Getting Married: 19 Weeks – Single Advice

I feel very blessed with the path of singleness and relationships that God brought me through (even my mistakes) before Matt and I finally got together. From my boyfriend at 2 years old, to the puppy love boyfriend of junior high, through those awkward years in junior high too that extended into my high school years, to my liberation of college when I embraced my singleness, to those years when I didn’t…it’s been everything I could have wanted it to be and even those things I didn’t enjoy at the time, I know that it was for my benefit.

But even now, I know that I can’t comprehend the blessings of that time in my life fully. However, I’m still close enough to remember the painful evenings, or the times when my friends were getting married and I was going to the wedding by myself, again. I’m close enough to remember the pangs, even though they are greatly diminished, of longing to be with someone who I was certain had no idea I existed or was interested. Of dreaming of some kind of idyllic future that played more to my selfish wants. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I am in a Sunday School class with some very sweet young women. I enjoy the class so much and cherish our time of fellowship, study, encouragement and admonishment. We were talking about relationships this week, as we often do, and it reminded me of just how much God has taught me throughout the last 10 years, especially about being single in this world and dating, etc. I am not without faults. I very often balked at what God was showing me, determined that I knew a better way. And very often, God would show me that He did indeed know better and I’d realize it was better to submit than to stubbornly push on my own way. Sometimes it was painful, sometimes it just made me feel ashamed, sometimes I was so relieved to be out of whatever mess I got myself into.  That’s been true in other areas of my life, but I think I’m learning to submit more readily than before.

I thought I would give some advice. Rather, some strategies I found that worked when I was feeling sorry for myself, missing someone I hadn’t met yet, and nursing a bruised heart. The strategies are for those who are single and have never married. I can’t speak to those who have been divorced or widowed as I’ve never been either of those. There might be some parallels in here for those situations, but you will have to glean them out yourself. I also do not claim to be an expert. These are just some tools I found to help.

Pray

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I was amazing at falling to my knees whenever temptation or loneliness tried to overpower me. Nope. I will freely admit that my prayer life is not what it should be. BUT, I have witnessed in my own life that when I am eager to turn to God to talk things through, I am ten times better off than when I turn to Him as a last resort. Also, God is not afraid of emotions. It’s ok to sit and mean to pray to God and just cry instead. Been there, done that. God created us as emotional beings and I’m sure I’ve been more afraid of my emotions than God ever could.

Journal

I have been journaling since I was in high school. I never thought much about it at that time. Most of it is the typical sappy, angsty stuff of teens, but I am one who likes to flesh out my thoughts on a page. I avoid journals with lines because sometimes the best therapy is to write something down and then have the pleasure of scratching it out again. Now, I write down my sermon notes, reflections to things I’m reading or just thoughts throughout the day, important events in my life, etc. There are lots of little gems in those books throughout the years, and it’s good to know that I have that book handy when I just need to write something down, whatever it is.

I also had a friend recommend journaling to her future husband. This has been such a fun thing to do. I’ve taken the journal with me to other countries, I’ve written dreams, hopes, disappointments, life changes, prayers for him, etc. I can’t wait to share it with him.

Pray FOR him (or her)

I know I didn’t come up with this myself, but I can’t for the life of me remember who I got it from – no doubt one of the many books I’ve read on relationships. Whenever I felt like I was totally completely ready to meet The One, but God hadn’t brought him to me yet, I would get this image in mind. Imagine the two hands of God. You are in one hand, while The One is in the other. You are in one place and they are in another. You are both having your own life experiences, your own triumphs and challenges. You might be on a mountaintop, but they might be in a valley and desperately in need of prayer. I’ve noticed that when I am becoming too self-minded, it’s best to start praying for someone else and God has an amazing ability to turn our hearts and prayers to something uplifting to that other person. Maybe your One needs you on your knees while he faces one of the biggest challenges of his life. Maybe he is on cloud nine and would like you to rejoice with him. When I had these times of prayer with God, I liked to document them. Maybe I can compare notes and find that I really was needed at that particular moment. It might not be something we know until heaven, but I’m a firm believer that our prayers are effectual and when we pray in faith and in God’s will, He can do great things.

Find a mentor

I have been blessed with some wonderful mentors throughout my life. They have come in a wide variety of places and relationships, I can’t even begin to share who they all are. Find yourself an older “you.” Someone who is firm in their faith and actively living out the commands of God. They don’t have to be perfect; no one is, after all. In fact, someone who doesn’t “have it all together” is great because they can show you how to seek God’s will when you struggle. Mentors are great because they’ve been in a similar place as you and have the benefit of hindsight. Take advantage of that and use it to your benefit. Learn from their mistakes and successes and ask them to pray for you. Look for ways to serve them as a way of thanks.

Be a mentor

This is a big deal. You might not feel like you have it all together yourself, but investing in someone else’s life is a big distraction from any heartache and loneliness you may have. It’s not a cure, but it’s a command of God – when Christians mentor someone else, they are to be building a disciple of Christ. When you are following God’s commands, you are in a better place. Period.

Find accountability partners

What’s an accountability partner? It’s someone who is a peer and willing to help keep you on track to avoid temptation. You know what will trip you up. You know what kinds of things feed into your pity parties. For me, it can be love stories. I love Jane Austen, and I still read her books every so often, but for a time, they were a stumbling block for me. Certain movies too. Facebook can be a stumbling block too, especially if you have an object of affection and find yourself spending an increased amount of time “checking in” on them. Oh, you know you’ve done it! Share those things with a close friend and ask them to help you avoid them and keep tabs on you. And you do the same for them.

You know, God has made us creatures of community for a reason. We thrive on relationships. Yes, the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage is a special thing, something God made with a specific purpose. But there are so many other relationships that should have our attention, relationships that have an eternal purpose. Focusing on these things not only gives us a healthy distraction from any loneliness we might be feeling, but also prepares us for any future romantic relationship. Every season has a purpose and every relationship has a purpose as well. Make the most/best out of each one. Some will fail and some will endure.  This feeds right into the next tip.

Embrace it and serve God

When you are single, you are in a unique stage of life where you answer to only one: God. Take advantage of your freedom to live drastically for Christ. I was able to do some amazing things before God called me back to Ohio, I believe, to be ready for Matt. I spent a summer in China, graduated college, served in my church for several years, taught in Japan, etc. I was free to travel around to build relationships with dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ around the globe. There have been so many things I can’t even remember them all to list here. I wouldn’t trade those opportunities for anything. They were an important season in my life and have grown my faith.

Also, as someone who had ever so many crushes on guys until now, I have witnessed the benefit of unanswered prayers. Some of my crushes went on to meet and marry amazing women. They lead a life now that I could never have been prepared to handle. Some of them turned out just awful and I’m grateful that God didn’t allow me to get into a relationship with them because I would probably be in a terrible state now. If you are struggling with why God is keeping you from someone, ask Him to reveal the reason to. God loves to illuminate dark places, and a question is just that, a dark place. Keep in mind, He won’t always reveal it on your time, so be prepared to have to wait a bit. The waiting is hard, but hopefully, there are enough strategies here to keep you occupied.

So in summary: Pray, get your focus off yourself, love God, serve God, love others, serve others.

Do you have any advice or strategies you used while you were single or are single?

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

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“Flame of God” by Amy Carmichael

I first read this poem when I was in college and thought it amazing. Amy Carmichael is my own personal hero and I delight in her many writings. She was a gifted woman who sought to serve God with what she had and where she was. Her own perplexity at why He made her a certain way encourages me beyond what I can say. God has a purpose for us and He reveals that to us in His due time. We might not understand what purpose something has for our lives and our future, but God does not waste a gift. Only we do. Are you grateful for the gifts that may not even seem like a gift?

Anyway, I love this poem. She’s asking God to not let her shy away from the challenge that she may face – to stand bold for Him and to even pursue the hard tasks. She even asks to be spent completely in His glory. I can only attempt the same.

———————

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God

Culture Shock Notes

I have gone one a few trips overseas and been to a variety of countries with varying levels of similarity to American culture. With that said, I am not an expert on culture shock, and I tend to have more shock when I come home than when I go to another country…but I have found some things to be true when dealing with the possibility of culture shock. I’ve compared notes with other vagabonds and we seem to agree in the basics.

Also, most of my trips have been for religious/missionary reasons, so the notes that follow have that bend as well. Some would be universal for anyone traveling from home, but some are specifically for those who are Christians. If you are not a Christian, I ask you not to run away and hide, or lash out irrationally. We each can find a way to live together, but I would say that having my faith with me and knowing that God is right there with me wherever I go has been key to getting over any culture shock I have had myself. (Psalm 139:9-10)

These points are great for groups who are going on a mission trip together, but can have application for other trips as well. I hope it is helpful!

(Also, I did mention that I tend to get reverse culture shock, which is culture shock when you’re returning to your own culture from being in another for an extended period of time. I’ve found these points helpful for the return as well.)

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Culture Shock 

What to watch for: 

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping for extended periods
  • Headaches
  • Nausea Diarrhea
  • Anger
  • Apathy or irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling highly critical of everything

Keeping a Journal 

In this, you should include your daily experiences, recaps, expectations for the day, reflections on your devotion, etc.  Your journal will be your best friend and the place for you to express your joys, vent your frustrations, and anything in between!

Listen to familiar music 

Do this sparingly.  I would suggest only for about 15 minutes or so.  If you have some music in the local style, listen to that as well!  It’s a good way to help you acclimate to the new culture a bit more.

Prepare yourself to experience a different culture 

Things are going to be different.  Get that into your head now!  The food will taste different (even if you looooooove Mexican food here).  Customs will be different.  Personal space is something that is handled very differently too.  There are going to be smells that you are not used to.  Dirtiness and cleanliness will be something you just have to deal with on your own.  You can be grossed out all you want, but try not to let it show to the locals – they will be offended.  Hand sanitizer can be your best friend, but again, don’t use it every 5 minutes in front of the kids – they will be offended.

Keep healthy! 

This is very, very, very important.  First priority is water.  You must stay hydrated. Carry around your water bottle with you at all times.  Bring a nice durable one that you can set on the ground anywhere (preferably with a belt clip).  If you think you may have trouble, then take individual powdered Gatorade packs with you.  Electrolytes are your friend.

Also, do not be afraid to eat the food.  You need to stay healthy and strong.  Try new things, but if you’re having a hard time stomaching something, take some snacks/comfort food in your suitcase to munch on.

Lastly, PRAY! 

God’s grace covers all things.  He will give you strength to get through whatever is troubling you.  Pray for teammates.  Have times where you pray for each other in a group or by yourself.  You will be amazed how much better you will feel after you have blanketed yourselves with prayer.  And don’t forget that you have people at home who are praying for you diligently.  You are loved and cared for, especially by God.

Bread for All Time – Bonhoeffer

I’ve had this book, A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for a while, and pick it up when I have a mind to.  It contains letters and writings of Bonhoeffer stretched out across a full calendar year.  It’s really interesting and whenever I do pick it up, I learn something good.  He was a great man of God.

Saturday, I picked it up and read the entry for February 5th.  Here it is:

“Almost all of us have grown up with the idea that the Scripture reading is solely a matter of hearing the Word of God for today.  That is why for many the Scripture reading consists only of a few brief selected verses that are to form the central idea of the day.  There can be no doubt that the daily Bible passages published by the Moravian Brethren, for example, are a real blessing to all who have ever used them.  Many people have realized that to their great amazement and have been grateful for the daily Bible readings particularly during the time of the church struggle.  But equally there can be little doubt that brief passages cannot and must not tak the place of reading the Scripture as a whole.  The verse for the day is not yet the Holy Scriptures that will remain throughout all time until the Day of Judgement.  Te Holy Scriptures are more than selected Bible passages  It is also more than “Bread for Today.”  It is God’ revealed Word for all peoples, for all times.  The Holy Scriptures do not consist of individual sayings, but are a whole and can be used most effectively as such…The ful witness to Jesus Christ the Lord can be clearly heard only in its immeasurable inner relationships, in the connection of Old and New Testaments, of promise and fulfillment, sacrifice and law, Law and Gospel, cross and resurrection, faith and obedience, having and hoping.”

– from Life Together 58-60

I’m guilty as charged.  I’ve not even respected the Scriptures enough to read the “couple verses” or passage each day.  God’s Word is precious and I’m not neglecting It out of ignorance to the strength, comfort, joy that comes from reading It.  I’m not reading it because of this lie in my mind that tells me I don’t have the time or that I know enough of it already.  That’s far from the truth, and I definitely know it.  I’m always learning something new through reading my Bible.  So, there you have it…a conviction and resolution of sorts.

Check out the martyr Bonhoeffer’s life here.

Moses Forgets

This week, at one of my ESL classes, we read the story about the people of Israel complaining of their thirst in the wilderness.  This happened at least twice because it’s recorded twice that they complained enough for Moses to ask God to give them some water.  The first time, Moses asks and God says to hit a rock with his staff.  Moses does so and water comes out of the rock to quench the people’s thirst.  The second time, the people complain and Moses asks God for help.  God says to him to take the staff and tell the rock to produce water.  But when Moses goes before the people, he ridicules them and then hits the rock with the staff twice.  Water still comes out, but at a dear price – Aaron and Moses will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, because they did not believe God and take Him at His Word.

This is one of those stories that I have usually just skipped over.  I love reading about Moses, but this one, for some reason, seems to just register and then I go on to the next thing.  But my student did not.  She had some questions, like:

If Moses had done it once before, then why didn’t he believe it would happen again the way God said it would?*

and

If Moses believed God, then why did He test him again?*

These are great questions!  I love watching a non-believer respond to the Holy Spirit, even if they are just questions, because asking questions are a sign that God is working on them.  I love the promise that God’s Word is living and active – It always does a work when spoken or heard.

The first question, well, how often do we forget what God has done in our lives before?  Moses was the advocate for the people of Israel and he came to God many times to petition for forgiveness for their forgetfulness of God’s love and provision…but he was not exempt himself from forgetting.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to lead people who constantly griped and complained about everything, but that one single action – that one burst of anger and pride – led to him not being able to enter the promised land.  Look at the wording:

“Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”
Numbers 20:10, ESV

It wasn’t, “Shall God bring out water for you?” but “Shall we…”  God says that because Moses and Aaron did not uphold Him as holy before the people, they will not bring those people into Canaan.  A little later in the chapter, Aaron’s death is recorded and his robe and office of high priest are given to his son, Eleazar.

The second question speaks to God’s nature and not Moses’.  Why does God test those who have, thus far, proven that they follow Him?  Why did God ask Moses to just talk to the rock this time instead of striking it again?  Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac after he had waited for 100 years to have him?

We’ve been talking in church the last couple of Sundays about Great Stories in the Bible and this last week the story was Abraham and this sacrifice.  My pastor spoke about how God did not throw a challenge like that on Abraham right off the bat.  Yes, asking him to leave his family and home to go to some land that he had never heard of was a big challenge, but it was a test comparable to his level of faith. And it’s not like Abraham never failed at a test that God gave him.  God promised him a son in his old age and beyond his wife’s physical ability, and rather than believe the fullness of God’s promise, Abraham cut a corner by sleeping with Sarah’s handmaiden.

God tests us; it continues throughout our lives as believers.  He will give us challenges at various times, but praise God, that He takes into account the level of faith we have at that time.  We may not pass them, but it is not because God has given us a challenge greater than we can handle, but because we are doubting ourselves, doubting Him, or believing a lie (or all of the above).

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV

So, back to the second question, why does God continue to test us?  It’s to grow us and to make us more like His son.  We will not be perfect until He makes us so, and that won’t happen until heaven.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want to start us on that road now.  And the successes in our life, our conquering those tests and moving on, serve as testimony to the lost that our God is a great and mighty God.  That He is concerned with our lives and with our hearts.  That He can change a person from being selfish and in despair to being selfless, a servant, and filled with hope.

And that verse above gives me hope that when I face a challenge to my faith and in my life, God has already gifted me with the strength I need to endure it.  What I have faced before now has only added to, not taken away from, the arsenal in my will to resist the devil and move forward in maturity in Christ.

*paraphrased into English

Day 4 – God is Sovereign

My favorite places are those where the sky is wide open in front of me.  For my current location, these include Harbin Park, at the top of the hill and the tiny regional airport, parked next to the fence running long-wise to the runway.  There’s something about the vastness of the sky, the length of the ground, being able to see a horizon without any obstructions.  It’s why I love mountains so much and why, yes, even Kansas is my favorite state.  You can see for miles!  Alright, it’s a close tie with Pennsylvania. 😉  Sitting in a place like this, it’s so easy to think about and understand God being sovereign.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements – surely you know?  Or who stretched the line upon it?  On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” – Job 38:4-7 –

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all these earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens.” – Psalm 8:1 –

And as a thundercloud approaches me…

“The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters.  The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.” – Psalm 29:3-4 –

“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,…” – Psalm 8:3 –

But when I think of the little things, back when I descend and the world comes back up around me, is God still sovereign, or am I too small?

“…what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” – Psalm 8:4 –

Is He concerned with me and my issues?

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31 –

“…you are of more value than many sparrows.”  I try to make myself too small for God to see at times, and yet He does.  He values me and keeps me in His thoughts.  Even when I don’t keep Him in mine.  And He has the best in mind for me.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declared the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 –

I am at His mercy, like trees to a strong wind.  And yet, God is not just an indeterminate thing, like the wind, not choosing where to go and what to do.  God is in charge of Himself and of what He does.  And His goodness dictates that He do good things. 

I can see far sitting up here on this hill or on a mountains, but I can’t see the future.  god can see further and beyond the future.

I will trust my God, the One who Sees, to handle the direction of my path.

I will trust my God, the One who Creates, to have given me every quality I need to do His will.

I will trust my God, the One who Shapes, to continue working and growing me into what He wants me to be.

I will trust my God, the One who Knows, to only give me what I can handle.

I will trust my God, the One who Provides, to prepare and preserve me through anything I go through.

I will trust my God, the One who Loves, to pour His love out of me when I have none to give.

I will trust my God.
I will trust my God.
I will trust my God.

Day 1 & 2 – 10 Days of Prayer

One of my favorite Christian artists went and got married a few years ago to an amazing woman and…as most amazing women should, she started a blog.  It’s probably one of the few that I read consistently.  Her name is Kelly Needham and recently, she decided to do a 10 day Prayer and Repentance deal while her husband was out-of-town/country. You can find the start to her 10 day adventure here.

But I decided to do my own 10 day time, starting yesterday.  I’ve been feeling a little in a rut and recent events have left me wondering if God is trying to tell me something and I’m not listening to Him. 

I felt yesterday, that it would be good to start with what Kelly began within her reflections.  Her first point was, “It’s not about me.”  And I really like the Scripture she started each day with, so I’m definitely keeping that.  Here it is:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts,
See if there is any offensive way in me;
and lead me in the way everlasting.
 – Psalm 139:23-24

I was saying over and over in my mind, “It’s not about me, it’s not about me,” but nothing was coming.  And then I realized that I had forgotten how to pray.  I’m not saying totally, as in, I never talk to God…but I definitely have opted for the whole “pray continually” throughout the day without much concern for God speaking back to me.  To spend an hour, in determined prayer…it’s hard if you’re out of practice.  I went away thinking that it had all been a waste of time.  I didn’t feel like my prayer had been anything substantial.  Or had it?  I was determined to reflect on one thing and that one thing only while God was seeking to open my eyes to something else: my double-mindedness.

I’m caught between the two sides – truly investing my heart and mind in God and all that He is and pretending to do so, which is to say, to not invest my heart and mind in God.  I have been well-trained in looking the part.  But not only that, it is easier to camp in the place of “Do well” and not mean it, than to face the reality of my double-heart.  It’s easy to go in with purpose and meaning, and then live out your time steadily more for yourself and out of habit. 

And so, for today, the sermon on Contentment and the joy thereby was great and touched me, but I think God wants me to reflect on my bitterness.

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”
 – Proverbs 14:10

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
 – Ephesians 4:31

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
 – Hebrews 12:15

I’m very good at hiding my own bitterness.  In truth, I hardly recognize it myself.

[Insert list of things bitter about]

“…and many become defiled.”   It’s like when something begins to burn in the kitchen and you slowly realize the smell is there.  Then it takes a long time to get rid of the smoke and smell.  That’s how this bitterness feels in me.  What is contained in that list is not what matters.  That’s between me and God.  He has known it for some time and some of it I only just realized today. 

But I am bitter about these things because I am thinking that I know best what I need.  And as God shows me that and how, I flip back and forth between joy and sadness.  I can try to force myself to joy, but I don’t think that’s what God wants.  He could do that, if He wanted to.  But He desires me to want it, and not just to show it or know that I need to want it.

“Jesus, You are my greatest treasure,
Nothing this world can offer
Could ever compare to You.

~Nani yori mo
Nani yori mo
Nani yori mo
Anata-o~”
(Jap – Above all else, give me Yourself)
Above All Else by Vicki Beeching