When God Speaks

Hello? Who is this? Do I know you?

Have you ever had one of those calls when the person on the other end starts speaking, assuming you know who’s calling, but you aren’t clear who it is? You think you recognize the voice, and you feel a little embarrassed that you can’t attach a name right away? What do you say?

Awkward, isn’t it?

I think sometimes that’s how we feel about God. He expects we will know his voice, but we aren’t always certain we do. How is God supposed to sound? How do I know I’m not just talking to myself?

How do I know if it’s God speaking?

It can be challenging to decipher. We do have an enemy who is out to mess us up. The Bible says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14). And, he used scripture to tempt Jesus (Matt. 4:3-11).

No wonder we can be confused!

But I think God wants to make it easier for us. He tells us in John 10 that we are his sheep, and his sheep know his voice. I find that reassuring when I’m feeling a bit confused about whether I’m hearing God or not. If I’m his sheep, then I will know his voice. Phew!

These are some of the ways I know I am hearing from God:102

  1. Jesus came to forgive, not condemn. Satan is the accuser and “father of lies.” If what I hear condemns, accuses or is untruthful (even if there is a thread of truth), it is not from God. If what I hear convicts with hope and forgiveness and settles my heart, even if I feel sorrowful about it, it is God.
  2. Satan’s goal is to devour, kill, steal and destroy. Jesus came to give us abundant life. If what I hear is destructive to me or someone else and leaves me feeling hopeless, devastated and stuck, it is not God. When God speaks, I feel a sense of promise, restoration and life. Like a breath of fresh air.
  3. When God speaks, what he says matches his character and what his word says. His character is loving, patient, kind and forgiving. He is mighty and just and merciful. Sometimes it may seem that even the Bible is contradictory, but if we dig deeper into the context, we often find the answers to each seeming conundrum. God is consistent.
  4. God’s words bring peace not turmoil. Even if I don’t like what I hear from God, I still know it is right and my heart feels settled. Even in the craziest situations. Like when I moved here with no job, hardly any money and only a temporary place to live. Single with three teenagers. Or when I met my husband online and traveled to Australia to meet him. And he moved here with his three young children to marry me and live in America. As crazy as it seemed, I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew God spoke and in a place of faith, I (we) followed his lead.

Sometimes it seems scary to listen for God.

I mean, what if I didn’t really hear him or heard him wrong? What if I don’t like what he’s telling me or asking me to do because I can’t really see the bigger picture and can’t imagine things working out? What about when I need to humble myself and forgive someone or pray for someone or in love tell someone something difficult they need to hear?

All very good points.

I’ve found that God is faithful to meet me in every one of those situations. He forgives me and has a good plan even if I miss what he said, or didn’t hear him completely accurately. Even when I don’t like what he has to say, he can handle it and help me follow through. And if he asks me to do something difficult, he’s right there to make me able to do it if I trust him.

The good news is he loves us, speaks to us and wants us to be able to hear him. And the more we get to know him, the more confident we’ll be when he speaks.

When has God spoken to you, but you weren’t sure about it? When has he spoken and you knew it confidently?

A Really Good Fight

The tension in our home presses on me as if the ceiling and walls were inching closer, forcing out the air and leaving me suffocated.

Every task I put my hand to seems like dragging through mud with repeated interruptions and distractions. My phone will not stop ringing. We’re late to pick up our daughter from camp. Back issues make any position uncomfortable. Each word on the screen is a struggle…even if I get them down, the cursor jumps unbidden to another spot, inserting letters into the middle of a different word. Run! It urges me. Get out. Quit. Give up. Screaming or crying seem my only option for release.

But I get it. I know what’s happening.

For those of you who don’t believe in an enemy of our souls (Satan), or who relegate him to a comically sinister pitch forked demon dressed in a red unitard, I may challenge your theology with these next words.

The Bible says Satan is like a lion prowling around looking to devour us. (I Peter 5:8) It warns us to be alert to his schemes because he is out steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10) or anything we put our hand to; especially if we have been following God’s lead in any particular direction.

This morning, as we do each Friday morning, Brendan and I spent time reading and discussing a book on marriage. I’ve mentioned the book in previous blogs. The title is Love and War by John and Stasi Eldrege. We’re on our second time through it in the past six months–it’s that helpful! The interesting thing is that we’ve been working on the same chapter for three weeks. Not that it’s so long, but because of the subject. The title of the chapter? How to Have a Really Good Fight (Chapter 6 in case you are headed there now).

What we both love about this chapter is the fact that it uncovers what goes on under the surface of a marriage. The prowling lion part. How can best friends who adore each other in every sense of the word be convinced at times that each one is the other’s worst enemy? Why do accusations jump to our minds at the innocuous words or actions of our spouse? What goes through our mind in the midst of a disagreement–our spouse’s pain or our point? For two hours, we battled through the end of this chapter, praying, discussing, crying, praying for each other. Yes, it was a battle. A well fought and well worth it one. But a battle nonetheless. And clearly, the battle rages on through our day.

Because we are on the right path and the enemy is squirming.

My feeling of running and screaming? It’s really Satan’s fear at losing his grip on areas of our life and marriage. He’s the one screaming as we stand together to have a really good fight–against him!

Other areas are threatening him as well. Brendan recently submitted an invention for a patent; I’m almost finished with the editing on our book. Our kids are growing each day in their understanding of God, his love for them and who he made them to be. Brendan and I are being healed and changed from past hurts. Each step we take following the direction God indicates (starting with Brendan deciding to contact me online) brings us more life, more freedom and more joy, individually and as a couple and family.

And each step threatens God’s enemy and ours. Especially when we tell people. Or write it in a blog or a song or a book. The stories we tell about God’s work in our lives strengthen us and others. Just like John and Stasi Eldrege have strengthened us with their story through their book.

The good news?

Peace has come while I’ve been writing this. The ceiling is in its rightful place, and I no longer feel like screaming.

So how’s your day going? Do you have a story to tell that puts fear in the heart of Satan because it brings life and rightness and gives glory to God? Will you share in the comments below?



Worth the Struggle

Life is hard.

In fact, the first three years of married life could easily be classified as one of the most difficult seasons of both our lives.

Our “honeymoon” phase ended during our actual honeymoon when both of our pasts reared their ugly heads into our current business. Then we came home to the needs of three displaced children, and a house full of unseen mold which caused severe illness for us. I ended up spending almost the entire first year in bed unable to accomplish even the simplest of tasks.

But, I classify difficulties of life it into three distinct types: good-hard, bad-hard and just plain hard. Let me clarify. Death, divorce (which for all practical and emotional purposes is death), sickness and loss of anything significant is sorrowfully difficult. Not that good can’t come out of them, but the pain we suffer during those times is awful at best and excruciating most of the time. Those situations are bad-hard.

Then there’s daily life which can be demanding. The end of the day after challenging work deals on three phones at once; children vomiting on the way to school; juggling the laundry, dishes, what-to-have-for-dinner-tonight; and four hours of kids’ homework that is only explained partially in the textbook? Exhausting and just plain hard, right?

Finally, we experience the worth-the-struggle kind of hard – or good-hard.

Ever been on a hike and you’re just about fifty feet from the top of the vista point? No view is visible yet, so you take it on faith that what you’ve anticipated based on your rock-climbing, mountain-hiking friend’s description will be as spectacular as they have asserted it will be. The rocky trail rolls out from under your feet with every other step reminding you that one careless placement of your boot clad foot could send you sprawling on your face or to your death if the worst case presented itself.

Your legs burn with the strain; sweat trickles down your back and marks every bare area of your body and face with wet, dust trails. You wonder how many more steps it will take to get to the top and want to scream, “Are we THERE yet?” You start counting the steps to keep your mind off the pain. When did thirty get to be such a big number? Twenty more, ten more; then just two more and you gasp…

The splendor of a majestic scene spreads out before you.

Sunlight glistens like diamonds on the ocean as waves roll across the crescent shaped shore. A waterfall parachutes down the verdant cliff in the distance. You take in the view, savoring it as a good meal and drinking in the beauty as fine wine. Nothing about those last thirty grueling steps is remembered in that moment. And in that instant, it all became worth every painfully exerted step. That is good-hard.

These first few years have been good-hard. The way God brought Brendan and I together online was miraculous, and the challenging years we’ve faced so far have been as well. I believe God is still all about raising the dead kind of miracles, but the kind I’m talking about here are the everyday things that really don’t make sense, and shouldn’t happen, but they do anyway. Some people call them coincidence, but these “God things” are really just too coincidental and leave us marveling in a perplexed kind of awe.

That is what fairy tales are made of, and what our story is all about.

So what’s your miracle? How has something been good-hard for you?

Just Say Yes

An EX-Buccaneer named Baxter.

I just spent a week participating in a VBS day camp put on by our church and watching my husband, Brendan, be transformed by playing the role of a buccaneer named Baxter in the assembly portion of this event. He thrilled the audience with his lively, dramatic gestures and accent — a mix of Aussie, English and Scottish that branded his character, the soft-hearted pirate captured by a loving crew of baggage toting misfits. Baxter decided he liked being wanted and loved so he changed his pillaging ways and became an EX-buccaneer who loved his new family. The script was wonderfully written.

But what I loved best was what playing the role developed in Brendan. Confidence, faith, camaraderie, and a new freedom in allowing for mistakes. Not only that, but Brendan is hilariously funny! Truly entertaining. (You can check out the entire week’s adventure at www.coastlands.org or see Coastlands on Facebook.)

We never know what God has in mind when we agree to follow him. But it’s all good.

When Brendan and I met online, just over four years ago, I would never have imagined all that would happen to bring us together in that first year. The three years since have held so many obstacles, trials, complications and joy, healing and excitement. We couldn’t have planned it. But God did.

This has been one of the best weeks of our life together. Who would have thought?

Something so simple, and yet challenging as playing a role in a skit for kids could be used by God to change a life. Wow!

What is God using to change you?


Safe or Scary?

Is online dating the wave of the future?

I recently met a woman who politely, yet with scrutiny questioned my decision to employ internet dating sites to meet a husband. This was after I told her about my husband and I meeting online.

Her comments went something like, “Isn’t that a pretty daring thing to do? I mean, I’ve heard such horror stories about singles meeting really creepy people on those sites.”

“Well, it’s true there are some crazy people out there,” I acquiesced, “but both my best friend and I met our husbands–amazing, quality men–online. We also have other friends who met on the same site. So obviously, not all of it’s bad.”

“What site did you use?” she asked. I chuckled internally thinking it usually doesn’t take long before someone’s curiosity overrides their previous ‘sensibility’ about internet dating.

“We met on christiancafe.com, but I also tried eHarmony. Some of the guys were not okay, but my friend and I helped each other screen them. Really, it was fine,” I assured her.

Don’t be crazy!

It’s true I’ve come across numerous sites (like internetdatingstories.com) that depict the horrors of psycho encounters with online daters, but quite honestly, most of them surprise me with their foolish pursuance of predators. What do people think when they communicate with someone? Is society so quick to jump into a relationship (or bed) that people don’t take the time to find out more about each other before running ahead to the next step?

My friends and I never considered meeting a guy unless we had developed a substantial connection through multiple email messages, first through the site and then possibly through our private email, and after a few phone conversations.

Surprisingly, only a few stories I’ve read seemed to describe legitimate complaints of being taken in by seemingly honest individuals who somehow manage to live as Jekyll and Hyde.

All of that to say that with social networking drawing us closer together from farther away, online dating is here to stay and growing in popularity (see unitedfamiliesinternational.wordpress.com/?s=online+dating+statistics for some interesting statistics). So is is safe or scary?

Using wisdom, discretion and accountability will keep it safe. When in doubt about someone, let it go; the best person out there for you is one you feel good about from the start. I posted some safety tips in an earlier blog titled Meeting Face to Face.

Meeting online can lead to great relationships and even marriage. Read through my previous online dater posts for more of our story or check out testimonials on christiancafe.com for other encouraging tales of wedded bliss.

Be safe and online dating shouldn’t be scary.


Filling in the Gaps

I thought it might be advantageous to fill in some of the gaps of our story with a few excerpts from the book in progress. Granted, changes may still occur, but at least you can have a taste of the finished work to come…

Excerpt from The Miracle of Us: Confessions of Two Online Daters….

If you had asked me even ten years ago how I would meet my soul mate, I would never have dreamed that it would happen online. But considering that as of 2010, 17% of couples who married met on a dating site, it doesn’t seem as incredulous as it may once have sounded. (datingsitesreviews.com) Let’s face it; technology has taken over our lives. But living in a technological world which grows seemingly smaller every day does have its advantages. Socially, even as we may spend less time with people in physical proximity, we are becoming more connected to friends, new and old, all over the world. Every internet social network like Facebook, Twitter and Google affords us the opportunity of setting up a personal profile with a vast array of information. Surprisingly, even Yelp set me up with a profile to give reviews on services offered by local businesses, and I found some of my friends had Yelp accounts too.

Connecting online has grown to be an ordinary occurrence now, and internet dating sites could be likened to a “bar scene” where people go to hang out or to meet eligible singles. Not that I personally related to it that way; I hadn’t been to a bar since, well…not in a really, really long time. So when I began internet dating it was all new to me. But the usual ways of meeting guys weren’t working for me.

I’ll admit that in the past, my guy meeting experiences were limited to youth or college groups, school, church or perhaps “a friend-of-a-friend” kind of connections. And I didn’t have much experience since I initially married at the early age of nineteen.  But in this age, how does a forty-something woman with grown children meet men when the single women at her church outnumber the single men by about six to one? Well, at least that’s roughly the statistics at my church.

The actual, in person social scene wasn’t much better. A local Christian singles group was the only avenue available. Some of my acquaintances practically obsessed over each outing as they desperately sought Mr. Right, but that was a little too intense for me.

One of my best friends did actually meet her husband from a friend-of-a-friend, but even after a few years, that was practically old-fashioned. And besides, that hadn’t happened for me either. Most of my friends are married and their friends are married too. Well, you get the picture.

So that is why after being divorced for seven years, I and my never-married-yet friend, adopted sister, housemate, business partner, Carol, decided to take the plunge into the deep pool of online dating.

How Did You Know?

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of young women from Switzerland and as usually happens when we first meet someone, the topic came up of how I met my husband. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve read how it usually goes…

Me:”We met online.”

New acquaintance: “No way! Really?”

Me: “Yep. I know…(smile knowingly here), crazy, huh?”

New acquaintance: “So how? What site were you on?”

Me: “Well, I started on eharmony.com, but I actually met him on christiancafe.com.”

New acquaintance: “Wow! That is so cool. So tell me about it…like did you email or talk? How long was it until you met in person?”

Me: “We emailed for a few weeks, then talked on the phone a couple of times, but then we Skyped.”

Both of us: “Thank goodness for Skype! I know, right?”

Me: “We met in person a little over three months after he first “winked” (like a poke on Facebook) at me. I went to Australia to meet him….”

And so continued the conversation until eventually the question surfaced “How did you know he was the one?” A very good question. Because it’s not like I hadn’t communicated with quite a number of men, asking myself over and over if this new guy was “the one.” So I’ve given that question a lot of thought, and I’ve interviewed a few people as well regarding that same question…how DID you know?

It may sound too simplistic, but the truth is that I just did. Suddenly something was different about Brendan, about the situation, about how it felt in my heart, and a certainty existed where only questions had plagued me before. For the first time, I didn’t ask if he WAS the one, I asked for confirmation that what I felt in the depths of my soul was real. And, as we continued to communicate, the conviction became stronger. It felt as if we had always known each other, even when we shared new things. Like I knew a deeper, broader place/part of Brendan that no one told me about, I just knew. A soul connection.

When I asked another person if it was the same for her, she agreed “Oh, yeah. We just knew.” She explained that on the night they met, her husband told a friend that he had just met the woman he was going to marry; even though she was dating someone else at the time. They married three weeks later and have been happily married for fourteen years.

One of my closest friends took longer to feel convinced that she and her husband were meant to be, but still she never questioned it. It grew on them a little more slowly, but the confidence grew stronger as time went by. I think she summed it up best stating, “If you don’t know, then you don’t know.” Clearly, if you don’t know, then you haven’t met him or her yet. But, don’t lose heart. It’s worth waiting for.

So, how did YOU know?


Meeting Face to Face

Perhaps you’ve met someone interesting online, and you’d like to meet them. Let’s assume that you have invested time emailing with each other, first on the dating site and then through your personal email. If this has taken place all in one night, stop! Go back to the post titled Are You Kidding before proceeding!

Once you have confidently exchanged meaningful emails, and bravely entertained a few phone conversations, you may finally be ready to meet face to face.

So let’s talk about safety guidelines. Remember, crazy people exist out there who can adeptly charm with written words or maneuver conversations to create breathless wonder. Try to recognize and avoid rather than meet them. We want our internet dating experiences to remain sincerely pleasant if at all possible!

First, call upon a trusted friend to help you discern the character of your matches. I cannot highlight this enough! If it weren’t for my dear friends, I could have ended up stalked (nearly happened!) or flying off to another state to meet a naked man—thank goodness my friend confirmed my suspicions that men describing their state of undress while talking with me on the phone would not share my particular values even if they desired to share my bed!  So, if your friends concur that this person you hope to meet seems safe and worthy of your attention, you have passed level one.

Secondly, you MUST heed any waving red flags. You know those prodding little question marks that keep floating up during your conversations? Don’t swat them away. Look at them. Listen to them. What are they saying to you about this other person? Sometimes those alerts in our heart warn us about potential danger emotionally or spiritually, but they can also point to situations needing further examination. For example, a friend of mine met someone she really liked, but he had some chronic, long-term health issues. She wrestled with the impact that may have on her life and implications for the future.  After some careful consideration, prayer and discussion (with me of course), she decided that he would be worth it. They married and are thrilled they did, even with the challenges his health has presented!

Finally, take some common sense precautions: Meet in public for the first time preferably during the day. If possible, have the person meet you at a neutral place rather than your home, especially if you live alone. Believe it or not, I even went with a friend when she met her date! I hung out at a nearby coffee shop. It ended up that he was a great guy, and after their date, we all enjoyed a wonderful time of conversation together! And, I took my twenty-year-old daughter with me when I went to Australia to meet my internet boyfriend(now my husband) for the first time.  I knew she would instantly discern if something wasn’t as it should be!

At the very least, you should walk away from your meeting feeling safe and satisfied with a greater understanding of your online suitor. At best, you will know the moment you see him or her that they actually are the one you have waited for your whole life. At least, that’s how it happened for me.

Where the Confessions Begin

Confessions of an Online Dater 

Enjoying Australia
Enjoying Australia

Aha” moments occur with regularity in my life. Perhaps you find yourself in that same place. You know, when sudden realization occurs. When a significant revelation bursts into your mind and/or heart with the brilliant light of dawning and immediate, deep understanding is available where you once felt blind. I confess to feeling compelled to share these insights both for the benefit of solidifying them in myself and also to offer something insightful that others will find helpful, and hopefully a bit humorous as well. I guess that is my first confession.

I have numerous and various confessions to make, but I will begin with an area that people ask me about all the time. The conversation usually goes something like this:

“So, how did you meet your husband?,” says someone I have just met.

Online, actually.” I say this as matter-of-factually as possible, but I think I feel the mischievous twinkle in my eye because their response is usually, “Oh my gosh. No way! Really??” I confess that I love the shock value. And that it opens a way for me to tell my story – which, by the way, is amazing.

But before we get into my fairy tale telling, I have more confessions.

First, let me start with this: online dating may not be for everyone. Yes, it is the wave of the future. Yes, it can have an immensely positive outcome (I’ve been deliriously happily married for just over two years), and yes, it is a great learning experience. However, it does require patience, an open mind and some guidelines for caution.

That said, perhaps my journey can help you decide if online dating is for you. Or simply sit back and enjoy my confessions of an online dater…