Monday, March 30, 2015

155: a letter from someone who is there

Several weeks ago I messaged one of my college teachers for input about how to do the long-term singleness thing well--what she had learned and what God had taught her. What she wrote back blessed me so much. She gave me permission to share it with you all!

One encouraging thing I can say is that singleness doesn't feel as "heavy" and hard at every stage of life--at least, for me it hasn't. (In case you're wondering, I'm about to turn 45 tomorrow.) I feel like right now the Lord is pouring His grace into my life, and I feel stable and happy with where He has me. But I haven't always felt that way, and I know that when I was your age, I tended to think about it a lot more because it suddenly "hit" me that the timetable of my life wasn't moving exactly how I'd thought it would. It has also been especially hard at times when a relationship I had hopes for didn't work out. So, I don't know if it will encourage you to know that you're in a particularly hard season in which to be single. Perhaps your singleness won't last like mine has, but if it should do so, I can honestly say that you won't always struggle with it to the same degree! That doesn't mean I no longer have a desire for marriage (I do), but just that singleness doesn't seem as painful and burdensome to me as it used to.

But to at least scratch the surface of the answer to your question, I think there are a couple really important lessons the Lord has taught me through those harder times. A big one for me has been gratitude. Having a thankful heart does wonders, not only for my relationship with the Lord, but also for my own emotional well-being. It's for our own good that He tells us "in everything give thanks." I find that when I make a conscious effort to notice and thank God for all the good things He is and does and gives me--even the little, everyday things like hearing a bird singing, or a beautiful sunset, or an unexpected free coffee, or help with a problem I was having--it sweetens my whole outlook on everything. It brings me true joy in having a heavenly Father who loves me and cares about my smallest needs. It makes me really LOVE Him. A couple of books that have helped me with this are "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. I'd recommend them if you have some spare reading time.

Another big thing is prayer--not just praying in general but the way I pray about singleness. I have done my share of "begging" God for marriage, and there really isn't anything wrong with that, because He does tell us to ask whatever we wish as long as we can honestly ask in Jesus' name (John 15). But I think there also needs to be a recognition when I pray that the will of God for my life might be different from my will. I need to pray with submission to whatever, and however, He answers. Jesus prayed this way in the garden--He asked God that the cup might pass from Him, and then He said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done." When we pray with this spirit of submission, it enables us to rest in God's sovereignty. We're not insisting on our way or desperately maneuvering circumstances to try to get what we want. Everything is left in His hands. And those hands are utterly trustworthy, even when they wound us.

On the more practical side, I think it's good to develop close friendships with other women, both single and married, that you can talk to and pray with and fellowship with. Being friends with married women does lend a little perspective. From the single side of things, our vision can get a little skewed and we can think that marriage is our ticket to happiness and satisfaction in life. There certainly are happy marriages, and God intended marriage to be fulfilling and satisfying in many ways, but nothing can ultimately make us truly happy except God Himself. There is so much peace in submitting to that truth. On the other hand, I think solid friendships with other single women are important too, because it's good to be able to mutually encourage others who are in the same boat.
I reached a certain point where I realized I didn't (and maybe never would) have a family of my own to pour my life into, and it was kind of huge and devastating at the time. It was a genuine grief and a loss of what I'd always imagined my life to be like. But gradually God has helped me realize that there are other ways to glorify Him than having a family, and there are other things and people He might want me to pour my life into. Some wives and moms are so busy with their families that they might not have time to reach out to the needy woman down the street, or go on a mission trip, or minister to children in a Bible club. It has helped me to look for those opportunities. I Corinthians 7 has not always seemed like a helpful passage to me (especially when I was feeling sad about my single status), but the older I get, the more thankful I am for it. As one of my single friends put it, "It justifies our existence." If God has singleness for you for a little bit longer, or even a lot longer, He will enable you to use your singleness to serve Him in unique ways that a married person couldn't.
And one other thing is that He promises in our trials that He won't give us more than we can bear. (I Cor. 10:13) He will provide a "way of escape." For you, that might mean marriage pretty soon. Or it might mean extra grace--just what you need for each day--so that you'll be able to endure, grow stronger, and bring Him glory by the way you live as a single woman.

. . . All I have to give you is God's Word, but nothing else has ever helped and strengthened me like that has. . . . Keep looking to Jesus, and keep trusting!


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

154: ping! ping!

Sometimes I get this mental picture of me standing tense on a narrow ledge. I am braced. I walk slowly. Inching. God, hold my hand. If I can keep myself controlled, and use all the will-power within me, maybe, maybe I will not topple forward. I am walking along God's narrow path.

Lately I've started to think maybe going along God's path for me is more like a pinball in a pinball machine. Here's His path, similar to one in a Pilgrim's Progress movie, sufficiently wide, but with a definite border on each side, the road bumpy with dirt clods and rocks. And here I am pinging against the sides as God closes this door, PING! and I ricochet off a closed window on the other side, PING! and I roll forward, God correcting me as I head off in one direction, or the other, always faithful to keep me on the path.

That seems a lot more practical than the precise tightrope of God's will vs. falling off into the flames of ruination. I only have a certain level of self-control--and control in this universe--to move myself along a self-determined trail of safe and perfect bliss. Then emotions sweep in--WOOOO!--and I start ping-ponging.

But, does God's Word tell me to brace myself for disaster? Is His path portrayed as treacherous and deadly if I hit a bump or dirt clod?

No. Instead He says that His rod and His staff will guide me. Oh! There goes a sheep! Bring ya back in, darlin'. Oh! You're stuck on your back. Let me pick you back up. Oh! You're going around and around in circles eating the same patch of grass and don't realize that you're eatin' nubbins now? Let me lead you beside still waters and make you lie down in green pastures. Let me restore your soul.

Ping! Ping! May God direct your path as you bump along the road of life.

Because there's grace in God's hand.

Monday, March 23, 2015

153: the pressure of one

"And after all, Marianne, after all that is bewitching in the idea . . . of one's happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant -- it is not fit -- it is not possible that it should be so." (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 37)

Bewitching indeed! How many hopes and dreams have I at times pinned on THAT one person? "He will _____," and fill in the blank, depending on the cavity of my life at that moment.

I had a realization the other day. Really, it's pretty obvious, it just has taken me awhile to get there. I realized I can actually appreciate another man for his talents or his personality without it being a love interest or hoping my future husband has the same qualities. (Duh, right?) Like, my husband doesn't have to be all things from all men. He can be himself, and I can enjoy the diversity of other people in the body of Christ.

I marvel at all the people God has put in my life, and the many happinesses they bring me.

I look forward to spending the day around my coworkers, one a woman married for many years, the other a woman a few years older than me who is engaged. They are not only my fellow teachers, but my friends. I open my classroom door to go make copies before class, and my little Ethiopian boy with the cutest personality ever has just arrived and offers me a hug. Later on, my socially-aware Chinese girl strides into the classroom late, smelling of perfume (she's only 8).

At the end of the day, I heft my school bags through my parents' front door and two little dogs (they're kinda like people, right?) greet me like they haven't seen me in weeks. My Bella wiggles her behind with her "baby" (stuffed animal) in her mouth, jumps on my bed, and whines happily as I scratch her ears.

My phone dings with an absolutely random text message from a crazy pal. A friend from out-of-state calls me for an update. I get an e-mail from a friend from out of the country.

And then, on top of all these and much more, God gives me Himself. In HIS presence is fullness of joy and at HIS right hand are pleasures forevermore. Joy dims to grasping for a feeling if I am not first hidden under His wing.

I have many blessings through  many individuals.

Can a dog or students or coworkers replace the place of a husband? No, that's not God's design.

And yet.

I cannot pin all my happiness on one person. I know me. I know it would end in disaster. It puts too much pressure on the one relationship.

One man, even the most important man in my life, even the man with whom I share everything and for whom I vow "til death do us part," is not supposed to fill the place of my parents or my girl friends or every member of the body of Christ.

So I thank God for the many relationships in my life. I thank Him for the happiness I get from all the little instances around me. I put Him first in the order of where I derive peace of heart. And no matter if a man be in my life, I want to remember to balance that relationship with the other valid relationships in my life.

I am blessed.

Excerpts from two of my students' recently finished make-believe stories:

"Mmm," said Michelle as she sniffed her cup of coffee. She went in the kitchen to get a snack. But when she saw a cat at the window. "Pss," said Michelle. The cat jumped into the house and bumped over Michelle's ring on the ledge. Michelle got angry and the cat jumped out side.

"Oh no," cried Michelle. She went to see the mess. On the ledge were scattered diamonds. It was her favorite ring because her boyfriend gave her it . . . . 

When Michelle woke up her boyfriend was at the door with something behind his back. Then her boyfriend showed her what was behind his back. When Michelle saw the ring she was soooooo surprised that she hugged and squeezed him. "I love you and you're the best," said Michelle. The End.


Jake is a polar bear that lives on Polar Bear Island. Jack is a person that went to Polar Bear Island for the summer. On the plane ride to Polar Bear Island, Jack thought he was talking to a kid. But... he was really talking to Jake. Jack did not know. Then Jake put his head in to the water to get fish. Jack said "a talking polar bear! I will capture the polar bear to be rich!"

. . . Jake said, "Why are you trying to capture me?" "Why do I want capture Jake anyway? What a fool am I," Jack said. Jake said, "Yup you are a fool." The moral of the story was it doesn't matter how much you have."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

152: no change, guaranteed

"You really don't like change do you," my good friend texted me last night.

My church community group re-started after a several month hiatus. After a long day that left me wanting to crawl into bed, I instead dragged myself to the church couple's living room and looked around. Not a soul from my community group sat on all those many chairs and couches. "Where are Matt and Muffy?" I asked, not even picking out the leaders of my group. "Where is everyone? Where are Matt and Muffy?"

I kid you not, I left the room and almost started crying.

Granted, I was exhausted. And the main reason why I had gone was to talk to MY community group about something they had prayed for me about, but now they weren't even here! This was like walking, bedraggled, into what you think is going to be home, and finding a bunch of staring stranger's eyes looking back at you.

Well, I survived, left early, came home and went to bed.

But my friend's assessment stands true: I don't really like change all that much.

A casualty of having never moved maybe?

And yet as I was journaling a prayer tonight, a theme lifted its head and roared like a lion:


Maybe that's why I came home today singing, "Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me."

Through all the dispensations of life, You will stay with me.

That's not even a question. God's desire is for me to abide in Him and He promises never to leave or forsake me.

That is the glorious thing about our God. Yes, He gets elbow deep in the grime and drama of our individual lives.

But He also reigns above it all, declaring that I am a child of the kingdom of light and that no one can snatch me out of His hand. He reigns above it all saying that His plan and purposes stand firm. Saying that whether you are being attacked in the Middle East for your faith or sneaking to a house church in Asia or being media-saturated in the West, He is still God and He does not change and His kingdom cannot be suppressed.

Neither death nor life nor angels or demons nor things in heaven nor things on earth nor anything in all creation is able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord.

My life might go wonky, or not, but God won't.

No change, guaranteed.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

151: when speakers mention singleness

This is kinda weird. But you know what really blesses me? Enough that I would write a post about it?

You know when a speaker is preaching about God's character and they quickly list different life scenarios--the widow, the single mom, the couple with a rocky marriage, the parents with a child going astray, etc.?

Well, lately, I've heard a couple speakers add lonely singleness to the list.

That blesses me! I'm not sure if it should or not, but it blesses me that my demographic is being recognized.

I don't necessarily need a sermon on prolonged singleness. I certainly don't need to hear a radio speaker "humorously" compare singles wanting marriage to wanting cheesecake for dinner but being content with salad (true story, folks). But, well, it's nice to have a hard situation acknowledged and to be more personally included in the application of how God's character applies to wherever we are.

So thank you, Angie Smith (If: Gathering) and Chip Ingram (Life on the Edge radio), for recognizing this current cultural trend and exalting Jesus above every, even this, life situation!

Happy (Pizza) Pi Day!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

150: active or dormant?

I'm afraid.

Sometimes I have strong desires.

And other times, those desires lessen.

And sometimes, I have strong desires that I'm afraid to let lessen. I cling to them as my own, as part of what I want, and I'm afraid that if I let those desires lessen then...

What am I afraid of?

I'm afraid that if I get the opportunity to do what I've always wanted to do, that I'll bypass the opportunity because I won't realize its enormous value anymore because I've stopped wanting it so much.

The other week I had to deal with this. Because I have such a bad memory, I was afraid if I didn't hold onto these feelings, that if xyz opportunity did arise, I would forget what a good thing it was and not respond appropriately. So, driving home from work one eve, I decided that I would just have to trust God. I told Him that if He wanted this opportunity to come, He would have to resurrect the feelings at that time. I would stop trying to grasp for a hold on them. (And later He did seem to confirm that He was capable of doing so)

Today I saw 9 month old baby pics on Facebook. Lately I've realized my desire for kids is waning, and I am so afraid to let that desire go. I don't want to be that person that doesn't want kids. I don't want to be that older single for whom it doesn't matter anymore if she does or doesn't have children. I don't want to wake up when it's too late and say, "What have I done to myself?" (as if wanting something means I'll get it and not wanting something means I won't get it).

But maybe when desires fade, they simply become dormant. They do not vanish, poof, nope, don't care anymore. They just lie dormant until God and circumstances resurrect them.

Lord, You know the dreams of my heart. Give me the perfect balance of action to reach those dreams and allowing those dreams to sink into inactivity for a season.

Anyway, tis the thoughts of my heart right now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

149: house analogies

not to be confused with tree analogies

Here are two different house analogies for you this Tuesday eve. Be blessed!

Build your life on the Rock and your house, oh single woman, will stand firm. You have a house (for real), and if you are building it on the Lord Jesus Christ, even if you're out there hammering on it by yourself, He will make it stand firm--guaranteed that it's not going to be taken away with the next hurricane or tsunami. That's not girl power but God power, for your security and His glory.

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, quoted by my former Writing for Children teacher at BJU on her Facebook page :))