Is Singleness A Waiting Game…

Nail

(FreeImages.com/onixxino)

Today’s blog post was prompted by a recent FB post by a younger, single friend.  She wrote that you should not be sitting around waiting for a future spouse but get involved in ministry.

Here was my response to her:

You have definitely “hit” on something. Actually, one of the best things you can bring to a marriage is “wholeness” and contentment. So many marry out of need and try to suck from their spouse what only God can give them. It will eventually drain your marriage dry. Not to mention, it actually results in great selfishness. On the other hand, if you are already finding your completeness in Jesus, you will have more to offer to a marriage, will be more mature, and truly able to love more.

The other aspect of this is, so often in Christianity, we have conveyed the message that you are only “complete” in marriage, that you are “waiting” to be married (meaning life hasn’t really begun until your are married), and that marriage is the ultimate goal to reach. I have been happily married for almost 16 years and wouldn’t change it, but I can tell you that our spouses were never meant to be our god.

Marriage is not the end goal. Marriage is not the “completer” of us or our “crowning moment.” That’s all the wrong identity.

Perhaps, this isn’t the best analogy, but marriage is more of a vehicle. It is a means that God often uses to bring us where He wants to bring us — maybe through the many ways it reveals our own weaknesses and also through the ways it can potentially strengthen and mature us.

Marriage is a tool that God uses to potentially multiply His purposes for us (kind of like a hammer and nail — together they work beautifully). Marriage though can also be detrimental to our relationship with God and calling if it’s not in God’s ultimate purpose for our lives and not with the one He has ordained or not in the right timing…

If you are still single, please don’t see yourself as less than, incomplete, or waiting around for “life” to finally happen to you.

Marriage isn’t the fulfillment of life.  It is a blessing and can be amazing, but not for everyone.  It’s definitely not the solution to your lack or perceived lack.

Please know that you are only complete in living fully and being fully who God created you to be.

Another person can’t “complete” you or make you whole.  If you aren’t “whole” when entering into marriage, you will try to live in your spouse’s “wholeness,” and it won’t “fit” you correctly.

Please also don’t have a mindset that you are going to find something to pass your time until the right one comes along.  There is wrong thinking in that.  Your life isn’t meaningless until a spouse comes along.  You aren’t living half of a life and shouldn’t be just passing time until the “real event” happens (e.g. marriage).

You don’t begin “living” once you get married.

I know that singleness can be a lonely road for many.  I also know that marriage can be a lonely road for many.

Focus on becoming all God created you to be — in being whole in Him.

Blessings, dear friend.  Don’t let your marital or single status define you.  It’s just a checkbox on a form.

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Are There Legitimate Excuses… Reasons?

TIME STANDS STILL

(FreeImages.com/MargaretYoung)

“No excuses!”

I have read the motivational phrases and the examples that have been lauded for us to follow: women and men who never quit and never say never.

I understand why they are lauded.  These are men and women who have faced incredible challenges and yet have never allowed their challenges to keep them from reaching above-average goals.

I love reading the story of Nick Vujicic for that reason.  The man is one of my greatest heroes!  He was born without limbs, and yet, he has accomplished far more than most people who have been born with limbs.  Nothing seems to daunt that man!

The truth is some of us need to believe more so we can live the more.

For some of us, our perspective is just not big enough.  Our dreams aren’t big enough.  Our belief isn’t big enough.  

On the other hand, there is another side to this whole “No excuses” motto.  There is a lot of pressure behind this, telling us that once again we are not enough or that we are making wrong, lazy, or even selfish choices if we decide that enough is enough.

The danger is that our culture is constantly telling us as women that being a wife and mother isn’t enough.  We hear the phrase “I am just a stay-at-home mom.”  There seems to be a sense of shame with that — as if raising future human beings with all of their God-potential is substandard.

I am all for education.  I am all for being a Proverbs 31 woman who is a skilled business-woman.

What I don’t like is when I hear the pressure being put on women that somehow they are wrong if they decide that they like to live a simpler life.

We put so much emphasis on performance and praising the women accomplishing “super-woman” feats that it makes every other woman feel like she has to do the same or she is living a substandard life.

The question is, “Who determines fullness of life?”  It’s not a company.  It’s not a title.

Can I just say that fullness of life is found in living fully the life that God has given for you to live — not another person’s life?

Can I also say that if you live for the more, to be more, or to accomplish more, you will never be content nor live the full life?

More is always that indefinable goal that is ever elusive and never truly attainable.

I am going to just say what I have been thinking for awhile:

There are good excuses/reasons for not doing more.  The truth is when you say “yes” to one thing, you are always saying “no” to something else.  Sometimes, the something else is actually the thing you should be saying “yes” to instead.

There will always be business ventures and some new product to sell.  There will always be something new to buy or admire.  There will always be something you will want to change about your physical appearance, BUT…

Your kids won’t always be in your home. They won’t always be little enough to hold on your lap. You won’t always be able to watch them blow dandelions in the wind. You and your husband may not always be able dance together, play Nerf gun wars with your boys, and go for a run together.  Each of these moments can’t be recaptured.  Today can only be lived today.  

Reaching a new level of achievement is exciting, but can I be very direct with you?  You are not going to be content at that new level if you haven’t learned to be content at the level where you are currently.  I know this sounds counter-productive to any type of sale’s job, but I am telling you that at the heart of the constant pressure for more is discontentment and a lack of identity or simply being.

A full life is a place of understanding the simplicity of fully “being” in the moment.  It’s being content where you are.  That’s what it means to be fully in the moment.

The invitation God has given to enjoy Him today and set aside distractions can’t be accepted tomorrow.

Dream for tomorrow, but live in today.

There are many things that call for our attention. The question is, “Which invitations will you accept, and which ones will you regret you didn’t accept?”

I want to live, knowing that I have accepted the most important ones, and often those aren’t the ones that others see or for which I will ever be recognized.

May it not be that what we do is what defines who we are, but may it be that who we are defines what we do. There is a difference.

Feel Like You Are The Checklist?

Check list

(FreeImages.com/Fanginhoon)

I awoke this morning and told my husband that I felt like I had become a checklist to people.  I felt like I consisted of a checklist of boxes of things I had accomplished or had not, and that was the summation of me in the minds of others.  (Note: feelings are not necessarily reality but indicate something that needs attention.)

This morning, I cried out to God, knowing this was an attack from the enemy of my soul to turn my focus on myself — to make me feel rejected, inferior, empty…

I told God straight up (no need to sugar-coat with Him): “God, I am feeling this attack again to believe the lies that I am not enough. S.O.S.!”

God’s response was a bit unexpected but brilliantly profound as always:

He asked me the question, “Am I enough?”

“What does that have to do with me not feeling like enough?”

The wisdom in His response was like a blinding flash!

The real issue behind me not feeling enough was that I am in essence not believing or living like He is enough.

When God is enough, there is no room for discontentment.

You can be in a prison, like Paul and Silas, and still be praising God, or…

You can be like my 91-year-old, adopted grandmother whom I drove several hours to visit yesterday.  This woman has been a widow for close to 21 years.  Her husband was a man who cherished his wife and treated her like a princess.  (You know she misses him.)  This woman is almost blind and almost deaf.  She can’t drive anywhere.  She can’t attend church.  Hardly anyone visits her or remembers her.  She doesn’t have any grandchildren.  Most of her family has already died.  Most of her friends have died.  Yet, this woman knows the meaning of contentment.  I was in awe over this woman who so kindly talked to my kids, who wore a continual smile on her face, who never spoke a single word of complaint over her circumstances.  She was a woman fully content and at peace.  …and I cry as I write these words.

This woman probably doesn’t match up to a lot of people’s checklists.  She can’t do much of anything.  She isn’t publishing books, speaking to large groups of women, playing with grandchildren, and being visited by hoards of people.  She lives in a simple house, with simple decorations, wearing simple clothes, with a simple life, but this woman has learned the richest truths/treasures that so many of us haven’t or will never learn.

This woman has lived fully loved and loved fully.  This woman has learned the secret of contentment.  She doesn’t walk in fear, rejection, or complaining.

What is the secret of contentment?

It’s that He is enough.

So, back to God’s question again:

“Am I enough?”

The question isn’t whether I am enough; the question is whether He is enough.

God gave me these verses this morning that I am “soaking in”:

Psalm 34:10

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.

Psalm 34:22

22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

 

Running On Empty?

glass

(FreeImages.com/MargaritRalev)

I started this year with a theme/verse that God had given to me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The theme was freedom from self.

Let me tell you, when you know you are called to a place of dying more to self so that you might live more in Christ, the battle is not going to be easy!  This entire year so far has been full of many wonderful God-moments, but it has also held some huge attacks against my identity.

I have written numerous blog posts about identity because this topic is so incredibly important and is very dear to my heart.

You might be asking, “What does identity have to do with feeling like I am not just running on empty but I am dried up, cracked, and brittle?”

Talk about busy!!!  We are down to 5-6 weeks left in the school year.  The end is in sight, but there is so much to accomplish at the end.  Summer sounds like a “breather,” but for those of you who have some or all of your kids in school, it’s a different kind of busy.

In the 21st century, “busy” is such a common description that if you ask someone how they are doing, 95-percent of the time, they will answer, “Busy!”

I understand that we can’t ignore busyness all together and live.   I have five kids.  I home-school two of them, two are in private school, and I have a 3-year-old who desperately needs to be potty-trained.  I have a side business.  I try to stay connected with people.  I am a soccer-mom, basketball-mom, and swim-mom, during the typical seasons.  I run to allergy shot appointments every 3 weeks, orthodontist appointments for three people regularly,  and at least 22 other medical appointments in a year that are just for regular maintenance (optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist).  I run to fix retainers and glasses that seem to constantly be getting bent or stretched.

So, if busyness comes with the territory of living, how can I avoid the never-ending feelings of emptiness that result so often?

Is the issue the busyness, or is it something else?  Is busyness the root cause of my emptiness or merely a symptom of the root cause?

To start to answer these questions, let me share a little of my recent experiences with you.

I knew I needed a spiritual “re-alignment” recently.  When I started to feel those old feelings of insecurity rearing their ugly heads, I knew I was it was time to come in for a “tune-up.” 

Feeling hyper-sensitivity, feeling really “low,” feeling jealous, feeling insecure, feeling a desperate need for validation and affirmation?  Those are dead-giveaways that there is a core problem that can’t be fixed with more pats on the heads, a platform, a position, a vacation, a new outfit, a horizon, a new vocation, or a new decoration.  In fact, those very things will continue to feed the feelings of emptiness and discontent.  They will satisfy fleetingly, but there is a never-ending need for more…

The other day, I took the kids to a nature center/park.  My 5-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the shiny appearance of Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) that they had for sale.  I decided to purchase the large rock because I knew it would make a great object lesson and also would be a good reminder to me.

Pyrite has the appearance of something of value, but the reality is that it doesn’t hold the core qualities that distinguish it from the similar appearance of real gold.  See the following article on differences: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/mining/pyrite-the-real-story-behind-fools-gold/ and http://www.minerals.net/mineral/gold.aspx.

It is interesting that Pyrite is brittle and can’t bend like real gold.  The mineral structure of Pyrite is mostly sulfuric.  The appearances of gold and Pyrite is similar, and they can be found in similar rock-beds, but the structure is different and thus is their use.

Pyrite reminded me of how we often search for the value of something, based on its appearance.  Does it look like success?  Does it look like prosperity?  Does it look like affirmation?  Does it look like security?  Does it look like beauty?  Does it look like fame?  Does it look like comfort?

What if the value of something isn’t in its appearance but in its core?  What if it’s the structure of the thing itself that determines whether it will hold up or whether it will crumble under pressure?

During part of my “re-alignment” time, God was showing me that I had been following after fulfillment based on the appearance of things: their appeal.  What He reminded me is that the most important things — the real blessings are not out there.  Rather, they are always right in front of us. 

God doesn’t dangle His blessings on a string and then keep pulling them back further the closer we get to them.  Rather, His blessings are often the gems hidden in the foundation of our every day lives.  God places His most priceless treasures in the framework of our daily lives — within the gritty, dull, hard surfaces of our lives.  It’s mixed in the hard grind of our daily and in the muddy, messy of authentic ministry.

Why do we rush after the appeal of appearances? 

What drives the empty to pursue the empty?

A friend recently gave me the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  I want to share a few powerful quotes from her book:

Indeed, the world entices your flesh but never embraces your soul.

We run at breakneck pace to try and achieve what God simply wants us to slow down enough to receive.

Imagine a little girl running with a cup in her hand, sloshing out all it contains.  She thinks what will refill her is just ahead.  Just a little farther.  She presses on with sheer determination and clenched teeth and an empty cup clutched tight.

She keeps running toward an agenda He never set and one that will never satisfy.  She sees Him and holds out her cup.  But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him, because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up.  Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty: where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling — all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace.

Why do we run to agendas, people, things, and appearances?  What is the draw?

The answer is you look for fulfillment out there when you are empty inside.

Remember, the verse I mentioned at the beginning?  …the one about Him increasing and me decreasing?

You know what truth came to me as I was getting my “tune-up”?  It was that I had been trying to find my worth again in myself. 

You see, it’s not about the agendas, people, things, fortune, fame, and appearances out there.  What we are really seeking is to find something out there to satisfy me, to validate me, to fill me, to secure me, and to give me a sense of worth.

That’s why it is so dangerous to pursue those things from a place of emptiness.  You are not after those things necessarily because of the thing or people themselves.  You are after what you hope to get from those things or relationships.

Look at relationships.  Know what happens when we try to pull from people our sense of worth?  This is what happens: rejection, shame, pride, insecurity, judgement, selfishness, comparisons, jealousy, labels…

As Christians, the deception is even more subtle sometimes.  We look to ministries and service for our fulfillment.  It is so hard to see through to the truth of our motives because we can cover them in so many “right-sounding” words.

I believe this: I believe that God’s invitation isn’t to serve Him.  I believe the invitation is to be loved by Him and for Him to love through us.  The focus really isn’t on serving; it’s on being loved by God and letting His love flow through us to others in tangible ways.  Otherwise, we’ll attach “strings” to people so that we can attempt to pull from them what we lack and which only God can fill.  This kind of “love” isn’t really love but selfish manipulation of people to ultimately feed my sense of worth.

This profound truth recently “struck” me: Authentic love produces authentic righteousness.  If we try to live righteous lives to find worth, to attempt to prove our worth before God, we will only produce self-righteousness, which isn’t righteous at all.  When we are still trying to figure out our own worth, we will bury ourselves under layers of ministry, “righteous” labels, and appearances, but the core motivation is once again an attempt to persuade ourselves, others, and God (we think) that we are worthy of His love.

The truth is this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me.  It’s simply placed on me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

And this…  Authentic love that comes from a place of being filled by Him will always flow out.  It’s like a stream.  There’s a continual reservoir of being filled and pouring out but never running dry because the source of the water is from deeper and higher up.  By pouring from a place of abundance, there’s not a need to be concerned with running dry.

The place of abundance — the abundant life — is God Himself!!!

Living loved isn’t deciding to be loved…  it’s settling in my soul, “I was created by God because He loved me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

You don’t have to win God’s love.  It was poured out on a cross for you.  It ran down in rivers of blood from a crown of thorns and spikes driven into His hands and feet.  It gushed out from His side, where a spear was thrust to determine His death was real.  It revealed itself in a myriad of colors, shapes, sounds, and fragrances at Creation.  It reveals itself in an eternity that is planned just for you to experience the fullness of life, love, joy, and peace like you have never known before.  Even now, it shows itself in the daily grind where He offers His Presence to be the “Gem” that is found in the midst of the hard and muddy of life.

Sufficiency

nature 1

I awoke this morning and began my day my favorite way: a Bible in my lap, my journal, two devotional books, a pen, and a study book.

I kept it simple this morning: read from the two devotional books, glanced at the study book and closed it back up, read a chapter in II Corinthians, prayed, listened for what God wanted to teach me, and then journaled some thoughts.

These are the simple but profound truths, I believe, He wanted me to hear from Him today  (Journal Entry):

I prayed to surrender myself to God for the start of the day.  Felt the Lord challenging me, “Are you surrendering yourself to me?  Then why are you holding onto your cares?”  (I was stressing over some concerns for my day — wondering how I was going to accomplish everything I need to do today.)

The theme of my life in 2015 seemed to be surrender — learning the profound and beautiful truths of surrendering to God — what that looks like and how it happens.

I try to start my days with a simple prayer, telling God that I surrender myself to Him, to be used by Him, and to be empowered by His Presence as I go about my day.

God, though, this morning was challenging me that when I am worrying, stressing, fearing, I am not surrendered.

To surrender is to let go.

How do I let go of those things that worry me?  The question is, “Why do you feel you need to hold onto those things?”  If you are holding onto something, you are in essence believing that you have to protect that thing, that you can’t trust those things with anyone else — even more importantly, with God.

To surrender is to trust in the all-sufficiency of Christ.

A thought that stood out to me in my one devotional this morning was the idea of contentment and how that relates to trusting in Christ’s sufficiency.

Here’s what I journaled:

At the heart of a lack of contentment [and fear] is not understanding or believing in the sufficiency of God — His provision, protection, presence, power, and peace.

That’s it, isn’t it?!!

Contentment comes from a personal belief in the sufficiency of God — that He is the Great “I Am”!  He revealed Himself to the Israelites as the “I Am,” meaning, “Everything they needed, He is and will provide.”

God directed me to read from the following passage in Scripture:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I feel this was God’s personal encouragement to me, following a heart cry for Him to deliver us from some present trials.  I knew the lie was coming that God wasn’t powerful enough, didn’t care enough, or my faith wasn’t enough.

Instead, God led me to the truth in this Scripture.  God spoke the following thoughts to my heart:

As I was reading II Cor. 12:9-10, I felt God was showing me that in the areas He answered my requests with a “no” — in regards to my own weaknesses and some personal challenges we are facing — that He was telling me it’s so that in our weaknesses we come to rely on His sufficiency, and we experience the intimacy of the personal reality of it.

Let me restate that…

In our weaknesses, we come to rely on His sufficiency, and we experience the intimacy of the personal reality of it.

Doesn’t that change the entire way we view our struggles, weaknesses, and trials?  It doesn’t minimize our challenges, sorrows, and suffering, but it does give us the hope — that as our bodies grow weaker, our spiritual lives can grow stronger; as our circumstances grow more challenging, our spiritual lives can find greater vitality and fullness; and as earthly sorrows threaten to crush us, the immeasurable glories of the reality of the eternal can produce within us the peace and joy that passes all understanding.

The immeasurable glories of the reality of the eternal God can produce within us the peace and joy that passes all understanding!

Finding Satisfaction

Further HDR fisheye shots from B�¡rr�¡s. I was crazy enough to carry a full-size tripod there along with my lens arsenal (I'm happy that these shots turned out decent, as the extra weight was really a bitch to carry). B�¡rr��...

(Free stock photo: http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=659478&searchId=6cad826248cd3f4e93da71e7b49928e3&npos=9.)

We are only two weeks into the new year, and my thoughts have been on goals, hopes, and dreams.

A new year frequently spurs people on a new trajectory or encourages new momentum on a recurring goal.

Yet when I pondered all the dreams, hopes, and goals we have as humans, I couldn’t help but think that they all point to the same end…

I remember as a girl, having dreams of being the object of a wonderful man’s love and desire.  A beautiful wedding. Marriage.  Babies.  It all sounded so wonderful!

Being mommy meant chubby cheeks, blowing kisses, hearing “Mama”, and getting slobbery kisses.  I pictured all the cuteness and thought that I would be the “perfect” mom and my kids would be little images of “perfection.”  Why not?  No one dreams about the messes, temper tantrums, and sleepless nights.

We have other hopes and dreams too.  Traveling.  Physical fitness.  A bigger house.  Pretty things.  For women, we might think new additions to our wardrobe will make the difference.

All of these things satisfy for a time so we will often return to the things that satisfied us before in order to keep the sense of euphoria going.

This is the origin of many mid-life crises.  The old is no longer as exciting so we look for a newer, younger, more passionate version.

The old house is no longer as “big” and appealing as it was at first so we look for a bigger, more extravagant home.

Our home town is not the exotic center for excitement so we travel to destinations in distant locations.

Most of these things are fine in themselves.  The problem is when we are chasing after these things in order to either “run from” the things that intimidate us or when we are pursuing these things in order to find a lasting sense of “being”or satisfaction and joy.

As a woman, I have been guilty of ever so often wanting to shop for new additions to my wardrobe or a few new items to decorate my home in order to give me a sense of happiness.  The issue is not with the items; the issue is my desired outcome: happiness from these things.

The truth is beauty fades, strong muscles atrophy into frailty, our health gives out eventually, relationships take work and commitment, clothing wears and so do homes, styles come and go, “familiarity breeds contempt,” the kids grow up and leave the nest, spouses age and eventually die. At some point, it all ends or diminishes.

Nothing in this life is permanent.

It is a grim picture, but it’s not when you find something that is eternal and completely satisfying.

The one thing that remains eternal and transcends the earthly is the supernatural.  This is why there is within us all a desire for something greater, eternal, supernatural.  We all want to know that at some point, we will finally reach a place where we can find “rest,” permanent satisfaction, and joy.

I believe that place is what God promises in the Bible as our eternal and final dwelling: a place with Him.

What comfort it is to know that we can dream, anticipate, and hope for something that is assured to all those who believe and receive this gift.  It is the gift of salvation, the gift of son-ship and daughter-ship, the gift of eternal life, the gift of lasting peace, the gift of victory…

May 2016 be a year where we look not to the temporal to satisfy the eternal longings and needs of our souls.  May it be a year where we discover or persevere in an unshakable faith in an eternal inheritance of life, love, peace, and joy, found in Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:9-11

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”[a]

Romans 5:21

21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 John 2:25

25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

1 John 5:11

11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

1 John 5:13

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life,[a] and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Revelation 21:1-6

All Things Made New

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John,[a] saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,[b] “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done![c] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.