Got the Grumpies?

Have you ever noticed that grumpiness cuts deep ruts? A grumpy day or two and before you know it, your go-to mood—and the routine mood of your family—is grumpy.

A while ago I noticed that I had a few Grumpy Gus’ living in my house. First, there’s my four-year-old Eli who doesn’t seem to have a right side of the bed. He wakes up cranky and pouty most mornings.

Then there’s his toddler brother, Noble. I know they aren’t called Terrible Twos for nothing, but is it too much to ask that those fits are served with a smile?

My husband has an incredibly even temperament. I can’t say he’s been grumpy per se, but I don’t see a lot of smiles on his face, and frankly, I don’t hear his robust laugh often enough.

Oh, and then there’s the ringleader of the grumpies . . . me. The winter always puts me in a funk and lately I’ve been irritable, short tempered, cantankerous, and well . . . grumpy.

I happen to know that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:21–23). When we are light on these virtues and heavy on their opposites, clearly God has work to do in our hearts. With that in mind, I opened the Word and did a topical study on “joy.” The way I figure it, joy is the best vaccine against the grumpiness that seemed to be spreading in our home.

Early in my studies, I found this little gem:

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Ps. 4:7)

That verse leapt off the page at me as the way to get out of the grumpy rut and cut a new, more joyful path. So, I’ve started praying this prayer for each member of my family every morning:

“Lord, put more joy in our hearts than others have when their grain and wine abound.”

It’s a simple prayer and a simple request. But since Galatians 5 makes it clear that joy is the fruit of God’s Spirit at work, and since our grumpiness is a side effect of our own sinful nature, I need to depend on God to give us more joy.

It’s not the same as slapping a smile on our faces. It doesn’t necessarily mean a change in circumstances. Notice that the Psalmist doesn’t ask God to change his circumstances so that he is the one with wine and crops in abundance. Instead, He simply asks for God-given joy that exceeds the temporary happiness others might have as a result of a moment of prosperity.

Has it worked? Yes, it has. I’ve noticed a change in the climate of our home. There is, overall, a lot less unnecessary grumpiness and a lot more smiles, laughs, kind words, and happy days. Spring isn’t here yet. Our circumstances haven’t changed, but God is answering my request to put more joy in our hearts.

Has grumpiness cut deep ruts in your house? With your family? At your workplace?

Might I suggest you pray a prayer that is making a difference for us? Will you join me in praying Psalm 4:7 often and making 2013 a year where joy flows like wine?

“Jesus, please make this a year when you put more joy in our hearts than others have when their grain and wine abound. Amen.”

Bachelor Buzz: Is Virginity “Ridiculous”?

The Bachelor, Sean LoweTonight is the season finale of The Bachelor. Millions of viewers are expected to tune in to find out if the bachelor will drop down on one knee to propose to the one girl who survived another season of high drama, elaborate dates, and rose ceremonies.

I’ll admit it; I’ve been sucked into a season or two of The Bachelor myself. The promise of lasting love unfolding in front of our very eyes does make for interesting television. But there are pitfalls, which is why I’ve avoided writing about The Bachelor in the past. There’s plenty of junk associated with this show, and I’d never want to pique your curiosity about it and get you tuning in or Googling. So don’t do that. Promise?

But this year’s show has a twist. Bachelor, Sean Lowe, has declared himself a "born-again virgin." He’s been very vocal about his commitment to save sex until after his wedding. Blogs were buzzing when he chose girls to take to the "fantasy suite" while vowing that the focus would be on conversation not physical connection.

In a show that is constantly looking for the next way to create buzz and hook viewers, it seems this year that virginity is the subject designed to get people talking.

One blogger put it this way,

Sigh. Sean Lowe. You gotta love him. He’s so down-to-earth and sweet. He’s hot. Like really hot. And he seems like such a fiercely loyal, romantic, gentlemanly dude. He’s perfect as The Bachelor.

But then there’s the whole "born-again virgin" thing, which is pretty much a major buzz kill any way you look at it. Sure, the whole concept of saving yourself for marriage is kind of admirable in a really old-fashioned way, but come on. How can you vow to spend the rest of your life with someone without taking them for a test drive first?

She went on to say that failing to find out if he was sexually compatible with the girl of his dreams might lead the bachelor to a marriage that is doomed before it starts.

Her words remind me of something I’d rather forget. Mainly that the culture sees God’s standards for sex and marriage as ridiculous. It’s easy to shake my head or point fingers or simply ignore what’s happening in the culture. But the reality is, the media’s messages have a way of trickling into our own hearts and minds if we aren’t careful.

So squeeze the hype through the filter of God’s Word.

Hebrews 13:4 says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous" (emphasis added).

This is just one example of where the Bible makes it clear that sex is a gift that God intends to be opened and shared between a husband and a wife. But there’s more.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the ways of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on this law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers (Ps. 1:1–3, emphasis added).

What comes when we walk away from the ways of the world? We’re blessed. What happens when study God’s Word and find our delight in it? We become firmly planted, deeply rooted, shored up, and prosperous.

Put these two passages together, and we get this formula.

God asks me to save sex for marriage – the culture’s view that virginity is ridiculous = what’s best for me and my future.

The culture can call it ridiculous, out of date, or unreachable. But God’s Word writes a different story. Saving sex for marriage is what’s best for you. Waiting may not help you win a reality TV show or wow critics, but God’s Word promises that sticking to His plan even when others scoff will help you prosper.

You don’t have to be the star of a reality TV show for this to be an important lesson. Even when no cameras are watching, it can be easy to fall for the logic that purity is ridiculous, impossible, or out of date. Or that God’s standards make you miss out. But none of that is true. The bottom line is that God asks us to wait because He has our best in mind. It’s an important reminder for all of us in a culture that can be clueless.

Have you noticed examples where the culture calls God’s standards ridiculous? When that happens, how do you stand for truth?

PS: Be sure to hop back on the blog tomorrow where we’ll tackle if "born-again" virginity is possible.

A Place For All Those Tears

In Luke 8:51–52 Jesus approaches a crowd mourning the death of a twelve-year-old girl. His words to them may seem strange considering that they had good woman cryingreason to be upset.

But He said, "Stop crying" (v. 52).

In Luke 7:13 He says the exact same words to a momma whose only son had died. She sure had reason to cry. Her situation was exceptionally hopeless. And yet …

"He said, ‘Don’t cry.’"

When we tell someone not to cry, it’s usually because we are uncomfortable with their emotions or because we think they’re overreacting. But when Jesus told people not to cry, it was because He had a plan to do something about their pain. He had the power to dry up their tears.

The crowd who was mourning the death of the young girl? Just a few minutes later they received the amazing news that Jesus had raised her back to life. The widow who was burying her only son? She saw Jesus raise him from the dead with her very own eyes.

In both cases Jesus said "don’t cry" because He was about to take the pain away.

But I bet there are things you’ve had to bury that Jesus has not raised back to life. I am sure there are situations that make you cry where it seems like Jesus has not intervened. It may feel like there’s no reason to stop crying over the things that cause you pain.

I get that. I do.

I’ve got junk in my own life that makes me cry. There are times when I cannot hold back the tears. When that happens, I tend to wonder where my miracle is. Does Jesus even see my tears?

It was in that state recently that I stumbled across this verse.

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book? (Ps. 56:8).

Where is God when my tears start to flow? He’s keeping a tally of what makes me toss and turn. He’s collecting my tears in a bottle. He is recording them in a book.

In other words … He sees me. The things that keep me up at night don’t fly under His radar. He keeps a record of the junk that causes me pain.

And just what will He do with those tallies? What’s His plan for a bottle full of tears with my name on it? What’s the use of a book full of tears?

Revelation 21:4 gives the answer.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

I believe He is collecting my tears in a bottle because one day He will pour the bottle out and refill it with joy. He may not say "don’t cry" to me every time I am sad now, but a day is coming when He will, because He does have a plan to set all things right. It’s a promise that we can hold on tightly to whenever the tears start to flow.

What makes you cry these days?
What kind of tears is your bottle full of? Angry tears? Disappointed tears? Wounded tears? Shameful tears? Worried tears?

God sees them all. In fact, He keeps them in His collection, because one day He will look you in the eye and say, "Don’t cry." And when He does it will mean He’s dried up your tears—for good.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Ps. 126:5).

Walking With The Wise

friendsHas anyone ever said something like this to you . . .

"Birds of a feather flock together."

"If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?"

Since we aren’t birds and our friends are unlikely to go cliff jumping, the message of these phrases can get a little lost in translation. Perhaps a few words from a juvenile court judge can clear the matter up.

Recently, an email from a former juvenile court judge found its way into my inbox. The focus of his email was prayer, but a few sentences he wrote at the beginning got me thinking about Y-O-U.

As a juvenile court judge, I often told young people who entered my court, "Show me who you are hanging around with, and I will show you what you are going to become like."

Scripture puts it this way: "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (Prov. 13:20).

You don’t have to enter a juvenile court room for these words to have meaning. The judge and the writer of Proverbs are preaching a simple message that all of us would be wise to remember.

1. When you spend your time with wise people, you will become wiser yourself.
2. When you spend your time with unwise people, you are guaranteed to get hurt.

I’m sure the judge could tell lots of stories of young criminals whose feet were set on the wrong path simply by choosing the wrong friends. I can tell you plenty of stories from my own life of times I got burned because I let myself be a "companion of fools." I bet you have some of those stories too.

Certainly, we should be friendly to non-Christians and are free to spend some time with people that might fall into the category of being "unwise." But our closest friends—the people we spend the most time with—should be wise. That means they should fear God—the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). And they should know and seek to live out the wisdom found in God’s Word. We should notice that when we’re around them, we become wiser ourselves.

So let me join the judge in asking you, do you have wise friends? If so, you get a gold star. Even more importantly, you get the promise that those friends will help you grow in your own walk with Christ. On the flipside, are you closest friends non-Christians? Or maybe they’re Christians who consistently make unwise choices or disregard the wisdom found in God’s Word. Be warned! Those girls are likely to cause you harm or to encourage you to do harm to yourself. (Ah . . . that’s what all that bridge jumping talk is about!)

The choice is simple, but not always easy. Choose wise friends, and gain wisdom. Choose unwise friends, and gain trouble and pain. So go on, and take the judge’s advice. Show us who you are hanging around with. Your answer will inevitably show us where you’re destined to end up.

New Labels

What does your label say?

No, I’m not talking about the tag in the back of your shirt. (Why do those need to be made out of such itchy fabric anyway?)
woman with labels

I’m talking about the invisible labels that no one else can see, but you can. I’m talking about the kind of labels you wish you could rip right off.

I would define those labels this way:

When people look at me, all they see is ___________________.

However you’d fill in that blank, that’s your label. Maybe your labels have to do with the physical. You think that when people look at you all they see is your height, or weight, or skin, or hair. These labels are usually tied to whatever it is about us that makes us feel the most insecure. The truth is, other people don’t focus on our appearance near as much as we think they do, but that doesn’t keep us from wearing invisible labels.

There are other labels we often wear. Labels tied to our mistakes, or our circumstances, or who we used to be. Sometimes our labels look good, almost like designer labels, but they still make us feel yucky. Maybe when people look at you, you think all they see is that you’re a straight A student, or star athlete, or good girl. Those things aren’t bad, but no one wants to be defined by them.

Some of us wear so many labels, it’s like we own our very own invisible label maker. Every time someone sizes us up, we slap a new label on and wear it around.

There’s a story in the Bible about a girl who knew a thing or two about labels. You can read the whole thing in John 8:2–11, but I will give you the Wikipedia version. A woman was caught committing adultery. That means she was romantically linked to a man who was not her husband. Back in the day, that meant that she could be stoned—as in pummeled with rocks—by peers who were angered by her sin. She must have felt doomed as she was dragged into the temple courts by an angry mob with rocks in their hands. But Jesus intervened.

John 8:6–11 says:

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

When the crowd looked at this woman, all they saw was her sin. If we could see her invisible labels, we’d read:


But Jesus ripped those labels right off. He offered her new ones. In fact, the Bible doesn’t elaborate on what Jesus was writing when He was drawing in the sand, but I like to think that He was giving the woman new labels. Labels like:


Jesus is in the business of replacing labels. Those invisible labels that cause you pain? He can rip them off, just like He did for the adulterous woman. He doesn’t stop there. He can replace them with labels based on His steadfast love for you, His willingness to freely forgive you, His desire to use you to do things for His kingdom . . .

I guess you can keep wearing those invisible labels if you want to. You may have worn them so long that you wonder who you’d be without them. But Jesus offers you the same choice He offered the adulterous woman. You can keep wearing the labels, hung up on what you think others see when they look at you, or you can choose to hold your head high and walk toward a new life based on who God says you are.

What are your labels? When people look at you, what do you think they see? Do you want to keep wearing those around? Or will you rip them off and let God replace them with the beauty and value He sees when He looks at you?

Ready. Set. Rip!

Choose Your Own Adventure

Thanks for taking our people pleaser quiz yesterday. There were no right or wrong answers, but I did want to get you thinking about whether or not people pleasing is your standard operating procedure.

What is people pleasing exactly? It’s making choices based on either:
   a) impressing other people.
   b) avoiding disappointing other people.

Many of you fessed up that you are people pleasers, and you know it.

Ready for my true confession? I’m a people pleaser too.

In fact, this is one area where God has been consistently working in my heart for many months. I can sense that He wants me to make my choices based less on what others will think of me and more on what He desires from me. If you’re a people pleaser, you already know that this is easier said than done.

In my efforts to consider pleasing others less and pleasing God more, one verse has been a life raft.

Proverbs 29:25 says, "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe."
woman falling into hole

This simple passage contrasts two simple realities.

When we live our lives in fear of man (that’s another way of describing chronic people pleasing), it’s like walking into a trap. The questions in yesterday’s quiz were examples of how we can find ourselves snagged.

Scenario #1: You have a HUGE assignment due tomorrow. Your best friend calls and begs you to go to the basketball game with her . . .

A people pleaser would go to the game and either blow off the assignment or have to stay up all night to complete it. The trap here is that we tend to do things with less excellence and stretch ourselves too thin because of our desire to impress others. The result can be exhaustion, burnout, or failure to meet our commitments—none of which tee us up for a life that is focused on the priorities God has for us.

Scenario #2: Your schedule is already full, and your pastor approaches you and asks you to volunteer once a week in the church nursery. You are not particularly passionate about children, and you are already involved in several ministries that do match your gifts . . .

The trap here is that when we approach ministry and service with pleasing people in mind, we can end up serving in ways God does not call us to and miss opportunities to serve in the ways and places God has in mind. A God-sized mission bears much more fruit than doing something good for the eyes of other people.

Scenarios #3 and #4: Questions 3 and 4 from yesterday’s quiz had to do with how people pleasing can make us feel.

Do you feel guilty or selfish when you take time for yourself? That’s likely a symptom of chronic people pleasing. You may be worried that others will think you’re lazy or misjudge you if you slow down from time to time.

The problem is that God commands us to Sabbath (a.k.a. rest). He does this for our own good, because our batteries need a recharge from time to time. When we never recharge, our emotions and bodies start coasting on fumes.

People pleasers can also tend to put way too much stock into the opinions of others. Don’t hear me saying that it’s a wise choice to never care what others think of you. It’s good to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. However, Jesus wasn’t always popular, and He never won everyone over. He cared far too much about what His Father thought of Him to be pulled by the opinions of others.

People won’t always like you. The crowd won’t always cheer you on. But public opinion is a nasty trap when we try to cater to it. At the end of the day, it’s most important what God thinks of us. (Hint: He’s a huge fan!)

Scenario #5: When you do something nice for someone else, do you want credit?

Matthew 6:1–4 says, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Doing something nice for a moment of glory is a trap. God says when we do so, we’ve received all of the reward we can expect because He wants us to serve others in order to please Him. That means that if no one ever notices, we still serve others because our goal is to please God.

When we live to please people, we will find our hearts often snagged by emotions like fear, anxiety, worry, exhaustion, burnout, and confusion. However, God outlines an alternative that cuts a clear path for us—no hidden minefields.

Go back to the verse at the beginning of this post.

Option #1 is to fear man, or live to please others. The Bible says this lays a trap.

Option #2 is to trust in the Lord, to live life with His opinion in mind, to seek to please Him above all others. Proverbs 29:25 tells us that this route keeps us safe from the kind of traps I just described in the scenarios above. That’s why when it comes to people pleasing, we all must choose our own adventure . . .

What about you? Have you found yourself snagged by living to please others? If so, what’s one way you can choose the safer path of living to please the Lord this week?

Are You A People Pleaser?

On some level, each of us wants to please the people around us. People pleasing seems to be stamped into our DNA, especially as girls. However, working too hard to please others can be like stepping into a trap. More on that tomorrow . . . for now, I’d like to get the wheels in your head turning as you think about how people pleaserimportant it is for to you to please or impress others.

So let’s kick this week off with a little quiz. (No worries—you get an automatic A++ just for participating!)

Check out the questions below, and leave us a comment with your answers. But before you start, let me give you one rule—don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. I’m not interested in hearing the "right" answers or dialoging in Christianese. That’s the kind of people pleasing stuff that gets us all into hot water from time to time.


Ready. Set. Think!

1. You have a HUGE assignment due tomorrow. Your best friend calls and begs you to go to the basketball game with her. Do you . . .
a. Explain that you have to stay home and finish your work but promise to join her next time.
b. Blow off your assignment and go to the game.
c. Agree to go to the basketball game and then stay up all night finishing your assignment.
d. Stay home to do homework, but worry constantly that you’ve disappointed your friend.

2. Your schedule is already full, and your pastor approaches you and asks you to volunteer once a week in the church nursery. You are not particularly passionate about children and you are already involved in several ministries that do match your gifts. Do you . . .
a. Tell your pastor thanks but no thanks.
b. Agree to work in the nursery but fail to follow through.
c. Agree to work in the nursery and spend months frustrated by the time commitment and stressed because you feel stretched too thin.

3. Taking time for yourself makes you feel . . .
a. Refreshed
b. Guilty
c. Selfish

4. When you find out someone doesn’t like you, what do you do?
a. Do whatever it takes to change that person’s mind. (AKA get them to love you!)
b. Not worry about it.
c. Go to that person and try to talk to them about why they don’t like you.

5. When you do something nice for someone else do you . . .
a. Hope they are blessed.
b. Hope they think you are amazing.
c. Hope they see your generosity as a reflection of your faith.

Tomorrow, we will open up the Word to see what God says about people pleasing. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Looking back at your answers, do you see yourself as a people pleaser?

Self-Control and Pickle Cravings

I’m so tired I feel like I’m moving with concrete feet. The first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning is when I can take a nap. My pillow calls my name all day long. My husband and kids are getting on my nerves. Sometimes I want to yell at them. Sometimes I do yell at them. The next moment I’m in tears. I crave dill pickles. Oh, and dill pickle juice. I drink the stuff straight out of the jar.

Yep, I’m pregnant. Which means I’m strapped in for one of the wildest emotional roller coaster rides a girl can take. I cry a lot. I feel agitated much more than usual. I have zero motivation to do anything but sleep. And yet I find myself re-enrolled in a “school” where I’ve taken classes twice before. The lesson plans focus on self-control in the midst of mood swings, morning sickness, and weird food cravings. I sense the Lord trying to teach me that self-control is a gift He wants to give me, and that now—more than ever—I must do the hard work to keep my flesh in check. 

This verse is confirmation:

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Prov. 25:28)

Translation: When I lack self-control, I am vulnerable to attack.

And then there’s this hard-hitting truth:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:22–24)

Notice there is no amendment for pregnant girls, tired moms, or mothers of two-year-olds. There are no exceptions for hormones, stress, or all-nighters. God asks us to practice self-control and then promises to provide it for us when we are lacking.

This means that “eating for two” is not an excuse to have hot fudge sundaes for breakfast. It means that being tired is not a good reason to stop parenting my other children or to be rude or demanding of my husband. It means I can’t let my hormones rule me. And it means, when I cannot do it on my own, that God will help me. He created those hormones after all. He is able to rein them in.

You may not be pregnant, but I bet there are things in your world that make you feel justified in losing control. As the pot calling the kettle black, let me remind you that lacking self-control leaves you vulnerable and open to attacks from the enemy. In contrast, controlling yourself—as in your temper, your cravings, your flesh—is evidence that God is at work in your life.

Are there areas of your life where you are lacking self-control? Will you join me in ’fessing up and then asking God to give you self-control in those areas where you are the weakest?

A Call To Pray For Your College Campus

Are there things about your school that you’d like to see God change?

Are there people on your campus who desperately need to know the powerful message of the gospel or the reach of God’s love?

Do you sometimes feel like the only one at your school who is willing to live like God’s called you?

If you answered "yes," let me follow up with one more question. (Zero guilt intended. Promise.)

When was the last time you prayed for your school?

With that question in mind, I’d like to invite you to check out this video, promoting the 2013 Collegiate Day of Prayer.

Will you join those who have already agreed to set aside the day to pray for campuses across the country? Will you pray for the college campus close to you on February 28, or make plans to pray for your own high school?

If so, leave us a comment to tell you what school you’ll be praying for just ten days from today.

PS: Click on this site for more info.

More Than Waiting Well

We talk a lot on this blog about waiting for God to bring the right kind of guy at the right time. It’s an important message. Much heartache has been caused by rushing into love or forcing a relationship that is outside the parameters of God’s best for you.

girl and balloonWhen it comes to love, I want you to wait well. But I also want you to know that waiting well doesn’t work like a magic formula. You can guard your purity. You can trust God with your love life. You can write lists and save pennies and work on being the right person for love, but none of that guarantees that you will end up happily married to the man of your dreams until death do you part.

I want to temper the good advice we’re offering you on this blog about waiting with the reality that God is in charge and He has not promised our version of a fairy tale ending, no matter how well we wait.

It’s a reminder that Lies Young Women Believe author Nancy Leigh DeMoss gives in the book Lies Women Believe. She addresses unfulfilled longings—those desires we have that go unmet. Nancy teaches two key lessons about unfulfilled longings that seem worth repeating this Valentine’s Day.

Lesson #1: We will always have unfulfilled longings this side of heaven.

"If we

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could have all our longings fulfilled down here, we would easily be satisfied with staying here, and our hearts would never long for a better place," Nancy writes.

She goes on to point out that instead of taking matters into our own hands, we must learn to be content. Contentment means to be satisfied . . . to stop looking over the fence and admiring the green grass of other circumstances and to decide that the way your life is right now is okay with you. It’s an idea that reminds me of something the apostle Paul wrote:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me (Phil. 4:11–13).

Paul knew what it was like to go without, but he also knew a secret: contentment doesn’t come from having everything we want; it comes from looking to Christ for strength.

God may or may not grant your desire to be married just like He may not grant many other desires, even the things you really, really want. As you look at your life, do you take Paul’s approach? Have you learned to be content, even when things don’t go the way that you want them to? Single or married, in love or out, can you say that you are satisfied because your strength, joy, peace, etc. comes from God? That’s the sweet spot, and choosing to be content—even when things don’t go like you want them to—is even more important than simply waiting well.

Lesson #2: The deepest longings of our hearts cannot be filled by any created person or thing.

"This is one of the most liberating truths I have discovered in my own pilgrimage," Nancy writes. "For years, I looked to people and circumstances to make me happy. Time after time, when they failed to come through, I would find myself disgruntled and disappointed."

Do you feel like having a guy will make you happy? Would being married ease the disappointment you feel about your life? Maybe. For a while, but the truth is no person, no matter how great, can meet your deepest longings. That’s God’s job.

That’s the message I want to seek deep into your hearts today, girls. God is enough. He is the answer to:

  • your loneliness.
  • your longing to be loved.
  • your desire to be known.
  • your fears about the future.

I think it’s great to desire marriage. God designed it after all! I want you to wait for God’s timing for romance and to keep your eyes on Him while you wait. But I don’t want you to think of love like a race, where you will someday cross the finish line. Instead, know that married or unmarried unfulfilled longings are part of our citizenship on the planet. There will be things we want that we do not get and the deepest holes in our hearts can only be filled by God.

If you’re waiting for love this Valentine’s Day, let me encourage you to do more than wait well. Instead, be satisfied. Let God be enough for you today, and trust Him with the desires of your heart that have not been met yet.

What do you find most difficult about being content in your current circumstances? Leave us a comment to tell us about it. We’d love to pray with you that God would show you that He is enough.

Worth The Wait

Candy hearts. Chocolate kisses. Red roses. Yep. Tomorrow must be Valentine’s Day. It can be a great day for those who are in love. For those who are not, an entire holiday dedicated to romance can be a little (okay a lot!) discouraging.

I know that many of the readers of this blog are single. You have written to tell us that you are committed to God’s will when it comes to romance. To you I send out a colossal pat on the back. (I’d send you each a bag of chocolate if I could!) I know that waiting isn’t easy, especially when the whole world seems to be celebrating being in love.

That’s why I wanted to tell you Stephanie’s story. Stephanie knows what it’s like to wait for love. She also knows the rewards of waiting well with her eyes on Jesus. If you find yourself waiting this Valentine’s Day, be encouraged by Stephanie. She’d tell you that spending a few Valentine’s Days alone is a small price to pay for letting God write your love story.

Meet Stephanie. She’s my super-talented, super-fun, music-loving friend. She also happens to be thirty-nine years old. Oh, and she’s single. She’s been faithfullyStephanie waiting for God to bring her the right man at the right time for a long time.

Several years ago, Stephanie decided to do something while she waited. She started collecting pennies. I’ve been with Stephanie when she’s seen a penny on a sidewalk. Watch out! Little old ladies and small children best not stand between Stephanie and a penny. That’s because for sixteen years Stephanie has put the pennies she finds in a jar. For more than six years she has saved every single penny she comes across. When she puts a penny in a jar, she prays this prayer:

Jesus, thank You that You are going to bring me the man of my dreams in Your timing. When You do, I will cash in these pennies to buy his wedding band.

Stephanie's penniesThe pennies keep Stephanie’s heart focused on God. Every penny is a reminder that God is good . . . He is faithful . . .He can be trusted. The pennies have become a reminder to trust, to wait patiently, and put her hope in God.

Stephanie isn’t the only one who needs this reminder. As people heard about Stephanie’s penny collection, they remembered that they are also called to put their hope in God and to wait patiently for His plan to unfold. They started sending her pennies as a thank-you. She has pennies in her penny jar from all over the world.

Stephanie has waited a long time. She’s collected a lot of pennies—over 20,000 to be exact.

Then one day last year, Stephanie met Eloy. (Eloy happens to be a super-talented, super-fun, music-loving guy!)
Stephanie and Eloy

I happened to be in the room for that electric introduction. Sparks flew, but they were tempered by two hearts that had learned long ago to let God call the shots. After that day, Stephanie and Eloy prayerfully moved forward. They sought wise guidance from others who committed to pray. They looked to God for direction every step of the way.

God’s direction led to a diamond ring.

Next month, Stephanie will walk down the aisle to the groom she has waited so long for. Her promise will change from agreeing to faithfully wait on God’s timing to agreeing to faithfully be the wife God has called her to be. She will still need to put her hope in God. She will still need to keep her eyes on Him. And He will prove that He is still faithful, every step of the way.

Stephanie's engagementWhat happens to the pennies? Well, Stephanie has officially cashed them in to buy Eloy’s wedding ring. On the inside she had these words inscribed, "Ur Worth Every Penny!"

I don’t know how many Valentine’s Days you will spend without a valentine, but I do know this: God is faithful. He can be trusted. His plan is what’s best for you. This year, instead of pining for love or pushing for romance, let me encourage you to start a penny collection of your own. Grab a jar. Toss in some pennies, and offer this prayer.

Jesus, I want You to be in charge of my love life. If it’s Your will, please bring me a man who loves You in Your timing. While I wait, I want You to know that You are my treasure.

An Open Letter To Lance Armstrong

If you haven’t already heard, bicycling superstar Lance Armstrong made shockwaves last month by admitting to “doping” during his long and celebrated athletic career. He’s back in the news this week with the possibility of facing criminal charges for the scandal. Commentators far and wide have analyzed Lance and his confession. As I’ve read the news about his downfall, I’ve done some analyzing myself. If I had ten minutes with Lance Armstrong, this is what I’d say.


We’ve never met. I did rock one of your yellow Livestrong bracelets for a month or two at one point (mostly just because I like yellow), but I must admit I’m not a sports enthusiast, don’t own a bicycle, and can’t tell you how many miles are in the Tour de France.

I guess that makes me a strange candidate to have something to say about your life. I’m sure it seems everyone wants a piece of you these days. Maybe you would prefer if soccer moms in Missouri stayed out of your mess.

But I’ve been thinking of you often, and I want to tell you three important things:

You are loved.

You can be forgiven.

Redemption is possible.

You are loved. Sin has a way of making us feel particularly unlovable. When there’s no denying we’ve messed up, we all feel disappointed in ourselves, ashamed of what we’ve done, and doubtful about our worth. I’ve never had a confession session with Oprah, but I’ve made plenty of big mistakes. I know what it’s like to wear those mistakes like a label and feel like it’s the only thing people see when they look at me. But fortunately, I also know what God’s Word says about my value is true, even when I’ve blown it.

Nothing (not even big mistakes) can separate me from His love. God loves me so much that He sent His son to die in my place.

This can be true for you, Lance. Clearly, you are an achiever. I know you’ve felt the glory that comes with the kind of love that is earned by performing well. But God’s love doesn’t hinge on a race or a gold medal. In fact, God knew you would take trophies you didn’t deserve by hiding things you shouldn’t have done. And still God loves you and offers the incredible gift of forgiveness and redemption.

You can be forgiven. I don’t know why you ’fessed up in front of millions. My guess is the weight of what you’d done started to crush you. Nothing you said to yourself eased your angst. You wanted someone to tell you it was okay and you were forgiven. Been there. Done that.

The public may not forgive you. Your teammates may never let this go. The people you love most may never look you in the eyes and tell you they accept your apology. But Lance Armstrong, you can be forgiven.

First John 1:9 makes this promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I don’t have access to the laundry list of things you’ve done that separate you from a holy God. Frankly, I’ve got the stench of my own rotten heart to deal with. But I know this. If you turn to God and confess your sin, you will be forgiven. God’s Word promises you can be clean.

I suppose there is a catch. You must repent. Repentance isn’t exactly the same as a tell-all TV special. Repentance is between you and God (no studio audience necessary). It means that you own up to your junk and the gulf it has caused between you and Him. The doping, yes, but also all the other stuff that violates God’s perfect standards.

Repentance also requires you to turn in the opposite direction. You’re a runner, you’ll be able to picture this. It’s like you’re running hard in one direction—toward your sin, your pride, and your plan for me-centric living—and then you stop, turn on your heel, and run just as hard in the opposite direction. I’m not saying repentance is easy. It is not. But I am saying that the finish line for repentance is God-given forgiveness. At the end of all of this, that is the only finish line worth crossing.

Redemption is possible. Forgiveness and redemption are like two sides of the same coin. We want to know our dirt has been washed away, and we want to know we can be restored to the positions we held before our fall.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

God’s promise to those who love Him is that He can work all things for our good. That is especially true of the things the world looks at and says, “No good can come of this.” I don’t know if you’ll ever race again. I can’t say what will happen to your bank account, your trophy case, or your public standing. But I do know this: God wants to use every piece of your life. Redemption is His specialty. God can restore more than you ever thought possible through Christ. In fact, He can give you a brand-new identity (2 Cor. 5:17)!

Lance, your story has been a vivid reminder to me lately that God is the only safe place to put my hope. Heroes will fall. Trophies will tarnish. Public opinion will change in an instant, but God loves me. He is willing to forgive me, even when my mistakes are public and painful. He is always working to redeem everything in my life for my good and His glory.

I hope you know the same is true for you. No medal you could win or lose could make Him love you more. He’s the only One offering the kind of forgiveness that will lift the crushing weight on your life. He is able untangle the mess you are in and work it for your good. I hope you will grab onto those truths and hold on for dear life. It really is the only way to live truly strong.



I Want To Be Noticed!

"My heart cries for acceptance, for love."

"My heart cry is to be cherished. I want to be loved, really loved."

"My heart’s longing is for people to love me. Some days I barely feel noticed, let alone loved."

These are among the many brave comments left under a post Paula wrote weeks ago about the heart cry of one little boy. (Read that post here.) I can relate to every single one of you who feels like you will never be loved enough, cherished enough, or noticed often enough. I’ve spent much of my life craving human attention and feeling mostly disappointed.

I don’t know your stories. I don’t know if you really do have anyone who notices you, cherishes you, or loves you. It may be that those needs truly are going unmet by the people in your life. It may also be (and seems more likely) that you are loved deeply, but somehow it just isn’t enough for you.

I’ve seen it before. The stories of several Hollywood superstars come to mind. They have millions of adoring fans. They have people paying to put their smile on magazine covers. They have lots of people telling them how fabulous they are. They are noticed. They are accepted. They are loved, and yet . . . more often than not, they self-destruct. Somehow all the praise in the world just can’t fill them up.

leaky bucketI think I know why. For a visual, let’s think of our need to be noticed, loved, and accepted like an empty bucket. We think, If I was just loved unconditionally by one person, my bucket would be full, or If more people just noticed me, my bucket would be full, or If someone just truly cherished me, that would fill my bucket up. But we find ourselves disappointed and our buckets empty over and over again.

Here’s why:

"For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer. 2:13, emphasis added).

To understand that "fountain of living waters" business, we have to skip ahead in the Bible to Jesus’ earthly ministry. In John 4:1–26 we find the story of a woman who really wanted to be noticed. The Bible tells us she jumped from romantic relationship to romantic relationship hoping to satisfy her deepest longings. Been there? Done that? But sadly, she found that looking to guys to scratch her itch to be loved was like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Jesus looked at her leaky bucket and offered her "living water." His point was that only God could truly satisfy the longings of her heart. Looking to Him to meet our deepest needs is the only way to quench our insatiable thirst for more. More love . . . more attention . . . more compliments . . . more significance.

Think back to that passage from Jeremiah. God is comparing two realities here.

The people of Jeremiah’s day had stopped looking to God for their satisfaction. I don’t know who or what they were hoping would make them feel okay, but it doesn’t matter. The result was like pouring water into a leaky bucket. It just didn’t work.

You see the answer isn’t to be noticed more often, loved by more people, or cherished more deeply. The answer is to know that God has already noticed you. In fact, He studies you. (Matthew 10:30 says He knows the very number of hairs on your head.) He loves you so much He sent His Son to die for you (John 3:16). He cherishes you like a father cherishes His own daughter (Rom. 8:15).

The trick is to let that be enough—to let the truth about who you are to the God of the universe fill your bucket instead of constantly looking to the people in your world to make you feel noticed.

It’s not an easy switch to make. Praise from people seems so tangible sometimes compared to the affirmation we find in God’s Word, but ultimately it is just like pouring water into a leaky bucket. It never lifts our spirits for long.

How about you? Have you been pouring water into a leaky bucket? Looking to the people around you to make you feel loved and important? I hate to go all Dr. Phil on you, but how is that working for you?

If your bucket’s sprung a leak, let me offer you a patch kit. God alone is able to fill you up and answer your heart’s cry. He’s the only one offering "living water" that can take away our thirst for good.

I’d like to ask you to make a choice.

Option #1: Leaky bucket.

Choosing this route means continuing to look to other people to make you feel loved, accepted, and cherished. You should know up front that this route never works for long.

Option #2: Living water.

You make the choice to let God satisfy your craving to be loved. You study what He says about you in His Word, and you choose to believe it even if your feelings tell you otherwise.

Which one will you choose? Leave us a comment below to tell us about it.

Best Of: I’ve Got A Fever And The Only Cure Is . . .

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This blog on spring fever sure got you talking. I know it’s the middle of winter now, but the points made in this post apply in any season.  

Spring fever is a real condition. I know because Wikipedia says so.

It’s that sudden feeling that you might just burst if you don’t get into a relationship. Or a new obsession over a guy who seemed pretty boring in the winter months,He loves me, he loves me not. but now he is all you can think about. Spring fever is a "sickness" that can keep you completely distracted by romance and wandering around in a love-struck daze.

No one knows what it is about spring that gets us all revved up for love, but I know that for a girl committed to God’s plan for her love life a sudden burst of romantic feelings can be painfully tough to deal with. So here is your spring survival kit—a few doses of God’s Word to temper your heart as you wait for love in the right season.

Temptation is not a sin.
Just because you are tempted to be with a boy you shouldn’t, enter a relationship too soon, or let your thoughts jump down the rabbit hole of romance doesn’t mean you are in sin. Jesus Himself was tempted and yet remained sinless.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

There will be seasons when your heart pulls toward love outside of God’s will and timing. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that purity is impossible. It just means you have to persevere in your commitment to wait. Temptations are a reminder to pray for strength, to study God’s Word, and to surround yourself with wise, supportive Christian friends and mentors.

Waiting is possible.
First Corinthians 10:13 gives us a promise we can hold on to: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

When it comes to pure romance, waiting is possible. Your feelings may say otherwise. There may be moments this spring (or next spring or the next . . .) that you feel like you just might keel over from the angst of waiting. But take heart! God has promised you can endure the pain of waiting. Look for the way out.

Be God crazy.
Being God crazy is the only cure for being boy crazy in any season.

Psalm 37:4 urges, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Find ways to find your delight in Jesus in this season. Seek Him more through prayer and Bible study. Spend more time with Christian friends. Go outside and thank Him for the beauty of His creation. Grab a new worship CD and worship Him instead of thinking about the boy who makes your pulse race.

Best Of: Being The Girl That No One Wanted

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the “best of” the blog all month. This vlog was part of our series from The Jesus Storybook Bible. With more than 100 comments and over 1,000 YouTube views, clearly many of you know what it’s like to feel like the girl that no one wants.





Best Of: I've Never Been Exposed To Satanic Activities

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This blog on exposure to evil was one of our most popular posts ever. It was originally posted around Halloween, but even after that holiday has come and gone, clearly many of you are wondering if you’ve ever been exposed to satanic activities.  

Where I live, there are skeletons hanging in the grocery store, zombies at Walmart, and lots of opportunities to attend events and movies that are dark and scary. I bet the same is true in your neck of the woods.

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movie theater turns up the same scary results. Invitations to attend these movies or watch scary movies at home may well be coming your way along with opportunities to go to haunted houses ripe with depictions of the "un-dead" (think zombies, ghosts, and mummies).

I posted a "Lies guide to Halloween" with my thoughts on how to best navigate this spooky holiday, but long before the trick or treating begins it is important to consider what God’s Word says about dabbling (that doesn’t necessarily mean participating!) in things like witchcraft, sorcery, and the occult.

Deuteronomy 18:10–12 says, "There shall not be found among you … anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD."

Leviticus 20:6 says, "If a person turns to mediums or necromancers … I will set my face against that person."

Let me translate. Divination is telling the future (fortunetelling). Sorcerers communicate with evil spirits. Necromancers seek to communicate with the dead for the purposes of magic.

I know that sounds like some pretty trippy stuff. The reasons to stay clear are many, which is why the Bible warns so strongly against it. But it is important to be aware that these things might not show up as overtly as you might think.

Almost all of the girls I interviewed for Lies Young Women Believe told me that they had never been exposed to satanic activities, and yet a study of girls who were actively involved in their youth groups found that in the previous three months:

  • 72 percent of young women had looked at or read their horoscopes.
  • 28 percent had their palm read.
  • 42 percent had participated in psychic-related activities.
  • 82 percent had watched supernatural and spiritual themes in movies or on TV.

I imagine that these numbers likely represent many of you, meaning that you have been exposed to satanic activities, maybe in the past few weeks, and you don’t even know it.

That’s why the lie, I’ve Never Been Exposed to Satanic Activities made the list of the top twenty-five lies addressed in Lies Young Women Believe.

Nancy and Dannah wrote about it this way:

It’s easy to become comfortable with evil when we are exposed to it casually or repeatedly. And while casual exposure alone may not destroy your faith and values, you need to be aware that exposure plus a lack of awareness of what you’re exposed to can be dangerous…. Be aware of what you are getting close to and what God says about it (Lies Young Women Believe, 64).

If there is one month out of the year when you are most likely to experience casual and repeated exposure to satanic activities, it’s this month. In response, put things like divination or sorcery on your list of things to stay clear of.

What can you do to guard your mind against casual or repeated exposure to evil this month (and all year long)?

Best Of: To Those Wrestling With Lesbianism

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This blog on homosexuality was one of our most popular posts ever. It received 90 comments. If you’ve struggled in this area, this post is for you.

sad girlI love it when you ask tough questions. Digging into God’s Word to find answers about the complex issues you are thinking about and dealing with is one of the best perks of my job. That’s why this week I want to tackle an issue that many of you have written to us about—homosexuality.

Here’s a quick look at some of the comments you’ve sent us on this subject.

I’m a lesbian. I’ve known I like girls since I was four. I believe in the power of Christ and accept Him into my heart, but I also believe that the love between two women is in no way inferior to the love between a man and a woman. I know the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, but I pray that Jesus will love and accept me as I am. I have never liked guys, and I’m not going to live my entire life pretending I do to please Jesus, though I love Him. Just wanted to share a different perspective.

Just as the color of your hair or skin, your sexual preference is decided by your GENETICS. People who identify as being gay or homosexual do not have a choice in who they love. It is unfair to try and force a person out of a trait they cannot change. Imagine for a moment why, for any reason, you have the right to judge another person for the way that they LOVE another person. Homosexuality does not harm any aspect of this world, economy, or marriage. These are real living people who are as dedicated to each other as the oldest couples you know. Please stop spreading the prejudice toward individuals who identify as homosexual. Please don’t let your personal opinions choke another’s right to live and experience.

What exactly does the Bible say about homosexuality? I know it says stuff against it in the Old Testament, and I don’t believe it’s right, but I was wondering which specific verses talk about it.

Before we go much deeper, we need to establish this baseline—God sees homosexuality as sinful. His point of view on this issue is stated clearly in His Word. In fact, I dedicated an entire post to this subject several months ago. You can read that post here, but here are some key verses to keep in mind.

Leviticus 18:22 says, "‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.’"

Leviticus 20:13 says, "‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’"

First Corinthians 6:9–10 says, "Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

Since God’s Word is so clear on this subject, why has the issue become so cloudy in the minds of so many? I think the first two readers I quoted hit on a key area of confusion—the common belief that homosexuals are born gay. You might be shocked to hear that the Bible actually agrees, but not on the terms that the world gives. You see we are all born with a bent toward sin.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Ps. 51:5).

In Romans 7:18, Paul said, "For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."

We are all born with a desire, a tendency, and a capacity to sin. For some the tendency is to abuse substances or to have angry outbursts or to act promiscuously in heterosexual relationships. For others, possibly as a result of family history, environment, and poor choices, the tendency might be to gravitate toward homosexuality. But just because it feels natural doesn’t mean it isn’t sin or even that it is in our best interest. Sin is our nature, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it always wreaks havoc in our lives. 

So to you, sweet girls, who are struggling with an inclination toward lesbianism, let me offer you this hope. Jesus came to break the power of your sin nature in your life. 

In Romans 7:25 we read, "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

You may have always had homosexual feelings, so much so that if feels like you were created a homosexual. But that’s not what God’s Word says. The Bible acknowledges that yes, you were born sinful, but you were also created as a child of God, redeemable by His sacrifice on the cross. God asks you to throw off your sin and run the race of life for His glory (Heb. 12:1). 

I know this is a complex topic, so let’s keep talking about it. And let us work together to satisfy our natural inclination to sin less and to honor our powerful God more. In what other areas of your life do you naturally gravitate toward sin? What verses do you rely on to remind you of God’s truth in this area?

Best Of: What If I've Blown It?

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This post on sin was one of our most popular posts ever. It received over 100 comments. If you’ve sinned (we all have!), we hope you will be encouraged with these truths from God’s Word.

upset young womanIn response to our posts on love and romance, many of you have written to us to tell us that you’ve messed up in the area of purity. When it comes to being physically and emotionally pure, clearly many of you feel like you’ve blown it. You’ve shared with us that the end result of bad choices has been disappointment, pain, and heartbreak.

I know for sure that one way the enemy seeks to take young women out is to trick them into making compromises in their romantic relationships. He tells a million lies like "purity isn’t possible," "it’s okay if you love him," and "everyone else is doing it" to get young women to forfeit emotional or physical purity. The end result is devastating.

I wish that none of you had to wrestle with the pain caused by messing up in the area of romance, but since so many of you have bravely shared that you’ve made mistakes, I wanted to write a post to give you hope.

I’ve talked to many young women who mistakenly believe that once they’ve compromised, they cannot stop or turn back. Having already lost their virginity or given away their hearts, they see no way to get it back, so they decide it’s too late for them and keep making things worse by perpetuating their sinful behavior.

If that describes you, I want you to know that it is absolutely not too late for you. If you’ve sinned sexually, it’s true that you can never become a physical virgin again. If you’ve failed to protect your heart, you cannot undo the pain that’s resulted. But that’s water under the bridge. God can wipe the slate clean.

It is not too late to turn and go in a different direction. God has made a way for you to experience His love and forgiveness and to turn away from your past sin and patterns of behavior.

To do so requires you to take specific action.

1. Acknowledge your sin.

Don’t say "I blew it" or "I made a mistake." Don’t come up with excuses. Call your sexual or emotional activity what it is—sin. This step is called repentance. Repentance begins with agreeing with God that sin is sin with no rationalizations or intent to commit it again.

2. Confess it.

In 1 John 1:9 we read, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

3. Accept Christ’s forgiveness.

For many young women this is the most difficult step. In 1 John 1:9, God promises that He will forgive us of our sin and wipe the slate clean. But young women who have stepped outside of God’s boundaries for relationships often feel cheap, used, and unworthy of God’s love, and so they continue to sin. If you’ve fallen into this kind of thinking, the reality is that you have given up on God’s forgiveness. When you refuse to forgive yourself and to approach the throne of God to seek His forgiveness, you are saying that God is a liar and that Christ’s sacrifice is not enough. When you consider yourself beyond forgiveness, you are saying that God is not all-powerful and that He is unable to cope with the magnitude of what you’ve done.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

God’s love for you and His forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross is far greater than anything in your past, present, or future. The basis for your forgiveness is not the level of your sin or even your feelings about what you’ve done. The basis for forgiveness is Christ’s death on the cross.

God in eternity past knew we would sin. So He provided for His Son, Jesus Christ, to take on human flesh and to go to the cross. Jesus had the infinite capacity to take all our sins upon Himself and pay the price. He went to the cross and said, "It is finished," meaning everything that was necessary for you to be forgiven had been done.

Colossians 2:13–14 says, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

When you accept Christ’s forgiveness for your sin, you agree that God’s grace—evident in Christ’s death on the cross—is sufficient payment for your sin.

You can make a choice that today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can step off the path of sexual or emotional sin and accept Christ’s forgiveness for your sin. But you can’t stop there.

Matthew 3:8 says, "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Fully embracing God’s forgiveness means making choices to keep you from falling back into the same trap. Bearing the fruit of your repentance means making choices to keep you from returning to sin. Just as sin is a choice, a renewed commitment to God’s standards is a choice—one that often takes hard work.

What’s holding you back from accepting Christ’s forgiveness and choosing a different path in your romantic relationships? What choices do you need to make to keep you from returning to sin?

Best Of: Looking For "The One"

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This post on finding "the one" got you talking. With 116 comments, clearly many of you are wondering if "the one" is out there. Here is my two cents on the subject.

bride and groomIt’s the stuff fairy tales are made of. One guy. One girl. Destined to be together forever as husband and wife. They are made for each other, and they fit together like two pieces of the same puzzle. They spend their whole lives looking for each other, and when they meet they "just know" that they’ve found "the one." 


The idea that there is one person out there for us is certainly a romantic one. But to be honest, I’m not sure it’s biblical. I’ve been looking, and I can’t find any evidence in Scripture that God creates one specific person to be our mate. I know that this has the potential to burst a lot of bubbles, but I still think it’s a subject worth tackling (I’ll get to why in a minute). 

There are lots of great romances in the Bible. Let’s start with Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2 we read that Eve was created to be a helper to Adam. There wasn’t much risk that these two wouldn’t match up since they were the only people in creation. I’m not sure God’s plan for who we are to marry outside of the Garden is so specific. 

Abraham and Sarah were happily married, but we don’t learn anything about their story until Abraham was seventy-five years old. There’s no evidence that God instructed Abraham to marry Sarah because she was "the one" (Gen. 12). 

Jacob loved Rachel, but he met her because he stole his brother’s blessing and was forced to flee his home (Gen. 27–28). Ruth married Boaz, but it was only after her first husband died. I can’t think of any examples where Scripture seems to indicate that God chose who an individual fell in love with and married. 

The Bible does indicate that God knows who we will marry simply because He is omniscient. First John 3:20 tells us that God knows everything. Psalm 147:5 says that His understanding has no limit. But knowing who we will marry and choosing who we will marry are two different things.

I realize it may seem like I am splitting hairs here, but there is a reason why I think it’s worth making the distinction. Thinking that God has created someone just for you (and you for him) sets you up for disappointment. Through His Word, God does command us to marry a believer (2 Cor. 6:14) and several passages give us helpful guidelines for what qualities to look for in a potential mate (1 Cor. 13:4–7, Titus 1:5–9). But if you’re looking for a perfect match, you won’t find him. If you head into marriage thinking that you were made for each other and will fit together perfectly, you may find yourself disillusioned when trials come and your relationship is strained. We know from Scripture that God designed marriage and He created men and women to complement each other, but it isn’t perfect. You will never find "the one" who "completes you" like a missing puzzle piece. 

Well . . . I guess that isn’t exactly true.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:4–8). 

Now that’s romantic. 

Too Embarrassed to Ask for Prayer?

Here’s another of our favorite posts from the last five years—originally featured on March 3, 2011—on removing masks and the power of prayer.

Let us know how we can pray for you below, and we’ll choose one of you at random on Friday, January 18, to receive What Happens When Women Pray by Evelyn Christenson. (More importantly, though, will you take off your mask with someone in your local church body?)

Last week was particularly tough at the Davis household. I was working on a really tight writing deadline. There was no room in my schedule for unplanned interruptions. Apparently, the nasty staff infection that invaded my husband’s hand didn’t get the memo.

On Monday, I got a call from my husband that a wound we dismissed as a bug bite was actually an infection caused by a strand of staff that does not respond well to medicine. The doctors were considering admitting him. They were almost certain he would permanently lose the use of his hand. I wanted to pray but I couldn’t get words past the lump in my throat. I feared for the well-being of my man, I had to care for my two small children, and I was anxious about meeting my deadline.

At that moment, a friend called and I broke down. She prayed with me and asked if she could recruit others to pray. I didn’t want to sound rude, so I said okay. She kept her word. Within a few hours tons of people were praying for our family. They called and texted with encouraging Scripture or by simply saying “we’re praying.”

Here’s the funny thing. All of that prayer didn’t make me feel better. At least not at first. The emotion that I felt the strongest that afternoon was embarrassment. I didn’t like everyone knowing that things weren’t perfect behind our front door. I didn’t like the feeling that I couldn’t pray myself out of this mess all on my own. Most of all, I didn’t like the harsh reality that I couldn’t keep all the plates spinning.

The Lord tenderly dealt with my heart that day. He reminded me that He created the church to be a support network, and He called my reluctance to ask for prayer what it really was—pride.

As I gave my husband his pain medicine, tucked him in to bed, and sat down to eat the dinner that some praying friends were sweet enough to drop by, I thought about the pride of not sharing how people can pray for me. When people ask, I rarely have a reply or I go for something safe and surface like “my kids have a cold.” I rarely go deep and open up about the areas of my life where I really need God’s power to create change. I’m realizing that if I want to see the power of prayer in my own life and in the lives of others, I need to get real about the broken places where I need God to work. That means admitting areas where I am weak and cannot do it on my own.

James 5:13-16 says,

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

This verse tells us to call the leaders of our churches when we’re sick, to confess sins to each other, and to pray for each other. Why? So that we can be healed.

Ladies, I am learning that part of why God has placed me in a church family is so that I have prayer support when I need it most. But in order for it to work that way, I have to take off my mask of perfection and say, “I am struggling. Will you pray for me?” If I keep offering up only trivial prayer requests, I cannot tap into the true power of prayer.

I can attest that the last part of that verse is certainly true. The more people that prayed, the more we saw an improvement in my husband’s health. Last Friday, he was released from treatment with full use of his hand. Doctors marveled at the change as they saw his infection healing and his hope remaining steadfast. When people asked him what made the difference, he was quick to point to all the prayers. Also, in what can only be described as a “loaves and fishes experience,” God multiplied my time and energy and I made my writing deadline. I know that if I had refused to ask those around me to pray, this story would have a much different ending.

How about you? Are you willing to get real about areas where you need others to pray for you? Or will you just stick to the surface stuff? Is there an area of need in your life that you think you could never share with anyone? I encourage you to find a praying friend, take off your mask of perfection, and ask for help.

Best Of: Have You Been Hurt By A Leaving Youth Pastor?

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This post on leaving youth pastors sure got you talking. With 98 comments, it’s clear that many of you have felt the sting of a leaving youth pastor.

As part of the research phase for Lies Young Women Believe, I surveyed approximately 1,000 young women from across the country. I interviewed many of those man walking awayyoung women in small groups over coffee in living rooms just like yours and mine. During those interviews, one issue consistently evoked more emotion (specifically tears!) than any other issue. Any guess what it was?

Leaving youth pastors.

We talked about dating. We talked about daddies. We talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly of female friendships. We even got into a heated debate or two about cultural issues, but nothing evoked a more emotional response than the topic of youth pastors who leave.

As a youth worker myself, I was a little floored by this discovery. But the sixteen-year-old version of me wouldn’t be. When I was sixteen, my youth pastor left my church to become a church planter in a different state. I was devastated. I cried for months. More than ten years later that incident remains one of the most painful things that has ever happened to me.

Satan used that pain as an open door to lie to me about my faith and myself. Our focus groups confirmed that he has done the same for many of you. Letting those lies go unchecked can wreak havoc on your spiritual life. As we talk about the church this month, I feel compelled to tell you what I wish I had known as a student facing the pain caused by a leaving youth pastor. More importantly, as I think about the tears you may have shed or the ones you may shed in the future when your spiritual advisor leaves, I desperately want you to understand God’s truth.

Your youth pastor is not your connection to God.

Nancy and Dannah address this very lie in Lies Young Women Believe:

Your youth pastors and leaders are important spiritual leaders in your life, but we have access to God through Christ and Christ alone. Bible scholars call this "the priesthood of believers" (see 1 Pet. 2:9). In Old Testament times, God appointed certain men as priests. They led the people of Israel in worship and offered prayers and sacrifices on behalf of God’s people. Today, Christ is our High Priest. By His death on the cross, He made a complete sacrifice for our sin and invites us to come directly into God’s presence through our relationship with Him. "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:5–6).

It’s great to have an awesome youth pastor (or youth pastor’s wife or volunteer youth leader) who challenges you in your walk with Christ. But it is so important for you to realize that that person is not your connection to God. Jesus alone serves that function. Don’t let a leaving youth pastor sever your connection to God.

A leaving youth pastor provides an opportunity to draw closer to God.

Sometimes due to moral failure or strife in our churches, our youth pastors leave under extremely painful circumstances. Other times we simply lose the opportunity to regularly see someone we dearly love and want to spend time with. The resulting emotion is often a broken heart. God has a specific promise for us when our hearts are broken.

Psalm 34:18 promises, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

God presses in to us when our hearts are broken. He doesn’t run from our pain; He runs toward us in the midst of it. If you are facing a leaving youth pastor, take the opportunity to draw closer to God. Press into His Word with new fervor. Use the time you are accustomed to spending learning from your youth pastor to seek God yourself through prayer and Bible study. Intercede for your youth pastor and his family as well as for your church and youth group during the transition.

Seize the opportunity to step up to the plate.

A leaving youth pastor inevitably leaves a void. But ministry must go on. Ask yourself what you can do to keep the wheels of your youth ministry turning until a new youth pastor is found. Can you head up the praise team? Can you be in charge of loading worship lyrics into the computer for weekly worship? Can you lead a group of other students to welcome visitors? Can you volunteer to teach the lesson a time or two or to find others who are willing to teach? There is probably a long list of responsibilities that were typically handled by your youth pastor. Those things still need to be done. Don’t sulk about the way things are; take the opportunity to minister to others and cast a new vision for your group.

Don’t take your ball and go home.

Many of the young women I spoke to explained that because of a leaving youth pastor, they left their youth groups or the church altogether. This is a clear example of why Satan takes advantage of situations where a youth pastor leaves by lying to us. Reacting to your hurt over a leaving youth pastor by dropping out of your church or youth group is simply the wrong decision.

Dannah writes about this very truth in LYWB:

Having been through this experience, I understand your hurt! Still, you can’t blame anyone for the choices you make about church. We are each accountable for our own actions and reactions. You can’t blame your youth pastor for any choice you may make to disconnect from the Body of Christ.

God’s family works best together. You need them, and they need you. No matter how many bad experiences you may have in church-and we know you will have them because Satan hates the church and is always attacking-the best place for you to grow, serve, and be discipled is in a local church body (Lies Young Women Believe, 122).

When we face pain like that caused by a leaving youth pastor, sometimes truth can be difficult to hear. I imagine that if someone had sent me the above list of truths when my youth pastor left, I would have been tempted to try to ignore it like a kid sticking his fingers in his ears. My pain in that season felt very real, and as a result I felt justified in acting out in lots of ways that hurt my faith and hurt others. I hope you will choose to respond differently. If you’re facing a leaving youth pastor, I challenge you to mediate on God’s truth, respond by trusting Him and loving His church, and be thankful that you’ll never have to face a leaving Jesus. 

Beware the Husband Basher

"Beware the Husband Basher" was originally posted on July 28, 2010. It made our "Best of the last five years cut" because there’s no arguing with 1,100 Facebook likes and 193 shares! This post is applicable to women of all ages and stages of life—it’s really about the power of our words. Speaking of our words, we’d like to give one of you Conversation Peace by Mary Kassian. Leave a comment below telling us how you would have—or have—handled a husband or friend basher. Do so by Monday, January 7, and we’ll choose a winner at random.

Oh, and if you are married and are looking for a way to build up your marriage rather than tearing it down, check out Jani Ortlund’s short post, "The Six-Second Kiss." You’ll be amazed at what just six seconds can do!


I had a rare morning out with a friend last week. We sipped yummy coffee and enjoyed quiet conversation. As a mom of two little kids, outings like this are a rare treat. I couldn’t have done it without my hubby who watched the kids while I was gone (he even did the laundry and dishes!). He’s wonderful.

Even so, when I got home, I was cranky. I griped at my husband and pointed out the jobs he didn’t accomplish in my absence. I wouldn’t have fed the kids that. I definitely wouldn’t have dressed them in those clothes!

As I heard the shrill sound of my own voice, I wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I acting this way? Then I remembered some of the turns my conversation had taken during my morning getaway.

My friend said things like:

  • “I told him it’s my decision. He may not like it, but I have the final say.”
  • “My husband’s been working a lot of overtime. I’m so aggravated. He never sees the kids.”
  • “He mowed over my flowers again. I don’t know how many times I have to show him the difference between a flower and a weed.”

Harmless comments, right? After all, don’t two girlfriends deserve the right to vent? I no longer think so.

My coffee loving friend is a committed Christian. I happen to know she adores her husband of more than a decade. But she’s forgotten the power of her words when it comes to her husband. I can say from experience that her memory loss is contagious.

She’s not my first friend to speak poorly of her husband. I’ve hung out with men bashers before. It always amazes me how easily I slip into a pattern of negativity and criticism when I have frequent contact with such women. It is a habit that doesn’t make much sense to me. I’m crazy about my husband. There are so many reasons to brag on him and so few reasons to complain. And yet, when I spend time with a husband hater, it doesn’t take long for the bashing to begin at my house. Even worse, I’ve noticed that my heart tends to follow my words (and vice versa). The more I talk negatively, the less I admire, love, and respect my man.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. There’s so no such thing as harmless conversation. I think that’s why Paul wrote:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

Ladies, this passage is especially helpful when we apply it to how we talk about the men in our lives. In public and in private we need to be committed to esteeming them highly and speaking words that build up instead of tearing down.

So what about my husband bashing friend? Do I ditch her? Call her out? Cut off the coffee dates until her words sound more like a Hallmark card? I don’t think so. Instead I will look for every opportunity to speak highly of my man when she’s around. If the conversation goes south, I’ll make an extra effort to steer it in a different direction. I may even bring along a friend who has a history of speaking well of men to our next java stop.

The bottom line is that my friend’s mouth is not my responsibility. It’s my job to love my husband well and to speak highly of others at every opportunity. I want to encourage you to do the same. How can you specifically praise the men in your life today?


I married my husband, Jason, because he was a youth pastor and I had a burning passion for ministry–and because Jason was so handsome and I had a burning passion for him. I wanted to do BIG things for God’s Kingdom and I had visions of the two of us conquering the world in Jesus…

Meet the Parents

We all watched in horror when Ben Stiller’s desire to impress led to a hilarious dinnertime prayer and awkward bragging about his ability to milk the cat in Meet the Parents. However, the real reason that movie made us laugh so hard is because we can relate. Misery truly does love company. Grafting into a…

When Wives Become Mothers (What Do Their Men Really Think?)

By Erin Davis

First, no … that is not a maternity shirt. It looked so much more flattering in my closet. (Darn you, squishy tummy!).

Second, yes … I have heard of those things called hairbrushes. We filmed this on Father’s Day which I opted to spend fishing off a lake dock. (I’d like to thank the Academy for the wife of the year nomination).

In real life I am 5’6″-ish. My man is 6’2″-fabulous. But in this video I look like a giant and he looks shrimpy. Needless to say, I realize this isn’t my most video worthy look. And yet, look at that handsome man beside me! And he’s smart too! He has some great insights on a husband’s perspective on what it’s like when your wife becomes a mommy along with some great tips on how we can love our men well during the little years.

So … I am scrapping my vanity, and sending this video out into the blogosphere with my head held high in all of my chartreuse glory, in the hopes that it will benefit another mother out there as she walks the tightrope of being a wife and am mom.

Join the conversation with Jason and I about how parenting impacts and changes our marriages by leaving a comment right here on this post. Unflattering top and post-fishing hair is, of course, always optional.

This Father’s Day Give Him the Gift of Being Enough

My man and my firstborn

I have a great husband. He loves being a dad and is very involved in our boys’ lives. He changes diapers, participates in discipline and picks up from preschool.

My man and my firstborn

And yet…I can never seem to shake the feeling that I wish he would do more.

Ever since I got pregnant with my first, Eli, it has seemed to me that the burden of parenting has landed more squarely on my shoulders than it does on my man’s. He can never be home enough, involved enough, or concerned enough for my taste. At my worst moments I feel (and sometimes say) that I have to do everything in our home. I reduce his role to being nothing more than our kid’s pal who comes home and wrestles them while they squeal with delight. I just have a hard time seeing what he does for our family and acknowledging that is contributions matter.

We mothers make the best of all martyrs.

Misery truly does love company. I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with discontentment in this way. Many of my mom friends have expressed frustration that their husbands work too much, move too slowly or engage too little. Before your mind starts writing a list of all the things your husband does wrong, might I propose a radical solution? Let him off the hook.

Oh, I do understand that he doesn’t do things your way. Yes, I’ve seen first hand what happens when dads are left to dress their children unsupervised. And I am well aware of what they think qualifies for a nutritious dinner. (Please pass the cheese puffs). But think hard about this predicament with me for a moment. Do we really want husbands who parent just like us? I know that you have mothering instincts and that no one knows your children quite like you do, but is having two identical parents really what’s best for your little ones? I’m thinking that God’s plan to create children through the combination of a woman and a man was not a floop. Perhaps the ways your husband parents differently from you actually have the power to benefit your children. (Feel free to read that sentence again to let it sink in).

The Mommy Wars shined a white-hot spotlight on the fact that our culture esteems a version of motherhood that is impossible and unattainable (to wave your white flag in surrender to that ideal click here). But no one cares to mention the Daddy Wars. A good dad needs to work at least one full-time job to be a good provider, spend quality time with each of his children while perpetually wooing their mother, be the spiritual leader of the family, be the emotional leader of the family, be the moral leader of the family…coach sports teams, lead family devotions, be involved in his church, never loose his cool, help with housework, manage lawncare, keep the oil changed, be the kind of man his daughters should marry and his sons should emulate and for heavens sakes he darn well better remember to take the trash out.

I’m not saying that any of these qualities are unimportant, but girls, lets acknowledge that even we could not keep all of these plates spinning perfectly (and we are Wonder women!).

For Father’s Day, I’d like to suggest that you give your man the gift of lowered expectations. We tend to frown on lowering expectations in our culture. It is seen as settling or a step in the wrong direction. I’m not advocating that you shoulder 100% of the parenting burden, but rather that you make a conscious decision to admire the partner you have rather than wishing for someone who does things differently.

Parenting together is a constant process of negotiating and re-negotiating boundaries and responsibilities. What’s more you are learning on the job. (I call Eli my petri dish child, because he is one whopper of an experiment!) Your hubby should give you grace as you make mistakes, ride the rollercoaster ride of hormones (whee!), and do all that you do the best you can.

Doesn’t he deserve the same measure of grace from you? (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes!)

So, skip the tie this year. I doubt he even wants that really cool fishing tackle thingy you got him. Instead, make the choice to see the things he’s doing right as a dad instead of fixating on all the ways you wish he would be more. That might sound a little something like this, “Honey, you are a great dad. I am so glad we are parenting together. Our family is lucky to have you.”

In light of those kind words, I’d like to make a little prediction. The more you acknowledge the things your husband does right, the more likely he is to keep doing them. The more you focus on the ways he’s a great dad, the less likely you are to see the areas where he misses the mark. The result is a dance where you each do your best and become each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Sounds nice doesn’t it? But here’s the rub—it requires you to stop falling on your sword and fixating on the feeling that it’s all on you. It also requires you to do the hard work of parenting because it matters and it’s ministry and not to earn words of affirmation, positive strokes or atta girls from others (including your husband). It’s not an easy shift to make but it will make life easier on you, your husband and your kids. And that, my friend sounds like a winning ticket for a truly happy Father’s Day.

p.s. Since nothin’ says lovin’ like free stuff, I’ll gladly ship a free copy of “Choosing Gratitude” to two of you who will leave us a comment sharing what makes your husband a great dad.

p.p.s To see an interview with the aforementioned great dad and husband in my life, hop back on the blog on Wednesday where I will be interviewing him about what its like when your wife becomes a mommy.

Beware the Husband Hater

I had a rare morning out with a friend last week. We sipped yummy coffee and enjoyed quiet conversation. As a mom of two little kids, outings like this are a treat. I couldn’t have done it without my hubby who watched the kids while I was gone (he even managed to do the laundry…

Saying “I Do” to Your Mate’s Stuff

“Do you (insert bride’s name here) take this man along with his 47 t-shirts, his pocket knife collection, and that ugly, ratty football jersey he got from the quarterback of his favorite team?” “Yeah. I think so.” “And do you (insert groom’s name here) take this woman along with her flowery bedspread, gajillion throw pillows…

Diversifying Your Social Network

“Birds of a feather flock together,” is a kitschy way of saying we tend to hang out with people a lot like ourselves. If you’re an engaged couple that likely means you’re used to spending time with folks on a fairly limited spectrum. My guess is that the bulk of your free time is spent…

The Question You Need To Be Asking About Kids

So…when are you going to start having kids?” It’s a question you’d better get used to as most couples find that well-meaning friends, co-workers and distant relatives start asking it almost immediately after hearing the words, “I do.” But before you get to the “when” of having kids, you need to tackle the “if.” And…