My Life as a Single Christian and God’s Unexpected Curveball

My LIfe as1

Being single is a struggle sometimes. Of course being married is its own struggle. Just being a human being is hard and rife with unexpected circumstances no matter what your relationship status is on Facebook.

But because I haven’t dealt with the struggle of being married, I can only talk about what it’s like to be single.

I’ve written about a lot of personal things. But one of the things I haven’t written about much is my first romantic relationship. Partially because for a while I was too emotional to be fair in writing about it and I respect the guy I dated too much to trash talk him on the Internet; in ten years when I’m a super famous author, I don’t want people to troll him. I’m joking but the INTERNET IS FOREVER, PEOPLE. Also, I haven’t told my story publicly because it wasn’t just my story to tell, but if my story of being single is gonna make any sense, you’re gonna need a little background info.

Aside from a guy I wouldn’t even let drive me to prom my senior year, I didn’t date anyone at all til I was a freshman in college. Then when I was 18, a sophomore began pursuing me hard. In my mind, the beginning of our relationship was chick flick level perfect. It was equal parts cheesy and sweet and I loved it. If you were at MCC between Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, you most likely saw us sitting on a swing multiple times. We were smitten. It wasn’t long before we were talking marriage. I don’t mean in the abstract “make sure you’re both on the same page” way. I mean we had our lives planned out. We talked baby names and where we would live. I had the next 50-70 years mapped out and I loved it.

But we weren’t ready for a serious commitment like that so things went south and the relationship ended. I was devastated. But life went on and I adjusted to being single again.

At first, all I wanted was to go back to the first relationship. Then I wanted to be loved and adored by someone new. Thinking back, I was getting obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship. I still had standards, but I was no longer ok with being single. However, as time passed and I got used to being comfortable alone, I got so sick of hearing myself and others lament their lack of romantic partners. I was convinced that viewing being single as a curse was wrong and not biblical. So I took to heart Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 7 about how it’s better to be unattached. I even read the passage multiple times a day when I was feeling especially discontent. And gradually I became content with being single. To further convince myself and others, I arrogantly preached to anyone who I thought needed to hear it how God didn’t promise us spouses and being single isn’t some curse.

Both of those statements are so true, and while I don’t retract my statements, I do apologize for the spirit they were said and thought in. God didn’t call me to be a beacon for single girls everywhere. That’s someone else’s job and may she fill her role with the grace, love and softness I abandoned.

Because strength doesn’t lie in bravado or assurance. It lies in gentleness and quiet perseverance. It’s the ability to keep going and stay compassionate and not let life make you hard.

No, Jesus didn’t call me to singleness and he’s recently revealed that to me. He very firmly told me “Jackie, you’ve preached singleness for so long but I made you for marriage. I made you for nurturing.”

Which was kind of jarring to hear. My first thought was something along the lines of “What do you mean I’m made for marriage? Why have I worked so hard to be ok alone for the past few years if you didn’t want me to be alone forever?” I don’t really know the answer to that question except that I am alone now and I might still be alone during my life. Because I don’t know whether I am made for marriage with a man on earth or to be a part of the Bride of Christ and lovingly serve through the church. Maybe I will nurture children of my own or maybe I will give my love and time to other people’s kids. But as a Christian, I’m not called to be know everything; I am called to be faithful and that’s what I’m trying to do.

For a while I needed to learn how to be independent and comfortable on my own but I’ve learned that lesson. Now it’s time to work in cultivating the qualities of a biblical wife. I’m not discontent in my singleness but I am seeking the Lord daily and preparing to be a helpmeet and learning about submission and gentleness. I’m kind of excited about it. I’ve got this new challenge in my life and I’m learning more about the different ways to glorify God with my life. It’s a struggle every step of the way and it’s hard but I’m going to keep trying and relying on his strength and grace til He sends me the unexpected, life shaking challenge. Til then, y’all.

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Authenticity

Sometimes I don’t like to blog because I know that not as many people will read it unless it’s accompanied by the perfect graphic or if the layout of my blog doesn’t scream “Jackie.” I get so bogged down by the design aspects, of which I am good but not great nor do I have the right programs. I get so bogged down by my blog not being pretty enough that I forget that my words can be pretty. Because I am not a cutesy, artsy person who always chooses the right instagram filter. I am not always wearing the latest designer or fashion trend because I like what I like whether it’s popular or not. Wanting to dress in your own style and not just what’s popular can be REALLY tough. But I do it. There are many fads that I never participated in simply because I didn’t like it for myself. There were ones that I did participate in because I like it. I own and often wear a pair of Chacos. I like them, they’re comfortable and they work well for my flat feet.I know it seems like I’m rambling but my rambling has a point.

It is SO important to be authentic. To be genuine. People want to see the real you. They don’t want to see the perfectly polished version you put forth on social media. There’s a reason people like celebs like Zooey Deschanel, Jennifer Lawrence and Taylor Swift. When you see them in magazines, tv, social media, etc. you get the feeling that you could be friends with them. We feel that way about them and other celebrities, because they are genuine. They are real.

Wanna know something fun? Nobody likes it when you or I are disingenuous (aka insincere or fake for the friends that I know who get irritated at me for using big words in conversations).

People want to see the real, raw, messy you. This is me giving you permission to share with others that you’re not that great sometimes. This is me telling one of my favorite youth Sunday School teachers that the job search is really hard and it’s really frustrating instead of my stock answer of “it’s going good.”

This is not me giving you permission to only complain though. Celebrate the wins when you have wins. Celebrate the little wins as well as the big ones. Yesterday, I texted my sister telling her how excited I was that I finally made it through a barre pilates class without starting to black out. That’s a victory. That’s progress. It’s small but small things are important to you. Sometimes the highlight of your day is getting a good parking spot or getting in a short line at Walmart. And that’s okay. That’s more than okay. That’s awesome. Celebrate it. Own it.

I’m learning lately to be okay with who I am, strengths AND weaknesses. They all make up who I am. They all offer me room for growth and ways to glorify God. A few months ago I wrote in my journal how I wanted to be like a couple of famous writers who are known for their words. I wanted to be big. And I just had this overwhelming assurance from God that he didn’t need me to be big. He needed me to be small. He reminded me that my role models were small before they were big and that now was my time to be small. So here I am. Living in a small state, in a small town, in a small bedroom learning to be okay with being small.

I don’t know if this makes much sense to anyone but myself but I think it’s important to share what’s on my heart sometimes and this is on my heart. In the spirit of authenticity, I am sharing this without a picture and I am letting you know that I had trouble spelling authenticity because I am a HORRIBLE speller. Seriously, I would have had a lot more trouble in English classes had I been born prior laptops and spellcheck becoming the standard practice.

Is anyone else going through a season of life that seems counter intuitive to culture? Let me know!

Value.

Have you ever noticed how when you’re closer to God, you literally see the world thru a different lens? It’s one of those things you forget both when haven’t been close to God in a while and when you’ve been faithful for a while. You’re only aware of the lenses in that twilight space.

I am in that twilight space and it’s kind of astounding me.

One of my favorite tv shows is called Community. It’s this quirky tv show that’s occasionally self aware and is constantly talking about other movies and tv shows. It also takes place at a community college that somehow gives out four year degrees… Don’t question it! It’s perfect for someone like me who enjoys consuming media. However, it’s not the cleanest show. In fact, it can be offensive and irreverent, though, always in a clever way.

I started rewatching it this week because it felt like a good ending to college.

In the first scene of the show, main character Jeff is having a conversation with Abed. It ends like this:
Jeff: “Now I see your value, Abed.”
Abed (as Jeff walks out of hearing distance):That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

And it hit me. At our core, that’s what we’re all looking for. We look for it in every interaction and every relationship. We’re secretly, subconsciously waiting for someone, anyone, everyone to say: I see your value. You have value and I have noticed it.

But the thing is others aren’t here to give us value. If they were, we’d be in a sad state. Think about it. You’re more concerned with others affirming you than you are about affirming others. With a few exceptions, everyone else is doing the same thing. We get so wrapped up in our heads that we quit worrying about others.

As a christian, you should seek to find your value affirmed in Jesus, the one who said I value you, you so much I am going to subject myself to torment so that you can avoid it.

Your value is in Christ and nothing else. You are valuable because he loves you and saved you and gives you value.

Your value doesn’t rely on your talents or how smart or how pretty or how strong you are. Your value doesn’t lie in your ability to make friends or your relationship status. Those things are good but they do not give you value. And when we choose to find value in these things, we cheapen Christ’s sacrifice and give away some of our real value.

You have value. It is given to you by Christ. Acknowledge it. Revel in it.

And while I don’t think we should find value from others, maybe we should start acknowledging the value we see in others.

Tell her she is clever. Tell him he is passionate. Point out the good things you see in people. People are often blind to their own strengths and weaknesses, be their mirror. See value in people. See value in everyone.

How to Survive Valentine’s Day with Grace

Valentine’s day. Probably the most controversial and divided holiday. For couples, it’s a wonderful chance to just dwell in each other’s love and be adored. For singles, it can be a sad reminder of the fact that no one special person constantly cherishes and adores them. Or it can be a day engage in love – no matter the type of relationship.

There is no special guy who cherishes me right now and there may never be. But that’s okay. Because I have a loving group of friends who care for and show me love anyway they can. I have a mom who is my biggest and manages to have high hopes for me without pressuring me to be or do anything I don’t want. I am so grateful I have a father who showed me how a man should love a woman and support her no matter the circumstances. He has told me he loves and that I am beautiful for as long as I can remember. I have two sisters who are my best friends in the whole world and get me better than anyone else.

So yes, Valentine’s day is about love, but it’s not strictly about romantic love.

To the Couples
If you’re in a relationship, take the time to show your love for someone who’s single. But promise me this: don’t do it in a condescending, “I was worried about you because you don’t have anyone to love you like I do” way. People in relationships, I love you but it is so easy for some of you to get wrapped up in a love bubble and forget that it’s possible to live without romantic love. Don’t forget to spend some of the time adoring your creator as well.

To the Singles
Dear one, don’t dwell on the sad parts. You are beautiful and precious and unique. Don’t ever tell yourself something is wrong with you because you’re single. You are completely lovable and love worthy. I can’t make your day better but you can. Instead of saying, “woe is me,” look for someone else to love on. Maybe it’s a friend who’s struggling more than you are and needs someone to remind them that they are wonderful. Maybe it’s a stranger you know nothing about. But I challenge you to dig down deep in your heart and take a handful of you to bless someone with. Show love. Show love hard.

Last, love and adored your creator and savior. The one who loved you so much he endured excruciating mental and physical pain so that you might go free. Someone does cherish and adore you, thank him and love him back.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Recently, my grandfather texted me saying that prayed that God would give me the desires of my heart. First, I’d like to point out that getting a message saying you’re precious and that someone is praying that God gives you the desires of your heart is one of the best ways to start your day.

Initially it put a smile on my face. And I am I very thankful to have someone who prays that prayer for me. But then the message changed from an encouragement to a mirror. What are my desires anyway? Are they the ones God wants me to have? Hmmm, I don’t desire inherently bad things like ultimate power or taking over the world. But let’s be honest, I wouldn’t mind some shallow things. Like a wardrobe containing everything I’ve lusted over on Modcloth. Or to be graduating college debt free. Or to be in shape without working out. Although id settle for being in shape because I love working out and being outdoorsy.

Of course, not all my desires are shallow. I want to use words to show love and change the world or at a few people. I want to be healthy. I want to get a fabulous job where I can help make the world a better place. I want to marry a man who will romance me like my dad does my mom and Jesus does the church and who helps me show the gospel to a lost and hurting world. I want to have children who love history and knowledge and reading. I want to live in a place with arts.

But ultimately, I want my desires to be God’s desires for me. Because that’s what Psalm 37:4 is about. When you are delighting in The Lord, your desires will be his desires. So for now, my ultimate desire is to delight in The Lord more. I know I’m not where I need to be.

C. S. Lewis once said, “I pray because I need God. The need flows out of me, waking and sleeping. Prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me.”

I’ve been praying a lot this past week about the future and my vision of what I want it to be. I committed to praying about this issue everyday for a week. At first my prayer was, “God I really want this.” Then my prayers changed to: “I really want this but I understand if it’s not your will. But I really want this.” Then the prayed changed to: “God, right now I want this. But I don’t want you to give it to me because I keep asking. I want your best for me. I want this to be the best but I understand it might not be. And that’s ok because I want your will in this.”

My prayers don’t need to change God. They needed to change me. My heart needed to be calibrated back to God’s best. Maybe after a few more dad of praying, I’ll be ok with saying completely “Thy will be done Lord.” When I delight in The Lord, my desires change to his and during the process while I still have my selfish desires, I begin to become aware that they aren’t God’s best for me. Psalm 37:4 is so much more than God giving you want you want. It’s about reading on to Psalm 37:5: “commit your way to The Lord and do good; trust in him and he will do this.”

I am so thankful for a God who will give me what I want when I begin to want the best for me. Just like your parents wouldn’t let you play with matches as a kid, God won’t give you things you want that will burn you (uselessly). I am so thankful for grandparents who are prayer warriors committed to my future and inspiring me to examine my inner self… Never a fun thing.

I hope you read this and begin to let the self examination slowly begin. Stand in front of the mirror and honestly examine yourself. Be brave enough to admit the truth if you aren’t delighting in The Lord and his best for you. Then go out and do something about it.

For Such a Time as This: 21st Century Edition

To preface, I wrote this aimed at bloggers. However at the end, I realized that these issues also apply to the people who sit in the pews, discontent with the state of the church and either do nothing or, worse, complain. It’s time for the Church to be doers of the Word and not merely seers.

I have a bone to pick. I am so sick and tired of blogs about how the Church is doing this or that wrong and they need to change and step up their game.

To clarify, I am not saying that the Church is without fault or even that some of the issues brought aren’t completely valid issues that need to be addressed. Additionally, it’s completely possible that some of the bloggers are called by God to be catalysts by using their words. But I feel like words can also easily turn into a copout.

I have at times been distraught with the current state of the church and unable to reconcile this issue in my heart. My (albeit horrible) decision has been to not go as much because I felt hypocritical to go somewhere I saw flaws in. However, as I’ve grown up, matured, and become a bit wiser, I’ve realized the futility in avoiding church because I was not happy with some of it’s practices.

In my opinion, all these call to action type posts are doing the same thing. The authors of these posts are aware of an inadequacy in the church. Since the church is full of people, we are constantly facing mistakes and flaws and scandals. That’s just how it is. However, I wonder if maybe God is showing these authors the inadequacy in the church for a different reason than writing about it. If you see an issue that needs addressing, don’t address it to the internet. Go to the leadership at your church and say, “Hey, this isn’t right. We need to change this.” Pray about it. Find out if others agree with you. If they do, get them to help you change things.

THEN write about it. Tell the world how you were dissatisfied with the way certain things weren’t glorifying God the way they should. Tell the world how things changed and whether you think it’s an improvement. Tell the world even if it’s a failure. God doesn’t call you to be successful. He calls you to be faithful. And I know that’s a cliché but it’s a cliché I couldn’t be a Christian without. A ruler who cares about your obedience more than your talents and lists of successes is so much more beautiful and accessible than one who requires you to get it right.

This makes me think about what Mordecai says to Esther when the Jewish people are in mortal danger. I’m paraphrasing here… He says, “Don’t think that if you stay silent you will escape. Deliverance will come from somewhere if not you. Maybe the reason you here at this moment is to save the Jews.”

If God shows you an issue in the church, I fully believe it is for a reason. I also believe that we have a God of action not inaction. A few years ago, my former youth minister, Joseph Bird, made the comment that the church is spiritually obese. We eat and eat God’s word but we don’t go out and do.

The irony in my post calling out those who call out others is not lost on me. However God laid it on my heart and I had to share. I apologize for any hypocrisy. I give my promise that from now on when I am discontent with issues in the church, I will try to change things rather than complaining. I challenge you to do the same.

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Pastor

Yesterday, my church said goodbye to a wonderful pastor, Wayne Edwards.

He wasn’t just a preacher. He was a pastor- who cared about people. He genuinely loved everyone at Midway.

He means a lot to everyone but he has really treated my family and me with love beyond comprehension in times of trial.

Shortly after beginning his time at Midway, my mom had to have surgery in Jackson. I still remember waiting for her to get called back to surgery and then to be done. Bro. Wayne, His wife, and our former music minister sat with us the entire time. It’s one of those little, tiny things that mean so much.

Unfortunately my mom had complications from surgery and was in life threatening condition for several days. A 3 day hospital stay turned into a week and a half. Through it all, Bro. Wayne and Mrs. Patty made multiple trips to Jackson- just to see us and sit with us.

This encounter shaped the rest of Wayne’s time at Midway. It was always clear that he cared and he’s one of those special people that understands something really important- it’s not what you do. It’s where you go. He understood that sometimes people don’t need anything more than someone outside of the situation to sit and talk about the news. People don’t always need you to do something in times of crises. They just need you to sit there and silently convey, “I am here for you. Everything might not turn out all right but through it all I will never leave your side.”

While I am sure that God has a wonderful replacement lined up for Midway, he won’t be my friend. He won’t be my Old/New Testament teacher from MCC. He won’t be the man who called on me to do the before/after for Jeremiah in children’s Bible Drills. He won’t be the man who offered to beat up my first ex boyfriend when we broke up. He won’t be the pastor who got onto me for not telling him when family members were sick.

I may not ever get to know this man who will be replacing the wonderful pastor I love so much. But that’s ok. Because someone else needs the new man like I needed Wayne Edwards.

Maybe God will decide to bless me again and eventually I’ll find another pastor who loves me and my family like Wayne did. But I’m not holding out for that. Greatness is hard to replicate and if anything describes Wayne Edwards, it’s great.