The Dream of Marriage: Waiting, Trusting, and Letting Go

In looking back through my journal entries from the summer, I found this:

“Help me remember Your goodness and be patient-  WAIT.  How strange that I’m learning to wait during a season when You’re giving me so many long-desired gifts…”

I could see God’s merciful and gracious hand in so much this past summer. I was truly blown away at how many good provisions were made for me to walk in- many were ones I had dreamed about for years. Yet, there were places that I wrestled with God. Anxieties threatened to overtake my body on many occasions so that I was left to cry out to the Lord seemingly constantly. At the time, it was very frustrating, though I could see how it was drawing me closer to God. This was one verse (of many) that was given to me during that time:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 11:12)

The big thing that was being broken up in me was my strong desire for a serious relationship/ marriage. I was reading through ‘Passion and Purity’ by Elisabeth Elliot. It is the hardest book I’ve ever digested. So many emotions were brought up by each tiny chapter. The main point that stuck out to me was that God may not have marriage in our individual plan.. if so, will we say, “Yes, Lord”? Elliot included this quote in her book and its truth struck me:

“The fair new petals may fall, and for no visible reason. No one seems enriched by the stripping.

“And the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender–not manward a Godward: an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped it’s true meaning: that is not worthy of the name of “no poluted thing” can be offered.

“The life lost on the Cross was not a sinful one–the treasure poured forth there was God-given, God-blessed treasure, lawful and right to be kept: that there was the life of the world at stake.”

It was a hard truth to hear, and like I said, it produced a struggle. It made me examine how much I trust the Lord’s heart toward me. Honestly, I found that I didn’t trust Him as much I as thought.

God was so gracious to send people into my life to speak words of comfort and truth to this area when it seemed unbarable. Someone told me, “Most people will meet someone special at some point in their life and get married.” On one level this was a comfort, even though it did not address the possibility of God asking forever singleness of me. Still, the person who said it made a good point that the gift of singleness is usually only for a season of life.

Another encouragement was the current testimony of a godly woman at my church. She shared about how she was being pursued my a kind, incredible man of God and God was/ is very clearly orchestrating the relationship. It is much better than anything she had ever dared to dream of! Hearing her tell of what God was doing renewed my trust that God does love to give the good, great gift of serious relationships/ marriage (in the perfect timing). Also, seeing how God is the center of their relationship renewed my hope that it is possible to stay focused on God and bring Him glory through a dating relationship.

So God is good. Believing that to the core is the key to trusting God with any of our the deepest hopes and dreams. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (All things within His will, of course.) And yet, God asks hard things of us and does not contradict His own character. I love this quote by Ruth Stull that Elisabeth Elliot included in her book, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a lad.” When we give up the good in our lives, God can use it in the best way possible to serve others and bring Himself glory. That often will look different than we have envisioned.

The dream of marriage is only one (fairly big) area where I must release my hopes and dreams to the will of God. God has been so gracious in the journey thus far, though! So yes, when God led me to write “WAIT” in my journal, there was a reason. I still have need for patience in the good times. I have need for patience as I wait for the Lord’s will. I also have need for trust in the Lord’s unfailing love and His good, great plan so I can focus on pouring out my life. He is providing day by day what I need for this journey called faith, though, and that is possibly more encouraging than anything else!

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Take Heart

Trials will come. We live in a world broken with sin, have an enemy who wants to destroy us, and are also in the process of sanctification. Knowing the reasons why we go through hard things, doesn’t usually make them any easier. The great news is that we are not left alone in our troubles. Jesus has gone before us and we can cry out to our Father God. The Holy Spirit also leads us as we seek Him.

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8 NASB).

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB).

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10 NASB).

So take heart.

Cast your cares.

He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

“The disposition… to leave the dearest objects of our hearts in the sublime keeping of the general and unspecific belief that God is now answering our prayers in His own time and way, and in the best manner, involves a present process of inward crucifixion which is obviously unfavorable to the growth and even the existence of the life of self.” (T.C. Upham)

We are kept even as we struggle. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV).

So keep on keeping on. Keep following. Take heart because you are held, loved, and cared for.

 

Growing in Grace

My life has been in upheaval quite a bit so far this summer. (And it’s only nearing the end of June!) My goal has been to just go with it and keep taking the next step. And it’s worked. I’m actually starting to thrive off the busier, all-over-the-place-ness that is my schedule. It seems like God is teaching me a million things right now, but a big one is being willing to step out and into what He wants for me. That often means leaving my anxiety behind/ acting in spite of it. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is in relation to other people. I tend to keep my distance and not engage because of that. If people come to me, that is usually okay because I actually genuinely love people a lot.

Sharing the love of Jesus is hard when fear keeps you from striking up conversations  with your co-workers or walking across the room to a group of people. Unlike other times in my life, right now, this is a battle worth fighting. I know so many people who are great at reaching out to people and making them feel accepted. I’ve benefited from this on many, many occasions. It is one of the best feelings- to be drawn out and have someone be interested in you and your life! I want to offer that gift to the people I come into contact with. (Er, the ones I could be coming into contact with…)

Walls must come down; having open hands is necessary. As a Christian, I have received love, grace, and forgiveness, and still do receive them daily. Why would I feel the need to protect myself when I belong to God? Letting what had been given to me flow freely to others is the only way to actually experience the freedom those gifts were meant to give.

As the person who likes to stand back and observe, this all means I need to step forward and be the one who speaks, pursues relationships, and acts kindly toward others. It means I stop worrying about what someone will think of me if I say or do something. It means that I start acting more and observing a little less. It means that I look beyond myself in action taken and words spoken.

Yet, I cannot count how many times I have done the opposite when the opportunity arose. I have been glued to the ground, unable to open my mouth, left conversations unfinished, and far too often have not even been able to make eye contact with people. All because of my anxiety. It’s so frustrating and heaps shame on me. In those moments, I have to accept the grace to not engage just as readily as I would need to accept the grace to overcome and engage. I have to take to heart God’s power and love in a whole new way just so I don’t drown in guilt. Second, third, and hundreth chances are the way God rolls, though, because He’s not keeping track. Thank goodness!

Money Talk

I’ve heard that my generation doesn’t want to address the topic of money. If I’m being honest, a year ago, the thought of managing money as an adult seemed so daunting that I, as well, wanted to let it be. But money “runs the world” as they say and it can not be ignored. I started reading a book about money, took an Economics class, and did a lot of writing in my “money book.” It is still complex to me, but it doesn’t seem impossible anymore.

My first introduction to money management came through Sunday School when I was about 7 years old. I don’t recall what the lesson was about, but afterward, we decorated paper wallets that had three envelopes stapled on. There was a saving envelope, a spending envelope, and an envelope for tithe. That Sunday School teacher will probably never know how much that one craft shaped my viewpoint on money. It was used for years and I still use a different form of that envelope system.

Growing up makes the saving and spending envelopes become more compartmentalized, though. There are regular payments and bigger items to save for. It also seems like wish lists grow, as well. I don’t believe it is possible to keep all of this straight without writing out a budget. (Even then it can be hard to keep all the numbers straight!)

Financial advisors are always suggesting that people save a good chunk of their money. I have rarely had a problem putting this advice into action. In fact, I have taken it too far at times. Taking an Economics class redefined the way I view money though: it is meant to be spent. I learned that if you put money into a savings account, you lose money long term. That blew my mind. I’m not arguing against saving here, though. It is wise to have some money put away in case of an emergency or ready to use if an incredible dead comes up. I am saying that there should be a balance between saving and spending.(Also, investing savings might be a better place for your money than the bank.) A good way to look at savings is as putting away money to spend in the future on something bigger\ better\ needed. At the same time, we should not place our security in having money in the bank. God provides for us as we walk the road He is leading us down.

Spending money can leave our wallets so quickly. In the American culture, it seems like everywhere we turn someone is trying to get us to buy something. Magazines, websites, and even social media show off enviable items to us. They show us the life we want. No wonder so many people are in debt! If we bought everything that caught our eye, we would spend far more money than we possess. I have a running wish list, but I have been trying to not focus on what I don’t own as much. Elisabeth Elliot offered wise words when she said, “By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.” I try to spend money on experiences versus things (specially specialty drinks that are gone in an hour!). An experience will enrich me. So for me, buying a piano or a camera is okay, because they will be used to create experiences and grow my hobbies. Travelling or seeing a play are also experiences worth spending money on. Clothes on the other hand do not usually hold as much importance to me because I already have enough of them.

The tithe category can also be called giving. The New Testament actually replaces the Old Testament %10 with what we feel lead to give. (Which often would end up being more than %10– probably why so many people stick with the number in black and white.) This category actually effects all the other categories. It opens our hands so we hold our money more freely; makes us more willing to give to others. It also gives money meaning. We see that we can make a difference in someone else’s life and give to organizations that will share the love of God.

I hope my generation will invest time into thinking through how they will spend their money. It is just another area that we have been given to steward. Creating a budget is a lot of work, but money will enslave us if we don’t make conscious, sometimes hard, decisions about how we will spend it.

 

Meaning in the Mundane

When I was a kid and my mom asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I gave her a schedule with a different occupation for each day of the week. Dolphin trainer and teacher were two of the ones I remember. I am a dreamer by nature. As a teenager, I was obsessed with dramatic interior design, bright color, and traveling. I wanted to go to other countries on mission trips. I wanted to create a blog and write a book that would influence the way people thought. I was the one who created a plan for my friend and I to follow so we wouldn’t waste our summer. I was the one who planned out exactly how we should redo the basement and what items I needed to decorate my room with. I took for granted all the business trips we went on with my dad and all the times we visited family.

It’s coming up on three years now that I have not traveled much, though. I guess you could say life after high school has redefined how I see the “good life.” Being “stuck” in one place for so long has taught me the value of the area I call home, Central Virginia. High school kids who grew up here often say there is nothing to do here. But as my Literature teacher pointed out this past semester, where ever you go, you will find it boring after being there a little while. Traveling and seeing other places and people is exciting, but living is mundane (even in other places).

Still, home has a special allure that traveling never can. It’s subtle, not flashy; comforting, not thrilling. The efforts to invest and put down roots can bring a special kind of contentment and joy. The mundane is a balance of restful and industrious, while being something expected. It is at home that we see the benefits of consistent labor. A garden takes consistent care. If it is given care each day and each week, it provides fruit, veggies, and beautiful flowers. The same goes for life. When we invest time and energy in the everyday tasks and whatever is placed in front of us, a beautiful life is made.

The big, exciting, perfect life is just not all it is cracked up to be. Simply reading that sentence won’t make you believe it, though. In fact, sometimes I don’t believe it. (Especially after spending time on social media!) The younger version of me who wanted adventure, a beautiful life (and house), and to serve God in a big way is still here. Just now I have less opinions and impatient drive and a little more grace for the detours that are life. Most of my goals are good, but when given too much control of our hearts and minds, even good things become bad things.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

Yet, goals and dreams are good things, so what were these authors getting at? I think they were asking us to examine why we are living the way we are. At the beginning of the day, do we love Jesus more? More than our desires? More than our goals? When Jesus is enough for us, not only do our goals take on new meaning but the mundane is transformed. It goes from boring to a sacred– we begin eagerly anticipating that God will move in the everyday. We can enjoy the big adventure moments of life, but we don’t need them to find joy in life when Jesus is at the center of our hearts and minds.

Instant Spirituality

We Americans tend to be a people addicted to instant results. Smartphones with data answer every little question we have in just a few seconds. Restaurants offer ready made dinner to customers. Microwaves heat up food in a fraction of the time an oven would take. Social media provides instant access to contacting a friend or catching up on their life. Yet, some of the most important things in life take more time and patience.

Doing something as quick as possible can drain the fun out of it and often, when I take the fast-track to get a result or answer, it doesn’t mean as much to me. I’m more prone to be dissatisfied with my accomplishment or even forget the question I was seeking an answer to! Quick just does not make as big of an impact.

Maybe that is why Jesus said, “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (Matthew 13:5-6).

Jesus’ disciples were confused by the parable that these verses are a part of, so there is actually an explanation of exactly what it means!

“As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21).

What strikes me is the word “immediate.” This person’s decisions are made in the moment. They immediately receive the Gospel with joy, which you would think was a good thing. Yet later, he immediately falls away.

Our instant culture has trained us to think immediate results are a good thing. Here we see that they fall short, though. When a habit, skill, or way of thinking is not given a good foundation of understanding and time to grow slowly, it will likely disappear just as quickly as it appeared. Over time we become who we are. Over time faith becomes part of who we are at our core. Nothing can replace the role that God has given time in our sanctification. Consistently saturating our mind with the Word and spending time in community will bring about lasting change.

What You Can Know When You Want to Say, “No!”

I was scrolling through Facebook and found a quote that cut right to the heart of what I have been learning lately:

“Only if your God can outrage you and make you struggle will you know that you worship the real God and not a figment of your imagination.” – Timothy Keller

It’s just like any other relationship, only more because God’s thinking is so much higher than ours. There will be conflict between what we believe or want and what God says or asks of us. When this happens, we will struggle with our heart.

In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus makes it clear that following Him will be hard.

 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The one that sticks out to me is having nowhere to call home. I hate that. A couple summers ago, I volunteered at a summer camp. The dorm-style rooms we stayed in were not very welcoming and overall did not feel like home. I looked forward to the weekends, when I could spend at least a few hours in a real home. A kitchen, a couch, a bedroom, a normal bathroom, decoration- it’s all so beautiful. Being home allows me to relax. But Jesus makes the point that sometimes we won’t have simple luxuries like home. Sometimes saying “yes” to Him means giving up something very valuable to you. Other times, it means jumping in right now without having everything squared away.

God’s plan is not our plan. To follow Him, we often have to let go of dreams and sometimes go against what makes logical sense. And that is okay because we serve a God who can turn water to wine (or blood), calm a ravenous storm, make the blind see and the seeing blind, and so much more! He knows what He’s doing and we can trust Him, even when it hurts, even when it doesn’t make sense. More so, we can know we serve and worship the real God when what He asks of us goes against our will and heart.