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Ladies Locker Room / 6 Pieces of Advice I Wish I'd Believed When I Was Single
« Last post by Philippa on January 15, 2018, 02:31:26 PM »

6 Pieces of Advice I Wish I'd Believed When I Was Single
Rachel-Claire Cockrell
2016 Jul 19

When I first started writing this, I came up with a specific and personal letter directed towards my early twenties self, telling me not to treat my singleness as a means to an end and to realize that being single doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me. Then I started talking to the people in my life about this topic and I realized that there are far too many different experiences out there for me to just use mine. Here are six pieces of advice gained from close friends and family in the hopes that no matter where you are on the spectrum of singledom, you will find something you can relate to.

“I wish I had known it was OK to be single.”

This one is the first one I thought of and several of the women I talked to said the same thing. I was never a very good single person. I spent most of my time trying to attract guys’ attention. I went on dates, I flirted, I positioned myself in a lot of places for the sole purpose of attracting a man; and some of those places were not good places to find good, godly men. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy, I had friends. I had a rich and fulfilling life, but I was never fully comfortable or content with my singleness. I wish I had learned that being single is not a sickness and that it’s perfectly normal and OK to be single. I wish I had realized during that time in my life how much I was learning about myself, my faith, and my goals. I wish I had used that time to focus on those things.

“I wish I would’ve known how selfish I really was.”

This one comes from my brother, who is one of the least selfish people I know. Being married to, and responsible (in part) for another person’s happiness and well being forces you to recognize your own selfish tendencies. Marriage has a way of showing you just what selflessness really is and how hard it is to truly put another person’s needs above your own. Marriage isn’t 50/50, divorce is 50/50. Marriage is 100/100. So, enjoy the freedom to be a little selfish, and also maybe take the opportunity to practice being selfless while the stakes are lower.

“When you know you are or aren’t going to marry someone, don’t waste your time.”

My husband said this and I can attest to it from both ends. I dated someone for a long time knowing full well that if we were to get married it probably wouldn’t work out. I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and heartbreak if I had cut it off when I first had that realization instead of continuing to try and force it. On the other end, once I knew I could spend the rest of my life with my husband, I let go of any hesitations. Granted, there was a lot of prayer involved in that decision. Don’t waste your time on someone who isn’t right for you, get out. And when you do find the right person, don’t be afraid. Most importantly, don’t marry someone just to get married.

“Invest in your friends and family.”

Once you get married, your spouse becomes the number one person in your life. That’s how God intended marriage to be. So, use the time you have while you’re single to really deepen and enrich your relationships with close friends and family. We are human, therefore we are finite. We only have so much time and attention to give, so once you’re married most of that time and attention will go into building a life with your spouse. If you take the time to invest in others while you’re single, then it will be easier to retain those relationships once you are married. Don’t force yourself on an island with your future spouse. You both need support systems other than each other in your lives.

“Being married can often be more fun and less stressful than being single.”

My husband said this and I realize that this point seems to negate my earlier point that singleness is a blessing, so let me explain. Before I was married, all I heard was how hard marriage is. And don’t get me wrong, it is hard, but sharing your life with another person can take a little of the load off. So, if you are on the other end of the spectrum and you just can’t see yourself disrupting your single life by adding a spouse into the mix, be comforted with the fact that marriage is fun. Don’t be afraid to commit to someone. Marriage allows you to share the burden with another person. You no longer have to do everything on your own.

“Be aware of your expectations, and be realistic. Find your fulfillment in Christ.”

I had several friends give me some variation of this, and at first it sounds cynical. My sister-in-law said to keep in mind that he won’t be perfect. A good friend of mine called me and we had a very in-depth conversation about the fact that we wished we had realized just how many expectations we had and how unfair they were. Getting married won’t “fix” you or your spouse. You can’t expect your spouse to be the source of your life’s fulfillment. Your fulfillment needs to come from your relationship with Christ. Your spouse (like you) is imperfect and flawed. If you put that person on too high of a pedestal, then you will always be disappointed. It’s unfair of me to expect my husband to be perfect. It will strain our relationship because there are times when he will fail, just like there are times when I will fail. That’s ok! We are there to help each other grow. We are not there to be a kind of god for the other person. Basically, you have to love the Lord on your own first, or you will spend the rest of your life disappointed in your spouse.  This subject fosters so much conversation. There is no way I could fit it all in one post, so I took the most important pieces and grouped them together accordingly. The truth is, everyone’s experience is so vastly different. Feel free to leave a comment and add your own tidbit of advice.
Devotional / Re: Daily Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on January 15, 2018, 02:20:01 PM »
Friday, August 04, 2017   

Hopeful Surrender
Chrystal Evans Hurst

Today’s Verse
“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”  Psalm 31:14–15 (NIV)

Dishes, diapers, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, singing the ABCs again and again. My life as a mom of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers was wonderful and it also wore me out. I longed for the day when all of my children could clean up without my help, were potty-trained, and could read and write on their own.
That season of my life was hard at times. But I now know with certainty that the season passed quickly more quickly than I wish it had! The days were long but the years were short. I remember those years with a warm heart; I’m grateful that, while I was in that season, I gave it all I had. It wasn’t easy, but I remember other wise women in my life telling me to live well in my current season and I’m glad I did.  Your hard season may have nothing to do with motherhood. It may be a difficult season with your health, your marriage, your finances, or your career. The specifics don’t matter as much as this: choosing to live well in the season you are in.  Even when a season of life is not ideal, we will only run our souls ragged when we are discontent and focused on longing for the next season. Choosing to trust that each day has purpose even if it’s unseen revives the soul. You don’t have to feel it yet, but you can choose to tell the Lord that you trust him and fix your eyes on the glory to come. In any season, this sort of contentment and hopeful surrender is exactly what your soul needs.
Devotional / Re: Daily Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on January 15, 2018, 02:16:13 PM »
Thursday, August 03, 2017   

Chrystal Evans Hurst

Today’s Verse
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 (NIV)

It was hard to decide. I stood staring at the shelves in the local Christian bookstore, trying to choose which Bible study was the right one. I wanted to dive deep into my study of God’s Word, but choosing the best Bible study seemed overwhelming.  As I stood letting my eyes run across the various topics, titles, and authors, I sensed the Spirit of God reminding me that while Bible studies are certainly valuable tools that help me understand his Word my relationship with God is what mattered most.  Staying connected to the Spirit of God is the primary source of life for our souls, just like the vine is to a branch. Rather than picking the “best” Bible study tool, the most important thing is that I live connected to the Spirit of God by staying in God’s Word, communicating with God in prayer, and living my life in obedience. The life the Lord has for us all is full of freedom and abundance! As we simply choose to walk in connection with God throughout our day in his Word, in prayer, in silence, in celebration, in feasting, in fasting this gives our souls the fullness of life that we were designed to experience.
Devotional / Re: Daily Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on January 15, 2018, 02:05:09 PM »
Wednesday, August 02, 2017   

Seen and Significant
Chrystal Evans Hurst

Today’s Verse
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:2–3 (NIV)

We met for coffee at 5 a.m. Between work, kids, and life responsibilities, she and I hadn’t had time together in a while. While I sat and listened to my friend of many years, I slowly realized, as the minutes passed, that spending time with her was filling my soul.  Throughout that day, I noticed that I was smiling a little more; I felt lighter moving through my usual tasks. My early morning meeting with a friend someone who made me feel seen and significantwas a simple joy that filled me up!  Relationships exercise and feed our souls. Of course, sometimes relationships feel great and sometimes they don’t! But in either case, they are vital for our spiritual health. Maintaining relationships takes work, especially during busy seasons of life. It requires effort to make time for giving and receiving the gift of being “seen and significant.”  Sometimes relationships cause conflict and discomfort; sometimes they can seriously hurt. There’s no denying that we put ourselves at risk when we are in relationship to other humans. But Scripture clearly says that relationships marked by humility, gentleness, and patience bring unity, peace, and encouragement to our souls.
Devotional / Re: Daily Devotion
« Last post by Kiwi on December 09, 2017, 11:27:20 PM »
Thursday, July 20, 2017   

The Power of Song
Edie Littlefield Sundby

Today’s Verse
“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to God as long as I live.”  Psalm 104:33 (NIV)

God created music with a soul-stirring power, and the Bible is the greatest songbook that has ever been written. The Bible is filled with songs of praise, of lamentation, of redemption. Whatever befalls us, there is a song recorded as chapter or verse to speak to our heart and bring us closer to God.  Whenever I feel alone, scared, and in need of God’s tender mercies, I go outside into the hills to walk and pray. Sometimes my focus in prayer is inward: I walk in silence, seeking God in the stillness between breaths. Other times, when my physical body is overwhelmed and drowning in chemo or healing from surgery or when difficult emotions have a chokehold on my heart, I need to focus my prayer outward, away from what is happening within. That’s when I turn to music.  For me, any God-inspired song will do. It can be a traditional hymn, like “It is Well with My Soul” a song that has transformed my hurting heart into a place of peace, acceptance, and grace. It could even be a popular favorite like “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Oscar Hammerstein’s enduring classic of inspiration and resilience. Both songs remind me to hold fast to hope and God’s peace, even in experiences of tragedy. They bring to mind God’s promise in Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (43:2).

There is a reason many of the greatest songs ever written are inspired by the Bible, for music is a gift from God a beautiful mystery that speaks to us, reaches deep within our hardened or burdened hearts to touch us, and brings us peace. Through song, may “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
Thoughts / We All Need Adversity And Affliction
« Last post by Kiwi on December 09, 2017, 10:21:20 PM »,%202017&maropost_id=742347701&mpweb=256-4242972-742347701

We All Need Adversity And Affliction
By Sermoncentral on Jul 31, 2017

My oldest child just celebrated his twenty-first birthday, and it has me thinking about the priceless benefits of adversity, affliction, and deep spiritual wrestling.  I’m thinking about them for two reasons. First, my most beneficial, faith-forging, character-developing, endurance training, and joy producing experiences have resulted from my most difficult, painful, fearful, dark, and doubt inducing experiences. And second, my first real immersion into this reality happened when I was twenty-one.  What I learned was so important, so life shaping, that I long for my son for all my children, for all who are young (and old) to receive the same priceless benefits, even though they come through experiences parents often try to shield their children from. I want them to experience real, substantial, deep happiness, and not merely the thin, ephemeral pleasure buzzes that masquerade as happiness. And like most treasures, such happiness is almost always discovered in the dark places.

Flabby Faith
I grew up in Middle America, spending most of my childhood in the 70s, and coming of age in the mid-80s. Which means my life was easy. Not that it was altogether easy. My working-class family had, like most families, plenty of spiritual, physical, and relational brokenness, sin, and pain. But I had parents who loved me, some really good friends, a solid church, and a decent, if deficient, public education. Above all that, God mercifully brought me to faith in Christ around age eleven. This provided me a spiritual and moral keel as I sailed the volatile waters of adolescence.  But I lived immersed in American affluence, which meant that even at the working-class level, I enjoyed an abundance of discretionary resources and time that had been unprecedented in human history until about a decade before my birth. I watched too much TV, ate too much food, and spent too much time and money on idle entertainment. Which meant I developed very little “grit.”  The summer I turned twenty-one, I felt unsettled. I sensed the softness and selfish orientation of my overall character, and I was troubled that my experiential knowledge of God was much shallower than my theoretical knowledge of God. My experiential understanding of Christian love and faith was much shallower than my creedal understanding of Christian love and faith.

“God, Break Me!”
So, my twenty-first birthday found me praying radical prayers. “God, break through! God, break me!”

I really wanted God to transform my authentic, but largely untested, flabby faith into something fibrous, strong, and persevering. I wanted faith that resembled what I saw in the New Testament.  One night, after praying such things with a few friends, one told me that while I was praying, he discerned the Spirit indicating that God was going to answer my prayers, but not in the ways I expected.  This turned out to be very true. A month after my birthday, I was suddenly plunged into a season of trial and affliction on multiple levels  pain I had never known and could never have predicted. It was frightening, it was disorienting, it was depressing, and it was soul shaking. It tested me on almost every level and pressed me beyond what I thought were my limits. And it was prolonged, lasting a number of years. It was the worst thing I had ever experienced up to that point.  And it was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The work God did in me through this affliction accomplished all I had prayed for, and more than I had asked or thought. It forced theory into practice, abstract creed into concrete deed. It forced me to really live what I professed to really believe what I truly believed.

Painful Discipline, Peaceful Fruit
In the middle of that dark time, I wanted out of it so badly. But afterwards, when I began to realize what it had produced in me, how much more real God had become, how much more I trusted the reliability of his word, how deep the roots of faith had pushed, how fibrous, thick, and strong the trunk and branches of faith had grown, and how it was starting to bear spiritual fruit in ways that benefited others, that season of affliction became precious beyond measure. Or, in better words, For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

It is no overstatement when I say that this experience of hardship, adversity, depression, affliction, and spiritual oppression, along with other, even more difficult experiences since, have shaped who I am and all I do, even to today. They affect my marriage and ministry, my parenting and pastoring. They season all my writing, teaching, and counseling.

That’s why now my counsel to young adults, including (and especially) my children, is this: ask God to discipline you. Ask him! Perhaps ask sounds too polite. Plead for it! Grab hold of God, so to speak, and say, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). For your loving Father’s discipline is a blessing. It’s one of the greatest blessings you’ll receive, since God only “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

If you want to really know God, if you want to really treasure his word, if you really want fibrous faith, if you really want freedom from addiction to empty, ephemeral pleasure-buzzes, you need a holy FOMO: a fear of missing out on the deep pleasures of God that exceeds your fear of the painful discipline it may require. I’m here to tell you it is worth it. The psalmist is telling the truth:  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:71–72)

I would not exchange any of my discipline-afflictions for anything. In fact, I have made it a habit to keep asking God to discipline me. This isn’t because I love affliction, but because the hope in God I’ve tasted in the promises of God I’ve trusted in the darkest days are the sweetest things my soul has ever known.
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