Fear, Joy, and Change

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This year, 2017, has set me on a journey of newness. Ever since I was a senior in high school, the thought of becoming a counselor entered my mind on and off. I made the excuse that becoming a counselor wasn’t my calling. Yet in reality, it was my fear that kept me from pursuing my calling.

Last year, God confirmed to me in different ways that it was time to start the journey to becoming a counselor. I couldn’t shake that this was where He was leading me—my weaknesses and all. With excitement and a tinge of nervousness, I made the plunge into graduate school this January. I survived my first semester of school while also working full-time.

He’s put a renewed spirit within me, and I’ve found tremendous joy in this new journey and reflecting on where it will lead. I look at the number of credits needed to complete this program (60!), which includes an internship and practicum. The number of credits and the amount of time it will take is daunting, but I also see grace. I see the reward beyond the trial.

This new journey creates a path for me to lean on my Savior even more strongly, an adventure in which I will discover even more the person He created me to be.

The end of the journey will bring fulfillment into my own life. Eventually, I hope that it will also allow flexibility to have a career and take care of a family. This new career will allow me to journey with others on the road to healing, one of my heart’s greatest desires. The tremendous need for counselors is evident to me, especially counselors rooted in Christ. New options are opening up with this career path, new ways to serve others.

This “new thing” in my life is definitely out of my comfort zone. In every way, I am stretched to greater trust in God and even faith in my God-given gifts and capabilities. Trying a new thing or changing course in life can come with great fear. Some stay put where they are simply because the thought of venturing into the unknown is too uncomfortable. Change is not comfortable. I’m learning the true meaning of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The path is long and overwhelming when I don’t focus on Him who called me.

In this new adventure, I’m trusting in the Lord’s goodness and His grace. I can’t wait to continue on this new journey and to discover where it will lead.

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a case manager for refugee mothers. My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

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No Shame

confident woman

Last week, someone I work with dismissively tossed in my face the blogpost I wrote on married sex life.  He said that it was being spread around the department.

For a moment, shock paralyzed me.  I was completely unprepared.  The attack had come out of nowhere.  Then I started talking—word vomit is more like it.  I said I was proud of writing it, that I wanted to break down boundaries.  Then I left.

Despite my words, embarrassment flooded through me.  The thought that he and other people had read the article and were even thinking about me and sex was horrible enough.  But that they were perhaps laughing at it and judging me?  People who I had to work with?

It brought back all of my insecurities and conflicted emotions about waiting for marriage for sex.  While the church preached abstinence, an adult virgin was a joke in the modern world.  As I got older, I would think of the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin with a wince.  That would be me.

And even though I knew that it was a lie, my decades-old insecurity whispered—you’re only a virgin because no one wants you.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  That’s what everyone is saying.  They’re laughing at you.

I made it through the end of the day and went home, able to hold back the tears until I got in my car.  I had published the blogpost because I had wanted to help other women, just as reading a similar article had helped set my expectations before I got married and calm my fears when things didn’t go as planned.  But maybe it had been a terrible mistake.

Finally, a coworker helped me reframe what happened.  “He had been trying to shame you,” she said.  Just putting a name to it helped.  She was right.  There’s no real answer as to why he would do that – I heard later that his girlfriend had applied for my job and maybe he was just pissed she hadn’t gotten it and wanted to bring me down some way.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why he did it.  Naming what he had been doing helped me put it in perspective: he was using my own story to try to get power over me.   And seeing it for what it was helped me take back the power.

Because I am not ashamed of who I am.  I am proud of who I am.  I am proud of my choices.  I have integrity.  I am who I say I am and my private life reflects who I say I am publicly.  I am also proud that I am brave enough to put my life out there in public, even the vulnerable parts.  In this Facebook-frenzied, filtered, and airbrushed world, there’s a real need for what is genuine, warts and all.

So be brave.  Yes, you might face opposition and derision, just like I did.  But I survived; you will too. Be confident in who you are.  Call it by its name when you face that opposition and feel the power of the truth.  Be not ashamed to share your story, your light, and your truth with the world.  We can’t wait to meet you.

Stress and the Single Life

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Overeating.  Sleepless nights.  Too many drinks.  Sound familiar?

I am a Type A overachiever.  I want to reach every life goal set before me, and then crush it.  But when it came to finding a husband, no amount of effort on my part seemed to make a difference.

I created and updated several online profiles.  I joined co-ed meetup groups.  I purposefully joined a church with a large number of singles.  And yet the years passed without any sign of Mr. Right in sight.

As I watched Facebook friends get married, have kids, and post the many “Look at how successful I am!” photos, it became clear: I was falling behind.  I was not meeting my goals.  I was out of the life success race.

I just wanted to cry out to God: what am I doing wrong?  What else do you want me to do?  Why aren’t you answering my prayer?

I didn’t hear an answer—or at least, I didn’t hear the answer that I expected, in the form of a husband riding a white horse, a rose clenched between his teeth (just kidding – that would be weird).  And so I felt forgotten, overlooked, and left behind.

The physical effects on me were classic stress symptoms.  But that’s no way to live life.  As I looked at how I was handling the stress and the negative impact on my health, I realized I had to find rest.  Balance.  Peace.

It’s easier said than done, but the common mantras of “let go and let God” and “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” were on point.  I had to not just give lip service to, but actually accept, that there was nothing that I could do to change my circumstances and to trust that God had it in hand.  When it was the right time, He would bring the right person.

It wasn’t something that I could say just one time and boom!  Cured.  I had to remind myself over and over again.  After every bad date.  After every lonely night.  Dear Lord, I trust that you have my future in your hands.  I know that this time of waiting has nothing to do with me or my imperfections, but everything to do with your perfect plan.  I will not waste my time by stressing.  I will trust in you.

This message of trusting instead of stressing is just training for all of the circumstances in your life that don’t happy as quickly or easily as you want.  Right now, I am having to teach myself the same lesson in regard to waiting on a job.  Dear Lord, I will choose to trust in you rather than stress.  And it’s not easy.  My life feels chaotic, the path before me unknown.  I just want to do something to make a job happen.  I feel like I’ve waited long enough!  But it’s the same story – God has my life in His hands and I have to trust Him with my financial and professional future just as much as I had to trust Him with my romantic future.

And one day I will likely be having to teach myself again while waiting on a baby.  Dear Lord, I will choose to trust in you rather than stress.  There will unfortunately always be opportunities for the devil to use stress to bring us down, make us despair, and negatively impact our health.  It’s not a question of if, but when.  But we have the power in our own hands to defeat the devil, and it’s returning again and again to our faith in the Lord.

The waiting is never easy.  But it’s the lesson in how we wait that God truly wants us to learn.

Proverbs 29

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“The fear of man lays a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord is safe.”~Proverbs 29:25

How much pain would we spare ourselves if we simply trusted our Heavenly Father instead of fearing what people thought?

Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to explain that you’re single and nearing 30, in your 30’s, or even older. There are people who find singleness strange or even unacceptable, especially beyond a certain age. That attitude can cause us to feel pressure to get into relationships. When all those surrounding us seem to be dating, engaged, or married, we can also feel the pressure to get into a relationship.

The key question we need to ask in all of our decisions is this: Am I trusting the Lord wholeheartedly, or worried about what others think?

As Proverbs 29:25 reminds us, what other people think can deceive us in our decisions and thought processes. Here are a few of the “snares” that fear of men lay for us around relationships.

-That it’s time to settle once you turn the age of __ because it is unlikely to find someone after that

-The belief that being single equals being inferior

-The belief that if we were to lower some of our standards, it would be easier to find that special someone

-The belief that God’s laws about intimacy and marriage are outdated

These are only some of the snares that we must dodge! Doubtless, you have encountered other snares as you’ve undertaken your journey. These snares only keep us from living the abundant lives that the Lord is waiting to give us. They keep us trapped in doubt and negativity. Instead of being safe in God’s will, we open ourselves up to all sorts of heartbreaks, including premature or wrong relationships.

Trust in the Lord and His will for our life brings peace. Trying to fit our lives into society’s framework when God has another plan only brings unnecessary heartache. Following God’s will brings blessings (not always immediate) and peace.

I grew up in a very conservative area where it is the norm to get married in one’s early 20’s. God’s will for my life definitely did not follow that pattern. Have I had opportunities to jump into relationships or even be engaged by now? Yes—but the Lord revealed other paths, and I had no peace until I made the decision to obey Him.

If we trust in the Lord around our future marriage and in every area of our lives, we will be protected from much pain. Though trusting God and awaiting a husband for long years may open us up to criticism from people, the Lord will surely bless and protect us as we seek His heart above all.

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 27 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a case manager for refugee mothers. My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Proverbs 14

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Proverbs 14,30 : “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” NIV

As I’m approaching 30 (which is really scary that in less than a year my life would have spanned three decades), I can measure my life, and my single years, in decades. I started to do some inventory of my life. This included of course one of the most frustrating part of this season – lack of a ring on my finger. I must confess, I’m pretty contrary in my approach to this fact.

First, I would really (and I mean really really) like to be married. I have a problem with the fact I’m single and never dated and I have tons of insecurities about it. First and foremost – if nobody ever was interested in me in a romantic way then there is high probability that no one ever will. And that is depressing. “Whyever would you make me this way with this desire if me being this way is against fulfilling this desire?” I asked the Lord this question many times.

On the other hand, I feel really close to the Maker and His Son. I go to them with everything and I love to lay my tears at their laps. The combination of the two mindsets makes me a little weird, doesn’t it? 🙂 The first is surely based on envy in some part – you can see how it disrupts my relationship with the Lord.

Pinballing between my grief in being single, being constantly rejected and going to God with my sorrows I understood one day, that it is true – I MAY NEVER GET MARRIED. And you know what? It influenced my life in a profound way. Maybe there was really nothing to wait for. Maybe this was it – my single life may be all there is in the future.

Then came the decision – to live life fully now, without waiting for some grand event to start living. This meant revising my dreams and starting to realize them right now.

So I started writing and some other things. The thing is – our desire for marriage makes us discontented and envious of others that had what we long for. Also hateful towards the life we life now. As soon as I started to fight with that, my life regained colors.

Life is precious at any time. We were given life to live it. Love God, love other people to give them as much God’s love as we can. And to be happy as much as we can.

Don’t let your singleness be just a time of waiting and envy, that, as the Proverbs author reminds us. Let God help you find peace in the middle of your hard single reality – HE CAN. Then hold onto this peace, which will give you a chance to live this life to the fullest.

Join the conversation!  Can you empathize with the above or what struck you from Proverbs 14?

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anna Anna

Hello everyone! I am an almost 30yo single woman living in Europe. Professionally a civil engineer, off hours I live to write and sleep 😉 . After struggling a lot with my singleness I try to live the fullest live that God gives me. Medieval reenactment is also a part of my life so I consider my life filled by the Lord to the brim.

Proverbs 5

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“For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.” Proverbs 5:3-4

I stared at the screen in shock and horror. The man with whom I had been flirting for months at work – who had been flirting with me – already had a girlfriend.  He had never mentioned her to me, had given no indications.  I had only found out through some good old-fashioned Internet stalking.  And here I was, an adulteress.

The flirtation had started out innocently enough.  Just some traded jokes, the kind of sarcastic witticisms that were just the type to hook my interest.  It hadn’t felt like anything wrong.

But the comments had turned into phone calls and inside jokes and at some point, a light switched on inside me.  My breathing became shaky when I talked to him, and my heart pounded to the point I could barely pick up the phone.  Our communication was all under the veil of work, but to me it had taken on a greater significance.

What’s more, he knew and encouraged it.  I tried several times to break it off, even telling him that I didn’t think it was right to flirt at work.  And yet every time that I seemed to successfully halt the communication, he would email me with one of our inside jokes and back I would fall.

Finally, I simply told him that if he was interested in me, he should ask me out.  And he didn’t.  Crushed, I turned to the only tool at my disposal, trying to figure out answers – Facebook.  And there the real truth was.  Another woman.  More, I was the “other woman” in this triangle!

I never confronted him.  I doubt he saw what he did was wrong.  To him, they were just words. But I learned an important lesson: to not fall into the trap of flirtation without substance and truth behind it.

Men and women of Christ will not lead you astray but will pursue a real relationship.  Do not be distracted by others’ honeyed words and smooth speech.

Join the conversation!  Have you had a similar experience or what struck you from Proverbs 5?

Following the Lord’s Direction

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Are you following the Lord’s direction or just turning down whatever path appears?

In the Book of Numbers, the Scripture describes how the Israelites followed the Lord when they were in the desert: when the cloud of the Lord settled over the tabernacle, the people remained in camp and when it lifted, they moved to follow it.

Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.  (Numbers 9:22-23 NIV)

I think about how hard that must have been, when they were just waiting for the cloud to lift.  I am sure they had times when they wanted nothing more than to move on, but the cloud had not moved – or when they were content in the place they were, but the Lord kept moving them.  They did not have a choice; they had to follow the Lord.

As with so many things in the Bible, what happens physically in the Old Testament becomes metaphorical in the New Testament.  Our choices may not be geographical, but we have plenty of other choices that confront us. Do I stay in this job or change jobs?  Do I date this person or that person?  Should I be focusing on getting married, or spending more time in volunteering?  I’ve often wished that I had such a clear sign from the Lord.

The reality, though, is that we do have clear signs from the Lord, if we wish to heed them.  We have the Scripture, the Church, and the Holy Spirit to direct us.  When those three things combine, we can know that we are moving in the right direction.

Next month, we are starting our study of Proverbs.  This is a book of wisdom, teachings from King Solomon to his people to instruct them in the right way to go.  As Scripture, it is God-breathed and meaningful for us today.  Being familiar with God’s word gives us a firm foundation so that we can confidently move in the way that he has already determined for us to go.

Are you facing a decision or a choice in your life?  Then I encourage you to come join us next month for our daily reading of Proverbs!  Trust me: I can guarantee that you will be the better for being more familiar with these teachings!