Her Name Means Laughter

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Okay, so…

I know that in my post Signs Signs Everywhere the Signs, I talked about how it can be unwise to look for signs when it comes to marriage. 

Furthermore, I know that in my post called What Single People Wish Married People Knew, I talked about how frustrated I get when people tell me I just need to let go to find my partner.

So it is pretty ironic that today, I’m going to talk about how I got a sign that told me to let go. 

Rewind to about thirteen years ago. I was in India for two months.  I went to learn about starting an orphanage, which I was really interested in at the time. I spent a lot of time drawing pictures and singing and dancing with children who didn’t speak my language. But who needs language when you have love? 

On that trip I also got to preach to a jail in which everyone in the whole place, including the Muslim guards, became Christians. They started a bible study that to the best of my knoweldge is still going.

I also happened to go to India because I was running away from a relationship. I was so unsure if I wanted to marry this guy that I thought it would be a good idea to go halfway around the world to figure it out. Maybe the arranged marriages I found in India were a sign that I should stop dating so I wouldn’t have to decide on anything and just get a mail order husband from Brazil or something. Or maybe it would be easier than that and God would just give me a dream.

Lo and behold I did have a dream. It is amazing that I had a dream because it was amazing that I was sleeping. And it was amazing that I was sleeping because I had screaming cockroaches all around my bed. And yes, when I say screaming cockroaches I do mean cockroaches that scream. Screaming cockroaches are India’s national symbol. Maybe.

Anyway back to the dream. It’s been a long time since I had that dream, but I’m pretty sure that I was told to look up a verse in the bible. So I woke up and looked it up.

This is what it said: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.“(Galatians 4:22-23)

The story that this verse was referring to was that of Abraham in Genesis 17. God had told Abraham at a very late age that his descendants would outnumber the stars of the sky. But year after year after freaking year (can you tell I relate to this story?) the promised son did not come.

Finally, Abraham felt like he couldn’t wait any longer. He slept with his wife’s servant Hagar, and had a son named Ishmael. Abraham tried to force the promise to come before it was time, and the result was the son of a slave. God made it clear that Ishmael was not the son he had promised. Finally Isaac came, the promised son, the son of a free woman.

It is also important to note for the sake of the rest of this story that when Sarah, Abraham’s wife, finally became pregnant with Isaac, she laughed.

I knew when I read this verse what God was telling me. Kate, you long for family, and I promise you family. But I do not want you to try to control things to receive my promise. I want to give you the promise in my timing. You need to trust me.

So I got home, went out to dinner with my boyfriend the first night, and said something to this effect:

“So I had a dream and in that dream God told me I shouldn’t have an Ishmael which is the son of the flesh and maybe you are Ishmael which means you are the son of the flesh and also the son of a slave and I am being figurative here but maybe spiritually or actually in real life I am a son of a slave or we are both sons of slaves and even though you are flesh of my flesh maybe it would better if we were flesh of someone else’s fleshes or…screw it maybe we should break up.”

Needless to say he broke up with me not long after that.

Fast forward about eight years. I was again praying about whether I should marry my current boyfriend. I decided to go to a monastery to pray.

The first night, I met a woman named Amara who was a housekeeper at the monastery. I really love names and I thought her name was beautiful so I made a mental note to look up the meaning of her name.

The next day, it was cold and foggy so I couldn’t see the beautiful mountains and ocean from my little hermit hut in Big Sur, Caifornia.  I was sick. I thought it would be a waste of a day. Instead, I sat on my bed for at least twelve hours straight. God downloaded things to me the entire time.

I felt like he told me to read the story of Abraham, every verse of his story, and every verse referenced to go along with the story. I saw how Abraham longed for a child, for family, just like I did, and how God promised him over and over and over again about his family and his descendants. Promise, covenant, promise were written everywhere.

Sometime in the afternoon I closed my eyes for a while and had a waking dream. I went into this beautiful garden, something that looked like it was out of Alice in Wonderland, and God said “this is your family.” I walked over to three big flowers. A purple iris opened and there was a perfect, beautiful black baby girl sleeping.

I opened my eyes and decided to look up in a baby name book what Iris meant. It means Rainbow. The promise! What a beautiful confirmation of God’s faithfulness. I looked through the nicknames that came from Iris and saw the name Risa. I thought to myself “If I ever have a daughter, I will name her Risa to remember God’s promise.”

Just then, I remembered Amara and decided to look up her name. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Amara means Promised by God. Just like for Abraham, I promise, I promise, I promise kept being repeated to me. I went away from that retreat feeling hopeful and loved. 

Fast forward another three years. More than ever I felt like Abraham. Year after year after freaking year and there I was, still alone. I had had a few possible relationships where I took things into my own hands, tried to force the promise, tried to coerce God into giving me something that I wanted, doubting God’s promises, doubting God’s goodness, I was (and still am) in a season of mourning and struggling to trust God.

This takes me to the last few weeks. I was in Mexico teaching at YWAM base. Somehow people started talking about names. I said “if I ever have a daughter, I will name her Risa.” A friend of mine said “Oh yes that is such a beautiful name. Laughter.” “What do you mean laughter?” “Risa means laughter in Spanish. Didn’t you know that?” I looked it up, and sure enough the Spanish word comes from the Latin word Risa and means laughter.

Do you know why this is amazing? Like really amazing? Like God actually looks on tiny me and cares about my dreams and cares about the details and cares about what my heart yearns for –amazing?

Because Sarah laughed when she was told she would finally have a baby at such an old age. Because she wanted to remember that laughter forever by using It as her baby’s namesake.

Isaac also means laughter.

I want to be careful, because I don’t want my belief in God’s existence or goodness to rest upon an event like my getting married or having a child. That is not fair to God, and it is not fair to anyone I might end up marrying. It is too much pressure. I don’t want to lose my faith over anything, including being alone. I mean, even Abraham was asked to sacrifice his promise after it was given to him, to show his allegiance to God over the promise.

But still, this whole story feels like such a gift. It honestly gives me hope that I really might have a family some day.

Even more importantly, at least for this season, I believe that this sign needs to be a reminder to me. That I have a choice in front of me to have the child of a slave, or the child of a free woman. I have situations in my life, especially when it comes to romance, where I can choose to control, to obsess, to lose hope, to doubt God. Or I can choose to trust, to live freely, to let go.

It seems that God is telling me to be free when it comes to my desire for a family. To know that he is good and he will work things out in his own time. 

I want to laugh just like Sarah laughed. It will be the laughter of letting go. It will be the laughter of joy despite my loneliness. It will be the laughter of a deep trust in the promise of God. The laughter of one who will not have a child of a slave, but the child of a free woman.

Today, we have a choice in front of us, just like Abraham had. The choice of slavery or the choice of freedom. The choice to bow down to our loneliness and our fear and our hopelessness or to dance, to sing, to laugh. 

Maybe we can collectively laugh as a way of saying “I choose freedom today.” And that laughter will ring out and break some of the shackles off of our weary souls. 

Michelle On The Isle ‘O Singleness

You should give him a chance. Even if he doesn’t have hair like Rick Astley.

(For the post that inspired this story, go to “Throw Away Your List (Or Just Rewrite It)”where I talk about being selective when it comes to important things like kindness and compatibility, but to be lenient with shallow things, such as the way they look or their lack of hair or their taste in music. As my friend Jude says “Compromising is very different from negotiating.” You should never compromise the important things, but you should allow yourself to negotiate when it comes to the not so important things. Not everyone is Rick Astley, and you shouldn’t expect them to be.)

Michelle was shipwrecked on the Isle Of Singleness. She was stranded there for a long time and was very lonely. She prayed and said “God, please send me a perfect man to get me off of this island.” Soon, a man in a  speedboat came along. He was very kind and dedicated. But he was listening to Celine Deon on the radio. He said “Michelle, I have come a very long way to take you off of this island.” She told him “thanks for the offer, but God is going to send me the perfect man. And the perfect man cannot be listening to bad diva music.”

Soon, another man came in a rowboat.  He was great with children and had a wonderful sense of humor. But he was balding a little bit. He said “My darling Michelle, I have rowed many hundreds of miles to rescue you off of this island.” She replied “I appreciate what you have done, but God is going to send me the perfect man to get me off of this island. He has to have hair in all of the right places. Namely a lot on his head, and none on his back. Now why don’t you just take your little bald head and row right back to the mainland.” 

Finally, a man came swimming to the shore. He had a huge heart and an incredible faith. Breathlessly, he threw his arms around her and said “Michelle, you are the woman of my dreams. I swam five hundred miles, and then I swam five hundred more just to be the man to swim a thousand miles and fall down at your door. I also strapped a romantic picnic dinner, your hairdryer, and your favorite chick flicks on my back.” 

Michelle replied “What, no flowers?” 

Michelle stayed on the island many years. Finally she shook her fist at the sky.”God, why haven’t you sent me the perfect man to save me?” 

He said  “I sent you a potential husband in a speedboat, a potential husband in a rowboat, and a potential husband who swam a thousand miles to fall down at your door.”

“But God,” Michelle replied, “none of those men fit everything on my list!’

God said, “If you ever want to get off of this island, you’re going to have to write a new list.”

Married people, I’d especially love to hear your stories on this topic. How did you idea of a “perfect mate” change when you met your husband or wife? What do you think is important to look at when a single person is considering someone to marry?

Don’t Let A Boggle Game Tell Your Future

I wrote my last post about being cautious when asking God for signs, especially when it comes to something as important as the person who you will live with for the rest of your life. (See Signs Signs, Everywhere the Signs if you haven’t read it yet.)

I decided to add an addendum to this post because of a very amusing (bordering on hilarious) thing that happened last night during a small gathering of my community . I was telling my friends about my last post and about  the “sign” I found in a Boggle game. As you may remember, my former boyfriend and I were praying about getting married, and the Boggle board read “Gavin is in love.”

My friends could not believe that it was true. They asked “What are the odds of that? Are you making this up to get more readers?”  I promptly retorted “No, you guys, I have proof! I have a picture of the Boggle board on my phone!” (The picture above is not the actual board, by the way. I wanted to keep Gavin’s real name anonymous or else I would be saying “in your face!” to you as well.)

I uploaded said picture, and my friends Zach and Sarah  looked at the little dice with letters on them, slowly picking out the sentence. “Oh yeah, there’s GAVIN, see it? And there’s IS and IN and LOVE. You’re right, we believe you now.”

They passed the boggle picture on to my friend Aaron. “Kate, there is another word in here that you missed. The word NOT.”

I looked at the picture, and sure enough, there it was, clear as day, although I had missed it for an entire year. “N-O-T.”

Depending on how astute I was at the game of Boggle, I could have read the sentence “GAVIN IS IN LOVE, ” or “GAVIN IS NOT IN LOVE.”  Wow. Can you spell D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S?

Maybe God WAS sending me a sign with “Gavin is not in love” and I MISSED it! Dang it! My lack of word game problem solving skills could have messed up my whole future! Woe is me!

Except wait, maybe God is a little bit bigger than a Boggle game.

This actually proves my point very well.  What if I had married Gavin after reading “Gavin Is In Love” on the Boggle board, convinced that God was telling me clearly what I was to do, only to look at the picture again a year down the road,? What if we were having some problems and I suddenly saw the “not” in “Justin Is NOT In Love?” If I believed in signs too much, I would be devastated and confused, asking God if I made a mistake in marrying him.

The moral of the story: don’t let a Boggle game tell your future.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

HEY EVERYONE! I HAVE A NEW FANPAGE! HIT THE BUTTON TO THE RIGHT AND SPREAD THE WORD!

About ten years ago, my boyfriend Ken and I were contemplating marriage. I was  as scared as a pregnant porcupine.

Back then, I was more of a “pray them up, knock em down, move em out” Christian, and I really put a lot of stock in signs. I would pray for them all the time. “God if you really want me to marry him, please have someone stand on their head in the middle of this convenience store.” Stuff like that.

I fasted several times for the relationship, begging for signs  from God. I did one especially long fast. I started out with water only. Soon, I was throwing cherry pie into the blender.  I was on the verge of trying steak smoothie when I finally got my answer in the middle of the night.

I had a dream that I opened my bible to Fourth Chronicles. That was the whole dream.

I woke up the next day, and being the astute Christian scholar that I am, realized that there was no Fourth Chronicles. So I looked up I Chronicles 4 instead.

These were the shocking words that I read that day:
“The sons of Judah: Judah begat Pharez, Hezron, and Carmi, and Hur, and Shobal. These are the families of the Zorathites.”

Bingo. That was it. I was supposed to marry him.

Okay, that’s not really what happened. I was more like “what the heck is this? Come on God. I wanted a sign and I got a bunch of begets?”

Almost as a joke, I said, “God, if I’m supposed to marry Ken, put a version of his name in here.”

I turned the page and there it was, clear as day.

“These are the men of Rechah. And these are the sons of Kenaz.”

Kenaz certainly sounded like the Hebrew version of Ken to me. I had my answer.

What happened next? I will give you one hint. I am still the sexy celibate and it is ten years later.

Many years passed. Another serious boyfriend and I, let’s call him Gavin, were praying about whether or not we should get married. During the course of our relationship, he had really struggled with whether he loved me or not. We had separated into different cities for a season, (you know, the whole “we’re taking a break to pray” deal that actually means “we’re freaking out.”)  We had met together to reevaluate and he said that he wanted to move to my town and pursue making a long term commitment. I was worried that he would still struggle with whether he loved me or not and was very hesitant for him to move.

Soon after, I went to visit my mom. She said “Kate, I saved this for you.” She handed me a game of boggle she had been playing. If you haven’t seen boggle before, there are little dice with letters on them that you shake and they randomly come up on the playing board. Then you compete to find short words. Clear as day, the words “Gavin is in love” were on the little squares. I mean, out  of 16  letters, those were the ones that happened to be rolled. I have the picture to prove it.

What are the odds of that?

I had my sign. And my mom had 20 more boggle points.

Gavin and I broke up three weeks later.

I have a new philosophy on dating now, one that makes a lot more sense to me.

Step 1: Dating is about getting good information on whether or not this is a good match. Try to get good information every day.

Step 2: As you get more information, be very conscious of “your truth”- what is going on inside of you emotionally and logically. Remember that it is very wise to try to look at the fruit of something when it is still a seed.

Step 3: Don’t ask yourself whether you should get married too fast. Just ask yourself whether it sounds fun to spend the next holiday with him or her.

Step 4: Over time, when you get enough good information, prayerfully make a decision about whether the best thing is to get married or to break up.

Marriage, my friends, is serious business. And many of us in the believing community have created a culture where we feel pressured to know if we should get married within the first few dates. (I will post more on this later.) This can be dangerous. A decision this important deserves respect and time.

The truth is, if you get a sign, that may be good information, but it is not even close to all the information you need. If you “just know” the minute you go on a date with someone, that is good information, but it is not all the information you need.

I do believe God can use signs as part of your journey towards a decision, but you should’t depend on them. You have to remember that He can use other means to speak to you as well.

Sometimes he can use answers to practical questions. How does your boyfriend treat his mother? How does your girlfriend handle stress? Is he kind to people even in difficult circumstances? Does he talk well about me in front of other people, even in private? Do we love each other even when our projections of each other have finally been lowered, a process that can take months or even years? Would she be a good mother?  Do we communicate well? Do we have fun together? Are we a good match?

These are questions that take time to answer. Do not rush answering them.

I have learned that the reason I asked God for signs is because I was scared. I wanted Him to make decisions for me. Now, I have grown up. I want to make decisions with Him.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have your own stories of signs gone right or wrong? Do you think dating this way makes sense? Have you ever been as scared as a pregnant porcupine?