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    The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

    Thursday, February 28, 2019

    I love to hear stories of how people met. Who doesn’t enjoy a good love story?

    A hitchhiker was looking for a ride back to college when another man about his age pulled over and offered a ride. “I’m stopping by my girlfriend’s house though before I head that direction. She does have a younger sister so it might be worth your time.” The hitchhiker was my grandfather. He married the younger sister who became my grandmother. The man offering the ride married his girlfriend and they became my great uncle and great aunt. An unexpected, adventurous love story.

    My great grandmother Viola lived in Georgia. She was unmarried and in her early 20s. In that era, she was considered an Old Maid.  Unbeknownst to her, her two married sisters placed a singles ad with her information in a national magazine. A man named Richard from Davenport, Iowa started writing her. This was a problem as she was a granddaughter of a Confederate soldier and he the grandson of a Union officer. The realities and emotions of the war were still looming. However, letters continued to be delivered by the postman. Richard took a train to Georgia in the hopes of being welcomed by an understanding father and not the barrel of a shotgun. He and Viola were soon married. A culture-defying love story.

    My parents were set up on a blind date and fell in love at first sight. They both knew on that date that they were supposed to marry one another. My dad said to my mom (can we talk about how this was the first date?) “I’m going on my honeymoon to the Bahamas in August. Want to go with me?” This was in January. My mom, coy and with a sparkle in her eyes replied, “I’ll have to see about that.” They got engaged in April, married in August, and sure enough set off on their honeymoon to the Bahamas that same month. A whirlwind romance.

    My good friend knew she was supposed to marry her now husband. But she fought it all along because he wasn’t what she expected (looks, age, personality, family, etc.). Even on her wedding day, she wrestled. Not so much at that point because of him but because she knew her selfish sin nature and she knew what marriage would require of her. But she knew that she loved him and that his love for her was constant despite her doubts. She knew that it was what God had for her and she thanks God everyday that she chose him over her faulty and flakey emotions. A glorious struggle of love.

    Each story is different, unique, and an example of divine intervention regardless of the amount of romance, humour, or wrestling involved.

    As much as I enjoy a good love story, I have to stop myself sometimes because I can start writing myself into someone else’s story. “Maybe it will happen to me like that? If I could just . . .” And then I dream of manipulating circumstances so my story will turn out just as funny or romantic as the next.

    But God doesn’t want us to try to create a story that is not our own.

    This is me putting hope in someone else's story. And the truth is, the only story I should be putting hope in is the Story of Love that my Savior wrote for me.

    God saw me. Oh I was beautiful because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. But I didn’t see God. My heart was full of selfish ambition, pride, hatred, and enmity towards God. I was headed the opposite direction, away from Him. He asked too much of me. He wanted me to admit that I wasn’t enough and that I didn’t need Him. I’m an independent woman and can fend for myself, thank you. But as I headed down my own path, I kept hearing His woos of affection for me. I saw His acts of selfless love. I read of His death and resurrection, both done with the intention of my being with Him forever. He pursued me despite my lack of interest. And my heart started to change. I felt new life bubbling from within me. I was giddy with joy. And I said YES to the Lover of my soul. A life-long, death-will-never-do-us-part marriage. What a Story!

    There is no greater love story. There is no greater surprise or unexpected twist in plot than the one being written for us.

    Whether I find the man of my dreams and have a cute You’ve-Got-Mail type story or I meet a man in a boring-not-too-exciting way, I know that I am not living for the thrill of a love story made in this world. I am living for the joy of the otherworldly one. This Story of my First Love is one that I will be telling for years to come.

    The List

    Thursday, February 21, 2019

    The List.

    This was such a big thing when I was in middle and high school. “The List” was comprised of characteristics that we wanted and longed for in a future husband.

    I just dug my list out of my crate of journals and oh my . . . part of me was like “Wow, such insight, 7th grade Lauren” and the other part of me was like “Lauren, you definitely exhibit the mind and emotions of a 7th grader.” There were over 90 things on the list. NINE ZERO (and we find the 10 commandments hard to keep! Lord have mercy on my future spouse!).

    On the list I had everything from the insightful 7th grade Lauren [willing to admit when he’s wrong; honest; has God first in His life; growing in Christ] to the emotional and hormonal middle school Lauren [dresses nice; can cook (am I trying to make this too hard for myself?!); has good hair (I’m lucky if any have hair at this age); smells good; etc.].

    My friends and I were just talking about this list and how when we were teenagers, we were all encouraged to create “a list” of qualities and attributes that our future husband should have. We were debating the value of it. As I started to think of “the List,” my initial reaction was to do away with it all. This is probably because I think about how ridiculous most of my characteristics were.

    But then I look at my middle school self and applaud what God was doing. He was instilling in me His longings for me to have a man who resembles Christ and who will lead me.

    What I see now as a 28 year-old woman in this season of singleness is that marriage is not about the extra things that I think I need - those things that I want so I can fulfill my desires and my longings. It’s ok to have preferences and to be attracted to certain things, but I think we need to realize these are not deal breakers. I also believe our concept of what we want is so far different than what God wants for us and what He knows we need.

    Society and movies set up “The Perfect Man” who is supposed to waltz into our lives with roses and a charming smile. But as my pastor Nick Person says “Unrealistic expectations always lead to disappointment . . . Lofty expectations are premeditated resentments.” We meditate on what the movies tell us guys should do (those flowers, those chocolates, those shopping trips, those mushy words) and what guys should look like (tall, dark, handsome). Then, when God brings a godly guy - one who pursues Jesus intensely - into our lives, we either dismiss them because we’re not interested and they don’t look like what we thought they would look like or we start a relationship with them with a small bit of resentment towards them because they don’t meet our unrealistic expectations.

    I also see women who tend to start knocking important things off their non-negotiable list as they get older and their desire for marriage intensifies. Thabiti Anyabwile from the Gospel Coalition says, As women grow older, the sense that it might not happen for them grows increasingly strong. Baucham reckons that age 14, young girls are looking for ‘the total package’ and are unwilling to settle. By age 24, their list is widdled down to “a good godly man.” And by age 34 they’re happy if “the man knows where a church is.”

    I think we do need to have a list. A list of biblical non-negotiables. And with this list, understand that no one has arrived. Pastor Nick also says “Marriage is made up of two people still in process.” Understand that this man that you may be dating or considering dating is in a process. The test should be - where is that process heading towards. Is it headed towards himself? Is it headed towards ambition? Is it headed towards the world? Or is it headed towards Christ? Is it headed towards dying to himself daily? (See my Instagram/Facebook post a few days back on Stop looking for a John Piper) As Ben Reaoch from Desiring God says, “Dream and pray and seek counsel about the characteristics you should be looking for in a potential spouse, and then resolve not to settle for less.” This List must be God-focused and Spirit led.

    So pray and ask God for guidance in this. Marriage is ‘til death do us part. It is serious. But it is also a free-will decision from God so we have freedom in the choosing.

    And be open. God loves to surprise.

    At Life’s Milestones, Set Up an Ebenezer

    Thursday, February 14, 2019

    Do you ever have reality checks? Like “oh my goodness, I’m 28 and my life does not look like I thought it would” life checks? Usually this happens for me on birthdays or when I show up to the family Thanksgiving again and I feel the same as last year and the year before. Maybe it was Valentine’s Day or Christmas for you.

    We consider these to be life’s milestones. A milestone is “a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place; an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.” We all have these mental checkpoints where we want to do “this” by the time we are “this many” years old. I want to be married by the time I’m 30. I want to have my dream career by the time I’m 35. I want to have children after three years of marriage. I’d like to be engaged by the spring so I can plan a fall wedding. We set up these milestones or checkups to keep us on track to accomplish our desires and goals.

    Then life.

    Life isn’t Instagram perfect. We wake up on Valentine’s Day only to be reminded that we had hopes last year that this year would be different. Thirty rolls around and there are no men in your life that you would even be interested in. The dream career proves to be financially impossible at this stage. And he sure doesn’t seem to be popping the question anytime soon.

    What do you do at those milestones?

    Set up an Ebenezer.

    “Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, ‘The Lord has helped us to this point,’” (I Samuel 7:12). 

    God helped the Israelites defeat the Philistines and Samuel, in an act of worship, set up a commemoration of this event. Ebenezer means “a stone of help; a commemoration of divine assistance.” Samuel saw the battle; he saw the victory, and he raised a hallelujah. He set up a stone and realized, “We are here because of God. The Lord has helped us to this point.”

    Sister, The Lord has helped you to this point.

    What will you do with these milestones of life? See the battle that has been waged over your soul: The enemy whispers the lies of not good enough, lonely, never going to happen, unloved, forgotten. See the victory: God’s Word says Christ is enough for you, He will never leave you, He knows the desires of your heart and withholds no good thing from you, you are loved, God thought of you before the foundation of the world. Set up your Ebenezer: See that God has brought you to today, to this milestone. He has helped you to this point. He has worked all things for your good.

    So when you come upon a milestone, set up your Ebenezer. And raise your hallelujah.

    Hymn: Come Thou Fount
    Come Thou fount of every blessing
    Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
    Streams of mercy never ceasing
    Call for songs of loudest praise
    Teach me some melodious sonnet
    Sung by flaming tongues above
    Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
    Mount of Thy redeeming love
    Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’m come
    - Come Thou Fount  


    Thursday, February 7, 2019

    Ghosted: “when someone you’re dating ends the relationship by cutting off all communication, without any explanation . . . receiving the ultimate silent treatment after several dates, or when you’re in a committed relationship.”

    I got ghosted.

    We had just hung out together and had such a great time. He even said that he had fun! Then I heard nothing for days and days. Then I saw him in a social setting where he ignored me, and it only confirmed what I had already figured: he ghosted me.

    What in the world happened those past few days? I was hurt. And mad (Ok any guys reading this - please just tell us that you’re not interested anymore or that it’s not for you. I’d rather have answers then nothing. Girls - don’t you dare do this to our brothers-in-Christ!).

    So I texted a close friend a ghosting meme along with my frustrations.

    My friend, after we confirmed how much of a jerk he was and how he didn’t deserve me anyways (you know, all the things a good friend says), centered me back on truth. She texted: “Lauren, you are loved - by God and by those around you. Don’t let one guy’s actions towards you dictate how you view and feel about yourself. I don’t know what happened and I understand why you’re feeling the way you are. But I also know that you are learning and growing. Maybe it was just so you would submit to God’s control in your life over what you want. I saw that happen in your life.”

    It was just the Truth and encouragement I needed. So I got out my journal and I wrote several things down that I had learned from this relationship and ghosting experience.

    After writing down my praises in the pain, Truth from my pastor’s message that Sunday flooded my heart: 

    - Suffering is not a punishment. 
    - Sometimes it’s God’s will for us to suffer. 
    - “How we handle suffering reveals who has a handle on us.”

    PREACH! The Lord is purposefully allowing me to suffer and to hurt so that I will glorify Him and become more like Him in the process. At a ladies retreat with my church, the speaker, Leighann McCoy (wish we were related but we’re not) said: “You will have trouble. But you can have peace.” Trouble is guaranteed. But peace is a choice. Believing what God says is a choice. Rejoicing in suffering is a choice. We can choose to do this.

    Sister, ghosting is not ghoul (BOO! Bad puns). And if you find yourself being ghosted, pick yourself up and find yourself at the feet of Jesus - who will never leave us or forsake us. Praise Jesus for this promise!

    Has anybody else been ghosted before? What helps you deal with those feelings of anger, hurt, and being unloved? How do you center yourself back on Truth?
    Ghosted definition from:
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