girltalk Blog

Sep 17

Living Wide Awake

2017 at 8:15 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

A timer is a handy tool for mothers. When my children were young—in the days before smart-phone apps—I frequently used a white plastic egg timer to let them know when an activity was about to begin or end or how long it would last. We will leave for the pool in 10 minutes. You have 5 minutes left before it’s your sister’s turn. Read your book for 30 minutes. I also used a timer to motivate. If my children were taking too long to finish a project, I’d set a timer. If they required an incentive to do their chores, I’d set the timer. When I needed them to do something in a hurry, I’d sometimes use a timer to play beat-the-clock.

But timers are not only useful for children; they can benefit adults too. In fact, did you know that a timer has been set for our lives? We are on the clock. Holy Scripture tells us how long our lives here on earth are going to last. And it’s not long! David and Job compare the span of our lives to a breath (Ps. 144:4; Job 7:7). That’s only a second or two at most. At least Moses gave us a little more time when he likened the length of our days to grass that lasts from morning to evening (Ps. 90:5,6). Even still, a half-day is not very long!

Now, if our lifespan is comparable, to—at most—about twelve hours, this means that the seasons of our lives are only mere minutes in duration. Think about it. Whether you are a teenager, a single adult, a new bride, a mom with preschool children, an empty nester—whatever your season, you only have a few minutes left before this season ends. The timer is ticking.

I could almost hear it the other day when I read a list of the potential seasons of a woman’s life and realized that I had passed through almost all of them and had arrived at

the second-to-last season on the list. Truth is, the timer is always ticking; we just don’t always notice. Which is why David, Job, and Moses all try to rouse us—you don’t have long now! The reality of our limited lifespan sobers us up quick. It should motivate us to resist distraction, to refrain from disobedience, and to live purposefully and passionately, in an all-out sprint, for the finish line of our heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. We Christian women should always hear the tick, tick, tick.

“How well should those live who are to live so little! Is my earthly pilgrimage so brief? Then let me watch every step of it, so that in the little of time there may be much of grace,” said Charles Spurgeon.

How do we make much of grace in our little time? One of the simplest job descriptions for life is found in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13:

“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

We are to be joyful and do good. What a simple, delightful assignment! In every brief season of life, whether working in the home or in the marketplace, whether cramming for tests or living out our retirement years, whether overwhelmed or aimless, our duty as Christian women is the same. Be joyful. Do good.

Be joyful.

Often, we trudge (or dash!) through the fleeting seasons of our lives with an “I can’t wait until this is over so I can enjoy life” mentality. Once I finally get these toddlers out of diapers or get these teenagers off to college…then I will be joyful. If only I can get my business off the ground or finally make enough money to retire…then I can be joyful.

But we are to be joyful today. Our timer is ticking, remember? We don’t have much time to obey this command in whatever brief season of life we find ourselves. When we move from our current season into the next, we should be able to look back and say, if nothing else: by the grace of God, I was joyful.

Joy is found in God alone: “In your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). So the way to be joyful in every season is to cultivate what Elisabeth Elliot calls “a habitual sense of the presence of God.” She tells mothers (and all of us) to: “Think that Almighty God, who created the stars and keeps the seasons revolving in perfect rhythm, is there in your kitchen, in your bathroom, in the laundry room, in the grocery store.” Think and your heart will be filled with wonder and joy. God is with you. Right now. Joy is where God is, and—through Christ—God is with us. How can we not be joyful?

All too easily, it seems.

You see, “a habitual sense of God’s presence” that leads to joy isn’t something we simply conjure up when we feel stressed or sad. It begins with consistent time in God’s Word and prayer and flows out into a life of daily communion with him. Joy is a “fruit of the Spirit”—a gift—that he gives to those who seek his presence continually (Gal. 5:22, Ps. 105:4). You may think that you don’t “have time” right now for consistent Bible reading and prayer, but in truth, you are throwing out the one thing that is necessary (Lk. 10:42). There is no other way to be joyful, and, being joyful is the most important responsibility you have today. How delightful is that?

Do good.

Again, our assignment is simple. We are to do good in every season, and the good we are to do is the good that God has given us to do. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The Creator of galaxies and ocean depths has designed and fashioned each of us individually, called us by name, redeemed us from our sins, and then personally prepared good works for each of us to do.

And Scripture tells us to get excited about doing good! We are to be devoted to good works (1 Tim. 5:10), zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14), have a reputation for good works (1 Tim. 5:10), adorn ourselves with good works (Tit. 2:9-10), and stir up one another for good works (Heb. 10:24).

If our lives feel complicated and stressful, it’s often because we’ve forgotten this simple command. So when you wake up in the morning, ask yourself: What is the good God has prepared for me to do today? (Hint: It’s usually right in front of you. Make your bed. Care for your children. Be gracious to your coworker. Joyfully receive unwelcome interruptions.) Then do it. Do it with all your heart.

Living Wide Awake

Be joyful and do good—it sounds so simple, so pleasant, so doable. Our problem is that our spiritual glasses get so fogged up with the momentary pleasures and problems of daily life, that we forget it’s passing so quickly. In fact, many of us live as if our present season is going to last forever.

John Calvin’s words bring us back with a jolt:

“Whence proceeds the great stupidity of men, who, bound fast to the present state of existence, proceed in the affairs of life as if they were to live two thousand years…. In short, men are so dull as to think that thirty years, or even a smaller number, are, as it were, an eternity; nor are they impressed with the brevity of their life so long as this world keeps possession of their thoughts…. How speedily our life vanishes away. The imagination that we shall have long life, resembles a profound sleep in which we are all benumbed.”

Let’s “wake up” to the fact that we have only a short time left in our present season. More importantly, let’s live as if we have just a few minutes remaining. With one eye on our heavenly timer, let’s be joyful and do good. Truly, as the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing better.

Sep 14

Q&A: Screen Time and Your Small Child

2017 at 8:24 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

Q: How do I cut back on my children’s screen time? My children are four and six, and I keep reading reports about the dangerous effects of too much screen time, but I don’t know how to get through a day without their TV shows, or how to get errands done or go out to eat without using a device. Any advice you have would be most appreciated.

When you are caring for small children, the days can feel like they are forty hours long. Your children’s needs are so constant, your energy is so low, and screen time is so there. One half-hour show turns into three. You can’t get through the grocery store without pulling out a device. Then the guilt crashes in.

But how much screen time is too much and what can we do about it? One of the most potent dangers of screen time is how easy and accessible it is, which means that as mothers, we need to be all the more intentional and deliberate in how we regulate our children’s use of electronic devices. We can’t just slide into screen time. But neither can we make mothering decisions in reaction to the latest dire report or because Melissa Gates said so. If we’re going to parent with peace and resolve, we must start with God’s Word. In order to evaluate our child’s screen time biblically, we need to ask ourselves: What is our biblical responsibility as parents and how does screen time contribute or detract from that God-given responsibility?

As Christian parents, our responsibility is simple: We are to “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

This means, first of all, that we must teach our children God’s commands. What does this look like? Deuteronomy 6 paints the picture: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (6: 6-7). In other words, our motherly teaching from God’s Word—not Curious George or My Little Pony—should be the primary content filling our children’s days. So let’s take our child’s screen time and hold it up next to Deuteronomy 6 for a moment. Do God’s commands or the PBS Kids lineup comprise the bulk of our child’s educational diet? Which characters fill our child’s imagination and who do they talk about—the Octonauts or the Creator of all the creatures of land and sea? Can our children sing more TV intros than they can recite Scripture verses? Answers to questions like these will expose those hidden areas of excess screen time.

Second, we must train our children to obey God’s commands. Our primary mission in the early years of mothering is to train our children to listen to and follow our commands—immediately, completely, and cheerfully—so they will, by the grace of God, learn how to follow the Lord with all their hearts and reap the blessings of obedience. Start here, and screen time decisions get real clear real fast. How much screen time is too much? If our child spends more time on a device than in “Mom’s School of Obedience” it’s too much time, simple as that. When is it appropriate to give our child a device? If we hand our child a tablet every time they fuss or put them in front of a show whenever they get wild, we are, in fact, rewarding disobedience, and undermining the whole operation. Now, please know, it is not wrong to let your child play an app while you chat with the in-laws or to watch an extra hour or two of television when you get the flu. But if screen time has eclipsed training time, or become a tool for manipulation, we must prayerfully reevaluate its place in our home.

Maybe you already know. Yep, I’ve let my kids have too much screen time and I feel terrible about it. We’ve all stumbled in many ways as parents, but we must never let our pride to get in the way of serving our children. If we have trusted in Christ for salvation, we can acknowledge our parenting failures, receive God’s forgiveness and grace to change, and parent—guilt free—from this day forward. And be assured: It is possible to wean your child from excess screen time without losing your mind. Here are a few practical ideas:

1. Start small. If you try to remove all devices all at once, you will regret it big time. The more heavily you have relied upon screen time to fill the hours and smooth the rough spots in your day, the longer the weaning process may take. So start small. Choose one time and place (home, at first) to go sans device. Eat this elephant one bite at a time.

2. Replace screen time with special time. Instead, of suddenly declaring to your unsuspecting children—“That’s it, no more screen time!”—tell them it is time for something new and exciting. Get out a new toy or check out some new books from the library. Hand them a drink, their favorite stuffed animal, and tuck them into a special reading corner. Instead of a morning date with their favorite show, have art time with crayons and a coloring book. Develop a plan ahead of time and make it fun and special. Give it a “name” and be excited about it. Maybe even set a timer and train them to stick with a single activity for a few more minutes each day. And when you leave the house, pack a bag of go-to activities or treats. You can also replace the background noise of the television with stories and songs that teach God’s Word.

3. Don’t give up. If things don’t go well at first, this should only confirm your original suspicions that a change was sorely needed! So don’t get discouraged, but persevere. It takes time to replace a bad habit with a good one. And it requires consistent training. Maybe you need to plan trips to the grocery store where the only purpose is training them to get through without screen time. Maybe, after dinner, you have your children practice sitting quietly with a few books for ten extra minutes, so that eventually (the operative word, here) you can go out to a peaceful dinner as a family. Whatever you do, stick with it, and you will, after many days, reap the rewards.

4. Give screen time a set time. When you do let your children use a device or watch a show, be deliberate and intentional. Choose a time each day—like when you need to make dinner, or help another child with homework—and teach them to sit still with their device for a specific amount of time. Thus, screen time becomes part of their obedience training and gives you that needed break as well.

5. Don’t freak out in an emergency. If your child starts getting restless in the middle of a long ceremony, or if you are out of milk and Tylenol and your little one is snotty and fussy, by all means, hand your child a device and thank God for the blessings of technology. You can get back to teaching and training in the morning.

Parenting is hard, but our God-given parenting responsibilities come with his grace which fulfills “every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess. 1:11, emphasis mine). With the Spirit’s help, we can resist the siren call of screen time and teach and train our children to love and follow God’s commands.

Sep 7

An Important Rule for Peace

2017 at 8:11 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Friendship

It’s a commonly accepted truth: the older you get, the less you care about what others think about you. This can be a good thing, ushering in a new freedom from timidity and self-focus. Or it can take an unhealthy turn, leading to bad hair-dye jobs, unfortunate wardrobe choices, or—more seriously—unkind or selfish behavior toward others. As Christian women, we should not simply drift into a middle-aged indifference toward the opinions of others. We should be deliberate to shed our sinful preoccupation of what others think of us—and the earlier the better—so that we can be free to run our lives in an all out sprint for the glory of God. How can we shed the oppressive and excessive care of what others think of us—whether we are twenty-five or sixty-five?

A few years ago, I came across this valuable nugget of advice from a nineteenth-century pastor named Charles Simeon: “My rule is—never to hear, or see, or know, what if heard, or seen, or known, would call for animadversion from me. Hence it is that I dwell in peace in the midst of lions.” I had to look up “animadversion”: it means “criticism or censure.” Simeon is saying that he made it a rule never to hear (or see or know) anything that had a detrimental effect on his soul. This is how he maintained the peace of Daniel in the midst of “lions” who spoke evil of him.

Whether we are in the lion’s den or green pastures, a young woman or well into middle-age, we would do well to make it our rule never to imagine or attempt to find out what other people are thinking or saying about us. And in case you need convincing, all you have to do is consider what happens when you don’t follow this rule. Think with me for a moment about the consequences of worrying about what others think or say.

For starters, it is a futile exercise. As much as we would like to believe otherwise, we can’t control another person’s opinions or actions. Being suspicious about someone won’t change that person. And if we try to find out if our suspicions are true—asking around or even asking the person directly—we may end up wondering if we are getting accurate information, which only leads to more suspicion. Or, if we happen to get our suspicions confirmed, then we feel worse. So you see, it’s a fruitless and futile effort that leads nowhere good.

It’s also a destructive exercise. Trying to control what others think and say about us hurts, and we are the ones who get hurt. Long before Charles Simeon, the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes said: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you” (7:21). If we put our ear to the keyhole, we’re probably going to hear things we wish we hadn’t heard, and words have a penetrating effect on our souls. We all probably remember unkind words spoken to us by others that still come back with fresh emotion—which is why we would do well not to go looking for more of this kind of thing. It’s out there, to be sure, but why try to find it, if it only makes us miserable? “If all men knew what each other said of the other there would not be four friends in the world,” wrote Blaise Pascal. In other words, there is something to be said for the idea that ignorance is bliss.

Thirdly, to suspiciously search out any bad word against us is a hypocritical exercise. To our shame, we must admit that we have thought and said unkind things about other people—even those we love the most. Ecclesiastes calls us out in the very next verse: “Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others” (7:22). How many times have we resented the more beautiful woman, criticized the boss, felt superior to a fellow-mom, judged a family member, or laughed at someone’s embarrassing moment? When we remember our own failures, we are humbled. Our case for justice crumbles in light of our sinful, hypocritical tendencies.

Investigating or speculating on the opinions of others is an arrogant exercise, for it starts with a false and puffed up assessment of who we really are. This is why, as Charles Spurgeon says, “It is always best not to know nor wish to know, what is being said about you, either by friends or foes. Those who praise us are probably as much mistaken as those who abuse us.” The impulse to elicit encouragement or stamp out criticism comes from an arrogant and inflated view of ourselves. The humble woman does not look for encouragement or fear criticism because her self-assessment already agrees with the apostle Paul’s: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15).

Finally, to be consumed with what other people think about us is a self-focused exercise. Spurgeon again: “It is a crime to be taken off from your great object of glorifying the Lord Jesus by petty consideration as to your little self, and, if there were not other reason, this ought to weigh much with you.” As if all the previous reasons weren’t enough, this ought to motivate us to give up our selfish speculations once and for all. We were not saved from our sins so that we could spend our lives in “petty consideration” of what others think of our little selves. We were saved to bring glory to God: “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Whether we are a teenage girl going to a new school or a grandmother moving into a new retirement community, let’s make it our rule—starting today—never to hear, or see, or know what would wreck our peace and take our eyes off of our main object, to glorify God. Instead of wondering what others think about us, let’s ask ourselves: “How can I glorify God today?” Then, we too will dwell in peace.

Aug 24

What’s Following You Back to School (and a Giveaway)

2017 at 7:39 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood

School days are upon us again. This means broken pencils and slow computers, late night study-sessions and pop-quizzes, classmate conflicts, “light bulb” moments, and lots and lots of reading.

But there’s something even more certain we can count on this school year: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all of the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6).

If you are in Christ, goodness and mercy shall surely follow you all of the days of your school year. The bad days and the good days. The days when you fail a test or get left out at lunch. The days when you finish a paper or make a new friend. God’s goodness and mercy are pursuing you like a pair of bloodhounds, each and every day—whether you see them or not.

“Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins,” explains Charles Spurgeon. Goodness shadows us, in the halls of our high school or by the kitchen table at home, providing all of the strength, wisdom, perseverance, and patience we need, to help us glorify God. And Mercy’s right behind, picking us up when we fall, pardoning our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We may not know what discouragements or delights await us this school year, but surely God’s goodness and mercy will follow us, every single day.

Alsoin honor of back-to-school, we have some more books to give away from The Good Book Company. Send us your favorite back-to-school tip, and we’ll choose four winners to receive The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross, written by Carl Lafterton and illustrated by Catalina Echeverri.

Update: Winners are…

Tricia: Ask each child what they hope for/expect from their first semester at school. Then ask how you as parents can be praying for them. Repeat every semester or as necessary.

Ashley: Refresh your lower elementary students on their phonograms the week before because they forget a lot over the summer.

Kelsey: Make a list of easy lunches to pack so you don’t feel stuck trying to throw a bunch together in a hurry. Also having cupboards or drawers with school only snacks so your kids can help!

Christie: My favorite tip is to set reasonable, even low expectations for the year. Start simple and push yourself from there rather than starting out with a bang and ending with a fizzle.

Aug 17

A Few Thoughts for Tired Moms

2017 at 6:11 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Motherhood

I was talking to my friend, Katie, the other day, and she told me that her newborn is waking up every two hours at night. Another friend has a couple of little ones extremely close in age. The older one has stopped taking naps just as the little one is starting to walk. Anyone tired yet? The season of mothering young kiddos can be completely overwhelming. You have a vague memory of a life where you used to accomplish goals and tackle to-do lists, but these days you marvel when you get a shower before lunch time. It can be so easy to get discouraged. The needs of your children are non-stop. So how do you maintain what’s most important? In the wise words of my mother—YOU SIMPLIFY!

What are the things we cannot neglect? It’s not a trick question, so I’m gonna give you the answer: our relationship with the Lord, our marriage, and those kiddos we were just discussing. And how do we tend to these priorities when we are up every two hours at night? Here’s nice me giving you the answer again: we create a SIMPLE plan.

How can I (simply!) keep my soul happy in God? Maybe you set aside time during your kids’ first nap each day to read God’s Word. Maybe you pray every time you do the dishes.

(I have so many dishes, that really would be “praying without ceasing!”) Ask your husband to take care of the children for thirty minutes each morning, so that you can read Scripture and pray. Or you can set open Bibles throughout your house, like Jean Fleming did. Maybe you use the ESV Bible plan that takes you through the Bible in two years (instead of one) or check-out my favorite ESV Bible plan for Moms with littles. Set a SIMPLE and attainable goal.

And how about the wonderful reason you became blessed with all this chaos—your marriage. Once again, SIMPLE goals! Ask your husband what one thing is most important to him in your marriage right now. If pretty much everything else is getting dropped, what does he want you to hang on to? Just start with one thing and make a SIMPLE plan for that one thing.

The kids, well there really is one SIMPLE focus when they are young. They need to obey, and we’ve gotta teach ‘em. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed as we consider all that our children need to learn in order to grow up into young men and women who live as lights in our dark world. But as my mom loves to quote Annie Sullivan as saying—“Obedience is the gateway to knowledge.” For our children, obedience is the gateway through which we can bring them the great gospel story.

The exhausting and all-consuming season of caring for little ones is just that—a season. Your kids will grow and you will be able to indulge in more complicated plans with little extras like showers in the morning. But until then, take a nap and make yourself a SIMPLE plan.

Aug 10

Music, Emotions, and Your Teenager

2017 at 7:55 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood | Parenting Teenagers

The other day, one of my sons asked if I liked a certain music artist he had heard about from a friend. “I like a few of his songs,” I told him. “A couple of them are beautiful, but some of his songs are not God-glorifying.” This spun off into a conversation with my two boys about music.

How do we help our teens discern whether or not a song is godly? As I told my boys, there are many helpful questions we can ask (thank you, Bob Kauflin!), but one way we can determine if a song is God-honoring is to ask: “How does this song make me feel?” I know, I know, it sounds like I’m throwing open the doors to whatever music we “feel” like listening to. But hang with me for a moment.

God gave us feelings to motivate us. Emotions move us to action. We feel happy and so we laugh, we feel righteous anger and we defend, we feel compassion and we help. And music? Music stirs up the feelings that move us to action. This is the ultimate purpose for the gift of music: to stir up emotions that move us to God and godliness. We sing praises and play instruments, in order to excite feelings that move us toward God.

So if this is God’s purpose for music, then it is vitally important that we ask: “How does this song make me feel about God? How does this song make me feel about godliness? And how does this song make me feel about sin? Or, more broadly, think about the kind of music you like to listen to. Does the music on your playlist leave you more angry at others, or grateful for God’s goodness? Discontent with your life or desirous of doing good? Hating sin or loving righteousness?

How does your playlist make you feel? Better yet, does the music you listen to make you feel the way that God wants you to feel?

As I told my boys, a song may not contain any “bad words” but still be bad if it stirs up emotions that warm your heart toward sin. A song’s meaning may even be vague or the words enigmatic, but if it stirs up arrogant, selfish, or lustful desires, then it is ungodly. On the flip side, a song may not mention God or his Word, but the words and music together generate feelings of awe at his beauty and majesty in creation, shame for sin, or selfless love for others. This is a good song.

Like medicine through an IV, the music that flows through our children’s earbuds affects every part of them—including their emotions. And their feelings, in turn, influence how they act and think. If we are to be wise parents, we must not simply tell our children not to listen to ungodly music (although we must tell them that!). But along with biblical boundaries, we must also help them curate a music playlist that stirs up and promotes godly emotions.

Asking “How does this song make me feel?” doesn’t lower the standard, allowing a flood of ungodly music into our teens’ libraries. Rather, it raises the standard higher—for them and for us. Music that is pleasing to God is music that generates godly emotions.

Aug 2

Helping Our Kids Overcome Envy

2017 at 6:06 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Spiritual Growth | Motherhood

Envy isn’t just a kid problem, but kids haven’t gotten good at hiding it yet—which gives us as parents the opportunity to help them see and overcome its tenacious grip. How can we help our kids overcome envy? Three simple ideas.

1. Talk to your children about envy. Talk to them when they are tempted, and before they are tempted to envy. First, explain what envy is. Envy not only wants what someone else has (“Why can’t I have an iPhone too?!”) it resents the other person for having it (“I just don’t like her.”).

Then, starting with the 10th of the 10 commandments, and moving through Scripture (a simple keyword search will get you started), talk about what God thinks about envy (Hint: it’s pretty bad). Show them how envy is what Jonathan Edwards once called “the most foolish kind of self-injury” because it only makes the envier miserable. Take them through John 21 and talk to them about Jesus’s antidote for envy.

2. Help your children repent of envy. If our child has given into the sin of envy, help them pinpoint the who, where, and why. Lead them through a specific prayer of repentance. Remind them of the forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross, and the Holy Spirit’s power to help them change. Encourage your child that God is graciously revealing this sin now as a sign of his mercy and goodness. If they can learn to turn away from envy at a young age, they can be spared years of unhappiness.

3. Give your children a plan for overcoming envy.

1. Spot envy. Help them to recognize the feelings of envy, and what they mean. Emotions of envy are like an alarm that tells us there’s a sinful fire in our hearts, and we need to put it out now.

2. Stop comparing. Comparison is envy’s bread and butter. No comparing, and envy starves and dies. So teach your child to stop looking at others and thinking about what she has or what she looks like or what she gets to do.

3. Start thanking. Envy dies in a thankful soul. Help your child make a list of God’s many good gifts, and then help them add to that list. Have them save their “thankful list” and pull it out whenever they are tempted to compare or envy. For every envious thought about what they don’t have, teach them to pray and thank God for what they do have.

Envy is an emotion that is fed by a habit—a habit of comparison. When we help our children, at a young age, to look up in gratitude instead of sideways in comparison, we can protect them from envy.

Jul 26

Summer is for Salad Dressing

2017 at 6:58 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Homemaking | Recipes

A little-known fact about me is that I actually like salad. In fact, I make salads all summer long. Now, I may be a teeny-weeny bit picky about veggie toppings. I don’t eat tomatoes or asparagus. I only eat carrots if they are NOT cooked and broccoli if it IS cooked. I won’t touch cauliflower with a ten-foot pole, but give me cucumbers and peppers all day long. However, if we are being honest here, the main reason salads dominate my dinner menu every summer is for the dressing. And the bacon. And the cheese and the homemade croutons. But back to dressing. We girltalkers have a few go-to salad dressing recipes that are too good to keep to ourselves. I’ve become such a homemade dressing snob that I can’t eat store bought dressing anymore. Take a look at these yummy recipes and join me in my summer of salad eating. You’re welcome!

Thousand Island Dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

1 teaspoon white onion, finely minced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 dash black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well.

Place dressing in a covered container and refrigerate for several hours, stirring occasionally, so that the sugar dissolves and the flavors blend.

Greek Salad Dressing:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano

2 tablespoon peperoncini juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup good olive oil

Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours before using to blend flavors.

Spinach Salad Dressing:

½ of small-med onion

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup catsup

1 cup oil

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

In blender place the onion, vinegar and sugar. Blend until the onion is pulverized. Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate.

Greg’s Special Dressing

1 qt. mayonnaise

3 t. lemon juice

4 T. cracked black pepper

2/3 c. water

1 t. A-1 sauce

10 drops L & P Worcestershire

5 drops Tabasco sauce

½ t. dry mustard

1 T. garlic powder

½ c. Parmesan cheese

2 T. granulated sugar

2 T. chopped parsley

Mix together all dressing ingredients. Chill in fridge for a few hours before using to blend flavors.

Morton’s Blue Cheese Dressing:

2 cups mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon Durkee’s sauce (sold in the condiment aisle or with the dressings)

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

7 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1.5 C)

salt and pepper

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the buttermilk, Durkee sauce, and seasoned salt. Whisk until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and whisk again. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the blue cheese. Transfer to a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for at least a day and up to four days.

Jul 20

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

2017 at 7:25 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Friendship

Recently, I shared a few thoughts in response to a question from one of our readers: how do we deal with our emotions when another Christian sins against us and there is no reconciliation?

We must turn to God for wisdom and comfort in this difficult situation, and we must obey his Word in our attitude and actions, no matter the pain or complexity of the situation.

Much more needs to be said about applying the gospel, God’s sovereignty, the doctrine of sin, personal holiness, forgiveness, and reconciliation etc. to a conflict between Christians. For further study, I recommend starting with Charity and its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards.

I want to wrap up by touching on a few practical issues related to forgiveness: issues that are seldom addressed and yet are troublesome to our emotions.

Christians can be pretty fuzzy about forgiveness, which makes this point from John Piper particularly important:

“[F]orgiveness of an unrepentant person doesn’t look the same as forgiveness of a repentant person. In fact I am not sure that in the Bible the term forgiveness is ever applied to an unrepentant person. So there’s a sense in which full forgiveness is only possible in response to repentance.”

What do we do when there is no repentance to respond to? Or how do we respond when someone talks and acts as if they have not sinned against us? Do expressions of affection from someone who has betrayed us mean we should all go back to the way things were? In this post, I’m considering these questions in light of sins by another Christian such as slander, hostility, cheating, stealing, lying, or deceit.

Given our fuzziness on forgiveness, we need to press in and better understand what Scripture says about forgiveness and friendship, and also what it does not say.

If we are to live at peace with all men so far as it depends on us (Rom. 12:18), we have to understand exactly how far it depends on us. Our question must not be: What do other people expect from me? Rather, we must ask: What does God require of me?

Answering this question brings clarity. It helps us to move forward with a clear conscience, even if we are swimming against a current of expectations from others; and it clears up a lot of the confusion that follows in the wake of broken relationships.

1. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we must agree.

Nowhere does Scripture require us to agree in order to resolve a conflict with another Christian. We are to love them. We are to refrain from retaliation. We are to pray for them. But we are not required to agree with them.

In fact, we must not agree if agreeing means violating a biblical conviction. To hold your ground on a moral or ethical issue is not unkind, unforgiving, or stubborn, but right. It is not un-Christian, but uniquely Christian.

Even if well-meaning people encourage us to agree for the sake of unity, we must graciously resist that pressure when biblical issues are at stake.

Charles Spurgeon humorously put it this way: “I have known good men with whom I shall never be thoroughly at home until we meet in heaven: at least, we shall agree best on earth when they go their way and I go mine.”

2. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we must trust.

“You can actually look someone in the face and say: I forgive you, but I don’t trust you” insists John Piper. This is not rude or unforgiving. It is wise.

If a person has betrayed you and shown a disregard for the truth or for your reputation, you are not obligated to trust them again, even if they ask for your forgiveness.

Sometimes as Christians we experience false guilt on this point. When someone asks for our forgiveness or acts like nothing has happened, we may feel like we are withholding forgiveness by not trusting them again. One insightful pastor explains:

There is confusion between forgiveness and restoration….To explain: If a friend seriously betrays me, I am mandated as a Christian to forgive him if he asks for it. But I think I would be foolish to restore him to a position of trust. I often drew the analogy with babysitting—if someone babysat my kids but neglected them, I should forgive them if they repent; but it would be delinquent to let them babysit again.

It would be unwise to trust an individual who, through lying or slander, has violated our trust. We must be cautious and careful in how we relate to that person in the future.

If someone has betrayed our trust, they must re-earn it, proving over time the genuineness of their sorrow and the fruit of repentance in the form of godly character. This is possible, by the grace of God, and I have witnessed, as you may have as well, the sweet restoration of trust that can flow from repentance.

But a glossing over of the issue, a half-hearted apology, or an expectation of immediate restoration does not obligate us to trust someone, unless or until they have proven themselves trustworthy.

3. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we must remain close.

Sentimentality muddies the waters of forgiveness. A longing for “the way things were” is not a reliable guide for friendships. A close friendship in the past does not obligate us to remain close.

Friendship is a significant category in Scripture, and we must hold it in high regard. If we pretend that certain sins don’t have a devastating effect on a relationship, we deny what Scripture says about the meaning of friendship: trust, loyalty, honor, truthfulness, constancy, and sacrificial love.

True closeness is only possible under these conditions.

If someone betrays us but fails to acknowledge that sin or make restitution, then to relate to them as if nothing has happened would be to undermine the meaning of biblical friendship.

But if a person realizes their sin, asks your forgiveness, and proves their trustworthiness, your relationship may be restored; you may even be closer than ever before. However, we are under no biblical obligation to be close again. We have not fallen short of forgiveness or failed to honor God if we graciously go our separate ways.

It may be that we now find ourselves in a different place or situation than before. God, who brings good out of every trial, may have used this broken relationship to move us into new areas of service and caused new, godly, friendships to blossom.

We must recognize these as blessings from God and move forward to serve him in the new ways to which he has called us. God does not expect us to maintain the same level of closeness with every Christian for the rest of our lives.

4. Forgiveness does mean we trust God.

Finally, as we try to carefully pick our way through the rubble of a broken relationship, we must leave the remaining confusion and questions in the hands of our loving, heavenly Father. Take this wise counsel from Dr. Cotton Mather:

It may not be amiss for you to have two heaps: a heap of Unintelligibles, and a heap of Incurables. Every now and then you will meet with something or other that may pretty much distress your thoughts, but the shortest way with the vexations will be, to throw them into the heap they belong to, and be no more distressed about them.

You will meet with some unaccountable and incomprehensible things, particularly in the conduct of many people. Throw them into your heap of Unintelligibles; leave them there. Trouble your mind no further; hope the best or think no more about them.

You will meet with some [unpersuadable] people; no counsel, no reason will do anything upon the obstinates: Throw them into the heap of Incurables. Leave them there. And go on to do as well as you can, what you have to do. Let not the crooked things that can’t be made straight encumber you.

And remember, above all, that God is good and wise as he rules over every aspect of your situation. I leave you with these encouraging words from John Piper:

God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.

“The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.” Ps. 37:39


~from the archives


Previous Posts:

What Do We Do When Former Friends Do What They Do?

Q&A: How Do I Handle the Pain of Broken Relationships?

Jul 12

Teaching Our Children About Beauty

2017 at 9:54 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty | Motherhood

“How do we raise our children in this world of beauty gone bad?” This question—in the appendix of Mom and Nicole’s book, True Beautyis on the forefront of my mind these days as my three daughters are getting older. Two simple ideas have been guiding my approach of late.

First, I’ve been considering my own childhood experience. My mom—following the counsel and example of her own mom—was careful to minimize excessive focus on my appearance at a young age. It will come in its own in time, my grandma would tell her. No need to rush. In my case, I was so unconcerned about my personal appearance, that even when I had reached my mid-teens, “it” still hadn’t come.

My sisters (four and five years older than me) love to tell the story about how they finally went to my mom and asked if Janelle could maybe start brushing her hair occasionally. They had to appear in public with me after all. I’m happy to report that I now daily brush my hair and even wear make-up. “It” finally came! But looking back, I see how the lack of focus on my outward appearance when I was young was a means of protection in my life. I have found my struggle with worldly beauty standards to be minimal, and I know that is in part due to my mom’s wisdom in allowing me to be “young” and not hurrying my transition into adulthood.

Secondly, I was provoked by a conversation with a friend a couple years ago. After having four boys she became pregnant with a little girl. My friend was finally getting to design that girly-girl nursery and wanted to have a quote from True Beauty featured in her daughter’s room: “True beauty is to behold and reflect the beauty of God.” She wanted her daughter to grow up with a daily reminder of the true definition of beauty. Such a simple idea, yet the potential effect is immeasurable. I followed her example, hanging the same words on my daughters’ walls. My youngest can’t even read yet, but as soon as she can, I want thoughts of the Savior’s beauty to fill her mind each day.

Never has the world around us made it more difficult to raise daughters with a biblical understanding of beauty. But God has not called us to a hopeless task, and I encourage every mom (of girls and boys) to read True Beauty and spend careful time considering the appendix, “True Beauty and Our Children.”

“The beauty of grace that overwhelmed our own hearts through the gospel of Jesus Christ has lost none of its power. Our Savior can do for our children as he did for us. Grace makes true beauty irresistible. So we pray with hope in God to open the eyes of the hearts of our children to the dazzling beauty of Jesus Christ.” ~Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre