Wednesday, December 28, 2016

185: the illusion of nearsightedness

In prep for New Years, I got out my old journals. Last year's entry wasn't interesting (except for the part where I started falling asleep and wrote nonsense), so I began reading other entries and other journals. I found a few entries in one book where I was gushing about a guy. Like, really gushing.

It was rather nauseating. You know why? Because I am no longer interested in him. At all.

But at that time, all I knew was there stood a tiny doorway into a beautiful garden. All I knew was that I couldn't get in there.

"Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head through the doorway" -Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I know that I don't see the whole picture, the future. But still, like Alice, I fixate on something (someone) I want and believe that it (a relationship with said someone) would be amazing. Part of that is hope. Part of that is complete nearsightedness.

Of course, despite my nearsightedness, I do know a few things about him and a potential "us", some gathered from direct observation, some from generalizations based on observation. Combine that knowledge with my flittering emotions (which are part chemistry, part natural-born desire for there to be something more), and BAM! *creeeeak* my scope swivels to the target and focuses in, because, as I said, I'm pretty sure this would be amazing if I could only have the chance to pass through the narrow passageway and through the door.



I actually think it's fine that our vision is based in hope and nearsightedness. If we waited to act until we had full knowledge and understanding, nothing would ever happen. Perhaps we often haven't acted enough even. Rebellions are built on hope, after all. Rogue One reference there.

But, facts being facts, we must concede that besides the few character traits we've observed, besides the flutter of emotions, we don't know much else. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen--that has nothing to do with faith in a potential relationship. There is no virtue to holding on to an imagined amazing relationship by faith. We can pray and crack twigs and make ourselves available, but when it doesn't happen, we really had no idea if we were pursuing a lovely garden or, alternatively, a land filled with queens chopping off heads and slowly vanishing Cheshire cats (and I'm not saying the guy was a closet jerk--I'm saying we don't know what is best for him or for us). Our faith and hope and longing is not for the unseen future husband. It is for the only One who can see the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10), and who gives good gifts to His children (Mt. 7:11).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

184: on pain . . . what a happy post for Christmas Eve

I did not think I would be sad on Christmas Eve.

(This isn't another post about singleness--just hang in there.)

I sorta thought I had reached a level of contentment and self-contained happiness. Being sad as a single on Christmas is starting to sound cliché. I've got plenty to be thankful for (*cue Holiday Inn song*).

(Ok, it touches on singleness. Got to have a starting point!)

And yet, getting ready to go to my sister's this afternoon, a sadness and insecurity did start settling on me like a snow-less cloud.

Then we arrived, and I found myself in an odd in-between stage that didn't match anyone else present. There were the decade+ older-than-me marrieds/widowed, and there were the decade+ younger-than-me dating couples/families (and my single nephew--but he's only 15, give him time). I have an adorable and smiley great-nephew, but what is it about young relatives having kids before you are even engaged that makes feeling happily content more difficult?

Feelings. I'll admit to having them today. Unavoidable blah.
"The idea that my pain sets me apart from the rest of society is another isolation trick by the enemy. My pain is real, but it is not the only pain." --Natasha Metzler, Pain Redeemed, chapter 4
The last several months I've been trying to sort out what to do with pain--mostly how to deal with it when I see it in other people's lives and I can't do anything to help. [Note: I'm not talking about singleness anymore.] [Note: Seeing the pain of others added to the blah feelings accumulated today.] I've tried praying for miracles. I've tried focusing on my own choices and then ignoring the pain of theirs so it wouldn't hurt me so deeply. I've wrestled with discounting their pain because they are suffering the consequences of their own choices and so they have to just live with it. In an attempt to not have to take any responsibility for suffering unrelated to me, I've sometimes thought, well, that is life, the same could happen to me, we all just have to deal with it. Pain is common to all mankind.

Did I mention December was "compassion month" at school? Think I have some ways to go.

"And that girl who has never tasted infertility and this girl who has never buried a baby--together we're not alone. When I reach out from my pain to offer her comfort in hers and when she looks up from hers to comfort me--Satan's lies are buried in an avalanche of truth and none of us are really alone. . . .
There is no strength, no hope in comparing pain. . . . They are different, we are different, but in binding ourselves together we are the same.
Alone we'll slice each other to pieces.
The mother of five, who spent months in the hospital with her youngest child, does not need her ability to have children compared to my lack of ability.
We need to bind ourselves together, acknowledging that we both experience pain. She needs me and I need her and together we'll walk through hardships." --Natasha Metzler, Pain Redeemed, chapter 4

Does it really matter if a hurt sounds illegitimate? Does it really matter if that person is hurting so much that they annoyingly cannot stop talking about it on social media? Should I care less that it's because of choices made five years ago that that person is about to emotionally collapse?

What do I do with it all, Lord? I cannot help. I cannot fix it. And I cannot say "deal with it." Because while pain and hurt and unfairness are common to all humanity, pain isn't any less real or less legitimate or, well, less painful, because it is common.

You know what I think the beauty of this year is? In Isaiah 9:6--sung during Handel's "Messiah" this time of year--Jesus is declared to be the Prince of Peace.

You might have a family of 5 all sick with the flu right now. You might be only getting 4 hours of sleep every night. You might be in the hospital with a loved one, again. You might be handling the load of parenting alone. You might be feeling like you're never good enough and always misunderstood.

All I can say is He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Wonderful Counselor. He is the Great Reconciler and the Redeemer of hurt and pain. He came and took up residence among us. He is the God who sees. Who knows. He is the Mighty God.

A Light shines in the darkness. Together, let's cling to that Hope, for ourselves, for others. Lord, You who see and know, and in whose hands are the hearts of those we are feeling for, shine in this darkness! We cannot cut the darkness. We cannot solve. Help us shine Your light however You direct us, and when they are alone, visit each with Your Light that blinds out the darkness. Bring peace. Bring comfort. Do what we cannot. Come quickly. In Jesus' name, Amen.


"When I abandon the foolish idea that I'm the only one writing in sorrow I get the privilege of watching and rejoicing in more victories than just my own." --Natasha Metzler, chapter 4 of Pain Redeemed: When Our Deepest Sorrows Meet God, 2nd Edition (2015). I highly recommend this book and Blindsided by God: Disappointment, Suffering, and the Untamable Goodness of God by Peter Chin.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

183: Dear Future Husband (Meghan Trainor's song, revised)

To the tune of Meghan Trainor's "Dear Future Husband"
I hate the original lyrics, but I love the peppiness of the song when we dance to it in Jazzercise. So here are some new lyrics.
 
Dear future husband,
Here's a few things you'll need to know since
You are gonna be my one and only
All my life
 
Know that I will wait
Though it's a long, long wait
'Cause I am trusting in the Lord and His perfect way
'Cause if we trust in Christ 
I'll get to be your wife
Hoping it is soon
Pray-praying it is soon
 
You got that dreamy look
And, baby, I am hooked
But don't be thinking we can do this alone and make it work
We need community,
Spirit in you and me,
And lots of prayer
Listening to God in prayer
 
We gotta know how to ask for good advice,
And we can't give in to strife--
Admit when we're in need
 
Dear future husband,
Here's a few things you'll need to know since
You are gonna be my one and only
All my life
Dear future husband
If we wanna make it through with lovin'
We gotta take our vows
And keep them all our lives

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Review: An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

I started this book on Monday. I cannot recall the exact time--perhaps mid-morning. Yesterday I met with a visiting out-of-country friend for 3 hours. [Did you know that Noah's peppercorn potato bagels with onion and chive schmear are AMAZING? They are. I had 2. (I went back for another after I left your car with the pointsettia :-P)] Then I came home, took the dogs to the dog park, LOST MY KEYS AT THE DOG PARK, and was late getting back home where an out-of-state-most-of-the-year friend was waiting patiently on the stoop (porch steps...but we should bring back the word "stoop," no? XP). She stayed until late this morning. Then I presumed reading again--not that I hadn't snatched bits and pieces yesterday. I had! All that to say, I just finished An Uncommon Courtship, and it wasn't a novella, and I'm not as avid a reader as some, so this was like marathon reading.
 
And according to the Bethany House Publishers, when I sign up to do these honest reviews in exchange for a complimentary copy, I have a whole month before I have to deliver.
 
On the other hand, I went on a limb to try a book by an author I had never heard of before, because of this plot description:
 
After a night trapped together in an old stone keep, Lady Adelaide Bell and Lord Trent Hawthorne have no choice but to marry. Dismayed, Adelaide finds herself bound to a man who ignores her, as Trent has no desire to connect with the one who dashed his plans to marry for love. Can they set aside their first impressions before any chance of love is lost?
 
 
And then when I realized I had never let the publisher know I had reviewed the last book they sent me, I sent them the link submission and told them I really hoped the delay wouldn't keep me from being able to review An Uncommon Courtship.
 
It didn't.
 
I put down the other novel I was in the middle of and began reading this one.
 
*Book Review begins here*



I really enjoyed it. There were a few confusions--the main male character thought something earlier in the book and then was surprised by the same facts later; the main female character had portrayed her parents' marriage one way early in the book and then differently later (maybe she just came to understand the truth?). There were some proofreading blips--words left out.

Ok, enough with the negatives.

Kristi Ann Hunter has taken on an ambitious project: to attempt to explain the mystery of how two people go from beings strangers to married . . . while already being legally married. How does a man accept his wife as permanently his, court her, love her, and live as a fully married man? How does a woman who has never had a voice in her family and has never been taught how to be a woman step into the foreign role of wife? To a lord, nonetheless.

How do two people that are inexperienced figure out how to make this relationship work when those who should have been their advisors are unavailable in that role? Part of me is like this has some too PG-13 elements (mostly in content matter, not graphic-ness). Please be forewarned! I need to give that caveat. Another part of me realizes that, in the kingdom of the world, this novel is a model for God's way of doing relationships. Not the part about being thrown into marriage with a stranger! But in the characters themselves. I was skimming through books for sale at the library today and realized I mostly only look for Christian novels because you don't have to then sift through unchecked lust and fornication. Although An Uncommon Courtship starts with the marriage contract already signed, it still portrays an uncommonly high value for purity in the overt innocence of the characters. The story is about building a marriage relationship with depth--winning the heart--not just about kisses and romance.

Two people thrown together with absolutely no idea how to make a good marriage, relying on familiar community, their own feeble wits and good character, and an unfailing hope for more than what they have so far--An Uncommon Courtship was a riveting read for me. I'll have to try Kristi Ann Hunter again.

Oh! There are also several delightful humorous turns of phrases, and it's set in the Regency Era, so if you are a Jane Austen fan, you will definitely find yourself comparing one of the characters to Mrs. Bennett. ;)

"Back home they'd stood awkwardly in the hall, facing each other but staring at points on either side. Adelaide chose a strange still-life painting to inspect, noting that the bowl of fruit all appeared to have faces. Her humiliation was being witnessed by a painting of sentient fruit. She'd truly reached the bottom of her ladder."

"Mother smiled, that indulgent smile only women seem to be able to perfect--the one that told Trent he obviously didn't understand and that he was rather pitiful and adorable at the same time. He hated that smile."

"Her eyes looked somewhere in the vicinity of his left elbow. He'd thought they'd moved past her talking to various parts of his person instead of his face."


(P.S. I've really enjoyed Melissa Tagg's One Enchanted Eve and Sarah Sundin's With Every Letter recently too!)

Monday, December 19, 2016

182: current thoughts on singleness as an identity

Well, first off, this Sunday will be my 31st Christmas spent as a single. So, you could say singleness has rather solidified as the norm.

Someone somewhere told me once that the 30s are better than the 20s because in your 20s you are still finding yourself (or whatever), and everything is still a struggle and in flux, but in your 30s things settle down.

It's kinda true. I can wistfully wish for marriage, and then listen to God and actually pray for it, but, in reality, being single is what I know.

I'm very familiar with it.

It's like an old coat. Might feel scratchy some days. Might wear a little thin in some places. But, overall, hey, it's all I've known and it's me.

It's me.

Does Michelle = single?

Am I my singleness?

I've wondered about this. I've wondered because the longer I am single, the more I identify with the moniker. So, if I married, would I be less "me"? Or more "me"? Or a different "me"?

Why do I associate my identify with my marital status?

I suppose it's only natural. Some might claim, I'm a happy wife, I'm an unhappy wife, I'm a teacher, I'm a blogger, I'm a grandma, I'm an American, I'm a suburb-dweller. Whatever the case, it's only natural to find something and absorb that as your identity. We get comfortable in our own skin.

Teacher Life
Only, it's not our skin. It's our circumstantial skin, our circumstantial identity. We think we are strong and steadfast, self-contained and content. Able. We think we are able.

But that's only because we have slid into the route of our circumstantial norm and have adjusted our minds accordingly.

Does me = the circumstances I'm used to?

I am single. I am a believer. Both fit as gloves on my hands.

One is my identity. I am a sojourner living as a member of the Kingdom of God while living among the kingdoms of men. Change my circumstances--bring unmet trials to bear--and my mental state might twist into a whirl, but Lord-willing, the Spirit that has sealed me will make me rise above circumstances and bring me safely through in faith and faithfulness.

But singleness--that's not a true identity. It's only a circumstance. It is not who I am. It is...but it isn't.

When I think about me as a 31 yr. old single--it's like the cream separating from the milk. The real me, the me who has an identity apart from circumstances, the me whose name is graven on my Savior's hands, that "me" will continue on through singleness or marriage or widowhood or motherhood . . . and will continue on through death into eternity.

So yes, singleness has become my norm and, honestly, makes this Christmas a lot like all my other previous Christmases because that's what I'm used to. But I think just thinking of "me" as "me" apart from marital status is getting easier too. I'm frightened that I focus so hard verbally on wanting a change of marital status that I've lost perspective. Well, here is the perspective: I'm still me, and I'm going to remain still being me, whether I stay single or get married.

And I'm good with that.

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: book reviews and nanowrimo

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: of Halloween, death, darkness, light, and 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: perspectives on waiting

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)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Day 26 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Jeremiah 31:35 (NKJV) 35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name):

36 "If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever."

37 Thus says the LORD: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD."

This is our God, and I stand amazed at His faithful and real love. We know how much they messed up. Yet here is the offended Father, the Holy One, passionately (and poetically) declaring He will stand by His own.

(P.S. This is also one of many passages that confirms to me that God has not forsaken, or replaced, His people--the Jewish people--into whom I have been grafted in.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Day 25 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I'm exhausted. It's my fault--I've been staying up late for no good reason. I'm exhausted spiritually--also my fault. But in the midst of the raggedness, my class and I shared one shining moment this morning.

As Thursday and Friday are home study days this week, I didn't want to start a new Bible week-long unit, so I pulled some pages we had skipped to fill in for this Mon-Wed. But today I really needed some Bible time myself, and the kids hadn't been able to use their Bibles yesterday (they LOVE to use their Bibles), so in the flexibility afforded me at my small country school, I told the kids to get out their Bibles. I quickly flipped to "persuaded" in my concordance and wrote the reference 2 Timothy 1:1-12 on the board. We're writing persuasive essays in English so I thought I could give them a ding-ding-ding we know this word moment.

We began reading. Verse 9 (NKJV) "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began".

I've noticed my students' prayers lately have been more of the "Help us be good and get to heaven" cause-and-effect variety. So we clarified...

We are called, God has made us His children, but not because we are good. Imagine if you acted really bad and gave your parents attitude and rebelled against what they said--and I know we have all done that before--would your parents say "You're not my child anymore?" No, 'cuz your parents love you unconditionally. It's the same with God. He didn't go, "Oh, I know she is a good person, I'll choose her." He chose us because He loved us. It's His grace.

2 Timothy 1:12 (NKJV) 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

He KNEW who he believed. Do you guys really know God or do you know a lot about Him? (To which a student piped up, "We know about Him!") Well, this person knew God. We can go to church and come to school and learn all about God, but the important thing is to know God for OURSELVES.

So you know what we're going to do? We're going to have silent prayer. You're going to pray silently in your mind to God, not out loud. It's going to be weird and awkward but that's ok. We can wait in silence.

And remember Who you are about to talk to. You're about to talk to the One who brings the rain and Who made the sun, a burning ball of gas. (Student: "And He made us!") Yes, and even when we were in our mommy' tummy, when no one could see us, God saw us! That's who you're going to be talking to.

We then closed our eyes and prayed.

Wow. At first I was like, Lord, ok, this is weird. I'm supposed to pray, but there's not a lot of time and these poor kiddos... But then it was like, wow, this FEELS good. I don't mean the silence. I mean it felt like I was fellowshipping with other believers and like the Lord was present. That sweet, refreshing feeling of I am in His presence.

I ended us in prayer and looked up. One of my students beamed at me. I asked if we should sing a song. Yes! Ok, which song? Another student suggested "Servant's Heart." After that a student wanted to sing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."

The afternoon might have found me back in depleted mode. I may feel like crashing. But for those sweet, sweet moments this morning, heaven split open and shone God's light on my classroom.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Day 24 of 31 Days of My Single Life

The intentionality of fellowship.

The proactivity of relationship.

Sometimes He drops people into your life who pursue you. They tell you that they are praying for you. They ask you if you have any needs they can pray for. They randomly approach you and, after brief chit-chat, open up and share what God has been teaching them, leaving you wondering what on earth, why on earth, and how can I make this happen again.

And other times you have to ask for, seek, and find people to be your fellowship. You have to build that level of relationship. You have to ask for prayer and bust out of your shy bubble and tell someone you are praying for them and then actually volunteer what is on your heart. Can you hear the door of your innards squeaking on rusty hinges when you share what God is doing with you? Yup.

Sometimes God carries you through dry times. Sometimes you can be doing nothing to grow your relationship with God and yet He, amazingly enough, keeps revealing things to you and making you more in awe of Him. Sometimes you sit there and go this is all Him because I didn't do anything.

And other times you feel the conviction of get up off your nap-mat and take this relationship seriously again. Re-develop those disciplines of prayer and Bible-reading that haven't completely slacked off but haven't been intentional habits like before. Do the work of making time for this relationship, because that's what relationships require, that's what God deserves, and that's the only way that you will make it through this world of temptation.

Sometimes, and then other times.

The waves of life.

The grace of God to provide and prod.

Cutest dog west of the Sierra Nevadas!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Day 23 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I went to my grandma's house yesterday. It was my second time since she passed. I heard for others it had been hard, seeing her home in the process of being gutted so it can be occupied by new owners next month.

As I walked through every room, I opened up each cabinet, pulled out every drawer--my last chance to save anything of my grandma's before it is given away to thrift stores. Things I had overlooked before as unnecessary to keep now became dishes I could point to in my own kitchen years from now and say, "These belonged to my grandma." Or to my future children, "These belonged to your great-grandma."

Walking through her house felt so familiar. It didn't feel like just any house. It felt like what it was: a place I have been visiting since a baby. It's where we celebrated Easters when I was little, every single Christmas Eve up until the last few years, many many birthdays while growing up. There's where the mushy squares of artichoke tortas and salami-wrapped Bruno peppers went, there's where the candied walnuts went, there's where the pile of Christmas presents went.

But I didn't feel the pain that others attested to. It bothers me, and yet every time I start to think about my grandma being "dead," something inside of me immediately counteracts with "No, but she lived, she is alive, she was alive, there's life here, the memories are alive, her memory is real." I don't seem to want to really focus on her being "dead." Even just saying it (which I have often) feels unrealistic--harsh and unrealistic--or just a matter of fact with no reality bearing on it.

I completely accept that she is not here anymore, that she is not present anymore, that she will never be present again. But that's as far as I have gone emotionally.

She was just always there. I am afraid that I will forget--I didn't capture memories like Cam Jansen with her photographic memory. She was just always there. It wasn't like I had to intentionally go visit her and make those unique, memorable moments. I am afraid of losing a 31 year relationship in the myopia* of present-tense life. She was always part of my life. I am afraid that if I do mourn, I will be resigning her to a rosy-colored, grainy picture or start remembering her through a gauzy cheesecloth.

"Dead" has such finality. "Dead" relegates something to the past. But right now, "is" and "was" seem interchangeable.

I am willing to accept that she is not currently here anymore. I am not sure if I am ready to put her in the category with the dead and gone and buried in a casket, lying still and pale and covered over with dirt. I am afraid that death will swallow up her life. But, I don't think it needs to be that way. I think she can still be living. That when I remember her, I don't think of how she is dead, but how she was alive. Not how she is not here, but how she was there for 31 years. Not that I won't see her anymore, but that she interacted with us every birthday and holiday, and gave me porcelain dolls and M&Ms and cookbooks for all those years. I'm afraid of losing the reality of her life by focusing on her death. I know that is not how it works, but I'm afraid that's how it will happen for me.

Maybe it's just a matter of saying it, solidifying it with printed words that won't be blown away with the wind.

While looking through my grandma's belongings, a friend called who also lost her grandma. She reminded me again of what I already know. We carry part of our grandmas with us always. Their lives affect us and our values, even if we don't realize it until the "aha, this is because of grandma" moment.

I guess it's really made me reevaluate the word "life," the concept of living, the concept of what life is, having a meaningful life, the value of all human life, and the value of a single life. The value of lives past that are so quickly forgotten. The seed of life that continues on because when one person affects another person, that person affects another, and life is sprouting in hearts because we stand on the shoulders of those gone before.

I guess I am reconciling life vs. death and figuring out how to hold onto one while accepting the other.


I ate the one on the left today, picked from my grandma's garden.
The irony of nature--life in the midst of death.

*Dictionary.com says I'm not using this word correctly, but I'm almost positive there's a word similar to this that means self-focused. So it's staying.

Day 22 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I went to my grandma's house today. In the midst of her death and the selling of her house, look at the life I found in the backyard:


More tomorrow.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Day 21 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Today I am a woman.*

I put in a new vacuum bag without any assistance. Unless you count the 7-year-old that was curiously watching on.

The blessings of living with your parents into your 30s are numerous. You are still living with a family, so you continue to interact with people that are not your peers, help each other out with unscheduled little things, eat traditional meals, save on rent and utilities, watch I Love Lucy with your mom, etc.

The downside of living with your parents into your 30s is that you may never get the opportunity, or have the necessity thrust upon you, to replace the vacuum bag on your own.

Fortunately, we got "Robbie" now at home--one of those robot vacuums that spins its way across the floor unassisted by human hands--and so I took our normal vacuum to school. And because it's Fall and leaves flutter their way in with every traipse of little feet across our classroom floor, the vacuum's belly is gluttonous with debris and needed to be changed out today.

Ask not what your vacuum can do for you but what you can do for your vacuum.

*This phrase reminds me of Buddy Sorrell in The Dick Van Dyke Show when he had his Bar Mitzvah as an adult and turned to his mother and said, "Today I am a man." Coincidentally, if you Google the phrase, you will find websites and books about bat mitzvahs.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Day 20 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Lying in bed, about to put my phone on the nightstand, when I remember I haven't done my daily post.

I'm sad my future husband won't know my grandma.

That's one of the not nice things about marrying later. You miss out on parts of each other's lives. If you believe that our pasts are part of our presents, then it's sometimes sad to think the other person will only know the present-tense you and won't immediately appreciate what has led to this.

I struggle back and forth. Part of me is a firm believer that everything in my past is an important part of my life. I want those parts communicated because they are my story.

On the other hand, have you ever seen pix of someone 10 years earlier or they tell you what they used to be like personality-wise and you thought, "Ooh, I'm glad I didn't know them then." Sometimes it's a prettier picture NOT having to deal with earlier copies of a person.

But the people that knew them then, do they know that person better than you do?

Is the present-day persona of you a more accurate representation of yourself than the collected years of you culminating in the present?

What does this have to do with anything practical? Good call....

I wish my future husband had been able to meet my grandma.

I hope he gets to meet my Bella dog before she gets old and dies.

I hope, well, that I am not single all my life.

That's not being desperate. I love my life. I'm happier in my 30s than I ever considered being for most of my 20s. But, well, God did call marriage good. And, I believe it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day 19 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Responsibility is a big deal in my world right now. In my classroom I often encourage students to "Take responsibility for your own learning." (That's teacher-speak for "Do your work without me having to tell you to.") Responsibility is one of our school's Student Learner Outcomes: We will be responsible and take responsibility for our actions.

What you hear yourself saying over and over has a tendency to start seeping back into your own life.

Responsibility.

Sometimes we have to pull up our bootstraps and take on responsibility. Ok, I'll be in charge of that.

Sometimes we have to draw our boundaries and let someone else take responsibility. I don't know, that's not my jurisdiction. Ask so-and-so.

Sometimes we have to take responsibility for how things happened. Oops, yeah, that was probably my fault.

Sometimes we need to hold back and allow others to keep the responsibility they have undertaken. That's their baby, so I need to let them make that decision.

Sometimes we feel the pang of other people trying to push responsibility on us that isn't ours. You should know this even though you don't.

Sometimes we must have grace when no one is responsible, everyone wants to deflect responsibility, and you are being affected by the lack of leadership. This was inconvenient, can we do this differently? No, I'm not accusing you of doing it--ok, maybe I am. Ok, maybe no one is responsible, and I just need to keep my frustration to myself instead of trying to peg someone with it. *sigh* Next time we'll do this differently.

This is real life. At home, at work, with friends. Things happen and we're tempted to take charge out of someone else's hands or pin the guilt on an innocent party to make ourselves feel better or deflect responsibility for something we were in charge of or take on more than we can handle.

I come back to truth. If, when I stop and reflect, I realize it's my fault because it was my responsibility, I need to acknowledge the truth, even though it hurts.

I come back to grace.  If someone is frustrated at me because they mistakenly think I was responsible and fumbled, or if something did not happen to my convenience, I need to have grace and not transfer that frustration onto an innocent party.

Responsibility is HARD. I'm thankful God carries us where we are.
I love this pic. It's Boston in the summer. One day I'll visit Boston in the fall...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Day 18 of 31 Days of My Single Life

My confidence was on shaky ground during today's program practice.

I am wearing a lacey shawl/jacket thingy. While talking with the accompanist, I kept grabbing my lace tails and twitching and tying and pulling. My face kept contorting, my hands pulling my skin this way and that. Basically, I wore my lack of confidence physically evident to all.

The one golden highlight is that I was with a team. Our elementary teachers are in every sense of the word a TEAM. We work together. We depend on each other. We divvy up tasks according to strengths, weaknesses, passions. My team was with me today. I didn't carry it alone. I needed them, and they acted where I was weak.

Nice little bow to wrap this up: I'm single in marital status, but I depend on other believers to support me when I'm weak and carry me in prayer as needed. Do you as a single (or married) have a team to help you?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Day 17 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Monumental disaster. Panic. Run me over with a bus. If I die before I wake...

Those are some of the phrases that crossed my mind after today's practice.

See, we have a school concert on Thursday, and today was our first practice on stage, in front of (dead) mics.

Yowzers!

To the moon, Alice.

(Not to be confused with "You want the moon? I'll throw a lasso around it and give it to ya.")

Bury my head like an ostrich.

Change my face to look like Jean Arthur instead.

I couldn't help it! Cover your eyes! Don't look! AAAAAAaaaaahhh!

*breathe*

Nice little bow to wrap this up: Failure is one step on the way to mastery. Failure is not the final word. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try all over again (tomorrow!).

With crinkle ribbon sticking out from under the bow: Later in the day a student told me they were so embarrassed they couldn't do something. I was able to tell them I had been embarrassed by the music practice, so I was spending my free time working to make it better. I encouraged them to practice til they got better. Growth mindset for kids and adults alike was happening today!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Day 16 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I was asked this summer if I was doing my dream job.

Yes. Yes, I am.

Well, second-best dream job.

This morning one of the elders preached on work. Work is not a consequence of sin. God introduced work, intervals of work, with time for reflection, observation, and satisfaction with what has been accomplished. We all have talents and abilities to be used for good work, with or without a paycheck. And the purpose? To serve others.

Eventually I may need to get a higher-paying job, but right now, I can't imagine having it better anywhere else. I am able to stretch and grow and use my talents and abilities in ways I don't know if I would elsewhere. Where I work feels like a greenhouse where I've been able to, well, blossom. There is a need for every person at my school, and opportunities to step up and try something new are boundless. And it's not competitive where you have to be ambitious to get a chance at leading something--believe me, you're more likely to need advice in saying "no" than advice on how to take on more responsibility or participate in service opportunities.

I am so thankful. Because I didn't search for this. God brought me here.

What would be my first dream job? Being a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mother. I hear that's hard work too. With plenty of opportunities to stretch and grow. I hear it's life changing.

For now, I enjoy the luxury of sleeping in on weekends, grabbing fro yo with friends, and coming home to relatively little responsibility.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Day 15 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I arrived at my grandma's memorial early today. I parked, got out of the car, and felt the lovely autumnal breeze blow across the church parking lot. I prayed silently as I approached the sidewalk.

I am not alone. I am never alone. I always have One who listens to me. Not a mute god, a deaf god, a god made with human hands, but a God whose arm is not shortened, who hears His children, who acts on behalf of those who trust in Him.

It's comforting.

I'm lonely today. When I'm lonely, I'm tempted to do rash, bold things. Or to bury myself in worthless entertainment. Anything but pause and feel the hurt in the quietness of my room.

I used to be really good at stopping everything to wallow in my journal over what was going on internally. I avoid that now (to a fault) for my own emotional health's sake.

Still, if I stopped, if I listened, if I paused, I would know God's presence with me. Not changing just because I am, but not unresponsive either.

How does that relate to single life? Someday, Lord-willing, I'll have someone walking from that car with me. Someone who may interrupt the silence of the windy day with some trivial quip, or who will be so stone silent so that I don't know whether I am alone or in companionable silence. Someday, me and God will also include the third point of "him," because according to God, the two become one, so he'll play some part in how I relate to God. I'll have my own relationship with the Lord, but how I pray won't necessarily be from the solitude of only Him and me anymore.

I can't comprehend how that extra factor will change things. But I'm thankful that nothing can change the fact that God is there and I am His and no one can snatch me from His hands. Even if I marry and my husband turns unfaithful (Lord, please never!), nothing can change the fact that I am His and He is mine.

I hope that whoever the future "he" may be, he will be able to encourage me to seek God more, and be a finite spiritual rock, imitating the Rock of Ages.


yours truly, cuz we all could use a laugh

Friday, October 14, 2016

Day 14 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Do you mind more reminiscing? Off the subject of failed (romantic) relationships though!

I haven't done much social recreation in the last month, and my grandma's memorial is tomorrow, and I've been feeling myself slipping towards an emotional meltdown, so I really felt like tonight I needed some kind of friend-fun to keep me going through the weekend. Today was the first of hopefully many rainy days (California needs the water), so the initial plan sorta fell through due to the stormy wetness, and I ended up going out for gelato (pumpkin!) with a girl friend and then walking our downtown. While the populace mingled in dressed-up, flirty groups in wine-tasting establishments, we meandered down lamp-lit sidewalks, gelato in hand, chit-chatting, stopping mid-street to take moonlit photos (or were they lamp-lit? moonlit sounds more nostalgic) and dodge cars who actually wanted to drive down the street.

After that we drove to WalMart, and while driving we chit-chatted about how neither of us had much of a "life" in high school. I don't think I got my driver's license til I was 19. We definitely didn't do crazy stuff like walk around downtown at 8:30pm at night and then drive to WalMart at 9pm. That actually wasn't sarcastic when I wrote it...but now, it sounds it. *blinks* I was being serious about the "crazy" part. It really did feel a bit adventurous tonight....

But back to high school. It made me reminisce again about something that I did have while a teenager. I had a guy friend, a couple years older than me, who would stop by the house--no warning--and sit on the couch and talk with us for hours, usually about girls he liked. Or he would call me on the phone and say, "I'm coming to get you for ice cream," and then take me out to Baskin Robbins or Cold Stone, playing the Beach Boys on the way home.

I always wanted an older brother, a couple years older, to do stuff exactly like that with me. I'm not sure if I fully realized I got my wish. I was too caught up wanting him to be more of an actual brother, to have more of an official claim on him. I felt the inconvenience of feeling like I had to be dressed and prepared for him to stop by in case he did stop by. I got frustrated that he presumed I would drop everything to go with him, and I gave him a hard time about that (rightfully so! :P). But I still loved being his friend. I'm grateful anew as I think back on it. He didn't have to be my chum. He didn't have to be that kind of friend--informal, completely trustworthy, comfortable in his own skin, taking me on non-dates, paying for my ice cream, teaching me sarcasm and spontaneity but not quite getting me to master the one eyebrow raise. Treating this younger, awkward, non-make-up-wearing girl as an equal and listening to my advice. But he did, and now, even though our lives have moved on, I have happy memories. His friendship enriches my life.

Thanks, you. :) I'm so glad you were in my life all those years.

(And thanks, Mom, for letting us hang out and do things!)

alley-photo from tonight's downtown walk

(to those of you skeptical people with your eyebrow raised, we came from completely incompatible belief systems, thus why it could be completely platonic, and he's married with a baby on the way now)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Day 13 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Day 13. Not a whole lot to say. How about I write a poem here hunched over my phone in the dark of my room next to the wall outlet? Ok.

Years. Passing by.
Memories. Dust lies.
Stirring. Remembering.
Twirling, tearing, cannot undo.

Words said
How horrid I am
To have said what I said to that guy

Disrespect
When will I ever learn
To call it quits before I crush him like rocks into sand?

Uncertainty.
What is this thing dating,
Or courting, or whatever you call it

Without the commitment of marriage
Yet faithfully exclusive
Together, but seeing if it will work?

How do you know when your preference is important
Or when a quirk doesn't need to be changed?
When a thing he does drives you bonkers
Or when tolerance needs to reign?

These things I don't know, I confess it
If it were marriage I'd stick it through
But this "together" is not forever
And I don't know what to do.

I don't know how to do it well
I know it
I have tried and failed miserably
And now I've immortalized my failure in a poem
However free-versish it may be

Here's to applying the lessons learned
Here's to "others have made it"
So it must be possible no matter, and I'll try again
Sometime, and hope not to botch it.

Not regretful, cuz there were reasons they ended
And mostly I initiated that
Not regretful just reminiscing
Of what has happened, is over, and past

Poem ended. Just been thinking back a lot lately. Definitely not just over one occurrence alone. I have so much to learn--too bad most of it has to be learned through trial and error.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Day 12 of 31 Days of My Single Life

Little known fact: I listen to Focus on the Family almost every morning on my commute to work.

(I also listen to Mac Powell's "Southpaw" CD on the way home these days. I hope my future husband isn't anti country-sounding music! *sigh*)

In all my learning about marriage, one of the things I've learned, or at least have had poured into my unexperienced brain, is that wives need to let go more and trust their husbands more.

And (I think I got this from Created to be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl), it is okay to let your husband make mistakes.

In other words, wives shouldn't be controlling.

(Ok, before you stone me, I'm just parroting what I've heard and am now going to make application to us singles who are on this page.)

Well, I don't know how many of you have family or friends that you sometimes would love to take charge of and direct and make perfect because you, of course, have the objective wisdom to direct their life. I sound facetious, but, let's be honest, sometimes we really do have some great advice that if another person followed, well, they would hail us as the Great Wizard of Oz.

I found myself in that predicament a year or so ago. Desperately wanting to pour my advice into someone I loved so that their life could go so much smoother. I needed to. They needed to change, and I could help. Truly. I could have helped if they would have listened.

But, by God's grace, I decided to finally start trying to listen to all this marriage counsel I've heard and read. Instead of applying it to a husband (which I don't have and which, today, I am particularly missing having in any stage of preceding up to marriage), I would apply it to the female in my life I wanted to control. I would *deep breath* start backing off. And letting go. And not trying to wheedle my advice in (which could be interpreted as manipulating).

It's hard, folks!

But it's a skill us single-eze can practice now.

You know what I found? I found I HAD to resort to prayer. Because I knew change needed to occur, and since it wasn't in my hands, I had to turn to the One who COULD do something.

Do you believe God is a God of miracles?

I do.

Ok, fast-forward to this week. (No, I'm not going to give any amazing testimonies related to what I just said. Because doing right is not always about the immediate results in other people, but the results in us, and I am satisfied with that.) But, this week, well, end of last week, we found out at school that a major school-wide field trip had fallen through. Bummer. Except, some of us teachers were like Yay! We won't get behind now! Or maybe we can catch up in this and that because it's only a month and a week into school and we feel like we're hamsters on a wheel! Thus the attitude when we found out that a replacement field trip was being scheduled. Ok...well...and so the juggling in the brains began. What to do about this scenario....how to make it the least painful possible...how to get work done on that day.... We have a very teacher-friendly school, so when the announcement was made, teachers started responding, reacting, and giving their two cents. Finally, the admin in charge of the staff meeting said quietly, "Actually, the decision has already been made."

Oh.

That is the cue to accept authority.

I hear that that is hard for wives to do. (For women to do? Isn't that part of the curse?) To accept their husband's decision without going, "It's not going to work. I don't want to do this. Does he even know what he's doing? We should just---"

No. Stop, and accept it. It is out of your hands.

Honestly, we did not know if that field trip was going to be a big flop. I don't even think the person planning the field trip knew if it was going to be a big flop.

You know what?

It was marvelous! It was an amazing field trip. It went SO smoothly. It was educational, and we managed to tie it into our week's theme. The kids had fun. The picnic lunch tasted so good! No hiccups. (My kids even got work done before we left for the trip!)

Nice little bow to wrap this up: After we give our input and wise advice, let's try accepting that we CANNOT change other people or some situations, intentionally ask and trust God to work out the details, and then do our part to make it the least painful scenario possible. We might be surprised at what might happen!

Fish Hatchery field trip

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Day 11 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I didn't know what to write about tonight, but this verse hit me today, and then I started journaling, and so, well, hang on.

"For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful" (Lk. 6:35-36).

That is what Jesus Himself said about God the Father. He is kind to the unthankful and evil. We serve a good God. A holy God who hates sin with a passion but who is still kind and expects us as image-bearers to be likewise merciful.

This has nothing to do with "them." They are still unthankful--a characteristic listed in 2 Tim. 3:1-4, one of the characteristics of those from whom Paul exhorts us to turn away. They are still evil. But this isn't about justifying sin, accepting sin, or making light of sin.

This is about us as people of the kingdom of God living according to the rules of that kingdom, walking in the light, marching to the beat of a different drum.

Love your enemies
Do good
Lend, hoping for nothing in return
Forgive
 
These things have nothing to do with "them" and everything to do with our choice to be courageous and do the hard thing of living rightly.
 
Sin is not our master. Sometimes I act as if my desires are my lord and I limply follow along. I'm doing that this week actually and struggling to know what is right and what is wrong, or at least not beneficial (I Cor. 6:12). What does God say to Cain? "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (Gen. 4:7). I Cor. 6:12: "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."
 
Not to get all power suit here, but who is the boss over our actions? We are! Unless like James 1 says, we are drawn away by our own desires and enticed (v. 14).
 
My students--the whole school--is memorizing James. Mine asked what "enticed" meant. I acted out physically being drawn away. It's like being physically drug around by your desires as if you have a hook through your nose (I wasn't that graphic with them--didn't think of it til now).
 
No. We have got to be courageous and take a stand. (Interesting side-note, look at Rev. 21:8 and the first characteristic mentioned.) Take a stand to live like people belonging to the kingdom of God. Sometimes that will mean fighting within ourselves against our grabby desires for pleasure (James 4:1). Sometimes that will mean refusing to engage with people towards whom we want so badly to react.

Courage, by the way, is our school theme for the month. May God bless us with courage to do the hard things!

me at one of my birthday parties

Monday, October 10, 2016

Day 10 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I have a friend, a young married, a new mom, who will take my random texts any time of day. She goes ballistic when I rejoice and offers a listening ear when I'm sad. She enters into my world no matter what. She doesn't reply back as soon as I text, and I wouldn't expect her to. But when she does, she is all there.

I have been really busy lately. "Busy" isn't the right word for it. I have found myself completely absorbed in activities. Today I stayed at work til after 6 with colleagues trying to figure out a new elementary schedule where all the teachers will get a prep time but all our subjects will get taught. Teaching can feel like a carnival show--juggling, juggling, oops! I dropped a class! Let's try again....

Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday--well, you know--I was completely consumed with creating my grandma's memorial album. I didn't have brain power to try to explain to anyone why I couldn't be present mentally elsewhere. I didn't have time to enter into anyone else's world.

I think as the texting generation, we need to not expect people to reply to our texts right away, even if they have already "read" it. It is not reasonable for me to think that someone else's life is so flat-lined that they should be able to get back to me right away and immediately enter into all my thought processing. Sometimes people are just busy with life or their own thought-processes, or even eating dinner with their family (it does happen!), to also deal with the pressure to reply back to a text. Sometimes we get to live in the present and in the present location where we are standing. That is a good thing. We need to extend grace to others to do the same.

As the texting generation, we also have a unique ability to keep in touch with friends as if they were always present with us. We can ask a quick question, give a btw update, make a joke filled with emoji, provide distraction during a stressful work day, help each other not feel lonely at 11:30 at night, or (my favorite one to get) tell someone we're praying for them--all with very little time commitment to stay on the phone to the exclusion of other activities. So when we can reply to a text in a way that shows that we are giving that person our complete attention as if they were there, showing that we care even in the middle of our busy lives, just like my friend does, that is an amazing gift.

So these are my two principles of texting communication for today: Respect that your friends have lives apart from their phones, and love your friends on the other side of their phones.

P.S. If you don't like the subject of this post, do remember that I committed to writing for 31 days straight (!!!) and the subject topics get mighty slim. This texting thing is actually something I'm dealing with right now, so it's not completely random or merely didactic. If you're curious what on earth other people write about for 31 days, go to http://write31days.com/. My link is under "family life." XP

seemed like a selfie would be the most appropriate
accompanying pic for a post about texting

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Day 9 of 31 Days of My Single Life

I am grateful for the different parts of my life.

I have school life. Yesterday morning I ran up to work to see two of my students participate in a town spelling bee. My adrenaline ran high, and I loved it--enough to even go next year.

I have my Homeschool Alumni life. Last night I listened in on a group Skype chat with people from as far east as Florida, as far south as the desert of California and the expanse of Texas, as far north as Portland, and as far central as Colorado and Chicago. And our only connection is that we were homeschooled.

I have my church life, though I skipped church today. Believe me, I don't make a habit of that.

I have my friends, to whom I've been too busy to explain that I've been completely enveloped in both my school life and ...

My home life. Especially this photo album. I think I'm done! I'm going to order it tomorrow morning. I love my home, my room, our kitchen (don't you ever miss your refrigerator and stove when you're away from home?). Though today my room looked rather cluttered with photos...


Nice little bow to wrap this up: I am thankful that my life can be diversified among different people in different circles with different activities. I might not always get these opportunities, but it's a thrilling ride while I do! (And yes, "diversified" makes me think of stocks and bonds too.)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Day 8 of 31 Days of My Single Life

my grandma
I've spent this afternoon working on my grandma's Shutterfly book. I got so much done and I'm so grateful! I still need to pull a few more pix, finish some of the pages. But I think I can get it done in time for Saturday's memorial.

Thinking about my grandma's life makes me consider the balance between the two parts of all of our lives: the past and the present.

I love history. I love thinking about people in the past as real people like today, just wearing different clothes. I've been going through my grandma's photos--a whole Rubbermaid-full--and finding photos of the whole family many moons ago.

I look at photos of my mom as a teenager, with her straight, un-permed hair, and it's this weird juxtaposition between who I know her to be now, over 40 years later, and wondering how much of who she is today was who she was then, before life happened.

I look at photos of different people, knowing where their futures led, and realize that although they may look different--in the photos they might have beehive hairstyles or bell-bottom slacks--they were dealing with (or about to deal with) the same relationship heartache that "present-day" people do. Their lives were real too. Not some glossed over movie print.

my grandma (on the right) with my great-uncle and great-aunt
But all that history of my grandma's life, all that progression from 1927 to the present day--is that what mattered to her? Or did the present matter more? Yes, she loved her brothers and sister who died. Yes, she collected many memories from trips with her friends. That did matter.

This summer I had wanted to spend time with her, writing out her memories to compile in a book. For one reason or another, it didn't happen. Part of me is regretful, but a huge part of me says, I was there when she was dying. Literally. I was there. I can have no regrets. And with that, I believe--I KNOW--that Grandma cared more about her family in the present, and spending time with us when she was alive and could come to birthdays and play Canasta with us, ie. she cared more about LIVING, then she cared about preserving her past.

I'm really not trying to justify myself--it kinda sounds like I am. Rather, because I value history so much, her death has made me rethink things and realize that what my grandma valued were these last years of spending time with her family. Living in the present is not a bad way to live.

I'm not sure why my hair looks weird.
Nice little bow to wrap this up: I think a person's life is so much more interesting if you know their history. But the worth of a relationship and the meaning of a person's life consists of the present, because that is where their heart is receiving and responding in kind today.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Day 7 of 31 Days of My Single Life

It is Friday night. The weekend.

I got home, dropped off my things, loaded up the dogs, and headed to the dog park.

The sun would be setting soon.

That means a week of schooling was complete, and I wouldn't pick it up again until tomorrow at sundown.

I am not a faithful Sabbath keeper. If I was, I wouldn't have caved in and watched some Netflix this evening. But I do try to not "work," i.e. not do what, in my everyday life, I consider work.

When I was in college, I'd take the day off from homework. Now, I take the day off from lesson planning.

I still do laundry and cook and even vacume, because those aren't the labors I need a rest from.

I vacillate between Saturday and Sunday, though I prefer the seventh day because, Biblically-speaking, that's what God sanctified and blessed. I have sometimes done from midnight to midnight but now try to stick to sundown to sundown. Again, because the evening and the morning were the first day, etc.

But I think there is something rather clever in God's design of days being sundown to sundown. There is always time in a day to work. Friday until sundown and Saturday after sundown. It relieves some of the stress of taking a day off, knowing you can get more done that evening.

For me, I think it is very mentally and emotionally healthy to force myself to take a day off from thinking of school. It is permission to stop. It is an invitation to chill. It is an opportunity to enjoy.

Is it a discipline? Yes. Inconvenient? Yes.

But is our God not capable of maximizing our work time when we follow His example of rest? I must believe so.

Someday I hope to be a better Sabbath keeper and not only rest but do a better job of keeping it holy. Not because I'm part of a cult or a denomination or a movement, but because I think it honors God.

Yay for weekends!


"In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength,"
...Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.

Isaiah 30:15, 18