Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Reach Out Anyway


Dearest Julie,

Oh I can relate and understand so much of what you've said. I too am alone this New Years Eve. I wish I could say it's the first time...but instead I pray it's the last time.

But I've been doing this a lot longer than you are even old…and I pray that I might have some words that God will use to comfort you and help keep you going and growing in Him. Never, never give up…put your hope in Jesus alone.

I wish you lived near me…I know that you would love our church…and would feel at home. In turn…the body of Christ at Kindred Community Church would reach out to you. So if you are ever in southern California…you have an official invitation.

When I didn’t receive the invitation that I had hoped for to spend Christmas with friends…I didn’t wait to see if I would be alone. Instead I reached out to a loving Christian family that I am blessed by God to know. For several years the Apple family had invited me to Christmas and Thanksgiving. But I had always declined…because I felt guilty about not seeing my mom on a holiday. She has Alzheimer’s and only a couple of people see her…and it’s important to be there with her.

But this year I couldn’t bear to be alone at Christmas. Even though I felt hurt…the pain of spending Christmas alone motivated me to reach out and ask, “Could I spend Christmas with you?”. I knew the answer before I even asked…because this family embodies walking in the love of Christ like few I know. The warm and loving answer was, “We’d love to have you”.

I’m so glad I asked…because it was lovely day…and I really enjoyed the people and time I spent with them. Be it a drive to see Krista Beth’s horse…or meeting Carrie, a friend of the Apple’s I had heard so much about…to having the most delicious dinner prepared by Vicki…or watching Fredo the cat try his best to capture the helicopter flying around the room…the day was wonderful. My favorite time of the day was in the evening sitting on the sofa by the Christmas tree…and chatting with Doreen. We just talked about stuff…God stuff and people stuff. I even asked Doreen to be in prayer for me regarding my single status…to which she agreed. And yes…I did go and spend the morning with my mom on Christmas day too.

I guess the point is that I reached out and asked. Doreen likely would have extended an invitation even if I hadn’t asked. But rather than be depressed to think I would be alone at Christmas I made sure I asked.

This same family, the Apple family, I can remember a day almost three years ago when I didn’t know them. For two years we had officially been a church…but met at the Elk’s Lodge in Santa Ana, until such time as God provided a church home for us. When we finally moved into our church property…this is when we grew even more as a church family. Ministry opportunities and needs where there…and I felt God pushing me, “Susan…you need to get involved and serve in one of the ministries.”

So when sign up time came…I signed up to work the coffee ministry one Sunday a month. I didn’t know any of the people I would be working with so I felt pretty uncomfortable. But you know what I told myself? “Susan, right now you don’t know these people, but before long you’ll know them and they’ll be your friends.” Little did I know how right I was. That Sunday I began working with Doreen and Charles…under the command of Coffee Captain Mike. People that I didn’t know…before long became most precious to me…and I thank God for them daily. Now each year when it comes time for sign up…we do so under the specification that we must work as a team. That experience helped to work in other areas too.

Because I took that step even though I knew I would feel uncomfortable for time…I got to know Charles and Doreen’s adopted daughters Ramona and Lisa. One of my favorite things to do each Sunday morning is to go and give Ramona and Lisa a hug and kiss and remind them that they are my “favorite Kindred girls”. When I ask them…“Have I ever told you I love you?”…I get a resounding yes! There is nothing as sweet as sitting there early on Sunday morning…before everyone arrives…with my arms around these precious girls as we listen to the worship team and sing along. Ramona gives some of the best hugs…and I would have missed out on that…if I hadn’t risked feeling uncomfortable for a season.

Julie…reach out and take some risks. You’ll feel uncomfortable for a while…and that’s okay. Don’t wait till the last minute and hope that you might be invited or included. Reach out to others. I can guarantee you that there others that feel like you do…and you can reach out to them.

Recently I attended a Christmas concert at church on a Sunday night. I didn’t want to sit alone…so I sat with some friends. Maybe it was because it was Christmas time that I was feeling particularly lonely. I just wanted to have someone put their arms around me and hold me close. But no one was reaching out to me and I felt all the more lonely. I looked over and sitting next me was a lady whose husband had been out of town for the week. I figured she was probably a little bit lonely too…so I reached over and put my arm around her as we sang the last Christmas hymn. Later she came and told me thank you. She had been alone all week…and just needed a hug. So God use my hurt and loneliness to reach out to someone else.

Let Him use you Julie to reach out to others who are hurting and lonely and just need a little love. You know what it's like when it’s missing. Never forget that feeling and make sure that you are reaching out to others. People don’t always wear their hurt on their sleeves…and likely won’t share with you “Gee wiz…I’m lonely”. God has given you this experience so you can know what it’s like to be lonely and hurting. Don’t turn inward…instead you need to reach out to others.

I’m sure that you are well aware of God’s admonition that we are not to forsake the assembling of one another. We need that interaction with one another and time of corporate worship. We need to be serving the needs of those in the body of Christ. If you are part of a church body…you are able to contribute and help meet other’s needs. Remember…God has specially gifted you…and he has a place where he wants you to be a part of. If you can’t get to church because you are snowed in or too sick…that’s one thing. But if you are healthy and able…you need to find a place where you fit in, in the body of Christ. Julie…maybe you are a hand or an arm in the body Christ…but whatever you are…if you are not where God has called you…that body is missing that hand or arm.

Julie…I must confess I would rather die than to go through another year alone. It's so very, very hard. But unless the Lord calls me home...or He returns that may be a reality next year as well.

But I ain’t going to let Satan win. He wants to keep me discouraged, lonely and depressed…and thus render me ineffective in the body of Christ. He wants to make me doubt God’s goodness, love and care for me. Instead of having me say…“God…I don’t like this…but please don’t waste what I’m going through…at least use it to help others…and please answer my prayers for a husband.” It’s a choice that I have to make daily.

Satan knows that being single and lonely is my biggest area of vulnerability. He likes use it to make me doubt God…and sometimes I believed his lies. But I don’t want to waste anymore time. I don’t want the lessons I’ve learned in the pain to be lost and wasted when I instead I can take steps and reach out to others.

Sometimes you will be rejected when you reach out. You’ll act out of love for others…and it may be rejected or you will be used and it won’t be reciprocated. But keep reaching out. You’ll be amazed at what God will bring into your life just from obeying and taking some risks.

As far being alone…recently I spent some time with someone who doesn’t exactly hold me high esteem and it was reflected in their actions toward me. That’s when I discovered there ain’t no loneliness like be with someone who doesn’t care. That loneliness is worse than being alone. I’d rather wait a little while longer for the man whom God will bring. Someone who will love and treasure me for who I am.

Julie that’s my prayer for both you and me. That next New Year’s Eve…instead of writing pieces about being alone and lonely on New Year’s Eve…we’ll be writing a praise report on how faithful God was. That He heard our cries…and that according to His perfect timing and plan…He brought each of us the husband whom He perfectly fit for us. That we will be filled with joy and gratitude for His mercy and grace poured out upon us. But I also pray that we will never, ever forget what it feels like to be alone, lonely and unloved. That it will motivate us as we reach out to other in our lives.

There are some things that I want to leave behind this year Julie…and not take with me to 2008. One of those things is unforgiveness. If I think I’ve forgiven someone an offense…but I keenly remember it every time I see them and feel that wound again…I haven’t forgiven them in full. I’m the one being tortured…not them. But if I was the one that offended and caused hurt…wouldn’t I be most grateful for forgiveness. To know that person doesn’t hold it against me any longer. That when I talk to them we are in the present…in the here and now…and they are not thinking back to a time when I hurt them. Wouldn’t I want that?

Sometimes forgiveness must be given to people who should know better and act better because of who they are. Just because you forgave them…doesn’t mean that what they did is now okay. It’s just saying I’m letting it go and not going to hold it against you any longer. As I write this…I’m speaking to myself as much as you.

Can you imagine Jesus paying the penalty for our sins and forgiving us…but then when we meet him face to face…Him being cold or wanting to avoid us and not be with us because we hurt Him? No…Jesus has forgiven us in full. He asks us to do the same. It’s hard to do…but don’t do it on your own strength…do it by the power of the Holy Spirit within you.

So Julie…I’m praying for God to heal up any emotional wounds you bear...that you will be able to let them go and start lighter because you released of your burdens…and are starting fresh in 2008.

Blessings to you dear one…and praying that God will answer both our prayer for a husband in 2008.

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