Fruit from Holes

We’re fasting and praying during what would be Monday lunch for marriages for those who are designed for it and for the courage for men and women to embrace the transformation that makes marriage possible.  

In July 2007, three of us went to the beach.  Sharing our man woes with one another one night, we commiserated, “This is beyond anything that our brilliant analysis shared over glasses of white wine can solve.”  We were not, we concluded, in control of men.  Narrowly veering from the edge of fatalism, though, we remembered, “But this is not beyond God!”  In that weekend, the fast.pray idea was born.  By September, we’d started our Monday email; by October, we had 5 writers.

Since then, we’ve gained 780 regular subscribers, with probably another 400-500 folks who joined for limited stints.  We’ve heard amazing stories of personal transformation and new marriages.  We’ve gained new, fresh writers (more on that next week!).  And actually, of those original 5 writers, 4 are now married with children.  Amazing.

But the only unmarried one from the original group–is, well, um….me.  And now and then, that stings.

Actually, I had a little depression session with my housemates the other day.  I confessed that I was being a snot (mean thoughts about everyone from innocent friends to the slow walkers in the Target parking lot), and as we spoke, I realized that I was feeling flat out discouraged about my love life.  “Come on, God,” I prayed with them, “I just want normal stuff–to be enjoyed by a man I respect, to have physical affection, to build a life together, etc.  You made me this way.  Why not fill the holes?!  Why are you such a withholder?!”

But after the tears passed and as our conversation continued, I realized yet again that I actually have been living the strangest, most counter-intuitive-to-me reality:  what I on bad days interpret as “BIG HOLE LEFT UNTOUCHED BY A WITHHOLDING GOD” has actually been the precise occasion for experiencing love and bearing fruit in my life.  Go figure.

Unsought singleness has generated energy to continually care for this blog.  It has stirred my genuine empathy for anyone suffering disappointment, my willingness to work at relationships with friends and my family, and my discovery at a deep cellular level that the triune Lord truly sees, knows, and cares about hearts—even my heart with its holes!  This last piece has been the most crazy.  How is it that I am filled with more love from him and for him–and from and for others for that matter–than ever?!

I think sometimes about the Apostle Paul.  He thought for most of his imprisoned life that he would go further west to Spain for the sake of his gospel vision.  But as far as anyone knows, he never got there.  Yet the letters he generated under house arrest have born fruitfulness that he couldn’t have imagined (most of the New Testament).  God withheld, and Paul in a very real sense flourished!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to die under house (or basement apartment) arrest—and—I’m still holding out hope for a move to Spain, so to speak (as are my friends and family who still pray with me to that end).  But simultaneously, I’m a lot less worried, for I know now that there is no place, life stage, marital status, relational gap, or imaginable context that can separate us (albeit with some hair-pulling and tears) from the love of Godeven as there’s no context in which we can’t bear genuine fruit.

Honestly, 5 years ago, analyzing and drinking wine with girlfriends, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But now?  I know it is true.

May this Reality Bring Life to your Heart, Connally

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39 Responses to Fruit from Holes

  1. Monica says:

    Dear Connally,

    I know you from afar through the Charlottesville connection (I am a former housemate of Anne) and by participating in the fast pray community for over four years. Even before your last post, so touching in its honesty and vulnerability, my heart has felt your particular burden and wondered why God has withheld thus far from providing you with the desires of your heart. Like Halennox and others, I am lowering you on the mat in prayer (love the analogy). I also wanted to share this passage from Isaiah 61:
    He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
    to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

    I see you, Connally, as an oak of righteousness for the display of the Lord’s splendor. Your faithfulness in your unsought singleness has been a beacon for me as there are so many temptations to serve other gods and our own desires while waiting for the Lord to fulfill the desires of our heart. Your story reminds me that the Lord is Lord of all even when it hurts and encourages me to persevere in faith as part of a much larger story where eventually every tear will be wiped away.

    May this God continue to meet you in the holes and produce much fruit and may he provide you with an equally abundant marriage.

    peace and blessings,
    Monica

    • fast. pray. says:

      Thanks Monica! Sometimes I feel embarrassed that my holes, especially the ones I don’t even see, are so public. And yet, that’s part of the great paradox as well…that when we are weak, he really does show up as strong….so, on really good days, it makes me wanttoboast all the more gladly about the holes! 🙂

      Thanks for your heartfelt reply!

  2. halennox says:

    Oh Connally, Thank you so much for this post. How is it possible that you, and others who post and comment here can know my very thoughts even though you don’t know me and I live a country away!! What an encouragement this blog is to me.

    As I was reading this blog this week, I was reminded of the story of the friends who brought the paralytic man to Jesus and persisted in finding a way to get their friend to Jesus – they cut a hole in the roof and lowered the man down! I love how it says “When Jesus saw their faith…”. I’m not sure if that was the faith of the friends AND the paralytic, or just the faith of the friends, but Jesus forgave the man’s sins and then healed him physically.

    If I can be so bold to draw a parallel to this blog…. As I read your post, I pictured you on the mat as the rest of us who read your blog cut a hole in the roof and lower you down before Jesus… trusting and believing that He will provide for you… Just as I think my dear friends and family lift me (or lower me!) to Christ when my faith is weak and I cannot make it to Him myself. What joy to know we can link arms with others and walk this journey together!

    Thank you! And hope you aren’t weirded out too much by the mat analogy!!

    • fast. pray. says:

      Not weird at all! To the contrary, after God and his word, it has been friends and their words and prayers which have aligned me with his reality. Thanks so much!

  3. Bonnie says:

    Hey thanks so much for these thoughts… I needed to read this 🙂 Even though I haven’t yet committed to fasting and praying specifically on Mondays, I am still often blessed by the reminder and what you share.

  4. janakaye says:

    Thank you, Connally! I really appreciate your honesty in that living a life “with holes” –especially holes related to family–is never going to be easy to accept. And I don’t think it should be.

    Attitude adjustments will always be needed, but constantly crying out our struggles to Jesus, and being honest about the slow Target walkers and the clumsy but well-meant blind-date setups and the disappointing relationship dead-ends, and the hardship of yet another bridesmaid turn for a younger friend or sibling…I think he welcomes those confessions of weakness and heartbreak as opportunities to heal, to show up as you put it.

    God is in the gaps and that encourages me. It still hurts to be doing life alone. But your work these last 5 years has helped and encouraged many…although it wouldn’t have been the life you chose, He has used you to minister, and that encourages me, too.

  5. Yup, i know this withholding God. And also the grace to grasp that no matter what (or what not) he is both WITH and HOLDING me. That’s what i prayed for you today my dear friend… even as i asked for the soon-to-be-WITH and HOLDING from the man of your dreams/our prayers. Your fruit is true fruit. ♥ SS

  6. Neelam says:

    Connally – As always, I appreciate what you write. I agree it is encouraging/amazing when you see God give gifts to others in similar situations, but there are times when it hurts/stings as to whether God wants to do the same (in my life). At church this wknd, the message was about Abiding in God. The acronym of “abide,” is “always believing in divine expectation.” Standing and believing with you for divine expectation, friend. Thanks for being honest and keeping it real. So appreciate you, the original 5, and all who contribute to this blog. It encourages so much!!

    Neelam
    P.S. – Pls do continue to write about the original 5 that started this. Love hearing about the history of this almost 5 year journey of faith-filled blog.

    • fast. pray. says:

      I like that abide acronym. It’s a good one. When I’ve fallen into one of my life holes, my vision gets cloudy and it’s hard to believe in divine expectation….BUT, that’s what my time with God and friends seem always to do….lead me back to REALITY, with safety for my heart in the journey!

      Meanwhile, Anne McCain Brown writes next week, and maybe she can say something more about being one of the 5. We’ll see!

      Blessings,
      Connally

  7. Kristin says:

    Thanks for your honest, as always, Connally.

    Two fave things from this post:

    1. These words: Unsought singleness . Yep, that nails is.

    2. Paul. A few years ago I was talking with a friend about my frustration with being really content where God has me (thankful for my life) yet still longing and aching for marriage and family. A 29 year dream! (I’m 41) She looked straight at me and said, “Have you ever read anything written by Paul?” Um, yes. She reminded me that he was content yet always wanted to go to Spain and never got there. Her comments were encouraging that I shared a struggle with Paul. She wasn’t saying I’d never marry but just that it is OK to be content yet still long and dream honestly before the Lord.

    Sigh. So thankful for this little community.

    • fast. pray. says:

      I was laughing when I read this because I’d never heard of anyone else mention the Paul/contentment thing relative to Spain. Though I’d invented it 🙂 . Ah, nothing new under the sun, eh?! Anyhow, I always appreciate your comments and glad to have you as part of this little community!
      Blessings, Connally

  8. i luv HP says:

    I am right there with you. Keep praying. A husband is want we want but I think we need to a desire a deeper relationship with God first.

  9. n e m says:

    TOTALLY tracking with you, sister! I feel your exact brand of pain & also recognize with your these victories & ways God uses me – all of us – in our singleness & “withholdings” as well as fun times of freedom & ministry that marriage & kids might not allow us. Trusting God with you that what we have is His Best for the present. with love & gratitude

    • fast. pray. says:

      Yes, my sister in law and I were laughing on the phone the other day when she (mother of 5 awesome children here on earth! and in a good relationship with my brother) said she felt her big holes around girlfriends and community. We laughed because we thought, “We never get it ALL” except perhaps in fleeting moments. She said she envied my community and freedom. As one of my mentors said, albeit a little tongue in cheek one time, “If you don’t get married, you lose out on half your life. If you do get married, you lose out on the other!” She was getting at a true truth…..

      • andrea csia says:

        thanks for sharing your mentor’s thought, profound. just connected the dots that the greatest aim of my dear friend is getting out of the pain in her marriage (getting out altogther) while my greatest aim is to get IN to a marriage…irony. i told her i think the answer for both if us is in looking UP more than around…

      • n e m says:

        Exactly! I’ve had a number of married friends with kids say they miss the freedom I have to travel & experience all kids of adventures. You can never have it all ~ the key seems to be looking for God in what we do have, knowing He doesn’t make mistakes. Although I just entered menopause & feel intense grief sometimes about what I’ve missed – a grief that God sees & feels with me, without condemnation – I know God has a plan that isn’t mine… that plan is GOOD even though it doesn’t always feel so to me.
        I’ll so miss your writings here!

  10. Mary Buchanan says:

    Hi Connally, Mary Buchanan, here, (neice of J. Tufts). My dear friend Jessica sent this to me this morning and I wanted to say thank you for writing, for sharing, for being real with yourself, God, and all of us. I feel discouraged and disappointed with where I where I measure up on the normal American dream board game myself from time to time. And yet, like yourself, like Paul, I find that God makes me fruitful no matter where I am or who I am with. He loves us. He’s growing Christ in us. You and I are both blessed to have friends we can share this with. Thanks again for sharing your heart.

    • fast. pray. says:

      Yes, that measuring oneself against the American Dream is a bit rough on one’s heart, no doubt. But I’m so glad you found some encouragement, and I’m so glad you wrote. Say hi to Jen!
      Blessings, Connally

  11. Helen says:

    I must confess I have randomly read your blog, and some posts are good.

    On the other hand, Conally, as one who is fighting the same battle, I can say that I don’t like the attitude you are displaying; I am grateful that you are sincere, but I really dislike your attitude – mean thoughts, depression etc, things that you confessed in this post.

    Haven’t you suffered enough in this life so that your heart would be melted and softened?

    I mean, aren’t you used to not getting your way? I am living this every day, seeing that every good thing I get is from God by His grace, and everything that doesn’t happen my way is for a good reason for being so.

    God is in control, accept things as they are with a right atiitude of heart. I will tell you a secret I found out: the suffering is direct proportional with your own egocentrism. When one learns to focus on God and others more, their pain and own suffering is not that acute anymore, it looses its power and its effects – it is there but melts into something greater than oneself.

    Maybe something to take into account….

    • Mary Buchanan says:

      Helen, thanks for sharing your perspective and what you have learned in your own journey. Perhaps you did not need to read this post to be encouraged, but there are some who are still in a place of pain and are very encouraged to see how one woman is finding her way through with her heart and faith intact and enlarged. That is the gift of what is written here.

    • elizabeth says:

      HI Helen,
      I am surprised at your admonition here. Connolly really encourages me in my walk with God as a human with natural desires. The Fast-Pray blog has become so popular because it resonates with so many while boosting faith among this large demographic.

      Expressing pain & frustration is a sign of honesty with oneself and God. Was David an egocentric when he wrote his heartfelt Psalms that included anguish, despair of life and questioning God? Was Paul egocentric when he expressed his frustration with the people he was mentoring? Was Jesus when he called Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” and even pleaded with God for change in his life’s course, in the Garden of Gethsemane? All these people were serving God to the fullest. Their expressed emotions didn’t negate that. It made them healthy and human. Jesus let people have their feelings… and had a few negative ones himself. In fact, Jesus was hardest on those who judged & criticized people who struggled. People in general don’t like to hear negativity & deal with messes, but God wants it all, and can use us best when we are open & honest about such things, trusting Him.

      Some of us feel exactly as Connolly does and have given our whole selves to serving God & others. I am a missionary who loves & lives for the lost, joyfully giving up a LOT for the Kingdom. Yet I and many many people struggle with the same feelings Connally has. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    • fast. pray. says:

      Helen, so glad you felt free to share your thoughts! You are right, God is in control. Though I’m not always sure that suffering is in direct proportion to egocentricity (Jesus suffered profoundly in the garden, begging his Father for a different path, and Jesus wasn’t ego centric), I know I can be! But I’d love if you prayed for me however you see fit! Blessings, Connally

      • Helen says:

        Try and understand what I do say and what I do not say. I said pain is felt anyway, but the attitude and other stuff involved in carrying this pain change once one does not focus on himself and does not LOVE SELF that much.

        This “secret” comes from experience – when one learns this lesson one doesn;’t feel the need to contradict with a theoretical understanding (of things in general and of egocentricity in particular).

        Blessings. Adjust anyway your attitude Conally, no matter how many girls have the same attitude as yours and for this reason praise you and feel “encouraged” in the same …
        I want to encourage you differently – telling you there is another way to deal with suffering – and that is with a different heart attitude.

  12. Somer says:

    Thank you for this post, Connally. I have only recently found this site, and it has been such a blessing over the last few weeks. I know that, through it, God has spoken to me words of encouragement and strength!

  13. Connally, this gives me hope, and I share a bond with women I have not met yet, I share a bond. It gives me assurance that I am not alone, there are others in similar boats and who are waiting..Thank you

  14. Melody says:

    Connally, This blog as been an inspiration and hope for me. It has made me realize my acceptance among a group of women I’ve never met in person yet who I feel I share a vulnerable bond with. This blog and your book have been very life giving for me this year and this has been evident in many ways, including this week when at a youth event for my church, I was able to have two very good conversations about singleness “at my age” (I’m not very old) with women younger then myself. I think the biggest thing I have realized and been able to accept is that our world is broken and it will not be completely reconciled until Christ returns. So, I figure, if the desires of my heart will not be filled while I’m on earth, I can’t wait for the time when I will be with Jesus and these desires will be filled forever. May God go before you as you continue to nurture this blog and in turn contribute to transformation in many women’s lives. Thank you.

    • fast. pray. says:

      That is so cool–it’s like a living, Jesus-infused example of “paying it forward,” and I love hearing that. And thank you for your prayers and blessings!
      Connally

  15. Jodi says:

    Thank you, Connally. A friend pointed me to blog a couple weeks ago at a time of deep discouragement. How sweet and powerful of the Lord to underscore, “you’re not alone”. I truly appreciate your honesty, dependency and humility. It helps me not only keep perspective, but to keep considering, “what else would You like to show me of You? of me? of others?” And, the fruit the Lord’s producing in your life…it’s nourishing. Thank you.

  16. andrea csia says:

    I felt the power, love, and glory of God through every word. It’s a privilege to call you sister! Inner transformation: priceless.

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