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Valentines Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!   I like romance and flowers and pretty things too. I do. It’s true!  (And cheesy rhymes are good today – right?!)   And yet, lately I’ve been thinking of love and of how warped the world’s view of love is.  I’ve seen afresh just how easily my own heart and feelings have been shaped by the world’s concepts, rather than God’s concepts.  Some of this is because I’m now married, and I’ve learned quickly that dating and romance are not the same as marriage and love. Lust and love are different.

 

True love is God’s love – agape love at it’s finest: selfless, pure, giving, sacrificing, a choice.  And it’s hard.  And it takes God’s love in me to be able to give it freely. It is costly.  It is constantly being shaped and refined in me.  It can not be demanded from anyone, least of all my spouse.  So it starts in my own heart, and it lets go of expectations from another.

For instance yesterday morning was Valentines Day.  I’d already discussed it earlier in the week with my husband.  We decided to go out to eat on the weekend, not Valentines Day.  He’d already said clearly that he didn’t need or want anything (even a card).  This stuff doesn’t matter to him.  I’d said I like something, something little.  Something.  This stuff matters much more to me. So yesterday morning he smiled at me and called me his Valentine and hugged me tight.  My heart swelled with feelings of being loved.  Then he said, “Is it ok then if I don’t get you flowers today, but wait until next week?”  My heart’s warm bubble burst in a second.  “Why?” I asked.  He looked at me and said slowly, “Well, to save a few bucks.”  I had an instant choice.  Love him, or demand from him.  If you know my husband, you’d know he loves me. He is generous to me, and good to me.  He also knows I like flowers, and wanted to give me some.  However, we are in a season where our income is lower than it was.  He once insisted on buying me a dress at full price, simply because I liked it.  Now he tries to limit unnecessary spending as our income has dropped, and in many ways it is him who has sacrificed the most in this area.  In an instant I decided to love him.  You see, Brad feels most loved when he feels my understanding and kindness to him.  My husband is always honest with me, and I know that Valentines day flowers are more expensive then any other day.  I know this. So I chose to respond in love.  And you know what– my heart swelled afresh with feelings of love and his heart did too! And I was fine, really fine, with just getting a sweet card from him later in the day.  I told him, “You know, if you bring me flowers, any flowers not just roses, as a surprise some day, that means more to me than 100 Valentine flowers.”  So we’ll see if some flowers are bought next week, or if they get forgotten in the manner of life.  But I’ve already determined that I love Brad regardless of if he remembers next week or not, and I’ve already determined to let it go if he forgets.

True love. God’s love.  That is what each day is for. Valentines Day is a fun day.  It’s good to remember to say we love those in our lives, and maybe give them an extra gift, or offer some exciting romance.  But it is not what makes for true love.  And when I was a single, I wanted the romance and the extra attention.  I know Valentines Day can be hard on singles, widows, those whose marriage is not good, or even those whose marriage is good and they want the extra attention but don’t get it.  Regardless, God’s love is true and was given on a cross freely.  His love can make any day, even Valentine’s Day, full of love.  But it will cost you — it will cost you the will to choose this, and that can be hard!  It helps if we are already developing the practice of being loved first by God, and giving His love away — without any demands from any other person.  Precious sisters, you are loved by God so much.  May you press on to learn to give love away everyday.

 

 

Reality Television/Dating Shows … Oh, Wait… I mean MY Real Life Dating

Today I was reading a book which talked of slaves.  At one point one slave stepped in between the angry master and the slave enduring the punishment.  This slave wanted to spare the punishment of the other.  The punishment was misdirected.  Today I wanted to stand in the place of someone else’s beating.  But truth be told, it is hard to be brave sometimes.  Let me explain.

In order to explain, I have to back up to my past.  All my life I have loved being a girl.  I love that God made men and women different.  All my life I would have told you all I really want is to be a wife.  Yet I never dated all through high school and all through college.  My first date was when I was 25. By the time I was 30 I was still hopeful, but in honesty I think I was loosing hope.  I secretly wondered if God was going to say no to this desire of mine.  I wondered if I’d ever get married.  I’d been on a handful of dates with a handful of men.  However, I seemed to attract men I shouldn’t date, or couldn’t date due to their lack of belief in God.

Through the years, God had been calling me closer to himself.  For that, I am grateful.  Despite this, I still longed to be in a relationship.  Some friends tried to set me up.  One dear woman set me up with two men (at two different times of course!).  She noted that if neither of those men worked out, she knew no one else!  I smiled, thanked her for her effort, and suggested that if those men were not for me, than that was ok.  I trusted God knew what he was doing.  Neither of those men were for me.  They were nice, good men.  But God was showing me that the time was not right, or the situation was not right.  I determined in my heart again to trust God, his ways, and his goodness.  It was not always easy.

Now however, I am one and a half years into dating a man.  This is the longest I have dated anyone.  Before our first date, I likely would have told you I was hoping for a date or two, maybe three.  But I wasn’t really expecting a steady boyfriend.  My past track record marred the hope that should have been in place.  But by God’s grace and goodness, here we are over a year later.  We are still dating.  Still learning of each other.  Still seeking God’s guidance.

But in full disclosure of honesty, I now understand parts of the Bible I never did before.  I understand why Paul wishes all were single, and expresses that he wants to spare trouble.  I used to marvel at 1 Corinthians 7, especially verses 25-35 — what did it mean?  Singleness was better?  I know now that singleness (despite the loneliness and struggles) is easier, not better.  What do I mean?  I mean that I lived my life however I wanted.  I could selfishly choose anything I wanted to do, invest in whatever and whomever I wanted.  My time, my money, my life, my priorities.  I could invest in time with God easily, and at one point I was in 2 Bible studies at a time, and was studying a different study on my own!

Then I met this man.  I started dating him.  (And how grateful I am for God’s good gift!).  But now, I understand that my time and interests are divided. A man is not a bad thing.  Not at all!  But I understand that my heart is divided too. Granted, God must always be first.   And when he gives a relationship, this order of loyalty is one that I am called to strive to maintain.  But as I’ve been dating, I’ve stared digging into the Bible in new ways.  I’ve pondered what it means that a woman is created as a helper. I wrote a list of what that word means according to a word search, then I listed what that means practically for me.  I’ve opened my Bible and pondered what is love.  I’ve had to evaluate what the Bible says versus what the world describes love to be.  I’ve gone over and over passages that suggest what kind of people we ought be: as dating forces me to examine myself, my beliefs, and who I might marry.  The Bible doesn’t express who I am to marry, but it certainly lays guidelines.

In my study of the Bible, I’ve recently studied the concept of covenant.  It rocked my knowledge and called me into a deeper understanding of dating and marriage.  You see, God is all about covenants, and marriage is a covenant, and a taste of what God offers those who believe in Him.  So as I studied, I started a list of what it means to be in covenant with someone.  I reasoned that if I were to marry, I wanted a clearer understanding of what I was entering.  Studying about covenants opened my eyes to the hardships Paul suggests accompany the marriage of two people.

For example, entering a covenant with someone means you take on their enemies.  It means you fight together and for each other.  It means that all they have and possess becomes yours by right. It means a sharing of life.  It means a giving up of self.  We have heard the phrase that you get it all: “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”  This is true when you understand covenant.  Entering a covenant is what a marriage is.  But this does not begin the day you walk an aisle and say I do.  Rather, learning to live this way and see if you can covenant is what the process of dating actually is.  Dating is letting another person into your life.  Your family.  Your time.  Your stuff.   Your hardships.  Your trials.  Your joys.  All of you.  And here is the reality: when two people share life with each other, there are two sets of families, two sets of sin patterns, two sets of personalities, two ways of doing things, two minds, and so forth.

And today I was called to take the beating of my boyfriend.  How?  Not physically of course.  We are not slaves or abused children.  Rather, I saw first hand the pummeling Satan wanted to bring on him.  He was discouraged and down.  I watched him process the hardships of life.  I saw a weary face lined with worry.  I saw his body slumped with hopelessness.  And I felt helpless.

Then the Spirit reminded me to pray for him.  Knowing he was tired, I suggested I pray for him and then leave so he could sleep.  We prayed together.  Life didn’t change immediately.  Peace didn’t instantly flood the room — although, a corner of the worry was stripped away so that peace could start to soothe.  My boyfriend stood and said, “Thanks, I needed that.”  We were united afresh. We stood together to fight.   At home later, I prayed some more.  Satan had my boyfriend in his targets.  His arrows were already flying.  Thus, I came between him and my boyfriend, because I am called to.  It is not always easy to intercede.  It is hard work.  But that is the fight of covenant.  We stand for each other when the other can not.

Dating and marriage do bring more trouble simply due to the fact that two people are living life together, and God himself tells us that this world is full of struggle.  But dating and marriage are also ground for fighting together.  A friend noted the other day that she believes that the component to marriage counsel that is often missing is the spiritual warfare side.  I completely agree!  Thus, as I thank God for my special boyfriend, I’m also reminded that dating is harder as it brings someone else’s trials and troubles to me. Yet, it also brings tremendous opportunity to support one another,  to encourage one another, and to take with them what they can not take on their own.  Togetherness provides opportunity to fight the spiritual battles that rage around us in this world.  Let us not forget the power of standing together!

Press on dear sisters into God! He is the Fortress that we must run into to weather loneliness, trials, or the other defeating storms of life!  And remember the story I was reading earlier of the slave that stood up to the master? That is the beauty of real dating and marriage.  Two people stand together to fight our unseen enemy.  Dating in real life is simply that — real life with all the joys and troubles that accompany it!

 

Boy Crazy, Love Struck, And Found Wanting

I have never been the kind of girl who could be described as boy crazy.  Never.  I didn’t care about boy bands, sport heroes, male models or the likes.  I never had huge posters of drop-dead gorgeous guys adorning my walls. I just didn’t care.  Of course I had a few crushes while I was in high school.  Of course I thought guys were cute.  I remember the college student who attended my church when I was a teen.  My friend and I secretly called him “eye candy.”  But despite a couple of crushes, despite seeing attractive guys, despite having girlfriends who commented on every passing guy, I never cared to that extent.  I was never boy crazy.  Perhaps that is also why I never dated, but I didn’t think that way at the time.  Rather, I pondered the girl who had a locker a few feet away from mine.  She always had a new boyfriend it seemed.  One of my also dateless friends once muttered, “How does she always have a guy?”  Another dateless friend answered, “Because she gives them what they want.” I wonder if that girl struggled with self esteem, struggled with feeling used, or struggled to accept love.

I grew up, went to college and still didn’t date.  At all.  It’s not that I went on a date with a guy here or there.  Nope.  I just didn’t date at all.  I thought there were some cute guys, a couple I thought were interesting.  But I wasn’t really disappointed that none of them asked me out. Don’t get me wrong — I wanted to date, but more than dating, I wanted marriage.  I had no interest in simply dating to date.

During this season of college, I was a resident assistant.  One day one of my girls asked if she could plan a floor event.  I had to have a certain number of fun events for the floor, and if she wanted to plan one, I was happy for the help.  She planned a themed night based off of the popular show, The Bachelor.  I barely knew what the show was about, but the evening was fun, and well attended.

Just the other day I watched a little bit of the season finale of The Bachelorette.  Now these shows have aired since 2002.  I have not followed the show at all.   I have seen bits and pieces here and there.  I know that one man or woman is given the option to meet 25 prospective mates.  I know that they go on a lot of group dates and eventually narrow down their choices to the men/women they want to go on individual dates with.  I know that they are mostly attractive, and well dressed.  I know that they are often willing to kiss and cuddle, despite knowing that another date is doing the exact same thing the next day.  I know that sex is often granted as a way of “exploring” the option.  I researched the outcome, and found it interesting that only 8 couples are together.  And of those 8 couples, some were not even paired together during the season, but rather found each other through the show itself (meaning members of different seasons paired up.)

When I watched the other day, the bachelorette had narrowed it down to two choices.  Two men between whom she had to choose.  Two men.  Both were attractive.  Both declared love for her. Both wanted to ask her to marry him.  One of the men shared the nagging doubt – what if she picked the other man.  He didn’t want to propose not knowing if she loved him. The man not chosen was heart-broken.

We are boy crazy, sex crazy, in love with love crazy.  And yet, so many of us are left wanting.   Perhaps as a whole, in general, we are desperate for love.  We feed our minds with pictures and images of men, of “reality” television with gorgeous women and fit men who put their 8-week relationship on display.  We evaluate our own lives by a perceived reality.  We watch shows that lavishly send a couple on romantic dates and to exotic places. We think that romance equals love.  We are desperate for love.

When we watch teenage girls develop dreams of love and romance; when they post pictures on their walls; when girls grow into women who desire relationships; when romance blossoms; when a woman’s heart longs for intimacy — the place to turn is to the Lover of our Souls.  Many women, single or married, are in this place of wanting.  Often God brings a good man into our lives, and we compare him to another or feel that he can’t meet our needs.  The simple truth is, no man can be that which only Jesus can be.  No girlfriend can either. I’d encourage you to get in tune with your heart.  As The Bachelorette demonstrates, we will go to crazy lengths to find real love.

May Jesus meet your needs today as only He can.  May we gratefully accept our girlfriends, our boyfriends, our husbands, our family, and those who genuinely show us God’s love. May we not seek the love our hearts so desperately need in the face or arms of another person, but may we instead look to Jesus.  His love is infinite.  His love is new each day.  His love will not leave us wanting.  “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Press on dear women… you are loved by God!

 

 

 

Falling In Love

At one point in time I collected quotes that struck me or that I liked.  One of the first quotes that lodged itself into my brain still pushes into my mind every once in awhile.  I didn’t consciously memorize this quote, I just walked past it for a whole year at one of the schools my mom worked at.  The quote was, “Attitudes are contagious — is yours worth catching?”   I still smile, because I can see the banner, in my minds eye, spread at the top of the stairway leading to the library!

Another quote that I collected someplace is, “Love comes quietly.  If you hear bells and whistles, get your ears checked!”  It made me smile.  Today it makes me think.

Writing this blog, as all other people who have blogs know, comes largely out of personal experience.  Today on my dresser sits a beautiful vase of peachy-orange roses, given to me the other day by my wonderful boyfriend.  He walked in the door, holding the roses!  I said, “Roses for me!”  (Who else would they be for!?)  It was a special treat to receive them!  I remember the day, quite a few years ago, that I was playing “Valentine Bingo” at a family reunion.  (My family celebrated holidays and occasions when we were together, and the occasion of the reunion was Valentines Day.)  As a then-single, who desired marriage, I wasn’t overly excited at the theme.  As we played this game, I’m pretty sure my mood became a little less than 100%.  The bingo boxes were filled with valentine gestures.  One of the boxes was, “Received flowers from a special someone.”  That is one that I remember clearly, though many of the other boxes were also left unfilled due to my dateless status!  Not being able to say yes to some of those items was slightly torturous to romantic me!  And now, I can say wholeheartedly that, yes, I’ve received flowers from a special someone … several times!  I’ll admit, it’s fun.

I find being in a dating relationship brings back a conversation that a friend and I had, also a number of years ago. I remember it distinctly, because I wanted to be married.  I wanted to date.  At 24 I had never been on a date, and my first date didn’t come until over a year later. But there I was again, with yet another one of my girlfriends who had recently gotten engaged.  I saw her pretty manicured hand, displaying the sparkling diamond.  I listened to her talk of the first date, and the proposal.  I really was happy and excited for her.  (Really!).  But what I remember most, was something that she said about Jesus. Something that now comes back to me as I find myself enjoying the attention of a special man in my life.

She said, “Why is it that it is so easy to fall in love with my fiance — to experience the love, the desires, and all that goes with being in love? But with Jesus, it’s harder?  I want to be in love with Jesus!”

I now understand what she meant.  Having a boyfriend means I have a tangible person freely giving me flowers and hugs.  It means I have a friend to call up and tell how my day went.  Dating causes me to rethink all the romance movies I’ve watched.  I find real life is different; it is choosing to be loveable and to accept the generosity of my boyfriend.  It is learning self-sacrifice.  It is a slow awakening to a different kind of love.  It for sure is not Hollywood. It is not bells and whistles.  Real love models Christ-likeness, and comes slowly and quietly. Nonetheless, in an earthly relationship, the feelings are real.  The man is standing before me.  I can see him, touch him, experience him.

Yet my friend’s question haunts me.  How can we women fall in love with Jesus all over again?  Single or dating, dating or married, married or widowed.  In whichever season of life we are in, can we experience, just as real, the feelings of being in love with Jesus?

I find that in our culture we want love to come quickly, loudly, and with certainty.  We want the romance, we want the feelings, we want the bells and whistles, so to speak.  We want this with Jesus too, if we are honest.  We want to feel the “mountain-top experiences.”  We want it to be easy to be good.  We want blessings in abundance.  We want the music and lyrics to “touch us.”  We want to get something out of the relationship far more than we want to practice selfless love for Jesus.  We want feel-good sermons.  We want friends who tell us we are good enough.  We want it easy.

Hmm. Bells and whistles are never a sign of true love.  Not with men.  Not with God.  Think with me to some of the feelings I’m experiencing in the new-to-me season of dating.  I want to be with him just doing nothing.  I smile over a text and get excited to hear his voice over my phone.  I think of him often throughout the day, and like knowing that he thinks of me too.  I delight in flowers and gifts.  I  get excited at the prospect of spending a whole day together. But these are the emotional sides of love.  They are not the depths of true love.

This morning I read an email from a friend.  She asked, “Do you know of any good studies for single women and/or women wanting to draw closer to God?”  Do you hear the longing in that question?  It is a desire to know God more… in essence it is the desire to get closer to God, to “feel” in love with Jesus again.  At least that is how I read it.  I pondered that.  I thought of my feelings over a man.  I wondered why don’t I have that with Jesus right now.  I laid in bed and thought. I asked Jesus, “Why don’t I feel that with you?”

All of a sudden the Spirit whispered back, “Remember Mary Ann, you have felt that way with Me before.  You couldn’t wait to have quiet time in the morning.  You immersed yourself in My Word and wanted Me to speak.  You asked Me questions.  You gave yourself plenty of time to pray, rather than rush through some pleasantries you called talking to Me.  That was falling in love with Me.  We can get back there.  You just need to be purposeful again.”  I didn’t feel condemnation.  I felt loved.

I’m reminded of more quotes. My sister once said, “Falling in love is a feeling.  Staying in love is a choice.”  She was talking about marriage.  I now see it is the same with Jesus.  Another friend once said, “Any fire will die if you don’t fan the flame.”  This is true with love for a person, or love for the Lord.

Do you want to be in love with Jesus?  Do you want the feelings, the bells and whistles? Just like any physical relationship, the emotions of being in love with Jesus are good.  But so is the deep knowledge that God loves you just for who you are.  So is the truth to the words, “Seek me and ye shall find.”  Press on to make time to fall in love with Jesus again.  Read His Word.  Spend time alone in His presence.  Listen to His voice.  His love comes quietly — in the calm of your heart.  It is not experiences and feelings.  It is the sacrifice of Himself that proves His love for you!  Press on sisters!  Jesus loves you and wants you to know the joy of falling in love with him all over again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prude Saint

A couple of years ago I went on a date with a guy, and after talking for a few minutes he exclaimed, “My you are pure aren’t you!” (I didn’t drink, smoke, and had never had sex.)  There was a mixture of delight (you know… sweet girl next door ideology), as well as annoyance in his voice.  I certainly wouldn’t be doing most of what he did, or letting him do what he wanted that night!  Likely from that moment he knew this was the first and last date!  I certainly knew it!

And again, shortly after that, I was telling a girlfriend about my life, beliefs, and walk with Christ up to this point.  We talked quite a bit.  I learned that she’d had several sexual partners before coming to Christ.  She looked at me in shock at one point in the conversation and said, “Wait a minute!  You’re telling me you’ve never had it!  You’re how old?!”  After a few seconds of complete amazement she reiterated, “I don’t think I’ve ever met any virgins as old as you.  I wish I would have that testimony!” (Side note:  I was in my mid-twenties and I didn’t like feeling old or inexperienced! I didn’t like the whisper of satan, the subtle voice saying, “See everyone else is doing it Mary Ann… no big deal.”  However, the admission of this girl that if she could do it over again, and do it my way, made me realize again the truth that the ways of God bring far greater reward than the ways of the world.  Take that satan!)

So it seems I come off as either a prude or a saint.  I’d like to state right out front that I also sometimes find myself placing myself into one of these two categories.  Yet, for the record, I am neither.  Oh I know God’s Word describes believers as saints.  I’m not disputing that.  Rather, I am saying that when it comes to what I do or don’t do, I can be labeled by those around me or even myself.

It fuels my determination to live a holy life when I’m admired.  It burns my desire to live for God when I’m ridiculed. And the truth is, in this world there will be both on a regular basis if you chose to stand for God, regardless of the issue at stake.  This is why one must make a firm decision in their minds, and choose for this day whom they will serve.  I have decided to serve God, to follow after Him, to be an abnormal girl in a world saturated with sex. It is hard sometimes. Yet the reward of God’s way is great.  I choose to believe that God’s standard is right, and I want His blessings in marriage.

Oh ladies, as we are labeled and defined by others, let’s not let them deter us from a Godly standard for living.  His path to holiness is narrow, sometimes not as “fun” as our worldly friend’s ways, and oftentimes feels prudish.  However, walking an upright life draws us closer into God’s righteous kingdom, and that is right where we need to be to live in freedom, purity, and joy!

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14

Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law  and obey it with all my heart. Psalm 119:33-34

Advice on Waiting (Part 3)

(Continued: Lessons I’ve learned as a waiting single).  Again – not just for singles, but for anyone waiting for anything!

On the occasion that I  (or you) never marry, or get the desires of our heart… does it mean God didn’t answer His promise?  You know, the promise, “delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”   I meditated on this verse long and hard for a while.  Look at the whole passage – Psalm 37.  The whole passage describes pressing into God with all your heart, using commands such as: trust in the Lord, commit your way to Him, take delight in Him, be still, wait patiently.  Easier said than done, right?

I came to the conclusion that delighting myself in the Lord is pressing into Him with all that I’ve got.  All my emotions can be told to him; my desires  can be poured out before Him; my joys, my sorrows, all of my heart belongs to Him.  I discovered that He himself is what my heart truly desires.  Thus, if I press into Him,  if I find my delight in Him, then He becomes my everything.  If I take Him at His Word, then He and His ways become my desires.

Try it for yourself.  I believe, that the more one seeks to know God personally, the more one studies His character, the more one meditates on His names — the more that person wants to know Him!  Thus, my “taking delight in Him” is seeking who He is, seeking what that means, and applying it to my heart.  The desires of my heart that are then given to me in response to His promise in Psalm 37 are not necessarily tangible things such as marriage, or children.  No, it’s Him.  Yet, often times He graciously gives us the “things” we request.  But even if He doesn’t, I’ve determined in my heart that His promise of providing my heart’s desire, is faithfully answered.

I’ll leave you with two stories that have helped my heart over the years of waiting. The first story was told to me by my mentor at least 6 years ago.  She told the story of a little boy who went shopping with his mother at Christmas time.  The stores were lit up with decorated trees and festive music echoed through the halls.  In the toy aisle he spotted a red fire-engine and immediately pulled his mom’s arm to go see the treasure.  He examined it and told his mom that he wanted this toy for Christmas.  He begged and whined.  His mother responded with the typical (annoying to a child) response of, “we’ll see.”  He spoke excitedly about the fire engine all the way home.  He told his dad about it.  He kept asking for it.  On Christmas morning he eagerly ripped into his package, and to his utter delight found the coveted toy.  His older brother later slapped him on the head exclaiming, “You’re so dumb!  You should have seen the fire engine that mom had picked out for you!  It was so much better than this one, but you insisted you knew what you wanted!”

And the second story is a true story that I heard while volunteering at a camp for kids with disabilities.  This one made me cry.  A wife had prayed for a child.  She had prayed and prayed and prayed.  She’d cried.  She’d waited. She’d prayed some more.  After 20 long years of beseeching and waiting, she finally had a daughter.  Her daughter had some sort of disability, which I don’t remember now.  However, the mother repeatedly said, “This is the child I prayed for.  She’s perfect!”  Her waiting turned to joy, even within the trials that came with a child with special needs.

God’s timing is always right even when it seems slow or wrong.  Will you trust that He knows best and has your best interest at heart?  Will you trust Him as a parent wanting to give good gifts?  Will you trust Him if your prayer is answered, but far differently than you expected?  Oh how I hope I do! Waiting friends… God is faithful!

Advice to waiting women (Pt 2)

(Continued: Lessons/Advice I’ve learned as a waiting single.)  (Again, if you aren’t waiting for a spouse, but for something else, some of these principles apply too!)

2)  Let me begin by saying that I’m not an advocate for flirting or calling attention to yourself to attract a guy.  I’m also not going to tell you that you have to “get out there and be available.”  Whatever that means.  Trust me, you could sit reading in a coffee shop for hours and still never meet a man. (One book I read actually suggested this as a means of getting out and being available!)  And I’ve been in a church with a large singles group.  I like games and therefore purposefully played kickball and ultimate Frisbee; I interacted with the guys, and I even hosted game nights (1 single guy showed up, the other few were married and their wives were with them).  I also know women and men who have tried online dating, and may have even gone on dates.  While some did marry, others didn’t.  Online dating does not necessarily guarantee a marriage, if you want God’s will for your life and He says no to any of your dates.  (Yes, getting out and being available does promote yourself as a partner, to that end I do agree!).   On the other hand if you are waiting to be married, I do advocate for purposeful set apart times of prayer for a spouse, as well as for yourself as you learn and prepare to be a wife.  Then I’d admonish you to LIVE YOUR LIFE IN COMPLETE SURRENDER TO CHRIST.  If you live this way –with prayer and purposefully seeking and following Christ, He can bring a man across your path whenever He so chooses (using whatever method He chooses, including online sites! My caution would be to ask God if online dating is right for you.  Some disagree with me on this, but this is my opinion.) So therefore, you can not stay inside your cozy home all the time reading, scrap booking, dreaming, and not venturing outside your door.  Get out and live however God directs you, in whatever job He calls you to, using whatever gifts He’s given, worshiping at whichever church He directs you to, serving wherever He leads, and learning how to make friends with both sexes!

3) Pray against bitterness, jealousy and covetousness.  All three are sins in God’s eyes, and I have had to confess them numerous times.

4)  Talk to women who are married and ask about married life.  Get a perspective other than the “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. Observe relationships that are godly and those that aren’t. Talk to women older than you who are still waiting, and who are godly examples.

5) Seek out ways to “practice marriage principals” – unselfish living, giving generously, giving up of your time, prioritizing individual quiet time with God, etc.

6) Realize that no relationship will ever satisfy all your longings.  None.  Not a spouse.  Not your girlfriends.  Not your parents.  None but a relationship with God.  Make it your first priority to grow in intimacy with Christ.  After you are married this habit will be crucial too!

7) When you cry and are lonely, ask God to show you His heart.  If you feel like your physical body might explode… God knows, He made people with bodies… He can meet every emotional longing behind the physical desire.  (Next time that happens to me I might just tell God I need a hug!)  Ask for friends to hang out with, friends who both call you and whom you are willing to call and admit loneliness to. (And seek God’s counsel on sexuality and chastity.  Yes, it’s hard. On the other hand, sexuality expressed is a benefit of marriage, so again, I’m talking to those waiting and longing for marriage.  If you have no desire to be married, and yet can’t control yourself, I’ll be honest with you: it’s a sin in God’s eyes.)

8) Press on in surrender to Christ.  My mom once asked me, “what if God never has marriage for you?”  I remember saying, “I guess I’ll have to trust Him.”  If you long for marriage, pour out your heart before the All Knowing God.  However, also ponder what your response will be should God tell you that’s not the life He has for you.  Might that be hard?  Extremely.  The choice is if I’m willing to trust Him.

9) If you need, get counseling!  Life is very hard.  Pressing into Jesus in times of waiting, especially when it seems hopeless, or it’s taking 20 years instead of 2 —  is super hard.  Depression can creep in.  Please talk to a godly mentor, a pastor, a friend, a counselor… someone who will pray with you and encourage you, someone who will guide you back into God’s waiting arms.  It is only there that you’ll find true contentment.  Counseling can also help you with you — learning to grow on your own, and become a better future mate!

There… in a nutshell are the lessons I’ve learned in the last 11 years of my life about how to wait faithfully.  And I promise, this is just a nutshell!  I’ve had so many other experiences.  I’ve talked a lot to women, both married and single.  I’ve also determined to be cautious with what I fill my mind with: how many books on singleness and marriage I read, how many romantic comedies I watch, and how many sappy love songs I listen to.  I’ve been told to “stop looking, then it will just happen.”  (Yeah right, by the way.  When you want something, and especially in a couples world, it is very hard to “stop looking.”  It’s like saying, “stop the desires, the emotions, and your heart!” However, the truth is, when God becomes your all in all, the worrying about the future decreases and a peacefulness in His Sovereignty reigns).  I will say, trusting God is an adventure!

Press on waiting women!

Advice to waiting women

This is for the waiting women, who want to be married.  But aren’t yet.  It doesn’t matter if you’re older than me, or younger.  I might be talking to your heart here. And if you’re not interested in marriage, or already married… I’d say read it anyway, I may be talking to your heart too — if you’re waiting for anything at all.

Let me begin by saying that I’m 30 and not married.  I may not have said it aloud, yet when in high school I assumed I’d get married after college, to some man I met in college.  (Isn’t that how it normally works to the unknowing 15 year old mind?).  I wrote my first letter to my future spouse when I was 18, and have continued to add to that book of letters for the last 11 years.  I decided to tuck it away last year, as it was getting full (and a little redundant!).

I have read lots of books on singleness and waiting.  I have also read lots of books on marriage (because I believe preparing to be a wife is just as important as learning contentment in being a single).  I’ve had hours of conversations with peers, as well as women older than me, still waiting.  I’ve cried myself to sleep some nights with loneliness.  I’ve secretly wished I could grab any man off the street to ease the physical longings. I’ve rejoiced with numerous friends who have met a man and gotten married, while at the same time pushing back the longings within me that rise up to fight (and yes, I do think you can honestly rejoice with a friend even while desires within you want to bubble over).

And I have learned some things along the way.  I’ve been given advice (a lot of it unsolicited, and sometimes hurtful or not helpful, muddled together with the helpful advice.  I’ve therefore felt confused).  I’ve prayed.  I’ve tried to “encourage guys” in a “non-initiating” kind of way.  I’ve glanced at ring fingers of cute guys passing by.  I’ve read the “rules” written in books by others, and I’ve tried the “rules”, and I’ve lately thrown the “rules” out the window.    I am not by myself in this.  I know.  If you’ve been there too, you may find yourself nodding along with me, chuckling over the past.

You may have learned the same lessons, and I’ll post some great book recommendations.  But here is the advice I heard, and wisdom I know, which has helped me, and which I think helps in all waiting circumstances.  As of today, I am currently dating a man … but only God knows the future.  Thus, I’m still posting what I’ve learned, because I’m still telling myself this.  And you might need the reminder too.  Not just for a spouse.  But how about for a job?  How about for a child?  How about for healing of some sort?  All of the principles I have gleaned through the trial of waiting for a spouse apply.

1) I found that I MUST DETERMINE THAT GOD IS COMPLETELY SOVEREIGN OVER EVERYTHING! (Yes, I realize on computer screens that all caps is interpreted as screaming.  That’s not the intent really.  However, please hear the passion in this sentence.  It is the beginning point to waiting and living with hope in your heart, regardless of the longing.) And this doesn’t mean that a woman has no choices, and is not able to do her part. Rather it is learning to place our trust and surrender into God’s timing and hands. (In other words, just as if you want children, you have to do the part God gave you to do — there are not going to be any more virgin Mary’s!  But the sexual act itself doesn’t guarantee children.  The same is true with dating and doing our part … we’ll see this later.)

And if you feel He’s not doing a very good job with your future/love life, maybe you should try telling Him that, and see what He says!  If you have a hard time trusting Him, I’d suggest meditating on Scripture — and that means purposeful memorization and dwelling on the truths of His trustworthiness and faithfulness and sovereignty.  Purposeful.  Sometimes through the tears.  But this step must be accomplished, or else I’ve learned that bitterness and jealousy can creep in unnoticed.

Continued in next post…

Confessions

I must confess that I have a special spot in my heart for my friendships with women.  I’ve said it before, I love being a woman, and God has for some reason allowed me to connect easily with women from all walks of life.  My former roommate is coming to visit this weekend, and I’m so excited!  She’s delightful.  We often prayed together.  We liked to have dinner together if we were both home on the same night.  She’s cried with me.  We’ve seen each other in pretty tough places, and we’ve rejoiced with each other.  She’s great!  I can’t say it enough.

It seems that God has given me so many good, quality girl friends.  I love them!  I exude their attributes, and find them godly!  I thank God for them! We’ve sought the scriptures together, we’ve met for prayer.  We’ve held each other accountable.  We’ve simply had fun together.  The problem is, I’m not so quick to exude the same confidence and encouraging statements about the guys in my life.

Here is the confession.  I’ve complained about men.  I’ve wondered where are the good ones.  I’ve bemoaned that they are hard to find, and not in churches.  I’ve therefore done injustice to men.  And I’m sorry.  God has been working on my heart.  Just as my quality girl friends are out there, so are there quality men.  The difference is, I interact with women differently than men — which is appropriate and fine, yet I use that difference to justify my complaints.  That’s not right on my part.

In the past, I’ve found myself quick to judge them, forgetting that the same enemy of femininity is also the destroyer of masculinity.  I  have failed to uplift my brothers in prayer as much as I should have. I could count on two hands the number of guys my age that I found impressive.  Perhaps that is because I know more women then men. Thankfully in the past year God has brought me into contact with more quality men, and it has helped me immensely!

Why do I tell you this?  Because as women, we have an important role.  We are called to press into Christ, to love Him with our hearts, souls, and minds.    Yet we were also created to be helpers of men. Eve was created as a helper,  and I believe this calling is true whether we are married or single.  We are to help men, and my complaining isn’t a godly example of a helper.  I want to apologize.  I want to change the trend that I see not only in me, but in a lot of women my age.  I want to uplift men in prayer, not criticize.

Women and men who are seeking God with all their heart are definitely “out there.”  I hope there are men praying for women who are lovers of God.   I hope that men are praying for women who are godly examples.  Thus, that should also be my prayer: that God would raise up a generation of men who are lovers of Him and His Word; men who are selfless and godly; men who are leaders in homes, churches, and offices – wherever God has placed them.  And this type of living should be what women want to strive towards as well.  All of us are living with an enemy.  He comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.  No wonder then that masculinity and femininity are crumbling.  True men and women challenge the status quo and redefine Godly living, family, friendships, and every arena where it matters if there is a difference between the sexes.  Distinctively different.  And both men and women are in need of being lifted up before our Gracious God!  I confess this because I want to see males and females living out God’s design for their lives!  Oh let us as women become women of God, and pray that the men around us will also be men of God! Let’s learn to be helpers, in whatever capacity God allows!

Neon Sign: Lonely and Need a Hug!

My former roommate came to visit this weekend.  She is delightful and I’m so grateful for friends!  We went out for dinner on Friday night and settled in to talk.  We haven’t seen each other in a while, haven’t called in a while, and had plenty of catching up to do!  As usually happens when two single women are together we chatted about men.  Then we chatted about life.  Both are interesting topics!

At one point my friend said there was a guy who was hard to get away from at church.  I smiled and asked, “Is he single?”  She nodded.  “Is he lonely?”  Again, the nod.  “Is he desperate?”  She nodded, smiled again, and asked me, “Is he an 80 year old man?”  This time I shook my head in the obvious affirmative answer.  Yes.  He was not a young man seeking companionship from the newest single gal at the church — rather an elderly, lonely man in need of a friend.

We discussed loneliness and the hardships.  We talked back and forth and one of us said (I’ll give her the benefit… because I seriously have no clue which of us said it!), “What if we went into church carrying an actual sign with us and it stated Lonely and Need a Hug!”

Now there is a thought.  What if we did go to church carrying this sign with us.  Or what if we went to church carrying other signs: “Trapped in sin — Please someone ask so it’s no longer a secret!”  Or, “My mind is focused on family problems, don’t ask me what the pastor talked about.”  Or how about, “Is God really here?  He feels so distant!”

What if we carried signs into church — signs unveiling the real souls behind the smiles, behind the words, behind the facades?  Oh, I’m not saying that behind every smile is pain or struggle.  That’s not true at all.  Yet behind many smiles, many eyes, and many words is a struggle desperate to be noticed.

Lonely and need a hug.  The elderly man matches the description.  The divorced man two pews over fits the description.  The single young woman fits the description. The married woman who sits alone because her husband doesn’t believe in God fits the description. The child who rides with a friend and whose parents refuse to attend likewise fits. And the married man whose wife is in an emotional affair also fits.  These are just a sample of the individuals who are maybe lonely in the church pews. I’m willing to wager on this: there are more lonely people within the walls of a church than most of us know. Loneliness can be caused by physical separation from a loved one due to death, divorce, military tours, or single living, among other reasons.  Also, there is the loneliness due to spiritual separation from God.

Regardless of the why, I want to have a heart that looks for these people with invisible signs.  The signs are written in imperceptible ink; written within hearts and moving like phantoms out of the windows of their souls — the eyes, the carefully guarded words, the sighs, the prayers, the tears.  What bodily functions become the voice of the inward struggle? I wonder if asking God for a heart  that sees is wise.  If I ask for this, I might risk opening myself up to the real lives of others.  Getting involved in others lives is messy, but it is real, and it also leads to real prayers.

Maybe you understand the heart of another person’s pain, because you’ve been there.  I’m grateful for the body of Christ, and I want to be willing to be more vulnerable.  I want to be more willing to admit my need for a hug, or my need for prayer for a sin in my life, or the place in my mind to which it wanders in the middle of the sermon.  In addition to asking for a heart of understanding to see, I want to risk speaking the truths of my own silent struggles.

This is what being in the body of Christ does — it allows for being real.  It allows for healing when brought to God.  Lonely people in need of a hug are also welcomed into God’s embrace!  When we admit our loneliness or struggles to Him, it will be interesting to see who He sends to be His hands.  It might be the hug of a friend, the thoughtful card of a relative, or some completely random means which blows your mind over the care of God towards His children.

Oh let’s be real with our brothers and sisters in Christ!  Tell you what, I’ll wear a sign if you’ll wear one too!  Pretty soon our signs will say: Lonely and need a hug. Hugged by God: Used C.H.’s arms!