I’m not waiting on marriage anymore

Originally posted on March 23, 2016


In my frustration I blamed God. I blamed him for my unhappiness and singleness. I blamed him for my schedule that seemed too busy to meet eligible guys my age but not busy enough that I felt the pains of singleness. I blamed him for my attitude and my decisions instead of blaming myself. And then it hit me.

I realized I put my life on hold, waiting for the perfect man to come whisk me away into his story and plan. I never wanted to be too committed that I couldn’t uproot myself when Mr. Right asked me to. I made every decision out of fear – fear that I wouldn’t be at the right place at the right time to meet my Mr. Right.

I tricked myself that I had to be a certain way to appeal to guys. I thought if I came across like I already knew how to be the perfect housewife I’d have a line of guys wanting to date and marry me. Clearly I was wrong because that was never the case. Instead, I chased after male attention and found myself exhausted from the constant pretending and paralyzed to make any decision regarding my future. I don’t recommend this.

When I came to that realization it felt like a large exhale, and I never knew I was holding my breath. I had trapped myself in my own thinking and beliefs that my life didn’t matter before I was married. Marriage was supposed to be the key that unlocks the rest of your life, right? The rest of us single people are just walking in a purgatory of sorts, waiting to be snatched up the opposite gender. Right?

In high school I dated a guy, and after two years we were sure we would get married. But something changed in me when I moved to college and I realized I wanted more out of a life, and a partner who wanted the same. So I broke up with him, hoping to find someone new soon. It was a brilliant plan until I graduated college… still single.

My next plan was to get hired by an international branch with the company I was interning with, meet a “foreign” man (although, if I moved it would make me the foreigner) and live happily ever after in another country. Except I didn’t get hired on, nor did I move to another country.

So I kept moving forward, with my eye on marriage instead of what God wanted me to do. Then, when I did what I believed God wanted me to do, I thought he would reward my obedience with a husband. I mean, how many stories have you heard of women choosing singleness, and then the next week they meet their husband? Ruth’s obedience was rewarded with Boaz. Just saying. But I digress…

I feel like I’ve entered into a new threshold and I’m not quite sure what to do. I’ve spent so much of my time waiting that I haven’t allowed myself to discover. So that’s exactly what I’m doing: taking the time to discover what I like, don’t like, passion about, and what I want out of life. If this is you too, I give you the permission to discover as well. I’m seeing the world in a new way, and while it’s a little overwhelming and scary it’s also exciting.

Two pounds and one step

This weekend I got really frustrated with myself – with my weight, specifically. One of my roommates and I have been drinking an apple cider vinegar concoction twice a day for the last week and a half. She’s lost three pounds and I’ve gained two pounds. I may have gone a little crazy on the girl scout cookies this week, and clearly this drink was not an erasure of poor food choices, despite my meek efforts at the gym.

My big plan was to move here, join a gym, find a personal trainer, and then become skinny. Simple, right? If only. I moved here, took a few (ok 6) weeks to get motivated to go to a gym, met with a personal trainer twice and now I’m using her advice and Pinterest posts for my workouts, and yet I’m still the same weight as I was in January. I keep hoping a mile and a half walk around the neighborhood twice a week would cancel out the cake pops and cookies I keep eating from Starbucks, but I think it’s time to rethink my strategy.

Have you ever watched The Biggest Loser? I’m a huge fan – beyond following each trainer and the show itself on Facebook (which I do), that I watched Biggest Loser Australia on YouTube to watch Bob and Jillian help more people lose weight. Not just one, but THREE seasons. They’re amazing and I think you should watch the first two seasons if you want to be super motivated. Anyways… In one season of the American Biggest Loser Jillian said (roughly), “You did not get fat overnight so don’t expect become thin overnight.”

I think of this quote often to remind myself that it’s going to take me more than one healthy meal and one sweaty workout to lose weight, because it took more than one order of burger and fries and one night on the couch watching Lifetime movies. I have to remind myself often that a lot of small decisions got me here – not just my weight but in my life, and it will take me many more small decisions to get where I want to be.

Which, in the grand scheme of things, is why I titled this blog One Step Forward. I want to help remind you that forward is done one step at a time, and not to be overwhelmed with the big picture and how it’s going to happen. I know when I stare at a big goal for myself I get overwhelmed. But if I make a plan for the next step and sometimes the step after that, I know I will have a better idea what my next next step is after I’ve completed the first step. Does that make sense?

So instead of drowning my weight gain sorrows in a bowl of cookie dough ice cream, I’m choosing to make a small step: adding more vegetables into my meals and snacks. And going to the gym more than twice a week. I invite you to stop, breathe, and ask yourself, “What is the next step I can take?”

Connecting without words

My mom often talked freely about her relationship with God, frequently speaking about conversations she had with him. Hearing God’s voice was never a foreign concept or an absurd thing to say, which I am extremely thankful for. Her example has allowed me to naturally speak to God as I speak to my friends. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, which is why I’m choosing to write on this topic.

It takes patience and practice, as well as testing, to differentiate between your inner dialogue and God’s voice. Sometimes it’s loud, deep, and very clear. Sometimes it’s a faint whisper that sounds like your voice but speaks bold truths. Sometimes your thoughts are directed to a specific scripture that challenges or encourages you. Sometimes you can close your eyes and see a picture or a scene that adds clarity to a problem or question you’re wrestling with. There is more than one way of hearing God.

In high school I learned one of my most memorale lessons on hearing God’s voice. The instructor was an elder at the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) chuch across the street from my high school and he taught during lunches. While I wasn’t (and still not, for the record) a member of the LDS church, many of my friends were, so I joined where my friends went.

The elder played 3 tracks, pausing after each one to let the class guess who the voice belonged to. The first 2 were musical artists I enjoyed listening to and easily guessed, but the third was a speaker I had never heard before. The third voice was a highly revered elder in the church who often spoke on televised events. Since this was unfamiliar terrirory for me, I had no context for this unknown voice. The point he made was to be familiar with a voice you need to hear it often. Think about how often you listen to Justin Bieber on the radio or your best friend on the phone; You know instantly the person behind the voice when he or she speaks. It’s the same principle with God’s voice.

My best friend and I have been friends for 13 years. We update each other with bullet-point lists, send random snapchats of our ever-evolving habits, and sit in comfortable silence when reunited for more than a few hours. I love that our relationship is to a point where words are no longer needed sometimes and it’s not awkward. I feel similar when I worship God through music. Sometimes I just don’t need words to communicate. It can all be said as I sing vowels loudly.

When I was in South Africa, one of my leaders shared this insight with the group. We were camping out on a church’s extraordinarily large yard and able to yell as loud as we could to spur-of-the-moment guitar playing. There is something very freeing to just sing “ooooooohhhhhh oooooohhhh ooooooohhh” as loudly as possible and potentially on key. It’s as if someone else is saying words and I’m just creating the space to make it happen. In Romans chapter 8, Paul writes

For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26b -27, NLT)

I think you should definitely give it a try. I personally use the time when I have the house to myself to sing loudly. Sometimes I will drive down another street so I can worship loudly through music and not bother anyone. If you need help finding a song, I suggest two of my favorite songs:

Closer sung by Amanda Cook
King of My Heart sung by John Mark & Sarah McMillan

What I gave up for Lent

I’m no expert on Lent, meaning I can’t give you the history of when and why, but I did grow up observing the practice of giving something up for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent allows us to remember the sacrifice Jesus gave for us by sacrificing something in our own lives. When I was young I picked chewing gum because it wasn’t that difficult to give up. I did this for 6 years in a row.

For the last few years I have not participated in Lent simply because I had nothing I felt like I needed to give up. After a failed attempt at cutting out ice cream, only to gorge myself on other sweet treats, I felt abstaining was a better option. My faith is based on relationship, not hollow rules and traditions. Why would Lent be an exception? I felt good in this decision year after year, especially when one year a roommate bragged about how easy it was for her to give up sugar while she poured a glob of honey onto a strawberry.

Which leads me to now, the year I gave up something for real. This year I chose to participate in Lent because my soul and my habits needed a recalibration. Somewhere between endless free time and desperation I fell into the pit of hours of binge watching to the point of losing almost all of my energy. The red flag for me was when it took me just over a week to get to season 5 on 2 separate shows. Not a proud moment, but the moment I said, “I have a problem.”

What do I mean by recalibrate? I just felt off. I’ve been in a relationship with Jesus for 12 years; We’re at the point when I can just sense something before he says something – we’re that close. After 6 hours of one show I just felt… gross. I would look up and notice the sun had set and I felt like I wasted my day (that had started at 11 am). And I would do that for 3 and 4 days in a row. I would sit for 20 minutes to kind of listen to God, maybe read my Bible (*gasp* I know), and maybe pray a quick sentence for someone. Then I would rush to catch up on Liz Lemon’s life, only to sit there through 8 episodes before moving again.

Basically, I’m using Lent as my intervention to focus back on Jesus. My initial reaction was to give up Netflix completely, but I realized if I was doing something for Jesus I wanted to get his input. So I prayed and asked him what he wanted me to give up. “Netflix is not the issue – binge watching is. I want you to focus on the root,” he responded. So that’s what I’ve given up – binge watching.

What does this look like? It looks like limiting myself to 1 episode of 1 show per day. So if I watch the latest episode of Survivor today, I have to wait until tomorrow to watch Leslie Knope get married. At first, this was SUPER difficult. It felt like torture because I had so many hours to fill in a day. But this wasn’t meant to be easy like pausing my gum addiction. It was meant to prioritize my time back on Jesus – be it reading, writing, praying, meditating, coloring, or exploring. A week went by and I rediscovered books. I learned my new library system is awesome and I can listen to a book a lot faster than I can read one. It’s also more fun when the author reads it, because it’s like they’re talking directly to you.

After two weeks I felt like more like myself, as if I had been a deflated version of myself prior and the Holy Spirit breathed life back into my being. It helps I finally have a job to go to (not every day), but I’ve also changed my priorities that I can go several days without watching any episodes. Plus, in the last month I have read/listened to 8 books. Clearly I still have a lot of time on my hands, but now I use it for good instead of wasting it.

Hope found in lyrics

Have you ever listened to a song on repeat, until the lyrics are forever burned into all corners of your brain? I can listen to a song on repeat for days and weeks on end. When the world moved on from Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” I made it my ringtone, to ensure no one around me would forget the gold that this song is. I choose songs based on their lyrics, their beat, or how they make me feel. Sometimes I will listen to a song until the emotion (such as sadness or anger) has subsided, as if with each repeat a little more emotion has escaped me.

In times of deep sorrow and big questions I am somehow always brought back to Gungor’s “Beautiful Things.” It starts with the lyrics

all this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change
at all

In that place, I deeply connect with these lyrics. It’s as if someone else has joined me in the pit of confusion, giving words to my feelings. But the lyrics don’t allow me to stay there – they remind me to look up and remember hope.

all around
hope is springing from this old ground
out of chaos life is being found
in you
you make beautiful things
you make beautiful things out of the dust
you make beautiful things
you make beautiful things out of us

 

The first time I listened to this song on repeat I was sitting in an airport, trying to drown out the noise around me and focus my thoughts from the previous 48 hours. 6 years ago I felt defeated and unsure what to do next. I had flown from Reno, NV to Kansas City, MO to meet a missions team moving to France and decide if I was a good fit. It was a 5 year commitment, but I was desperate to be outside of the U.S. I thought desperation could eventually overpower my general dislike for most French people and the French language. Maybe I could change once I was there? Confronted with a team of 5 people genuinely in love with all things France it was clear I wasn’t a good fit.

I remember sitting at a large table in a small room, talking with the board and new CEO of the organization, all of us aware I wasn’t going to France but uneasy how to start that conversation. It was suggested I begin discipleship under someone trusted in my church, and maybe travel for longer than two weeks before committing to five years.

So there I am, at the airport, sad to be stuck in the States without a clear plan and the intimidating assignment of asking someone to disciple me. It felt like I was sent back to square-one. I put on my headphones and selected a premade mix of songs to try to make myself feel better. Slowly, the lyrics from Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” started to play.

I listened to that one song, on repeat, for my entire 6 hour flight. I didn’t gain answers, but I felt ok to be sad and reminded not to give up. It took me 2 weeks to muster the courage to ask Kelly to disciple me. She is a powerhouse of a woman – confident in the Lord and how the Lord made her, not afraid to take charge or call you out on your crap. I spent 2 years working with her – studying and memorizing scripture, reading so many books on all things Christianity and missions, and being challenged in my thinking of myself and the world. She was the one who told me to just leave and go on a missions trip already. Fast forward to my 11 month trip with the World Race, ultimately working for that organization for 2.5 years.

When things fell through after moving to WA, I again stumbled across this song. I was reminded of how things worked out for the best, despite being vastly different from the story I had written for myself. I felt sad, but I felt hope for the unknown. I may have taken 2 steps back instead of 2 steps forward. I may be rerouting my life currently, but I’m also redefining happiness and finding newfound freedom. What do you do when life pushes you down like a bully in the sandbox?

 

you make beautiful things out of the dust
you make beautiful things
you make beautiful things out of us

Dear Dad

I know you’re reading this because mom told me you check this site every morning. I have always found writing to be easier than speaking, and there are a lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you. I wrote this, not expecting things to change between us, but so that I can finally let go of my resentments.

I have carried a lot of hurt and anger because of you – towards myself and you – and I have always felt like I’m a terrible daughter for doing so. You cared for my physical needs in abudance but left my emotional needs with a huge defecit. I craved to be told I was beautiful and talented by you, to have a heart connection with you, and to find security and stability in you. Instead, I was told I was fat and given endless examples of how I wasn’t good enough, we argued over big and small issues with little resolution, and I never knew when you were going to switch from calm to angry.

Looking back, I really believe I was made to be a daddy’s girl. I naturally clung to you, deeply valued your opinion and thoughts, and honestly wanted to know you as a person. I think that’s why it hurt so deeply when you pushed me away, criticized my dreams, pointed out my faults, and put a wall up between us. I wanted us to share stories of our lives together, not just the books I checked out from the library. I wanted us to hold plans for the future together, not just hands as I crossed the street. I wanted you to protect me from the scary things in life, not become one of the monsters I feared the most.

I wasted a lot of time trying to predict your mood swings, thinking if I could figure out the formula I could make our home peaceful instead of the minefield it felt like. At the age of seven I took it upon myself to protect my mom and sister from your verbal attacks, thinking I could save them from the sting of your words. We were, and are, all high feelers – meaning we are affected by more than just words. We can pick up the tensions and moods of a room, a movie, or a song. We can feel a depth to words that includes both intent and meaning, and filling the rooms in our hearts, rather than bouncing off of us.

I didn’t know how to articulate myself then, to express my deepest needs and desires. I didn’t know how to say, “I want less ‘you’ and more ‘us.'” I wanted more memories of smashing sleeves of saltines for your late night snacks, going to the library for new books every Saturday, walking through the zoo and making sure we saw elephants and hippos, and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted fewer fights, fewer threats, and fewer tears.

I don’t know if I told you, but my first semester at college I tried saltines and milk; I thought it was gross. I also got counseling when I was in college. I had spent so many years stuffing my feelings down, trying to be tough like you, all in hopes you would want to spend more time with me. I honestly thought I had let you down by being born a girl instead of a boy, too. I tried so hard to make you proud of me, and I fought so much for you to respect me. I blamed myself for failing so much of the time.

I’ve spent a lot of time receiving counseling and inner healing, unraveling my pain from the facts of my past. I’ve forgiven you for a lot, but not for everything. I’m working on it. I’ll get there.
I wrestled with whether to post this or not, afraid of what you might say or think and afraid to hurt mom all over again. This isn’t about pointing fingers or pushing blame; It’s about being honestly transparent. I’m over pretending I’m ok, hiding how I really feel, and lying to myself that it wasn’t that bad. I want others to feel safe to share the broken and messy parts of their lives with me, but I know that level of honesty starts with me. And my biggest, deepest wounds come from the brokenness in our relationship.

Under the covers

When I was younger I was terrified of thunderstorms. Light rains turned into heavy rains with high winds, followed by a low rumble of thunder off in the distance. As it neared, lightning began to dance across the sky and reminded my small town of its power to destroy us. The winds continued to pick up speed and join in this violent orchestration, and I waited anxiously for the tornado sirens to sound. Under the covers, my heart beat wildly in anticipation for the tornado warning, as if my panic was excused if the sirens wailed. All I knew in those moments was he sooner the alarm sounded, the sooner the storm would pass, and the sooner this high alert energy would dissipate.

Thunderstorms threatened that a bigger monster was just around the corner. The culmination of sights and sounds seemed to snarl, “You think this is big and scary? Just wait until my cousin Tornado shows up!” That threat prowled around my thoughts each and every storm until I was choked by my own anxiety. When the storm finally moved on, the taunting ceased and the grip of anxiety was released.

As an adult, this fear of thunderstorms remains. I continue to choose to quietly hide under the covers, close my eyes, and wish the storm away. In a sense, I do the same thing when the storms of life approach as well. Sometimes there are the light rains of trouble and pain, and you wonder, “Is more coming?” While other times the downpour appears with no warning and you’re trapped outside in the storm.

I wish that, like a storm, the hard stuff in life would pass overnight instead of dragging on for weeks and months at a time. But I’ve noticed in these weeks and months in the rain that I’ve become more open about sharing my feelings of pain, confusion, lostness, and heartache. I’ve stopped trying to lessen them, or cover them up, and pretend that I’m ok.

What is it that makes sharing these thoughts and feelings so difficult? Why are the things that sting our hearts and make us cry, that make us question life and direction and purpose, also cause us to look at the floor when we finally decide to share them? Why do we walk around so clenched with secrets, trying to be perfect all the time?

For me, I don’t like appearing weak. Growing up, weakness was teased, mocked, and a reason why I was silenced or dismissed. As an adult, I’m relearning the truth about my weaknesses and the reasons to stop hiding them from people. When I share my shortcomings, fears, and hurts with someone I create a bridge of connection with them.

Pretending I never have needs, concerns, or cravings isolates me from those around me. I create walls with no point of entry, whereas acknowledging these things extends a hand out for someone else to take hold of. Me saying, “You know… I’ve been feeling a lot lonelier than I expected since moving here,” creates a space for us to connect. It opens a new opportunity for you to feel comfortable talking about your fear of losing your job or sharing the pain of your most recent breakup. We were never meant to carry these burdens alone, or hide in the shadows with our shortcomings. Let us be the ones who share openly and honestly about our storms when they happen, so that others feel welcome to share as well. Let us stop hiding under the covers and wishing it all away.