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    Singled Out for Him Sister: Hannah and the Elephant in the Room

    Thursday, March 21, 2019

    Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and read about Singled Out sister, Hannah, and how God is using her gifts and her singleness to spread the Gospel.

    Several months ago, a well-meaning friend/mentor stopped me in the entryway at church to see how life was going. I had several big decisions related to my job and ministry opportunities. I dove into what God was doing in my life. Doors were opening. Which opportunity should I pursue? Then, it happened. The friend nonchalantly shifted the conversation topic to what he called “the elephant in the room.” I frankly had no idea what he was referring to. Maybe he’s wondering why I haven’t prayed more about my decisions? Turns out the elephant in the room was . . . my singleness.

    The thing is, singleness doesn’t feel like the elephant in the room to me anymore. It seems more like an actual elephant. In Africa. I’m not denying it exists. But, I don’t think about it all the time. And I honestly don’t understand why everyone loves talking about this animal on the other side of the world. It DEFINITELY doesn’t pertain to my current dilemma regarding God’s plan for my life right now. In the past, I spent many discouraging days in the shadow of that elephant. But thankfully, my perspective has shifted.

    I have always enjoyed being involved in ministry at my church. In college, I began to work with a local church plant. I loved every aspect of it: reexamining why we do things and how to be scriptural as we make decisions; watching the Lord grow a group of 10+ people to a full congregation; meeting in a storefront, then renting a church building, and finally purchasing our own land to build; the struggle of ministry and the excitement of new converts. God moved people on to new ministries, built families, and changed lives. I began to believe that God had called me to work in full-time ministry, particularly church-planting. There was only one problem. What did that look for me, as a single woman? The obvious answer seemed to be: marry a church-planter. It was after all the loudest, most popular opinion at the time. However, years came and went. Yet I remained church-planterless. Then, the Lord brought another opportunity into my life.

    Travel Nursing.

    I’m an ICU nurse. Controlled chaos is my jam! After working for a few years, I was ready for a change and saw travel nursing as my chance. Maybe I could combine this desire with my love for church-planting. I could learn about how churches were reaching their communities across the country and even serve and encourage some church-plants along the way. I began praying and seeking counsel. Then, it happened. *insert elephant noises*

    “A single woman moving across the country?!”

    “But what about so and so at church, he seems really nice. You don’t want to wait around to see if he asks you out?”

    “How are you supposed to meet a man if you’re constantly moving?!”

    ”That’s awesome! Now you can scope out the whole country for the right guy.”

    The last one was probably my favorite, but . . . you get the idea. They all saw him - the elephant in the room. At that time, so did I.

    All the fears. You’re alone. You should be married by now. Or at least dating! What’s wrong with you?

    All the comparisons. Look how much easier it is for this married couple. She doesn’t have to worry about the danger or creepiness of traveling alone. They can easily invite other couples over for dinner.  They lead the Bible studies at church.

    All the lies. They’re in ministry. You’re not.

    I began to realize that I could be one of two things: Marriage-minded or Mission-minded.  A marriage-minded person makes decisions based on her proximity to the nearest “potential” in her life. Where’s the single guy at? Put me there!  A mission-minded person wants to be where the Lord is leading her. Marriage-minded women view female friends as competition and guy friends as potential husbands. Mission-minded women seek to build everyone up around them. Marriage-minded people can’t picture themselves happy until they reach that goal; mission-minded people have a more eternal goal in mind. I wanted to be mission-minded. My calling to serve God would be ultimate.

    I am not saying that I never struggled with singleness. But each day was a choice. Am I focusing on the elephant or focusing on the Lord? Do I believe that it is His will for me to serve Him? Will this move/change allow me to do that to the best of my ability? It was a very freeing time in my life, and the best thing about it? God moved in great ways!

    While I was step-by-step pursuing God’s leading, I discovered a love for teaching as well. God allowed me to teach clinicals for two years at a nursing school (Which by the way is where at least two friends thought I’d meet my husband. They can dream, right?). Then I began training new nurses in my ICU. I was discovering gifts and passions all around me. Ministry was everywhere because people are everywhere.

    Now back to that church entryway . . . I eventually did decide which ministry to pursue. God has allowed me to serve in a new role that combines many of my passions: travel, nursing, ministry and teaching. I am now going to be working with medical and nursing students on medical mission trips full-time. Our teams use the tool of medicine to reach people with the gospel all over the world! We build up churches internationally and meet physical needs to point people to Jesus. God is so kind.

    Just to clear things up, I am in no way against marriage! Married Christians have a partner in ministry. That is an incredible thing.  But for those of us who haven’t found it yet, we can still be on mission. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for applying for that new job. Don’t allow them to fear monger ambition out of you. Don’t listen to bad counsel that encourages you to fantasize about that guy. Don’t place your hopes in men and write them into your stories before they belong there.  Don’t let the fear of the unknown, stop you from pursuing what God has called you to right now! You can’t thwart God’s plan for your life. God isn’t watching you go to Africa or make that career move, thinking “man, now she’ll never meet John Joseph Andrews. Guess it’s a life of singleness after all.”

    When I first announced my new opportunity to one friend at work, she had the biggest grin on her face.

    “That’s where he is.”

    “Who?” I asked.

    “Your husband.”

    Maybe the elephant really is still in the room. But the reality is, I’m too excited moving forward to give it much attention. God is writing my story. He has led me step-by-step to prepare me for this next adventure. He is writing yours as well. Whether it includes a love story may still be uncertain. But when we pursue the Lord’s plan, it will be a happy ending.   

    P.S. To all my well-meaning, loving, married friends out there . . .if my elephant ever leaves for good, I’ll be sure to let you know. ;)

    Hannah currently lives in Greenville, SC. She has worked as an ICU nurse for about 5 years. She loves traveling, climbing mountains, and chasing waterfalls with friends. Her most recent adventure will involve moving to Baltimore, MD where she will serve as the Director of Educational Services with Medical Missions Outreach. She will be working with nursing and medical students on short-term mission trips across the globe. If you want to follow her journey through deputation more closely, you can visit her website. 

    Guest Post: Healing From Sexual Sin

    Thursday, March 14, 2019

    Grab your freshly poured (or twice reheated) coffee and read this beautiful guest post from an anonymous Singled Out sister as she shares her heart and her healing.

    Sharing my journey of healing from sexual sin is hard. But if I’ve learned anything on this journey, it’s that there is power and healing in owning your truth and sharing your story.  
    No need to share all the details, but basically I made the decision in my early 20s to engage in premarital sex.  
    I just remember being so tired of feeling like I was missing out and of explaining why I was still a virgin. I hated feeling like men didn’t want to date me because I was inexperienced.  
    So I caved.
    But then something else happened . . . sex became something that seemed expected in every dating relationship I had. It was almost like it was just part of the dating experience, and if I wanted to date and one day be married (which I desperately did) then sex was an expected part of that journey.  Who could blame me for feeling this way? It felt like everyone else was “doing” it, and our current culture totally reinforces this idea that sex is a normal part of any dating relationship.
    I began to see that I was placing my sense of self-confidence and worth in whether or not men found me sexually attractive.  I was left feeling very depressed, shameful, and completely unworthy of love. I had given so much of myself to men that I was left feeling like an empty shell of a person as each of them left me.
    During this time of life, finding a relationship with God was not my priority. I had been using sex as a tool to achieve a relationship, to hook a husband, and ultimately to feel loved.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I just prayed. I prayed for God to show me what to do and to help me feel whole again.
    And y’all . . . God came THROUGH!  God has used the last few years of my life to pour His grace into me and to completely surround my heart with His powerful love so that I can now share my story of healing with others.
    Confront Your Feelings. When I first started this journey of healing from sexual sin, I experienced a lot of negative feelings like shame, guilt, worry and fear.  I was embarrassed of my past, and I felt like it was something that needed to be kept secret. But guess what sister, secrecy, fear, and these other negative emotions give our sin (and the Enemy) power!  
    A friend once told me that there is a difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation comes from Satan and is meant to imprison us in our sin and shame. Conviction is a call to be honest with God and confess our sins so we may receive forgiveness.  1 John 1:19 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There is such a freedom in confession!
    Honesty (Truly) is the Best Policy. The best thing I did for myself in my journey was get on my knees and confess my sins to God.  I cried as I prayed. It was messy, but it was also such a beautiful moment of vulnerability that I had never experienced with the Lord.  During that conversation with the Lord, I recounted my sin, admitted I was struggling with feelings of lust and sexual sin, and asked God for guidance on how to move forward and heal.  This was so hard because I felt shame and embarrassment coming to God with this mess I had made of my life, but the Holy Spirit spoke to my broken heart. I was reminded of Psalm 139:1 “You have searched me, O Lord, and you know me.”  God knows all there is to know about us already, and trust me friend, He has been anxiously waiting for us to turn to Him with our messy, broken lives.
    Lean Into God’s Love. God used this season of vulnerability and repentance to pour His love into me.  He reminded me that “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3), and I just felt His love surrounding me.  As I continued this journey, God showed me His grace, mercy, forgiveness and love, and I have learned so much about who He is by staying vulnerable and honest with Him.  I’ve learned that there is nothing I can do to separate me from His love, and shame does not have a place in our relationship.  
    As I continue this journey of healing, I continue to lean into Him to show me how loved I am. I have found such a peace through my identity as His beloved daughter and I have learned that there is nothing I can do that will separate me from His love (Romans 8:39).
    Moving Forward. Sometimes the hardest part of this journey is knowing that it is a DAILY (sometimes even HOURLY) process.  My sexual desires have not magically gone away, but I do believe one day that they will be fulfilled in a Godly marriage.  Until that day comes, I have learned to confront these desires head on and pray for God’s strength to remain pure. I lean into His love for me, and I reflect on God’s promise that He will fulfill the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4) in His perfect timing.  
    I am currently re-learning how to date in a way that respects the man I am dating, honors my future husband, and ultimately glorifies God. I pray over my dates and I ask God for the wisdom and self-control to set appropriate boundaries (and I have trusted friends who hold me accountable to those boundaries!).  I fight the enemy’s lies that I am unworthy of love by owning my past and confidently sharing my story of God’s forgiveness and healing.
    I won’t lie, there are days that are harder than others and there are times when shame creeps back in. But I hope you hear this, dear sister, God reminds us that each of our stories has a unique purpose in serving His kingdom “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to HIS purpose.” Romans 8:28

    The One

    Thursday, March 7, 2019

    The One. We’ve all heard it - whether from the movies or from family or friends. “I immediately knew that he was the one.” It leaves us wondering when our “One” will come along. We date with the question lingering in the back of our minds. Is he the one?

    There are many opinions and debates concerning this and I believe - Yes there is the One and No there isn’t the One. Make sense? Good.

    God is the God of orchestrated details. I look at events in my life and see God’s hands all over them. I believe He presents us with the opportunity of a God-ordained path but we are free to take the opportunity or not. For example, I pray for an opportunity to talk with a girl in my small group before she leaves; she leaves the house only to realize that she’s forgotten something and has to return. It’s an opportunity to seize so I take it. This is a God-ordained moment. Do I have to take it? No. Would it be best to take it? Yes. Does God have a good plan despite my actions? Yes.

    God is in the small, details and decisions of life so why would He not be in the big details and decisions? I believe He has the best plan and intentions for us and presents us with the option to take action but He gives us the freedom to choose. If we don’t take advantage of His best plan, then His best plan will still flesh out in another way.

    The One is a cultural concept. In Biblical times and in many cultures around the world still today, marriages are arranged. If a man is from a good family, has the means, and follows the same religion then it is a good marriage match. Marriage really is about reflecting Christ and the Church and not fulfilling our own desires. The beauty (and perhaps the anxiety) of being in a culture which allows you to choose a spouse is that we have freedom. Too often, though, preferences become non-negotiables and we miss out on a godly mate (see my Instapost on Looking for a John Piper). The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked so we automatically know if someone is not a believer then he is not “the One” at that time. As long as he follows Jesus, the rest is just preferences.

    The concept of The One should not result in fear of missing out on marrying the right one. Follow God’s leading in your life in all areas. Pray. Ask for wisdom. Surround yourself with godly people who can speak into your life.

    Once you’re married, he becomes the one. “‘Til death do us part.” Marriage is a covenant relationship and is intended to be for life. You will sometimes hear people justify affairs or divorce because they have suddenly stumbled upon their soulmate. This is a lie Satan uses to destroy marriage. Once you marry, that person is the One God has for you. Jesus says in Matthew 19:4-6 “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    The One is also the wrong person. Timothy Trudeau beautifully says that “as we commit, we must remember that we are the wrong person (Romans 3:23)! That is what makes marriage so glorious. A ‘wrong’ person commits to another ‘wrong’ person. Where would the glory be in a commitment to someone who is flawless?” We have all fallen short and will all continue to be sinful until we are one day gloriously redeemed by Jesus. Remember that when we are praying for “the One” God would have us marry, that he will be in a state of spiritual progress not perfection just as we are also in.

    Regardless of if you believe in “the one” or if you remain single, you can be sure that Jesus will always be The One. This is a topic that will be debated for years to come. The only surety of this concept that we have is that Jesus will always be The One. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His ONE and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 He is the One that offers eternal life, will never leave you or forsake you, will love you despite your faults, sacrifices His life for you, and so much more than “the one” earthly man could ever offer.

    Jesus is the One is not a cultural concept; it’s for the world. Jesus is the One that invades the small and big details of life. Once Jesus is the One in your life, He will always be, even after death parts you from this earth.

    Whether you believe in “the one” or not or whether you remain single for your whole life, cling to the hope and Truth that Jesus is always the One. He is the lover of your soul. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on the most important One in your life.

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