Ask MRP!

ask-mrp

Dear MRP,

I’m having a hard time understanding why people call singleness a gift. I have to say that I am not all that thrilled about having this gift. I’m in my late thirties and have been single for most of my adult life. I deeply desire marriage and children but am perplexed as to why God would give me a “gift” I don’t want. I try to trust Him but at the same time, I wonder if I should just accept what He’s given and not expect anything more.

————–

Receiving a gift is supposed to be a guaranteed moment that is packed with joy.  You expect to be happy, to have your heart gladdened by the sight of an unexpected act of love. So it is a weirdly somber experience to receive a gift that you don’t want. And this gift is from the Lord, which can make you feel disappointed and conflicted.  But I think the key to understanding God’s gift of singleness lies in the perception of the word “gift”.

The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:7 (The Message), “Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.”

Paul wasn’t referring to “gift” in the sense of an object of delight given to someone. But rather, he meant as a skill, a capacity to excel or endure in a process. For the duration of our single season, God grants us what we need to flourish in that environment and handle all that may come with it. Author Tim Keller wrote in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, “In his writings, Paul always uses the word, ‘gift’ to mean an ability God gives to build others up. Paul is not speaking, then of some kind of elusive, stress-free state…Paul may very well, then, have experienced what we today would call an ‘emotional struggle’ with singleness…Consider, then, that the ‘single-calling’ Paul speaks of is neither a condition without any struggle nor on the other hand an experience of misery.  It is fruitfulness in life and ministry through the single state. When you have this gift, there may indeed be struggles, but the main thing is that God is helping you to grow spiritually and be fruitful in the lives of others despite them. That means a single gift is not just for a select few, and it is not necessarily lifelong, though it may be. It may be a grace given for a finite period of time.”

​And since this singleness may last for only a season, ​I ​don’t think th​at means you should ​stop ​cease seeking God for marriage. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Matthew 7:9-10 (NLT)​ ​He is a good Father who knows the desire of your heart and desires to give you good gifts, including the gift of marriage.

And while ‘gift’ is defined as an ability in the Scripture,  marriage and singleness each come with their own brand of joys. Both states give license, creativity, and course to enjoy varying facets of the life God designed.

I hope this blesses you. Praying for you as you learn to embrace​ and value​ your gift in this season.

– Jen @ MRP!

Advertisements

Attitude of Gratitude

persistence

In my present circumstances, I am recognizing that challenges accompany blessings. Life now looks very unstable compared to my life last year. Yet simply because something is challenging doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In all of it, I am seeking an attitude of gratitude. I want to continue to see the goodness of each situation, even when the road is difficult. When I praise God for the blessings instead of focusing on the challenges, I am much more filled with joy. Focusing on the challenges brings frustration and negativity.

A mere text message a few weeks ago was impetus for me to reflect on my attitude. “What have you been up to?” An acquaintance texted me. My reply: “The usual: work and school.” “Sounds boring.” was his reply. Wait…Boring? “Boring” isn’t a word in my vocabulary! More than anything, I realized that I am grateful for everything in my life, and for life itself. I don’t count anything drudgery. In my eyes, it is all opportunity. True, school can be very draining and time consuming. Yet, not too long ago, I was pining to leave a job where I was more tired than fulfilled. I was more than ready for student life! Here I am, now in school and being stretched daily for a career that (God willing) will one day be fulfilling for me and bring healing to others. Not every person in the world has the ability to further their education or even to pursue a job that they are interested in. Even if my job isn’t what I would prefer to be doing–I have a stable source of income. There are so many who cannot say the same and would happily jump at a job offer! While to outsiders my life may appear burdensome or “boring,” I am very grateful for each situation. When I am grateful, my mood is much more upbeat. I have found that I am even more productive in my school work when I focus on the opportunity that is being in school!

An attitude of gratitude leads to contentment. Gratitude leads to greater awareness of the blessing that each situation in our life is. The challenges help us to grow. No opportunity comes without responsibility. Praise God for every blessing—even when it is challenging. I promise that it will lift your mood and help you to remember your opportunities! As I move forward into finals, I’m thanking God for the opportunity to expand my knowledge and further my career.

How can you praise God in the midst of your current blessings accompanied by challenges?

___________________________________________________________________________

lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Seasons

autumn

The foliage of an oak tree is an ordinary sight in springtime. But a searing summer afternoon is what turn its shade into rare relief. In the winter months, cold air is shunned and cursed as people bundle up. But in the summer, that same arctic chill is hunted and chased by the same people who wished for its end.  Seasons are like that. They enable you to appreciate what was formerly overlooked and make you grateful for what you wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m in what I would call a tetherball season.  Imagine a ball made of anxiety and doubt, with some teaspoons of fear thrown in for good measure.  Anxiety about our leaders and the world. Doubt about my professional life. Fear about the future. The ball is floating and bouncing on a rocky midnight blue sea. But the size of the ball is dwarfed by the magnitude of the chain attached to it. The thick metal links are fused to a pole in the center of the body of water. So, though the sea tosses and turns the ball over and over, it can never drift away from the anchor.

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 6:18-20

I already knew that God is mighty and securely holds us in His hands. But lately, His daily assurance has been powering my days.  And the security of His word keeps my heart at peace. Only by being in this particular season can I say that I am truly grateful for His strength.

Maybe in a season of loneliness, you cherish His love. Or in a period of doubt, His faithfulness soothes you. Sometimes, going through something will allow you to completely treasure, enjoy, and be thankful for all of who God is.

In your season of life, what about God are you grateful for?

_____________________________________________________

Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

November Challenge: Gratitude

thanksgiving

They say one of the simplest things that you can do to ward off depression is to take a daily account of all the things in your life that you have to be grateful for.  To me, that is yet another example that following the Bible (which urges us to give thanks to God every day) is not just good for our soul, but our physical selves as well!

A couple weeks ago, I told you how I was feeling drained emotionally and physically.  I didn’t really want to do anything than sit on the couch and binge watch Project Runway.  While I still love watching PR, I truly believe that last month’s challenge of being more in the Word helped get me halfway out of my funk.  This month, I am going to purposefully pursue an attitude of daily gratitude and I know it is going to pay dividends.

There are any number of ways that you can incorporate gratitude in your lives.  A common recommendation is to use a gratitude journal where you write down five things every day that you are grateful for.  It’s not only good for you that day, but in low moments you can read back over all the days and remember all the great things you have going for you.

For me, I like using social media to post a daily gratitude post on Facebook.  My hope is that it not only acts like a mini gratitude journal for myself, but it also spreads positive thinking to everyone who reads it. It is a witness to others and hopefully gets them thinking too about the good in their lives.

It is so easy with all that is going on in this world to be negative; in fact, sometimes I feel bad just trying to BE positive when everyone on my feed is posting about social injustice and tragedy.  Look, we need to acknowledge all the ills of this world – it’s a fallen world, people!  It is good for us to remember that this is not our permanent home and that Satan runs free here.  But darkness NEEDS light to counteract it.

So I truly and strongly encourage you to start today – whether you’re reading this the same day I am posting it or months from now – to count your blessings each day.  Make it a habit.  Share it with someone – even better, tell someone that you are thankful for THEM.  It will lift not only your own, but others’ spirits too!

Happy Gratitude Month!

October Challenge Finish!

pumpkin

Today we both finish out the October challenge and it is the day that those of us in the US celebrate Halloween!

To me, it is very fitting that we end a month of trying to be more in the word with the night of costumes and masks.  So much of what we learn in the Word is about unmasking our true selves.  We can look on the outside like the worst ghoul or goblin, but on the inside, we are very much human, very much a soul just in need of saving as anyone else.  Or the opposite – we look like a superhero with the power to save the world, but underneath that get-up, we’re just a little boy or girl searching for our Daddy.

I must confess – I have never been one for Halloween.  I don’t particularly like dressing up and I get scared pretty easily.  No haunted houses for me, nosireebob!  But it is a good reminder that even when all around us looks terrifying, it all changes when the lights come on and the illusion is revealed for what it is – just paper and paint and trick mirrors.

Does your world look scary right now?  Does it feel like a funhouse where you don’t know where you’re going or what’s around the next bend?  The metaphorical lights can be turned on.  It just takes opening the Word of God.  Through Scripture, the illusion of the world around us is revealed for what it is – fake.

The MRP writers this month have done a great job giving you tips to better explore the Word, but I will give you one more – do it with a group of committed Christians who can help dive into it with you.  Reading on your own is always good, but make sure that you also read it with someone else there (even if it’s just in the footnotes!) who is giving you direction and explaining it.  We have enough confusion in our daily lives – don’t let Scripture be one more, when God intends for it to be mind-opening and world-revealing.

This month, I can say with no false pride that I was truly in the Word more than my usual.  I participated in a biweekly study with friends and a weekly study at my church.  I also started a short program at a women’s prison to encourage the women there to do a deep-dive into the Word through creative writing.  We just started, but I am really looking forward to it and the women are terrific.

Tonight I will pass out candy with my husband (assuming the weather isn’t terrible) and I will enjoy seeing all the kids in their costumes, having the joy of playacting at characters and people that they aren’t.  But after the excitement is over, each one of them will go home, take off the costume, and get into bed, restored to their true selves.  I hope that you too can take off your own figurative costume and find yourself sweetly cradled in your own truth, facilitated by the reassuring Word of God.

Happy Halloween!

 

From the Dating Files

files

Let’s call him Mr. Bitter, because that’s how I referred to him after the date.

Mr. Bitter was one of my many online dates – although I can’t remember now which.  From his profile, he was exactly what I was looking for.  He was a devoted Christian, dedicating his life to serving the poor.  He had started a very successful nonprofit that worked to end sex trafficking in an Eastern European nation.  He had starred in a Christian TV series that had documented his missionary work in his younger years.  He was cute, he was smart, he was funny – I was sure that this was going to be a match made in heaven.

What’s more, I had planned the perfect date.  He was only in my state because he had briefly decided to leave his jet-setting life to come back to Ohio to live with his parents for a period of time.  So since he wasn’t from here, I would do my best to show him my neighborhood.  I lived in a cute suburb with a darling downtown filled with shops, restaurants – the perfect place to walk around on a Friday night.

The perfect date that I set up started with a stroll through the local art center, followed by a visit to the local make-your-own-candles shop, followed by dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, and capped off with a visit to the ice cream shop.  Absolutely delightful, no?  There were so many fun and interesting things to do, I was sure that I had set up the perfect balance between giving space for conversation with enough distraction if it dropped off.  This was going to be an amazing evening!

Only my perfect date didn’t take into account my less than perfect date.  From the time Mr. Bitter arrived to the time the date ended, the conversation mostly revolved around him and how unhappy he was – the issues with his parents, how disconnected he felt, how backwards were the people he was working with abroad – basically everything in his life that had seemed so good in his profile, he was discontented by.  I tried to veer the conversation in a different direction – look, a candle! – but it always came back to that main theme, and with a surprising amount of detail for someone he had just met.

By the time we hit dinner, it was less a date and more a therapy session.  He wanted to hang out longer, but I (thankfully) had to hit the road to drive to see my own parents late that night, so I bid him goodbye.

And yet, even though the date hadn’t gone the way I had planned, I still weaved romantic dreams about him on my way home.  After all, hadn’t he wanted to hang out more?  After all, didn’t I demonstrate what a caring and empathetic listener I was?  Okay, sure, he was a downer, but I could make him happy.

Only I didn’t get the chance.  Because he never contacted me again.  Despite the perfectly-planned date, despite the listening and sympathetic ear, despite his seeming interest in spending more time together – just silence.  When a couple days had passed and I slowly realized that I would never hear from him again, the pang of rejection was replaced by the feeling that I had dodged a bullet.

I had planned the perfect date to a T, but I couldn’t plan the perfect person to go on it with me.  On to the next…