The Heart of a Single Woman’s Home: Concluding Prayer (part 8 of 8)

As I’m wrapping up this blog series, I want to share some hope and prayers for myself and other single women. My homemaking has not turned out as I originally planned or dreamed, but it is good, and I am lacking for nothing because I have God Himself. Because God is faithful and because true hope and contentment are based in the hope of eternal life with Christ (not marriage), my life can test and prove that His power has indeed “given me all things pertaining to life and godliness” and that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”. My prayer for my life as a woman is based off 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:  May God make me worthy of his calling. May God’s power fulfill my every resolve for good and every work of faith. May my life glorify the name of our Lord Jesus. May I never lose my hope of future glory with and in Christ. May I never forget that it is all because of the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

My hope for my home’s mission comes from an inscription in the Dohnavur Fellowship in India, “There they dwelt with the King for his work” (Dohnavur Fellowship was founded by Amy Carmichael and the inscription is based off 2 Chronicles 4:23).  May my home be filled with the presence of the Lord.  May my home be filled with my King’s work.  May I always see purpose in the work of my homemaking, even if it doesn’t follow the conventional pattern.  

As a believer, I need to accept that my life is hidden in Christ and is secure in Him.  My life is also not my own.  It was bought at a great price by a God who chose me to be the holy woman he loves.  By His grace, I am single, but never alone.  I may wish I had a man’s covenant promise of marriage, but I have God’s covenant promise of life eternal, which is the greatest blessing. Never, then, am I alone, forsaken, unloved, or forgotten.  I do not need the approval of others, nor need to be defensive when my singleness does not make sense to others, even those in the church, because God has numbered my days, written my life in His book, and given me the work that I am to walk in.  Maybe those works will include marriage and parenting, maybe they won’t.  Whatever blessings and sufferings come, I have the same promise that Paul had – God’s grace is sufficient for me.  Lydia Brownback beautifully expounds on this truth in her book “Fine China is for Single Woman, Too”:

Paul did not achieve contentment of this depth by snuffing out his personal desires.  On the contrary, he pursued what he wanted wholeheartedly and received what he was after.  That’s because the thing Paul wanted most was Jesus Christ and his glory… Contentment was something God cultivated in Paul though the trials he faced; that is the same way God cultivates it in us… As for you and me, we might learn contentment through the experience of watching our friends get married one by one, through an awareness that our chances for motherhood diminish as the years sweep by, or through the pain of loneliness… When Paul was plagued by the thorn in his flesh, he asked the Lord on three separate occasions to remove the thorn.  What did Jesus answer? He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor. 12:9).  And through this grace, Paul learned to be content in the knowledge that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him (Phil. 4:13).  God had a reason for not removing Paul’s thorn: it was to keep Paul humble enough to be an effective ambassador for Christ… And if God has said no, it is only that you might learn that this grace is sufficient for you and to keep you able to serve him in the way he alone knows best… Yet whether or not you decide to acquire china, you already possess the best treasure for serving guests, and that is Christ himself… Offer your singleness to God. Ask him to use it in his redemptive plans in the place where he has set you.  Allow him to take your singleness and make it beautiful.  Let that be your finest china.”

In God’s perfect plan, there is no second best for a woman, regardless of her age or relationship status. The heart-beat of the single woman’s home is the love of God, the fear of God, the peace, joy, and hope of God.  It is God Himself indwelling the single woman, and filling the home with His presence, and consecrating them both to his service.  It is His perfect will assigning the work.  It is His all-sufficient grace making every good work possible and His strength fueling that service.  May we continue faithfully in that work and found abiding in Him until the day He returns.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

The Heart of a Single Woman’s Home: Buying a House (part 7 of 8)

It was seven years ago and February had quickly rolled around again. Year one of graduate school was barely half over, but it was time to think of next year’s housing.  This was a university town, and rentals went quickly. One roommate was moving out and the leasing office was raising the rental prices. My remaining roommate and I had to sift through decisions: stay and find another roommate? Stay and downsize? Move somewhere cheaper? But where?

I’ve had nine roommates and nine different living spaces in the eight years since graduating from college. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, our housing situations changed rather more frequently those first few years than I had anticipated.  Every year my roommate(s) and I had to decide if we wanted to keep living together, if we should renew our lease, or if we should seek another rental.  There was always the desire to lessen the financial burden.  The apartments in the “safe” parts of town were quite expensive.  Another lack of permanency is the changefulness of roommates.  They may back out of commitments. They can sign a lease, and then decide to leave early.  They may get married, as four of mine did.  They may take jobs out of the area.  I believe many other single women (and men) also sense this lack of permanency inn housing situations.  When my living conditions are in a state of flux, I often feel that the rest of my life is, too.  At those times, marriage seems like the ideal solution.  If nothing else, at least the roommate would be permanent.

While housing can be an annual issue for singles, a single woman does have a lot of freedom when deciding where to live.  For example, there are no husbands or children to take into consideration.  Be that as it may, a single woman can feel the pressure of those around her when picking a place: “Why do you need a house, you’re just one person?” “So-and-so would be great roommate, you should ask her.” “Why do you want to live alone?” “Why don’t you live with your parents and save money?”

One of the scariest decisions I have made was the decision to buy a house.  I had always thought that I would buy a house, but I never meant to do it alone.  While I knew of a handful of single women who were homeowners, I didn’t think I had the courage to do it.  I was still encumbered with the philosophy that if a woman wanted to marry, she had to present herself as marriageable.  I was afraid that buying a house as a single woman in her late-20s would send one of two messages.  The first message I was afraid to send was that I was too strong to need a man or that I’d at least be difficult to lead.  The second message was that I had resigned to my singleness by giving up and buying a house. Buying a house seemed dauntingly permanent.  I was afraid that I would be cementing my singleness as well.  I was afraid of the stigma I might attract.  I was also afraid of this new change in plans that didn’t seem to lead to marriage.  Just like grad school was a change in my original plans for my life, buying a house while unmarried was another great change.

As deeply as I felt these fears, I also knew that apartment living, even in “nice” apartments can still be rough and downright expensive.  I was tired of my upstairs neighbor who banged mercilessly on the wall when I practiced piano (with headphones) at an hour he deemed too early.  I was tired of throwing money into the rent vacuum.  I was tired of the apartment pool drama outside my window and my neighbors’ intoxicated/high shenanigans. I had also just “lost” my roommate to marriage (She is still a sweet friend and I don’t regret this ‘loss’ at all).  I was looking at a single rental, which, in a safe apartment complex would cost as much as a monthly mortgage payment on a small house. I planned to buy a few years later when I was in my 30s, but I had also been keeping my eye on the market to see what was available and the prices.  I found a home I liked on Zillow (it was the kitchen) and e-mailed a realtor who also “happened” to be our music deacon.   I’m not really in the market for house hunting, but I have just one I want to see and since I don’t know what I’m doing, would you show it to me, please?  I spent two hours looking through the house and several conversations with my realtor and my dad regarding the finances and logistics.  Logistically, the process was smooth and simple. I had a real estate agent I knew and trusted.  All the inspections and negotiations went quickly.  Emotionally, however, the process was more difficult.  I remember praying through the process.  Several times, I would panic and think, “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.  What makes me think I can buy a house?” I would often remind God (as if he needed it) that I was going to buy a house since that seemed like a wise decision and an opportunity he was giving me.  If it wasn’t from him, I begged that he would take that opportunity away from me. Long story short, I wrote a really big check and bought the house.  Three years later, I still really like the kitchen.

There are many lost hopes that I could regret.  I could regret that I didn’t save, dream, and buy with a husband.  I could regret that when I walked through the house, I didn’t have a family of my own to envision living in these spaces.  I could regret that I didn’t have a husband to lean on for making the decisions.

As much as I could focus on regret and resent that my fairy-tale plans weren’t actualized, I have much more cause for thanksgiving. I had a wise real estate agent who was a trusted friend. His wife was a constant source of enthusiasm and encouragement through the buying process.  She even gathered several of my close friends to host a shower with other ladies from the church.  She lovingly planned and wrote prayers and scriptures to be prayed through my house by ladies in our church.  God gave me a wise father to walk through the house and be a sounding board for ideas.   God gave me a supportive and encouraging mother who never reproached my singleness or suggested that I was ruining my chances for marriage.  A close single girl-friend went through the house-buying process at the same time, which provided a listening ear that understood perfectly the emotions I felt through this process.  I also had a dear single friend who had owned her own home for a while who graciously shared her thoughts and prayers she had recorded from that experience.  God gave me everything I needed in the way that he knew was best.

I’m not saying that single girls have to buy their own houses, but that is what God planned for me.  He gave me the experience of making a major life decision that was “all on me”.  I could get advice, but in the end, it was my call.  God provided: the finances, the timing, the support I needed to get through the process and stay sane, and faith in the truth that He is sovereign.  And in that experience, he showed me that the decision was technically mine, but it was really on His authority that the door was opened or closed.

As a note to married friends of singles: One encouragement during the home-buying process – and I want to say a repeated thank you to the ladies at my church – was a first-house shower.  I still use the gifts I received with happiness, but the prayers of the ladies all as we walked through my home and their encouraging confirmation of my work in the home were the biggest blessings I could have asked for that evening. So, please encourage the single women (and men) in your acquaintance that their work in the home is important and glorifying to God.  Give encouragement and confirmation of their homemaking, and don’t dissuade them from taking the steps of obedience God has called them to.

To single women, don’t be afraid to live the life God has called you to, whether in an apartment or your own house.  You have the Creator of the Universe who delights in you and fulfills your request for wisdom (James 1:5).  You may not be planning with a husband, but you can seek the will of and plan with the the one true, sovereign God.  During our walk though, my realtor asked if I was afraid buying a house would mean I’d always be single. “Because it doesn’t,” he added, without waiting for my answer.  Don’t make decisions based on whether or not it hurts your chance for marriage later.  Keep your focus on God himself.  He, not marriage, is your only hope and the only ultimate goal.  The Proverbs 31 woman considered a field (discernment) and bought it (strength).  Don’t shy away from practicing discernment and making business choices because you might appear too strong.  Do not be afraid to exercise strength and discernment that is completely dependent on God.  However, do be afraid of worldly, self-empowered wisdom and arrogant, independent strength. Walk in faith remembering that the days of your life are written in his book, even before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6

New Year 2012: Will I begin with pride or humility?

Like many others do this time of year, I have made resolutions that I fully intended to carry out.  At least until June.  (By then it should be habit, right?)  Often, I set out to conquer, determined to be strong.  The temptation and tendency to pride is pretty strong.  I will be better.  I will be skinnier.  I will be more disciplined.  I will read more books.  I will simplify.  I will. I will.  I will.

This quickly turns in to “This is my will and I will do it on my own strength.”  Pride.

The second aspect of celebrating the New Year is looking back on the “old” year.  That is a different and more beautiful story.  Maybe my plans worked out.  Maybe they didn’t.  But, it was God’s will and God’s plan that was always fulfilled.  And never once did I carry myself — not even in the happy times.  Looking back, I see my strength leave, and God’s grace restore from an unending supply.  I see many blessings that I didn’t know could even be had.  I see how God revealed more of His love and mercy to me.  I see Him break my will;  I see Him restore my joy.  Pride can’t look at that and live.  Humility can.

My New Year’s prayer for myself is that my heart would not be so divided as to look on the past with humble amazement and the future with prideful ambition.  May I consider both with humility and “go out with joy and go forth in peace.”

Happy New Year!  May you be blessed with much joy and confidence as you see God’s plan unfold in this next year!

(P.S.  And please, please check out this post from the GirlTalk blog Sitting in the New Year.  This is an amazing post on how to approach New Year’s resolutions with a humble focus on God)