Being a Good Girl – Ruth Anne

DSC_0390.JPGRuth Anne Crews holds a Masters of Divinity in Youth Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Bachelor’s in Journalism from Samford University. When she isn’t chasing around little kids as a nanny, she’s hanging out with middle and high school girls teaching about God’s love for them. She loves writing, reading, and all things pop culture. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram (@ruthannecrews) and her blog, Walking in My Shoes (ruthannecrews.com). 

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There is a part of my life that I don’t really ever talk about online because it’s never changed: My dating life. I’m 26 and I’ve never been on a date or had my first kiss. I like to say that I’m throwing off some statistic somewhere because, in this day and age, that is highly uncommon.

I want to be clear here: I was never that girl who said I wasn’t going to date—it just simply didn’t happen. I graduated high school without a boyfriend and I assumed that my husband was waiting on me at Samford University—which, really and truly, was not an unrealistic expectation for the ring by spring school that Samford is. So many of my college friends are married to awesome, godly Samford guys. But that wasn’t my story.

This is mine: freshmen year creeped by and there was no boy. Then all of a sudden I was a senior with my whole life laid out before me, and I didn’t have a prospect for a boyfriend. In my 21-year-old mind, the one that been surrounded by college students and white candles for four years, I just decided that I was never getting married.

Oh, senior year of college Ruth Anne, I know it feels like your life has to be defined when you walk off Samford’s campus in May. But you could not be more wrong. You, little girl, are but an infant in this thing called life. So…take a deep breath and keep walking in Christ.

Anyway, things changed and I realized I was being dumb. I remembered that the world is so much larger than the Samford bubble. Then I went to seminary. So, here I was a 20-something single female in a Southern Baptist Seminary with a unique calling on my life and the desire to get married in my heart. I didn’t understand what the problem was.

I grew up in the church. I was there every time the doors were open and my youth minister said that if there was microphone you could find me behind it. I learned so many great truths. But I also feel like I was taught that if I was a good girl, if I did all the right things, if I followed Jesus, and if I lived my life for Him, then I would be rewarded with my husband because being a wife and mom is most godly thing a female can be, right?

But here I am, 26 years old, and I’ve been a good girl. I’ve never done anything crazy or even wanted to. In the story of the prodigal son, I’m definitely the older brother. This might sound a little crazy, but I’ve had to grapple with the fact that my sin problems are just as bad as someone who has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. I am a good girl. I don’t drink, smoke, or go with boys who do. I have spent the majority of my life following Christ. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my struggles because, believe you me, I have. But they are just more internal than others.

Because I’m a good girl, my reward is supposed to be the world’s greatest husband who loves me like Christ loves the church 24/7, and who I never fight with. We also should have the most well-behaved children on the planet. Is that unrealistic? Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I think I made my point.

So, if I’ve done all the right things, then where is my husband? Does not being married make me any less godly that my married friends? NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT! In fact, in 2 Corinthians 7, Paul says that unmarried people only have to worry about pleasing the Lord, not their spouse and the Lord, so it’s probably better. Does that make singleness any easier? No, but I can do so many things my married friends can’t, and that’s important to keep in perspective.

My relationship with the Lord should not be determined by my relationship status. And because I’ve never been in a relationship, it’s not. My relationship status with the Lord is based on how much time and effort I put into it—just like every other relationship in my life.

So even though I’m a good girl, I haven’t gotten married yet. But I’ve learned that being married isn’t the end all, be all to life. In fact, marriage is hard…ask anyone who’s married. We are all selfish people and being in a relationship like marriage with another selfish person isn’t easy. I’ve been single my whole life, so I know being single isn’t easy, either. I think we can tend to put marriage up on this pedestal that says, in order to be the best Christian possible you have to be married and that’s simply not true. You become more like Christ when you live according to His Word and serve Him on a daily basis. Guess what? Neither of those things require having a ring on your left hand.

Take up your cross and follow Him. Don’t wait until everything is perfect because it will never be. You can do just as much for the kingdom as your married friends can. Go on that mission trip, disciple those girls, spend money on the things you need for the work the Lord has called you to do. Spend time with Lord and let Him show you how He loves you.

(P.S. to read previous posts in this series, click here)

 

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The Shepherd and My Singleness – Kaycee

IMG_1692Kaycee Lookingbill will be graduating in May 2018 from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Ministry to Women. She is a Generation LINK resident in Raleigh, NC, at Open Door Church where she serves in women’s discipleship and college ministry. Although she’s been in NC for 2 years, she is still an Okie at heart and most days you can find her at a local coffee shop, laughing with friends, & Insta storying (@kayceelookingbill) about the awkward random things that happen in her life. 

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At the beginning of this year I tried to decide what my “word” for the year was going to be. You know, some people choose words like: obedient, faithful, and hospitable. Then spend the year intentionally growing in those areas. I usually pick a word early on and then I’m ready to go.

But this year was different.

I really felt the Lord telling me 10 words:

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” – Psalm 23:1

Little did I know, I would enter into the loneliest season of my life four months later.

The thing is, if you looked at my life you wouldn’t think, “Man, she must be really lonely.” I have a really full life. I am a full-time student, do ministry full-time, have solid community around me, and get to travel and do things most singles would love to do. I am so thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had to serve the Lord in my singleness, but it’s still there: the deep desire to do life and ministry with someone.

And it comes in waves. It’s not always constant and at the forefront of my heart & mind. And it’s not always a wrong desire to have. It’s NOT wrong to desire to do life and ministry with someone, unless it makes its way to the throne of your heart.

This season hasn’t been lonely just because I don’t have a husband or that everyone and their mom is getting married. I’ve felt it in ministry as well. I feel the loneliness that comes with being a single woman in ministry, who looks around and wonders where her sisters are. Loneliness doesn’t discriminate. It can come in any season & hit you in different ways.

Even though this has been a season of deep loneliness, it’s been one of the sweetest. I have been learning what it means for the Lord to be my Shepherd. And sisters, as a single woman there is nothing more comforting than that.

I just turned 25 this year. I’m like SO old now. I’m apparently an adult, but don’t always feel like it. I’m also finishing up my Master’s degree next May and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.

Helllooo quarter-life crisis. (Why did no one warn me about this?)

As I was making life decisions and financial decisions (yuck), I found myself thinking if I just had a husband this would be a lot easier. And that’s a lie. A husband will not fix everything. I found myself desiring to have someone there to lovingly lead, guide, and protect me. I wanted the sense of security he would bring.

But isn’t that what the Lord does?

The answer is yes, if you were wondering. I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, “Kaycee, I am lovingly leading, guiding, and protecting you. I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep. I know you. I see you. You are not alone.”

Here are 3 things that I have learned while walking with the Shepherd in this season:

  1. There is nothing you lack

Some versions say, “I have all that I need” or “I shall not want.” The Shepherd provides for his sheep. He promises to take care of us. It seems simple, but my heart needs to be reminded of His care for me- I can bet that yours does, too. He has not forgotten me. When I look around and see all my friends in relationships or I see friends moving away or I see friends who seem to know what they’re doing – He has not forgotten me. The lot He has given me is good.

And He has not forgotten you. The lot He has given you is good.

  1. You are not alone

Deuteronomy 2:7 says, “For the Lord your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the LORD your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.”

Sometimes singleness and, let’s be real—life—feels like a wilderness. As I read that verse I immediately realized I am a lot more like the Israelites in the wilderness than I think I am.

I often grumble and complain through this season.
I forget what the Lord has delivered me from.
I forget His promises.
I forget His faithfulness when my selfishness creeps to the surface.

But even in this wilderness, He has been with me and I’ve not lacked a darn thing. Sisters, He is providing and caring for us. I’m learning it often just doesn’t look like how we think it should.

  1. You are heard & known

Psalm 116:1-2 says,

“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.”

Sister, He hears you. He hears the cries of your heart.

John 10:14 says,

“I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me…”

He knows you.

And because He knows you, He knows the deepest desires of your heart. He cares deeply for them. And because we know Him, we can trust Him.

This past week I had the opportunity to gather about 12 girls around a table with our Pastor to share with him the ways we struggle being a single woman in or pursuing ministry. He listened. He encouraged. He spoke Truth. He vowed to be our advocate.

Oh, my heart. I couldn’t believe it. The Lord was answering my prayers.

Of course the answer didn’t come in the form of a ruggedly handsome, Jesus-loving man who was ready to accept my weirdness and addiction to coffee.

You know what, though? I preferred the way God answered. He knew my desires better than I did.

Sister, don’t give up. Press in to the pain. He’s there in the midst of it bringing healing.

And who knows, God just might use it to spark a passion in your heart.

 

(P.S. New to the series? click here to start at the beginning!)

 

 

To Be His

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I knew the question was coming, I just didn’t know who would ask it first.

It happened as I stood outside fanning the back of my neck, confident I was about to melt and soak into the grass out in the South Carolina summer sun.

One of my relatives – a third or fourth cousin or a great uncle or none of the above (I have a big family) – came up to me as I pulled my hair into a bun.

“So you’re not married yet?”

Boom. There goes the dynamite. The go-to question for single twenty-somethings.

Smile, Anna, I told myself. I looked at my relative and replied with all the good church girl persona I could muster, “Not yet.”

After that grand revelation, I stepped off by myself, pulled out my phone, and texted my friend Kaycee: “I even get The Question at a funeral…”

The guy was just trying to make friendly conversation, and I definitely wasn’t upset. But it did make me whisper to God: Why am I not married yet? What are you doing up there?

See, I’m a planner. I have a bullet journal, I love a good school syllabus, and I adore sticky notes. I like to know where I’m going and how I’ll get there.

When I started college, I had my love story all mapped out, and it was perfect, in my opinion. It looked like this…

Freshman year: Get the hang of college. Meet professors, make friends, pass classes.
Sophomore year: Get involved in campus organizations. Make more friends. Meet a guy friend.
Junior year: Fall in love with said guy friend.
Senior year: Get engaged. Plan a wedding.
Summer after graduation: Get married. Live happily ever after.

According to my carefully thought-out schedule, I should be a few years into a marriage with Tall, Dark, and Handsome right now, probably painting a nursery, or at least daydreaming about what we’ll name the kids.

In my carefully planned world, tonight I’d light a candle and have friends over for coffee, then my husband would come home from work, we’d have a home cooked meal (yours truly can rock a crock pot), hang out watching a movie or reading on the couch, then go to bed.

Except not.

God had other plans, and they didn’t exactly match up with mine.

I’m writing this while sitting in my twin-sized bed, wearing an old t-shirt and gym shorts, and stuffing my face with popcorn. It’s not my most attractive look, but it’s definitely not a bad situation.

But still. I’m super single. Honestly, I don’t talk about it a lot on the internet (But if you follow me on Instagram and see how frequently I post pictures of my cat, you’ll know my relationship status). That’s on purpose. I don’t want to admit I get tired of independence. Or that, while I’m full of joy when my friends fall in love and get married, it’s not all happy tears. Or that sometimes I’m tempted to believe God has overlooked me and my biggest dreams.

I’m earning a master’s degree in ministry to counsel and teach and encourage women. I love the life God has given me, and I desire for others to know the joy of Jesus, too. And yet sometimes I’m just not 100% on board with where I’m at in life.

Recently, though, God’s been telling me to share my story. To be real with where I’m at, in hopes of encouraging those of you who find yourself in a similar situation.

So I talked to some of my closest friends – single girls whose wisdom I trust – and we decided to dive into this single thing in a blog post series.

I can’t promise you it’ll be pretty, but I can promise you it’ll be real. I can’t promise you we’ll offer a solution for those lonely days, but I can promise we won’t give you the standard singles “encouragement” (you know the stuff).

We can’t promise you’ll be married by your next birthday or that some guy will kiss you at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but we can promise to walk beside you.

Some of us have been in relationships before, some of us have been on our share of coffee dates, and some of us haven’t done any of that. But we’re all single twenty-somethings. We’re not into cliché answers or fluffy feel-good statements. We’re in it with you.

We definitely don’t have it all together (I’m currently modeling a scar on my neck from an unfortunate encounter with my curling iron…), and we don’t have all of the answers, but we each have a story. And we’ll share them with honesty, humor, and heart (and possibly cat GIFs).

Ultimately, we desire to point you to the one, single thing that matters most. We all believe our relationship with Jesus is hands-down the most important, fulfilling relationship we’ll ever experience. Sometimes we stumble, but there’s so much joy in this journey of learning To Be His.

So welcome to this series. We’re excited to live life with you, sister.

For His glory,
Anna

Series Contributors:

Join us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from now until November 17 for new posts!

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You – Europe Journal Part 10

Tuesday, June 20 

On the plane ride over, it was night. The lights in the cabin were dimmed and the window shades were down. 

We were somewhere over the vast expanse of the Atlantic ocean. We hit rough air and began rocking a bit. That always makes me nervous. 

But then I pulled up the shade to look outside. We were above the clouds, which were smooth, like a cotton blanket. The sky was clear and stars were out. All was calm. 

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I was hit with the reminder that, even when life seems turbulent and unstable, God is still moving us forward in the purpose He has for our lives. Though our circumstances may be chaotic, if we look beyond them, we can know God is in control. Nothing is catching Him off guard or taking Him by surprise. 

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I pray this adventure stays with me in the days ahead. I pray I’ll remember the sights and sounds and feel of history beneath my fingertips. I pray I will live life knowing I’m not yet home – eternity is coming. 

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And I pray I will always remember God has so many great things planned for my life in His timing and in His way. I just need to be still and know that He is God. 

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Wednesday, June 21 

It’s the morning after I returned home from Europe and, despite my exhaustion, jet lag had me up at 6:30am. So I did laundry and made a giant cup of coffee.

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The trip may be over, but I pray the Lord continues to teach me through the experiences. That I’ll remember what it feels like for the cliffs to take my breath and my heart rate to speed up. That I’ll remember tears springing to my eyes at the beauty of it all and the Scriptures of praise to the Lord that entered my soul. 

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IMG_7399May the trip be a memorial stone in my life of what God has done, can do, and will do in my life. 

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Thank you for journeying with me as I shared my travel journal with you.

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As we waited to board our flight in Dublin, a traditional Gaelic blessing was printed on the wall, and continued to replay in my mind during the long trip home…

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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May God hold you in the palm of His hand today, friends, whether you’re on the trip of a lifetime or living a seemingly mundane day. Because with God, even the ordinary can be an adventure.

~ Anna

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This post is the final entry in my travel journal from my time in Europe. To read the previous entries, follow the links below:

Living a Dream – Europe Journal Part 9

Tuesday, June 20

My alarm went off at 5am Sunday morning because we were headed to Paris!

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My first view of Paris when we stepped out of the metro was a bird cage sale. Not even kidding – several booths were set up selling bird cages like you’d keep a parakeet in. Birds are my least favorite. Oh, irony. 

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I was thankful for a sunny day so I could wear my sunglasses and hide my tears so I didn’t look like the weirdo American tourist crying as she walked through Paris.

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It’s just that seeing Paris has been a life-long bucket list kind of dream for me. Ever since I was small and read about an old house in Paris that was covered in vines and the 12 little girls who livesd there, I’ve wanted to go. And although we were only there for the day and didn’t have time to go in in museums like the Louvre, it was still incredible.

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I first teared up as we crossed the border into France to board the train, but it really hit me when I saw Notre Dame with my own eyes. We went inside, and because it was Sunday, and 11:30 mass was starting. So we got to see and hear a little of that. 

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Notre Dame really takes the cake on all of the cathedrals we saw. 

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Stunning stained glass, intricately detailed sculptures  tall ceilings and ancient paintings – all of it so sacred and beautiful. 

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When I stepped into the courtyard of the Louvre, I stopped and caught my breath. Just physically being in the place I’d grown up imagining was amazing. 

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Emily was so kind and patient – it was her 3rd time in Paris – and indulged me while I oohed and ached and requested she take my picture with everything. 

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We toured the city on foot and ended the day back on the train. 

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Some of the things we saw: 

  • Notre Dame
  • The Louvre
  • The Arc de Triomphe 
  • The Eiffel Tower
  • and more!

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We bought crepes from a street vendor and had an early dinner sitting outside a restaurant, facing the street and enjoying croque monsieur and fries.

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We then had pain au chocolat at the train station, something else I’ve always dreamed of eating in Paris. I really don’t even have words to describe the expeirience.

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The day was warm and the sky was a brilliant blue. I walked the Champs Elyses and I stood in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

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I keep saying I need to go back one day to go to the top of the tower (the lines would’ve taken more than an hour) and go in the Louvre. Plus, I have about 8 euros left that I’ll need to spend one day. 

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Will I be back? I’d love to believe so. Maybe not in the immediate future, but who knows? I never even dreamed up this possibility for this trip. 

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Emily and I have dreamed of going to Europe together one day, but we thought the season of traveling together might be over. 

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But God. The giver of good gifts, the granter of seemingly impossible dreams, the One who gives us more than we can ask or imagine, well beyond what we deserve – He did this. He knew all along He would grace us with this. Earlier in the year when I prayed for the opportunity to see more of His world, when I was tempted with discouragement – He knew. And He already knows what He will do next – how He will answer other prayers. 

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This post is part of my travel journal from my time in Europe. To read the previous entries, follow the links below:

Lead Me to the Rock – Europe Journal Part 8

Wednesday, June 21 

Yesterday, we went to the Rock of Cashel – an ancient church on top of a limestone hill. It’s crazy to think that the place has existed long before anyone even knew the continent of North America even existed. IMG_6869It was also used as a place of shelter and safety from foes. IMG_6993Psalm 61:2 kept echoing through my mind. 

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

IMG_6997The view from the Rock is amazing, which is commonplace here, of course, but something that never fails to take my breath away. IMG_6872Near the base of the Rock sits the ruins of an ancient abbey. It’s overwhelming to think about how the faith has been passed down and reformed these hundreds and hundreds of years. IMG_6916The Reformation wasn’t even a thought when theses places were built, yet the monks were earnest and devout in their worship. IMG_6923Oh, that I might be that devoted in service to my God! IMG_6914That’s the thing about Ireland – everything is so old. So rich in history and tradition and heritage in a way America doesn’t have. IMG_6903Our baby country lacks ruins at every turn – or “crumbly buildings,” as I called them while I was still severely jet-lagged. IMG_6904I’m seriously gonna miss all of the castles and abbeys and cathedrals and lush, patchwork land and quaint cottages and sheep and the accents and everything. 

Goodness, I’m tired, but I love it here. IMG_6897IMG_6876IMG_6874I pray I’ll remember the details, big and small, and that I’ll be able to recall details of how it all impacted me when I read through this journal and look at pictures. 

I can’t stop being thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. IMG_7004

This post is part of my travel journal from my time in Europe. To read the previous entries, follow the links below:

Sheep or Stones? – Europe Journal Part 7

Monday, June 19

The fields on the hillside look like patchwork quilts. Trees and shrubs mark off the land like thick, fuzzy seams. 

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We play a game Emily made up called “Sheep or Stones?” where you look at the white/gray lumps in the distance to guess if they’re sheep or large rocks dotting the landscape.

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Sometimes it’s really hard to tell, although there’s an abundance of both. 

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Tomorrow is our last full day in Ireland, and I don’t want to leave. I don’t feel like I’ve soaked it all in yet – I so badly want to just be here, present and slow for a while. But life doesn’t pause, and there’s more world to see.

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Wednesday, June 21 

Monday we went to Dingle Peninsula – the Westernmost point of Europe. It took a few hours to drive out there, but was so very worth it. 

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There is actually, according to the guidebook, a larger sheep population that people population. I believe it, too. I’ve never seen so many sheep! I love them! My favorites are the super wooly ones that haven’t been sheared (shorn?) yet and that have the black faces.

So. cute. 

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While driving with pastures of sheep on either side of us, we recited the 23 Psalm. That was way cool. 

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

I was also reminded of the verse in Isaiah 40:11:

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

We also talked about how sheep are dumb. But then, I thought of how the Shepherd knows how dumb they are, yet He loves them anyway. I was blown away at how much my Good Shepherd loves me, even though I’m a dumb, simple-minded sheep in comparison to all that He is. He is the Good Shepherd. 

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This post is part of my travel journal from my time in Europe. To read the previous entries, follow the links below: