A Wise, Guarded Heart

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“Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.”—Proverbs 4:23 (RSV)

If only we could comprehend the magnitude of this verse! As women, especially women that have been single longer than expected, it can be easy to magnify a man’s positive character traits at the very beginning. Finding a handsome man with good character can make it easy to let down our guard. Some of us have the tendency to fling open the gates of our hearts upon meeting a man who seems to embody what we are looking for. Yet we must be cautious-our hearts hold the wellsprings of life!

More than once, I’ve been guilty of not guarding my heart. There have been a few men who were amazing on the surface. They were attractive and knew exactly the right things to say. They shared the same faith and appeared to be seeking the Lord in their actions and the words they said. I opened my heart quickly to them. Yet, character is revealed over time and through different situations. Truths about their character were revealed—not the sort of truths I had expected or hoped for. Trusted friends (male and female) also brought details to my attention that came to light in their conversations with the men in question. I was left hurting and regretting my not-so-cautiously opened heart. I had charged quickly forward without exercising wisdom, blinded by the positive qualities I saw.

Part of the sweetness of building a relationship is the time it takes to blossom. A great friendship or marriage is built in the crockpot, not the microwave. The recipe is prayer, guidance from trusted mentors or friends, time together in a variety of life situations, and levels of trust and intimacy that grow according to the state of your relationship. The ingredients simmer together over time to create something wonderful.

Your shared history together helps to foster an intimacy that grows over time. You share your heart with wisdom over time as you continue to find green lights from God, your own sense of peace, and confirmations from people of wisdom.

My heart is precious to my Father. It holds the springs of life—springs that affect not only myself, but also many others surrounding me. I’ve experienced the pain that comes when I give my heart away in the eagerness that follows meeting a “great guy.”  By guarding my heart now, I’ll be better able to give away my love to the right person in time.

I’m calling on the Holy Spirit and my trusted friends as I discern wisely how to guard my heart and when to share myself more intimately. I’m feeling empowered with the healthy boundaries around my heart, and learning to thrive in healthy relationships that are built ingredient by ingredient, simmering together over time.

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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.

One Size

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I remember the day I decided to save myself for marriage. I was 11 and my health class had just started a segment about STDs.

I was absolutely terrified.

At that age, I hadn’t yet developed my own relationship with God to understand the biblical necessity of my commitment. But fear was a good starting point. No marriage = no sex. So simple even a 6th grader could do it.

But then it got confusing.

I was in college when I first heard about purity rings, bands of silver or gold wrapped around the ring finger as a physical reminder of a promise to abstinence.  Then, while hanging with some sorority sisters, I watched as they threaded colorful plastic pellets to create purity beads, cords long enough to tie around their waists. Only on their wedding night would the cord be cut by their husband.

During late night conversations in our dorm, as my friends planned to not kiss or hold hands with any guy until their wedding day, I listened with a growing sense of spiritual insecurity.

I know I’m not having sex until I get married but now I can’t even hold hands? I had no jewelry to signify my commitment to God. And I hadn’t even kissed a guy yet. But I wasn’t so sure I wanted to wait until my wedding day to do so. Does that mean I’m not a good Christian?

As I grew in Christ and with age, it became clear to me that, aside from abstaining from premarital sex, physical boundaries are not one size fits all. Some couples can peck affectionately without conviction. Others feel led to steer clear of all physical touch.  And both ​can ​work, as long as the couple is seeking to honor God.

When I met my husband, I was not quite 30, far removed from the health class horror but still firm in my commitment to the Lord. We talked openly about our convictions and established what would be our boundaries. As our relationship progressed and we became acutely aware of, ahem, this thing called desire, we talked, prayed, and redrew our lines together.

If you haven’t thought about your physical boundaries yet, do so. Write them down and pray about them.  As long as your boundaries ​fit and ​create a continuous path to God, you’re on the right​ ​track.

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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!

Discerning True Intimacy

beauty

Have you ever seen those incredibly talented make up artists who can transform themselves into a totally different person with some bomb contouring and eye shadow?  Well, I am not that person.  I can barely color inside the lines with my lipstick.  And I didn’t even know contouring was a thing until I was in my 30’s.

Now regardless of your skill level or how you feel about make up in general, the stuff is basically magic.  I mean, I once saw a woman turn herself into Nicki Minaj.  And in case you’re wondering, she looked nothing like Nicki Minaj in real non-make up life.

On the other hand, there are also millions of YouTube videos for make up dummies like myself.  Tutorials to help you enhance your beauty without going overboard. Or how to create a date night look that doesn’t resemble a Crayola massacre on your face.

And if you really think about it, intimacy can be the same way. It can transform said relationship into something much different than its initial intentions. Or it can enhance what God has already created, but at the right time and in the right context.

For those of you who aren’t following, here’s an example.  You’ve been seeing this guy and you’re getting the hunch that he’s really a creep. But since there are no other prospects or even men looking your way, you decide to take things to the next level out of boredom and desperation. Whether that means kissing, sex, or the whole ‘everything but sex, technically still celibate’ category, you know you’ve crossed a line.

And once that line is crossed, this man’s character and attractiveness levels up from Gollum of Lord of the Rings to Great Gatsby Leo Dicaprio.

Without intimacy you could’ve seen the red flags and all the signs that this man was a waste of your time from the get go. But, since he’s a great kisser and makes you feel desired, you find yourself justifying the way he treats you to your friends. Or making excuses for his behavior towards his family. And worst of all, accepting less than what you God desires for you all for the sake of not being alone.

But let me tell you something honey. It is better to be alone the rest of your life than spend your days trying to make it work with the world’s okayest mate.

And I know that dating as a woman seeking purity before marriage can be hard.  Intimacy with boundaries is where the Netflix and Chill and ‘Just come over’ texts go to die.  And I LOVE Netflix and free dates.

But intimacy that outpaces the level of commitment is not worth having to retrace the ‘how did I get here’ of a relationship covered in Revlon.  Especially one that never should have happened to begin with.

So, ladies, let’s leave the eyeliner and contouring to the experts. And trust that God can enhance the intimacy of your relationship at just the right time if we allow Him to.

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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.

Good Stewardship of Your Influence

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In a sermon series, Pastor Benny Ho, a well-known pastor in the Asia region and a senior pastor of Faith Community Church in Perth, Australia said that “there is a difference between prominence and significance”, which switched my thinking light bulb on in relation to this month’s series.

Very often, we talk about stewardship of our time, talents and finances. However, one area that I find rarely mentioned (except otherwise in the context of leadership). In the marketplace, being a leader and having the authority is equated to having some form of influence. I started to think, what about ordinary folks like us?

From my observation, this is rarely discussed because majority of us feel that the season that we are currently – our vocation, relationship or social status in life and even our finances are in no way able to make any significant impact. Just like adding a drop of water into the ocean, it literally doesn’t make any difference because we are neither wealthy, famous nor attractive enough to have the platform of influence.

However, I hope to challenge your perspective as well as my own to see through God’s perspective. Although one drop of water doesn’t make significant impact pertaining to the volume (in the ocean), but what it does is that it create ripples on the surface of the water. This analogy shows me that the job that I have now, the community that I am in contact with now and my relationship status today in this season of my life truly matter to God on how I steward my influence.

Lisa Bevere (a successful preacher and best-selling author) said “God invites us to work with what He’s already given us. To those who are faithful, He entrusts more. It’s how His kingdom operates.” That is a powerful statement and inspiring.

If we are to pay more attention to the meaning of our existence and the people around us, realizing that we DO have the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something in small ordinary ways hence the proclivity of doing something silly that we will eventually regret or allowing ourselves to just drift away with the worldly concerns, comparisons and emptiness – in summary, self centeredness can be avoided.

Our significance as daughters of god is not found in the prominence defined by the world. Just because we are not achieved the ‘status’ of being a wife, a mother, a business owner, a minister or a politician does not mean that our influence cannot bring significance to the world around us.

Zechariah 4:10 says “Do not despise these small beginning, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Your sphere of influence is what God has entrusted you with, cherish it and steward it in such a way that would add value to the world around you.

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

The Best Investment

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Hi!  My name is Roz and I have a budget.  There are line items for tithes and offerings, mortgage, utilities, student loans, contributing to my IRA, and all those amazing things that take your money as you get older. Adulting. Is. So. Much. Fun.

And as we grow up and learn the lessons of life, we keep track of where our money is going and where it’s coming from.  We listen to sermons and Dave Ramsey the heck out of being good stewards over our finances.  But rarely does anyone tell you the cost of not being a good steward over the one thing you came into this world with – your body.

God has put in eternal effort and endless time crafting bodies that are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we allow others to make withdrawals that they didn’t earn and can never repay.  Now to those of you reading this who have never crossed physical boundaries in relationships, do you think the breakdowns you’ve allowed in emotional and spiritual barriers are any less expensive?

No matter the line crossed, we’ve all been there.  Feeling as if pieces of us are missing after every break up or failed relationship.  It’s only natural to give of yourself when taking the risk of getting to know a significant (or insignificant) other.  And I’m not trying to make you feel hopeless or fear condemnation.  Because I serve a God who can replace all that’s been lost and repair what’s been broken.

But before you tether yourself to another, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, outside of marriage.  Ask yourself, what are you worth?  Are you willing to pay the price of regret, shame, and heartbreak?  Our minds, hearts, and bodies should be bound to Christ and his promises.  I’m not saying it’s easy or even easily attainable, but the price He paid has established this as the best investment you’ll ever make.

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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.

Dig It Up

shovel

My husband loves to sing. He’ll croon along with a jingle during a commercial break. Or duet with a singer on the car radio.  Or hum a Disney tune while working on his computer.  He always fills our house and makes me smile with his adorable melodies.

His adorable off-key melodies.

Because as much as my husband loves to sing, he can’t and he knows it.  (Disclosure: I actually love his voice, tone deafness and all, but he informs me that I have biased eardrums.) He said if he had the ability to sing well, to gracefully and expertly harmonize, to vocalize like an old Bruno Mars or a new Luther Vandross, he’d sing everywhere at all times. Nothing on Earth would keep him from using his gift.

But sometimes, we do fail to use our God given gifts wisely. It’s not that we squander them on meaningless activity. Or that we spread their influence too wide, eventually depleting their effectiveness. What we end up doing is the worst thing possible.

We bury our gifts and don’t use them at all.

“But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.… Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that You are a hard man, harvesting where You have not sown and gathering where You have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid Your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to You.’” –Matthew 25:18,24- 25 (NIV)

God has poured into each of us a startling variety of skills, passions, sensitivities, and abilities for His purpose.  And He doesn’t want them back in mint condition or with blankets of dust from inactivity. They’re to be shared and used for encouragement, for comfort, for worship, and for help.  We are to spread our gifts lavishly and without fear.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”-Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

Proper stewardship of what God has gifted you to do requires responsibility and action. Have you buried or hidden something that the Lord has given you? Today is a good day to dig it up.

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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!

Good Stewardship Means Saying No

choice

A few years ago, there was a newfangled notion that got a lot of excitement for revolutionizing people’s lives: saying YES to every opportunity.  If you felt stuck in a rut, this was the concept that was going to change your life!  Say yes to every business opportunity!  Say yes to every date!  Say yes to every invitation from a friend!

Magazine articles and books were written about it, and there was even a Jim Carey movie that took it to the extreme – Yes Man.  New doors would be open to you if you just invited opportunity into your life!

I am a person who has mostly subscribed to this theory.  I love taking on challenges.  I embrace responsibility and am excited by new opportunities.   But the unfortunate reality is that this also means that I can quickly get overwhelmed.  The one extra day a week I had that led me to commit to five different projects is suddenly not enough and I am running to catch up.

As a married person, I have had to put up some boundaries to protect my marriage.  Every hour away from my husband outside of work – volunteering, serving, happy hour with friends – is an hour that I am investing in other things than my marriage.  Before committing to an activity, I now ask myself, is this worth the time taken away from investing in my marriage?

Evaluating every activity this way has helped me make important decisions about where I put my time.  Yes, it is always uncomfortable to have to tell someone no – particularly if I had already said yes before – but people have been understanding.  My marriage comes first.

Even as I am writing this, I have a confession to make – I have been willing to put my marriage first, but I have not put my even more important relationship with God first in the same way.  What if I asked that same question for every activity that took away from investing in my relationship with God?

As a single person, the challenge is even greater.  People assume that if you are not married and do not have children, your free time is at their disposal.  I often felt guilty for saying no to activities, many of which were worthwhile.  I would instead run myself ragged and then be so exhausted on Sunday that I would stay in bed for most of the day.

Jesus, of course, knew how to protect His relationship with God.  The Bible tells us that even in the midst of His ministry, even when He knew His time on earth was limited, He still took time to invest in His relationship with God.  In Luke we read:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16)

Imagine that pressure!  Sick people from all around – people in real need of a savior both physically and spiritually – were coming to see Him and be healed!  But He recognized that His first obligation was to the Lord.

Good stewardship means setting priorities and remembering to put first what matters most.  Take a look at your weekly schedule and ask yourself, are all of these activities worth the time away from God?  Try saying no to some things and create a space for God to fill.