Saturday, December 3, 2016

181: my current take on contentment

Contentment lies not in wanting your dreams less per se, but in accepting that, if the Playwright completely turns your desired plotline on its head, contrary to all logic and historic normalcy, if He brings years instead of fortnights, pain instead of expected pleasure, lonely nights with no guaranteed end, then He is still in His rights to do so, He is still good, and if, through the years and confusion, you come to know and believe and understand that He is (Is. 43:10), then your life will not be for naught.

While the purpose of your life was suppose to involve investing in a marital relationship and raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (and you still hope it does), maybe the purpose for all living is simply to know Him, something that exceeds circumstances. Maybe true ministry to others, true purpose, doesn't depend on anything circumstantial, but rather believing that He is God and living out that growing knowledge of Him, being a witness of the One you love, wherever you are, even in the solitary passing of time. To know Him. Just simply to know Him. To grow in knowing Him.

Accept that, and even as you long for something more temporal, you can be content.

Quoting Elisabeth Elliot from The Savage My Kinsman:
"[T]o be a witness to God is, above all, to know, believe, and understand Him. All that He asks us to do is but means to this end. He will go to any lengths to teach us, and His manipulation of the movements of men . . . is never accidental. Those movements may be incidental to the one thing toward which He goads us: the recognition of Christ."
 Methinks perhaps that's why I'm still single.

"'You are My witnesses,' says the LORD,
'And My servant whom I have chosen;
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.'"
(Isaiah 43:10)

Book Review: For the Record by Regina Jennings

Some of you might suspect the truth--I really like novels and movies with marriage-of-convenience/accident stories, or stories where someone has to pretend to be another's fiance for some outlandish reason and then, of course, they fall in love even though it wasn't in the plan. (Like Hitched for the Holidays, among many, many others)

For the Record by Regina Jennings isn't one of those stories. So it took me a little of a running start to get into it. But once I did, the story unfolded a worth-while romance between two characters who were not looking to get hitched at all.
The setting is Pine Gap, Missouri, back in the day of outlaws and sheriffs. Betsy is an independent-type, 24 yr. old girl. Unlike most independent stereotypes in fiction, she is not anti-family. Rather, she has spent the last however many years raising her cousins after their mom died, and now that her uncle has remarried, she finds herself a financial burden on the family. She wants independence so she can be her own mistress--a reasonable enough desire for a girl in her mid-20s that has managed a house before.

The rest of the plot-line you can get from Amazon, but basically it includes a deputy running from unfounded accusations, a gang of masked vigilantes, and a web of uncertainty about who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.
Part way through my reading today, as the circumstances got even more complicated and dire, I had to remind myself that the author would make sure that everything turned out okay in the end. Sometimes you have to with suspense! And she did. :) The beauty of fiction. The beauty of "love wins out in the end." I hate the oh-so-predictable miscommunication in many novels for the purpose of creating relational conflict. You know the kind I mean--so-and-so has a secret and so-and-so has a secret, and both secrets get revealed suddenly and unexpectedly, and now both parties are so mad that they won't get to the truth of the matter, and you want to yell at the characters to stop and JUST COMMUNICATE! It's like seeing an impending train wreck from afar and cringing as you watch it happen. This story, fortunately, wasn't like that. You could still see the impending disaster, but when the inevitable occurred, you saw the hurt, you saw the doubt, but, in the end, the characters acted like reasonable human beings. Actually, they acted quite stellar.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the halting-developing romance. Finishing For the Record was a sweet way to end my Saturday.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

180: goals

Tonight I found out someone I used to be very close with is an atheist now.

We think we are solid. We think we are safe. But our enemy walks around seeking whom he may devour.

We have to be on our guard. We have to be in fellowship with other believers. We have to be in fellowship with God. We have to repent and not let sin develop into greater sins.

We can't take our walk for granted. We must throw ourselves on the One who said no one can snatch us from His hand and Who is able to keep us from stumbling.

What frail creatures we are if we must make it our goal to stay in the faith all our days!

I have said it before, but I want to reaffirm. My life goal is, when I'm in my 80s, whether married or single, to stand in the congregation of the righteous and bless the Lord and worship Him for Who He's been all my life.

It is not about us. It is about acknowledging Who He is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Life of a Pencil

"The Life of the Pencil"
a nanowrimo experiment
author: LadyM
goal: 1500 words a day

Part 1 
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Monday, October 31, 2016

Day 31 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I made it! Thank You, Lord, for this victory!

31 days, minus the two days I was without reception.

I finished reading this book yesterday on my Kindle app:

It's a present-day romance between an art gallery owner and her client who are searching for a portrait painted during the Holocaust. The story flashes back to before and during the Holocaust, where there is also a romance and some really stark details of surviving that period of history.

While at the retreat this weekend, I picked up another YWAM missionary story. YWAM Publishing really puts out the most interesting, inspiring accounts of God working through ordinary people who follow His leading. I highly recommend the International Adventures series, but this one that I picked up is just as good:

Tomorrow starts National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), that time of year when people across the country put pen to paper and attempt to write an unedited novel rough draft of 50,000 words in only a month. My students start tomorrow on a 2nd/3rd grade modification of Nanowrimo--they are to write a continuous story, adding to it three times a week for a month. That's a biggie for little kids!

Well, I started considering what I should do. I was planning on doing some daily prompts I found, but I lost the link so that idea fizzled. What if I did something like the kids? But what kind of modification would be appropriate for me? What if...what if I just went for the 50,000 words like everyone else? 50,000 words divided by 30 days...or maybe I could just round it down to 1,500 words a day. What if instead of writing in a Word doc like the last time I attempted Nanowrimo, I did my narrative rambling in daily blog posts? I mean, I just did 31 days of blogging anyway, and I was planning on doing another 30 days. Sure, they'd be extra long posts (about double my long posts now) and they would be unedited (not that my posts now days are super edited) and they would be fictional and unrelated to singleness....

So I think I'm going to do it! Or at least attempt.

I apologize in advance for lack of content, lack of good writing, basically for serving up a bunch of lukewarm WORDS, because that's the whole point, to pull 1500 words out of my brain a day. As a discipline, an exercise, and experiment in creativity.

Hold on, blog o'mine, because The Life of the Pencil starts tomorrow!

I'm exhausted already.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Day 30 of 31 Days of My Single Life

So . . . Halloween.

I don't celebrate it.

I dressed up one year. The year I was at my YWAM discipleship training school. I went to the thrift store and got a strange-ish skirt and pink top, put a bandana in my hair, and called myself a "gypsy." I felt a little ill at ease dressing up for Halloween and still didn't feel like I fit in compared to those who really dressed up.

Halloween 2005
Halloween, 2005
What is Halloween in its essence? It's a celebration of death and darkness.

I know that's not what I see on my Facebook newsfeed. I see princesses and butterflies, Chewie and Darth Vader.

But what other time of year is it acceptable to cover your house in fake spider webs, erect tombstones on your lawn, and participate in downtown zombie walks?

I'm not going to get into the history of Halloween. I think it's obvious to any American that Halloween is even now a time to glorify ghosts and darkness and fright, even if you disregard the origin of "trick or treating."

We have a lot of liberty in Christ. Many believers celebrate Halloween. Even more believers celebrate the alternative Harvest Festival. Each of us must decide before God where we draw the line on a myriad of "gray issues."

Well, on this issue, I (and my family) choose not to engage in Halloween.

Our God (Halloween aside) is all about Life and Light.

"This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." 1 Jn. 1:5

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Jn. 1:4-5

"Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." Jn. 8:12

"For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light." Psalm 36:9

Is there anything so diametrically opposite of Life and Light than the death and darkness of tomorrow's holiday?

The temptation is always there to engage. There's also the pitfall of honoring the holiday by celebrating in a non-Halloween way. Tomorrow we plan on either watching Facing the Giants or playing games with a friend while we hide out from trick-or-treaters. It's a fine line to not "celebrate" the holiday by creating an "anti-holiday" tradition. And maybe that's not even an issue since it's not glorifying death and darkness.

Nice little bow to wrap this up: We are believers. We are born again into the kingdom of God. We must draw a line somewhere and hold fast to it.

"And what communion has light with darkness?" 2 Cor. 6:14b

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Day 29 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I was at a women's retreat the last couple days. We stayed at a turn of the last century hotel, tucked far back from the road by acres upon acres of--I'm not sure how to describe it. Not forest. Not plains. Rocky grasslands? With small mountains and trees and a creek? Errol Flynn stayed at the 4-story hotel back in its glory days.

This morning a lady probably a few years younger than me, recently married, spoke about what she's learned about the subtle temptations of the world while working as an EMT and studying to be a paramedic. But then she also mentioned how sometimes we think, "I'm ready to be married. Why am I not married?" For her it was because her husband still had growing to do. That they probably wouldn't even have liked each other if they had met earlier. And so that that could be the same with is single ladies.

In the car driving home, one of my carpool ladies told of a missionary she knew who was one of the most spiritually mature women she knew and accomplished too. People would tell her, "Why are you single? You would make a perfect pastor's wife!" But she told my friend that she had a peace that God had it all under control. Later she went to another state and met a man, passionate about God, who had been in prison. Eventually they married. It turned out that's why she needed to wait--he had been in prison!

Two principles come to mind.

First, that's why we need to pray for our future husbands, which I confess I'm not good at. I like to think "he" (whoever "he" may be!) already has a history of following the Lord faithfully and studying His word, because then that means he's ready NOW. If I have to pray for him to know the Lord, then that means I have to wait for him to mature in the Lord before I can have him. But surely prayer is one way we can be a helpmeet now, even before we know the guy, by interceding for him.

Second, it's not always about the guy not being ready. I know I have grown so ridiculously much compared to my early 20s. And I still have so much room to grow, especially in male relationships. Does that mean God's going to make me wait? Is there a level of maturity needed before God brings two people together? No! God's ways are not our ways. He is the master playwright, working out His purposes, universal and personal, and we are His subjects, led by His expert hand to play the role designed for us. At least that's how I sometimes like to picture it.

I have a hard time reconciling the prolonged singleness of so many Christian women these days. And I have a hard time swallowing the phrase, "Your purpose is to glorify God." Because in there I'm like, okay, but again, why can't I be married and glorify God, since marriage is God's design? So I like to view it like an author. A story would be boring if all the characters led the same lives with no variation. I look at the world. There is no uniformity of fate--everyone has had to go through drastically different circumstances, even while the lessons learned may be similar. So with me. I am a player in a bigger drama than my desire to have a home with a man by my side. I am part of God's drama. And in this way I can reconcile, yes, I can probably submit to my role, even though I cannot see what the rest of my lines are, because as long as I'm following the Director then I am living purposefully and have worth.

I should end there because this is getting long, but nope, one more thought. I've always always always thought that if only I were married with kids then my life would have built-in purpose and ministry. It's like an ingrained belief. If only. Then I wouldn't have to work to make my life count. My time would be accounted for. I wouldn't be filling it with other things like now. I'd be too busy to have to worry about living well in all my spare time, and failing.

Well, Thursday evening of the retreat I realized that while I've been trying to let go of different parts of The Dream (to be a wife and mother) that are holding me back from living today, this is one thought-process that I haven't let go of that is holding me back. I wrote in my journal, "It's time to let go of waiting to have my time naturally filled with purposeful relationship-building."

I'm not sure yet how things will/could change. I know God's been working on one particularly stubborn stronghold--my downtime. But I don't know what the application will end up looking like yet for me.

Our God is good. His goodness and purposes are so much grander than our imagination.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . . ." (Mt. 6:33)