Author Archives: emilywdean

A Modern Lady’s Work

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What does it mean to be a modern lady in your work? This idea of women in the workplace may be a more modern invention, but let’s be honest, women have been working for centuries. Whether in the home or the marketplace, most women I know have a full slate of work to do! When I think about women working, the example from the Bible that comes to mind is Ruth. She was a woman who had plenty to complain about. Her husband died, and she lived with her bitter mother-in-law. Instead of joining in the pity party of her difficult circumstances, she got to work. (See Ruth chapters 1-2.) Here are a few ideas from her story of what it means to be a lady in your work:

 

1) Work with Humility –

Having a teachable spirit will go a long way in being able to work well with others. Ruth knew she was a foreigner in a strange land. She was on the bottom rung of society culturally and economically, but she knew she had to find work to survive. She asked her mother-in-law for advice on where and how to look for something she could do to sustain them (Ruth 2:2). Whether new to a job or well experienced, working with humility is essential to treating others as you would want to be treated.

 

2) Work with Character – 

One of my favorite verses from Proverbs chapter 31 is verse 11, “The heart of her husband trusts in her” (CSB). Whether by a spouse or employer, being a woman who can be fully trusted is crucial to pursuing godly character. Are you the same person at home as you are in the workplace or in public? Ruth was a woman who quickly obtained a reputation for working with character (Ruth 3:11). Like Ruth, pursuing godly character is something we can all work toward daily. Each day you and I have the opportunity to choose whether we will follow our own path or follow God in all that we do and let His character shine through us. When you choose God’s path, He will shape you into a lady of character.

 

3) Work with Determination –

Working with determination means that we give all that we have to our work. The Apostle Paul encourages believers to work wholeheartedly for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:22-23). Do you give your whole heart to whatever work the Lord has given you to do? Often in American culture we are encouraged to go to one extreme or the other. We either over work with crazy obsession or go to the opposite end and spend our time binge watching Netflix™. Working wholeheartedly for the Lord means that we neither indulge in laziness nor let our work consume us. What it does mean is that when we work, we give it all that we’ve got for the glory of God. Not only was Ruth known for her character, but she also had a reputation for being a hard worker (Ruth 2:6-7). Are you known for being a hard worker, not to please others but to please the Lord in all that you do?

 

4) Work with Perseverance –

The easiest thing to do when work gets hard is to quit. The hardest thing to do is to keep going. Ruth kept going when the work was long and tough (Ruth 2:7). Who are some women in your life who come to mind when you think of perseverance? I can think of many examples of women I know who have continued on in the midst of difficult circumstances. Paul reminds us when following Jesus gets hard, we have a great cloud of witnesses to cheer us on (Hebrews 12:1). On days when our work gets tough, we can look to Jesus to help us make it through. Being a lady who works with perseverance means that we don’t give up. Instead it means that we keep our eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).

 

Some days our work is easier than others. Some days are just plain hard. Every day though, we can commit our work to the Lord and find encouragement in these words from Paul:

“Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9 CSB).

Working wholeheartedly for the Lord is truly what it means to be a modern lady.

A Modern Lady’s Home

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What does it mean for a modern lady to keep her home? Does it mean that she should always have an HGTV worthy space? If so, that would probably count most of us out! Does it require a woman to be married with 2.5 kids in tow? If that were the case, millions of women in the U.S. would be excluded.[1] I have kept a home both as a single woman and as a married woman. One definition of home I found most intriguing is, “the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.”[2] This definition does not specify life circumstances or marital status, but rather the heart with which one approaches the home, even for the least domestically inclined.

Being a lady in your home means that you have a heart to take care of what God has given you. Whether God has given you a table for 10 or a table for 1, you can glorify God by being the best steward of your space that you can be. When I think of someone in the Bible who used her home well, I think of Lydia. In Acts 16 we find that she was a smart businesswoman with a heart for God who used her home for ministry. Based on her example we can see a few timeless principles about what it means to be a lady in our homes.

 

  1. Lydia had a concern for others –

We know that Lydia and the members of her household were baptized, so she didn’t stop with herself when she became saved. She made sure the other members of her household met Jesus too. If you have people living in your house, then they are the primary people you should introduce to Jesus and disciple. If not, you may have extended family members who need to know Jesus. In the ancient world, families were highly interconnected. Our culture may be different, but that does not dismiss our responsibility to share with those closest to us. Andrew introduced his brother Simon (later called Peter) to Jesus, and Peter became one of the most outspoken disciples (John 1:41-42). You never know what God has planned for those closest to you whom you introduce to Christ.

 

  1. Lydia took initiative –

We do not know if Lydia or Paul introduced her household to Jesus, but we do know Lydia took initiative to make sure it happened. Then she invited Paul and his team to stay at her house. Lydia did not wait for hospitality opportunities to come to her. She took action to extend kindness to those around her. I have learned through ministry moves and the busyness of life that if you want to stay connected to people, you have to make it happen. Lydia was one of those people who took opportunities to make ministry happen.

                 

  1. Lydia opened her home –

Lydia used what God had given her to show hospitality to Paul and his companions. Whatever space God has given you can be used to show the love of Christ. It may be as simple as a cup of coffee or as elaborate as a full meal. Extending kindness to others through our homes, no matter how large or small, can be the cup of cold water we give in Jesus’ name (Matthew 10:42).

 

Our homes can be used in so many ways to glorify God. They can be a place of refreshment and encouragement for weary sojourners, a haven of rest for our families and us, or a place of peace for the distressed. To be a lady in our homes means that we extend kindness and grace to all who walk through our doors. So the question is, who is walking through your door today?

 

 

 

 

[1] United States Census Bureau, “FFF: Unmarried and Single Americans Week Sept. 20-26, 2015,” available from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2015/cb15-ff19.html; accessed 29 March 2017.

[2] Dictionary.com, “Home”, available from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/home?s=t; accessed 29 March 2017.

A Modern Lady’s Relationships

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In this wild and crazy 21st century world, what does it mean to be a lady in your relationships with others? Even though it may seem so with some of the outrageous behavior of women we see on reality television and even the news, this question is not just new to us. First century women were struggling with some of the same issues. With some coming from Gentile backgrounds where anything goes, many of these women had to learn what it meant to follow the teachings of Jesus in how they encountered others. Previously we have looked at a lady’s manners and her appearance, and now we will consider her relationship to others. While the types of relationships we have may vary as a spouse, mother, daughter, co-worker, friend, etc., a few general principles apply to being a lady in whatever types of relationships we may have.

 

  1. Treat others as you would want to be treated –

This is a preschool principle but one that we have to keep learning over and over even into adulthood! The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say that we should put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience just as we would our clothes each day. He also said that we should practice forgiveness and put love on top of it all (Colossians 3:12-14). In a self-centered world, we have to retrain our brains to be others centered. I don’t know about you, but I generally do not automatically think about situations from another’s perspective. I have to be intentionally thoughtful to consider another person’s point of view. Yet when I do, it generally changes my entire perception of the circumstances at hand. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on how those around us are feeling can change how we react to others amidst the stressors of life.

 

  1. Be above reproach –

Being a lady in your relationships means that you give no one cause to question your integrity in your dealings with other people. In the scriptures, Peter reminds Christians that we are called to be holy in all that we do just as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). It means that we should be set apart because we follow Jesus. Our pastor often reminds us that as God’s people we should “shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:15) by living blameless and pure in the often dark city of New Orleans. One way to determine if you are above reproach around others is to ask yourself if you are the same person in private that you are in public. Do you treat everyone honestly and fairly regardless of who they are and where they come from? Do you avoid gossip? Are you authentic? Examining our dealings with others in all areas of our lives can help us see where we may need to make changes so that we can be blameless and pure in all that we do.

 

  1. Be the example you would want to follow – 

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, the Apostle Paul boldly encouraged the Corinthian church to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Are you living a life that others could follow because you are following the patterns of Christ? It’s easy to blame those around us for our behavior (Eve taught us that in the garden!), yet at the end of the day we are each responsible for our own choices. Whether we have great examples in person to follow or not, we can all follow the patterns of Jesus’ life. Do you try to be the kind of friend, daughter, spouse, mom, co-worker, etc. you would want to have? In our house we have a plaque that says, “Children are great imitators. Give them something great to imitate” because it is a reminder of this verse in Corinthians. As we seek to imitate Christ, we must remember that others around us are emulating us as well.

 

So what does it mean to be a lady in your relationships? I think Paul summed it up in Philippians 1:27 when he said,

“Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

 

A Modern Lady’s Appearance

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What does it mean to look like a modern lady? Appropriate appearance is a highly debated topic, especially among Christian women. The question we’re looking at here is not so much specifically what to wear or not wear (I think there is a show that talks about that!), but instead what is the heart issue behind what it means to look like a lady. In a social media world, appearance concerns for women of all ages have only increased as we have more opportunities to compare ourselves to others. Instead of just being deluged by the media, we are now inundated by what everyone else looks like on any given day. I mean think about this, how many times have you altered a photo of yourself that you posted online, even if it was just to remove the red eye?

Most of us want to look our best, but when we alter images of ourselves so much that we completely change who God made us to be in the process, then it’s time to ask ourselves an important question. Does this image bring glory to me or glory to God? The bigger issue here with appearing like a lady is, what brings glory to God in what you wear and how you present yourself? To examine this question, here are a few ideas I have come across in my research on appearance.

 

1) Contentment is the opposite of resentment –

At the heart of nearly all appearance related matters is the issue of contentment. Are you content with who God created you to be and how He created you to look? If you are content with your appearance, you will be less likely to hide your appearance behind oversized clothes or show off your appearance with less than you should wear. Often negative body image can lead to either. Constantly comparing yourself to others will only lead to resentment because there will always be someone you think looks better than you. So much Scripture speaks to this issue of contentment. Memorizing and applying God’s word is the best way to combat negative thoughts about the way you look. Here are a few of my favorites and a snapshot of what they teach us:

Psalm 139:13-14 – You have been fearfully and wonderfully made.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – Take every false thought captive – That includes those negative thoughts you may think about the way you look!

Galatians 1:10 – We do not seek to please men but to please God.

1 Peter 3:3-4 – Beauty in God’s eyes is not outward but inward.

 

2) When in doubt, just change it out – 

My rule of thumb is, if you have doubts about whether or not something you are wearing is appropriate, it’s better just to change it out. If not, you will continually be self-conscious. Then your focus is on you rather than who or what your focus should be on. Again, ask yourself if you are bringing glory to you because you want people to notice you, or if you are bringing glory to God because you chose to look your best? One way to answer this question is to consider whether or not you would be a distraction to others by how you look. Is it about getting attention or pleasing the Lord?

 

3) Look your best, don’t worry about the rest – 

Just as obsessing over your appearance keeps your focus on you, so does the opposite of neglecting your appearance altogether. Giving glory to God in our appearance does not mean that we disregard taking care of ourselves. Neglecting our appearance generally only leads to low self-esteem. The goal is rather than thinking less of ourselves, we think about ourselves less. In Philippians 2:3-4, we are reminded that we should consider others more than we consider ourselves. Here we are not told that we should avoid considering ourselves. We do that automatically by default. Instead, we are told that we should strive to think about others as much or more than we think about ourselves. If we are focused on our own appearance, then it’s hard to be focused on others.

 

Ultimately the issue of being a lady in our appearance comes down to having a heart to please God. Do you desire to bring glory to Him in all that you do? That’s the most important question to ask yourself when you see the reflection in the mirror.

 

 

A Modern Lady’s Manners

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In the previous post, I introduced the idea of what it means to be a modern lady in a swiftly changing culture. As the culture changes, so do rules of etiquette. I mean, who really knows the etiquette rules for social media and technology use? To post or not to post? To like or not like? To share or not to share? I saw a sign on the door of a business the other day that said in a funny but polite way essentially to leave your cell phone outside. While opinions differ on specific rules of etiquette, especially with the rise of technology use, the general concept behind polite manners remains unchanged.

Did you know that the Proverbs have a lot to say about manners? Some are quite funny but yet speak an important truth. The Proverbs are full of common sense guidelines for how to treat others. The book contains 31 chapters, so I would encourage you to start at the beginning of a month and read a chapter a day. You will be amazed at the modern application you will find in this timeless wisdom.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Be considerate of your neighbors –

“If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him.”   Proverbs 27:14 HCSB

Who is my neighbor you ask? Jesus was asked the same question in Luke 10 when he taught that we should love our neighbors. To answer, he shared a story about an unlikely man who helped out a total stranger. Anyone can be your neighbor. That can include the person sitting next to you while you are talking on your cell phone, or the person on the opposite side of the political or theological fence from you. Being a good neighbor includes being considerate of others.

  1. Use good sense –

“A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.”   Proverbs 11:22 HCSB

This one always amuses me as I picture giving expensive jewelry to a pig. It seems absurd. So too, beauty without wisdom is wasted. We all have the ability to use good sense and seek wisdom from the Lord. That’s where true beauty comes from. When it comes to etiquette regarding social media and technology, my rule of thumb is when in doubt, don’t shout it out! (Or post, share, like, etc.)

  1. Avoid nagging –

“Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.” Proverbs 21:9 HCSB

Wives or not, all women can be tempted to nag others. Our temptation to nag usually stems from a need for control. We learn early in life that if we pester others long enough, we might get our way. Yikes! Do I really use the same tactics sometimes as my preschool child? Sitting on our roof in the New Orleans heat would be a miserable way to spend the day. I would hope my behavior would not cause my husband to want to endure that misery over being inside having a conversation with me! In Ecclesiastes 3:7 we find there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Wisdom is learning to distinguish the appropriate timing between the two.

  1. Stay humble –

“When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 HCSB

This proverb is not so funny, but oh so true. There is nothing funny about the disgrace that comes when we fall on our faces as a result of prideful behavior. Humility before the Lord is the key to wisdom. When we have humble hearts, we are open to letting the Lord teach us how to treat others. If we have prideful hearts, then even if we use polite manners, we are doing so out of our own self-interests. Humble hearts seek the good of others by putting others before ourselves, using good sense that comes from God’s wisdom, and learning when to speak and when to stay silent.

 

A modern lady uses her manners. Culture changes, but treating people with kindness and grace never goes out of style.

 

 

 

 

The Making of A Modern Lady

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What does it mean to be a modern lady?

In recent weeks the behavior of women in our country has been a point of controversy in the news, which has led me to think on the topic of what it means to be a modern lady. Is that word entirely antiquated, or can the behavior it represents coincide with our contemporary life? What does it mean to show common decency these days?

To understand what it means to be a lady, we must first start from the beginning. The term lady is a more recent English word stemming from the sometime before the 12th century A.D.[1] However, the concept of being a woman began with the creation of Eve. As Elisabeth Elliot noted, “In order to learn what it means to be a woman we must start with the One who made her.”[2] In Genesis 1:27 we find that God created males and females in His image. As women we are created in the image of God but as a distinctly different creation from males.

Understanding ourselves as human beings created in the image of God is the starting point for discovering what it means to be a lady. Without this basic foundation, we would have no need to follow Jesus’ teaching, now known as the golden rule, of treating others as we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Being created in the image of God means that we have the capacity to love, to forgive, to show kindness, to be patient, to speak the truth, and to be peacemakers. As a woman, standing up for what you believe in is not the problem. Thankfully, living in the United States allows for that freedom. In fact, over and over in scripture, God’s people are exhorted to defend those who cannot defend themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9, James 1:27). Standing up for what you believe in without showing common decency is a problem. So what does it mean to be a modern lady?

Often the word, lady, to 21st century ears conjures up images of Victorian era gentility, proper to the point of being stuffy or here in the southern United States, a proper southern woman. If you’re thinking to yourself that ladylike behavior does not at all describe you, consider this. According to Webster’s definition, a lady simply put is “a woman who behaves in a polite way.”[3] What this tells us is…

All women can be ladies.

Whether you prefer being outdoors to going to the salon, being a lady is not about your hobbies or preferences for style. Being a lady is about treating others with kindness and respect. Women come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of interests. We all have different personalities. Regardless of our hobbies, political inclinations, or personality, we all have the capacity to use good manners and be polite.

Being a lady does not mean that you have to have a quiet personality either. Some of us are just born louder than others. You may have no problem with volume, or you may struggle with letting your voice be heard. We are all made differently. In 1 Peter 3:4, we are told that having a “gentle and quiet spirit” is valuable to God. Thankfully, this does not mean a quiet voice. It means having a heart willing to obey God. Christian ladies are women who have a heart to obey God in all circumstances.

So what does a modern lady look like? Here are some ideas that came to mind.

A modern lady is a woman who…

Fears the Lord

Respects herself and others

Is content with herself

Puts others before herself

Considers the point of view of others

Speaks up for injustice but does so with kindness and grace

So what about you? Do you want to be known as a woman who treats others with the same kindness and grace she would like to receive? I know I do. So where do we begin? The first step we can take toward being a lady is simply to be polite. Kindness is a gift we can give that few people will refuse.

            [1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online Web site, available from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lady; accessed February 3, 2017.

            [2] Elliot, Elisabeth. Let Me Be A Woman. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1976.

            [3] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online Web site, available from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lady; accessed February 3, 2017.

Still Learning

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“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of those who are instructed to know how to sustain the weary with a word. He awakens Me each morning; He awakens My ear to listen like those being instructed.” Isaiah 50:4 HCSB

“I know a lot, but I’m still learning.” In an effort to instill a teachable spirit in our kids, this phrase is repeated often in our house. As a mom, what’s most important to me is not so much how much my kids know, but how willing they are to be taught. If they keep a willing heart, they can always grow and learn. We live in a community of learning, and I absolutely love it. However, working and studying among scholars does not necessarily mean you are constantly learning. We must have hearts willing to be instructed.

I like the story of Apollos found in Acts (see Acts 18-19 for the full story). He was a guy who spoke passionately about Jesus, but he didn’t know the full story. When fellow believers Aquila and Priscilla invited him into their home to teach him the rest of the story about Jesus, he welcomed their teaching. He could have ignored them and kept right on teaching what he knew, but he was willing to learn more so that he could more accurately share the truth. The scripture says that it is not good to have zeal without knowledge (Proverbs 19:2), yet on the other hand knowledge without love is just noise (1 Corinthians 13:1).

The truth is we need both. We need accuracy in handling the Word of God, and we need passion to share it. So how do we balance this need for both accuracy and passion?

 

1) Stay teachable – Maintaining a teachable spirit is crucial to growing as a disciple of Jesus. Whether you are new to the faith or have multiple theological degrees, we all have the opportunity to start each day with a willing heart ready to learn what God wants to teach us. When we stop learning, we stop growing.

2) Stay fresh – What I love most about the Word of God is that it is “living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). I just love it when I read fresh truth from familiar passages of scripture. If they become too familiar, change up not what you read, but how you read it. As long as we have breath, there is always something new to learn!

3) Stay faithful – You may be on the other end with lots of zeal but overwhelmed with all you feel like you need to know. That’s okay too. Take your time. As a culture we are not good at waiting. We expect everything to happen right now. Growing as a disciple is a daily process. Be faithful to meet with Jesus daily and He will be faithful to meet with you.

4) Stay focused – We are all called to do everything with excellence to the best of our abilities. So back to our friend Apollos. He didn’t know everything, but he gave it his all to teach what he did know. When he had opportunity, he learned more so that he could teach even more. Whatever God has called you to do, give it all you’ve got.

None of us are perfect at balancing zeal and knowledge. You may be struggling with too much of one and less of the other. The one thing we all can do is wake up each day ready “to listen like those being instructed.”