End of July Challenge: Making Space

freedom

I quit my job this summer.

It feels crazy to even write that sentence. For years, I felt consumed by my job. I was working in a very high-stress social services position. The sacrifices I made for my job were many: social, time, financial, and (unfortunately) even spiritual. Don’t get me wrong – it was a calling for a certain time. But then the Lord gave me the peace and the wisdom that it was time to let go and hand over the reins to someone else.

By letting go of one thing, I have opened myself to other opportunities.  I’m ready to make space for other aspects of myself that a high-stress, full-time job simply did not leave the time or energy for.

Space is scary. Space means emptiness. Yet that same scary emptiness is bringing me hope. That space can be filled up by my Savior. That space will give me the time to hear the still, small voice. The God I serve can show me new ways to serve with that space. Finally, I can even focus more on my writing! That space and the changes in my life could even allow a special relationship to blossom. Only God knows the great things that could happen, if we would only allow some space in our lives!

Creating space can be difficult. Most of us have a tendency to fill up our time. Like me, we can get so focused on one thing – even one that we see as a calling – that we forget to still give ourselves space to grow in multiple dimensions.

Empty space has a way of forcing us to face ourselves. Empty space brings unknowns. I believe that empty space is necessary as we move onto new steps in our lives and discern what God is asking of us. Space is necessary for growth.

I’m taking the risk and creating space in my life. Yes, it’s scary, but I’m also feeling freedom and new waves of hope in my life. I’m eager to see what God will show me as I create empty space in my life.

Are you ready to see what the Holy Spirit could do in your life, when you allow some empty space?

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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 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.

Un

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I contracted the un disease when I was about 8 years old.

Accompanied by her mother, my best friend Keisha and I went to see a movie on a cold January afternoon. The movie was, in my very urbane and elementary school aged opinion, totally stupid and I remember not really wanting to see it. But it was Keisha’s birthday. So what the birthday girl wants, the best friend does to make her happy.

Afterwards, while leaving the movie, someone approached Keisha’s mother, gushing over how gorgeous Keisha was.

I could have easily been her daughter, too. But the praise didn’t go to me. It went to her.

The encounter was brief but I remember watching them interact while I thought to myself, “Why didn’t he say I was pretty, too?” The slight made me crawl within myself and feel less.

That was the day that I met un and carried it home in my lap. Un buried itself in my skin and spread like a virus.

Unpretty.

Unimportant.

Unworthy.

Every trait I had, every compliment I heard was immediately contaminated. But one (of many things) that I love about Jesus is He is unafraid of the diseased. He heals us with the truth.

What others see as nonexistent, He knows and celebrates it as wonderful. What man thinks is meaningless, He knows and declares it as powerful. And who the world sees as worthless, He knows and deems priceless.

You are unbeautiful. You are unimportant. You are unworthy. God handpicks those of us infected with un and takes it away.

“My dear friends, remember what you were when God chose you. The people of this world didn’t think that many of you were wise. Only a few of you were in places of power, and not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important.”

-1 Corinthians 1:27-28 (CEV)

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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!

Ask MRP!

ask-mrp

Hi MRP! 

I need your advice!

At work there is a guy who I think might like me. He sometimes smiles at me and has said hi to me in the office. However, because I am really shy I have not initiated anything, it terms of a conversation. He works in a department from me, but I have noticed him in the canteen. My main concerns are that I don’t know if he is Christian, and he looks really young, like he might be in his twenties. I am in my late 30’s.

Also I am scared of making a fool of myself; as in the past I thought guys have liked me and been completely wrong. So I am holding back in the present situation; my shyness maybe interpreted as me being unfriendly when that is not the case. 

Please help!

God bless, E

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Hi, E! Thanks for your question!

As a fellow shy butterfly, let me say that I completely understand your reticence. It was Hard with a bolded capital H to break free from my bashfulness. It still is at times. And that makes what I am about to suggest to you a little surprising:

Talk to him.

A dating book I once read had a challenge where I needed to talk to five men I didn’t know a week. Five! It was daunting and the most I made it to was one and a half :-). But the point was to begin to feel comfortable talking to someone, regardless of circumstances.

There’s a chance that he may just be a friendly coworker. And there’s an equal chance that he does have romantic interest in you. The only way to discover the truth is to have a conversation. I know you are fearful of misinterpretation and winding up with egg on your face. But it doesn’t have to be something overtly flirtatious or romantic, especially since you work together. It can be something very mundane and ordinary. Like if you’re in the canteen, “Hey, do you know if they have any [insert favorite beverage or snack] left?” Or something work-related, “What do you think about the new [insert office machine]?” Sometimes, enough small talk pieces can build a springboard to lengthier chats.

If he does turn out to be younger than you expected and if romantic interest is clear, I don’t think that should be an immediate deal-breaker. He may be mature beyond his twenty-something years. Or it could turn out that he is a very young-looking 37!

And now for his faith in Christ. It may seem upside down to place this at the end of my answer. But I think the bigger issue at play is interaction.

In Luke 5, when Jesus dined at the home of a tax collector and with other societal outcasts, the Pharisees were aghast. One commentary says they would have stayed outside of the house since eating with sinners was contaminating in their view. But God Himself remained in the thick of this relationship building meal. He ate, laughed, and spoke to those who were worlds away from the religious aristocracy.

The answer to whether or not he’s a Christian should absolutely determine any further romantic development. But it should not sever further conversation. If he is not a Christian, continue to talk to him and interact with him in a friendly manner. You may be the way he is introduced to Christ.

I pray that this helps you in your decision. May God guide you and give you strength, peace, and reassurance.

I am that prostitute

alley

I have nothing in common with a prostitute. 

If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve had this thought many times in your life.  Or maybe you’ve never even thought about it all.  Which is ok because It’s likely not a common comparison.  But I can tell you with absolute certainty that you, yes you, have many things in common with the ladies of the night.

And I just couldn’t believe that I was so wrong about this.  Because I tend to be right about many things in life.  Which is also a lie.

But let me tell you a story of how I came face to face with my inaccurate thought processes:  

There I was.  With all my holy haughtiness.  Sitting in the back of a van with a few other ladies and one gentleman.  Riding around an area in Atlanta known for its high rate of trafficking and prostitution.  I was excited, scared, anxious, and relaxed all at the same time.  

I was sure that I was going to venture out into the darkness to bring the light.  That I would touch the souls of men and women who felt trapped in lives where their bodies encompassed their worth.

And that’s exactly what was going through my mind as we approached the first lady to give her a rose and extend a hand out of that way of life.  But as soon as I stepped out of the van to dramatically save her soul, I was smacked by a sudden realization.  

Yes, Jesus slaps people.  Right in the face.  And it’s not a gentle nudge.  It involves all five fingers and has the weight of the Holy Spirit behind it.  And also behind that slap was an epiphany that this girl, these women, were all me.  

I am broken.  I am a mother trying to make ends meet to raise my daughter in the best way I know how.  I feel overwhelmed by circumstances.  I struggle with keeping my worth in line with my God-given value.  I believe the lie that one decision won’t change my destiny.  I have allowed tiny decisions to add up until the damage was evident to myself and others.  And that damage led me to surrender in the arms of my Creator.  

But one more decision could have brought me to those same corners where I came offering roses and hope.  One more decision could have landed me on dark stages stripping off pieces of myself to gain hurt in return.  One more decision could have seen me depending on the cheap approval of men to feel loved.

But that’s the funny thing about doing things for the Kingdom.  You walk in all high and mighty ready to change lives, only to realize that you were the one who needed changing.

And trust me, you’d much rather learn humility through service and putting on the suffering of others than have God knock you down to size.  I mean, have you read the Bible?  He’s been known to rain fire, instant death, and turn folks into a pillar of salt.  No thanks.  I don’t want to be the seasoning on anyone’s meal.

So next time you step out to share life, remember to see yourself in every single person that crosses your path and leave your piety at home. Vulnerability is more powerful than holiness.  And service is much more effective when others can see where you’ve been compared to where you are.  That is dealing hope that their lives can be better, can be different, rather than sending them the message that they could never be you.

PS – If after reading this, you are still of the mind that you couldn’t possibly be that person you’re serving, just remember three things.  One, Jesus slaps people.  Two, God can rain fire. FIRE.  And three, you are not that important (Galatians 6:3).

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roz Roz

Hey there!  My name is Roz.  I’m a full time working, single, homeschooling mother to the world’s funniest 5 year old on the planet.  I’m an introvert who is obsessed with bacon.  I like to play music extremely loudly in my car and will keep singing at full voice even when you turn to stare.  I also blog occasionally over at beautyfullyflawed.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

Check-Up

stethoscope

I felt invincible once upon a time. Once upon a time, I could eat frosting slathered cinnamon rolls without an increasing waistline. My teeth didn’t shiver when I chewed gum. I could spend an entire night watching movies without nodding off once.

But during a recent doctor’s visit, I discovered my tenure of invincibility was over.

Is this scale calibrated correctly? Those numbers can’t be right.

My iron is low? I guess that would explain why I fall asleep by 8 o’clock.

I’m WHAT-deficient? So I have eat more vegetables? Hmm, I guess french fries wouldn’t count.

Since that visit, reading ingredient labels and calorie counts are a habit. My medicine cabinet sounds like it’s full of maracas thanks to the influx of vitamin bottles. I’ve become much more aware of everything that goes in my body.

And all it took was a check-up.

Self-examination can feel sort of obsolete as we get older. Through college, jobs, relationships, and experiences, we’ve collected a bounty of knowledge and experience to fund our decisions. We no longer need parental permission for anything so there are no limits and refusals.  Our emotional, physical, and spiritual diets are in our own hands. And we can reach a point where we know what to do and how to do it well.

Or so we think.

Throughout His Word, God tells us to take assessment of ourselves, honestly, without filter. “Each one should test their own actions” (Galatians 6:4 NIV) and “don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (Romans 12:3 NLT)

How well is your soul? Is your heart full of joy or damaged from disappointment? Is your mind where it should be? What are you feeding your emotions? How spiritually healthy are you really?

Check-ups aren’t fun. They can bruise the ego and deliver unexpected news. But through them, we are able to correct problems in the making and change course.

Make an appointment for a self-examination with God this year.

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Jennifer Jennifer

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!

Saying No to Mr. 90% Right

guy

Check out my latest published article, which is featured on SingleMatters.com, a blog/webzine for single Christians!

One week after Valentine’s Day, I put the final nail into the coffin of a relationship I knew wasn’t going to work: I made our relationship Facebook official.

I met Chris on Match.com. After two years of online dating, I had been on what felt like a million first dates. Mr. Wrong, Mr. Uncommitted, Mr. Finding-Himself – I had met them all. I had passed the 30th birthday mark and was starting to fear that marriage might not happen for me.

Read more here!

Stress and the Single Life

stress2

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.