The Test…

27 Feb

This is what I have “heard” so far…

David and I ended our relationship in mid-October.  In the midst of my angry prayers and accusations at God, I know I heard Him telling me, “I have a plan for you and David.”

Every time I started to feel angry at God, or feel as though He had forgotten me or abandoned me, the voice would repeat, “I have a plan for you and David, Laura.  Will you trust me?”  It didn’t seem mistakeable for anything else- and it seemed logical.  Surely, a loving, sovereign God wouldn’t put me through this heartache without a purpose, especially after 27 years of keeping me single and protecting me.  I just couldn’t imagine what such a plan might be…

In the first week of November, I heard (what I believe to be) God telling me that I would be married with in a year- by November 2014.   All I could think was, “To Who???”

The first Friday of December, I was at a Bible study/concert of prayer, and I felt God telling me that my marriage would come suddenly and unexpectedly.

Part of that sounds thrilling to me- I want a short engagement and a simple wedding, not years of drawn-out dating and wedding planning.  I just pray that we WILL have enough time to plan a small church wedding, with blessings from my parents and church leaders.   I have nothing against courthouse weddings or elopements if people choose to go that route, but I don’t want to cut my parents or other loved ones out of the most important and sacred day of my life.  

In early January, as I lay on my bed crying after a “fight” with David, demanding to know why God had brought us together on a dating website if He didn’t intend for us to be more than friends, I felt the voice in the back of my mind telling me again, “You will be married by November 2014,” and suddenly it added, “…to David.”

Could it really be true?  Was what I felt for David more than an infatuation?  I remembered at the end of our fourth date, thinking to myself, “I think I’m going to marry this man.”  I had been crushed to realize I was wrong- or was I??  Was my heart running ahead of itself, or was God giving me a glimpse into my future??   Again, I prayed God would break this in me unless it was from Him.  I held it with an open hand.  Again, it remained with me.

Now, my heart longed more than ever to be with David.  We met for coffee in January, just as friends.  I prayed that God’s will would be made clear when we actually saw each other face-to-face.  I prayed that, if David wasn’t His will for me, that my feelings would fade and I would see him as nothing more than a friend (as has happened with other men I have had feelings for in the past).   I vowed that, if God told me to give my feelings for David over to Him, I would do so.  However, as I sat across from David at the same table where we had our first date, I felt certain that God was telling me, “Wait.”  Not, “Give it up,” just “wait.”  In the course of our conversation that night, David shared with me that he was facing some rough waters, but God was using it to refine him.  Perhaps God had caused our relationship to end so that He could refine both of us as individuals.  One thing was clear: David was the same person he had been when we were dating.  There was no talk of our future together, no playful flirting, no physical affection beyond a friendly hug- but his sense of humor, his interests, his personality, his love for the Lord were all the same.  He had never played games with me when we were dating; he was real.  

This brought me some peace, but it still left me wondering, if David and I were to be married by November 2014, when would God bring us together as a couple??  I am in graduate school until May and hope to be teaching full-time again by September- and teachers don’t get PTO or vacation days!  That meant I would either need to be married by August, or try to squeeze in a wedding (with no honeymoon) over a weekend (oh, please, God- not that!!!  Don’t make me grade papers on my wedding day!!!).   A few weeks ago, as I prayed for discernment and understanding, the word “March,” popped into my heat.

March…something would happen between David and me in March??   Again, I prayed frantically.  And, I believe this is God telling me that David and I will be a couple by the end of March.

These revelations have played out slowly- if it were my own wishful thinking, I think I would have dreamed up something much faster.  Probably within hours of breaking up with David, I would have figured out our reunion and marriage- wouldn’t I??  These thoughts have come back consistently, even after I have prayed that God would remove what wasn’t from Him.  My imagination fluctuates, imagining worst-case scenarios in one minute and romantic fantasies in the next.

What’s terrifying is that March will come and go in the next 33 days.  Thirty-three days from now, I will know if this is my imagination/wishful thinking, or God’s voice.   If it’s the fomer, than all of this could have been one big hoax- played on me by myself.  If it’s the latter, it will mean that God revealed His plan to me in a real and personal way.  I so, SO want this to be from Him, not only because I’m crazy about David and love the idea of marrying him, but because I want to know that when God speaks, I hear Him- His voice is distinct from all other sounds.   When I hear promptings from Him in the future, I want to be able to run after them wholeheartedly, not wonder if I’m really hearing from Him.

This coming month will be a test, no matter what.  It will test if I know my Shepherd’s voice, or if I allow my own imagination to drown it out.  If it is the latter, than it will be tested whether or not I trust God at all times, or only when I think He’s giving me what I want.

33 days.  By then, the test will be over.  May I be found faithful, no matter what.

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My Only Hope…

11 Jan

I have confided in a few close friends besides Sarah that I believe God is telling me I will be married by November 2014.  Most of them have simply nodded and said, “Hm, yeah, He could be telling you that.”  My good friend, Lisa, pointed out that I have never been optimistic about marriage- I have said that marriage was something I desired and hoped for, but I have always been adamant that it is not something guaranteed to me and that I can’t go through life looking for “the one.”   On Christmas Eve, Lisa presented me with a typed copy of her family Christmas letter along with the standard family photo.  At the bottom, she had handwritten: “Cannot wait for your Christmas letter next year, Laura!  Believing with you!!”

Here is the part that I haven’t told anyone: just before New Years I had…not really a “fight,” but a definite conflict with David.  We were both determined to work through it and save our friendship, and we tried to consider each other’s feelings and perspectives.  It all played out the way I would want to work through a conflict with someone I cared about.  However, I felt things would be so much less complicated between us if we had never dated.  Why did God have to bring us together on a dating website if all He intended for us to have was friendship?  And why did it have to be “chemistry” that kept us apart- couldn’t there have been something obvious that made it impossible for us to be more than friends??  Just after New Years, I was wrestling with these questions, when I again felt the voice in my mind remind me, “You will be married by November 2014,” and, suddenly, it added, “…to David.”

I have tried to come up with logical reasons why David has to be the one or why we never should have broken off, but I knew none of them were guarantees.  In this moment, though, I found myself sitting bolt upright, almost as though I had heard an audible voice.  It just seemed so clear- I prayed frantically that God would silence whatever I might be hearing that wasn’t from Him, but it was still there.  I pulled out two sheets of paper and penned one letter to David and one to his son- if this was from God, then I wanted to present them with these letters on our wedding day, letting them know that God had revealed this to me and that I already loved them both.  I tucked both letters away in my prayer journal.

However, ever since I woke up on Sunday morning, I have been under a cloud of doubt.  I’ve waited 27 years to fall in love and it hasn’t happened.  Why would it happen now?  Why would God reveal such things to me??  I can never guard my heart; this very well could be my own imagination trying to avoid letting go of David or deal with my frustration at still being single.

I was reminded that nothing is guaranteed that isn’t promised in the Bible.  God has promised an eternity free from sin and temptation, sickness and pain, sorrow and suffering.  He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  He has promised unfailing love and unending grace.  These are the things I can put my hope in.  This is what will not disappoint me.

Several things have happened over the course of the week that have pointed back to the voice I “heard.”  I remembered Sarah and Lisa’s words of affirmation and knew neither of them would stand with me in agreement if they had any doubt in their minds.   I learned Denise, who less than a year ago was single and content, is engaged (she and I have a chat date tomorrow- looking forward to hearing the whole story!!).  If God can bring love into her life so quickly, He can do the same for me.  I watched this encouraging message– it was a still, small voice that I heard in my heart.  I remembered when I first felt called to the mission field- I passed through my host country in 2008, just taking an overnight trip, and, it was there that I felt that voice in my heart telling me, “This is where you will come back and serve Me.”  The timing wasn’t what I expected, it was a different city from what I expected, my mission assignment was not what I expected, but what that voice said came true: I returned to that country as a missionary.  It’s tempting to say that marriage is not in my control and going on the mission field was, but I remember how helpless I felt throughout the preparation process and, in the end, knowing it was all from God.  

There are still no guarantees.  The human heart is a deceitful thing.  God is my only hope.  And He is the only hope I need.

A Dreaded Conversation…

19 Dec

I believe the man needs to be the initiator in a relationship.  

Some feminist readers may stumble across this post and go ballistic, but don’t bother trying to debate with me or change my mind on that one.  I believe that a man who cannot take the lead by asking a woman on a date, cementing an official boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, or proposing will also be incapable of leading his wife and children to glorify God as a family.  I believe a woman who is not patient enough to let a man take the lead will also struggle to submit to him as her husband.  Go ahead, get mad at me for saying that.  It’s my belief and I will stick to it.  

That being said, I know David and I need to reevaluate some things…and I need to be the one to tell him.

We have chatted online twice since our “breakup” and exchanged a few quick emails.  I included him in a small list that I sent out regular prayer updates as my mom underwent surgery for her cancer and finally received a clean bill of health (praise God!!!).  

But I wonder if we are kidding ourselves.  We were never co-workers, neighbors, part of the same church family or circle of friends.  If we had met under such circumstances, we would need to stay “friends”- as in, be kind to each other and treat each other with a Christian attitude.  I don’t know if we would chat online or email regularly.  But, how are we expecting to maintain this friendship?  Do we really think we are going to be single and free to chat each other for the rest of our lives?  Or, when one or both of us marries, will we expect our spouse to be okay with gchatting someone we once dated?  If not, than why maintain a friendship now when, once one of us marries, we’ll just have to put ourselves through another painful breakup??  Not to mention…is this really all God had for us?  An online-friendship, when we live 30 minutes apart??  All the great conversations, the laughter, the theological discussions that we had when we were dating…is God really taking that away and replacing it with a gchat-friendship?

I know David and I cannot pretend we’re just friends much longer.  But which way will this conversation go?  Would he consider giving our relationship a second chance??  Would he believe that “chemistry” comes with time?  Or will he just say that we can’t even continue our friendship; that it needs to be done and over?  

Praying for wisdom for us both…

Do You Believe…?

16 Dec

John 1:11-20

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,  for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

It’s still with me- that voice in the back of my mind telling me that my wedding day will come before November 2014.  Sometimes, I feel it will be even sooner than I expect.  I don’t know who it could possibly be waiting for me at the altar on that day- my heart still aches to be back with David, but I have no logical reason to believe that will happen.  I have prayed furiously for discernment, that God would make His own voice clear to me above my own imagination or the temptation to put my hope in that which God has not promised, but it hasn’t changed.  

I prayed that, if God where speaking to me, He would affirm it through someone else.  I had coffee with my friend and ministry leader, Sarah, yesterday, and decided to share what was on my mind with her.  Sarah’s background is a bit more “Charismatic” than mine- not in a bad way, just in a way that’s different from what I’m used to.  I told her I was struggling to discern God’s voice from my own imagination.  She offered to pray with me, and then said, “I believe you are hearing God’s voice in this matter.  I believe He wants to grow your faith and He is giving you time now to prepare for your marriage.”  Sarah went on to say that, if I wasn’t married by November, it simply meant that I had been mistaken- not that God had changed His mind or that He was any less good or faithful.  

As I walked home, I found myself wondering if the minor differences in denominational beliefs between Sarah and I were reason for me to doubt what she had just spoken.  I grew up in a church that could best be described as hardcore “ceasationalist”- God has CEASED to speak, to perform signs and wonders, to reveal prophecies and visions.  When I shared with my parents that I had felt God calling me to the mission field- first for short-term trips, and then for a year last year- they both scoffed at the idea of God “speaking” to me, saying it was illogical that He would call me to the mission field.  My parents are both mature believers who love the Lord, but their church has taught them that God fits into a box.  As I have mentioned before, I changed churches upon reaching adulthood, and the church I attend does acknowledge that God uses these things today- not to the extent that He did in the early church (before His word was available), but they do happen, and God uses them to bring glory unto Himself.  I have encountered “Christians” of the opposite extreme, who proclaim that God has revealed wild and crazy things that don’t fully align with the Bible, that exalt the person He is revealing them to rather than Himself, that lead to financial or social gains, that perverts the work of the Church.  This isn’t what I see in Sarah- she spoke of God wanting to reveal Himself to me and deepen my faith, so I could trust Him more.  She told me that God was not a God of confusion, shame, or anxiety, so His voice should not invoke these things in me.  It may invoke conviction, anticipation, or heartbreak, but these were the things He could use to make me more like His Son.  

I had a feeling God would respond to my questions by saying, “You asked me to send someone to affirm this; I sent Sarah.  What more do you want?”  I don’t want to be like Zachariah was in the passage above- no, his doubt did not stop God from fulfilling His promise, but He was not honored by Zachariah’s doubt.  

I told Sarah that, throughout my childhood, my parents did the best they could (and I am thankful to them!!!) but I felt like I was always being told “no.”  Looking back, I am thankful for many of the “no’s” I received, but some of them stemmed from my mother’s fear of spending money or my dad’s inability to understand why I wanted to have a social life.  I felt like I was always the one sitting in school listening to my friends talk about the fun extra-curricular or social activities they participated in, or showing off the new clothes or CDs (remember CDs??  That seems long ago!).  I feel like God is the same way; He doesn’t understand why I desire to be married and is stingy with His blessings.  No, this isn’t the God I serve.  He understands me; He sees me.  If He could bring forth a prophet from an elderly couple, and bring forth His own Son from a virgin, how can I say He cannot provide me with a husband who is a man after His own heart, and in His perfect time?

Yes, Lord.  I believe.  

Maybe I’m Going Crazy…

5 Dec

If my readers see this, that means I took a leap of courage and decided to publish it.

I absolutely believe that God speaks to us today.  I believe He has revealed all of the “essentials” to us in the Bible, and He never goes against His own word.  Of course, He also speaks to us individually, revealing His character and sometimes revealing specific callings that He has on our lives.  Obviously, it can be easy to mix up God’s voice with my own imagination or even the voice of the enemy.  But, when something is consistent with scripture and glorifies God, I think that’s the best test of His voice.

A few weeks ago I was asked to apply for a position that I needed to be single to hold- if it were granted to me, I could hold it for any period from a few months to two years.  I thought it was worth the shot and was going to go for it, but, suddenly, I felt something telling me, “By this time next year, you will be married.”

Part of me thinks for sure this is only my own imagination, my wishful thinking.  I’ll be 28 and, hopefully, teaching full time next year, with only a few credits to go until I earn my Master’s degree.  Of course I want to be married.  And…WHO was I going to be married to??  I’m still healing from David; I have no desire to pursue any new relationships right now, and, once my last semester of graduate school starts, I won’t have time to be dating.  If David had wanted to continue our relationship, I would have made time for him (and would have expected him to understand that school was going to get brutal for a few months), but how could I possibly start a new relationship?  Even if one did come along, how could we fall in love and marry so quickly?  Images of a shotgun wedding or an impromptu ceremony at the bedside of a dying family member danced through my mind.

And, maybe I’m right.  This is just me imagining things, and God really just wants me to hush and trust Him with the whole marriage thing.  But, a month later, the nudge is still with me.  I began researching the position I was considering applying for, asking other women who had experience with it for their thoughts and calculating the costs and rewards of it.  It seemed like a great fit for me, but every time I started to type an email or pull up the application online, I felt the tug at my heart again, “By November 2014, you will be married.”  Would my own imagination be so persistent?  It’s the only thing holding me back from this position, but it’s holding me back, none the less.  Would Satan have something to gain by leading me to believe I’ll be married by November 2014?  I’ve asked God to take these thoughts away if they are not from Him; He wouldn’t allow the enemy to continually confuse me after I’ve cried out to Him, would He?

I think of the angels who appeared to Abraham and Sarah and told them, “By this time next year, you will have a son.”  If God could carry through on such a promise made to a 90-year-old woman, then how hard is it to believe He could give me a husband within a year?

Well, if this is His voice, how does this revelation glorify Him?  Perhaps He is telling me to “prepare my fields for rain,” by preparing for marriage?  I think of the things I would be doing right now if I were formally engaged with a summer or fall 2014 wedding date set.  Of course I have my wedding board on pinterest…but on a deeper level:
-Eliminate my credit card debt and start working on getting finances in order (tricky, as I’m living off student loans right now and don’t know what my salary or living expenses will be next year…but I can take small steps!).
-Organize my home: purge my life of clutter, come up with a cleaning schedule, find effective ways to organize my “stuff,” and invest in quality household items that will simplify my life in the long run (such as simple cooking utensils or organizers).
-Think about what I want to incorporate into my wedding to make sure it points back to the Author and Finisher of my life and marriage, in a way that will bless/challenge my believing friends and family, and proclaim the gospel to those who do not believe.
-Consider habits that I want my future husband and I to incorporate into our marriage- daily devotions and prayer together, splitting up household duties, planning our finances, etc.
-Take care of myself physically so my husband can enjoy my God-given physical beauty.
-Really focus on taking my relationship with God deeper through prayer and scripture- my time and physical/emotional energy will shift dramatically with marriage; I need to develop these habits NOW.

My only request of God is that, if this IS His voice telling me to prepare for marriage, that He arrange for me to meet the one He has for me in some way other than a dating website- I don’t think I can handle the emotional strain or the financial demands of online dating (some sites are reasonably priced, but, as I said, I am living off student loans as my grad program is too intense for a part-time job), and I still can’t flip through my “matches” without alternating between comparing the guys to David and fearing I will be hurt again.

Ultimately, what do I have to loose by applying these thoughts and habits to my own life, anyway?

God’s Purpose…?

22 Nov

I have mentioned in previous entries that, in my late teens/early twenties, I experienced the pain that comes from failing to guard one’s heart.  Ten years later, I can honestly say that my feelings for Josh are a thing of the past, and I would take my friendship with his wife, Jessica, over any romantic relationship.  If God does have marriage in my future, I fully expect to ask Jessica to be one of my bridesmaids.  However, it has been a long, brutal healing process that has brought me to this point, and it’s not an experience I care to ever have again.  

If there is one thing I learned from my years of infatuation over Josh, it was that I fall in love quickly and give my heart away easily.  Josh never flirted with me or gave me any legit reason to believe he was interested in me; I simply took his friendliness and let my imagination run wild.  Since then, I have had to sit my friends down and ask them not to tease me about the newest single guy at work or church- if I listen to them, I’ll invite him to break my heart without even realizing it. 

With David, it was a different story.  He pursued me.  He shared deep things with me.  He told me he thought I was beautiful, and amazing, and that he could see a future with me.  He was the first guy to give me a rose, hold my hand, put his arm around me.  And I loved being with him- I would rush home from classes each day to see if he had gchatted me yet.  I counted the hours until our next date.  I couldn’t wait to run into his arms, feel him hold me, and then just be with him!  I walked away from each date with him feeling like I was floating…but also feeling like I had just gone deeper in my walk with God.  My talks with David were iron sharpening iron for me.  And he said he felt the same way.

Then, suddenly, it was over.  I’ve only chatted with him twice since our break up, and it’s been online, but it sounds like he is moving on with life.  He’s glad to have me as a casual friend and nothing more.  For all I know, he’s chatting with other girls on Christianmingle at this point (I tried to reactivate my account last week- I realized I wasn’t ready, but I did notice his account was active).  

Me, on the other hand- all I want is for David to ask for a second chance.  My mind continually replays scenarios of how we will get back together, how our relationship will play out once we straighten all this “no connection” garbage out, how we will laugh at ourselves for ever thinking we could break it off.  My head knows it’s not real- my relationship with David is done and over.  But my heart refuses to accept it, just like it refused years ago to believe that Josh and I would never happen.  I have tried to take these thoughts captive, and when that becomes too exhausting, I have cried out to God for grace and strength.  Even so, I find myself slipping back into the dreams of being with David again, begging God to please let David be “The One” for me.  

In the past, I have had no one but myself to blame for my heartbreaks.  I read too much into little things and overlooked red flags.  But now, I am left asking God, “Why did David come into my life in the first place??”  If all God wanted between me and him was friendship, why didn’t He arrange for us to meet through a mutual friend or at an event?  Maybe I would have developed a small crush on him, but I don’t think I would have been as “swept off my feet” as I was by dating him.  At age 27, David was the first to go on more than two dates with me, to give me a rose, to put his arm around my waist or to hold my hand.   Why did God keep all those things from me for 27 years, and then suddenly drop David in and out of my life?  Don’t give me the, “You need to have some dating experience before you meet your spouse,” line- I do NOT need more emotional baggage to take into a marriage someday.  I know how to live with other people and have healthy relationships.  

God, I know You are too good to allow pain in my life without a purpose.  You are too loving to offer me less than the best, and You are too wise and sovereign to make mistakes.  What is Your purpose in this, God?  What would You have me learn?  What would You have me do?  How is this season of heartache meant to make me more like Your Son?

It Is Well With My Soul…

15 Nov

Almost a month since my breakup with David.

Two weeks later, friends from my hometown church flew overseas, expecting to bring their new daughter home.  They posted facebook pictures of them together and statuses about what a beautiful country they were in and how much they were in love with their daughter.  Then, suddenly, the adoption fell through.  My entire church family shares in their grief and heartbreak.

Another week and a half later, my mom calls to catch up.  She mentions something about the biopsy being negative, but she needs to go back in for more tests on Tuesday- wait, what??  “Ohhhh, I forgot, I wasn’t going to tell you any of this!” she says.  “I didn’t want you to worry…”  Too late, Mom.  I’m worried.  

No sooner have I finished this conversation with my mom then I receive a message from another close friend.  She and her husband were anticipating the arrival of their second child, but she found out today in a routine appointment that the baby’s heart had stopped beating.  More grief.  More heartbreak for a loved one.

Last night I called my mom- the tests were positive.  She has stage 0 breast cancer.  The prognosis is good…but, her sister died after being diagnosed in stage one.  There are no guarantees.  My mom sounded calm- bummed that she was going to have to deal with the whole treatment process, but also knowing that God is sovereign.  I tried to sound calm, too.  I told her to let me know if she needed me to come home and help out at any time- I’m three hours away in grad school.  She told me she would, but more than anything she wanted me not to worry and to focus on my schoolwork.  

Of course, after hanging up, my first thought was, “I want to talk to David about this.”  I knew he would listen, he would speak words of truth, and he would be a prayer warrior for me and for my mom.  Then, suddenly, he sends me an instant message: “Hey, you there?”  I replied that I was, he asked how I was doing, and I told him what had just happened.  He told me his heart ached for me.  He told me that he knew what I felt because his own mother is a breast cancer survivor.  He promised to pray, and I knew he meant what he said.  No playful flirtations like we used to send each other, no talk of our next date or of our future together- just an encouraging conversation between two members of the Body, a brother and sister in Christ.  It also erased my fear that David was never going to speak to me again- he really did want to continue our friendship, even if there was no romance in it.  A drop of Mercy from God in the midst of my despair and confusion. 

God, I believe You are Sovereign.  You are bigger than my mom’s cancer, and You are the ONLY one that can heal her- but, You are also the only one who can call her home when the time comes.  Whatever You choose, I will love You, I will trust You, and I will follow You.  I believe You are near to those who are crushed in spirit- I don’t understand why You have chosen to take my friends’ children away from them, but I believe You are good and Your ways are perfect.  And, Lord, I believe that You have the power to write the perfect love story for me and You are not bound by the expectations of anyone.  Whether I am married to the man of my dreams by this time next year, or if You choose to keep me single, I believe that You will provide for my every need, and I will love and trust You.