Saturday, March 16, 2013

God's Best Plan - Each on Our Own Path

Earlier this week I read a book review of the book "The Gospel Centered Woman" on the Gospel Coalition website. As a single "older" woman the book review really spoke to me. In the review, the author said:

"In writing for Christian women, most err in one of two ways. Some describe discipleship of women in a way that’s undifferentiated from men. Others only address the specific roles of wife, mom, homemaker, single, career woman, and so forth in a way that neglects the larger issues of discipleship that actually empower their performance of those roles from a gospel perspective.

She went on to say:

"Alsup ends with a sensitive word to the unmarried. Many of the women in Scripture were most vividly remembered for their faithfulness when they were unmarried and childless. Esther, Ruth, Naomi, Mary and Martha, Many Magdalene, the woman at the well, Rahab, Lydia, and Deborah all address the redemption offered to women of every cultural context and stage of life."

Needless to say this review peaked my interest enough to purchase the book.  After deciding this afternoon to go to the wedding (which I found out was actually a 19 and 21 year old bride and groom - EEK - I am older than their ages combined, but I digress) I decided to take myself out for dinner. Money is very tight, but I decided I needed to be OK with going to a restaurant by myself and then to a wedding by myself. As I sat in the restaurant I continued reading this book I had just started. I was so struck at how God spoke to me. There were two quotes which really spoke to me tonight:

"We were created in the image of God and are conformed back to the example of Christ. Ruth is not he ideal for women - Jesus is. Our identity is completely tied to who Jesus is and what He has done for us. He is the vine, and we are the branches. Apart from Him, we can do nothing."

"In Luke 20 Jesus is clear that in heaven we do not marry. Actually, we do marry, but Jesus is the groom. The ultimate goal in perfection for men and woman is not marriage to each other. But it is relationship. What is clear in Genesis 2:18 is that it is not good for man to be alone and isolated. Man made in the image of God needed others. Married or single, we do too. God created us for community with both Him and others.when they were unmarried and childless. Esther, Ruth, Naomi, Mary and Martha, Many Magdalene, the woman at the well, Rahab, Lydia, and Deborah all address the redemption offered to women of every cultural context and stage of life."

I was in absolute awe - God ever so gently reminded me where my identity is. I don't need to have a man on my arm to walk into a restaurant and have a meal. I don't need a man on my arm to attend a wedding or any other social event. I am complete in Christ. I am not even through chapter 1 of the book yet, but God has shown me so much already. I can't wait to read the rest of it!

During the ceremony Gabe talked about "why" we were there - and I honestly felt like I heard God speak to my heart, "See - I told you!" It was so cool how God once again reinforced what He had told me. I had the honor and privilege at the wedding to spend some time with 2 of my favorite youth - one now a college freshman. It was awesome to hear one of them share with me how she is realizing that it is not Biblical to pursue a man - that in the Bible it wasn't difficult for the women. How it blessed my heart to hear this young woman really GET IT. It took me far too many years to get to where she is right now. 

If you are a single woman reading this now - young or older - let me encourage you - YOU are WORTH pursuing. Right now I am focused on my own health - spiritual, physical, emotional - I am focused on getting to know my Heavenly Father better and to be content in all circumstances. I don't know if I will ever marry here on earth and I am honestly OK with that. Whether married or single, God can use you as a picture of His love and grace. Marriage isn't the only way God can show the world His love. We all have a different path. For the lovely bride and groom I was able to witness get married tonight - that is the path God has for them. God decided the BEST way to use them was together. For me, right now, God has decided the best way to show His love is being single. One is not better than the other - they are both the best - God's best plan. Embrace God's plan for your life today - wherever He has you, He wants to use you to show the world His love and grace.

Simply amazed by His gentle grace,


* When I started writing this, I really didn't know where I was going - it didn't go where I thought it was going, it is my prayer that my words are an encouragement and hope to someone out there tonight. 

The Reason for Green

Being St. Patrick's Day weekend, I thought - what better time to write about why I like green so much. It's no secret to anyone who knows me very well at all that my favorite color is GREEN! The thing most people don't know is why.... why green of all the colors?

Blue is pretty - the sky is blue, the Indianapolis Colts are blue, my eyes are blue and they are my favorite physical characteristic.

Yellow is the color of sunshine, the color of the Iowa Hawkeyes! Yellow is a happy color. It is the color of the happy face icon.

Grey and Orange are the colors of my kitty cats Buddy and Miss Molly. And we all know how much I LOVE my kitties!

Red is the color of love. And, really, who doesn't love love?  Red is also the color of blood, which represents Christ's blood shed for us on the cross.

But - GREEN ... ahh, green... I love all shades of green.

  • Green makes me smile.
  • Green gives me hope.
Right now the grass is yucky brown, there are patches of snow still around, turning into yucky, muddy, slushy puddles... but pretty soon Spring will be here. The grass will turn from brown to a lush green.  The trees will start blooming with bright green leaves. I took this picture a few years ago as I was driving down a rural Iowa road. I have lived in Iowa most of my life (8 years were spent in NW Missouri which, in reality, isn't very different from Iowa) but on this day the beautiful landscape struck me. The beautiful green fields and grass, the lush green trees.

I am emerging from a period of serious depression... an extremely dark time in my life. I look in the mirror right now and I don't like what I see...
  • I don't like that I feel like I've wasted many years hurting, grieving, burying pain.
  • I don't like the weight I've gained back that I worked so hard to lose.
  • I don't like the way most clothes look on me as a result of the gained weight.
  • I don't like that I feel like I've lost some of the sparkle I once had in my eye.
  • I don't like the pain I see and still feel so deeply.
But - SPRING IS COMING! Three years ago my former fiancĂ© and I were talking of getting married on March 20th... the first day of Spring, a day of new beginnings... what a perfect day to begin our life together (so I thought). Well, March 20th came and went, we talked about other days, and slowly, but surely things fell apart and the relationship came to a painful end. The past couple of Springs that was all I could think about. But this year I have been feeling pretty good about life, I have been feeling hopeful for the first time in a LONG time and it didn't dawn on me until it came up during a session with my counselor that "the date" was approaching. THIS YEAR Spring has me feeling HOPEFUL for the first time in years. I finally realized several things:
  • My life has not been wasted.
  • The pain I have experienced has purpose.
  • I am the precious daughter of the Creator of all.
  • I am worthy.
  • I am loved beyond measure.
  • I am NOT too broken for God to heal.
I was invited to a wedding tonight for two young people in our church. They are in their early 20's and there is a part of me that didn't want to go. Being in my 40's, single, never married, no kids - it is hard to go to weddings. It is hard because it fills me with questions:
  • "Why not me, Lord?" 
  • "What's wrong with me that I am not married?"
  • "How come I can't find a love like that?"
I had almost decided not to go - just spend the evening home alone with my 2 cats reading or watching a movie. But God, in His gentleness, spoke to me by His Spirit that this isn't about me. This is about a lovely young lady and a wonderful young man who love each other and love Jesus and are a beautiful picture of God's love. This is about "Rejoice with those who rejoice..." Romans 12:15a (The rest of the verse says "weep with those who weep") Many people have wept with me and I am so thankful for my wonderful church family, friends, and family who have wept along side me in my times of hurt. What right do I have to not join in rejoicing and celebrating with this loving couple as they begin their lives together? None!

So, tonight, I am going to pick myself up off my couch, get dressed in my outfit I got at Goodwill for under $15 and go celebrate the joining of two people who are beginning their lives together as husband and wife.

Filled with HOPE,


Sunday, March 10, 2013

El Roi - The God Who Sees Me

Friday afternoon I got together with a friend for Frosty's - yeah, most people get together for coffee... not us! Nothing like a good ol' classic Wendy's Frosty! :-) We chatted between brain freezes and had an awesome time of fellowship together. Her and her husband don't have any kids (other than the 4 legged kind like me) and she was saying how sometimes she feels invisible, like no one sees them. Everything is so centered around families in the church - and that isn't a bad thing...

  • But what about the rest of us?
  • What about the married with no kids?
  • What about the single parents?
  • What about the single, never married with no kids?
I know sometimes I feel invisible too. My friend and I talked about how we need to look to God for our acceptance and recognition. I mentioned how I tend to look to Facebook notifications for that acceptance and recognition as I wrote about yesterday. It was awesome to talk with a sister in Christ who relates to a lot of what I have gone through because she has gone through similar things, someone who could empathize with me, someone who I could empathize with.

We shared our hearts.

We shared our concerns.

We shared experiences.

We shared prayer concerns.

It was a blessed and sweet time together.

Fast forward to Sunday morning - before the service I talked to Gabe, our youth pastor. He had done a retreat with the High School kids over the weekend and was bringing the message this morning. I knew he had to be exhausted so I tried to encourage him and remind him he's just the tool - I had no doubt God would use him to bring God's Word to life for our congregation and that God would speak through Him. I gave him the fist bump, then a hug and went and sat down.

We continue our series on the Names of God. Today - The God Who Sees - El Roi. I immediately welled up inside, amazed at how I was just talking with my friend about feeling invisible. I listened to the message with anticipation to hear what God would speak to me.  I'm not going to give the whole outline, but will highlight what spoke to me. The passage we were in is Genesis 16:1-16

Hagar says: So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Genesis 16:13

God sees you - and that is tremendously comforting no matter where you are. No matter how alone you may feel, the Truth is GOD SEES YOU. Yes, I have felt alone... so many times. Sometimes because I have pushed others away, other times because I was alone... but the Truth is I was never alone, God always sees me. He is always pursuing me. Hagar was running, just as Adam and Eve were "hiding" from God in Genesis 3. But, God pursued Hagar in Genesis 16 just like He pursued Adam and Eve in the garden after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. God pursued me for many years before I accepted His gift of grace and forgiveness and He continues to pursue me every day. God SEES me!

When God sees me, He comforts. My greatest need is not to be psychologically healthy, not to be physically "in shape", not to have a house with a big yard, not to have financial security... my greatest need was forgiveness and God gave that to me through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. But the reality is, the Gospel isn't just for those who aren't saved... the Gospel is just as relevant and important for me today. It's not something I move past, it is something I move into.

God sees!

God cares!

Even if you don't feel like you fit in,
like you don't belong-
God sees you!

 God accepts you!

It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks that is ALL that matters! How much of my life would be different if I lived in the reality of this truth? How radically different would my life be if I would just trust God? *

* (the credit for the thoughts in those three paragraphs goes to Gabe, our youth pastor - these were just my notes on what he said that stuck out to me)

How amazing and wonderful is it that just after a conversation with my friend about feeling invisible I go to church Sunday morning and hear a message on how God sees me? Absolutely. Mind. Blowing.

God is SO GOOD!

I will close with a song that my friend JoAnn sang. It was written and sung by Twila Paris who wrote the song after a friend's wife left him for no reason. You can listen here

These are the lyrics:

For the young abandoned husband
Left alone without a reason
For the pilgrim in the city
Where there is no home
For the son without a father
For his solitary mother
I have a message…

He sees you, He knows you
He loves you, He loves you
Every heart that is breaking, tonight
Is the heart of a child that he holds in his sight.
And, oh, how He longs to hold in his arms
Every heart that is breaking, tonight
Every heart that is breaking, tonight
For every heart

For the precious fallen daughter
For her devastated father
For the prodigal who’s dying in a strange new way
For the child who’s always hungry
For the patriot with no country
I have a message…

He sees you, He knows you
He loves you, Jesus loves you
Every heart that is breaking, tonight
Is the heart of a child that he holds in his sight.
And, oh, how He longs to hold in his arms
Every heart that is breaking, tonight
Every heart that is breaking, tonight
Every heart that is breaking, tonight
For every heart 

With thankfulness for El Roi,