Sunday, December 16, 2018

243: not worth a title

Apparently I wasn't willing to put the work into blogging every day when I started that series on my interests.

It has been a hard last few weeks. But Friday was a good day at work, and today it has been wonderfully dark and drizzly outside, creating a feeling of rest and comfort inside.

I am doing the Teachers in the Word Christmas reading plan this season. It's really nice to have something to keep up with consistently! And I also have a mini-reading plan on names for Christ by Natasha Metzler. And I started Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift in November to give me a running start (which also has daily Scripture passages). I'm actually not ridiculously behind, which is nice!

In the singles social media group I am a part of, arranged marriage (and its ilk) has been a recent topic of conversation. Lord, is this desire within me of You or my flesh?

And yet, something stirs when I hear the stories of God putting two people together. The difference is that in my culture, two people come together in love and feelings, but in other cultures, two people come together with commitment.

I want that.

Is it practical? So not!

But the idea of choosing someone, or of being chosen and choosing back, and then basing the future on a commitment that will not fall into divorce because there is nothing to "fall out of," the idea of working through differences without the backdoor that you would have in dating--no, you get to work it out knowing that this is who you are meant to be with--that is supremely attractive to me.

I suppose all that (commitment, choosing, working through differences) happens in marriage no matter what relationship you have had to get you there. But there is a reason why arranged marriage cultures have a lower divorce rate. And the perfection of feelings and circumstances that we require of single people today before they can commit to marriage is fantastically also unreasonable.

A girl tonight shared that in Russian Christian culture, the guy prays about who God wants him to marry, hears from God, goes and proposes to the girl, the girl prays, and then they marry. No dating. No wondering if they married the wrong person, because God showed them.

Oh, Lord God.

I do not understand why He works differently in this culture. If He does work differently. I do not know why I am part of a FB group of some 400 conservative Christians who are unmarried and yet (most) want marriage. I do not know how to balance the stymie inherent in my American early 21st century culture with the sovereignty of God in individual lives.

But there seems to be something wrong in this culture that is preventing what seems more doable in other cultures or in other centuries.

I want to be part of whatever that is in other places and times that makes this thing of getting to marriage less impossible and more natural. Is it supposed to be this ridiculously hard for so many my age and older?

And at what point would I be willing to lay aside my culture and all my fears for the sake of "marriage"?

And what does God's wisdom say?

Meanwhile, school is back in session tomorrow for one more week. We got a new washer and dryer after using the neighbor's for, what?, 3 weeks? And Christmas is a-comin' and I already have been using my recently-purchased-from-Hobby-Lobby wrapping paper! (granted, for non-Christmas presents. Ah well.)

I think I can still say I am content with single life. I don't think I'm discontent. But content does not mean sit back and do nothing, now does it?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

242: Interest #2

You know what I really like? But it's not anything you could claim as an interest, it just stirs me up.

I like being able to trace God's work in me. I love noticing His sovereignty doing something good through experiences I wouldn't have chosen. I love recognizing how He's used different things to make me who I am thus far. If I had followed a different path, would I have gained or learned or developed the same things?

So it's one part self-aware, one part psycological, and one part thankfulness to God that He's the author of this story.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

241: Interest #1

I have long known that I do not like the question, "What are your hobbies?" What am I to say? When I'm not teaching, I'm Facebooking or watching movies? Sometimes reading? #lame. Recently, someone asked me my interests. And again, I stared. "Writing." Ok, there's only so much conversation you can pull from that (especially after listening to someone share about their passion for yoga and rock climbing). When I complained about my boring-ness to a friend, he snidely remarked that my interests are talking on the phone (because I've rediscovered the benefits) and mail order bride books. Hardy har har.

And so, it has been decided. I have started paying better attention to what interests and excites me. Futhermore, I'd like to share my daily findings here. For the record.

What to share today? There are just so many things to choose from! :D

For now, I'll start with something super obscure. In my "saved for later" Amazon list, I've kept a book called, Longing for Motherhood: Holding on to Hope in the Midst of Childlessness by Chelsea Sobolik. I heard it mentioned again on the radio tonight, and I'm considering purchasing.

Why does a book so irrelevant to my stage of life interest me?

A couple years ago I picked up Natasha Metzler's Pain Redeemed, and, really, my life was changed. From what I remember, it is her wrestling with the Lord with infertility, but the themes of pain and dreams dying are common to any of us.

Chelsea Sobolik's book is about her wrestling with the diagnosis when she was still a teen that she would never be able to have children. At 33 years old, I'm not married, I don't when or if I ever will be, if I will ever be able to have children. I, too, have wrestled with the Lord. I think that her biographical account would be both heart-touching, edifying, and on a spiritual level, relatable.

It also interests me because it is a real issue women deal with. Depression after giving birth (the term alludes me) also piques my interest because I think it must be so helpful to know that those feelings are not just unique to you, and as an outsider, I would want to have compassion on a mother dealing with that. I guess it fascinates me.

So, I just have to decide whether to spend another $20 for $5 off on Amazon before the end of November.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

240: the latest

Has it been nearly two months? It has. What can one say? I am teaching three grades again (so far I'm not dying, by God's grace), I have a side writing job (yay for writing =ing moolah), my back is killing me while I sleep (so lots of making time for chiropractor appointments and exercise classes), and I'm on a no-sugar/dessert break for a month (and in that, I am dying).

Thus lie the pros and cons of my natural life.

No love life, but it is currently the three year anniversary of my last break up. Not that I haven't had heartbreaks since then, just nothing official to point at.

And spiritually? Well, this last week, not so great on my end of faithfulness, but I did learn something about a week and a half ago. I started praying "Lord, I trust You with _______" and "Lord, I lay _______ at the foot of the cross." Usually I constantly repeat, "Lord, help me do this and that and the other," which is actually very draining on me. A laundry list of all the areas where I need help can at times feel like reliving the burdens of the day, not unloading them. The alternate verbiage of "Lord, I trust You to _______" was a completely, utterly new way of praying for me. It actually felt like  leaving the matter(s) in God's hands. I trust You to help me be gracious towards this person. I trust You to give me wisdom on how to help this student. It's leaving my sanctification in God's hands and, seemingly, having actual faith that He will accomplish it. The only problem was having to check myself when it started feeling like I had to say the magic words. Because, the few days that I did pray that way, there was noticeable improvement in my day.

And as for praying "Lord, I lay ____ at the foot of the cross," it was an alternate way of my normal, "Lord, please forgive me for this and that, and if that was sin, and for that stupidity"--spiraling into a slight haze of depression-esque-ness. Instead, laying those things at the foot of the cross, in my mind, was an, ok, this and that way that I messed up and sinned, I lay it before You at the cross (on which the blood of Christ has already made atonement for me). Finit. The end. *contented sigh*

So that's the latest with me.

P.S. The kids at school are memorizing 1 Jn. 2:1-8 this month. That means every day we sing that "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins." Talk about a very unique vocabulary word!

"Say to Him, 'Here, Lord, I give myself to you. I have tried in every way I could think of to manage myself and to make myself what I know I ought to be, but I have always failed. Now I give it up to you. Take complete possession of me. Work in me all the good pleasure of your will. Mold and fashion me into a vessel that seems good to you. I leave myself in your hands. I believe you will, according to your promise, make me into "a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work"' (2 Timothy 2:21)." --Hannah Whitall Smith

Sunday, August 19, 2018

239: rolling it on

In Psalm 37:5 it says, "Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." 

Proverbs 16:3 is similar: "Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established."

I looked up the word "commit." It's the Hebrew "galal," meaning to roll away/down/together.

I love that! These nagging anxieties that mount up like stones. Plunk. Then another, plunk. These unavoidable burdens that clump down into the soul and drag along the bottom.

I am trying to practice rolling them onto the Lord. It is so easy to ignore my worries, let the gnawing-away at my peace linger. Last year (I probably have said this before), I struggled with praying, partly because I had SO MANY anxieties and moments of failure and cares built up--I had no strength to pull them out one by one and give them to the Lord in prayer. I would say, "Here they are, Lord. Help me," but I was still shoulder-bearing undefinable, shadowy burdens. They weren't rolling over.

So right now, in this end of summer, beginning of the school year season, I am practicing rolling those worries over to the Lord and not carrying them with me throughout the day. He tells us to. Isn't that amazing? He tells us to be anxious for nothing but to let our request be made known to Him. He tells us to cast all our care on Him because He cares for us. We are encouraged to make Him our rock, our defense, our water in a thirsty land. 

"From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Ps. 61:2)

He doesn't want us to feel like we have the responsibility to carry around these weights with us throughout the day. Do you ever feel like that? As if carrying around the worry is a responsible activity? That it is making a difference? That's not Truth. Truth is that we are to roll our worries onto Him, and let Him deal with them.

Friday, July 13, 2018

238: what's been going on with me this summer

I thought I would share some of the thoughts of my heart and brain this last month! Nothing super organized, just what's been ping-ponging inside lately.

Abide. Fruit. Not of myself. Those have been the big ideas.

I'm kinda going through two studies this summer. #Fruited by Bethany and Bonnie of Teachers in the Word is all about the fruits of the Spirit. Teach Uplifted: Devotions for Teachers is more of an in-depth devotional based off of Hannah Whitall Smith's A Christian's Secret of a Happy Life. Amazingly enough (or not, cuz it's God), without my knowing so when I ordered them, both studies address the same topic: We can't bear fruit on our own. Which is soooooo what God was already leading me to after last school year.

Looking back on last school year, I think I was running on spiritual empty all year long. I struggled to fake the fruit of the Spirit and to force the flesh down.

I'm not saying I know this year will be any different. Except, oh Lord, please--

Here's the prayer from Teach Uplifted that I'm holding onto:

I felt drawn to Colossians this last week or so. I opened it up. Everything is about reckoning myself dead to sin and letting Christ live in me. Letting Him do it. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of Him. Being transformed is a passive (?) thing that I allow Him to do.

I hate the warped idea of kicking back and not making room in one's life for holiness. It's a pet peeve. As if grace is an excuse to say, "Whatever you did this week, it's okay, let it go." No, it's not okay.

"It would be very strange that what was previously the object of destroying vengeance should now become the object of toleration. Now that the penalty is removed, do you think it is possible that the unchangeable God has given up His aversion to sin so that ruined and redeemed man may now indulge, under the new arrangement, in that which under the old destroyed him?" (Dr. Chalmers, quoted in A Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, quoted in Teach Uplifted)

I love that quote. But simultaneously, what I think God is revealing to me this summer is that I cannot work to bear fruit in my own striving. I can submit myself to God. I can bring every worry back to Him in prayer. I can beseech Him. I can trust Him. I can trust Him to perform His work through me, but by the power of His Spirit.

(Or, as Hannah Whitall Smith would say, do we really think that He who delivered us from the consequence of sin will not also deliver us from the power of sin now?)

I sure hope it makes a difference this school year. I am holding on to faith that what I have entrusted to Him He will be faithful to complete.

Sounds kinda ridiculous to think otherwise because of course He is faithful and powerful enough to conquer my flesh and bear the miraculous fruit of the Spirit through me.

If I remind myself I am dead and walk in the Spirit.

I'm just starting to start to learn about everything I just wrote above. But those are the thoughts pinging in my head. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

237: to have courage to share this part of life too

"For I am full of words;
The spirit within me compels me.
Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent;
It is ready to burst like new wineskins.
I will speak, that I may find relief" (Job 32:17-20a)

I went to a new women's Bible study/devotional fellowship this evening with my semi-new-to-me church. We're going to be studying women in the Bible and how they responded yes or no to God. Tonight was on Sarah. For professional development, I've been learning about comprehension strategies, such as "determining importance." Out of all the material a student reads, how is he to determine what is important? With the skill of "synthesizing," importance is sometimes determined by what interests the person. So, all that to say, as we were led through this study tonight, I tried to focus not just on taking notes for the sake of taking notes, but listening for what might apply to me, what God might speak to me as relevant.

There were a couple things that stood out, but as the leader read from Genesis 8, a very familiar story about Sarah laughing when God told Abraham that she would bear a child in her old age, I looked down at the passage and part of the verse whirled off the page with the big question mark, "APPLICABLE?" I don't like to claim promises from Scripture that are not promises, but I did feel like this was for a group I'm part of consisting of older Christian single women. I anticipated sharing this with them.

The study portion concluded. We all traipsed out to the pool and stuck our feet in. The leader asked us for our input about what we read.

I knew. I knew from before we left the living room that I should have the boldness to share what God had showed me about singleness.

But this is a group of mostly older ladies, all women who have had husbands, children, homes of their own. The evening progressed with lots of stories about husbands, children, home repair. Children, husbands. Anyone else have anything to share? Husbands, children, life that (I slowly realized) I literally could not relate to.

And I kept my mouth shut.

"Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent" (Job 32:19).

Why? Well, first off, I'm just getting to know these people. But I want to be open. I want the fellowship. The other reason I didn't speak is that what I wanted to share had to do with singleness.

I didn't want my sharing to sound like a request for pity.

I would have had to share the context of the difficulty of singleness. And the difficulty wasn't the point. The point was that God had shown up during our Bible study.

I couldn't muster the bravery.

And so I sat and listened and felt the emotional strength drain from me as I listened to stories truly interesting, but unrelatable, until I finally left.

God, give me the strength to be open next time! I won't get the fellowship I crave if I won't speak what is on my heart. And no one is going to read my mind for me.

I am thankful that I think I have found a group to have true Christian fellowship with.

Now it's on me.

"Be strong and of good courage" (Joshua 1).


Ok, so let me share what I think God may have drawn out for older singles.

I've been looking at this idea of how old we are getting and our desire for marriage still, and I've been wondering how much I need to just acknowledge it probably won't happen. We have absolutely no idea what life not as single is, and, personally, theology + personality + availability = need a miracle to make it happen. But--

"After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure...?" (Gen. 18:12)

Sarah was skeptical too. After she was now old, was it likely that she would enjoy a child--her own child--in her arms? She laughed at the idea. That boat had passed her by long ago.

What was God's response? Why are you laughing? Why are you doubting it could be?

"Is anything too hard for the LORD?" (Gen. 18:14)

And that is...that. Would you, could you, still experience marriage and family and spend the rest of your days in a completely different season of life?

Is anything too hard for God?