Monday, August 25, 2014

Why I Started Covering My Head

Although I have been attending church my entire life, I can't remember hearing a single sermon that taught on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. A pastor or speaker may have skimmed over the passage occasionally, but it certainly isn't a subject that is frequently discussed. What am I talking about?

Head coverings.

In spite of the absence of teachings, I always knew how most women felt about the issue of head coverings. On the rare occasion that the subject was broached, no matter how briefly, Paul's instruction to the Corinthian women was almost always disregarded as irrelevant for today. It was seen as a cultural practice that today's Christian women were not bound to, and if an argument was made against that perspective, then a few words were said about being "free in Christ," and no longer "slaves to the law," at which point the subject would be firmly closed. A few people believed that a woman's hair was enough of a covering, since it is called "a covering" in verse 15.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that even as a child, the idea of covering my head in some way appealed to me. One reason may have been because I am a "doer." I love doing "what's right," and being obedient to rules. I liked being told what to do and how to do it because it gave me a clear sense of direction, and I knew exactly what was expected of me. A similar reason could be that I have always struggled with legalism. Though I knew there was nothing I could do to earn my salvation, that it was a free gift from God, that knowledge didn't stop me from feeling like I had to repay a debt (which would be impossible, anyway). This is still something I struggle with today. Whatever the reasons were, I was attracted to this display of submission and wished that I could cover my head. Fear prevented me from doing this, however; fear that my parents wouldn't allow it out of embarrassment, fear that family members and friends would ridicule me, and fear that other people would shun me because I was weird.

When I hit the teen years, I gave very frequent and serious thought to covering my head (and becoming a nun, and adopting a mennonite lifestyle, but that's irrelevant to my story). It seemed like such a sacred and beautiful practice, and whenever I would see a woman wearing a head covering, I was struck by how clearly the glory of Christ shone through her countenance. I wanted people to look at me and see Jesus the way I saw Him in those women. They had such a distinct grace and purity about them, and I wanted to be like that. Unfortunately, the same fears that held me back in middle school held me back in high school as well.

Fast forward to now. My husband and I had discussed head coverings many times since our marriage (to the point that I was sure he was sick of hearing about it), and he graciously listened to me talk about my growing desire to cover my head. His opinion on the matter was different from mine, and although he understood my heart, he wasn't comfortable with the idea of me wearing a traditional head covering. After giving the matter some thought, we decided that it would be appropriate for me to keep my hair long. I had noticed the growing trend in women cutting their hair short, so I suggested that I keep mine long as an outward sign of submission to him and to God. We agreed that my long hair would serve as an adequate covering, and though we both had many unanswered questions, we left it alone for a while.

A few months later, a friend from my previous church married and soon began covering her head. She blogged about her reasons, and documented her progress. Pictures of her different head coverings, and statuses about her experience wearing them appeared often on her Facebook page. All the while, I was watching, reading, and thinking. We even had several conversations about head coverings, and she added me to a group for head covering Christian women. The interest I've had in head coverings over the course of my life sparked inside of me again. Though I had studied the subject for myself many times in the past, I began searching for more answers. Then one day, a few weeks ago, I came across a website called The Head Covering Movement. It turned out to be exactly what I needed, and it answered all of the questions I had. At first, I was hesitant to bring up the subject again with my husband, but an opportunity presented itself one evening, and he was willing to hear what I had discovered. I walked him through the website's dissection of the head covering Scripture, and read aloud several of the articles that answered our questions. From what we learned on the site, it seemed very plain and clear that covering my head was a biblical command, and that my hair did not qualify as a covering in the context of that passage. We talked for over an hour, and made the decision that it was necessary for me to cover my head in some way. The tricky part would be to find a head covering that I felt gave me adequate coverage, yet also made my husband feel comfortable. Anything that looked foreign, elderly, amish, or outdated would not be an option. After searching high and low for a few days, looking at everything from scarves to hats, we both agreed that I would use wide headbands. I found a website that sold a wide variety of head coverings, including wide headbands, and ordered two in different styles. They arrived in the mail last week, and not only do I like them; I plan to order many more when I am able!

This is my 19 week pregnancy photo, in which
I am wearing one of the headbands I purchased.

Now that my long-winded story is finished, here are some of my personal reasons for choosing to cover my head in church:

Why I Started Covering My Head
  1. It paints a clear picture of God's created order, and brings glory to Him. As the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 states, God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. There's a biblical hierarchy - not of importance or purpose, but of authority. When I cover my head, I become a physical representation of this truth, and I am displaying my joyful acceptance of God's created order. It's a small, yet significant way I can bring honor and glory to the Lord.
  2. It brings honor to my husband. Submission is not a popular subject in our feministic culture, and when I cover my head during church, I am showing the rest of the world that I have decided to submit to my husband's authority. 
  3. It's taught in Scripture. I won't get into a debate about biblical interpretation, so if you would like to see what I believe the Bible says about this topic and why, The Head Covering Movement website has a great resource that allows you to study for yourself, and a list of articles that address the common questions (with their answers) that typically arise. Those articles answered all the questions we still had about the subject in general, and the meaning of several verses that were hard to understand.
  4. It makes me aware of my sin. Another thing that I didn't expect was that wearing a head covering would make me so very aware of my sin nature, and even sins that I had not repented of. In ways I can't explain or understand, the headband was a constant reminder that I was covering my hair, which reminded me of why I felt led to cover in the first place, which in turn made me look more closely at my own heart. It's not like the headband is magical or anything, but because I'm always aware of it when I have it on, it's as if it focuses my heart and mind on the church service and the Lord.
  5. It makes me aware of opportunities to love others like Christ. Because I'm always aware of the headband (and what it represents for me), Jesus Christ is at the forefront of my mind. I've found that the more I think about Him, the more I recognize opportunities to show love to others. Whether it's a smile, or compliment, or small-talk about a person's day, little things make a huge difference, and I notice those moments much more since I started covering.
  6. I feel more beautiful, and more myself. This was the most unexpected revelation I had over the last few weeks. When I covered my hair for church, I felt more feminine, graceful, modest, and beautiful than I ever had before (and I've never had issues with my image or self-esteem). You would think that the opposite would be true; that wearing a head covering would make you feel less-attractive, or like your personality was being stifled. I found that who I am deep down seemed more obvious (at least to me) than it was prior to using a covering. I felt like my true self could be seen by the world for the first time. Whether this is reality, or something I've imagined, I don't know. But there's something freeing about feeling like you aren't wearing a mask around other people anymore.
You've probably noticed that I only talk about covering my head in church. At this time, that is all I feel led to do based on my study of 1 Corinthians 11. Whether or not I will start covering my head full-time at some point in the future is not decided right now. It wouldn't surprise me if I did, because I enjoy it so much. For now, however, I am only covering while in a church service. 

- What are your thoughts on head coverings? 
- (Men) What do you think of women who cover their hair?
- (Women) If the command to cover was not a cultural thing, would you cover? Why or why not?
- Do you have any questions for me about my decision to cover? If so, ask away!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Secret Blessing of Unsolicited Advice

One of the things I was - and still am - looking forward to the most about this pregnancy is getting advice from friends, family members, and strangers about how to parent my unborn child. You may think that was meant to be a sarcastic sentence, but I assure you that it wasn't. I really do enjoy getting advice from the other people about anything and everything. When I got engaged, I assumed I would be flooded with unsolicited advice about how to be a good wife. Surprisingly, not that many people spoke up. As soon as I saw that the pregnancy test said positive, I was positive that this time around, advice would come pouring in. You know what? It hasn't come yet. In a few weeks, I'll be half-way through this pregnancy, and very few people have offered me advice that I haven't asked for. Some of you are probably thinking, "Lucky you!" However, I don't agree.

When did we become so arrogant, by the way? When did it become acceptable for us to condescendingly reject anyone who feels the need to give us advice about our lives? I'm sorry ladies, but whether I have no children or TEN children, I would be a fool to think that I had it all figured out and didn't need any outside perspective. The Proverbs have plenty to say about this subject:

"Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid." -Proverbs 12:1

"A fool's way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise." -Proverbs 12:15

"Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." -Proverbs 15:22

"Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life." -Proverbs 19:20

Furthermore, are we Christian ladies so far along on the road of sanctification that we now scorn anything that remotely resembles Titus 2?

"Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. [They are] to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God's message will not be slandered." -Titus 2:2-5

I hate to blow the roof off of the dome of isolation and self-righteousness that some of us have so carefully constructed for ourselves, but being in each other's business is not only okay; it's biblical. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). Does this mean anyone has the right to step in and make decisions about what is best for me or my family? Are other people obligated to know every intimate detail about my love life with my husband? Is it perfectly acceptable for people - strangers or otherwise - to openly comment about any aspect of my life whenever they want to and say whatever they want to say? No, no, and no. That's not what this is about at all. 

There's no way I can be the kind of wife or mother I want to be without any input or suggestions from anyone else whatsoever. I know myself, and I know what I am. I am a sinner, saved by Jesus, who is just trying to live a life that honors His great sacrifice. Maybe you have it all figured out, but I certainly don't, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Yes, I do have my own opinions about what it means to be a good wife and mother, or the best way to discipline a child, or whether stomach-sleeping or back-sleeping is better for babies. If I'm passionate about it, you can be certain I've researched it to death. 

I still want your advice, though.

Because no matter how much I've read about vaccines, ways to make a husband feel respected, or the benefits of keeping and maintaining houseplants, there's at least one perspective I haven't considered: yours. I would be remiss in my role as a wife and mother not to at least hear what you have to say. Together, my husband and I will make the final decisions on the options we're faced with and do what we think is best, but we're honored that you think so highly of us as to share your thoughts and beliefs on a subject with the intent to be helpful. To all the family and friends, and yes, even strangers, know that I welcome your advice. This doesn't mean, however, that I am desperate for you to come up and tell me - without hearing my perspective on a matter - that I'm a bad wife or mother for doing (or failing to do) x, y, or z, or that my baby should or shouldn't wear this style of onesie or hair accessory. But if you have a genuine concern or wisdom you would like to share with me, I would love to hear it!

To all the fellow pregnant ladies or women with children, please don't be so quick to dismiss or be angered by the advice of others. Do you know why most people offer advice out of the blue like that? They're most likely afraid, on some level. If they truly think they're opinion or method is right one, then they are afraid of what will happen if you make the "wrong" choice. If they have some kind of personal relationship with you, then it's safe to assume they have your best interests at heart. Even if they don't know you, they may regret their own choices and hope to spare you the same disappointment. God moves in mysterious ways. Years from now, you may look back and realize that the Lord was trying to show you a better way to do something. As we get on with the rest of the day, let's carefully consider the warning of Proverbs 16:

"Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall." -Proverbs 16:18

How do you feel about receiving unsolicited advice from others? What marriage or parenting advice would you like to share with me?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Letter to Self

Dear Self,

You've spent my entire life making trouble for me. From the moment I entered this world, you were trumpeting your propaganda about how I was the center of the universe, that the purpose of everyone's lives was to serve me, and that my ultimate goal should be doing whatever was necessary to secure my own comfort and happiness. You told me that if I didn't want to do something, I didn't have to. I have rights. I'm entitled. It was never my fault, but always someone else's. You said that if it felt right, I should do it. "Go ahead," you said, "eat that food. So what if it isn't 'healthy' or 'nourishing' to your body? It tastes good, and that's all that matters. It won't hurt just this once." Remember when I used to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and sleep until lunchtime? You're the one who said it was fine. And every time I pushed my responsibilities to the side and chose laziness? That was your doing, too. Every apathetic thought, every moment I chose lesser things over precious time with the Lord, and every second I spent watching television instead of "looking well to the ways of my household," I can trace directly back to you. Do you want to know something? I'm sick of you, and from this day forward, I will do whatever I can to get rid of you.

God has a lot to say about you, and He's been reminding me of His words lately:
"For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin..." -Romans 6:5-6
"Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." -1 Corinthians 9:25
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." -Galatians 5:22-23
"But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." -Ephesians 4:20-24
"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." -Colossians 3:9-11
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." -James 3:16
"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love." -2 Peter 1:5-7
I'm on to you. I know your games, and I'm tired of playing them. I acknowledge your existence in my life, and I call you what you are: false, deceptive, evil, rude, murderous, unloving, arrogant, selfish. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was too great for me to heed you any longer. Because of Him, I am no longer your slave. I am under your control no more. Yes, there will probably be times when you try and sneak your way back into my life. But keep your suitcase handy, because I can promise you it will be a very short stay. You are dead to me, and I to you. Goodbye, my old companion. May we never meet again.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

That Moment When Everything Changes

On May 7th, 2014, we found out we are expecting!
Have you ever had one of those moments? That moment when you come face-to-face with fears you didn't know you had? I had a moment today. Right now, inside of me, God is growing a baby. As I type this, there is a tiny soul in there that is brand-new. Quicker than I can imagine, I'll be experiencing labor pains for the first time, and then finally (hopefully) holding this little miracle in my arms. It's almost overwhelming to think about, and I couldn't be more excited about welcoming this little Sara-Garrett hybrid into our lives. Yet today I realized something that startled me to the point of taking my breath away: Everything is about to change.

With all my heart, I believe the changes that are going to take place are good. But I now realize that we will have to press pause on some of life's current treasures when this baby arrives. Right now, Garrett can text, call, or walk in the door, and I drop whatever I am doing to give him my full attention (not because he expects it, but because I love him that much). We can work on house projects at any hour of the day without having to plan around naps or feedings (except ours). We can snuggle in front of the TV at the end of the day and watch our favorite shows together. We can go on walks together whenever we want. We can go to dinner at whatever restaurant suits us, on whatever day is most convenient for us. I can have Garrett all to myself when he's home, and our quality time is uninterrupted. It won't be like this - at least not all the time - when there are three of us in the house.

I think these changes are one reason why so many couples wait for years and years to have children. A routine gets established, they get comfortable with each other and with their life together, and the thought of anything (no matter how wonderful) interfering with their current level of happiness is unpleasant to them. And before you ask, yes; there is a part of me that wants to hold on to the way things are right now. However, when I think about all that will change, I can't stop with the things I don't want to change. That's what the enemy wants, and it leads to fear. Rather, I can - and should - focus on all of the good changes that are in store for us!

After my five seconds of panic were over, I realized there were far more things that Garrett and I will be gaining. Yes, I can give my husband all of my attention right now. But when this little one busts onto the scene, Garrett will be greeted by not one, but TWO people who are excited to see him. As our child grows, we will both get to enjoy watching him or her run outside when "Daddy" gets home to jump into his arms and give him a hug. I can answer his texts and calls right away now, but soon he'll get pictures and videos of the baby making faces, smiling, and laughing that will brighten even his stormiest day. He'll hear the babbling and cooing in the background of our phone calls, and yes, probably lots of crying and screaming as well (from the baby and possibly me). We can work on house projects whenever right now, but this baby will ensure that we keep our priorities in check. People matter more than houses. Time with family will always be more important than time spent on a project (whether mine or Garrett's). While we can snuggle, just the two of us, in front of the TV now, we'll have a little munchkin with us soon who will laugh at things we didn't know were supposed to be funny (but suddenly will be to us). We may not always be able to go on walks whenever we want, but they will become mandatory to burn off our child's energy before bedtime, and we'll all be healthier for it. We can go to dinner at nice restaurants if we want to now, but soon we'll get to the experience the joy (albeit, a challenging one) of teaching our child how to behave in public. I won't get Garrett all to myself as much as I would like, but it will make what time we do get together even more special and sacred.

Though I believe parenting will be the greatest challenge Garrett and I have ever faced together, I also believe it will be the most wonderful thing we'll ever experience as a couple. Sure, there will be days when the baby rips off their diaper and flings dark matter all over the place. But there will also be days when they can't contain their wonder or excitement over seeing a bug, plant, or rock for the first time. There will be scrapes, maybe even broken bones (though I hope that doesn't happen), but there will also be lots of hugs and kisses, laughter, late night talks about how there aren't any monsters in the shadows of their room, tickle fights, and a million other precious moments that - when it comes down to it - I know we would never trade anything for. There will be moments when it seems like our child is an absolute angel, and then probably many more moments when they act like the spawn of Satan.

This is the stuff of life.

Think about it: God goes through all of these things with us every second of every day, and embarking on this journey together will give my sweet husband and I a greater understanding of His glorious and unimaginable love. We may be too big to throw nasty diapers around, but we still throw our nasty words around. We struggle greatly with selfishness every day, but I sense that God is about to prune that ugly branch in our lives with the addition of this precious one. I'm certain that the moment everything changes will be a happy one, and the changes will be for the better. What God specifically has in store for us, I don't know yet; but in the words of Peter Pan: "To live would be an awfully big adventure." And in the words of Bilbo Baggins, "I think I'm quite ready for another adventure."

Friday, May 2, 2014

When It's One Thing After Another

Do you ever have a week where you feel like bad or frustrating things happen one right after the other? That has been the last month for me. Before I sound melodramatic, a lot of great things have happened as well. Yet there have been many difficulties, it seems, in comparison to previous months. This week, another frustration was added to the list, and I was discouraged. Inside I wasn't doubting God, but I couldn't help but say to Him, What do You have planned in all of this? I know there's a purpose, but I'm feeling a little lost.

When things go from bad to worse, it's easy to think that God is far away; that He hasn't noticed things are tough for you; that He's left you to fend for yourself. But that's a lie straight from the enemy, and God is more involved in the details of your life than you could ever imagine. I feel like I quote this all the time (which isn't a bad thing), but the truth is so powerful:

"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: 
those who are called according to His purpose." -Romans 8:28

For those of us that know Christ, we can rest in this reality. God is working all things - right now - together for our good: the pleasant, the sorrowful, the ugly, the annoying, the disappointing, and the hard. That's one of the many things I love about Jesus. He was tested in every way that we are tested (Hebrews 4:15), so He understands how we feel when we face difficulties. We are victorious in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). So if you're having a rough day, week, month, or year, hang in there! God isn't finished, and I'm certain we'll both be able to look back on this difficult period of our lives and clearly see how His hand was moving in the grand plan.

"Be strong and courageous; don't be terrified or afraid...For it is the 
Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you." 
-Deuteronomy 31:6

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sara's Thoughts - 04/17/2014

Katie, Me, and Jessica (my other best friend) at my bridal shower.
It has been almost a week since one of my best friends moved in with Jesus. My emotions, which were - when the accident took place - intense and unpredictable, have settled down significantly. My heart is quiet and thoughtful, and my mind is frequently occupied with the many pleasant childhood memories I have of Katie. Occasionally I will get a flash of my most recent (and painful) memories and I lose my breath for a few seconds, but then I remember where Katie is and Who she is with and the peace returns.

So this is what it's like to lose someone you love deeply.

It's not what I expected. When things were still uncertain with Katie, different scenarios ran through my mind. My brain has always tried to "plan" for multiple possibilities with the various situations I've faced, and this time was no different. I knew that God could choose to give her the ultimate healing by bringing her home to be with Him, and I thought I knew how I would respond if He did. Surely it would be the response most people have: intense pain, fear, anger (mostly at God), a need to blame someone or something, a lack of control, and feeling overwhelmed by it all. Yet that isn't at all what I experienced. Yes, there was intense pain and I felt helpless to change the situation. But there was also peace, and hope, and rejoicing.

What amazes me most is the way God is using this whole thing. Even before Katie breathed her last on this earth, I saw Him moving in the midst of our troubles. It's as if the black sky of that whole week suddenly exploded with His powerful light, and people who rarely - if ever - thought about Jesus are now having to take a good, hard look at their lives and decide how they are going to respond to Him. It's what Katie would have wanted, and it's what she lived for. If she could have known what would happen to her, and see that Christ would be so greatly glorified, she would have willingly died for that purpose. I can't see all the things that will happen as a result of this situation, but I know God is going to change lives - including mine. I already feel like a completely different person from who I was two weeks ago.

Strangely enough, I don't feel like I lost someone. It doesn't feel like Katie has died as much as it feels like she has come alive, as if she is living and breathing for the first time.`

"For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known." -1 Corinthians 13:12

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where Joy And Sorrow Meet

I just lost my best friend.

Yesterday was a day of waiting, because by that point it seemed certain that her journey was coming to an end. The sun set, I climbed in bed, and somehow I knew that when I woke the next morning, my sweet friend and sister in Christ would be with the Lord. This week has been filled with grief, countless tears, and deep pain for me and so many others who knew and loved Katie, so I felt certain that today would be the hardest day of my life. In a sense, I suppose, it is. Yet while I have cried and the pain and grief are still strong, I felt something else that I have never experienced before: The joy of the Lord.

As the day progressed my joy grew, until the only thing I could do was turn on some music and celebrate. You see, Katie Klinect was utterly and hopelessly in love with Jesus Christ, and I can't help but be so excited and happy that she's finally seeing Him face-to-face! Her wait is over, and she's with the Lover of her soul. After all of my mourning and grieving and praying, feeling drained and empty, I now feel so full. God is so good, and His mercies are evident in this time. How can I do anything but rejoice and praise the Lord for bringing her home at last? When I think about how deliriously happy she is right now, I can't help but smile.

For the first time in my life, I understand what it Scripture means when it says, "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). And what a joy it is! Only the love and grace of Jesus can create a lasting joy and peace in your soul. I can't get enough of what I'm experiencing in Him! I know that Katie had that same joy, and she was not afraid of wherever the Lord would take her.

God has blessed me with so many wonderful memories of Katie. She was a beacon of hope to me through many ups and downs that I faced, and I am glad our separation is only temporary. She lived her life to the fullest and for the glory of God every single day.

"Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning." -Psalm 30:5

Joy truly did take me by surprise this morning, and there aren't words to describe the lasting peace that comes with knowing Jesus Christ. Is yours a life marked by peace? By joy? Only in the Lord is there a calm in the midst of storms. Only with Jesus Christ is there a peace that passes all understanding. Only in Him can you find joy through hard times. Look around a bit if you want to, but I can promise you won't find it.

Katie, I love you so much. You've been such an amazing friend to me, and have been my [not-so] "secret sister" since we were little girls. Get that party started, and pick some awesome music please (like you could do anything else)! I'll see you again before you know it!

Me with my beautiful Indian princess. I love you, Katie!