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Thoughts on Singleness

This is the post excerpt.

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I have been contemplating blogging on the subject of singleness for quite some time. Until recently, I assumed I would do it after I got married.   (I felt that discussing these matters in public while I am still single may come across as complaining, or worse yet, a desperate ploy to atttact a man.) That is not what this blog is intended to be.

However, I have come to the conclusion that if I wait until after I am married, it might be a while! Besides, there are many things that are on my heart today, and the best time for me to say them is probably now — when they are real.

To my fellow singles, I hope this blog will be a help to you — to give you the encouragement that you are not alone.

To those who are married, I pray this blog will help you better understand how Christians can help, encourage, and pray for their single brothers and sisters.

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Our Story, part 5: Made for Each Other

Ron and I have many things in common:  our love for God, our appreciation for good music, and our tendency to spill things on our clothing, to name a few.  However, in other ways, we are about as different as two people could be.  Ron likes to focus on the task at hand, while I tend to think about a thousand things at once.  I am a slow, cautious decision maker, while Ron is more spontaneous and gutsy.  I am a blue-blooded Michigan fan, but unfortunately, Ron roots for the Spartans. (I guess no one’s perfect!)  If you read our testimonies (parts 2 and 3) you will see that we came from very different spiritual backgrounds as well.

During the time we have been together, God has shown us how our differences equip us to uplift and strengthen each other.  For example, sometimes I worry too much about tradition and what others will think of me if I don’t follow it.  Ron has encouraged me to open my mind and to follow God more than human traditions.  Sometimes Ron has felt like the Holy Spirit was teaching him something, but he didn’t know a Bible passage to confirm it.  I have been able to help with that, thanks to all those years in AWANA. 

While our strengths and weaknesses may be different, our goals are the same.  For as long as we have known each other, we have shared the desire to minister to hurting people.  Even before Ron was saved, he wanted to change the world by helping the less fortunate, the hurting, and the addicted.  Likewise, a few years before I met Ron, I felt God calling me to use my experiences to reach out to hurting women. 

Almost immediately after we started dating, we believed that God had brought us together for a purpose that was bigger than ourselves. His purpose was that we would glorify Him and serve Him better as a couple than we could as individuals; and through His wisdom and power, He enables us to do that. 

Last summer, God gave us the privilege to teach a Bible study at the Salvation Army shelter (the same study where Ron had been saved a year prior). Each Monday night, we would sit on Ron’s front porch and study the Bible to prepare a lesson that we would teach the next evening. We were always amazed by how much more we would learn together than either of us would have learned alone. 

We also found that we were able to teach more effectively as a team.  God used Ron’s flamboyant personality to attract students to our group, while I was able to minister to women and children in ways that he could not have done as a single man.  Because of Ron’s background (and his transparency about it) he was approachable and real as he testified how God had transformed his life.  God used my teaching background and Bible knowledge to allow me to answer some of the tougher questions about the Bible. 

I do not share all this to brag about anything Ron and I have done. All the glory belongs to Jesus, and anything we may have done has been of Him, through Him, and for Him.  The purpose in sharing this is simply to testify that God has brought Ron and me together for His divine purposes. 

On September 24, 1969, God brought Ron Hawthorne into this world.  He placed him in the family and neighborhood that were divinely appointed for him, in order to prepare him for the task God would someday give him.  Four years later, God brought me into the world and placed me in a completely different setting, so that I could become the helper that Ron would someday need.

 

For the next 4 decades, God kept us apart, but He allowed both of us to go through experiences that would prepare us for each other and for the calling He had for us as a couple. Then, in March, 2017, He brought us together so we could begin the next chapter of our lives as a team.

 

I have been praying for a husband for many, many years. Finally, my prayers are being answered, and I am deeply grateful to God for that. However, God has shown me that He did not bring Ron into my life just so my dream could come true or so I could finally celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I am grateful for the dinners together and the good night kisses, but they are not the greatest purpose for my relationship with Ron.  The greatest purpose is so we can glorify God together.  We are not certain what our future ministries will bring, but we are confident that God is still preparing us for whatever tasks He has for us as a couple.  We can hardly wait to see what He will do! 

Psalm 34:3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

 

Our Story, part 4: How We Met

When I was in my late 20s, I made a list of qualities I desired in a future husband. Some people think that is a fantastic idea,  others think it is horrid… I will not argue the point, since I do understand both views.  Speaking for myself, though, I found it to be helpful.

I did not list any shallow qualifications based on appearance, financial position, or social status. A few of my greatest desires were…

* Someone who loves God more than he loves me, and who will serve God with me.

* Someone who is a friend first.  (I wanted to know he liked me for who I truly am.)

* Someone who doesn’t pursue me with shallow flirtation or flattery.  (I wanted our foundation to be a deep, spiritual connection.)

* Someone who is open and transparent with me, even about his flaws and weaknesses.

* Someone who is not divorced. (I was taught from childhood that divorce and remarriage were unbiblical.)

On June 7, 2016, I met a man who I would soon discover had all of the above qualities – except one.

I met Ron Hawthorne at a Bible study.  He was unsaved at the time, but he was searching; and on 7/5/16, he was saved. (I had the privilege of watching that happen.)  He was more excited about his salvation than anyone I have ever seen. The next week, he invited more than a dozen people to the Bible study.  He couldn’t get enough of the Bible, and he had a passion to tell everyone he could about Jesus.  A few weeks after he got saved, he said to me, “I just couldn’t stop thinking about God all day. Is that ok? Does that make me a fanatic?”  (I told him that definitely made him a fanatic, but that was a good thing. 😊)

During the next several months, we became good friends. We ministered together at church and Bible study, we talked about the Bible and the things God was doing for us, and we prayed for each other.  We had fun together and enjoyed each other’s company.

In August, he expressed interest in dating me, but when I responded that he was like a brother to me, he accepted my answer graciously.  We continued our friendship, and he prayed often for me to find a husband, even if it could not be him.

He did not bring up the subject again until February, 2017. By then, we had become very close, and I was developing an interest in him, but there was one problem:  he had been divorced, so I didn’t think God would allow me to marry him.  I was conflicted.  Part of me wanted to say yes, but I had to honor God.

I told him that I needed to pray about it, and I asked him to do the same. For the next month, we both prayed, and I dug into the Bible for answers.  Our friendship became closer all the time, and I soon fell in love with him, but I was determined not to date him unless God gave me the green light.  I was also determined that the green light would have to come from the Bible, not a feeling of “having peace about it,” or an opinion, or the well-meaning advice of others.  The problem was, I didn’t see how that could happen.  My beliefs about divorce and remarriage had always come from the Bible, and the Bible doesn’t change.

I told the Lord, “It seems like Ron Hawthorne is so perfect for me – like he is the one I have been praying for all these years – and I don’t understand why You would finally send me someone like that if I am not going to be allowed to marry him.  I promise I will not date him without your permission… but please, God, PLEASE can I keep him?”

On March 18, 2017, after 4 weeks of prayer, counsel, and Bible study, I received my answer from God.  I was studying I Corinthians 7, a passage I had probably read dozens of times in my 43 years.  For the first time in my life, verses 27-28 jumped out at me, and I realized that when Paul said, “If thou marry, thou hast not sinned,” he was speaking to divorced people!

My first thought was, “There it is!  I can marry Ron Hawthorne!”

My second thought was, “How did I miss this my whole life? I am an English teacher who pays exceptionally close attention to the meanings of words!”

I know how I missed it though.  First, I wasn’t looking for it before, because in my younger years, I took what I had always been taught at face value.  More importantly though, I believe the Holy Spirit was waiting for the right time to reveal it to me.  He waited until I was a 43-year-old single woman, finally in love for the first time, but afraid I would never be able to marry him, so that when I finally got the green light to do so, I would KNOW that it was GOD that brought us together.

See, that was another item on my list.  I determined many years ago that when I walked down the aisle, I wanted to KNOW that the man at the end of that aisle was sent to me by GOD.  God has given me that assurance in many other ways since then, but it started on March 18, 2017.

One week later, after counseling with my pastor to confirm what I had found, I shared the news with Ron:  GOD SAID YES!

The story does not end here (more on that in future posts) but through it all, God has shown Himself to be faithful.  He is willing and able to guide His children and to speak to us.  He is able to heal any wounds and give victory over any struggle.  And He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.

 

 

Our Story, part 3 Ron’s Testimony

I was born and raised in the inner city of Detroit. I witnessed a lot of crime, and I grew up in a home where there was anger, alcoholism, partying, and dysfunction.  My parents frequently separated, we were very poor, and we moved a lot. As a result, I had very little stability. There were good times too. I do remember my dad coaching my Little League teams, my parents taking me on vacations Up North, etc. My parents loved me and did their best.  However, my family did not have God, so I was not taught about spiritual things. In my childhood, the lines between right and wrong were very blurred.

When I was 7 years old, I was molested repeatedly by a neighbor. Many years later, I would come to understand how much of an impact this situation had in my life.

I dropped out of high school in 9th grade and got into drugs and alcohol. Through my 20s, I was pretty stable and was able to hold down a job, but as I got into my 30s, things got worse. I became very angry and egotistical. I spent some time in jail, got into more trouble with drugs, and eventually lost custody of my two children.

When I was in my forties, I decided that I wanted to make some changes. I became a political activist because  I wanted to make the world a better place and fight for truth and justice. I wanted to seek truth, so I studied philosophy and several religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.

When I was 46 years old, I went to Philadelphia to join a political rally. A lot of things went wrong on that trip, and when I came back, I was at my lowest point ever. I had gotten off drugs by that time, so I did not want to live with my friends who used drugs. I did not want to live with my family, and I did not know what else to do, so I went to the Salvation Army shelter in Warren, Michigan to get away for awhile.

I was tired of carrying all the guilt and shame. I knew I was lost, and I knew there had to be a better way. I just didn’t know what it was.

A few days after I arrived, I met Richard and Cyndi, who were leading a Bible study at the Salvation Army. I attended for several weeks, and on July 5th, 2016, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour. All that time I had been fighting for truth and I didn’t know what it was, but when I found Jesus I realized Who the Truth was. I was overwhelmed to know that there was Someone Who cared enough about me that He would actually die for me. When I got saved, the guilt and shame were immediately gone. I realized the mistakes in my past were because I had been lost, and I no longer had to worry about what other people thought of me. I saw the world differently.  I learned how to love and forgive others, and to show compassion.  I was now surrounded by good people who loved me and would care for me and show me Christian love.

When  I got saved, many things in my life changed right away. However, no one ever arrives, and there are lingering struggles that I have had to overcome. Once I got into a relationship, I learned that there were deeper issues that I did not know existed before, such as trust and abandonment issues. 46 years of deep-seated issues do not go away overnight. However God has shown me how to search into the depths of my soul and is leading me toward lasting solutions and healing from the pain of my past.

I do not wish to use my past as an excuse for any mistakes I may have made. However, it is important to recognize that our environment, our experiences, and our past do shape who we become as adults. At this point it is my desire to search for solutions, and I am finding them in God.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, o God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Our Story, part 2: Cyndi’s Testimony

Ron and I come from very different backgrounds, and we have often joked that when we come together, it is like two worlds colliding. However, God is using our differences to allow us to learn from each other, balance each other, and equip us for ministry. We will share more details later, but for now, we wanted to share our individual testimonies.   I will share my testimony in this post, and Ron will share his testimony in the next.

If I had to describe my Christian upbringing in one word, it would be “stable.”

I was born into a Christian family, and I have been in church as long as I can remember. In fact,  I could not tell you when I first learned that Jesus died for me or that God made me. I was taught those things from the time I was born.  I made a profession of faith when I was 5, and got assurance of my salvation in my 20s.

I went to the same Christian School from K-5 through 12th grade, attended the Baptist church that was connected to that school, and then attended a Christian college. I then became a Christian school teacher and remained in the same Baptist church and school for the next 15 years.

I am extremely grateful for the way I was raised. I was sheltered from many destructive behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, and sex. I have known a wealth of Bible stories and memory verses since childhood, and I never struggled with doubts about the existence of God or the truth of the Bible. I have had many solid examples of true Christianity in my family, my churches, and my schools, and I am surrounded by Christian friends who love me, pray for me, and help me grow in the Lord.

None of that is to my credit. I recognize that God has given those things to me by His grace and for His purposes. The Bible says that to whom much is given, much is required. Based on that verse, God is definitely going to require much from me!

However, in spite of all the benefits of growing up the way that I did, there are some pitfalls too, and unfortunately, I have fallen into some of them — namely, the pitfall of SELF- RIGHTEOUSNESS, which manifests itself in many ways. For example…

From a safe Christian environment, it is easy to look at the world with disdain and criticism. We think, “I would never do drugs, be a prostitute, or rob a bank.” And because of that, we sometimes fail to develop the compassion to reach people who do struggle with those areas.

We know that our righteousness cannot get us to heaven, but we sometimes expect God (and other people) to be impressed with our avoidance of the “big sins” while we fail to address the serious sins that are prevalent in our own lives: gossip, hypocrisy, laziness and bitterness, to name a few.

Thanks to our extensive experience with the Christian life, we may start to believe we can live it without God’s power. We know what joy and love and godliness are supposed to look like, and we learn to portray those things to others, whether they are rooted in genuine worship or not.

We know all the rules, and we know how to follow them, but if we aren’t careful, we can get so busy living for the rules that we forget to live for God.

I have been guilty of all of these things at times.

In no way am I attempting to paint a negative picture of the Christian life. There are many wonderful, genuine, godly people in our churches. However, we are all works in progress, and these are some areas of weakness that God has had to work on with me.

God has used a variety of things to teach me these lessons, including an addictions program at my church, some personal failures, and some painful experiences I have gone through.

He has also used Ron Hawthorne. Because of our differences, Ron has had a huge influence on me in these areas, and as our story unfolds, you’ll understand why. Stay tuned!

Luke 12: 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Story, part 1

Many of my readers know this, but for those who do not, I went through a very difficult break-up with the man I had planned to marry last fall. I will share more in a future post, but for now, I will just say that the breakup was the result of severe PTSD that Ron has suffered with for many years.

I was heartbroken, and in February, I began praying that God would allow me the opportunity to get closure on that relationship. In an effort to do that, we began talking occasionally as friends.

During the past 4 months, we have both found forgiveness, healing, and understanding through talking things out. I have also observed many steps that Ron has been taking to deal with  the PTSD at its root.

Ron has been attending counseling with a professional Christian PTSD counselor.  Every week, he fills me in on the things that he has learned, and the counseling has helped him to discover the roots of his PTSD and develop strategies to overcome it.

In addition to counseling (and vastly more important) he has found great help and healing through the power and grace of Jesus Christ.  (I’ll let him tell you more about that later.)

Due to the nature of our breakup,  there was a time when I believed I would never date Ron again. However,  last December, I had a conversation with God that I did not tell anyone else about at the time, but it planted a seed of hope in my mind.

At the time I was very mad at God because of the way things ended.  Not that I blamed God for the breakup,  but when Ron and I began dating a year ago,  we were both overwhelmingly convinced it was God Who brought us together. When things didn’t work out,  I angrily accused God of setting me up with a man that I could never marry.

If ever I have heard the still small voice of God, I heard it in that moment. He asked me, “Who said NEVER?”  I responded that it was me saying never. I would never marry him after this. But then the Holy Spirit poked me, “You work in addiction programs. You tell people all the time that I can heal anyone from anything. Do you believe that for everyone else, but not Ron?”

I did not want to admit it, but way down deep inside, I tucked away the thought that maybe — although it would take a miracle — there might still be hope for us yet.

At this point, after several months of observing the positive changes in Ron’s life, I believe there is. God has given us both the grace to forgive, to heal, and to learn, and we have a renewed faith that God has a future for us.

We are taking things slowly.  He is continuing to get counseling for the PTSD, and I am also speaking with a professional Christian counselor. Both of us have received wisdom from our counseling sessions that we believe will help us not only in our relationship with each other,  but also in our desire to someday help others with similar struggles.

I know this will come as a surprise to many.  I understand.  I am pretty surprised too!

All my life I have imagined what my love story would be. In my wildest dreams I never could have come up with this.  But I have always believed God would do something extraordinary.

The first time Ron expressed interest in me almost 2 years ago,  I turned him down, but I sent him this verse to encourage him: Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”

I believe that verse with all my heart.  God can do things beyond our imaginations.

Our journey together (and our personal journeys) have been long and complex, and we have seen God’s hand in so many ways.   I’ll share lots more details in future posts, including both of our testimonies, how God brought us together,  what PTSD is, and what God has been doing in both of our lives during the past 7 months.

Stay tuned!

Our Story, part 1

Many of my readers know this, but for those who do not, I went through a very difficult break-up with the man I had planned to marry last fall. I will share more in a future post, but for now, I will just say that the breakup was the result of severe PTSD that Ron has suffered with for many years.

I was heartbroken, and in February, I began praying that God would allow me the opportunity to get closure on that relationship. In an effort to do that, we began talking occasionally as friends.

During the past 4 months, we have both found forgiveness, healing, and understanding through talking things out. I have also observed many steps that Ron has been taking to deal with  the PTSD at its root.

Ron has been attending counseling with a professional Christian PTSD counselor.  Every week, he fills me in on the things that he has learned, and the counseling has helped him to discover the roots of his PTSD and develop strategies to overcome it.

In addition to counseling (and vastly more important) he has found great help and healing through the power and grace of Jesus Christ.  (I’ll let him tell you more about that later.)

Due to the nature of our breakup,  there was a time when I believed I would never date Ron again. However,  last December, I had a conversation with God that I did not tell anyone else about at the time, but it planted a seed of hope in my mind.

At the time I was very mad at God because of the way things ended.  Not that I blamed God for the breakup,  but when Ron and I began dating a year ago,  we were both overwhelmingly convinced it was God Who brought us together. When things didn’t work out,  I angrily accused God of setting me up with a man that I could never marry.

If ever I have heard the still small voice of God, I heard it in that moment. He asked me, “Who said NEVER?”  I responded that it was me saying never. I would never marry him after this. But then the Holy Spirit poked me, “You work in addiction programs. You tell people all the time that I can heal anyone from anything. Do you believe that for everyone else, but not Ron?”

I did not want to admit it, but way down deep inside, I tucked away the thought that maybe — although it would take a miracle — there might still be hope for us yet.

At this point, after several months of observing the positive changes in Ron’s life, I believe there is. God has given us both the grace to forgive, to heal, and to learn, and we have a renewed faith that God has a future for us.

We are taking things slowly.  He is continuing to get counseling for the PTSD, and I am also speaking with a professional Christian counselor. Both of us have received wisdom from our counseling sessions that we believe will help us not only in our relationship with each other,  but also in our desire to someday help others with similar struggles.

I know this will come as a surprise to many.  I understand.  I am pretty surprised too!

All my life I have imagined what my love story would be. In my wildest dreams I never could have come up with this.  But I have always believed God would do something extraordinary.

The first time Ron expressed interest in me almost 2 years ago,  I turned him down, but I sent him this verse to encourage him: Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”

I believe that verse with all my heart.  God can do things beyond our imaginations.

Our journey together (and our personal journeys) have been long and complex, and we have seen God’s hand in so many ways.   I’ll share lots more details in future posts, including both of our testimonies, how God brought us together,  what PTSD is, and what God has been doing in both of our lives during the past 7 months.

Stay tuned! ☺

But I Prayed!

I was just a little kid – maybe 3 or 4 years old — the day I thought it would be a good idea to bury my index finger deep in a bowl of cream of wheat. (I was checking to see if it was cool enough to eat.)

Well, it wasn’t.  It was extremely hot in the middle, and as my mother held me to comfort me in my pain, I cried in anguish, “But… we… PRAYED!”

You see, when we would sit down for a meal, my parents often gave me the same instructions: “Don’t touch it yet. It’s hot, and we haven’t prayed.” In my childish mind, I had apparently drawn the conclusion that prayer guaranteed the food to be cooled down!

I was confused and heartbroken by the realization that I could get burned even after I had prayed.

In the 40 years that have passed since that day, I’ve gained a greater understanding of prayer, and I have been blessed to see God answer many of my prayers.

However, there is still a huge prayer that I have not seen Him answer. I’ve prayed more times than I can count. I’ve begged. I’ve pleaded. I’ve cried. I’ve been praying for decades, but still no answer. My husband still hasn’t come.

During the last several years, I have really struggled with some questions for God. Why does He tell me to pray but He doesn’t answer? Why does He answer other people’s prayers for a husband and children, but He doesn’t answer mine? Does He not care about my tears? Does He not understand how long I have already waited?

When my heartache recently became so overwhelming that I didn’t feel I could take any more, I cried out to God with an anguish and confusion reminiscent of that morning 40 years ago…

“But I prayed!”

This wasn’t supposed to happen! I was supposed to be patient and pray and serve God while I waited, and God was supposed to write a beautiful love story for me. That’s what the Christian dating books said. That’s what happened with other people I knew. They prayed, and God answered. Well, I have prayed too — longer than most other people have — so why am I still alone?

I don’t know all the answers to that, but God has reminded me of a truth that I can sometimes lose sight of in my pain — a truth that I learned when I was 4, but have had to relearn in a deeper way at 44.

Prayer is not a guarantee that we won’t get burned. It is not an automatic ticket to get what we desire. It is not a promise from God to remove pain from our lives.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t pray for the things that we desire. We are admonished to let our requests be made known unto God (Philippians 4:6) and there are many people in the Bible who received exactly what they prayed for (Elijah, Hannah, and Bartimaeus, to name a few).

I  do not plan to stop asking God for a husband until I have one, and I don’t think God minds that. There are many other people praying for me to that effect as well, and I believe that God is going to answer my prayer some day.

However, all the prayers in the world are no guarantee that I will not get hurt in the process. The prayers are not even a guarantee that I will ever be married, as much as it pains me to say that.

So what is the purpose of prayer then? I’m not a pastor or a theologian, so I will let someone else get into the deeper answers to that question; but simply put, the purpose of prayer is GOD!

Prayer is about knowing God — letting Him hear my voice and learning to recognize His. It’s about wanting Him more than the things I want from Him. Prayer is not about getting things merely for the things’ sake. It’s about getting to know and understand God as the Giver of those things. It’s not just about the result. It’s about the process.

I wish that God would give me what I am asking for, just because I ask. I think that would make me really happy.  But then, God would be little more than a vending machine. Vending machines are handy, but they’re pretty limited. We can’t have intimate relationships with them. They can’t give us peace in the midst of pain. God can do that and so much more.

He can say “no” to a thousand prayers in order to say “yes” to one that outweighs all the others.  He can say “wait ” (ugh!) but then surprise us with an awesome ending that makes the waiting worthwhile. (Just ask Joseph or Lazarus.)  He can say “yes” when He chooses to, and when He does, we know it was Him and we can give Him all the glory. He can say “no,” too, and He doesn’t have to give us a reason. He is God, and that is reason enough.

I’m going to keep praying for a husband, but I am coming to understand that the most important result of my prayers will not happen on my wedding day. The most important result is happening now. I’m getting to know God. I’m seeing Him work in my life. I’m learning to trust His heart, even when life hurts. I’m learning to see Him as the solution for my pain,  not the cause of it.

I think that may be the greatest purpose of prayer.