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.