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Single and Seeking

CoupleI have previously mentioned on this blog that there is a lack of single Christian men in my church. To be precise, there are zero single Christian men in my local congregation. The truth is that there is a serious lack of single Christian men in the American church at large. A 2011 PEW Research study showed that there are eight single women for every one single man in the average congregation. Being a long time single with few talents and little beauty, that’s a pretty disconcerting statistic. How I could ever attract a man over the barrage of other single women available is beyond me. It is beyond me, but it is not beyond God. Yet the harsh reality is that unless things drastically change in the makeup of the church, there is a large number of women in churches today that may never marry.

For a long time I assumed that if I loved God and waited patiently, that He would just send the right man to me. My husband would just show up. The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22), which implies to me that the husband does the finding. He should pursue after his bride. Therefore, I’ve never looked for a husband. I’ve longed for one, but not actively looked for one. But recently, a member of my church opened my eyes to the fact that my future husband cannot find me if I don’t position myself in a place to be found. The Bible doesn’t just say to ask, it also tells us to seek and knock (Matthew 7:7). I had asked for a spouse, but I hadn’t really sought for one. While I take all of Matthew 7:7 to be a reference to prayer, there is a difference between asking and seeking. Seeking implies some kind of action. The sister in my church asked me what I had done, what actions had I taken in finding a spouse. Not many. I have prayed. I have been faithful. I have waited patiently in the pew for almost eleven years for my husband to walk through those doors.

If we were to compare this search to looking for a needle in haystack (which is what it feels like), I have mostly just circled repeatedly around the same haystack expecting the needle to suddenly reveal itself to me. I have not dug down into the haystack pulling out individual straws in my search. I felt that actually looking through the straws meant I was not trusting God to reveal the needle to me. If it’s His will for me to be married, He will send a man to me, right? Well, yes, and no. He will send me a partner when the time is right, but it’s not likely to happen without any participation on my part. In the Bible, Rebekah had to participate by watering the servant’s camels. Ruth’s participation was even bolder. Ruth purposely went to Boaz (at Naomi’s suggestion) and uncovered his feet while he was sleeping, and lay upon his feet. I won’t take the time to go into the historical significance of what she was actually doing, but it was very forward. She was clearly making her intentions known to Boaz. She wasn’t passively waiting for him, she actively went to him.

This brings me to where I am now. Along with the sister who helped me to see that beyond asking, I should also seek and knock, several other well-meaning Christians have recently asked me what I have actively done to find a spouse. In another post I will expand on some of the things I have done and am doing to try to place myself in a better position to be found. I have sought to form a closer relationship with God, worked out a hidden root of bitterness over the way my last relationship ended, and went through a very intense spiritual battle to fortify myself against a particular weakness I have.

Reluctantly, I have also made myself a little more visible on social media. None of the other things I’ve done do me much practical good when there aren’t any prospects in my church (or even in my district), so I decided I needed to do something to widen the circle. This is fraught with a lot of uncertainty and not a few painful rejections. I’ve seriously been considering going back into hiding, but then I think of Rebekah M and her new found interest who she met through social media and I think perhaps it’s worth trying to stick it out awhile longer. I haven’t quite figured out where the line is between not doing enough and pushing too hard. In the end, it’s up to God. I still believe when I am ready and the timing is right, He will send me a companion. Until then, may God grant me the grace to keep waiting.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

God Provides

testToday at work I received a payroll check for one of our employees. The check was a replacement for one that was originally issued more than three and a half years ago that was somehow never cashed. The employee had no idea this check was coming. I live for these moments.

When I saw her I exclaimed that God had sent her a blessing as I handed her the check. Bewildered she stared at it and of course inquired what it was for. After I explained, she nearly broke down. Recently, she has been struggling financially as she had to take a cut in pay last year. She told me that her bank account is currently $33 in the negative. She said that she had committed to sending $100 to a missions work in Cambodia and even though she didn’t have the money, she sent it anyway. She told her father that God would provide the money. Her father was skeptical and said, “How is He going to do that?” She said she didn’t know, but she believed He would. The check she received today was for more than $1200!

Let me be clear that I am not advocating for anyone to be financially unwise. We need to budget and plan accordingly. However, if God places it in your heart to step out in faith and give, and you make a commitment to do so, don’t back out of your commitment. Trust that He will provide!

I live for these moments. It is wonderful to watch God provide for His children and strengthen their faith. She stepped out in faith and God opened His windows of heaven to pour out a blessing! Yes, it was technically already her money, but it was money that she didn’t need or miss at the time (nearly four years ago) and instead it arrived exactly when she needed it! God’s timing is impeccable. She kept her commitment to the souls in Cambodia and put her trust in God. He provided. It is a testimony to her father and it is a testimony to me. To God be the glory!'GOD' 'ALWAYS' ‘PROVIDES' - Philippians 4 verse 19

Thank you, Jesus!

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

PS. Please share your recent testimonies with us.

We love to hear them!

Learning to Love like Jesus

LI have this little problem. I love hard. I love deep. I love people too much. Rather, I love people too selfishly; with too many expectations. I get frustrated when people don’t love me the way that I love them. I find myself feeling disappointed when I don’t receive love back the way that I give it out. Even when people actually love me better than I love them, I have trouble recognizing it when it comes in a form that is unfamiliar to me. In my disappointment I have often told myself that the solution is to love them less. If I didn’t love them so much, it wouldn’t hurt so much when things don’t happen the way I think they should. I have tried countless times to love people less and I fail miserably at it. Why would I try to love someone less? Because the more neutral your feelings toward someone, the less the things they do (or don’t do) affect you. I’m tired of feeling hurt and disappointed. I am tired of hoping things will be different and finding they never are. I’m tired of feeling like I love people so much and they don’t love me back. It’s a lie from the enemy; People do love me. I’m just not that good at recognizing it.

Thank God Jesus is not like me! The truth is that I don’t need to learn to love less; I need to learn to love differently. I need to love with a pure love. A love that doesn’t ask for anything in return. A love without expectation. When the people didn’t love Jesus the way He loved them, did He give up on them or walk away? Did He try to love them less so that it wouldn’t hurt so much if they didn’t love Him back? No, He loves unconditionally. He loved us so deeply that He hung on a cross and died for us. That’s the kind of love I need. I need to learn to love more, not less. I need to learn to consistently be compassionate, turn the other cheek, and forgive. I need to learn to love like Jesus.

Lord, teach me to love like you love. Teach me how to see people the way that you do. Teach me not to view things from my selfish perspective, but to always see them through the mercy and love of the Lord. Teach me to love like Jesus.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Rahab Gets Married

rings“As God by creation made two of one, so again by marriage He made one of two.” ~ Thomas Adam

For those of you who have followed my Rahab series over the last two years, I have some exciting news! Hint – It’s in the title of this post. 😉 Yes, the lovely young woman referred to in these posts has gotten hitched.

This is significant because it represents a total separation from her past. As a woman who was forced to sell her body (by her own parents no less), she did not even dare to dream she would ever get out of her old life. She had resigned herself to the idea that she would have to endure her “profession” until she became too old to continue attracting clients. She often worried how she would support herself when that day finally came. The idea of marriage was so far beyond her realm of possibilities that she couldn’t even entertain the idea.

Starting when she was very young her father told her repeatedly that as a member of his family she belonged to him and had no choice but to do as he told her. He said, “Until you have a family of your own, you belong to me. And no one will ever marry someone as filthy and used up as you are. You will never find a man who is willing to marry someone like you.” He was the reason she became “filthy and used up”, but yet used that as the rationale that no one would ever marry her and that she was doomed to always be his property to be rented out as he pleased.

But God!

Oh how God can take all of man’s plans and turn them on their head! When the world saw someone who was filthy and used up, God saw a woman to be redeemed! Jesus Christ is still in the business of cleansing and making new! He took a woman of ill repute and completely turned her life around! She now knows the Lord; she has been delivered from her life of degradation, and filled with His Spirit.

God has seen fit to give her a godly man as a husband. Even by her father’s twisted justification, she is free from him by virtue of having been married. The thing she never thought possible has come to pass by way of Jesus Christ. God took a terrible circumstance and used it for both her and her new husband’s good. They met through a series of cruel tricks by both his parents and hers. He never saw the deception coming, fell right into their trap, and committed a serious mistake. By all outward appearances this should have ended very very badly.

But God!

This man repented of his sin, and became a representation of Christ to this woman who was so desperately lost in darkness. He modeled love. She was filled with anger and bitterness. She fought back at him with sharp words and a hateful attitude. He kept reaching out in the love of Christ. He ignored her hurtful behavior. Through every angry word and difficult encounter he continued to show godly love in a way that she had never seen. In fact, she had never experienced any kind of love at all. Not from friends. Not from men. Not from family members. Not even her own parents.

But God!

God used this man to show real love. And real love prevailed. Through it all God kept reaching for her. He did a miracle in her life. She surrendered to Him and it changed everything.

Her faith in Him is incredible. I have seen her grow in spiritual maturity so quickly. Her prayers are deep and strong. Her level of commitment is rare among Christians. She has already become a role model for the women in her church. She is a woman who knows what God has done for her.

There is no greater freedom than that of living for Jesus Christ!

Congratulations, Rahab. May your marriage be as strong and resilient as you have been. May the goodness and mercy of the Lord follow you both all the days of your lives. May you and your husband be blessed with a love that grows stronger every day and moves you ever closer to the Lord.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

More in the Rahab Series:

Being Rahab (Part 1)

Revisiting Rahab (Part 2)

The Faith of Rahab (Part 3)

Praying with Rahab (Part 4)

Survived Another Childless Mother’s Day

Phew, I have survived another Mother’s Day! Honestly, I feel guilty even writing that because I know there are many people for whom Mother’s Day is a much more painful event than it is for me. Especially for those mothers who have lost a child. I cannot imagine how unbearable that would be. And don’t get me wrong, Mother’s Day is a wonderful day to honor our mothers and all that mothers the world over have done for us.

But I struggle with it, and I know I am not alone in that struggle.

I wavered about whether to post this or not. It feels whiny, oh, poor pitiful me, and entirely too self-focused, but in the end I decided to go ahead and post it anyway because we strive to be real on this blog. My feelings – right or wrong, are very real, and as I mentioned, I know that I am not alone in these feelings. Perhaps another woman will read this post and know that she too is not alone in her pain.

When I was young, like most girls, I assumed that I would grow up to marry and go on to have children. In all the times I “played house” I never imagined a scenario where children would not be part of the equation. Recently I read an article by Melanie Notkin called My Secret Grief. In it she discusses the hidden pain of circumstantial infertility. Unlike the pain of medical infertility, circumstantial infertility is not caused because of some biological issue, but rather because (as the name infers) circumstances never lined up to make motherhood a reality. Notkin put down in words many of the things I’ve never been able to say.

If you are childless (not by choice), it can be difficult to express the feelings that go along with it. If you try, well-meaning people will say all kinds of things which sting and cut at you in ways they cannot comprehend.

As a Christian I struggle with the sadness it brings me. I know that I should be content with what I have (see Philippians 4:11, 1 Timothy 6:6, Hebrews 13:5), and mostly I am, but there are hard days. Really hard days. For the last few years, Mother’s Day has ranked among the top for really hard days.

I vacillate between trying to face reality so I can move on from my desire to be a mother and trying desperately to hold on to the hope that it may one day still happen. I don’t know how to give up my hope of being a mother, but I think I might be happier if I could figure out how to. The Bible says that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). As a never married, single, childless woman I know the truth of that verse all too well.

As My Secret Grief points out, when you get to a certain age if you are still childless it is assumed that you either never really wanted children or you just didn’t try hard enough. I have had countless people tell me I should just go out and find a guy to make a kid with. “Why wait for marriage?” they say. This world doesn’t understand the concept that fornication is a sin. Or they tell you that you should just get a sperm donor, or adopt.

Here’s the thing: I honestly think my child deserves to have two parents. They should have both a mother and a father who is present and active in their childrearing. I understand that this is not always possible and there are many many wonderful single parents out there, but it seems selfish to purposely put your child in the position of only having a single parent. Again, please do not think I am disparaging single parents out there. The majority of them work tirelessly to provide good lives for their children and should be commended for that. But to deliberately deny a child a father just because I would like to be a mother is unfair to them. Perhaps I could manage to get pregnant (this is still medically questionable) or adopt (financially prohibitive) without the presence of a husband, but for the sake of my children, I wouldn’t want to do that. In the eyes of the world this is seen as not wanting it bad enough. Trust me; I’ve heard enough comments to know the reality of this view. The truth is that I do want it that badly; I just don’t want it that selfishly.

I struggle with how heart-broken I am over being childless. I feel guilty because I think my desire shows an inherent lack of gratefulness for what I do have. And I have been blessed! Abundantly blessed! But the sadness and longing remain. God designed women to be mothers and most of us feel that pull to our very core. The Bible gives us seven examples of barren women in the Bible who later went on to give birth. What strikes me about them is that they all cried to the Lord over their situation. Granted, it was tougher in Biblical times because women were mandated to give their husbands children and those who could not were seen as cursed. It was a much more dire situation, but I have no doubt that the tears they cried were much like my own. The Bible says that Hannah prayed with great weeping (I Samuel 1:10). The King James Version says that she was in “bitterness of soul” and that as she prayed she “wept sore”. This was a woman who knew the heartache and sorrow of being childless.

Yet, all seven of these women had husbands. I cannot cry to the Lord for a child (though I have) until I first have a husband. And time has so quickly passed me by. I had to give up an ungodly relationship when I was saved – knowing confidently that the Lord would provide for me. I waited five years to meet a man in the church, but there just weren’t any. I found a sweet man who became a Christian. I wasted five more years of my life on that man and he ended up getting another woman pregnant while we were together. Heartbreaking.

We are told not to be unequally yoked, but there are literally NO single men my age in my church. I know of a total of two single men (both younger than me) in our entire church district. I know dozens of single women in this same age group. And I am not confining myself to a man within a few years of my age. I’m talking within a 15+ year age range; there just aren’t any available men. Let alone a man that would be a good match for me and I for him. It’s difficult to remain hopeful.

Well-meaning friends and relatives tell me that they miss the single life. They wish they had more time for themselves and for the Lord. I have no doubt this is true. If I were married with children, I too would miss my current single life at times. But most of the people who have said this to me weren’t single for all that long. They moved out of their parent’s houses and within a few short years they were married. They never had that much time to themselves. I moved out of my parent’s house seventeen years ago. Seventeen long years ago. I’ve come home to a silent, empty house day after day, week after week, month after month, for years and years and years on end. Most of the time, I’m okay with this. Most of the time, I am content in the Lord. But there are days. Really hard days.

Mother’s Day is especially difficult because I feel I am mourning the family I never had. My pastor, bless his heart, loves to make a big deal out of Mother’s Day. I actually really appreciate him for this because mothers deserve to be recognized for their endless hours of tireless sacrifice for their families. The work they do is acknowledged far too little. Mother’s Day is the one day that people set aside to honor them. It is wonderful and important. But it is difficult. More than once I have been the only adult woman left in the congregation after he calls all the mothers to the front. I want to sink into my seat and just disappear when that happens. I don’t want anyone to see me sitting there by myself and pity me. For the last couple of years, I have made it a point not to be in the sanctuary when this happens because it is just too painful for me.

Is it selfish? Yes. Yes, it is. Mother’s Day is not about me. I should be there to encourage and honor the godly women in my life who give so much for their children. But I hide. I hide because I can’t stand the feeling. I can’t stand how every year someone will say to me, “Next year” when next year never seems to come.

But the day comes and goes and I find after it’s over that I have survived. I’m still breathing. I’m okay. The Lord has granted me strength to get through another day. He is my Provider. He is my Comforter. He is my All-in-All. And after all the feelings have passed, I am reminded that faith is not a feeling. I am blessed. The Lord is MIGHTY in my life. He is my Strong Tower. He is my hope. He is my Loyal Friend and Husbandman. He is enough. I so love and appreciate Him for that. When I feel I am alone, I am never alone. He is with me day after day, week after week, month after month, for years and years and years on end.

And He is with you too.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Well played, Jesus.

Sometimes Jesus does really cool things. Ok, all the time. But sometimes there’s a moment, or a series of them, where He is especially awesome. His math, His timing, the way He just works things out….it’s mindblowing. And I love it.

It’s one such story, a series of moments when Love stirred the hearts of 3 different people in 3 vastly different places, that I want to share with you all. I have a friend doing a missions trip in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a country of unrest. In fact many parts  are active war zones, UN Redzones – as in, United Nations staff are advised not to go into those areas under any circumstances. All in all it’s a desperate, pain-filled place. Its violence is so pronounced that many of the children in the redzone often suffer from epileptic seizures due to prolonged exposure to trauma. Also, it’s beautiful. Its people are beautiful with beautiful hearts.

For her, it’s been a journey of loving deeper, of opening herself up more, of going lower and inviting Heaven to come and interrupt life in this place. There has been laughter. Tears. Healing. Soldiers coming to Jesus. Prostitutes and orphans coming to Jesus. Strongholds being torn down. Love has reigned, and hearts and spirits have been changed forever.

In the midst of this trip, my friend’s constant refrain has been that love is action. It looks like something. We love God by loving the one in front of us, the one overlooked and forgotten and abandoned by the world – for in that one, Jesus Himself resides.

Her words and experiences inspired me, here in NYC, to write the blog post, His True Face. It got a massive response – peoples’ spirits must have stirred as much as mine did at this message from Jesus.

The most ESPECIALLY COOLEST THING EVER is that the blog post, or more accurately the Bible verses I posted to preface it, then inspired one of our readers and fellow bloggers (the awesome blessedwiththunderthighs.com, and some minor internet stalking tells me she is based in California). She was inspired to write a song, which she posted in a comment. She even got to play it at a worship service at her church.

I, in turn, was inspired to turn around and share the song back with my lovely friend in the Congo. I am super excited to say that she loved the song and played it for her missions team, still doing their labor of Love in the Congo. Love inspired love that week, and Jesus used all three of us to spread His message around the world.

None of us knew we were being used that way. It wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t part of any plan we had. It was part of a plan that Jesus had, one that He executed perfectly and one that will consequently give me Spirit-filled warm fuzzies for probably the rest of my life.

I told you He was cool, did I not??

God bless!

~Rebekah A

For Arthur

When I was a new Christian I had a co-worker who was the bane of my existence. He was rude, cruel, and crotchety. He bullied other employees mercilessly. After witnessing his abusive behavior for months I had learned to avoid him. One day I watched him hurl insults as he suddenly cut the power on a piece of heavy equipment another co-worker was using. This caused the huge machine to stop short so that the man using it fell forward into it, twisting his body and resulting in what must have been a very painful fall.

I felt my righteous indignation rise up. I lost my Christian cool. In defense of the injured employee I lashed out uncharacteristically and swore at the tyrant, calling him a name that I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking. I will never forget the look of shock on his face. Had another person said it, he probably would have just responded with an equally abusive retort, but coming from me, he was literally stopped in his tracks. He never expected the timid, quiet, little Christian girl to say something so insolent.

I instantly regretted it, but I could not take back my words. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had not acted as a Christian should. For days after that, I became his target. Where previously he would hand me his paperwork at the end of the day, he started coming in and literally throwing the stack of paper on my desk with such force that it would scatter across the desk and onto the floor. He said, “You called me it, so I guess that’s what I’ll be.” He took every opportunity to belittle me in front of others and to point out my hypocrisy. I felt awful. I thought I had ruined my Christian witness with this man and with all my other co-workers. In a moment of weakness I had destroyed my opportunity to show them Christ.

I confided to a friend what was going on. She agreed with me that his behavior was out of control and that management should have stepped in to curb his antics long before that, but she also didn’t let me off the hook. She told me to stop feeling guilty for the way I reacted. No, it wasn’t the right reaction, but the past was past. If you’ve repented, you need to move on. You won’t help the situation by wallowing in shame. Then she reminded me that it’s easy to love people who are nice to us; it’s very difficult to love people who are unkind. She told me he was the perfect opportunity to practice my Christian love. He was an opportunity to practice turning the other cheek. He was an opportunity to learn to be a better Christian. He was not an obstacle. He was an opportunity.

I took her words to heart. From that day forward I did everything I could to show him godly love. I refused to react to his negativity and hurtful behavior. I went out of my way to make his job easier. I made it a point to ask how his day was going. I inquired after his wife and kids, his hobbies, his frustrations. I prayed for him constantly. He began to soften up. Instead of eating alone at lunch, he started to join me and another co-worker. His anger subsided. He not only treated me better, but he treated everyone better. He started talking about his life; his hopes and disappointments. He showed an interest in my well-being and after a while he was not only accepting my efforts, but reciprocating them. In fact, I have yet to see someone, anyone, make such a complete turn-around in behavior that I witnessed in Arthur. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I genuinely came to think of him as my friend.

I began to share Christ with him. I continued to pray for him. I told him he needed the Lord. He said, “I know, but I’m going to wait until right before I die.” I said, “The trouble with that is that no one knows how long they have.”

What neither of us knew that day was that within a few short months, my friend Arthur, would be dead. He was 36.

Truly no one knows how long they have. In fact, the day I had this conversation with Arthur was the last day he ever worked. I remember asking him that day if he was feeling alright because he just didn’t look right. He confided in me that he hadn’t been feeling well lately. The following day he called in sick saying he had the flu. He was out all the next week too. Shortly after that he was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

I had many conversations over the following weeks with both him and his wife during this time. I was as much of a support to them as I could be. I kept praying. I believed God fully for his healing. But this time, healing didn’t come.

His wife told me how much she appreciated my friendship. She told me that Arthur hated his job before I befriended him. Having a friend changed his whole outlook, she said. She would call me on the phone and cry about how difficult it was to deal with the whole situation and my heart just broke for her.

Ultimately, I think my friend died without knowing the Lord, but I am not the judge. I cried and prayed for months feeling I had failed him. But in the end, I know that he heard the gospel. What he chose to do with it was up to him.

I look back on him with fondness. He taught me one of the most powerful lessons I have learned in Christianity. He taught me to love even when someone is unlovable. He taught me that an angry and volatile exterior is often a cover for a vulnerable person who just needs a little compassion. He showed me that sometimes gaining a friend only takes being a friend.

Happy Birthday, Arthur.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.