GirlTalk: conversations on biblical womanhood and other fun stuff
Feb 10

Why It’s Worth It

2017 at 8:16 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Gospel

To all of you who sent encouraging messages about us restarting girltalk, thank you! We have been so blessed to hear from you, and we’re excited to get started again. This blog really is a conversation; we enjoy receiving and responding to your questions and comments. Needless to say, book writing doesn’t provide the same kind of interaction, and we’ve missed you.

But we’ve also watched with dismay, along with all of you, at many of the cultural changes taking place in our world today. Hostility to the gospel has increased and intensified. The definition of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman has been upended. The fabric of the family has been ripped to shreds. The most basic understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman created in the image of God has been chucked out the window. Most disturbing of all, we see some of these grievous trends making inroads into the church.

Teaching biblical womanhood in this day and age can sometimes feel like talking to the wind. So what’s the use? The four of us have talked about this together. And then this is the conversation we’ve been having around my house lately.

Me: “I might as well give up encouraging women in biblical womanhood. It’s a losing battle.”

My husband: “You can’t give up. You’ve got to do your ‘measly bit.’” (Something I once said, that he now likes to quote back to me.)

It’s not that I’m tired of talking about biblical womanhood. It’s not that I no longer think it’s important. But honestly, I have wondered at times: is it worth it? All around us the situation seems to be getting worse, not better.

Then it hit me. Rather than bemoan the awful that is happening all around, I must remember the glorious that has already happened: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Tit. 2:11). The grace of God has already appeared in the person of Jesus Christ! He has already died on the cross and risen from the dead for our sins. The glorious has already happened! And it is still happening. The grace of God that has appeared is still at work today: he is drawing men and women to himself, and he is “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Tit. 2:12).

He has given us a mandate: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

He has given us his presence: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

And he has given us a solemn charge: “Older women…are to teach what is good, and so train the young women” (Tit. 2:3-4).

So why is it worth it to keep teaching biblical womanhood?

...that the word of God may not be reviled (v. 5),

...that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (v. 8),

...that in everything we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (v. 10).

It’s not like our mandate comes with a conditional clause. Give it a go, but if things get really bad, then you can stand down. Retreat is not an option. Too much is at stake. After all, it’s for the sake of the gospel that we must live and teach “what is good.” Things may be getting worse, it’s true. But we must be faithful to obey and leave the results to God.

I recently read this passage from Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle and found myself saying out loud: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“We have an awful lot of us Christian women in this country, and the road of feminine obedience is wide open. Not only that, we’ve stayed off of it for so long it is now completely unguarded. I believe that if we women decided, as a group, to take that road, we would knock a serious dent in the side of our culture’s rebellion. But the truth is, a movement of women doing this wouldn’t be terribly exciting or sexy. It wouldn’t involve marches or protests or petitions or lobbying or t-shirts or fun runs. It would involve a lot of women manning their own separate battle stations in their own lives, in their own families, in the day-to-day grind. It would involve disciplining ourselves in the small, seemingly inconsequential areas of our lives—what we admire, what we try to get good at, what we strive for, what we prioritize, what we love. It would involve faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice. It wouldn’t seem like much. But one thing we know is that God loves to use the seemingly trivial things to accomplish staggering results. We may each feel like an insignificant little drop of water, and it may seem like the direction we take in our day-to-day lives doesn’t make any difference to anyone. But when all the drops of water move the same way, what is more powerful and unstoppable than a wave?”

This is why we decided to keep writing here at girltalk. To challenge ourselves and encourage you to “faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice” so that we may adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ. It may not seem like much, but we are going to do our measly bit.

Feb 7

New Year, New Content

2017 at 8:02 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood

After almost a year hiatus—which sounds a whole lot more restful than it was—we’re excited to re-start the conversation here at girltalk. We never meant to stop, actually. What we thought was going to be a short break to finish up our book on feelings turned into nine months of intense rewrites. But we’re wrapping up final edits now (phew!) and looking forward to a good long chat with you again.

The unplanned pause gave us a chance to consider—with the glut of online content these days, should we continue writing on this spot? We don’t have special talent or creativity, but we do have the same desire to encourage women in their every day lives as when we started writing girltalk over ten years ago. Besides, the four of us still talk all the time, and we missed having you in the conversation. So here, once again, you’ll find the same simple thoughts from one mom and three daughters as we encourage each other to faithfully follow the Savior. If it serves you in some small way, we’ll be thrilled.

One new thing we’re starting is a monthly (or so) newsletter which includes all the content from the previous few weeks, along with a more personal update, stray thoughts and quotes we didn’t include in our weekly writing, books we’re reading, funny stuff we’ve run across, and maybe (if it’s really good) what we’re cooking. So, if you don’t want to miss out on what’s happening here at girltalk, you can sign up using the link on our sidebar and you’ll hear from us by the end of each month.

For now, it’s good to be back. Thanks to all of you who asked. Hope you enjoy the new content!

The girltalkers

Apr 12

Q&A: Should I Make My Daughter Have a Quiet Time?

2016 at 4:52 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood | Parenting Teenagers

My ten-year-old daughter told me she feels like she has heard about God all her life but he feels far away from her. I am trying not to panic as a mom. I know I have felt that way too before. But I am not sure how to guide her without lecturing her. Would you require her to do a quiet time or just let her do if she wants to?

The feelings of panic (and I know them well!) often arise in these moments when we feel helpless to change our child’s heart. We feel that way because it is true! Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8). We cannot open the eyes of our children’s hearts or give them a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, but we must turn our panic into prayer that God would do what only he can do.

But there is a lot that we can—and should—do to parent our children in the ways of the Lord, and the God who gave us this mothering job in the first place has also given us wisdom in his Word for how to do it.

First of all, as I often remind my girls, we must parent in faith. We must parent with confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord, his power and desire to save (he saved us, after all!), the wisdom of His Word to guide us, and the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.

You may already be doing this, but I would encourage you to keep talking to your daughter about how she feels. Tell her you have felt this way too. Encourage her that God often makes us aware of a lack of his presence so that we might seek his presence. God is at work! You can pray with her and ask that God would grant her salvation and assurance. Stories from you or your husband or grandparents, friends, etc. can be a real comfort so she does not feel strange or alone.

Then I would encourage you to help her develop a habit of reading the Bible and praying every day. There is an unhealthy skittishness parents often feel about making their children do what they don’t want to do. We worry: if we push the Bible on them, will we push them away? Maybe we had a bad experience growing up, or this just smells like legalism to us. Isn’t it better to pray, encourage, and wait for God to do his work?

I would counter that leading a child to God’s Word is doing God’s work. It is what he commands us to do (Deut. 6:4-9) and it is the means He most often uses to bring a child to Himself. I am no exception. In many ways, it is the habits of my childhood, set in place by my parents, that most profoundly shape my life to this day. Growing up, my parents required us to go to church three times a week. Sunday morning. Sunday evening. Wednesday night. No exceptions. These were not, as my husband always refers to Sundays “my favorite days of the week.” I was bored silly at church. I couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday morning and be with my friends. But my parents didn’t consult my feelings on the matter. I was going to church whether I wanted to be there or not. And it was in one of these church services that God first opened my eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One other example comes to mind. As a young girl I had to memorize 200 Bible verses to get into a summer camp I really wanted to attend. I didn’t care about the verses, but I cared about camp and so I completed the assignment. My motives may have been totally wrong, but these Scriptures embedded in my mind and heart have encouraged and comforted me throughout my Christian life.

All that to say, I would encourage you to help your daughter develop a habit of having quiet times. Even if she doesn’t want to. Even if she’s bored silly. By placing God’s Word in front of her every day, you are laying the kindling under which our gracious God may light the spark of his presence. Tell her you are doing this because you love her. We make our children brush their teeth and eat their peas, not because they like it, but because we know it is best for them. How much more the reading of God’s Word?

And do whatever you can to make it easy and exciting. Buy her a new journal where she can write down her questions and thoughts; use a solid Bible study book or program (several of my grandkids use these Bible reading notes from the Good Book Company and the ESV Seek and Find Bible is a great option for children); have a time each day at breakfast or dinner where the kids can ask Mom and Dad questions from their daily Bible reading (stump the parent!); give them a challenge to memorize or read for a reward.

Finally, don’t underestimate the effect of your genuine passion for the Lord on your daughter. As she sees you read your Bible every day, talk about Scripture, live out your faith (not flawlessly but faithfully), she will be indelibly impressed by the work of the Spirit that she sees in you.

I’ll leave you with these bracing words from JC Ryle. As you lead your daughter in faith toward God, may you see much fruit in her life.

“I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go’ and that he never laid a command on man which he would not give man grace to perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We only have to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, that we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.” ~Ryle

~from the archives

Feb 2

Going Out and Coming In

2016 at 9:23 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and

your

coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8, ESV)

“To be kept from all evil does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. The psalm ends with a pledge which could hardly be stronger or more sweeping.

Your

going out and your coming in is not only a way of saying ‘everything’; it draws attention to one’s ventures and enterprises and the home which remains one’s base; to pilgrimage and return; to the dawn and sunset of one’s days. But the last line takes good care of this journey. It would be hard to decide which half of it is the more encouraging: the fact that it starts from now, or that it runs on, not to the end of time but to time without end; like God Himself who is my portion for ever.” ~Derek Kidner

Jan 27

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

2016 at 9:27 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

Last Friday afternoon I was talking to my sister, Kristin, about parenting our boys. Four of them were competing in a soccer tournament the next day, and we were strategizing about how to help them grow in godly character—win or lose. (They lost, which provided a great chance to grow in humility.) We had talked about some of these character issues the week before, and we’ll probably talk about them again next week too. Parenting is a job that is never done.

I like to finish things, check them off my list, close the file…you get the idea. So I find the never-finished nature of parenting work to be discouraging at times. I see progress, for sure, and many answered prayers and evidences of God’s grace. But the growth usually comes far slower than I would like, and some days I wonder if my training and teaching efforts are even hitting the mark.

The fact is, the never-finished nature of parenting work gives us one of our greatest opportunities to glorify God. That’s because parenting is what Charles Bridges calls “a work of faith.”

“As such,” he writes, “it can only be sustained by the active and persevering exercise of this principle. This is what makes it a means of grace to our own souls, as well as a grand medium of exalting our Divine Master.”

In other words, only faith in God can sustain us in the day in, day out, never-completed business of parenting, and this is how God has designed it to be: we’re forced to rely on him, and then he in turn uses that faith as a means of grace to our souls and glory for his name.

Faith fills the gap between faithfulness and fruitfulness in parenting and infuses it with “perpetual cheerfulness.” When we look “too eagerly for present fruit” we may grow weary or feel like a failure; but when we look to Christ we find “daily pardon of deficiencies,” relief from “oppressive anxiety” and “hope that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory.”

“It is faith that enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness. It commits every part of it to God, in the hope, that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory; and thus relieves us from an oppressive anxiety, often attendant upon a deep sense of our responsibility. The shortest way to peace will be found in casting ourselves upon God for daily pardon of deficiencies and supplies of grace, without looking too eagerly for present fruit.”

The work of parenting may never be done, but it cannot exceed the inexhaustible supplies of God’s grace.

~from the archives

Jan 20

“I Cannot Trust My Husband When He Tells Me How Beautiful I Am”

2016 at 8:18 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

One time, after I finished speaking to a group of women on true beauty, a woman approached me and said: “That’s all fine and good, God’s perspective on beauty. And I believe it is true. But the reality is, that’s not the message my husband receives from our culture about beauty.”

She was worried: as she was getting older, her physical beauty was fading. It troubled her that her husband, like every other man in our society, was constantly bombarded with images idealizing youth and physical beauty.

Not to mention that her husband wasn’t at the women’s meeting to hear a message on biblical beauty. It’s not that he had given her a specific reason to worry; she just appraised the situation and thought it sufficient cause for concern.

Ours is a culture that unfairly holds women to an ideal standard of physical beauty. Since it is a kind of beauty most of us will never attain, and will certainly never be able to maintain, we may worry about how we are going to hold onto our husbands’ affection and attraction.

This is a recurring concern I hear as I interact with women about beauty. They wonder if they are still as beautiful to their husbands as their bodies change after childbirth and as they grow older.

“It Drives My Husband Crazy”

Even if their husbands attempt to reassure them, some women continue to worry:

“I have a problem with accepting that my husband finds me as beautiful as he says he does,” admits Stephanie.

This fear, along with our refusal to believe our husbands when they tell us we are beautiful, can cause tension in a marriage.

“I struggle with the fear I’m getting fat all the time. It drives my husband crazy writes Briana.

Jen says the same: “I don’t understand why I cannot trust my husband when he tells me how beautiful I am! It’s so annoying to him when I say, ‘You have to say that.’”

Friends, if there is one thing that frustrates a man, it is a wife who won’t believe him on this point. Men don’t like to feel as if they can never say or do enough to convince us that they appreciate our beauty. We do our marriages a disservice when we judge our husbands by failing to take them at their word.

But how do we deal with this fear that plagues so many of us?

The Cure for All Our Fears

We must trust God for our husbands.

God brings a man and woman together in marriage. He put affection in our husbands’ hearts for us, and he has a good plan for our marriages. This is not to say that we won’t face challenges, even severely painful ones. But no matter what trials we meet in our marriages, God will work them for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28).

God is not distant from our marriages. He did not set them in motion only to leave them to run on their own. He is “a very present help” in marriage trouble (Ps. 46:1): present to care, strengthen, and comfort us, no matter our difficulties, big or small.

Confidence in God’s personal involvement and tender care frees us from fear. Our hope is not in our husbands or in our beauty, but in the character of God, the constancy of his affections, and the surety of his purposes.

How To Become More Beautiful

Here’s where it gets amazing: The more we trust God, the more attractive we become. A gentle and quiet spirit adorns the whole woman, making her beautiful from the inside out. Her lack of anxiety, restlessness, and neediness, her carefree confidence in God’s goodness makes her more lovely as the years go by.

This beauty is so profound, it can even attract unbelieving husbands to the gospel; they can be “won without a word” by the beauty of a wife’s godly character (1 Pet. 3:1-2).

~Adapted from True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

Jan 13

Who to Follow In the New Year

2016 at 9:27 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood

(The New Year presents a new temptation for me to sinfully compare my life and productivity to other people. This biblical counsel from my mom—which she first shared with me over a decade ago—still redirects my gaze to Christ. See a link to her excellent message on “The Snare of Compare” at the end of this post.)

Sinful Comparison: A Pain in the Neck

It’s January again, and social media is clogged with New Year wishes and resolutions, reminiscences of the year past and predictions about the year ahead.

But the New Year can come with an unexpected side effect: the crick in our neck that we can get from looking around at everyone else and worrying that maybe they’ve got it better than we do. With every glance at our Facebook feed, the strain gets worse, the knots tighten.

Maybe 2015 wasn’t such a great year for you. Maybe it was full of set backs and frustrations, disappointments and challenges. Yet it seems (if Facebook is to be believed) like everyone else had an exciting and successful year. Everyone else got married and had babies. Everyone else’s home business took off. They made new friends, had great vacations, and their kids excelled in school. Everyone else lost weight.

They have and we have not. The more we think about it, the more restless, anxious, and dissatisfied we feel.

In search of a cure, we may pour out our sorrows on social media, and watch the sympathy likes pile up; but somehow they never fill our empty love cup to its tippy top.

Or we protest (too much, methinks) that we don’t care a wit what people think; we’re proud of our messy house and messed up life. We call it “being real.” We may try to release the tension by taking jabs and digs at others. If we can’t feel better about ourselves, at least we can create some company for our misery.

It’s not that we resolve to bigger complaining and better envy in 2016, but when we start to sinfully compare, we’re well on our way. If we sow seeds of “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” at the start of the year, they are sure to sprout up as weeds that choke our growth in godliness the whole year through (James 3:14).

Our Savior graciously confronts our sinful comparison in John chapter 21. The scene is following his resurrection. He has just restored his disciple, Peter, and then he gives him the news: you will die a horrible death. We have a lot of sympathy for Peter, who strains his neck to look around at his buddy John and asks, “What about this man?” “What is that to you?”Jesus says to Peter. “You follow me.”

Our Savior’s loving rebuke echoes in our ears. He meant for it to. He meant for his words to protect us from sinful comparison that would distract us from our calling, stifle our growth in godliness, injure our relationships, dishonor his holiness, and make us miserable. And he invites us, or rather, commands us to “follow me.”

We follow him by meditating on his Word instead of longing for what others have, by taking whatever steps of obedience he requires from us today, and by rejoicing with others when they receive blessings from God. At the beginning of the New Year, let’s receive our Savior’s loving rebuke and gracious invitation.

Yes, everyone else may seem poised to be faster, better, prettier, smarter, and more successful in 2016, but “What is that to you? You follow me.”

{If you find yourself tempted to sinful comparison at the start of the New Year let me encourage you to watch this workshop.}