Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Review: Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot


Synopsis

 Elisabeth noticed Jim in college. She admired him from afar- his leadership, his strength of character, and most of all his passion for the Lord. And Jim liked Elisabeth. They hadn't known each other long when he told her how much he liked her. But there was a catch; he knew God was calling him to be a missionary in places and situations where he would need to be single. So they both continued their lives loving each other, but unsure if they could ever love each other as man and wife.

  In Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot, through her own love story with her first husband, Jim, shows single men and women how to navigate their singleness. As her personal story unfolds, she weaves in her own biblical thoughts about romance and relationships, how to surrender all of our hopes and desires to God, and how to re-focus our hearts and thoughts on Jesus Christ, our ultimate and only love. 


What I Liked

Many books have been written about singleness, love, marriage, and relationships, but this one is my favorite, and I believe, may be the best. And this is why:

 1. From the beginning, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot put Jesus above themselves. It was always only ever about Jesus. They recognized that their feelings for each other were good and given by God, but also, that they could never be more important to each other than Jesus.

2. Elisabeth Elliot uses her own story and her own experiences. As I read, it felt like I was reading a suspenseful romance novel about two Christian people deeply in love with Christ and each other, but who did not know if they could ever marry. I learned without realizing I was learning, like I was learning with the young Elisabeth. Then occasionally, when Elisabeth came out of the story and into the present, it was more like listening to my grandmother share what God has taught her through all of her years on earth.  

 3. Elisabeth Elliot is always preaching, but never "preachy". She always shares the truth even if it is hard and does not avoid certain topics where people may struggle, but she always does so in love and at appropriate times. With the admonition is her own confessions of hardships, struggles, and areas that she herself failed.

4. When I read this book, I felt understood and loved as a single woman. Spoiler alert: Jim and Elisabeth Elliot do eventually get married. But as a single woman I never felt like it was another happy ending for everyone except me, because, even bigger spoiler alert, several years after they are married, Jim is killed. Elisabeth writes from the perspective of both joy and sorrow, singleness and marriage, loneliness and companionship, on the mission field and off the mission field. She truly understands both singleness and marriage, and I never felt she elevated one above the other or claimed one was easier than the other. 

 This is the second time I have read this book, and I learned so much each of those times. Except for the Bible, it is the non-fiction book I most recommend to both men and women.



  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sisters in Singleness // Kari's Story




   Occasionally I will be sharing the stories of other single women I know to encourage us with the truth that we are not alone in our singleness. Be sure to read Jennifer's Story if you missed it a few months ago. 


Kari's Story

 My name is Kari. I graduated from Cornerstone University in 2014 with a degree in ministry. I work at a local bookstore full-time, dog sit once in a while for friends, and serve in my church in the children's ministry and as a leader in the youth group.

Kari, can you share your story?
 I am 25 years old and I have been single all my life. I've never had a boyfriend, and the one date that I had was later in college. To some people that is absolutely shocking. In today's day and age, it's completely normal to have had multiple dates and a list of past boyfriends. Yet, for me, that's not a part of my story. I think there are a couple of reasons as to why that is the case.

 First, I grew up having the mindset of not needing a boyfriend or a date. I watched my friends go in and out of relationships, constantly changing their minds about certain guys or girls and what they thought of them. I saw them get hurt and witnessed healthy friendships become broken. Yet I saw some good relationships as well- two people happy and enjoying life together. But for me, I decided that I didn't want to ruin the friendships that I had with the guys in my life. Yes, I had crushes and interests, but I didn't want to need a relationship with a guy just because it was the thing to do. All throughout junior high and high school I had some great friendships with lots of guys, and it was a relief to know that I didn't feel the pressure to date them or make into something more.

 Second, I felt like I was never really ready to commit to a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. I can remember a couple of guys reaching out and asking me about dating, but I always said, "No." It's not that they were bad guys or anything like that; I just didn't feel inclined to be dating at those times. Plus there were the feelings of not being ready AND feeling intimidated by the unknown; it's a little scary if you think about it. I possess little to no experience in the realm of relationships other than what I have observed from those around me.

 Ultimately, I would love to be in a relationship with a wonderful man who loves and serves the Lord. I would love to be married and have kids of my own someday. I have been told many times by many people that I would make a good wife and mother. But at the moment that isn't who I am. God has placed me where I am in life for His good plan and purpose. God has called me to living the life of a woman unattached to anyone else so that I can be attached to Him. Yes, there are days when the reality of singleness is hard to deal with, and I feel like I'm missing out on married life. However, I am constantly reminded of how much of a blessing it is, and that I need to be faithful where God has me right now.

 How has your singleness been a blessing in your life?
  Countless ways! I really could have a long list of how being single has been a blessing, but I think there is one word that I can summarize most of it- service. I have been able to serve in ways that I probably would not have been able to if I was married. I've traveled out of the country three times (two of which were missions trips), I dog-sit and babysit for friends and families on occasion, and I can be as involved in church ministries as I want. My schedule is flexible and open, which means that I am available for things like last minute changes and spontaneous outings. If I had a husband and kids to take care of, I doubt I would be able to do all of that and more since my priority would be to them instead of all these other things. Being able to serve is one of my greatest passions, whether it be a huge project or a mundane task. Being single has made the ability to serve a broad path to pursue. 

 What has been the hardest part of being single?
  I think the hardest part about being single is seeing other people in good relationships and marriages. I truly am happy and excited for them, yet I long for that, too. It's also difficult when people I know ask me, "So, is there a guy?" I know they care about me and that they have good intentions behind their prodding, but it often reminds me of the fact that I don't have a man in my life. It can be a quick and easy way to turn my heart toward idolizing marriage, turning my focus toward something that is not God's plan for me right now.


 Has there been a specific book (or maybe several books) that have helped you the most through your journey as a single woman?
  The most recent book I have started reading is "The Meaning of Marriage" by Tim Keller and his wife, Kathy. While the book itself is good as far as thinking about marriage, chapter seven is specifically directed toward singleness and what that looks like. Honestly, that one chapter has some of the best wisdom and thoughts about being single that I have ever read or heard. It has impacted my perspective on being single. If you are single and want to read something that encourages you in your singleness, read chapter seven in "The Meaning of Marriage". 


If you could go back in time, what words of advice or encouragement about singleness would you share with your younger self?
  What you have or don't have doesn't determine your worth. Even though you're not in a relationship, it doesn't mean that people don't like you or care about you. I know that deep down inside you feel lonely. But you're really not alone. You have so many people in your life who know you and love you for who you are, and you have a God who has unconditional love for YOU. Your worth and value and significance are found in Him.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Should You Pray for Your Future Husband?



Though many aspects of the Christian life are black and white, either right or wrong, I think this is an area that is more gray. I have read blog posts where people were convinced it was wrong to pray for your future husband. I have read many more articles encouraging women to pray everyday for their future husbands, sometimes even using Bible verses out of context to claim that if we ask God for a husband He will give us the desire of our hearts. 

 I could write several blog posts about how ludicrous and un-biblical that is, but I will save that for the future. Right now I want to focus on the question, "Should we pray for our future husbands?"

 Honestly, I believe the answer depends on each woman. 

 I want to share with you two different seasons of my life in college to hopefully give some examples.


Scenario #1
   I honestly expected to have a boyfriend by my sophomore year. I was living on a campus with a bunch of Christian guys my age, so I thought for sure it was bound to happen, especially by my second year of college. But it didn't.  Instead, my roommate was planning her wedding, another good friend just started dating a guy, and everyone around me seemed to also be pairing up. And I was really struggling.

 But God used that struggle to challenge this idea I had of marriage. I thought I was going to get married someday just because I wanted to, because I thought I was entitled to have what I wanted. Clearly, that was wrong.

 Within that struggle, I recognized the fact that we can ask God for what we want. In the past I had prayed for a husband someday. But I also recognized that at least right now, my desire for a husband was a huge struggle and an idol in my life. I realized that I needed to focus on what God had given me and not what I felt like God should give me. Praying for my future husband at that time would have made my thoughts go places they shouldn't. So I didn't.


Scenario #2
  Both my junior and senior years of college, I liked this one guy. There were times when I was with him that it honestly seemed like to me and a few of my friends that he liked me too. And other times, he seemed to be hard core ignoring me. I couldn't figure him out.

 During that time I had also begun to pray for my future husband. I prayed that he existed. I prayed that God would mature him and grow him in love for Christ and in patience and love and peace and self control. I used a prayer guide, and I wrote out my prayers in my journal. As I wrote these prayers, it helped me to picture my future husband separately from this guy I liked. My future husband was exactly that: future. He was not in my life right now because I was not married.  This guy that I currently liked could maybe turn out to be my future husband, but right now he certainly wasn't. 

 Praying for my future husband during that season of my life forced me to not think of this guy that I liked as my potential future husband. It helped to put my emotions through a filter. Strangely enough, through prayer, observations of him, and I imagine my prayers for my future husband, the Lord showed me that though this guy was great in many ways, he probably wasn't the guy I should marry. There were qualities I wanted my future husband to have that he did not possess. 


 At different times in my life, I have found it helpful and unhelpful to pray for my future husband. I really believe it is something everyone needs to decide for themselves. Ultimately, it is more a question about your heart and what your attitude is when you pray or don't pray for your future husband. 

 It can be helpful to ask yourself questions to gauge whether or not you should be praying for your future husband, questions like...

 When you pray, are assuming this is something God should and will automatically give to you?

 When you don't pray, are you assuming this is something God will never give you?

 After you pray or don't pray for your future husband, how do you feel? Do you feel committed to the qualities your husband needs to have someday? Does it make you dwell too much on something that God has not given to you right now?

 Are you also praying that God will be growing you and molding you to be a wonderful wife someday?



What are your thoughts on praying for your future husband? Is it something you do or don't do? I would love to hear your stories!



     

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Single Woman I Want to Be


 I recently read an article about not being an average single woman (Not Your Average Single Girl), and it has inspired me to do something I have wanted to do for a long time: make a Singleness Bucket List.

  I have avoided writing it, I admit. I often don't want to post on this blog as it makes me more fully admit my singleness. In the same way, it can be depressing to come up with what I want to do with my singleness when I really just want it to go away.

 But as the article said, joy and contentment are more than telling myself the truth of all the ways God has blessed me. That is good and right, but it is also about living my life and choosing to be joyful and content each day. And one way I can do that is to make a list of things I want to be and do while I am single. 

 Some things will help me better prepare for being a wife and mother. Some things will be activities I can best do because of the freedom I currently have in my singleness. Some things are things I want to do no matter what my relationship status is. Everything on my list will be worth while whether or not I get married. 



The Single Woman I Want to Be

 I want to be constantly in the Word and on my knees in prayer.

 I want to always be reading books about theology, Christian living, poetry, and any good literature the world can offer. 

 I want to travel, both to proclaim the gospel through short term missions trips and to see as much as I can about this beautiful world God created. 

 I want to continue to write and grow both of my blogs to encourage myself and other young women to continue be faithful to the Lord. 

 I want to share the gospel through writing many novels, a non-fictional book about emotional porn, and maybe a devotional for single women.

 I want to manage my home well, whether that home is one room of my own, an apartment, or a whole house. 

 I want to always open my home to others, again, whether that is one room or many rooms.

 I want to be able to cook healthy and delicious meals at a reasonable speed. 

 I want to care for children, whether that is the children in my church or my own.

 I want to make baby quilts and donate them to local Christian pregnancy centers, and if God blesses me with my own babies, I want to make a quilt for each of them.

 I want to minister to younger girls around me in some way, maybe by simply being their friend or older sister.

 I want to go on adventures big and small while I have the time and freedom.

 I want to live my life like I am a nomad on this earth, purposely living life to the glory of God, but knowing I am not home in heaven yet. 

 I want to live the single years of my life with joy, purposefulness, and intentionality. 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Large and Small Deaths // Laying My Desire for Marriage on the Altar

 "He was leading her away from her hearts' desire altogether and gave no promise at all as to when he would bring her back."  
~ Hinds' Feet on High Places         


 Early last week I was pondering my singleness and this quote from the allegory by Hannah Hurrand (which I think every Christian should read- it was that good!). Not that I don't usually ponder my singleness, but last Monday and Tuesday it was particularly on my mind.  

Image result for hinds feet on high places In Hinds' Feet on High Places, the Shepherd leads Much Afraid on a long journey where he says he will make her feet like those of the hind and hart leaping among the mountains. It is a hard journey that Much Afraid takes, but the Shepherd helps her, gives her companions, and at the end, Much Afraid has been completely changed and finds the high places where her Shepherd lives better than she could have imagined, a beautiful picture of our lives as Christians on this earth and the hope we have in heaven. 

 But what struck me most in this story is how at almost every turn, every change, every hardship and every new path Much Afraid took, the Shepherd asked her to make an altar and lay down her fears and desires and give them to Him. 

 Throughout my life, I have had to lay down my singleness before God many times. I remember specifically doing this my junior year in college. At that point in time, it was clear that God was not going to let me get married right after my graduation like I wanted. I realized that I had been holding my desire to be married in a tight fist, clinging to it more tightly than Him, like God could only be good to me if He granted me that desire. At some point during my junior year the Lord broke me, pushing me literally to my knees before Him where I knew I must offer my desire to be married to Him. It has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, but what a sweet communion with my Lord it gave me.

 However, offering this desire is not just something I need to do every year or every few months. Just as Much Afraid had to continually make an altar, I need to continually give Jesus my hopes, desires, and fears- particularly my desire to be married. This must happen every day. Every morning I need to submit and surrender to His will. 

 Much Afraid laid on the altar big, hard things as well as small things. I've been realizing that my singleness is comprised of both of those things. Usually I see it as one big, hard thing, but it is also made up of many small, hard things. The difficulty of singleness is also seeing my friends and people I grew up with have boyfriends and get married. It is the realization that my younger sister may get married before me. It is the awkwardness of relationships with married friends changing. It is holding crushes and potential relationships with an open hand. It is being alone on Valentines' Day. It is no one asking me to dance. It is the realization that I may never have children. These are the little deaths that I forget I must also lay on the altar. 

 So right now, today, and yet again, I lay my desire to be married on the altar. I do not want to be single. I did not want to be single when I was six. This is hard. So hard. But I lay this desire at His feet for Him to take and do as He sees fit. And starting now, I will do this every day, because that is what my weak, selfish hearts needs.

 Lord, I pray that I will trust You with these large and small things. I pray that I will hold my hopes and desires with an open hand and that no matter what happens with my life I will say, 'You are good', because You are always good. 

Have you read "Hinds' Feet on High Places?" 
How did the book impact you? What large and 
small deaths are you having to give to God?