Help!

Last week, we dug into scripture and thoroughly covered what submission actually is and is not. Read more about that here.

In this post, I would like to propose a different than “normal” perspective on Christian marriage. We traditionally have placed a heavy weight on the singular roles of leader husbands and submissive wives. But I think we’ve put unnecessary emphasis on the wrong thing. The more I study marriage and family as God intends, I see a different picture than what has traditionally been painted as the overbearing husband and the subservient wife.

Husbands are to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” -Ephesians 5:24. That looks more like sacrificial love and less like lording over his wife. From the very beginning, God saw that man wouldn’t be able to carry out his assignment on his own. The wife was specifically designed to come alongside and be a helpmate to her husband.

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” -Genesis 2:18

The word for “helper” above is from the same word used when referencing God’s divine intervention, support, and deliverance. Pause and ponder that. Women were designed to be supernatural support to our husbands! Adam was created to be responsible for God’s creation [Gen. 2:15]. Eve was specifically designed to support him in that role.  The role of a helpmate is far more empowering than we have previously interpreted it.

Moreover, when we read about the ideal wife described in Proverbs 31, her role is far more multi-faceted than submission alone. She works diligently; she takes care of her home and family; she honors and respects her husband; she cares for the poor and the weak; she is trustworthy, wise, kind, and generous. In her role of caring for her family and supporting her husband, she improves his reputation and thrives as a wife and mother.

Men desire to be respected and honored. As women, it is our job to call out the king in our men. That is an empowering and honorable position. When I encourage and build up my man, he feels like he can take on the world! I see his demeanor physically change and he stands a little taller. It’s not difficult to see the good he does for the kingdom and our families… when I’m looking for it. But it is humbling, because it takes the focus off of me. Most importantly, it enables him to feel confident in the role God has given him in work and ministry. In turn, he shows his affection for me by sacrificing his time and resources. What a rewardingly vicious cycle!

Husbands are called to be the head of the family and spiritual leader, guide, sacrificial lover, and provider for their family. Yes, leadership is a big part of it. Also the risk, responsibility, and spiritual accountability are very important parts of their role. On judgement day, every husband will stand before God and be held responsible for the decisions he made which effected his family’s spiritual growth and direction. That’s a HUGE responsibility! I’ll take submission over that any day.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” -Ephesians 5:24-28

Conversely, wives are called to be a helpmate. That includes submission to her husband’s headship, as well as encouragement, support, child-rearing, honoring, and respecting her husband and caring for the family. Disclosure: the list for wives is longer because that’s what I’ve studied more thoroughly. Just trying to stay in my lane!

The big misunderstanding of Christian wifehood is we got hung up on the hierarchy before we ever got to the rest of the design. Being a helpmate means so much more to me than just submitting to my future husband’s authority. It’s about supporting and encouraging him toward all that God is calling him to. That’s an empowering role!

Someday, when I am a wife, even with all the hardships life and marriage may pose, I look forward to encouraging my future husband toward greatness! My greatest joy is calling out the king in my man and watching him flourish as he leads and guides our family toward missional living and furthering the kingdom. There will be no greater joy than to submit to his headship. Even when my flesh wants her own way.

I’m Bossy

Around the Christian community we hear a lot about men’s and women’s roles in marriage. We talk often about husbands as leaders and women as being… (that often misunderstood and misrepresented word) submissive. 

Feminism has caused us to hear that word and interpret it as “brainlessly subservient.” We instantly think, “Great. I’ll never be allowed to have an opinion again.” That’s not at all what submission means. In fact, submission is an empowering and sanctifying heart position. The greek word used in the New Testament translated as “submit,” is hupotasso. It’s a generally military term used in regard to ranking. The husband is often called the king of the home, while the wife is the queen. This is proper order and ranking. However, the king has to answer to his subjects as well as to God. So it’s not as simple as the husband calls all the shots while the wife gets no vote. That’s misuse of his role.

“in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight [direct your ways].” -Proverbs 3:6

Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Job 22:21

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” -James 4:7

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” -Hebrews 13:7

Notice in the above scriptures it’s not only wives who are called to submit. Many places in scripture call us ALL to submit to the Lord, His will, spiritual and natural authority. Our fleshly and sinful nature hates the idea of submission simply because we desire to be in control of our lives. However, God calls us to “put down” our sinful ways and “pick up” our cross by choosing His ways and giving up control to Him who cares for us.

As women, we especially like to to manage, organize, and control. It’s part of our nature. I think that’s why wives are specifically told to submit to husbands’ headship in 3 different places [Eph. 5:22, Col. 3:18, 1 Pet. 3:11] The reason we are so resistant to the idea is because our flesh wants to be bossy!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21

I find it interesting that the above verse is right before the dreaded Ephesians 5:23 [“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”]. Everyone zooms in on the first half of the wives’ instructions, but don’t notice that right before that, everyone was commanded to submit to each other. When read in context, women are not so specifically being singled out. Read the whole chapter, instead of taking a single verse out of context. There are some heavy responsibilities placed on men in verses 25-30.

More importantly, there is an order. As believers, we are to submit to God first in everything. That means giving up control to Him and allowing Him to shape us into Christlikeness. Secondly, as wives, we are to submit to our husbands. If a husband asks his wife to do something against God’s will, that request is not to be obeyed. Why? Because we are to submit to God first! 

How is a wife to know if her husband is contradicting God? Aside from the obvious ones like stealing, killing, and lying, how should a wife know when it’s proper to submit (obey, go along with, etc) to her husband’s leadership? The answer is simple: godly wisdom and discernment which can only come from a personal relationship with God. We all must cultivate our own relationship with Christ as believers. We should be pursuing His will in our own personal time.

So this is where the wife’s role becomes so empowering. You see, we aren’t called to be brainless “Yes Women.” We’re called to be Christ followers first and foremost. When a difference in opinion (perhaps in regard to a job change or a move) arises, both husband and wife place their wisdom and perspective on the table, perhaps they prayerfully weigh the options (together and individually). If they are still at an impass, the husband, as the head of the home, makes the final call. It is at this point that submission comes into play. It should operate like a benevolent democracy at home. Once all the votes are cast, the husband has the power of veto. And the wife shouldn’t grumble and complain if the decision doesn’t go her way.

“A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.” -Proverbs 19:13

At the core, submission is more about allowing the husband to take the lead. Not just letting, but encouraging him to be the head of the household. God created the husband to be the leader. It’s our job as wives to cultivate the leader and call out the king in our husbands.

All that does not mean there aren’t amazing women leaders, teachers, and speakers. There are many wonderful married female Christian speakers. Lisa Bevere, Beth Moore, and Christine Caine to name a few. Public speaking, authoring, and teaching scripture has little to do with being a submissive wife on its own. Submission applies in terms of family ranking. If a woman’s husband encourages her to operate in her gifting as a Christian counselor or speaker, there is no reason not to further the kingdom in that way! Unless God says no. Then of course submit to that. A godly man will recognize the spiritual gifting you have and encourage you to use it rather than squash it because he feels threatened.

So, fellow single ladies, how does all of this submission talk help us?! I’m glad you asked. First, it helps us to demystify the expectation of our future role as wives. Do not think that once you get married, you suddenly won’t be allowed to have an opinion. In fact, a godly man will value your wisdom.

Secondly, as we navigate the dating world, look for a godly man who will see your gifting and encourage you to operate in it. Find someone who appreciates your life experience and godly wisdom. Wait for a man who honors your kingdom role as a woman. Adversely, run from the one who claims that because he’s the man he gets to call all the shots and control you. That’s just abuse.

Finally, when you are intentionally dating a godly man, practice godly submission. Let him take the lead. Encourage him to step out and take risks. Call out the king in him. And when it comes to heavier decisions, respectfully offer your opinion and then let him make the final decision. Remember, that you are not married yet, so you don’t have to submit to anything. However, the courtship dynamic sets the tone for a potential future marriage. If you want your future husband to be a leader, let your current boyfriend practice leading.

Happily Ever After, Pt. 2

In the last post, I talked about what God has been teaching this single lady about marriage. Read more about that here. Today, I’ll continue with why it’s important for a single person to learn about marriage and how to apply that knowledge to our single life.

Knowing what the purpose of marriage is helps us prepare appropriately for it. It also helps us approach dating differently. If my goal in marriage is to find happiness, then I will only look for dating partners that make me “feel good” or fulfill my whims in order to make me happy. Read: take me out for expensive dinners and buy me roses. But if my desire for future marriage is to further carry out God’s plan for me and sanctification, then I will seek a partner and experiences that draw me closer to Christ. Read: serve at the local homeless shelter and worship together. See the difference?

Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, “You & Me Forever” radically changed my view on God’s purpose for marriage. I strongly encourage you to check out their material here: www.youandmeforever.org  (PSSST! They even offer a free download of the book on their app.)

The underlying motivation for marriage drastically changes the behavior in dating, partner selection process, and even the planning and preparation of self before a potential partner shows up.

A dear friend and pastor challenged me awhile back to do a practical exercise in preparation for dating. He pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew a quadrant on it. He labeled each box “Must Have,” “Should Have,” “Could Have,” and “Can’t Have.” He told me to go home and thoughtfully, prayerfully consider and then write down the items I would put in each box for a potential dating partner. “Must haves” are required attributes of my future husband. It’s the non-negotiable items that someone must display such as a personal relationship with Christ. “Should Haves” are desired attributes that are a bit flexible like having hazel eyes. “Could Haves” are flaws that are tolerable such as difficult family members or financial debt. “Can’t Haves” are deal breakers like lying or cheating.

I have made a similar list many times over since about the age of 13. I’m a girl. It’s what we do. However, this time as I went home and contemplated his assignment, I realized how much my desires had changed over the years. When I searched my heart and prayerfully sought God as to what should be on this list, it became obvious why this would be so different than all the other “ideal mate” lists.

Before when I had made similar lists, my objective was to make a wishlist of personality and physical traits that I find attractive. Tall, dark, handsome, charming, kind, brave, etc. I was looking at a potential mate and subsequent marriage as things to make me feel happy, safe, and loved. And while those feelings are a nice byproduct of a healthy marriage, I now realize that “feelings” alone are not the goal.

This time my list took on a completely different shape as I desire to seek God’s will for my future. Instead of looking for someone to make me happy, I find myself looking for someone to challenge and encourage me toward Christlikeness. Now my list includes things like volunteerism, generosity, tithing, spiritual maturity, boldness, etc. It’s not all super spiritual, but mostly it is because character and spiritual roots are what lasts.

If there is one thing I am learning, it is that God cares more about my character, holiness, and obedience than he does about my feelings and happiness. Because I want what God desires for me most, I don’t necessarily want safe and comfortable anymore. Instead, it looks less like financial and emotional security and more like God’s own sacrificial love and eternity focused.

I find myself looking for a husband who has a heart after God’s and can lead me closer to Him, who has a similar spiritual mission in life that I can encourage and support well. I seek a partner whose passion for furthering the kingdom ignites my own as I fuel his desire to serve the Lord. Because of my deep desire for missional living, I find that the things that are on my list are shaped toward that rather than personal security and safety. Your list may look different because your calling is different.

If you are not yet married, I encourage you to seek God’s will for you and make a list like the one I described. Study God’s beautiful design for marriage so you can begin to prepare and cultivate your heart now! If you are married, it’s all the more important to discover God’s purpose for you and your spouse.

Happily Ever After, Pt. 1

Lately, God has been leading me into a deeper understanding of marriage and marital roles. You might be wondering how this applies to a single person. As many of you know, I am unmarried, so how can I speak to marital roles and how can I apply this knowledge to my own life?

Firstly, the Apostle Paul was a single, never married man and yet he wrote the most quoted marital advice in the New Testament. God reveals Himself through people of various walks of life. You don’t have to be married to see the value marriage can provide. Do not discredit someone’s revelation of God’s character based on their marital status, but look instead to their spiritual fruit as Jesus instructed.

“Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” -Matthew 7:17

Secondly, understanding God’s intention for marriage is extremely important for singles, especially those who plan to one day be married. I want to begin to prepare today for marriage by cultivating my character to become a good wife someday. Often people think they can’t learn how to be a good spouse until they are married, but I have seen in my own spiritual walk that it doesn’t work that way. If we ask God, He will provide opportunities to train for our future. Just as He trained David to be ready to slay Goliath by sending bears and lions for him to kill while shepherding. Just as He strengthened Samson to defeat the Philistines. Just as He prepared Esther’s heart and favor with the king to rescue her people. So also will he prepare a single person’s heart for marriage.

About 9 months ago, I began asking God to show me what it means to be a godly wife and to provide me opportunities to train for that future role. Think of it as dressing for the job you want. The Father has been faithful to respond to that request! He has taught me submission to the Holy Spirit as well as spiritual leadership. He has shown me that being submissive is far different than the warped definition the world has given us. He has trained me how to see others as He sees them. He has enabled me to encourage and call out the king in my man rather than complain about his shortcomings. He has provided opportunities to pursue missional living rather than romantic relationships alone.

One of the most valuable revelations Holy Spirit has shown me is in the purpose of marriage itself. Marital roles are intended to support us in our spiritual mission and sanctification. In short, marriage is not intended for our personal happiness and sexual gratification. It is for the purpose of reflecting Christ’s love to the world. Additionally, it is for marital partners to encourage each other to fulfill their God-given purpose. Finally, it is for growing more Christlike. As with everything else in life, it’s about making Christ greater in our life.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17

In Timothy Keller’s book “The Meaning of Marriage,” he states the following:

“a lifelong, monogamous relationship between and man and a woman. According to the bible, God devised marriage to reflect the saving love for us in Christ,  to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole life union.”

In the next post, I’ll discuss how this understanding of God’s plan for marriage can be of practical and spiritual use to a single person. In the meantime, whether married or single, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic. Why did God invent marriage? If you’re already married, what has he taught you through that relationship?

Can’t Buy Me Love

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t make it into our twenties and thirties without a few financial blunders. They flood our mailbox with credit cards the minute we turn 18, but they don’t teach us how to manage finances or even balance our checkbooks in high school. I don’t know many people without student loan or medical debt at the very minimum. Some of us had parents who were wise with their money. Some of us saw excellent examples of what NOT to do.

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

Most of us have heard of or even subscribe to the Dave Ramsey financial philosophy of zero debt budgeting. I agree with 98% of his philosophy. It’s wise, biblically sound financial stewardship.

However, what if you meet someone and they’re a great catch: a mission minded, compassionate, Christ follower with strong character, but their only flaw is they’re still on “Baby Step Number 1,” starting an emergency fund? What if she’s the most amazing, godly woman you’ve ever met, but she has student loans coming out of her ears? Does that disqualify the person from the dating arena? And what about grace?

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about what’s tolerable and what’s not in a potential dating/courting partner. But what about the gray areas? Finances can be a major issue in marriage. Some statistics would claim that 80% of marital fights are over finances. So it’s an important topic to discuss ahead of time.

First and foremost, we have to look to the Bible as the primary authority. It discusses money quite a bit. In fact, Jesus talked about money more than Heaven and Hell combined! God knew from the start the challenges finances would pose for us, so He gives us detailed instructions in His Word regarding it.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” -Malachi 3:10

This is a direct command and the only place in scripture where God challenges us to test Him. That’s pretty serious. So, rule number 1: I tithe and anyone who is a potential dating partner must faithfully tithe as well.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:21

As I observe and get to know someone as a dating partner on a deeper level, I’m taking note of how and where they spend their money. This is not so much a hard and fast rule as it is watching and learning. I want to know where his heart is and according to Scripture, how he spends will tell me a lot. Does he use it to bless others and sow into ministry? Or is he miserly? Does he blow it on foolish and selfish things? Or is he generous and kind with his money? No one executes this perfectly. Lord knows I don’t! But over time, you should have a good general idea of where most of your partner’s treasure is being sown.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” -Matthew 6:24

I am searching for a partner who is seeking God and passionate about missional living. According to this scripture, serving God and “chasing the almighty dollar” cannot coexist. Therefore, as I strive to personally be less selfish and materialistic, I am also looking for a partner who is not obsessed with money, climbing the corporate ladder, or preoccupied with big houses and fancy cars. Years ago, I dated a guy like that and it was this reason alone that caused me to realize that he loved money and a lavish life more than God or subsequently, a relationship with me.

Ambition is not a bad thing. Obsession (AKA idolatry) is. When the money, cars, houses, trips, promotions, and various symbols of “success” become more important than pursuing God and furthering His kingdom, that is idolatry. Focusing too much on finances can be an idol.

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” -1 Timothy 5:8

Wow. That’s harsh! Any potential partner must be financially self-sufficient. That means he must be able to support himself. If he is a single parent, he must be able to provide for his household. In this day and age, that looks different from person to person. He might have a roommate or she might rent from a family member. Bottom line, they should be able to support themselves and provide for their own food, clothing, and shelter. The condition and style the above items is in a bit of a gray area. Some may prefer to see filet mignon and Patagonia, while others are fine with bologna and secondhand threads. That’s up to you.

To recap, the 4 big financial health signs I have discovered in scripture are as follows:

  1. Must be a tither. Period.
  2. Watch for spending habits.
  3. Can’t idolize money and/or success.
  4. Must be self-supporting.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it reveals some good indicators. In all of the above, you should apply the same litmus tests to yourself. What do your spending habits tell a potential future dating partner? Do you tithe faithfully? If you fall short in any of the four areas, why?

Remember to have grace and understanding for yourself and others. No one is perfect and most of us are still trying to figure this whole money management thing out. So rather than being legalistic, seek to understand and show grace. Perhaps there are genuinely extenuating circumstances.

On the other end of the spectrum, do not, under any circumstances ever ever EVER let a dating partner move in with you before marriage to save money or begin financially supporting a boyfriend or girlfriend. This compromise of physical, financial, or relational boundaries will only hurt you in the end.

In addition to studying scripture, it’s vitally important to seek godly counsel from someone older and wiser who has been there or your pastor. Accountability will lead to growth and help you learn quicker if you allow it to.

How Far I’ll Go

I recently reached out to a friend who just got married last May. She and her husband were a shining example of godly courtship leading up to their marriage. When I found out that their first kiss took place at the altar on their wedding day, I had to find out how they did it.

We live in a society that pushes a “do whatever feels good” philosophy much like the Greeks and Romans of the early Church times. Paul advised against sexual immorality in several of his letters that comprise the New Testament.

“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.” Ephesians 5:3 NLT

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 NLT

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21

When singles and young people ask, “How far is too far?” I think they’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about dancing as close to “the line” as you can without actually crossing it. It’s about living a life above reproach. It’s about drawing your own line so far back that there’s no way you’d cross any questionable lines or find yourself ridden with guilt.

I used to know a girl that was adamant about maintaining her virginity, but would do absolutely anything and everything sexual with any man except actual, technical sex. What kind of witness is that? Is that purity? Is that maintaining healthy boundaries? I don’t think so. And I’m sure most would agree.

We can all agree that according to Scripture, sex outside of marriage is not God’s best plan. And if we want God’s best for our future marriages, sexual purity is important. But there’s a bit of grey area where God expects us to use good judgment and discernment. It’s up to each of us to decide how far is too far. Therefore, we have to create healthy boundaries long before we find ourselves in a compromising situation.

When I spoke with my married friend, I was pleased to find out that she and her now husband did exactly what I have put into practice myself (yay me!). She said early in the relationship, they had a conversation and drew clear boundaries for physical contact.

For each person and couple, those boundaries may be drawn differently. For me, personally, I know that based on my past struggles and sexual temptations, I can’t even kiss a man on the lips before our wedding day. I’m a single mom, so obviously I’m not a naive, doe-eyed, innocent virgin. In light of that, it may sound extreme to some for me to draw such a stern line. But let’s be honest, a kiss can be a slippery slope that leads to more and more until we’re in a place we can’t recover from. The kiss is the “gateway drug” to physical intimacy, if you will. I’d rather play it super extra safe and not have any grey area. This is something I’ve prayed about and believe God has asked me to do. Again, your line in the sand may be different.

The second tip that my friend gave me was something else I’ve already put into practice (2 points for the win!). She said they set clear boundaries around spending too much time alone together especially in the late evening hours.

I have a 10 pm curfew. I know not all sex happens after dark, but as a dear friend pointed out, temptation is harder to resist when we’re tired. As attraction and the relationship grows, that time frame and alone time in general may have to be adjusted in order to safeguard ourselves. Clear and regular communication as adjustments are made is also essential so both parties are in agreement.

Again, this may look different for each person and couple, but the important thing is to focus on how to protect yourself and one another from sin, not how much can you get away with. In a healthy relationship, both parties should be in total agreement on this topic and be able to hold each other accountable. When one has a moment of weakness, the other can be strong and uphold the boundaries. If the lines get blurred, a conversation is definitely in order to re-calibrate.

If you are both chasing after God first and foremost, then your hearts will be in the right place. My desire is that my life and my relationship would point people to Jesus. My heart is to have a marriage one day that is a reflection of Christ’s love and is completely counter-cultural. That begins long before the wedding day! It is harder to do things God’s way, but it’s always worth it!

My friend reported that because of their decision to abstain, they are enjoying a multitude of God’s blessings in their marriage that made it all worth every sacrifice. That’s what I want someday. I want to be able to say we did things God’s way and because of that, He can bless us abundantly as we chase after His high calling in our life and marriage.

By the way, drawing these boundaries in a seemingly extreme way for protection applies to ALL sin, not just sex. If your struggle is with drugs or alcohol, don’t go near a bar or the people you used to gain access through. If your sin is lust or cheating, avoid friendships with singles of the opposite gender especially when in a relationship. Avoid any situation that could potentially become compromising. RUN AWAY!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Just The Way You Are

In my last post, Waiting For Superman, I talked about having unrealistic expectations of a potential dating partner. This week, I want to address the flip side of that same coin.

No one is perfect. We all know that. We most often use that line in defense of our own flaws or quirkiness. However, in light of grace, we need to accept the fact that our partner will have quirks and flaws as well. Sometimes, they’re things you can live with. Other times, they may not be.

Now I’m not talking about major character defects like lying, cheating, or anger issues. I’m talking about personality quirks like type of humor or small flaws like table manners issue. The little stuff that might be mildly annoying, but isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.

I thank God for small flaws and quirks for a number of reasons. First, they remind me that my partner isn’t perfect, so I can relax and let go of my own perfectionism a bit. It’s almost like I have to see him be human first, then I can let my hair down a little, too. That’s when vulnerability and honesty begin to truly emerge in the relationship.

Second, it often opens my eyes to the bigger picture. I once dated a guy several years ago for a very short period. We attended the same church and he seemed to always have something super spiritual to say or scripture to quote. He expressed interest in me and I thought, “He’s not exactly my type, but what’s the harm in getting to know him a little better.” He seemed nice enough, but after a few times of hanging out outside of church walls, I saw his feet. And that was the beginning of the end. When I saw the horror that was in his summer sandals, I could barely hold it together. Remember the scene in Dumb and Dumber when they had to use circular sanders to file Harry’s toenails? No exaggeration. It was just like that! I was horrified! I thought,”If his foot hygiene was that bad, what else did he not take care of?”

Soon, I started noticing major character defects like a victim’s mentality and no fruit of spiritual growth. I discovered that while he knew a lot of scripture, he lacked the maturity and grounding to apply his knowledge to his life. His deeds did not back up his words. So I quickly severed the relationship. Besides, the raptor toes had to go!

Finally, I’m grateful for quirks and flaws because sometimes, just sometimes, they can have the opposite effect and deepen the attraction. Maybe you discover that you both loved playing super nerdy games as kids like D&D or Magic the Gathering. That could make for a fun date night down the road. Or perhaps you find out that he is really good at woodworking and you’ve been dying to build a bookshelf for your ever growing, insane book collection… Hypothetically, of course. This gives you a project to work on together. Read: more bonding time. Maybe he has a quirky sense of humor that may seem dorky to others, but puts you at ease, because, admit it, you’re a dork, too. Personally, I find it more magical when connection happens over the unexpected little things rather than the obvious.

It is in those moments that recently I have taken the time to thank God for being so detailed oriented. It’s in those little quirks and details that God reveals His perfect plan. He shows his extravagant love by fashioning us uniquely and beautifully. When you find someone who has flaws (not just quirky interests) that match up with yours, you have found something special. Thank God for his faithfulness and extravagant love.

“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Luke 12:7 NLT

Waiting For Superman

Okay, ladies. It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Most of us have made a list at one point or another. You know what I’m talking about. The list of all the qualities your future husband should have. Don’t deny it. We’ve all made one. Years ago, I took it to a whole new nerdy level… I had a spreadsheet. It had a weighted scoring algorithm and everything. I could rate a guy I was seeing and it would give me a compatibility percentage. Don’t judge.

I read a book once that walked me through how to think through and write out the ultimate husband list. We’re talking wishlist on steroids! Physical appearance, personality, sex, finances, etc. Nothing was untouched. So a list in the form of a personal ad (cuz it’s just funnier that way) would read as follows:

“SWF seeking tall, ridiculously good looking, intelligent male. Must love dogs and children. If you like long walks on the beach while holding hands and talking about the future and feelings, keep reading! If you like dancing in the rain and are wildly hilarious, we should talk. Volunteering whenever possible while being career driven is necessary. ‘Scrubs’ and freeloaders need not apply. Singing, dancing, and a great sense of humor are highly desired. Cooking, cleaning, and auto repair are a plus. Must be light-hearted and fun while also grounded and practical. Open communication and sensitivity are a priority. No issues, exes, or bad habits. If you want to save my day, contact me for more ideals you’ll never be able to meet.”

I hate to break it to you, girls, but we’ve set an impossible standard. The guy described above (and on most of our lists) doesn’t exist. You’ll be a bachelorette until the rapture with a list like some women have. For starters, some of the items are contradictory or unimportant. Expecting a man who is both career driven and volunteers regularly is highly unlikely. And good luck finding anyone with any amount of life experience that comes without and issues, exes, or bad habits. The truth is we need to be a little more realistic with our expectations.

Research shows that the number one quality women look for is a sense of humor. That’s just plain embarrassing. First of all, if that were true, comedians would be the most attractive pool of men. Typically speaking, that’s not the case, though. Even so, it’s sad that our society is so superficial that the thing we value most in a partner is the ability to entertain us. Don’t get me wrong. A sense of humor is a great bonus. It can make getting through the tough stuff bearable. But good luck getting through the tough stuff with laughter alone and without resolve or persistence.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, character is what we should be looking for. So if you must make a list, make it about things of substance like integrity, honesty, fortitude, self-control, and a love for Christ above all else.

But with any list, we must be careful not to set the bar so high as to expect perfection. Remember that we are all human and in process. No one man will have every godly character and spiritual fruit evident in their life. You may meet someone who is self-controlled, slow to anger, and compassionate, but still struggles with patience. If he acknowledges that area and you see that he is actively working on building patience, give the guy a break! No one is perfect. Not you, me, or any potential suitor.

Prayerfully consider which items are important and which are not. Things like gentleness, faithfulness, and peace should far outweigh tall, dark, and handsome. Deal breakers should be things like lying, cheating, and any form of abuse. Take an honest look at your list and pray for God to show you any blind spots or superficial desires. Make sure you’re not waiting for Superman to come sweep you off your feet. Cuz that ain’t gonna happen, girlfriend.

However, there are good men of godly character out there. I promise! I’ve even met some of these elusive unicorns in real life. But God can’t bring a wonderful, godly man into your life if you aren’t 1) focusing on Him and 2) keeping realistic expectations.

As a bonus hint, a man who is developing these fruits and character traits is going to be looking for the same in his woman. So seek God and grow in Him before you start wondering “where have all the cowboys gone.”

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” -Galatians 5:22-24

gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

You Gotta Be

“Begin with the end in mind.”

I’ve heard this phrase, coined by Stephen Covey, used in regard to business. The idea is to start and continue a series of actions with a particular destination in mind. It causes you to pause and ask yourself a series of questions. What is the goal? Are my daily actions getting me closer to the big goal or not? How can I adjust my trajectory in order to achieve the desired result?

Of course all of this makes sense in business terms, but I find this logic can apply in many aspects of life. In parenting, it’s a good idea to step back and look at the big picture. It’s like looking at the roadmap of life to make sure we’re navigating the best possible route to get to the highly sought after destination called, “Responsible, godly adult children.” Are you with me so far? Good.

Lately I’ve been pondering how to apply this logic to my romantic life. Beginning with the end in mind means first determining what the end goal is. Starting at the end and working my way back to where I am now.

I am not trying to just be someone’s girlfriend. My objective is to be a godly wife. 

With that in mind, I conduct myself differently. I don’t date just for fun. I don’t flirt for the sheer attention of it. I don’t fall for flattery. I don’t waste my time on relationships that don’t have long term potential. And I certainly don’t give my heart or body away to anyone. I do build friendships and invest in people. I do chase after the calling of Christ whole-heartedly. I do make sure someone has good, solid, godly character before allowing myself to develop any romantic feelings. I definitely exercise self-control and restraint.

In fact, this mindset has changed a lot of the ways I view dating, too. Personally, I think “dating” according to modern definitions is a farce. It’s not for the purpose of finding your marriage partner, but rather, for the purpose of “having fun” and fulfilling carnal desires. Instead, I adhere to a “courtship” type of philosophy without all the weird legalism. Read more about that here.

I used to date according to societal norms. But it led to frustration and games. Lots and lots of games. There are rules for every situation. How not to scare a guy off. How to appeal to his emotional side as well as physical. How to find the man of your dreams. How to get him to notice you. Blah, blah, blah. Once I realized that my goal was not to “hook” a guy, but is to wait for the man God has for me, my outlook and approach did a 180!

Within that realization, there are several concepts which I will further expound on.

1) My goal is to be a godly wife. I don’t want to just be someone’s girlfriend. I want to be the type of wife that Proverbs 31 describes. That means that in this season of singledom, I am focusing on my relationship with God and actively developing my own godly character. I’m also studying God’s Word and trusted Christian teachings about what it means to be a godly wife. Especially as an independent, single mom, I am allowing God to teach and mold me to be a helpmate for when that time arrives. And He is faithful to provide plenty of opportunities for learned application!

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.”  -Proverbs 31:10

2) My job is to wait. This one could be a post all on its own (and it may be at some point). Contrary to what society would have us believe, God created man and woman equal but different. As a woman, my job is to hide myself in Christ and wait on the Lord. There’s no need to chase after men or try to get their attention. Look and listen, but don’t chase. God will turn my future husband’s attention to me when we are both ready. I have to trust in Him. An exercise in patience is challenging and frustrating at times. But I have learned that running off and doing my own thing results in far more painful consequences. And so I will continue to wait.

“But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.” -Isaiah 40:31

3) My value is in Christ, not what men think of me. People’s opinions come and go. Popularity rises and falls. Men of the world chase folly. I have learned not to care what people think of me. My relationship with the Eternal One is far more important than the shifting whims of men. My Heavenly Father will take care of me up to and including sending the right godly man to my doorstep. I no longer have the desire to be chased for flattery alone.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.” -Proverbs 31:30

Because of this shift in mindset and Christ-centered focus, I actually don’t get the cat calls and undesirable pick up lines. I don’t get hit on or asked out by jerks and players. Most common men either don’t notice me or are intimidated by me. I don’t really care either way, because I am hidden in Christ and focused on that relationship. So maybe more accurately, I don’t notice them. Regardless, I am content to keep my eyes on Jesus until He brings my Boaz into my life. I am open to love in God’s perfect timing. Until then, I am diligently preparing by cultivating my Ruth-like character. I’m working in the “fields” by focusing on the calling God has placed on my heart and learning to submit to the Holy Spirit in humble obedience.

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles and wild deer,
not to awaken love until the time is right.” -Song of Solomon 2:7

It’s not easy to be patient and wait for God’s timing. But I know full well that the Lord often delivers in a way that is far more glorious than I ever imagined. I know He has a husband chosen for me who will be an even better blessing than I imagine now. He will love me and challenge me. He will lead my family well. And he will be humanly imperfect. We will sharpen and grow each other in faith and character. We will draw each other closer to God and each other as we embark on the sanctifying journey of marriage.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”                             -Ephesians 3:20

I Just Died In Your Arms

“Will you be my daddy?” my five year old begged as she looked up at him with her big, hazel eyes. It would have been far more adorable and less mortifying had I actually been in a serious relationship with the man she was soliciting. I could have died. Luckily, the friend in question is a good sport. We all had a good laugh about it.

Kids say the darnedest things. Or so they say. One thing is for sure, it’s never boring! Getting involved with a single parent will surely involve blunders like the one described above. Especially if they have an outspoken, daddy issues laden young child like mine. My sweet girl has longed for a daddy since she went to daycare and saw other little girls being dropped off and picked up by their daddies. To this day, she is on the hunt for her daddy.

My older sister often reminds me that it will take a pretty amazing man to step into our family. And she’s right. But as my mother reminds me, it’s less about a “perfect man” and more about the “right man,” showered with God’s grace.

It’s hard enough to get to know someone when kids are always around, interrupting, playing, climbing, crying, and interjecting obnoxious comments. It can feel very circus-like. And then when mutual attraction is established and ground rules are set, the kids get comfortable enough to ask when the wedding will be or if the potential suitor may henceforth and forever be called, “Daddy.” On the other hand, I have recently acquired the nickname, “Miss Hannigan.” After all of this, if the gentleman is not running for the hills, screaming in terror, we may have something to work with.

Of course, the plus side is that having kids that do not have functioning filters allows me to “separate the wheat from the chaff.” A man who can’t handle reminding my five year old about personal boundaries, probably doesn’t want to get involved with me. And if a middle schooler’s awkward jokes about “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” seem a little too real, he might as well drop out. The guy who makes it past my kids may actually have a shot at getting to know me. Only the strong will survive.

More than that. The man who understands both of my polarized children and how desperately they want to be loved will have a fighting chance. A man of strong, godly character and a willingness to lead this crazy three ring circus would be a special find, indeed. I don’t want someone who just tolerates my kids to get closer to me. Instead, I am waiting for God to send a man who loves my crazy kiddos as much as he cares for me. He will take an interest in them and be willing to not only befriend them, but also lead and guide them. He will see them, not as a hurdle or nuisance, but as part of an adventuresome package deal.

Pursuing a single parent is wild, challenging, and unpredictable. But it can also be so rewarding for the man who is led by God to be the head of a pre-existing household. There is a dynamic already in place that just the right man could enhance and cultivate into something pretty special.

I’d like to hear from the other single parents or former single parents. Comment below with the craziest thing your kid(s) said to a dating partner.