Monday, August 10, 2015

perk #16 - making the most crazy dreams come true

So it's been quite a while since my last post, but I felt like it was important to share an incredible opportunity that the Lord has given me. This opportunity would never have been possible if, as a nearly 29 year old woman, I was married with children. And I really wanted to encourage any other single folks out there to maybe think about doing the same thing I'm about to do if you are dying for an adventure and for life to just take an unexpected, but wonderful, turn. Have I got you curious yet?

Ok, so here it is. I have been at my same job for 4 and a half years, and have worked for the same company for nearly 6 years. I have been trying to applying for jobs in a new city because I felt like the time was right to move on. However, nothing was working out. I applied for lots of jobs that I am completely qualified for, but no call backs. It was very frustrating, confusing, and a little strange if I'm being honest. A couple of the jobs I would be perfect for, and I didn't even get an interview. Hmm. "What do I do Lord? I don't want to stay here, but what now?" I asked myself as another rejection email popped up in my inbox. I reached out to my cousin for some encouragement, and she asked me what I've always wanted to do, and to think outside the box. Long story short, that night as I tried to fall asleep, frustrated, sad, and at my wits end, it came to me. So obvious, and so is the time to spend that year overseas that you've always dreamed of doing.

Can I really do this? Should I do this? I'll be making practically nothing compared to having a secure, salaried job. But the idea took root. The next morning, I Googled positions teaching English overseas. The first company I found was legit. And after browsing through their job opportunities, I decided that instead of teaching English, I'd be an au pair. I love kids, the au pair positions included room and board, so I thought why not? I requested information about the au pair program in France, and within an hour I got an email from my first point of contact. The next day we spoke, she asked me a few questions to gauge my qualifications, and by that evening I had the initial application filled out and my first down payment made. Over the next few weeks, I had a lot of documents to compile, and the costs of getting everything together was a bit more than I expected, but in very unexpected ways, God has provided everything I needed every step of the way, and way way faster than I expected. I still have more to do, but I'm trying not to be overwhelmed and instead remember that God has made this process so clear and so easy so far, and He will see it through to the end.

I have created another blog that will document the rest of the process of getting to France. Within the last few days, I have received my family placement, which just happens to be in Paris and I could not be more thrilled that I will be spending the next year of my life in the City of Light. Follow my journey at!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

perk #15 – a less complicated life

It has been said that the beginning part of a relationship is the most carefree, exciting, and easy. Maybe that is true of young singles, those still in college or maybe those just finding their footing in their first full time job, when nothing really seems serious, and it may be easier to believe that the next person they date could be “the one.” Going to a Christian college and living in the same town after graduation, I’ve seen so many marry young. I’m not saying that is a good or bad thing. The point I want to draw with this post is that as a single person, the older you are, the messier life can become. Some lives are more complicated than others, it’s true, but if you’re single and have been firmly planted in the real world for quite some time, you develop a level of independence that can only come when you just have yourself to take care of. Life can throw some serious trials when finding this independence, and the result is a person with baggage. We all have baggage, but in many cases the baggage will be heavier as we get older for many different reasons.

I think as you get older you also know yourself better. If you’re like me, maybe at some point you had this realization that not everything about yourself is so great, and it is going to take work to control certain unsavory personality traits that may be detrimental in relationships with friends, family, or a significant other. And to be honest, I think it is easier to deal with those things as a single person. As a single person, there are occasions when these things can be worked through internally, and therefore, privately. But in a relationship, not only are you having to be vulnerable in a way you can’t always prepare for, but that other person will eventually see those faults surface, and when that happens, it can be emotionally and mentally challenging. I think it’s easy to forget how selfish our human nature can be until we are in a position where we can no longer hide from the truth.

A relationship is taking two independent, sinful, selfish by innate nature individuals and merging their lives into one. That requires time, effort, hard work, give and take, vulnerability, understanding, patience, self-control. I’m not saying any of this is bad. It is a stretching experience and I think we can gain so much from what relationships have to offer. God created relationships, after all, which means the work that goes into them is meant to make us better people. But there will be dark and difficult days in relationships, just like there are when we are single. There is no light switch that turns the darkness to light the moment someone walks into your life. Life will be relatively similar to how it is now. You’ll still work and do many of the same things, but then you will have to consider another person’s feelings and needs in addition to your own.

The older and more independent you are, that is going to be a challenge. I am very independent. I’m used to doing the things I want when I want to do them. But relationships change things, especially when they progress and become more serious. As a single person, life can still be complex and difficult, but it is going to be far less complicated than when your life is merged with another’s life. More decisions and more compromises await. I am in no way anti-relationship. I think relationships can be a very good thing. But I also don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that some long awaited relationship is going to bring out the sun and it will just stay shining forever. When that day comes, get ready for some hard work. In the meantime, if you are single, realize that as much as it may not feel like it now, life is more carefree and less complex as a single person than when a relationship eventually comes along. Recognize it now, and appreciate the beauty of a less cluttered mind. It is a gift from God. Truly.

I want to segue into some self-reflection. One year ago this month, I started this blog. If I’m being honest, I started it to convince myself that singleness is not a punishment from God, but there is purpose and beauty in it. I didn’t believe it. I thought I was doing something wrong or missing some clue from the Lord as to what I needed to change in order to transition into the next stage of life. When I began to write, it was like I was writing to myself, willing myself to believe the words pouring out of me. I know that God was showing me something I needed to learn at a particular moment in time, and those lessons became the perks that I’d write about. Slowly over time, I truly did begin to appreciate this time that I have. Not just appreciate it, but actually loved it to the point that I remember once asking myself…do I really want a relationship right now? I’m not saying I became against the idea of being in a relationship and all of the sudden I wanted to stay single forever. But I believe God truly transformed my heart and helped me find real joy in the singleness stage. I’m not saying it’s been smooth sailing. There were rough and lonely days. But looking back over these 15 perks, I can see that God wasn't holding out on me, He was giving me a gift that I was too blind to see.

I have had so many people in the same life stage approach me about this blog. I should have realized that the world is full of people going through the same stage, but I felt very isolated until I began publicly sharing these posts. Although I am so thankful that somehow these words have been a source of encouragement to many, this is, after all, my journey and lessons the Lord has taught me specifically. If you are still not convinced that being single is a gift, then I encourage you to start your own journey and ask the Lord to reveal the benefits of this stage to you. Keep a journal, start a blog, whatever it takes. It will take time, and if you’re stubborn like me, a lot of overcoming the misconceptions about singleness. But if you will honestly open yourself up to it, the Lord will help show you how this stage is actually a good thing in your individual life. He is faithful, and He has His purpose for this chapter of life. We need to just trust that He isn't going to withhold any good thing from us without a very good reason, and I’m not just talking about withholding a relationship. He will not withhold any good thing from us….that includes a season of singleness. I understand the difficulty in being thankful for being single. But picture the Lord standing in front of you, telling you that He will not withhold this gift of singleness from you, because it is good, and it has purpose and beauty. You just need to have the resolve to see it, and He is ready and willing to show you if you ask. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

perk #14 – free to be me

Ideally, when you meet the right person, you will feel like you can be completely yourself, and your significant other will love you for every part of you, quirks and all. But from the perspective of a single person, I can honestly say I’ve felt like there couldn’t possibly be another person walking this earth that would just get me completely, and I’d be understood and adored for all the things that make me who I am. Have you ever wondered to yourself if there is someone out there that would just get you? If you're like me, then you ask yourself that question all the time. I’m not really talking about the flaws that each of us possess and need to work through to be better versions of ourselves. I’m talking about personality traits that make an individual unique.

Let me share an example from my own life to really drive home what I mean. My sister and I have the ability to reach a level of ridiculously silly behavior that would probably alarm most people. She gets me, and I get her, and I could share story after story of funny things we’ve done or the level of nerdy excitement we can reach when discussing certain things…such as our upcoming trip to Harry Potter world in January. There have been times when my sister, my mom, and I have hung out and out of nowhere we are talking in a British accent for no apparent reason. Many people would probably think we’re crazy if they were in the same room with us for too long, but we love how fun we are when we’re together. I use this example because I am probably the most myself around her than I am with anyone else in this world. I can abandon all sense of formality, and embrace the joy and laughter of the moment.  But I have to admit, there have been times in the middle of us doing something silly that I’m thinking…”would the person I end up with think I’m a complete idiot, or would they embrace this and play along?” I don’t want to change who I am to be what I think someone would want me to be. Accept the crazy silly me, or move along.

I can think of other less extreme examples as well. My love for musicals, antiques, history, and travel, for instance. I can become totally immersed in all of these things and even if the same interests are not shared, I wonder if someone will appreciate that these are things that make me truly happy, and will at least admire the love I have for them and will be interested enough to understand that love. I wonder if I will be able to fully explain how I see the world, the beauty I find in the smallest things, and if I will be able to discuss my relationship with the Lord to someone that will want to know that part of me on the most intimate level. I’ve said before that I love to put myself in someone else’s shoes to see the world from their point of view. I often wonder if someone will feel that way about me. It’s easy to tell a single person “of course you’ll find that!” But when you are single, and there isn’t a tangible person in mind, it’s harder to believe that someone could truly know and understand who you are.

I’ve seen people who change quite a bit when they find their significant other, losing parts of their personality that made them special. That’s sad to me. You should never have to change your personality to fit another person’s idea of who you should be. I know that seems obvious, but when you grow to really like someone, I think there is a part of us that would alter whatever we had to in order to stay with that person, even fundamental elements of who we were created to be. This is an extreme example, but I know it happens. I’ve seen it.

So how is this a perk of being single? I’ll tell you. If you’re single, then you don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks, and you can take the time to truly appreciate the person you are, someone who was lovingly crafted by God. When you do something that is completely you, you’re not wondering if that person is thinking “where’s the nearest exit?” You are naturally going to hold back a little when you meet someone until there is a level of trust to start showing more and more of your quirks. But if that’s not the case right now, then be as silly or nerdy as you want to be, do the things that make you happy, and fall in love with what makes you unique.

Maybe you’ve never really sat down and thought about the awesome things about yourself. Maybe you should. Make a list. I’ve done it. After a particularly difficult day, someone encouraged me to write down all the things I appreciated about myself. Looking at them on paper made me more confident about the person I am, and made me realize that those were qualities someone else would appreciate one day too. Something I wrote down was how excited I can get over the littlest things. I’ve had people that have pointed this out to me, and it made me love that part of myself even more. Allow God to show you all the ways He made you special. Pray for God to reveal those things to you, write them down, and look at them often. I’ve never had someone tell me that I would have to change something before a man would be interested in me. But I know there are people out there who have had someone along the line tell them that if they don’t modify this or that, then they will be single forever. That’s bull. Don’t believe it. Realize that you don’t need to tone your personality down or change anything about you that makes you who you are. Embrace it, because it’s going to be beautiful to someone one day that will totally appreciate you to your very core.

In addition to personality traits, there is one other thing I wanted to address. In this day and age, there are a million ways a person can screw up. I am no exception. There are probably skeletons in your closet that you worry will make someone run from you as fast as they can. If the Creator of life, who loves you so much he died for you, can forgive whatever past you may have, then it doesn’t matter what any future significant other thinks. You only need God’s forgiveness, and once you have it, if someone in your future can’t forgive your past and look beyond that to who you truly are, then let them walk away. They don’t deserve you. The past can’t be changed, but the Lord does not hold it over our heads. So if someone thinks they have the right to not forgive something that God already has, they are essentially prideful enough to believe their opinion is higher than the Lord’s, which is probably one of the most dangerous things a person can do. I’m not saying that parts of your past won’t be difficult to work through, depending on the circumstances, but the right person will be willing to accept what is done, and will love you anyway. Your past is a part of you, but it’s not what defines you. Let your past be used for good, and don’t be fearful that you’ll be alone forever because of it. God will bring the right person along at the right time, and when that happens and you see that someone will still love you in full knowledge of your past, it’s like God voice whispering to you that the past is over and you need to forget it because He already has.

There is someone out there for everyone. I can’t imagine you could be truly happy if you felt like you were hiding parts of yourself. So don’t. If someone can’t look at you and think you are the coolest person ever, then why on earth would you want to be with that person? Don’t change who you are to be someone else’s idea of who you should be. Appreciate who you are now and what makes you awesome, and only enter a relationship if that person can appreciate those things, too. And for the time being, have fun being yourself during this season when you don't have to worry about what anyone else thinks. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

perk #13 – deep friendships with the opposite sex

As I start to write this post, I’m not even entirely sure what I want to say or what title to even give this perk, but it has been the single post idea that has been rolling around in my mind for the last month. It is a realization that I’ve always known, and have had to deal with in the past, but for whatever reason it has resurfaced, and it has made me truly thankful I don’t have to deal with it at this current chapter of my life. So let’s see if you singles can empathize with this…

Have you ever been in a relationship and your friendships with the opposite sex have been forced to change or in extreme cases cut out entirely? I have, and to be honest, I understand why. I truly do. But that doesn't make it easy. I’ve always gotten along better with guys than with girls.

Don’t get me wrong, I have many amazing female friends, and I don’t know what I’d do without them. But even the female friends that are closest to me I can safely say are similar to me in that respect. We think alike and tend to gravitate toward relationships that are more straightforward, honest, and less dramatic. I’ve been told by guy friends before that I’m low maintenance and blunt, and it’s true. I’m not saying I never get worked up, and I’m not saying I’ve never found myself in the midst of drama. What I’m trying to say is that I appreciate that guys tend to be less “let me sugar coat the truth” and more “this is what I’m thinking.” I appreciate honesty. Tactful honesty…truth spoken in love…but honesty, nonetheless. I know this is probably an over-generalization, but it’s how men and women are hardwired, that’s no secret. There is a reason I seek the counsel of both men and women when I need advice. I want a well-rounded response, and men tend to be more realistic and pragmatic. When I’m seeking counsel, I want pragmatic. I am the type of personality that can see a chain reaction of events and adjust what I’m doing knowing what will happen if I stay on a specific course. So all of that to say, I appreciate my female friends and I couldn’t be without them. However, I rely on my male friends as well, and I need them in my life. So back to why I am telling you all of that. Being single means I can keep all of my guy friendships exactly as they are. That is, until one or the other begins a new relationship.

One thing I’ve always done ever since I was a kid was to wonder what life was like for other people. I’d see people out at stores, at work, school, wherever, and I’d wonder who they were, what hurts they had, what kind of home they were going back to, what they wanted to do in life, etc. I’m just interested in people and getting to know them. I want to know what makes them tick, I want to know what they love and what they can’t stand. I’m just fascinated by all different types, and I want to hear their stories and try to slip on their shoes so I can see the world from their point of view for just a little while. Why do I think like this? I don’t really know, but it’s something I like about myself. I love getting to know people. I have my close friends, yes, but I like to make new friends and get to know new people all the time. Some of those questions may come across as personal, and I suppose they are, but who doesn’t like it when someone sits down and asks “Who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you want in life?” If someone is that interested in your life and just wants to get to know you, who would turn those questions down? Not many. Except perhaps….people in relationships.

When you’re in a relationship or married, I completely agree that you have to have boundaries, be careful and above reproach, and respect the feelings of the person you are with, and I have no qualms with that at all. But here I am, single, and it’s hard for me to imagine having to essentially give up or drastically change that innate curiosity, at least with guys. My guy friends are just that…friends…and those friendships mean as much to me as my female friends. I truly believe that God did not create us to only build meaningful relationships with our same gender. But what an interesting conundrum that follows when we find the one person with whom we are going to spend the rest of our lives. The closeness and intimacy of those relationships with the opposite sex are now pulled away, and we are trapped in this state of wishing those relationships would never change, but also understanding why they need to. I’ve been in the position of being the friend who has to be pulled away from, and also the one who has to pull away. Necessary as it may be, I’m happy I don’t have to deal with that right now. I can get to know anyone at any depth that naturally forms in the friendship.

On the other hand, I am not a fool to think that feelings will never form on one side or the other. I’ve been in both positions on that as well. But does that mean we should never try to develop friendships with the opposite gender for fear of what could happen? Honestly, I used to think the answer to that question should be “yes,” without exception. In the Christian world, they use the phrase “guard your heart” to discourage this, but I don’t think that’s what this verse is really referring to (a whole other discussion). But now, I don’t believe this to be true. For us single folks, how can we possibly know when getting to know someone if that is going to happen and the friendship will fizzle out? What if that person becomes a great friend and it is 100% platonic? I certainly don’t want to miss out on great friends, and I certainly don’t want all my friends to be female. Personally, I don’t think that makes a well-rounded person. But that’s just my opinion. I have a lot of great guy friends that have and always will be just friends. And I’m thankful for them.

If you knew ahead of time that a friendship would end because of  feelings not reciprocated, would you choose to miss out on the opportunity to get to know someone new, and probably someone really awesome? Would you decide that it was not worth forging what would ultimately be a temporary friendship? I don’t know that I would. I enjoy getting to know people regardless of whether or not they will be in my life forever. But honestly, not many people will be in our lives forever. Forever is a long time, and will probably be reserved for family and our future spouses. And that’s ok. But I don’t want to look back and think of all the people I didn’t get to know out of fear that it would not end up being the one person I end up marrying. Besides, we don’t have the foreknowledge to know if that friendship will last or if it will become something more or less, so how else are we singles supposed to determine who we truly connect with if we aren't getting to know people as friends? And if feelings do happen on one side and not the other, chances are it’ll be obvious early on if you are the one not interested. So then what? How about tell the truth. (Perish the thought!) Be honest, say why, and if the friendship has to change, then that’s ok. Are you sorry you got to know a new person? I doubt it.

Forging these friendships with the opposite sex is much more difficult when you are in a relationship. Not impossible, but it’s definitely not going to be the same. You could truly have no feelings whatsoever, and neither does the other person, but it can still be tricky when you have to be sensitive of the feelings and wishes of your significant other. As a person who truly loves to get to know people below the surface level, it’s going to be really hard for me one day to realize that I can’t just ask whatever I want to whomever I want with the purpose of getting to know who they truly are.

We were created to have relationships with people, not cower away from the opposite sex because we’re afraid our intentions will be misunderstood, or because we don’t think it’s worth it because there’s no gain for ourselves. Who says it’s about us? Maybe getting to know someone, male or female, is something that other person needs. Maybe you've been through a similar situation that person is dealing with and you can offer the same comfort God has given you (this happened to me the other day with a guy I barely knew). You just don’t know. You have no idea what your presence in someone’s life will mean, even if it is just 5 minutes.

Everyone has a story and I want to know as many as I can. It’s just how I’m wired. I want to know who a person really is, the good and the bad. I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about how that comes across right now. I don’t have to be sensitive to the feelings of a significant other just yet, and I can just talk to people and get to know them without feeling guilty or self-conscious. Don’t be afraid to get to know someone because you’re afraid you might have to have the “I’m just not into you like that” conversation. You may never have to have that conversation because it’s understood on both sides where you stand. Or hey, better yet, you meet the person that is going to be your significant other. If the friendship passes, that’s ok. You met a unique person walking this earth who matters, and the connections and relationships we form in this world matter, regardless of the length of time you knew someone. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

perk #12 – living alone

I haven’t lived on my own for a few years now, and I had forgotten what it felt like. I have now owned my house for a year, and until last month I had roommates. It has only been a few weeks, but I now remember how liberating it feels to have my own place. I love it, especially as a homeowner, not a renter.

I love coming home knowing that I can chill after a hectic day and just sit on my couch or my porch swing, not speak, and relax reading a book or watching TV. But it’s more than just having the house to myself. Owning and caring for a house by myself is empowering. I take such pride in maintaining my house. I feel productive doing yard work, or cleaning inside. I love being handy and fixing things around the house myself. I’m the girl that looks for a reason to bust out my hammer or my electric drill. It makes me feel like Rosie the Riveter. 

Then there is the really fun stuff…decorating. I can consult my plethora of Pinterest boards, and do as many projects as I want. No second opinions, no deciding what to do with the extra bedrooms, I can make my decision and run with it.

People have asked me on many occasions when I’ve lived alone before if I get lonely or bored. The answer is no, I don’t get lonely or bored. I see people and hang out with friends all the time. And I love being able to have my friends over to my house for hang out nights. I’ve always loved being the hostess. But I also love being able to come home and relax by myself. It’s important to have quality time alone. June was a ridiculously busy month at work, and I had very little free time outside of work to be alone and recharge after a long day. So for those particular times, I love that I can have some peace and quiet. In fact, there was one day a few weeks ago when I turned off my phone, and stayed home all day, catching up on housework and enjoying my alone time after having none in over 2 weeks. It was exactly what I needed.

I highly recommend to any singles to look at buying a house. You have no idea how much of a learning and growing experience it is until you try it. Yes, things will break and money will be tight at times, but that will happen whether you’re married or not, and when you come out of those times, it’s so awesome to feel proud that you overcame the challenge. And I know that the knowledge I’ve gained in just one year will help me in the long run when I own another home, or get married and buy a house with someone else.

Living alone and owning a home have taught me a lot about life and how to take care of myself, and I’m so grateful for the experience. I’m thankful that my dad encouraged me to buy a house, and that it wasn’t something I waited to do until marriage. Yes, having an extra set of hands and a dual income would be helpful when owning a home, but I actually like the challenge of relying on my own skills and budget. It’s a reality check when you realize that it’s up to you to allocate your money, keep up with the house, and most importantly, make sure that you develop and maintain relationships so that you don’t become a loner (not a good thing).

Living alone may not be for every single person. If you do currently live alone and you find yourself becoming isolated from the outside world, perhaps it’s time for you to widen your social circle. How you ask? Well, that’s up to you really. One of the ways I found was to host one of our church’s community groups at my house, and I joined another. I met a bunch of new people that way, and many of those people turned into great friends. Or get out of your comfort zone by asking people you work with or go to church with to hang out. That sounds so simple, and I don’t want anyone thinking “this is so obvious, why is she telling me this…” because it was a challenge for me this year. I wrote a previous post about widening my social circle, and at that point, I had a lot of room to grow in this area. Now looking back, I realize I took my own advice and made some new friends just by asking some awesome girls I work with if they wanted to hang out and have a girls’ night. I had never hung out with them before, but I thought they were cool people, so I took the initiative. Now, I have some great new friends. Same with the community group I host. Our group became so tight knit that we were all just in awe of how much we had grown to care for each other, and we can’t wait to start up again in the fall. All of that combined has made me busy, in a very good way. But it makes me all the more grateful I live by myself. I can fill my week with hang outs and get togthers, but I can always come back to a quiet place for some “me” time. And on days like I had a few weeks ago when I need to shut out the world for the sake of my mental health, I can. No need to organize plans or coordinate a time to spend alone, I just shut off my phone and no one can get to me. I can hear myself think, and I can do whatever I want. No one is waiting for me, and no one is wondering where I am and when I’ll be back. I’m free to do as I please.

I know this perk is not as in depth as many of my other recent posts, but I feel it is just as important. When you get married, you will never live alone again. There will always be someone around. That sounds awesome in some ways, but then again that may be a huge change for those of us that are single young professionals. I think of how independent I am and I realize I am thankful for the time I have now to just be me and have my own place. I am in no way opposed to marriage and having someone around the house for the rest of my life, but it’s nice knowing that this actually is a gift from God for this season in my life. I could look at it in a negative way and let it make me feel lonely, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as a positive, growing, challenging, and relaxing gift. I hope that this encourages those of you that may live alone and think that this is not how you would prefer things. Make some new friends or be better about getting together with old friends, and you will quickly be grateful for your little oasis you can retreat to at the end of the day for some good old R&R.