Blog Series: Encouragement from Marrieds to Singles (Jennifer Branch)

Me: When looking back on your time of singleness what would you do differently now that you are married?

Jennifer: I would look to be single for God. To live purposefully as a single person.

Me: What life lessons have you learned from being married that could help singles in their season?  How can we prepare for marriage NOW?

Jennifer: A man or woman will not “complete” you.  Only Jesus can do that.  So if you are waiting to get married to “start” living for God or start walking in your purpose, you are in for a rude awakening.  Live now as though you are married – set apart for God.

Me: What tips would you give your daughters when preparing them for their single season?

Jennifer: If you are messed up you can’t be happy or make anyone else happy!

Me: How can you see God’s hand on your story?

Jennifer: I truly believe and received through many confirmations that Chris and I are supposed to be together. Although I know that God honors all marriage, I feel great knowing that God gave others the heads up about Chris and I.  We didn’t start off with the perfect story or our eyes completely set on God but we came to a place where we made some decisions.  We decided to pursue God with all we had, no matter what that looked like.

jenniferJennifer Branch is a wife, mom, creator, delegator, admin, business woman and stewards a plethora of gifts and talents. She enjoys organizing and crafts and diligently seeks God with all of her heart.

 

The Tree of Life

 I am sitting here alone at the office with a ruler in my hand and a bank report laid before me.  I enter the figures in the excel spreadsheet and find satisfaction in each line completed.  Over and over my skill is confirmed.  I was made for this.  I think back on the years of complacency.  I think back to the stretching and yielding and waiting.  All for this.  An open door I couldn’t have foreseen if I tried, regardless of the prophetic gift inside me.

I have the luxury to sip a great cup of coffee while talking to my bestie on my cell.  I have that luxury because in this season, along with professional growth and skill enhancement, there is autonomy.  I think back to the season before where I was micromanaged and nit picked for no good reason.  Everything inside of me screamed, “I am a good associate!  Why don’t you treat me as such?  Why do you provoke me?!”  but by the leading of the Holy Spirit I suppressed the scream inside and instead released it as a prayer.  Released it as intercession for the very one provoking me.  I did this for days, then months, then years.  And there were glimpses of eternity in our conversations, this man that I prayed for daily.  But the real change was within me.  I was changing.  Again.

I sit here and know that this is my reward.  It didn’t come the way I thought it would, the way I felt it should, but it was tailor made for me.

I am so blessed to be growing professionally.  To finally have this desire met after 3 long years of waiting.  Of yearning.  I am so blessed to be mentored in the art of entrepreneurship.  I am so blessed to be using my gifts and talents which confirm all that was stirring in my heart all those years.

I have purpose.

But I had to find my purpose internally.  I had to find that I was not made by a title or a job or a position.  The position comes as a reflection of who we already are.  And the Father skillfully, carefully, molds and shapes us in preparation for the gift.

There is no sweeter satisfaction than when hope is finally fulfilled.  And it is now fulfilled.

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

If you would like to check out my recent YouTube video on the topic of contentment click here.

SHALOM

 

My People

Have you ever interacted with someone who just doesn’t see you? Your gifts, your talents, your beauty? No matter how hard you try they are blind to the greatness that is “you”.  I found myself in that position recently. And what made it worse (actually there were a lot of things that made it worse but I’ll address just this one thing) was that I kept seeing myself through their lense.  And because I saw myself through their lense I became a lesser version of myself.  Sigh. 

This lesser version was insecure and needy and very unattractive. I was sincerely surprised at my own conduct and tried several times to pull it together and yet was unsuccessful. What is goin on with me? I thought. Why am I acting this way.

In hindsight I still have a lot of processing to do but the one revelation I do have is “not everyone will see you”. Not everyone will see you because they are not called to.  Christ walked the earth, God in the flesh, and there were so many who allowed God to walk right by them without even so much as a glance. What a missed opportunity for them! But they did not have eyes to see. 

Those in my life who see me are “my people”.  They affirm, encourage and love unconditionally.  They do not define me by my flaws but by my position.  My position in Him.

Its ok if there are some who are not your people. There are plenty who are. And as we stay on the path and move forward we will meet them.  I have met one particular young lady through this here blog, and now in just one week she will be moving in with me! I never could have foresaw those events but God has great surprises on His path for us.

Those who are called to us, those who deserve the title of being “our people”, they have demonstrated His love and grace which in turn brings out our very best. It is a cycle when this happens, but a very good one.

Here’s to my people, new and old…


SHALOM

Blog Series: Encouragement from Marrieds to Singles (Gretchen Anderson)

Me: How long were you single?

Gretchen: 40 years

Me: When you think back on your time of singleness what is one word you would use to describe that time and why?

Gretchen: RICH. For me, I lived each day in the moment and I was never one to pine for a husband. I always felt young in every aspect and so I was in no hurry. It was the Lord that finally had me start desiring a husband around 37-38 years old. I believe that was His way of preparing me for my husband. In the 6-8 months before I knew who was going to be my husband, God told me to pray for him.

Me: What were some of the hard times of your singleness?

Gretchen: I think it was difficult always finding myself with the WRONG person because I didn’t know my self worth. I didn’t lack for confidence in who I was, but I did lack self-worth of who I was MADE to be in Christ.

Me: What were some of the great times?

Gretchen: Oh goodness, so many! I traveled extensively and had many adventures! One of the most impactful being a missions trip to Guatemala where God’s glory was truly manifested in supernatural ways! But the best times were in my continually deepening walk with the Lord as I pursued Him with all of my heart, obeyed His leading and I truly left the picking of the man He had for me in His hands to handle it in His timing as He pleased. I learned to fully trust God with this!

Me: Why do you think God incorporated a longer season of singleness in your story than some of your peers?

Gretchen: He had to prepare me for my husband in several ways. My husband is 12 ½ years younger than me so he would have been waaaaay too young for me prior to our marriage date! He also had to establish my walk with Him so that I would not fall into making my husband my idol instead of keeping God first. He had to establish my self-worth and identity in Christ as well. One of the ways God worked out some of the kinks in me and grew me immensely is by having me live with other people (host family, roommates), so that I learned to be more patient and selfless.

Me: What advice would you give to those who are waiting on God’s best and desire not to settle in their relationship choice?

Gretchen: Definitely keep waiting!! My husband and I always tell people that God is the BEST matchmaker. Let God work out your kinks, and let Him build your character so that you will be a better husband/wife to your future spouse! TRUST God that He loves you and wants the best for you, but He wants your whole heart in exchange. Trust Him with your heart. Trust Him more than you trust yourself. You’re a mess whether you know it or not (sin nature, sin habits) so your decisions are not pure, but His are!

Me: Is there anything else you want to add for my readers?

Gretchen: After I returned from the Peace Corps I was fervently crying out to the Lord in my desire to know Him and pursue Him more. As a result, God led me to Cleveland where I found my purpose in Him with a large community of believers. Coming to Cleveland took me much more deeper in Him than if I had stayed in the “desert”. I eventually met and married Glenn, the man that God had perfectly chosen for me here in Cleveland. We met on a missions trip to Guatemala, became very good (but very platonic) friends for 4 years. He was younger than me so I didn’t consider him in that way, but always thought he was such an amazing man of God. After 4 years of friendship, God revealed to his heart that I was the one for him and at that moment, his heart was flooded with love for me. When he told me I was the one, I was truly shocked, but knew he was much more than I ever thought I could have. 4 ½ months later we were married and are still blissful together 6 years later. My husband and I are foster parents and our ministry is working closely with refugees as well, building relationships, helping them adjust, etc… We have 2 beautiful foster children that we believe the Lord has said will be ours one day. That word has been confirmed over and over again. He is NOT a man that He would lie!

Gretchen Anderson speaks Spanish as her first language as a result of living in Mexico the first 5 years of her life. Over the course of her life she’s held down a ga-zilliion jobs that ranged from working at a gun store to being an ESOL teacher!   She loves athletics and has ran several triathalons. She moved around a lot before settling down in Cleveland, OH where she eventually met, befriended and married her hunk of a husband! Now they enjoy being foster parents to two adorable little boys and look forward to the next adventure God has to offer.

 

The Webs We Weave

Have you ever done something you regret? Like really regret? But even though you regret it in time you do it again. And again. And again…

Romans‬ ‭7:15, 19‬ 
“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”

The thing is I tend to enjoy the thing I’m not supposed to do. And not even just because it has that forbidden enticing appeal to it, but part of the appeal is that it actually plays off of my natural desires. My natural desires that are not being met that I’ve had to practice dying to for 11 years.

But anytime I give in, and allow myself to get a “fix” or feel good, or ease the pain, you know what happens? Hurt happens. And more pain happens. And it never ends up the way I want it to.

And years go by and the same thing happens and I wonder when the ending of this cycle will be? How much work needs to be done in my life to where I will not be faced with this issue? I realize I cannot in and of myself do this work. I cannot muster up enough strength.

It must be that I have to glory in my weakness. It must be that I have to admit my predispositions and insecurities. We all have them you know–insecurities. So maybe your struggle isn’t like mine, but maybe you struggle with something.  

Maybe there is a web that keeps being weaved through reoccurring struggles that happen this side of life. One thing that is for sure, the web is too entangled for me to untangle all by myself. I have my sisters there helping me. I have my spiritual community. I have my family: those who are here and the ones who have gone to glory.

And O I have a Father who called me before I was in my mother’s womb. He promised me He would work it all out for my good. He promised to be my strength where I am weak. And He promised to complete the work He started. And Oh what a work…

A masterpiece in the place of a web.

Grace and forgiveness in the place of sin and selfishness.

Here is a link to a podcast on generational curses if you’re interested.

In other news, I found out recently my book is available in the local Library! Proof He is not done with me yet😉.


SHALOM

Blog Series: Encouragement from Marrieds to Singles (Candra Evans)

We are starting off our new series “Encouragement from Marrieds to Singles” with Mrs. Candra Evans!  I have been so honored to have connected with Candra and so inspired by her faith and perseverence.  There are not many I can say I look up to on this spiritual path however she definitely made the cut!  Her tenacity and humility count her as one who has  “Pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.  Please show her some love in the comments below and by visiting her blog (see bio).  Thanks!

Me: How long were you single?

Candra: I always say eighteen years considering that I wanted love and marriage since I graduated high school. I presumed that meeting my future husband would happen in college and we would be married and pursuing our careers together soon after. God blessed me to marry at the sweet age of 36.

Me: When you think back on your time of singleness what is one word you would use to describe that time and why?

Candra: Uncertainty – As the years came and went, I found myself unsure of an answered prayer. I was unsure if marriage was part of God’s plan for my life. I was unsure of how I would face the world as a single woman of a certain age. Many times I felt insecure in my faith and my worth as a woman.

Me: What were some of the hard times of your singleness? What were some of the great times?

Candra: Some of the most difficult times was being filled with the hope of love, only to find that yet again, it was not meant to be. There were online dating disappointments and the holiday embarrassments of telling relatives that you don’t have a special someone. I recall not feeling so bad about it, until taking in the stunned gazes.

Glory be to God that when I allowed it, great times came in abundance. It took being firm about being positive. That wasn’t easy, but because my heart was open to it, God strengthened me by the power of His Spirit. In military like fashion I forged a bond with the Holy Ghost. I declared that I would live and declare the glory of God. In this season I found my purpose, I had fun with friends, and I took every opportunity to try something new. I discovered so much about myself and before I knew it, I was thriving.

Me: Why do you think God incorporated a longer season of singleness in your story than some of your peers?

Candra: Good question. In my uncertainty phase I asked myself this often. Was it something I did? Did I disobey God somehow? Then I gained a better understanding of grace and realized that I could never be “good enough”. There have been many benefits of getting married at this age. I am wiser. My life in Christ has direction. I have a greater appreciation for my marriage. Most of all, I am able to help others in their longer season of singleness.

Still, I always come back to this bottom line. My resolve is that my life is not my own. I entrusted my life to God and through my pain God has been glorified many times over. Whatever happens God allows for my best interest. It was better for me to marry at 36. Now that I have my desire, I can affirm that God got it right. He did this thing better than I ever could have on my own.

Me: What advice would you give to those who are waiting on God’s best and desire not to settle in their relationship choice?

Candra: Be true to yourself and your convictions. Do not make decisions that will complicate your life and your future.

There are a large number of those who mourn because they gave years of their lives to the wrong person. They settled for what they knew in their heart was not true. They said it was better than being alone. They said that they could make it work. Now they grieve. And if not careful, allow that grief to push them into another compromised relationship.

Maintain your blessed place in God’s will and in His Kingdom. There is no place better.

There really isn’t.

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Candra Evans is a minister, blogger and creator of Abundantly You for Christian Singles. She began blogging about her own Christian single journey in 2009. After many years of waiting, God blessed her to marry Pastor Ron Evans, Jr. in 2011. They currently minister and live in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Healing in Layers

About a week ago I accidentally knocked my hand against my book shelf.  I was sort of in a rush as my friend and I were packing for a road trip (shout out to Ji!) and then all of a sudden BAM I was slowed down.  Intense pain followed and I looked down to see what the issue was.  The skin was split open on my finger and blood was running profusely.  I apologize for those of you with queesy stomachs!  Its about to get a little real here on this post!

I rushed to the sink, ran my finger under the faucet and applied a towel and some Peroxide before looking for a bandaid.  The cut looked kind of deep but I had plans for the weekend and no insurance to cover that kind of injury so I kept it moving.  Over the course of the trip I applied new bandaids and kept an eye on the cut.  I knew I could have used a stitch or two when I saw the white meat appear after the  bleeding stopped.  But again, I was going to have to be a “G” in the situation and let my body do its natural healing thing.  My friend was great and gave me tips as she has suffered her own self inflicted injuries recently.  After the trip I’m not gonna lie, I started getting concerned.  It was such a deep cut and I was wondering how in the world the skin would ever close up.  My friend asked if it scabbed over yet and I shared it had not.  At her recommendation I added some Neosporin which I do feel helped.

Within days I noticed extra layers forming over the white part of the cut and I felt a sense of relief.  It was healing!  The skin was growing back!

At this point I am reminded of a scripture God gave me earlier this year:

Mark‬ ‭8:22-25‬ 

“Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.”

So you’re probably wondering, “Nicole, what does this have to do with you cutting your finger???” Well, my friend I will tell you!  In this passage Christ heals a man but the healing is not instant.  Initially the man sees a little but his vision isn’t 💯. Instead it takes another time for Christ to touch the man.  And its not like this is some imperfect being who doesn’t “have enough faith” to heal someone!  We are talking about Jesus here folks!  So it must be that some wounds are so deep they need to be healed in layers (see the connection now?)😉.  Some wounds need to have the bandages changed a few times, have some antibiotic cream applied, need to have a closer eye kept on them to prevent infection.  As much as you may want you cannot just slap a bandaid on it and keep it moving.  Though there are times God does allow for that!  There was a time a man was lame and all Christ said was “Take up your bed and walk ” and the guy walked!  Those are the times I personally like best!  Instant healing!

But there is something to be learned and appreciated when your healing takes time.  You develop in perseverance, self control, and the like.  You adjust your expectations of who God is and who you are.  God is not a genie in a bottle ready to give you everything you want when you want it and you are not a needy, insecure person who needs His manifestation to feel loved (though I’m saying “you” I’m talking to myself folks).

Instead you learn He sometimes chooses to build your character and faith through the wait.  He sometimes handles you with care and heals you in layers.  And although at times you wonder if the healing will ever come, you realize it is coming but–quietly. 

Slowly. 

And over time.

SHALOM 
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