Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thoughts on the "waiting" mentality

Over the last week, multiple friends have sent me this link, and asked my opinion:

I have read it several times, but have not responded, as I wanted some time to put my thoughts in order.

My first impression: She nailed it!!! The author of this blog said, so much more beautifully than I ever could, exactly what I have been trying to say.

Since I embarked on this journey of coming to know my God, and to understand who I am IN HIM, I have learned so many truths. The blogger's remark, "I just didn’t want to wait anymore – didn’t want to live like I was waiting on anyone to get here." is an accurate reflection of my heart over the last few years. It was this desperation to stop waiting and start living that caused me to embark on this journey in the first place. As I have focused on God, and all that He is to me, the "waiting mentality" just slipped away. I have found myself LIVING, and reveling in Him. I learned that it doesn't matter what a "couple's world" thinks of me as a single. I learned that it didn't matter what my family thought of me. I learned something that I knew in my head, but didn't truly believe in my heart... I learned that indeed, "I already have Him … and He is everything!!!"

During this journey, for the first time, I came to understand that singleness is NOT a punishment of God. It is not given to me because I fall short, because I don't love HIM as I should, or I haven't learned to delight myself in Him. My singleness at this time is His loving gift to me. God is teaching me that HE loves me.

OK ladies, here's where the rubber meets the road. I am pretty sure that I'm not the only one who had thoughts like this... "Well, OF COURSE God loves me. He is love. That's who God is. Good grief! God loved Hitler, right? I mean... wouldn't we say that? He hated Hitler's actions, but is it not safe to say He loved Hitler? So.... God loves me. Big deal." I had this deep down feeling that my singleness meant that I was unlovely and unlovable. I truly believed that noone could love me, not my family, not my friends, and that even God only loved me because that is who He is.

I have finally come to believe in my heart that God loves ME. He has chosen to love me. I cannot tell you what a wonderful thing it was to come to truly understand and believe this. I am loved with an everlasting love. I REVEL in my newly understood standing in Him. HE LOVES ME!!! Do you believe that He loves you? Do you TRULY believe? When you do, you will come to see that His love is enough.

Friday, August 10, 2012


After battling at length with the issues that I wished to share my heart on, I have decided that at this time, I lack the wisdom, grace and tact to approach them.

In the meantime, there have been plenty of events that gave me the "writing bug" but since these topics were weighing heavily on my mind, I thought "I can't write about that until I write the promised posts." I have decided it is time to move on. I will revisit said topics when I feel like I am ready, and the Lord gives me freedom to speak with the wisdom that is from above: first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17-18)

So, here are some random thoughts inspired during my drive to the chiropractor this morning.

I was listening to the radio, and heard a preacher speaking from the OT. He stated that "Sometimes, God allows enemies to remain in your life in order to teach you how to fight." The premise was valid, and the text and sermon were good, but it led my thinking down an entirely different path. I want to posit the theory that sometimes, God allows people to remain in your life to teach you how to love. It is easy to "love" someone when they love you back, when your acts of love, kindness or service to them are met with appreciation, affirmation or love. What about when, no matter how hard you try to show someone that you love them,you are rebuffed, scoffed at, or even viciously attacked? Does this give one the right to stop loving? Does it give one the right to respond in kind? What does the Bible say?

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE,AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even theGentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life forhis friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.... 17 This is my command: Love each other. 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

I Thessalonians 3:12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else...

I Thess 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. 11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

I John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

I John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

I John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

II John 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love

I Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

You know what I DON'T see in these verses? I see no qualifiers such as "Love one another as long as the 'others' are lovable, or love you back." Or... "We ought to love those that love us." Or... "if you have tried for "x" amount of time, you can stop showing love. We are simply told to love, no matter how difficult, challenging ordiscouraging. We are to love. OUCH! Does my life truly reflect the love of Christ? Do people know that I am HIS because of my love for others? I think I have a long way to go!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holding back...

I have been holding back on writing lately because I have been concerned about the reactions and assumptions that my next few posts will elicit. So... Allow me first to say this. This blog is merely a recounting of God's loving and gracious work in my heart. It is not in any way intended to judge or criticize others. I am merely stating MY story. Also, keep in mind that while we absolutely ARE shaped by our environment, there are other factors. The "blame" does not all lay with our environment, but also with the filters through which we process the things that are in our environment. Our personalities and mental hang ups, our perception of reality, our own sin nature, our disbelief, perfectionistic tendencies, OCD, ADD, whatever... all combine to form the "filter" through which we process how we view God, and how we view ourselves.

This is a statement about ME, about my perceptions, my "realities" and how a loving God is working in my life to reveal Himself for who He really is.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I am a Failure!

But thank God, HE is faithful!!!

One of the biggest things that I dislike about myself is the constant battle for consistency. Why is it so difficult to live a life of consistently seeking God and His heart? Why does it seem to be so much easier to "obsess" over earthly things, and so difficult to keep God as the center of our focus, and our obsession? (Whether we are talking material things, relationships, jobs, hobbies... We each have our own personal obsession.)

Over the years, I've read several books concerning this very topic. Some of my favorites have been:

"Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed" ~Donald Whitney
"Desiring God" ~ John Piper
"A Hunger for God" ~ John Piper
"When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy" ~ John Piper
"Stepping Heavenward" ~ Elizabeth Prentiss

The one thing that helped me the most in this ongoing battle however, is Psalm 119. I have come to identify with, and deeply love this Psalm.

Quite a few years ago, my pastor announced that we were going to do a miniseries through Psalm 119 entitled "Walking the Way of the Word" It revolutionized my thinking. Pastor Minnick encouraged us to think of the Psalm as a record, a "diary" of sorts of the Psalmist's journey in his relationship with God. This Psalm has since brought much comfort and blessing to my life.

I don't know about you, but I find that my life seems to be a cycle... A time of seeking God's face, soul searching, and deep communion with God, followed by a dry spell that leaves me wondering if I will ever truly know the presence of God in my life, and struggling to find purpose. In desperation, I begin once again to seek God's face, and the cycle begins all over again. I thought it was just me... that I was the only one that struggled with such lack of consistency in my Christian life and walk. Then, Pastor Minnick introduced me to the Psalmist...

Here are just a few notes from this miniseries.

Psalm 119: 1-24 A vision and desire.
David begins with looking at those who are blameless and walk in the law of the Lord and seek Him with their whole heart. He follows this with "Oh that my ways may be established to keep your statues!" What a wonderful heart's cry!!! How often has my own heart cried out to God for such a passion. This is followed by a description of how one can keep his way pure... walking the way of the word. Then comes a part that I LOVE, because it gives me hope! (As an aside, v 11 gives us a remedy against sin: God's Word. "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You."

Psalm 119:25-32 Frustration with self and inconsistencies.
"My soul cleaves to the dust. Revive me according to Your Word...

Psalm 119: 33-40 A Plea For Enabling.
He is begging God to do a work in his heart.
Revive me...
Teach me...
Make me understand...
Strengthen me...
Remove the false way from me...
Make me walk in Your way...
Incline my heart, establish Your word....
Revive me, Revive me, Revive me. This is repeated over and over though the Psalm

Psalm 119: 41-48 A summary of need and desire.
He asks for a fuller measure of salvation in order that he would have:
1) an irrefutable witness v 42
2) anticipated consistency v 44 (My heart LONGS for consistency!!!)

Psalm 119: 49-64 Experiencing that fuller measure of salvation.
In verses 25, 37 and 40 the psalmist begged, "Revive me!!!" In vs 50 that revival has come, but... interesting fact ... With that revival came affliction. Or maybe... through affliction came revival.
vs 50 " This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Word has revived me."
vs 67 "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word."
vs 71 "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statues."
vs 75 "I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me...." In faithfulness, You have afflicted me...

Do I see affliction as God's faithfulness to me? Do I understand that it is for my good? Do I truly believe that EVERYTHING that comes through the hand of my Father is allowed for good... in order to conform me to the image of His Son?

This cycle continues... in verses 81-88 the psalmist is once again expressing frustration and longing, and pleading with God for revival.

Beginning in vs 97 we see the results of the psalmist "Walking the way of the Word" followed by how these results were obtained:
I love Your law... It is my meditation
Your commandments make me wiser... because I make them mine
I have insight... because Your testimonies are my meditation
I understand more than the aged... because I have observed Your precepts
I have restrained my feet from evil... In order to keep Your Word
I have not turned aside... Because You have taught me
I get understanding... I hate every false way

I am not going to continue through the psalm, but if you read it, the cycle continues...
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path" (What a wonderful place to be!)
Followed by a continued description of life as he is living and yearning for God, and his pleas for enabling, strengthening, reviving, teaching...

So... when I am struggling with a lack of consistency... when I am struggling to find once again that deep passion, and obsession for God, I find myself turning back to the Psalms. This is not a new struggle...

So why this struggle? Well, it is my sinful nature. I am a fallen being living in a fallen world. My bent is toward sinning and exerting my own will and desires in my life. Also... There is this, and I heard it so eloquently quoted this last week, that I am not even going to attempt to rephrase it. Here is a quote by Max Lucado that I do believe sums it up beautifully.

"[The Devil] is an expert at robbing the "sparkle" and replacing it with the drab... ... He won't steal your salvation. He will just make you forget what it is like to be lost. You will grow accustomed to prayer and not pray. Worship will become commonplace and study will become "optional." With the passing of time, He will infiltrate your heart with boredom and cover the cross with dust so that you will be safely out of the reach of change." ~ Max Lucado.

That feeling of complacency is what keeps us from being used of God. So... if he can't take our salvation, he is going to try to keep us from being on fire for God, from loving Him supremely and allowing ourselves to be used of Him. This is the prayer of my heart:

I’ve a yearning in my heart that cannot be denied
It’s a longing that has never yet been satisfied
I want this world to know, the one who loves them so
Like a flame its burning deep down inside

To be used of God to sing, to speak, to pray
To be used of God to show someone the way
I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire
To be used of God is my desire

When I think about the shortness of my earthly years
I remember all the wasted days, the wasted tears
I long to teach the word to those who've never heard
Of the one who can dispel all fears

To be used of God to sing, to speak, to pray
To be used of God to show someone the way
I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire
To be used of God is my desire

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Perpetual Bachelor... Are We a Part of the Problem?

Now, on to the promised topic. My first question after I started pondering this topic was… Is "perpetual bachelorhood” a problem?

What about the "perpetual bachelors?" Why is it that single men in our churches seem to shy away from relationships and commitment? Well... I am not a guy :) And honestly, I've not really heard this theory anywhere else that I am aware of. So... I've either stumbled across a revolutionary truth, or I'm dead wrong. This is just my personal opinion, take it or leave it.

I've been doing a little online research to see if my "theory" holds water at all. First let me say what I found when googling "Men's Basic Needs." Aside from the one that seems to be the most prominent (and that I do not intend to get anywhere NEAR in this conversation) the top 4 were repeatedly...
Men want to be:
1) Respected
2)Appreciated/ Admired
3) Desired
4) They want "recreational companionship" (A companion for their adventures)

I would add to this one more thing. ALL humans have a basic need for touch. I'm not talking about sexual, intimate touch, I am talking about basic human contact and interaction. There are many studies out there that bear this out. The ones from the Russian orphanages are particularly compelling and even heart breaking.

So... what about these "perpetual bachelors" in our churches? And... what about our interaction with them?

It seems to me that there are many more single women in churches and church groups than there are men. I'm not sure why this is, and I'm not even going to postulate a theory. It's just a fact. So... among some women, the competition is pretty fierce. I can't tell you how many times I've been told "You shouldn't leave him wondering if you like him or not, there are plenty of gals who are willing to 'snatch him up' if you aren't interested." Or some such choice tidbit. So... here is what I see. Your typical "perpetual bachelor's" needs are being met. Think about it. I'm going with the church guy here, because 1) that is where my experience lies, and 2) I would imagine that most of you who read this are looking for a man who loves God, and is faithful in church.

I'm going to introduce you to the "anonymous church bachelor" This could be any guy, anywhere. The average bachelor in a church has multiple females (just by virtue of statistics) swooning over him, many acting just as I did in the friendship mentioned in the last post. This feeds his ego (whether consciously or unconsciously) and meets a need. So... his needs for being respected, admired, appreciated and desired are met right there among these women. Added to that are the women who choose the "helpless female" approach. Every man also wants to feel needed, and we certainly can do a good job of making them feel needed if we want to.

Also, in some church circles (not the ones I grew up in) that need for human contact is easily met. When Anonymous Bachelor walks into church, he hugs everyone... the old ladies, the guys, the children, and yes, the single women.

Look ladies, relationships take a LOT of work... and commitment... and patience. I cannot even begin to imagine the pressures and the responsibilities of being a husband, leader and provider. So... if one can find all of the respect, admiration, appreciation, desire, human touch, and companionship that one needs, and get it for little or no investment... well... why in the world would a man enter into something that requires commitment, time and effort? Also, why settle for all of that from one woman, when it is available from many?

I am not addressing what is right or wrong with that thinking from the male perspective. I am simply wondering... is our interaction with the men in our lives appropriate and pleasing to God? Are we enabling "perpetual bachelorhood?" Is this necessarily a bad thing?

Paul says, 1Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.a 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion...

32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (I Cor 7)

So... if it is possible to remain unmarried and yet not sin, then if I understand Paul correctly, we should do so. Based on all of this, I have some questions that I actually don't have answers to. (I do have to acknowledge here that the Bible clearly states, "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."Genesis 2:18, and... "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD" Prov 18:22)

Is it wrong for us to meet those needs, that help men to remain content in their "perpetual bachelorhood?" or... is it a good thing? I Corinthians 7 seems to state that being single allows for greater devotion to ministry and others. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

Are we then causing a "problem"? Is it right for us to fault the men who are serving God faithfully and seemingly contentedly as single men? or... are we "defrauding" one another by fulfilling needs that were not intentioned to be met in this way? I DON'T have the answers... I just have the questions :)

I DO think however, that if our desire is marriage, then maybe, JUST MAYBE, we should rethink our behavior toward eligible men. And I DEFINITELY think that instead of complaining about them, we should be praying for them, that God would give them wisdom to know and to follow His will, that they would be the kind of leaders that we are looking for. That He would give THEM the common sense to know and understand their emotions, and how they can use them to bring honor and glory to Him. And that God would give them strength and integrity to stand strong in this evil world.

First, a Rabbit Trail...

Ok, I know that I said that the next post would be about the "perpetual bachelor" but when I started writing, I quickly realized that there is another issue that should be addressed first. Sorry, but the "perpetual bachelor post," although already written, will not be published until sometime next week.
So, first things first. We've all been there... we are sitting around with a group of girls, and one of them starts asking, "What is wrong with Christian men today? Why can't they make a commitment?" The ensuing discussion encompasses many different topics, but never have I heard the ideas that I have been pondering over the last few weeks presented as a possible/partial answer to this question.

Keep in mind, I started this blog because I was asked to share some thoughts with other single women. I understand that some of the principles here are applicable to other areas of life, but this is going to be one of those that mostly applies to... single women. Men, continue reading at your own peril ;) (Or to your own vexation.)

If there is one thing that I have learned over the years, it is that the scenario with which I opened this post is a TOXIC one. I learned that getting together with a group of single women, and bemoaning the fact that we were still single and bashing the single men we know for not being leaders, is not only wrong, but it is really, REALLY bad for us. I remember a time, shortly after I came back from Africa, when I started spending time with a great group of single women. They were wonderful girls, who loved the Lord, and were desirous of serving Him (preferably at the side of a godly man.) I suddenly began to see that every time I left a "girl's night" I was miserable, depressed and dissatisfied. As I began to search for the source of this, I realized... "EVERY time we get together, we end up 'bashing' our single men, and bemoaning our single state."

The next two times I got together with this particular group, I attempted unsuccessfully to reroute the conversation. Then I just stopped accepting invites to this group. I remember stating to a married friend, "It just seems like these girls are 'treading water' with their lives and service, in a holding pattern, waiting for a man. I need friends who are going to encourage me in my walk with God, whether single or not."

Gals, if you are struggling with loneliness and frustration... examine your friendships and your conversations. Are there particular friends whose pattern is to drag you down? Don't get me wrong... these girls were not the only ones at fault. I was QUICK to jump on the "man bashing wagon." I am just thankful that the Lord showed me how very wrong this was. The interesting thing is that when getting together with one or two of these women, the conversation would often be encouraging or uplifting, but the combination of the whole group together seemed to be toxic. It might be necessary for you to limit your time with certain groups or certain combinations of personalities. Believe it or not, I chose NOT to attend a church that everyone thought I would, simply because I felt that the combination of women in the single's group would be toxic for me, AND for them :)

Once again, I am going to get really REALLY personal. I am going to use myself as the example of what NOT to do. :) The situation I am about to describe is simply a conglomeration of a pattern that I have followed for years. This is a scenario that has been repeated several times in my life.

I have a friend who is a wonderful man. When we first started hanging out together, dating WAS NOT an option for multiple reasons, however, the longer I spent with him, and the more I got to know him, the more I respected, admired and appreciated him. I often said, "I am not one to play games. If I like a guy, why hide it?" So, I complimented him, I baked cookies for him. We would "hang out" and talk. I was ALWAYS available to him, and would chat online with him for hours on end, or I'd show up at his workplace with dinner, and just hang out... sometimes talking... sometimes doing my own thing on my computer (companionship) We would go to dinner, or the movies, and I enjoyed EVERY minute of it. BUT.... we were always just friends. Nothing more.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this, but the man knew that I absolutely adored him. I had no problem telling him that I was proud of him for this or that accomplishment, etc. In other words, I was meeting nearly all of his basic emotional and egotistical needs, and yet, dating was still "not an option."

When I see girls in this situation today, my heart just aches for them. I've been there. I want to say, "Honey, if he hasn't decided that he can't live without you after 3 months, 6 months, 3 years of friendship, than 6 years isn't going to do it either." I've been guilty of saying "I'd rather have friendship with him than to have nothing at all." Honestly though, you are doing yourself AND him a disservice. This isn't easy for me to say, and not easy for you to hear if you are currently in this position. I had friends who tried to warn me. Been there, done that. Here's the thing. I was SO sure that if another man came along, I was available, but in the meantime, I was going to enjoy this friendship. Fact is... honestly... I was so emotionally tied to my friendship, that while I SAID I was available for another man, I wasn't. So... the cold, hard truth was, "By choosing to remain in the 'friendship,' I was choosing to remain single." Now, in the language of Anne of Green Gables, or Roxanne it would be "beautiful" to die pining for love. Yeah, well, I guess I'm just a bit too practical for that :)

So, maybe it is time to examine your friendships. Are they helping you to achieve your goals? Are your friendships true, honest, lovely, of good report? Is there any virtue or praise? I know that Paul wasn’t talking about friendships here, but still, it is a good standard to apply. Are your friendships helping you to draw closer to Christ? Are they “true”? Are your thoughts and beliefs about the friendships “true” or are you living a dream?

Maybe instead of spending time pining for what we don’t have, we should be praying that God would help us to be what we should be. That we would learn to be sensitive to His leading, that we would seek to be godly women, desirous of serving Him with a meek (NOT weak) and quiet spirit. We need to pray that we would recognize our weaknesses and bring them to Him, knowing that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Also, because as females, we are prone to being “emotional” we might pray that God would give us the common sense to deal with our emotions in a way that would honor and glorify Him.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Next Battle...

I am learning something. Life, the spiritual walk, is a series of battles and skirmishes in a MUCH larger war, a war that will not be over until that final battle depicted in the book of Revelation. Somehow, I think maybe I lulled myself into believing that we all have our "besetting sin" and that once we win that initial victory, life would settle into a more bearable "routine" with only occasional skirmishes to keep the enemy in line. Who was I kidding?!?!?! And where did this idea come from? Wishful thinking maybe? The Scripture makes it VERY clear that our walk IS a battle.

I Corinthians 10:3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

Ephesians 6: 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteouseness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; 16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Even Paul stated in Romans 7:14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.c For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

OK... so this idea that after the initial battle is won, I would be able to sit back and coast through life with only minor skirmishes to keep the enemy in line? TOTALLY unbiblical! I find that "nominal christianity," sitting far behind the trenches, is no real threat to the enemy, therefor, there are few attacks. The more that I desire God, the more fervently that I seek Him... the deeper into enemy territory I seem to be. In other words... the more damage that my life might cause the enemy, the more pressures will come to bear in my life to keep me distracted from that which is of paramount importance... that I may know HIM and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; (Phil 3:10)

Somewhere last Fall, God helped me to win a MAJOR victory over something that has been a constant battle in my life. Finding contentment and joy in HIM, and Him alone. Living a life not merely "surviving" alone, but even "thriving" as I seek to please Him in my singleness. I am not saying that this is a "once and for all victory" I KNOW better. But at this time, the devil could no longer use my discontentment as a tool to keep me paralyzed and unable to minister. So... he had to get creative.

Now comes the point where I wish that this blog was more "anonymous" and that it had fewer readers :) and yet... as I have stated before, if my transparency helps another, then it will be worth it.

My next confession: While I have learned to be joyful and content in my singleness, this does not mean that there is NO desire for marriage and family IF that is within God's will for my life. So, the next battle has begun. Sometime last Fall is when God began that transforming work in my heart, to bring me true joy and contentment. Even as that was happening, the "interaction" that I had with men began to change. Something about the new and content Amy caused a shift in how men interacted with me.

Suddenly, men whom I'd seen on a regular basis began to actually seek out interaction. The safest example here is the manager of a local restaurant. I am a creature of habit, and for nearly 4 years, I have visited one particular restaurant for breakfast 2-3 times a month. Nearly every visit, the same manager is present, and for 3+ years I don't recall us EVER speaking. Suddenly, "Tom" started seating me himself, calling me Darling and Sunshine, teasing and joking with me, bringing my coffee, telling me that he "missed me" if I hadn't been in for a while, and laying his hand on my shoulder, or touching my arm every time he walked by (which he seems to do rather often :) (On a totally unrelated note, it is amazing how differently the employees treat you when you seem to be the "boss's" favorite ;)

"Tom" was not the only man to do so. I am an "analyzer." I found myself wondering what this meant, what these guys were thinking, what this comment, or behavior or action might mean, or how I should respond. I found myself agonizing over, "I don't want to appear forward but I don't want to appear uninterested. I don't even know HOW to interact with men as an adult woman, out on her own. I've led a very sheltered and protected life, and now honestly, I am at a loss out in the "real" world."

Then I realized something. Once again, my focus has shifted. Rather than keeping my focus on God, and on serving Him... I'm focusing on the men around me. "Is he interested? Is he just shy? Do I need to do something differently?" I even found myself changing my routines, in order to be near them even more and have more opportunity for contact. Sure, I am flattered by the attention. What girl wouldn't be? Sure, it feels good, it meets a need... but at what cost?

While the underlying contentment in singleness was still there, I had lost the "joy" of living life wholly for God, and focused on Him. I'm not saying that it is wrong to be in a relationship, or focus on a man that God brings into your life, but... I was building "castles in the air." These men hadn't moved beyond friendly interaction, and I found myself thinking "Maybe he's the one." I was no longer "Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

Over the last week, I have begun begging God to help me to get my focus back on Him, and serving Him. While not every story is this way... I hope that if God has a man for me, that it will just "happen." That I will find myself serving God alongside a man, and we will one day realize that perhaps the Lord might be leading us together... that maybe we could serve better as a couple than we could alone.

So, my confession? I am easily distracted from my focus on God. And if discontentment won't distract me from serving faithfully, then maybe the "what ifs" will.

This leads right into my NEXT post. "Perpetual Bachelors- Most of us single gals know some, most of us have complained about the mindset of the "perpetual bachelor" but... are WE contributing to that mindset? Is our behavior helping to create, or at least foster that laid back, casual approach to relationships that we find so frustrating?" Stay tuned :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Transparency... not always easy!

Today, I'm going to post something that I wrote back when I was in the throes of the struggles that I have mentioned here in my initial post. This is setting the background for my next post. The next one is a difficult one that I am still struggling with writing. Honestly... I'm figuring out that it is much easier to be "transparent" after the fact. In other words... I WAS struggling with thus and such, but the Lord has given me victory. It is MUCH harder to admit "This is a current and ongoing struggle."

However, I have learned that one of the steps to victory (in my life at least) is admitting the problem, and asking for help, or prayer, or accountability. It is NOT an easy thing to make myself so vulnerable, and open to judgement and criticism. This being said... from the notes that I receive it would appear that being honest and open about my struggles has been an encouragement to some. If recounting MY battles can keep someone from doing what I so often do (learn things the hard way) then it will be worth it.

Now... I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath to hear my next "confession." Well... I'm not ready to share it quite yet. For today... here is something that I wrote in the beginning of this journey of "transparency."

Being Real... balancing truth with tact :)

by Amy Christine Bixby on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 10:10pm

As humans, we seem to have a need to present a "perfect" front. We are always "fine." We do not allow ourselves, society doesn't allow us, to be real and when we are, it makes those around us uncomfortable.

For instance, the expected answer to the greeting, "How are you doing?" seems to be "Great, good, fine, doing well..." whether that is truth or prevarication doesn't really matter. It is the expected and polite response.

No one is allowed to grieve over the loss of a loved one for very long. They are expected to "give it a few weeks," and then move on with the perfect facade in place. No one really wants to see raw grief. We are not allowed to grieve over the loss of dreams, hopes, goals, relationships. There is to be no sadness over the loss of friendships, or a miscarriage (The loss of a CHILD.) One is not allowed to agonize over infertility, or loneliness, the diagnosis of stage IV cancer, and one CERTAINLY is not allowed to be angry at God!!! (Angry at God? How shocking!?!?! I'm SURE that none of you are carnal enough to be angry with God, but I can say that I have been, and probably will be again :)

Several years ago, I decided that I was tired of the hypocrisy. I'm tired of attempting to present "the perfect front." I am not going to pretend that I have a perfect life, a perfect job, perfect friends and family, and LEAST of all, a perfect ME. Guess what??? Newsflash! AMY CHRISTINE IS NOT PERFECT!

What does this mean? Well it means that I try to be real. I try to be transparent. Yup, those of you who know me know that I don't want to live the rest of my life alone. You know that one of my biggest fears is dying alone and forgotten in some nursing home somewhere :) You know that I desire to be married, but only if God is in it, and that if He is not in it, I desire more than anything to learn to be content in the life that He has chosen for me. You also know that sometimes I find this to be a difficult thing. Still... this is not an all consuming desire. (But while I'm on the subject, why is it OK for a childless couple to yearn for a child, but NOT okay for a single gal to yearn for love?)

I have often said, and will continue to say that I could not ask for a better job. I LOVE what I do. Is it always easy? NO WAY! Still, I love my job, and I know that not many people can joy in their work as I can.

I have been blessed incredibly with friends who love and support me, are forgiving when I fail, and cheer me when I succeed. I have a family who loves me, even if they don't understand why I can't be more like them :) Still, even with all these blessings, my life is not perfect.

One of my big struggles in the attempt to be real, to practice "radical honesty" is the struggle with knowing when to speak, and when to keep my mouth shut :) This is another of those areas where I am thankful for friends who love me even when I make mistakes.

I LOVE the book of Psalms. David was "real" I mean... lets see... (runs to the car for her Bible. Oops! I took my "car Bible" into the house the other day, and I'm at the office. Guess I need an office Bible :) Oh well. David was real. He praised, he sang, he grumbled, he complained, he pleaded with God... and we have all of this recorded for us. LOVE IT!!!!
So... I am going to continue to attempt to be real. If this makes you uncomfortable, well... I'm sorry. What you see is what you get. And to those who really love me, when I go overboard with my radical honesty, come to me and tell me. As long as it is TRUE, and is based in love I need to hear it :) If it is untrue, or unkind... well... I still need to hear it, so that I can learn to respond as I should.

My heart is so proud. My mind is so unfocused.
I see the things You do through me as great things I have done. And now You gently break me, then lovingly You take me and hold me as my father and mold me as my maker.

I ask you: "How many times will you pick me up, when I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abound?"
And you answer: " My child, I love you.
And as long as you're seeking My face, You'll walk in the pow'r of My daily sufficient grace."

At times I may grow weak and feel a bit discouraged, knowing that someone, somewhere could do a better job. For who am I to serve You?I know I don't deserve You. And that's the part that burns in my heart and keeps me hanging on.

I ask you: "How many times will you pick me up, when I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abounds?"
And you answer: " My child, I love you.
And as long as you're seeking My face, You'll walk in the pow'r of My daily sufficient grace."
You are so patient with me, Lord.

As I walk with You, I'm learning what Your grace really means. The price that I could never pay was paid at Calvary. So, instead of trying to repay You, I'm learning to simply obey You
by giving up my life to you For all that You've given to me.

I ask you: "How many times will you pick me up, when I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abounds?"
And you answer: " My child, I love you.

And as long as you're seeking My face, You'll walk in the pow'r of My daily sufficient grace."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Faithfully serving God WHEREVER He calls

I have had a burning desire to write since early this afternoon, but... life intervened. I had duties and obligations to fulfill, and then a "Jane Austen" date night.

Now it is 11 pm, and still I can't shake the thoughts that have been running through my head today. I'm not going to sleep until I get them out, so I might as well take a stab at stringing together a cohesive sentence or two after such a busy afternoon and evening.

My morning was actually quiet. I spent some time reading, praying, cleaning house, and just "relaxing." During that time, I took a phone call from a friend who shared snippets from a book she has been reading. This book is written by a young woman who is living the life that I always thought I would be living... She is living in Africa, caring for 14 orphans, and by her life and service, she is preaching Christ to those around her. She sounds like an amazing gal, and her life seems to be exactly what I had always envisioned. Here is just a snippet from the book...

"I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance. I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.

Jesus called His followers to be a lot of things, but I have yet to find where He warned us to be safe. We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us. And there is no better place to be than in His hands."

Those of you who know me know that my battle has never been an unwillingness to GO, but rather being willing to STAY. After hearing about this girl this morning, my heart once again rebelled. "God, You know that I would have been happy to stay in Benin, in Haiti, in Cameroon... and yet You brought me back here. God, I want to serve You in some foreign land. WHY do you keep bringing me back here? Spartanburg... God, there are SOOO many people who have NO desire to serve You on the foreign field. Why won't You let me go?"

As I was praying about this, and just thinking about what God has done in my life, a new post on Facebook caught my eye. One of my friends had shared a blogpost... "We need 'boring' Christians" What?!?! Now this I had to read...

It starts like this...
We all long for a radical calling, but monotony can be its own mission.

Scripture calls us into radical service—but that does not allow
others to eviscerate tedious, less “spiritually” glamorous tasks of their meaning in God’s Kingdom. Scripture also calls us to embrace the mundane and ordinary as holy and beautiful: “... aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Many of us want to do something awesome, something epic. We tend
to think that the more normal, the less “spiritual.” So it is quite possible that our aspirations to be radical stem from dangerous ambitions to perform biography-worthy feats of global glory.

Following Jesus is not to be romanticized through impressive
Facebook status updates or photos of exotic places on our blog. Discipleship is often ugly, messy and painful. Faithful service will regularly lead us into dull labors and bewildering struggles that would make unexciting press.

“What ever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).
Remember how Jesus calls us to faithfulness in the small things (Matthew 25:14-30).

Aching for yonder shores and longingly scanning the distant horizon
may well be God’s call on our lives. But it also may be our impatience with the monotonous minutiae of the daily grind. Escapism is not fulfilling the great commission.

Regardless of our location, abroad or at home, all ministry is
inescapably local. Every worker in a global context must embrace the monotonous minutiae of a new daily grind after the plane lands"

Andrew Byers, God's Word, Our Words and the World.

Wow, oh wow!!! Was this ever what I needed. God has called me... He has given me a work that I LOVE, a job that is truly ministry, and service. He has allowed me to work with people at a time in their life when they are VERY vulnerable and open. I am a midwife... I deliver babies. The very first baby I ever delivered was in '96. Her parents named her Amy. They were rough "bikers." I maintained contact with them, and 3 months after the birth of their baby girl, I heard that they had accepted Christ. When I went back to their home to visit them, they were two VERY different people. When I asked them what had brought them to the point of accepting Christ, this is what they had to say. "When we were only responsible for ourselves, we were willing to take the risk that there might truly BE a heaven and hell, and we were willing to ignore it in exchange for living the life that we wanted to live. When we had brought a soul into the world, and were responsible for that child, and teaching it truth, all of a sudden we wanted to know the truth, so that we wouldn't lead her astray."

God has CALLED me to be His servant, and to serve Him faithfully where He has placed me.
I Peter 4:10 "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."

He has given me a love of people, a practice that is my own (therefor allowing me to share Christ unencumbered by the "restraints" that might be put on me in any other workplace) and a practice that includes spending hours with each mom, doing medical stuff, but also "listening" (Lots and lots of listening) and counseling. I have the opportunity to be Christ's hands... serving these women at a very vulnerable time in their lives.

God expects me to be faithful where He has placed me. My ministry IS Spartanburg, SC. My ministry is Labors of Love. God has called me to be a "boring Christian," to serve Him faithfully, not glamorously... but faithfully, right here at home.

Another ministry that God has placed on my heart stems from the struggles that I shared in my first blog post. It is SOOO easy for singles who are struggling with depression, loneliness, addiction, whatever to just kind of "disappear" in the crowd at church. Those of us who live alone don't have anyone to be "strong" when we are down. I learned during that time of trial that the times that I "didn't feel like going to church" were the times that I needed it the most. When I was feeling down and lonely, I could easily "justify" staying home. I didn't have someone in the house saying, "No... we NEED to go. Come on." I found myself just "disappearing" falling through the cracks at church with no accountability. Because of that time, I have made several commitments to God. 1) I will be in church unless I am delivering a baby, or sick. 2) I will do everything that I can to let those around me know that they are loved, that they are missed when they aren't there, and that there is SOMEONE who will notice and care enough to check in with them.

I'm thankful for the lessons that God taught me today. I'm thankful for the reminder that He expects me to serve faithfully right where He has placed me. So... until GOD moves me on, I can be found serving in Spartanburg, SC... at Labors of Love Birth Center, and First Baptist of Spartanburg. And... serving joyfully... knowing that I am right where God wants me to be.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Oh wow!

OK, let me share how this got started. I have had several friends encouraging me to pick up writing again, but I have had so many thoughts swirling through this head that I didn't even know where to begin. Also, life has been incredibly busy, and I haven't had much time.

Yesterday morning, a friend wrote and asked me to be a guest poster on her blog. I decided that I needed to just sit down, and let all these thoughts "tumble out" in order to clear my head, and prepare for a concise, logical essay on Titus 2 and the single woman.

The previous post was just that: a mass of jumbled thoughts that have been swirling through my head like the clothes in my front loading washer. Little bits and pieces of a thought emerging to the foreground for just a momentary flash before being swallowed back into the whole load...

I had NO IDEA of the response it would create. Before the day was through, I had many private messages. Messages from people struggling with infertility, loneliness (in marriage, in singleness, in divorce) people who are struggling because they feel that God is calling them to take a step that those around will not understand, and for which they will be judged... men, women, a few young people...

I need to make a few things clear here.

1) I am NO expert. I don't have a degree in Bible, counseling, psychology. I am hard headed, and tend to have to learn my lessons the hard way. I'm just a simple gal, who has struggled, and will continue to struggle to live a life that is pleasing to God.

2) I don't have the answers, but I know the One who does. The path to contentment is different for each of us. I cannot tell you what to do... Honestly... I was asked by a friend, "Tell me how you got to where you are. I want what you have." Well, at times I am baffled by it myself. I didn't "get here." God put me here. My focus had long been on TRYING to find contentment in singleness. I was TRYING. One day, I gave up. Instead of focusing on being single, and on finding contentment, I began to focus on the Lord, my spiritual journey, and others. Somehow... I no longer had time to think about being single. I was too busy, but... a joyful "busyness"

There is no way that I am going to be able to respond to everyone individually. As time permits, I will post my experiences of how God has gently led this wayward lamb, and taught me to trust in His goodness. My path will not be yours, but if an honest recounting of my journey helps you in any way, then it will be worth it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recounting the journey thus far...

First let me say this: I am not speaking from the heart of someone who has arrived, and who has all the answers. I am sharing from a heart that has struggled fiercely with the God given desires for companionship, friendship, the love of a husband, and the love of a child… MY child. However, God has a different plan for my life at this time. A plan that at times seemed to be more lonely than I could bear, a loneliness that just seeped into every corner of my heart and soul, that chilled me to the bone and left me feeling empty. Added to this was the pressure of my current vocation, a midwife: One who participates in one of the most intimate and joyous times in the life of a family: the arrival of a little one, a PRECIOUS gift from God. And yet, I was commanded to “give thanks in everything” to “rejoice in the Lord always” and Paul said… “ I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.” (Phillipians 4:4, 10, 11) I battled with this. I cried, I pled, I bargained, I BEGGED God to help me find contentment with my life. I read every book I could get my hands on about contentment, being single, serving God etc. I listened to sermons, went to seminars, found articles online… all the time DESPERATELY seeking for the “secret” to that contentment. I can’t begin to tell you the times that I drove home from births with tears pouring down my face, saying “Why God? What am I supposed to be learning?”

Then, I hit a different stage in the battle, a stage of being angry at God. (Gasp! Angry with God? A Christian? What?!?!?!) Yes, I freely admit it. I was angry at God. My heart said, “God… Your Word makes it clear, over and over that marriage is a good and beautiful thing. You say that children are a gift from the Lord. (Ps. 37:26, 127:3 Prov 17:6, Ps 84:11 are just a few of MANY verses that bear this out.) You say that it isn’t good for man to be alone. I know you said “man” but surely it isn’t good for a woman to be alone either. Your word says ‘No good thing will you withhold from those who walk uprightly.’ and yet, no matter how hard I try to walk uprightly, and live a life that is pleasing to You, You continue to withhold something that You Yourself have CLEARLY indicated is a good thing.”

I think that portions of Psalm 73 reflect this time in my life VERY well…

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” I truly started to think...Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning. If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' Behold I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God”

In an effort at transparency, I’m going to be really, REALLY painfully honest here. This was my thought process. “I’m in my 30’s. I’ve chosen to walk uprightly. I’ve kept myself pure for the man that God has for me. I’ve attempted to submit EVERY area of my life to God, and where has it gotten me? Well, let’s take a look at my life. To the world, I was a successful, confident, professional midwife. I smiled, I laughed, I listened to mama’s joys, struggles, problems, triumphs, and pregnancy woes with compassion, I delivered their babies, I loved on those babies when I did follow up visits, I even babysat for some of “my” babies. But on the inside, I was a 30’s something virgin, who felt like I was dying inside. I’ve never held a man’s hand romantically, I’ve never been kissed, I’ve never had a man look into my eyes and make me feel like I was cherished, loved, even desirable. I worked in the office and when evening came, I would stay at the office because I COULD NOT BEAR the thought of going home to an empty house, an empty bed, the reminder that I was alone. Before leaving, I would lay my head down on the desk and cry my eyes out because I didn’t want to go home. Sometimes, I spent the night on the couch at the Birth Center because I truly didn’t have the emotional strength to go home. Other times, after spending a day giving of myself at the office, I had a desire to be around people… anyone… just someone who didn’t “need” something from me. Well, where’s a gal like me to go late in the evening, when sheer loneliness is driving her out? I don’t hang out in bars… so I would go to Applebees, sit in a corner and people watch. I spent so much time in Applebees, that the waitresses knew me by name. I would get hugs from them, they would sit and talk to me when things were slow… and once again, I found myself ministering to others while my heart felt empty. Or, I would call up a friend, and offer to babysit. “Baby therapy” is nice, but temporary.

“…When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant. I was like a beast before You.” Ps 73:21-22 This was where I was, and in my pain, my heart said along with the psalmist in verses 13-14… I have kept myself “in vain.” I have kept my heart pure, I’ve washed my hands, and my mind in innocence… for what? I’m alone, Alone, ALONE!!!” During this time, I have NO DOUBT that the only thing that kept me from doing something foolish, something that would have left some incredible scars in my life was the prayers of my family and my friends. God was gracious to me, and kept me safe even through this dark time in my life. Honestly, He kept me safe IN SPITE of myself.

OK, more confessions… I am a proud and fiercely independent gal. I do not like to admit that I “need” anyone or anything. I like to think that I stand alone, and I can do it all. I thought that the fact that I “needed” something in my life showed weakness. Because of that, I kept even my closest family and friends at arm’s length. The more I hurt, the longer those arms got. I COULDN’T admit my weakness, I couldn’t let anyone “in.”

During this time, I knew that if something didn’t change, I was heading for a world of trouble. So, I began praying desperately for God to lead me. The first step He led me on was an INCREDIBLY difficult one. He led me to step out of my “safe zone” that comfort zone where I could continue to float with little accountability, and little fellowship. He led me to leave the little church that I had grown to love… the church that was one hour away, with just a couple young families and a lot of elderly retired couples, the church that was in the “accepted circle” where all of my friends and family would “approve.” This was a difficult, an EXTREMELY difficult step which was NOT taken lightly. As a matter of fact, I fought God on it for quite a while, because I knew what I needed… and I knew that it would be misunderstood, that I would be judged for my decision. Finally I made the step. I visited a church that had a large and fairly active single’s group. Even after visiting, and attending their Single’s Retreat as a visitor, I fought with God. “God, not THAT church. Do you know what my friends will think? My family is going to be so disappointed!” And then, God began to reveal to me my pride. Here I was, at one of the lowest points in my life, at times even wondering if life was worth living, and *I* was judging people because they attended a church that didn’t line up 100% with the conservative values which I had come to value more than I valued loving God, and following His leading. (And therein lies the problem. I HAD come to value my “values” more than I valued God, and HIS teaching.) So, after some more battling, I made the decision to join the church. As soon as I joined, I told the leadership that it was easy for singles to “fall through the cracks” and I NEEDED accountability. Then I began establishing friendships with people who were in my stage in life… single, and seeking and struggling to serve God where He had placed them. I DELIBERATELY put myself in a place where I couldn’t just “slide by” I couldn’t miss church and have people assume “Oh, she must just be delivering a baby.” Etc… (On a side note, the Lord, through this church, provided several friends that have held my feet to the fire. They have prayed for me, encouraged me, called to see why I missed when I wasn’t there, and been TRUE biblical, iron sharpening iron friends.)

Then, God in His mercy took me a step further in this difficult journey. He brought me to a point where I literally COULDN’T keep all my plates spinning. My midwifery practice was BUSY, and kept me hopping. Dad had several surgeries on his shoulder, then he and Mom went to Denver to be with my brother and his wife and 7 young children as my sister in law was entering her final days on this earth. During this time, the Lord also gave me a very brief period of thinking that maybe, just maybe marriage and family WAS in my future. I learned a LOT during that time… and DO NOT regret what happened. Even though we reached the mutual decision that the Lord was not leading us together, I learned MUCH during my time with this man. I learned about trusting another, about trusting them to seek God’s heart, and lead me with wisdom. I learned about resting in, and following the leadership of a man. A fallible man, but a man whose heart desired God’s will, and who listened to God’s leading even when it meant giving up a dream that he held dear to his heart. Anyhow, I digress…

So, a broken relationship, a brother in the hospital for 1 month with complications from his diabetes, a dad who missed months of work, and had multiple surgeries, a sister in law who was entering the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and then, Dad had a heart attack. I left work in the middle of a birth, and didn’t go back for nearly 3 weeks. During that time, my sister in law passed away, and I spent 2 weeks with my married siblings who, as loving as they are toward me, still highlight my “aloneness.” This was probably the MOST LONELY 2 weeks of my life, and I struggled with guilt. “Lord, my brother lost his wife, these kiddoes lost their MOM, and I’m struggling with being alone? What is wrong with me? Am I THAT self-centered and selfish?”

When I got home, I felt like my world was still spinning out of control. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to “cope.” Finally I admitted something that I should have admitted LONG AGO “I can’t do this alone. I need help.” I sought counsel, I admitted to several friends just how deep that struggle was, I asked a dear group of ladies, who loved me, to uphold me in prayer, and I started “cleaning house” literally, and figuratively speaking. The first step was true, total and humbling transparency. You’ve NO IDEA how difficult it was for me to admit that I may appear to have it all together, but I’m a whited sepulcher, a hypocrite who on the outside has it all together, but on the inside is in utter chaos!!! It was then that I began to learn the beautiful truth of II Cor 12:10 "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses... For when I am weak, then I am strong."

The Lord began to do a beautiful and amazing work in my life. As I would gain victory in one area, He would reveal another, and another, and yet another. As this happened, I admitted, repented, and moved on. The shackles of “guilt” which were a driving force in my life were gone… I began to truly understand “There is NO, NO, NO condemnation to those who are in Christ.” I understood that while I would have said that I did not believe that “sinless perfection” was attainable here on earth, that is what I expected of myself, and this bound me to living in constant guilt. After all, “I was raised in a Christian home, with godly parents, I grew up in churches that sought after God and His leading, (even if at times there was an unbalanced emphasis on man-made rules.) so… I should have it all together, right? After all, ‘To whom much is given, much shall be required’ and I had been given MUCH.” During this time, God humbled me. He showed me that in spite of all of these “blessings” and “advantages” I am no expert, I am just a child. A child who was in my toddler stage of “No, I do it myself…” rather than relying on Him. A child who THOUGHT I knew all the answers until He in His love, rocked my world, and those answers weren’t good enough. I also began to truly understand II Corinthians 5:14 “The love of Christ constrains me…that they who live, no longer live for themselves, but for HIM” There are some constraints, honestly that are more stringent than before, and some that are less. However, I am now making my decisions for Christ, not for my parents, not for my pastor, or my friends, or for what others will think of me. It is the “love of Christ” and that "constraint" is SOOO freeing!!!

As I have put my spiritual, physical and material house in order, God has continued to lay before me ministry opportunities, and, with less chaos in my life, I have been able to accept these opportunities and serve others more.

Recently, I had an eye opening conversation with a friend. She is one of our “dating” singles. My single’s group has an inordinate amount of dating couples in it, and yet… I do not feel “left out” or like a fifth wheel. I enjoy hanging out with the dating couples, with the “truly single,” with married people, all of my friends. We were discussing this, and I said to her, “I appreciate that you, as a dating couple do not make those of us who are not dating feel excluded. You include us, and I appreciate it.” Her response astounded me. She said, “I think that it is because you are so confident, content, even happy in your singleness that we enjoy having you around.” My first response was to laugh inwardly… “Gal, you have NO IDEA who you’re talking to.” But then I started to think… and the realization hit me. "She’s right! She is absolutely right! THANK YOU LORD!!!! I am happy, and content, even joyfully serving where You have me, and I haven’t even thought about my singleness in… I’m not sure when it happened, but it HAS happened. Thank you Lord!!!"

Psalm 73 continues, “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…

… But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.”

Realistically, I understand that the very nature of a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) is that it can crawl back off of the altar. I am aware that this is not a one-time victory, but… once that initial victory has been won, the ensuing battles will be easier knowing that victory IS possible, that I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13), being confident that HE will continue that good work that was begun in my life (Phil 1:6) and that HE will work in me to will and do HIS pleasure (Phil 2:13)

Praise for the LORD’S Mercies.

A Psalm of David.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;

Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;

Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;

Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

The LORD performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses ,His acts to the sons of Israel.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.

But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children,

To those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them.

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word!

Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will. (And might I add here… Bless the Lord you His daughters, who serve Him, doing His will.)

Bless the LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!

As an aside (To be used on the blog for singles) Here is something that I have found to be incredibly helpful for me. I have friends who complain about Valentine’s Day, who call it “Singles Awareness Day” etc. Long ago I devised a plan. Rather than sitting around pining about what I do not have, I am going to think of others. For Valentine’s Day, I usually pick a family with a LOT of children, and offer to babysit so that the couple can go out on a date. This takes the focus off of me, and keeps me busy, so that I don’t even have time to think about being alone. …and… If the children are exceptionally trying, at times I actually go home thanking God for what I DON’T have ;)