Single Life

My Own Fight for Freedom

A few Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to share my testimony with the High School girls in my church. What’s so spectacular about my testimony? Well, I was a sinner and Christ saved me. It doesn’t get any better than that! Seriously, that’s the best testimony and we all can share that if we have found freedom in Christ. But part of what makes our testimony unique is the way Christ continues to be at work in our lives after we are saved. Yes, our salvation is settled but in our daily attempt to live for Him we come up against so many obstacles of our own making and of the Enemy’s design, that often knock us back a step or two. Each day we have a choice to either remain beaten down or to repent of our sins and start fresh. I want to share with you one area that Satan gained a foothold in my life for over 24 years and this was the part of my testimony that I shared with the girls a few weeks ago.

FullSizeRender (20)I decided to tell part of my story through pictures. I started with this one as I felt it was an accurate depiction of how serious I have been about singing over the years. That or it shows that I have always loved eating. I prefer to go with the former rather than the latter. 🙂 Music and food really do go well together and I am so grateful to be a Southern Baptist … hello, potlucks and singings!

 

Next, I showed them this photo just to confirm that I have always been a fashionista for years by rockin’ a pair of heels with jeans and a tee shirt at the age of 5. FullSizeRender (19)

Then, I showed them this picture. It may surprise many of you to discover that I was a FullSizeRender (18)cheerleader but I was. And I was even captain of the squad! (Mainly, because my family would be at every game since my brother played for the team.) I had fun cheering but I couldn’t do cartwheels, handstands or toe touches. I was a base for all of our stunts. I was in the fourth grade when I cheered and I remember realizing that my body was different from the other girls. I wasn’t as petite as them. I filled out my uniform differently. I came to the conclusion that I was fat. I look at myself now and wonder how I ever thought that then but I did. Something changed inside of me and I started measuring myself to other people’s standards. My parents had never placed importance on physical appearance beyond looking nice for church and being presentable for school. There were no obsessive conversations about being thin, working out or going on a diet around our house while I was growing up. There also wasn’t a huge celebration over our looks. It just wasn’t important. But somewhere, at some point, a message contrary to what I was being taught settled into my heart. I was fat and I wasn’t pretty.

I was naive enough to think that dating would fix a lot of my insecurities. Little did I know, dating only exposes them. I went all through my Middle School and High School years feeling awkward, ugly and overweight (which I was). No matter what I did, I couldn’t lose any substantial amount of weight. A life long battle with many ups and downs.

IMG_7247I never dated in HS (I did in my 20s) and I shared with the girls that Sunday how I understand when you go through a break up what that rejection feels like … however, there is a special kind of rejection that comes from never being chosen. You wonder if you are even seen. There were some nods in the room on that one. So what do you do? Well, I went to junior prom by myself and then my brother asked a college friend to take me to my senior prom. My brother happened to be going with a friend of mine at the time so that’s why he’s in this picture. He was not my date. I repeat, my brother was not my date! 🙂 I was so out of touch on the typical prom things a girl was supposed to do. I did my own hair and makeup. I had a shawl made for me by a sweet woman in my church because I was not about to show off my chunky arms and I borrowed the dress from a friend! But, I had a blast and even though I felt huge that night, I wouldn’t mind being that size again as well as would love to introduce myself to some bronzer. Hahaha.

I went on a few dates in college but as I am sure you have figured out … boys aren’t the answer. Men aren’t the answer. Yo-yo dieting wasn’t the answer. Loving myself wasn’t the answer. The answer has been and always will be found in Christ.

I have read all the blogs and books on being content in your singleness, on how to wait well for the perfect one and how to let go of waiting for the perfect one because God may not bring you the perfect one (well, duh). Can I just be honest and I say that I am tired of the Church putting a title on everything in this area … I’m not sure who I’m waiting on any more but it’s apparently someone like the kinsman-redeemer Boaz, with the timing of Adam (God didn’t wake him till Eve was ready …), the nonadulterous heart of David,  the passion of Solomon, the selfless love of Jesus, the fire of Peter, the wisdom of Paul and the sensitivity of John. Any Mr. Perfects out there? 🙂 And I am supposed to be the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman. Hmm … well, I have come to a place where I am most content when I am focused on Jesus and serving Him. If that sounds good to anyone else then let’s talk. All the rest is just fluff as far as I am concerned and I have known that. I really have but it has finally settled into every fiber of my being. How?

It happened when I knelt at the altar well over a month ago and surrendered my need tome compare myself to others. It was then that when I finally found freedom. And it was three weeks ago, in my car, that I realized I am a complete woman in Christ because that is who He made me be. It’s not in having sex, a baby or being married that makes me a woman. It’s not in a hormonal right of passage at some pre-teen age. I am a woman because that is who God created me to be and I am complete because of the finished work He did on the cross. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Once, I recognized who I was in Him everything else in my life completely shifted. I told the girls if I could do one thing for them it would be to help them understand this now instead of at 33. As well as to know that they are worth far more than what this world offers them. No amount of selfies will ever fill the void that Christ can. Marriage to the perfect mate will not fill that void. Nothing can show you your worth in Christ like the cross and the empty the tomb. And Satan has tried for 24 years to distract me from seeing myself as who I am in Christ.

IMG_7346It’s not like I am walking around looking at myself in the mirror and singing, “you’re so pretty, oh so pretty …” Hardly. Ha. But there is a deep peace in knowing Who’s I am and slowly the lies that I have believed about myself over the years are starting to fade away. I now work to hold every negative thought captive and call on the name of the Lord when I am tempted to belittle myself. A funny side effect to this is that as I am working on my emotional and mental health my physical health is falling into place as well. Go figure. 🙂 When you are no longer worried about what other’s think about you but instead focus on how God sees you and how you feel health wise things just sort of click. Willpower isn’t an issue anymore because it isn’t about a size, a weight or a standard. It’s all starting to fade because it just doesn’t matter anymore. I belong to Christ and I am kept by Him. I am complete in Him. Everything else is just an added blessing.

And oh, if I could help another girl come to understand that before she’s 33 then I would do everything within my power to do so but, honestly, it’s something that she is going to have to allow Christ to show her. She is going to have to open up her heart, be vulnerable with the Lord and “allow” Him to see all the wounded places of her soul. When she does, He will heal and fill every cavern with His grace. And she will know a freedom like never before!

I love you all.

 

 

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Random Thoughts

That Other Story for Another Day …

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Jennifer Harvey

Yesterday marked 11 weeks that I have been completely off my anti-anxiety/depression medication after 7 years of being on it. I’ll be honest with you … I should have never been on it this long if I should have ever been on it in the first place and that is not my doctor’s fault.

You see I was given some poor advice coupled with the encouragement that I might lose weight and my young hurting heart took it. I asked for help as I was in a time of depression and struggling to make sense of some recent health diagnoses. I was 26 years old and all I wanted to do was sleep. I had no energy. I had been tested numerous times in the last two years for mono but it always came back negative. Anyway, after some concrete diagnoses, there were still some questions and deep hurts from other things going on in my world. Instead of seeking counseling, I sought a quick fix in the form of medication. Now, please know that I am an advocate for both … counseling and medication when they are given/taken responsibly. I would have been better off with speaking to a Biblical counselor, first, and then seeing if I needed some additional support. But I didn’t and Satan has used it against me for seven years.

How?

Well, in my heart of hearts I have felt defeated. I mean, I was going to be on medication for the rest of my life. I was numb. I would go months without crying then have an epic meltdown. I have never wanted to be one who lives for emotions but I was not moved by much at all. Pretty much anyone who knows me will attest to this.

IMG_7132These last 11 weeks have been some of the hardest weeks of my life. I am not kidding. I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the first few weeks. I didn’t like myself on the medicine but I hated myself off the medicine. I was feeling all the feels and my emotions were across the board. I get angry now. That’s a foreign emotion. I cry. I still made it through all of “This Is Us” without crying but now the commercials about how much it has meant to the viewers are making me tear up. What the heck? 

Satan wasn’t letting me go without a deeper fight either. There have been some dark spiritual warfare days. Nightmares. Dark conversations with people. Trying conversations with people. I got to a point my home was no longer my haven and that is a huge priority for an introvert. Utterly overwhelmed at times in a way I could not being to explain. I had doubts about whether or not I would still need to be on the medication. I mean, I am depressed and anxious, right?

But God.

It’s true … God will not call you where He does not lead you. I discovered He was already in the midst of every single situation I have experienced in the past 11 weeks. It took two weeks to wean off a medication that I was told is the hardest medication to wean off of. I had zero side effects. My depression? It was no longer there. My anxiety? Yes, it was there but I saw my counselor and after we identified what makes me anxious those attacks are gone. My home? When it wasn’t a haven the Lord led me to a place where I could find rest of a few minutes each week. Now that things are calming down, peace has been restored within my walls. My emotions? Yep, I still cry. But I am so thankful for my tears and that I can truly feel. I still get angry but I working on that whole “righteous indignation” thing. 🙂

What Now?

Well, I’m still in the midst of this journey. I still have anxious moments and I am finding areas of my life where Satan is wanting to claim territory so I am taking a step back from the social media world. And while I have claimed this before this time it’s true. I find myself comparing my life to others. I’m not jealous of what other’s have but I find myself being much harder on myself because I can see why God would choose to bless them over me. Such a dumb thought process. Therefore, this Summer, I am going to work through Neil T. Anderson’s book “Who I Am in Christ”, spend time in the Word and try to stay ahead in my two masters classes starting next week. I’ll still blog from time to time as I have a new series running through my mind on dating.

 

Further thoughts on comparison …

I do not pretend to know what it is like to be a young mother working full time, part time or as a stay at home mom. I do not pretend to know what it is like to come home from work each day to someone else needing your attention or wanting to tell you about how their day went. I do not pretend to know what it is like to be sick with cancer or grieving the loss of a child or spouse. I simply do not pretend to know what the majority of those in my life are experiencing. But … I can empathize with you because it doesn’t take much to feel compassion for someone who is hurting, tired, grieving or stressed. I believe one of the biggest problems in our culture today is the need to minimize or downplay someone else’s situation because it doesn’t compare to our own. Who are we to compare our problems with someone else’s? The reality is we can never truly walk in someone else’s shoes. There is only one person who has ever experienced every possible thing that can be experienced on this Earth … and that was Jesus … and He still didn’t sin. Some may have it together and other’s may not but we have to remember we (as in, believers) all have our own “crosses to bear” but we have two invitations issued to us in that burdened area.

  1.  If we want to truly follow Christ then we need to take up our cross, by putting our plans and desires to death. (See Luke 9:23)
  2. We can cast our burdens … the crosses we bear … on Him and He will give us His burden to carry which is far easier a load to bear. (See Matthew 11:28-30)

13 weeks ago, I was offered both invitations and I took it. And, by the grace of God alone, I am making it through and finding joy on the journey.

I love you all …

 

 

Random Thoughts

May Memories

Uncle RicoA funny thing happens every May, I find myself feeling a bit nostalgic and remembering my senior year of High School. Not in an Uncle Rico/Napoleon Dynamite way but more so as a Bethel moment in my life. In Genesis 35 we see where God told Jacob to go “to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” (Genesis 35:1-3)

My senior year is reminder to me of the joy that came as a result from the Summer before when I cried out to the Lord, on a beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, that I was tired of being comfortable in the fact that I was saved (I had been since I was 9 years old) but I wanted to truly live for Christ. I didn’t want to just do the right thing because it was the right thing to do or because it was expected of me, I wanted it to be a natural response to my walk with Christ. From that night on, everything has been different. On the drive back to Memphis, I was reading the Psalms and came across these verses in chapter 30, “10 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, 11 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!’ I truly believe that Summer changed the whole trajectory of my life and it was evident all throughout my senior year in High School.

I was one of those who hated school. I might have looked forward to it for a bit but after a few weeks, I was over it. I didn’t fit in and I went to a private Christian school. While I longed to be accepted, I did the exact opposite – I called people out for things that they shouldn’t be doing and had no problem turning a guy in for making suggestive gestures with his hands towards me during Bible class.  That was 7th grade and I remember being confronted in pick up line by an older friend about how I was wrong for getting him in trouble … after all, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I looked at her, told her it was inappropriate and I wasn’t going to let a guy do that to me.

In 8th grade, I had instigated a situation with a guy that ended with him calling me a “Fat B****”. A lifelong guy friend immediately came to my defense. I can still remember the horror I felt as I turned to see two guys that I had sort of had a crush on looking at me at what I assumed was through the lens of his words. I believe I apologized to that guy for instigating that situation … I should have if I didn’t. I have no idea if he apologized to me for what he said, I think my friend made him but it didn’t matter. Those were his true thoughts about me and it has stayed with me for the rest of my life. Not so much the witch part because I have those moments but the “fat” part. I just knew if this guy was gutsy enough to call me that to my face then he only said what everyone was thinking about me.

I was “accused” of being a “Bible thumper” at some point in High School and was fullsizerender-1encouraged to do something about that. I just smiled and said something like, “People are going to think that no matter what I do but I’m not going to change who I am.” I think I got that title because I asked someone to stop cussing around me. LOL. In many ways, I am in awe of my courage back then because I thought I was weak. I know I came off as a holier-than-thou know-it-all at times and truly regret that as I was simply in a place of figuring out how to walk with and live for Christ.

My senior year, I learned to love everyone. I became “friends” with just about everyone in our class. Meaning I made a point to talk to everyone at some point during the year. I didn’t hang out with them outside of school but I didn’t shun talking to them and I think they discovered I wasn’t that bad either … I just had my convictions and stuck to them. I didn’t apologize for my convictions but I also didn’t impose them on anyone else. I just didn’t care about how people thought about me anymore. It was an incredibly freeing time in my life. The Lord brought some precious people into my life that year several of whom I am still in communication with today. He opened up some unique doors for me that I would have never dreamed possible. Things that I still marvel at to this day.

However, what many do not know was that Satan had been an almost constant companion up until the Summer of 2001. He spoke the harshest of words to me and he still does. He loves to throw in my face the things I have missed out on because of my convictions.

But let me be perfectly clear, I have zero regrets over saying “no” or avoiding the temptation altogether to compromise on my convictions in the last 16 years.

It’s the moments that I gave in that I regret. It’s by God’s grace alone that I am still completely saving myself for marriage and if I never marry it will be worth it all. Satan and the world want you to think that it isn’t worth it all but it is. Every day I am becoming more and more convinced that the things of this world simply cannot satisfy me. When I have tried to fill myself on those things they have left me empty, aching and more alone than I was before. It’s a temporal satisfaction if there is any satisfaction at all so you have to fill yourself with more when in reality you are depleting yourself. Paul said it best in Philippians 3:8, “everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”

image1 (5)So, yes, I go back in my memories to my senior year and remember the girl that probably would have charged Hell with a water pistol. I remember those moments when the Word of God became the living Word to me. I remember that moment on the sandy beach when Satan lost that foothold in my life that caused me to question my salvation because from that moment on I was walking with the Lord. I remember the girl who stopped letting the words of the world define her but instead listened to the words of her Savior. I go back to give thanks, to remind Satan of where I’ve been and to hold my feet to the fire when the words of the world drown out the words of my Savior.

To my young friends who are graduating this May,

It’s true … you get to completely rewrite your story from this point on. How people in school knew you for the last 12 years does not have to define how people will know you from this point forward. But none of that matters apart from a relationship with Christ. I came into my “own” after High School. I found my own sense of fashion, my own sense of humor and for the most part have accepted myself. Satan has come against me hard over the years but the Lord has remained faithful in my life and has given me the victory in those battles. One battle I am just now emerging from after seven years and that’s a story for another day. But I can tell you that nothing you face will ever be greater than the love and power of Jesus. Do not miss out walking with Him on a daily basis as it to will change the trajectory of your life.

I love you all.

Random Thoughts

Silence

I have so much to say but I simply feel right now is not the time to say it. I want to be obedient to the Lord’s direction in my life. Until He leads me or releases me to write more I am going to link other blog posts that are catching my eye or convicting me. I still want to be a source of encouragement for you all but I also feel like I am being called to warn/point out problems, which is something I struggle to do as I hate confrontation. So please know that I am really confronting these things in me and just taking you along for the ride.

IMG_6787Today, I was called back to John 10 through a friend. The verses describing Jesus as the Good Shepherd have really been resonating in my life over the last 5 months. I am not ignoring that. I believe it is for many reasons with one being that there are wolves all around us inside the Church. Friends, we have got to be on guard. I am linking this blog from The Gospel Coalition entitled Beware of Broken Wolves as it gives us an example of a “new” wolf in our midsts … a very authentic kind. And for those who are like me, drawn to help the broken, it is important that we spot these wolves and recognize them for what they are. Being bold for Christ isn’t just about being a witness for Him but about standing up for the things of Christ and calling out the things that are the opposite of Him. 

If you aren’t sure what those things are may I humbly suggest you find a copy of God’s Word that you can understand and then start reading it? It’s hard to prepare yourself for battle when you don’t know what kind of weapons to use.

I love you all.

Single Life

Truth Is … We Can Handle It

Yesterday, my path crossed on Facebook with another 32-year-old woman who was struggling with the fact that she was single. I sincerely told her that it is better to be holy, whole and alone than dating the wrong person. But like most she struggles seeing friends getting married, coming home to an empty house and not seeing any prospect of change in her near future. I shared with her that some of the ways I combat those feelings is to focus more on getting to know who Christ is & acknowledging that my being single is part of His will for my life at this time. I also find other ways to serve so I am less apt to notice my loneliness. It doesn’t work 100% of the time but it certainly does help me. She asked me what to do about coming home to a lonely house. I told her that now that I have my puppy my house certainly isn’t lonely but I still light a favorite candle and turn some worship music on as soon as I walk in the door. Those two little steps immediately warm up my home so that even I feel invited in. I also make it a point before heading home to either have it on my radar what movie I want to watch or book I want to start reading that night if I don’t have something else pressing that I need to do at home.

I’m not sure how well she received my advice because it doesn’t give her a quick answer of “do this and you’ll be dating someone within a week”. I don’t have those kinds of answers and to be honest, I am glad that I am not privy to that kind of knowledge. The start of my year has been interesting so much so that I have shared with several friends that I would rather be left alone than deal with the guys that I have dealt with! And I meant it. I know that I have turned a corner in my life when I can make a statement like that and feel it with every fiber of my being. I have been spoken to about things and in a manner that no man professing Christ should ever speak to a woman about.

I will be 33 next month and thanks to a friend’s husband, I am now calling it my “Jesus Year”! Ha. But in all seriousness, for me, there is something sacred about this age. I am tired of it all and in the same vein, I am fired up. I want this year to count. I don’t want to waste it wondering what is or isn’t being said by someone that I am interested in. So I humbly request that single men and women, who truly profess Christ and seek to follow after Him, stop these 3 dating practices immediately.

(Disclaimer: I have been guilty of all three of these. So rest assured, this is something I have sought to eliminate from my life and some of these examples are from personal experience while others are borrowed from friends but to protect the individuals I am sharing them in the first person.)

Dishonesty

If you aren’t feeling it … then just be honest about it. Somewhere along the line, we have come to the conclusion that we have to be deceitful in our reasons for breaking up with someone or opting out of continuing to get to know someone.

Ex. I have been told in the past that distance is an issue … it was a 45-minute drive. When in reality they just weren’t attracted to me. My brother and sister-in-law dated for 3 years living 6 hours away from each other. So I’m not going to buy the 45-minute drive excuse.

Would it have been painful to heimage1-4ar that a guy wasn’t attracted me? Yes. But it would hurt much less than the realization of being lied to by someone to whom you had hoped would be different because he “lives for the Lord”. Y’all, we are better than this. You don’t have to be ugly about it but tell the truth.

Guys, from a woman who is seeking to be honest in this area as well … hear me … I would much rather know that you don’t see this going anywhere beyond friendship than you leading me on with talk of future events and projects that you know will never happen. If you sought to get to know a woman because you were attracted to her but realized you would be better off as friends don’t assume she is on the same page … ever. I have so much more respect for a man when he is honest from the beginning than someone who backtracks to cover his behind because he is feeling guilty over leading a woman on.

Ladies, if you know that a guy will never move out of the friend zone then stop taking advantage of a “free meal”. He works hard for his money and deserves to spend his money on someone who is truly interested in him. You may be a great friend but don’t be so prideful as to think you are doing him any favors by spending time with him. Be kind but be honest. Let him make the decision if he wants to continue to take you to dinner or if the next time you meet you’ll be going dutch. It’s fair.

Most of us aren’t dating for the sheer fun of it because it’s not all that fun. We are dating for the potential of marriage. So let’s stop wasting each other’s time when we know it’s not going anywhere.

Ghosting

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. The only ghost that needs to be involved in a Christians dating life is the Holy Ghost. Mmmkay? For those of you who aren’t sure of this term is please see definition #2 …ghostingIn many ways, this all goes back to being honest with each other but it could also apply to that illustrious idea of the “silent treatment”. And just to be clear, both women and men have been known to “ghost” someone. If you are needing space, ask for it. If you aren’t interested, tell them. Don’t disappear. It’s dishonest and petty. It is certainly not the mark image1.PNGof someone who is seeking to live their life with integrity. Now, if you have told them that you are not interested in them and do not wish to pursue things any further yet they continue to contact you then block them. But most people will respect this decision and move on as well. Don’t leave a person wondering as to where they stand with you or what happened in general. Do you remember “the golden rule”? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31

I have been on the receiving of both ghosting and the silent treatment. It truly is the most mature way of a handling a woman. We feel valued as a human being and cherished by the person we are talking to, I mean were talking to or may still be talking to. I have spoken with guy friends who have been on the receiving end of this as well and they admitted that nothing made a woman more attractive to them when they employed these juvenile tactics into their relationship. I mean they were truly clamoring for more time with that woman. Not. Just stop it.

Ghosting is a cowards way out of a relationship. The silent treatment is a petty way to avoid conflict or to punish your partner (like that is your place, anyway). If there is an issue in your relationship be a grown up a deal with it. Chances are you aren’t dating a mind reader.

The God Card

Please stop blaming God as an excuse for breaking up with someone! There is only one time in which He makes it clear we are not to date someone and that is if they are an unbeliever …

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Other than that … we pretty much have free reign on who we can date in the world of Christianity. So if all of the sudden you have to break up with someone because “God told me to.” Then chances are you didn’t pray about dating them in the first place because if He has a say in it now He probably would have had a say in it from the beginning.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that God gives us a head’s up when someone isn’t right for us but we tend to ignore those signs. So instead of admitting that you were being disobedient by entering into the relationship to begin with you then place the blame on God for breaking up.

Just be honest. It’s not working out. You aren’t interested in them. It has nothing to do with your need to focus on your relationship with Christ or anything else like that. Just tell the truth. You will be better off in the long run for it than doing otherwise.

Friends, let’s be known for telling the truth in love. Let’s be known for living our lives with integrity in such a way that our dating relationships and/or potential interactions with one another mirror Christ more so than the world. Let’s show the next generation how to have healthy relationships without sub-tweeting our relationship woes on social media. Let’s give them something to strive for rather than run from. We can do better. We must do better. Why? Because we are the image bearers of Christ and He deserves no less than our very best. Is it frustrating? Absolutely. But if we resolve to treat each other in the manner in which we desire to be treated then I guarantee you it won’t be so hard. And for those of you who are still scared to be truly honest with those you are dating … the truth is we can handle it and we will respect you for it. Is it hard? Yes. But it is worth it. Let’s be about the hard and holy things of God. Not people who run from challenges and destroy people in our path.

What do you think?

Please comment below.

I love you all.

 

 

Single Life

No Hired Hands

IMG_3710A few weeks ago, I was sorting through some things to throw away when I came across a conversation that I had printed out between myself and a guy I had met on Christian Mingle. This was the last guy I talked to before I quit the site in the early Fall. As I read the conversation, I was flooded with thankfulness that once again the Lord had protected me from what I thought was best. Everything he said seemed so great, however, there were some serious spiritual issues that caused some concerns that he became very defensive of when I received them as red flags. I’m not going to apologize for how the Lord has wired me. He raised me in the home of a pastor for a reason. He gave me the convictions that He has not so I can stand in judgment of others but in order to protect me from myself.

This guy was clearly not the right one for me. My mom calls those kinds of guys “phony guys” while my best friend calls them “counterfeits.” But after my reading of John 10, last month, I am going to start calling them “hired hands.”

I had been reading Rachel Wojnarowski’s The Names of God reading plan for December. On this particular day the reading was on John 10:34-42 and how Jesus is the “Son of God” but my eyes were drawn to the first part of the chapter and the parable of The Good Shepherd and His Sheep. While I have no desire to over spiritualize scripture I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between dating/courtship and the Good Shepherd/sheep.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: â€śI tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.” John 10:1-13

Ladies, we want to wait for someone who seeks to model his life after the Good Shepherd, Jesus.

  1. A shepherd enters through the gate.
    • A man who has modeled his life after Christ will value the process of pursuing you God’s way.
    • He’s not going to try to take shortcuts, i.e. sneak over the wall.
    • He will pursue your heart, first, because he knows Who the keeper of your heart is.
  2. The Gatekeeper opens the gate for him.
    • When we surrender our hearts to Christ and allow him to hold it in the palm of His hand then no one will be able to get past the Gatekeeper who shouldn’t be there.
    • The Lord will help us protect our hearts for the one He has for us.
  3. The shepherd calls his own sheep by name, the sheep hear his voice, come to him and he leads them out.
    • You’ll “know when you know.” Your spirits will bear witness in such a way that it could only be of God’s design. And it will be then that this shepherd will join you and the Good Shepherd as a 3rd in the triune to bring God glory.
    • I have often prayed, over the years, that when the one God has for me comes, I will know his voice.
    • There will be a tenderness to my name that lets me know I am safe, secure and I can follow him.
    • He will come prepared to lead my heart.
  4. In the same way that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, the shepherd is willing and ready to lay his down for you.
    • He dies to self and his desires in order to serve and protect the sheep.
    • He learns to love like the Good Shepherd and in return the sheep learns how to love him as well.
  1. hired hand runs at the first sign of danger. He is not invested in the sheep. Theycropped-road-1.jpg aren’t his. His interest is purely selfish … i.e. monetary, sex, temporary fulfillment of loneliness. His sole focus is on what he can gain. Not how he can serve the sheep.  So if the sheep is attacked and devoured it doesn’t matter, so long as he is safe.

Let’s Go Deeper: Are you a hired hand? Are you only in a relationship for what you can gain? Are you shortcutting the system? When things don’t go your way do you pout and punish him until he gives in?

So what is our response to be?

The Lord wants us to wait for the shepherd and stop wasting our time on hired hands.

  1. The Shepherd goes to battle for the sheep each and every time. And the sheep learns and knows that she can trust the Shepherd.

Let’s Go Deeper: Have you truly surrendered your heart and control of your life to the Lord? To the point that you can still serve Him joyfully and with purpose even if marriage isn’t what He has planned for you or you go through seasons of major “date drought”? Is Jesus enough?

  1. In the same way that the shepherd doesn’t jump the fence, you need to have boundaries in place so that any man who meets you knows you are worth the chase.

Let’s Go Deeper: What are your convictions? Write them down. Purpose to live by them. Share them with several friends and/or family members who will unashamedly hold you accountable to them and don’t fight them when they do! Sex is a gift from God that is meant to be shared between a couple that is married to each other, not living together, but someone who has made a covenant before God to love each other till He calls you to heaven. It can be hard to stay true to that Biblical conviction but it can be done even if you have made mistakes in this area before but you have to set clear-cut boundaries! And, friend, if he won’t then he’s not the “leader” you need in your life. Move on. He’s not valuing you over your body and his needs. And in case you aren’t sure … no man of God is ever going to ask you send him a nude picture of yourself.  No Godly girl has time for that. Walk away.

  1. The Gatekeeper will be the one to open the gate to your heart and to his.img_3898

Let’s Go Deeper: This is where I think the idea of “guarding your heart” (Proverbs 4:23) comes into action. It’s hard to know how to guard your heart but we have been given a gift in the Holy Spirit and He is quick to let us know when we should or should not do something. Learn to listen to that voice. Don’t be so quick to open up your soul to every guy out there. Let him discover the inner beauty that the Lord has been cultivating in you over the years a bit at a time. In the past, I have been too quick to share it all that when things didn’t work out with a guy I felt emotionally exposed and I had no one to blame but myself. So instead of giving every guy a piece of my heart here and there I have put a hold on it for “the one” the Lord may or may not have for me. I am still a fairly open book but there are some chapters that are for one pair of eyes only now and that’s ok.  I have learned that when I shut my mouth I am able to pay better attention to the red flags anyway! Funny how that works. 🙂

Friends, I don’t have the answers to dating or courtship and again, I don’t want to over-spiritualize scripture but I don’t think we can ever go wrong with surrendering control of our relationships to the Lord. Daily seeking His wisdom in our interactions with the opposite sex. Allowing Godly friends and family members to hold us accountable in our relationships. But most importantly actively listening to the Holy Spirit and heeding His command.

To my guys out there that are doing things God’s way … thank you! Hang in there. Keep at it. God has a purpose and plan for it, I promise.

And ladies, let’s not forget that while we are meant to be pursued we need to be worthy of the pursuit. So while your shepherd is seeking after God’s own heart be faithfully seeking the Lord’s heart as well as one day you might look up to see the Gatekeeper is unlocking the gate of your heart.

I love you all!

Random Thoughts

Words from Isaiah

Well, I wrote a different post yesterday but the Lord hasn’t released me to share it which happens from time to time. So, for now, I am “sitting” on that post and we’ll see how the Lord directs me to use it. Until then, I spent some time in Isaiah this morning and several verses leapt off the page at me that I had to share with you.

I’ll admit that I feel like I am in a perpetual waiting season in many areas of my life, especially after reading the very first articles I ever wrote from my time as a “senior editor” for a girls’ paper at my High School. The 18-year-old me had some words of wisdom for the 32-year-old me that I needed to hear again. It was a great reminder to keep seeking hard after the Lord in order to find my true fulfillment and joy in Him alone. A lesson that I believe will be something I learn for the rest of my life.

Anyway, here are the words that the Lord whispered to my soul this morning … may they bless you as well.

“But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name: you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames of will not consume you.” Isaiah 43: 1-2
 
““Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”” Isaiah 43:18-19
 
“I-yes, I alone-am the one who blots out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” Isaiah 43:25
 
“For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who img_5407works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who cheerfully do good, who follow godly ways. But we are not godly. We are constant sinners, so your anger is heavy on us. How can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.” Isaiah 64: 4-6
 
“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
 
Thank you, Holy Father, for providing a Savior so that we could be restored to a right relationship with you through the repentance of our sins by the shedding of your son’s blood. Thank you that He rose victoriously three days later and that we have the hope of Eternity even on the darkest of days here on Earth. May I purpose to live with kingdom come purpose until you return.
In Jesus’s Name, I Pray, 
Amen
Merry Christmas!
I love you all!
Random Thoughts

A Time of Reflection …

“[ The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise ] Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” Luke 1:46-47, 49

fullsizerender-13As I start to look towards 2017 and think about my goals for the next year, I am in awe of what the Lord has done in my life over the last year. Tomorrow, December 17, will mark one year since I have had my tonsillectomy and I am so thankful I did so. I realized today that I have gone an entire year without being on an antibiotic. First year ever in my life! Praise the Lord.

While my recovery ended up being months long as far as regaining strength, due to losing more blood during surgery than the doctor anticipated, my throat healed within a month of surgery which was two months ahead of schedule. My fibromyalgia flare-ups have decreased significantly and my migraines have been less than what they were. I still have some things to figure out with my migraines but in many ways, it’s like a whole a new life for me.

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Verse for 2016

New life … that has been my theme for 2016. And, boy, has my family experienced new life as we welcomed my precious niece, Raelyn, into the world in November! She is absolutely amazing!! We also found out in September that my brother and sister in law are adding to their family. Brantley will find out next week if he’ll have a little brother or sister. Talk about new life!

 

I started a new position within LMU and have been reunited with my 4th grade Elementary teacher from Eaton Elementary whom I adored then and adore even more now. I truly feel like I have come home now.

 

As I think of where I was at mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually over the last year, I am humbled at His goodness and faithfulness in my life. There have been many tears shed as I thought I knew what was best for me but God had an infinitely better plan for me.

Some things are the same and some things have changed. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me for the rest of 2016 and for the 2017 but I am thankful for all that He has taught me this year and brought me through. God is so good and gracious!

I am looking forward to a time of rest and fellowship with those that I love as we celebrate Christ’s birth.

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I love you all! Merry Christmas!

Single Life

This Isn’t A Game

img_5208I will never understand why some married men don’t wear wedding rings … especially when they aren’t in a job that restricts them from wearing it.

Or at the very least mention their wife in conversation.

In case you are wondering, yes, I was just made a fool. But it happens. I wasn’t flirtatious, yet, or anything like that but I would have been more guarded in my friendliness.

This is the day that we are living in. When a man is just being friendly … emailing you all throughout the day … asking about your weekend … discussing common interests … sharing basic personal details – where you grew up, HS attended, pets, family life … but somehow leaves out the fact that he is married. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? I’m sorry but I have a huge problem with that. Maybe it’s just me. But marriage isn’t a game. Being single isn’t a game. Being a truthful person isn’t a game. This isn’t a game.

“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:21

I am a HUGE supporter of Biblical marriage … and as a believer, as a single woman, I take my part in helping to protect those marriages very seriously. I do this by, not only, electing politicians who uphold that same value but by respecting the marriages of those I am around. I do not ride alone in cars with married men. I do not eat alone with married men. I will not be in a house alone with a married man who is not my relative. Not because I do not trust myself or my friends but because I do not believe in giving the Enemy a foothold through rumors or a lapse of judgment.

I have seen the devastation that can occur in a marriage due to an affair. I work hard to be friendly but never cross the line with the husbands of my married friends. Even the ones where the guys were my friends first. Everything changes when they get married, well, actually when they get engaged. That open communication we once shared is gone. I respect that his fiancĂ© and/or now wife deserves his full attention and openness. An openness that I cannot and should not share in. And it’s an openness that he should no longer expect from me. It’s called boundaries. They are a good thing.

I appreciate boundaries. I work well with them and when you have them set in place it helps you navigate through murky situations. It helps you turn away from temptation because you know that you will not compromise on those boundaries that you have in place. For me, those boundaries have been put in place by the convictions of the Holy Spirit in my life and through the reading of the Word of God. I will not and cannot compromise on them. I am thankful that His Spirit prepared me in advance for what I was going to find out today. I will now approach my conversations a bit differently with men and will wait until it is confirmed that a man is single before I believe it. Can’t rely on the fact that he’s not wearing a ring.

This isn’t a game. 

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” Romans 12:3

If you are married then wear your ring if you are able to. If you can’t because of a job then find some way to share about your spouse so that others know that you are proudly and happily married. If you are unable to wear your ring because it doesn’t fit then find something to wear in the meantime! This applies to both husbands and wives.

And please know that I understand that there is temptation all around us whether a ring is present or not … but for those of us who truly do desire to do the right thing, seeing a ring helps us know what boundaries need to be put in place when meeting someone for the first time. I am not desperate to meet someone but I do desire to be a woman of integrity and flirting with a married man has no place in my life.

I know I am not perfect … I fully acknowledge that. I fail all the time. But I repent and start fresh again. It may have been an oversight on his part but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. I’ll still be friendly within the boundaries that are now firmly in place. I’m a little bit wiser and a tad weary of it but this is life.

I’m thankful I get to live this life and that this isn’t a game.

I love you all.

Single Life

Single in the Church

 

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#mamaskills

 

When I was a little girl, I had two baby dolls and they were named “Darlin’ and Sweet Darlin’”. They were my babies. If you asked me what I was going to be when I grew up I would have probably told you either a mama or a singer. Then on some days a mama singer! As I have shared before my plan was to get married by the age of 23, have my first child at 25 and be finished having babies (3-4, and I wouldn’t have put them on the ground face first … duh) by the time I hit my early 30s. Instead, I am single, 32, live in an apartment and have a dog! I am neither a mama nor a singer (at least not what I had envisioned).

Nothing, in my plan, panned out at all. Not even my college plans. My 20s included the death of many lifelong dreams and the birth of many new dreams. Dreams that I pray and believe are of the Lord and not strictly of my will. I still long for marriage but children are totally negotiable at this point in my life. I am pretty content with where the Lord has me and on the days that I am not it’s usually because I am too focused on someone else’s life.

However, I have realized there is a huge gap in our churches where singles are concerned and it’s something that I noticed years ago when I was in my early 20s. The Church, at large, doesn’t seem to know what to do once you are past the college and career age. I consider the college and career age to tap out at about 25. Everything the Southern Baptist Convention rolls out seems to be directed towards the college and young career group. Conferences and seminars are geared for this group, i.e. Passion.

I guess no one really accounted for the fact that more adults would be holding off on getting married whether it’s due to careers, finances, commitment issues or lack of dating options. So there’s a large group of people who are being overlooked within the Church.

Even with the churches that seem to have an active singles ministry, if you get to the core of that group it’s spiritually dry. You either have a singles social club or a literal small group of Christians committed to growing in Christ. Women are threatened by the possibility of a new woman coming into the class when there are only a few guys in the class so they often talk negatively about the class to newcomers or just don’t invite anyone. Or you get the singles that are strictly there to find someone to date and end up working their way through the entire group.

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I don’t know if this will fix the issue but here are few ideas I have:

  1. Stop giving everything a name. There was a time when every youth group and program had a name which carried over to the singles Sunday school classes. I have heard of PowerHouse, The Bridge, The Pathway, The Crossing, Crossroads, The Road, Landslide (JK), Landfill (JK), The Headstone (JK … but I’m guessing that would be a senior single adult class). We aren’t kids. Just divide by ages – names not required. J
  2. Once a month by rotating, each church in the area could share the responsibility with hosting a city-wide Singles Worship service by putting ego and competition aside … this would be something that is not catered to the college demographic but rather speaks to career-minded singles in their late 20s, 30s and 40s+ with solid preaching that also gives everyone an opportunity to meet other singles in the area. And please … no lame ice breakers. In fact, just avoid games altogether.
  3. Stop promoting marriage as the end all be all in the church. Yes, the majority of us do want to be married but for one reason or another (or in some cases, multiple reasons) we are not married yet. However, we have married friends and we know it’s not the ticket to paradise, endless bliss or total wholeness. We see the broken marriages. Some of us are a product of them. Some of us are called to be single. Singleness isn’t a disease and it won’t rub off on you if you are around us for too long. We are vital to the Church and not just to fill the roles parents are too tired to fill. J
  4. In the same vein … stop acting like singleness is a gift when you know you didn’t see it that way when you were single. Yes, we have “tons of time” to ourselves to do “whatever we want” … but that is a lot of time that we are by ourselves. It can be lonely. And there will be someone who will comment that “it’s better to be alone and on your own than alone in a marriage”. To that I say … loneliness is still loneliness whether there is a ring on the finger or not. Please do not downplay one person’s pain because of their marital status. We have all been called to this stage of life that we are in for a purpose.

It’s not Singleness<Marriage or Singleness>Marriage … it’s Singleness = Marriage.

  1. Teach on Biblical Manhood/Womanhood for Singles … I fully support the Church’s fight to save and support the marriages within her walls but there needs to be teaching on what it looks like to be in your 30s and 40s living a pure lifestyle. It’s more than not having sex before marriage. It’s more than not watching/looking at porn. I have been shocked by how many singles I know who view drunkenness, murder and abortion as sin but see nothing wrong with premarital sex or living with their mate outside of marriage. Hello? Have we ripped out 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 from our Bibles? Somewhere the wires were crossed in our youth group meetings that we missed the truths on what it means to truly live for the Lord. It’s not about “missing out” or being restricted by a set of rules but rather experiencing life abundantly the way God ordained it!

These are just some thoughts that have been running through my mind (the only part of me that actively receives exercise but that’s another story) over the last few weeks as I feel like I am a square peg trying to fit into a round hole within the Church. I don’t want to read another book geared towards singles on “How Not be Bitter that You Aren’t Married Yet”, “How to Stop Looking So They’ll Come” (The Field of Dreams version of singleness turning into marriage. The Hallmark Channel is fighting Netflix for the movie rights on this!), “How to be Content in My Waiting” or “How to be Better at Waiting When all You Do Is Wait” … I want to read a book about what it means to be the woman that God created me to be, right now, in the place that I am in … without having to skip over the chapters of praying for my husband and/or children that do not and may never exist. Someone write to me!

Someone write about how true beauty and allure is found in the one who lives a life of sincere praise …

“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God, for He is gracious and lovely; praise is becoming and appropriate.” Psalm 145:1 AMP

image2But until someone does write a book Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for Singles in today’s culture may I humbly suggest we turn to Colossians 3:12-17 for reference and put into practice what Paul writes?

“Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].

And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always].

Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts.

And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:12-17

I am committed to doing my part in making a difference in the lives of other singles … will you join me in praying that the Lord will show me what that part is and that I will be obedient to follow through with it? And if you are a pastor of a church and any of these ideas have sparked your curiosity then I would love to talk to you!

I love you all.