Sunday, January 3, 2016

Single for the Holidays

Starting off the holidays this year, I was a wreck.  I felt so drained from all the major life changes I had gone through the past few months (moving to a new city, finding a place to live, new job, teaching a new grade, finding a new church, making new friends, plus some failed relationship attempts), was under the weather, and to top it off, the holidays always seems to increase the desire for a relationship.  Plain and simple, the thought of being single yet again for another Christmas and New Year's sucked.  

I have always been someone who tries to enjoy each season of life that I find myself in and to make the most of the time that I have left being single.  However, this year, I really struggled.  There's been an intense desire in my heart for marriage that has only continued to grow over the years, particularly this last year.  

I reached a place of utter brokenness a few weeks ago.  I sobbed like I have never sobbed before in my life.  The grief was intense! To long for something so intensely, to feel called to marriage, to have taken the time to prepare my heart and mind so that I will be a blessing to my future husband, but despite my best efforts, not having that opportunity in my life yet felt heart-wrenching.  

Hope still resided in my heart in the midst of the grief, but the grief remained.  As I cried out to God, I felt Him caress my heart with His truth, altering my perspective.  I was not a single woman forced to tread through another holiday season without a significant other.  Instead, I was a strong, victorious, captivating, beautiful, loving, honouring woman of God who just happens to be having a "single experience."  

I am not defined by my single status.  I may wish for new experiences in my life, but I am never defined by those experiences.  How limiting would that be to reduce my identity to whether or not I am married?!  God has created me to be so much more!  

So on this last day of Christmas break and the beginning of a brand new year, my challenge is to stop defining myself by factors that are not God's truth.  Whatever my experience may be now, it will not last.  Circumstances will change and grow.  Even if I remain single for a few more years, other factors in my life will change.  

I choose to embrace who God says I am and trust that my season of singleness will come to an end at the right time.  I still have my moments of grief and intense longing, but I am growing stronger with each day.  I may have have had the experience of being single for the holidays another year in a row, but with God's grace and my identity firmly aligned with His truth, I can honestly say that this was a victorious holiday season indeed!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Learning to love imperfect me

That continual striving to be perfect, to please everyone, to make everything alright, to stay clear of making mistakes at all costs...that pretty much sums up my life up to this point.  It sounds silly, especially when actually put into writing, but that is how I lived my life for the most part.  Being the oldest child, especially by quite a few years, probably didn't help alleviate any of that unhealthy sense of responsibility.  I was Practice Child #1, and although I know that I was loved and that my parents did the best they could, I still had baggage to sort through that I have carried with me into my adult years.

The past few months, I began noticing that I despise weakness in myself.  I feel ashamed of myself when I don't "perform well," berating myself and trying harder to cover up it up so others don't know.  I find it difficult to be truly vulnerable with someone, even my close friends.  I think that, because I feel shame, I assume that they will look down on me as well.  I'm also used to being the "strong one."

When I started looking closer at my relationship with God, I found that I have had similarly negative aspects in that relationship as well.  Although I've been a Christian most of my life and technically know better,I felt like I needed to perform well in order to earn God's approval and love.  That any sign of weakness must be an indication that I'm not trusting Him or that I am not "doing Christianity right."  I constantly felt like a failure.

Thankfully, God has been showing me otherwise.  It's still hard to wrap my head around this, but God perfectly loves me: always, completely, and unconditionally.  I can't do anything to gain more love or lose His love.  He also approves of me, just as I am.  He's not surprised by my weaknesses at all.  He knows I don't have it all together and never will.  Yet I am His masterpiece, His beloved.  Although there are still issues and negative behaviour that He is working on with me to align with His truth, He still approves of the person He created me to be no matter what.  Wow!!!!!

From there, I've had to learn how to embrace the fact that I have imperfections, faults, and weaknesses...I always will.  I can certainly learn to improve in those areas, but I also want to focus primarily on my strengths.  I've learned that what you focus on is what you become.  The more I focus on my faults and what I don't want to do, the more I tend to do those things.  On the flip side, when I focus on the good that God has placed in me as well as His unconditional approval and love, the more I become what He originally intended me to be.

I'm free to be myself when I allow myself to rest in the safety of God's love and approval.  As I walk through this journey of focusing on God's truth about me, I'm learning to truly love myself.  The self-disgust and berating ceases and the declaring of God's truth becomes my reality.  I also feel like I am better equipped to have closer relationships with others while remaining authentic to myself and willing to risk being vulnerable.  My mindset of expecting disapproval and disappointment is being replaced with assuming the best of others and my relationship with them.  As I love myself in a God-honouring way, I am able to love others the way He intended.  What a beautiful joy and freedom in being me!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Beauty in the broken

This past year, particularly the last few months, have been filled with a roller coaster of emotions and hardships.  There have been challenges at work, significant family problems, and feelings of incredible loneliness.  I have friends that I love, yet since I am one of the few single ones, these relationships that I value tend to be primarily by appointment.  I completely understand and respect the fact that my friends' priorities lie with their own families, where they should be, but it can be taxing coming back to my place and being the only one who occupies that space.  Times when the loneliness hits tend to be when my friends are enjoying their family time and so I feel as though I would be intruding on some level if I were to reach out.

Truthfully, I want someone to come home to; someone to share life with.  Especially during the times of brokenness, I wish I had someone with whom I could curl up next to and share the depths of my heart.  I've had some pretty intense moments of brokenness lately as I learn to let go of preconceived notions of how my life would be.  Allowing others to be who they are, even when their choices are hurting me.  To honour the process of healing that my loved ones are walking through while my heart is breaking.

My one constant is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I'm starting to understand that He truly loves me, unconditionally, just as I am right now.  He embraces my brokenness, my weaknesses, and my failures.  He's not afraid of who I am, even when the sight isn't very pretty to behold.  He won't love me more if I do more for His glory and He won't love me any less if I stop doing what He desires me to do.  I am safe with Jesus, especially my heart.

In His presence, I am stripped of all pretenses, all attempts at being strong in my own eyes.  I merely am who I am.  Yet somehow, God looks at me and only sees the beauty that He has placed there.  I feel valued and cherished beyond measure, not for what I can do, but rather for who I am...imperfections and all.  There is no guilt or shame in His presence and I am learning to rest in the comfort of God's embrace.

As much as I long for companionship and my own love story, the ability to turn to God first when feelings of brokenness and loneliness are threatening to swallow me whole is a habit that I highly value.  No human being will be able to be everything to me at all times.  When I seek God's heart and perspective during the storm, He opens my eyes to the hope I still have in Him.  I also begin to see the good that He has already been bringing about in my situation as well as the good that He has in store.  I am trusting that He will bring healing and restoration: that there will be beauty in the broken.  This pain will not be wasted, but rather, turned into a monument of God's grace and mercy in my life.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Matter of Time

Sometimes I consider myself a patient person, other times, not at all.  When I'm waiting for something that I really want, it can be hard to wait with a good attitude.  Marriage and having a family would definitely rank as things I want as well as am looking forward to with all my heart.  However, no husband or even potentials yet.  I question God at times, wondering why He hasn't "seen fit" to bring my man into my life yet.  I get frustrated and discouraged occasionally.

Lately though, I've been feeling that I need to focus on and be thankful for what I do have rather than what I do not.  I do have family and friends that love me, a great job, a nice place to live, and opportunities to minister to others in ways that maybe I wouldn't be able to if I was married already.  I am in a unique season of opportunity and growth and I plan on taking full advantage of it.

In regards to timing, yes, I would like to meet my future husband sooner rather than later.  One thing that struck me today though was that I have done a lot of growing and working through baggage the last few years.  If I had been married already, it would have been more difficult to work through those issues while directly affecting someone else that I was spending my life with.  I also wouldn't be writing this blog.

If remaining single longer means that my husband and I have the chance to grow up more, becoming the fullness that God has called us to be, as well as having unique ministry opportunities, then I am grateful for this time of singleness.  I was reading through someone's testimony of how, when she was only 15, she purposed to put aside the next five years to focus solely on God and not be distracted by guys.  After that period of time, she met her husband.  My first thought was, maybe I could give it until my next birthday which is in March as I didn't even want to wait a whole year.  After thinking it through some more, I realized that I would rather have to wait another year or two, even longer, if that would bring the most glory to God.

The passing of time can be exciting as it draws us closer to hoped for fulfillments of dreams, but it can also be depressing as that much more time has gone by without the realization of those same dreams.  It's all a matter of perspective.  Although I know there will still be times that I struggle with being single, I choose to focus on the good that comes from this time and not try to rush God because I'm impatient.

I will continue praying for my husband as well as praying that any obstacles in the way of us being together be torn down through the power of Jesus' name.  I will also be choosing to thank God for the blessings He has placed in my life, even if they aren't the ones that I wish I had.  There is value in every moment of every day.  I look forward to enjoying those moments, both as a single woman, and eventually, as a wife and mother.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What is your motivation?

The motivation of love is 100% more powerful and effective than the motivation of fear or hate.  It also has positive long term effects.  The majority of my life was lived out of fear: fear of punishment, fear of rejection, or fear of failure.  I look at the growth I experienced during the first couple decades of my life and see that although I was a Christian since a very young age, it was a very slow growing process.  In the last few years though, since God began setting me free of many negative mindsets, I've had an entirely different experience.
With a motivation of love, I am finding that my growth in Christ keeps increasing in leaps and bounds compared to my past.  My life has completely turned around because I am desiring to please God rather than doing something because I'm afraid of what He'll say or do if I don't.

This principle applies to every aspect of my life.  In a practical sense, if I am desiring to live a healthy lifestyle, I'm not going to get very far if my primary motivation is hate for the body I have now or fear of what I'll become if I don't change things around.  However, if I eat healthy and exercise because I love myself (no, not in a proud way, but loving the work that God has made), then I am more likely to continue making good choices in how I take care of myself.

Same goes for relationships.  If I'm lonely and afraid of being alone for the rest of my life, my motivation for dating someone is not very good.  Entering a relationship because of this motivation will most likely produce an unhealthy relationship.  I want my motivation for dating/getting married to be because I feel God's blessing on it and that together with this man, we can be stronger in Christ than we could be apart.

Preparing for Marriage...Now???

I feel like I've been in a state of preparation for years.  Yes, God has put on my heart to get ready for marriage before the man has even come into my life.  To some, that might seem ludicrous or simply wishful thinking...that preparing will somehow magically produce my husband.  To me though, readying myself now means that I am becoming the fullness of who I am called to be and dealing with my baggage, before being put into such an intimate relationship.

Marriage is a big deal to me.  I have always taken relationships seriously and desired to have a relationship that is everything God meant it to be.  How can I expect to have such a relationship though if I assume that everything will fall into place once I meet my man...that I will suddenly know how to do and say the right things?  Having a God-honouring relationship starts with two people putting God first and allowing Him to mold them into who they were designed to be.  There will be continual growth throughout the marriage, but I'd much rather already be in a stage of positive growth before even meeting my husband.  

One area in particular that I am learning to grow in right now is communication.  I am finding ways that I can stand up for myself so that I am honouring God, myself, and the other person.  I hate conflict and tend to try to avoid it at all costs.  I'll refuse to be honest about things that hurt or frustrate me because I don't want the other person to be hurt or to think less of me in their hurt.  Yet, these habits only produce the negative fruit of resentment, fear, and unhealthy relationships.  I can only imagine how destructive my fear of confrontation would be in a marriage if I never did anything about it!

As I learn to grow in areas that are hard for me, God is stripping away the ugliness inside me and revealing the beauty He has placed there.  I am gaining victory over strongholds of fear, doubt, insecurity, selfishness, etc.  Who wants to bring those negative qualities into a marriage?  I'm not saying those issues will never affect me again, but I would rather start working through them now, before I have another person who is directly affected by my choices.  I firmly believe that my marriage will be stronger as I focus on becoming all that God has called me to!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Legacy of Honour

Sometimes, I wonder why I should bother honouring certain people who may never know how I talked about them behind their backs.  I'm thinking of this past year when I was getting to know two guys (at totally different times).  In both instances, my heart was getting involved as it was looking like things would progress into a relationship, only to be disappointed by the guy not being ready for a serious relationship.  With the most recent guy, I was very angry and hurt at first.  Part of the reason for the strong emotions was very much due to the upheaval in my life caused by my parents separating and other significant changes in the same time frame.

The first couple days, I allowed myself to express my anger in the privacy of my home.  However, even though no one else could hear me but God, I felt that it was wrong to express my anger in a way that was disrespectful to this man.  Name-calling and put-downs were unacceptable.

It took awhile, but after praying quite extensively, I had to make the choice to lay aside my right to be spiteful, and choose not to sin in my anger.  Yes, I'm sure better decisions could have been made by this man, which would have saved me a lot of grief.  Despite that fact, I still needed to honour him, despite how "worthy" he might be of it.

As I began to make choices that honoured him in my thoughts, words, and actions, God revealed to me how these decisions were creating a legacy of honour.  Although this man had no idea what I was saying/not saying about him, the way I handled the situation was having major effects in the spirit realm.

On both sides of my family, there are quite a few examples of negative relationships and marriages.   I used to be terrified that I was doomed to have a relationship like my parents'.  Yet, as I choose to keep my eyes fixed on Christ and His plan for my life, I realize that I have hope to break the chains of generational curses, particularly with relationships, and create new legacies of generational blessings.

When I chose to honour that man that I had felt hurt by, I began to get excited.  I was breaking off old ways of dealing with problems and creating new, Godly ones.  I was building a legacy of honour for my future children!  I was also gaining clarity in areas that God wanted to work with me on so that I could grow from this experience.

The spiritual atmosphere has a powerful effect in our everyday lives, and I am positively influencing this atmosphere when I honour the people God has placed in my life, especially when it hurts.  The truest tests of my character are when I have been wronged.  It's easy to honour people when they treat me well.

As I build good habits with honouring others now, I can pass on those skill sets to my children.  Strongholds of anger and bitterness will be replaced with mindsets of honour, love, and respect.  There will be times that my children will get angry and hurt, but as I model what it looks like to treat people as Christ would, staying clear of criticism, name-calling, and put-downs, they will be empowered to do the same in their own lives.  Mistakes will still be made, both in my life and my children's, but I believe that a legacy of honour is being built with each decision to honour instead of tear down.