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I realized a while back that I was trained to be a hoarder.

Each of my older relatives: parents, aunts, grandparents – wanted to know what I collected.  I had to have an answer.  Otherwise I was an incomplete person and buying birthday gifts for me would have been unnecessarily tricky.

So. I began to think of things I would like to collect.  Here is a sample: tea cups, old books, Belle Barbie dolls, candles, pens.

In addition to “collecting”, people set me an example of saving things in case I would need them, or my children might want to.

Books romanticized saving, describing heroines discovering forgotten treasures stored in attics.

We went to garage sales and learned that items have resale value.  Why throw them away when your kids can auction them for profit at an estate sale in a hundred years when you’re dead?

The Antiques Road Show showcased items whose value appreciated the longer you saved them.

So, when I tell myself I don’t need something; when I drop off a load of things at the Goodwill, and don’t even get paid for them; when I evaluate which things in my possession I would actually want to save from a fire, and find a rather short list of necessities – I’m doing pretty well, overcoming this narrative of hoarding.

I’m trying to get better at being a simple, more-Millennial person.  I have friends who teach and encourage me.  And now, since I’ve identified all these influences, I can devise a rebuttal:

As my friend says, “We collect friends, not things.”  Another friend says that “Stores are for storing things.”  I don’t even have an attic, and it is not quite so romantic to think of finding treasures in the trunk of my car.  My last three garage sales taught me that the time and work it takes to sell my own junk yields a low hourly wage.  Antiques Roadshow has started airing episodes where they show how much the item’s appraised value has changed, from the original airing to the rerun, and a lot of them have gone down.  (Beanie Babies are not a craze anymore.)

I don’t know if there is a moral reason to hoard or not, but here was a glimpse into my journey to becoming less encumbered.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Lonely Choices

I’m thinking of getting a regular job again, for a while at least, one with a weekly commitment to work during the daytime most days.  Part of me feels like it would be torture.  I hope I’m not lazy.  I hope I’m not resistant to all kinds of commitment.

Another option may be to participate in a research study.  It would involve 2 weeks away from friends and family.  I hope I would still have internet access, at least an allowance of time each day.  Being away from my friends for so long would be hard.  But I think I could do it, promising myself a bash of social experiences afterwards.  Besides, as one of my more introverted friends pointed out, I could view it as an extended spiritual retreat, a time to pray and read and journal.  I’m grateful that this doesn’t sound impossible to me, or even all that scary (though it does sound serious; what if God says something unexpected?).

I’ve spent a year trusting God to provide for me, and it has been marvelous to watch.  Even recently He was reminding me just how much my anxiety about money is unwarranted.  I don’t want to give up on the lesson.  I want to trust Him to provide through work of whatever kind, or from the deliveries of ravens, or by sustaining that which I already have – whatever means He wants.

The truth is, I don’t like making these kinds of decisions for myself.  I need God’s guidance.  I wish for human authority.  And not really having that makes it a little bit harder, to feel the need for income, to search out possibilities, to evaluate things on my own, and to make commitments (or decline them).

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I can’t believe that people are still buying spaghetti.  Don’t get me wrong; I love pasta.  It’s just the long skinny strings of pasta that I don’t understand.  Forks and spoons alike are no match for the floppy mess.  Winding a pile of it around your fork is an exercise in frustration as the noodles are not laid out at even lengths, so that no matter what you do, a couple are dangling from your utensil ready to splatter against your chin.  Any sauce you were hoping would flavor the noodle slips right off back onto your plate, bowl, or desperate fingers.  Storage and transportation of the uncooked noodles is a nightmare, since the thin sticks will easily shatter (ever tried that trick where it’s so hard to break a piece into just two pieces?).  Al dente is harder to determine than other pastas.  Leftovers get stickier.  And it’s the same thing, except a different shape, from so many other pastas.  Eat more penne.  Rigatoni.  Macaroni.  Anything but spaghetti.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Job

I’ve been reading Job.  One of the Bible’s most complex poetry books, about suffering, usually attracts people when they feel afflicted.  That’s not really why I started in on it this time.  Job is one of my favorite books, mostly for the last few chapters at the end.  (The discourses in the middle typically confuse me.)  This month some friends have been talking about sermons they heard about Job at their church.  On a quiet night a few weeks ago I turned on an online audio Bible.  As I listened, Job 13 resonated with me.  In one verse, I felt like Job summed up his plea.  He said that he wanted to ask and have God answer – either that or for God to speak and Job to get to listen.  This righteous man had lost almost everything, and what he wanted most was not to get everything back, but to know God better than he ever had.

 

So I’m excited to read Job each night, delighted that it makes more sense to me than it ever has.  Here is this man I feel I can really respect.  You may have encountered in your life the scarcity of godly older men to be examples of faith.  And here he is.  This man isn’t all about doing – though he makes it clear he knows right from wrong, and has spent much of his life pursuing goodness.  Job was interested in knowing God more.  The more I read, the more I see it.  Even if by coming to him, God was going to humble Job and reveal his sin and judge him, Job was willing to take that risk for the chance of knowing God.  I know the end of the story.

 

As I read of Job pleading for God to visit him, I get excited about the moment when God does all that Job asks.  YHWH Almighty comes and reveals His glorious wisdom to Job.  He asks questions and Job answers.  Then at last Job is content.  Then Job lays his hand over his mouth and says “How can I reply?”  All along Job has wanted to know who he was, especially relating to God.  He knows now.  He responds with more humble worship.

 

The end of it all is that God is pleased with Job’s faith.  The man who met with God (perhaps more a theme of the Old Testament than I ever noticed before) is restored.  Blessings of prosperity, family, and usefulness to others’ spiritual lives return upon Job.  I assume the devil was astounded by this incredible mercy, that mere man may speak with God and live.  Take away the hedge God had placed around Job, and God surrounds the righteous man with His own presence.  This is not only Job’s heart; it is God’s as well.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A woman sits in a room lit by lights from other rooms. She’s sitting on the floor with her back to an empty chair. And she’s crying. A man happens by and notices. “Why are you crying?” he asks. That’s when it happens. Her fist swings with all the force swelling her tears, straight into whatever part of him is nearest. Words just won’t cut it; they haven’t been, for weeks and months. She wants him to realize her emotion, to force him to feel it. But she doesn’t want to hurt him. Too bad her fist is bony and his ribs were nearest and the bruising will keep him sore for days. I mean it; it’s too bad. She shouldn’t have done it. She needed to find a way to accomplish her goal without this contrary side effect. Is there one, though?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Grace

Human beings are totally depraved.  We can do nothing good apart from God.  He enables us to be good.  According to the good pleasure of His will, He gifts us.  Grace is more than a status, more than something that rescued us from Hell and promises us Heaven; it is real now, useful for our lives. 

Deserve.  Competition.

Though marriage is good and normal and to be desired, it is not something that anyone deserves.  Nor is it a competition to be the most deserving.  Feeling that the wife market is a contest tragically cripples my relationships with other women as I become jealous and judgmental.  Or I get frustrated with men for not being discerning of who is most worthy of their attention.

Grace.

Marriage is a gift from God.  We become married, stay married, and excel at marriage only by His grace.  The timing and circumstances are results of God’s goodness, even when there is long waiting, heartbreak, rejection.  The goal of marriage isn’t for us to be happy.  It is a good gift, but it is also a good work. 

Perfect.

There is so much pressure to be perfect, as though that would persuade men – or God Himself – that I am worthy of marriage.  And when I fall short of perfect, I despair of marriage.

Grace.

Grace answers this, because God’s grace is merciful.  Everyone already knows I’m a failure.  Marriage is not a synonym for heaven, the reward of the already sanctified; rather, that relationship promotes our sanctification.  God’s grace looks on my imperfection and gives me what will teach and grow me.  For now that gift is a time of hope.  One day He may make me more like His Son by making me a wife.   

All kinds of perfect.

Looking around at the women who are already married, as though this was scientific, I see all different kinds of strengths and skills and types that have attracted men.  And I have no idea which kind of perfect my future husband is going to want/need/find attractive.

Because men get to do the initial choosing, I also lose sight of the fact that men don’t deserve wives any more than wives deserve husbands.  So I shouldn’t be putting too much stock in what they think or how they feel.  The pot cannot say to the potter that the potter formed it wrong – but if the pot is a gift from the potter, the person receiving the gift would be rude and rather silly to tell the pot that the potter is forming it wrong.  Nor do I know many men who reject the good gifts the Potter has made for them.

Grace.

I believe God is much more involved in the process of finding a spouse than we give Him credit for.  There isn’t any scientific reason why a man should find one woman more attractive than another, why he should notice the shy girl and not go after the more exuberant one, for example.  God gives a man his wife, Proverbs teaches.  It’s almost like magic, and it is nothing I can control, even by being perfect. 

Striving, worrying.

But I want to control, so I try to be all kinds of perfect.  I second-guess myself.  I over-analyze everything about everybody.  Maybe I gave the wrong impression of myself.  Why do people always assume things about me that are false and that don’t help my marriage prospects?  And then I worry that I’m not good enough.

Grace. 

One good thing about grace is that it applies to other people as well.  I’m not a vindictive, no second-chances friend, so why do I expect anyone to treat me that way?  Do I have the humility to let others show me grace?  Do I have the confidence that God can work in their lives even when I’m not all-knowing – or even when I do something selfish or stupid?

Peace, joy, fulfillment, vessel. 

Confidence that God is active, and good, brings peace.  I rejoice when I see Him working, when I receive a gift – whether it is a compliment, a conversation with a friend, or (if the Lord wills, someday) a husband.  I can rejoice when things don’t go as I had planned because it is evidence of a much smarter and more loving Person working.  There is fulfillment in being each day the person God wants me to be instead of the person I am guessing (this minute) would give me the best chance at getting married (this year).  In the life of each person I know, I don’t play the role that I want to play, or that they want me to take on; I can be the vessel for God’s grace and truth that they need, that He intends.  I would much rather have a marriage based on serving a spouse as God has designed than as either of us imagine or demand.

Grace. 

There is a sense in which God’s grace reveals how I could please Him better.  He is perfecting me, faithfully, and will not cease to do so when I get married.  He guides me in the next step to take: not by excessive analysis of every possible outcome of my choices, but by personally revealing where I am weak and where He has made me strong. When I have the perspective to see that He is using others in my life for His purposes, I can follow the examples of other godly women, without jealousy; and submit to the men teaching on how to be a virtuous woman and valuable wife.  

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Surprised.

Are all my posts the same?  All this wrestling with change?

 

“Why am I not the same as I used to be?  How have I changed?  What shall I hold on to?  Who am I becoming?  Does anyone else notice?”

 

I don’t know where I’m going.  I never have.  When I graduated and people asked what next, even if I thought of a polite and normal-sounding answer, inside I thought of that verse in John 3, that the wind blows here and there and people born of the Spirit are like that.  Except, well, some Spirit-born people aren’t like that.  They make plans.  Plans may not come about, but if nothing gets in their way they know what they’ll do and choose and who they’ll be.  I like surprises and spontaneity, though.

 

In my life I have been surprised by:
What I believe.
Who becomes a friend.
Who fades from my life.
Length of time.
My own unkindness.
Grace.
The taste of green peppers.
Winning.
Losing.
Being known.
Quitting.
Where I find my socks.
What doesn’t work.
Word origins.
What I look like in the mirror.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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If you were my Facebook friend, you would know that I’ve been in a questioning, controversial mood lately.  I decided that instead of just letting these thoughts float through my head, I’d expose the Facebook world to the incessant barrage of deep or significant questions that most of us choose to ignore or forget.  So I post the questions, and friends comment.  I try not to participate much.  Truly, this thinks-all-the-time writer isn’t a know-it-all for all the thinking.  And I have real questions.  Sometimes I think I have the answers, and I need the strongly-self-confident opposition to teeter-totter me back the other way, just a bit.

 

Back in November I took a weekend to read through old journals.  There were a lot more than I thought, so I didn’t even read through all of them.  My object was to see what God’s been up to.  Has He been changing me? What can I praise Him for?  I rather failed in the praising part.  Mostly I kept the things I discovered to myself, and what’s more – in the back of my mind.  But one thing I know I realized was that I’m not nearly as confident as I used to be.  For my pitiable Facebook friends, it may be hard to believe, but I’m gentler.  I used to take a firm and lengthy explanatory position, with rather contempt for other ideas, about predestination – to myself of course, in my journals.  Except each time I wrote, the position was a little different, and it was like I hadn’t realized my understanding was changing.  But I’m not like that now, not as much.  I don’t always know the answer, and just because I think of an explanation doesn’t mean it’s true.

 

Last night I was watching the newer film version of Emma, the one starring Romola Garai.  For some reason I was paying attention, and realized that Emma doesn’t just learn in the course of the story: she grows.  There is a difference in her reaction to correction, gradually growing in humility and grace as the movie progresses.  So not only is she learning not to manipulate, and to be kinder, and to pay attention to the world around her – she’s also moving from defending against correction, to beating herself up when she’s wrong, to contemplating the opinions of others, and finally, to almost anticipating their criticisms of her.  She’s not flippant any more, but she’s not stormy either.  The Emma who marries Mr. Knightley is still a bit silly, but she is – I want to say calmer, but every time I think it, I picture her tear-stained face protesting that she cannot marry because she cannot leave her father – more profound, maybe?  She is truly thinking of others, and that makes her own opinions less relevant.

 

So I hope that I am becoming such a woman.  I am praying for humility.  For kindness and gentleness.  I want to be honest, and to be known, and to be helped and encouraged.  So I won’t be avoiding controversial topics.  Anyway, they seem to chase me down.  Just when I was letting the doctrines of ecclesiology simmer in a peaceful slumber, a friend brought them up again, awakened me to more questions – and most pressing, how to apply what I believe.  Next Facebook status: “Do you need a pastor?”

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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I was with a friend and her family this week, and her oldest daughter, age 4, was sharing her crayons with me, and her new coloring book.  Being of a Christmas theme, the book was filled with candy canes and elfs and Santa Claus.  We noted together that you can tell an elf by his pointed ears.  Fairies also have pointed ears.  “What kind of person is Santa?” I asked.  But since she could not see his ears beneath his hat and whiskers, she said quite confidently that she didn’t know.

 

This brought to mind a character I am rather more fond of, Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil.  My young artist-friend was directing my coloring, and though she wouldn’t let me fill in Santa’s suit as bright blue, she did volunteer the suggestion of yellow boots, which made me smile.

 

So I was thinking…  As long as parents are lying to their children, why don’t we lie about the jolly Tom Bombadil instead?  He’s quite similar to Santa, and maybe even better.  Of course, I don’t believe in lying, not even to my children, so I wouldn’t lie.  But I want a holiday to be jolly, to stomp around in boots and talk in rhymes and tell stories and wear bright colors and throw hats in the air and then catch them again.  To have good food and candlelight and to collect flowers or dry leaves or other nature-things.  It doesn’t have to be Christmastime.  We can find a dull season of the year and spice it up with Bombadil Day.

 

Ring a dong dillo!

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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II Corinthians 1:20

“For all the promises of God

in Him are YES,

and in Him AMEN,

to the glory of God through us.”

You don’t hear it as much as you’d expect in Christian circles.  Should it stand out so much to me when I hear a friend say, “Praise God”?  The praise and worship music movement has swept the Church up.  Some of us even mean what we sing.  But outside of the songs, do we magnify His name?  Do we let our light shine that men may glorify our Father in Heaven when they see our good works?  Can we say with the Psalmists that it is good for God to have us alive because we praise Him more than if we were dead?

Grant that our friends practice gratitude.  We’re praying people and watch for answers.  When we see good gifts, we know they are from God.  And so it is more common to say aloud, “Praise God.  He answered my prayer.”

But we only tend to say that when He answers with a “yes.”  If God gives us what we want, we praise Him.  If not…

There are any number of reactions I have observed in myself.  I may become discouraged.  I might complain.  Even a good Christian is tempted to “help themselves” when God doesn’t take the initiative we want Him to.

This year, I resolved to praise my good God.  When He says “yes” to my requests, and when He says “no.”  He is acting with wisdom and love either way.

So even when I am hurt or sad or tired because of God’s “no”, I will praise Him.  Praise Him for knowing better than I do.  For denying my making of mudpies (to refer to CS Lewis) that He may bring me to the sea.

And in acknowledging God’s worthiness, may I know Him more.  May I anticipate and accept suffering, not cheating it of its purpose nor denying its redemption.  May I see with His eyes and expect the unfathomable ocean of blessings He has prepared.  He is a God of completion, faithful to make perfect that which He begins.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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