“Is it possible to make a resolution this year and truly keep it?”
Yesterday, Mom made the bold assertion that “yes” it is possible to truly keep our New Year’s—or any other—resolution. Before we look at “how,” we must first consider why, so often, our resolutions don’t have the shelf life of a gallon of milk.
For starters, they might be the wrong resolutions—by that I mean self-exalting instead of God-glorifying.
In his book, A Godward Life, Part 2 (p. 62), John Piper cites a newspaper article based on a book entitled The Body Project. The author examined young girls’ diaries from the 1800’s to the 1900’s and found that “In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, girls’ diaries focused on ‘good works’ and perfecting the character. In the 1900’s, the diaries are fixated on ‘good looks,’ on perfecting the body.”
Now of course, it’s not wrong to resolve to lose a few pounds or to take better care of our bodies, which are, indeed, temples of the Holy Spirit. But if “good looks” or any other goal is driven by selfishness, or a desperate grasp for glory and attention, we are merely resolving to sin against God.
If James 4:6, “God opposes the proud” means what it says (and Scripture always does), than God is actually opposing our efforts instead of blessing them. No wonder we fall flat on our vain little faces!
“But…” as James 4:6 goes on to say, “[He] gives grace to the humble.” If we depend upon God to do good works and perfect our character in order to reflect His glory, we can anticipate His grace to blow life into our feeble efforts. By His power, we can sustain our resolutions beyond the “best if used by” date.
I recently read that “experts in the New Year’s Resolution field estimate that 25 percent don’t make it past Jan. 8.”
Now I certainly don’t think it takes a band of “experts” (whoever they are?!) to figure that one out. We already know it’s true just from talking to others and reviewing our own track record for making and breaking New Year’s Resolutions.
So what will it be this year? Are we going to once again join the 25 percent group who doesn’t make it past Jan. 8? Maybe you’re discouraged because it’s only January 3rd and your resolutions have already bit the dust. Or possibly you identify with my friend who purposed to start this New Year off by getting up early and overslept the very first day. She and I had a good laugh about it when she told me.
Or could it be different in 2007? Is it possible to make a resolution this year and truly keep it? The answer to this question is “YES”! Now, that’s a bold assertion, I know. But there are some simple and specific ways to make a resolution that we can actually stick to. And we will take the next few days here at girltalk to talk about them. We hope you will join us for this discussion.
Today, for most of us, is the first day back: back to school, back to work, back to every day life. And if we’re tempted to complain, let’s bite (and then loose) our tongues with the Psalmist’s exhortation “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Here are several links for you to ponder on this day the Lord has made:
Thinking about reading through the Bible in a year? By subscribing to one of the ESV Bible’s daily reading plans you can have your daily portion delivered straight to your computer. I’m considering the “listen to the Bible in a year” option.
Donald Whitney writes that: “Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without every stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.” If that description rings unpleasantly true, ponder Dr. Whitney’s “10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year.”
Are you facing trials in this New Year? Consider these four faces for a new perspective.
This past week, Brian and I took a few moments to pray through the “Year’s End” prayer in The Valley of Vision (p. 204). Then I prayed the “New Year” prayer in my morning devotions (p. 206). As I reviewed the events of this past year I was freshly overwhelmed with gratitude to God for His underserved goodness this past year.
God’s past faithfulness gives me hope for this New Year. “I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year…” the prayer reads, “with thee, O Father, as my harbour, thee O Son, at my helm, thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.”
I don’t know what this year holds. It may be a test of prosperity, like the one before. Or it may be a year of suffering and difficulty. Even now I think of friends who are in the midst of heart-wrenching trials. The coming year truly is a river of “unknown waters.” And yet, as I embark on this brand new, unexplored year, I know that I am not alone. I am with God. Comfort, peace, and joy are mine!
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
It’s so hard to pick our most popular Friday Funny of the year. But this video from my friend Kimm is still one of my favorites. Here’s how I introduced it back in April:
One of the many things I love about my friend Kimm from Philly, is that she always makes me laugh. During my recent busy season she sent me the following video clip with this email: “Here—this is my treat to you….cause you are workin’ sa hard.” I hope it makes you laugh as hard as it did me!
See you in the new year!
for Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
Our final “Year in Review” post is from Mom. If you know a bride-to-be who hasn’t read this post, make sure to show it to her!
April 19, 2006
Modesty on Your Wedding Day
Last September, when CJ and I had the privilege of going to The Bible Church of Little Rock, CJ spoke on the topic of modesty. At the conclusion of my husband’s sermon, the church’s worship pastor, Todd Murray, presented an additional appeal in his closing remarks. He urged all girls to consider modesty even when shopping for formal attire and wedding dresses. His words were laden with care and compassion, yet they carried an appropriate soberness. We felt Todd’s exhortation was too important to be heard only by the girls of his church, so we asked if we could post his words here at girltalk. He graciously agreed. Let’s listen in and be challenged by one pastor’s heart and plea to the women of his church:
Ladies, please don’t forget to apply these principles of modesty to formal events and weddings. In recent years, I have become increasingly grieved by the immodest dresses of both brides and bridesmaids at the weddings that I officiate. I have observed a number of young ladies in our fellowship who have dressed modestly all their lives appearing on their wedding day in extremely provocative dresses, exposing more of themselves than on any other day of their lives.
I assume the best about what is going on in the hearts of these young women. I don’t think that they went to the wedding dress shop determined to be provocative. No doubt, they just wanted a dress that would be elegant on this day that they have dreamed of all their lives. When a bride and mother set out on their expedition to find a wedding dress, they are, quite naturally, thinking like… women! Unfortunately, there is no one in the shop who is thinking like a man! I’d like to make a radical proposal, girls. Why not take your father with you to the wedding boutique? If that thought is just too much for you (or your Dad!) at least consider taking the dress out on approval and allowing your dad to see it before you make your final purchase.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself when shopping for a wedding or bridesmaid’s dress:
Does this dress reflect the fact that a wedding ceremony is a holy service of worship and not a fashion show?
Can I picture myself standing in this dress, for an extended period of time, just a few feet from my pastor as he opens the Word of God and leads me in my solemn vows?
Pastor Todd Murray isn’t the only one concerned about immodesty at weddings. I know the pastors of my church share this concern as well.
Having three married daughters, I know the challenges involved in finding modest wedding attire. However, with a lot of time and effort, it can be done! As Todd mentioned, the dad’s role is crucial in this process. CJ helped our girls by providing guidelines for appropriate bridal wear and giving final approval to their choices. Quite simply, the standard of modesty and self-control didn’t change. Here are some criteria CJ gave to the girls:
1. Find a wedding dress with a neckline that completely conceals any cleavage.
2. Avoid dresses without sufficient covering in the back.
3. Strapless gowns or dresses with only spaghetti straps are revealing and thus do not serve the men in attendance at your wedding.
4. A modest gown should not be excessively tight and draw unnecessary attention to your figure.
Once again, we hope these specifics assist you in evaluating modest bridal and evening attire. However, please be on guard against the temptation to be self-righteous toward those who choose differently. If you think a bride is dressed immodestly, her wedding day is not the appropriate occasion to comment on her dress! Simply rejoice with her in the goodness of God displayed in her marriage.
And if you are preparing to get married, we hope these thoughts serve you in your effort to plan a ceremony that brings glory to God. May He give you much joy on that special day!
In this Question and Answer post Janelle identified with many women in the temptations to doubt and despair when a relationship is ended. Let’s listen in again and discover the hope that comes from trusting God.
March 29, 2006
Q & A - Disappointed Hope
Q. “I am curious what you ladies might have to say on the topic of dealing with the grief that comes from the ending of a relationship, particularly when a woman believed it would end in marriage.”
A. This question immediately brought back memories of a similar season that I experienced in my relationship with Mike. Although the Lord ultimately planned marriage for us, there was a period of time when it appeared our relationship was over for good. And while I realize that not all stories have the same ending, the issues God was after in my heart are the same for all of us—whether or not we eventually get married, and regardless of the nature of our disappointed hope.
When Mike and I ended our relationship, it was after many months of mutual feelings, and much time spent pursuing marriage. Before the decision to call things off, we would both have been pretty confident marriage to each other was in our future (Read the long version of our story here.) So, upon ending our relationship, I was immediately faced with the temptation to despair. What was God doing? Why was I so confused? I thought Mike was the one! The tears were many, just ask my mom.
This decision marked the beginning of one of the biggest battles I had yet to face in my walk with the Lord. The fight for FAITH. Did I really believe what I had been taught from Scripture about God’s sovereignty? Did I trust God that He had a perfect plan for my life? Was I confident that He would reveal His will to me, in His good time? Could I be happy if His plan didn’t include marriage? I’m sorry to say that my answer to many of these questions was often a resounding “no.” I thought that my ideas and plans were best. If only the Lord would speak more clearly. If only He would do it this way—MY way.
How grateful I am for the mercy of God upon my life during this struggle. Through the leadership of my parents, I began to press into God’s Word in a most intense way. I spent hours studying “faith” and “sovereignty” in the Bible, and talking through the issues of sin in my heart with others. The book Is God Really in Control? (previously entitled Trusting God) by Jerry Bridges became a faithful friend to me. I read this book over and over again. Quotes like these fed my soul…
“God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what adversity we need to grow more and more into the likeness of His Son. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives. He is the perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs. He never over trains us by allowing too much adversity in our lives.” Page 122
“If we are to experience peace in our souls in times of adversity, we must come to the place where we truly believe that God’s ways are simply beyond us and stop asking Him “why” or even trying to determine it ourselves. This may seem like an intellectual “cop out,” a refusal to deal with the really tough issues of life. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a surrender to the truth about God and our circumstances as it is revealed to us by God Himself in His inspired Word.” Page 126-7
Slowly, I cannot tell you exactly when, my heart began to change. I still didn’t know if marriage was in my future, but my heart was at peace in the sovereignty of my good and loving Father. I wanted His perfect plan to be fulfilled in my life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation today (and this fight for faith is certainly not limited to the arena of marriage), I would encourage you to take drastic action. Renew your mind with the consistent study of God’s Word. Purchase Jerry Bridges’ book and pursue the counsel and help of a pastor and godly friends. Grace awaits you!
“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
This post from Kristin encouraged a lot of mothers back in March and encourages me today!
March 09, 2006
My Wonderful Lot
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6
This past Monday (which is my husband’s day off) I went out for dinner ALL BY MYSELF. It was wonderfully lonely! As I walked out the door, Liam was crying and complaining about his dinner. I left, quite grateful he wasn’t going to be joining me! The peace was so refreshing. I sat in the restaurant and watched the cars go by. It was very entertaining. Only a mother with small kids would say that.
You see, last week my husband was in California, and the kiddos caught those colds they always get this time of year. On the first night after my husband left, all three boys woke up at the same time. Then they got into my bed—all three of them, all at once! That didn’t really work so well with our queen size mattress. At three o’clock in the morning, Liam decided to play “Simon Says” (his new favorite game). In a VERY AWAKE voice, he would say, “Simon says, go to sleep” and then make loud snoring sounds. It did make me smile, even though his timing was very poor!
The Lord was very gracious to provide me help through my mom. She came different times and brought me lunch or dinner and even took my laundry back to her house. Moms are the best! Anyway, enough about my week. I’m sure you had your own challenges last week, many of which make mine look easy. But this gives you a little idea of why I was happy to get out on Monday evening.
I ate dinner and went shopping at Toys R Us. I thought back on the week and remembered how many times my flesh cried out for another “lot”—or at least a break from the one I did have. It didn’t always FEEL fun.
Yet, as I looked around the toy store, I realized how much I LOVE this season with my little ones. For a few short years, I get them all to myself. It can be very hard at times, but it is also precious and fleeting. It will be over before I turn around, and I know I’ll miss it.
Martyred missionary Jim Elliot’s motto comes back to me: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
After this past week, I am freshly aware of my need to daily draw upon the Lord’s strength and grace to embrace His calling for me today—to rejoice in my lot and live motherhood to the hilt!
The gifts are all unwrapped, the tree is starting to droop, and the kids are going through sugar withdrawl. It’s the day after Christmas. And it’s time for a girltalk tradition—the year in review. Over the next few days we’ll share the posts from the past year that have received the most response from you, our readers. So we hope you enjoy this little retrospective!
This first post was written by Nicole to kick off our RoutineTalk series, but it has broad application for all of us…
June 06, 2006
Just a Suggestion
Epidural vs. Natural Child Birth. College vs. No College. Breast-feeding vs. Bottle Feeding. Courtship vs. Dating. Child Immunizations vs. Homeopathic Medicine. Home Schooling vs. Private or Public Schooling. Birth Control vs. No Birth Control. Organic Food vs. Processed Food.
Have an opinion, anyone?
If you’re a woman and you’re alive, at least one of these words probably triggered a visceral response. You instinctively reached into your mental files for the appropriate legal brief, fully prepared to argue for the prosecution or the defense.
Mention a topic such as this and—cue the super-hero music please—we morph into “Super-Lawyer-Woman,” ready to save the world from the risks of formula or the perils of public school or the dangers of processed food. All in a days work.
And we tend to travel in packs. Wherever we are or wherever we go in life, we find these kindred spirits—women who feel as strongly about our cause as we do—and we become fast friends. Pity the poor woman whose opinion differs from ours, or worse yet, hasn’t formed an opinion. She doesn’t stand a chance against “Super-Lawyer-Women.”
But as comical as this image may be, it really isn’t funny.
Because it’s all too true. We as women are inclined to adopt a pet issue and express our opinion far too forcefully, sending other women running for cover. I’m sure I’m guilty, even more than I realize.
As D.A. Carson observes:
“So many Christians today identify themselves with some ‘single issue’ (a concept drawn from politics) other than the cross, other than the gospel. It is not that they deny the gospel. If pressed, they will emphatically endorse it. But their point of self-identification, the focus of their minds and hearts, what occupies their interest and energy is something else” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 63).
The fact is that all of the aforementioned topics fall into a category Scripture labels “disputable matters” (Romans 14:1, NIV): an issue that is not central to our faith or a prerequisite for fellowship in the gospel. And this entire chapter of Romans insists that we are not to “pass judgment” on these kind of matters, or, as the ESV puts it, “quarrel over opinions.” Rather, we are to “welcome” or “accept” one another (v. 1), and pursue “what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (v. 19). Why? Because the person who disagrees with us is, “one for whom Christ died” (v. 15).
Here at girltalk we are going to start a little series on a “disputable matter.” We are going to discuss the benefits of scheduling for infants and toddlers. We’re calling it, “RoutineTalk.”
And we want to set the tone for this conversation right up front. What we have to say, it’s just a suggestion. It’s merely a collection of thoughts, drawn from our personal experience and that of others. It’s a recommendation, intended to serve moms with young children. And we fully expect that some will have a different opinion. That’s OK! Because the gospel is what we’re passionate about, what draws us together, and not a particular mothering practice.
For in the kingdom of God there shouldn’t be the Whole Foods clique and the McDonalds crowd or the La Leche playgroup and the Enfamil playgroup, or the homeschooling moms versus the public-school moms.
There should just be the church. United by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Putting your baby on a schedule. It’s just a suggestion.
May the hope of the incarnation and the joy of the gospel be yours this day.
Carolyn, Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle