Beyond Distraction

tumblr_ma7w0zlXKG1rbdwhvo1_500Our journey to California wasn’t fun. Worry settled on my friend and me before we even got to the airport. It shouldn’t have been there. We both knew that but couldn’t shake it. I worried about my kids. She worried about our training. Trying to talk ourselves out of it didn’t work. Half-heartedly proclaimed truth didn’t help.

Time dragged on and on. There were two flights that brought us, finally, to Sacramento. We’d prepaid for a car rental only to discover a glitch. That can’t be fixed until the rental company’s head office opens today. So we had to pay double the first amount to get a different car with a different rental company. Traveling on a tight budget this soured us further.

Exhausted we began a 2.5hr drive north. It was 11pm in Sacramento, 2am our time. My friend drove as long as she could, radio and air conditioning blaring. Then it was my turn. The directions the kindhearted guy at the rental company gave us were incorrect. We ended up in the middle of nowhere instead of the apartment we were staying at.

It was 2am when we finally arrived at our final destination – 5am our time. We’d

left our homes at noon the day before. 17hrs of travel without factoring in the time change. We greeted our host and collapsed in the beds she’d prepared for us.

Later that morning we got up – still tired, still discouraged, still wondering why we bothered to make this trek. We went to Sunday service at the church where we’ll be doing our prayer training this week.

My home church is amazing. There’s nowhere else I want to be. Every week I encounter God in a real way. The church out here carries the same DNA. I knew going in I’d meet with God. But I didn’t anticipate the depth of that encounter. At home, each kid is assigned a number. If there are any problems with them in children’s church, the number appears on the media screen. Being a mom, my eyes only close for a moment or two as I worship. It’s rare, but my kids’ numbers have shown up on the screen. I didn’t realize how much watching for the unlikely event of that number appearing distracts me during worship. Then, when service is done, I rush downstairs to pick up my kids. There’s no time for me to linger for prayer. My kids become distraught when they’re nearly last to be picked up from their class. There’s a lingering fear that I might just disappear from their life like some many other people have.

Yesterday, at church, there were no numbers to watch for and no children to be picked up. For the first time since becoming a mom 6yrs ago, I was able to fully focus on what God wanted to accomplish in me. There were no distractions, no assignments competing for my attention. I love my kids. I love being a mom. The Lord meets with me in the limitations of my God-given assignment. But there’s something so exhilarating in getting beyond distractions to encounter Him fully.

The Lord has presented Himself as a husband in my life. Becoming parents, our relationship has transformed. To be precise, my availability has transformed. There are legitimate demands on my time. God knows that. He doesn’t fault me for it. But now that He’s gotten me away from all of that, He was able to speak to me without distractions or interruptions.

For that conversation I had to fight through extreme fatigue, worry, frustration, and so many other emotions that came along with me on my journey or as a result of my journey. I’m so thankful that the Lord pushed past all of that in search of my heart.

When next we meet I’ll let you know what that God encounter looked like. Thanks for checking in for this leg of the journey.

Having a Husband Would Be Nice

A lot of women have husbands. I understand this. Since I don’t, I end up doing things for myself. Like building a deck two years ago. This year it was time to restain it. That’s what I worked on today. From the time Athena left for school until she returned, I was outside. For most of the morning Raine was with me. Having woken up with a fever, she could not be persuaded to rest. So I put her to work pulling weeds from the flower bed where her wild flower seeds will go.

Being 37 and somewhat out of shape, painting is hard work. My body aches. My arms are sunburned. And I think, yeah it would be nice to have a husband. Or at least extra money to pay someone to do this. Alas, I don’t have either.

Raine had to fend for herself at lunch time. She ate left over chicken and raw veggies. I even let her pour a glass of water. Don’t worry, I made up for it by preparing a well received mac & cheese with ham and broccoli for dinner. Now I’m too sore to move.

Yeah, having a husband would be nice – specifically one who does things around the house. But I haven’t time to worry about that now. I need to finish the deck floor boards tomorrow so I can try building a canopy.

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Deck 2yrs ago. After pictures coming soon.

 

With This Ring…

A long time ago when marriage loomed on the horizon, I decided on an Picture1engagement ring. Always going against the grain, I wanted pearls instead of diamonds. Never have I been overly idealistic. I didn’t expect a fairy tale. That’s why I wanted a black pearl and a white pearl because the man marrying me would need to commit to be there for the good and the bad.

At one point I thought I’d found that man. Being an artist, he even drew up some sketches of my desired ring. In the end that all came to nothing. It’s been slow, but my heart has recovered.

During that process, life morphed into something entirely different than I expected. There’s been some good and some bad. Promising to be my husband, the Lord is sticking with me through it all.

For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
Isaiah 54:5

A man may come along prepared to make that commitment. In the meantime, I asked a dear friend, Sue, to craft a ring for me.

With this ring on my right hand I’m reminded that I’m not alone. With this ring I remember I am loved and chosen. With this ring I continue living fearlessly.

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Happiness from Within

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In one week I will be 37. Being single at this age is a lot different than being single at 17 or 27. I’m comfortable with myself in ways I wasn’t at those ages. Growing up I was forever being told, “You’ll make a great wife one day.” Maybe I still will. It’s never been a passionate pursuit. Perhaps naively, I expect the Lord to open the door for marriage if that’s what He has for me. Since it’s not yet opened, I’ve created a life for myself – walking through the doors the Lord has opened.

Being alone is hard sometimes. Being an introvert and wildly independent, I’ve had to intentionally create community. Nearly 6 years ago I moved from the city I grew up in to a small town. I knew a few people since the church I attend and worked at was located in the same town. Some of those friends have since moved away. Others have entered my life but it’s taken intentionality to build those relationships. Making friends when you’re older is harder – there are kids and schedules and unshared histories. But, as a fulltime homeschooling single mom, I need community to keep my sanity. That’s the most important thing I’ve discovered at this point. My kids are wonderful yet limited.

Recently in applying for a job (part-time working from home), I was asked to provide two references. Who to choose? I messaged a friend for advice. She was slow in responding. So I talked through the dilemma aloud while eating dinner with my girls. 4yr old Athena insisted I include our friend’s dog. I’m not sure he’d be the best choice. When a puppy, I cared for him daily. Now that he’s older our arrangement is: I can stop by to walk him whenever I want while my friend’s at work. I must admit that hasn’t happened in ages because it’s been so cold and I’ve been so busy. I doubt he’d have anything positive to say at this point.

I look forward to the time when my girls are older and friendship blossoms between us. For now, I am responsible for their daily care and instruction. It’s a beautiful relationship, but more demanding than I ever imagined. Having a partner might lighten the load, but I won’t waste time lamenting. The Lord has enabled me to adopt as a single woman. I am fully capable on my own. I am whole and content. There’s room in my heart and life should that door open, but I won’t devote myself to a possibility. My kids need me to be fully present for them. I need to fully engage with them not allowing imagination and longing to sap my strength.

It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point. Growing up, I often imagined the glory of marriage. In my mid-20’s I was heartbroken by the end of a romance. I spent a great deal of time longing for that man. There are fleeting moments when I still miss him. There are times when I think, “if only I had….”. Everything could have been different. Maybe it should have been. But it isn’t.

This is my lot. I have two beautiful daughters, a lovely home, the opportunity to be a full-time mom, friends who care for me, a family who are excited about the wonderfully unusual life I have created. Being single isn’t a problem I need to fix. It’s an opportunity I’m striving to make the most of.

The Single Life

Recently I was invited to share at my church’s young adult’s group. The topic was “The Joy of Being Single”. Not much of a speaker, I wrote everything down (including my prayers) and read directly from my notes. Still the words seemed to make a positive impact. I am deeply grateful to my friend, who leads the group along with her husband. Thanks to their invitation I’ve been able to gather my thoughts on being a single Christian woman.

I’ve included my entire message. I warn you it’s long. But thought you might enjoy it – especially if you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day alone.

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Let’s open in prayer. Holy Spirit, thank you for the opportunity to share tonight. I pray You would move beyond my limitations to the heart of this matter. Father God, I ask You to bring a revelation of Your Son to the deepest parts of our heart. Jesus, we want to align ourselves as Your bride, Your beloved, Your chosen one. Remove anything keeping us from fully living there. Amen

Since I’m single, I get to talk to you about the joy of being single. I’m nearly 37. That seems so old to me. Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve been around that long. I’ve never been married. I’ve never had sex. You wouldn’t believe it now, but there was a time when I had my fair share of offers.

Growing up, I kind of expected to get married. But I didn’t make that my primary focus. Instead, I devoted myself to serving the Lord. I’ve never spent much time waiting for a man to come along – not that I wouldn’t welcome the right one if he did come along. But I believe the Lord has a plan for my life. If marriage hasn’t happened, there’s something else He has for me in this season. And I really don’t think it’s to my benefit, or the Lord’s, for me to waste time pining for something that may or may not happen. Nor am I going to waste time with frivolous dating or hooking up.

In my early 20’s, after being heart broken by the end of a very beautiful and godly romance, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 shook things up for me.

Let me read verse 8-9 in 1 Corinthians 7:

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Better to marry than to burn with passion, is something I’ve heard preached and quoted many a time. I’ve yet to hear anyone focus on the fact that Paul says “It is good to stay unmarried.” We live in a culture obsessed with romantic love. Sadly, the church isn’t much better. Too often love is really nothing more than lust. According to the apostle Paul, it’s good to be single.

Sometimes in life, especially, the Christian world, being single is looked upon as a problem to be solved. Too often, singles are waiting for their life to begin. We’ve bought into the idea that marriage is God’s ultimate goal for our lives. It may be society’s stamp of approval – but it’s not the Lord’s.

If there are issues in your heart or your personal life that make you a poor candidate for marriage, by all means deal with those things. Bring yourself to a healthy places. Deal with past pain or fear because of the example of marriage you saw growing up. Don’t hinder yourself if marriage is something the Lord’s put on your heart. Don’t choose to be single if that’s not the Lord’s intention for you. Do the necessary work to heal your heart so that you’re ready.

But if you’ve dealt with all of that and you’re still single, hear me very clearly. The Lord is not displeased with you. He is not holding out on you. He’s not keeping you from the good life. He has you in this season for a specific reason. I don’t say that lightly. You are not called to sit around waiting for love to show up on your doorstep. You are called to advance the kingdom of God. For reasons you may never understand, the Lord has determined you can best do that as a single person right now. That’s not to say, you won’t marry. If that is His intention for your life, a mate will come when He sees fit. In the meantime let’s get busy advancing.

When I was 10 the Lord put the dream of adopting on my heart. He did so by showing me the beginning verses of Isaiah 54.

“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back;
lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

As I grew up, the Lord continually confirmed His call on my life to be a mother. I hoped it would be with a husband. But I knew, I couldn’t let that stand in my way. The Lord called me with the possibility of me literally being the barren woman, her without a husband, spoken of in Isaiah.

For the past five years I’ve been a foster parent. I raised one special needs child through adolescence and into adulthood. 1 ½ ago I adopted two little girls who came to me as foster children. Sloane* is nearly 6 and Elise* is 4. They’ve been with me almost three years now.

Just before they came, the Lord, my husband, worked a miracle for me to be able to buy a house. It’s huge. When I first started looking for a home, I expected to end up in something very modest. But my house really was an enlarging of my tent as talked of in Isaiah. Shortly after I got the house, the Lord filled it.

Now with my two daughters, I’m following the Lord as He leads me into the next phase of life for us. I’ve built a life for myself and my children. I’ve not done it in the conventional way.

In case you’re wondering about the legitimacy of me adopting while single, the New Testament talks a lot about us being adopted into the family of God. But the only picture of adoption in the natural is Moses. He was spared from death and adopted by Pharoh’s daughter. Neither the Bible nor historical accounts indicate she was married. By all appearances she was a single woman. That’s who God chose to raise the man who would lead His people out of slavery. My kids may not grow up to do anything that significant, but I qualify as their mom. It’s in the Bible.

As I said, I live far from ordinary. Some of you need to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to your own life.

The Lord isn’t hindered by your singlehood. You might be – but He isn’t. Misty Edwards made a comment recently when she was speaking at the One Thing Conference. She said, “Some of you are so preoccupied with the idol of being married one day and hopefully that’s going to solve all your problems.” I’m sure any married person you know will confirm, getting married does not solve all your problems. It creates a whole new set of them. Paul mentions this in 1 Corinthians 7.  (reading from the Message version):

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

The Message (MSG)

 I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.

The NIV says,

“I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Being single may only be a season. But in this season, I implore you to make the most of the place you’re at. Go after the dreams God’s placed in your heart. Forcefully advance the Kingdom. Live the life the Lord has designed for you today. Don’t waste your time fantasizing about falling in love. Don’t waste your time waiting for a man or woman to walk into your life. Encounter Jesus – today, now, in your present state. Let Him be your husband, your wife. Let Him connect with you. Let Him reveal the glory of the season you’re in. He’s not gritting His teeth trying to get through this to the point when you’re married. Neither should you. There is a specific purpose for the season you’re in. If you need clarity on what it is, press in. Ask Holy Spirit to reveal it to you. If you need help embracing this season, choose to put aside your own mindsets. Step out of the expectations – spoken or unspoken – of the culture you live in. Let the culture of heaven be your compass.

Mike Bickle, from the International House of Prayer, mentioned about a year ago, an increase in the earth of the anointing for celibacy. I’m not going to call you forward if you want that imparted. But if you’re single, it’s an anointing you need. Asking the Lord for it won’t seal your fate – it won’t keep you locked in a single state. But choosing to wallow in the struggle to remain sexually pure, isn’t going to move the hand of God. He’s not going to send you a spouse because He sees you yielding to sin. Single or married, you need Holy Spirit’s intervention to remain pure or regain purity if it’s something you’ve lost.

Like the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:2, I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. The leadership of this ministry are jealous for you with a godly jealousy. The Lord Himself is jealous for you. 2 Corinthians 11:2 goes on to say, “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”

Recently this verse rocked me. Father God spoke it right to my heart – I promised you to one husband, to Christ.

Let that sink in for a minute. Guys as well, you are promised to one love – to Christ. Married or single, I encourage you to renew that vow. You have been promised to Christ. As such, live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

In closing, I want to pray over you.

Close your eyes. Take a moment to bring forward any of the issues I’ve touched on that hit home for you.

Maybe you’re carrying shame because you’re still single.

Maybe you’ve made marriage an idol.

Maybe you’ve let go of your purity because you got tired of waiting or couldn’t see the point.

Maybe you’ve been stuck – waiting to get married in order to fulfill the call of God on your life.

Maybe you’ve despised being single. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity you’ve thought of it as a curse.

Whatever resonated with you, or whatever the Lord’s bringing to mind – just release that to Him now.

I’m just going to pray on your behalf and mine.

Father God, I thank you that You are a God of order. With you there is a time for everything and a season for every activity. Forgive me for not fully embracing the season I’m in. I repent for trying to hurry through it or fantasize myself out of it. Every good gift comes for you, Father God. I choose to see being single as a gift. Help me to make the most of this season.

I ask you, Holy Spirit to wash me – body, soul, and spirit – from any trace of shame that’s taken root in my life because I am single. Your word says it’s a good thing. I choose to stop contradicting your Word. Cause my emotions and desires to come into alignment with the season You have me in. I ask for Your anointing so that, whatever the future holds, I can present myself with purity to You, Jesus.

 I step into everything You have for me right now. Forgive me for any times I’ve held back – discrediting myself because I’m single. You do not discredit me. You have specific assignments that I’m only able to complete in this state of singleness. I chose to open my eyes and my heart to see all You have for me.

Instead of looking for a spouse, I vow to look for You – Lord Jesus. I present myself to You today. Walk with me. Reveal Your heart so that I can love you better – and in turn be ready to love my spouse if that is where this journey leads me.

Regardless of the outcome, I declare Your love is enough. You are enough for me. You delight in me as I am. In this season, in this state of being single, You see me as complete. I am completely Yours. Thank you Jesus for the invitation to be wholly and completely Yours. I accept. Amen.

*name changed

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