Thursday, February 26, 2015

148: faith in what?

He could not do many miracles there and marveled because of their unbelief.
"Do You not care that we are perishing?" "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"

I write to myself. I remind myself of who I ought to be. I say these things to attempt to keep myself surrendered under His hand every day when I want to inwardly rebel.

Faith in what? Faith that He will be glorified by your life even if it goes according to His plan not yours. Faith that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Faith that man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps, even if those steps do not follow what you thought His path was going to be for you. Faith that when He lets Jairus' daughter or Lazarus or even Himself die, when He allows those He loves to mourn, that He does not let even a sparrow fall without His notice. Faith that He is the resurrection and the life, and if He lets something die, it is not without His seeing or being able to resurrect if that were His will. Faith that confesses we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and faith that prays Your kingdom come, Your will be done.

Faith that gives oneself over to His will, whatever that may be, with no holding back and no bitterness when you see a friend walking the very path you had once chosen for yourself. Because that is not His will for you.

Your ways are higher than my ways. I will believe in the goodness of Your plan.

"Keep looking Himwards--He alone can lead thee;
Nor count from choicest friends thy way to glean;
He knowest best where He Himself doth need thee,
    And He can lead thee by means unseen."
--J. Danson Smith, as quoted in Mrs. Cowman's devotional

No, this is not just about singleness.

It is about believing in our God.

see the tree on the left that looks like the "fuzzy black thing" from two posts ago?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

147: scary scary word

Partway into this LadyM's Distractions blog venture, I started struggling with the Lord. Most of it centered around prolonged agony singleness, but some of the background for the struggle included events my family had endured that had messed up our little unit pretty bad. So I've been struggling and questioning and getting bitter over and wrestling with this idea of God's sovereignty versus our foolish choices, outside circumstances, and fallen world.

But like I said, most of it came down to the issues of "Why am I not married?" "Why didn't I get to be married at 21 like I had expected?" "I need my own home, but I can't have it. *grumble, grumble*" "God, I really want someone to encourage me spiritually." "I want someone to hold me. That's how YOU made me." "Lord, why can't I just have someone to talk to? I'm lonely. Didn't You say it's not good for man to be alone?"


I am thankful I belong to a God who lets us wrestle with Him.

"Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You;
Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments." (Jeremiah 12:1)

If I were to go back and counsel myself, I'm not sure I would feed myself any platitudes, true though they may be. I think I would tell myself to do exactly what I did. Wrestle it out. Better to wrestle it out in the presence of the Lord than to ignore the questions and pretend like everything was okay when it was becoming increasingly not okay.

I would say to myself, "Wrestle it out with the Lord, and then, (to quote Jen Hatmaker from the If 2015 conference) 'Give your heart permission to trust Him.'"

After I sweated it out, I was stripped to the point of making a decision--either to trust or continue to question.

I THINK, by God's grace, I have chosen to trust.

At least for today.

I have chosen something else. It's a scary, scary word. But it's something that as soon as I started transitioning over to it, I wished I had done so years ago.

I chose "acceptance."

I started accepting that I am single, and may be indefinitely, and may be forever.

I couldn't do the wait on the Lord thing anymore. I couldn't WAIT for what God had not promised me.

With acceptance has come the freedom to examine my life as if it's not on the cusp of change. That's how I've always lived my life--as if I could get married soon and will need to alter my habits to accommodate another person so . . . I'm waiting. But if I'm accepting that my present life is my life? Then I have the freedom, and the responsibility, to create new habits and paint my world the way that I want it to be, because change isn't around the corner.

That thought process is probably unique to me, but that's how this little brain works.

The funny thing is, even in the acceptance, I feel hope and freedom to pray for a husband. Acceptance didn't take that away.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about the faith I have to keep coming back to amid this acceptance.

Monday, February 23, 2015

146: nature

In Him we live and move and have our being.

From my desk I see a hawk fly across the blue sky.

The wind blows on the palm trees, and the bunch of leaves at the top of the long giraffe neck's trunk looks like hair pushed to the side.

I drive to work and the grass is so green it looks like a painting.

I drive home, and against the sun-setting sky, the tree branches look like fuzzy black things.

In Him we live and move and have our being.

Life. See it. In the quiet. Feel it. The beauty.

Common grace.

Thank Him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

145: but if You had come

The Bible lesson at school today was from Lazarus. And this is what I heard:

Mary and Martha sent to Jesus that their brother Lazarus was sick. They wanted Him to come heal Lazarus. But Jesus did not come. 

God had a bigger plan for Lazarus than healing him. God had a bigger plan than doing what Mary and Martha wanted.

So Jesus stayed away and let Lazarus die.

Did I hear that? Sometimes God has a bigger plan. Sometimes God says "no." Sometimes God is putting together an undeniable display of His glory.

I've been struggling the last few days with not getting something I wanted. It wasn't even something I thought God didn't want me to have.

So I say to the Lord, "I believe Your plan is good." And for the breath of a moment the skies clear and I can envision God doing His great work regardless of my recent hope and disappointment. For a moment I believe, and it is enough. Then the heavens close, and I repeat the words again. I do not feel the rapture of God's goodness, but now is the time to walk by faith, not by sight.

I believe Your ways are above my ways, and I believe in the goodness of You and Your plan.

I wonder if maybe these closed doors aren't the rude slamming in my face that they sometimes seem. Maybe they are more like God ensuring that I stay in His plan. I am moving forward like I ought, and He is making sure I don't unknowingly stray off His unknown path for me. His staff guiding me.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done.

Keep reminding myself. Keep believing. Keep looking heavenward.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

144: for my future husband if he's reading this :-P

Happy Valentine's Day, love! I am thankful for you and pray that I always will be.

Tonight I had my third annual single girls Valentine's Day party. We ate lots of good food. I seem to surround myself with people that know how to bring yummy snacks. We cut out and decorated 70+ sugar cookies and the girls seemed to really enjoy themselves. We also shared with each other how God shows His love to us. Mine was through the prophets. One girl said through nature, another said through how God answers her prayers through other people who don't even know her needs, and another said how God speaks straight to her heart. Then we took turns praying for marriages we knew. It's amazing how God designed this thing called marriage to be a reflection of Christ and the church and how bad a reflection so many "Christian" marriages are. Darling, I know marriage must be very hard, but oh how I want to do it well. I want to do it well together. I know marriage isn't about the romance, but would you think it healthy if we try to maintain some level of romance throughout the years? I used to think that as long as you endured, you were a witness. And I still believe that to some extent. But I suppose it's the difference between someone that struggles through the Christian life versus someone who radiates love for God and a full acceptance of God's love for them. Perhaps the latter is a little better of a witness? Or at least a more compelling witness? I know marriage isn't about making us happy, but, love, if I'm going to marry, I would dearly like to garner some measure of happiness from being around you. :) Anyway, we also watched a Hallmark movie called "The Wish List." I like mushy Hallmark movies. I can hardly imagine what it's like to fall in love and to fall in love enough that you want to MARRY someone. And yet, somehow they do it over and over in movies. :-P
My love, if God brings You to me, if I ever meet you and we choose each other, then I hope we are happy together.
May God preserve you from evil and bless you this Valentine's Day weekend,
Your own,

Friday, February 13, 2015

143: oh wait, is that what Christians are supposed to look like?

The other day on Facebook, two of my friends posted the same controversial meme. One person posted it and then asked in the comments if people would join her in praying for the object of the meme. Another person posted it, and a high-emotion conversation started in the comments.

I am used to seeing debates on Facebook, but that day I saw the stark contrast between the two reactions: prayer for the "enemy" vs. heated debate over the issue. And I thought, "Oh wait, is that what Christians are supposed to act like?"

During a staff meeting, I found out that our girls' basketball team, normally victorious, had lost by a hair the night before. The coach and one of the girl's moms shared that they had encouraged the players to do as the Bible says: rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Yeah, it's hard to lose, said the coach, but we need to be glad for the other team (which apparently does not often win).

I am used to people being upset, frustrated, rehashing and complaining. But listening to the coach talk, I thought, "Oh wow, that's what Christians are supposed to look like, isn't it?"

When I get glimpses of sisters and brothers shining with the light of God's kingdom, I am taken aback by its brightness. I am reminded that the kingdom of which I am a part has an order that purposefully contrasts with the kingdom of darkness. "Rules" like be patient and pray for your enemies are so easily ignored in favor of excuses of "I am tired" and "Let me tell you how wrong they are." But until I actually follow the simple guidelines of this kingdom of light, like actively love, actively serve, actively pray, am I actually walking in the light? Or am I sitting on the sidelines surviving, leaving the actual walking to others?

May the Lord grant us more glimpses of the bright light that comes with walking in His kingdom.

"For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

142: a more superficial reason not to have a singles pity-party

I believe it's called torturing yourself.

Don't tell me I'm the only one that does it.

Ok, maybe I am! I look at that one Facebook picture of a sweet new family, babe in arms. Then I, on purpose, go to another friend's page and look at her sweet new family photo, babe in arms. And then I go to another friend's page, just to look at a pic of her and her new husband, then another friend's page.

A nervous niggle in my mind keeps me from entering into the intended deep, heart-rending pity-party I was trying to create for me-myself-and-I.

All those pictures I was talking about? One family. One family of girls where that whole getting married and having a family thing was dragging on years past when I'm sure their mother had expected. And then, BAM!, within like two years, four sisters succumbed to matrimony like dominoes in a pre-ordained line-up.

My pity-party gets forced to the back burner because, knowing my luck, just about the time I moan and groan and think "poor me," I'm going to be the one dressed in white with a veil and what will I be forced to do then? Laugh at my lack of foresight? The joke will be on me.

It makes it harder to bemoan the future when God is standing right there with His plan in hand, knowing exactly what comes next, listening to me acting like I know what's around the corner and already decrying it.

Call it pride, but the fear that my pity party is going to come back to bite me is one of my more superficial reasons for not indulging these days.

I don't know when the domino is going to fall. I have no promise from God that it is going to fall. But if it does, I don't especially want to be caught whining that it's never going to happen.

And if someday my prince doesn't come? Well...there are other blog posts for issues of trusting God, submission to His hidden plan, promoting marriage regardless of personal relationship status, etc.

Northanger Abbey internet meme, for the Austen unenlightened

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

141: keepin' it a kid

Sometimes, okay, most of the time, I still feel like a kid. I have to continually remind myself I'm an adult.

my students laughed pretty hard today
when I tried to draw a dog sitting up
Like on Saturday at the If conference. I was sitting with a group of older ladies, and one of the women I'm closest to asked, "Does it feel weird sitting with us?" "No," I said, "I'm used to being around adults."

Then I covered my mouth, laughed, and said, "Oh yeah, I am an adult!"

There are a lot of young families at my church. Last year I found out that at least two of the mothers were right around my age, if not a year younger. I was absolutely shocked. On Saturday I talked to a young woman who has been married for 9 years. She is only a year older than me.

It shocks me because when I look at these young mothers, I don't see that they're young. I see that they're mothers. They have experience. They are maternal. They are settled. They are on that pathway that ends in grandchildren. And I just feel very young in comparison. Like, I really do feel that at 29 I'm still not fully an adult.

Interestingly enough, in one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" moments, this persistent sentiment was validated by one of my uncommonly perceptive 2nd graders today. (Note, all names, including mine, have been replaced for security's sake.)

Student A: "Bob is the master kid in our class."
Student B: "No, Miss LadyM is the master kid."
Me: "I'm not a kid!"
Student B: "A kid is a person who hasn't got married."


adding a scarf, a Modcloth winter jacket, and a purse
makes me feel more like an adult
So, I continue to remind myself I'm not a kid as I sprint to the school office instead of walking elegantly. I try to remind myself I'm an adult when my mom hands me my breakfast and lunch every morning. I try to remember I am a competent grown-up when I'm sitting in a 4 hour school meeting and succumb to slumping over and doodling. I try to scold myself into growing up when I see the several-day neglected laundry basket sitting on my floor, the growing pile of unopened junk mail on my desk, the crumbs littering my car's middle console, and the ignored to-do list that says to vacume my classroom.

Somedays, it's really hard to convince myself.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

140: If:Gathering quotes, notes, and take-aways

These are various notes I took in my journal while watching If:Gathering with my church. I copy them here for those who couldn't make it and won't get around to watching the sessions online (see link above). The Biblical context for the conference was Joshua.

Interview with Jessica Soward and April Smith
Choosing to believe God for who He is. Because it doesn't end in the ugliness. There's eternity.

His promises will stand. He will continue to be who He is. That's not up for changing. He invites us to believe and hold on to Him.

Jennie Allen
Not just live by faith but "kill this story" of walking by sight.

Angie Smith
living who God intends you to be, the gifts He gave you, and not trying to be someone else. Believe He has you in this season.

Jo Saxton
Joshua and Caleb knew God was willing as well as able.

"The greatest thing about God being your Father is it's His responsibility to get it thru to you."

"His hold on you is greater than your hold on Him"

Rebekah Lyons
"Jesus' fullness is the brightest part of you"

Jen Hatmaker
God asks us into battle when we are not warriors
into hurting fields when we're not healers
Blind to God's ability and too high premium on our ability

faith does not mean you understand the entire scope of God and never doubt

if circumstances means God's character is in question, then we should throw the whole thing out because faith cannot inoculate you from suffering

they were slaves just a few weeks ago
freedom under God's favor was too much to hope for
prefer to stay in bondage because it's familiar and freedom is terrifying

Yes God works thru captivity and uses wilderness for good, BUT He is a promise-land God.

"Give your heart permission to trust Him."

faith isn't about us man-ing up but how we think about God

Shelley Giglio
God is painting on something larger than the little picture I can see

Ann Voskamp
He absorbs the quakes of your fears

Compare our race to other women's races instead of running for Him

There is no wow encounter with God until there is a woe encounter

"Faith is really faith when we believe God for the unbelievable."

Christine Caine
Joshua 1 - Moses is dead - what are you trying to hang onto that is dead? He blessed that then but that season is over. The enablement of the Spirit is not on that anymore. "If the horse is dead, dismount."

Unhealthily loyal to the past

Letting a little section of your past define years of your life

Eph. 2:10 I'm here to do the works God had already prepared for me.
We don't have a story apart from God's church.

Joshua had to lay down his life to bring in all the people with him into the Promised Land

He didn't know he'd be the Joshua. He had no platform. Your serving prepares you for what God has already planned for you. God ins't going to say Get ready unless we're already ready

Chasing a platform instead of serving

Service is the key to destiny

Service prepares you for the battle not performance

Joshua 1:8 pep rallies and Hallmark movies will not keep you--keep Word of God on your mouth and in your mind day and night

Laura Sobeich
We are here, in the present, and God gives us the grace we need right now.

Bianca Olthoff
Impossible situations are not intimidating to our God.

Joshua 6:2 God speaks here in past tense about a future non-occurence as yet. Just because God promises does not mean you possess it.

God wants us to be faithful even when nothing happens.
"I need you to walk it out even when it's not working out."
Does not mean our faith isn't working
"Results are God's responsibility; response is ours."

"Life doesn't tell us when things end" We don't know how close we are to the finish line! to the end of this season

Christy Nockels music
"against all hope
help me hope
against all fear
draw me near"

"pry our fingers from the earthly"

Friday, February 6, 2015

139: that towards which He goads us

We wrapped up our Science unit on birds today with a short bio on Audubon and some water coloring! So proud of my artists!

So some of you are probably wondering why I go on, and on, and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, about singleness. Clarification needed. Prolonged singleness, and the idea of perpetual singleness (because I tend to anticipate things years in advance), has become a catalyst for me to deal with root issues. Like what to do when life doesn't go according to plan. So yes, I am camping on this and blowing it out of proportion because I want God to use it to deal with issues in my heart.

And He is.

I've been dealing with words like "trials" and "believe." And then I show up at Monday's women's Bible study and the whole lesson is on James 1 and trials. I show up for today's If: Gathering, open the attendee guide, and the whole set of sessions is on believing.

God is speaking. It's going slow. Really slow. But He is speaking. To me.

Reading James 1 and listening to our Bible study leader on Monday, part of me wanted more trials. She used the example of a plane that is designed, built, and then tested to see if it'll work. He tests my faith to see if it's real, if it'll hold. I want to build those calluses of faith that only come from being tested and made stronger. I want to be the 80 year old with amazing peace and faith.

I want more of the fear of the Lord, ie. 1) more humility--letting God be God outside of my comprehension (If: Gathering, Jen Hatmaker) and 2) submitting under Him.

I want more faith--complete confidence even if I am struggling. I want to know and believe Him (Isaiah 43:10). Jen Hatmaker said that faith isn't about us manning up but how we think about God. That's a process. And we don't have to get there on our own. Jo Saxton said tonight, quoting what someone once told her, "The greatest thing about God being your Father is it's His responsibility to get it through to you."

Quoting Jen Hatmaker again, "Sometimes His ways seem crazy. They seem ridiculous." That's how I feel about His plan for my life. Well, back up. I'm starting to sense that He has a plan, and it's not my plan, and my plan doesn't count for a hill of beans except for Him taking into consideration the desires of my heart. But I'm starting to get the perspective that I am not in charge of my life, at least not in the area of getting a husband, not in those areas that I have no control over. And see, that's how singleness prepares us for anything. If I can reconcile myself to God being in control and not me, IF (and that's a big if) I can humbly submit to Him, if I can let Him unfurl His plan, however grand scheme of things it is when really in my world I'm focused on tonight, however crazy or ridiculous His plan seems to me and however not-my-choice it feels, then . . . *deep breath* then the miraculous happens. Then God's kingdom comes. Then His will is done. Then I actually am living up to that salvation prayer, "I confess You as Lord" (Romans 10:9). Then I am better prepared for all the other things that will inevitably happen in life that will keep trying to knock me down.

So that's what I've been working through. Singleness, esp. the idea of perpetual singleness, as a catalyst for faith, submission, trust, knowing God, believing Him. All sorts of good stuff that go way beyond the issue of today's singleness, which really seems irrelevant except for the fact that it spurs me to come to grips with God's ways.

"The word 'missionary' does not occur in the Bible. But the word 'witness' does. [. . . 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." --Elisabeth Elliot, The Savage My Kinsman

138: break-up paralysis

I wanted to message him. I wanted to ask his advice about something.

But we hadn't spoken for 4 days now (yes, I was counting), and if we could manage not to message each other, then the break would be definite, the confusion would ebb, the pain wouldn't reconvene.

That's always the hardest part for me: termination of contact. I get into the habit of having someone to talk to. I build a relationship. To make that constant interchange end, not naturally but by force, is, well, sometimes impossible for me. At the very least painful and difficult. You know, miserable.

So sometimes I don't. I drag it on, talking to the person I should take a vow of silence for. I prolong the pain, postpone the inevitable, invite disaster into my life.

Break-up paralysis. When you need a fairy sitting on your shoulder every moment of the day saying, "Just say no!"

Or the Lord teaching you to submit to wisdom so the fruit of self-control can grow stronger in your life and thus serve you in all areas of life for the rest of your life.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

137: romance in the morning

I woke up feeling romantic. I had a Cinderella-esque dream that I can't even remember now, but it left that desire in my heart. You know, for that mysterious spark that shakes the boat and makes you feel like you're living in a movie.

I've felt like God has been revealing to my heart a little (just a little) about true love lately. I feel like I've caught a glimpse of it.

It has made me (start to) trade in my dreams for romantic tension and impossibly perfect timing and want to spend the boring evenings with one, wonderful-to-me, currently undiscovered person.

I woke up almost ready to go on the hunt for romance again. Now I don't see how the romance I'd seek could ever comfort me in real life.

"I felt it shelter to speak to you." --Emily Dickinson

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Book Review: Blindsided by God by Peter Chin

When Bethany House Publishers sent me the list of nonfiction books I could review for free, I picked this one because I've been wrestling with what to think when things don't go according to my plan. I didn't know anything about the author. I hoped it wouldn't be boring. This is the first time I'd picked a title from the nonfiction list. Nonfiction tends to be less gripping than a romance novel, but I was intrigued by the subject matter.

I enjoyed this book so much that I think I'm going to buy a paperback version to replace my free Kindle preview version.

Blindsided by God is not a Christian living book (this is how you do it) or a theology book (this is the Scriptural reasoning behind it). It's hard to do justice to a book that is so candid! Blindsided by God is in reality a witness, a testimony, a sharing of the author, Peter Chin's, struggles, and what God taught him as he and his wife went through it. He doesn't take what God taught him and put it into a sermon with scattered illustrations. He doesn't wallow in his experiences either. He walks you through each happening, tells his own raw reactions, and then shares what God revealed to him. And so much of the way he tells it is just funny! Like, haha, I can't believe you said that, funny.

If you want a great theological or pedantic book on suffering, this is not it, and he freely acknowledges that in the beginning. If you want someone to hold your hand and tell you their own story and not minimize yours, then score, this is it.

"In the midst of everything we were going through, I had never realized our situation was not extraordinary. This was real life for so many, and now, for us. And my previous perspective--that tenacious assumption that our situation was unique in some way--was a lie, an illusion fostered by a sheltered and comfortable existence." 
--Peter Chin, Blindsided by God

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.