Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Doesn’t that sound exciting?

An End and a Beginning

Now that I’ve been married for 2 1/2 months and my new name is Kimberly Wyse, I decided it’s time to start a new blog.  Consequently, this is also my 100th post, which I did not do on purpose.  I hope all of you that subscribe will update your subscription to the new site.  I plan to write all about the transition from single, career-oriented, city-girl to rural farmer’s wife.  The first blog entry on the new site was posted on March 16, 2012.

Check it out here:  www.kimberlyswysewords.com

Thanks for reading!

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You Have Multiplied

$97.37.

That is the amount of change that I’ve been able to save over the last few years.  I began saving it when I was single.  I wanted to be a bride.  When I was engaged before, I didn’t have much money to spend on a wedding dress.  I found a used one online and purchased it for next to nothing.  The dress was beautiful, but it didn’t fit.  It was not the experience I wanted for my wedding dress when I really did get married, so I decided to start saving money before I even had a boyfriend.

That was a couple years ago.  I was embarrassed to tell anyone what the money was for.   It seemed frivolous to save for something like that, but my heart longed for something beautiful.  Saving my change was so small and insignificant.  I knew it wouldn’t amount to much.  The act of faith was the point though.  Every time I put money in the jar, I whispered a prayer that God would multiply it and make it into more than I ever could.

God did multiply it too.  In May I got engaged to my Boaz (see the book of Ruth).  I received some unexpected money right around that time.  I was able to purchase the dress of my dreams and it was significantly less than I had budgeted to spend.  I continued with my small coin collection though, knowing it would be useful at some point in the future.

Tonight I was talking to my fiance, Rick, about money.  Getting married is expensive and we are both in shock about how much it costs to have a wedding, set up a new home, and go on a honeymoon.  With two weeks until the wedding, I need to stop working so I can finalize all the wedding plans and celebrate Christmas.  Rick asked me if it was time to cash in my coin collection.  Stunned, my first thought was to tell him no.  I was saving that money!  But then I had to laugh.  I was saving that money for this!

As I gathered up my coins tonight, added up the totals, and put it all into a bag to take to the bank, it hit me hard.  God has answered my prayers.  Every whispered prayer that God would take my small contribution and multiply it has been answered.

I had small faith that I would actually get married.  In two weeks I will become a wife.

I had small faith that I would have the money I needed for the wedding dress of my dreams.  In two weeks I will wear a dress that takes my breath away and leaves me giggling like a little girl every time I put it on.

I had small faith that every bill I had would be paid, that I could continue to have my needs met even though I had lost my job.  In two weeks it will have been 18 months since I lost my salary and I have never had a bill go unpaid or a need unmet.  In fact, I’ve had more than I needed.

My God has provided for my needs.  What have I to fear? 

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Blessed is the man who makes

the LORD his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after a lie!

            You have multiplied, O LORD my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

yet they are more than can be told.

(Psalm 40:1-5 ESV)

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The Countdown

December 2, 2011.  The date isn’t that signficant.  But it’s FRIDAY, December 2, 2011.  And that means in just FOUR weeks, 28 days, I will become a married woman.  My heart races a bit just writing that.

This morning I ordered flowers that I’ll carry down the aisle, the only time in my life when it will be appropriate to carry around a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  There are final plans to be made, and so I spent several hours following that going over my schedule, sending emails, making phone calls, and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, wondering what I’m forgetting.  How much more money will I need?  How many people will be at this event, that event, and THE event?  When am I going to find time to hang out with my cherished friends in the final weeks of my time in Nashville?

My head is swirling with problems to solve, plans to finalize, and concerns about how it will all get done.  But earlier this week I slipped into my wedding gown and got the last few pins to make the dress fit perfectly.  With that gown on, all the difficulties of planning a huge, life-altering event faded away.  For those few moments, I remembered why I am doing all this stuff.  We are getting married.  We are each putting our best foot forward, hoping for a day that sparkles and crackles with life and joy, to stand before God and our family and friends and make a covenant to be one.  And the two shall become one.

IN FOUR WEEKS!

And then, the honeymoon…

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You Will Forget

Have I ever mentioned that I’ve been single for a very long time?  Maybe I haven’t fully explained to my faithful readers that finally connecting with the man I believe God ordained for me to spend my life with is something for which I’m full of thanks?

Throughout my single years, I’ve dreamed about this time in my life – how I’d feel, what I’d say, things I’d do.  It seemed so far from my reality that I knew I’d be the most grateful, kind, gentle, and gracious girlfriend/fiancée/wife anyone could ever imagine.  I’ve often joked around with my family that when I’m finally pregnant, they’ll find me throwing up with a smile on my face, just so joyful to be having a baby of my own.

And yet, as I’ve settled into this relationship and this new role in my life, it feels completely natural and normal.  I’m the same woman I’ve always been, just with a new set of responsibilities and relationships to nurture.  I’m very thankful for Rick, but I don’t find myself trembling in gratitude and overlooking every little frustration because I’m so happy to have that promised mate.  In fact, I may speak my mind more often than a younger bride.  I know that this relationship is IT, so I want it to be right and good.  I don’t mind sharing my thoughts on that with Rick – setting the record straight, making my feelings known, and standing up for what I have come to know is true.

The funny thing is the near offense I have caught myself feeling when well-meaning friends who prayed with me for years to be connected to the man God had for me congratulate me, or indicate that this situation is unbelievably good.  Something inside me tenses up, wondering what they thought was so wrong with me that they now have to congratulate me for finally landing A MAN.  I want to snap at them, “Hey! I’ve turned down a number of marriage proposals.”  But I know that isn’t what they mean.  They were so gracious to listen to me whine and complain about my frustration and pain, never feeling peace that the man who was interested in me was the right one, and then dealing with my fears that God didn’t want me to get married.  They prayed for me, anguished with me, and now they are thrilled for me that the time has come.  I accept their joy and am so glad to be able to share the obvious answer to our prayers with them.

Being single this long brought with it a sense of shame and a feeling that I could be married if I would just work out whatever was wrong with me.  If I could just love God more, have a better figure, wear the right clothes, say the right things to men, and so on – THEN the magical moment would come and I could be a bride.  But that didn’t make any sense.  I had single friends with near perfect figures, great relationships with God, killer fashion sense, and great personalities – yet they faced the same struggles.  I knew married women who were terrible messes and whose husbands adored them anyway.  I rejected the idea that something about me needed to be better before the time would come for the right man to love me.  Even in my rejection of the idea, the feelings came back from time to time.  How did THAT woman find a husband before me?  Why did he pick HER and reject me?  If that woman would just fix that one thing about herself, she could find a husband.   Ugh.

God’s been leading me back repeatedly to a Scripture He laid on my heart several years ago.  It’s Isaiah 54, which begins, “Sing, oh barren! You who have not borne, break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child!  For more are the children of the desolate than those of the married woman,’ says the Lord.”

Believe me when I say I began to sing!  Every time I had an opportunity, I sang.  I sang loudly.  Sing, sing, sing!  I sang as I worked around the house, as I walked down halls at church, belting out the lyrics in services.  Judge me if you want, I thought, but my God has told me to sing and I’m not going to do it half-heartedly!  I sang and sang and sang, thinking there are more types of barrenness than just those who are physically unable to bear a child.

During my engagement, God has repeatedly drawn my heart back to this chapter.  It speaks to my heart and stirs my emotions.  It goes on to tell me not to be afraid because God will make sure I’m not ashamed.  “For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.”

That phrase, you will forget, echoes through my mind.  God promised that I would forget the way I felt, ashamed and afraid, and He’s done it.  It’s hard to remember those feelings any longer.  I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was nothing wrong with me (or Rick), but God just had some things for us to do alone before we needed to be together.  God will make sure we have the things our hearts desire.  It’s just happening later than we expected it to, later than what many other people experience.

One final thought…  I was walking on the treadmill at the gym the other night.  There aren’t many treadmills there and they were all being used.  I kept having this thought that I was just taking up space for the real athletes as I plodded along, huffing and puffing at my slow speed.  But my heart rate was at a good pace, I was sweating nicely, and I was making personal progress even if I was moving much slower than most of the others.  I finally decided to tell the voices in my head to be quiet.  I made a choice to stop comparing my speed to the speed of those around me.  I decided just to pay attention to my own body and what I needed, do the best I could, and forget everyone else.

What I can remember about my years of singleness is that it was hard for me to make that same decision then.  It was hard to stop comparing myself, my progress, my barrenness to those around me.  Dear friends had been married for 10 years already and had gorgeous homes with handsome, faithful, hard-working husbands and several kids!  If I could’ve just told those voices to be quiet and focused on doing the best I could do, those years would’ve been much more pleasant.  I don’t think I would’ve gotten connected with Rick any sooner.  I do think I would’ve had a lot more joy in the journey to him.

I don’t want to forget it all.  I want to be able to encourage others who wait.  But I am thankful to forget the shame, the fear, and to move forward with my life.  I’m looking forward to getting married and filling our home with love and joy and yes, even at times, raised voices and challenging words.  It takes all those things to make a family.  I’m happy to have my chance.

In closing, I want to also acknowledge you all, my faithful readers.  I am so thankful for you.  I can see how many people read my blog every day, but I cannot tell who you are unless you specifically subscribe to my blog.  Then I only see your email address, so if I don’t recognize it, I still don’t know who you are.  But it’s such an encouragement to my heart when I run into someone who may have never commented on a post I’ve written, but who mentions something I wrote that touched them.  It’s such an encouragement when I see a jump in the number of typical readers in a day and I know that a group of you out there who I’ve never met are reading it together and discussing it.  It makes my day.  I haven’t been writing as much recently because I’ve been so busy preparing for married life and my upcoming move, but I plan to continue to blog and hope to have a lot more time to write once I’m a farmer’s wife.  I hope you’ll continue to read.

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The Inner Ring

There was a time in my life when I didn’t care about marriage.  I’m sure of it.  Really.  There MUST have been…  When I was younger I knew it wasn’t time yet, but I still looked forward to the day I would have a husband, when I would have that part of my future determined and set.  When my parents had my baby brother, I was nearly eleven years old.  I don’t think I realized he wasn’t my own son – until I wanted to go outside and play…  His baby sweetness consumed me and I knew I wanted to have children of my own.  As the years of perpetual singleness dragged on, my empty arms ached, longing to be a part of marriage, a family, that elusive world I couldn’t seem to join in spite of the ease with which nearly everyone around me seemed to be entering it.

One of my favorite writings addresses this issue.  By C.S. Lewis, it’s a 9-page article entitled, “The Inner Ring”, published in his book The Weight of Glory.  He addresses the reality of our human desire to get into the group we are excluded from.  We always want what we think we cannot have, want to be accepted by those who don’t accept us, want to climb over that fence that separates us from whatever is on the other side.  At times, we think there is no way we can be happy until we cross that line.  We strive and strain and turn ourselves inside out, trying to get into that elite group that eludes us.

The craziest part of it all, as Lewis points out, is that once we are a part of the group we wanted so badly to become a part of, it suddenly loses it’s magic.  After all, the group accepted us, so it can’t be as great as we thought it was to begin with!  We realize there is a better group that hasn’t yet accepted us, and so we begin seeking acceptance into the next group.  The rings never end because each time we get deeper into the inner ring, the same thing happens all over again.

Lewis’ answer to this problem is that we should forget about getting into anyone else’s inner ring.  We should do the best we can at what we have to do and soon we will be known for our excellence and be included among those who make decisions about the thing we do.  In our spare time, we should hang out with people we actually like and do fun things with them.  Then we will form friendships and without even meaning to, we will find ourselves at the center of an inner ring of our own.

I’ve been caught up in the tasks of planning my wedding, preparing to move to another area of the country, leaving my jobs and friends and church, settling into a new house, and learning to know and understand my fiance better.  Yet today I opened my email and saw a newsletter from a website for brides that provides resources to help in the planning process, and I stopped for a moment.  I stopped because I had a flash, my heart squeezing tight, remembering how it felt to be on the outside of this inner circle – the inner circle of “bride”.  I remembered the longing, the feeling that I might never belong to the group, might never experience how it felt to be chosen, loved, and accepted, and might never get to pick out the perfect white dress.

Today I took care of some precious children I have grown to love, laughed as the little one threw her arms in the air twirling and dancing, calling for me to watch her, and then helped her older sister write a story for school.  I listened as my precious niece sang me a song and felt the joy of anticipation that I get to spend time with her in a few weeks.  Motherhood now looms before me, the next inner ring that I have not yet been welcomed into.

I have to laugh at myself.  I must be still for a few moments tonight to soak it in, appreciate the tremendous blessing I’m currently walking in.  I don’t want to rush through this beautiful time in my life without even recognizing that this is GOOD. 

Tonight I’m thankful for love, even though I understand it is not the solution to every problem.  I’m thankful for the children God has given me to love at this time, in this way.  I’m thankful for hope – finally a hope I can sink into a bit – that I will one day have children of my own.  I’m thankful for the home being prepared for me, for the family that Rick and I will create, to provide that stability and security I’ve been missing.

And I pray for all my dear friends who stand outside the circle, waiting for the day when the boundary will melt away and they will be welcomed in.  If I could pull you in myself, I would.  Instead, I will pray as so many have done for me.

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Just Breathe

“Just breathe, Kimberly.  Relax and breathe.”

These are the soothing words that my mother has been whispering to me for my entire life.  And now my sweet, wise fiancé whispers them to me as well.  They are both the kind of people who feel excited “on the inside.”  They smile slightly when they’re happy while I jump up and down, clapping and laughing loudly.  They also take things in stride  and don’t get too upset when things don’t go the way they planned.  They aren’t so sure they were the ones who  were right to begin with.

So why, raised by such a calm and reasonable mother, do I find it so hard just to relax and breathe?  And why has it always been this way?  Why do I hold on to everything with such a tight grip, feeling that the world will go spinning out of control if I can’t keep it in check?

I want things RIGHT.
I want everything to go smoothly and to flow, and I want everyone happy.  But in my vain attempts to keep  it all in check, I become unhappy – full of angst and fighting to keep myself from a full-blown anxiety attack.  Thank  God I haven’t had one of those in a very long time…

God has been drilling these lessons into my head for the last several years, over and over again.  I am not in control.  I cannot make anything go my way.  The sheer force of my will isn’t enough.  I do not always have the answers.  In fact, I am often very wrong.  I can relax and let God handle the things that concern me. 

So today, Labor Day, I am ceasing from my labors.  I’m taking the advice of a friend who came over to help me unravel the mess in my head and put together a priority list.  She told me I’m not allowed to worry about the lingering items on my to do list concerning the wedding, honeymoon, and new life together in a new house in a new part of the country.  She said I am only allowed to concern myself with what is on the list for today – and I now have a well-organized list to tell me just what that is.

I’m going to go sit with a friend and drink some coffee.  We’re going to laugh and talk and not worry about the fact that my wedding invitation envelopes lay un-addressed in a pile on my desk (and no one else can do them for me because they must be RIGHT).

I’m going to stop concerning myself with who will replace me at my job and trust that God has heard my prayers for just the right person at just the right time.  (Oh, how hard it will be to believe that anyone else can love and nurture and bless those children and my dear friends, their parents, as well as I can…)

As the list of concerns and things I must do grows and the time in which to do them shrinks, I am doing all I can to lay my concerns before the Lord and trust that He will work everything out.  I am doing my best to remember how incredibly joyful this time in my life is and to relish the pleasure of being a bride.  I am trying to delegate things to my friends and family, letting perfectionism slip away and sanity return.

God, help me to remember to breathe.

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Don’t Poke the Bear

I’ve had a hard time giving in to love.  Holding myself back, watching for inconsistencies, and handling disappointment have been my history.  Things have been different with Rick.  As I look back on my life and evaluate things, I realize that I’m different too. 

Within the last few years, I’ve finally come to see God has “my husband.”  I always thought people who said that were totally cuckoo.  I couldn’t understand it.  But as I’ve begun to understand God as my provider, comfort, joy, strength, and the only one who can love me perfectly, the role of husband has become clear.  The role of husband isn’t for him to be my everything. but to be my partner as we look together to Christ to be our provider, comfort, joy, strength, and One who loves us perfectly.  I am The Bride of Christ – a part of His church and special to Him. And understanding His love for me makes me realize that all other human love is just a shadow of the way He loves. 

How has this changed me in relationships?  Well, for starters, I don’t expect Rick to be God.  He is wonderful, but he isn’t perfect.  He is so very, very good, but he isn’t the answer to my every need or desire.  When I try to place that burden on him, it’s too much for him to bear.  Any man would crumble under the weight of that load.  When I recognize that God is working out His plan for my life and trust Him in it, then I can let Rick be who he is.  I can relax when things don’t go the way that seems right to me and realize that God is still taking care of me.  I don’t have to fight and fuss and get uptight.  (Er, uh, ahem…)

Do I ever fight and fuss and get uptight?  Well, the things is, I’m not perfect either.  And I’m really thankful that Rick doesn’t expect me to be God.  When I get my eyes off Jesus and start looking at the waves around me, I can get scared and start sinking when I could be walking on the water.  A good friend who knows me well has a most annoyingly accurate phrase she uses at times:  Don’t poke the bear!  Yes, she’s referring to me when I get out of sorts.  (Not exactly the most flattering description…)  But God sent me a kind, patient, understanding man who is strong enough to handle me.  I feel such security with him.  When I keep my eyes on Jesus, I can relax and let Rick be Rick and God be God. 

It’s a much better deal all around.

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Beauty for Ashes…

“…He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”  -Isaiah 61:3

I’m so happy to let you all know I’m getting married!  After years of waiting, hoping, praying, and waiting some more, God has blessed me with one of the best men I’ve ever known.

Rick and I lived in the same town when I was in elementary school; we knew one another, but obviously had no idea what God had in store for us.   Our families have remained close over the years, but it wasn’t until he sent me a little message on Facebook (“Hey!  Remember me?”), that we really got to know one another.

When Rick first contacted me, I didn’t think much about it.  I’m a city-girl and he is a farmer in rural midwest.  I knew he couldn’t leave his farm and I couldn’t imagine moving back there.  But as we began to communicate, I found I couldn’t dismiss him so easily.  Not only is he a farmer, but he’s also a missionary, spending his free time every year in Guatemala doing missions work.  I quickly realized that he is honest, caring, kind, and witty.  He is also a man who knows who he is.  He doesn’t struggle to figure out what he’s going to do with his life.  He already does what he loves.  As we got to know each other, it became apparent very quickly that this was more than a friendship.

As I prayed and asked God if He really might want me to move to the rural midwest, the soft answer that came stunned me.  “You were willing to move to Haiti, but you can’t live on a farm?”  I quickly adjusted my attitude.

Ten months after that first Facebook message, Rick called me late on a Thursday night to ask me if I still needed a date for a friend’s party the next night.  Much to my surprise, he was in Nashville the next afternoon.  We spent Saturday around Nashville, ending with a romantic dinner and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city.  Rick had been saying the sweetest things to me all weekend and he didn’t stop when we got in the carriage.  When he asked me to marry him, I didn’t have to think for a second.  I just said “Yes!”  Then he gave me a beautiful diamond ring.

We spent that evening basking in the amazement that in a few months we’ll be husband and wife.  Even though it was late, we called a few people to share the news.  The next morning began a whirlwind of communication, letting those closest to us know of our engagement, showing off the ring, and trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we had both finally found “the one.”

As I’ve considered all this engagement means for my life, one thing is very clear to me:  God has blessed me.  Rick is a wonderful man and I feel certain that our life together will be good.  We want the same things out of life – a peaceful home, children, and God at the center of it all.  I have never felt so comfortable, so blessed, and so loved in my entire life.  When I look at Rick, I see a man who truly tries to be like Christ.  I am smitten.  We aren’t perfect, we don’t always agree on everything, but we are perfect for each other.  I’m fast and he’s slow.  I’m independent and he’s aware of his need for others.  He loves tractors and I love writing.  He’s private and I’m, well, you know…

We don’t have all the details set yet, but I can say that we plan to marry in Nashville and we don’t want to be engaged any longer than necessary.  We’re looking at all our date options and pulling together the pieces so we can set a date.  It’s amazing how much work goes into just setting a date!  After we’re married, I plan to move to his home.  Yes, the city girl is looking forward to becoming a farmer’s wife.

There are so many good things I could share about how God has shown me His goodness every step of the way, but in closing I will share one of my favorite details.  As I’ve written before, I have prayed for wisdom all my life.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Folks, my new last name will soon be WYSE.

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Boot Camp

May 15, 2011

On this day last year, I found myself unemployed.  The church that had funded my full-time ministry determined that it could no longer carry the financial burden of the number of employees it had.  The leaders decided to downsize by 25%.  Although I felt that God had been preparing my heart for the change for nearly a year prior to the layoff, I was stunned.  I had not imagined the change would come in that form.  Surely what God had planned was tremendous blessing without any pain, right? 

The swirl of emotions that followed was not unusual, but it was difficult.  I have wrestled with feeling like a failure, rejection and fear.  God sustained me during the worst of the down times.  I had a sense of peace in the middle of the storm that I could only attribute to His presence.  My emotions were reeling, but as long as I kept my eyes on Jesus, the storms soon passed and I was able to keep my peace.  Instead of being swallowed up by the negative emotions, I allowed myself to feel them, gave them to the Lord, and moved on.  That is one of the best testimonies I could ever give to the faithfulness of my Father.  With the wind and rain pounding around me, I was sheltered, safe and secure in His arms. 

There is another very tangible blessing that I see as I look back over this year.  As a single woman, no one else is here to help me carry my financial responsibilities.  No, I don’t have a family to support, but I also have no one supporting me.  I had barely scraped by while I worked full-time at the church.  I had no idea how I was going to make it without my salary.  With no choice but to trust God as my provider, He proved to me that I was not alone after all. 

I was given six weeks’ severance pay.  I felt in my heart that God would provide a new job and I didn’t need to hit the pavement, searching high and low.  But I didn’t want to completely freak my family and friends out by not applying for jobs, so out of respect for them I applied and applied and applied.  I sent out hundreds of resumes and I didn’t get one interview.  Not one. 

During that time, I needed to buy new ink for my printer.  That stuff is expensive!  I sat in my desk chair, looking online at prices, looking at my bank account balance and the bills coming in, and not knowing what to do.  I had the money to buy the ink, but with no more money coming in I was afraid to spend it.  I needed the ink.  As I wrestled with what to do, I felt like God said, “Get what you need.  Whatever you spend will be covered.”  I knew with certainty that this wasn’t a license for irresponsibility, but that God would take care of what I needed.  I spent the money for the ink and the next day a man at church handed me the amount I had spent.

My family had scheduled a vacation to the beach around the time my severance was ending.  I hadn’t committed to it because I thought I’d be starting a new job and wouldn’t have the vacation time.  But as the days neared and I still had no job and money was running out, my prayers grew louder.  I continued to hear God’s voice assuring me that it would be okay.  I felt like He told me to go on the vacation, enjoy myself, not worry about work, and He would take care of everything.  He wanted to bless me with the vacation.  I went.  As I drove to the beach that hot, summer day, I played a song over and over in my car – What’d you say to taking chances?  What’d you say to jumping off the ledge?  Never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a Hand to hold… 

I took a chance on trusting God, gave up the job search, and thoroughly enjoyed my family.  On about the fourth day of the trip, my fear took over and I allowed myself a pity party.  Of course, I missed out on a really fun day with my family while I sat alone and sulked!  I picked myself up that afternoon and placed my fears back into God’s capable hands.  On the final day of vacation, I prayed all the way back to Nashville, begging God to intervene. 

A few days after I got home, I went to a friend’s house to hang out.  As we talked, she mentioned that her nanny/housekeeper was unavailable.  She shrugged her shoulders and asked me if I’d want to help her out.  I’d helped with her kids before and loved them, but had never considered making a job out of it.  I didn’t need to pray about it.  I quickly answered, Yes, please.  She told me what she paid and the hours she needed.  I agreed.  It was extremely part-time – 13 hours a week – but it was something. 

That was my job interview.  That job soon turned into about 20 hours a week – a low-stress, physical job where I get to care for 5 beautiful children who I adore.  Besides that, I get to help out a good friend with her home.  Ministry just took on a new meaning. 

God also provided a new living situation for me.  I moved in with an elderly woman who needs someone to be present overnight to help her out a little.  Free of typical housing expenses, I had enough money to pay my bills if I lived very frugally. 

It seemed that every time an expenditure came up that wasn’t within my budget, someone would hand me the money I needed or I’d get an extra babysitting job.  I have not had one bill go unpaid.  I worked approximately 20 hours a week for six months and in that time I continued to repay debt as scheduled, and I had everything I needed. 

As I was only working part-time, I had a lot of time to nurture the new relationship that sprung up unexpectedly.  I spent hours every night on the phone with my new love interest, received visits from him, visited him, and didn’t have to miss work to do so. 

My family was concerned about how I would continue to survive financially and urged me to apply for anything I could find so I could have at least another part-time job.  I prayed about it and spoke to my boyfriend about it, asking what he thought.  Together we decided that I needed to be free to travel throughout the holidays (he and all of my family are located in different areas of the country), so I would hold off on finding a second job until after Christmas.  In January, I could start looking. 

I worried about how I’d afford Christmas presents for my loved ones.  (I love giving gifts!)  Because of all the holiday parties and events, I was needed to care for the children on nights and weekends.  The extra hours provided all the money I needed to buy gifts.  I felt so blessed. 

Right before I left for Christmas vacation, I got an email from the church, asking if I would consider a part-time job at the receptionist desk.  Although I was over-qualified, they knew I needed additional income.  I was able to work out the schedule and left for Christmas knowing my financial needs had again been met.  While on Christmas break, my friend asked if I wanted more hours at her house.  She is pregnant again and needed some extra help.  Between the two jobs, I suddenly had 40-hours a week, plus free living expenses.  When I added up the income of the jobs and added in what I was saving in living expenses, I’d gotten a raise! 

Over the last several months, I’ve been able to pay extra on my debt and I even put a little money in an emergency fund.  I still have 3 days off each week, so travel arrangements are fairly easy to accommodate.  And the home I’m living in now has separate guest quarters that make it possible for Rick to stay here when he visits and still have his own space. 

I am thankful.  My God has supplied my needs.  He has given me peace.  He has brought romantic love into my life and the joy that comes with feeling loved and accepted by someone I love and treasure.  God has allowed me the dignity of seeing my debt go down, down, down, and my savings go up.  And God is putting me through a new school these days – that of learning how to run a large household and care for many children.  I now know things I could have never learned in books – like how to put a gleam in the eye of a child who feels a little left out.  I’d like to think I know why He is putting me through this training, but I have discovered that what God does is never quite what I thought He was doing.  He is sneaky.  And while there are times that I feel rubbed raw by the hands that are shaping my life, I am delighted by the outcome. 

I asked God to put me through a sort-of boot camp, quickly teaching me the things I need to know to get where I’m going faster.  Quit dragging it out a little at a time, Lord, and just give it all to me at once.  As long as it’s by Your hand, I’ll be okay.  I can handle it.  I knew it was a dangerous prayer.  I knew I might have times where I really regretted it.  And there have been times where I’ve cried out, Enough!  I didn’t know what I was asking.  Please stay Your hand for a minute so I can catch my breath.  But He is so faithful to me.  He gives such grace.

I see this last year of my life as that boot camp.  God has humbled me, then humbled me again, and then humbled me again.  He has shown me clearly that I can do nothing without Him, and that my pride (I didn’t know it was such a problem) is an offense to Him.  He has proven to me that He will not give His blessing until I put Him first.  And yet He has given me such joy and hope as I explore the beauty of romance. 

…He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.  (Isaiah 61:3)

One year later, I stand in awe of the blessing of the Lord.  Thank You, Jesus. 

Psalm 63: 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

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Man in the Middle

A single woman recently wrote in to an e-newsletter I subscribe to for advice because she’s very attracted to a kind, godly man within her small church.  In spite of her attraction, she’s chosen not to pursue any type of relationship with him because… he’s married.  She’s horrified by her feelings and so she avoids him, doesn’t make eye contact, and can even be cold when he approaches her.  She said he makes an effort to be kind to everyone within their congregation and she feels even worse about not responding warmly to him; but to maintain her integrity, she avoids him as much as possible.  She doesn’t know what else to do.

My heart goes out to her because I understand her struggle well.  I started seminary in 2004, a few months before I turned 29.  I’d been engaged and if the relationship had worked out, could’ve been starting a family at that time.  My emotions were reeling from rejection, loss, and failure.  I already felt like an older bride, and it shamed me to know that I would be even older when I finally married the man God had for me.  Not marrying by age 30 felt like the worst possible failure as a woman. I felt unwanted, like something was deeply wrong with me.  Even though I had been the one to walk away, to choose shame over marriage to a man who wasn’t the best for me, I believed the lie that the failure was mine.  God knew best when He called me to Regent University’s School of Divinity:  the classes, professors, and other students revived my soul.  I learned so much about life, leadership, integrity, friendship, and becoming whole.  When I look back on that time, I see myself entering that world with a raw and bleeding heart and emerging with a whole, healed heart.

During my first week on campus, when I was soaking up the wonder of that place and hoping God had sent me there to finally meet my husband, I met a man.  He was strikingly handsome, which is what I first noticed.  I can’t lie about that…  But I’ve met many handsome men.  What made me notice him was that he was also warm and kind, friendly to everyone, and a capable leader who could think for himself.  He engaged in theological discussion (among other things) without ever making the other person feel less knowledgeable or devaluing their opinions.  He was a student leader, but he was one of the most humble men I had ever met.  I was smitten.

Then one day I saw him at a social event with a woman I had never seen before, and then I saw their children.  Stunned, I realized he was married.  Disappointment and frustration tried to swallow me up.  And a battle began in my soul.

This man and I were in classes together.  A lot of classes.  Small classes.  We worked together on projects and campus activities.  The more I got to know him, the more amazing he became to me.  And he was so kind and friendly – never flirtatious, but genuinely caring.  One day I realized I was in the middle of a daydream about what my life would be like as his wife and step-mother to his children.  Ugh!  Thoroughly disgusted with myself, I turned to God in desperate prayer.  What do I do with these feelings, Lord?

God took me through a process then of learning to die to myself.  He taught me such valuable lessons during this time.  At first, I did what the girl above did.  I avoided him.  I stopped making eye contact.  I was borderline rude.  But that didn’t sit right with me.  I cared about him and didn’t want to hurt him.  I thought about going to him and telling him I was attracted to him and didn’t want to cross any lines so I had to avoid him.  Ha!  I only considered that thought for a minute.  I knew that doing so would just make things really awkward (or if he’d been a man with less integrity, opened the door to a terrible moral failure).  I thought about going to his wife and confessing to her, but while that might make me feel better, it might also create insecurity and fear in her because she didn’t know me at all. 

In the end, through much prayer and seeking, I did two very simple things.  First, I told a trusted friend what was going on in my heart.  She is a good friend.  She didn’t judge or think less of me, but simply promised to pray and to be a sounding board when I needed it.  Secondly, I began to pray for the man and his family.  I had learned a few small details about his wife’s struggles, so I prayed for her.  At first, I had to beg God to help me mean it because the words were bitter on my tongue.  It didn’t take long before I really meant it though.  I prayed blessings on them.  I prayed for their children to be blessed.  I prayed for their romantic love to blossom and grow.  Lastly I prayed that God would help me see this man as my brother and his wife as my sister.  I asked God to help me love them in a way that is consistent with the family of God.

An amazing thing happened during this process.  The Lord replaced my feelings of disappointment and frustration with warmth and genuine concern. When I saw his family together, playing and goofing off, I felt my prayers being answered.  I began to interact with him as I do with my own brother.  I stopped idealizing him and even noticed a few of his flaws.  While I still admire him, I can now see specifically why we wouldn’t be a good match.

I am so thankful that God allowed me to experience this struggle.  Since that time, I have applied the lesson learned in countless ways.  There have been other times when a married man has caught my attention, but by immediately catching myself and praying for him in the same ways, I have kept the emotions in check and gained a brother.  A woman who greatly intimidated me at one time is now a beloved friend because I asked God to help me see her as my sister in Christ, was able to see her struggles, and then prayed earnestly for God to heal her wounds.  When I look at her now, all I see is a tender-hearted woman who simply wants to be loved and valued.

I will take this lesson into marriage one day.  I hear that just because you say “I do”, it doesn’t mean you never notice another person again.  If unwanted feelings come up, I plan to share them with a trusted friend and pray to see the man as my brother. As I write these thoughts, the prayer comes to mind:  Lord, help me to see all men (other than the man You have for me to marry) as my brothers. I also pray now that God will give me compassion and understanding if I ever notice that the man I marry is having a similar struggle and not take it personally.

The funny thing is that the married man I had idealized had character traits that I was trying to develop in myself.  He wasn’t a good partner for me, but a vision I hope to achieve personally.  He was kind to all, a good leader, humble, intelligent without being off-putting, and so on.  The man God has for me is likely to have a different style than mine, so that we complement one another and fit together beautifully.  Today I am blessed to know a man who is kind to all, humble, thoughtful, and quick-witted without being demeaning.  He leads quietly, without appearing to stand out front, living as an example that others can follow.  He leads by making choices that are full of integrity and grace.  While I tend to be emotional and on-the-move, he is as steady and stable as a rock.  And, praise God, he is somehow single and in love with me.

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