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    The Hands of God

    Thursday, November 29, 2018


    My dog, Jackman, loves playing tug-of-war. 

    This involves me sitting on the ground where he brings me his "green monster" toy. He then pulls the toy back-and-forth and back-and-forth, trying so hard to get it out of my hands. The funny thing is, once he finally gets the green monster, he quickly puts it back in my hands like "let's do it again!"

    Last night we were playing this game and a spiritual analogy hit me: 

    This is what I do to God

    I bring Him an area of my life - my singleness, my work, my relationships, my desires, my struggles - and place it in His hands only to want to pull and yank it back. 

    I want Him to have control over this area and I want to trust Him, but I really don't want to let go. 

    Back-and-forth. 

    Back-and-forth. 

    However, if God were to really "let go of it,” I would quickly place it back into His hands with the realization that I don't really want it. 

    God isn't interested in playing tug-of-war with you. He wants everything of yours to be placed in His hands in complete trust. 

    In Proverbs 21:1, Solomon writes that “a king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses.” If a king - a ruler of a nation - should place his heart in the Lord’s hand, how much more should we? The Lord takes our hearts and directs it to flow where He knows best. He has rich goodness in store for us.

    I am also reminded of a passage in the Old Testament where Isaiah is speaking to the Israelites and prophesying about their restoration.  “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:3 ESV) 

    When Israel is completely surrendered to God, they are pictured like a beautiful crown or jewel in God's hand. God takes that "green monster" and turns it into beauty and grace.

    Whatever your "green monster" is that is so hard to give up, humbly lift it up to the Lord today - and every day - and surrender complete control to Him.

    “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time.” (1 Peter 5:6)

    #Blessed

    Wednesday, November 21, 2018



    Thanksgiving. 

    It is natural to start cultivating thoughts of gratitude and blessing this week. It’s easy to draw the hand turkey (I’m a teacher, ok? and we definitely did this yesterday in class) and write: I am thankful for family, friends, church, and God.

    But this Thanksgiving season could you add another area of gratitude? 

    I am thankful for my singleness.

    Are you grateful for your singleness? Are you counting your blessings of this gift?

    We are often quick to see the blessings of those around us but miss out on the blessings of our own. 

    We see #blessed all over social media:

    "I just bought a new house. #blessed."

    "I just got engaged! #blessed."

    "I am on vacation in Italy with my girlfriends. #blessed."

    While all these things are fun and good, let us remember that being #blessed also comes in the form of difficult times, unwanted seasons and disappointments of life.

    Consider these verses:

    “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)

    “But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed." (1 Peter 3:14a ESV)

    “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11 ESV)

    We don’t typically see:

    "I just lost my job, but the Lord is using this trial in my life to really depend on Him. #blessed"

    "I'm really struggling with lies of loneliness and doubt right now, but the Lord is using those struggles to get me to press into Him more #blessed."

    “I am remaining steadfast in my joy of singleness. #blessed”

    I love the quote from author LeighAnn McCoy: "Blessed is not where you find yourself but where you put yourself."

    You can't control where you find yourself in life. But you can control where you put yourself. 

    Are you putting yourself in God’s Word? Are you putting yourself in a community of people who love Jesus and will speak Truth to you? Are you putting yourself in opportunities of serving others? Are you putting yourself in gratitude?

    Decide today that despite where you find yourself this Thanksgiving, you will purpose to put yourself in a place of being #blessed.

    "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

    Happy Thanksgiving, Singled Out Sisters! I am #blessed by you and your journey.

    JENGA Truths

    Thursday, November 15, 2018



    "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

    It hit me hard. 

    I've been asked this question a million times; yet for some reason, it got me this time. 

    I was at a women's retreat with my church and we were playing a get-to-know-you JENGA game with our condo. There were questions written on some of the JENGA pieces that we had to answer when we pulled them out. Most were lighthearted questions like "What was the best Christmas present you've ever received?" "Where is your dream vacation spot?" But this question, meant to spark fun conversation, tugged at a spot of insecurity and truthfulness deep within my heart. 

    I think it's because it's been awhile since I've been asked this question, and I've since learned - my life in 5 years will never look like what I imagine it to be. 


    So I was vulnerable: "I'd love to be married and have a family. I'd also love to be an Assistant Principal in a school with a large ESL population." 

    But as I answered, I felt the Lord saying: "Oh Lauren, I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) I knew that the Lord was reassuring me that He has something greater in store for me than I could ever dream. Will it include these two dreams? Maybe. Maybe not. I just know that five years ago, I could never have imagined being where I'm at. But, oh! how the Lord has crafted me a beautiful story of faithfulness and love!

    The interesting thing about this verse in Jeremiah is that it comes right after the Lord says that the Israelites are going to continue living as exiles in Babylon for 70 years. Not only that, but they were commanded to help this city they despised so much flourish. So we look at that like "What? Plans for good? Not for disaster? Helping the enemy? Doesn't really sound that good to me." 

    But the Lord's ways are not ours. 

    The next few verses: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14). 

    An intimate relationship with God. Listening. Seeking. Healing. Restoration. 

    Girl. It's ok when life doesn't look like what you envisioned. It's GOOD to say what you envision life looking like down the road because we need to admit to God and others what our dreams, goals and hopes are. It's also GOOD to share struggles and sins that so easily entangle us. It's healthy to wrestle with disappointments. But look at God and what He has done within you and what He is doing. Remember what great ultimate plans He has for you: an intimate relationship with Him, sanctification, abounding faith, steadfastness. 

    As I think back to that Jenga piece, I thank God for speaking to me in that vulnerable moment. Then I smile and remember that my life is just like a Jenga piece, fitting perfectly into God’s redemptive story and being pulled out to be used for Him. 

    And now I'm curious: Where do YOU see YOURSELF in 5 years? Where are you NOW that you never envisioned being five years ago? 

    Thank Him for the work He has done.

    To read more about Jeremiah 29:11 in context, read this article.

    Singled Out for Him Sister: Kate

    Tuesday, November 13, 2018




    Prepare yourself to receive Truth and encouragement from my sweet singled out sister currently serving Jesus overseas.

    Have you ever felt like all the information/encouragement available about thriving as a single is written by people who are no longer single?
    I have.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved to hear others’ stories and experiences. Wisdom is a treasure. It’s just that when it comes to this particular topic, it sometimes feels like salt being rubbed in a wound that I didn’t know was there.
    For a while the general platitudes were comforting:

    “Man, I just don’t understand why you aren’t snatched up yet.”
    “Make sure you use this season to really lean into your relationship with Jesus. It will prepare you for marriage.”  
    But after a while, hearing those over and over, well-intentioned as they were, planted doubt in my heart. If I was leaning into Jesus at just the right level of leaning would he bring me a husband? If I am so awesome why wasn’t he interested in me?
    Last year I stumbled upon this blog and it rocked my world in a season of prepping to move overseas. I said "Yes" to a call God had long been beckoning to me, knowing that it wouldn’t make my singleness any easier. In fact, it made it look more difficult to me.
    Last summer during a worship time with others while we were preparing to go to different corners of the globe, we read Romans 12:1-2 and individually asked God what he wanted us to lay down on the altar.
    I wanted to throw up.


    I had been reading through Leviticus about the different types of sacrifices—yearly, continual, etc—and God was hammering in His point: He was asking me to lay down my desire for family and marriage.

    Can I be honest with you? I remember that moment vividly. I remember my heart beating so hard there’s no way my friends couldn’t hear it. How was I supposed to share that with a room full of people? Most of them married with kids!
    Marriage, just a shadow reflection of Christ and His bride in comparison, had taken the throne on my heart. Removing the crown and dragging that idol to the altar was one of the hardest things I’ve done . . . and still have to do.
    Until that moment, each time I tried to lay it down I was hardening a little toward God.
    “I’ll give this to you God, but if you don’t give back to me for being obedient I don’t know if I can trust you with my heart here. You can have the rest, but this is mine.”
    But this time was different.
    I didn’t know how many lies I had believed about me or God just because of something I hadn’t ever been promised. I didn’t know how much He had wanted me to lay it down so He could show me something far better.
    Himself.
    Sound cheesy? Well, I hope you aren’t dairy sensitive because all the cheese is up in here.
    Here’s the thing: as soon as my focus shifted off what I didn’t have, I was able to start seeing the wild things He was doing in and around me. For years I had unknowingly bought into the lie that if you aren’t married you don’t count for as much. Doomed to be the babysitter forever. The third wheel. Natural leader? Forget that, because if you aren’t married there isn’t a place for you to lead in the church.
    The thing is, Jesus never said or modeled any of that. He modeled family and fellowship. In the body of Christ we are FAMILY. Neither singles nor marrieds are more elevated, more worthy, more equipped; rather each has his/her own gifts and limitations that display our sweet Jesus uniquely from person to person. And we NEED the gifts each of us has to offer.

    Living in a patriarchal society has challenges that I could not face as a single alone. I need my married friends. I need to be Auntie to their kids. They need me. Some days I can’t get enough kiddo giggles and baby snuggles, and other days I’m just indescribably grateful that I don’t have to share my food with someone who just picked his nose. Balance. Some days God opens doors for incredible spiritual conversation with my neighbors because of my singleness and others I want to scream because this culture doesn’t have a box for why I’m not married before my younger sister. Balance.
    We were made image bearers of the Almighty God, put here on Earth to know Him and be known by Him, sent out to share this Good News with people who haven’t heard it so they can know Him and be known by Him too. Married, single, or somewhere else entirely, the goal is Jesus.
    We could meet the man of our dreams tomorrow and almost forget the longing.
    We could never desire marriage.
    We could trudge up the hill of sacrifice dragging our desires kicking and screaming to the altar every day for the rest of our lives.
    My prayer though, for me and you, for married couples, for the body of Christ, is that we would not be so concerned with this label/season/etc. that we lose sight of the goal; that we give ourselves the grace we’ve received on the days when we just feel tired of waiting; that the joy of the Lord would really be our strength and not a "christianese" dismissal of our sorrow; and that as a body we’d really love each other and bear each other’s burdens. We need each other.   
    You, no matter where you find yourself on this life spectrum, are an integral part of God’s plan to bring His sheep home.


    Kate


    Kate is currently learning (quite literally) how to live Jeremiah 29:7 and how to avoid being hit by a bus. In her free time away from language classes, she spends time sharing sorrow and Hope with other exiles. If you'd like to hear more about what she's doing and how to be a part of it, click the envelope in the menu bar so I can connect you.


    The Lies of Why You Are Single

    Thursday, November 8, 2018


    “When you are fully satisfied with God, He will bring along the right person.” I have had this line said to me countless times to comfort me during times of struggles with singleness. Not only is this a lie packaged with unfounded hopes, but it is also a lie wrapped with wrong motives. It is dangerous to view sanctification as a means of getting a man, not a means of becoming more like Christ.

    When you live in a world that rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior (this is a GOOD thing), it is easy to think that God operates in the same way. If we faithfully serve and obey Him, then we will have a happy, healthy life and get what we ask for. If we disobey Him or mess up, then we will be punished and He will withhold from us. Our trials, difficult circumstances, and unfulfilled desires cannot be viewed through these earthly lens.

    I am reminded of Job’s friends.

    They ascribed Job’s trials to sin and tried to comfort him by feeding him lies of explanation. “A wicked man writhes in pain all his days” (Job 15:20a). Really? How many of you know a wicked person who has lived a happy, wealthy life (according to the world’s standards)? “Consider: who has perished when he was innocent? Where have the honest been destroyed?” (Job 4:7). I have known several people who have obeyed and served the Lord and have endured the most difficult of trials.

    One of Job’s friends recommends that his trials will go away “if you redirect your heart and lift up your hands to Him in prayer - if there is iniquity in your hand, remove it” (Job 11:13-14a). So . . . we should pray harder? Paul, a righteous servant of the Lord, prayed for his request three times and the Lord didn’t give Him what he asked for (2 Corinthians 12:8). If our prayer isn’t according to God’s will, neither earnestness nor the number of times we ask will guarantee an answer.

    “Maybe God isn’t done with you yet?” The truth is . . . God isn’t done with any of us yet. Paul comforted the Philippians that he was “sure of this, that He who started a good work in [them], will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Married. Single. Divorced. Widowed. 20 years old. 90 years old. If you are in Christ and still breathing, He is still working. There is never a moment of “arriving” or “completion” in our sanctification until Jesus comes back.

    In reality, just like Job and his friends, we do not know why the Lord has allowed some things in our lives and have withheld others. Instead, we have to trust that He has a good purpose and a plan. Think of how Job would have responded had he known the conversation between God and Satan (Job 1).

    So when someone tries to offer one of these lies to comfort you during times of intense longing and trial, remember the Truth. Believe this: When I am satisfied with God, I gain the blessings of an intimate relationship with the Savior of my soul. No man - except the God Man - can satisfy me in this way.

    Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin



    We become what we behold. “It is the nature of this life that we must fight daily to make room in our line of sight for that-which-transcends . . . If we spend our time gazing only on lesser things, we will become like them, measuring our years in terms of human glory” (pg. 151).


    As children of God, we are called to be students of the Bible so that we “may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Wilkins takes studying the Bible to a deeper level. She reveals the extreme importance of becoming bible-literate in order to behold our God more through His Word. She lovingly points out common incorrect approaches to studying the Bible (guilty of several of them right here!) that are not best practice and can hinder true understanding, comprehension, interpretation, and application of the text.


    Her premise of studying the Word is through the 5 P’s: Purpose, Perspective, Patience, Process, and Prayer. At the end, she pulls it all together by walking the reader through a passage in James using the 5 P’s. It helped me to see the process in action.


    A word of caution: it is intimidating. Wilkins is very thorough and detailed. My perfection struggles kicked in and I wanted to be able to do my Bible study like this right away, every day. The truth is, I can’t do all steps of the process every day as some days do not allow it and it will take time and practice to build this discipline of study. After all, “the process of gaining understanding is not easy and can often be frustrating” (pg. 76). Wilkins sympathizes with the reader on the difficulty of the process but encourages us to allow grace and time because the reward is so rich.


    As a single woman, this is the opportune season to start developing habits and practices of studying the Word. As Wilkin says, “Women cannot always rely on life giving them ample opportunity to study the Bible” (pg. 82). As single women who have the purpose of being concerned about the things of the Lord and how to be holy both in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 7:34), there is no better time than during the season of singleness to start digging deeply in the Word.


    “But be warned: The Word is living and active. It will conform you by dividing you. And in the dividing, miracle of miracles, it will render you whole” (pg. 152). Be ready for a divided wholeness through studying the Word of God!

    Singled Out Sister: Elizabeth



    Grab a cup of coffee and sit down to have a heart-to-heart with my friend Elizabeth.

    I wish someone had told me when I was younger that marriage and a husband aren’t the promise: God and His presence is.
    I am 28 years old and, like many of you, still single. My younger sister has gotten married, all my college friends are married and have 2 or 3 children, and I’m still here. Still single. Still husband-less. Still child-less. Can anyone else relate?
    This was not how I pictured my life. I’ve always had dreams of meeting someone in college, getting married once we graduated, and starting a family. I’ve dreamed of owning a home together. I’ve dreamed of raising a family. I never dreamed that the boys I met in college would crush my heart and leave me. I never dreamed that I’d be almost 30 and still single. I never dreamed I’d still be living at home, still in this waiting period.
    In an honest and frank conversation with God one night, I told Him that I was mad at Him because He promises in Psalm 37:4 that if I take delight in Him, then He will give me the desires of my heart. I was telling God, “Lord, I serve you. I honor you with my life and my singleness. I tithe. I do everything I "should." I take delight in You and Your ways. Where are the desires of my heart? Why haven’t you given me what I wanted?” Oh, I’m sure He had a good laugh at me.
    But in His grace and mercy, He responded to me with love. He said to me, “Elizabeth, I have given you the desires of your heart. You desire community; I have given you a group of God honoring single women to do life with. You desire a partner; I have given you best friends. You desire influence; I have given you a group of high school freshmen girls to love on and serve in your small group. You desire family; I have given you families that consider you one of their own. I have given you the desires of your heart. They just don’t look how you thought they would.
    Whoa.
    Through this conversation with God, I realized all the gifts He’s given me in my singleness. He has given me extra time to be able to love on His children through the student ministry at church. He has given me other women who are also single and are using their singleness for Him. He’s given me community through church and small groups. He’s given me less responsibility so that I can love others well. If I were married, my ministry would be my husband and my children. Because I’m single, my ministry is other people, specifically high school freshmen girls and other single women. He’s also given me the gift of time to be able to grow, mature, and deepen in my relationship with Him. He’s taught me what a relationship centered around Christ should look like. He’s taught me that I can never get from people what I can only get from God. A person (or husband) will never satisfy the desires in my heart because only God can fulfill those. Maybe God has bigger dreams and plans for me than getting married. It’s not for me to figure out. My job is to pursue Christ, make His name known, love others well, and trust His plans for me.
    My encouragement for you, my fellow single sister, is to find that area of holy discontent in your life. What keeps you up at night? What can you not stop thinking about? What keeps coming up in your life? What is missing from this world that you believe you can provide? What has been redeemed in your past that you can help others with now? Pursuing a relationship with Christ and pursuing that area of holy discontent in your life is what is God’s best for you right now. When you pursue God’s best for you and serve Him in that area of holy discontent, you will no longer feel like you’re waiting. You will feel a peace and purpose for this season of singleness in your life. For me, my area of holy discontent is teenage girls. I love building relationships with them, loving on them, encouraging them, pouring truth into their lives, and spending time with them. They encourage me and teach me just as much as I encourage and teach them. I never tire of listening to them, loving on them, or mentoring them. This is what is God’s best for my life right now and the biggest gift of my singleness.
    God is always good and always for us. If we are still single, it is because He has a purpose for it and that is what’s best for us. He will never let us down. Trust in those promises today, sister.
    With love,
    Elizabeth


    Elizabeth truly uses her singleness for God’s glory. What I love about her is 1) how fiercely she loves and serves her high school girls and 2) how she encourages those around her with words of Truth. She is living a life singled out for Him.

    Singled Out Sister: What is your area of holy discontent?

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