What Does Your Story Say About God?

Singleness is often treated with sorrow or sympathy. People usually respond with surprise, saying things like, “I can’t believe you’re not dating someone.”

After that, they attempt to set me up on blind dates or make suggestions regarding online dating sites.

If all else fails, they remind me that God will send the right man at exactly the right time. I just have to be patient.

While all of these sentiments are well-meant, they’re not helpful. Or true, for that matter. These statements aren’t what single women need to hear.

Even better than that, these statements don’t actually reflect my life.

I know that married people, especially those who have been married for a long time, often struggle to understand what single life is like.  If they’re in happy marriages, they naturally want the same thing for me.  

But I don’t have to be married to have a happy and fulfilling life.

God is Good all the Time

Last week I had a conversation that helped me see things differently. A friend and I were talking about the challenges some of our married friends were facing, and how fortunate we were not to have to walk those same paths.

That led to us discussing the ways we had seen God work in our own lives. Neither of us is married, but that doesn’t mean He hasn’t shown up for us again and again.

We both agreed- Our stories show us, and you, that God is always good.

How do I know God is always good?

Let me share a few examples with you:

  • God lets me be the fun aunt

Last Friday night I attempted to sleep on a cramped couch in a stuffy living room. My tenuous grip on sleep was interrupted by my five-year-old niece, whispering frantically that she was “Sinking. Really sinking!”

Her air mattress had a hole in it. A hole that my brother-in-law assured me she wouldn’t notice.

As I groggily blew up the air mattress again, at 2:30 in the morning, I managed to be grateful even in my sleepless state.

I am so, so thankful for the two little girls sleeping (sort of) in the living room with me. I love our sleepovers, our “dates,” and all the crazy times we spend together. I’m equally thankful for the four other little people who hold a special place in my life.

Being the fun aunt is one of my favorite things. I don’t have children, but that DOES NOT mean I don’t know what it’s like to love a child.  

God has given that gift to me.

  • God meets all my needs

My friend and I were marveling at this last week. Neither one of us works in high-paying jobs, but we’ve never gone without, either. My needs, and many of my wants, have always been met.

There have been times when I’ve seen God work in amazing ways. He provides miracles, sometimes before I’ve even thought to ask for them. He is our Good Father, and He truly delights in giving us good things.  

Even in the times when God doesn’t work the way I would want Him to, I know He’s still good and I can always trust Him.

  • God gives me my own unique opportunities

There are so many good things in my life! I don’t have to be married to say that. And you don’t have to feel sorry for me because I’m single.

Singleness just means my life looks different, not less.

Volunteer opportunities

Peaceful, quiet evenings with a good book.

Staying up late and sleeping in

A small, zippy car. with the windows down and music up

Not having to cook every night

Travel, hiking, exploring, studying, and experiencing new things

All of these are available to me.

I couldn’t be more grateful.

You don’t need to feel sorry for me. I really don’t want you to.

Being single can be hard, but I’m learning to see all the ways it grows me, too.

It’s a major part of my story.

And what do I want my story to tell you?

God is always good.

Though my eyes can’t see,
You are always good, only good.

Looking back, I can see Your fingerprints
Upon my life, always seeking my best.
There were times when Your way would make no sense,
But as You said, You have never left.

You are always good, You are only good;
You are always good to me.
Though my eyes can’t see, help my heart believe
You are always, only good.

-Ron and Shelly Hamilton

This week, I’m thankful for so many things. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Refining Through the Storm

While on a mission trip in the Cayman Islands, I witnessed the devastating effects of hurricanes. Even though the last hurricane passed through ten months prior, crumbled buildings still lay where they’d fallen. People told us stories of storm shelters collapsing, forcing them to wade through waist-deep water to find safety.

Another hurricane struck the islands while we were there. Since the people on my team were ignorant college kids from the Midwest, we decided it would be neat to go out on the boat dock during the storm (not my best choice, I’ll admit).  The hurricane was considered “minor,” but I’ll never forget the power of the wind as it shoved us backward and flung patio furniture around. It was an experience that left a deep impression on me.  

More recently, while I was traveling in South Dakota, I collided with a big storm system. It was nerve-wracking driving across completely flat plains while dark clouds lowered ominously. Rain, hail, and sleet followed me as I drove across the state.

Not fun.

The storms of life are just as frightening and unpredictable.

They hover over us with the same dark menace, promising trouble and uncertainty.

Living in a sinful, fallen world means we are all going to have storms. As Christian women, though, we are also guaranteed that we are never alone in our trials. God walks with us and redeems even the worst moments.  

One biblical example of this was Ruth.  In the book of Ruth, chapter 1, we read about how she and her mother-in-law, Naomi, both lost their husbands. In biblical times, widowhood was about the most difficult situation a woman could find herself in. A poor widow in a foreign land, like Naomi, was in an even worse situation. Both these women faced a storm of epic proportions.

Despite this, we see God weave a beautiful story from the tragedy.

First, Ruth made the powerful choice to stay with Naomi-

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”   Ruth 1:16, 17

Ruth’s very foundations were shaken, but these oft-quoted words show her to be a woman of grace, loyalty, and strength. She lost her husband, left her own family behind, and yet willingly assumed sole responsibility for her mother-in-law. God was clearly at work in Ruth’s heart.  

Chapter 2 continues with God leading Ruth to the fields of her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz.  Not only did He provide food for the two women, but He brought Ruth to the one man who could help them. Boaz noticed Ruth’s hard work and her care of her mother-in-law. He became first her protector and then her husband.

As for Naomi, God didn’t neglect her, either. He redeemed her story through the birth of Ruth’s first son.

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Ruth 4: 14, 15

God’s name is barely mentioned in the book of Ruth, but His handiwork is woven throughout. We can see that every aspect of their lives was perfectly directed by God. He didn’t allow their storms to tear Ruth and Naomi apart; instead, they accomplished God’s purposes and plans for them. He made their stories beautiful.  

The storms helped shape them into the women God meant them to be.

I wish I could promise you a happy ending just as wonderful as Ruth’s and Naomi’s. I would love to be able to tell you that every storm passes quickly and you will be able to resume normalcy. Some trials follow us through life, however.

Like Ruth, God is still at work in your life, carefully fashioning you into a woman after His own heart. He will take all your broken pieces and put you together again, stronger and more beautiful. He will refine you through the storm.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of a God who redeems our trials. He is the One who gives purpose to every aspect of our lives. 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!

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

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!