Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Challenge Single People Face During the Holidays

"You and a guest at invited to our Staff Christmas Party."

The annual invite showed up in my work email inbox. My work staff Christmas party was coming up. Or, as it sometimes feels, the annual reminder that I'm still single - that I don't have a guest to bring with me.

When I RSVP to the party, the inevitable question: "For 1 or 2 people?"

"Just me." I respond. Thinking, but not saying aloud: Like usual, I'm coming alone. I know there was no intent to remind me of that by asking the question - they were just making sure they have the correct numbers.

When the night of the Christmas party comes, I'll face the same dilemma I face every time: Where do I sit for dinner?

All the tables have an even number of chairs at them. Perfect for the people who come with a spouse or a significant other. But it makes it awkward for those of us without a date. Any table we sit at, now has a potentially empty seat left at it.

Or, even worse, if there's only the same number of seats as people coming, our choice of a table may mean a couple ends up sitting at two different tables because there aren't two seats left at the same table.

Most of the time, I'm okay with my single status. I would still like to get married, but I'm not going to let it keep me from enjoying life. I've gotten used to going out for dinner, going to a movie, showing up at any other work event, or any other number of activities by myself. And usually, I enjoy them.

But, there's something about the holidays, that challenges this. Something that causes me to be more uncomfortable showing up at events and parties alone. I'm not sure what exactly, but I've talked to enough singles to know I'm not alone in this. It seems to be a common struggle, that no one has an easy solution for. So, each year, I find myself opening that email at work, knowing the same struggles and feelings will come again.

As I've been writing this post, I've been trying to come up with a tidy way to conclude it - an easy solution that would fix this dilemma. But, I don't know if there is one. I think this might be one of those realities of life as a single person there is no easy answer to.

My thought is that the only thing we can do in these situations if show grace to one another. And do what we can to make sure everyone is welcome at our Christmas (and other) parties - whether they are single or have a guest to bring with them.

If you are single and have a solution to this problem, I would love to here it in the comments below. Or, if you're no longer single, but have something that worked for you when you were single, leave it in a comment below.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We Weren't Made to Walk Alone

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25)

This is just one of many passages of Scripture that speaks of our need for other people to walk this journey of life together. In these verses, the writer of Hebrews is reminding his readers of their need to make meeting together a priority. And giving them a reason why - to encourage one another.

We weren't made to go it alone. When things get hard, we need other people who are walking with us to make it through. We need their encouragement. We need their presence.

When we try to go it alone, the hard times get harder. And it's easier to just give up rather than pushing through what God has for us.

As I look back on my life, I can easily see the difference in the times when I walked through hard times with other people walking alongside me and times when I tried to get through it myself. Life experience tells me that we weren't created to walk alone. We need other people with us.

If past experience makes it so clear that we need other people to walk with us through life, why do we so easily slip back into trying to get through whatever comes our way alone? Why do we pull back and not share what's going on with those around us who care and want to know?

It doesn't make sense, but it's often what we do. And we have many reasons why we do it.

  • We don't want to burden other people.
  • We don't want to sound negative.
  • We don't know anyone well enough to share it with them.
  • We don't want to be perceived as weak.
  • We want to prove we're strong enough to get through it alone.

The truth is, all of those reasons we can give for why we try to go it alone, really come down to pride. We don't allow others to walk with us because of our pride. Sharing what is really going on would require us to be vulnerable and show our weakness.

Our culture tells us that we shouldn't show weakness. We are encouraged to live as if we have no weaknesses. So, we learn to live behind walls that never let anyone behind them. We don't let others in because we're not willing to be vulnerable - we're told being vulnerable is a weakness itself.

But, Scripture makes it clear that we need one another. We weren't made to get through life alone. And past experiences confirm that for us. We need to learn to share with one another and allow others to walk through the hard times with us.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Notice

Joining in with the Five Minute Friday group again this week. This week's prompt is "notice."

As I sit and watch the first snowfall of the season around here, I've been struck by the peaceful feeling it brings to just sit and watch it. Sitting in my favourite writing place - a coffee shop - sipping my latte, I'm watching peace fall outside the window.

I've always like snow - as long as I don't have to do a lot of driving in it. There is something about the way it blankets everything in white and muffles the usual noises, that seems peaceful.

Especially when the things in my mind seem to be anything but peaceful. When my mind is in chaos, the visible reminder of God's peace is a welcome sight.

It invites me to start to notice God in the midst of the chaos swirling in my mind. To notice the peace God has given.

In Matthew 14:27, Jesus said these words to His disciples:
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

If we're too busy, we don't notice the peace Jesus gives.

If we've gotten too caught up in the chaos of our minds and become troubled and afraid, we don't notice the peace Jesus gives.

But, He promised us His peace - in the midst of our chaos, our trouble, our fear. He lets His peace fall in all those areas. We must learn to notice it.

Sometimes we might need a visual reminder of His peace, like the falling snow has been for me tonight. Watching it fall, I notice that my mind begins to settle, as I become more aware of the peace Jesus gives falling in my mind and my heart tonight. Not to bury or ignore the challenges, but so I approach them differently.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Growth we Don't See

Cold. Barren. Frost covered.

The ground firm beneath each step I take.

Lifeless poles with spindly limbs are what the trees I walk among have become.

There is no snow yet to cover the barren landscape around me. The death that precedes the coming winter glaringly obvious to anyone walking through it.

It's hard to find the beauty at this time. The colours of earlier in fall are gone. No brightly coloured leaves remain. All that is left is gray and brown.

Lifeless. Dead.

Our lives can feel like that sometimes. Everything that once brought life and colour gone. Nothing but dull and drab left behind.

When the snow of winter finally comes with its blanket of white, we longer see the dead and lifeless all around. We see the beauty of the white blanket reflecting the light instead.

The snow covers and protects the work of new life that is already beginning. It holds the beginnings of that new life deep inside until it's ready to see the world outside when spring comes.

The same is true for our lives. Everything can feel dead and buried in snow. No growth happening yet, that we can see. But, deep inside, God is already beginning His work - He is creating new life. When the time is right, the snow will melt and new life will emerge. It's now ready to grow into what God created it to be.

We don't always see it that way, but the times when everything seems dead and completely buried, are the times when God is still at work. Deep inside, new growth is beginning. We can't see it yet, but it is there. 

And when the time that feels so cold and dark is over, the new growth will be strong enough to emerge and begin to produce something beautiful. Something that wouldn't have been able to grow without the time where everything felt dead.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beauty from the Broken Pieces

Broken pieces scattered on the floor. Hundreds of them in every crack and corner. May of them too small to gather together again. What was once treasured and beautiful to they eye will never be the same again.

Slowly. Carefully. The bigger pieces are gathered. Leaving just the ones too small to pick up behind. Those tiny pieces swept up and thrown away.

Reconstruction of the larger pieces begins. Gentle placement of each piece - hoping there aren't too many holes in the rebuilt masterpiece.

The question becomes how to put the pieces together again. What will fill the cracks and the holes now? What will hold it all together?

Finally, the pieces are all together again. A different beauty emerges this time. A beauty of the recreated whole. A delicate beauty of all the shapes and sizes of the pieces together. The cracks reflecting the light in different ways.


We serve a God Who is the master at taking broken pieces and recreating beauty from the pieces we thought too broken to ever be used again.

He takes the broken pieces of our dreams and plans and creates beauty in His purposes for us.

He takes the broken pieces of our families and our relationships and creates beauty in forgiveness and restoration.

He takes the broken pieces of our sin and choosing to do wrong and creates beauty in redemption when we turn to Him.

We serve a God Who specializes in taking the broken and recreating incredible beauty. The key is that we have to let Him. We have to let Him see the broken pieces of our lives and touch the broken pieces of our lives.

We would rather try to hide the broken pieces. We do our best to keep anyone from touching our broken pieces because it's painful to let someone touch them. It reminds us that they're broken pieces. And we don't want to remember that.

But when we choose to let God take the broken pieces, beauty emerges from them. The pain of letting Him take those pieces and rebuild them is worth it for the outcome in the end.

What broken pieces of your life do you need to allow God to take and rebuild into something beautiful?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Will You Jump in the Puddle?

The pouring rain has turned the ground into a muddy mess. Puddles are forming as the ground cannot absorb any more water.

From the safety of chapel, I watch out the window. Ladies get out of their cars, grab their studd, and carefully make their way through the muddy parking lot to get inside.

They're looking down . . . taking careful steps . . . avoiding the puddles . . . stepping only the spots that look the like the firmest path to take.

Even as the rain stop, the parking lot remains wet and full of puddles.

It's the beginning of a weekend retreat for all who are here. A weekend away to laugh and have fun. A weekend away to hear from God - to allow Him to speak to us.

As the evening winds down and conversation in my room begins as get ready for some sleep, I hear God ask me a question: "Will you jump in the puddle?"

I'm taken back to the scene I watched earlier in the evening as the ladies arrived - how I watched them step carefully to avoid the puddles.

Stepping in the puddles is messy, dirty, and often unpleasant. As kids we go puddle jumping and find joy in it, but as we grow up we start doing all we can to avoid stepping in the puddles and we definitely don't jump in them intentionally.

I drift off to sleep. The question still on my mind. And I'm not yet sure what it means.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

The question is still there in the morning. I'm still not sure what God means by it yet.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

We avoid jumping in puddles because it's messy, dirty, and unpleasant. And we avoid talking to God about certain things in our lives or going to certain places in our lives because it's messy, dirty, and unpleasant. We don't like jumping in puddles physically and we don't like doing it spiritually either.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

God's invitation comes again.

Am I willing to go with Him into one of those areas I would usually avoid? Am I willing to get messy and dirty and deal with what is unpleasant with Him?

Will I jump in the puddle with Him? Because He's not asking me to go there alone. He will be in  it with me.

Will I jump in the puddle and look at what is there that I've been avoiding? And in the process discover it's a puddle because God has poured His grace and love in such abundance on that area. Discover that I can deal with that part ofmy life because God's grace and love for me is more than enough.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

The question keeps coming until I answer it.

I believe this is a question God asks all of us at different times in our lives. He asks us to trust Him and step into the mess where it's dirty and unpleasant. He asks us to step into this so He can do His work - so He can clean up the mess.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

The next time the rain pours, the area that became a puddle last time becomes a firm place to stand. A firm place to launch our jump into the next puddle. Because we've allowed God to do His work there and we know He is full of grace and love to handle the biggest, messiest puddles in our lives.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

Maybe that's the question, God is asking you right now. Maybe He's asking you to take that next step and allow Him into those broken and messy areas of your life, so He can transform them.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Turn

Joining in with the group over at Five Minute Friday this week. This week's prompt is "turn."

When do I get a turn? Why do I have to wait for my turn? Do we always have to wait for our turn?

We don't wait well for our turn. We get impatient when we're waiting. It doesn't come naturally to us to wait for our turn. 

Yet we often find ourselves having to wait until it is our turn for things. We're standing in line waiting for our turn. Or maybe we've heard something from God about what is coming in our future, but we still have to wait for our turn for it to happen, because someone else is in that role right now.

Maybe we often need to wait our turn because God has something He wants to teach us in the waiting. Instead of getting impatient while we wait for our turn, maybe we need to learn to look for what God is teaching while we wait.

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's All by Grace

Am I good enough? What do I need to do to be good enough for God to love me? How can I earn God's love?

God has been continuing to take me back to the basics of what being a follower of His is all about. And this weekend was no exception. I was at a retreat with a group of ladies from my church. Our theme for the weekend was Delighting in God's grace.

When you get right down to it, following God is all about His grace. His love for us is all about the grace He has shown to us. There is nothing we can do to be good enough for Him to love us - He just loves us.

"See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

The love that God lavishes on us, is a gift from Him. We can't do anything to earn it. And we can't do anything to make Him stop loving us.

The Old Testament outlines God's Law that the Israelites were to live by. The rules and sacrifices that were a required part of life as one of God's people.

When Jesus came, He fulfilled the Law completely - He was the perfect sacrifice for sin. And that perfect sacrifice for our sin is offered to us by God as a gift. There's nothing we can do to earn it. We just need to accept the gift that comes by grace.

But, that is more difficult than it sounds. Our human nature likes the rules and things we have to do to earn God's love and grace. We make rules and requirements of what we should do and what we should avoid. 

In the process of that, we forget about God's grace. We miss His grace. And we struggle with feeling good enough for God to love us. Except that we don't have to try to be good enough to be loved. God doesn't ask us to be good enough - He just asks us to accept His gift of grace.