in this world…and I have my Mom to thank for that. 

My husband has so much love and respect for my parents and I truly believe it’s because my parents have always set healthy boundaries and never overstepped into our relationship.  Over our fourteen years of marriage, my husband has come to cherish the opinion of my parents and I believe that’s because he has never felt threatened by their opinions in the past.  They have never offered unwanted advice or stepped in with an opinion when unwarranted.  They have remained silent when they disagree and they have never said an ill-word even when I vented my frustrations about my husband.  They never took “my” side...rather, because they were on “our” side, they always encouraged me to be submissive and respectful to my husband and to not let things fester.  They always encouraged me to go to my husband when there was an offense.  They have always offered sound Godly wisdom and never an emotional response.  I love them for that.  They will never know how this lesson of healthy boundaries has shaped me as a wife and a mother!

Lesson #2 -  Choose Joy

Over the years, I have called my Mom and filled her ear with plenty of complaints and frustrations about life.  It's nice to have someone to talk to where you can trust your words to stop there.  It doesn’t matter how bad the situation is, Mom’s response is always the same.  Choose joy!  She always has an encouraging word!  Mom is not the one to call if you want someone to have a pity party with or if you need someone to tell you they understand why you are so mad, sad, or upset!  She’s going to tell you to get over it and choose joy!  As frustrating as that may sound, this is a lesson that has been invaluable in my life! 

Life is not always fair and it’s not always sunshine and roses.  But for those who have a relationship with Jesus, we have a hope and a joy that doesn’t depend on our circumstances!  Mom has taught me to look past my circumstances and focus on what the Word says about it instead!  When you look at things with a Kingdom mindset, your perspective changes and you are able to see the blessings in the storm.  It’s life-changing and life-giving!  Whatever you are going through, just remember it is only temporary and because of Jesus, there is hope and a way out.  There is nothing in this world that can steal your joy, but you can sure give it away.  I choose joy!  Thank you Mom for teaching me that I have a choice.  Because of your wisdom, I am able to choose joy daily…often many, many times…instead of letting someone or something ruin my day!

Lesson #3 -   Respond in Love

You can’t always control people’s reactions, but you can control your response!  That’s one of the greatest lessons my mother has taught me!  Life is unfair.  People can be ugly and mean.  But just as the Bible says, “Do not repay evil with evil”, my mom taught me that I can and should respond in love even when others don’t “deserve” it. 

Mom, thank you for choosing to not feed a reaction.  I can always count on you to change my perspective when I am out of place.  Even in moments when I know it was hard for you to hear that someone treated your daughter poorly, you have always encouraged me to keep my head up and to respond with love and to pray and ask God for help.  As a mother, there is nothing that gets my feathers ruffled quicker than for someone to be mean to my babies so I know there have been times where it would have been easy for you to jump on the bandwagon of getting even!  However, you always take the high road.  Because of the lessons you have taught me, I take the time to control my response and although there are times when tough conversations may need to happen, I can choose to respond in love because of the lessons you have taught me.  You have taught me that the Lord will equip me with the words to say when I choose to respond in a way that is pleasing to Him and you have taught me that when I pray about a wrong that was done, Jesus has a way of changing my heart so that it doesn’t bother me anymore or He just completely makes it right again!  Thank you for your many lessons in love and forgiveness!  It has freed me from so much heartache over the years because you have taught me to not focus on the reactions of others but to just be responsible for my own response.  When I stopped trying to change other people’s opinions of me and trying to respond in a way to please other people all of the time, it brought so much freedom to me and it ultimately brought healing to my heart. 

Mom, thank you just doesn’t seem like enough.  The wisdom you have poured into me over the years has been life-giving to me.  Thank you for always speaking truth.  You are the most loving and selfless person I know.  I watch you serve your family and your church and I’m always amazed.  I have never met anyone in my life that serves with such a cheerful heart as you.  You never complain.  I love that about you.  You choose joy and that joy is so contagious.  I love being around you because I always leave feeling better after spending time with you.  That’s just the kind of person you are.  You are kind, compassionate, and always encouraging.  Your love for Jesus and for others is so evident.  I feel so incredibly blessed that God chose you to be my mother.  They just don’t come any better than you!  Love you dearly and I am so incredibly thankful for you Mom!  Happy Mother’s Day!