All the Single Ladies

singleness-blog

Will all the single ladies please stand up? (Sorry Bey, for defiling you by mixing you and Eminem up.)

At this point I have been single for one year. With the coming of a new year, I decided to tackle writing about what this past year of singleness has been like for me. It’s been hard. It’s been interesting. It’s been rewarding. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

It is hard. Singleness is not all Beyoncé. Even in the Christian community I feel like I hear singleness romanticized as being easier than it is. “Fall in love with Jesus first” has value, but it has become somewhat of a dismissive cliché. I do love Jesus, but I am also a human with emotions. And singleness can be really lonely. There are points at which you look around and feel like every conceivable person around you is dating someone. There are points at which you feel sorry for yourself and wonder if something is wrong with you. It’s ok to admit those things and to talk about the hard parts.

Blind dates and being set up look dreamy in movies, but be prepared for awkward. I have a lot of confidence in my friends and was pretty excited about meeting the blonde guy who I was certain would be my summer fling. Our engineered meeting wound up being far from perfect, however. Without delving into the story, all you need to know was that it ended with us having several five-minute conversations before he fell asleep on a basement couch in the middle of a party.

Appreciate your girlfriends. Most of my friends are not single. My best friend from home is in a committed relationship of over two-years. My roommate just celebrated her one-year anniversary with her boyfriend. My best friend at school is in the honeymoon stage of a brand new relationship. It’s not always easy to find people to relate to. But this year God grew my relationship with my friend Courtney and called us to walk through this season of singleness together. Find other single people who will hold you accountable and call you out and celebrate your victories and breakthroughs with you. Not that you can’t do this with all of your friends, but this level of intentionality and vulnerability with other single friends is invaluable. They can relate to your times of loneliness and remind you of your worth during those times. They can pray with you and for you as you struggle with similar things and grow alongside each other. And you’ll have the opportunity to be that for them too. Pray for God to show you who those people are and keep them.

Even when it’s difficult, don’t let yourself get distracted. Listen to your friends when they tell you it’s a bad idea to stay in the same tent as your ex boyfriend at the campout you’re all having. And quit obsessing over the girl he eventually starts dating and comparing yourself to her. Don’t waste hours Facebook stalking every cute guy you see in one of your classes. Focus on learning what it means to know yourself and love yourself well. Remember, this is an opportunity to pour your energy into growing and becoming more like Christ. Don’t spend that energy on thinking about all the boys you could be dating.

It’s ok. Really, it is ok. In a culture where hooking up or wedding up is expected, it’s ok to be by yourself. I didn’t have a New Years Eve kiss. I have not been on a single date in over six months (actually since the failed set-up). I don’t like anyone right now. And given all of those things, my worth is unchanged. All things considered, I am grateful for my season of singleness. In spite of the times when it has been miserable, I am better for it. So if nothing else, hang onto that. God is using this to make you even more beautiful. Someday He will make that crystal clear; He promises it.

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It’s Been a While

My mom asked me about writing the other day. She told me she wanted to learn how to write, because she loves it. She told me she wanted to better at just sitting down and writing, without worrying so much about perfection, like me. Hey. Guess who has been having trouble just sitting down and writing. Guess who hasn’t blogged anything since February * sheepishly raises hand *

I don’t know why it’s been so difficult. At school I had some legitimate excuses of studying like mad and endless coffee dates and club meetings. But since I’ve been home for the summer those excuses have disappeared. The truth is, I have been having trouble being honest with myself. I came home and in many ways felt like a different person. I was face to face with the reality that everyone changes and friendships look different when you’ve been away for a year. That adult responsibilities mean trying really hard and still overdrawing your checking account by mistake. That I was less comfortable being the single one in my friend group than I had ever imagined. That I felt like my life was a boring routine of getting up, going for a run, listening to NPR, drinking a cup of tea, going to work, watching NCIS, and going to sleep. I wondered why I couldn’t have a summer jam-packed with adventures like those all my friends seemed to be relating via Instagram. I struggled with the feeling of distance from God and from likeminded people who were dedicated to the growth of my heart. Admittedly, I spent a whole lot of time feeling sorry for myself. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say there were weeks at the start of the summer where I pretty much wallowed in discontentment.

One day I picked up a book that my RD had given to me at the end of the year, called The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence. Almost immediately, I came to this paragraph:

“We also need to be faithful, even in the dry periods. It is during those dry spells that God tests our love for Him. We should take advantage of those times to practice our determination and surrender to Him.”

Dang. Dry periods? I could relate to that big time. But had I been faithful? Not much. I could count on one hand the number of times I had prayed since leaving school. Had I brought any of my discontentment to His feet and sought to surrender? Heck no. I thought I was perfectly capable of powering through it on my own. The same night I read that, I had randomly reached out to a few of my friends from school to see how their summers were going. The conversations with them that followed reminded me of all the wonderful people God has put in my corner and gave me some serious clarity. He wasn’t working in a way that was earth-shattering and impressive like I always seem to expect. He came quietly through the people and the circumstances that were right in front of me. But it changed everything about my perspective all the same.

Last week I read these sentences written by Mark Buchanan that shook my outlook even more.

“Spiritual robustness doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen by wishing or trying. It is a long obedience in the same direction. It is forged in the daily and tempered in the ordinary.”

First, I have to remember that I need to seek God and bring everything to Him in surrender even when I feel like He’s not close to me. I need to push for that, even when my emotions aren’t feeling it. Second, all of those things I felt were mundane and unexciting about my life? He is working through those things to grow me. Always. I can’t expect for all of life to be praise songs and hands lifted, filled with spiritually moving experiences. I have to forge through some tough stuff- feeling lonely, experiencing change, and waiting on Him. Here’s the thing, though. When we trek through that stuff, one baby step at a time, He allows us to see His rich goodness along the way. He gives us small victories to celebrate and joy in every single day.

I am really stinking grateful that He stays with me through the dry seasons, the daily and the ordinary, even when I forget about Him. He is faithful to me even when I’m not faithful to Him. Tony Ingram said, “I am a girl still learning God.” Me too, Tony. I let my feelings get the best of me. I forget His power. I neglect giving Him the whole of my heart like He deserves. But thankfully there is grace.

If this brain dump of mine has meant anything to you, if you are or have been here, remember: don’t try to force the water during the dry spells. Don’t give up and think the water will never come either. Because it will come, babe, it will come. Romans 12:1 MSG says “Take your everyday ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life- and place it before God as an offering.” And that’s what it’s all about. Keep taking small steps. Be faithful. Everyday.

The Angry Stage

Angry

Ladies, you’ve been there.

You broke up with a boy and you go through the stages.

You cry.

You eat ice cream.

You call your mom.

You cry some more.

You watch Nicholas Sparks movies.

You cry a lot.

Your friends take you out and make you do something fun.

You aggressively sing along with Beyoncé.

You move on.

This looks a little differently for everyone; it’s a process. But I think we can all relate to the rollercoaster our emotions take us on after a breakup.

I happen to be on the aggressively singing along with Beyoncé step in the process. One of my friends has deemed it the “angry stage”. I refuse to speak to him, even in passing. I constantly rant to my friends about him. I pick apart everything from his haircut to the new girl he’s hanging out with.

Last Sunday in my church small group, our leader was talking about loving even the difficult people in our lives. He talked about Luke 6:32-33: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” Jesus continues in the passage telling His audience to love their enemies. Our group leader told a story about the woman who lives in the apartment above his and his attempts to love her even though she is extremely rude and difficult.

You know the feeling when you hear something that God is using to convict you? When His message hits you like a ton of bricks and you can’t pretend you didn’t hear Him. Even though I’d heard those verses in Luke plenty of times before, this time their message for me was clear as a bell. And I thought, Come on God, you’ve got to be kidding me. You saw the way he acted! You heard all the stupid things he said to me! Loving him? That’s not fair.

Now obviously, loving someone you’ve recently broken up with doesn’t look the same as loving other people in your life. But the point is this. I was content to camp out in the angry stage. Trash talking him had become something I did without thinking twice. And that is far from loving.

I need to be walking toward a place of forgiveness. Regardless of what has or will happen, Christ calls me to respond to everyone, even my ex-boyfriend with grace. That won’t always come easily, I need to ask for God to grant me supernatural grace more often than not.

The bottom line is- the angry stage is not biblical. The Bible warns us not to let our anger take over. It’s okay to feel; it’s ok to grieve a relationship. We may feel angry, but we can choose to respond in grace. So to myself and to all of you: Do what you need to heal. Blast the music, eat the ice cream, cry the tears. But let go, move on, forgive, and quit hanging out in that angry place.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

New Year

I’m not sure how I would even begin reflecting on 2015. It’s been almost exactly a year since I started my original blog. I am a different person today than I was a year ago. To go on record, this has honestly been one of the best years of my life, when I hit some of my highest mountaintops. I traveled to the championship bracket with my soccer team. I performed in two shows that are very dear to my heart with two of best casts of all time. I graduated from high school with my best friends. I spend an astoundingly renewing two weeks in the wilderness learning more about myself and building life-long connections. I moved into college at my dream school. I made millions of incredible memories with old friends and made new friends that will be in my life for a long, long time coming. I shared long late night talks and countless cups of great coffee. I learned a little bit more about what love is supposed to look like. I discovered my passions and got to run with them, to be a part of something bigger. I found a new church family and got to see the Holy Spirit move in incredible ways. I explored and adventured and fell in love with brand new places.

Without making that paragraph impossibly long, I’ll just say that I run out of adjectives to describe the year 2015 was. It has been nothing short of amazing. And sitting down looking back on it now, my only response is gratitude. We have a God who isn’t content with mediocre. He wants to give us so much more. I stand amazed at where He brought me and what He gave me in 2015.

I think this past year will serve as a reminder for me. Because you never come to the mountaintops without walking through the valleys first. 2014 was a year of valleys for me. But I would never wish it away, because I know how much God used it to grow me. He proved to me through it that He really can make beauty from ashes. And 2015 wouldn’t have looked the way it did unless I had passed through 2014 first.

The last few days I’ve been feeling stuck and overwhelmed. The New Year always comes with this expectation for transformation or renewal. But when I look ahead, I see an increasing amount of adult responsibility, decisions about internships, finances, and other scary stuff. I feel utterly disqualified to handle anything ahead of me. When I look back, I see a year that I don’t want to forget. I don’t really want things to change or transform, because everything I experienced in the past year was so wonderful. I guess I want to press pause on the New Year.

But I know that I can’t. And again I am reminded, I cannot get to the mountaintops unless I pass through the valleys first. If I’m honest, I realize that I am never going to be fully qualified for the things life throws at me, but God will equip me to do them anyway. Because it’s His strength, His motivation, His discernment, His peace, not my own. Above it all, He holds the plans for my future. He’s shown me before what He can do and I’ve stood amazed. He’ll do it again. I can trust in Him to bring me through the valley, renewed more than ever before, and set me on the mountaintop. I’m not projecting that 2016 will be a year of valleys, not at all. But every year has some valleys. When I am faced with unknowns and uncertainties, I can trust they are never too big for Him to handle.

 

And so, I can walk into 2016 with confidence. That He is not finished with me yet, that He is in control, and that He is always good.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14) In this I find my rest.

There Comes A Time In a Girl’s Life When She Needs to Unplug

Clean

“I bought a bicycle. Turns out it’s easier to ride the thing when you’re not trying to simultaneously check your Twitter.”

— Baratunde Thurston

 

I’ve been thinking about social media lately. A lot.

And I have decided that I desperately need to take a break. You see, I’ve been trying to use it to quench my thirst for a long time now. But it’s not working. It’s leaving me thirstier, more drained, and gasping for air.

We’ve all experienced it. You sit down with your phone and the intention of scrolling through Instagram once and then you’re 118 weeks deep on some fashion account and an hour has gone by. Every time this happens to me, by the time I swipe up to close an app or shut my laptop, I have the overwhelming feeling that I’ve gained absolutely nothing from the time I just spent.

Social media has become a stomping ground for my insecurities. It lets me do plenty of comparing and striving to be more like the girls and women whose accounts I pour over for inspiration. It lets me paint a picture of myself that is a glorified representation of who I am, me without my mess, more who I want to be.

And I miss the real life. I view things through the lens of what I can take a photo of or what clever caption I can create. Tonight I made kale chips and listened to The Beatles with my mom with our woodstove going. Hip right? What a nice element that would add to my aesthetic. But when in the world did my “aesthetic” become my first priority? And why am I detracting from the few precious weeks I have at home with my mom by spending it thinking about what I could be posting online? I spend time admiring photos of cute guys or laughing at their Tweets, observing them only from a distance, when I could be putting my phone down and asking them out for coffee and a real conversation. I spend time scrolling through the Timelines of old friends when I could be calling them to ask how they’re really doing.

The other biggie for me is the impact my social media use has on my relationship with God. If I’m totally candid with myself, I can admit that I’ve been trying to use it to fill a void I should be filling with him. What if instead of reaching for my phone to check Instagram every morning, I reached for my Bible and made my time with Him a priority? He’s reminded me over and over again that if I’m thirsty all I have to do is come to Him. But I can’t seem to learn and I run to my social media accounts to try and satisfy me first. And you know what? I keep coming up short. They will never, ever deliver like He can.

Just a caveat, I don’t want this to seem like one great big rant, holding social media as the root of all evil. It’s not. As a college student, I’ve seen first hand how wonderful it can be for keeping me connected to people at home. I’ve seen it promote positive messages, being used as a tool for loving others better. But what I’ve realized is that too often we look to it first. We don’t supplement pictures on Facebook with letters to our grandma at home. We hide behind it and use it as our only method for loving people. And right now, there are just too many negative implications of social media use for me personally. It’s too easy for me to get sucked in. So I am making a choice for myself.

I am ready to define myself based on what God thinks of me. To build my identity around His truths and not around my social media profiles. To be so content with my own real life that I don’t need a platform to build a glorified one. I am ready to shape stronger, deeper relationships with people, developed around vulnerability and face-to-face interaction. I am ready for real connection. I am ready to reclaim the time I’ve spent in front of a screen and use it for things of value. I want to read more books, to discover more new places, to exercise more, to learn how to cook new recipes. So to start of my new year, I am taking a break. January 2016 will be a month without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest. And then I’ll go from there. I am not doing this because I think it’s trendy. I am doing this because I am thirsty for more than these things can offer.

Audrey & Hannah on Owning People

Breakfast at Tiffany's

(Originally Posted – November 2015)

“No. People don’t belong to people.”

I adore Audrey Hepburn for a lot of reasons, too many to go into right now.

But this Holly Golightly line from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is definitely near the top.

This is a lesson that it’s taken me a lot of time to learn. And I’m not there yet, but I have come a long way. Me, I’m a control freak. My favorite pastimes are trying to fit things into a box and wrapping my mind around every possible detail. As a result of my control issues, sometimes I try to play God, thinking that I know better than Him. But usually, when I get all grabby and put my hands all over things, I wind up realizing I should’ve left them in His hands.

When it comes to people this gets tricky. I care an awful lot, I love to fix things, and sometimes I wonder if I’m a magnet for people with emotional baggage. I see people struggling with something and my immediate reaction is to try and fix them. To reach into their lives and pull out the pain, to get out my band-aids and go to work. I seem to think that if I can just love them enough, all of their issues will be resolved. But the thing is, I am no more than human myself. I’m not Jesus; He’s the only one who can do the saving. And I’m not perfect, so sometimes my own humanity might even make things messier.

Next to Audrey one of my biggest inspirations is a spunky author by the name of Hannah Brencher. Per usual, Hannah hits it on the head in her book, when she says: “Just because something breaks, or comes to you broken already, doesn’t always mean you should script yourself an invitation to go on and fix it.”

Now I don’t want to make it sound like I’m saying we shouldn’t let people in, or get involved in anyone else’s life. One of the best things about this life is getting to be in relationships, sharing our jumping up and down days and our sobbing on the couch days with humans who see our own dysfunction and love us anyway. We are called to do life in community with each other. But this is just a reminder that, if you’re like me, you need to remember the balance. Ultimately God is at work in all the people in your life. And regardless of how hard you try, it’s not within your power to put their pieces back together. Maybe more importantly, it’s not your responsibility either. You are not in control of the circumstances or the outcome in your relationship with that person. It’s them and God.

One of the side effects of the illusion that we’re in control is the heart ache that can come when someone slips from our reach. People leaving, a relationship coming to an end, most of us would agree this is one of the hardest things we’ve ever gone through. I think part of it stems from this idea that somehow, we own the people that come into our lives. But, holding on as tightly as possible, fighting for all we’re worth, is just an extension of our desire to fix people on our own. Hannah writes:

“Maybe that is why some people walk into your life- to tip you over and pour you out. Maybe some people storm into your life just to tell you they’re not supposed to be there. That you can’t take them or anyone else with you wherever you are going next. Maybe not everyone we encounter is a love story. Maybe some are wake-up calls.” (If You Find This Letter)

These are words that I have repeated to myself over and over again. I know who these people are and have been in my life. And it’s true, there are some people that God does not intend to stay forever. They often come to teach us something and then to wave goodbye when they’ve said the piece they came to say. That’s hard for us to understand, because we love to hold on. But we have, have to know that we are not the ones in control. We don’t get to know why; we can’t see the aerial view of our lives.

So join me in cutting it out. Stop pretending that you are God, that you can fix people, that people are things that belong to you. Lift the hurting, broken people in your life up to Him and if He’s asking you to, trust Him enough to let them go. He can make their lives beautiful the same way that He redeemed yours. Audrey knows best.

He Is So Good

Simplicity

(Originally Posted – October 2015)

I want to write. I really want to write. It’s been almost three months since I’ve blogged anything and that feels wrong. But I’ve learned a lot about trying to force the words. That it doesn’t work. I don’t want it to be fake, I want it to be a living, breathing, piece of what I’m experiencing these days. Those kinds of words aren’t the kind you get by sitting in front of the screen, searching your brain for things, and trying to push them out.

So much has happened. It has been sweet; it has been huge; it has been new. I have met the kinds of people who you just want to hold closely to, that you know will still be your friends for many days to come. I have had the kinds of late night conversations over cups of tea that you want to tuck in your pocket and save forever. I have been reminded of who I am and stopped pretending to be anything more than that. I have cried because change is overwhelming, but so is God’s provision along the way. There has just been a whole lot of real life lately.

I have been learning things along the way too. Learning about my own capacity, that I need sleep and I need slowing down. Learning about God and how he continues to bring me to my knees in awe of how gracious he is. Learning about who I am and how to root my identity in him. Learning how to be straight up with people and form the most genuine relationships.

I think what I want to say to anyone reading this is that He is good. He really is so good. I remember reading the verse in Psalm 37:4 about trusting in Him, that says He will give you the desires of your heart. The crazy part is that He knows our deepest desires even when we aren’t sure what they are. Although it may not happen in our time-frame or based on the picture we had in our heads, that’s so okay. Because the vision He has to fulfill our desires is ten thousand times better. Six months ago I didn’t know where I was going to college. I was conflicted, I analyzed, I vacillated. And He knew all along. He knew what my soul was craving. He knew exactly where I was going to end up. He was one by one, putting all the pieces into place. The times when I was worried that I wasn’t going to work out or discouraged that I couldn’t see His plan, He was just whispering, “wait”.

So wherever you are right now, precious girl, wait. Patiently wait in Him. I can promise you that He is preparing you for something incredible. Hold onto that in your moments of doubt. He knows even your most secret hopes. He sees you. One day, maybe soon, maybe far, it’s all going to come together. And oh man, is it going to be beautiful. Beautiful and worth it.

 

When I wake up in the morning I look around me and just think about how good He’s been to me. He saved me with His grace, but He didn’t stop there. He made me new, but He didn’t stop there. He’s giving me the desires of my heart. Lord, I stand amazed at who you are. You are so faithful.