Thursday, September 15, 2011

Joyfully at Home

It has been several months since I finished this much-anticipated read, but I intended to write a small review on it before this year's end. For anyone who is well-acquainted with the Baucham family, it was a known fact that this book would rock many a world! I have always admired and respected the Baucham's passion for cultural and family reformation in a time where truth, virtue, and restoring a Biblical vision to the church is difficult to find. Vision is a key word, I think, for the Baucham's. Whenever I read anything they write, I am deeply encouraged by their faithful upholding of the Gospel, the supreme authority of Scripture, and the legacy of multi-generational faithfulness in families. Their sincerity and humility is always apparent and so very striking!

Sometimes, I do become a little tired of reading Biblical womanhood books because...well...I've read so many! I feel like I've heard all that there is to hear. But I know that is certainly not true! I think the real test is engaging women on deeper levels and pin-pointing specifics.

In the beginning, Jasmine makes it clear that..."This book is not about constructing a superficial list of do's and don'ts for daughters. It is about giving you the one-two-threes of living a perfect life. It isn't about falling into a cookie-cutter mold as a Christian daughter...Stay-at-home daughterhood is a biblical option that I believe all Christian young women should consider, given the principles of biblical womanhood, and given the responsibility of fathers for the protections of their daughters..."
And yet, Jasmine is perfectly honest and accepting of the fact that many will decide not to pursue this path. And, for others, this is simply not even an option due to decline of the family unit and the brokenness found in so many homes. After sharing her own story, she turns readers straight to the Gospel and its transforming power, as well as giving readers a sketch of Biblical womanhood in Scripture. She continues on this vein by sharing the effects of feminism on daughters, yet ends by giving her readers caution about swinging to the other extreme or painting ideals about what women should look like in contrast to our harsh, modern egalitarian leanings. She devotes half a chapter to showing the order of God's creation in Eden, where the Lord placed a specific headship upon man (within a marriage-family context) over women. Jasmine simply states, "that has less to do with placing women in a position of inferiority than it does with the fact that we serve a God of order." Understanding the complementary relationships between man and wife is only understood within the Christ-Church relationship. However, Jasmine's book is not about debating egalitarianism vs complementarianism. Her goal is to show the effects of God's purpose and the Gospel's life-transforming effects upon daughterhood. I believe, regardless of any young woman's background, the principles that Jasmine lays out through each chapter are perfectly applicable to everyone. Naturally, there are so many differing circumstances and situations, which will make the practical application of these principles somewhat difficult at times. Nevertheless, at the core of her book, lies strong Biblical truths of Calvary love, sacrifice, the building of character and endurance through afflictions and various struggles. In almost every chapter, she is devoted to maintaining a selfless, Christ-like approach to each of the areas and relationships that young women struggle with today. I realize that I say this about almost every book I read, but Joyfully at Home is a true GEM! :-)

Jasmine doesn't mind hitting at the stereotypical definitions of "homemaking" and "stay-at-home daughterhood." She tears down all preconceived notions and distorted examples of these very admirable (and Biblical) positions for women that so many have rejected. Did she always "think" this way? No. In fact, she shares that she once believed homemaking to be the position of a woman who has not a talent to do anything else. She had dreams of grandeur and renown, completely set upon her own ambitions, set to do whatever she willed in life, until she was shot down. Of course, I had to chuckle at this part because I had a very similar experience. She writes,
"And I did read that book. So Much More by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin. You could say that it ruined my life - at least the dreams that I had built for myself."
Sounds like she's not the only young woman that the Botkin's book left in ruins. While there have been so many differing (and often times too harsh) critiques of So Much More, I know the Lord used it greatly to shatter all my leanings toward feminism and to begin thinking more Biblically in regards to woman's role.

In each chapter, Jasmine beautifully weaves together the Gospel and the position of daughters. She devotes a separate chapter to cultivating relationships with mother, father, and siblings and exhorts young woman to seriously cherish each member of the family. She does gives practical advice on how to pour out into their lives, but also targets false and selfish views that many of us hold towards our family members. I love her emphasis here: "Every family is a tool of sanctification and sharpening." A passage that hit me in her "Becoming a Good Daughter to Your Mother" chapter was this particular one:
"Our mamas are all less than perfect, because we're all fallible humans. There is an old saying, "Familiarity breed contempt." Although few of us would say that we feel contempt for either of our parents, many of us are so used to concentrating on our mothers' faults (on the things we dislike about her, on the pet-peeves we have cultivated, on the daily annoyances we can so easily become hung up on, on the character flaws we have ground up noticing, etc.). We tend to be far less patient with our mothers than we ought to be; however, as we show forbearance and as we learn to focus, not on the flaws we see in our mothers, but instead, on their virtues, many of us will realize that we are living with Proverbs 31 women that we have not even learned to appreciate."
Reading this passage hurt. Not only in relation to my mother, but all members of my family. As I have spent my whole life wrestling with my perfectionism-ideals in a fallen world, this was a great struggle that dominated my childhood, thus causing dis-unity and discontentment. And, one does reap the consequences of this type of thinking. It is very common in the world today to hear daughters speak disrespectfully of their parents and make know their faults. And, in a world where discretion and modesty in disposition is not cultivated, I find this is perhaps one of our greatest weaknesses. Because young women do not learn that same respect and selfless love in their family relationships (and, no, we don't get to use the reason that we were never taught by our parents to exhibit that love! Christ is our example and lead! Once we are in Him, we are not slaves to the fleshly or worldly; His Word renews our mind and hearts), they go on to vex and tear down their own husbands/children in time. Our family, whether we live with them 24/7 or not, will always be our training ground. No matter how "dysfunctional" one's family may be, there is always a place there in which a young woman can restore a sense of unity and love, smoothing over past hurts and grievances through selfless devotion, or she can leave it in ruins. We are Christ's hands and feet to all. Even if our family members are unbelievers, there is a way that the love of Christ can break through barriers of hurt and dysfunction. I think I'm beginning to ramble at this point....but Jasmine's words are true and demand much reflection!

She continues to gently prod young woman to share their heart with their parents, as well as getting to know their hearts, and then bless them through acts of service and obedience. In regards to siblings, after giving a list of questions to begin exploring about your sibling's interests and passions, her exhortation is simple: "Just spend time with your siblings! Spend less time bickering with them and more time laughing with them and loving them and encouraging them! Less time tattling and more time redirecting them yourselves, lovingly and respectfully."
I found this challenging and amusing due to the fact that I, whether for good or ill, had such a great influence in raising my younger brother (one whom I regarded as a great disturbance to my life for about 6 or 7 years right after he started walking and talking, haha!). Older siblings, I'm sorry, but we just don't get a choice in this matter. We are held responsible to care for those born after us, whether we wanted them or not. haha! I learned this the hard way, as in most areas of my life, and yet, I again see the Lord's faithfulness in my mistakes. Where we once used to mostly argue and purposefully irritate each other before, has become an ongoing relationship of laughter for my brother and I. We love fake-bantering and bickering for the sake of laughing! While he and I struggle with mostly opposite personalities, we can't help that we do have so much in common being brother and sister! So, teasing is our love-language. And, I do believe we have grown to deeply appreciate each other in new ways over the years because of this! However, Jasmine's wisdom of older siblings inspiring character and virtues in younger siblings is something I do value and realize the necessity of practicing in their lives.

In her chapter on contributing to a joyful atmosphere at home, she directs our focus at home to four goals: Home as a hub for ministry and discipleship, Home as a training ground for life ahead, Home as a place where we can bless those nearest and dearest to us, and Home a mean to bless those in our church and community. In this chapter, she also advises in continuing to develop trust with your parents, keeping lines of communication open, learning to submit, setting measurable goals by making your time spent at home full of activity and growth. I find that she covers each aspect with depth while remaining very concise. In addition, she goes on to explore, in the proceeding chapter, much more than I have time to devote to in this post. From thought-provoking, convicting chapters of overcoming false views of husbands, self, singleness, God and His sovereignty to the highly practical and helpful chapters devoted to time-management, hospitality, friendships, and more. Jasmine equips and enables young women in the fight against discontentment that stems from a selfish spirit. She is always leading her readers back to Scripture and supporting everything through the Word. I would wish every young women to read this book....if they were willing to embrace the challenge that comes along with it! Jasmine seeks to inspire young women to reevaluate their at-home years as a "fruitful opportunity for growth and ministry," as well their post-high school and college plans. Near the end of her book, she does well to turn us to search the Scripture and come to our own conviction about each detail of our lives. She reminds us not to lose ourselves in a stereotype, nor to fall into an Effort/Rewards notion of Biblical womanhood, but to maintain our identity and joy in Christ in our calling of Femininity.

Before I conclude, I have to emphasize one aspect of Jasmine's writings: Her wit, humor, and personality shine through in each chapter and it's not hard to love her! She has so much charm and grace, and yet she has this contagious humor that I absolutely adore! She makes light of many "woes" that young women struggle through. Not in a cruel way, as if she hasn't thought and experienced many of the emotional ups-and-downs that come with being female, but in a way that really opens your eyes to the utter absurdity of some of the things that race through our heads. As a literature fanatic and a dreamer, she plays on the ridiculous girlishness throughout her book, inserting short, sarcastic, cutting comments for the topic that she is discussing, revealing some rather humiliating thoughts, emotions, and reactions that we all carry. Of course, they're almost always melodramatic. I was laughing all the way through! She engages you with the humor and it invites you to continue reading and be challenged!
Jasmine is a darling, through and through. I'm so thankful for this book because of its emphasis on the cultivation of character and spiritual strength that flows from Christ, our River of Life. Joyfully at Home is a worthy-read. Every single page of it!