Monday, Monday, So Good to Me

As much as I love weekends, Monday morning brings with it the hope of getting back on course and the chore of doing so! Monday means returning to the routines of the coming week. If we work outside the home, we organize our time around the work schedule, family, children, home or aspirations. If we choose to stay in the home, our pace is set according to what we hope to accomplish there. No matter our particular life, Monday lays before us choices for the week ahead. What choices have you made today? Have you thought ahead or are you just waiting for your life to happen? In Titus 2, Paul lays out the results of choices that women of God can make, and the specific reasons for doing so.  Ever since the words were penned to Titus, women have a guide for living each day in God’s way.

Let’s take a look. Paul says to teach older woman to be reverent and respectful in their choice of words and behavior.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Titus 2:3

The outcome of reverence, a word which implies love and respect for God, is a willing desire to teach younger woman. The list of choices here is to be loving to husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, kind, and respectful of the role God has assigned husbands as the head of the household.

Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands  Titus 2:4-5

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When I was in my twenties, the Lord called my husband to start a school in California. We were 1500 miles from home, far away from family and friends. During that time my wise heavenly Father began my preparation for what I was to become. He arranged several mentors to walk with me on this journey, various men and women who loved the Lord. Each encouraged me to live out my unique life for God’s purpose.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, one of those mentors was a seventy-five year-old man named Mr. Haynes. He had a first name, Irv, but I could not bring myself to call him that because I respected him so much. During our twelve years of friendship, Mr. Haynes taught me how to garden, how to build furniture, how to appreciate classical music, how to enjoy poetry, how to respect my husband and understand him. He also taught me the names of every native and imported plant in California, among many more valuable skills.

Mr. Haynes had been a Christian minister, and then life moved him on to being a human resource director at a very large company in Los Angeles. I met him after his retirement, at our back fence, as a neighbor. He knew the name and uses of an exotic fruit bush growing on our adjoining properties. He also possessed a keen understanding of what humans need to improve and develop. I guess I needed help, because I became his project.

Mr. Haynes understood my faith, and yet he saw the immaturity and lack of skill in putting my faith into action. I had head knowledge and no practicality in putting what I said into action. Through the years he patiently helped me learn. Looking back, I now see that he was instilling this attitude in me: You are what you are becoming.

Here’s what I learned in a nutshell. If you want to become a gardener, be one now. If you want to become knowledgeable, study your topic thoroughly. If you want to become loved and respected by others, be loving and respectful to others. Not rocket science, but I was a wannabe and a lost little soul without direction. He helped me see myself and my future more clearly by teaching me how to focus on it now.

How about you? Can you imagine yourself in thirty to forty years? What will you be doing? Who will you have become? What will family, friends and peers be able to say about you? Will you be living out your life’s purpose?

These are tough questions to answer because they lie in the future. The truth is, only God knows the answers to what your life will be and how you will live out your purpose. However, God’s Word gives a glimpse of where to focus. Through faith, we can pursue a life worthy of the gospel, confident of the results. A great place to start is found in Proverbs. Here we see the outcome of a believing woman’s life, a life lived God’s way.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:25-26

Would you like to be this woman? Take a whirl in Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. God has work for us to do and attitudes to instill as we are becoming more like Christ. A skeptic might read and ask, why are we encouraged to be reverent, loving, pure and kind? Look for the answer in Titus. To give glory to God; so that others around us will not malign the Word of God, but see our lives as an open book. Our character is a witness to the truth of God’s love for us in Christ. It’s our high calling as God’s girls.

Whether you are a younger or older woman, can your choices this Monday and every day be more focused on becoming a Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 woman? With God’s help, and with his encouragement to live out our lives for him, the answer is yes. Yes, we can confidently set our hearts on “being what we are becoming”, women of faith and women of purpose, reverent, loving and respectful.

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Top 5 HHH Posts Of 2013!

2014 is about to welcome us and I have done some reflecting over the past year writing for Holy Hen House. What a privilege it has been to write for you and be part of such a grace filled group made up of these women!

Top5PostsHHH

Besides caring for our families - four babies were born to three of us and there are more to come, hosting our first workshop, meeting some incredible mentors of faith and communicating as a group how to organize and adapt to our readers... we have written over 280 posts in one year and we'd like to share the top five that were viewed and shared by you! Click on the titles or pictures to open each blog post. 

1. A Chat With Sarah D // Mentors

Christian mommy of three shares her family, faith and advocacy for children with multiple health challenges inspired by her daughter Keturah.

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2. 10 Ways To Bless And Encourage Your Pastor's Wife 

10 ways to bless hhh 3. Two  // Mel's story of becoming a mommy not once but twice to identical twins.

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4. Grief to Glory Series On Miscarriage and Baby Loss // an introduction can be read here Grace-2128

If you have miscarried a baby you may find comfort by reading Grief to Glory: Part Two // Carried Through Miscarriage. If you have loss the life of a baby the story of baby Simeon’s life is shared in Grief to Glory: Part Three // Lifted through Baby Loss. Also, baby Grace’s life is shared in Grief to Glory: Part Four // Breathtaking Grace.

5. (Somewhat Healthy) Granola Bars

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What topics or posts would you like us to write this coming year? AmandaSignature

A Chat with Stephanie B

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Hi everyone! I'm Stephanie. I am a full-time artist and have a studio as well as a full time residency . My husband and I recently started an arts mentoring group called, "Our Story Arts", which gives the kids of inner-city Milwaukee a voice through visual art and creative writing.

My work brought me to this city several years ago, after completing my MFA in St. Louis . I was an adjunct at Wisconsin Lutheran College but left that position to go teach in China last year. While I was there I met my husband, Zach, and we moved back to Milwaukee and got married last July.  We live near the lake and love our neighborhood. 
 
My day usually goes like this: Start the day at the studio, meet with clients or have a meeting or two, go to my residency, spend the day painting, and then head home to hang out with Zach or family.

"How did you get started glorifying God with your art?"

I always felt that it was a gift from Him and if I didn't use it, it would be a waste. God gives us all certain characteristics and talents, my just happened to be art. I knew that I communicated the best through visual language at a very young age. I felt that it was very important that I pursued this path and I was blessed to be able to do so. I chose colleges, programs, and mentors that would encourage me to keep going. It hasn't always been easy, but I have been fortunate to have friends, family, and a husband who have told me to stick with it. I am really grateful for them.

"How do you balance marriage and work?"

I am only a year in, so I don't know if I can really speak to that! To be honest though, marriage has really helped me to balance my work and personal life. My day ends at 6 when I pick Zach up from work. Before I was married, I would work all of the time which led to burn out. Being married has helped me to realize that there is enough time in the day to rest, take care of yourself, and have relationships. You just have to get good at time management, and be more focused during the work day.
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"What is your unique role as a woman?"

Women are so creative, loving, strong, and compassionate. I am so inspired by women like my Mother Theresa and women I know personally like my sisters and mom. I look to them as my role models and try to emulate their examples.

"Who is your strongest Christian mentor?"

My parents. My father is a pastor and his sermons are so well written and down to earth. My mom joined the church as a teenager, and her faith has always been so sincere. They never shoved religion down my throat, and always allowed us to ask questions and have our doubts. I always felt heard and seen. I know a lot of people have walked away from their childhood faith because they felt they were either brainwashed or forced into it. My parents were very loving and understanding. I always knew they were praying for me too, which is really an amazing feeling.
StephMom

"Is there anything from Titus 2:3-5, our blog's mission, that you would like to comment on?"

Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

I think that passing wisdom from generation to generation is a beautiful thing. I think about my grandmother, my mother and now my niece and how their faith and advice have been passed down the line. It is really amazing to hear my niece talk about her experience with Jesus and how she looks to her woman role models for guidance. I think that setting a good, loving example for your children and their children is probably one of the most important things one can do on this earth.

"How can we encourage our husband's  faith and role in marriage?"

I would say don't be afraid to take the lead and pursue the path God has laid out for you and your family. Women love to see you try, even if it means things don't always work out or you may fail once and awhile. Zach and I love to dream big and praying about those dreams really helps you to decide which ones to go after, how they will glorify God, and help others. Prayer is powerful!

"What is your favorite bible passage?"

"Do Not Worry"...mostly because I have a tendency to worry about everything.  I have always seemed to have an overactive imagination, which can be a blessing and a curse. Jesus' sermon on the mount has always brought me a lot of comfort because it provides me with so much practical information on how to follow his plan for our lives.

"...seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34

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"What do you feel is a threat to a woman’s faithfulness in her home?"

I mentioned it before, but I think worry is extremely harmful, and robs us of joy. I think confession and prayer help us to put our worries aside and to give them to God.

"Was there a moment in your life that was terrible that God strengthened you by?"

Being an artist means you don't always have a lot of money. There have been times when I had to move out of my apartment, forgo things like having a car, and rely on generosity from others. A lot of times people don't understand because it is a career choice. And in actuality they are right. However, I have always known that this is what I should be doing. God has helped me through all of it and has blessed my career immensely.

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"Can you share a moment when you saw God's hand clearly guiding you?"

Two years ago I was completely burned out, broke, and depressed. I made some joke to my mom that I should just move to China and she said, "why not?" I don't really know why I decided to do it, but it just felt right. I met my husband the day after I got off the plane, one month later we were a couple, five months later we were engaged, and four months after that we got married. It seems pretty clear what that was all about!

"Ah! What beautiful timing. Love it. What’s next for you?"

I plan on exhibiting new work every few months and collaborating on a book project with a local author which will be called, "The Carriers."  I am also working on developing "Our Story Arts" more in the coming year and helping the kids find their own voice through art. www.stephaniebarenz.com 

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"Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing your art and faith with us. The large variety of experiences you have had are evident in your pieces as they tell a story. Your work is truly remarkable and unique. Every time I look at one of your pieces I notice a new detail. Such depth! On top of everything else, you are quick to gift others from your talent and heart. Continued success on all your endeavors!

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A Chat With Naomi

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Today I am featuring a woman who is a spiritual mentor to us at HHH in many ways. We have read through Naomi's bible study on Proverbs 31, she serves on the Synod's WELS Women's Ministry Committee, speaks at women's retreats, sings, several of us have played music with her in worship, she is a Pastor's   wife, and she is a mother to one of our own writers can you guess who? (pssst - it's Jes!)

Naomi, how would you describe your unique calling as a woman?

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

Fulfilling! 

Although, you may be asking about what my calling is, I find that my whole life is God's unique calling for me to serve Him: my family, friends, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses; every opportunity is from His hand and uniquely mine!  The whole package is part of His plan and I love living it for His glory!  That attitude also makes it easier to accept my shortcomings and weaknesses because I can be comfortable with who God made me (even as I strive to address the areas where I want to grow!).  It also motivates me to be confident and assertive with the Gospel message and "make the most of every opportunity."

NaomiFamily
NaomiFamily

Many years ago I read the Ephesians passage about the devil's schemes ("Take your stand against the devil's schemes") and realized that in my life his greatest (most successful) "scheme" was convincing me that other people limited what I could do. It was clear to me that I needed to see and be convinced of what God wanted me to do - and then just do it.  It freed me in a new way to see the callings before me as a woman, rather than seeing the limitations. Identifying Satan's persistant schemes in my life made it easier to see when the attacks came - and easier to follow God's calling.

AmandaBubble
AmandaBubble

Wow - what a great reminder! We should be alert and remember the power we have over Satan through Christ.What bible passage is your personal favorite?

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

Each stage of life has brought different favorites and for several years I was faithful about picking a new verse (or mission statement) on New Year's Eve for the upcoming year. However, there is a verse tucked away in Colossians that has spoken to me quite powerfully because it reminds me of what my purpose is and more importantly, whose energy I labor with...

"We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me."  Colossians 1:28-29.

AmandaBubble
AmandaBubble

What a unique passage! I haven't heard that one quoted often but it definitely should be. 

Who is your strongest Christian mentor?

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

Pastor Don Patterson.  He loved me enough to help me see how I could grow and what areas God might want to address in my life.  It takes a LOT of love (and guts) to share that with someone in a way that encourages them to grow rather than make them feel criticized. Many of my other friends will lovingly encourage me, but they aren't very specific about what I can change.  I can count on Don to call it honestly and I trust his Christian love as a brother.

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DP
AmandaBubble
AmandaBubble

How did you get started glorifying God through music? writing?

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

The music "experience" was profound.  I attended a women's retreat and a woman singer came in after the banquet and said, "Well, you've been good girls all day, let's turn the lights down and have some real fun."  I was so terribly offended!  As I listened to her sing, I thought, "I can sing as well as she can!"  I could not endure her sleazy attitude and comments and went upstairs to my room.  I threw myself on the bed and cried.  As I prayed, I basically accused God, "Why would you give me this voice and not let me sing? Why can she sing (and dishonor you) when I want to sing and honor you?"  His gentle response came as a whisper in my mind, "Who said you couldn't?"  I went home after that retreat and organized a music ministry that fit my gifts and family.  God has continued to open doors and put people in my (unique) path to sing for His glory!

The writing came out of speaking engagements because people wanted to review or share the material I spoke on.  That just happened rather naturally, I really hardly remember when.  I do remember that when I was in my early 20s I thought it would be so cool to be a speaker or author but I also remember learning that I had a few things to learn before I started teaching other women.  I do hope to publish my Proverbs 31 study.

AmandaBubble
AmandaBubble

Is there anything specific from Titus 2:3-5, our blog’s inspiration, that you can comment on to encourage women?

Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

I guess it strikes me that it doesn't say, "encourage" them.  Our job is NOT just to "smile at y'all" and say general words of encouragement.  Our job description from the Word of God is that we teach and train younger women.  It is a little difficult at times to find opportunities to do that, but again, that's the scheme (as I see it).  Satan wants me to believe that if I don't have a formal mentoring program or young women's bible study to teach, then I can't do this.  Malarkey.  If I am in the Word of God then I will see the opportunities that are before me and embrace them (rather than whine because I don't have more).  That's why you all are an encouragement to ME because you are growing in the Word and it makes you approachable to teach.

AmandaBubble
AmandaBubble

Thank you Naomi! We are always learning. What do you feel is a threat to a woman’s faithfulness in her home? 

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

I think we struggle to find value in what we do at home and feel good about it.  We can easily flop between the two extremes of guilt and discontentment.  We rarely see the true spiritual impact we are having on our children because the day to day things seem to be so prevalent. Being alert (and finding fulfillment) only come from being in the Word of God.  We all need to arm ourselves against attacks on our callings as wives and mothers. When your children are grown it is so much easier to understand how important that time was and we no longer face that daily battle of juggling those responsibilities.  I see God's wisdom in having older women teach younger women about loving their children and husbands because we know how quickly the time really passes and we can see its importance/impact more clearly.

Naomi's four daughters
Naomi's four daughters
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AmandaBubble

Is there a moment that you saw God's hand so clearly guiding or providing for you that you would like to share? 

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

I remember when my husband was in school I went through a time when I just wasn't making time for the Word.  It's not like I was backsliding or losing my faith, but I know where I'm at spiritually, and at that time I wasn't very strong - I was very distracted.  God chose to bless us overwhelmingly by providing us with a lake house to live in free of rent and utlilities.  It was so touching because He chose to bless me even when I wasn't actively seeking Him like I should (or want to!).  It affirmed His faithful commitment to me and assured me that He doesn't just bless me when I'm "good."  He blesses me because of His goodness.  That was really humbling.

NaomiWife
NaomiWife

With a spiritual perspective it is also easy to see the many little things God does to guide and bless us.  It also takes patience to wait on Him but I've found there are incredible blessings when you just wait on Him rather than try to force things or create your own agenda.  Help your children to see those little things and talk about God's hand in our lives.  If you talk and pray about (appropriate) life situations with your children it positions you to teach them.

AmandaBubble
AmandaBubble

What’s next for you in ministry?

MMNaomi
MMNaomi

I'm honestly not sure.  I've learned that when I plan a specific ministry agenda I can get too attached to it and be discouraged if it doesn't go the way I want it to (and I get hurt too easily).  I also lose my perspective and sensitivity to God's calling and opportunities.  So, I usually embrace shorter term goals with a broad vision of the future.  I've offered my fair share of "ideas" to God, convinced that I've calculated every detail and solved every problem.  Needless to say, He graciously laughs and does what is best.  But there is always work to do in the Kingdom.

I've certainly wondered at times if I should have pursued one goal in life and concentrate on it, like a music ministry or writing.  But I haven't, and I can't regret anything about my life.  I have an amazing family, incredible friends, opportunities that are humbling and compelling.  For me, it is best to continue to seek Him and wholeheartedly embrace what He gives me as I "struggle with all his energy which so powerfully works in me."

AmandaBubble
AmandaBubble

Thank you, Naomi, for your straight talk - we are challenged and inspired by it. Your advice to seek God's purpose for us in every day moments is wonderful. Your strengths and talents give glory to God and by faith your weaknesses do too. Thank you for your example and for pointing us to Jesus - our everything.