Preparing for Launch

It’s happening. FINALLY. I wrote a book and next Tuesday, one week from today, it will be launched into the universe.

And honestly, that is a bit terrifying.

Writing and publishing a book feels kind of like what I imagine posting naked pictures of yourself on the internet might feel like. It’s scary. You’re exposed. The vulnerability is a bit overwhelming. My thoughts, my feelings, and my personal experiences are just out there for the world to critique.

But it is exciting too. This endeavor is more than just publishing my first book. It is a crazy step into a new season. My trip to India last November totally rocked my world. God spoke a lot of things to my heart on that trip about my calling and future. As a result, I’m leaving my position at Southern Wesleyan University at the end of the month so I can promote the book and start working on the next one. For the first time in eight years I won’t have set office hours, a steady paycheck, or a fancy name plate with a title.

I believe the most beautiful things in our lives also come with the most risk. The safe life is rarely the satisfying life. So I’m making the jump. I’m driving into this new endeavor, not without fear, but with confidence that our stories are the most beautiful when we follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

I wrote this book, Adventure Available: Discovering life with an extravagantly loving God, because I believe early adulthood is a precious gift, a powerful season of life. It is not an extended adolescence, nor is it time to kill before a more important era begins. The twenties are a defining decade, the foundation for a life of adventure. I hope this work will inspire young adults, college students, and even those beyond their twenties to embrace the adventures available in life with God. I hope it will defeat any ideas that life in the Kingdom is boring or religious or limited. Mostly I hope my story will confirm the truth that our God is good, and ready and able to transform us into agents of love, hope, peace, and joy.

Here’s to the adventure!

 

Adventure Available: Discovering life with an extravagantly loving God will be available in ebook form through Amazon on May 24.

 

 

Judah’s Birth Story

Last May Rick and I celebrated our 7th year anniversary out in kayaks on beautiful Lake Jocassee. And it was out there on the water that we decided we did still want four kids and that we wanted them to be close in age. We had already begun searching for an adoption agency to help us adopt again from Ethiopia, but due to many programs being temporarily closed, we decided we would start “trying” for the next bio baby.

Fast forward to the fourth of July. Let’s just say sparks did not just fly in the sky that night, and little baby Judah was made *wink* *wink*

This go around I elected to receive prenatal care from the midwives at GHS and have an un-medicated water-birth at the hospital. I had done a lot of research about water-birth and had a lot of friends who had really positive experiences with this group of midwives, including my good friend and best doula ever, Lindsay.

In preparing for birth I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and finally watched The Business of Being Born, but the most helpful piece of preparation came from an online class called A Heavenly Welcome by Kierra Blaser. Regardless of what kind of birth you are planning, I highly recommend this class to any expectant mommy and daddy (Rick really liked it too). It really helped me get over any anxiety about my upcoming birth and reminded me that Holy Spirit is very present at all times and would certainly be there for Judah’s arrival.

On Tuesday of last week, I led some of my students from Southern Wesleyan University in a service project at our church. We were all on our hands and knees most of the morning and early afternoon painting old shutters and doors for part of kid’s department redesign. Later that evening around 5 PM I started having some Braxton Hicks just as Rick and I were about to leave for a date.

My contractions came quite mildly all evening about every 15 to 30 minutes. I ate a good meal thinking real labor could begin at any moment and Rick and I walked around Abernathy Park excited with anticipation. When we got home I called Lindsay to give her the heads up, and then immediately went to bed to rest while the contractions were mild. Just after midnight I woke up with a contraction just strong enough not to sleep through. I slept off and on till about 2 PM when I decided I should time my contractions. I got on the birthing ball and realized they were still over 10 minutes apart so I slept off and on a bit more.

At 5 AM I got out of bed and watched the movie Juno while I timed the contractions. They were getting closer together, but still about 7 to 10 minutes apart.

Rick texted our friend Megan about watching the boys because we were still a bit unsure if Aunt Meredith would be able to come up in time. When she found out I was in labor, the Spirit immediately brought Isaiah 54 to her mind, which made me laugh because I’ve been reading Isaiah 54 ever day in 2016.

Our family is on the brink of a major transition currently. I’m not renewing my contract with Southern Wesleyan next school year. Ever since my trip to India I’ve felt Heavenly Father leading me into a new season of ministry that mostly includes proclaiming His good news through spoken and written word. I’ll be writing and speaking professionally, as well as investing more time in ministry at United and spending more time with my sweet kiddos. Rick too has felt a shift in his ministry, desiring to be focused more on outreach and liberating the oppressed. Holy Spirit reminded me that our family is stretching our tent pegs this year, and Judah is a beautiful part of us resettling desolate cities for the Kingdom of God.

I got in the shower to help ease the growing discomfort of the contractions and Lindsay helped me time them. Then suddenly my water broke with a huge gush and I had a much stronger contraction which scared me so bad I thought the baby’s head might just pop out.

Rick got on the phone with the midwife and she instructed us to come to the hospital right away since my water was not clear.

Once at the hospital they checked me and there was meconium in my fluid which meant baby Judah had already pooped. Then came the bad news. No tub birth. I could not even labor in the water. All my plans and expectations for this birth went out the window. Goodbye, carefully written out birth plan.

The midwife Shannon and the midwifery intern Cheryl checked me and I was four centimeters dilated. Another bummer. I thought with how strong my contractions were I would be at least at 6 or 7.

I got on the birthing ball so I could keep swiveling my hips in hopes that would help me progress faster. Some contractions I was able to just moan and breathe through. Others I cried through. My support team was super comforting in those tough moments. Cherly would softly rub my head and tell me to relax my eye-brows. Rick and Lindsay switched back and forth putting counter pressure on my hips and speaking sweet encouragements to me.

After about an hour on the birthing ball I decided I wanted back in the shower. At this point there were not many contractions I was not crying through they were so intense. I did little mini squats through each one and kept saying “I’m going to get huge” (another Ina May mantra) with the thought that I had enough authority to tell my body what I wanted to do. I told everyone I was starting to feel the urge to push so they got me out of the shower to check my progression. I was at 7 centimeters and about to go through transition, when things got super intense.

I got back on the birthing ball but my legs were shaking so bad I decided to move to the bed for some side-lying. At this point I had a bit of a freak out. The pain and pressure was so great I felt I could not resist the urge to push. I remember crying, “I can’t not push!” Rick got close to my face and gently ushered me to calm down. Within about 20 minutes, I had progressed fully and was ready for the pushing.

Prior to Judah’s birth I watched a lot of videos of really beautiful, calm natural births. I read stories of women actually experiencing immense pleasure during birth. In one video, the mom actually exclaims, “That was easy!” after delivering. The final 45 minutes of Judah’s birth were not calm or painless. They definitely were not orgasmic. They were the most painful, most crazy intense moments of my entire life. I am so grateful for my team that helped me through, especially Rick and Lindsay. They were amazing and I could not have made it without their help!

But then finally, at 1:09 PM, just 3 hours after arriving at the hospital, she was here. Shannon immediately placed Judah Ellie on my chest and I said hello to the most beautiful little girl I’d ever laid eyes on.

Though I was initially very disappointed I did not get to deliver in the water, looking back I’m really thankful for the way everything happened. I could never have imagined that she would come that quickly (since Han took 37 hours!). If my water had been clear I think I might have accidentally had her at home. I’m so thankful that Heavenly Father granted me a little Judah a safe delivery.

I still can’t help but tell miss Judah out loud every time I scoop her up how beautiful and precious she is. Her name means “praised light” and I know her life will bring a beautiful light to all those around her. She is a wonderful gift from Heavenly Father and Rick and I are honored to love, care, protect, and lead her in the ways of truth, justice, and humility. Her birth begins our family’s Springtime and we look forward to what Holy Spirit makes blossom in this season.

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide,
    do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
    strengthen your stakes.
 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
    your descendants will dispossess nations
    and settle in their desolate cities.”

Isaiah 54:2-3

Adventure Available

I believe that young adults will change the world. I do not simply think they have potential. I know that their passion enables them to see solutions. I know that their enthusiasm empowers them to hope for the incredible, maybe even the impossible. I know that their fearlessness fuels courageous action. They are not just a group who talks of wanting to produce solutions to the tough issues going on in our world. They are a group that will transform communities as they pursue justice, peace, and bravery.

For the past seven years of my life, I’ve worked with college students in the context of Christian higher education. My observations over the years confirm the fact that early adulthood is a precious gift, a powerful season of life. It is not an extended adolescents, nor is it time to kill before a more important era begins. The twenties are a defining decade, the foundation for a life of adventure.

I also believe that the greatest adventure available to us is one in deep, intimate relationship with Heavenly Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and yoked with Christ in the ministry of reconciliation. Entering into community with the Triune God jump starts a life full of beauty, purpose, and fulfillment. Our effectiveness in living an adventurous life is so closely tied to our being intimate with the Giver of Life.

The months leading up to my thirtieth birthday, I sensed our extravagantly loving God prompting me to write a book. I hope this work will inspire young adults, college students, and even those beyond their twenties to embrace the adventures available in life with God. I hope it will defeat any ideas that life in the Kingdom is boring or religious or limited. Mostly I hope my story will confirm the truth that our God is good, and ready and able to transform us into agents of love, hope, peace, and joy.

On March 28 Adventure Available: Discovering Life With an Extravagantly Loving God will be available in e-book form on Amazon. If you do not have a Kindle, simply download the free Kindle app to read on your galaxy tablet, iPad, or other electronic device. I would love for you guys to be a part of the launch of my first book! If you would like to receive a notification the day the book becomes available, please write us at adventureavailablebook@gmail.com to be put on our anticipating fans list.

 

Author Margaret Grady Turner is a pastor, student affairs professional, and adventure enthusiast. She lives in beautiful Seneca, South Carolina with her husband and two sons.

India!

Last semester, one night after I got home from the Bible study I lead at SWU, I felt heavenly Father prompting me to journal about some things that were significant about my 20s, which I did. Then I felt heavenly Father commission me to dream about my 30s. What was I hoping for? What did I want to see happen? Not too much came to mind- a couple more kids, maybe finishing that book I’ve been writing since 2006, and then out of the blue…India! I thought this was a bit weird because I’ve never been to India and don’t really know much about the country.

In the next few weeks everything was about India. I met people from India, heard stories about India, and then heard from our own SWU chapel speaker about India. After that chapel service I was like, “I’ve got to find out when my dad is going to India!” I checked his ministry itinerary as soon as I got to a computer and was speechless about what I found. My dad was going to be in India on my 30th birthday.

At the same time the Lord gave my good friend Nora a vision about going to India. And since my dad has extended the invitation for the two of us to come on a ministry trip with him November 11-20. We will minister at the orphanage my dad funds in Tanuku. Nora works at Issaquena Pediatric Dentistry, so we are going to be doing dental hygiene clinics with the girls at the orphanage, in addition to playing with them, and hopefully learning some of their language (Telagu). We’ll also be a part of a women’s ministry event in the bigger city of Hyderabad. I am so excited to learn more about what God is doing in this beautiful part of the world, and honored to partner with Christ in this ministry opportunity.

The day we return, November 20, is my 30th birthday, and my feet will touch 3 continents as we go from Delhi to Paris to Atlanta, traveling back in time, making the day last over 30 hours:)

Please join with me in prayer for this trip. If you would like to pray for me daily while I’m away, please let me know. I will have a day by day itinerary I can share with you to guide your prayers. Also, please pray that the $4,000 Nora and I need for the plane ticket will be provided!  If you are interested in helping financially, please let me know and I will tell you how you can make a tax deductible contribution to The Mordecai Project.

Here’s to the great adventure that is partnering with Christ in this crazy life!

maggie and nora

We Have This Hope That Is An Anchor for Our Souls

A little over a week ago, my family and I celebrated Father’s Day, and in the midst of the ongoing tragedies happening in our nation, I want to write about why the fathers in my life give me hope that reconciliation and equality is not an impossibility.

As a child, I picked up some stereotypes about black people from my dad. Because he took me to hear T.D. Jakes preach at revivals and Bernice King speak at women’s rally’s and jumped at the chance to take me and my sisters to any local Gospel choir concert, he painted a very specific picture of the African American community. He used to tell me, “Black people really know how to worship.” And as a child and adolescent this was the lens at which I looked at my black peers and teachers. When I met a lively man or woman who spoke kindly and laughed without reservation, this stereotype was confirmed. Black people loved life and they thoroughly enjoyed worshiping Christ in song, dance, and enjoyment of community. When I met someone who did not fit the stereotype, they were the exception.

The picture my dad painted for me about the African American community was not based on literature or film, it was based on his experiences with his black friends. I cannot doubt that his close relationships with so many black friends and colleagues impacted my life. Because I associated fun and passionate praise with the black community, I joined the Gospel choir in high school and enjoyed being the only white girl. When I heard peers speak negative generalities about black people, I immediately recognized their words as darkness.

As an adult I now know that not all black people love to worship expressively. I know not every older black man is a preacher, not every black woman writes for a successful magazine, not every black teenager likes to sing Gospel music. But I see our multi-ethnic world as a byproduct of a creative God, and I still see black communities as full of faith and fun.

It breaks my heart to know so many fathers paint a different picture of black communities for their sons and daughters, one not based on genuine close relationships but based on years of intolerance, confirmation bias, and systematic prejudice.

My father is not the only father I know who seeks to promote love for people of every color. When I first told Rick that God impressed upon my heart to adopt a child from Ethiopia, he did not hesitate for a moment before expressing the desire to do so also. I asked him how he could get on board so quickly as he said, “I don’t want a boring family. I want a family that looks like the Kingdom of God.”

Rick is fathering our two boys in the way of truth, humility, and justice. And he is empowered to seek actual solutions that lead to real reconciliation. I think about the way he loves are boys and I know his ability to Father them so well is because he allows our Heavenly Father to love and lead him so closely. He spends a lot of time with the King, which is why he is so passionate about bringing Kingdom into this world.

This is my challenge to all of us: If you have thoughts and feelings toward others that our Heavenly Father does not have, let him supernaturally renew your heart and mind. He can help you unlearn hate, hostility and indifference. He can make all things new.

In the wake of all the tragedies against our black brother and sisters this week, I refuse to lose hope. I will cry more tears, I will labor in prayer, I will get mad, but I will stay close to my Savior Jesus Christ, for His hope anchors my soul.

When I look at my sons I am reminded that the lens through which they think about ethnicity and color will be shaped by Kingdom. When Han sees a black man, he will think of his brother. And when Grady sees a white man, he will think of his brother. One day, when the Glory comes, we will look at people of every tribe and every tongue and see our brothers and sisters. May it be on earth as it is in heaven.

 

dad with grandsons pic

Back on the Horse (Or Pavement)

So it’s been a while since I blogged.

Since my marathon I’ve run two 5ks. I paced my good friend Lindsay in the TR Earth Day 5k back in April and despite the cold rain, she did awesome. In May I was supposed to face off against my friend Shavoyae in the Hartwell Dam 5k but the race sold out before he could register so I had to go it alone (but he did come to cheer me on and still bought me breakfast afterwards).

Honest confession: I have not run over 3.1 miles since my marathon. I’ve been taking a much needed break. I actually tried Zoomba because I thought my love for distance running might have left me completely. It has not, but I’ve enjoyed the sabbatical. Life has just been super busy. I’ve preached at our Sunday morning service twice this month, I’m trying to read every legit parenting book ever before I teach Sociology of the Family this Fall, and I’ve been on a de-cluttering kick for several weeks now, managing to clean out 5 out of 8 closets in my home so far. With not too much effort on our part, Grady has conquered potty training completely, staying dry all night, even once for an 11 hour stretch! We’re still trying to convince Han that walking is far superior to crawling, but he has a strong will like his mom mixed with the conviction to never be in a hurry like his dad, not to mention he is a professional speed crawler! In a nut shell this is what it looks like to be a pastor’s wife, professional mother, and full-time college administrator. Never a dull moment, but extremely awesome…most days.

But I’m starting to feel the need for speed once again and so I am 5k training. My goal for the month of June is to log 15 miles each week until my 4th of July race. Maybe I’ll even get a 4-miler in on my lunch break:)

Post-Race Blues?

After completing a personal goal like running a marathon, it’s not uncommon to experience post-race blues after the goal is reached. But I feel no sadness. I am 100% stoked to be free from those long training runs!

The marathon race itself is super fun (well the first 23 miles are), but the time needed for training for a marathon took it out of me. Even my condensed 12 week training plan felt a bit overwhelming. As a working mama and a pastor’s wife, I’ve learned that Saturday is my Sabbath (and it does not feel very restful when a 3 hour long run is on the day’s to-do list). I have decided to take an extended break from marathoning (I told Rick I probably need about 2 years before I’m ready to say I want to do another 26.2 mile footrace). I’m not going to stop running. Running is a great outlet for fitness, competition, fun, traveling to new places, communion with God, and time with friends and family. But I’m setting my sights on a new goal that is far less time consuming.

As motivation to not take a ton of time off, I’ve challenged my friend Shavoyae to a 5k race, the Hartwell Dam 5k on May 2. Loser buys the winner breakfast afterwards. He’s a great athlete. He holds the record for most points scored in a basketball game at Emmanuel College. But he also hasn’t been logging 100 miles a month like I have. It should be a close race.

voyae and me

I’m holding up a 5, he’s holding up the letter K.

So for the next 4 weeks,  I’m going to do very short track workouts on my lunch breaks and not much else, with the hopes of getting my 5k time down to 25 minutes.  This still satisfies my need to be fit and have fun, but no workout exceeds 60 minutes (yay!!) and the only exercise I’ll be doing on Saturdays is pushing our double stroller to the park with my boys.

Publix Georgia Marathon Report

Sunday I finished my second full marathon and I had a ton of fun! The hills were somewhat brutal, especially miles 17-23, as the course entailed an elevation change of just over 3,000 feet. But conditions were quite nice. It lightly rained on us the entire race, and despite the fact that our socks were totally soaked at 6 miles in, the temps stayed in the upper 50s so we stayed nice and cool, never getting too cold or too hot. The course still had a descent amount of spectators despite the conditions, and they kept the atmosphere lively.

publix 2015 crew

My faithful running partner Becki stuck beside me, even when my run became a shuffle at mile 23. She could have easily finished at least 30 minutes before me, but she is such an encourager. I think she got more satisfaction from helping me get across the finish line than she would have from finishing more quickly, and I’d like to be more like her in that respect. She entertained me with stories about her collegiate soccer days, and when I was really dragging, she just busted out praying out loud for me and my family. Why yes, I do have the best running partner IN THE WORLD! Our official time was 4:51:16, three minutes slower than my first marathon on the pancake flat course in Charleston, South Carolina.

becks and maggie moo

Becki certainly helped me get to the finish line, but it was Rick who helped me get to the starting line. He took on extra daddy duty to help me get those long training runs in, and I am so grateful that he so selflessly lets me be crazy me. And I think my craziness might be rubbing off on him because as we were having lunch after the race he confessed he wanted to do a full marathon at some point! I am beyond blessed to be married to man who so greatly values friendship, partnership and mutuality, and respects individuality the way he does. He made sacrifices to get me to Atlanta yesterday, a true reflection of both his love for me and the way he values Kingdom. Sorry to be such a cheese ball, but I could not ask for a better husband and best friend.

rick and maggie publix

Rick and I sat on our porch last night and talked through the events that have transpired recently. Four months ago I went into an operating room worried about infertility and the very real possibility that I could have cancer. Yesterday I finished a marathon, an athletic event that less than 1% of the US population can boost about. God’s blessing are so abundant. I’m so thankful for my healing, renewed strength, and my continued health. He’s a good, good Father. In the toughest miles of yesterday’s race, in the cool breeze while relaxing on my  porch, I feel His abounding love for me.

maggie moo publix 2015

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Enduring for Love

Five years ago, on March 21, 2010, I ran my first road race through the streets of Atlanta. My friends Jason and Nikki Croy had begun their first adoption journey, and Jason had decided to do something he never imagined he would do- run a 26.2 mile foot race. Some of their friends, including Rick and I, decided we would show support by running the half marathon that took place the same day. The process of adopting a child is a crazy journey filled with delays, frustrations, lots of waiting, and at the same time hope, love, longing, and incomparable joy. In many ways the adoption journey is like endurance running. It certainly is not like a sprint! In the process of training for a marathon you experience pain and pleasure, fatigue and strength, doubt and confidence. And besides being a beautiful comparison, marathon running can be a GREAT distraction while waiting for the new addition to the family! Jason finished his first marathon that day in March of 2010, and not too long afterwards, he and Nikki welcomed home their son Jayden.

ING crew

Original 2010 ING Georgia Marathon and Half Crew.

Well the Croys are adding to the family once again! Very recently they accepted the referral of a beautiful 12 month old baby girl, and they expect to be cleared to travel to bring her home sometime in the next 6 to 12 months. To read more about their journey, check out Nikki’s blog at endure4love.wordpress.com.

I trained for my first marathon when we were in the process of adopting Grady. I have not covered the 26.2 mile distance in over two years. But this Sunday, I’ll be running my second 26.2 mile event, returning to the site of my first road race in Atlanta. My love of road running was born there, thus I’m calling this my 5 year “runiversary.” I’m nervous and stoked all at the same time. My training has not been ideal, but I’ll have my favorite running buddy Becki by my side on race day. We’ve done a number of races together, including our inaugural half back in March of 2010, and I’m so excited that I get to be a part of her first full marathon experience.

I’m hoping to help the Croys raise some of the needed funds for their trip to Thailand to finalize the adoption of their daughter. If you are interested in supporting their adoption financially, you can donate online through GoFundMe (endure4love) or for a tax deduction, send your check to PO Box 842, Franklin Springs, GA 30639. Make checks payable to Life Springs Community Church and include in the memo “Adoption Fund.” My goal is to get 26 people to give $26 so let me know if you will want to donate!

Croy family

Jason and Nikki with their son Jayden.

Adoption is a beautiful, God-ordained way to grow a family. The first chapter of Ephesians tells us that adoption is a part of every believer’s story. We have all been welcomed into the family of God because of His glorious love, compassion, and goodness. Though not all of us will feel the call to adopt children into our families, we all can be a part of sowing Kingdom here on earth by helping families unite with children.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  — Ephesians 1:3-6

Beyond Our Little Worlds

As an individual who feels called by the Spirit to promote Kingdom here on this earth until the day I reach God’s Kingdom in its perfection, I work alongside many Christian brothers and sisters to promote gender equality. Every day I am confronted by those that would want to exclude women from a variety of ministries and vocation and grossly twist New Testament scripture to promote patriarchy, rather than mutuality, in marriage. My heart longs to see a day where women are elevated to a place of honor, a place where they are valued for their individuality, a place where their leadership is sought in the home, in the church, and in the marketplace, and where they feel free to be true to their unique calling and giftings.

As Valentine’s Day weekend approaches, I am reminded that women are not the only ones who experience exclusion in the church and in the world. In a culture that worships sexual pleasure and romance, and in a time in when the church works so hard to glorify marriage and the traditional family, my thoughts are with my single brothers and sisters.

We pick up on messages, some subtle and some blatant, from a lot of places. From TV shows, films, and literature we get this message that you are not really experiencing life to the fullest without regular sex, romantic encounters, or even experimental passion. From the pulpit maybe we pick up on marriage being the preferred lifestyle when the majority of practical application for any message pertains to how we treat our spouse or children. Our families send messages when they treat us strangely when dating is not a priority. Singleness accompanied by celibacy is often treated as a second-rate existence, a life-style not to be desired, but one inflicted on those not attractive enough, not sane enough for lifetime partnership.

But this idea is so far removed from the truth we find in scripture. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul makes it clear that the single life and the married life are both gifts from God (verse 7), but he also adds that he wishes more would choose to live like him as a single person. Paul describes a multitude of reasons why he finds the single life superior to the married life.

It is free from complications that often come up within marriage (verse 7).

There is less stress (v. 28)

Your sole focus can be pleasing the Master (v. 32)

Time and energy is not divided between your family (33-34)

You can live a happier life (v. 40)

Ultimately Paul felt the single life was the most efficient way to live as a disciple of Christ, and for good reason. If Paul had been traveling on his missionary journeys with a wife and four children, he may not have been able to travel as many places, plant as many churches, preach the Gospel as often, or write as many epistles. That should not be taken lightly. And if you can’t take Paul’s words from the first century seriously, consider the words of my co-worker. He is 50 years old and has been single his entire life. This is what he says about his singleness:

“There is absolutely no doubt, no comparison that can be made, in relation to my being able to reach people more effectively as a single person. In the back of my mind I don’t wonder whether I will be late getting home for dinner or to put my children to bed, or to finish a promise project for someone in my family. I can be 100% present wherever I find myself. If I choose to marry, my first priority ministry WILL be to my family as it should be. As for now, I go on short term mission trips to places where harm is possible. I don’t have to weigh the overwhelming cost of leaving a place if I sense that I am being called. I don’t have to uproot my children from a school to follow Jesus. I don’t have to jeopardize my wife’s intimate friend relationships to move. I can be available late for the lonely. I can pick up the hitchhiker. I can love openly without people wondering if my family will approve or be damaged by the implications that come when we risk love for the Kingdom. There is an ENORMOUSLY high price to be paid for following the call to single living; but the potential for reward is equally high.”

The single life is not just useful, but it can also be fun and full of freedom. I work with college students for a living. It is not uncommon to hear student talk about the goal of getting or giving a “ring by spring,” meaning a desire to be engaged to be married before graduation. I try to remind students that singleness is a gift, and can be a really fun way to live! I know since I got married 7 days after I graduated from college, some might not think me a credible source. But I know many women and men who postponed marriage for 5, 10, and even 15 years post-college and had amazing life experiences and opportunity because of their extended time as a single. Last October I got to speak at a retreat with Nicole Doley, author of The Wait: Encouragement for Single Women. She shared with me this piece of advice for Christian college students:

“The notion that it’s best to graduate from college with your MRS degree is outdated. That may be true for some, but not for all. I’m a firm believer in marriage and I think it’s one of God’s greatest blessings. Nevertheless, unmarried 20somethings are starting businesses, discovering oil and making billions. Imagine all of that energy, time and talent invested in the Kingdom! The Bible says there’s a season for everything. In the past, the season for having babies was in your 20’s. I, however, had two perfect, gorgeous little boys in my 40’s. Thanks to modern medicine the window for starting a family is much larger. Why not take advantage of your youth, time and creativity and see what you can accomplish for the Kingdom, because when spouses and babies come, you will be blessed, but tired!”

At this point, some of you might be confused about my intent in writing on this subject. You may be thinking, “Why would someone who is married and has two children be witting about the benefits of the single life on Valentine’s Day? She must be unhappy, right?”

Let me just tell you that I love being married. I have never regretted even for a second marrying Rick a week after I earned my college degree. I love him. And not in some awkward, dutiful way that we sometimes ascribe to Christian marriage. I really like him as a person. I still (cheese alert) start tickle fights with him when we crawl into bed. He is my best friend, biggest encourager, most-fun playmate, and loyal partner. And when I think about my sons Grady and Hananiah, and how precious and adorable and hilarious they are, despite all the work that goes into raising them, I get tears in my eyes thinking about how much God must love me to put them in my life.

I’m not promoting the single life here to diminish the gift of marriage and children. After all, God created marriage! I’m promoting the single life because, just like with the married life, there are remarkably beautiful gifts from God within that path. Though it is our tendency as humans to egocentrically elevate the lives we live, we need to see beyond our little worlds. We need to see that God has rich blessing and good gifts for us as his children, no matter whether we are married or single.

I am convinced that the church needs both married couples and singles to function at its highest capacity. But sadly the church is just as guilty as the world in treating singles as second-class citizens. Another single co-worker of mine, also in her 50s, said this about singles and the church:

“I believe the hardest place to be single in my experience is the church.  Single people are often viewed with either pity (as though something is wrong that leave them in this unfortunate condition) or suspicion (are they gay?).  One is not a whole number in the church, despite the fact that Jesus was single.  Can’t singles just be adults, disciples, fellow travelers on the journey?  Aren’t they part of the “faith family” too?  Often singles really enjoy the opportunities to be around kids and families, yet they are frequently shut out from those very opportunities.  A single who stays in the church for the long haul is rare indeed.”

So how do we change this?  How to we elevate the singles around us? How do we as a church create a culture that honors the single life, just as we honor the married life?

We can let our single friends know we love and support them, rather than constantly trying to play match-maker.

We can avoid talk that belittles celibacy.

We can point people to the Jesus that wants to co-labor with us, rather than just write our love story.

We can include singles in our community and social gatherings, even if they might be the only single present.

We can recognize that singles and married individuals are called to minister and serve the church.

We can make our main focus submitting to the Spirit and doing Kingdom work. In doing so, we align our hearts with the heart of our heavenly Father, and as a result see the beauty of life paths that look nothing like our own.

I suggest we start a new kind of love revolution, one that will bless and encourage a powerful group of people that are dearly loved by our Savior. Rather than treating singleness as a less-than existence, we can respect singles in a way that brings honor and elevates them to a place where they feel freedom and authority in their individuality.

I ran a night-time trail race a few years back. At the start of the event, when everyone was bunched together with their headlamps, it was easy to see the path. But as the race went on and the runners grew more and more spread out, I realized my headlamp was really dim. As the miles continued, I found myself alone in the dark. I actually tripped over a root, fell into poison ivy, and found myself at the doctor getting a steroid shot a few days later on account of my eye being almost completely swollen shut! I think the biggest lie we have come to believe about the single life is that it means running this race alone, in unknown and dark territory. But no single person is called to run this race alone, just like married people are not called to run this race exclusively with their family unit. As disciples of Christ, we are a part of the family of God. Community, in all its complexities and benefits, is a gift that God extends to each and every one of us. This Valentine’s Day I pray you will experience the love and closeness of a Christ-centered community that accepts and empowers you, and that you find, regardless of your marital status, gender, class or calling, you are never alone.