Archive for the ‘ personal growth ’ Category

Hardship

As a result of recent events in our lives, my husband now needs a ride to and from work each day, which is about an hour from where we live (and an hour from where I work).   This means a 2 hour drive, both morning and evening, 5 days a week.  Suddenly, I feel as though life has given me an extra 20-hour a week job, unpaid.

Like most people, I immediately wanted to grumble and complain and vent to my friends.  I wanted validation and sympathy.  I wanted to wallow in self-pity.  Fortunately, I have a few great friends who listened and gave me the sympathy I was looking for and helped to encourage me.  A little validation goes a long way.

Those friends must be praying for me, because within just a couple of days, I really don’t feel a lot of self-pity anymore.  Maybe a little.  As I was driving to work this morning, I spent time thinking about all of the blessings in what seems like hardship.  First and foremost, I know that God is working all things for good in my life, that He supplies all my needs, and that this is a blessing meant for my sanctification and to draw me closer to Him.  I trust in God for His goodness, knowing He is completely sovereign, so I trust His plan for me, even when it doesn’t seem pleasant on the surface.  I can admit the struggle and difficulty but also know that good will come of it.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my husband.  I believe it will draw us closer together.  I am thankful for a reliable car that gets good gas mileage, and for God’s protection over me during all the driving I have done over the past year in general.  I enjoy listening to the Bible while driving, and I like listening to sermons, as they take my mind off the stress of traffic, and now I will have more time to do those things.  I hope that my husband and I can listen to sermons together as encouragement in the morning.

I offer my time in the car to God as a sacrifice.  I offer my life as a sacrifice to Him.  My agenda never mattered to begin with; He has always been the author of my life.  My plans are laughable.  What I think is the best use of my time is but dust.  His plan for my time and for my life brings life.

As I have experienced God’s provision and the way He works things out, the way He answers prayers, I realize that number one, I am not in control anyway, and number two, He will supply all my needs and He will work all things together for my good.

I was reading a devotional this morning about being overwhelmed not so much by the sheer amount of things we have on our “to do” lists, but more so being overwhelmed by the anxiety and worry about those items.  This observation resonated with me.  Each day is an opportunity to serve and minister to those around me (first and foremost, my husband).  I can focus on today or this hour and feel it is a manageable chunk.  If I think too much about the next week, the next month, the next year, I get overwhelmed, thinking there is no way I can do this or that.

God’s mercies are new each day, and He gives us what we need for today.  I would love if He could just put a few million dollars in my bank account (literally and metaphorically), but then I would not need to rely on Him daily for my needs.  I would start to rely on myself and forget that I need Him.  The consequences would be disastrous, or meaningless and wasteful at best.

The reason for my faith, the reason behind my joy and peace in the midst of hardship is. . . through hardship and trials.  In God’s mercy, He has allowed trials and difficulty in my life.  As God has walked me through trials and hardship, I have grown closer to Him.  As I have experienced His love for me, His mercy, His goodness, His provision, and His patience with me during the trials in my life, I have grown as a person.  I have experienced more of the fruit of the Spirit growing in me (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.).

I do not know what God has in store for me, but I will seek Him, trusting that His plan is wonderful.

Psalm 105:4

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

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Single Again

I’m single again.

And surprisingly, it feels pretty damn good.

The deep longing of my heart is to one day be married. I feel that God designed me for and intends for me to be married. And there are many aspects of dating and relationships that I enjoy. Yet, I have a strong sense that I am exactly where I need to be right now.

I was reading “Let Me Be a Woman,” by Elisabeth Elliot last night, and she wrote in the book, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” I get frustrated with people who exhort, “Be content in your singleness.” God put a desire on my heart to be married, and I see clear evidence of Him preparing me for a marriage relationship. God wants us to long for what he intends for us and not be merely “content.” But He also wants us to live today. This is the place I am in right now. I long for marriage, but singleness is God’s path for me today, and I will live to the fullest in that.

I have a friend who is involved with Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based addictions recovery program that is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. She reminded me yesterday to take life one day at a time. And she is right. I get overwhelmed at times thinking about the future. At times, I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of meeting, dating, and marrying my future husband. But God dispenses His grace one day at a time. He gives me exactly what I need for today. And thankfully, this enables me to rely on Him every single day. So today, I trust that I am where I need to be. Single.

The past few weeks, I had been feeling increasingly unsettled with the guy I was dating. I hate to admit it, but I knew he was not right for me, yet I was reluctant to cut it off because I liked his personality. And I did not really want to be alone. I have a great support network of friends, but I enjoy the particular feeling of companionship in a dating relationship. I like having someone to talk to before going to bed. I like knowing someone is thinking about me during the day.

I have been feeling insecure, as well, the past few weeks, much more so than is usual for me. Like anyone, I have some insecurity, but for the most part I am pretty confident and well-adjusted. Now that the relationship is over, suddenly, my confidence is back. When I opened up to my ex about how I was feeling (while we were still dating), he told me that my insecurities were coming from inside me, he denied any part in it, and his words led me to doubt myself. Now that I am out of the relationship, I see that it wasn’t that anything is wrong with me, he just wasn’t right for me. And perhaps, as well, I was reacting to his emotional unavailability.

In my Bible study group today, we discussed Philippians 1 and the importance of fellowship. One of the benefits of having true friends who love us (more specifically in the context of the passage, Christian friends), is that they desire to see us grow and be happier and healthier. If our true friends give us criticism or negative feedback, we can trust that they are saying it out of love because they truly want the best for us.

One of my weaknesses is that in dating relationships, when the guy gives me negative feedback, I want to believe that he is saying it in a loving way because he truly desires that I be a more Godly and better person. However, I think in reality, a lot of times guys say things to me out of their own insecurities and weaknesses. Perhaps they are projecting some of their own insecurities, but whatever the reason, the negative feedback is not said out of a sincere heart. Unfortunately, I have a hard time discerning when this is the case, and I take their comments seriously, which in the case of this most recent relationship, made me question myself and feel some insecurity.

As my pastor David* said, “Don’t date guys in the gym. They are screwed up.”

No, that’s not the quote I meant, although he said that, as well. He also said, “Don’t fall in love with the icing, which consists of personality and physical attraction. We need the cake, the substance, to fill us up. The icing is delicious, but when we eat only the icing, we will end up with a headache.”

If I am really honest with myself, my most recent ex was icing. And I ended up with a headache.

Now that the sugar crash has cleared, I am looking forward to working on myself and becoming more emotionally and spiritually healthy. I am also excited to have the opportunity to look for a man of substance, a man whose heart belongs to God.

One of the best books I have read is “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. He avers that spiritual and emotional maturity co-occur. (Side note: My recent ex-boyfriend was not at all spiritually mature, hence, he cannot truly be emotionally mature, either. It is not my intent to be critical of him, as he has many great qualities. But I admit that I conveniently overlooked the spiritual issue because I was attracted to him, and I wanted to date him because he was tasty icing. However, I probably should have known better.) In Scazzero’s book, he has one of the most informative charts I have seen that lists the characteristics of an emotionally healthy person. You can view this chart here. Jesus functioned at 100. He was both perfectly confident and perfectly humble.

For now, I will work on my relationship with God first and foremost. I am also seeing a counselor who can help me grow emotionally and psychologically. Beyond that, it is my aim (with God’s help) to put my trust in God when it comes to relationships. I desire to follow His will for me and not to date someone just because he pursues me or seems attractive. I want to look for the substance, the heart, the cake. I wish to fully and intentionally rely on God to provide what I need, particularly in the arena of dating relationships.

While I do wish to be in a relationship that is headed towards marriage, I am not going to go out and specifically seek to date. Rather, I wish to follow God’s direction. For now, at least, I am discarding my old List of qualities and characteristics to look for in mate, and I am going with my friend Emily’s* list, which I have written about previously.

1. He loves God more than he loves me.
2. He supports my ministry by encouraging me and praying for me.
3. He truly understands God’s grace, and is thus able to love the Lord and be forgiving.
4. He fights for me and for our relationship.

Today, I am very thankful for friends who are praying for me and encouraging me. I am thankful for the amazing people that surround me daily. I am thankful for the healing that God has brought into my life. I am thankful that my happiness, joy, peace, and hope comes always and only from Jesus Christ. I thankful that I feel confident in my identity in Christ.

*Names have been changed.

The Importance of Same-Sex Friendships

My friend Roy Keely wrote on his blog today some things that I have thought about but have not been clever enough to articulate. He avers that, assuming you have healthy friendships:

When men do not connect/hang/love other men they:

•don’t lead
•their aspirations fizzle
•they stare at porn
•they get fat and watch reality TV with their wife or girlfriend
•we never meet expectations, not even our own

When women do not connect/hang/love other women they;

•become nags
•they crave control, if they lose it they become more of #1
•they hate both men and women
•their expectations get higher, no-one can ever meet them

In the end this boils down to where the gospel is meeting you….and if you are meeting with the gospel I believe it eventually leads to healthy same-sex relationships.