Thursday, November 13, 2008

PTGW Part Three A: Brothers in Christ

How you treat your brothers in Christ is important, whether you are married or not. Right now I want to just focus on friendships with guys.
Being friends with guys can help you to see them less as a potential husband and more as a person. At least, for a while. Then suddenly the attention that you get as his friend starts making you think that maybe you just might be just a little bit more than a friend to him. You start to want a closer friendship and when it gets closer (as it almost always does), you can't seem to stop thinking about it. You think about him all the time, wondering if he notices you. Suddenly you have a full fledged crush on your hands (yes, I know all about it, I had this happen when I was twelve). (I wrote a post about crushes if you are interested in reading it.)
But it is possible to have a casually friendly friendship with a boy without getting a serious crush on him (and, yes, I know from experience that this is possible). However, it does take some self discipline. Here are a few rules that I came up with for myself, some of them are based on my own experience, and some on the experiences of my (female) friends.

1. Never let the friendship get beyond a casual acquaintance. No telling secrets, and no making him your best friend.

2. No letting him tell you secrets. If he begins to do that, the red light should go on and you should kindly stop him. (Sometimes you can say something like "Thank you for your confidence, but I have a very open relationship with my parents, so please do not tell me anything that you do not want them to know." or if it is in an e-mail, you can remind him that your little sister reads your e-mails and so if he does not want her to know something he shouldn't tell you.)

3. Do not ever sit next to him and look into his eyes... this just doesn't do either of you any favors.

4. If you are upset about something or are insecure about something, do not tell him. Go to your parents instead.

5. If you aren't sure if you should say something, imagine telling your boy cousins... (Of course, most of the time, if you aren't sure that you should say something it means that you definitely shouldn't.)

6. Do not ever 'day dream'. No thinking about what your children would look like if he were their father (green eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes), no imagining yourself in danger and then imagining him coming and rescuing you (this one is important, a lot of young ladies have perfectly innocent friendships that suddenly turn romantic when they pretend that they were rescued or whatever). If you find yourself day dreaming get up and start doing some math, really hard math (No sewing or knitting, it is too uninteresting). ;-)

7. Even if your family is the huggy type, no hugging every week. Quick 'side hugs' are ok if it's someone's birthday. (But now that I think of it, the only hugs I give out are to my relatives, young ladies that I am friends with, and people that I only see once a year.)

8. Never fish for compliments by asking how you look or saying that you think you are ugly (that should go without saying, but I think that it is important to be reminded of).
With all of these rules you might wonder if it is even worth while to try being friends with boys at all. It is definitely worth it, and if you kind of are friends with the whole family and not just one person it makes everything a lot easier.
By now you might be wondering why this is important for preparing to be a good wife. If you are going to be a good wife shouldn't you be friends with boys? I mean, after all, how are they going to know if they like you if you aren't (close) friends with them?
Of course it is good to be (casual) friends with boys (especially in a family setting), and in some cases guys do decide to marry someone in their circle of friends at church. But this is where trusting God comes in. If God wants you to marry someone, it will happen. YOU CAN NEVER MARRY THE WRONG PERSON!!! You might end up with the right person after having done things the wrong way, but never the wrong person. And guess what? It isn't up to you to get emotionally close to boys just to see if they are the right one; that is a dating mentality.
You need to protect your purity, not just physical, but emotional and mental as well. If you have to compromise your emotional purity to 'get the guy', he's not worth it. You want someone that will be thankful that you are committed to keeping yourself pure, not someone that just wants to get the short term enjoyment of emotional closeness.
Also, if you get in the habit of getting close to one boy, and then growing apart and getting close to another boy and then growing apart (even if you have been friends for several years), it is not going to change after you get married. Oh sure, you will be close to your husband for a while, but then you will go through a time of disillusionment and suddenly you will see someone that understands you and if you aren't careful you could end up having an emotional affair with someone.

Now, some ways that you can tell if your friendship is getting too close. (Obviously I am not a guy, so I don't know exactly what these things would mean to a guy, but I do know that in a friendship they are a bad sign.)

1. If he starts telling you secrets (I know I already said this, but it bears saying again), you are getting too close.

2. If he wants to give you a hug every time you say goodbye, your friendship is too close.

3. If he starts e-mailing you every day or wanting to talk to you on the phone (phone is a big no-no... It's too easy to get close when you don't have to look at the person)

Ok, I'm sure that there are more but my mind is going blank. Now I'm going to give you a list of things that are fine in most cases.

1. Chatting (not online), or rather light hearted conversation is fine. Debating points is fine as long as it doesn't get personal.

2. E-mailing, now some families have different rules, but for me I decided that e-mails are alright as long as they're not every day and they're not too personal.

3. Being interested in what the other person is talking about (this is just common politeness as long as you're not hanging on every word).

4. Enjoying physical activities, such as freeze tag with the two families, can be fine. (But no playing "Sardines" or "Telephone Booth".) ;-)

Miss Jocelyn had a letter in her weekly section that said this.
"Dear Jocelyn,

I have a best friend who is a guy. He really likes to talk to me and is
very open with me, treats me really nice too. I’m glad that I can be a good
friend to him and encourage him in his walk with the Lord. The hard part is
knowing if the Lord will eventually make us more than “just friends.” I
know it’s all up to God and his timing but I wonder sometimes. Is this “the
one” or is there someone else? I know the best thing is just be a true friend to him but sometimes it’s hard!

He will be leaving soon to go to a cooking academy in South Africa and I’m
trying to act like that’s fine but inside I don’t want him to leave. What
do you think I should do? I know praying but anything else that might help?

Please keep me in your prayers"

Now, obviously, there is nothing wrong with this young lady. She is simply caught in the dilemma that faces every young lady that has a nice guy friend that treats her kindly and wants to talk to her. However, there are a few red flags that I saw in this letter and I'm going to show you a few of them...

1. "A best friend", you should never have a best friend that is a guy

2. "He really likes to talk to me and is very open with me". There is nothing wrong with talking, but being 'very open' doesn't sound good.

3. "I'm glad that I can be a good friend to him and encourage him in his walk with the Lord", yes it is good to encourage each other, but this should not be her job. This is for his parents and guy friends to do for him. This leads to too much closeness

4. "Is this 'the one' or is there someone else? I know the best thing is just be a true friend to him but sometimes it’s hard!" Don't try to be a true friend if you are wondering if he is one or is there someone else. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be friends, but a 'true friend' implies too much closeness. Back of a little on the friendship if it is getting too close.

5. "He will be leaving soon to go to a cooking academy in South Africa and I’m trying to act like that’s fine but inside I don’t want him to leave." This is perfectly normal; everyone hates it when people go away. But be careful that you don't start obsessing about him going away and making it up in your head that if he does go away you will never get married to him. (Well, maybe you won't, but that might mean that it is part of God's plan to take away your dependence on this boy and move it to God.)

The thing that I think is the most difficult for us is to depend on God instead of on man (literally). As women we want to be rescued, we want to be close to a man, we want him to desire us, we want his attention. And if we are not careful, we can end up in the position of never being able to be content where we are because we are always longing for something that we don't have. But I want to tell you something very important. No man on earth can fill that hole in our hearts. Oh sure, we might think that it is gone for a while, but after a little while suddenly it'll pop up again and we'll have to face the fact that this man is not a savior.
But if we can learn to allow God to fill that ache in our hearts, than when He does give us a husband we won't be devastated and think that we've married the wrong man if he can't fill that gap sometimes.

Hmm, I think that's about all I have to say for now. This was quite a long post, I hope it was clear!

Now, I want you to pray about your friendships with guys, and ask God if they are honoring to him, and if they're not then just back off a notch or two and bring it down to a more casual level. Also, look around at your friends (not to judge them) and pray for them and their friendships.

And lastly, pray that God would help you to be dependent on him and not on anyone else.

I hope that this was helpful, I'm always interested in what thoughts you have, so leave comments! :-) (And don't forget to check the comment section; often others will bring up very helpful and important points that I have forgotten.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

PTGW Part Two: Learn to Show Respect

Did you know that having respect for your husband and showing it is one of the most important and loving things that a wife can do? Unless he feels that you respect him, he won't feel that you love him. Now, obviously, I haven't had much experience with this in my own life, right? But that's what I've read and heard numerous places, and while I haven't had a chance to try it out on a husband of my own, I have learned that showing respect to the men in my life (especially my dad, but also my brother, uncle, and grandfather) makes a world of difference.
One thing that we should get straight though, is that while you should show respect to the men in your life, you do not have to obey them all. The only men that you will ever have to obey are your father and someday your husband. (Of course, if they ever told you to do something evil like murder someone you couldn't do it... but that's a different topic.) But respect, when shown correctly, can make any relationship you have better.
A while back I posted some ideas on how you can be treated with respect, so I'm not going to bother talking about that again, I'm just going to give some tips and hints of how to treat your Dad, brother, and someday husband, with respect. (If any of the ladies with more experience in this area have any ideas go ahead and put them in the comment section, I'd appreciate it!)

1. Listen when they talk. Pay attention. (I told you that the different posts were going to overlap!) This, more than anything, seems to communicate respect to my Dad, brother, grandfather, etc.

2. Don't correct silly little mistakes. If they say it was on Monday that you saw an eagle, when it was actually Wednesday, does it really matter?

3. When you ask where they would like you to put something, don't put it somewhere else if you think of a better place. (Of course, you can ask if they mind if you put it somewhere else, but don't just say "No, this place is better")

4. Don't ever roll your eyes when he is talking.

5. Don't participate if other women or girls are making fun of their male family members.

6. Don't make him out to be worse than he is. We all have a tendency to exaggerate (illustrated in this sentence by me saying "We all"), but don't exaggerate his faults.

7. Don't tell the world about your problems with him. If you're having trouble and you really need to talk about it, choose someone you know can be trusted (I will often talk to my Mom if some guy in our family is driving me crazy) and will give you good advice or help you see that it's actually YOU that has the problem, not him. Anyone would be hurt if they found that someone was complaining about them to everyone, this is just common courtesy.

8. If you're having trouble communicating respect, ASK the poor guy if there is something specific that you're doing that is disrespectful. (But be prepared to humbly accept anything he says.) Then try to change what is causing the problem.

9. Pray for him, don't tell him his problems, ask God to convict him. Your dad is not going to appreciate it if you tell him that he always leaves his slippers in the middle of the floor. He is the king of the house. But if it truly is bothering you, pray and ask God to either change him or change your attitude about the problem.

10. Don't try to change him. God made him to be the loudmouth, or the quiet thinker, or the motivated doer that he is, and that is how he can bring glory to God. So don't change him, change the way you look at him. (This also can release you of the huge burden you might feel when you think of yourself as responsible for his actions. You are NOT responsible when he says something you don't think is appropriate to the situation.)

The bottom line in any relationship (excluding parent/child) is that, for the most part, we should change ourselves, not the other person.
If we put God first in our life, others second, and us last, we will have the right order.
(A quick note to the older girls: remember, respect is one of the most attractive qualities in a prospective wife. So practice on your father, brother, and other men in your life so that you'll be really good at it by the time someone special notices you!) ;-)
Any thoughts? (Don't forget to check the comment section to see what people have to say!)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Winners!

Yes, I wrote down all the names on tiny pieces of paper (all the same size), threw them into the hat, and then had my younger sisters and brother pick out five winners.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the winners are (in the order picked):

Margaret (comment 18)
Jane (comment 20)
Lindsey (comment 10)
Janna (comment 6)
Darby Maeve (comment 15)

If the winning ladies would please e-mail me their addresses that would be great! (If I do not hear from you in two weeks I will pick a different name and you will not receive a book.)

Thank you to everyone that participated! :-)