Traveling Solo- Part 1

A solo trip is something I’ve thought about for a long time, but I wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to actually try it.  I felt like there was so much stigma around solo travel- 

What are people going to think of me?

Can I stay in a hotel room by myself?

What if something goes wrong?

And how awkward am I going to feel being around couples, families, and groups all the time?

I wouldn’t know unless I tried, right?

My experience

I planned to visit my sister for Easter weekend, see her new baby, and then go from there. Her location in Wisconsin would be the perfect jumping-off point for a western road trip.

The visit to my sister was also what prompted the idea of solo travel. I thought it might be awkward to invite someone to travel with me and then tell them they had to first spend three days staring admiringly at my seven-week-old niece. I just didn’t see all the pieces fitting together. 

So, I hit the open road, leaving my sister’s house and my tiny new niece for the unknown. South Dakota has always been on my bucket list, I had lots of miles on my soon-to-be-ending lease, and a week off school.

The time had come to try a trip on my own.

The first hurdle- driving. There was A LOT of driving.

Eight hours of farm country lay ahead of me, but the weather was brilliant and sunny, with crazy-high temperatures. I sweated my way through the drive, forgetting to take my sweatshirt off at every rest stop. And there were a lot of those! I don’t know if it was the coffee or nerves, but I had to stop A LOT.

At least I was able to get out and stretch my legs.

In between stops, there was hardly any traffic, so I set the cruise and… went. Best of all- there was Caribou Coffee in Minnesota! Seven hundred calories, but so worth it. My trip was off to a great start.

Interstate 90 is the main highway across South Dakota, and the roadside attractions make a major effort towards keeping drivers entertained. I stopped first at the roadside Sculpture Garden, which was closed but provided me with an exciting detour down a dirt road, where I almost got stuck in a dirt pile. Next was Mitchell and the Corn Palace. It is a true testament to the remoteness of South Dakota that the Corn Palace is so well-marketed. Mitchell was a seedy town with a tiny main street decorated in an Old West theme. If I ever need leather goods or tomahawks, I know where to go.

The Corn Palace is really just a corn façade. The rest is a regular building, complete with a full-size basketball court. No idea why…

My visit was tempered by the rumbles of thunder coming with more and more frequency.

I dashed back to the car just as the rain started. My sunny day was gone, and so was my smile. It became three hours of rain, hail, thunder, lightning, and wind. At one point there was even sleet and I seriously considered just stopping.

I pushed on and made it to the highly advertised Wall Drug just in time for the snow to come. Somehow, the snow seemed to even put a damper on my buffalo burger. Snow was not in my plans.

But when I hit the Black Hills the next day, snow blanketed the landscape, providing me with some hair-raising driving. The speed limit dropped, and dropped, and dropped again as the road rose and fell, twisting around. At times it seemed to disappear completely, causing me to shriek and hit the brakes. Thank goodness there were no cars around me.

I skidded my way to the Crazy Horse monument and then to Mount Rushmore. Both have long been on my bucket list. I love bucket list days! There’s something so surreal about experiencing things for yourself when you’ve only ever viewed them in pictures.

 Everything was covered in snow.

Not my ideal, but beautiful in its way.

After a brief stay in a one-stoplight town that left me thanking God I lived in Ohio, I was ready to visit Custer State Park. Again, the roads were completely empty. It was just me, my music, and my terror, alone on the crazy, twisty highway.

Not going to lie, the driving was tough. My heart was in my throat the whole time. I was dry-mouthed and chilly; my legs were shaky when I finally flung myself gratefully out of the car.

The roads were narrow and full of multiple hairpin turns, with frequent drop-offs. At times I had to almost stop, but then I was nervous about making it up the hills. They just kept winding up, up, up. I couldn’t believe how high I was at times- with the earth falling away and spreading out right next to me. Beautiful, intimidating, and invigorating.

The driving was a challenge, but it was exhilarating, too. I must be crazy.

Custer is famous for its scenery, but I didn’t get to see a lot of it. Everything was (surprise, surprise) covered in snow and the temperatures were still low, so I wasn’t motivated to explore much. When I tried to stop at one of the lookouts, I almost got stuck in the snow.

I did see a lot of wildlife, which was amazing, though seeing all the buffalo made me feel guilty about eating one of their number the day before.

And then- Badlands National Park. This was my favorite part of the trip. Almost as soon as you get in, you’re greeted with the Pinnacles Overlook. Jaw-dropping.

Amazing. Breathtaking. It was so wonderful it almost moved me to tears.

I couldn’t believe I was the one looking at it. At the second overlook, I sat down and ate a pizza (I only travel with the essentials). It was completely quiet except for the wind. It was just me, alone in this wild, remote place. And I loved it. I didn’t feel lonely or sad. I felt alive.

As I sat there, I realized I didn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else.

I was at peace.

Views like this one are the reason I travel!

I’m so incredibly thankful for what I was able to experience and so glad I didn’t let fear hold me back. The whole trip was great, and I would definitely travel solo again.

I’ll talk more about traveling alone in my next post. This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of an adventure. My ideal trip might look different than yours, but I loved it. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

The Rich Young Ruler: What do You Love the Most?

I sighed and stretched lazily as I buried my feet in the sand. This, right here, was my definition of a perfect moment- warm sunshine, blue skies, crashing waves, a good book, and an open afternoon.

Free time. Unlimited free time.

I admit I can be jealous of my time. As a single woman I often view time as currency- it’s mine to spend as I wish.  I’m accustomed to setting my own schedule and I tend to resent people or circumstances that intrude upon it. Too many demands on my time frustrate me.

However, the Bible tells me a different story- my life isn’t my own. I was created to glorify God. I also believe that’s why God calls some people (me among them) to be single. So they will have more time for service.

 Knowing what’s right and living it out are two different things, though.

In Matthew 19 we read the story of the rich young ruler. He approached Jesus, wanting to know what he needed to do to gain eternal life in heaven. Jesus told the young man to keep the commandments- don’t lie, steal, or murder. He needed to honor his parents and love his neighbor as himself.

The young man told Jesus he kept all of those commandments. But he felt like he was still lacking something. There was conviction in his heart; Jesus’ response, however, turned him away. “Go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come, follow me.” The Bible tells us that this seeking young man went away sad because he was wealthy. Despite his concern for his soul, he wasn’t ready to give up his things.

He was unable to live out what was right. The cost of following Jesus was too high.

Even though this is a story I’ve heard many times, it hit me in a fresh way recently. In the past, I always felt like I couldn’t relate to the rich young ruler because I didn’t have much personal wealth. However, I’ve realized that money is only one obstacle that can stand between us and knowing Jesus.

Giving my free time to others can feel like a high price to pay. When I’m selfish with my life it can keep me from serving God fully, though. When I hoard all my time I’m failing to obey God’s command to love my neighbor as myself.

What’s keeping you from seeking Jesus more fully?

What desires are taking His place in your heart?

Marriage?

Children?

Adventure?

Financial prosperity?

Career?

Friends and family?

Comfort?

All of these are fine in their place, but Satan can use them to turn our hearts away from Jesus. Like my love of free time, anything that takes precedence over knowing and obeying God becomes an idol and will prevent us from growing as Christians.

Examine your heart and ask yourself, “What feels too costly to give up?” How is that affecting your relationship with God today?

Jesus offered the rich young ruler something greater than money- Himself. He offers us the same thing. Every desire in our hearts should pale beside that truth.

Knowing God and being able to serve Him fully is worth everything.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of free time! I love it, but I know it’s not all mine to spend. I’m praying that God will show me how to best use it to serve Him. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Birthdays, Single-Style

Birthdays are not my favorite thing.

To me, they are a tangible reminder of two facts:

  1. I’m steadily moving towards middle age (kicking and screaming).
  2. Another year has gone by and… wait for it… Nothing’s changed!

I’m in exactly the same place I was a year ago.

Still single

Still promising myself I’ll lose the extra weight around my hips

Still dreaming of…more

So, I’ve struggled with feeling like there’s not much worth celebrating in my life.

But this past year has changed my outlook, both on birthdays and life. Surprisingly, the tumult of 2020 has brought a lot of clarity. It’s shown me that even a single girl sliding toward middle age can find things to celebrate on her birthday.

God’s plan is worth celebrating

I keep coming back to this point because I need to keep reminding myself of it. My life is in God’s hands. Every aspect of it is in His control. That means my single status is the plan God deems best for me.

Celebrating my birthday as a single woman can feel lonely, but that doesn’t give me the right to lament against it. I have to remember: True satisfaction with my life will never stem from a husband and children.

A woman who rests in God’s will is a woman who fully trusts His plan. She understands that He alone is the source of our satisfaction. I want to be that woman.

God’s plan is always worth celebrating.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does H withhold from those walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

Freedom is worth celebrating

The world is a frightening, uncertain place. I suppose that’s always been true, but it’s never touched so closely into my life before. Here in the U.S., we’ve seen disease, political turmoil, and tension on a level most of us haven’t experienced before.

Things have changed so much, and I think some things, good things, are gone forever. It’s caused me to be thankful for the freedoms I’ve enjoyed for the last thirty-nine years. Today, I am thankful for freedom, family, and my ability to live life the way I want to live it.

Freedom is always worth celebrating.

Growth is worth celebrating.

I have a very weird cactus. I seem to specialize in ugly plants. This one started small and cute but has grown exponentially. At some point, it also grew itself a “friend”- a second cactus out the side. Last summer roots began to come out the top.

Yes, out the top.

It’s not attractive, but I’ve become attached to it because of its oddness. It’s also a great reminder- growth often looks ugly, but that doesn’t make it bad.

Life’s ugly moments? Those are the ones where God can work the most.

For instance, as I look back over this year, I can see major areas where I’ve grown:

My relationship with God

My perspectives on life

The value I place on Scripture reading, memorization, and meditation

The way I view my job

And so much more. Because of what I’ve gone through, I am not the same woman I was a year ago, but that is not a bad thing.

Growth is always worth celebrating.

Life is worth celebrating.

Okay, this might be a little cheesy. Bear with me, though.

God has given us so, so, so many things that make life good. When I pull myself out of my “I’ll be celebrating birthdays as a single woman for the rest of my life” pity-party and start to look around, I’m amazed at what’s in front of me.

I mean, hello? Can we just start with cheesecake?

And then we can go from there: laughter; bonfires with friends; sunrises stretching golden fingers across the promise of a new day; driving with the windows down and the music up; family game nights; inside jokes; a warm baby nestled under your chin; pizza parties; soft blankets; the first sip of coffee; art, music, museums; getting lost in a good book; warm summer rain; sunny afternoons at the beach

I could go on and on. We have so much. How often do we even think about it?  

Life, in all its messiness, is a gift from God, and it is always worth celebrating.  

Happy Birthday to Me!

Thankful for thirty-nine years!

That’s where I stand on birthdays right now. Doing birthdays single-style?

It’s okay. I haven’t always been able to say that, But for right now, it’s okay. More than okay, actually.

Birthdays mean God isn’t done with me, yet. Another year=another opportunity. And I’m looking forward to seeing what thirty-nine will bring.

This week, I’m thankful for God’s good gifts in our lives. He is the One who makes everything worthwhile. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Phoebe- A Life of Service

When I hear the word servant, I usually think of Downton Abbey.  You know- the black dress and starched white apron, all the bobbing and curtseying and saying, “Very good, mum.” Scraping out fireplace ashes, getting up early, and doing every lousy job you’re told to do.

No, thank you.

Fortunately, we live in the twenty-first century and we’re provided with more job options.

But that doesn’t mean we’re excused from being servants.

Christians are called to be imitators of Jesus and He was the ultimate example of a servant- “…Though He was in the form  of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6,7)

How does that apply to us?

If we move back in Philippians 2, we read these verses: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (verses 3,4)

You don’t have to don the black dress and the starched apron, but the Christian life is meant to be characterized by service.

A Life of Service

Phoebe was a woman who lived out this truth. I recently came across a reference to her in my Bible reading and was immediately intrigued. There are only about fifty words pertaining to her, but they are powerful:

“Í commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” Romans 16:1, 2

That’s it- the only mention of her in the entire Bible! However, these fifty words speak volumes.

She was a Fellow Believer

Phoebe was part of the early Christian church. Paul, the writer of the book of Romans, named her as a sister in Christ. Many Bible scholars believe that she was the bearer of Paul’s letter to the Romans. This was why he was commending her to the church in Rome. Phoebe’s life stood out enough to draw Paul’s attention and admiration.  

We also know that she was heavily involved in her church. The Greek word Paul used to describe her work is diakonos, which translates as a deacon or a servant. It tells us she wasn’t a woman who sat back and did nothing. At this time, the Christian church would have been a brand-new concept and the needs would have been great. Phoebe clearly dove into church life and set to work serving the people around her.

She was a Benefactor

Not only was she a servant, but Phoebe was also named as a patron to Paul and others. The word patron can also be translated as a helper or a benefactor.  So she was a woman of independent financial means, and she used those means to benefit others. Paul himself received help at her hands.

In one translation, the word “succourer” is used in place of patron. This is a weird word that means “one who stands by in case of need.” This word was typically used to describe a trainer who stood by an athlete and made sure he didn’t over-train.

“One who stands by in case of need.” Phoebe stood by others, ready to help. What a beautiful picture of her life.

She was a Traveler

Phoebe was far from home if she was meeting up with the church in Rome. Scholars tell us it was a 700-mile trip, an enormous distance for the time. To me, this says that she was brave and willing to take a risk. Since we know she was well-to-do, she was possibly even traveling for her own business ventures.

And… since no husband is mentioned in connection with her, people also assume she was single.

I like this woman!

Phoebe is the only woman in the Bible referred to as a servant and a patron. She’s just a brief mention, but her life had a big impact. Her name means “pure, bright, or radiant as the moon.” In her culture, it was also a name for the moon goddess. She may have had a pagan name, but this Phoebe shone brightly for Christ.

What does she mean to us?

A single life doesn’t have to be a quiet life! It also doesn’t have to be self-centered life.  

As we work on living intentionally this year, it’s easy to become focused on our own goals and miss the opportunities around us. But I absolutely believe the single life is intended for service.

 Our churches, our families, our coworkers, our neighbors- there are so many people who need us to step up and…serve.

Like Phoebe, I want to use my single life to be a person who stands by in case of need.

And just a thought that’s been running around my head this week-

If someone was asked to describe you in fifty words, what would they say?

What characterizes your life?

This week, I’m so thankful for the blessing of biblical women and what they can teach us. We have a lot to learn! Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

I’m thankful for the following resources:

https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Phebe-Phoebe

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/sister-servant-and-leader-who-was-phoebe-in-the-bible/89442.htm

A Not so Romantic Valentine’s Day

One smile.

That was all it took to send a wave of sadness crashing over me.

It happened last week in the grocery store. I picked up a lemon and somehow began one of those crazy juggling routines as it slipped from my hands and I tried again and again not to drop it. Eventually, I lost the battle with the lemon. As I bent down to pick it up, my eyes met the eyes of a guy who had been watching my circus performance. I smiled at my own foolishness and he smiled back.

At least I think he smiled. It’s hard to tell when you’re both wearing masks. Perhaps he was just reveling in his own ability to pick out fruit without flinging it around.

Whatever facial expression it was, it did me in. Suddenly, my desire for a man of my own to smile at, to laugh with, overwhelmed me. Loneliness, sorrow, and frustration rose within me and I found myself trying not to cry in the produce section.

Afterall, I’d just had Lasik, and the doctors hadn’t told me if crying was okay.

Not wanting to burn out my new eyes, I kept it together and finished my shopping, but the feelings lingered inside me.

A Not so RoMANtic Holiday…

One of friends recently introduced me to the term “rotic.” I’d never heard it before. When she told me it was romantic without the “man,” I had to laugh. Apparently, it’s a way for single women to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

We singles try so hard on Valentine’s Day, don’t we? We either do our best to stay positive and make the day special, or we wear black, eat lots of ice cream, and hide away.  

No matter what we do, though, it seems like the whole world throws our singleness back in our faces-

 No man. Which must mean…

No happiness.

No fulfillment.

No flowers, romantic dinners, sentimental cards, or anything else.

No life. Not one that anyone really wants, anyway.

When the world is sending us that message- What’s a single girl to do on Valentine’s Day?

Acknowledge it.

First, I think you need to start by being honest with yourself. I believe there are times when it’s okay to struggle with being single. For many, Valentine’s Day is one of those times.

I’ve said it before- being single is HARD. Especially if you’re a woman like me, who’s never been in a relationship. That’s tough. I’m not advocating wallowing or bitterness, but I think it’s okay to occasionally grieve over your singleness. Sometimes, you simply must confront the hard truths:

I will probably not get married.

I will never be a mother.

I will always be on the fringes of society.

There they are- honest statements about being single and approaching forty. Some days that truth is really, really going to hurt. Some days, a smile in the grocery store is going to knock you sideways.

Embrace it.

Be honest with yourself and acknowledge the hard days, but don’t stay there. Don’t let them bring you down. Eat the ice cream (I may have eaten a pint of strawberry cheesecake ice cream on Valentine’s Day…), cry for a bit, but then get out of your chair and move on.  

On the days when loneliness seems to hang around you like a heavy cloak, fight it.

When the sight of red hearts and mushy valentines makes you want to choke, look elsewhere.

Tell yourself you are not a victim of your circumstances. Being single isn’t a prison sentence or a guarantee that you’ll die alone someday. It’s not a commentary on who you are as a woman.

It’s the life God has chosen for you right now.

Failure to acknowledge that leads to anger, both toward God and life. It produces women who are sharp-tongued, resentful, and unpleasant to be around. You know- like those spinster governesses we see stereotyped in old movies.

Even on the toughest days, I have no intention of becoming a spinster governess.

Instead, try to remember that singleness really is a gift from God. It is possible to be single, fulfilled, and satisfied with your life!

Move on. 

Acknowledge the pain of being single, work through the pain to embrace the truth of God’s plan, and then move on. Get going with your life.

No one is meant to live in a perpetual state of wanting. Married or single, life is going to throw challenges at us. We can work through those challenges, or we can sink down in the middle of them.

Some challenges may last forever. I don’t anticipate my single status ever changing. I’m pretty sure I’ll be checking the “single” box on my tax returns for the rest of my life.

Every time I check that box, I feel a tightening in my throat. Unwanted whispers through my mind.

But…

Independent, I can whisper back.

Free

Open to anything

Available

Adventurous

Growing

Trusting

I can fight back with my own adjectives. I don’t have to let Valentine’s Day, society, or my own mistaken conscious label me, and neither do you.  

Hold your head high and live each day with intention. Embrace your singleness and move on, confident in who you are by yourself.

Who knows? Maybe next year, on Valentine’s Day, you won’t even need the ice cream.

You might want to stay out of the grocery store, though.

This week, I’m thankful romantic holidays don’t last forever.  I’m also thankful for the friends, family, and resources we have to help us work through them. God’s plans are always best, even if they don’t feel that way at times. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

What Can You do on Your Own? Four Women Who Show us Anything is Possible!

“I could never do that by myself.”

These words whisper through my head all the time. They manage to talk me out of everything from attending weddings to remote hiking to simply eating out for dinner.

How often do you dare to step out alone?

Seeking inspiration…

I love to read. My earliest childhood memory is of going to story hour at the library. I know I wasn’t even in kindergarten yet. Once when I was young, a lady in my church took my sister and I out for dinner and we both sat at the table and read the entire time!

While my manners have improved since then, my love of reading has stayed the same. Good stories thrill me, delight me, and draw me in for more. They never get old.

Two years ago, I set a goal of reading fifty books. I met that goal, but as I looked back over my list, I realized I hadn’t liked many of the books. Often, I’d finish one and thrust aside in disgust, saying, “How in the world did she become an author?” or something to that effect.

I didn’t want to waste my time reading books I didn’t enjoy or find helpful, so last year I set a new goal: Read twelve Christian nonfiction books and twelve classics. Thanks to COVID and lockdowns, I was able to meet that goal, too.

Along the way I discovered something- those Christian nonfiction books were… good. They encouraged, uplifted, challenged, and pointed me to God.

My favorite books were biographies about single women doing crazy, inspiring things for God. I don’t even like to go to a hardware store by myself, and here I was, reading about women who rode camels into deserts, horses into uncharted jungles, started schools in Uganda, and even survived concentration camps.

These women were incredible not in themselves, but because they were totally sold out for God. They were so willing to live for Him, He enabled them to become super-women.

In my continued effort to live deliberately, I reset my goal of reading Christian nonfiction this year. I wanted to share a few of my favorite books with you in the hopes that they would inspire you, too.  

  • The Hiding Place

You must read this book! I’d heard of it but hadn’t picked it up until last summer. You will be beyond moved as you read about Corrie and Betsie ten Boom’s courage, grace, and strength as they hide Jewish refugees in their house. When they were discovered and arrested, their trust in God carried them through the horrors of a concentration camp.

I don’t usually (ok, never) cry over books or movies, but this one got me.

  • Kisses From Katie

Katie Davis was only eighteen(!) when she first traded her comfortable American life for a hut in Uganda. She started out as a kindergarten teacher for dozens of children and eventually created a successful non-profit while simultaneously becoming the adopted mother of thirteen girls. All of this was done while she was still a very young, single woman.

My favorite part of her book is the first page, where she states, “Jesus wrecked my life.” He took all her typical college-girl plans and threw them out the window. I know I often fear total surrender to God for this same reason- that He would “wreck” my life and fling me into the vast unknown. Katie, however, makes it look like a wonderful adventure.

  • Made for the Journey

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite writers because she tells it like it is. She goes straight to the Bible and never steers from the truths she finds there. This little book, originally titled These Strange Ashes, is fascinating- it presents us with the first year of her life as a missionary, when she was still waiting for her future husband, Jim Elliot, to decide if he even should marry her.

I was both thrilled and horrified as I read of some of her ordeals- riding on a horse for days through uncleared jungles, floating down roiling rivers in dugout canoes, battling slimy, unknown creatures, attending women in childbirth, and attempting to translate the Bible into an as-yet-unwritten tribal language. Her devotion to God is evident throughout every challenge.

  • Give Me This Mountain

I’d never heard of Dr. Helen Roseveare until I came across a reference to her in Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude.  Helen didn’t live a quiet life. Instead of practicing medicine in England, she chose a far more radical path- the life of a medical missionary in the war-ravaged Congo.

Being a foreign doctor in an impoverished country was challenging enough, but things became much harder, and more personal, when guerillas took over Helen’s hospital compound. Many missionaries had already left the country, but Helen’s deeply rooted trust in God compelled her to stay. For five months, she and several other female missionaries were held captive.

Helen braved the ordeal and even learned to give God thanks for it.

What can We do on Our Own?

These are just a couple out of many books I enjoyed last year! I wish I could share more with you. I think I like them because they show me what’s possible when God is fully in charge of your life.

So often single women hold themselves back because they’re on their own. Everything feels twice as daunting. Believe me, I know.

A life devoted to God may not be pretty or easy, but these women show us it’s possible to live boldly all on your own.

It’s amazing what women- even single women- can accomplish when they let God work through them.   

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of good books and the inspiring women they share with us. May we all learn to be more like them. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

New Year, but Nothing’s Changed

I like the New Year because of the optimism it generates. Hope for the future is a good thing. In my last post I wrote about taking intentional steps to create positive change in your life. The New Year is a great time to sit down and evaluate where you’ve been and where you want to go. I think resolutions, goals, and change are all worthwhile.

But… what about the things we can’t change? What if there are circumstances in our lives which might never change?

How do we approach THOSE on January 1st?   

Frustrated with Your Unchanging Single Status?

“Why does it seem like nothing ever changes?”

I’ve had so many single friends say this to me. I’ve said it to myself. In fact, I’ve often viewed my single life as a long, straight road stretching on into the distance, as far as I can see, with nothing ever changing.

A lack of change feels frustrating, especially when you can’t do anything about it. It can feel like you’re on a never-ending treadmill. The New Year just seems to highlight the fact that your life didn’t, in fact, change at all last year.

I can resolve to lose twenty pounds, but I can’t resolve to change my single status.

Instead of resetting your life, reset your thinking!

Staying single isn’t the problem. It’s my point of view that’s the problem.

I thought about what I would want someone to say to me the next time I feel frustrated with my single status. I also thought about what I would say to you when you feel that way. How do we break out of the “Help, I’m trapped in a never-ending state of singleness” mindset?

Here’s what I came up with. If you and I were having coffee, this is what I would tell you:

  • Look to God.

First, last, and always. If you’re ever going to find peace and contentment with your life, it has to start here. Put down your cell phone and open your Bible. Read about every amazing thing God has done and then remind yourself- the God of the Bible loves you, too. He has plans for you, just like Ruth, Esther, Mary, Deborah, and other amazing biblical women. When God says He’s working everything (including singleness) for your good, He means it.

Believe it. Hold onto it. Tell yourself the truth again and again until it starts to sink in.

And then surrender. Surrender everything- your hopes, dreams, plans, and wishes for a husband, 2.5 kids, and the big house with the picket fence. Give it all to God and trust Him with it.

  • Identify your triggers.

What causes you to struggle with the unchanging nature of your single life? Some of my triggers are a lack of sleep, comments from others, holidays, and romantic movies. These things affect my outlook, cause me to question who I am, and make me discontent.

Figure out the areas where you are most vulnerable and work to avoid them or devise a plan for getting through them.

  • Focus on the good in your life.

Do you have a great job? Do you revel in being the fun aunt? Has God provided you with an unbelievable circle of friends? Is your church family loving and supportive?

What are the best aspects of your live? Travel, hobbies, witnessing opportunities, meaningful time spent with family and friends, the fantastic coffee shop down the street, great workouts, or just extra quiet time to sit and read a book. Work to identify all the positives.  

If you’re struggling with contentment right now, I would also encourage you to start writing down blessings or keeping a thankfulness journal. It really, really helps.

  • Quit playing the comparison game.

Stop comparing yourself to other women. Stop jealously eyeing their beautiful, swishy hair (hair has always been a sore spot for me), skinny bodies, cool lives, or cute kids. Most of all, eliminate the assumption that there’s something wrong with you since every other girl can get a guy and you can’t. That type of thinking will never help you. So cut it out.

  • Find ways to invest in others.

I write about this a lot because I think about me, me, me a lot. Being single naturally draws the focus inward. The more I dwell on myself and what I don’t have, the more frustrated and depressed I get about my single life. Shifting the focus toward another person changes my perspective. Life becomes less about me and more about the needs of a friend, niece, or neighbor. Get creative and look for ways to help and connect.

  • Love generously

This ties in with investing in others. I think, the longer we’re single, the more comfortable it becomes to withdraw or hold back. Be friendly, but not too open. That’s usually my motto. But we miss so much this way!

A lack of romantic love in our lives doesn’t mean we can’t fully, generously love other people. Being able to embrace the people God brings into our lives is a beautiful gift. We will be richer for it.  

Accept your life where it is today.

To anyone who’s struggling with the question, “Why doesn’t anything ever seem to change?” I would remind you some things may never change.

It’s far better to accept that fact than rail against it. Rather than hoping this is the year you’ll meet someone, or that this is the year for big changes in your life, try making this the year of quiet acceptance.

Stop struggling and start surrendering.

I pray that the changes will be in me, and you, this year. Not necessarily in our circumstances.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of a hope and a future, however they might look. Together, let’s celebrate every SINLGE blessing!

Six Intentional Steps to Help You Accomplish Your Goals in 2021

Once again the holiday season has blown past us and now we all find ourselves looking forward- forward to a new year and the hope we want it to bring.

Hope for an end to the pandemic

Hope for a better financial situation

Hope that this will be the year you finally meet someone special

Hope for an end to student loans (that’s me!)

Hope for weight loss, better health, or just a better body

Hope to know God more

Hope for rest and peace

Hope for personal growth

We hope for so many things. As women, it’s in our DNA. We’re designed to be the encouragers, the nurturers, the cheerleaders, the infusers of optimism. I believe that’s how God created us.

So go ahead and cling to hope, but don’t let the future and a distant “someday” cause you to completely overlook what’s right in front of you. Looking ahead pulls our eyes off the tasks that can be done today and takes our focus off the immediate.

The next thing we know, another year has gone by. Maybe some of the things we hoped for came about, but there were probably a lot that didn’t.

Things are going to be different!

“Intentional” is my word for 2021. This year I want to be a woman who is intentional about today, rather than a woman who hopes for things that may never come. Hope by itself doesn’t really get you anywhere.

Intentional, daily action- that’s a different story.

I like lists. I make them for pretty much everything. If I don’t make a list, bad things happen. Just this week my coworker turned to me on Monday and said, “You remembered that you have chapel this Wednesday, right?”

Uh, no. No I did not.

Chapel wasn’t on the list.

See? I rely heavily on my lists. Without them, chapel messages are forgotten, emails don’t get sent, and bills fail to be paid.

And, of course, hopes get put on the back burner.

So I have a list to help me live with intentionality this year!

Six Intentional Steps to Help You Accomplish Your Goals in 2021:

  • Pray

Life has to start here. Proverbs 16:9 tells us “The heart of a man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Begin by seeking God’s will for all areas of your life. He knows you, your heart, and your hopes and dreams. He also knows what’s the very best for you. Be open to His leading!

  • Plan

Set up a plan. Here’s where my lists come in again- Health and fitness is an area of my life I want to live more intentionally. Before I might have said, “I need to lose weight.” The vagueness of the plan always caused me to fail before I even began. However, this year my goal is to get my waistline under a certain number (you’ll just have to imagine the number. I’ll never tell.). This is a measurable, specific goal.

To be effective your plan should always have measurable goals. 

  • Prepare

Get everything you need and have it all close at hand. This is another one of my measurable goals. I’m working on it because I realized how much time I was wasting. Take my home exercise routine: I was always hunting for a particular exercise DVD. Then I had to find my water bottle, my headphones, the one hand weight my nephew walked off with, and the tennis shoes I like the best. Twenty minutes later I’m ready to start, but I’m already telling myself exercise is taking up too much time.

Getting organized beforehand will save you time and set you up for success.

  • Place

Find an ideal place to carry out your goals. Continuing with the exercise theme, this is a tough one for me. With my living situation, space is at a premium. I struggle with exercising at home because there isn’t a really good spot to do it. Carpeting, furniture, and even ceiling fans complicate things. So I’m still working on a better solution for this one…

  • Present  

Be present! Stop dreaming about what you might accomplish one day. Instead, step up, and start today. This day is all we’re guaranteed, so make the most of it. Talking about what you’d like to do when you have more time, money, or opportunities isn’t going to get you anywhere. Be present and start taking small, deliberate steps one day at a time.

  • Proceed

Now it’s time to stop talking about it and do it!  Start accomplishing those little goals!

“You’re off to great places!

Today is your day!

You’re mountain is waiting!

So get on your way!”

-Dr. Seuss

Don’t get discouraged! Instead, pray, plan, prepare, choose a place, be present, and then proceed. Come along with me on a journey to start the New Year off right. Let’s actually take steps to become the women we hope to be.

And may you see yourself becoming the amazing woman God intends you to be.

This week, I’m thankful for hopes and dreams, but I’m also thankful for the small steps that lead us toward them. That’s where we really grow. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Blessed is She Who Believed…

A pregnant teenage girl isn’t usually someone I’d hold up as an ideal role model for women. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a different story, however.

This Christmas my eyes were opened to her in a new way. The focus of Christmas, and rightly so, is usually on baby Jesus in the manger. He’s the main event- our Savior. Without Him and His selfless act, there would be no Christmas. No salvation. No hope.

So I’ve never really given Mary a lot of thought. This year, though, she seemed to keep popping up- in podcasts, Christmas pageants, and devotionals. I was struck by her life and her reactions. If we study them there are great truths for all of us as we prepare to end a difficult, rocky year and look forward to the future.

Her role:

Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. If you stop and think about that fact for a while, it boggles the mind. At least, it does mine. She, of all the women in the world, was specially selected by God to carry His son.

While we don’t know much about Mary, we do know she was young. I did some research and biblical historians believe she could have been as young as twelve or thirteen, based on the traditions of the time. Girls were betrothed very, very early.

We also know that she was from a poor background. Later in Scripture when Joseph and Mary came to the temple to complete Mary’s purification rituals, they brought turtle doves or pigeons. Those were the approved sacrifices for people who couldn’t afford a lamb. Mary would have been engaged to a man of similar financial station to herself, so we can assume she was from a family that didn’t have much money.

The Bible never tells us if Mary was pretty, highly intelligent, or in any other way remarkable. So what made God favor a young, poor, average girl for the highest honor any woman would ever receive?

Her response:

I think the answer is found here- in her response. Imagine the shock Mary would have received when an angel appeared before her. One minute she’s going about her daily tasks, with no idea that this day will be different from any other, and then- BAM! Gabriel, who “stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:18) is now standing in front of Mary, giving her some… really startling news.

An unwed pregnancy during biblical times had the potential to shatter Mary’s life. Her engagement was threatened. Public shame was a real possibility. Rejection from family and friends, potential outcast,  pushed away from everything she knew and loved-

This was what Mary faced.

However, Mary never reflects fear, uncertainty, or horror. Aside from the pretty obvious question regarding the possibility of pregnancy when she was still a virgin, her response seemed to be one of total trust and quiet acquiescence.

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Wow. Would you have responded that way? I know I wouldn’t have. I think I probably would have become hysterical and immediately started trying to bargain with God, asking Him to choose someone else to do the task, because there was no way I was up to it.

Her relationship with God:

But that leads us to the next thing I learned about Mary- her relationship with God ran deep. Luke 1:30 tells us Mary found favor with God. Clearly, she had been seeking Him and doing her best to follow Him long before all of this came about.

This was also shown in Mary’s song of worship. After she received her news, Mary she made a long trip to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was in the midst of her own miraculous pregnancy, also revealed by the angel Gabriel. The two women, honored by God and caught in mysterious, heavenly circumstances, were able to celebrate together.

Mary sings with joy about what God has done for her, sprinkling her song with Old Testament scripture references. Her song shows a surprising understanding of scripture at a time when girls were barely educated.  

Certainly, Mary’s gracious response to her situation came from her relationship with God, which was rooted in Scripture and the truth of who He is.

What does this mean for us?

While I do not believe that it’s right to worship or venerate Mary, I do believe we can learn a great deal from her life. I can say with certainty that none of us will ever be called on to carry God’s child, but we will all be asked to walk paths that may seem too hard. When that happens, we can cry, shut down, worry, or become angry.

Or we can take a page from Mary’s book.

  • Root yourself in scripture before hard times come
  • Trust God implicitly
  • Learn to accept everything He gives or takes
  • Say “yes” to God’s plan for your life
  • Find a way to worship in all circumstances

And may we be able to say with Mary and Elizabeth, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)

This week, as we wrap up one year and anticipate the new one, I’m thankful for the example of godly women in scripture. May we learn to respond to life’s challenges the way they did. This week, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Twenty Lessons We can Learn From 2020

My unpopular opinion?

I may be alone in this feeling, but I don’t think 2020 was such a bad year.

I found it all… very interesting.

Again, maybe that’s just me. I’ll also be the first to say that I’ve been fortunate. I haven’t gotten COVID (not that I know of, anyway). I didn’t lose my job. No one I loved died from the disease. I didn’t have a business close or anything like that.

Teaching from home was tough, but we got through it. Then God provided a new summer job when my camp didn’t open until July. He met my need before I even had time to pray about it!

So, I realize I’m not speaking for everyone, here.  But please bear with me.  I think this unique time has been good for us in so many ways. I know it has for me.

Here in the United States, we are blessed with prosperity and unprecedented freedom. We have an ease of life most people, both in the past and living in the world today, will never experience.

These last ten months have been challenging, largely for the fact that they’ve broken us out of our comfortable secure. We’ve had comforts and freedoms taken away for the first time.

But is that REALLY a bad thing?

I don’t think so.

The hard times are when we grow the most. They’re the times we’re forced to turn to God because we don’t know where else to go or what to do. Being uncomfortable shows us who we are and what’s truly important in our lives.

As we wrap up the year and look ahead, hoping for something better in the times to come, I wanted to take a minute and reflect on what we’ve already been given.

Twenty Lessons I’ve Learned in 2020:

  1. Nothing in life is certain
  2. Hold loosely to…well, almost everything
  3. Be flexible
  4. Getting up and going to work every day is not the worst thing after all
  5. God alone makes sense in this crazy world
  6. Family and friends are so valuable
  7. Contentment can be found in the small things
  8. Solitude and even loneliness are good
  9. Beauty feeds the soul
  10. Don’t be afraid to try new things
  11. Hard times equal growth
  12. We are so incredibly blessed here in America
  13. Music makes everything better
  14. A healthy lifestyle is beneficial
  15. God works in unexpected ways
  16. I am not forgotten or overlooked
  17. Spiritual growth is a personal matter
  18. Ohio is actually a great place to live
  19. It’s good to have kids around
  20. Comfort is the enemy

Some of them are random, but that’s where I’m at right now! This year has taught me to much.

I also wanted to share a favorite poem with you. I feel like it perfectly sums this year up.

Dis­turb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with our­selves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too lit­tle,
When we arrived safe­ly
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Dis­turb us, Lord, when
With the abun­dance of things we pos­sess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Hav­ing fall­en in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eter­ni­ty
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heav­en to dim.

Dis­turb us, Lord, to dare more bold­ly,
To ven­ture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mas­tery;
Where los­ing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The hori­zons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

-attributed to Sir Francis Drake

2020 disturbed us in so many ways. It forced us to adjust our whole lives. But it also gave us new opportunities to rise, to sail farther from the comfortable shores, and to lift our eyes up, rather than around us.

May we continue to do that in 2021.

This week, I’m thankful for all the lessons we’ve been able to learn this year. It hasn’t been boring, that’s for sure.  Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Dear Single Woman: God Cares for You!

Do you know God loves you?  I mean, do you really know?  Do you believe it, deep down inside? The Bible tells us God loves us, so it has to be true; living life in the full confidence of that truth is another matter.

For a long time, I struggled with feeling like God only blessed married women with children. Single women were somehow passed over or forgotten. And when you hear comments like, “God’s waiting for you to develop more faith,” well, that just makes it even worse.

Earlier this year I realized that I doubted the truth of God’s love. In my mind, God was clearly withholding blessings in all life departments- He couldn’t possibly love me as much as He loved other women.

You know- married women, with 2.5 children, a nice house, and a fluffy dog.

This realization marked the start of a hard-fought battle. The lockdown and quiet hours of solitude actually proved to be a blessing to me, because they provided time to think, to work out what I really believed to be true about God.  

Through the dreary days of late winter, through isolated hikes in the woods, through long summer afternoons by the lake, I fought through my doubts.  I read my Bible, prayed, and listened to Christian podcasts, trying to fill my mind with as much Christian teaching as possible.

There were times when I would just sit and tell myself, “God loves you, God loves you” over and over until I finally started to believe it.

Here’s what I can say with confidence now:

Singleness does not mean God loves me less.

My life is still blessed; the blessings just look different from most other women’s.

If that’s true for me, then it’s true for you, too!

A wise friend of mine recently wrote a great Facebook post about God’s love for women in general and her specifically. It resonated with me, so I wanted to share it with you:

“I spend a lot of time alone. Since I live by myself and work from home this is hardly surprising, but sometimes it’s easy to conflate being physically alone with being invisible to God. (Please don’t read this as a reason for pity! God has blessed my life in so many ways, and His plan is perfect even in my singleness. I am content in that.)

Satan loves to take aspects of our lives and twist them to make it seem as though God doesn’t care. He did that with Eve in the garden, and he hasn’t stopped since then. But it’s always a lie.

Today’s reading in 2 Kings 8 was a much needed reminder that God cares for us, and His care is individual and intentional. I’m sure you all remember the woman who ministered to Elisha, and how he in return saved the life of her son. But then there’s the rest of the story. Elisha warned her that a lengthy famine was coming, so she and her family left the country.

At the end of seven years, she came back and went to ask the king for her house and fields back. Now I have a hunch that King Jehoram – described as doing evil in the sight of the Lord – was not accustomed to generosity toward women. Women were second-class citizens, and he was not a good guy. But God arranged it so that she arrived just as Gehazi was telling the king all about the miracle with her son. And in his amazement, the king not only returned the house and field, he threw in seven years’ worth of produce from her field.

God didn’t have to do anything more for this faithful woman. After all, he’d already rewarded her ministry to Elisha by returning her son to life! But His care for her was constant and designed to meet her exact needs. He kept her from suffering the famine, and He restored all she needed and then some.

I am so thankful to know that the same God who watched over this woman watches over me. I’m never truly alone. And He loves you too! Trust Him, because he is worthy of our trust.”

Rejoice in the truth of God’s love for you- today!

Her thoughts perfectly sum up what God has been teaching me this year- He cares for each of us as individuals. Just because your life looks different it doesn’t mean God has forgotten about you!

If you’re like me and you struggle with feeling unloved, let God’s Word speak truth into your life. I encourage you to go to II Kings 8 and read this story for yourself. Remind yourself that…

You are loved.

You are blessed.

You are cared for.

This week I’m thankful for the truths found in Scripture. We can lie to ourselves, but God never lies to us. He loves us more than we can ever understand or imagine. And we can rest in that. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Embarrassed to be single? You shouldn’t be!

I’ve never understood those people who hem and haw when they’re asked about their most embarrassing moments. You know who they are- they shift around awkwardly until they finally admit they’ve never really found themselves in a truly embarrassing situation. 

I always tell them I’ll share one of mine, because I’ve got A LOT.

One of my most embarrassing moments occurred when I was teaching music in Illinois. We took most of the elementary school on a reward field trip to an adventure play land. Somehow, I ended up with a large group of students who wanted to play mini gold. All the other adults had mysteriously disappeared so off I went with twelve students trailing behind me, enthusiastically swinging clubs at stationary objects and each other.

I should have been the mature, wise one, the only one not attacking bushes with a tiny metal club, and it started out that way. However, as it tends to happen when I’m around, things went, um, sliding downhill when one of the girls knocked her ball into a little pond.

I confidently told the students to step back from the water; I would get the ball. Afterall, I was the teacher and the only one in full possession of her motor skills. No problem.

I crouched down next to the edge of the pond and leaned forward to get the ball. My sandals betrayed me. Suddenly, I was sliding down the algaed side of the pond with no way to stop. The next thing I knew, the mature, wise one was waist deep in really gross water.

The students stared at me in stunned silence. I could tell they all wanted to fall down laughing but were afraid to do it since I was a teacher. One girl, the one whose ball I “rescued,” took off running, shrieking that I’d fallen in a pool. The other adults reappeared, thinking that I was drowning.

Now there were more witnesses to my humiliation.

I squelched out of the hideous pond, golf ball in hand, and headed for the bathroom and an attempt at drying myself off with paper towels and a hand dryer. Now that they knew I wasn’t drowning, the students were howling with laughter and racing in all directions to tell others I’d fallen in a pond. One girl gleefully told me she’d remember that moment until she was a senior- it was going to be her senior memory at graduation.

Terrific.

 I’d like to tell you the pond incident was a one-time thing. While I’ve only fallen in one pond, there have been many other moments of humiliation. I’ve had my slip fall off in church, I’ve cried in the DMV, I’ve fallen down the stairs in college, I once destroyed the accompaniment to “Happy Birthday” when I tried to play it without sheet music, and… I could go on.

Here’s my point:

There are a lot of things in life to be embarrassed about. Being single doesn’t need to be one of them.

It shouldn’t be one of them.

Last week I realized how often I let other peoples’ views of singleness color my own. Popular music, movies, pastors, co-workers, grandmothers- they’re the ones who tell me I need (yes, need) to be married. They unanimously depict life with another person as good and life alone as bad.

The more I hear that message the more I start to believe it.

There have been many times when I’ve been embarrassed to tell someone I’m single and don’t have kids, usually because I know what’s going to follow- arm-patting, murmured sympathy, and then the assurance that I’ll find a really great guy “someday.”

Just like that, my life has been weighed, judged, and found wanting and I’m stuffing down the feelings of inferiority again.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  

Is being single really so bad? Should I feel embarrassed about it?

No, definitely not.

Why should I feel ashamed about it? If other people choose to demean, make assumptions, or feel sorry for me, that’s their choice. It doesn’t have to be mine.

Falling in a pond in front of a group of school children? Yeah, that’s embarrassing.

Doing life as a single woman? Not so much.

The next time someone asks you if you’re married, have a boyfriend, or anything else relational, hold you head up high, look them in the eye, and tell them the truth proudly.

Their responses don’t have to define you.

This week I’m thankful for the embarrassing moments in life. They keep us humble and remind us what we should and shouldn’t worry about. This week, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Gratitude in all Things

Last week in my kindergarten classroom one of the students laid his bag of Veggie Straws down on the floor. The boy with the cubbie next to him stepped back and accidently crushed the Veggie Straws. I saw it happen and held my breath, waiting for the angry outburst I was sure was coming. Instead, the first boy picked up the bag and shouted, “Yea! Now I have more!”

Gratitude and joy were his first response. I loved that.

And I was rebuked at the same time.

I wish gratitude and joy came that easily to me, but I tend to be a glass half-empty kind of person. That’s my natural default.

I Thessalonians 5:18 tells a different story- “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Last week I wrote about all the reasons I was thankful to be single and easily came up with twelve of them. Most of the time I enjoy being single.

Sometimes, though, I absolutely hate it:

When my school wants to do something nice for the teachers so they arrange for all of us to get away at a nice lodge. Ummm… who do I “get away” with?

When people call me “Mrs.” and then quickly apologize

 Scraping snow off my car at 6:30 in the morning while wearing a skirt because there’s no one else to do it

Feeling like everyone’s either judging you or pitying you because you’re single

And holidays. I really struggle with holidays. There’s nothing like a string of warm, cozy family-oriented events to remind you of what you don’t have.   

How does a single woman give thanks in those circumstances?

One of my favorite books is Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (it was written before she was married).  This book has helped me greatly with my outlook on the more challenging parts of life. So now I want to shift the focus of this post and turn it into a book review:

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” –James 1:17

Choosing Gratitude emphasizes the importance of treating gratitude as a way of life, not just an attitude. The book starts with the reminder of what God has done for us- He saves us, calls us His children, and offers us a new life.

When we stop to REALLY think about what God has done for us then it stands to reason we will be filled with thankfulness. A heart that’s been changed by God should naturally be overflowing, multiplying, and abounding with gratitude. When we start to view life that way, our whole outlook changes.

The author also emphasizes the importance of developing gratitude for all aspects of life- both the good and the bad. A heart of gratitude can help us walk through the hardest times.

Those tough holidays? My single-girl holiday season might look different from most women’s, but there is still a lot to be grateful for. Reading books like this one help me see that.

I would highly recommend this book. It’s full of joy. You feel it seeping through the pages (sorry if that sounds cheesy, but it’s true!). It will give you new eyes to see what God has done for you and how you should respond.

If you already feel yourself starting to struggle with the holiday season, reroute your mindset with a great book like Choosing Gratitude. At the end of the book there is also a thirty-day devotional to guide readers through a “journey of gratitude.” The devotional is a great tool to help you focus on thankfulness.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss tells us gratitude is a journey to a whole new way to view life. It’s a choice to see life through God’s lens, finding ways to give thanks in all circumstances.

And gratitude leads to joy.

Quotes for Inspiration:

“So much of what is wrong in our lives- out of sync, out of sorts, out of harmony- can be traced back to the root of ingratitude.”

“The mercies of God that are ‘new every morning’ are not blessings we deserve but graces given by God’s loving hand to fallen creatures, those He has redeemed by His good pleasure. To ignore such unmerited favor… is to miss out on the vision of His loveliness and glory that will sustain us through life’s battles and keep joy flowing into and out of our hearts.”  

 “I love knowing that He cares and provides for me, not just air to breathe and food to eat, but countless extras that simply flow from His generous heart. When my eyes are opened by gratitude to see these boundless examples of grace, only then can I see clearly enough to press on in this broken world.”

“Bath soap. Toothpaste.

Hot water. Dishwashing detergent.

Air conditioning. House plants.

Sunsets. Sunglasses.

Birthday cards. Blue skies.

Flashlights. Blankets.

Family photos. Fresh fruit.

Measuring cups. Warm clothes.

Books. Bookcases.

Beautiful music. Clean sheets.

Autumn leaves. Sticky notes.

If we take it all for granted, if we think life just shows up with this stuff already in place, if we trick ourselves into believing that everyday household items come from the grocery store rather than from a gracious God, we walk right past countless reasons for worship without even knowing it.”

I want to end with the author’s beautiful list of simple thankfulness. When we start to look at life that way, it’s amazing how long our thankful lists really are.  Even on the hard days, there’s so much to be grateful for. 

Today, I’m thankful for every SINGLE blessing God’s given me!

Single and Thankful

Thanksgiving is my favorite season. I love the idea of a holiday built around gratitude. I also appreciate that it’s not tied to excessive gift-giving or any weird tradition like the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, or Elf on the Shelf. Since most stores seem to glide directly from Halloween to Christmas, it even feels slightly subversive to celebrate Thanksgiving. I can get on board with that.

I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us we’re supposed to give thanks in all circumstances.

All circumstances.

Even singleness.

Being thankful for my single status doesn’t always come easily. There have been many times I’ve found myself prostrate on the bed, wailing, “Why me? This is too hard!” But in the spirit of Thanksgiving I started making a list of all the things I was thankful for in regards to singleness. I was surprised by how easily and quickly they came to me.

So today I want to look to God and say, “Thank you. Thank you for my gift of singleness, everything it’s taught me, and everything it’s allowed me to experience.”

  • It forces me to rely on God

There have been many times when it’s just me and God. I’ve had to turn to Him again and again, telling Him that I have no idea what to do or how I’m going to get through a certain situation. Singleness shows me that God is there for me when no one else is. He’s never let me down.

  • It lets me be the fun aunt

This is one of my favorite things about being single! Since I don’t have kids my nieces and nephews are extra-special to me. I relish the time I get to spend with them.

  • It gives me time on my own

This one is hard-fought. I often struggle to find meaningful ways to spend my time- sometimes I have so much of it! During the past few months of social distancing and quarantine, however, I’ve learned to appreciate quiet times of solitude in new ways.

  • It gives me time with others

The other side of the coin- I like time on my own, but I also value time with others. Right now I’m able to do three different Bible studies with friends, which has been wonderful. I’m also thankful for the time I can spend with my sisters and cousins.

  • It provides travel opportunities

Grateful. That’s the word that always comes to mind when I think about my travels. I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve been given.

  • It lets me listen to whatever I want in the car

Maybe this sounds shallow, but I really am thankful for this one. When I take my niece home from school she insists on listening to the same Adventures in Odyssey episode over and over and over again. I’ll never take my listening preferences for granted again!

  • It gives me freedom

There’s so little to tie me down. I don’t have to cook, wash dishes, or help anyone with their homework in the evening. I’m free to exercise, read, write, socialize, sleep, or dance around as I want.

  • It gives me unlimited opportunities

Opportunities to…  volunteer, try new things, attempt different hobbies, go on mission trips, bake for others, participate in Bible studies, visit new restaurants, do that weird exercise class. Being single allows you to experience so much.

  • It shows me who I am

I am a deeply selfish person. Singleness acts as a mirror, reflecting my life in front of me. This mirror, though, shows the internal struggles. By nature, I think the role of wife and mother is deeply sacrificial. Being single, on the other hand, means my focus is mostly on myself.  I have to work hard to get my thoughts and actions off me, me, me.

  • It forces me out of my comfort zone

It’s a challenge to frequently do things on my own. If I don’t though, I would miss out on so much life. When you’re single you either spend a lot of time on the couch or you take a deep breath, open your front door, and step out by yourself.

  • It offers hope for the future

I can look at this two ways- First, God has walked with me through everything so far and I know I can count on Him for everything in the future. Second, the hope of marriage is still out there. I never know what’s around the corner and that’s exciting!

  • It strengthens and humbles me all at the same time

Whether or not I want it to, being single defines so much of who I am. I would be a very different woman if I was married. Singleness forces me solve problems on my own. It makes me be brave and independent. But it also humbles me, showing me where I’m weakest. There are times when I’m absolutely helpless and my only option is to cry out to God.

God, the giver of all good and perfect gifts, has never overlooked me. He’s not waiting for me to become more spiritual or preparing the perfect man for me…someday. He’s given me good things TODAY. He’s the one who gives my single life meaning and purpose.

And I’m so thankful for that.

This week, I’m thankful for my single life and (almost) every aspect of it. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

P.S.- Many of these things first appeared on my post “My Ten Favorite Reasons to Celebrate Singleness.” If you missed it, you can read that post here.

True Beauty= A Quiet and Gentle Spirit

“No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“Outer beauty pleases the eye; inner beauty captivates the heart.” –Mandy Hale

“True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.” – Audrey Hepburn

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” –Proverbs 31:30

Myth: I’m single because I’m not pretty

I blame Ulta.

I went in there looking for a special shampoo. I’d never been in the store before, and as soon as I went in I realized why.

Beauty products of every color and type bombarded me, calling with a seductive siren song:

Products to make my hair thicker, shinier, bouncier, glossier, or any color I wanted.

Make-up I could only dream of and would have no idea how to apply.

Creams, gels, and serums that promised to wipe away wrinkles, lines, dark spots, acne, and any other horrifying blemish.

Tanning, bleaching, removing, enhancing- anything I could ever want to do to my face or body (and a whole bunch of things I’d never even thought to consider) were screaming at me to buy them.

I wandered around the store in a fascinated daze. Who knew women needed so much? I wasn’t using any of these products, so what was I doing wrong? I started to eagerly pull items off the shelves.

And then a little voice in my head whispered, “Maybe if you starting using these things you would become more attractive to men.” 

That brought me up short.

Physical beauty has always been a sore subject for me- I’ve been disappointed in my appearance since I was a little girl. If you ask me to list all the things I don’t like about the way I look, I could easily start with my hair (I have perpetually bad hair- one of my students told me the other day that I had “recess hair”) and go all the way down to my toes (weird feet and crooked toes that are getting weirder as I get older).

And don’t even get me started on my arms. My oldest niece is fascinated with them and actually likes to play with them. Once, when I was shaking a nail polish bottle for her she cried out, “Wow! Look at them jiggle.”

Yes, she was talking about my upper arms.

I learned long ago to look in the mirror and dislike… pretty much everything.

The struggle is real. I don’t have all the answers on how to be content with your appearance.

But I do know that Ulta doesn’t hold all the answers, either.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never dated. Frequently, when I feel most down, it becomes easy to blame my appearance for that. If only I…

Was thinner

was prettier

Had better hair

Tightened up my arms

Didn’t have to wear glasses

On and on the list goes, cataloguing every flaw until I’m convinced no man would ever consider me.

Have you been there? Do you tell yourself these things, too?

There is hope!

Ulta may not have all the answers, but the Bible does, even for this:

“Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” -I Peter 3:3, 4

The importance of physical attractiveness is pounded into girls’ heads from a young age, and yeah, clothes, jewelry, make-up, those things are a lot of fun.

But they should never be the most important thing. Outer beauty should NEVER define us.  

God, our Creator, is the only One whose opinion truly matters. He cares so much more about the women we are on the inside. We don’t need expensive beauty products to be beautiful in His eyes

I don’t think the Bible is telling us it’s wrong to look nice, but rather it’s redirecting us toward what should be most important for women- cultivating an inner beauty that reflects our Savior.

Instead of nice clothes, Colossians 3:12 gives us some other attributes we should put on- “Put on then, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. “

That sounds like a woman I would like to get to know. That sounds like the kind of woman I would like to be.

Yes, I wish for long, beautiful hair and thin arms. I will probably continue to struggle with my appearance. I will always fight the little voice that whispers, “You’re single because you’re not pretty.” It’s hard, it really is, in an appearance-driven world.

But I don’t want my appearance to define me, and I certainly don’t want to fix it just to catch a man. Those things don’t really matter.  I want to learn to like who I am on the outside, but I would much rather improve who I am on the inside.

A quiet and gentle spirit. It just sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

If you dislike what you see in the mirror, don’t let it get you down. Move away from the mirror and open your Bible instead. Let God tell you who you are. He can shape you into the woman you’re meant to be. Good character, kindness, compassion, a loving heart- those things will never go out of style. They don’t need cover-up or concealer. In fact, they get better with age.

And the right guy will be attracted to those qualities, too.

This week I’m thankful l external beauty isn’t the only way to define ourselves. God offers us something so much better.  Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Firm Foundations

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. -Psalm 62: 5-8

Foundation: an underlying base or support, a body or ground upon which something is built up or overlaid

I stood five stories up, looking over Loch Ness. The castle sprawled around me in ruins, except for the tower I was in. Despite bombings and other destruction, the foundations remained, dramatically etching the outline of a castle that had once been the largest in Scotland.

The foundations remained.

On that same trip, my sister and I decided to kill an hour visiting Armadale Castle while we waited to the ferry to take us across to mainland Scotland. Left largely to its own devices, Armadale had become derelict, little more than a hollowed-out shell.

But the foundations remained.

Eight years later I was in England. This time I find myself on a vast mound, constructed by the Romans as a defense. William the Conqueror later claimed the mound and built an entire city up there. Again, everything was in ruins, but the foundations could still be clearly seen.

The foundations remained.

The ruins of Rosslyn Castle, outside Edinburgh

I’ve seen this truth repeated throughout my trips to England and Scotland. Castles, houses, and religious buildings have been brought low by wind, rain, fire, and wars. They lie crumbled, abandoned, and ignored.

However, their foundations remain stand strong and will continue to do so long into the future.

Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye

Christ the Sure Foundation

It’s impossible to build an effective building without a strong foundation. It was true hundreds of years ago and it’s still true today. Modern technology and engineering haven’t changed that fact. Buildings cannot stand without the right foundation.

Neither can we.

Our modern thinking tells us, especially as women, that we need to be our own strong foundation. We’re encouraged to be physically and mentally tough. This mindset says we don’t really need anyone else. If we struggle, then we just need to be stronger.

On the other hand, sadly, Christian thinking often tells us women we need a man. He is the basis of our happiness, with marriage as the main goal of our lives.

When Christian women embrace these mentalities we’re just deceiving ourselves. We’re trying to build our lives on the wrong foundations.

 We aren’t strong enough. We aren’t brave enough, good enough, or tough enough.

On our own we are never enough.

We need Jesus, not a man.

Failure to build our lives on the right foundation- a personal faith in Jesus Christ- means we will crumble every time.  

Isaiah 28:16 says, “See, I (God) lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will never be shaken.”

This promise is repeated again in I Peter 2:6- “See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”

If we go back one verse in Isaiah it tells us that the people made lies a refuge and falsehood their hiding place (28:15). God was going to wash all that away and prove to them that the only sure foundation, the only One who could always be counted on, was Jesus Christ.

Single, married, young, old, optimistic or scared of the future, whatever your story is- I hope this is an encouragement to you in the middle of these turbulent times. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

He is our sure foundation.

When we build our lives on Him, we won’t be shaken.

All that’s left of this cathedral in Old Sarum is the foundations! Our foundation- Jesus Christ- will remain long after we’re gone.

This world has nothing for me
This life is not my own
I know You go before me and I am not alone
This mountain rises higher
The way seems so unclear
But I know that You go with me so I will never fear
I will trust in You

Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
No, we won’t be shaken
No, we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken
No, we won’t be shaken

You know my every longing
You’ve heard my every prayer
You’ve held me in my weakness ’cause You are always there
So I’ll stand in full surrender
It’s Your way and not my own
My mind is set on nothing less
Than You and You alone
I will not be moved

“We Won’t be Shaken”

-Building 429

This week, I’m thankful for a faithful God who never changes. He will see us through every storm. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Five Ways to Affirm Single Women

I used to love roller coasters- the breath-stealing hills, the twists and turns, your stomach up around your throat, hysterical screaming. They were great.  

Being single can feel a lot like those roller coasters. There are high highs and deep lows, twists and turns. Most days, if you asked me, I would tell you I’m pretty okay with being single. I like my freedom and independence. I love being the fun aunt. And the fact that I don’t have to cook?

Bonus.

But some days singleness feels like too much. On those days I stare down the long, empty, seemingly-unchanging road of my life and despair of anything ever being different. The rough days mean fear, doubt, and frustration. They mean playing the comparison game and believing every other woman has it better than you.

On those days I don’t need anyone to throw words at me- words about online dating, your certainty I’ll find a man, or comments on how pretty I am.

I just need you.

Single friends, married women, co-workers, and older church women, I need your affirmation and support.

Single women often come across as independent or aloof, but for many of us, it’s a facade. We really do need you.

We need each other.

And, if you wanted to take the time to let me know my life isn’t a mistake, that would be great.

5 Ways to Affirm Single Women

  • Pray for us- not for us to get married, but just for us.

Please pray for us! In the past people have told me they’re praying for me to find a husband, but that’s not really what I need right now (or ever). What we all need is someone who’ll hold up the lives we actually have in prayer- pray that God helps us with loneliness, with unfulfilled desires, with jealousy, selfishness, and even laziness (it’s easy when you’re single, believe me). Pray us through financial uncertainties and times when we feel left out. Those are the kind of prayers we covet. 

  • Invite us into your lives- make time for us

This is huge! Bring single women into your lives. I’ve written about loneliness before and how it’s one of the main struggles we face. Invite us into your mess; make us a part of things. Most single women enjoy time spent with families. It helps us feel like we’re a part of things and God can use it to provide us with an entirely different kind of family. Dinners, holidays, just hanging out- we might like to join you.

(I have to say this: Single friends, I’m talking to you, too! Some of my single friends are almost impossible to get together with. We’re flooded with busyness, but is it really necessary?)

Anyway… this is what single women really need- someone to make time for us.

See us.

Reach out to us, even if it’s only coffee for an hour.

It means so much.

  • Have meaningful conversations with us

I value good conversation. I love it. When I was living in Illinois my friends and I would sit at Starbucks for hours, sometimes until closing, just talking and sharing (and eying the “Taylor the Latte Boy”). Those long conversations are one of the things I miss most now.

People typically zip by me and briefly ask how teaching’s going. I say good, they say good, and they’re gone. That’s not a real conversation. Please look me in the eye and ask about more than my job. Get to know me on a personal level and let’s talk! I would love that. I think a lot of single women would.

  • Don’t tear us down with your words

Check out last week’s post for everything you shouldn’t say to a single woman. 😊 Please don’t use your words to bring us down, no matter how well-meaning you are trying to be. Instead, the best thing to do is say, “You’re single? Ok, great.” And then move on. Honestly. That would be amazing.  

Build us up with your words- if we can do number three and have some good conversations, we can get to know each other and find ways to be mutually supportive and encouraging.

  • Point us to the Word of God

As a Christian, I believe that God plans out my life. The Bible is clear about it. God never promises happiness, marriage, or the fulfillment of any other dream. Instead, He promises that He’ll make us more like Him. He’s always with us. He’ll provide for our unique needs and challenges.

 I truly, truly wish more women, especially older women, would point us to the Bible for support rather than telling us God has someone for us. If singleness is God’s plan, then it’s good. Period. Encourage us with the truths of Scripture rather than what you think we want to hear.

Encourage one another, and build each other up… – Thessalonians 5:11

Words have power. So many single women have been hurt by words and pushed into dating because of them, often with tragic results.

Christian women, both married and single, it’s time to develop a new mindset toward singleness. Let’s stop promoting marriage as God’s best and instead, find ways to use our words, our lives, and our actions to affirm and support each other right where we are.

What would it look like if woman got on the same page and started to mutually encourage each other as they all lived out God’s plans together?

Personally, I think it would be a beautiful thing.

This week, I’m thankful for words of affirmation. They’re out there! May we all be women of the word, joyfully living out the lives God’s given us. His plan is always good. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

14 Things Not to Say to Single Women

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. -Proverbs 18:21

Words can hurt. They stay with us for years; one thoughtless comment may define a woman for the rest of her life.

When people find out I’m single they often start to backpedal awkwardly, spouting platitudes as they attempt to console me for my unfortunate state. I know they’re trying to be nice, I really do, but I’m not looking for consolation.

I would much rather have affirmation- that my life has value just the way it is.

Words have power. They can affect us greatly. In the spirit of things, I threw out this question to some of my single friends:

“What’s something you wish people wouldn’t say to singles?”

Here’s what they had to say.

14 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Single Women:

  • When you get married…

My friend also had this to say- “This assumes that you’re going to get married at some point and sets a bad expectation- like somehow, I’m not normal if I don’t get married or God’s plan isn’t good if I don’t get married. None of these are true!”

  • You need to get out more.

The “it’s up to you” mentality which implies you must be running around, dating everyone you can in a frantic effort to meet your soulmate. “Go for it! Make life happen! Take control!” This attitude is what pushes so many women into dating.

  • You need to learn to be content in your singleness.

It is true. We all need to learn to be content with our lives. But comments like this coming from a married person?  Not helpful or edifying.

  • Have you tried online dating? Why don’t you just join Christian Mingle or eHarmony?

Thanks for the tip. Yes, online dating has been highly effective. For some people. Certainly, good relationships can be built online now, but there are also A LOT of crazy stories, too. If you want to have some fun, get a bunch of single women together and have them share their online dating stories.

I’ve said it before- there are way worse things than being single.

  • Marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be/ real marriage isn’t like the movies.

My friend who wrote this statement followed up with these thoughts- I think they think it’s making me feel better by tearing marriage down, but really it just feels condescending. We know that marriage is hard, but we may still want a chance at it.

  • You’re lucky to have so much free time. I would kill for that.

I agree that free time is a great thing. However, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. I actually feel embarrassed by my abundance of free time. Long, quiet hours at home in the evenings and empty weekends can be tough.

  • You’re beautiful, you’re sure to find someone, or along with that…You’re so pretty. How come you’re not dating anyone?

Both of these comments send the message that attractive people should all be dating simply because they’re attractive. It places worth and value on the outer appearance and also implies there’s a reason plain girls aren’t dating. Being good-looking never made anyone a good person. We understand people mean this as a compliment, but it really doesn’t feel that way.

  • Don’t worry, your time is coming/ Don’t worry, God has someone out there for you.

How do you know? Do you have a crystal ball?

My friend who supplied me with this statement commented, “There’s no verse for that.”

It’s true- God never promises marriage.  Don’t give women (especially young women) false hope.

  • You’re still young.

“…And then I watch their faces change when I tell them my real age. Oops. Never mind.” (Courtesy of my cousin who does look much younger than she is and is short enough to get handed kid’s menus in restaurants. She said that she may not have a husband, but she does have a great skin-care routine.)

  • How come nobody has snatched you up yet?

How do you answer that? I just laugh and say I’m too much for one man to handle. Not to mention it sounds like you’re going to be kidnapped.

  • Why aren’t you married yet?

Because no one has asked!

  • So, when are you going to get married?

Mmmmmm, maybe next week.

  • You don’t want to die alone, do you?

Ah! I can’t stand this one! Why do people say it? It’s so misleading. Very few people get to control the manner in which they die. Why would I want to date based on some possible future scenario?

  • You went hiking (to the movies/ to Europe/ to the grocery store/ to a restaurant) alone? You’re so brave! You’d better be careful!

Older women, especially, are disparaging when we go places by ourselves. Implying I’m going to be mugged/ robbed/ cheated/ lost forever/socially embarrassed doesn’t help. If I’m not willing to do things by myself I’m going to miss out on a lot.

I’m laughing as I write this post. I hear variations on these statements all the time. Dear married friends, we know you mean well. We understand that you may have a wonderful marriage and you just want us to have the same happy experience.

But we may actually be okay with being single. We might enjoy the lives you’re disparaging. And if we are struggling in our singleness, these comments don’t help.

Build us up. Don’t try to fix, condescend, or console.

Affirm us and affirm God’s plan.

May all our speech bring life, not death, to others.

This week I’m thankful for all my single friends who shared comments this week. There’s great comfort in knowing you’re not alone! I hope reading these statements puts a smile on your face. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Women of the Word(s)

I leaned forward, eager to add my two cents to the conversation.

“Oh, I know, right? It’s been so much better since she left. Not to be mean or anything, but she just didn’t belong here.”

I wasn’t really gossiping, was I? I said “not to be mean,” so that made it ok. Right?

Or… what about this one?

“It’s just so hard. I’m not trying to complain or anything. I’m just saying.”

And this one:

“He doesn’t have a clue, does he? Bless his heart.”

Each of these scenarios depicts women trying to justify their complaints or criticisms. These are common, common occurrences, even in Christian circles. Women are really good at softening their speech with little phrases like “I’m just kidding.” That takes the sting away, at least in our own minds.

Yeah, I’m not usually kidding.

I’m not “just saying.” I’m complaining.

And I really am trying to be mean.

What about you?

Women of Many Words

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

The Bible has a lot to say about our words, usually in connection with wisdom or foolishness. It even goes so far as to say that death and life are in the power of the tongue. That’s a strong statement.

I will be the first one to admit that I often let my mouth run freely. In my head I might even be thinking, “Why am I talking? Just be quiet.” But the words keep coming out. Complaining, sarcastic, hurtful, not helpful in the least. Luke 6 tells us that our mouths speak what is in our hearts. Many times, my words reflect a heart that’s jealous, bitter, and resentful.

Our words are a big deal. Let’s look at what the Bible teacher us about women who speak foolishly:

  1. The mouths of fools spout folly (Proverbs 15:1)
  2. The one who opens wide her mouth comes to ruin (Proverbs 13:3)
  3. A fool’s lips bring strife (Proverbs 18:6)
  4. A godless person destroys his neighbor with his mouth (Proverbs 11:9)
  5. Their tongues are as poisonous as vipers (Psalm 140:3)

These are sobering thoughts. When I read them it makes me realize how seriously God views our speech. And these are just a few verses among many. The Bible is full of warnings regarding the careless use of words.

How freely do you fling words around and what do they say about your heart?

A Wise Woman of Words

In contrast, a wise woman…

  1. Restrains her lips and is considered wise (Proverbs 10:19).
  2. Guards her mouth and preserves her life (Proverbs 13:3)
  3. Is delivered by her mouth (Proverbs 12:6)
  4. Has a mouth that is choice silver and a fountain of righteousness (Proverbs 10:11, 20)
  5. Knows when to stay silent (Proverbs 11:12)

That one sounds a lot better. But it’s also a lot harder to carry out. One of the major reasons our words flow so freely is because it’s easy to talk. So many of us blurt out anything and everything that comes into our heads. Some women even pride themselves in it. “I speak my mind, and if you don’t like what I have to say, well that’s too bad.” “I say it like it is.”

While they may sound good on the surface, statements like those are really the opposite of godly speech. Again, women who say these things are simply excusing the unkind or abundant flow of words coming out of their mouths.

Even better, you might try staying silent. The Bible says that a wise woman uses words that are kind, compassionate, and even beautiful. But she also knows when to keep her thoughts to herself.

He who restrains his lips is wise, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.  Proverbs 17:27

Last week I wrote about women who feel pushed into dating. What’s the major reason for this? People talk. People use their words to make single women feel, quite frankly, like losers. They probably don’t intend to do it, but their free-flowing words typically communicate that thought- You’re nothing without a man.

Most of the time being single doesn’t bother me until someone says something about it. Suddenly I start to question my life, my purpose, and even my femininity. A lot of the single women I talk with say the same thing. We don’t necessarily feel bad about our single lives until other people make us feel bad.

Our words are so important. Do yours bring life or death to others?

I’m trying to memorize verses about my speech and I’m working on being more careful with what I say. It’s not easy, but with God’s help, I pray that I will become a woman of wise words.

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of godly women who use their words to build others up. They are truly sent from God. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing! 

Single and Dateless? That’s okay!

He turned and locked eyes with me, slowly leaning forward. To my shock he kissed me, right on the lips.

Horrified, I raised my hand to tattle on him, but the teacher had her back to me and led us out to recess without noticing my indignation.

Yes, my first kiss happened in kindergarten while standing in line to go outside. I had a little boyfriend that year. However, he wasn’t in my class the next year, so that was the end of our romance.

If I had known he would also be my last boyfriend and would give me my last kiss, I might not have tried to tell on him.

Single and Dateless

Whenever people ask what makes me unique, I always want to say, “I’ve never been on a date.” Not too many women can say that.

In the course of my life as a single woman, I’ve had one awkward set-up in college and one blind date a few years ago. I still cringe when I remember the college set-up. It was a dating outing (thank you conservative Christian college) and I told my friend if she asked out this guy who’d become an object of fascination for us, I’d go on the dating outing, too. With…someone.

She summoned up the courage to ask the guy out, which left me panicking. I was very shy and awkward with guys and there was NO WAY I could ask out one I actually knew. So a friend set me up her co-worker. It was perfect- she asked and he agreed. As for me, we only talked with each other once before the official dating outing. It was sooooo strange. Can I just say, eighteen years have passed since then and I still mentally shiver every time I think about it.

The blind date went better, I think, but he never called again.

And that’s it! My stunning roster of dating achievements.  

While I joke about it, it’s also probably the darkest, most painful aspect of my life-

Forget not having a boyfriend. I’ve never even been asked out. I’ve never been kissed (other than in kindergarten). Not one man, in the whole of my existence, has exhibited interest or attraction on any level.

That can be a hard truth to live with.

I’ve written about my dateless existence before, and I’m not sharing it now to make you feel sorry for me. Instead, I share in the hopes that some other woman will read this and say, “Me too. I’ve never dated either. I thought I was the only one.”

I also want you to know where I’m coming from when I make the following statement:

It’s okay not to date.  

Yes, that may sound radical, but it’s true.

We may feel like we’re walking alone, but don’t let that push you into making a dating mistake.

It’s okay not to date.

Singleness can wear on you. It can tear at you, drag you down, and make you feel so, so alone.

But we’re not alone. And even when it’s painful, we do not have to be defined by a dateless existence. 

What I mean is this: Just because you’re single, that doesn’t mean you have to run around endlessly trying to get men to notice you. You don’t have to stock up on books with the latest information on godly dating or developing more faith until you meet Mr. Right. You don’t need to post provocative pictures on social media or choose a church based on how many single men attend there.

You really don’t have to feel compelled to be online, trying every dating site available.

I’ve always said that I feel like people equate singleness with having a serious disease. They immediately want to “fix you.” These helpful people yank any available male out of the woodwork; they enthusiastically tell you about their third cousin who’s “really sweet” and then they pat your arm and say, “You can’t afford to be too picky. After all, you’re not getting any younger.”  Most helpful of all… everyone looks at you innocently and says, “Have you tried online dating?”

The message is always the same- you have to be dating! If you’re not, why aren’t you dating? You should have been dating yesterday!

You hear their message so much it starts to sink into your brain and impact your thinking until you begin to believe there is something wrong with you. But a man can fix it! Suddenly online dating seems like a great idea. There’s only one single guy at your church and he’s twenty, so it’s online or nothing, right?

When you do go online you immediately meet a guy who says women must only wear long dresses that go up to the collar bone with sleeves to the elbow and skirts down to the ankles (that’s a true story). You don’t agree with his position on dress, but hey, after all, you can’t be too picky, right?

And so you start dating a guy who’s totally wrong for you but you keep hearing everyone chanting that you’re not getting any younger so you decide to go for it.

I have seen this scenario played out with so many women. They attach to men they know aren’t right for them, but they are pressured into feeling like they have to be with SOMEONE.

(Side note: Please know, I am not saying online dating is bad in itself. I’m just saying it’s so easy to feel pushed into something you don’t necessarily want to do. Time and time again I’ve seen women go with the wrong guys simply because they think there won’t be anyone else.)

There are so many things worse than being single.

So I’ll say it one more time: It’s ok not to date. You don’t HAVE to be dating anyone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being content where you are, looking to God to bring meaning and purpose to your life.

There is nothing wrong with you if you’re not dating.

That’s a hard-fought conclusion I’ve worked hard to arrive at. It’s a tough mental battle to believe singleness is God’s plan, and a good one, but it’s so true. Stop trying to “fix” your single life and learn to enjoy it. There are so many amazing opportunities available only to you.

And if you are dating, don’t let anyone push you into a relationship you’re not absolutely sure about. I don’t care how many times your grandmother sighs and wishes for great-grandchildren.  Don’t tie your value to your dating status and definitely don’t attach yourself to someone you know isn’t right.

You are worth more than that.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of a single life. It’s all right to be single! Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Book Review of The Right Kind of Strong

Title: The Right Kind of Strong

Author: Mary A. Kassian

Genre: nonfiction

Tagline: Surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman

Summary: What does it mean to be a strong woman? This question is posed on the back of Mary Kassian’s new book, The Right Kind of Strong. I looked this question up online and found the following answers- A strong woman fights against expectations, she is self-aware, she follows her own path, she’s a fighter, she perseveres, and she doesn’t let others define her.

All of these sound good on the surface, and there’s certainly truth in the statements, but there’s one fundamental problem with all of them: They focus on “she.” Strength comes from the woman herself.

Mary Kassian presents a completely different view of things, telling her readers that true strength comes from God’s power, not theirs. She argues against the “Girl Power” movement that has swept our world and shares how she considered herself a strong woman for a long time, only to realize that her “strength” was actually stubbornness, insolence, self-sufficiency, and prideful self-promotion (p. 3).

Whoa.

When you look at yourself that way, the whole perspective shifts.

Mary goes on to write about a tiny old woman named Pearl Purdie. Pearl Purdie, in Mary’s eyes, exhibited true strength- the strength of a “quiet and gentle spirit.” Pearl taught her how to be a truly strong woman.

The Right Kind of Strong provides the reader with seven “strength-sapping” habits (p. 18). Surprisingly, some of these habits may seem like they apply to strong women. But women that rely on themselves, however, are always going to have their strength sapped. They’re always going to fall.

The author uses II Timothy 3:6-7 as her basis for the strength-sapping habits. In this passage Paul is writing about weak women who have been burdened with sin and led astray by various passions. The unhealthy habits of their lives can serve as a warning for us all.

It may sound dire, but the book’s focus is not criticisms of cultural norms. Mary Kassian weaves stories and scripture throughout her book in an effort to encourage and exhort, not tear her readers down. Over and over again she emphasizes that we are only truly strong through God, and that’s a message we all need to hear.

My Thoughts: I first heard about this book from the Revive our Hearts podcast. I was working in an office, largely by myself, last summer, and I started each morning listening to Revive our Hearts. Mary Kassian talked through seven or eight podcasts on this topic, highlighting one habit of weak women each time. I enjoyed the podcasts enough to buy the book, and I’m glad I did.

As a single woman, I often pride myself on strength and independence. The “I can do it myself” mentality carries through many of my actions. Reading this book, however, changed my perspective on womanly strength. Yes, we should stand up for our beliefs; we should absolutely call out wrong and respect ourselves as women. But we also need to acknowledge our total dependence on God. John 15:5 tells us that “Apart from Him (Jesus) we can do nothing.”  We are not made to rely on ourselves.

The Right Kind of Strong doesn’t encourage woman to be doormats; instead it provides them with a whole different blueprint for becoming stronger. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.

Notable quotes: “The way you think makes a profound difference in the way you live. The more you change your thoughts for the better, the more your life will change for the better. But it starts with embracing the mind that is yours in Christ Jesus.”

“God does not want you to be a weakling; He wants you to be a steel magnolia: a soft, feminine woman with fire in your belly, courage in your heart, and steel in your spine. He wants you to have the strength to say no to what’s wrong and yes to what’s right and to live your life for the glory of Christ.”

“It’s important for us to understand that growth doesn’t generally come through big and illustrious acts of obedience. It comes through all those small, daily, repetitive, and seemingly trivial ones. Flexing our spiritual muscles to do all the little things God asks of us is what will make us strong.”  

The Rabbit and the Sunflower: A Tale of Growth

My smallest sunflower- it survived the rabbit!

This week I started culling my garden, pulling out the stalks that have fallen over because of the heavy sunflower heads. The marigolds will be taken out next and the ground left until next spring. Even as I start preparing the garden for colder weather, though, I have to stop and smile at the last sunflower to bloom.

This last and smallest sunflower is special to me. I’ve watched it carefully all summer, rooting for it to grow. When it was a new seedling a rabbit viewed it as his own personal salad and snipped the top right off. I left the bare stalk because I was curious to see if it would live. Since I’m new at gardening everything is experimental anyway.

The little stalk did live, short and stunted but alive, nonetheless. Even more impressive, new shoots grew out of the old barren one. Small buds formed and now, months later, a lone sunflower bloomed at last.

This year my sunflowers survived not just hungry rodents, but also an overeager nephew who enthusiastically helped me water, heavy storms, rocky soil, and my inexperience. There was even this weird mushroom collection that cropped up. The other day I stood at the window and watched the sunflowers wave wildly in the wind and get beaten down in the rain. I didn’t think they would pop up again.

They may look pretty, but they are TOUGH, however- time after time they came back, growing taller and stronger. By the end of the summer the sunflowers were towering above me.

 In spite of hardships they survived, they grew, thrived, and became beautiful.

For me, my garden is a bright spot of joy and beauty. I never get tired of looking at it. My niece was scrolling through photos on my phone the other day and complaining about how many sunflower pictures there were. I just laughed and told her they were easier to photograph than nieces and nephews.

Growth through Challenges

All summer, all through this crazy period of quarantine, social distancing, and uncertainty, that little sunflower has been a symbol of hope and perseverance to me. The rabbit ate the top, but the plant simply rerouted itself and kept on growing.

Personal growth is so much harder to write about than sunflowers, but I feel like the principle is the same. We’re not going to be eaten by rabbits (gosh, I really hope not), but we are going to face tough times. We will have our lives rerouted. Possibilities may be snipped off midway through.

Unfortunately, we don’t grow when our lives are easy. Growth is usually accomplished through pain and struggles. It comes from being snipped and rerouted and beaten down through life’s storms.

Most of us like easy, don’t we? There are those that thrive on challenge. I admire them and wish I was more like them. But honestly, that’s not me. I can’t even give up sugar.

Sometimes we can’t avoid the hard things, though. For me personally, I know that singleness has made a huge impact on who I am as a woman. It is definitely a “hard thing” that forces me to face challenges all the time.

Being single isn’t easy. We, as single women, have to…

Learn how to do our own repairs

Sit at the awkward singles table at wedding receptions because they don’t know where else to seat us

Come home to an empty house night after night

Deal with all the ignorant comments people send our way

Take sole responsibility for all financial burdens and choices

Remove gross, crawly critters from the house

Face life on our own

And so much more. All of that can bring us down. It can leave us feeling just as battered and beaten down as sunflowers caught in a summer storm.

But when it does, remember the smallest sunflower. The one that bloomed despite adversity.

We grow when life is hard.

The single life can be tough, but it’s also made me stronger. I’ve had to deal with a lot on my own. I would be a completely different woman if I was married.

If life feels like a fight right now, take a deep breath, step back, and look for all the ways God is working during this time.  Be strong in the storms.

Grow. And may your life shine just as beautifully as a sunflower.

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of a summer garden. It can teach us so much. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Five Reasons You Should Stop Thinking of Singleness as a Season

Summer is my absolute favorite season and I’m mourning its passing this week. I love everything about it- long nights, bright flowers, sunny afternoons at the beach, birds chirping early in the morning, almost unlimited opportunities to be outside, even the heat. I love it all! It just makes me feel good.

I like fall, too. Fall in northeast Ohio can be beautiful. In the fall there’s apple-picking, clear blue skies, and crisp temperatures. And of course, there’s nothing like a group of kindergartners trooping in from recess shedding leaves as they go.

I’ve said it before- Ohio doesn’t have the greatest reputation as far as travel and tourism go, but it’s really not a bad spot. Three out of four seasons are pretty nice (winter doesn’t bear mentioning). Living in a place that lets you fully experience all four seasons is great.

The best part is, if you don’t like one season, just wait. It’ll change.

We have seasons in life, too. You’re a child for a season, a student for a season. We walk through seasons of sickness or health, prosperity or poverty. For some, certain seasons last longer than others.

With seasons, though, one fact never varies.

They always change.

Stop viewing singleness as a season

People often refer to singleness as a season, but I think this is misleading. I would argue that we shouldn’t encourage women, young women in particular, to only think of singleness as a season. This type of thinking leads us to a clouded view of our lives.

Five Reasons We Shouldn’t View Singleness as a Season

  • It puts us in an expectant mindset for something that may never happen.

When we talk about being single for a season we set up the expectation that life’s going to change. In other words, “This is my life right now, and it stinks, but I can get through it because things are going to be different in the future.”  Women with this mindset are putting their hope in a maybe, not a certainty.  

  • Looking forward to tomorrow makes us forget about today.

We can spend so much time dreaming about what might lie ahead we forget to live right where we are. You are single TODAY for a purpose.  Stop thinking about what might be someday and find ways to live and serve in the life you already have.

  • It gives the impression that being married is preferable to being single.

So many times, older women have patted my hand and said, “Don’t worry. The right one is out there.” Others say, “You’ll be such a great wife/ mom someday.” What does that do to you when you hear someone say that? I know what it does to me. It cuts down the life I have right now and tells me that my single life is lacking. Even though I know that isn’t true, comments like that have a powerful effect on me. If I’m not careful I’ll start wanting my single life to change into something “better.”

  • We tend to put off doing things until we’re married.

How often to you find yourself saying, “I’ll do that when I get married.”  Buying a house, going back to school, changing careers, volunteering, travelling, trying new things- what are you waiting for? If you view singleness as a season, you might just keep waiting. And waiting.

  • It’s a failure to see God’s best for us today

All we’re promised is today. It’s human nature to dream and plan for the tomorrows, but that can rob us of joy and satisfaction right now. Rather than viewing singleness as something to endure until “happily ever after” comes along, live and celebrate right where you are. Rejoice in what God’s doing right now, not what He may do in the future.

Singleness isn’t necessarily a season. Seasons change. Your marital status may not. Start to change your thinking and let that be ok. 

I spend all my time
Dreaming what the future’s gonna bring
When all of this time
There’s a world passing by right in front of me
Set my sights on tomorrow
While I’m tripping over today

Who says big things
Are somewhere off in the distance
I don’t want to look back
Just to see all the times that I missed it
I want to be here and now
Starting right here, right now

With the very next words of love to be spoken
To the very next heart that’s shattered and broken
To the very next way you’re gonna use me
Show me the next thing
I’ll do the next thing

Let my very next breath
Breathe out a song of praise to you
With my very next step
Be on a road that was planned by you
Lord, wherever you’re leading me
That’s where I want to be

-Mark Hall

“The Very Next Thing”

This week I’m thankful for the changing seasons. While most things in life change, God never does. He is always in control of our lives and we can trust Him. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Paddle Boarding and the Single Life: Keep your Head up

The world looked different from this vantage point. It felt different, too- changing, shifting, and unsubstantial.  I’d never stood directly on top of the water before, but that’s exactly what I was doing- slowly floating across Lake Erie on a paddleboard.

Clinging by my toes, doing my dead level best not to fall in.

They say there are lampreys in the lake, after all.

Paddle boarding looks deceptively easy. But as someone who doesn’t have great balance, it’s not as easy as it looks. Before attempting it for the first time, I watched videos on youtube to try and get the idea. Watching strong, fit people easily pop up on their boards made me feel ready to try it myself.

If the skinny girl in a bikini could do it, how hard could it be?

Watching and doing are two different things, however, and I was disappointed to find that I didn’t just pop up in a casual and athletic manner. I got up, sort of, but it looked more like a crazy Quasimodo crouch for a while. And then I fell in. And fell in again.

It wasn’t really my fault. The lake was too…ripply.

I did get better, finally, and have gone paddle boarding multiple times now. It’s become one of my favorite summer activities. I got to the point where I could relax and reflect while on the board. It became a great place to think.

One day when I was out there it hit me that there were a lot of great lessons that could be learned from paddle boarding. In honor or the end of summer, I invite you onto the paddleboard with me.

Paddle boarding and the single life

I don’t think it’s a stretch to compare the single life to being on a paddle board. When you’re single, life can feel precarious, slippery, and uncertain. You’re out there alone, with only yourself to count on. If you look around too much you’ll probably slip and fall. And there may not be lampreys circling around you, but it can certainly feel that way at times.

When you paddleboard you do better if you keep your eyes on the horizon- look up and keep your eyes on what’s ahead of you. That’s what helps maintain balance. If you start to look down at your feet or focus on the waves, you’ll fall in.

If you start to look around you in fear, you’ll fall every time.   

It reminds me of the story of Peter when he wanted to walk on the water out to Jesus. 

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:29-31)

Peter felt confident enough to come out to Jesus. And as long as Peter kept his eyes on Him he did fine. He was able to miraculously walk on the water. But when he started to look around him and let fear cloud his thinking, he started to sink.

He fell when he began to rely on his own strength.

He fell when he started to give in to fear.

Just before Peter stepped out of the boat Jesus was already reassuring the disciples, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Peter didn’t have to be afraid. He just needed to keep his eyes on Jesus.

I have the same choice in life: I can look down at the waves around me, lose my focus, become afraid, and fall.  Or I can look ahead and keep my eyes on God.

Being single is scary at times. Stepping out and doing life alone can be tough. There are nights when I lie awake and worry. And worry. And worry.

If I let it, fear takes over and becomes all consuming.

It will make me fall every time. If I’m not careful, I’m swimming in dark, dirty water waiting for the lampreys to come bite me.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

There are times when I feel like I’m drowning. I’ve fallen in and the water’s threatening to close over my head. I have to stop, breathe, and make a different choice. One that’s far, far better.

I can take Jesus at His word- “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.” In the moments when I find myself in the water, I have to pull my eyes off the winds and waves and fix them straight ahead.

I can get back on the board and try again.

That’s really all we can do. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can trust God to bring us through them. If we keep our eyes on Him, He will lift our heads up.

In those times when singleness feels hard, take your eyes off yourself and put them on the One who orchestrates your life. Keep your head up.

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of summer adventures that can point us to God. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!  

These are a Few of My Favorite Things…

The single life is rarely easy. We have to be tough and rely on ourselves to get things done. We also have to develop a thick skin against the comments of others, well-meaning or otherwise. While extra free time is a great bonus, even that can feel like a weighted blessing.

One way I try to combat depression and frustration is through finding little things to be thankful for. All this week on my Instagram feed I’ve been posting about small ways to find joy in your life. Once I start making lists I’m usually surprised by how many extra blessings are present. They may be small, but they go a long way to making my life better. 

Today I want to encourage you to stop and take stock of some of the little blessings in your life. Let’s share! I’ll go first:

  • Sunflowers

I love them. Sunflowers just make me happy. Right now I have some growing in the backyard and others that have been cut and in vases around the house. I also have sunflower paintings, a sunflower face mask (yeah), and even a sunflower pin on my purse. The second blog post I ever wrote was about sunflowers and the ways they point me toward God. May our lives be just as bright and happy as they are!

  • IPod

Yes, I still have an iPod. Clearly I’m not a high-tech person. But I’ve carried it around faithfully for years and I can’t imagine life without it. My iPod and its music have accompanied me through a lot, including all of my travels. It provides the soundtrack to my life and keeps me mentally balanced. 

  • Rose water moisturizer

This was a wonderful new discovery this year. One of my kindergarten parents makes the moisturizer and I LOVE it! It smells great, moisturizers so well, and is completely natural. This is a product I want to have with me always.

  • My car

Speed. It’s all about the speed. Windows down, music blasting, driving down the freeway. Enough said.

  • TOMS

TOMS is a shoe brand. They make other items now, but they started with shoes. TOMS has a one-to-one policy: if you buy a pair of shoes then they donate a pair. These shoes look weird because they’re hand-stitched, but they’re my favorite shoes to wear for teaching. TOMS are typically flat, which is great since I’m tall, and always super-comfortable. I can teach all day with no problems.

  • Confectionary Cupboard cupcakes

My infatuation with the Confectionary Cupboard started three years ago when one of my students brought them in for her birthday. Alas, she started an addiction that I am yet to kick. The irony of it all? The cupcake shop is on the way to my gym. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped and gotten a cupcake before working out. I try not to go too often, but their cupcakes definitely make life better.

  • Books and audiobooks

When I was four years old my mom started taking us to story hour at the library. Looking back, those are my earliest clear childhood memories. Books have always been a large part of my life (we didn’t watch a lot of television). I love the way books can take you anywhere- I was an armchair traveler long before I had a chance to travel for real. Once I added audiobooks to the mix, it was even better.

  • Lake Erie

Yes, I can hear you snickering. All of you who are fortunate enough to live close to an ocean and think the Great Lakes are gross and polluted. I once got in a fight with a college roommate from Florida who snidely said, “You don’t have beaches, you have shores.” Whatever you want to call it, I love being by the lake. There are beaches (there’s sand, ok?), hiking trails, dunes, wildlife, lighthouses, and great sunsets. There is something very calming about the water; I do my best thinking and praying by the lake.

  • Nieces and nephews

I have five nieces and nephews (and another on the way). They are at the very top of my favorite things list- even above my sunflowers. I could write pages on how great they are, but for now just know that they bring life, laughter, joy, and fun to our family and I consistently thank God for them.

  • Cleaning products

I’m serious! It’s not just cleaning products but actually cleaning itself that’s among my favorite things. I love cleaning- washing dishes, ironing, dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing. Cleaning has helped me fill up many lonely nights. I would turn on my iPod (see?), start cleaning, and have a dance party- Voila! Potentially tough nights were transformed into cleaning celebrations.

That’s my list! We ALL have so many things to be thankful for. I’m not trying to sound flippant; I really mean it: God has given us so much. He shows Himself in the little things that make life better. He uses them to lift me up on the days when being single, or being a kindergarten teacher, or slogging through the COVID pandemic, feels like too much to handle. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

Remember, “A joyful heart is good medicine!” Proverbs 17:22

This week, I’m thankful for the little joys in life. Together, let’s celebrate every single blessing!

Hospitality and the Single Life: Turning the Tables

I sat by myself in a church pew almost every Sunday. After the service I always ate lunch alone.

Mondays through Fridays I drove to work alone, went to the gym alone, and spent the evenings alone. The only deviation to that was Wednesday night church and Bible club.

Saturday was the day I would hang out with my friends or my sister- my favorite day.

This was my life for eight years when I lived in Illinois.

This is the life of many single people.

Don’t get me wrong- I liked living on my own. But there were many times when I felt the aloneness deeply. One of the major reasons I moved back to Ohio was because I was seeking connections and support.

I was very, very lonely.

Sound familiar? This was the opening to my blog post two weeks ago, when I wrote about the importance of extending hospitality to single people. Hospitality is a biblical mandate, but it’s typically ignored in today’s churches. In my last hospitality post I geared my thoughts toward “others”- married people of all ages who seem to forget single people exist.

Today I want to turn the tables and talk to singles everywhere. I believe we are gifted with extra free time for a reason: to use our time in service to God and others. Yes, I want people to reach out to me. I want them to invite me to lunch, or coffee, or whatever.

But when they don’t do that then it’s up to us to step up. We need to become “single women who dare to live boldly” and learn to put ourselves out there, to practice our own brand of hospitality.

There are a lot of great things about being single. I’ve written about the many reasons we have to celebrate our single lives. But we also have a lot of challenges to work through.

One of the most difficult aspects of single life is the deep loneliness. We are often alone. That’s just the way it is- even if we have lots of friends, a close, supportive family, and a home church, we can’t be around people all the time, or even most of the time. 

There’s going to be times of loneliness, but they don’t have to define us or get us down. We can channel that loneliness and turn it into a positive.

Hospitality. God commands it. We need to do it.

People need us!

Seven Tips for Practicing Hospitality as a Single Woman:

  1. Start simple. Bake a loaf of bread for someone and write a note letting them know you’re praying for them that week. Little steps are better than none at all.

2. Just talk! Do you know how often I have the same conversation about my job?

Well-meaning person who has no idea how to connect with me because I’m single: “How’s school going?”

Me: “It’s going pretty well.”

Well-meaning person: “Well, that’s good. Have a nice day.”

Then they walk away and we’ll have the same conversation next week. And that’s as far as most of my connections ever go.

Want to practice hospitality?

Look someone in the eye and talk with them. Really talk.

3. Make a goal to connect with one new person. Who needs you today?  Don’t feel like you have to reach everyone at once. Pick one person and actively seek them out.

4. Get to know people outside your age bracket.  In the book of Titus, Paul talks about the importance of older women influencing and ministering to younger women. You don’t have to be the same age or social standing to practice hospitality. Ask an older woman to disciple with you or make an effort to hang out with someone younger.

5. Don’t do it alone. Make hospitality a group effort. If you’re blessed with a single’s group at your church, or if you have a big group of single friends, get together and do a service project. Seek out a needy person and find ways you can help them.

6. It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort. You don’t have to make big meals and clean your house and invite people over every week. Keep it simple, relaxed, and fun. Meet for coffee, exercise together, or ask someone to attend an event with you. No pressure.

7. Bring people into your home. This is a bigger step, but one that can be very meaningful. Inviting someone into your home is inviting them to get to know the real you. If you have space, use it. Host bonfires, tea parties, crazy parties, or game nights. Bring people together and help them connect. Use your home to make someone else less lonely.

Life is busy, sticky, and messy. But it’s also meant to be lived in tandem with others. Society has conditioned us to believe that “man should not live alone” means a spouse, but that’s not what the Bible teaches. There is a multitude of ways to live life together.

You just have to be intentional about it.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. I Peter 4: 8, 9

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of single friends who open their doors and lives to me. It means more than you know, and hopefully we can all do more. Together, let’s practice hospitality and celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Single Women who Dared to Live Boldly: Corrie and Betsie ten Boom

Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom were simple, unassuming women who allowed God to use their lives. They now stand as amazing examples of bold, faithful Christians.

Reading about Corrie and her sister Betsie was incredibly challenging for me because I operate in that mindset that single life needs to always look exciting. These two women changed my view of what a meaningful life should look like.

They were servants.

Their whole household was characterized by a servant mentality. From the time Corrie and Betsie were young, three of their aunts lived with them. The ten Boom house was already small, but rooms were made even tinier to accommodate these extra women.

The ten Boom’s deep faith also prompted them to serve their community. Mrs. ten Boom was chronically ill and weak; however she was still involved in social work, making food baskets and bringing them to the poor. She especially sought to help needy young mothers and new babies. Later on the ten Booms became foster parents, providing homes for numerous children.

In her book The Hiding Place Corrie writes about her sister Betsie’s love for others. Like her mother, Betsie was chronically ill and never had a job outside the house, but she made the care of the house her ministry. Betsie never seemed to view her role as an unmarried woman living at home degrading. Rather, she reveled in it and people were drawn to her. Betsie made their home a beautiful, safe place where all were welcomed and God’s Word was lived out.

Corrie, also unmarried, lived the life of a working woman. After finishing school she took over all of the accounting for her father’s watch shop. Seeking further challenges, she learned watchmaking, eventually becoming the first female watchmaker in Holland.

The ten Boom house was a place of music, laughter, and a strong faith in God. Two of Corrie’s other siblings married, bringing many children to the family. Their lives were full of peace and joy.

Until World War II.

Corrie and Betsie were already in their fifties when the persecution of the Jewish people began. They had many Jewish friends in their neighborhood, which they immediately began to help. Their brother Willem managed an old folks’ home and turned it into their first base of operation. Elderly Jewish friends were sent there and then were carefully removed to safe houses.

This activity became the foundation for other work. Even though Mr. ten Boom was in his eighties he believed it was their Christian duty to help God’s chosen people. Their watch shop was the front for almost constant underground activity, turning the quiet, peaceful ten Booms into players in a vast network, with Corrie in the middle of it all. She worked tirelessly, getting stolen ration cards, finding places of safety, biking in the middle of the night to meet contacts, and eventually overseeing the building of a tiny secret room behind the bookcase in her bedroom.     

The family managed to hide and aid close to 800 Jewish people and other refuges before they were betrayed. A man that frequently came into their watch shop as a customer was actually a spy. Their house was raided and Corrie, Betsie, and the rest of their family were arrested. Thanks to the hiding place in Corrie’s bedroom, six Jewish people remained undetected and were later rescued.

In a matter of days their father died in prison. While their brother and sister were released, Corrie and Betsie were kept in prison. Later, they were moved to the death camp Ravensbruck. Corrie’s account of their time there is one of the most moving things I have read. Instead of focusing on the violence and hardships of the experience, she turns praise back to God, over and over. While making little of herself, Corrie also draws attention to Betsie, sharing how she worked to make her prison cell a place of order and beauty.

Betsie viewed their imprisonment as an opportunity to share the gospel, even with the guards that treated them cruelly. Betsie saw the darkness in their hearts and pitied them. They had tiny copies of the Gospels, smuggled in on strings around their necks, and Betsie read hers each night. Corrie recounts how Betsie encouraged her to give thanks in all things, even the fleas crawling around their beds. While Corrie couldn’t find anything praiseworthy in biting fleas, it was later revealed that the guards wouldn’t come in their bunker because of the fleas. The horrible insects were a means of unprecedented freedom for the women, enabling Betsie time to read the Bible out loud each night.

Near the end of the war, Betsie’s weak body succumbed to illness. After she passed, Corrie was allowed to see her. I wept as I read Corrie’s account of the peace and joy on her sister’s face. Betsie had maintained her faith and testimony and lived a beautiful life for Jesus, even in a concentration camp.

Corrie was released not long after, due to a clerical error. She found out later that all the women her age were actually sent to the gas chamber soon after she left. God saved her for His special purpose- to tell others about her experiences and to proclaim Him.

It had actually been Betsie’s desire to help others after the war. She told Corrie about a recurringdream she had, where there was a big house full of people who came to recover from their wartime experiences. Betsie insisted that it was their job to tell others about God’s love and forgiveness. She believed people would listen because of what they had been through.

Betsie’s dream was fulfilled through Corrie. She established not one, but two safe houses for war victims. One of these was even in a former German prison camp.

In The Hiding Place Corrie shared how she struggled with feeling empty and purposeless after the war, in spite of the good she was doing. Eventually she realized God wanted her to do more- He wanted her to share His message of love and forgiveness with a world recovering from war.

And so she did.

Corrie travelled to more than sixty countries, sharing the message of God’s love and the importance of forgiveness. Like her sister Betsie, Corrie’s life shone as a bright light for God. She practiced what she preached, famously forgiving one of the Nazi guards from her prison camp. 

Her life is an example to us all- you don’t have to be extraordinary for God to do extraordinary things through you.

If you haven’t read Corrie’s autobiography, The Hiding Place, I strongly encourage you to find a copy!

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” –Corrie Ten Boom

Thirty…Not so Flirty…Definitely Thriving

Do you trade places? Can you read each other’s minds? Do you feel each other’s pain? Are you sure you weren’t switched at birth? Yep, we’ve heard it all. It’s the cross you bear as a
twin-sharing your identity with another person. Growing up, we were absolutely inseparable. If you saw one of us, you saw both of us. It didn’t matter that one liked chocolate and the other liked vanilla. It didn’t matter that one would talk your ear off while the other quietly observed the chaos. We were together. That’s all that mattered. Until college. We grew up and got whisked away by our dreams. Two very different dreams. Two very different single women. Both living life to it’s absolute fullest.

Amanda~
As a graduate of a Christian School I did what all “good Christian girls” do… I went away to a
Christian College. But to be completely honest, the only degree I was interested in was my “Mrs. Degree”. So assuming I would fall in love and get married before graduation, I became an Elementary Education major thinking I would have that degree to fall back on if I ever needed it.


Three years into college I did fall in love, but not in the way I had anticipated. It was during this year that I taught my first real lesson in a real classroom to real students. I vividly remember the moment I was teaching and caught myself smiling. Smiling because I was in love. I had fallen in love with teaching. That day was a turning point for me. I realized I didn’t just want to have teaching to fall back on, I actually wanted to BE a teacher! I had never planned to actually use my degree, but now I could not wait to have a classroom of my own.


With the exception of my Golden Retriever, my life is almost nothing like how I imagined. God clearly had different plans for me than I had for myself. Not only did I end up getting and using that teaching degree, I went to grad school and got another degree in education! And now, a few weeks after turning thirty, I am beginning my eighth year of teaching. And I am still completely in love.


Andrea~
Life is tricky, ya know? I grew up in a world where little Christian girls married little Christian
boys and started little Christian families. No plot twists. Don’t go off script. That’s the plan. Stick to it. Well, life tricked me…and my script looked different than I imagined. I found myself back at home, super single, and super defeated. With nothing except student loans and an ex-fiancé, I decided I had failed at life. Somewhere along the way, while trying to stay on the right path, I made a wrong turn. Now, I’m back where I started. I threw myself a private pity party (my poor family, thank God they still love me) until I realized there is no “script.” Not all good Christian girls grow up and marry good Christian boys and have good Christian families right away. There are multiple paths to the same destination-success and happiness. My success is not defined by who I’m with, but in who I am. Who I am is someone who is blessed far beyond what she deserves. Happiness is a choice. If I don’t choose it now, in these circumstances, I never will.


Nothing will ever be good enough. So I decided to live and thrive in that grace. Embrace the life I’ve been blessed with, write my own script. Fast forward a few months, I fell in love with medical missions. I got the opportunity to travel with Medical Missions Outreach to El Salvador in 2014.


My life was forever changed. When I got home and retold the tales of my adventures, I cried when I told people, “For the first time in my life, I’m thankful to be single.” Six years, six
countries, and four continents later, I’m still thankful. I found passion and purpose. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the food I’ve eaten 😉, have changed me forever. I told my mom the night before my first trip, all the way back in 2014, “If ten years from now I’m married with kids, I’m gonna be glad I traveled in my twenties. And if ten years from now I’m still single and traveling the world, I’m gonna be really glad I started in my twenties.” The choice to abandon the idea of the stereotypical, picture perfect life I thought I was missing out on, and embrace this crazy, amazing life I’ve been given, was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m successful. I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’m thriving. I’m complete. I’m enough. I’m living in the grace that Christ died for, and I’m loving every minute of it.


Further down this winding road of single life, time together is harder to come by, but more
special than ever. Those two inseparable girls grew up (against their better judgment 😉) and became distinct, independent, successful, passionate women. This year, our whole family came together to celebrate our dreaded thirtieth birthday. As terrifying as it was, we made it through together, just like we always do. We’ll continue to do just that. Grow, change, adapt and thrive.


Together, even while we’re five hundred miles apart.

Single Women who Dared to Live Boldly- Annie Smith Peck

Annie Smith Peck was an American mountaineer who was driven by ambition above all else. In a time when most women married young and spent their days at home, Miss Peck roamed the world seeking education, adventure, and ever-higher mountains. She was also a suffragist, lecturer, and author who boldly lived life on her own terms.

Annie’s desire for “more” was framed by the fact that she had three older brothers. She grew up in their shadow, envying their schooling and seeking to imitate everything they did. Competing with her brothers was the focus of her young life.

When she finished school she wanted a college education equal to that of her brothers. At first her father thought it was folly to provide a woman with higher education, but later agreed to fund her it. She attended the University of Michigan, which had just opened its doors to women three years earlier (this was in 1874). Annie studied Greek and other classical languages, then earned a Masters degree in Greek as well.

After college she traveled abroad, continuing her education in Germany and Greece. In Greece she became the first woman to attend the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Annie set herself apart as a woman of keen intellect with a thirst for knowledge.

However, one passion trumped her love of learning. Even though she had a classical education and first worked as a teacher, mountaineering began to capture her interest and she started climbing in her late thirties. It was in this world that Annie Smith Peck really made her mark.

I have to pause here and draw your attention to something- Annie didn’t start her climbing adventures until she was almost forty. Most of the woman I’ve written about this week didn’t “start” their life’s work until they were in their thirties or later. I hope that’s an encouragement to you, if you’re feeling like life is passing you by. There’s always time for new adventures!

Anyway… Annie began climbing and never stopped. Like her earlier experiences with her brothers, she was constantly in competition with others. She wanted to be the first to summit. She wanted to climb the highest. She wanted more challenges.

When she was forty-five she ascended the Matterhorn, becoming only the third woman to do so. However, her accomplishment was overshadowed by the fact that she wore pants to climb. When people saw a photograph of her wearing “hiking attire,” it raised a lot of questions and concerns about what women could and couldn’t do and what they should wear while doing it.

Annie ignored the dissent. Truthfully, she was fueled by it. Annie used her fame (or infamy) to fund her campaigns. When not climbing, she roamed around showing slides, giving lectures, and writing articles on her travels. She used all of these opportunities as chances to fundraise. Indeed, Annie was usually close to bankruptcy and was continually forced to ask friends and family members for money.

Even financial hardship couldn’t stop her, though. Annie was nothing if not single-minded. She turned her attentions toward South America and the massive, unclimbed mountains there, certain that fame and fortune lay with them. She climbed some of the highest mountains in South America, always competing. Whether it was against other women to see who could summit first or with other men for the honor of climbing the highest, Annie thrived on the competition. She even became part of a race with famed explorer Hiram Bingham- they both wanted to be the first to summit Mount Coropuna in Peru.

Upon arriving at the top, she placed a “Votes for Women” flag on the pinnacle.

Annie Smith Peck climbed her final mountain at the age of eighty-two. Her legacy as a mountaineer, activist, and adventurer was amazing, but also tainted by accusations of not properly caring for her teams. She was a hard, driven woman who put her own passions first. That, along with her poor financial management, made her something of an anti-heroine. However, she was still a fascinating example of what a single woman could accomplish on her own.

It’s never too late to try something new. We’re ever used up or finished before our time. Until God calls us home, keep seeking ways to grow and develop.

There isn’t a lot of information about Annie Smith Peck, but if you want to read more about her, check out Hannah Kimberly’s biography A Woman’s Place is at the Top.

Single Women who Dared to Live Boldly: Lottie Moon

Charlotte Moon was a tiny woman with a big passion for evangelism. “Lottie,” as she was usually known, was reported to be less than four and a half feet tall. In spite of her small stature, she had a strong personality and fought fiercely for what she believed in.

Lottie was born in the American South to an educated, wealthy family. Her sisters seemed to be just as remarkable as her. One of them became a physician and served as a Confederate Army doctor during the Civil War and another sister became the first single woman missionary to North China. Clearly, these were brave, independent women.

As for Lottie, she was well-educated and spoke several languages, eventually becoming one of the very first women to earn a Master’s degree in languages. At this time, a southern woman earning a higher degree was almost unheard of.  After the Civil War Lottie became a teacher, collaborating with a friend to open an all-female high school.

During this time she also became engaged, however, she felt that God had first claim on her life. Since God’s claim conflicted with the young man’s claim, she knew that one had to go. Lottie made the courageous and difficult decision to end the engagement. While she believed it was right, she also wrote of deep loneliness.

After only a few years of teaching, Lottie felt called to join her younger sister and help with her missionary efforts in China. They were part of the Southern Baptist Church, which had recently changed its policy on sending single women out as missionaries. Thirty-two year old Lottie jumped at the new opportunity.

In China she again started as a teacher, helping the married missionary women that were already there, but Lottie eventually found her passion in evangelism. Moved by the plight of the women and children in rural villages, she began to focus her efforts there. Only women could reach other women.

At first the native people were suspicious of her, but she won them over with homemade cookies. Lottie also learned Chinese and assumed the dress of the Chinese people.

She is probably best known for her letter and article writing. She wrote to churches and Christians everywhere, talking about the need for more workers and attempting to raise funds and promote missions.  Lottie was frustrated by the limitations placed on her because she was a single woman. She wrote and lobbied for more equality for women missionaries, even encouraging Southern Baptist women to start their own mission board. On top of that, she promoted regular (every ten years) furloughs for the sake of missionaries’ health and physical well-being.

Her forty year ministry was affected by plague, war, and famine, including the Boxer Rebellion. She was deeply bothered by the suffering of the people around her and shared with them what little she had, to her own detriment. It was said that she only weighed 50 pounds when she died.

More than a hundred years later, Lottie Moon’s legacy lives on. Her prolific letter-writing challenged people to give and opened their eyes to the intense needs of others. The Southern Baptists created an offering in her name, called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. To this day they continue to raise funds to support international missions.

“Why should we not do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of Him, who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?”  -Lottie Moon

To learn more about Lottie Moon you can read her biography The New Lottie Moon Story by Catherine B. Allen or Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings, edited by Keith Harper

Single Women who Dared to Live Boldly: Jane Addams

When I was in graduate school I did a presentation on a woman named Jane Addams. I had never heard of her before, but I quickly became a fan. Several years ago I even visited her settlement home, Hull House, in Chicago. This remarkable woman is proof that one person can make a major difference.

Jane Addams was born into a wealthy family. Reared in Chicago, she was well-educated and very well-read, graduating from a women’s seminary in 1881. Jane was part of a new generation of college-educated women. Her accomplishments continued from there.

Like so many women of the earlier generations, Jane Addams suffered from weak health. She tried for years to become a doctor, but her health always prevented her from accomplishing her goal. As with so many others, though, the death of one dream paved the way for another, far better one. Jane was destined for a whole different path.

While she was travelling in London, Jane and a friend visited a settlement house there. These settlement houses sought to address the crushing needs of deep poverty. In a settlement house, rich, educated young women would “settle” into a poor neighborhood, in the hopes of helping to improve the lives of those around them.  In Jane’s time, the divide between rich and poor was enormous; the vast number of immigrants flooding into Chicago only made this problem worse.  These people lived in some of the most squalid conditions imaginable. 

Actually, you can’t imagine it. At least, I couldn’t.  When my friend and I visited Hull House, placards shared a little bit of the life people in that neighborhood experiences- the streets flooded in spring, flowing with mud, garbage, and refuse. They stated that dead horses lay in the streets. Very young children were sometimes chained up in the house to “keep them safe” because there was no one available to watch them. Older children grew up small and stunted, with rickety legs due to a lack of sun exposure in their tall tenement neighborhoods.

This was the situation Jane Addams walked into. Inspired by what she’d seen in London, Jane and her friend Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House- the first settlement house in the United States.  Hull House campaigned for better housing, stricter child-labor laws, and protection for working women.  It offered medical treatment, night school, clubs for children, art classes, a library, and much more. It became a cultural center or art, music, and theater and a safe haven for the poor immigrants of Chicago. Up to twenty-five women lived there at a time, while as many as 2,000 people daily visited the settlement.

Hull House- the first settlement house in the United States. I was so excited to visit here!

Not only that, but Jane also became an activist and social reformer. Many consider her the founder of social work. In a time when small children were often forced to work, Jane argued for the need to play and spend time in recreation- Hull House created one of the first playgrounds in the country.  Jane supported the suffragettes as well, calling for women to have the vote because she believed women were better judges on the needs of education, sanitation, community life (things that should start at home).

When World War I began, Jane again took up the activist mantel, this time to lobby for peace. She was strongly against the war. Her efforts earned her a Nobel Peace Prize, making her the first American woman to be awarded one.

Jane Addams defined the strong, independent woman. In an era when most women of her station rarely ventured from their homes, she turned her time, her wealth, and all of her caring on the people that needed it the most. She is a role model and inspiration to all of us.

There are many books and biographies written about Jane Addams, but if you want to learn more about her work at Hull House I recommend a book she wrote herself- Twenty Years at Hull House.

Single Women who Dared to Live Boldly: Lilias Trotter

Lilas Trotter as a young woman.

I first heard of Lilias Trotter through the writings of Elisabeth Elliot- she was quoted frequently and it sparked my interest. I read her biography and couldn’t believe the life she lived! Lilias Trotter was a remarkable woman who lived a bold, bright life for Christ and I think she deserves to be remembered more.

Lilias Trotter was born into a well-to-do family that valued education, the arts, and humanitarian work. From an early age, she learned to serve others. When she was a young woman she volunteered at the YWCA and would go out at night, seeking to offer help, better jobs, and safety to prostitutes, even for a night. In spite of their profession, Lilias genuinely loved and cared for these women, wanting only to assist them and save their souls. When the evangelist D.L. Moody came to England his impact on her life prompted her to become even more involved in evangelical efforts. Her passion and love for God and people characterized her life.

Lilias’ other great passion was art. She was a self-taught artist; however, she was acclaimed for her work. Lilias painted, drew, and wrote poetry. Later, when she was in North Africa, she brought the desert and its people to life through her paintings. John Ruskin, the famous 19th-century art critic, greatly admired her art and encouraged Lilias to make it her life’s focus. In spite of this encouragement and her life-long friendship with Ruskin, she felt that only devotion to God was acceptable and she chose mission work over art.

Lilias was a single woman of independent means. She could have easily stayed in England and enjoyed a life of art, peace, and leisure. However, she felt strongly that God was calling her to North Africa. She could not rest and live a life of comfort when there were people that had never heard the gospel. This became the one consuming focus of Lilias’s life.

God’s call forced her life into a whole new direction and redefined her. Lilias, like so many women of her generation, was never physically strong. Her weak heart and frail body caused mission boards to reject her. Lack of support didn’t stop her, though. Lilias simply took on all the burdens herself- financial and otherwise, and just…went. She wasn’t going to let anything stop her.  

This amazes me- Lilias and two other financially independent women (none of them able to pass a physical exam) moved to Algeria, a Muslim country where women were traditionally hidden away. They didn’t know anyone or speak a word of the language. Being high-born ladies, they didn’t even know how to do housework- they all grew up with servants! On arriving in Algeria Lilias wrote, “Three of us stood there, looking at our battle-field, none of us fit to pass a doctor for any society, not knowing a soul in the place, or a sentence of Arabic or a clue for beginning work on untouched ground; we only knew we had to come. Truly if God needed weakness, He had it!”

The work was very difficult- men were suspicious and the women and children were largely inaccessible. Arabic language learning was arduous. French/ English relations were very strained (there were many Frenchmen living in Algeria at the time), and the French were as hostile towards Lilias as the Muslims were. The few who did convert to Christianity were treated badly and even spied on. It took a long time for the Lilias and her friends to make contact with Muslim women. In spite of all the challenges, they remained faithful to the work God called them to do.

As her mission efforts in the city finally began to grow, Lilias became preoccupied with the desert people- nomadic groups that roamed freely and had never heard the gospel. Deeply burdened, this wealthy English woman began to venture into the desert on a camel, riding through extreme heat and dust storms to find the nomads. When she would meet men in the desert Lilias would give them cards with Bible verses carefully written in Arabic, believing in the power of God to use even that tiny contact.

One of Lilias’ paintings

Lilias served as a missionary in Algeria for forty years- the rest of her life. Her poor physical health forced her to take long furloughs, but she always came back. At the time of her death in 1928, Lilias had established thirteen mission stations and had over thirty workers, under the name Algiers Mission Band, united in her vision to bring “the light of the knowledge of God, in the face of Christ” to the people of Algeria. Her life was characterized by fervent prayer and a deeply-rooted trust in God that never wavered.

There is a biography of Lilias Trotter called A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, written by Miriam Rockness. I highly recommend you read it and get to know this remarkable woman better. Her life and faith are truly an inspiration.  

Single Life and the Lost Art of Hospitality

I sat by myself in a church pew almost every Sunday. After the service I always ate lunch alone.

Mondays through Fridays I drove to work alone, went to the gym alone, and spent the evenings alone. The only deviation to that was Wednesday night church and Bible club.

Saturday was the day I would hang out with my friends or my sister- my favorite day.

This was my life for eight years when I lived in Illinois.

This is the life of many single people.

Don’t get me wrong- I liked living on my own. But there were many times when I felt the aloneness deeply. One of the major reasons I moved back to Ohio was because I was seeking connections and support.

I was very, very lonely.

Today I’m writing less to singles and more to the other people who move in our circles. My message is simple:

Even though single people may come across as very independent, we need you.

Let me say that again: Married people, church people, co-workers, neighbors:

The single people in your life need you.

I cannot say that enough.

The importance of community

Since I’m a Christian and writing a blog that’s geared toward other Christians, I’m going to focus on the church today. I believe that this is one of the greatest failings in our church communities- the lack of hospitality.

 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12: 4,5

The Bible teaches us that Christians are unified through Christ. We are called “the body of Christ.” God’s plan is for us to walk together, especially those attending the same church. We are not intended to live isolated lives.

It has long been a mystery to me. Why have so few fellow church members reached out? I always wonder- do any of them even take the time to think about me? Do I- the single woman sitting by herself- ever cross their minds? Do I wear an invisible sign that says “stay away?”

Not one person has ever come over to my pew and asked if they could sit with me.

I have lived on my own for fifteen years. During that time I have attended three different churches, two in Illinois and one in Ohio. Throughout that period only seven church families have invited me out to lunch or into their homes. Of those seven, four asked more than once. And if I’m being completely honest, six of those families were in my first church, when I was a young adult.

Fifteen years

Seven families

That’s it.

Bear each other’s burdens…

Now, I will say this. While attending my first church I went through a very difficult financial time. There were many people that quietly helped me by anonymously giving gift cards and money, or by asking me to dog-sit for them and then paying me very well. They supported me in their way and I will always be grateful.

But I also longed for someone to walk beside me during that trial; someone that wouldn’t just give me a hug and walk away, but who would take the time to sit and talk through everything.

I just wanted someone who would help me not feel so alone.

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

See, quality time is my love language. I describe myself as an extroverted introvert. I enjoy solitude and am recharged by it, but I also love good conversation and thrive on time well-spent with others. While I appreciate kind words and monetary gifts, your time is what I value most.

 Unfortunately, that seems to be a gift few people are willing to give.

We are all busy. I get that. There are so many things that seem to demand our time. It doesn’t eat up any time to sit next to a solitary person in church, though. It doesn’t take a lot of time to meet a person for coffee, or have them over for lunch.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. I Peter 4: 8, 9

This is a different post than I usually write, but writing about loneliness has put this topic on my mind. After reading about the effects of loneliness on a person I realized how important it is to practice hospitality. I share my personal experiences in an effort to help you see the lack of regard most singles live with.

My heart is here in this post. These are burdens I’ve carried around for a long time, questions that haven’t been answered. I share my experiences to make you think-

Why don’t more people in the church practice hospitality?

Why don’t you?

One of my favorite authors is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She was single for fifty-seven years, but frequently writes about all of the Christian friends who became her family. In her book Adorned, she writes about the joy of being invited into other people s’ homes. She says, “This is where deep, rich friendships have been forged. This is where lives have been molded. This is where I have acquired ‘adopted’ parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren. This is where we have grown, shared, wept, repented, give and received grace, and rejoiced as we celebrated Christ together. At home.”

I can’t help but envy her when I read that.

God commands hospitality for a reason. We need each other.  The single people in your life need you.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of people who do open their lives to others. You are few and far between, but much appreciated. Together, let’s work on hospitality and keep celebrating every SINGLE blessing!

P.S. Don’t think I’m completely letting myself and other singles off the hook. Next week I’m going to flip the tables and write about ways we can practice hospitality. 🙂

Your Life is not a Mistake

An uncle once introduced me to a friend as his “niece who can’t get a man.” It makes for a good story and I was quite amused by it, but as singles-of-a-certain-age it’s easy to view our marital status as my uncle did: a failure.  In recent years, God has proven to me that this idea is the opposite of the truth.

My life – just as it is now – is not a mistake. Scripture demonstrates over and over the individualized care God gives each of his children. Is the God who “chose [me] before the foundation of the world” and predestined me for salvation (Ephesians 1:4-5) likely to forget to give me something I need?

II Corinthians 2:9 tells me that I can’t even imagine the glorious gifts God has for me as His child, and Psalm 139 says that God had ALL my days planned out before I even lived the first one. No, God has not forgotten that I’m single. I didn’t slip His notice when He was passing out spouses. He chose singleness for me at this stage of life as a deliberate choice for my good and His own purposes.

If I live my life in discontent because I don’t like God’s plan, that is sin. Anything I choose over God and His Word is an idol, and the dream of marriage can be just that. I used to think – in essence if not literally – that once I got married I would do a better job of serving God.

The mental picture of a life with a spouse and houseful of kids was what I’d prepared for, not one of living alone and having to work hard at fellowship. And since I wasn’t married yet, I could get away with some private sins. Who would ever know, right? That attitude kept me in bondage to my idol for a longer time than I care to admit. My spiritual growth was stunted because I quit trusting God in favor of that idol.

The Lord plans our steps

A friend pulled me aside one day and asked how I was doing spiritually. I sat weeping behind my sunglasses and all the rebellion and resentment I’d let pile up burst out. I felt like such a failure…I had no joy and little to point to as something I was doing to serve God. Scripture was dry and my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. My friend challenged me to stop waiting for God to change my circumstances and serve Him right where I was, and my initial reaction was (I’m embarrassed to admit) internal anger. But it wasn’t anger at my friend, it was anger at God. I didn’t like my circumstances. I certainly didn’t want to adapt to them.

Thankfully, in His infinite mercy, God changed my heart that day. He led me to set aside my vision of what life should be and instead trust Him with what it was. Now this change didn’t happen overnight! It took weeks and months of obedience – studying Scripture and trying to know God better through it, attending church, serving others in obedience to the Word – before I sensed real change in my emotions.

But one day I looked up and realized something crazy – I was happy. None of my circumstances were different. I wasn’t dating anyone, didn’t suddenly have a cadre of single friends, and was still by myself a good percentage of the time. But God’s promises were true! He gives joy to the obedient and peace to those who trust His will.

The sovereignty of God is a gift to the believer: He who controls all the circumstances of life can be trusted. I thought I understood that concept for decades before I really took hold and grasped it for myself. Friends, the truths of Scripture are not just there to sound good or be posted as memes on Facebook.

God’s Word is a rock – strong, steady, and safe.

But we have to choose to take Him at His Word and rest on those mighty promises. I would challenge each reader to spend some time in your Bible this week and note what you learn about God: His character, power, omniscience, love. Apply that to your life as practically as you can. If God loves you and has almighty power, then the system crashing at work is part of His plan.

Grasp that truth and find a way to minister to your coworkers during the mess. If God loves everyone and wants to see them come to salvation, then He loves that person who constantly puts argumentative comments on your Facebook posts. This means you also should have a heart for them. Rather than typing out a verbal missile in response, pray for that person and do something kind for them this week.

Does that sound over the top? Well, we have an over-the-top God who longs for His children to remember His promises and live them out, because He has myriads of blessings in store for them. You will never regret taking God at His Word. I know I haven’t.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

Cathy

Will God Really Give me the Desires of my Heart?

“Don’t you want to get married?”

How often has someone asked you that question? It’s been presented to me more times than I can count. At first I found it offensive, but I understand now that it’s (usually) posed by kind, well-meaning people who are truly anxious to see me married.

After all, good Christian girls get married, right?

This question and others like it used to send me into a tailspin of depression. Now, however, my single friends and I laugh it off. The people that ask it always make it sound like I’m fighting men off, pushing them away and happily rejecting them all until I’ve found one that exactly resembles Mr. Darcy.

But that’s never been my experience. I’ve never fought guys off in my pursuit of Mr. Darcy.

The hard truth is- I’ve never even been on a date. I’m thirty-eight years old and I’ve never had a guy ask me out.

I don’t share that with you so you feel sorry for me. I share that to be real. This is me and where I’m at in life.

So when people ask, “Don’t you want to get married?” the answer is yes. If I am 100 percent honest, I do want to get married. I know exactly what kind of guy I would like to marry and I even have the names of my children picked out.

The desire of my heart is to get married.

However, that’s not the path my life has taken. And in order to have a fruitful, fulfilling life I have to deal with the fact that my desires don’t line up with the life I’m actually living.

How often does the single life feel like this?

Does God always give us the desires of our heart?

Last week I posted in a Christian singles Facebook group, stating that we can trust God even when our plans don’t line up with His plans. We trust Him to know best. Someone immediately responded with, “What about ‘He gives us the desires of our heart?’”

Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:3,4)

Verse four is one of the most misquoted verses! Single friends, how often do people quote this verse to you, promising that if you have the desire to get married God will make it happen?

That’s NOT how it works. God isn’t a vending machine, pumping out everything we want. But He does give us the perfect formula for planting His desires into our hearts.

This is what God can turn our lives into- places of quiet peace, beauty, and rest.

Look at Psalm 37:1-7 as a whole and see what we should do:

Do not fret (v. 1) – Don’t worry or be anxious

Trust in the Lord and do good (v. 3) – Place your confidence in God and find ways to serve

Dwell in the land (v. 3) – live at peace right where you are

Take delight in the Lord (v. 4) – learn to find satisfaction in God first

Commit your way to the Lord (v.5) – give everything you do to God

Trust in Him (v. 6) – again, place your confidence in God

Be still before the Lord (v. 7) – you don’t have to frantically try to change your circumstances

Wait patiently for the Lord (v. 7) – let God work in His time

As we read through this list we see that our man-centered desires need to give way to God-centered ones. If I’m honest, my desires often run along the lines of an attractive husband, a super-fit body, cupcakes (yes, I know those two things don’t go together), and financial success. These are me-centered and revolve around wanting a happy, comfortable life.

If we follow Psalm 37 and start to trust, dwell, delight, commit, and wait patiently for God then our whole mindset is going to change. God is going to gently turn us away from our man-centered lives and toward Him. His desires will slowly start to become ours. They will become the true desires of our heart.

God doesn’t actually promise us happiness or comfort. He does promise us joy, peace, and contentment. He also promises that He’ll never leave. Parts of life are going to be hard. They’re going to look differently than we want them to; they’re going to hurt.  God never says that He’ll take the hard parts away, but he does promise to walk through them with us.

Ultimately, I have to come to terms with that reality. My wishes are fleeting. My heart is deceitful. My plans are always going to be flawed. No guy, no matter how wonderful, will ever completely fulfill me or be everything I want him to be.

Walk in God’s way and your desires will start to match His.

God is the only true source of our satisfaction, whether we are married or single. The desires for marriage and companionship actually come from Him, in order to draw us closer to Him.

Knowing God is the true desire of each of our hearts, even if we aren’t ready to acknowledge that yet.

Anything else is less than satisfactory.

May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (Psalm 20:4)

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of a God who knows always knows what we need. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Book Review 5

Title: The Path of Loneliness

Author: Elisabeth Elliot

Genre: nonfiction

Theme: Finding your way through the wilderness to God

Summary: Elisabeth Elliot is best known for being the wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot. Her early books chronicled their lives as missionaries, as well as her husband’s early death. Elisabeth was married two more times as well, so she may seem like an unlikely choice for a singles blog.

I admit, at first, I did dismiss what she had to say for that very reason. What does a thrice-married woman really have to say about being lonely? However, when I started reading The Path of Loneliness and discovered that she lived the life of a widow and single mom for twelve years between her first and second marriages, and then her second husband died after only four years of marriage, I realized that she probably knew a lot about being lonely.

If you’ve never read any of Elisabeth Elliot’s books, let me start by telling you that she is always very straightforward in her style. I really like that about her. She tells you what the Bible says and what you’re supposed to be doing based on what the Bible says. There is very little gray area. Her books also reflect a deeply personal relationship with God. Everything she writes stems from that.

In The Path of Loneliness Elisabeth never tries to place blame on God or explain away the pain of loneliness. Instead, she expresses the view that loneliness is a result of the fall, bringing with it great sadness. She even likens loneliness to a wilderness. Her voice is deeply personal throughout the book as she shares her own stories- watching a couple on an airplane and becoming overwhelmed with grief; the long wait while she and her first husband both served as single missionaries; trying to make sense of widowhood; navigating an empty nest, and much more.

This entire book is one of praise to God. Even though Elisabeth writes about His “severe mercy,” she never criticizes or questions His motives. She never laments only getting twenty-seven months of marriage with her first husband after her long, celibate wait. She only offers praise. Her book is filled with Scripture and poems meant to turn the reader’s thoughts to God.  Over and over again she emphasizes God’s work in all aspects of her life, no matter how painful.

My Thoughts: This is a beautiful book. I cannot say that enough. I read it during a time of deep sadness and it helped me so much. I saw that everyone battles loneliness in their lives, no matter what stage they are at. My pain and emptiness aren’t sugar-coated or casually dismissed. They are very real

But reading The Path of Loneliness helped me to see that God can be glorified through my emptiness. He wants my pain. He’s willing to take it all and use it to turn me toward Him again and again. Being alone doesn’t have to be sign of a “Life gone wrong”- a life that’s sad and empty. Rather, being alone can become a beautiful thing if it’s used to make us more like Christ.

I’ve referenced back to this book in my last two blog posts because it has so many great truths. It’s been the basis of my writing on loneliness and how God is able to use it. The best thing about The Path of Loneliness is that it offers hope. God is love, He works out our lives in love, and as such He gives HOPE. Elisabeth Elliot reminds her readers of that fact again and again and again.

”There is a future and a plan. There is another reality. This is what is Pricilla’s hope. It is what makes her see things so differently from those who would advise a different course… God honors and obedient faith. He too walked in this lonesome valley.”

“Waiting on God is an act of faith- the greatest thing ever required of us as humans. It is resting in perfect confidence that He will guide in the right way, at the right time. He will supply our need. He will fulfill his word. He will give us the very best if we trust Him.”

“Turn your loneliness into solitude, and your solitude into prayer.”

–Elisabeth Elliot

Four Steps to Help you Turn Loneliness into Solitude

Loneliness- sadness because one has no friends or company; isolation

Solitude- the state or situation of being alone

If pressed for the number one reason people don’t want to be single, the answer will probably be loneliness. Loneliness is a state of mind that plagues a person, wearing her down, even making her feel disconnected from others when she’s not alone. It is a cause of physical and mental problems like depression, obesity, high levels of stress, alcohol and drug addiction, and decreased memory (verywellmind.com).

In her wonderful book The Path of Loneliness, Elisabeth Elliot writes about God’s creation of Adam and Eve. They were together in the garden, but each was alone in the sense that they were in separate bodies, each bearing God’s image, each answering to Him. She states that this aloneness was a good thing because everything in the garden was good.

However, she goes on to say “But something happened. Sin destroyed the perfect harmony of the universe. The relationship of man with God and of human beings with each other was fractured. Man now knows that he is alone. His aloneness is no longer an experience only of solitude but also of deprivation. The human companionship, which in the divine plan was the answer to man’s aloneness, no longer suffices. Disobedience ruined it. His aloneness has another dimension which is an experience of pain- a pain called loneliness.”   

Loneliness is a very real and painful thing. It is HARD to endure loneliness. Many of us will do almost anything to avoid it.

Last week I wrote about waiting for God and trusting Him to act on your behalf. This- right here- is where we start waiting. We can’t necessarily change the fact that we’re alone, but since loneliness is a state of mind, we can change our perspective and take steps to turn our loneliness into solitude.

Four Steps to Turn Your Loneliness into Solitude:

  1. Learn to view alone time as an opportunity to draw closer to God

The way we view God is going to be reflected in the way we view our lives. Do you look at your single life and despair over all the empty hours in front of you? Do you scramble around trying to make plans with others, so you don’t have to sit alone in an empty apartment?

I’ve been there. I’m still there sometimes. I moved to Ohio six years ago and I’m still praying for a close friend. God hasn’t chosen to answer that prayer yet. At least, He hasn’t answered it the way I want Him to answer. Instead, God has steadily used my alone time to draw me closer to Him. I’m slowly starting to see free hours as extra time to give back to Him, time best used in prayer, scripture memory, and biblical meditation.

Even though my heart longs for a friend, God is showing me that my heart needs to long for Him first.

2. Change your point of view by speaking truth to yourself

Look through God’s lens to see your situation differently. The world tells us that being alone is a terrible thing and should be avoided at all costs. However, you don’t have to see it that way- work to find the positives.

Start with this: “It’s ok to be alone.” “Solitude is a good thing.”

Tell yourself that you are NOT a failure or a loser because you’re alone. You don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed by it. Instead, reassure yourself with truth- Elisabeth Elliot writes “As I began to learn about suffering I learned that trust in God’s strong arms means that even our suffering is under control. We are not doomed to meaninglessness. A loving Purpose is behind it all, a great tenderness even in the fierceness.”

You are not doomed to meaninglessness. There is purpose even in being alone. God’s Word assures us it can be a good thing.

3. Embrace silence rather than seeking to fill it

I’m not a big fan of silence. I usually have my headphones in, Youtube running in the background, or an audiobook playing. Even when I exercise without music, I always have mental chatter running through my head. I’m subconsciously trying to avoid silence.

Silence means loneliness, right?

In my first apartment I had a clock that ticked loudly. I remember sitting there, alone, in my blue chair, with just the ticking clock to fill the silence. There were some days when that clock had a lot to say-

 Loser

You’re all alone

No one really likes you

I’m learning to see that silence- peaceful, meditative silence- is a a useful tool that can clear our heads and help us think. Once I stopped listening to the clock, I started to see the value of silence. As an elementary teacher, I even began to revel in it. Silence can soothe our anxious, fretful hearts and let God speak to us in ways that noise never can.

Remember, God commands us to be still.

4. Find positive ways to fill your alone time

I’m not suggesting that you run around in a frantic effort to fill all of your alone time. Instead of meaningless activity, find ways to fill your time when you’re alone. Learn to enjoy your solitude.

Sitting in front of the television night after night is just going to make the feelings of loneliness worse. I suggest activities that keep your hands busy and focus your mind.

What speaks to you? I often do my best thinking and praying when I’m moving- walking, biking, hiking, or even paddle boarding. For so long I resented or avoided any activity I had to by myself, but by using my alone time to draw closer to God and through speaking truth to myself, I’ve come to value and even relish solitude.

If you follow these four steps I guarantee your outlook will change.

One closing thought from Elisabeth Elliot: “Turn your loneliness into solitude, and your solitude into prayer.”

Solitude just means we’re alone. It is not a bad thing. It draws us away from a chaotic world and offers peace and perspective. It is a chance to revel in freedom and enjoy a deeper relationship with God. It’s an aspect of my life I’m slowly learning to love. And when solitude turns us to prayer, it becomes a beautiful thing.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of solitude in my life. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!  

Singleness is a Label, not a Definition

 A few weeks ago, a friend and I went out to dinner. It was our first time going out since before quarantine started, so to be in a restaurant surrounded by actual people was extremely exciting. Now, I talk to this friend almost every day, we are thoroughly caught up on each other’s lives, in fact we probably know too much about each other, but nonetheless she asked me a question I never had to answer before even though it’s something I deal with every day.

“What’s the one thing you wished married people would know about single people?”

Wow, I mean you would think I would be prepared for that, but I was not. After stuttering through a few stall tactics, I tried to combine my thoughts into something understandable. I wanted to be honest, but trying to summarize what is wrong with a whole stigma isn’t easy. Plus this friend is newly single after a very long term relationship. Out of the two of us, I’m supposed to be the expert in the “being single” field. Right?!

The answer I came up with was something along the lines of this: Not every single person is longing to get married, but some are. Not every single person is constantly looking for a relationship, but some are. Not every single person feels defined by their singleness, but some do. We are all on distinctive journeys and look at being single differently.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized we can’t possibly summarize an entire group of people into one thought. It would be the same as asking me what all tall people want short people to know or what every extrovert wants introverts to know.

Being single is only one part of what make me unique, it doesn’t even come close to defining who I am.

____

I think if you were to have asked me ten years ago where I saw my life, I never in a million years would have said where I am today. In my perfect plan right out of high school I thought I would go off to college, get a degree, find a husband, get a cute condo in the city, find a job and start climbing that corporate ladder. Instead, I am now the proud owner of a small business, I live at home with my parents in the same house I grew up in, and I’m still living the life of a solo traveler– “The best laid plans” and all that.

 I grew up in a church and school that supported the “perfect plan” mentioned above. It was generally accepted that you would find your future spouse at college, get married and have 2.5 kids. Nothing was ever mentioned about what happens when that doesn’t happen, when that “perfect plan” doesn’t work, and that’s a shame. We were taught to start building our identity around a relationship, get our confidence from others, and make future plans all around a person who may not ever come into our lives.

Singleness is a label, but it’s not a definition.

Too often we look at this time of life as something to “get through.” We think that our life won’t start until we get married, and we need to stop this. Because of God’s role in our lives we are complete in Him and only Him.

Already.

Full stop.

No additional ingredients needed!

So instead of wishing this part of life away, I’ve started to embrace the blessings that come with it. Like how I get to travel the world with friends, or even *gasp* BY MYSELF (whoa, I know strange concept!) without having to worry about a spouses schedule, or how I get to be a bigger part of my niece and nephew’s lives than I would be if I had my own spouse or kids at home, or the friendships I’ve made and sustained through this time of life that have only been made sweeter because I’m single.

If we look to a relationship to give us joy or confidence or if we root our identity in our relationship status, we will ultimately be disappointed. Only God can provide us with those qualities, and you’ll find that the deeper you dive into God, the more He will fulfill and sustain you. He will be with you in every season of life – how awesome is that?!

Jeremiah 17:7-8 But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

 God doesn’t define us by our singleness, but he does prepare us for it. Let’s try to be more like the tree Jeremiah was writing about. Ground your life in God and be confident in Him. When we look to Him to find our identity, our confidence, and our joy we will be fulfilled no matter what season of life we’re going through.

Stop Waiting for a Man and Start Waiting for God

Dear Single Friend,

I wanted to offer you some encouragement today. See, I know that you didn’t go to that party last week because you didn’t have anyone to go with you. I also know that you came up with an excuse to miss you co-worker’s wedding because you didn’t have a date. I even know how many Friday nights you’ve spent sitting alone at home with just the television for company.

I know because I’ve been there.

I’ve experienced each one of these scenarios. They are just some of the lonely moments that can make single life feel so difficult.

It’s also why we often feel like we’re waiting- waiting for the fun to begin, for a man to sweep us off our feet, for financial security, for the next step that will finally get our life’s momentum rolling. It’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting when you’re alone.

Just waiting for… something better to come along.

I wholeheartedly believe that we should stop waiting for our lives to begin, for the Prince Charming that may never show up.

However, today I want to flip the tables and tell you, “Sometimes, it’s okay to wait.”

Stop waiting for a man and start waiting for God. 

I hate waiting. I’m sure most of us do. It’s frustrating to feel like you’re spinning your wheels and nothing’s happening. We want to jump up and do something, right? It’s in all of us. Waiting is never easy.

Since I hate waiting so much, I have to fight the temptation to take matters into my own hands. After all, how many times have we heard phrases like, “God helps those that help themselves” or “It’s up to you to make it happen.”

Yeah, that’s not in the Bible.

Because of the “can-do” spirit instilled in us these days, we run ahead of God, trying to fix things so they work out the way we want them too. Maybe you’ve tried every online dating site available. You might church-hop, looking for the one with the best singles group. Or you find yourself compromising- dating a guy you know isn’t right for you. Personally, I fight with a deeply-rooted belief that I’m single because I’m unattractive. I keep thinking that if I were prettier then maybe, maybe, a guy would notice me. So I experiment with make-up, try to exercise more, and wear big jewelry to distract from my face.

Please don’t get me wrong- make-up, exercise, or online dating certainly aren’t wrong in their proper place. But when they become symbols of control in our lives, when we start trusting in them rather than in God, and when they start taking over big chunks of our time or money, then there’s a problem. 

The Bible tells us that God can do abundantly more than we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). What would my single life look like if I spent more time being still, waiting for God, and less time online hunting for potential soulmates? If God can do more than I can even think of, then I can trust Him with my life, right?

I can trust Him to bring me a guy who loves me even if I’m not pretty.

I can trust Him to take care of me even if I stay single my whole life.

I can trust Him enough to wait while He works in my life.

In Exodus 14 we find the Israelites trapped between the Red Sea and a terribly angry Egyptian army. Despite just witnessing God’s miraculous plagues, the Israelites immediately began to panic. In fact, they “feared greatly” and began to demand why Moses led them out of Egypt just to die. They even went so far as to say they were better off as slaves.

Moses trusted in the power of his God, however. He didn’t fear greatly or try to take matters into his own hands. He didn’t encourage the Israelites to take up arms and get ready to fight. Instead, he drew their attention back to God.

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today…. For the Lord will fight for you, and you need only to be still.’”  -Exodus 14:13, 14

God did fight for them. He miraculously parted the Red Sea and the Israelites, through no power of their own, crossed safely.

God will fight for you, too. You only need to be still and wait.

Four verses to help you wait.

  • I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord– Psalm 27:13, 14
  • But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31
  • For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my Rock and my Salvation, my Fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. – Psalm 62:5-8
  • O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble. –Isaiah 33:2 

These verses reassure us that God is working constantly in our lives.

Waiting for a man? That’s not for you! 

But waiting patiently for the God who loves you? Yes! That’s for all women who desire personal growth and a deeper relationship with God. The best part is, if you hold on to these verses and believe the truths in them, you’ll start to see the subtle beauty of God working through you and for you.

So subtle you might miss God while you’re running around trying to take control on your own.

Be still. And be encouraged.

This week I’m thankful for the blessings that come through waiting. It’s not easy, but the rewards are great.  Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Back to the Garden

Last summer marked my first attempt at gardening. I grew sunflowers and surprisingly, they did very well. I learned a lot from my sunflowers and you can read about that here.

As I cared for my new little garden, watering, weeding, nurturing, and protecting it, I began to see it in a whole different light.

We are all part of God’s garden.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God created a garden first. He was the creator- He could have made a beautiful forest, a tropical island, a lofty mountain hamlet, and put Adam and Eve there. Instead, He chose to create a garden, verdant and growing, the source of sustenance for all living things. The garden was perfect because its creator was perfect.

Until we ruined it. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit God threw them out. Their removal from the garden was a symbol of our separation from God- Sin and perfection cannot coexist.  The separation has been there ever since. And life became a struggle.

Now we are loose in God’s beautiful world, running around, desperately looking for something, anything to fulfill us. We try romance, careers, pleasure, friends, family, adventure.  And we come up empty every time.

In order to truly find fulfillment, we have to go back to the garden and look to the One who created it.

In God’s garden we are…

  1. Rooted in the right kind of soil

This is where fulfillment starts. In a garden, the little seed isn’t good for much on its own. It’s not pretty, interesting, or exciting. It just lays there. Not until the seed starts to send out roots do things really begin to happen. Strong roots are a necessity for a plant.

Strong roots are a necessity for us, too.

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  Whoever has ears, let them hear. –Matthew 13: 3-9

The seeds that rooted in good soil were the seeds that grew up strong, healthy, and productive. That good soil is God and His Word.  For us to live lives of fulfillment, we must look to God. We must dig down deep in His word and cling to it with everything we’ve got. Anything else will leave us scorched and withered.

2. Reliant on God’s provision

We must be rooted in God’s word because we need to rely on Him for our provision. This truth was driven home to me a few weeks ago after I planted my sunflower seeds. I was excited about the new garden. It went so well last year, so this year would be even better, right? I got a bunch of different seeds and planted them all over. After I planted them, I prayed over them and told God these seeds were going to be a picture of my life. As they grew I wanted them to represent my growth, too. It was a beautiful moment.

And then the squirrels ate them all.

Literally.

All of them.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. –John 15:5

In a garden the plants can grow strong roots, but those roots need sun, water, air, and wind. God knows they have these needs and sends the elements according to His good pleasure. There’s nothing a plant can do to provide for itself. A seed can’t even prevent a squirrel from digging it up and eating it.  

We are the same. We like to pretend that we are independent, but we are just as reliant on God as those little seeds. He is the vine and we grow from Him. Apart from God I can do nothing.

3. Radiant because of His love.

Radiant means “sending out light; shining brightly.” I love flowers for that very reason- when they bloom they are radiant. What shines more brightly than a well-tended garden?  

How about a woman who is rooted in God’s truth and reliant on His provision?

…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. –I Peter 3:4

God is the only true source of fulfillment because we are all part of His garden. He is the soil we need to sink our roots down deep into. He is the provider of every good and perfect thing. If we trust in Him then He will fill us with joy and make us radiant. 

 If you are looking to anything or anyone else, you will always come up empty.

This week, I’m thankful for the beauty of a flower garden and the reminder that, as God cares for the lilies in the fields, He cares even more for us. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

My Ten Favorite Reasons to Celebrate Singleness

In the long stretch of isolation and social distancing we got a little desperate for television. I don’t normally make a habit of watching the Hallmark Channel, but sadly, yes, one night it was on. I wasn’t paying much attention to the show until I heard an actress intone, “Remember, a life without love is no life at all.”

What???

You’re seriously telling me that the beautiful, successful woman onscreen with perfect hair, skinny thighs, a good job, and close circle of friends has no life because she doesn’t have a man?

Myth: A widely held but false belief or idea

As crazy as it sounds when it’s spoken out loud, there are many single women who buy into this myth. They are walking around believing the false idea that their lives aren’t good, fulfilling, complete, or effective because they aren’t married.

Ladies, it’s time to embrace our single lives. Stop telling yourself lies and start celebrating!

My Ten Favorite Reasons to Celebrate Singleness:

  1. Not being accountable to anyone else- I get to make my own decisions.

A friend and I were talking about this the other night. We were commenting about how nice it is to have the freedom to control the thermostat. You can also choose the color of your house, plant as many flowers as you want, always listen to the music you like… and, well, you get the idea. It’s great!

2. Being forced into hard things

Singleness definitely makes me stronger/ braver. I realized that the other day when I was killing a wasp with a broom while a married woman hid in another room. She was used to someone else doing the extermination for her. When you’re on your own, if you don’t step up and tackle the tough stuff then no one will.

3. Learning life skills

Life skills go along with doing hard things. Not only do single women have to kill the bugs, but many of them also have to install faucets, rip out carpet, paint walls, move heavy furniture, or (my least favorite thing ever) go to the hardware store alone. Life hacks and YouTube are our friends.

4. Quiet, solitary walks with God

I’ll say this over and over again, because solitude is something God is really speaking to my heart about. I always used to feel sad and lonely when I hiked by myself; my hikes were typically filled with emotional prayers begging God for a husband to walk with. I wanted someone to hold hands with so badly! In the last few months, though, I’ve been learning to differentiate between loneliness and solitude. Just because I’m alone doesn’t mean I have to feel lonely. Solitude- time to think, walk, pray, reflect- is a beautiful thing. 

5. Getting to eat whatever I want and never having to worry about cooking

Cooking is an area I consistently struggle with. In all the years I’ve lived on my own I’ve never gotten the hang of cooking for one. I either make waaaaay too much and have to eat the same thing for days, or the extras get shoved to the back of the fridge until they morph into something new. Finding time to cook every night is difficult, too, plus all the dishes are a pain. Let’s just say I’m thankful for cereal and smoothies!

6. Freedom!!!

Is there any better reason to celebrate singleness? Enough said.

7. More opportunities to serve

I recently wrote a post about why we should volunteer. This is something I feel strongly about. Yes, single women have freedom and extra time, but that doesn’t mean we should hoard it all for ourselves. As Christians, it’s even more important. Jesus was the ultimate example of a servant. When we practice service, we’re following Him.

8. I get to be the fun aunt

It can be very painful to be a childless woman. You feel like you have failed in the ultimate “womanly” duty. God made us to have children, right? Women are naturally empathetic and nurturing- the maternal feelings don’t go away just because you don’t have kids. For me, being an aunt is incredibly satisfying. I get to experience all the best parts of having kids, without having to deal with pregnancy, labor, sleepless night, diapers, and saving for college.  It’s the perfect set-up.

9. Chances to get to know family more

Along with being the fun aunt, I’m so thankful that being single gives me more chances to spend time with my extended family. My family members are my road trip-travel-try crazy new things-watch ridiculous movies-hang out and talk for hours-people. I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

10..Having to rely on God for so many things

I saved this one for last because it’s the most important. People are pretty good at building up their lives on their own. Everything I’ve mentioned above is great, but ultimately it means nothing without God. He is the One who truly gives purpose and fulfillment to our lives. Being single has given me multiple opportunities to rely on God because, sometimes, there’s simply no one else around.

Over and over again I’ve had to throw up my hands and give a situation over to God because I couldn’t see any way out of it.  And yes, there are times that I’ve sat on the couch and cried and said, “God, I really wish you had arms right now,” but I’ve also seen Him work in so amazing ways.

My life was created for God’s glory and my good.

I absolutely believe that, and I hope you do, too. Lean into God, surrender your life to Him, and watch Him make it more beautiful than you could imagine.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of singleness. Yes, I said it. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Life as a Solo Traveler

I get to travel a lot for work (well, up until this year!), and people always want to know where my favorite place is to visit. I loathe this question because it can change with any given day. Some days I would love nothing more than to be on a beach listening to the waves while I devour a book, other days I can’t wait to return to the Alps and visit all the picturesque mountain villages, and other days I just want to go to Disney. My favorite destinations may change, but one thing remains consistent. I want to travel, I need to explore the world, learn from her people – simply GO! It is just a part of who I am.


Another question I despise is “what if your future husband doesn’t like to travel?”


I often get asked this by well meaning individuals. People who are so excited for me to get married one day and experience the joys of doing life with another person. This question always makes me need to pause and bite down a sarcastic remark (usually along the lines of “well, then he probably won’t be my husband” or “then he’ll just have to stay home”).

Instead I want to ask those people why I should form my identity around someone who may not exist.


You see, God never promises marriage. Now, don’t get me wrong, marriage is wonderful. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by strong marriages in my life that show me how good that can be. But it should never be our life’s goal or sole purpose. I’ve met too many wonderful single individuals who feel like their life is on hold until they meet and marry their future spouse.

How many good years have we wasted, how many opportunities have we missed, how many blessings have we ignored because we’ve been waiting for that chapter of life to start?


God never promises marriage, but He does promise to complete us.

Don’t be afraid to live life as a solo traveler.


My life verse is Philippians 1:6 which says:
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)


God doesn’t say only once you’re married will He use you to do His will. He says as soon as we give our lives to Christ and He begins that good work in us, we are His to use and mold until He brings us home.


How awesome is that?


So next time you catch yourself waiting until you get married to take a trip, or pursue a job, take up a hobby, or listen to God’s calling on your life. Remember, God is already working on you, using you and completing you – As is, no assembly required.

-Tiffanee

Debunking the Myth Part 3- Are You Worried?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?    -Matthew 6:27

It might seem strange to start a travel post with a verse about worry, but that’s where I was at. On my first trip to London I fought anxiety constantly. I worried about missing our trains, getting on the right train, finding our way around the city, arriving on time to everything ( I had a PLAN, darn it), standing in really long lines, where we were going to eat, what time we should get up, catching all the right flights, and on and on.

It all started when the airline changed our connecting flight, leaving us a tight forty-five minutes between flights. For weeks before the trip I fretted about making our flight connection.

We arrived early, with time to spare.

Once we landed in London I immediately became concerned with catching the right bus and finding our hotel.

No problem.

What were we going to do with our luggage?

The concierge let us leave it behind the desk.

Now was the really hard part- using the Underground. I devoted a lot of time and preparation researching all the train lines and connections, but it seemed way more intimidating now. How in the world were we going to get to the right stop?

By asking the cute guy standing next to us.

Do you see my problem? I was spending my dream vacation worrying about every detail I couldn’t control. In spite of the fact that everything flowed smoothly and we encountered no problems, I continued to fight for control.

My most cringe-worthy moment came toward the end of the week. My cousin, Elisabeth, and I were booked for a crazy tour that included Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Oxford (I do not recommend that). We went to see Cats the night before the tour and got back to the hotel very late.

In spite of that I insisted we get up at 5:00 the next morning to make triple-sure we didn’t miss our pick-up. Oh, it was so late and I made us get up soooo early, just to eliminate all possible travel problems.

Yeah. Once again, there were no travel problems and we ended up spending at least an hour just sitting by the Thames, killing time until our scheduled rendezvous.  

If I had been Elisabeth, I would have killed me instead. But my saintly cousin didn’t say a word about my rabid determination to not be late. She never complained about rising before dawn just to sit by a river in the cold. To my dismay, our pick-up merely drove us to Victoria Station. If I had known, a simple, and much later, train ride would have brought us to the same spot.

Seeing Stonehenge for the first time made the crazy-early morning worth it!

Oops.

Every, single aspect of the trip went smoothly. Well, except for Elisabeth falling off the sidewalk and bloodying her knees because she was looking at her phone. But that only happened one time.  And we did get seriously turned around because of my terrible sense of direction. When we asked a policeman for directions he laughed at us.

The rest of it was great.

Standing on top of the London Eye, watching the sunset, I was so glad we were there. All the worries faded away in the glow of a perfect moment.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. –Matthew 6:34

I wish I applied that verse better to my trip, both before and during. After I came back and was reflecting on my experiences I began to see how much time I wasted worrying. I realized that my worry didn’t add, enhance, or help. It only took.

It took my excitement, my pleasure, and my ability to enjoy the moment I was in. It robbed me of time and perspective.

Debunking the Myth:

How often do we treat our single lives the same way? Remember the myth- “A life without love is no life at all?”

Do you spend time worrying that your single life is no life at all?

I do. I don’t fight anxiety just when I travel. I deal with it on a daily basis- fearful of all the aspects of life I can’t control. Since being single is completely out of my control, I worry:

 What do other people think of me?

Where am I going to live?

 Should I save more money?

 Who am I going to talk to at the party? 

Am I missing all the best parts of life?

While it may seem natural to be concerned about those things, it’s still a problem. The Bible commands me not to worry because when I do, I stop trusting in God and start focusing on myself. Worry means I’m only thinking of me.

I stop seeing the good things around me. On my trip, every moment I spent in my head, trying to work through a potential problem, was an experience I was missing. I was blinded to the beauty and wonder of travel.

Friend, don’t let worries over your singleness steal your joy! Don’t let it cloud your viewpoint.

A life without romantic love is still a life that’s filled with meaning, purpose, laughter, and wonderful moments.  But in order to recognize that I have to learn to rein my thoughts in and not buy into the myth. I have to challenge every lie with truth and get the focus off myself. With God’s help I can move forward through my days with confidence, trusting in Him to lead one step at a time.

And when you close your mind to worry and open your eyes to the beauty of the moment, you’ll find more blessings that concerns.

My fearless travel buddy and I.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of plans that fall into place, whether or not they had any help from us. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Empty Cup

I’m turning 43 this summer, and this is the first time that I’ve been completely single, without the status of a relationship to cling to, since I was sixteen years old.

In my BC life (Before Christ), this status would have made me nervous and forced me to scramble to find the next thing, the next man, the next ‘love’. Scrambling was the way I lived my life. In the process of the scramble, I gave up everything that I thought made me valuable to another human being. Whether it was emotionally, physically, spiritually, or financially — if another person would love me for it, I was willing to give it.

This unbridled giving of myself and my resources left me completely drained. I felt like an empty cup. In the corporate world they use the acronym ROI, which translates to the “Return On Investment.” In my viewpoint the return in my relationships didn’t equal what I had invested. And in the two years since my last relationship ended, I’ve done my fair share of soul-searching and attempting to “find myself.” What I found surprised me.

I gave away so much that I had nothing left to give.

For every relationship that I was in, I gave a part of myself. A little bit with this one, a little bit with that one. While I’ve been a serial monogamist since I was a teenager, the fact remains that by the time I reached my forties, I’d given the majority of myself away. It’s no wonder that I felt so completely empty. I was! I spent so much time chasing after others to give me love that I failed to turn to God, who is the source of love. What I needed wasn’t another man, or another relationship, or even another project that would occupy my time and energy. What I needed was to spend time with the One who knows me better than anyone. I needed to build a relationship with God.

“Whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of God. There we will be treated with undeserved grace, and will find help.” – Hebrews 4:16 CEV

Comparison really is the thief of joy.

When a relationship ended, I found myself endlessly looking for something better than what I’d just gotten out of. Someone better looking, more talented, funnier. I wanted my ex to know that I had moved on in a big way. Likewise, when my ex moved on, I would stalk his social media for every scrap of information about his new life. But the only person that hurt was me. I became depressed, and wallowed in it for months. The darkness was so thick, that I fell into self-sabotaging situations. Cycles of unhealthy activity followed that left me even more depleted than the relationship had. I spent far too many hours looking everywhere but straight ahead. My head turned to the side so much after every single breakup of a relationship, it’s a wonder that I didn’t end up with whiplash.

“Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside.” – Proverbs 4:25 CEV

What I was looking for in another person will never be found.

No one person will ever provide the fulfillment that I need. To be fulfilled, I need a mixture of joy that comes from a variety of sources be it extracurricular activities, my family and friends, and most of all from God.

The road back from nothingness has been a long and arduous one. I’ve fought against my own selfishness and struggled with my self-worth. I’ve sat in stillness with my own flaws and failure which hasn’t been pretty. I’ve admitted my own shortcomings and prayed about the mistakes I’ve made. My heart has been broken and mended over and over again.

After my focus turned back to God, and He became the most important part of my life, I felt better. I was better.

“His glorious power will make you patient and strong enough to endure anything, and you will be truly happy.” – Colossians 1:11 CEV

So what happens now?

I continue to move forward. I work through the remainder of my guilt. I forgive others. I forgive myself. I cling to the knowledge that while I am imperfect, I am still loved. God created me for a purpose. This is a season of change, and that is totally okay. I try to remember not to be anxious about anything. I pray for what has been, what is, and what’s to come. I experience the joy in that. When I feel empty, I turn to God and trust in His Grace. He chose me. It was time for me to choose Him, too. While I wouldn’t say that I’m a completely filled or overflowing cup, I’m definitely no longer an empty cup. I think now, I’m more of a “cup half full.”

“God always does what he plans, and that is why he appointed Christ to choose us.” -Ephesians 1:11 CEV

-Shanna

Debunking the Myth: A Life Without Love is no Life at all Part 2

I gripped the armrests and squeezed my eyes shut. I wasn’t a nervous flier, but the Tegucigalpa airport was reputed to have the second most dangerous runway in the world. The mountains directly at the end of the runway forced the pilot to slam on the plane’s brakes, causing it to fishtail wildly.

We landed safely and I reassured the wide-eyed twelve-year old next to me that flying wasn’t always like this. He in turn gasped out, “It’s not like in the movies.”

Honduras awaited us.

The details of how I ended up being a part of a mission team in Central America are foggy at best. All I can say is that God put it on my heart to serve that summer, and I’m not one to pass up an opportunity, so there I was, blinking in the broiling sun and fatigued from an early-morning flight.  

Because I actually lived in a different state, I only knew a couple of the team members. I met most of them at the airport that morning. We were probably the most ragtag team you’ve ever seen- ranging in age from twelve to eighty-one (yes, you read that right), from a variety of churches and backgrounds. I was the only adult that wasn’t married or a mother, so I floated between the teens and the older adults.

To say I was out of my element would be an understatement.

We visited a school one day. It was always so much fun to interact with the kids.

I am a Type-A, detail-oriented, take-charge, stick-to-a-schedule-no-matter-what person. I totally own that. Here in Honduras, however, everything was so different.

Most of us spoke little to no Spanish. We were supposed to be helping with Bible camp, with the promise that the children coming would speak English. They didn’t.

They wanted us to do some painting. The paintbrushes shed little hairy bits into the paint. Once we had paint, that is.

The ladies were supposed to help in the kitchen. But there were local women already in place.

We couldn’t drink the water (at all).

All toilet paper had to be thrown away, not flushed.

The beetles were so big we could hear them clicking against our windows at night. Some of them were the length of my thumb.

Our daily schedule was haphazard at best. We never knew where we were going to end up- at a church, a street market, a school, or in the middle of the city.

On top of that, we were confronted with the harsh realities of a Third World country. I encountered deep poverty for the first time; I’ll never forget the sight of small children sniffing glue in the streets, barefoot and dirty. We learned to use bathrooms that had no running water, toilet paper, or electricity. Even at the camp where we were staying, the electricity would come and go.

Guess what?

It was the most amazing experience. Heart-breaking, shocking, terrifying, thrilling, and wonderful. The people of Honduras were warm, welcoming, and kind on levels that aren’t seen in the United States. They were so much fun to be around and we were all usually laughing. We couldn’t always understand each other, but the ideas got across.

I loved trying new foods, visiting the markets, participating in the church services, tramping through jungle, singing in Spanish (badly), and even being pushed out of my comfort zone. I had never given my salvation testimony through a translator before or walked up to a stranger to share the gospel. We all wore gospel bracelets, and I still remember holding my hand out to show mine to some girls. My hand was shaking violently because I was so nervous.

Almost nothing went according to plan on that trip, but it was beautiful in its own way. God was at work in that place, and my experiences changed my life.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. Honduras is a beautiful country!

Last week I said that I was going to be addressing a myth about singleness: “A life without (romantic) love is no life at all.” This quote brought me up short and penetrated my mind. My hearts aches for all the single women that believe this is true. For so long, I was there, too.

When single women start to embrace lies about their lives, it’s like the lies block out the sun. Suddenly, you’re not aware of the warmth and goodness. All your focus on is what you don’t have and what you’re missing. Your mind can get so twisted up you completely miss the truth:  

The true value of a life is in what you have, not what you’re missing.

It’s in all the little moments- shining bits of goodness that show us more of God.  

Romance is just one aspect of life. For some it is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But if it’s missing for you, that’s ok. There are so many other wonderful things that can fill up a life.

My mission trip experience was incredible for so many reasons. Whenever I think of it I think of riotous color, bright smiling faces, bananas right off the tree, games, laughter, sleeping outside under the stars, and joy even in the midst of poverty.

Let me tell you, in those moments, life was pretty worthwhile. That’s the beauty of a life planned by God. He brings you to places (like Honduras) that you never would have chosen for yourself. God wants to stretch you in ways you didn’t think possible, but when He does it gives you a life bigger and better than your dreams.

 Because we are small, finite people, our dreams are just as small.

Our infinite God is so much greater. The Bible tells us that His thoughts for us are more numerous than the grains of sand. Pause for a minute and let that soak in. God never stops thinking about us. He never stops thinking about you.

Friend, you don’t need romance to have a fulfilling life. You don’t have to sit at home and wallow! As a single woman, you have unique opportunities to travel, volunteer, serve, and otherwise explore the life God’s given you.

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of unexpected opportunities. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

3 Reasons Why God isn’t Answering Our Prayers

By Susan Hales

Godswaytowellness.com

I was alone on New Year’s Eve once again. Another dry and desolate year of singleness stretched before me. Persistent prayers for a man to love me and take care of me were unanswered. Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why is she getting married and not me? What is wrong with meNo one will ever love me.

An answer to prayer?

My gaze flew directly to his picture on the Christian dating site. His credentials and engaging smile attracted me.  After clicking to correspond I got an answer immediately.   David was the man of my dreams, just like King David, the man after God’s own heart.  I anticipated every email and online chat session with him.   Our online relationship intensified and David promised soon he would travel to meet me and start our life together.  He was my Prince Charming, promising to fulfill all my wishes and desires. I thanked God for finally answering my prayers for a godly man to share my life. 

My nagging doubts persisted–why can’t we talk on the phone? And why can’t I find information about him online? He answered my worrisome questions by explaining he was overseas on a top-secret military mission but would soon be released from his duties and able to travel back to the United States. 

Suddenly, David wrote of a problem with our exciting plans.  He required some cash to clear up a few troublesome financial problems before he could travel to meet me.  If I could wire him $2000 then he would be here promptly to sweep me off my feet and marry me. 

My dreams of the security of a happily ever after married life with the man of my dreams shattered around me when I realized David was an imposter and a scam artist. The intense pain, embarrassment, and shame consumed me.

Why isn’t God answering my prayers?

Why did God let this happen to me? I doubted God’s love. If prayer works, why doesn’t God answer my prayer for a husband?

It was painful and discouraging to pray for something for so long and not get what I asked for. Doesn’t God say he will give us what we want? Do you feel God is not listening to your prayers too?

Through a long season of pain, suffering, heartbreak, and repentance, I discovered God does answer our prayers. However, He doesn’t always answer them the way we want.

I also discovered three reasons why we believe God isn’t answering our prayers.

God says no

Why was I praying for a husband? To have someone to love me, make me feel secure, and take care of me. This was all about me. I was envious of others because I thought that if I got what they had I would be happy.

God answers “no” to prayers with selfish motives and not in His will. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus instructs us how to pray, “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’” (Matthew 6:10, NIV).

God is not a genie in a bottle who grants our every wish. Prayer is a conversation with God. We talk to him and listen to what He says to us. Make sure our prayers are not just a list of wants like a child’s Christmas list for Santa. Include thanksgiving and praise in our prayers.

I am so thankful God did not answer all my prayers! God loves us too much to give us everything we ask for.

God says not yet

Secondly, God says, “Wait, not yet. You need to grow up spiritually. You are not ready to receive all I have for you.”

But we want it now! Waiting for something you want is difficult. King David waited many times in his life. He wrote, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14, NIV).

I required significant growth in my faith. Now I understand no man could love me as much as God does. I do not need a man for security. All the security I need is in my Heavenly Father who watches over me and takes care of me.

God has better plans for us

Finally, God says, “my plans for you are so much better.” God knows the big picture. He may have much better plans in mind for us or answer our prayer in a way we don’t recognize.

I discovered God did have better plans for me! My prayers changed. I prayed, “God, what is your will for my life?” During this time, my favorite scripture was Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

A few months later, I decided to look for another job. And God gave me a fantastic job, in a new location near my family, right where He wanted me all along.

I still pray for a godly husband to share my life. I wonder if the answer to my prayer is no, not yet, or something even better. Only God knows the answer and the best plan for me.

Conclusion

God does indeed answer our prayers, just not always when and how we want them answered.

Is there something you have been praying about for a long time? Are you discouraged God hasn’t answered your prayers as I was? When we look at our motives, do our prayers glorify God or glorify us?

God is sovereign. His timing is perfect. Ask Him about His will for your life and trust your Heavenly Father knows what is best for you.

Finally, don’t give up! As Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).

Debunking the Myth: A Life Without Love is no Life at All

I love the city of Chicago. Yes, it has its issues, but it also has a lot of really great things to offer. I am a culture girl, so my favorite places to visit are the museums, which are some of the biggest and best in the country. There is also a world-class aquarium, one of the oldest zoos in the county, a beautiful nature center, terrific theater, waterfront attractions, and a great food scene. Who could ask for more?

What I do in Chicago, however, matters less than who I do it with. The real appeal of a visit into the city stems from the people that are with me. My friends and I have had some crazy experiences and made some beautiful memories there. 

I moved away from Chicago six years ago, but it’s still one of my favorite cities and i try to go back at least once a year.

In honor of summer and because of the pandemic, I was hoping you would do some armchair traveling with me. I want to spend the next few weeks blogging about two things:    

1.) Some of my favorite travel memories

2.) An appalling myth of singleness

They go together, I promise. At least in my mind.

Let’s start with the travel memories:  

A few years ago, the school I was teaching in became heavily involved in a foreign exchange student program. One year my friend LaurieBeth and her family decided to host one of the students, a seventeen-year old boy from Ecuador.

There were four or five other exchange students visiting that year, too. At Christmas time my friends and I took three of them, along with some other teens, with us into Chicago. Ice skating in Millenium Park is a long-standing tradition; we thought it would be a fun experience for three kids from South America.

I’m terrible at ice skating, so I was secretly looking forward to being better than the exchange students. Afterall, they had barely seen snow. Imagine my dismay when they all bobbled, wobbled, and then skated smoothly away! As for me, I couldn’t get anywhere without lots of wailing and two friends holding onto my arms.

After ice skating and the requisite stop at Caribou Coffee (those were the good old days…) we all headed up Michigan Avenue to see the giant Christmas tree displayed in front of the Hancock Building. In case you’ve never visited Chicago, let me tell you- that’s a long walk. Especially with massive Christmas-shopping crowds and freezing temperatures.

A soon as we arrived at the tree one of the students announced that his train left in twenty-five minutes and he would be in trouble if he wasn’t on it.

This is when things got crazy because we now had to make a mad dash through the crowds to the train station. Just for the record, this wasn’t the same train station the rest of us needed. Oh no. This was a completely different train station in a completely different part of the city. The window of time to drop him off and catch our own train was small. The race was on.

One of the girls with us wasn’t going anywhere fast, due to a recent foot surgery. We split into two groups- one that could hustle to two different train stations and one that would do a more leisurely stroll straight to our station.

LaurieBeth, the three exchange students, and I took off, ducking shoppers and jaywalking at as many intersections as possible. I won’t say we were running through the streets, but it was anything but casual. One of the girls had asthma and started wheezing in the extreme cold. While I was concerned for her, I was also a tiny bit grateful because that meant I could stop running.

When it became evident that we were not going to make it to train station number 1 on time, we abandoned that idea and beelined for station number 2. There was an 8:45 train and an 11:00 train. We really didn’t want the 11:00 train.

Success!  We managed to race up the stairs and leap onto the train just before it departed. However, the other half of our group wasn’t so fortunate. They ended up carrying the foot surgery girl, which slowed them down just enough to miss the train. 11:00 train for them.

 In spite of all the craziness and hassle, we would all tell you that was one of our best times in Chicago. My friends and I still talk about the “Year of the Exchange Students.”  When we reminisce, that crazy trip is always at the top of our favorite experiences list.

It was freezing outside, but what I remember most was life, warmth, and laughter; the joy of watching teens try new things and the hilarity of scrambling through busy streets. The relief of collapsing on the train.

The feelings of friendship and belonging.

I may not have romance in my life, but I still have a lot of people that make it great.

Debunking the Myth

That’s where my second focus comes in: Remember, I told you that I wanted to address an appalling myth? Well, here it is: “A life without love is no life at all.”  

Whoa.

That’s a stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of statement.

In total disclosure, this quote is from a Hallmark movie my mom was watching (More on those later). But I was flabbergasted when I heard it. The speaker was, of course, referring to romantic love and the futility of living without it. It’s stuck with me ever since.  

This month, I want to spend some time debunking the “Life without romantic love” myth in the hope that we can all learn to toss that statement out the window. I want us to truly see just how great our lives can look, even without romance. It’s entirely possible for a single person to live a life that is full, happy, and adventurous. 

That’s where the travel stories come in, like the one above. We are going to travel, we’re going to laugh, and we’re going to celebrate together, right where we are. So buckle up. It may be a bumpy ride!

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of travel adventures shared with friends. They add so much color to my life. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Expect the Unexpected

“Well, why don’t you come over Friday after work?”

I looked over at the woman who was sitting across the table from me. We had just finished our weekly lunch after the morning worship service at Grand River Baptist Church. We were talking about how much we both loved silly movies and seafood (neither of which my family are huge fans of).

“I’m sorry?” I asked.

“When you’re done with work on Friday, come over to my house and we will watch movies and make Shrimp Alfredo and…(she paused and gasped) oooh, I’m gonna teach you how to make these homemade pretzels I just discovered! Oh, now I’m excited!!!!” She finished her statement with excited clapping.

I had to laugh, Bernadette’s (or “Mama B’” as I affectionately call her) excitement and laughter was contagious. But still I doubted in the back of my mind.

“Are you sure I won’t be a bother?”

Bernadette laughed out loud, “Girl, please! We will have SO much fun!”

I sat back in my chair, marveling. Here was a busy mother who was homeschooling three children, and she was inviting a 30 year old single woman to come and hang out at her home! The more I thought it over, the more my excitement grew.

“I would love that!”

As I drove home from church that afternoon, my heart was overjoyed and thankful. The past few weeks had been a struggle mentally and emotionally. In my quiet time with God, I had been praying for something or someone to come my way to encourage me or give me a mental break. Somehow I knew that Mama B’s invitation would be a surprising answer to that prayer. 

Turns out I was more than right as I experienced a mini-vacation at Mama B’s house that Friday. As soon as I entered the house I was told to sit down and relax as copious amounts of food were brought before me. She taught me how to knead and twist dough into delicious pretzels that tasted amazing! I literally felt all the tension and anxiety the last two weeks had brought melt away as we talked about what God had been doing in our lives.

Standing on the top of a five-story lighthouse with two of my best friends- my sister and my cousin. Visiting this particular light house was one of the adventures my cousin talked me into. We had to navigate a jagged, broken break wall to get out there!

After several hours of eating shrimp and laughing at movies, I drove home contemplating how God answers our prayers in unexpected ways.

The prayer of having close or “best” friends has always been in my heart. So often my expectation is the same as it is in society today: three girls, all the same age, all single, gabbing and laughing at a coffee shop. However, the Lord is teaching me that the best, and often most fulfilling friendships, are to be found in some pretty surprising places; if I will just take the time to look at:

-the seven year old girl who always asks to sit next to me at church

-the elderly widow across the street who needs a listening ear

-the sibling I thought was nothing like me, but now has more in common with me than I thought possible

-the cousin who constantly asks me to join her on adventures and try new experiences

-the homeschooling mom who wants to open her home and share her amazing hospitality

Being single, it is easy to get into a “lonely mindset,” focusing only on what God hasn’t given to me yet: a spouse, children, a tight-knit parents group. But when I step back and look at all the people God HAS given me, I see that I am ANYTHING but alone.

God promises in His Word:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my way, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thought than your thoughts.”-Isaiah 55:8-9

I am so thankful for a God who sends each friend my way in His perfect timing in His perfect way…often when I least expect it.

-Natalie

Seven Reasons Single Women Should Volunteer

I smiled nervously at the Vietnamese family squeezed on the couch with me. All five of them were sitting in anticipation of “story time.” I was visiting with a stack of new books for the kids and they wanted me to read them all. Since the father was the only one who spoke fluent English, he acted as translator for his wife and children while I read.

This family was taking part in a new reading initiative called “Cradle to Kindergarten,” which provides them with books and tips on how to engage their children in reading-based activities. The goal is to help low-income children be better prepared for kindergarten. As an elementary teacher myself, I am 100 percent behind Cradle to Kindergarten and love being involved with it.

Today I want to put a call out to all of my single friends. Most of us have extra time to spend as we wish. Volunteerism is a great way to spend your free time- so why not give some of that time to invest in others?

Seven reasons why I volunteer (and I think you should, too!).

  1. Volunteering gets you out of the house and into another community

One of the greatest challenges singles face is loneliness. Coming home to a quiet house night after night can be very difficult. Single people often feel isolated and disconnected.

I believe that the answer to our struggle is not in binge-watching television night after night! Rather, the answer might be found in volunteering. When we volunteer we are actively stepping out of our small worlds and entering into the lives of other people.

2. Volunteering pushes you out of your comfort zone

Getting out of our comfort zones is so important. I’ve written about this before. Being single, it’s so, so, so easy to fall into a rut because there’s no one to break us out of it. Volunteering might be hard. It may feel awkward at first (some of my experiences certainly have- like reading ten books to a family that doesn’t speak English). But remember- being uncomfortable means more chances to grow!

3. Volunteering lets you meet new people

This is one of my favorite reasons.  I love to meet new people. I also think it’s important for us to meet people that are different- politically, ethnically, and socio-economically. There is so much anger and division between people groups, often because we don’t know anyone who is “like that.” This makes it easy to misunderstand each other.

For instance, the refugee crisis became much more real to me when I started tutoring a woman from Bhutan. I didn’t even know Bhutan was a country before I met her, and I didn’t know anything about the life of a refugee. Even though I was there to teach her English, I learned so much more from her and her family. Getting to know them as people made me rethink my views. 

4. Volunteering puts you in a position to serve others

Life is for service. I whole-heartedly believe that and I try hard to live this philosophy out. Especially as Christians, our lives are not our own. Jesus was our ultimate example of service and we are called to follow Him.

 One of God’s purposes for the single life is to provide the world with people that have more time and availability to serve. There are myriad ways to do this: Plug-in at your church, visit at a nursing home, pack lunches at your local food bank, do some gardening for a neighbor, or offer to baby-sit for a friend.

5. Volunteering can be used  by God

This is the best reason for Christians: it can open up new opportunities for witnessing and sharing Christ.  When I moved to Ohio I started teaching English as a Second Language because I felt like I was living in such a small bubble. I was working in a Christian school and attending the church affiliated with that school. My family and friends were Christians.

Great!

But where were the ministry opportunities? So I decided to volunteer as a way to meet people that weren’t Christians. Through my sister’s church we got involved with an adult ESL program. I liked this program because it encouraged us to pray and share scripture with our students.

6. Volunteering lets you choose opportunities that fit you

One of the greatest aspects of volunteering is that it can be tailored to you. There is no one right answer- what works best for you? Are you an animal lover? Help out at the local shelter. Do you like learning? Volunteer as a tutor. Athletically inclined? I knew a guy that had a Saturday morning basketball ministry for a long time.  Like being outside? Clean up the local park. Honestly, the sky is the limit!

You are unique and special and have something no one else does. Where can you use your passions and skill set?

7. Volunteering is fun

Volunteering really is fun. Right now I currently volunteer as a dog-walker at the Lake Humane Society and I love it. I’ve also packed food boxes, run 5K’s, participated in Trunk or Treat, passed out school backpacks, helped at food distribution centers, and served as a child ambassador for World Vision. All of these activities have been GREAT. You’ll love them, I promise.

My mom, sister, and I participating in a Global 6K for water.

Volunteering is an effective way to for singles to serve God, people, and their communities.  It may be scary or feel strange at first, but once you find your niche you’ll never regret stepping out of your comfort zone and giving it a try. So give it some thought, find a spot that fits you, and jump in!

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of volunteer opportunities. They have expanded my life so much.  Together, let’s celebrate every single blessing!

Things Are About to get Awkward

Awkward- A situation which is uncomfortable, causing embarrassment.

Imagine you go into the company that you’ve been working at for over a decade and your new, younger coworker arrives late in the afternoon.  You exchange small-talk and find out that your coworker is 10 years younger than you with a very bubbly personality.   You show your coworker around and then get ready to leave work.   

You get in your car and head towards home, looking forward to a relaxing evening.  (One of the many benefits of your single life is enjoying quiet evenings on your porch, reading a book as you watch the sun set over the cow pasture next door.  Or, if you are in the mood for company, you hang out with one or all of your nine friends-like-family that also have apartments on your shared beautiful, Southern Florida property).

Only, tonight is different.  Your new coworker follows you home to your clean and orderly apartment.  (Clean, orderly apartments are another benefit of being single, since you only have yourself to clean up after).

Oh, did I forget to mention that your brand-new coworker was going to be living with you indefinitely?  You help her move her stuff in, secretly hoping that she is going to turn out to be a neat and organized roommate.  You fear the worst when you see her small pets.  The two of you awkwardly eat dinner together working some more on your small-talk skills.  (You realize that listening to that podcast on small-talk is sure paying off today!)

After dinner you both clean up and you show your new coworker/new roommate where all of your dishes go and you awkwardly head to the couch where you sit side-by-side and pick a tv show that interests both of you. Now it’s time for bed, so you get all ready and start walking to your bedroom and notice your new coworker/roommate following you to your bedroom. 

Oh, did I forget to mention that your apartment is a one-bedroom/one-bath apartment?  So your brand new coworker/brand new roommate is also going to be sharing a bedroom with you.  Sounds a little awkward, right?

This is how I was picturing that my life was going to turn out in the next few weeks.  Why was I picturing this?  Because not only was this a partial re-run of previous episodes of my life, but also because this is planned to happen to me in June.  Awkward, right?  But let me give you some details about my life that will make this story sound less awkward, not completely free of awkwardness, but a lot less awkward.

When I graduated from college in the mid 2000’s, God led me down to South Florida to teach at a Christian school with one of my best friends from college.  Her mom and dad, (who is the Pastor of our church), graciously let me live in their beautiful house on five acres of river-front property with their two daughters (both teachers at our school), their Grandma and another teacher. 

Over the next few years, as our living situations changed because of college and marriage, etc.  I ended up rooming with different people and moving from the basement to the first floor and back to the basement.  Eventually, we added more unmarried teachers to our school, so we built three beautiful apartments in our Pastor’s barn.  I had the choice between having the smaller downstairs apartment to myself or sharing the upstairs one bedroom/one bathroom larger apartment with a big, kitchen area and a beautiful porch area.   

So, I picked the apartment with the beautiful porch, knowing that this would also bring future roommates.  (And boy did this apartment sure bring future roommates my way.)  Again, college classes and marriages changed our living situations and this June will bring roommate number three my way.  And, as I get older and hopefully more mature over the years, my new roommates always stay around the same age (just out of college/early 20’s).

Back to the awkwardness.  The story that I had you imagine at the beginning of this post does sound a little crazy, but I left out the most important part.  The part that brings me comfort and peace.  

I didn’t plan any of this for my life.  God, my wise Father planned this for me.   

And, the company that I work for is not a company, it’s our Christian school that is an off-shoot of our  local church.  

A healthy, local church where different members of society of all different ages, and different interests, and different walks of life, and different occupations and different personalities get together and worship God, their Father, as a unified family because of the one thing that we all do have in common.  The bond of Christ. 

The realization that we were all formerly walking in darkness, dead in our trespasses and sins, deserving God’s wrath, but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love and grace, brought us to repentance and saved us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (See Ephesians 2).  One of the most common things that visitors say after coming to our church is that the people of our church just seem like one big, loving family.

Ephesians 2 goes on to say, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

Because of our bond in Christ, I can meet my future roommate and we can get over some of the awkwardness and we can both help each other to grow in our relationship with Christ.  But this will take humility, and grace, and knowledge that we are both Christ’s workmanship and that God is smoothing out the rough edges of each of us. 

I will need to be reminded of this often in the next few months, and I’m thankful that I have some good friends that will help me to remember this and who will help me when my attitude and thinking are not right.  And, yes, there will be some awkward times ahead, but maybe this future roommate will one day turn into another one of my friends-that-feel-like-family people that live around here.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that my Pastor has made plans to convert part of my porch area into my very, own master bedroom next week!!!  So now my beautiful, big apartment with a porch will also have two bedrooms and will pretty much be perfect… but that’s a story for another day!

-Rachel

Fearful or Fearless in the Face of the Unknown?

“I’m just going to read the reviews on our hotel one more time before we leave.”

Ten minutes later… “I can’t believe this! This can’t be right.  I’m reading reviews online are they’re all saying our hotel has come under new management; the new management isn’t honoring prior reservations.”

My good friend LaurieBeth and I were just getting ready to leave for a week-long trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We had found a very inexpensive travel package and I was already nervous about the price of the hotel being too good to be true. Whenever I had a spare minute I was back online, obsessively checking hotel reviews just to make sure our chances of being murdered in the parking lot were minimal.

The newest reviews turned up just as LaurieBeth and I were getting ready to leave for the airport. Trying not to panic, I called the hotel, which confirmed the bad news: they had no record of our reservation. The fact that we had already paid didn’t make a difference- we could re-book, but we would have to pay all over again, at a far higher price.

LaurieBeth and I made the trip to the airport anyway.  Something would work out, right? We spent the entire hour-long drive to the airport on the phone. Since LaurieBeth spends a lot of time on the phone for her job, I made her do the talking.

My parents dropped us off at the airport and drove away, promising to return if necessary. As soon as we were through security our phones were back out. I had booked our hotel/ flight package through an online booking site and we wanted them to help us out- either by getting us another hotel room or reimbursing us for the non-existent reservation.

Our efforts were not going well.

We decided to just go for it- fly to Las Vegas and find someplace to stay when we got there. We would get out money back. We would find a hotel room. Everything would be fine. Right?

Flying into the unknown

Landing at night and seeing the lights of Las Vegas is something I’ll never forget. I’m glad we booked a night flight. For that reason, at least. On the other hand, it was almost 10:00 when we landed, so the pressure was really on us to find a place to stay.

A google search led us to Excalibur- one of the cheapest hotels on The Strip. Fine. We’ll start there. What’s cooler than staying in a giant fake castle?

Next hurdle: it was Memorial Day weekend. The hotel management told us they were booked. Pretty much everything was going to be booked. At this point it was getting very late and my optimism was waning. We gave the check-in girl big sad Bambi eyes (LaurieBeth is way better at this than me) and duh duh duh dah! She found us a room. For eight times the normal price.

We took it.

Fear of the unknown

What if I hadn’t checked the reviews before we left? What if we had innocently showed up at our hotel, only to discover that there wasn’t anyone there to even let us in? What if we were stuck outside, late at night, in the streets of Las Vegas? (Our “budget hotel” wasn’t in a great area, let me tell you.)

What if?

That’s where so many of us are living our lives right now. What if we get sick, lose our jobs, drain our savings, have to do distance learning again next year?  (Pleeease no!)

What if things never go back to normal?

LaurieBeth at Lake Mead. I’m so glad we took the plunge and flew to Nevada- we would have missed a great trip if we let fear of the unknown keep us home.

Facing the unknown

Four years later, we laugh about the “Hotel Situation.” I would tell you now that it’s one of my favorite travel memories (this was just the start of a memorable trip, believe me). We can laugh because we know the end of the story.

It’s a lot harder to find the humor when you don’t know the punchline yet. I hate not knowing how things are going to turn out. I’m the person that skips to the end of the book and reads that first.  If I could do that with my life, I would. I don’t like living with the “what ifs.”

Fearless in the unknown

It’s difficult not knowing what’s going to come next. Fear of the future is common. If you google top fears, almost all of them are future-related. Whether it’s health, finances, pollution, or global warming, people are afraid of the unknown.

As a single woman, there are many times when fear of the future creeps into my mind. I start to think about who will take care of me in my old age, or what retirement will look like. Those thoughts can keep me up at night and fill me with anxiety.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. –Proverbs 31:25

I don’t have to be afraid.

I don’t have to be filled with worry.

The woman who puts her trust in God will never be let down. Health, finances, and circumstances may fail us, but God never does.

We might not know what’s coming next, but we do not have to be women who live in fear.  If we allow God to work in and through our lives, we can become women of strength and dignity- laughing at the days to come no matter what.

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of the unknown. It can be scary at times, but I’m so glad that God enables us to face it fearlessly. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!