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. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

perk #11 – finding safe people

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reading a book that was recommended to me. This book has helped me to evaluate myself and the people in my life. It is called Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I am only about 1/3 of the way through it, but it has opened my eyes to so much, that I have been recommending it to everyone. I couldn’t decide what to write about for my next perk of my single life, and then I realized the answer was staring me in the face. This book has showed me the characteristics of “safe” and “unsafe” people, and which friends and relationships to allow to be closer than others. It has even shed light on past friendships and relationships, and I see more clearly than ever the character traits I should avoid in the future.

Before I go on, I should mention that this book will also make you evaluate yourself to determine how safe or unsafe you are to other people. I think that is essential to know how to be a good friend or future spouse, and not to only focus on finding the fault in others. We all have elements of being unsafe, but knowing what those things are will help us to change those behaviors and become safe people for those in our lives. But I want to write today from the perspective of finding safe relationships, and recognizing or removing unsafe relationships.

As a single woman in her late 20s, it would be easy for me to listen to the voices around me that wonder why I’m still single, and why I “can’t seem to find a boyfriend.” I have had many people tell me that my standards were too high and possibly unrealistic. I recognize that some singles may have unrealistic expectations of what a relationship will be, and they seem to be waiting for prince charming (or whatever the female version of that would be) who will treat them perfectly. But I also think those people will be waiting for a long time. When people open their mouth and say that mr. perfect doesn’t exist and I need to stop waiting for that, or I need to adjust my expectations of what a relationship is going to be like, I’m sorry, but I wish I could slap those people in the face and say “do you know me at all?” Perhaps these friends are unsafe to have in my life.

I know that perfect people don’t exist, and I know that there is no prince charming. There are fallen people in a fallen world. Relationships are messy and I have my own crap that I am terrified will be the reason someone will choose to not be with me. But I also know that I am loved by God and so is that person I’ll end up with one day, and that we will hurt each other, be selfish with each other, and it will be messy at times. But that’s to be expected with imperfect people, and that is what I expect in a relationship. So no, I’m not waiting for perfection, and those that think otherwise don’t know me as well as they think they do. These people in my life believe this is my mindset because I’m single and in my late 20s and don’t serial date like some other people I know. I am careful, and I consider hard who I could see myself being compatible with. But guess what? I haven’t found that person yet. Why? Because God has not placed that person in my life yet. If His timing is perfect, and He is perfect, and He knows me better than anyone ever could, then I know (even if I don’t like it sometimes) that I will not meet that person until He makes it so. My standards are not too high, I am not waiting for prince charming. I am waiting for God to put in my life a messy, fallen, human being that I will love dearly and with whom I will go through wonderful and difficult times. The safe people in my life remind me of this. They do not tell me what I may be doing wrong and that is why I am single. Instead, they point me to the Lord. They tell me to trust Him, that His timing is best, and offer words of encouragement about me as a person. Those are safe people, and that is who you need in your life too.

God has allowed people in my life that have failed me and treated me poorly. I have seen in retrospect, especially now after reading this book, that these people are unsafe. Because I have experienced the unsafe, I can clearly see who will be safe and what I need to do to be safe in a future relationship. Let me break down the characteristics of safe and unsafe people according to this book:

Unsafe People…
- can't admit their weakness, and think they have it all together.
- are defensive in relationships, instead of open to feedback.
- are self-righteous instead of humble.
- only apologize instead of changing their behavior.
- avoid working on problems instead of dealing with them.
- demand trust instead of earning it.
- can't admit their faults.
- blame others instead of taking responsibility.
- lie instead of telling the truth.
- are stagnant instead of growing both personally and spiritually.
- avoid closeness with others instead of connecting.
- resist the freedom of others to disagree or have their own opinion, have own goals, etc., instead of encouraging it.
- flatter us instead of confronting us on our issues.
- condemn instead of forgiving us and others for how we wrong them.
- act as our parent or our child instead of relating to us as equals.
- are a negative influence on us.
- gossip instead of keeping our secrets.

Safe People…
- are empathetic to our pain, and act on that empathy.
- draw us closer to God and encourage and contribute to our spiritual growth.
- draw us closer to others in our lives, instead of pulling us apart.
- help us become the real person God created us to be.
- show us grace in our failings.
- speak the truth to us in love.

These are obviously not the only characteristics of safe and unsafe people. And this book does challenge the reader to evaluate himself first, then determine who is unsafe in our lives, and to not forget Matthew 7:3 which says, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” We have a prime opportunity, my single friends, to use this time to take a hard look at ourselves so that we can become the safest person possible for our friends, family, and future spouse. Then after we evaluate ourselves, take a look at the relationships in our lives, whether that be with friends, family, past significant others, or new relationships that may be forming right now. Ask for the Lord to reveal the people in your life that may be doing more damage than good. It is not easy to lose people you care about, but ultimately, God is concerned with us being safe, and surrounding us with safe people. I can honestly say that against my will God has rescued me from unsafe people. I couldn’t see it at the time, but in each situation, I can see his provision and His protective hand over the daughter He loves very much. He has saved me from a future of unhappiness, and from people that didn’t have had my best interest at heart. And I am so thankful for that.

So pray hard, and be open to God revealing what you may not want to hear, but understand that He wants you to be surrounded by safety. Put boundaries where you need to. Try to repair friendships and relationships with openness and honesty if you can, or if the unsafe person is unwilling to change, ask the Lord for direction in replacing that person with a safe person. This is not easy. There is no way it can be. We are relational people and investing in the lives of others takes time, and when we realize that the time we gave was not a good investment to make, that puts us in a difficult position with a hard decision to make. I hope that all relationships can be repaired, and that the unsafe people in our lives will become safe people, because that is entirely possible. But we are also sinful creatures, and some people just will not change. That’s just a fact of life. But this is your life and well-being at stake. If you are interested in reading this book, please do, because there is so much more to this multi-faceted process than I can share in one blog post.

I truly hope that for those not currently in relationships, that this will help protect you from those you should avoid in the future by recognizing the subtleties that may not be apparent at first glance. For those that maybe are in relationships, I hope that you will find that the person in your life is a safe person, and if not, that the unsafe person will be receptive to doing what it takes to become a safe person for you. But if that person refuses to change, hopefully you will be able to remove that unsafe person from your life. That sounds harsh, and I don’t intend for it to be. But better to hurt for a little while now, then be in a marriage with an unchanging unsafe person that causes deeper and longer lasting pain later.

I know this was a heavier post, but I truly believe all people deserve to have safe, godly, loving people as their closest companions. I don’t like hearing stories about people who have been hurt by others who couldn't care less how they have hurt them. I may not know you all by name, but I do care that every one of you finds the best people for you and live happy (though sometimes messy) lives. If after reading this, someone immediately comes to mind, maybe that is the person to start with. Allow God to move those relationships in the way He feels is best, and though it may be painful, trust that He is trying to keep you safe. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

perk #10 – lighter baggage

We are precisely 4 months and 10 days into 2014. I remember sitting alone on my couch as the clock ticked down and 2013 officially slipped into the past, and I recall thinking as I always do on the eve of a new year “I hope this is my year.” What I was really saying was “God, let this be the year the next chapter starts.” I do wish for that often, even though through this blog I can honestly say that I have come to enjoy the privileges of being single. And as I reflect on the last 4 months and 10 days, I can see that through much hard work, so far, this is my year. This is the year I’ve gone to great lengths to do what I need to do to live a happier life. This year I’ve worked especially hard on lightening my baggage and sucking the poison out of my life. It has been difficult and painful, but I’ve had people on several occasions comment on how different I seem….happier.

Everyone has baggage. Everyone has parts of themselves that are broken from sin and all forms of grief. Some of this baggage could just be difficult decisions we have been postponing for whatever reason. Whether young or old, single or married, parents or childless, we all carry or have carried the weight of something inside. Some baggage may be dealt with on a daily basis, and some could have been dealt with long ago, or some may not have been dealt with at all. I am a big advocate of honesty. I believe that the truth can set a soul free, because no matter how heavy the load, the weight of it on a weary heart is worse than a lighter heart and facing whatever the consequences may be. I’m so thankful that no matter how heavy the load I’m carrying, no matter how afraid I am of what will happen when I release what’s holding me back, the Lord is there, whispering in my ear that He loves me, is there for me, and will carry the burden for me.

And I’m realizing that during this stage of my life, it would be prudent to begin to weed through the disheveled bits of my life and do what I can to lighten the load now instead of taking it all into a future relationship. I’m sure that there will always be some form of baggage no matter what stage of life I am in. But there are parts of me I can work on now, and I can be thankful knowing that I will be more ready for what lies ahead without it all weighing me down, especially the bits that would directly affect a future relationship. So that is what I’ve done this year. I’ve slowly removed things that needed to be removed, brought secrets into the light, forgiven myself and others for various things, and have tried to be more self-aware of things I daily struggle with. I have even developed a healthier lifestyle in a number of ways, which have made me a better version of myself. I have a long way to go, and in this journey of life, I will always have baggage for certain things that are my most common sins, and I do worry about the toll they could take if left unchecked in a marriage. But I can be thankful for the fact that I am doing all I can now while it is less complicated.

This year has been difficult. It is no easy task to reach inside the deepest parts of you and pull out and let go of the things that are really just shackles keeping us bound to the past. I don’t want to be bound by anything except Christ, the only person who can give me the strength and desire to be better, and who can reach down and release me from the shackles. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that freedom from certain things means loss of other things, sometimes important things. But I have to keep thinking forward. I have to remember that not only am I doing these things because they please the Lord and they need to be done, I am doing them for the person who I will spend the rest of my life with. After all, that person is the one that has to live with me, faults and all. That person is the one with whom I’ll be sharing the details of my life, baggage and all. And when that day comes, I want anything that could be a hindrance to our marriage to be as far removed from me as possible. I don’t want to have to tell my story with anything that is a present issue that shouldn’t be, and I want him to know that the daily sins I struggle with are things I strive to keep in check. Not only does the Lord deserve my best, but the man I marry does too. I don’t want to be that girl that let’s things slide, but expects the other person to have it all together.

This is my time to do as much as I can now, not sit idly in my comfort zone ignoring the skeletons in my closet. I want to be lighter, freer, to be the best version of me I can be, for myself, for whoever lies ahead, and most importantly, for the Lord. I don’t want to be a weak person who cannot pull free of the chains that bind me, but one that is strong and joyful and full of life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

perk #9 – a fork in the road

This past month has been a blur. A couple of hard weeks, a couple of good weeks, and a whole lot of God’s grace and love shown through friends and circumstances. I had a really hard time trying to figure out what I should write about next, and so I’ve decided to use this perk to talk about an opportunity God laid in front of me, and how it could open a new door and new phase of my life. I apologize in advance for the many twists and turns this perk will take, because the last month has been full of different lessons and realizations on top of a new opportunity. Somehow, it all ties together, but I’m still putting the pieces together in a way that makes sense to even myself. So here goes…

I’ve always been the type of person that has a bit of tunnel vision whenever I have an idea I am excited about. Ideas can take so much of my focus and energy, and I tend to not quit until I make those ideas reality. I’m stubborn, and I won’t take no for an answer if I really want something. Persistence. That’s what I remember my father once telling me my grandfather said about me as a child, but he said it in a way that foresaw it working to my benefit as an adult in the real world one day. I’d never be pushy…I can’t stand pushy people. I cringe at the idea of people talking me into something I don’t want to do. I’d never throw someone under the bus for my own advantage. I believe in fairness and justice. But yes, I am still stubborn and persistent. I’m talking mainly about getting to where I want to go. About not giving up on my goals and dreams. About working hard, and making it work.

There is one area that being persistent cannot help someone achieve what they desire, and that is a relationship. I’m not talking about a persistence that can arise when needing to make a current relationship work. Remember, I’m single. I can approach God’s throne a thousand times and ask for the same thing, but that persistence will never speed up His plan, or make something happen that is not yet meant to happen. I wish that was different, if I’m being honest. But all the persistence in the world can’t make something happen that He is not ready to do. That has been hard for me. Knowing my life is in his hands, and my future husband and children are in His timing. But what’s a girl to do? Stamp my foot? Point my finger and yell? Beg and plead through tears? Will that really move God to action? No. It won’t. Instead, He has moved me. Moved me to see the benefits of this time he has given me. It’s hard still, that won’t change. Unfilled desires will always pull deep in the innermost places of your heart, but still, He has moved me. I see the good in what I have now. I see the work He is trying to accomplish in me. I see the doors He has open for me, and beckoned me to walk through.

This open door is a business opportunity. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about leaving my current job. It is more of a side job, a way to make some extra cash with the extra time I have on hand. I have extra time because I am single. Not to say that I don’t know people in the same business with families, but talking about my situation, I have extra time. Plenty of it. Instead of filling my extra time with Netflix, God brought me to a fork in the road. The idea had me so confused and a bit distraught for about a week. But He wasn’t forcing me down one path or the other, He simply stood me at the fork, and let me choose. I have nothing to lose by staying on my current path. I can see generally where the current path will take me, which is not much different than where I’m at now. But down the other path, this new path, I see a world of opportunity. I see so much to gain, if I choose to go for it. One way isn’t more right than the other way.

But I think that’s how God works a lot of times. He gives us a choice at a fork in the road, and no matter what we choose, it’s up to us where our life goes. I think there are definitely times when there is a lot more riding on these choices and God will be explicitly clear on what He wants. But in some choices, like the one I made, if I chose one way or the other, my walk with the Lord would remain the same. It was just an option He was giving me. And I took the new opportunity. Who knows where it will take me, or how successful it will be, but He gave me a choice. This choice could mean a life of adventure and travel. It could mean relocating to a new and exciting place a few years down the road. It could mean a life of not being a slave to debt, but being able to save and invest and do so much.

It’s so odd what this new path has done already and I’ve barely gotten started. It has caused me to dream again. To dream big and long term. And it actually caused me to think…do I really want a relationship right now? Will I have to sacrifice these newly planted goals and dreams? What if the other person wouldn’t want to move? What if, what if, what if….. That may come off selfish, and like I wouldn’t be willing to compromise. I know I am willing and capable of compromise, but right now, there is no other person, so it’s hard for someone in my position to think of laying down those dreams as anything short of tragic. I don’t have a significant other to think of and have to talk to about these things. I don’t have to make decisions based on anyone’s wishes except mine and the Lord’s. I can make the choices I want.

A week ago in church was the first time I ever uttered these words to the Lord: “thank you for my singleness.” Honestly, these words were the result of my head exploding with ideas and the potential for so much in the next 2 or more years. But then I realized that God wouldn’t send someone my way if we had completely different desires. God wouldn’t lead a wife one way and a husband another. He just wouldn’t do that. My dreams and goals may not look exactly the same as I picture, but I have complete confidence that those desires will evolve and mold together with the Lord’s and with someone else’s. So yes, I still hope that love could be right around the corner, and I shouldn’t have to be afraid that all this hope for dreams fulfilled would falter because of a relationship. I just hope the man I marry is just as adventurous and up for new things as I am.

BUT…for the time being, I appreciate the fact that I can make plans that I want to see happen in my life. I can plan for what to do with my money, where to go after I leave this town, how often to travel, anything and everything is between me and the Lord. My adventurous spirit is soaring within me at the idea of freedom….freedom financially, freedom to actually be able to explore the world instead of just day dreaming about it, and about a hundred other things. My period of helplessness and uncertainty of where my life was going and when something new would come along is over, and I am so thankful for that. Whether that includes love in the near future, or not, is up to the Lord, but I’m ready for this new adventure. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

perk #8 – a quieter life

Well I did not intend to go this long without posting a new perk, but the last few weeks have been pretty busy. I love saying that though. I’ve been busy. I’ve been busy spending time with newer friends, traveling to see family, community groups, working out, work, and although it’s been a bit tiring, I’ve enjoyed being on the go. Winter and laziness have been my worst enemies, so I’m thankful that spring is FINALLY here and I’ve been more inclined to be out and about.

I decided a few weeks ago what I wanted to write about for this new post. It’s encouraging how God seems to open my eyes to something new to be thankful about during this stage when it’s time for me to get writing again. This time, He has pointed out the peace and quiet I can enjoy right now. This is more about the fact that I’m not a mother yet, and do not have young kids that need my constant care and attention.

I will say, I do love family noise. I was able to travel to North Carolina the first weekend of this month to see some family that came in for my cousin’s baby shower. I have a lot of cousins, and most of them I don’t get to see very often, since we are all so spread out. A few of my cousins have young kids as well, so when all of my family get together and there are babies to hold, young cousins running around playing, and cousins, aunts, and uncles sitting around the dining room table sharing stories and laughter, those are the moments I cherish. I remember sitting at the table, surrounded by family and so much love, and I remember thinking “Lord, thank you so much for this right here.” I love the family chaos, and I wish we could all get together more often.

But as much as I love family noise, for the time being, I get to come home to my quiet house and enjoy the peace of solitude after a busy weekend. I can relax in front of my tv, take a nap, and enjoy right now that no one needs me. There’s no chaos in my clean and organized home. We had a few days of beautiful weather before being thrust back into winter’s grip, and during one lazy Sunday afternoon, I sat on my front porch swing reading harry potter for as long as I wanted, with nothing but the noise of birds and occasional laughter from the neighborhood kids. It was bliss, and with warm weather approaching, I get to enjoy many more of those days to come. Even right now as I write this post, I’m sitting alone at my dining room table, the house to myself, with nothing but the noise of my fingers as they hit the keyboard. Not another peep, except for the distant sound of the neighbor kids enjoying the warmer weather.

And it’s not just the noise level. It’s a quiet stillness that calms my heart and soul. Nowhere to be, no one running about the house crying or yelling or needing me to come. One day yes, and it’ll be a different kind of wonderful, but not yet. I get to keep the stillness for now.

You know when I really enjoy the stillness and absolute silence? I’ve just washed my face, removed my contacts, brushed my teeth, got in my pjs. I set my alarm, plug in my phone, and turn off the light. Then I climb into bed, but I’m sitting up, just staring into the darkness. It’s quiet. Real quiet. Still. I’m not dressed up, no makeup on, with all the things that make me ready to face another day removed. It’s just me as I am. Another day has closed, and I have my room all to myself. That’s my favorite time to pray. I’ll whisper to the Lord into the silence, and it feels like I’m sharing secrets with Him. I know that silent prayer is always secret between me and the Lord, but this is different. It’s in those still moments I whisper my most hidden desires and confess any sin that is weighing on me. It’s just honest and real, no lack of authenticity. It’s where I feel the most bold and yet most vulnerable with the Lord, and when it feels like He and I are the only people that exist in the world. My best friend and most trusted advisor.

If I’m being honest, that doesn’t happen every night. I, like so many other Christians, do not always have the most faithful prayer life. But there are many days when I feel like I want to talk to Him, and I wait until the day draws to a close so I can meet Him in that place, as if it’s a secret rendezvous for us to meet later that night. It’s just a very special time to me. One day when I’m married, I’ll share a room and a bed, and will maybe have some babies or kids crying and I’ll need to go to them, and I won’t have that special moment and I’ll have to find another. Marriage and children are wonderful things I can’t wait to experience, but it’s these seemingly small things that I’m realizing will have to change. I’ll just have to be more creative in finding time to be quiet and still, particularly when finding time to spend with the Lord.

Yes, staying busy has been a lot of fun. but when I’m mostly busy, I value the times I can come home, not speak, and just enjoy a quiet existence. Too much peace and quiet, and I get antsy to get out and do something. But the right balance allows me to appreciate the amount of time I can allot to silencing the world around me and getting lost in a book or movie. Or even coming home, opening my windows, laying on the couch and drifting off to the sound of the birds chirping outside (this was me yesterday after work). I slept longer than I intended because of how peaceful it was. And when it gets warmer, heading out to Ivy Lake with my journal or a book, or floating out into the middle of the lake to let the sun warm me to my very core. Peace. Quiet. Stillness.

I’m so thankful. I’m thankful for the beauty of the world around me, and how much being alone in nature calms me. When I have no reason to speak and I can just observe and enjoy God’s creation. I tell a lot of people that I see God mostly in creation. So much knowledge and wonder to behold if we have the resolve to stop and look.

I know that a quiet life will be harder to maintain when the pages turn on the next chapters of life. Not impossible, but likely more challenging. But this is my current chapter, and I have to say, it’s pretty great, too. Quiet stillness. Remember to appreciate it while we have it, my single friends.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

perk #7 – my income, my decisions

I have really enjoyed my 9 months of home ownership. It’s has been quite an adventure and learning experience. As I look around my house, I have a mental list of projects, minor and major, that I want to do. Any other homeowners can relate to this. There will always be a project and an idea on how to make improvements. I wish I had the money to make all my visions come to fruition right now, but of course I don’t. I have to remind myself that change takes time, and saving money to do projects takes time. After all, rome wasn’t built in a day. And that’s ok. I can live with that.

But it got me thinking about where I’m at as a single woman and homeowner, and how much quicker some of these projects could be completed if I were married. I’d have a dual income and projects could happen much faster than they can on my single income. I’d also have someone to help tackle projects I am unable to complete. I consider myself pretty handy, but I don’t have the strength of a guy, that’s for sure.

So how does this translate to being a positive aspect of being single? Well, the fact of the matter is I may not have the funds to finance all of my dream projects, but I do have the freedom to decide what I want to do with what I can afford right now. And this freedom extends far beyond house projects. These decisions really come down to my ability to choose how I spend my finances.

I’ve always been good with my money. I have always tried to keep a great credit score and not go crazy with spending money on frivolous things. Not to say I haven’t had to learn things the hard way, but you learn and grow and practice self-control, and now more than ever before I don’t really make impulse shopping decisions. I don’t have a crazy amount of major expenses, and my responsibility to provide food and clothing only extends to my own needs. But if there is something I really want, my decision making process doesn’t go past my internal dialog. I chose the tv I wanted, the vacuum, I wanted, I love shopping for antiques and when I find something I love I don’t have to run the idea past anyone. If I want to travel, buy a sewing machine to start a new hobby, splurge a bit on a dress, go out for drinks with some friends, I have the freedom to just make the decision and go for it. Not to say that marriage would mean I can’t do any of these things, I’m sure I could, but perhaps not to the extent I do now. There are just 2 opinions involved, 2 incomes to budget, and 2 people’s needs to meet.

If I’m being completely transparent, the older I get and the more independence I have with spending my income the way I want, I think it’s going to be a challenge when I get married to compromise on these types of decisions. Of course I’d be willing to share decisions and come up with a solution that both of us are comfortable with, I’m just saying that it’ll take some adjustment, as will so many other things. I’ve picked the brains of many married friends and have heard some great ideas on budgeting as a couple. But for today, it’s one less thing I need to worry about at this stage of my life.

Ok super honest moment here, and this post is about to take a sharp turn. I’ve wanted to write about this perk for a while, and I’ve hesitated because I’m afraid it is coming off as selfish. I had a conversation about this blog with a wonderful friend of mine, and it made me want to clarify my intentions with writing about the perks of being single. I am in no way against relationships and marriage. I have the same desires to be married as every other single girl that has approached me about my blog. But that’s not the stage of life I’m in. I could sit here and write about the struggles of waiting on God when in the midst of singleness, because if truth be told it is hard. I could write about the things I’m looking forward to if and when God brings that type of relationship into my life, because there is a lot I’m excited for. But in my own journey of life, I don’t want to focus on the struggles or be excited for things that haven’t happened yet and who knows when they will happen. In my experience, it just makes that longing harder. I’m not anti-marriage, but I am also not anti-singlehood. There’s joy in all chapters of life if we’re willing to open our eyes and find it, a lesson that I’ve been learning as I’ve started this blog.

I’m single and this is where God has placed me right now. I don’t want to look back and see the perks of this time when it’s too late to enjoy them. I want to live a full and happy life, and I want to appreciate what I have each day. And today, I get to enjoy the 7 perks I’ve written thus far, and so many more. Today, I get to be an independent, self-sufficient woman. I get to spend all my holidays with my family. I don’t have the responsibility of children, and I can travel as often and as far as I want. I can meet as many people and build as many relationships as I’d like. I can worry a bit less, and I can spend my hard-earned money any way I choose. I can’t wait to write about more of the things I enjoy at this time of my life. I have so many things to be thankful for, and I’m enjoying the life God has blessed me with. Not to mention warm weather is coming, and that fact catapults me into a state of excitement so strong I may just burst and spread happiness all over everyone (yes, I love summer that much).

At the end of the day, I’m happy with my life. I may have rough moments or days, perhaps even rough months, but every stage has its joys and challenges. I’m going to try my hardest to look at the positives of where God has me here and now. Who knows, maybe the day I meet someone, my blog will transform into the perks of relationships, then the perks of marriage, and then one day the perks of being a mother. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be honest about our struggles or the difficulties of each season, because everyone has struggles, and it’s part of what makes others able to relate to one another. But every day is full of gifts, and even through painful times, I want to be able to see God’s blessing, and not miss out because I was dreaming about the future.

I know this started as a 7th perk, and transitioned into an honest look at what I hope to achieve with this blog. But I think it’s an important reminder to myself and to others that looking forward to marriage is perfectly ok, and we can do that while still being excited for what life has to offer now. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

perk #6 – a slightly less worried mind

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post. Anyone else think January flew by in a whirlwind? I’ve also been trying to decide which perk I wanted to talk about next. I finally settled on one, and let me warn you, it’s about to get real in this post. This perk is going to discuss a slightly irrational fear of mine, and how it relates to my singleness.

I think I’m a pretty pensive person. I think about life and death a lot, and the death of anyone, particularly of those who are younger, tends to affect me more than I care to admit. I suppose I am just always aware that this life is so short and that anything can happen. We don’t know God’s plan for our lives. We have no idea if we will return to our homes when we leave for the day. I worry about those I love. My family, my friends…I pray every now of then (mostly out of worry) that nothing will happen to them. I don’t want to lose anyone. I don’t want to have to face that. And I don’t want others to have to face that. I hate seeing those I love experience loss. I don’t like seeing people hurting. It just breaks my heart. Ultimately, we will all face loss at some point in our lives, but I have been very blessed to not have experienced a serious loss as so many I know have. I am thankful for that, but then again, I know my time is coming. I just don’t know who, when, and where.

The other thing that worries me (and it’s totally not godly), is that me even entertaining these thoughts, speaking what could happen out loud, or sitting here putting these words out there for the world to see, will cause God to act and actually cause what I fear most. I fear getting “the call” that something has happened. Or even with my own life. Part of the reason I’ve delayed writing a will now that I’m a homeowner is this irrational fear that it is welcoming something to happen to me.

I know what you’re thinking….who in the world thinks like that? God doesn’t just allow us to experience loss because that’s what we fear most. He doesn’t allow events to occur outside of a higher purpose. Everything He does has purpose, even if we may never know what the purpose was in this life. I have to remind myself that God knows my fears and worries before I even think them, and me being superstitious about speaking my fears isn't going to cause Him to act.

Thinking about that kind of thing is enough to make anyone scared and slightly crazy. It’s no way to live life, that’s for sure. And I know that worry and fear does not come from God, and although the thoughts rolling around in my head are true things, it doesn't mean God wants us to live in fear of what could happen. However, that’s easier said than done. I think the more you love, the more you worry. The higher the stakes, the harder it is to trust the sovereign hand of the Almighty and ever-loving God. Of course we know that he would never purposefully cause us pain without reason. I think he allows pain into our lives to strengthen us, but let’s be honest, I think everyone would prefer never to lose loved ones, and when we do experience loss, it will probably be a struggle for us for the duration of our lives.

I bet if I took a poll from all my married friends, particularly those with children, I would hear fear and worry about losing their spouse or precious babies. Godly, wonderful individuals, but I don’t think they can possibly be married or a parent without worrying. I can’t imagine the pain of losing someone in my family. My parents and sister, and extended family, friends, everyone in my life…it’s overwhelming sometimes how many people I love that I am afraid of losing. If I’m like this while I’m single, I shudder to think how much I will worry when I’m married and have children. I can’t even imagine how much I will love those that are in my future, and how much pain I would feel if something happened to them.

This is probably not what you were expecting after my previous posts. This one is slightly morbid, and cluttered with worry over things I can’t control, but it’s the truth. I still have those in my life that I worry about, but I’m sure it’s just a whole other ball game when you’re married with little ones that you've helped create. So this perk of my single life, if you can even call it a perk, is that I can enjoy a more peaceful and less worried mind while I’m single, than when I will have a spouse and kids to love, and therefore worry about.  

On the flip side, I know that I have some work to do in my own heart. I can’t let worry and fear of loss cripple me. Most of the time I am able to push these thoughts aside when they become too overwhelming, but I need to always remind myself that God is loving and kind, will always take care of me and those in my life. And because His plans are all for His glory, I can have hope that when loss does inevitably come, He is the loving, unchanging, comforting, wise, and sovereign God, and I can cast my worry and fear on Him, because He is able to endure it all. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

perk #5 – wider social circles

It’s been over two weeks since my last post, and I struggled to figure out which perk I wanted to write about next. Lately, I’ve been really eager to meet new people and to expand my social circle. I think the reason for this newfound desire to meet some fresh faces, came about over the last month or so when I would flip through my phone contacts to see if anyone wanted to do something that day. Then it hit me. The majority of my friends these days are married or married with kids.

Now while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is difficult to call up these friends at the drop of a hat and see if they want to go out to eat or catch a late movie. These are the friends I have to preplan days, maybe even weeks in advance to catch up and spend some quality time. While I have many couple friends that are near and dear to me, it doesn’t exactly make it easy to maintain close friendships.

The other side to that coin, is that married couples, particularly those with children, tend to hang out exclusively with other couples. Don’t get me wrong, there are always exceptions, and I can think of several couple friends of mine that don’t fall into that category. But for the most part, it’s the truth. Couples do not necessarily hang out with single friends very often. They will occasionally, or lunch dates will be planned in advance in order to spend some one on one time with single friends, but if we’re all being honest and real here, you know that I’m right, and I doubt many would disagree unless they are that exception-to-the-rule couple. It’s just the natural tendency to want to hang out with those in a similar life stage, and I get that.

However, those of us that are single and a little older tend to get the short end of the stick, because it appears to us that somehow we are the only single person our age around. It seems like I blinked and most of my social circle fizzled out because they gravitated toward what is similar to themselves. Sitting here, trying to put myself in their shoes, I can see why it works for them. I really can. And I am sure that one day I will find myself in the same position.

Or….perhaps I will end up being an exception-to-the-rule couple. If I’m being completely transparent, I kind of hope I will be an exception. i can think of a number of reasons for this. For one, I feel like there is a freedom in singleness that correlates to the idea of youth. Why wouldn’t I want to be friends with singles that made me feel young, free, and like the world is still wide open? Not to say that it would make me dissatisfied with married life, but I can imagine it would make me feel youthful. Who doesn’t want to feel youthful for as long as possible? Another reason is that the longer I wait for the next chapter in life, the more I realize that when that day does come, I want to encourage other single women that they are not alone in feeling the same things I felt. I want to be able to share these same perks and tell them to live it up, because I will know that the things I am writing about now will change drastically when they are married. I hope to be that same encouragement now, but it will be a different kind of encouragement from the other side of the fence. I hope that when I turn the page to this story, I will go out of my way to make sure the single friends in my life are not set aside for something that is seemingly more important.

This perk is not intended to be a jab at couples. I’m not saying that all of my married friends have cast me aside. That is not the case. I know where I stand with those wonderful couples, and I am so unbelievable grateful to have them in my life, and to have examples of godly marriages that I can look up to, and one day emulate. The point of this perk is mainly to point out that this phenomenon happens, and as a single girl I need to step up my game and take advantage of the unique opportunity I have at this stage in my life.

being unattached gives me a greater chance to widen and maintain my social circle. I make new friends at work all the time, especially when I train most of those that walk through our office doors. At church, I have the time to join multiple community groups and forge new friendships there. I have very different groups of friends, and so many more friends to make or get to know better. I know so many interesting people and I have many acquaintances I look forward to learning more about. So knowing that I have the time, means, and freedom to cast out my “social net” and meet some awesome new people, I need to get out there. I’ve been spending lazy weekends at home not doing much of anything. In my defense, I hate winter and the cold, and it makes me not want to leave my house. I’m much more social in the summer…my favorite season that makes me feel so incredibly alive. But I digress…

what I’m saying is this: I need to be out there cultivating new friendships. Cold weather is not going to be my excuse. I have the freedom to drop everything and run out to meet people for dinner, see a ridiculously late movie, take a random day trip to Charlottesville or Roanoke, and if truth be told, I’m not making the most of this freedom. And that’s on me. If you’re single and you hang out with more friends than you even have time for, my hat is off to you. enjoy it and live it up. But If you’re like me, and tend to act like you’re an old man or woman on a Friday night because you’re tired from an early day at work, then I’m telling myself and telling you to start finding ways to expand your social circle. I already have a few people in mind that I’ve met at work or church that are awesome people, and have no idea why I haven’t asked them to hang out so I can get to know them better. I’m going to stop making that mistake, and I hope you will too.

So here’s to the beautiful freedom of singleness and the prospect of beautiful friendships. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

perk #4 - to travel is to live

i have a serious case of wanderlust. i have always desired to travel and experience the world for myself. seeing photos of faraway places has never been good enough for me. i want to know it firsthand. I want to stand on the ground where history has been made, see for myself what pictures cannot convey, and leave knowing that another place is no stranger to chelsea davis.

if i may quote belle from beauty and the beast, "i want adventure in the great wide somewhere. i want it more than i can tell." i can empathize with belle. travel and adventure get my heart beating faster. it’s a true love of mine. i love being able to say that i have experienced something at least once. in the last 9 years, i have traveled to london, paris, rome, montreal, jamaica, dominican republic, peru, and india. and those are just the foreign places i've been. i love american history and the cities i've been able to visit here as well. i am truly blessed to have a traveler’s heart and to have seen so much already. and it isn't enough. i want more. this world is so beautiful, and i want to see as much as i can. so many wonderful memories, and so many more ahead, Lord willing.

some of my favorite memories from these wonderful places…standing 10 feet from queen elizabeth II as she drove by and waved to us…getting lost on a train in paris, and turning around to see the eiffel tower sparkling as it does every night…seeing the sistine chapel…swinging from a tree into the black river in jamaica, then our boat getting caught in the pouring rain on the way back…laying on a picture perfect beach in dominican republic…seeing the deepest and most gorgeous canyon in peru…having to go to the bathroom on a cement floor in a dark room in india (i’m still laughing about that)…not to mention the wonderful people i've met, especially on the missions trips.

God has allowed me to see so much of his world, the beautiful, the broken, and the hurting. my eyes are wide open to both the evil and the good in this world, and i am better for it.

all of that to say, with the new year i am ready for some new adventures. i already have at least 4 trips i would like to take this year to visit some friends in boston, nashville, NYC, and orlando. and you might be wondering how this ties into the perks of being single. well, it really comes down to finances and freedom.

travelling is expensive. if it wasn't, then more people would do it more often. just last night, i started working on crunching numbers for these 4 trips. thankfully, being single and kid free actually works in my favor. my costs are much lower with one person. i am able to stay with friends and skip out on hotel costs, i can share gas costs with a friend, my food budget will only include one person, and i only need to purchase a single ticket for any outing. married couples will need double the budget, and add some kids in there and we could be getting into a thousand dollars or more depending on the destination. yikes! i don’t know if i’d be able to stand having to raise that much money just to travel somewhere new, unless it was out of the country.  

after crunching numbers, the next issue is having the time and freedom to go. being single, i can just go. i don’t have to think about anyone’s schedule except my own. i can take a weekend and skip town whenever i hear a new city calling me to explore all it has to offer. no having to coordinate schedules or time off of work. then, when i do get to my destination, i can go see the things i want to see. i love history, which some people find truly boring. but i love museums and historical sites, and i know i don’t have to compromise anything i’d like to experience. i can choose to do the things i enjoy, and make memories i’ll carry with me the rest of my life.

i’ll have to end up with someone equally as adventurous. someone with the same zest for new expeditions. but for now, i’ll do as much as a i can before my travels are few and far between. if you’re single and able to embark on a journey to some place you've always wanted to see, then i encourage you to go while you have the ability to take off at the drop of a hat for a fraction of the cost it would take for an entire family to go.

travel opens our eyes and hearts to experiences outside of our own little world. go, enjoy, and make happy memories.

“we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”