Friday, June 15, 2012

Not Settling ~ Waiting for God's Best ~ Guest Post by Gracy Howard

Throughout the month of June, we have talked about "not settling", being content in where we are as young women, waiting for our Prince Charming. And until the day comes that we meet and fall in love, we will not swerve from our standards anchored in the word of God. If you wish to read the other posts in this series, please click on my page "Committed to Purity" where they have been gathered. 

I’m excited to introduce to my blog readers a friend of mine, but before we start the interview, Gracy would you like to introduce yourself?

Sure! My name is Gracy Howard. I’m a proud native Idahoan. I wrote my first book in kindergarten, and have been scribbling furiously ever since. J Some of my inspirations in high school were CS Lewis, Charles Dickens, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. When I watched the movie Amazing Grace as a 16-year-old, I was inspired by William Wilberforce to become an abolitionist and fight modern slavery. Now, I’m studying journalism at Patrick Henry College in Virginia. I hope, someday, to be a wife, mother, and homeschooler – and (Lord willing) a writer on the side. I’m passionate about issues like human trafficking, defending the oppressed, caring for orphans, education, marriage, and religion.

In today’s world where it feels as though young women will never find their “perfect man”, how have you battled the temptation to “settle” in your relationships?

I don’t know if I would say I’ve had to battle the temptation to “settle.” Rather than having a mindset of “not settling,” I would suggest we should have a mindset of waiting. These words often overlap – but the vocabulary of “settling” can suggest a disdainful or discriminating attitude towards young men. And I don’t think this is fair. No matter how messed up a young man is, he deserves respect – and he deserves a young woman someday. Maybe not now, but once the Lord has worked more in his life, that boy absolutely deserves his own blushing bride. So rather than adopting the “not settling” mentality, I think we should have the positive mindset of waiting. A waiting woman doesn’t look at the men around her and check them off a mental list. A waiting woman doesn’t worry about whether she is “settling” in a relationship – she is focused on whether this is what the Lord has for her. Waiting and trusting in the Lord is the key to finding the “perfect man” (though even “Mr. Right” isn’t going to be perfect).

It is easy to look at our world and say, “All the gentlemen are gone.” I know I’ve said that, myself. I used to bemoan to my dad, “You were the last gentleman. Why aren’t there any other guys like you out there?” In high school, I didn’t relate to boys my age. Most of them wanted to talk about motorcycles and wrestling – I wanted to talk about Dostoevsky and Dickens.

But then I went to college, and found I could have deep and interesting conversations with many of the young men around me. They opened doors, carried books, were always anxious to do little favors. Many of them were serious about their walk with the Lord.

I could be in a relationship with any one of these young men, and I would not be settling. They’re truly awesome guys. But I still needed to wait. Because as wonderful as they all are, not one of them was the right man for me. I didn’t know this right away, though. In my journey of waiting (often impatiently), God taught me some incredible lessons about relationships, and my attitude towards them.

When I first arrived at school, I developed a very strong friendship with a young man in my class. We were best friends, we did everything together. He was like a brother to me. I was not like a sister to him. Ladies, never be “best friends” with a boy. There are too many dynamics between men and women, too many emotions and attractions. Even if you aren’t hurt, you will probably hurt him. It is better to be safe. I ended up hurting Adam, because he wanted to be with me and I didn’t care for him in that way. I should have set some boundaries on our friendship.

This is an important point in waiting: if you believe the Lord has someone out there for you, you should set up boundaries. This doesn’t mean you can’t hang out with them, be friends with them, or spend time with them. But there should still be an emotional and physical distance until you decide to start a relationship. This is a sign of respect towards them, their future spouse, you, and your future spouse.  If you are “Just friends,” act like it.

I eventually got in a relationship with a young man at PHC named Ben (name changed). We really liked each other, we had a lot in common, our parents approved – we did everything right. But he did break up with me, suddenly and painfully. I was devastated. Instead of trusting the Lord with this new bend in my life, I kept praying and praying that God would let us get together again. This cost me a year of heartbreak, pain, and emotional exhaustion. I clenched onto that relationship so tightly, that it sapped my energy from all other areas of my life. My passion for school and other interests dwindled. My ability to minister to others waned. My relationship with the Lord suffered.

Point #2 in the waiting process – a relationship that takes your focus off the Lord and your loves in life is not a good one. A proper relationship fuels and excites you, draws you closer to the priorities in your life. A relationship that does not will become an obsession, a slavery, a sapping of strength and focus.

Also, point #3 – be willing to accept the Lord’s “no’s.” Don’t hold on to your way, your plan, your hopes. If God says “no,” let go. And let Him work healing and joy into your heart. Once I let go, the Lord blessed my surrender. My energy and joy came back. I was healthy and whole again. The Lord blesses us for abandoning our wills to Him.

After my relationship with Ben, I prayed this prayer to the Lord: “Lord, if I am supposed to be with a young man, please let him be open and honest with me from the start. Please don’t let there be any games, any flirtation, any confusion. May he pursue me openly and clearly from the start.”

I purposefully decided that I would not develop close friendships with a young man, unless he expressed clear and honest interest in me. I would not mess with his heart by playing the “best friends” game. If a young man started mindlessly flirting with me, I stepped away from the friendship and put distance between us (emotionally and physically). This saved me from a lot of heartache. The waiting process was so good. And that time became some of the most spiritually invigorating and healing of my life: I had so much time that I could spend with the Lord, with my friends, in ministry and in school!

This leads to point #4. If you are going to wait for the man the Lord has for you, you need to be completely content with where He has you now. Enjoy your time of singlehood, and ask the lord what He would have you do with it. Why does He have you single? There must be a reason!

I have seen (through the wonderful world of Facebook!) that you are currently in a relationship right now. Would you care to tell us just a bit of how you’re treating your courtship/dating?

Last fall, I was very happy single. I still wanted to wait for the man God had for me. But a desire was welling up in my heart, stronger than it had ever been before: I wanted to be a wife, and a mom. Yet at this point, I knew there was no man at PHC that I wanted to be with. So I began to pray that the Lord would help me to wait for the right relationship, that He would help me control that desire and not let it overtake my life and priorities.

Gracy and Eli
It was only a month or so later that I met Eli (my boyfriend). His sister was in a chamber ensemble with me, and he came to watch her (he had just come home from tech training in the air force). A group of us went out to eat after the concert, and he sat across from me. In our conversation, I was struck by how kind and gentlemanly he was, by the leadership qualities he displayed, by the humility in his attitude. At that point, I didn’t think I’d ever hear from him again. But only a few days later, he asked me out to coffee. I said yes. After that first date, we went to a concert together. We spent some time with his family. We went on a hike. He asked me if we could correspond during Christmas break. I said yes, and we wrote email letters back and forth for a month. This gave us time to truly get to know each other on a deeper level, without pressure or distractions. In January, after he picked me up from the airport, he asked me to be his girlfriend.

No relationship is exactly the same. Not everyone will just click, and get in a relationship right away like Eli and I did. Lots of people get in relationships with people that they have been friends with for a long time. But God had prepared both of our hearts for this: we knew what we wanted, we knew that our meeting was not by chance, and we knew that we liked each other. So I was willing to say yes.

I want to clarify this – when I said yes to coffee, I was not saying yes to marriage. You do not have to know that this is “Mr. Right” before you say yes to a date. But if the young man who asks has the qualities you have been praying for, if he is a good strong Christian, then you should pray seriously about saying yes to that date. And if God leads you, then go for it! He may not end up being the man for you. But if so, then the date – or the relationship – has not failed. God has used it to grow you, to show you what you are/ are not looking for.

Eli and I are in a “serious dating” relationship. It is very similar to courting – we are not just dating “because,” we are marriage-minded in our attitudes. We spend lots of time with his family and mine, as well as with our friends. We spend lots of time having serious conversations about life, philosophy, and religion. 
We also go on dates, to movies or dinner or to go hiking. We have set up boundaries and accountability systems. Our parents are actively involved in our relationship, and ask us any questions they like. We spend lots of time with our siblings and friends. We enjoy this time together, and the ability to serve and love on the people we care about. It draws us closer as a couple.

How do you feel your being willing to wait—no matter how difficult or long it seems at times— strengthened you and your faith and resolve?

Our first relationship is with Christ. He is our King, our First Love, our Messiah. No other relationship can replace that. No man will be more “right” for you than the One who died in your place. And no man can fill the hole that God has put in your heart. It is a yearning for heaven, for our Savior, that no earthly thing can satiate (Ecclesiastes).

Thus, the beauty of waiting is that it is a picture of our waiting for our heavenly Prince – who will return soon and take us to live with Him forever (the ultimate “happily ever after!”). And also, the beauty of that waiting is that it draws us near to Him. It gives Him opportunity to grow, stretch, and bless us. It gives us the opportunity to come to Him with our every worry, doubt, fear, instead of relying on a young man.

My time of singleness was such a blessing: I developed strong friendships with the girls at my school, and those are friendships that continue to bless me now. I helped organize a benefit concert to raise money for International Justice Mission, an organization that combats human trafficking and violent injustice around the world. If I had been in a relationship, I would not have been able to do that. But most importantly, I had a ton of time to spend with Christ, and all my emotions and heart’s energy could be poured into Him and His service. The times I spent in the Word that semester were so precious. He drew near, and taught me so much about Himself. Not only did that time grow my Christian walk – it also helped prepare me to be a better girlfriend to Eli!

What is your encouragement to young women who are patiently (or even not so patiently) waiting and fighting the temptation to “settle”?

1. “Wait on the Lord – be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27) He DOES have someone for you. Wait on His timing. Know that He will fulfill the desires of your heart – His Word says so! Trust Him with that longing. He will fulfill it in the perfect timing.

2. Remember that a relationship that takes your focus off the Lord and your loves in life is not a good one. The man in your life should draw you nearer to Christ – not away from Him. His conversation should encourage and inspire you, not tear you down. If you don’t see this, don’t get in a relationship! Wait on the Lord. He has infinitely better plans for you than you could EVER hope for.

3. This one is so hugely important. Be willing to accept the Lord’s “no’s.” Don’t hold on to your way, your plan, your hopes. If God says “no,” let go.  Remember He has a plan “to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future!” (Psalm 29:11) If you were hoping for a relationship that never takes place, or that ends in a train wreck, know that there is a reason. Know that the Lord is sculpting a love story for you that will take your breath away.

Not only is Eli the answer to my every prayer (seriously), he is more than I ever wished for. I never would have thought to pray for a man who would make me dinner when I’m tired, text me Bible verses in the morning, buy me roses “just because,” or rub my aching feet at the end of a long day. I just never thought that there could be someone who so completely encompassed – and blew away – my conceptions of Prince Charming. But God knew. And he brought Eli into my life, at a random concert. He orchestrated the table seating arrangements that night. He gave Eli the courage to ask me to coffee. He gave me the courage to say yes.

How much more will He answer your prayers??? I believe, I KNOW He will! Probably not in the same way – but in a perfect, individual, and sweet way. He has a love story just for you.

 “Wait on the Lord – be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait, I say, on the Lord.”

Casey here again: All this month I have had a giveaway of Never the Bride by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl Mckay and hopefully it will encourage you on your journey. Leave a comment on how YOU are NOT settling below and I'll draw the names from all the posts and announce the winners (one from every Settling post) the first Friday of July.  


  1. Gracey,

    What a blessing you are - your voice and your heart. I pray the Lord's covering on your life, that you would continue to chase after Him first - that He would always be your FIRST LOVE - and that you would continue to be a representation of the beauty of Christ the way you are now. I pray for Eli, that he would be a man of honor, of dignity, but most of all, that he would first, and foremost be GOD'S MAN, as his name implies. God bless you both as you continue to grow in Him.

    Thanks for your post today, Casey!

    1. Becky, doesn't this post touch your heart in such a profound way? May we all have such conviction and clear mind, focused on God's direction in our lives. I love your prayer for Eli. A prayer for all of us, both in a marriage and not!

  2. Gracy, You are a wise woman.
    Thank you for sharing your story and your insights.

    1. She is indeed. I have loved knowing her in person and now reconnecting online.

  3. Lovely, lovely story! Thanks for sharing! You'll be an inspiration to many young women, I'm sure.

    1. Sue, she's an inspiration to ME! I'm so excited for her and to see where God leads.

  4. This is a great interview, Casey and Gracy! :)

    Thank you so much, Gracy, for the encouraging words and important reminders, and for sharing about your own experiences. :) God bless!


    1. Ha, our names rhyme! ;-)

      I loved the perspective she gave, didn't you? It's wonderful to see all sides of the issue. Those who have been married for years, and those who haven't. How very encouraging!

  5. Beautiful testimony, Gracy! It is sure to inspire and encourage many. So happy Casey is doing this series:)

    1. I can't wait for your post, Laura. Can't. Wait. :)

  6. I'm working on this whole idea of just waiting. I really liked this post. thanks for being so honest. Please enter me.clp1777(at)aol(dot)com

    1. Thanks so much for coming by, Courtney. If you have a minute, be sure and check out the rest of the posts. They are equally as encouraging, in my opinion. :)

  7. Hello there! :)
    I know I'm really late, but thank you SOO very much for this post!
    I cannot say how much this has blessed me as young woman who is commited to Purity.

    Blessings, <3



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