What I Learned During My Sabbatical Year

This year was perhaps one of the most lonely of my entire life and I think that statement is true for many people all over the world in 2020. We were cut off from our loved ones and forced to quarantine. For single people who live alone (like myself) that means we only saw our loved ones on Zoom for months on end, spending weeks upon weeks shut up in our homes, not seeing another living soul face to face. Praise the Lord for my friends who did stay in touch with me virtually or who went on walks with me wearing a mask and standing 6 feet apart. Otherwise, I don’t know how this extrovert would have survived without going mad! All of this was a perfect storm for what would transpire in my dating life.

A Confession

In January of this year, I announced that 2020 would be the year I let the soil of my heart rest (Exodus 23:11) and that I wouldn’t be doing any dating. (Because it has been 7 years since my ex-husband left me and 7 is an important biblical number of completion.) I confess that I TRIED, I really tried, but I did not completely stay away from dating.

In a fit of loneliness in February, I briefly tried out Facebook dating and went on a couple dates with a guy who was in his second year of seminary, studying to become a pastor. Unfortunately, he started to get kind of passive aggressive with me and then he apologized, noting that his derisive comments stemmed from him being intimidated that I knew more about the Bible than he did. There was already a bad taste in my mouth at this point when he asked to come over at 3 in the morning through text message. I was shocked that someone who was studying to become a pastor would behave this badly. I blocked him and haven’t heard from him since.

I wish I could say that was the only time I broke my promise to just REST this year, but there was a dear, dear friend of mine who I love and care for deeply who I spent so much time with that it was almost as if we were dating without the intentionality of actually dating. I do have very real feelings for him, but simply loving someone is not enough ingredients in the recipe for a match made in Heaven. Another man who has been my friend for a long time also spent quite a bit of time with me this year, but we also were not “dating.” These two friends helped me stave off depression and kept my social life somewhat afloat during the weeks upon weeks that my church was closed, my Bible study moved to Zoom, and I wasn’t getting any in-person fellowship with other believers due to Covid-19. It almost felt as though we were dating sometimes and I did pray and ask God “WHY NOT?!” but I didn’t feel the Lord was saying that either of these two were the right one for me, at least not right now.

The temptation to go on dating sites was very strong, but I was able to resist. I resisted all the way up until November when eHarmony was having a 50% off sale. I haven’t seen their services that cheap in a long time so I pounced on it immediately.

Well, I tried.

Anxiety = Lack of Trust in God’s Character

Anxiety surrounding my singleness still plagues me, no less than before. Actively seeking to rest and not search for a husband this year did not help me stop worrying about my singleness being a permanent affliction. I know that this directly points to a lack of trust in God. If God wants to give me a husband then He will. He is God and I am not. He is the Sovereign One who has a plan that I cannot mess up. All will happen in His timing and I need to surrender to His wisdom of what is best for me. I cannot help but continue to think that marriage to a godly man is what is best for me right now and though I know intellectually in my mind that God knows best, my heart (which is deceitful above all things) thinks that I know what is best for me better than God does.

All this anxiety means I don’t trust that God is good, which the Bible says He is (Psalm 34:8). Anxiety means I don’t think God loves me enough to give me what is good for me, even though the Bible says He loves me as much as He loves Jesus (John 15:9) and desires to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

Anxiety is such a waste of time. It’s an unpleasant feeling that is vigilantly unproductive. It would serve me better to only allow my energy to flow in the direction of things I can influence, not the things that I cannot change. One thing I did right this year was spending a lot of quiet time reflecting and focusing on replacing lies I believe with truth. This is the best thing you can do when anxiety strikes.

Intense vs. Reserved

Last year I wrote about how, for whatever reason, I tend to be attracted to incredibly intense men.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to be an intense man. Intense men are unreserved in sharing their deep feelings. They are bold in pursuing what they know they want. They are passionate about the things they value and are open and expressive about it. (All qualities that are very attractive.) Being intense means that every quality is heightened. If he loves Jesus, his faith is fiery and inspiring. If he loves his family, he is fiercely protective of them. This also goes for his negative qualities as well. If he tend to be an anxious person, his fearfulness might sabotage the relationship. If he has any unforgiveness in his heart, a small disagreement might play out in a melodramatic way with explosive anger.

In the beginning at least, intense men are extremely exciting to be around — bold, charming, and sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic in their pursuit of me (before they’ve really gotten to know me very well). The caveat of dating such a man is that many times these intriguing, enticing qualities oftentimes tend to go hand-in-hand with someone who is somewhat emotionally unstable. Not always of course, but in my experience, the flame burns hot at the beginning only to soon fizzle out as quickly as it ignited.

That’s why last year I said that I wanted to marry someone BLISSFULLY BORING. (Not ACTUALLY boring of course, but kind of boring in the beginning.) And the reason for that is because men who start out slow and steady tend to be solid, dependable, and emotionally healthy. They will not reveal intimate details about themselves or become invested until I have earned their respect and trust, which takes lots and lots of quality time. They are slow to decide if they want to commit, but once they do, you can be sure that they will stay faithful until death do us part.

There was a man I met this year in my circle of friends who piqued my curiosity because I had never met anyone like him before. He was quiet and restrained, possessing, what I could tell from our few interactions, many extremely desirable qualities and yet he was so completely modest and unpretentious about them that few people were aware of them. My impatience and frustration with being unpursued spurred me to forwardly put myself out there and let him know that I admired him and that I’d like it if he asked me out on a date. We did go on a couple dates, but I was to taste the sting of rejection yet again. God knows best and He was protecting me from something that wasn’t His best for me. This young man is best for someone else. Like Anne Shirley though, I think it was all worth it and I don’t regret the experience. Anne says in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Avonlea:

“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud.  But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts. . . it’s like soaring through a sunset.  I think it almost pays for the thud.”

Anne of Avonlea

This experience has taught me to SLOOOOOW DOWN. I will not find an emotionally stable man if I am too eager to get to the next stage of the relationship with him before he is ready. I know exactly what I want and being pretty intuitive, I am able to recognize it fairly quickly as long as the person I am investing time in is opening up and sharing honestly with me. This experience has also shown me that I probably don’t want an extremely reserved man. I DO want an intensely passionate man, but I want him to be so conformed to the character of Christ that he is meek– strong and powerful, yet self-controlled. Sometimes a reserved man and a self-controlled man will look the same at first glance, so I will need to be open to getting to know men who don’t look like my type at first and be patient in getting to know his heart.

Expectations vs. Intentions

The above experience was very disappointing because it didn’t work out.

Disappointment is nothing more than unmet expectations which we tend to equate with failure and which, if we allow it, can sometimes lead to low self-esteem and low self-worth. This is a dangerous place to be because these feelings of soul-crushing defeat can be absolutely crippling and stifle progress, creativity, work ethic, and personal growth, damaging our mental and emotional well-being.

Expectations breed disappointment, while intentions evoke purpose. Making the mental shift from expectations to intentions re-frames our perception of reality to be less susceptible to the danger of an unmet expectation.

Here are some intentions I’ve set for myself for 2021:

♥️ Be faithful in the little things.

♥️ Find small ways to serve others and pour myself into them.

♥️ Accept what you cannot control instead of worrying about it, obsessively dwelling on it, or trying to change it.

♥️ Read my Bible every day. I can’t recognize the voice of God in my life if I’m not immersing myself in His Word.

♥️ Be eternally-minded. Life is too short to focus on temporary things. Store my treasure in Heaven.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Hope, on the other hand, originates in aspiration rather than in assurance. I am still learning to manage my expectations and hopes, but I’m learning to rest and remind myself that trying my best is all I can do and other people’s behavior and choices are out of my control. I’m also constantly reminding myself that God loves me and nothing I do or don’t do will ever make Him love me any more or any less.

God Loves Me More Than I Can Possibly Fathom!

This year I’ve really been diving deep into the fact that Jesus unconditionally, irrevocably, immeasurably, and incomprehensibly loves me as much as God the Father loves His own Son (John 15:9) and God the Father loves me as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:23). There is absolutely nothing on Earth or in Heaven that can separate me from that love (Romans 8:38-39). This is not a love I have earned so there is nothing I can do that will ever cause me to lose it. Meditating on this has helped me to overcome so much depression this year and I’m so thankful for these verses.

God Wants Me to Be Persistent in Prayer

A few days ago, my four-year-old niece Audrey asked me, “Are you going to have children someday, Aunt Dannielle?” I replied, “Yes, hopefully. That’s the plan, Lord-willing. God has to bring me a husband first.” Her response was so simple and straightforward: “Pray. You should pray about it, Aunt Dannielle.” I thought about what she said with such childlike faith. “You’re right, Audrey. That’s the right answer.” And I’ve been thinking about it every single day since.

The Bible says in James 4:2, “You do not have because you do not ask.” I used to ask (more like PLEAD on my knees through tears) every single day, but now I only ask occasionally.

When we pray, we must believe that God not only hears, but He desires to give good gifts to His children in His timing (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13). We must also ask according to His will, because the thing we seek may not be what is best for us or God may have some grand purpose in His withholding. God always hears and answers the prayers that are in accordance with His will (1 John 5:14-15). He hears the prayers I haven’t yet spoken and even answers me mid-prayer (Isaiah 65:24). He is a rewarder of those who diligently and earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, I must stop praying half-hearted prayers here and there, being afraid that I’m asking too much. I need to pray boldly, specifically, and expectantly every single day with conviction that God will answer and without any doubt (James 1:5-8, Philippians 4:6). I do believe God desires both our persistence (Luke 18:1-8) and our submission (Matthew 6:10, Luke 22:42) and there is a balance there that I am still working on figuring out.

Speak the Truth in Love

I am a bold, confident, passionate lover of Jesus. I’ve been called “over-zealous” and “too religious” by men I’ve met on dating sites. How frustrating it is! It’s really hard to know when to speak up and when to stay silent when I hear something said by someone who claims to be a “Christian, ” but does not live according to God’s Word. I’m afraid of being labeled “prideful” or “legalistic.” This past year, I’ve learned that it’s God’s job to sanctify people and my job to point them to the truth… as long as I’m doing it in love. People have mistaken my confidence for arrogance, my assurance for pretentiousness, and my desire to correct false teaching as a desire to create division and confusion. I’m certainly NOT perfect, but it is never my intention to create drama and always my desire for others to have a correct understanding of God’s Word. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when people claim to love God’s Word but constantly take it out of context or blatantly disobey it saying, “God will forgive me.”

When babes in Christ are led astray by false teaching, we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-15). In an age of diluted Christianity, there will be many messages from well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) people that will make you say, “Hey, wait a minute! That’s not biblical.” God wants us to stand up and speak out against falsehood because it is the job of godly leaders to refute anything that contradicts sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). False doctrine is anything that disagrees with the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ in His Word. If it disagrees with scripture, it is false teaching. The proper response is to gently, humbly, patiently (and as kindly as possible) correct anything that exalts itself against scripture in such a way that it will not lead to to dissension, bickering, or discord which is exactly what the devil wants (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Sometimes the truth is offensive to people. However, we are to make every effort we are able to maintain unity while speaking only what is helpful and beneficial (Ephesians 4:29). As the Lord’s bond-servants, we are not to be quarrelsome, but are to gently and lovingly correct those who are in error so that they can understand and do God’s will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We are to do our best to rightly handle the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). I can only do that if I am staying in His Word and obeying it daily, otherwise I’m being a hypocrite. What I learned this year is to simply correct the error and then drop the subject and let the Lord do the work. Nothing will be solved by continually arguing about it.

Rest is So Important

My new niece’s middle name means “pause for reflection.” I spent a lot of time this year sitting still, doing self-reflection, and trying to hear God’s voice. A lot of the time when I pause and rest, my mind turns to dark thoughts. That’s why it’s better for me to meditate on truth rather than empty my mind and think of nothing (because seldom do I ever actually think of nothing… my brain is always ON.) But God said that on the 7th day He rested from all His work and we are also to remember the sacredness of rest. It’s so important that He gave us a sabbath day every week to spend time relaxing from the business and hustle. It is still very difficult for me to discern God’s voice in my life, but I am getting better at it. Not having a relationship to pour into this year gave me more time to stop, rest, and reflect on God’s love for me and His purpose He’s called me to. His purpose for me is simply to enjoy His friendship and rejoice in the blessings He’s given me, always giving thanks to Him as the author of it all.

Foundations of Sapphires & the Love of God

Foundations of Sapphires

Isaiah 54:11
O storm-battered city, troubled and desolate! I will rebuild you with precious jewels and lay your foundations with sapphires.


“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy…” begins Isaiah 54. It’s hard to really find much to shout for joy about when you are starting to feel like a loser as you watch all your dreams explode like fireworks, crash into the ocean, and disappear. How is this my life? I ask myself as I take a step back and assess the damage of the detonation, projectile shrapnel scattered everywhere like so much pink confetti on the day I found out my sister was having a girl.

I keep coming back to Isaiah 54 for comfort. Here are verses 4-6:

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is His name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.”

I feel so much like the desolate storm-battered city. How comforting it is to know that the Lord promises not to leave me like that… that He will rebuild me, starting with foundations of sapphires. I learned something new and extraordinary today in my research! Did you know that the original ten commandments, written by the finger of God on Sinai, were, according to traditional teachings of Judaism in the Talmud, made of blue sapphire stone as a symbolic reminder of the sky, the heavens, and ultimately of God’s throne? (Yes! Ezekiel 1:26 and 10:1 describe God’s throne as being made of sapphire!) The Hebrew word sappir, translated sapphire, is derived from the same root as the words that signify a book, writing, or engraving.

The very last commandment tells me not to covet anything that belongs to my neighbor. It’s so hard not to feel like I am missing something when I rejoice in my sister’s happiness. Why do I long so desperately for a family and let it become an idol in my heart? (Breaking the second commandment.) As Paul says in Romans 7:15, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” The Law is perfect at convicting unbelievers of their slavery to sin. It helps us to see where we fall short of the glory of God and points us to our need for Jesus to redeem us (1 Timothy 1:8-10, Galatians 3:24). But that’s where the purpose of the law stops! It’s Christ’s job to save me (not the law) and it’s my job to draw close to Him and remember how much He loves me.

The Love of God

Here we read verse 10 of Isaiah 54:

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

As the lyrics from one of my favorite hymns In Christ Alone sings, “No power of Hell no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand.” Romans 8:38-39 declares:

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of Hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So far, my absolute favorite verse of 2020 has been John 17:23 because it is so utterly shocking and humbling to imagine that God the Father loves ME, even me, a disgusting sinner, as much as He loves His beloved Son in whom He is well-pleased:

“I am in them and You are in Me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me.”

Does that give you goosebumps? Wow. I love the old hymn “The Love of God” and how it’s greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell. The third verse is my favorite:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.”

What a picture of God’s love! It could never be contained even if the entire sky were paper and the whole ocean were ink. It brings me back to the symbolism of the sapphire. A sapphire is blue as the sky and the ocean.

I think what the sapphire represents is everlasting love. Love that would leave His sapphire throne on high, humble Himself to become a man for the purification from sin, and die a cruel death. From the sapphire ten commandments all the way to the old rugged cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sapphire sky, and back to the sapphire throne where the Son, the creator of the universe who upholds all things and sustains all things by the power of His Word, who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sits at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven (Hebrews 1:2-3).

“The boundless extent of heaven’s blue field cannot be measured even by the astronomer, so the length and breadth, and height and depth of the love of Christ surpass all knowledge. Or, to take the sea as the comparison, the sea touches the shore along one narrow line, and all the beauty and fertility of that shore are owing to its life-giving dews and rains; but it stretches away from the shore, beyond the horizon, into regions which man’s eye has never seen, and the further it recedes, the deeper and the bluer its waters become. And so the love of Christ touches us along the whole line of our life, imparts all the beauty and fruitfulness to that life, but it stretches away from the point of contact into the unsearchable riches of Christ, the measureless fullness of the Godhead — that ocean of inconceivable, incommunicable love which no plummet can sound, or eye of angel or saint ever scan… Blessed be God, it is not on the sapphire foundations of the Law that we are now to build our trust. The obedience that can rest on these foundations must be perfect in every jot and tittle, and perpetual, without cessation or suspense, without question or doubt, from the beginning to the end of life. But such an obedience we cannot rear. Christ’s finished work is now our sapphire foundation.” (-H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

So EVEN IF my dreams seem to crash into the deep blue ocean, I will still submit in joyful devotion to God. He loves me deeply and my purpose is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. So I will draw near to Him because in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

Deal Breakers

Deal Breakers: Advice to Single Women

Natlie Hoffman of “Flying Free Now”

opens up about boundaries, emotional abuse, covert aggression, recognizing red flags, and patterns of unhealthy behavior.

Working Title

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My head was whirling and drawing in oxygen was growing more difficult with each breath. Did what I just witness actually happen or am I trapped in someone else’s nightmare? How did I end up here sitting on this bus stop bench in Tucson, Arizona next to a complete stranger who is also somehow my husband?

A few minutes ago, a taxi cab pulled up in front of us and a beautiful brunette stepped out wearing a form-fitting business blazer, pencil skirt, and black high heels. I will never forget how she briskly came clickety-clacking up to us in a tizzy. “Excuse me,” she gushed. “I just moved here from Connecticut three days ago and I’m in dire need of some crack rock. Do you know where I might be able to find a dealer?”

I was torn between being excited that I have just met a fellow who is also from Connecticut and feeling pity for this woman who is so addicted to illegal drugs that she risked admitting her sin to the lot of us bus-riding folk, any one of whom could have been an undercover police officer ready to arrest her for the confession. But of course we are simply good citizens who just want to get to work and certainly don’t know anything about…

“Just a moment,” the man who looked exactly like my husband replied. He whipped out a pocket-sized notebook and pen and began jotting down a name and number from memory. He swiftly ripped the piece of paper from the pad and handed it to the well-dressed woman who clutched it to her breast like she had just won the lottery. With tears welling in her eyes, she profusely thanked the man who I thought was my husband only a moment ago. “No problem!” He called out as if he were a knight in shining armor who just saved the day. She stepped back into the taxi and drove off.

Everything was spinning. My own husband, who used to teach Wednesday night Bible study at my church back in Connecticut only two years ago, knows a crack rock dealer’s phone number by heart. Is this real life? Certainly I have wandered onto the set of the wrong movie because I didn’t know my lines or even my part. Wait a minute, who am I?

Now let me see, I know my name is Dannielle and I come from a small conservative farming town in Connecticut where the neighbors are your friends and you can leave your bicycle out in your yard without worrying that someone might steal it. I was raised since infancy in an evangelical Christian church where we were so close I called people Mimi and Uncle who were not my Mimi and Uncle. I was the girl who was saving my first kiss for marriage. I was the girl who, at six years old, knew who would be my bridesmaids and what color they were going to wear as I waltzed down the aisle holding a bouquet of fragrant stargazer lilies which represent purity. I know who I am, but who is my groom? This man, who now appears much thinner to me, is not the man I married.

The man I married wouldn’t have stopped going to church right after the honeymoon. The man I married wouldn’t have hit me six months after the wedding in the truck on the way to Ohio. The man I married wouldn’t have continued hitting me or sat me down and told me he no longer believed in the Bible or Jesus. The man I married wouldn’t have stayed out late at night lying about where he was and who he was with and what he was doing. Things started making sense in my mind as I pieced together the puzzle. The man I married wouldn’t have told me he’s moving to Arizona with or without me… but yet he did. I only followed him here because I was desperately trying to save my marriage. I was in denial about who I married and I was just now seeing clearly.

You see, I come from a community where divorce is not a word in our vocabulary. Divorce was what other people did, not us. When things are broken, you fix them. You don’t throw them away. I had been trying to “fix” my husband for four years and I was just now realizing that it’s impossible to fix people. My loving pastor, in his limited human wisdom, gave me the best biblical advice he knew how at the time: He gave me 1 Peter 3:1 which tells the wife of a husband who is disobedient to God’s Word to win him over without a word by her chaste behavior. I clung to that verse like a life preserver in the middle of a stormy ocean. It was that verse that kept me going when my husband choked me, threw me down the stairs, and even when one night he put a knife to my throat. I knew I could endure the suffering because one day it would all be worth it when I won my husband back to Christ and we both lived happily ever after and rode off into the sunset on white stallions. It was also the verse that allowed me to forgive my husband when he told me he no longer believed I was his soul mate and I found out he had been at another woman’s apartment at 2 am.

I don’t tell you these things to hurt my ex-husband in any way. I wish no ill upon him. I still deeply love him as a human being and I still pray for him. I tell you these things because it’s my story, too, and I have a right to tell it. Yes, he is my ex-husband now because shortly after that day when I discovered he was doing drugs he packed up his belongings and he drove away from me. I had begged him to stay. I had pleaded with him that we could work things out. He could go to drug rehab. We could get marriage counseling. But he didn’t want to fix anything, he just wanted to continue doing drugs without my nagging for him to stop.

That was seven years ago. It feels simultaneously like a lifetime ago, but also like it was just yesterday. I was willing to reconcile with him and I wish a reconciliation were the end of my story, but it’s not. For reconciliation to happen, both people have to be willing to make sacrifices. My husband called about three months after he left and said he’d be willing to reconcile if I would give up the Bible. I really wish I were making this up, but sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. “You’re brainwashed by the church,” he told me. “If you burn your Bible, then I will know you really love me.” It sounds so ridiculous, like a line from a cheesy Christian movie they threw out because no one would believe anyone would actually say it. I told him that while I loved him and wanted to reconcile, I loved God more and I would not be burning my Bible. If he wanted to reconcile with me, he would have to repent of his sins and walk with Jesus Christ again as I believe he once had. Again, I really wish I were making this up, but one time when my dad was organizing some boxes my ex-husband left in my parents’ basement, he found a dark book among his belongings about mind control and manipulation techniques. It could very well be that he was just a wolf in sheep’s clothing the whole time.

For many years, my identity was wrapped around being a wife. So much of my purpose in life was centered on supporting my husband, helping him get better, and “winning him over without a word.” When he left me, I didn’t know what to do with myself or even who I was anymore. I blamed myself for not loving him good enough to win him over to Christ. But you know what? I am not defined by what happened to me and his choices were not my fault. I am a beloved daughter of the one true God, created for good works that He prepared beforehand. Even if my husband changed into a man I didn’t recognize, I still serve a God who never changes and who is always faithful to provide a way of escape. Not a sparrow falls from the sky without His knowing it.

The only time the heroine wins the monster over is in fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast. I learned that I can’t change someone else’s behavior, but I can change how I respond. The blood of Jesus Christ alone has the transforming power to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.

Idols of the Heart

Golden Calf
The story of the Golden Calf is found in Exodus 32:1–6.

Recently, I re-read the story in the Bible when the children of Israel, after having seen the astounding power of God through several miraculous signs and miracles, fashion a golden calf and bow down and worship it. WHY?! Why, after seeing with their own eyes how God delivered them from the ten plagues (which only affected the Egyptians) and then experiencing the marvelous wonder that was the parting of the Red Sea, walking across dry land, and watching Pharaoh’s army drown beneath the waves? How could they turn their back on God and turn to a god of their own making?

Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God. He was gone for 40 days. Meanwhile, the Israelites were lowkey freaking out because they thought that Moses had deserted them or maybe even died. They hadn’t seen the power of God in a while and maybe they thought God had left them, too. They began to worry what would happen to them without Moses leading them so in their anxiousness, they made a god they could see. That was comfortable for them and familiar to them since they were accustomed to having visual representations of gods when they were in bondage in Egypt for the last 200 years.

Idols of the Heart

We may not physically worship a golden idol in 2020, but how many of us have lost trust in God’s provision and committed the sin of worry just like the Israelites did? Right now, everyone is totally freaking out that they will starve to death or have nothing to wipe their bums because neither toilet paper, napkins, diaper wipes, nor tissues can be found in any store near or far. #CoronaVirus

There is another story in the Bible about a beautiful, elegant woman who gained favor wherever she went due to her extravagant beauty. Her beauty was her power and a man named Jacob fell in love with her at first sight.

Rachel Hides the Idols

The story of Rachel stealing the idols can be found in Genesis 31.

One day, Jacob told Rachel that they were leaving to a far off place. Rachel began to worry about what that might mean. She was moving away from where she grew up, leaving behind her family and everything she knew. She began to panic. What did she do? She went through a lot of trouble to secretly steal her father’s household idols. Then she lied about it and hid them. What does this reveal about Rachel’s heart? She didn’t trust Yahweh to protect and provide for her away from home. She felt she needed the comfort that her father’s idols brought.

Rachel longed with all her being to be a mother. Back then, women did not have much use except to give birth to sons. Rachel had been used to being the favorite her entire life, but now she saw that her sister Leah was gaining all the favor. She said to Jacob, “GIVE ME CHILDREN OR ELSE I’LL DIE!” (As if Jacob were the one in control of her womb.) Jacob’s response was, “What, am I God?” He knew that it was God and only God who opens and closes the womb. Rachel began to feel worthless and her barrenness was an ugliness she could not bear. She sank into deep depression and allowed her desire for motherhood to twist her thinking. She complained and pouted and felt, “Woah is me, it’s not fair.” But even in the midst of her unbelief, God graciously opened Rachel’s womb and gave her a son. Was Rachel thankful?

She named her son Joseph which means “May Jehovah increase.” She wanted MORE. She wasn’t satisfied. Isn’t that the root of idolatry? We aren’t content with what we have. We always want MORE MORE MORE. Rachel thought that having children would bring her the joy she so desperately craved, but once God ended her infertility, she still wasn’t happy.

What Rachel thought would bring her blessing and favor eventually ended up bringing her death. She did end up having another son, but she died in the process of childbirth. Right before she gave up she spirit, she named her son Benoni which means “Son of my Sorrow.” (Jacob ended up changing his name to Benjamin meaning “Son of my Right Hand.”)

rachelbirth

What idols are lurking in the dark corners of my heart? An idol is anything that my heart longs for in order to make my life seem meaningful and happy. An idol is anything I desire other than God that allows me to seem like I am doing alright and everything is going to be okay. An idol is anything I trust in outside of God to give me what I need. An idol is anything that I am willing to sin in order to obtain or anything I do as an act of pouting because I can’t have my way or anything that I seek to bring me which only God can supply. An idol is anything that absorbs my affections and imaginations more than God. An idol is anything I invest my identity in.  For Rachel, her identity was in having children, and she ultimately died for want of it.

“A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

-Tim Keller

How often I find myself utterly frustrated because I haven’t found a job in months. I have experienced rejection after rejection and it’s so easy to apply those rejections to my self-worth and feel less than. I have believed that if I just keep working hard enough, applying to as many positions as I can, then eventually I will reap the benefits of my hard work and finally gain employment. That has not been the case. If I’m operating out of fear or believing that I have the power to manipulate outcomes, then I am not trusting in God alone to provide for my needs. I am making having a job an idol in my heart.

Another idol in my heart is the intense yearning to be a wife and mother. I know that this is supposed to be my sabbatical year, but I have often caught myself saying something like, “If I am never to be married, I hope that I die young, because this cruel life will be too much to bear without someone to love.” It’s all I’ve ever really wanted anyway. I never dreamed of a fancy career, that was always my sister, not me. I just wanted to be a stay-at-home mama and homeschool my kids. I have even turned down perfectly nice gentlemen because they didn’t want a wife who homeschooled.

How can I stop worrying that I’ll never get married? The scarcity of single Christian men is sometimes all I can think about. Worry is TOXIC. It just keeps you busy doing absolutely NOTHING. It blinds us to what God has done for us and how He is working and what He will do in the future… all because we are focusing on our problem and how we are going to solve it. Self-sufficiency disables trust. The Bible says to focus our thoughts above and to seek Him first. Whenever we dwell on a thought, the more we focus on it, and the more it takes over real estate in our brain. We have to replace negative thoughts with truth. Essentially, whatever I am worrying about today is an idol that I must tear down and confess.

Father God, expose the idols in my life that are lying to me and telling me what I need to feel secure and fulfilled. I renounce all covetousness and envy of what other people have. Cut down any idols in my life. Help me not to give my fears and concerns permission to discourage me. You are the Sovereign Lord in control of all things and you have given me every tool to fight against that which tries to steal my peace. I lay down all my burdens at Your feet and I ask You Lord to give me sweet rest. Forgive me for trying to handle things on my own and help me to see my life through Your perspective, not my own. Enable me to be content with the way things are… but I also pray You grant me the desires of my heart. I ask that you conform my desires to what You want for me in this moment. Help me to take this life day by day.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Fertility Fears & More Sevens

I am reading through the Bible in one year. So far I have kept up faithfully and made up the daily reading the next day if I missed one. I came across something in Genesis that is very poignant as I turn 35 this year, the year doctors say women begin having complications with pregnancy (source).

I noticed that Abraham was 86 when he had Ishmael. He wasn’t worried at all that he wouldn’t be able to have children as this was an acceptable time back in his day to be able to bear children. When Sarah offered her handmaid Hagar at age 76 as a solution to her dilemma, notice that she didn’t say “I am old,” as the reason she couldn’t get pregnant. Instead, she said, “The Lord has prevented me from having children,” because before that she and her husband had been trying to conceive. However, 14 years must have made a huge difference in fertility because then at 100 and 90 years old, Abraham laughs at God telling him that he and Sarah would have a son come next year (Genesis 17:17).

If you read Genesis 11, you will see a long list of people with the age they were at the time of their first child being born and how long they lived after that. Adam had Seth at age 130 and Adam lived to 930. Noah had his first son at 500! Noah lived to 950. There were not that many generations between Noah and Abraham (who lived to 175) but their lifespans started to gradually shorten. My guess is that people noticed the trend of living shorter and shorter lives so they began having children younger and younger.

If you are interested, Noah’s son Shem wasn’t worried about old age because he didn’t have his first son Arpachshad until he was 100. He had many children after that and lived until he was 600 and then died. Arpachshad lived until 411 and had his first son at 35. I must be the biggest Bible dork (besides my friend Valerie who tops them ALL) but I made this chart to visualize the fact that people were increasingly worried about their fertility after the flood.

Name Years Lived Age upon having first child
Shem 600 100
Arpachshad 411 35
Shelah 406 30
Eber 463 34
Peleg 239 30
Reu 239 32
Serug 230 30
Nahor 148 29
Terah 275 70

Now, you can see Terah is living on the wild side and waits until he is 70 before he gives birth to what I can only understand from the text to be triplets: good old Father Abraham (who had many sons) and his two brothers Haran and Nahor (not to be confused with his grandpa Nahor.)

Anyway, all of this to say, that I was already freaking out about 2020 being so soon on the horizon and now it is here. I am still alone and I still have no prospects for marriage. It is probably time I start reconciling myself to never being able to smell the scent of my newborn baby’s skin snuggled against my breast. I want this with every fiber of my being and I cry out to the Lord to be able to experience this before it is too late.

Brianna Wilbur Photography

God bless all the well-meaning people of the world, but if one more person uses Sarah as an example of being able to have children in old age someone is gunna have a broken nose! (Not really but UGH!) She lived during a time when it was laughable that a 90 year old woman might have a baby, but it was still possible. Nowadays, it is possible to have a baby after 45 but very, very, very rare.

I am so incredibly conflicted by Gretchen Louise’s advice not to rush and my very real biological timeline that threatens to derail my future motherhood by my desire to wait for a desirable husband. I will repost her advice here for you.

Advice in the Season of Waiting

1. Don’t rush.

Marriage is not a place at which you will “arrive” but a season which will come in His time.

2. Don’t spend all your time wishing you were married.

Marriage is not the end goal of life.

3. Don’t sit around waiting for your man to come.

Marriage is not your highest calling.”

4. Don’t fall in love.

True love is a plant of slow growth which will be the sweeter for strong roots and a sure foundation.

5. Don’t marry for the sake of marriage alone.

‘Tis better to be single than to wish you were.

6. Don’t rush.

It takes time to prove the mettle of a man, and only time will reveal a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

7. You will marry a sinner.

Open your eyes wide to his faults and think long and hard about whether you want to spend the rest of your life living with those imperfections magnified one hundred-fold.

8. Listen to the counsel of those who know and love you both.

They can see red flags that are invisible from your perspective.

9. Marry a friend.

Most of married life is lived side by side, not face to face.

10. Don’t rush.

You will have the rest of your lives together.

Being married to your best friend is worth the wait.

I know I said I would let 2020 be sabbatical year and I meant it. Joshua had to walk around the city of Jericho 7 days to make those freaking walls come down. If he had given up on the 5th day or the 6th day because the French peas were jeering and taunting him singing “Keep walking, but you won’t knock down our wall. Keep walking, but she isn’t gonna fall! It’s plain to see your brains are very small to think walking will be knocking down our wall.” (Veggie Tales reference!)  I have to have faith that this year I will tear down that stupid wall blocking me from my dreams if I have faith in God and rest in His provision.

Noah was in the stinking ark smelling elephant poop for months. But in the 7th month on the 17th day, the ark finally rested on Mount Ararat. He waited and waited some more until the flood waters went down, wondering if he would be cooped up with crazy apes and complaining family members with cabin fever and claustrophobia forever. He sent out the dove but she came right back, not finding a place to rest. He waited 7 days and sent her out again and she returned with an olive branch in her beak. (Olive trees represent PEACE.) Then Noah waited 7 more days and sent the dove back out again, but this time, she did not return because she found a nice new home in a tree somewhere. I need to have PEACE in my heart that if I just keep waiting, the flood waters I feel I am drowning in will gradually diminish and I will eventually find the future home where I belong.

My Sabbatical Year

I got married on June 7th, 2009. 2020 marks seven years since my husband left me.

Seven is an important number to God and is the most frequent number mentioned in His Word. In fact, the Bible returns 483 results for seven, seventh, sevenfold, etc. (I just realized I am writing this on the seventh day of the month.)

seven

Seven is thought to represent “completion” as the Lord created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. I am thinking about this idea of completion and I am hoping that several things in my life will be completed. One thing that I hope will be completed is my anxiety over my singleness.

ANXIETY

For years I have fretted over the lack of single Christian men and the very real statistical probability that I will end up dying alone because of the sheer lack of marriageable Christian men in church. But what does God say about anxiety?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

-Philippians 4:6-7

My anxiety stems from a lack of trust in God. If God wants to give me a husband then He will. He is a God who is not only able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20) but as our Father who loves us, He desires to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). I guess I’ve been struggling to really internalize this truth.

Another important instance where the number seven shows up in the Bible is when God tells the Israelites to fallow the fields every seven years. The land needs to rest and be left alone to rejuvenate itself. This is so that the fields can produce a better harvest and also so that the poor people would be provided for.


“But on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”

-Exodus 23:11

The phrase “year you shall let it rest” is all one Hebrew word. The word is “shamat” and Blue Letter Bible tells me that the KJV translates it in several different ways including: release, throw down, discontinue, and let rest. I think 2020 is the year that I plow and harrow the soil of my heart, but do not sow seeds in it in order to restore the fertility. There has been so much exhausting toiling to find a husband: joining every dating site I can find online, participating in speed dating events, church hopping and joining Bible studies from different churches, and joining single Christian groups on Facebook. I am doing a lot of planting, but I am not harvesting anything except bitter disappointment and envy that others have what I long for. I hope this will be the year that all my striving ceases, I cast my cares on the Lord, and take up His yoke.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:30

DEBT

When my husband left me, I went into a tailspin of financial crisis. He left me with a mountain of debt that I couldn’t begin to pay off with my minimum wage job. I had to downsize to a smaller apartment that I could afford which was stressful because I had to let go of many of my belongings in order to fit into my cramped little home. I struggled living paycheck to paycheck for years and had to count pennies and live with a bare bones budget that did not allow for any entertainment whatsoever.

Leviticus 25 not only talks about the sabbatical year of resting the dirt, but it also talks about the year of Jubilee which takes place in the 50th year (after seven times seven years). In the year of Jubilee, slaves are freed, debts are forgiven, and property that has been taken is restored to the rightful owner’s family. So this year, I pray that I will work hard to pay off all that I owe and be freed from that burden. This year, I hope, is the year my debt will be completed.

SLAVERY

I have been a slave to my emotions for years. I was finally done grieving the loss of my marriage and the future I imagined for us together after about two years, but I am still to this day grieving who I used to be before I got married and the future I could have had if I never married him. I left everything I loved behind when I moved to Arizona in a last ditch effort to save my crumbling marriage: my job, the masters degree I was working toward, my family and my church family I loved. I had to start all over in a new place with no support.

Whereas I never before struggled with lust, sexual temptation became a part of my daily struggles after my husband left me. Whereas I never used to be an envious person, I frequently find envy creeping into my heart when I see happy married couples, especially those with children. I felt angry at God for allowing me to be abused for so many years and I felt disconnected from Him for allowing me to get into that situation in the first place since He knew what would ultimately happen and could have prevented it. As each year that goes by and I am still alone, loneliness threatens to choke me to death. Fears that I will always be alone keep me up late at night crying into my pillow. Resentment at God for letting this happen and for not providing someone else I can be a “helper suitable” to loom over my head and make me feel guilty, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to stop these feelings from growing more and more out of control like pesky weeds.

Ruth got a kinsman redeemer (Ruth 4:13-14 ) and Job was given twice of what he had before (Job 42:10). The people of Israel were restored to them the years that the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25). Maybe 2020 is the year that I let go of my impatience and anger and I am freed from the chains of resentment, self pity, bitterness, and depression. I need to count my blessings every day and hold on to hope that something beautiful is in my future.

The Seven Steps to Resolving Unbiblical Thoughts and Bad Feelings

1. Confess the sin as I recognize it

– 1 John 1:9

2. Commit to follow Jesus

– Luke 9:23-24

3. Judge myself biblically

– Matthew 7:1-5

4. Love God and love others

– Matthew 22:37-39

5. Practice forgiveness

– Ephesians 4:32

6. Count trials as joy

– James 1:2

7. Pray unceasingly

– Philippians 4:6-7

 

I’ve Got 99 Problems… & Finding True Love is Just One

Here are some of the things I’ve dealt with in my last few relationships. I will not use names or say who did what, I will just communicate some of the issues I’ve dealt with:

  • Stonewalling
  • Constant criticism
  • Attempts to control me
  • Shaming and blaming with patronizingly hostile sarcasm
  • Withholding affection
  • Gaslighting
  • Character assassination
  • Refusal to negotiate or compromise
  • Unpredictability, not keeping their word
  • Trivializing my feelings or disputing my feelings
  • Indifference
  • Stalking after I’ve ended the relationship

heartnoose

Seeing the patterns here, it really makes me wonder if what my former pastor told me is really true… that the one thing in common in all my relationships with emotionally and physically abusive men in my life… is me?

I know that isn’t true, but yet, why do I keep falling for these types of men? What am I doing that attracts these types of men? Why don’t I see warning signs in the beginning or why do I wave away the little red flags until they become big red flags?

The 7 Signs of Love Bombing is a good resource that lists behaviors to look out for so as to avoid someone who seems super excited about you in the beginning only to fizzle out or begin manipulating and controlling you.

I have decided that when I start dating again, I want to date someone BLISSFULLY BORING.

After much (over)thinking, it seems the thing in common with every man who ever broke my heart is that they were all extremely exciting, charming, bold, adventurous and sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic.

(And by boring I mean solid, stable, dependable, and emotionally healthy. Someone who does not reveal intimate details about themselves right away or become invested yet until I have earned their respect and trust. Which takes quality time.)

Romance Fast

It has been a long time since I’ve updated Foundations of Sapphires. I am currently on a Romance Fast… indefinitely.

zipperhearts
I have heard the phrase, “You’re my dream woman” and “You’re the woman I’ve prayed to God for my whole life” more times than I would like to count. It seems I’ve found myself in an endless cycle of investing my heart, energy, and time in someone who seems crazy about me in the beginning and then loses interest in the relationship months later.

I need to take time to be alone and do some self discovery. Why do I keep falling for the same type of guy? It’s the same story: the guy begins by sweeping me off my feet in a whirlwind of passion and carries me away with exciting grand gestures and big promises, only for him to break my heart with passivity and complacency not long after. Every single time I think, “This time it will be different.” But it never is.

So… still single. Still trying to figure out why. Will keep you all updated.