Thursday, January 29, 2015

To My 22-year-old Self

The Comment: 
I find myself (at 22) hitting that point in life where it seems that everyone I know is either A) Married, B)engaged, or C) in a serious relationship. I am still in school for my Bachelors, and the pressure is high to find someone during this time and that "there's no other way." To confess, I have very high "husband" standards, but have gone out on several occasions with young men who I know don't share the same values, beliefs, and morals. I've had to ask myself the "why?" question, and I don't like what my answer is: it's usually along the lines of self-flattery and fun. 
guess what my question is is what advice would you give to your younger self (or any 22 year old woman) in your years of singleness to honor The Lord in your coping with loneliness, a sex drive, and maybe even a hard heart and pride to go along with it.
Initially, my response is to tell my 22-year-old self to calm the heck down because my future husband is currently only 17. Five years honestly doesn't feel like anything when I'm 30 and he's 25, but when I noticed at Christmas that his high school graduation occurred a year after my COLLEGE graduation, I had to pause.. 

But, really...
22-year-old self, here's what I would actually tell you: 

It's okay
Really. Truly. 
And, beyond okay, what you're entering into is better. Not better than all the young people who get married, but better for YOU right now. Because, 22-year-old self, you're going to learn that there's a whole lot more to life than marriage. You're going to learn how it's not the end goal of life. 

You're going to get to see the world.
You're going to get to be a part of changing people's lives.
You're going to get to sacrifice time, money, energy for the cause of Christ. Yes, you're going to fight it. No, you won't understand it. Yes, you'll battle loneliness. No, it won't destroy you. 

It's okay
Even on the nights when you convince yourself that you'll never find the right guy, when you declare your celibacy, when you question if your standards are too high... (after all, isn't it better to be with someone even if it's not the RIGHT someone?!). 

22-year-old self-- NO. 
He's probably somewhere (...maybe he's still in high school). 
And he's worth waiting for. He's worth a thousand broken hearts and hopeless teary nights. Because he's better than you ever thought possible. 

It's not worth the messing around physically or playing with boundaries. Those things are temporary, fleeting. The way he makes you feel in that moment? The arousal? The teasing? The big questions of how far is too far? Leave it behind. This isn't worth your time right now. Isn't worth your energy. Isn't worth the distraction. Your calling is greater than that. You are meant for more. 

22-year-old self...
You have bigger things to tend to. 
Discover who you are. Discover why you are the way you are. Figure out more about who the Lord is calling you to be and where He is leading you. 
And GO. 
Be willing.
Be obedient.
Run the race set before you. 

All of this love-y dove-y stuff will get sorted out.
Keep your high standards. Give guys a chance. 
But don't let them become your drive, your focus, your everything. Maintain priorities. Maintain focus. Maintain perspective. 

Just because it feels like the rest of the world is "passing you by", doesn't mean that it's true. Just because your path feels different, doesn't mean that it's worse. 

One day, you'll be thankful for the years of singleness.
One day, you'll wonder if you ever want to give them up. 
Because, one day, you'll know the beauty of a life lived in attempts to be more like Jesus. One day you'll recognize the ease that comes with making decisions, picking up and moving, finances, the opportunities that you're able to seize without having to make sure someone else is on board. 
One day you'll recognize that the life you got to live was better than you could have ever imagined for yourself, even if it's very different from what you ever thought you wanted.
One day you'll recognize how the Lord is far more faithful than you ever knew, especially when you doubted Him on those long, lonely nights. 

22-year-old self... you're going to get to live life to the full. You're going to get to grow up! 
Don't wish it a way.
Don't pine for something else. 
Dive in further into what the Lord has for you and trust that it is good. That He is good. His timing is perfect.
Forget the pressures around you.

Remember that a relationship status can never define you. 
Find your identity and your hope in the Giver of all good things--the One who saves, redeems and loves us beyond all comprehension. 

22-year-old self: 
There's more to life, and I can't wait for you to live it and learn from it. 

(And, let's be honest, I could probably say this same stuff to myself from ages 20-29. It's an ongoing battle as you seek to let go, trust, and walk into a purpose that's bigger and better all the while learning, growing and understanding more about who God is and who I am in the process...) 

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Birthday Questions

When I left graduate school after only a semester of being there, I knew I'd be hard to remember.

We've all had those people come into our lives for a short period...only to leave again, onto the next adventure. We say, "Remember that one girl who was here and wrote blogs about coffee dates and being single? What was her name again?"

As short as my time was in the Boston area, and as forgettable as I may have been to those I met and whom befriended me... it left permanent marks on me. They left permanent marks on me. Beyond Nick's Famous Roast Beef or ultimate frisbee on Saturday mornings, I walked away different. Challenged. Ready. Confident.

There was more out there and I'd finally gotten a taste of it.
Some of the best things I took away from there were: The Birthday Questions.

If I've been around you on your birthday in the last year and a half, you've probably gotten asked two questions. They were questions asked to me on my 29th birthday... questions that made me think, open up, and take a chance. I can't tell you where they originated, or even if these are the exact same questions that were actually asked (probably the case of the little game called "Telephone"), but I can assure you that I will ask some modification of them for a long, long time.

They are questions that some might ask themselves at New Year's, but I like the idea of asking them upon everyone's individual new year.
  1. What is the most important thing you've learned in the last year of your life?
  2. What is one thing you want to accomplish in the next year of your life? 
I've asked a lot of people these questions and gotten a lot of answers. Some people hate them. Hate thinking about it, hate giving an answer. Some people have too many things racing through their mind to just pick one. Some people are open, honest, thoughtful, insightful. Some people are outward thinkers, some people are inward thinkers. It's really quite fascinating. 

Most recently, it was my father-in-laws birthday. Fortunately, I was around him... and fortunately, I got to ask him The Birthday Questions. 

I've gotten some really great responses to the second question. Answers that are inspiring and beautiful. However, I don't think any response will ever be greater than the response my father-in-law gave. 

What is one thing you want to accomplish in the next year of your life? 

With no hesitation, he said, "I want to share the Gospel with more people than I ever have before." 

But profound. 
How could that not be the one thing I want to accomplish every year? And how could it not have ever been the thing that I immediately thought of when asked that question?

I was struck by the humility in it.
I was struck by the ownership and responsibility he was taking with the calling on every Christian's life. A calling I'm not as acutely aware of as I'd like to be, especially as I get wrapped up in all the things in life. All the "important" things. A calling that sometimes terrifies me. A calling that I sometimes turn from or avoid.

"I want to share the Gospel with more people than I ever have before."

How could anything else matter more?

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Woven Stories

Once upon a time there was a wedding... 

I think all girls want their wedding day to be special, unique, something to be remembered.  More than anything, I wanted my wedding to point to something greater than me. I wanted it to point back to Jesus and the greatest romance of all. 

I wanted our wedding to tell a story. The only story that really matters. 
I had this dream of using Scripture to tell that story. The story of lives that are broken, shattered, searching for something, seeking to fill the void...the story of one redeemed. The story of how Jesus can take a life, change it, and set it on a path that's continually filled with His goodness and faithfulness, even in the midst of running and doubting. 

It's an unbelievable story, yet it perpetually happens over and over again. Hopefully it's your story, too. 

Here's ours. It's what was read during our wedding ceremony by a older, wiser couple who has mentored us and loved us well. We hope you'll take the time to read, absorb, and let the truth of these words resonate within you deeply. 

Wife: I'm just a girl.
Made in the image of God.

Husband: I'm just a boy.
Made in the image of God.

Wife: He has shown me what is good. And what does the Lord require of me? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.
I didn't know what it would mean for my life or how it would define me.

Husband: Let me go to Him, for I am just a child.
I didn't know how much I would want Him or how much I would need Him.

Wife: I honored the Lord with my words, but my heart knew nothing of what it truly meant to be close to Him.

Husband: My parents trained me up in the way I should go, trusting that when I was old I would not turn from it….that in later days, I would return to the Lord my God and obey Him.

Wife: I was a white-washed tomb, a perfected Christian on the outside….but my insides were filled with decay and despair.

Husband: My heart became calloused, my ears deaf, my eyes closed….otherwise, I might have known. Otherwise, I might have been healed sooner.

Wife: I needed to see to believe. "Stop doubting and believe" He said… but I needed to see His hands, His feet…to touch His side…

Husband: "Come to me," He said to me, "Come to me, you who are weary. I will give you rest."  I didn't want to listen…I can do this on my own.

Wife: He spoke tenderly to me, reminding me that no one could snatch me out of His hands. I was His and He was mine.

Husband: I sought after my lovers, but I could not catch them. The castle I begun to build for myself crumbled around me.

Wife: I wanted love. I deserved love, I thought. He pleaded: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires"

Husband: I was lost…and He found me. He spoke life into me, "My son…you are always with me and everything I have is yours"

Wife: Lord, if you are willing… you can make me whole.  Help me love my enemies, help me give to everyone who asks… show me how to take the plank out of my own eye before constantly trying to remove the speck from my brother's…

Husband: I have been given a new heart and a new spirit. My heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh.

Wife: And yet I worried, and still He said: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires"

Husband: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

Wife: Lord, are you good? I keep waiting, I keep asking, I keep giving. Are you a dad who will give me a snake when I ask for a fish? And again You say: "Do not arouse or awake love until it so desires" I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him"

Husband: While I was still a sinner, He sent His son to die for me… I have found freedom in being led by the Spirit of God, reaping the gift of eternal life…longing to be obedient in all things for He has given when I have deserved nothing.

Wife: I've considered all things a loss compared to knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Everything else I consider garbage that I may gain more of Christ. I want to know Christ more. I need to know Him more…to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly…

Husband: I've learned to be content no matter my circumstances… in all things. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Both:  I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Wife: God is good.

Husband: All the time.

Both: You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides Him there is no other.

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