Thursday, April 9, 2020

Come~~Celebrate Easter with Me

~~A Special Guest Post Written by my Mom, Debbie Roque~~

Way back yonder in the “good old days”, some of my fondest memories were at Easter. Easter was a wonderful time. Let me introduce you to a bit of my past. Now that I am “old”, my mind wanders at times into memory-lane... 😊 The good memories.

My childhood was far from perfect, but there were some lovely memories. My thoughts go back to church, Easter egg hunts, a special meal, and my new patent-leather shoes. 😊 I remember walking to the little Baptist church in my town with my three sisters and brother behind my mama. We looked like little ducklings all in a row.

My feisty five-foot mama made sure we got some church in us. It was a long walk, but I don’t remember minding it at all. There was a sweet smell in the air; everything seemed to be blooming, I remember passing all the neighborhood houses and the steeple bell ringing in the distance. How simple life was. We had our little Easter hats on, with the elastic bands and the little ribbons flying in the breeze. My little brother had his bowtie on. Almost everyone dressed their best. We believed it was irreverent not to. Easter morning was one of the most special days of the year. Some day our “EASTER MORNING” will come and oh, what a happy day that will be!

Now mind you, I didn’t always have a new pair of shoes on Easter. My mama didn’t have much money, but when she had a little extra, she’d buy us a new pair of shiny patent leather shoes, because it was a special day. I must say the excitement of new shiny shoes was exhilarating, to say the least.

I remember arriving at church, seeing people walking, smiling, coming from all different directions while the church bells were ringing. I can still hear the bells! 😊 Two of my sisters and I would sing in the little choir loft that held a handful of elderly people. Funny how fast time has flown; now I’m elderly. 😊 I would try to hide behind one of the elderly women because I was somewhat shy. I can remember sitting in the pew and seeing the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows. We would sing that great hymn: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today – Hallelujah!” The pastor was a sweet, jolly, somewhat-older man. He smiled and shook our hands as we walked out of the church.

And then we would start our little journey back home, skipping, hopping, and jumping, finally arriving to a delicious meal consisting of ham and lasagna. For us, it just wasn’t a holiday if you didn’t have lasagna on the table! 😊 I wonder if all Italians think that way! We would open our dime-store Easter baskets with a small package of jelly beans, a paddleball, and I think some sort of coloring book with a tiny box of crayons. We didn’t have much candy in those days, so the jelly beans were yummy even if some were the color I didn’t particularly like; I ate them just the same. I remember my aunts and uncles coming over for desserts, oh, so many Italian pastries and other wonderful sweets.

Good memories last a lifetime. Memories are good for the soul, especially the older you become, the more you ponder and reminisce, and I pity the person who doesn’t! 😊

I can remember an Easter egg hunt that took place in town at one of the schools. The older kids would hunt in the woods behind the school and the younger ones would be on the grounds. Eggs were strewn all over the grass. Prize eggs were placed in the woods and also on the grounds.

The Easter bonnet contest that took place with the hunt was so exciting. I couldn’t wait to make my hat about two weeks before. I believe the Easter bonnet hats had to be homemade. Now folks, understand my mama didn’t have much, and was somewhat preoccupied with difficulties and so I could come and go as I pleased up to a point. I was quite determined to create a “masterpiece” Easter bonnet with all kinds of odds and ends, little do-dads, pieces of paper, etc., until the hat pretty much looked like a very tall steeple on top of my head!

On the day of the hunt, my sister and I arrived at the school. I had my homemade hat all prepared. Lots of kids were there. I arrived to see such an array of beautiful hats with flowers and all kinds of creations. Different nettings, bright colors, etc. I wasn’t intimidated in the least. I wanted to win a prize. We all gathered in a huge circle and walked slowly as the judges made their decisions. I was trying very hard to hold that hat in place on my head from falling! 😊

The childlike person in me wasn’t distracted by those beautiful hats, I was really proud of my towering steeple! When my sister and I talk about it now, well over fifty years later, we start laughing and laughing. I always ask her the question, “Why didn’t you tell me my hat looked so ‘different’ from the others?” She was always the one my other sisters and I looked up to because of her maturity. Her answer is, “I don’t know; I wasn’t even thinking about it.” Then we start laughing again until our sides ache and tears run down our faces. Then when I catch my breath, I lovingly rebuke her for not telling me how comical my hat looked! 😊 Then we laugh some more. Good memories. We all have them – something to talk about as the years have passed.

Now, mind you, I did win a prize! YES! Whether the judges pitied me or not, I was the proud recipient of a box with a chocolate fruited egg in it. I was so proud of that hat and so ecstatic. The simplicity of being a child. It certainly was an “original”, and wasn’t the Lord good to me! 😊 I felt like I was in heaven with that little prize.

Now my sister left the school because they were ready to finish up the event, but I still lingered because someone said that a prize egg had been left in the woods. And so once again I was determined to find that prize egg, even though the hunt was over! 😊 I truly believed it was out there, and I think it’s still out there! 😊 😊

My sister came back to tell me to come home for supper – and why in the world was I still there? I told her that I was still looking for the prize egg. Yes, my friends, I was still searching for the prize! 😊 My sister and I laugh about that, too.

Good memories. It’s good to ponder. Lingering, pondering, just staying awhile. And so I sit here wondering what was it like when Mary Magdalene wept at the tomb of Jesus? In the Book of John, chapter 20, the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. Sometimes lingering isn’t all that bad. I lingered for a prize egg. Lingering can be a means of hope in a longing heart. With a childlike faith, knowing that the prize egg was there, I stayed behind. Hoping, lingering, watching. Do you ever wonder what it will be like when that great day, “EASTER MORNING”, will come and HOPE will become a reality and the great promise is fulfilled and you can cry, “RABBONI!”? All things will become new.

And so we wait. We wait because we know that we will indeed find what we have hoped for. And He our Hope, our Jesus, will wipe away every tear from your eyes. There will be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4)

And so, my friends, what good memories do you have?

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5a
“Behold, I am coming soon!” Revelation 22:7

Monday, April 6, 2020

How Much is Too Much? Discernment, Modesty, and the Value of Blushing

"But how few women today have such control over their tongues or emotions, as my mother did, pondering holy things in their hearts, without blabbing about them, without telling 'three hundred of their closest friends.' We overshare today, more than people need to know, not discerning those things we should rightly regard as precious and holy before God."
~Valerie Shepard (speaking about her mother, Elisabeth Elliot)

Recently, I came across a quote that spoke volumes to me and I found myself inwardly nodding and agreeing with the wisdom of its words. I wanted to share some insights based on that quote with you . . . It's the one above. It's a quote taken from Valerie Shepard's recent book detailing her mother Elisabeth Elliot's and her father Jim's correspondences to one another. I've been helped in my spiritual walk by Elisabeth Elliot since I was a teenage girl; she has so much Biblical, excellent advice for women (and men as well). 

We have come to a place in the Christian and secular world where we are prompted to share everything. Nothing needs to be a secret. Nothing is sacred. 

Social media has enabled this; we all have a "platform;" and this is not in and of itself a "bad" or wrong thing. Social media gives us an opportunity to share the Gospel, to direct people toward resources that will encourage their souls. It allows us to connect with one another, even though it often encourages those connections to be on a shallow level. But again; there is nothing wrong in and of itself with "connecting" with people and sharing our faith, ideas, and convictions with one another. 

The problem comes when social media becomes a place to share and air all of our emotions, impulses, cares and fears unhinged--in a way that either draws attention to oneself or that shows a lack of modesty or discretion. The problem comes when we have not put whatever it is that we are going to share through the filter of the Holy Spirit directing each of our steps. 

Do our "friends" really need an excess of  updates on how we are spending our time, raising our children, preparing our meals, relating to our husbands, eating, exercising, listening to music, and the list goes on? We have to ask ourselves honestly--is this "sharing" helping or hindering our spiritual walk? 

Sometimes it may help. There are times (and the Lord gives us discernment to understand when) sharing about our personal experience or about some detail in our lives may help another believer. If you have a freedom from the Holy spirit to share a detail about your personal life, by all means, go ahead and obey His prompting. But before we share, let's ask ourselves, in our own conscience before God, is this necessary? Am I sharing this detail to draw attention to myself or to the Lord? Am I sharing this detail in order to help another believer in their walk with the Lord or to elevate myself? Am I sharing this detail in order to preach the Gospel through my life or am I distracting other believers away from the Gospel? We have to ask ourselves these questions before we hit that "share" button. 

Again, some sharing is good--asking for recommendations from other believers, seeking others to pray about a political or personal situation, photos of your family within reason if you have the liberty from the Holy Spirit to do that, sharing a Scripture or a quote that encourages others in their faith, a funny meme that lightens the mood of a difficult situation or that brings a smile to someone's face on a hard day--these and other things may all be used or prompted by the Lord for good

But there is a severe and mind numbing lack of discretion among Christian women (and men) today in terms of what and how much we have come to feel comfortable sharing on social media. Again; the problem is not the sharing--it is the what and the how much. Let no one misunderstand me--what I am not saying is that a person can never share about their lives on social media, but do we really need to share so much? So much that it seems to be the focal point of many people's lives? So much that we know more intimate details about virtual strangers than the people closest to us? 

Friends, there is a lack of discernment. 

Lately, I've been appalled, truly, by people sharing publicly in forums with both men and women married and unmarried, intimate details about their romantic lives with their spouses. These details might be appropriate in a private group of married women, but in a public forum where virtually anyone may be party to the information provided, this shows a serious lack of Biblical discernment. 

We have begun to trample sacred things. We are forgetting how to blush. We are placing our precious jewels on the common tables of the public marketplace and selling them cheaply. 

There are details about how you and your husband express intimacy that the whole world need not know--truly. Apart from a marriage book on physical intimacy that is labeled as such, there are details that are not appropriate to share between a mixed audience. 

This kind of "sharing" cannot please God. It cheapens our Christian witness and compromises the beautiful feminine mystique that God has given to women. 

To be honest, I feel uncomfortable with some of the "kissing" pictures that I see~~I have no problem with a sweet photo of a husband and wife, but some of the more "suggestive" ones have made me question the "sharer's" discernment. Why does the world need to see (in a very intimate way--sometimes with--usually the woman--posing in a sexual manner in front of other men who are not her husband) how you and your husband express that kind of affection toward one another? 

Consider the women of God in the Scriptures--Sarah, Rebekah, Esther, Mary--women who conducted themselves with incredible dignity, grace, and discretion, who quietly lived without directing any focus upon themselves. Rather, their focus was upon God; their hearts were caught up in serving their husbands and children and in reaching out to those around them with kindness and love. Their focus was not "me-centered" but Christ-centered. Consider their lives and examples. Mary alone is an excellent example of modesty, mystique, and discretion--after the birth of Jesus, she did not "blab" about everything that happened; rather, she pondered in her heart.

How often do we do that? How often do we merely ponder in our hearts the things that the Lord is showing and teaching us? Why do we feel the need to share all the little intimate details of our souls with the world at large? Some things should be kept quiet, sacred, carefully cherished. Mary understood this; do we? 

How much is too much? In this world of social media and sharing, how much is too much? There is no specific answer. Each person individually must make that decision in their conscience before God; we answer to God alone and will give an account for the witness that we showed and the way that we used the precious time that He gives us. 

A few years ago, I felt the Lord speaking to my conscience (and this was an individual decision that would not apply to everyone--it was just the way that the Lord spoke to me personally) not to share pictures of my children on social media anymore. I felt in my heart that all of the "showing" needed to be spent living and loving them for their soul's good and that it was a potential distraction for me to post pictures of my little ones. It is of course, not wrong to put pictures of your children on social media and I enjoy seeing the photos that others post; I just have a problem with the excess of it to the exclusion of other things and believed that the Lord was leading me personally in this way; it helps me to focus on the Lord without that added distraction. 

I'm thankful for the many women and men who do model discernment . . . they have been an encouragement to me to seek the Lord and to be careful about what and how much I share on social media. There are many women and men who use social media for good~~and  it can certainly be used for good. It can be a means to share the Gospel. It can be a means to connect with family and friends. It can be a means to share how the truth of God and His Word are impacting a person's life. And the list goes on. I know many women and men who use social media with care and discernment and these people are a blessing and an encouragement to me. 

How is the Lord leading you, friend? Allow Him to come into your secret places, like water running clear--we are often free to let other people come into these places, perhaps even complete strangers--social media allows us to do that--but not our Heavenly Father! 

We need to be washed afresh with the holy wisdom of God's Word. We need to hold things as precious and sacred rather than shouting them all the time from the rooftops and blabbing them in public forums. We need to kneel quietly before God and ponder alone all that He has done for us. I need to do this; you need to do this. May His Spirit teach us and soften our hearts. And may He give this generation of women the gift of discernment and discretion. That His Gospel may be spoken through our lives day by day--to the glory of God and to the saving of souls.  

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word