Tag Archives: singles

the way to victory: intentional sacrifice

“…victory isn’t a place we arrive at and then relax. Victory is when we [make the better choice] over something not beneficial to us. And we maintain our victories with each choice…the very next choice is a crucial one….One wise choice can lead to two, can lead to three, can lead to a thousand, can lead to the sweet place of utter dependence on God and lasting discipline.”

– Lysa Terkeurst, Made to Crave, Chapter 17

Finding victory through intentional living…How does one get there?

This is not my first round with the word “intentional”. Although I’ve heard it numerous times throughout my life, the three years since I’ve moved to Minneapolis to help plant a church have been full of circling back to that phrase and what it means to live that way.

Be intentional with your relationship with God.

Be intentional in reaching out to your neighbors and serving in your communities.

Be intentional with the relationships you have with your co-workers.

Be intentional about really asking people how their souls are…don’t be afraid to get deep.

Be intentional about giving.

Be intentional with your relationships. Period.

And now…

Be intentional with your health.

Be intentional with godly self-care.

Prior to going through this study (see here), I knew that with my being a four-part being (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) that all parts are interconnected and that if one suffered, they all suffered. But, I did not know or realize the implications my food and exercise choices (or lack thereof) had on the spiritual portion of myself.

Oh does it ever!

2013 wasn’t the greatest year for me. Yes, it was full of trials and growth, but the latter portion of it: Not. Fun. In reading through Made to Crave these last six weeks, I’ve come to realize and embrace the truth about how and what I crave and what I should be seeking instead.

Crave

To crave means to long for, want greatly, and/or desire eagerly.

By that definition, I came to realize several truths about myself:

I crave love. After all, wasn’t I created to love and be loved? In the past, I’ve sought that out in my relationships with others – with my friends, my pastor, men I’ve dated…or wished I had dated (projecting is not healthy). My worth and feelings of being loved does not stem from those relationships nor should I be placing that expectation on them. We’re human and we’re all incomplete. Only God can validate me and it’s when I embrace that truth, letting it get really deep, that I feel satisfied and deeply loved.

I crave affection. There were so many days where I felt that if I gave another ounce of all I have within me, I’d be wiped from existence (wouldn’t really happen, but that’s how I felt). I used to give, give, and give until I was empty, but I’m learning that I can’t rely on people to keep my love-tank full. When I turn my focus to God, on who He says I am, only then can I continue to give, give, give without nearing the empty side of the tank. It’s a beautiful thing.

I crave feeling as though I matter…to someone…to anyone. I crave being asked how my day was, what my dreams are, what I need to do to achieve them, where I succeeded and where I didn’t. Being single, I rarely get that. Just this last week, a fellow sister in Christ posted a very encouraging blog article regarding the matter and it truly hit home for me. I also realized that God, in His goodness, provided me with a few good friends who do just that. When I’m with them, I’m not left feeling as though something’s missing or that there is something wrong with me. They love me as I am and continue to point me back to Jesus. That, my friends, is what Christian community, accountability and living should be. It’s amazing when the body of Christ works as it should.

I crave companionship. I do not fear being alone as I do enjoy my own company quite a bit, but going home to an empty apartment after a long day at the office and meeting appointments only holds so much appeal at times. Maybe I should get a pet…kidding, slightly. If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize this last year, it’s that I do fear ending up alone. There is a big difference between the two, but I’m learning that whether I have three really close friends or five hundred Facebook friends and Twitter followers at the end of the day, it won’t matter as I am never truly 100% alone. I have Jesus and He is all that matters.

I crave comfort. I’ve chased after so many things in this life, seeking the temporary satisfaction that they would give…that whole tray of Oreos…that pack of soft-shell flour tortillas…those Doritos…that bottle of sparkling cider…that next potential relationship…that movie or book I could get lost in for a couple of hours. I could go on. Ever since that little girl sought comfort that only a father-figure can give and was turned away, due to his own incompleteness, I have sought that comfort in food, entertainment and other things, all in the form of gluttony. I realize that now. That truth dawned on me last week as I was going through the car wash and it’s finally reaching the depths of my heart. Thank you, God!

I crave soul-deep satisfaction. Relationships, food and worldly pleasures can’t give that. I’m done living through if-only’s. I don’t need a man or that donut to be complete or satisfied. When I remain in Christ, I am enough. I am content with where He has me, but not so “content” that I let life just happen to me…that’s playing the victim. I’m done with that.

This study is nearing its end and I’m sure this won’t be the last of God’s work on me in this area. After all, we’re moving forward with the Action Plan portion of this book, taking a look at how to live this out and learning to put that into practice (I’m so excited!). Lysa begins closing this portion of our study with a challenge to live with intentionality.

Intentionality: Actions performed with awareness; done deliberately, consciously, on purpose Intentional11-819x1024(pp_w295_h368)

Intentional living requires sacrifice. It requires making choices that will benefit in the long run. It requires making choices that will not be comfortable. It requires choices that will “unsettle me,” getting my out of my blasted comfort zone and continually stretching and strengthening my spiritual muscles with God’s truth. Intentional living is a process and it’s not going to be an easy one. Anything worth having rarely is. This process and these choices will take a lot of discipline, focus, determination and hard work. It will also take courage.

What does that look like for me? And is it possible?

For me, it means

  • Choosing to sacrifice “sleeping in” to get my workout in before work in the morning. I discovered that I prefer to be up early. It’s quiet. No one else is at the gym. It’s just me and God, having a heart to heart in the secret places of my heart and mind, a place my imagination created as a child (it’s fun being able to return to that beautiful place on a daily basis). I listen to podcasts (usually past sermons or Christian talk shows) or Christian music (Jamie Grace, Kerri Roberts and Mandisa – music that really gets a girl moving). Sometimes, I’ll do my workout in silence and let God touch my heart any way He wants to as I listen to the hum of the treadmill and feel my heart beat to the rhythm of my shoes hitting the pavement/belt. If I crave sleep as much as I do, I can go to bed earlier. It requires choices, compromises and sacrifice.
  • Choosing a healthier diet. My current diet consists of lean protein, vegetables and fruits and eating three meals with a snack in between if I am hungry each day. Minimal on the grains as I’m staying away from those floured tortillas I mentioned earlier and most breads. I’ve also given up sugar where I’m aware of its presence (candy, cookies, pies, cakes, etc…frosting is a huge weakness!). The only exception to that rule: the two small pieces of dark chocolate I allow myself when I’m craving it.
  • Choosing to actually read the nutrition labels on products I pick up. If it doesn’t fit my diet, I put it back.
  • Choosing a workout regimen that works for me. I’ve always tried to cram it all in on one day…cardio three days a week, full body the other two. No results. I’m going to be taking a different approach with the help of a trainer (free perks courtesy of my gym) and will now be focusing on upper body, lower body and core on different days mixed in with adequate cardio every day. Here goes!
  • Choosing to have an accountability partner/partners who will get in my face. I know there will be moments of being uncomfortable because I’m being convicted by the truth she has/they have set before me. This also comes down to choosing to not allow that type of honesty to ruin those relationships, but rather deepen them. Guys and girls, you know who you are and I am so thankful for each of you (Philippians 1.3-6).
  • Choosing to have a plan. I like Lysa’s idea of planning out meals after breakfast, once you have a full stomach, being intentional about what you’re going to have the rest of the day. I also want to pre-plan before I go to the grocery store. That way, I’ll have on hand what I need for each day.
  • Choosing to get outside and move rather than go straight home to sit on the couch for another four hours, filling up that time with mindless TV watching or surfing the internet, after I get off work. I picked up a couple of books from my local library that cover different hiking trails or city walks in my area. The plan is to do each of them. Date-night walks with Jesus anyone? The more I think about that concept, the more excited I am about doing these. If only the deep freeze would end…soon.
  • Choosing to take any dating profile(s) I currently have up down and live my life pursing only one Man, Jesus. Would I like to date again? Sure. But I won’t do it at the cost of my relationship with God. After all, He is the only one worth pursuing. I could go on with this one, but that’s a topic for another day. Ladies, any man you have to chase isn’t worth your time. Pursue God and if you’re meant to be with someone, He will bring the two of you together in His time. You are not less of a person or less capable of doing good work for His Kingdom if you’re single. That is a truth I’m learning to embrace, no matter what our culture says about the matter.
  • Choosing to pray when I’m tempted; to allow the Word of God, scripture He has etched upon my heart, to roll through my mind and spirit when I’m facing a particularly tough situation (like the donuts a co-worker brought in to work on Monday or feeling tempted to browse Match.com just one last time).
  • Choosing to be intentional with my thoughts. Not allowing them to wallow in my own incompleteness, but choosing to focus on the things of God; choosing to “park my mind” on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4.8).
  • Choosing to look beyond hurtful words rather than respond out of my own incompleteness.
  • Choosing to really ask “how goes it with your soul?,” being prepared to patiently listen to that response, no matter what it is, without inserting my own agenda, and seeking out ways to serve that person.
  • In all, choosing to live my life in such a way that honors and pleases God and ultimately brings Him the glory He deserves.

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the patter of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12.1
    -2

Is this possible? Yes. Not on my own strength or willpower, but on God’s. I know I won’t get there overnight. This process is one God wants me to venture on through with Him at my side. Intentionally pursuing holiness means God is the only One we should long for, want greatly, and desire eagerly.  He is the only one I should crave. I want that. Boy-o-boy, do I want that.

I am still confident I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord…be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord. Psalm 27.13-14

I’m intentionally choosing to wait on Him and there I will find victory.

How about you? What is it that you crave most? What does it mean to you to live with intention? What sacrifice would it require? Is it possible for you to live that out?

 

© Anita J. Brands. 2014. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

faith to believe

“People should not judge failed love affairs as failed experiences but as part of the growth process. Something does not have to end well for it to have been one of the most valuable experiences of a lifetime.” – Ethel Person

2013 has been a year full of ups and downs; a year filled with moments of happiness and moments of sadness and several moments where I floundered as I treaded unknown waters in my search for joy again.

…the pain of a butterfly earning its wings.

This last summer, I experienced one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: I said goodbye to a relationship that had meant a lot to me; a relationship I probably shouldn’t have pursued in the first place.

It was Independence Day weekend and even though I had made plans to watch the fireworks with that particular someone, one thing had led to another and I found myself standing in the doorway of those circumstances, looking in and wondering what had happened. Did I do something wrong? The other shoe was finally dropping, just as it always did (or so it always seems) and here I had thought, on some level at least, that this thing was a good thing.

Maybe it was at one point, in and of itself at least, but at that moment, it wasn’t.

I left, taking the back roads – a stretch of winding highway and beautiful scenery – back to the Twin Cities. I needed time to think and process; driving does that for me. That may be why I enjoy it so much.

I prayed and screamed at God, questioning Him and doubting His goodness in that moment. I called my mom and one of my best friends and although I knew the kind words and support they were offering were done out of love, I didn’t feel loved.

And when my vision started swimming due to the intensity of my tears and I couldn’t stand my thoughts any longer, I cranked the music streaming from my iPod and let the words of several songs – words penned by Christian artists – words given to them by God – wash over me.

Songs by The Afters  – Broken Hallelujah, Find Your Way, Believe, This Life;

Song by Sidewalk Prophets – It’s Good and Help Me Find It;

Songs by Hillsong – Glorious Ruins

Just to name a few…

But it was this song, Faith to Believe, by one of my favorite duos – probably more so due to their tight harmonies and the lyrics, o those lyrics, that really hit me.

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Cause today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot feel You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
That Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Cause today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Won’t You give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
O, give me the faith to believe it

To read about the story behind this song, click here.

In a moment where I was struggling, realizing I had been adrift for quite some time and trying to swim against the current to get back to where I was, I stopped.

I took a moment to breathe and prayed:

Give me the faith to believe You when I’m stuck here in my fear…
I was afraid in that moment, and in those that followed – afraid of the unknown, afraid that I had done something wrong, afraid that love would never find me (the romantic kind folks…if you’ve ever experienced a broken heart, you know what I’m talking about), afraid of what life would be like without what I had just lost, and more. How could I believe God in that moment? I was struggling to trust in His goodness; struggling to believe that He had my back when it seemed no one else did.

Give me the strength to trust You when my vision’s blurred by tears
My vision was definitely blurred by tears – both physically and figuratively. It was quite some time before I surfaced again, feeling restored and one step closer to my future, glorious self – who I was made to be.

Give me a hope for tomorrow cause today has gone so wrong
Those words couldn’t have rung any truer than they did that day…a day that had started out great but had taken an unexpected turn. It’s funny how it is when we plan things one way and God takes it another way, isn’t it? And while I don’t understand it all just yet, I know that He has something better, richer and far more amazing destined for me than I could ever plan for myself.

I’m on my knees give me the faith to believe…

He’s answered that prayer more than once since then.

You see, even though my circumstances had changed, my relationship with Him didn’t. I could trust and fall into His goodness. I could allow myself to feel His love and achingly, tender mercy wash over me.

Everything in life is a learning experience, mistakes and successes – all of it.

Mandy Hale, an advocate for us fabulous, single women, writes “Sometimes a ‘mistake’ can end up being the best decision you ever make.”

Am I sorry about my decision to give it a chance? No. I’m not. I don’t regret a single moment.

Sure, it sucked going through it, but that pales in comparison to what I’ve learned and am still learning. It may be one of those epic “mistakes” that may turn into one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has played a part in helping me become the person I’m supposed to be.

For instance, before, I was the girl who lived life waiting for it to happen. I’ve tried taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, and tried doing things my way by posting online profiles on multiple dating sites and screaming BINGO! when something finally happened.

And although that one thing had been short-lived, I’ve learned that I don’t need to live life according to what the world says during this season of singleness; as if it were a prequel to an amazing life. My life is amazing as is.

“Happily Single” is recognizing that you don’t need or want to be rescued from your life by a handsome prince because your life is pretty awesome, as is. – Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love and a Dash of Sass

I’m learning to live life at its fullest now. I’m embracing the freedom I have to do what I want, when I want and how I want without having to apologize for any mistakes I make along the way (unless they directly affect another). I can choose to learn from them.

I’m learning to actually like myself (I am my own worst critic, after all). I actually like being able to spend money on myself without have to ask anyone’s permission (within reason, of course). I like being able to take myself out on a weekly date – whether that be out to Barnes & Noble, to the coffee shop down the street, out to some fancy restaurant or even to a movie and spend time in my own company. I like staying in my pajamas for an entire Saturday, watching an entire TV season on Netflix while eating an entire box of Oreos (or my current stash of holiday treats) and not feel guilty about it. I enjoy taking weekend trips on a whim, not having to shave my legs in the months that have an “R” in their name, and blasting music while singing into the end of my broom handle while I’m cleaning my apartment. I like the freedom that comes with belonging to me and only me, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others till death do us part (that last bit was borrowed from Mandy Hale. I couldn’t have said it any better).

Sure, I’d love to share my journey in this life with someone at some point, but I’m okay with not doing that today. I don’t have to spend my life “waiting” – staying in because I have no one to go out with or waiting to take that trip to Europe (or across the border to Canada) because I don’t have anyone to share it with. Just because I’m single doesn’t mean I have to be incomplete.

My Father makes me complete.

Jesus makes me complete.

And that, my friends, is enough reason for me to turn any frown upside down and celebrate my fabulous life for what it is: fabulous.

Society, family or that married friend may define me one way but I don’t have to live by their definition. That is not my identity.

Jesus is my identity; the only one I need. It doesn’t even matter what I personally think of myself and as long as I choose to stand on His foundation, I will not easily be shaken.

You may be asking why I’m sharing all of this with you.

Why?

Because I can…

It is a part of my story and perhaps God will use it to encourage you in your own walk with Christ.

…and because I care.

I care about every other heart that’s been broken and battered by this world.

I care about every other single woman who has faced, is facing and will face the same things I’ve endured.

I care about you.

And, like Mandy Hale, I want to be a voice that goes against the grain of the other voices in this world and take a stand for the beauty that being single is.

I’m choosing to celebrate it.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus, John 10.10

And while I do so, I’m choosing to let God write my story whether or not my earthly Prince RSVPs. I’m choosing to not settle for less than His best. He’s shown me through this what I deserve and what He wants to bring me. I’m simply not letting go of Him and releasing to Him that which holds me back. I’ll say my goodbyes and move on, by His grace alone.

I’m choosing to deal.

And through it all, I know I’ll have the faith to believe – in God’s goodness, in His perfect timing, in His ultimate plan for my life and how it falls perfectly in line with His – no matter what my current circumstance, as long as I continue to intentionally choose Jesus and in doing so, chose Life.

“Your circumstances cannot control you as long as you choose [to pursue joy] on the inside, regardless of what’s happening on the outside.” – Mandy Hale, The Single Woman

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

For more information on Mandy Hale and her ministry: click here and here.

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(more than a) Book Review: “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller

I suppose I should start by stating that I’m not married nor have I ever been married, so I’m probably  the least apt to talk on the subject. I may not be an expert, but I do pay attention to my world, details and all, and well, based on all of that, I can definitely form my own opinion and apply truth to my own life when it comes to this topic…albeit a touchy one at times.

Why this book? Why read it if it doesn’t pertain to me? Truth is, it does. Tim Keller even says so in his introduction: “[The primary goal of this book] is to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible…and to help [singles] to stop destructively over-desiring marriage or dismissing it all together…a Bible-based marriage book will help each reader have a better idea of who he or she should consider as a prospective mate.”

I may not be married…

…and there’s a chance that I won’t be in this lifetime.

And that’s okay.

I am party of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

Put like that, I am a bride.

And this book?

It has forever changed the view I’ve had on marriage my entire life, as well as hitting home views I already knew, but didn’t fully understand – and all of this is more so due to the culture I’ve grown up in, the books I once chose to read, and (thank you to) Hollywood, through the shows and movies I chose to watch. Even Disney…no one talks about what happens after or how the damsel lived before meeting her prince. Marriage isn’t at all what I once believed.

Eight chapters of “heavy” information…

Chapter 1 opens the discussion of Paul’s insight on marriage and how it differs immensely from the marriage views of today’s culture.  Tim Keller constantly makes a points out the profound mystery marriage is and how it changes us and how marriage was intended to reflect the gospel and the relationship with the triune God. Tim also makes a statement on how “compatibility” doesn’t exist and after reading it, I would tend to agree.

Chapter 2 opens the door to how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of all, not just those who are married and discusses how each individual is responsible for their own actions; their own self-centeredness and how I need to take personal responsibility for myself.  I can’t change the other person. The only person I can control is me.

Chapter 3 talks about love and how it is not strictly limited to romantic love (which is more of a feeling that will fade over time). Love is also an action and a choice.

Chapter 4 proves the following statement: Marriage is for helping two individuals become who God created them to be, which sets the reader up for Chapter 5, where Tim elaborates on three basic skill sets that with enable you to help your spouse become the person God created them to be:  truth, love and grace.

Chapter 6 teaches the reader what it means to embrace the other gender as God created them to be. Rather than disregarding a person because their differences don’t match your list of necessary qualities or because they are just too different doesn’t mean they should be shoved aside and not even considered. Notice the differences, acknowledge them, embrace them and thank God for diversity….it’s what makes them who they are and God intended those differences to compliment (not complete) those he made in his Image.

Chapter 7 deals with living as a single in this beautiful, broken world. Tim and his wife, Kathy, discuss the history of dating and how different cultures view marriage, delving into how some Christian circles paint the picture that a person is somehow not complete if they don’t have a spouse or a family. Singles are not incomplete, nor are they missing anything. We can learn from our brothers and sisters through the Church. And because this chapter really hit it home for me, I’d like to share the following lies our culture tells us as well as a few quotes from the chapter:

  • Lie :: Truth
  • “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone special into your life” :: God’s blessings are never earned by the level of our commitment.
  • “You’re too picky” :: God is not frustrated by your fickle whims and does not need broader parameters win which to work.
  • “As a single, you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work” :: while that statement may be partly true, God doesn’t not require emotional martyrs to do his work…marriage plays a huge role in his work too.
  • “Before you can marry someone wonderful, the Lord has to make you someone wonderful” ::  God doesn’t grant marriage as a second blessing to the satisfactory sanctified.

He doesn’t work that way. The gospel doesn’t work that way. I, along with many of you, have heard those statements directed at me many times and well…I’m not single because I’m too picky. I’m not single because of my imperfection. I’m single because he is good:

“I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because he is so abundantly good to me; because this is his best for me.” – Paige Benton Brown

How true is that!

And finally, Chapter 8 deals with the topic of sex and why it is best saved for marriage…not basing it on a “rule” the Christian religion follows, but basing it on God’s ultimate desire for his children.

Overall, a great book and while the writing is easy to read, the context is heavy…

…a book I wouldn’t recommend breezing through. Take your time. Read one chapter a week…or per month. However long it takes for this applied to truth to sink in. Pair it with Epheisans 5. Camp in it. The Meaning of Marriage is a definite must read and should be added to your own personal collection, whether you’re married or not. Get your own copy as I won’t be lending mine out any time soon…it’s that good.