the company you keep...

I think I finally understand when a friend needs to be let go. 

In service yesterday, the lead Pastor at my church talked to us about wisdom, and fearing God. He reiterated the point that fearing God doesn't mean that you are literally in fear of Him, but that you revere Him, and stand in awe of Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10) 

A friend of mine is actively seeking relationships outside of her marriage. While she is in the process of getting divorced, buying a new home, etc., it still makes me uncomfortable to speak with her nowadays, as her giggles and laughter about forwarding pictures, text messages and emails to these strangers brings her pleasure. It's doubly hard because our boys are friends and my distancing myself from her, distances our boys too. I constantly remind her of her family and I hear the same thing: he's done x, y, z and it's only fair that I get to have something for myself. One thing I've learned over the years is this: when you are in a marriage and have a family, "self" no longer applies to you in the way that it does for single people.  And, years ago, I would have been able to entertain this type of frivolous conversation. The thought of that reality makes me sick to my core. I likely would not have given her Godly advice, and I likely would not have distanced myself from her. Instead, I would have also acted like a fool for the sake of what I thought was a friendship, and acted unrighteously, unwisely, unrealistically, unreliably and in an undisciplined fashion because I didn't know the importance of the company I kept close to me. Each of these "un" words represents a trait of a fool according to God's word.

It is so important for Christian women to know that a friend is someone who is not going to take them back to a place in their lives that they may be trying to get away from, or to never be introduced to altogether. A friend will also never try to lead you into a place of disobedience because they are in a valley themselves; this doesn't necessarily mean that they are trying to talk you into doing specifically what they are doing, but the fact that they are willing to continue talking about their indiscretions and sin when they know it makes you uncomfortable and is against what you have advised.

So how can you be a Godly friend, and prevent your friends from falling into the trap of acting the way the fool does that is referenced in the Book of Proverbs? The three proverbs below are great reference for a woman who is thinking of, or in the process of looking elsewhere in her marriage.  They are also great for women who may have a friend she is trying to advise during such a time. 

Proverbs 10:23 - Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible. 

* While it may seem fun for your friend to talk about her adventures and dish on the details of whatever she is taking a part in, as a friend it is important to remind her that what seems fun now is going to bring destruction to her life in some shape or form. If her marriage is not destroyed, her relationship with God will definitely be in jeopardy until she comes to terms with what she is doing. 

Proverbs 10:21 - The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.

A woman of God should surround herself with those who seek wisdom and maturity in Christ. 

*If you have a friend who is playing with fire in her marriage, you had better believe that she already knows better. She knows what the consequences are, and she knows what is right although she is not acting as she does. It is important to encourage her to not only do what is right, but to keep her relationships pure. This could mean letting people around her go if they are encouraging or ignoring the wrong she is going, and seeking friendships and fellowship with new people who in turn will be life-giving and who are more mature in Christ. 

Proverbs 17:24 - Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

A woman of God should be realistic and content in her own reality and understand that the grass is greener on the side that is watered. 

*As humans we all battle sin nature, and everyone's battle is different. In marriage, one of the biggest battles we face as women is our sexual integrity. This doesn't mean that we all have physical or emotional affairs, but it does mean that sometimes we live in a fantasy world and compare our husbands to other men we encounter. While this may not seem like a big deal, when a woman does this she is creating a reality that is nonexistent. If her husband was like her co-worker at work, and if her marriage suddenly became perfect like her best friend's marriage appears to be, her journey would not be her journey. While a woman is busy wandering about what could be? and what if? she could be watering the grass in her own relationship. 




what does self-care mean for a Christian woman?

I went to small group two nights ago after missing each group of the semester thus far (approximately 5 or six meetings!) and I feel renewed. 

Three years ago, if my closest friend had told me that sitting inside a local eatery, eating good food and laughing with a group of girlfriends for an hour and a half would be fulfilling, I would have thought differently. I wouldn't have laughed, but at the time I would have probably considered "self-care" as my being able to save a few hours for myself each week, you know, going to Barnes and Noble, grabbing a pile of magazines and books (despite the fact that I knew I wouldn't read them all), and drinking a large coffee that I wouldn't have to share. But really, that's just motherhood. Sometimes we just want to read pointless celebrity gossip and intake calories from whipped cream and chocolate syrup that we don't have to share with our husbands or children :)

I spoke with a friend a few weeks ago, and I think we just happened to catch each other on a mutually rough day. We were both overwhelmed with wanting to be working supermoms who do not tire after a week of work, after school activities and everthing else we do regularly that we truly do love. Before we put our phones aside to resume our schedules, she told me that she needed to begin incorporating self-care, which is a word that more times than not will lead me to think about the spa gift card from my husband that I have been saving for a rainy day. 

But there is something about those words, self-care.  

As a Christian woman, I think self-care equates to a whole other idea. Sure, we feel fantastic when we look good or lose a few pounds, but lately, my desperate need has been one for spiritual health. I've learned that self-care quickly follows suit when you tend to work toward achieving spiritual health. I feel the greatest when I am close to God. What makes me feel close to God? Here are a few things that draw me nearer to Him.  

1) Marinating in God's word. Daily. This will seem hard if you overthink it. Yes, focusing on my prayers is "best" when I am at home in the early morning with my worship music playing in the background. I feel even better about this time when I can have this time for thirty to forty-five minutes uninterrupted. Is this realistic for all of us? Honestly, I wish it could be. But insert family, work, extracurricular activities, and a multitude of other things, and sometimes we are happy to just have five minutes of complete silence before bed. the same way that we make getting up for work a priority, taking the time to be specific in our reading of His word is paramount to prayer life and relationship with God.

2) Taking part in community. Join a small group or community group and attend regularly. Don't miss. If you feel like missing, and find yourself coming up with excuses of things that you are responsible for regardless, understand that taking aside an hour will generally not effect your schedule negatively. In fact, after a life-giving fellowship you may accomplish more than you originally planned!  Never take yourself out of the running of being lifted up by other believers by God's Word. While in attendance, express yourself in a way that allows you to open up with other women who are seeking the same things: Jesus and how we can live our lives to bring glory to His name. 

3) Setting aside alone time, preferably each day for a few minutes, but definitely a few times per week. While prayer is our main means of communication with our Heavenly Father, and is a strong number one for this list, having alone time to process your thoughts is a strong habit to incorporate into your daily schedule too. When you are alone it will be easier to walk yourself through the things that you need to commune with Him about when it is time to pray. What do you need to thank him for? What do you have going on that you need to ask God to help you identify, and then correct? It's hard to deepen your spiritual relationship when it remains surface-level, and if you're trying to do this while driving in your kids' carpool or running errands on a lunch break, you may have brief revelations, but it takes time away from everything to truly make this time beneficial in your walk with God. 

4) Studying, asking questions and learning. In some circles today, Christianity seems to be like a popularity contest. I believe this sometimes results in groups of women who are taking the word of others over the word of God. If you are unsure of what you are being taught, hear, or read, make it a priority to learn God's word on your own!

You can find yourself cheering on someone else in their spiritual journey, and this is great, but you are the only one who can cultivate your own relationship with Jesus.