Saturday, November 28, 2015

162: solutions for the single blues this time of year

I don't know what it is about this time of year. Days before Thanksgiving it started. And not just for me. I was getting texts from others too, confirming that, yes, we were all kinda wishing that we had someone.

Maybe the magic of the season makes us extra sentimental. Maybe the family get-togethers make us more aware that we have no one to bring to the party. Maybe the cold weather makes us want to cozy in front of a fire next to someone wearing long-sleeved, buttoned-up, flannel plaid. Or thoughts of mistletoe and sleigh bells and walking in a winter wonderland are just getting to be a little much, even if you do live in a snow-less area, like I do.

Whatever the cause, it sorta creeps up on you in the cold days and early nights, and one doesn't know whether to jump on Christian Mingle or wait out the storm.

I think it depends.

God has given us desires to make us act. When we're hungry, we go get food. When we're exhausted, we sleep. All desires can be governed by self-control. I don't have to eat and sleep as soon as I'm hungry or tired, but if I had no desire for these things I would have no impetus to act (unless I just knew it was good for me to do so and forced myself forward).

The same thing with this nudging, longing, wishing for someone. It could be a reminder to change something in your life: get out and be more social with single people, let your desire for marriage be known among the motherly types in your church, sign up for a dating site, send a FB friend request, pray a lot more for a spouse.

On the other hand, if you feel an abnormal longing, something that is coming out stronger than usual and more possessive of a present you do not have, the solution might be what I have detected often in my own life: spend more quality time with God. Because sometimes the lack in your spiritual life will show itself by eating at you for SOMETHING, SOMEONE to fill the gap. And in that case, the last thing we want to do as believers is trek out on our own to pursue a crush instead of filling up on the One who has and always will be with us.
"Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons."
Song of Solomon 2:3

Along with that, if you are happy with your life, it can help a little to remind yourself that you are satisfied, that you are happy, that God has blessed you. I sometimes catch myself wanting to become more desperate than I actually am.

my class is growing green beans!
On a less substantial note, I've found, in rare occasions, that a couple Hallmark movies back to back can be just the thing to warm the heart and produce a happy sigh so one can get back to normal life.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Bathsheba

What was I thinking in requesting this book to review? It's the story of BATHSHEBA after all.

Bathsheba's story in the Bible is graphic, and Angela Hunt communicates the reality of it. Tamar has her side-story as well. The first half or so of the book I was thinking, "No, I'm not going to recommend this."

But Angela Hunt does what she does so well, she brought all the story of Bathsheba, all the events happening around Bathsheba, into one coherent story about one woman's unexpected life. I never realized how much God disciplined David for his sin against Bathsheba. I never thought how Absalom's rebellion might have affected Bathsheba, whose son was the promised next king. I didn't realize that when David allowed Saul's grandchildren to be executed to satisfy the Gibeonites, that those were Michal's nephews and she would mourn for them. It never crossed my mind that in helping Absalom, Ahithophel was unknowingly fighting the right of his own grandson to be king.

If you want Bathsheba's story to come to life for you, this is a great book! But beware that Bathsheba's story will be brought to life, and her story did not have a pleasant start.

In comparison with my review on Esther, this book did not take a long time to start and did not wrap up too quickly. We know a lot about Bathsheba's life because David's life is well-chronicled. I loved that about this book--the thoroughness of covering her life.

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

P.S. I have not read the similar fictional biographies by Francine Rivers and Jill Eileen Smith, so I cannot compare them, though I have been told that Hunt's version is much less graphic than Smith's, if memory serves that reader correctly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November Prayer 10 (when I want to bad-mouth others)

Lord, I get so frustrated at people sometimes. Don't they SEE what they are doing? Oh Lord, put a clamp over my mouth so I do not expose my family or friends or acquaintances to others. Let me open my mouth before You and cry out to You for justice instead of venting every detail to another human being. The tongue is powerful, Lord, and I always regret what I say, even if emotionally it felt like I needed to get it out. Teach me more self-control and more dependence on You for my verbal processing of frustration. Show me what to do with my frustration. In Jesus' name, Amen.

November Prayer 9 (for those struggling with being critical)

"You'll not get your man to be the man you want him to be by being critical of him. It doesn't work. You can't criticize him into his destiny." --Miles Weiss

Lord God, You say that he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22). But You also say that it is better to dwell in the corner of a housetop or in a wilderness than with a contentious, nagging woman (Proverbs 19:13, 21:9, 19). Lord, You know my tendencies. You know the tendencies of the single and married women I know. Lord, we are dripping-faucet women by nature, picking at and trying to change the men in our lives. Father, first I ask that You would teach us to pray. Teach us, married and unmarried, to hold our tongues, wait on You, and seek Your face and Your power for the change we want. It is not by our might to coerce, manipulate, or sanctify, but by Your spirit. Give us discernment when to stay silent, because honestly I struggle knowing what is helpful to say so he knows what I'm thinking (because he can't read my mind) and knowing what is better left unsaid.

I also pray You would teach us contentment. Oh Lord, I struggle so hard with accepting a man how he is. I need You to change me in that area. I want to love and accept a man the way I love and accept a friend--annoyances and all. I want to love him because I love him, not because he meets every qualification. Help my married friends and family to accept their husbands, even if they at times do or say something annoying. Empower us to extend grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

This prayer was inspired by the following Elizabeth Barret Browning poem, believe it or not!

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile . . her look . . her way
Of speaking gently, . . for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'--
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,
--and love so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby.
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on though love's eternity.

Monday, November 9, 2015

November Prayer 8 (to see reality)

This is what I pray. Teach me, gradually, slowly, as I mature in You, what real truth looks like. Let me not accept material reality's view of truth--because that's sometimes depressing--or wishful thinking's view of truth--because that is false hope. Teach me to see beyond the present, beyond my desires, beyond the natural to the greater purposes, greater joy, greater glory of You. I am not capable of knowing that kind of truth apart from You. I don't want to be depressed, and I don't want to swallow a pixie lie as a charm against depression. I don't want to live in realism, and I don't want to accept that You don't do the miraculous because I believe You still do. But let me not have to believe in fairies and Neverland stories to delight in something as big as my imagination, in something supernaturally, magically wonderful. Let me not only see You in Your all-powerful grandeur but in the playful little everyday miracles--when You see and I see but no one else would understand how wonderful You just were to me. Teach me what Your supernatural--apart from what I would usually understand--reality looks like.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November Prayer 7 (for those of us who tend to keep our love in reserve)

Lord, I pray You would expand our love. Gently take down any wall we may have up from thinking we won't know true love until we get married. From reserving our love until then.

Open our hearts that feel like it doesn't make sense to love someone that is not permanently in our lives. Expand our love for the children we know, for people from church who could use a friend, for relatives we take for granted. Protect our hearts, yes, but, Lord, let us experience the glories of loving someone! Open us up for people we don't absolutely need to survive, and for those we do. Expand our capacity, add depths to our caring, overflow our sincerity of feeling, show us how to put feet to pursuing relationships with people. Let us be willing to "waste" love on temporary relationships, people who will come and go from our lives. To put ourselves out there. Teach us to love more than we do now.

It is never a bad thing to love (Your way) more. Fill our well-preserved-for-the-future hearts with true (not crushing or emotionalistic or trendy) love.

The other day I asked one of my student-girls for a hug. After our squeeze, I went for my other girl and got a hug from her. These were my new students (versus ones I had last year) who transferred to my class a month late. It struck me that I love these girls now. And I love my other students. Love does not come naturally to me--I don't build relationships quickly. So whenever I look into my heart and see love blossoming, it's an unexpected, happy thing. I've always felt that what convinced me to take my dog Bella was God telling me that it's never a bad thing to love more. I think God must be growing my capacity to love.

November Prayer 6 (when a friend miscarries)

Lord, comfort her. I don't know how to pray for someone who has miscarried. I think they feel it more deeply that I understand. It's heartbreak and mourning a death. Please help the couple heal. Help them know how to comfort each other. Please provide them another baby. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, November 6, 2015

November Prayer 5 (a reminder that we are known)

I don't know if this is a prayer or a reminder to store up for the days when one needs reminding. Instead of using the plural pronoun "we" or "they," I chose the singular pronoun "I" because there was no other way it could have been written.

Lord, sometimes I don't know who I am or what I want or where I'm going. Sometimes I am confused and just want someone to know me. Lord, John 10 says twice that You are the good shepherd, and verse 11 says that you know Your sheep. Verse 3 says that You call Your own sheep by name. You know my inward parts. Is it possible that You know me better than I know myself? That You know my desires as well, and even better, and more truly than I do? You, oh Lord, know me, not only in the way that the Knower of All Things knows. For lack of a better way of putting it, You have taken the time to know me, like a shepherd knows the individual idiosyncrasies of each of his sheep. You know me because You have watched me from birth. You have drawn me. You have chosen me. How great are the sum of Your thoughts towards me. You have searched me. You understand my thought afar off. You understand my path--You! Someone! understands my path and are acquainted with all my ways. But You have not only known me, but You have hedged me, enclosed me, behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me (Psalm 139). You show me Your ways, teach me Your paths, lead me in Your truth, and teach me (Psalm 25:4-5). You teach me the sound of Your voice, and I know You. I might not always like what You say. I may sometimes mistake Your voice and have to learn the hard way. But You never forsake me. You never stop loving me. I am Yours.

Whether today I am happy with life or miserable, confident in my trajectory or feeling like I'm living Plan C-, I am known and I am cared for. That is truth.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

161: arranged marriage

At the recent Homeschool Alumni reunion I went to, I kinda contradicted myself: "I still like arranged marriages," and then later, "oh, and just so you know, I'm not for arranged marriages anymore."


But in my mind it does make sense, and since this is a blog about singleness and relationships, I figured I would clarify my stance on arranged marriages/marriages of convenience.


To explain why this came up...

Last year at the reunion those in charge put together a survey to spark discussion. One of the questions must have been about our preferred means of making it to marriage because a handful of people actually clicked the option "Arranged Marriage." A handful meaning me and a few others.


This year we were reminiscing about that and that's around when I contradicted myself. To clarify, I'm against it logically and for it emotionally.

For a person like me, arranged marriage is an attempt to escape the discomfort of trying to figure out if the person I'm dating is a good fit for me (or to bypass the whole irrational crush thing and just get hitched). But as the Lord reminded me several months ago, what if He gives me a fellow with whom I can enjoy a beautiful courtship of being wooed and falling in love? I don't want to miss that. Also, just because someone's a great guy doesn't mean he's a great guy for you. Seriously. You need the dating process to figure that out.

On the other side though, in the land of make-believe, I think arranged marriages/marriages of convenience some of the most appealing, romantic love stories (think Hallmark's Love Comes Softly, The Magic of Ordinary Days, or Loving Leah). I can't help it! I like the idea of circumstances throwing you together and you slowly being drawn to each other. In real life, I'm guessing it might not be quite so romantic, or guaranteed. Maybe I'd end up with someone I would really regret...maybe it's not so easy to fall in love with someone you're stuck with...maybe I should stop wishing it would happen to me.



Check out my book reviews for Mary Connealy's Now & Forever and Fire & Ice for more fictional marriage of convenience stories. And then, who can read Elisabeth Elliot's Quest for Love and not remember that such things have worked in real life?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November Prayer 4 (those who are adopting)

Father, I pray for those who are working to adopt. The harvest is plentiful and the laborers few, but these couples are actively pursuing taking in an orphan. So I pray that all the money would come in that they need. Lord, show me what I should do to support them, because they are doing Your work. Prepare them now emotionally for bringing a child into their home. I pray that the devil would not have his way in their marriage. Give them Your wisdom in raising the child. Open the doors for the adoption to go through. Father, I thank You that through them You will bless a child. You will be glorified. Lord, honor these couples, bless them, provide for them, and preserve their new family units for Your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November Prayer 3 (irrational crushes)

It is the most romantic time of the year (in my opinion)! If you have not already contracted a case of irrational crushing, then you probably will before the holidays are out. The following prayer is dedicated to those of us who have/will have an irrational, illogical, ain't-gonna-happen-but-can't-help-hopin'-it-will crush.

Admit it. You've been there.

Greenville, SC, November 2007

Lord God, You say to ask. So first I ask that You would hear the prayers of our hearts. We want spouses. And Lord, You say that You give good gifts to Your children. You are not going to give us a serpent if we ask for a fish, or a stone if we ask for bread. We believe that Your heart towards us is good and that You know so much better than us what is good for us.

But Lord, right now, we can only think of one person that we want, and in our near-sightedness, we think this is the one You should awaken to the fact of our existence. So first, I ask that You would consider our desire. If it is Your will that this person reach out and initiate conversation/interest/pursuing us, then I pray it would happen, because You can do all things, even the impossible of moving a person's heart. But if that is not Your will, I pray that You would bring a peace to our hearts. Calm our restlessness that can't seem to get this person out of our heads. If we are bordering on obsessing, coveting, or fantasizing, I pray that You would help us repent of the sin part of all this. Give us peace. Lord, I pray that somehow You could make it that hope in general wouldn't shrivel up and die in us, but that we wouldn't be so narrowed focused on this one person.

And lastly, Lord, if you want US to do something about it, if we need to be more friendly, open, approachable, teach us by Your Holy Spirit how to do that without becoming brazen. Or without bypassing You and taking control ourselves.

Thank You that You know best. We love You.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November Prayer 2 (wisdom for those in a relationship)

Lord, I pray for those in relationships right now. I pray You would give them day-to-day wisdom. You say You reward those who diligently seek You (Heb. 11:6), that You did not tell Your own to seek You in vain (Is. 46:18), and that You give wisdom liberally to those who ask (James 1:5). I pray for those who sincerely want to follow You in their romantic relationships--that You would please keep them on Your path and assure them that You won't let them get off Your path. I pray they would not be governed by fear. I pray for discernment between fear + majoring on the minors vs. lack of peace + a bad fit. Thank You that You are our Rock, that You give us a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7), and that our hope is in You. In Jesus' name, Amen

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November Prayer 1 (singles struggling with loneliness)

I find I'm having a hard time getting into writing blog posts. Maybe because I'm more focused on teaching school than philosophizing these days. Which makes me vacillate on whether that makes me living life practically or becoming less deep. Whatever it is, while my brain is still simmering on the backburner, I kinda want to take the month of November and daily, in writing, pray for people re: relationships. So here's my focus for today (I'm going to include myself and say "us" because it sounds too formal to pray AT people, and I'll be in this place sometime this month, I know :-P):

Lord, I pray for those who are single and really struggling with feeling alone. You have said it is not good for man to be alone. I pray you will surround us with people--Holy Spirit-filled brothers and sisters--who will really show us the love of Christ and will care for us and fill some of that hole we have from not having a spouse that cares about our daily life. I pray that someone would speak unexpected words of life to us. Bring fellowship when we are too exhausted to hike out and find some on our own. Give us peace in the struggle and rest. Refresh us and remind us that You love us more than we can imagine and that You have not allowed us to be alone and single for some devious reason. Let us feel the palm of Your hand and the comfort of Your wing. Ease the pain, oh God!

Lord, help us be that for someone else--a person that truly cares and follows up and follows through. Remind us to care, not just in passing emotion but in action--either in prayer or in reaching out. Show us how to be the body.