Public Service Announcement: Singleness is not a Disease

Lately, I have been getting baraged by people wanting to talk about my relationship status. It started with my well-meaning Father. “Theresa, tell me what is going on in your life? Are you seeing anyone?” My response, “Nope.” His reply, “Well, are you even making an effort?” Then there was my client at work, a man in his mid to late fifties. “What is the deal? When are you going to find a husband?” How I would have liked to respond, “Sir. How is that any of your business?” Then there was one of the youth in our youth group. “Theresa, are you dating anyone?” “Nope.” “Is that because you don’t want to?” “Nope.” “Have you ever thought of signing up for Christian Mingle? Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I can go on with the stories, but I won’t.

I would just like to put it out there that singleness is not a disease. The way some people talk about being single in your twenties and the concerned looks I get from people make me want to say, “Look. I’m single. I’m not missing a limb or any vital organs.” I find this especially frustrating as a woman, because the advice I get so often from people is that I need to do something about my relationship status. I need to make an effort. I need to find my husband. I need to sign up for online dating or go to “desperate measures.” The truth is the only thing I feel compelled to do is to wait on the Lord and to put Jesus first in my life. I believe that as I pursue Jesus with my whole heart that He will lead the right man to step up to the plate in his perfect timing. Crazy concept, I know. The last thing I want to do is to do anything out of a sense of “desperation. ” When you know Jesus, feeling desperate doesn’t have to be a thing. He’s got this. You can relax.

Lately, Jesus has been speaking to me alot about who I am in Him. As a little girl, I wanted to be a princess. As an adult, I have to say, I still desire to be treated like a princess. Ladies, who doesn’t? Jesus has shown me that in His eyes a princess is what I am. I am a daughter of the one true King. In his blog, Brett Shoemaker writes a letter to his future wife. Below is an excerpt from this letter:

You’re a princess worth fighting for.  I said “princess.”  You know, the princess you always wanted to be as a little girl?  Yep, that’s you!  But here is the deal, if you are a princess, you have to act like a princess.  The story goes something like, “The princess waits high up in her castle waiting to be rescued by her Prince Charming (thats me).  This ‘prince’ has to cross the treacherous lands, fight all the battles, storm the castle, slay the dragon and THEN he gets the princess.”

It’s a pretty cool story, really.  Prince Charming doesn’t just walk up to the castle doors, spit a little game, and off they go to happy ever after.  You’re a PRINCESS.  You’re worthy of a fight.  If you give yourself to someone who isn’t willing to fight for you, he isn’t worthy to be with you.  Your prince charming isn’t going to fight to take your purity, he is going to fight to protect it.

I read this years ago and have saved it to this day, because it serves as a reminder of what I am after and what God desires for me. This is not to say that a future relationship will ever be a perfect fairy tale, but the concept of waiting for the man God has for me to pursue me and to be willing to fight for me is defintiely something I am holding on to.

Nowadays, I feel like so often women are expected to lay down their tiaras, to leave the castle and to become the huntress. We are fed messages that encourage us to do whatever it takes to snag a man and to do whatever is in our power to keep him. If we are single, it must be because we are not doing enough, putting ourselves out there or sending the right signals. I am so not about that life. In reality, I believe that God orchestrates the seasons of our lives. Seasons of singleness serve a purpose. A really good purpose at that! God uses singleness to help us to discover our identity in Him, to help us discover our personal giftings, passions and calling and to help us to mature into the men and women of God that He has called us to be. In our singleness, God teaches us valuable lessons that will carry over into the next season of our lives, through our relationship with Him. And let’s face it, we have freedom in our single lives that we simply will not have in our married lives. Freedom to chase our dreams. Freedom to travel. Freedom to spend our time doing what we enjoy. And most importantly, we have the freedom to make Jesus our singular focus. We can pursue Him without the pressures that come from caring for a spouse and children…and that is pretty special! As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 7:32-34, “An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided.”

I love what my best friend says when asked about her relationship status. She usually responds, “I’m just over here living my life like it’s golden.” To my fellow single ladies (and to you single guys as well), let’s do the same. Let’s live our lives like their golden. Singleness isn’t a disease. It’s an opportunity.

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Don’t Go Back to Prison

Recently, I have been reading through the book of Numbers. In the book of Numbers, the people of Israel, recently freed from slavery in Egypt, head towards the Promised Land. Numbers records the journey of the people of Israel, as well as all of their grumbling and complaining in the wilderness.

In one particular instance, in Numbers chapter 11, we see that the people of Israel begin complaining about the food they have to eat in the desert. God had miraculously provided manna for the Israelites to eat. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down. It could be made into loaves or cooked in a pot. But what the Israelites wanted was meat to eat. They began to grumble and complain about it. The Israelites begin thinking about the food they were able to eat in Egypt. They say, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetites; we never see anything but this manna!” (Num. 11:4-6).

As I was reflecting on this passage, I realized that there have been several seasons in my own life where I have responded to situations similarly to the Israelites. In one way or another, we are all headed to the “Promised Land” of experiencing and fulfilling God’s destiny and plan for our lives. As we move along on our journey with the Lord, He often moves us out of one season and into another, out of one position and into another, maybe even out of one location and into another. It has been my experience that desert and wilderness seasons often accompany the important transitions in my life.

The wilderness seasons are hard. Like the Israelites, we have to leave our respective “Egypts” without knowing when we will arrive at the Promised Land. What’s more, we don’t know what the Promised Land with look like when we get there. The Promised Land is filled with uncertainties and unknowns. The whole process requires us to have a great deal of faith. Instead of looking at our circumstances, we need to set our eyes on the Lord and put our confidence in His character, who He is and His love for us. But we struggle with that.

The wilderness will make us squirm and it will certainly make us uncomfortable. Sometimes we may even feel lost in the wilderness, unsure of where we are going and what the next step is. One thing I have discovered is that God will use the desert seasons of life to strip us of all of our comforts of the last season. This is what the Israelites are experiencing in this passage. Although they were treated horribly as slaves in Egypt, now that they are in the wilderness, all they can seem to remember are the small comforts they had before…mainly the food! Their selective memories seem to have forgotten the harsh treatment they endured and the weight of the bondage and the oppression that they were under. In fact, their memories fail them so badly that they are able to say that they would be better off back in Egypt!

I think we do the same thing in our own lives. Faced with the challenges of the wilderness, at times we look back to the past and remember certain comforts we have lost along the way. There may be certain crutches we have had to let go of. There may be certain people, places or situations we have had to give up to continue along our journey. Like the Israelites, we might even forget that the season we left was a prison cell! We might forget the bondage we experienced in that place and all of the oppression we were under. We might forget how faithful the Lord was to deliver us from the place that we were in. And if we are not careful, we might even be tempted to head back to Egypt, to slavery, to bondage, just to experience the small, momentary and fleeting pleasures of the previous season.

Today if you find yourself in the wilderness don’t be discouraged. This simply means that you are transitioning from the old to the new. You are on the path to the Promised Land. Lately, I have been encouraged by this verse:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isa. 43:19)

The thing about new things is that they are, well, new. The new thing that God is doing in your life is going to be new. It is not going to look like the past. It won’t be the way you have always done things. It won’t be the way you thought it was going to be. It won’t look familiar. But you don’t want it to. And the new thing will be a good thing. You will be stretched and you will be tested in the wilderness, but it will prepare you for all that is to come. You will grow, you will mature and you will be changed in the process. Don’t lose heart. Remember, just as the Lord led the Israelites through the wilderness with the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, He is leading you step by step. When things get hard and you long for the familiar comforts of your past, don’t go back to prison. Take His hand, take one more step and hold on to Him. He is holding on to you.

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R. E. L. A. X.

This year has been a challenging one. 2015 was all about change and transition, but 2016 has been all about the changes that God is doing on the inside of me. It has been a difficult and challenging, yet rewarding process. This is one of those seasons that I know I’ll look back on two years from now and say, “Man…I would not be who I am today, if I hadn’t gone through that.” I am thankful for this season, because I know God is using it to make me stronger and make me more like Him.

This year there were a couple of curveballs thrown at me that I didn’t expect. Navigating those circumstances has tested my faith and confidence in the Lord…Big time. God is using those situations in my life to invite me trust Him and to take steps of faith, even when I can’t see or know the outcomes. The frustrating thing is that sometimes no matter how hard you try to follow God’s lead in a situation, you still find yourself standing in the middle of what seems to be a big mess. I ask myself, “How did I manage to mess everything up…again?!?” Then my brain goes into fix-it mode. If I perceive that something is broken, I want to pounce on the situation and attack it with my “resolutions.” Sadly, I usually end up making things worse.

Time and time again I am reminded that what looks like a mess in our lives could be exactly where God wants us. I am sure Joseph could have identified with my feelings. “I try to do everything right, but somehow I ended up in slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned…I must be missing it somewhere.” But for those of you who know the story of Joseph, God was working behind the scenes in all of his “messes.” It is the same for us. God can use whatever situation we are in to teach us and to cause us to grow. Sometimes he even brings us to messy situations to allow His plans and His purposes to unfold in our lives. Even when it feels like you are standing in the midst of a disaster, God is always at work in your life. We need to trust that.

The other day I was driving home from work and thinking about some messy situations in my life. I was reflecting on choices that were made, decisions I arrived at and the current state of being. Do you ever worry that your going to mess up God’s plans and miss out on something He has for you? Yup. I do that too. I found myself racking my brain trying to figure out what words I could say and what I could do to bring about faster resolutions. How could I fix the mess? Is there a short-cut I could take that would be a faster route to the happy ending in all of this? My thoughts went on and on. Eventually, I paused long enough to ask God a pivotal question: “Lord, what are you saying to me in all of this?” All I heard was one simple word, “Relax.” Excuse me? “CHILL OUT.”

I was a little taken aback. I was expecting God to say something different, not sure what I expected, but that wasn’t it. But I started to think about that. A few months ago, I taped up several scriptures all over my desk at work, so that I could constantly redirect my thoughts to God’s words and His promises. One of the verses that I look at everyday is this one from the Gospel of Matthew: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt. 6:34). This verse hits home every time. If you are anything like me, you might worry about the future from time to time. You may wonder how everything will turn out. You may feel like you are standing in the middle of a mess and wondering how you will find your way out. God wants us to lay all of our burdens on Him. He wants us to stop trying to fix things, according to our own understanding and to trust Him to work in our lives in ways we couldn’t possibly foresee.

So, I asked God, “What does it mean for me to relax in this season?” “How do I even do that?” This is what I heard:

Rest in Jesus.
Enjoy the moment.
Let it go.
Appreciate your blessings.
Xpect greater things up ahead.

So, this is where I’m at these days. Walking this out moment by moment. I’ll wrap this all up with this. Yesterday, I was sitting on my couch, deep in thought once again, about situations far beyond my control. Unfortunately, at times, I need a ton of reminders from God about what he has told me and spoken. (Even if it was the day before.) I had a bottled drink in my hand and for whatever reason, I found myself staring at the label. I read these words:

Refrigerate after opening. As in life, chill for best results.

Isn’t it funny how God speaks sometimes?

On Relationships, Words and First Love

Recently, I read this in Jesus Calling, a devotional written by Sarah Young. “You cannot serve two masters. If I am truly Your Master, you will desire to please me above all others. If pleasing people is your goal, you will be enslaved to them. People can be harsh task masters when you give them this power over you. If I am the Master of your life, I will also be your first love.” It is human nature to look for love and acceptance from other people. We desire a feeling of connectedness with those that we are close to. We desire to love and to be loved in return.

The problem is that sometimes we exalt relationships with other people over our relationship with Christ. When this happens, we put ourselves in a compromising position. If we allow other people to become number one in our lives, we give them power over us. We become enslaved to their thoughts and opinions of us. We become reliant on their words spoken to us. This puts our feet on ground that is unsteady. It feels wonderful to be affirmed by someone you love. It feels great to receive encouragement and kind words from a loved one. It is awesome to feel valued by those we value. But what happens when what is spoken by our loved ones is not affirming? What happens when their words do not come across as encouraging and kind, but rather harsh and even mean? What happens when the words that are spoken do not make you feel valued or cared for? What then?

Even the people closest to us, will hurt us and let us down at times. As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that it is scientific fact that we hurt the ones we love the most, those that are closest to us. When this happens, it is confusing and feels out of the blue, but it can happen for a myriad of reasons. I find that most of the time people lash out because the pain they feel is so great that it spills out affecting those close by. When this happens, we may feel deeply hurt and betrayed, but we cannot allow it to shake us. We need to learn that our affirmation and value does not come from other people. It comes from Christ alone. If we stand in a place of confidence in our identity in Christ, we will be able to look at the brokenness of others with eyes of compassion, even when we become a casualty of their pain. We will be able to stand firm, with a strong sense of who we are, whether the words spoken to us bring life or cause a sting.

In the devotional quoted above, the writer points out that Jesus wants to be our first love. When we think of first loves, we might think of puppy love, butterflies and high school sweethearts. But when Jesus says that he wants to be our first love, I believe that he wants to be our foundation of love. He wants His love to come first in our lives, but He also wants to be the first one to show us what love is and what it looks like. He wants to be the one who forms our thoughts and opinions of love. Life circumstances and events can teach us many false lessons about love as we get older. Life will whisper many lies in our ears of what love does and acts like. For me, somewhere along the way, life taught me that love depletes you, drains you, and that it leaves you giving everything, but receiving little in return. God has shown me that was never his intention or design for me. He desires to show me that His love fills, replenishes and gives life. In 1 Corinthians 13, Jesus paints a picture for us of what His love looks like:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

I love this so much, because this not only tells us how Christ loves us, but it also tells us how we are to love others. This picture of true love painted for us by God Himself serves as a blueprint of how we are to love others in our lives. It is a baseline that can help us to identify what is acting as love in our lives and what is not and can help us to distinguish between healthy patterns of relationship versus unhealthy ones. Better yet, I love this because although we often see these versus quoted at weddings, this love is for the single person, as much as it is for the married couple. It is available to everyone and something that God wants us all to experience firsthand. When you have an encounter with this love, you walk away never the same. Your feet stand on steady ground. You become unshakeable.

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Please Kill Me

This is a difficult post to write in some ways because I know many won’t fully grasp or comprehend what I am trying to convey. It might make some uncomfortable and some may even see it as a “debbie downer” post. But here I go anyways.

Recently, I prayed asking God to kill me.

Now, before you go crazy and get too concerned, hear me out. 2016 has been a good year in many ways, but it has also been full of challenges. Even now as I write, I find myself in the middle of a really tough season. If you were to pass me on the street or sit down and drink a cup of coffee with me, you probably wouldn’t even notice, due to the fact that all the hard stuff I’m dealing with is inside stuff. Thought stuff. Feelings stuff. Emotional stuff. Heart stuff. But rest assured it is all good stuff. Painful stuff, yes. But, nonetheless, good stuff.

I have faced a couple of personal challenges recently that God has used to expose some things that I have kept buried for a long time. A couple of the things I have been through this year have unearthed things that I have left undealt with for a long time. Past hurts and wounds, resentments, lies I have believed, etc. It is like God is conveniently using my circumstances to act as an operating room. He has strapped me to the table and has begun doing surgery on my heart.

I’ll be honest, in alot of ways it feels like I’m dying. But that’s exactly what needs to happen. I need to die. I am convicted of the fact that if I don’t allow myself to die, I will never know what it feels like to be truly alive. I need to die to old ways of thinking. I need to kill off the past hurts and the power that they have had over me. I need to severe ties with the lies I have believed. I need to allow my selfishness to die. My desire to always be in the driver’s seat of my life needs to go. I need to kill my dreams, my plans and my agenda, so I can adopt God’s dreams for my life and His plans. His plans are far better than mine and involve aspects and details that I could never dream up or imagine. This is my prayer, that everything that needs to die in me would die, in order that I may be fully alive in Christ in every facet of my life. Although the process involves alot of pain, I will embrace the pain to run after my Savior without having to drag around all the dead weight of the past. I’m ready to let it all go. More than ever, I feel like I can identify with Paul, when he says:

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him. I no longer count my righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Phil. 3:8-11)

That is what I am after in this season, death to self that I may experience resurrection life. In previous seasons, I have avoided the pain of allowing God to fully kill me. I have held onto things that were comfortable. I have busied myself and preoccupied my thoughts so I wouldn’t have to fully deal with the pain. Time and time again God has invited me to go on this journey with Him. I have finally accepted the invitation. I am filled with faith and confidence that this season will produce more growth in me than any other. I am sure that what is coming is far greater than what’s been left behind. I have no strength of my own to walk this road, but my God is completely dependable. Although I may feel like Lazarus, laying in the tomb, I know that resurrection is coming. I know that God is breathing His life into what was once dead. It’s time to die so we can be made alive again.

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You Have A Voice

Close friends of mine often comment on my childlike voice, or baby voice. I have heard myself on voicemail recordings and it’s true that I can sound like I’m five, very high-pitched and often soft-spoken. Many times in conversations I get interrupted and talked over. I have been told it is because it’s rather easy to talk over me. Recently, I was at a small youth workers training and I called out to answer a question. The speaker inquired, “Where is that adorable little voice coming from?” The truth of the matter is that I don’t have a little voice. In reality, I have a BIG voice. Allow me to explain.

Last week, I was reading in the book of Jeremiah in chapter 1, where Jeremiah is called to be the Lords prophet. Maybe you are familiar with the following verses:

“Before you were formed in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. (Jer. 1:4-9)

Like Jeremiah, the Lord has set me apart and appointed me to share a message with the world. He has appointed you to share a message with the world. As followers of Christ, we have all been selected and chosen to share the message of His love and His grace with the world.

Also like Jeremiah, I know what it feels like to feel unequipped, unprepared and unqualified. Jeremiah’s concern was that he did not know how to speak and that he was too young. Ever feel like you have something important to say but you don’t know how to speak or to get your message across? The thought of public speaking used to terrify me. Getting in front of a group of people to say anything was a major event. I would get worked up about it weeks beforehand. I would feel a knot in the pit of my stomach and would beat myself up over it. As I have moved forward in my calling, I have been forced to grow in numerous ways. Public speaking is one of them. Although it still isn’t my favorite thing to do, the Lord has done alot of work in me in this area. The one thing I have learned that has helped me more than anything else is that what the Lord has put in me is important. It is God that has put the words in my mouth. The words He spoke to Jeremiah echo in my mind. I have set you apart…I appointed you…I send you…I command you…I am with you and will rescue you…I have put my words in your mouth...I have realized that all my fears about speaking up all have to do with other people. What will they think? What will they say? What if I don’t sound like everyone else? Another person would be more qualified or equipped. There is someone else that could do a better of job of conveying this message than me.

The truth is that there is a message inside of you that only you can share…with the voice that God has given to you. God has chosen you to impact those around you and within your sphere of influence with the liberating Gospel message of His redeeming love and mercy towards a broken and sinful world. The message He has given you to share must come from you, only you can share it. There are people that God is sending you to that will connect with your particular story, your background, your experiences.

In her song “Read All About it,” Emeli Sande sings about the power of one’s voice. My favorite verse says, “You’ve got a heart as loud as lions, so why let your voice be tamed?” She goes on to say, “You’ve got the light to fight the shadows, so stop hiding it away.” I may be more soft-spoken than others, but I know that my heart roars like a lion. I have chosen to step out and use my voice. I will not allow fear brought by the enemy to silence me. Christians, the light of Jesus shines in you. He has appointed you to fight the shadows of darkness. It’s time to speak out. Let your voice be heard.

 

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