Monday, October 20, 2014

Dateless at 26

"Why is she not dating?"
It was an honest question, born out of love and genuine concern.

~* ~ * ~ *~

Stephanie was only 12 years old when she made the counter-cultural decision to refrain from dating. We had watched a video of a Dateline NBC episode sent to us by a friend, that focused on an ATI couple who each had made similar commitments in their early teens. Chad and Heidi later met, courted, and married, with their first kiss commencing at the altar. As the credits rolled, Stephanie turned to her dad and me. With tears in her eyes, she told us, "That's what I want!"

I should have been elated. But honestly, my heart froze. Considering my background, I could have given her lots of valuable advice if she had chosen to date. But courtship? The very idea was foreign to me. The physical purity aspect didn't concern me nearly as much as the overwhelming thought of trying to help my daughter remain emotionally pure. 

How could I possibly teach my child to guard her heart when I had never learned to guard my own?

The Lord was faithful and we quickly discovered that He equips us for what He calls us to do. Soon we were acquainted with other families who were on a similar path, whose children had made the same commitment. Through the years we've been blessed by like-minded friends, discussions, and various resources.

When Stephanie was 14, she asked if we could have a ceremony to commemorate her decision to remain under her parent's authority and protection until marriage. (You can read about that in the post Committed to Courtship.)

We've always considered this daughter of ours a "pioneer" in our home. Our first homeschool test model, Stephanie blazed the academic trail to become the first Long Academy graduate in 2007. Armed with a beautiful voice and a gift for music, she taught her sisters to harmonize and learned guitar on her own.  She then used these talents to usher The Long Family Singers into a community ministry.

With her strong leadership skills coupled with a genuine zeal for the Lord, she has been instrumental in setting an example of godliness, modesty, and purity for her younger siblings. Two of her sisters so far have chosen to make the same covenant, each at the appropriate time. (Read Haley's Covenant Ceremony here).
Photo by Debi at Born Image
To be honest, Stephanie's commitment has not been without testing: there have been times when she has wrestled with her emotions. But entering into these struggles with her, and watching her walk in these trials then come through victoriously has been a true blessing. And the girls have been there for each other. Our daughters are not only the best of friends, but also advocates and cheerleaders who are always available to share their hearts, offer a word of encouragement, and pray for one another. Seeing the Lord strengthen these family ties is another testament to His faithfulness.

In our home there have been many discussions about courtship. As we've scrutinized the relationships of others who have gone before, we have a fairly good idea of how we would like things to play out when the time comes (I plan to share our ideas in a future post).

Watching friends who had made similar commitments go before them in courtship and marriage has also greatly strengthened the girls' resolve to remain pure and to wait on the Lord for His perfect timing in marriage. Just two weeks ago Stephanie's best friend, Elizabeth accepted a marriage proposal from our pastor's son! There is much excitement in the air as we prepare for a March wedding.

David, Elizabeth, and Stephanie

As for Stephanie, her time has not yet arrived and she will need to be patient and remain content as she not only waits on the Lord, but continues to walk in His perfect will for her life.

It is true that Stephanie has never been on a date with a guy (unless you count outings with her dad). She has never had a boyfriend. She has never given her heart to any man. She has never held hands. Or been kissed by anyone other than family. But neither has she ever stayed up all night crying her eyes out because some boy broke her heart. She's never had to wonder, "How far is too far?" She has no regret of love gone bad.

Steeped in a culture that admonishes "follow your heart", she believes God when He says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Divorce courts are filled with people who "followed their hearts" but by choosing this path, we are hoping to avoid many of the pitfalls that exist in modern dating practices.

"Why is she not dating?"

A decision established as a child of twelve that has been tested and reaffirmed and matured and blossomed into a bold resolution of a 26-year-old woman to remain under the protection and authority of her father as she patiently waits for God's perfect timing in bringing the one she is to marry.

In short, it is her choice.

Happy 26th birthday Stephanie!

Stephanie with her "heroine in the faith" Janet Parshall at True Woman '14.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coming Back: What Backsliding Taught Me

This is part two. Read part one Backsliding here.

"I need to take a week-long break from the internet." 

This first coherent thought of the day invaded my mind that Sunday morning out of nowhere and was most unwelcome. Considering the 3 month trek through the spiritual dessert I had been walking through, leaving social media, and my companions who were there, was the last thing I wanted to do, and so I "took that thought captive."

Pastor's message a few hours later on Romans 12:1-2  reintroduced the idea and by the time we were settled into our seats in the van for the return trip home, I suggested we all do a one week media fast. Reflecting on the Word we had just heard from the Lord, the girls were in agreement. The fast was to begin the next morning.

It never ceases to amaze me how shutting out the voices and all outside influence allows me to reset my full attention on the Lord. 

Photo Credit
All summer long I had been slipping further away from my Savior; helplessly sliding down into a pit of my own making. Why is it the escape to freedom appears as arduous as climbing Mount Everest and as far-fetched as visiting the moon? Fears plagued my mind, but at the center was only one question: Will He take me back?

Silly; isn't it? To think that for nearly 33 years of my life I did my own thing; living a life of debauchery and sin until that life imploded and I had found myself in a pit so deep there was nowhere to look. But up.

All along He had been drawing me to Himself. Allowing the ugliness in my life till I came to the end of my self-sufficiency and was ready to turn it all over to Him.

And He had forgiven me and washed away my sins. Just. Like. That.

Now here I was 17 years old in Christ; a child of the One True King; His child, once again wallowing in the muck of a miry pit of my own making, struggling with the same question as the Prodigal son of Luke 15; "Will He take me back?"

It took a full day for my mind to clear and to accept the realization that the day of reckoning had arrived. My heart burned within me with a longing to be reunited with my One True Love.

As a woman on a mission, I woke early Tuesday morning, grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed to the living room where I've previously spent many glorious moments with Christ. Next to the sofa I stood, thinking. Contemplating. Till finally I did the only thing I knew to do: I knelt there beside the sofa and began pouring out my heart to my Lord and Savior, confessing my waywardness and asking--begging--Him to show me my heart. 
And He took me back. Just. Like. That.

A verse played on my mind: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). I held that verse in my heart all morning and after chores and schooling the children, I grabbed some study materials and headed to the swing that afternoon; my heavenly sanctuary.

Here are some valuable lessons I've learned since returning to the Lord:
  • The cure for backsliding is... repentance. "Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your lampstand out of its place, except you repent." (Revelation 2:5)
  • A spirit of repentance is a gift we can ask for from the Lord (see 2 Timothy 2:25).
  • Refusing to forgive offenders results in being delivered to the tormentors. These "tormentors" can be anything from anger and a critical attitude to depression and physical illness.
  • An idol is anyone or anything that takes the place of God on the throne of your heart. 
  • We serve a jealous God Who desires all our affections. "For you shall worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:14)
  • God will sometimes test our love by putting us through trials that reveal any competing affections.
  • Loving the Lord with all my heart requires me to uncover and confess all secret sin before God and to my spiritual authority.
  • To Jesus I am a pearl of great price (Matthew 12:45-46) and I am to find my validation and self worth in Him Alone.
The escape from backsliding is to realize your spiritual condition, repent, and turn back to the Lord. "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you." (Proverbs 1:23).

If you look up one day and find yourself far from God, remember this: He is not the One Who moved.     
Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till he comes and rains righteousness upon you. 
~Hosea 10:12


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