how long?

O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD -how long? Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks? I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. (‭Psalms‬ ‭6‬:‭1-6‬ NASB)

This last year of my life has been filled with disappointments. I keep waiting for things to turn around but instead more dissapointments. How long oh Lord until you rescue me?

The story made us different…

“The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way.” -Donald Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

I bought the book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” when it came out years ago, I think because of it being talked about on the Relevant podcast. I guess it sounded interesting to think about if your life was exciting enough to write a movie based on it. I had never read “Blue Like Jazz” but had heard a lot of people excited about it years before and figured I should read one of Don Miller’s books. I bought the book, along with a few other spiritual books, from Amazon, completely intending on reading all of them, and maybe made it partway into one of the other books. The Internet has made me bad at reading books.

Fast forward about 5 years, and I am in a difficult place in my life. After my first boyfriend had broken up with me (I was 31 when I went on my first date ever), I was depressed for months. At first I was heartbroken about losing him. Then it turned into a much larger sorrow of being single at 32 when I had hoped to have been married years ago and had a couple kids at this point. Facebook posts became painful to look at as I felt left behind. Everyone else my age seems to have what I want. I’m 33 now and still single and wondering what God is doing with my story. Why does my story look so different? Why did so many of my friends find the love of their life in college while I am still looking 15 years later? My life lately feels like a story where no one would bother to read the next chapter. There’s no cliff hanger. No big plot development on the horizon that we can see. I struggle to trust that God is writing my story, let alone that He’s writing a good story.

We started a sermon series at my church called “Storyline” and my pastor mentioned the book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” Since I’ve felt so dissatisfied with my story of late, I decided to pick up the book and start reading it. A few quotes so far have really hit me hard. One mused about how God is trying to write our stories, but we often try to write our own, different stories. I hope I can learn to trust God with my story. Sometimes it doesn’t look like a very good story.

The second passage, which I quoted above, recounts how a group hiked four days at high elevations with little air to breath to get to Machu Picchu, when you could take a bus. The people who had such a difficult time getting there had a different experience when they reached the city. “The pain had made the city more beautiful.”

If I had my way, I’d have taken the bus and reached a different point in my life by now. Instead, I feel like I’m still walking up a mountain, where the air is so thin I can barely breath, just hoping that eventually there is a beautiful relationship for me. I hope one day I find it and that the pain has made it more beautiful.

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Waiting on God- Part 2

Part 1 is here in case you missed it: https://maddprofessor.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/waiting-on-god-part-1/

That Christmas I had started looking at eHarmony again. I’d been on there almost a year and no one had contacted me at all. It was free communication over the holidays so I got on and looked at some profiles but no one was interesting enough for me to get over my shyness and contact them first. None of them had contacted me. There was just one day left of the free communication and then a new match contacted me. On New Year’s Eve. The last day of the year. I had forgotten about my hope of meeting someone that year but was excited to meet someone. We messaged pages and pages of emails through the eHarmony website, met in person, and started dating. At first I liked him well enough as someone I could be friends with but I had to get to know him for a little while before I knew that I was attracted to him. I had no idea at first if it would really go anywhere but as I spent more time with him I liked him more and more. Through dating him I realized I actually have a lot to offer. For the first time in my life, a guy told me I was beautiful. God fulfilled that promise to me from 5.5 years before. I had my first kiss, and my first Valentine. He treated me better than I ever would have dreamed someone would. He was very respectful of me and we enjoyed a lot of the same things. We talked about getting married. Neither of us were sure yet if we wanted to get married but we were both leaning that way. I was so happy and thanked God for bringing me such an awesome guy. And then he broke up with me seemingly out of the blue.

I was completely heartbroken. I experienced depression for the first time in my life. I barely slept or ate anything for weeks. I lost 15 pounds in about 2 weeks. I didn’t cook anything for myself for over a month. I couldn’t sleep past 6 am. I cried and prayed more than I ever have in my life. I thought that my wait for a lasting relationship was maybe over and then a door was slammed in my face. How could God let this happen? I prayed several times while dating checking in with God if this was ok. At the beginning of the relationship before I was attracted to him I asked God “Should I keep dating this guy?” When the infatuation stage faded a bit I asked God “Is this ok? Should I consider marrying someone who I don’t feel head-over-heels for every minute that I’m with him?” (It was my first relationship. I don’t know what feelings are “normal”). If it wasn’t right, why didn’t God tell me to break up with him? Or at least warn me?  Oddly enough I didn’t know if I remembered that I thought I would meet my future husband in 2013 until after the breakup.  I don’t know if I did meet him or if the whole thing was wishful thinking.  In the time since then there’s been a lot of crying, praying, and talking to my mom and friends trying to make sense of it all. I’ve struggled with trusting God. What if He leaves me single and I live the rest of my life alone with no one to hold me or kiss me? Why would He make me wait so long to begin with? As a Christian I’m supposed to believe that God is good and he wants what’s best for me but how can God let me go through something so painful?

So here I am. I’m 32, single, and wondering why most of my friends are celebrating their 10th anniversaries while all I have to show is one relationship that lasted less than 5 months. Posts that should make me happy for friends’ relationships instead seem to sting as I think about how many years I have been alone. I think about how every year that passes is one year less that I get to spend with my future husband, assuming that by some miracle someone wants to marry me someday. I read stories about Abraham waiting years for a son, or Joseph waiting years for the dream that God gave him to come true. I hope and pray that God is working behind the scenes to let me find someone for me even though right now it looks like nothing is happening. It’s a struggle. Some days I trust that God’s plan is best and that he has good things for me. Some days I cry and question if God is going to make me suffer my entire life with loneliness. As I get older I wonder if I’ll ever have kids and lament that my “plan” of how I wanted to be married a few years and later have 2 kids spaced out by 4 years doesn’t really work when you are 32 and there’s no wedding on the horizon.

I am blessed with good friends, a close family, and a good church. My relationship with God has grown a lot over the last few years and I have a better grasp on how to live as a Christian. I enjoy hiking, baking, brewing, and having friends over. I have a good job and a nice house. I know there are a lot of good things in my life. I have some close friends but I want more than a friend who I spend a few hours a week with. I want someone to share my daily life with. Someone to tell me I’m pretty and to sleep with.  There aren’t many good single guys at my age, even fewer who are Christians and share my values. I pray every day and ask God for what seems like a miracle. I don’t know what God is doing and if or when I’ll be in a relationship again but I hope it’s soon. I wish I had a “happily ever after” or a “God gave me more than all I could ask or imagine” story but right now I’m still waiting and hoping and trying to trust God.

Waiting on God- Part 1

I was 31 years old before I was ever asked out on a date. I was 32 before my first kiss. As a teenager I read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” as well as heard from others how it was important to guard your heart. Broken relationships cause broken hearts and leave baggage and I was in no hurry to acquire either so I was intent on waiting on God’s timing for a relationship. I didn’t really want to date in high school because I knew those relationships almost never last and I figured college was a better time and place to start a serious relationship. I was sure I’d meet some awesome guy at my Christian college and we’d become friends, realize we really liked each other, start dating, and get married shortly after graduation. While there were a few guys I liked, and a couple who seemed interested in me, it never seemed to work out that there were any mutual feelings and I never dated anyone. I had some amazing friends, lots of fun with them, and enjoyed college. I was kind of sad and wondered why I hadn’t met anyone while all my friends got married but overall I trusted God.

I was planning on going to grad school and maybe it was best anyway that I meet someone there since I was moving to a new state. I signed up on eHarmony, moved to Tallahassee, joined a church, and started graduate school. I made new friends and there were a couple guys who I liked, but nothing happened. I still trusted God. I would prefer to be in a relationship but I had a fulfilling life and really loved the church I was a part of. I made elaborate meals, had several hobbies, decorated for Christmas, hosted dinner parties with friends, went out with friends to movies and dinners and random activities. I had a lot of fun and did what I wanted and didn’t feel like I needed a boyfriend although I did want one. I wondered why no guys ever seemed interested in me but I never wanted to date around anyway so I was happy at least that I had never had my heart broken and didn’t have any relationship baggage. While at a church retreat many of the older ladies there told me I was beautiful over and over all weekend. Eventually I broke down crying, telling God, “That’s nice and all but if I’m really beautiful why don’t any guys think so? God did tell me that one day he would give me a guy who thought that I was I was just as beautiful as these ladies kept saying I was. That was in 2008. Years went by and still, nothing. As I got closer to graduation I figured I’d have to move again to find a job so maybe it was best that I not find someone until after graduation. Much to my surprise, I found a job in Tallahassee and so I was able to stay here with my family (who had moved down here while I was in grad school) and stay with my church I loved.

After I started my post-doc, I bought a house and since I was settled here for at least a few more years I started thinking a lot more about wanting a relationship. I told God several times, “I trust you, but can we hurry up on this relationship thing?” My church for whatever reason never seems to have more than one single guy close to my age and I just hadn’t met anyone at church or school who caught my interest nor had anyone expressed the slightest interest in me. Of course everyone suggests that you try online dating, get out there more, etc. I signed up again for eHarmony, made an effort to actually talk to people who I didn’t know at Fermentation Lounge (sort of a pub that I frequent), I went to parties friends invited me to and actually talked to people I didn’t know. I joined the homebrew club too since I do brew my own beer but also most homebrewers are guys and I thought maybe I’d meet someone there and hey, we’d have this great hobby in common. Well a couple years went by and while I had made new friends and met a lot of people still nothing happening as far as a relationship. It got harder and harder to be content with my singleness. Most of my friends were not only married but had multiple kids by now. The social life I had in college and the early years of grad school had faded into a more adult life where most weeknights I was home alone and my friends where busy with their lives, jobs, and kids. There were a few nights I cried,  telling God I’m lonely. I want someone to share my life with. I want someone to go to that new restaurant with me. I want someone to cuddle with and share my daily joys or frustrations with. I went from feeling like although I’d be happy to have a boyfriend, I was perfectly fine on my own, to feeling like I was done with this single thing. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt and the souvenir mug. I started actually talking to friends about my desire to be in a relationship and unfortunately no one seemed to know of any guys they thought I should meet. In the fall of 2012 I was particularly discontent and praying about it a lot as well as just talking to friends a lot about it and telling them to keep an eye out for a guy for me. I remember having a feeling that “I’m going to meet my husband within the next year.” Well month after month went by and nothing happened. In one of the brew club meetings a couple guys were talking about this girl at work who was single and the one guy said “…but I think she’s still a virgin and wants to wait till she gets married. I can’t hook her up with any of my friends. What 30 year old guy is going to be ok with that?” I remember hearing that and thinking, “Great. Even if by some miracle I meet some guy who would be willing to date me, he would never be ok with saving sex for marriage. It’s hopeless.” That may have been one of the nights I cried myself to sleep. Somewhere around mid-December 2013 I decided the whole “I’ll meet my future husband this year” thing wasn’t from God, must have been wishful thinking, and I gave up on the whole thing. A friend offered that maybe I had met him but that just nothing had happened yet. That wasn’t what I believed though. I believed I was going to start a relationship that year. Nothing had happened and I figured it was nothing more than wishful thinking.

(Part 2 to come later)

Why do you follow Jesus?

A couple weeks ago my pastor asked the question “Why do you follow Jesus?”  He asked several of his close friends who are involved with the church, as well as a friend who is not a christian why she thinks people follow Jesus.  He then put the question to us at Crossbridge.  “Why do you follow Jesus?”

This question is something I have thought about before.  I’ve heard non-christian friends say things like “Why would I go to church? I can help people and be a part of a community without going to church.”  This question haunts me.  How can someone see no value in something that is exceedingly important to me?  That lead me to try to answer the question myself.  How would I explain to someone why I think it’s important?  Why not just donate to charity every now and then and have cookouts with your neighbors? I struggled to come up with an answer.  Not because I don’t see value in following Jesus beyond the side benefits of being a part of a community that helps people, but because it’s something I kind of take for granted.  I’ve never thought about how to explain it to someone who doesn’t already believe that Jesus is the son of God.

As I sat there that Sunday night and thought about it what came to mind is “I don’t know how else to live.”  I don’t mean that in a light, dismissive sense.  It’s not that it’s just what I’ve always done or just because that’s what I’ve been taught.  I have plenty of friends who as far as I know live a happy life without following Jesus.  I could never do that.  To try and live with no regard to God or Jesus would feel as if I am living a lie.  It would feel as if I were denying myself.  I haven’t always felt this deeply, but the older I get and the more I examine and reexamine my beliefs, and the more I try to live the life I believe I am called to, the more I feel like it is a central part of who I am.  It’s not some add-on to my life.  I don’t follow Jesus as some sort of interesting hobby.  The words of Peter in John 6:68-69 come to mind.  Jesus preaches some strange sounding stuff and many people walk off.  Jesus asks his disciples, are you going to leave too? “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

So why do I follow Jesus?  First off, I truly believe that God exists, that he cares about us, and that he sent Jesus to make a way for us to have a relationship with him. I have seen God work in my life and in the lives of others.  I believe the way of living laid out by him is the best way to live life.  I believe to live apart from God would be a life half lived.  I feel I need God to help me navigate a world full of pain and evil, as well as beauty and love. I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t have a perfect life. When life leaves me broken, I can go cry to God, and know I am not alone and all hope is not lost.  I also believe we need community to help us grow and to support us and a community that also strives to follow Jesus is where I can find the deepest support as I try to do the same.  Why do I follow Jesus?  Where else would I go?  Here is where I find life.

“The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

While going through the Stations of the Cross with my church this morning I was reminded of one of my favorite passages of scripture- Mark 15:38 “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (also found in Matthew 27:51 and Luke 23:45).  The curtain that separated us from God’s presence was torn.  Jesus removed the barrier between us and God.  God’s presence was no longer shut away in a room that could only be entered by one special person once a year.  (Read more about this in Hebrews 9 and 10)

Hebrews 10:19-25
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For me this is the joy of Easter.  We can approach God with confidence and a sincere heart. Our sins are forgiven.

Above is a re-post of an entry I wrote last year. Lent starts next week so I started thinking about what I did last year. The first week or so I did great with using the extra time to spend time with God or read books on theology and spiritual growth, after a while I found myself spending time on things that don’t really help me spiritually like reading music reviews in a magazine or recipe books. Since the point of my fast was to grow closer to God, reading recipes wasn’t quite what I was going for. (Also, although I went to bed a little earlier some nights, I was still up ridiculously late most nights, despite not being glued to a screen) I’m giving it another shot this year. No screens after 11, with the exception of the reading plan on my Bible App. I’m supposed to be journaling, amongst other things, for the Forge residency I’m doing and I’ve been seriously slacking on that so this will be a good change to renew my effort on that.

Madd Professor's Blog

Growing up in Protestant, non-denominational churches I was vaguely aware of what Lent was but always wrote it off as a Catholic thing.  Catholics do all sorts of religious things and I never really paid much attention.  Besides, it seemed like not eating chocolate for 40 days doesn’t really have any spiritual significance anyway.  And then there’s those people who think a religious observance is an excuse to get really drunk and do other sinful things on the Tuesday before Lent.  “Sin as much as you can today before you try to be good for the next 40(ish) days.”  In the past few yeas I’ve heard several Protestants talk about Lent and decided to sort of re-examine what I thought about it.  While I think there are likely a lot of people who observe religious traditions just because they are traditions, or to add to some checklist to feel better about themselves, these…

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