The best thing I can give to you is for me to go

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted.  Life has had it’s challenges and it’s blessings in this past season.  As I get back into a habit of writing I thought I’d share some older posts that never made it to the blog.  So enjoy this post on relationships written in a season of life that was much different than my current one.

There’s this song by Joshua Radin that features the beautiful voice of Patty Griffin. You’ve Got Growing Up To Do and the second verse contains these lyrics:
Looks like the rain’s pouring down on me
It’s drowning me now
And all I want is to go back home
But this old corduroy coat –
it’s not keeping me dry
But I can’t think of what else to try
I’ve always loved this song.  Joshua Radin is one of my favorite artists because of his use of lyrics to convey emotion or situations.  This verse is a powerful word picture of a relationship that just doesn’t seem to find the groove.

All relationships take work.  But some are just not right for whatever reason.  You fight and fight for it but it’s just not the right fit.  It’s not the best for either one of you. It’s like wearing a corduroy coat in the pouring rain and wondering why you’re wet.  

I love that verse – and how it ends: I can’t think of what else to try.  The solution you’re looking for is an umbrella or a raincoat or to go inside.  Anything but stay standing in the rain in that corduroy coat. It may be a great coat, perfectly worn in.  But when the rain comes it’s only going to make matters worse and become a weight on your shoulders.

There are relationships that are comfortable – perfectly worn in but when the rainy season comes they aren’t right.  They don’t fit the way they used to because what you need has changed. It’s different now, you’ve changed or grown and the relationship hasn’t changed with you.  It’s time to go because you’ve got growing up to do.

It may sound harsh.  Heartless even. But I think that the way there are two vocals – male and female – shows that sometimes it’s mutual.  The fit isn’t right anymore. The relationship was good for a while but for whatever reason, it’s time to move on. Maybe it’s both people, maybe it’s one or the other.  But it’s time.

Maybe it’s time because there’s no moving forward until you move on.  Staying in a relationship that isn’t a good fit can stand in the way of the one that might be coming that is the right fit.

And the best thing I can give to you is for me to go
and leave you alone
You’ve got growing up to do.

What it’s like to be single in the church: Part four

Well here we are, Part 4.  This series has brought about a ton of great conversation in my real life relationships.  I hope it has sparked some good things for you as well. I started writing about this topic because I knew I needed to start using my unique voice to speak into topics I’ve experienced to be difficult.  I’ll be writing more on Church community, on singleness and other things in the future. But for now we’ll cap this series here.

As a reminder, here’s where we’ve been with this conversation:
Part One was from the point of view of the Church and church leadership.  
Part Two was a bit of a Married Friends Gut Check
Part Three was a bit of a Single Friends Gut Check
Part Four is a few models of relationships that can help us with practical steps forward.

I was saying just today to my fellow staff members about how we need more honest conversations about how we do church community.  Because people are leaving the church. People are walking away from the church for a lot of reasons, not just the loneliness of being single.  But time and time again I hear my single friends talk about how they don’t feel fully a part of the community at their church. So we need to be talking about this.  

As we look for practical steps forward, I thought we could take some time to look at a couple of models of relationships across marital status that I have found really helpful and honoring.  I honestly believe that we can only step into these types of relationships when we are all in healthy spaces or trying to get to healthy spaces. If you want to know what that looks like, head on back to parts Two and Three and see what I mean by that.  

Here are a few models I’ve come to find helpful within the church and in general life:

Intergenerational Life Groups.  Or small groups.  Or D-Teams. Or Sunday School classes.  Whatever your church creates for community space.  So often, as a church, we think all community needs to be life-stage specific.  But often times, most of our lives are spent in life stage specific settings. What if in the church we mixed it up a little more.  Of course Moms of toddlers need time with other Moms of toddlers and college students want to hang out with other college students – that’s fair.  But in the church, could we mix it up a little more intentionally. When we intentionally mix it up, single people don’t have to feel so ostracized because conversation doesn’t naturally default to toddlers, parenting, empty nesting, etc.  

This can require some intentionality from the church leadership but it doesn’t have to entirely rest on their shoulders.  When thinking about starting up something, invite the single people you know. Make an effort to invite them to sit with you during service, or more radically – go sit with them.  Intentionally choose a table not with people who are just like you but people who are at a different life stage.

You may be asking reading this and thinking, “But Alicia, what will we talk about if it’s not _______ (fill in your blank with whatever you usually talk about with your peers who are exactly like you).”  Start with something easy, like the sermon or something that happened in worship. Ask about their plans for the week. Ask about their job, where they like to hang out, what are they reading/watching/listening to.  I promise you it’s not that hard – you just have to intentionally try!

The Tricycle Theory.  This is of course an Office reference.  Michael Scott once said, “My mom always said that the third wheel is what makes it a tricycle” in reference to him always hanging out with his mom and stepdad.  Two of my best friends are married (to each other) and when we all lived in Chicago I started calling us the Tricycle. When we all first met I was working with the husband in youth ministry and I decided to force the wife to be my friend (not really but I tried real hard).  One thing that works so well in our friendship is that I never feel like a third wheel. It’s a joke we make but in reality our friendship is so strong and balanced, it’s not like adding a third wheel to one of the wheels on the bike, it’s really like having an evenly balanced tricycle.  

I alluded to this in another post that we need to also treat married people as whole developed individuals and this is kind of where the tricycle theory comes from.  There are times in our friendship when the husband and I are talking about church things and ministry ups and downs that the wife is only kind of interested in (or not at all if we’ve been talking too long about it.)  And probably more so there are long periods of girl talk that the husband could care less about. And there are just as many times when we’re all talking about stuff that we have in common. I am not more friends with one of them over the other.  

Even now as we are juggling a long distance friendship, we share the ups and downs of our lives with one another.  Obviously the two of them have a deeper relationship than I have with either of them, but they never make me feel bad about being single.  In fact they are two of my biggest cheerleaders. I get the best dating advice from them because they usually balance each other out.

Spiritual Family in practice.  We talk about Spiritual Family a lot in the church.  But sometimes I wonder if we really are that good at it across lines of age, gender and family status.  Family is messy – we all know that. We all have family drama that can be tricky to navigate, so Spiritual Family is no different.  But we cannot allow that to keep us from trying, especially because this is exactly what a lot of singles are looking for.

Even if their own families are nearby, singles want to be a part of a broader church community.  They may have a desire to have a family of their own and they don’t yet, or they may just like being around the hustle and bustle of kids.  There are families in my life who have let me into their family spaces on a regular basis and I cannot express how good for my soul that is.

For someone who enjoys being arounds kids but has no kids of my own and is far away from my own nieces, it is amazing to have families who let me hang out in their family.  This doesn’t have to be a big planned out evening, it can just as easily be inviting someone who is single into the everyday messiness of being a family.

Here are some practical ways this has looked like for me and the families in my life:

  • Lunch after church
  • Letting me sit with their family at church
  • Inviting me to soccer practice / band concerts / special events
  • Running errands together
  • Going to the park
  • Family dinner (NOT a dinner party – normal family dinner where we talk about our days and our lives)
  • Hanging out on bad weather days – sledding, reading by the fire, card games
  • Riding to church events/retreats/outings together

A lot of these things are not difficult to invite people in – don’t assume your single friends don’t want the hustle of your family.  I recognize that this takes a level of trust and vulnerability to let people into your space, but I also recognize the strength of kids having multiple adults in their lives who care for them.  Being single can be very lonely, and we don’t need to constantly be in your space, but knowing there’s an invitation in helps the isolation feel less intrusive.

Lastly, I feel the need to add a disclaimer that I obviously cannot speak for every single person in your life.  These posts are trying to get us to think outside of our culture determined boxes – but please, if you are wondering how to better pour into your single friends you can just ask them.  Go ahead and blame me, here’s how that conversation can go…

“Hey, I’ve been reading these posts by some girl about what it’s like to be single in the church, what’s been challenging for you in our community?”  


After you ask that question, just listen.  Humbly give them the space to answer you as honestly as they feel they can be with you.

And remember, these conversations always go better once you have an established relationship with someone.

So start first by building up a relationship with the single people in your life. See them as a whole person and treat them with the dignity and respect you would a married friend of yours.

What it’s like being single in the church: Part Three

Just as a reminder, we’re in a series on singleness in the church that will be a four part series (for now).  

Here’s where we’re going to (try) to go with this conversation:
Part One was from the point of view of the Church and church leadership.  
Part Two was a bit of a Married Friends Gut Check
Part Three is a bit of a Single Friends Gut Check
Part Four is going to be some practical steps forward.

It was great reading comments and hearing from so many of my married friends last week.  Thank you all for engaging in this conversation and sharing it with your friends. Keep sharing your thoughts and any feedback you have for me!  

This week’s gut check will be for our single friends.  Full disclosure – this is the post that I was the most nervous about writing in this series.  For obvious reasons, I can’t write a gut check for single friends without first looking myself in the eye and gut checking myself.  But hey – we all have our stuff right? And we all have to deal with it, so here we go!

Just to remind ourselves, our hope in these conversations is to talk about how to have better community across this relationship status divide.  We want the church to be a place where we can find good, God honoring community between people of all relationship statuses. So when we talk about singleness here, I’m coming from the angle of how we can better be in community with others who are not single.

Single friends, we need to deal with our loneliness.  There is a lot about my single life that I love.  I doubt that I would have had the ability to move as many times as I have or go on new adventures if it hadn’t been for my singleness.  The “freedom” that comes with being single is appealing for the most part.

But there are other parts that are just really hard.  They range from silly things to laugh at with my friends to deep wounds that are easier to push down and not deal with right now.  

However difficult though – we need to deal with those things.  We need to deal with the parts of being single that are hard and frustrating not because of what people say or think about us but because of what we say or think about us.  I’m an extrovert, albeit a shy extrovert but an extrovert nonetheless.  So being at home alone can sometimes be isolating for me. When I moved into my first apartment alone I wasn’t sure I could handle it.  I was really nervous about all that time alone with my thoughts. It didn’t take long for me to realize that in my loneliness of living alone, I was actually just numbing my mind rather than dealing with it. I needed to deal with it because when I was just numbing it with TV, music, other friendships, etc – the loneliness always came out sideways.  

And when it comes out sideways, it can cause us to be bitter about our relationships with people who are married.  It can build a wall between us because of the perception that they have something we so badly want. But the problem is, a spouse will not solve our problem of loneliness.  In fact, married people can be just as lonely.
If we don’t learn deal with that loneliness in a healthy way not only can it build resentment and bitterness in us, we can inappropriately try to fill that loneliness with other people.  We need to find the root of our loneliness and look to the true source of security and comfort – God. And not in a “Jesus is your husband” kind of way, but in a comforting, fulfilling way that recognizes that only God can perfectly love you and be in your corner perfectly.  

Something else I’ve seen stand in the way of my relationships with my married friends is my perception of how they feel about my being single.  Let me rephrase – I have a tendency to make jokes about my singleness so that other people know I’m okay with it. It’s a defense mechanism that I’ve picked up from years of people asking me inappropriate questions about my personal life, or setting me up on really bad dates, or even choosing not to be friends with me (or even colleagues) because I’m single.  
I’ve had to get some thick skin and learn to laugh at myself, which is not the worse thing in the world.  But sometimes it can get in the way of my friendships. I’m trying so hard to make it okay that I actually am just making it awkward.  I’ve learned that it’s not my responsibility to make it okay for other people that I’m single.  It’s only my responsibility to make sure I’m okay that I’m single.  And by okay I mean content that this is the season I am in, even if I’m hopeful that it won’t be forever.  

When I am feeling content in my singleness and dealing with my own issues of loneliness, then I’m not looking for my married friends to fill a role in my life.  I get to simply be friends with them. But when I feel bitterness rise up, I see it affecting my friendships, especially with my married friends or my newly in a relationship friends.  

Lastly (for now) single friends, we need to make sure we are honoring our friends’ marriages.  My rule of thumb for my relationships with people who are married is that their marriage is more important than my friendship with either person, even if I came first.  (Side note: this is assuming the marriage is not abusive in anyway.) This lesson was a humbling one to learn. But it was so necessary to learn.

The fact is, my friends that are married stood before their family, friends and God and made a commitment to each other.  They entered the covenant of marriage and some of them I was a witness to, and others I met after that day. But regardless of that fact, as their friend, I have to value their marriage more than my friendship with them.
I know this may sound crazy.  I know this may sound like I’m caving into that “marriage is the end game for everyone” culture.  But in reality what I am actually saying is that marriage is holy – meaning it’s set apart. And I am respecting that.

And actually, respecting and honoring their marriage makes me a better friend, not a more distant one.  It means healthy boundaries in our friendship. It means I would never speak ill of one of them to the other.  It means I will always counsel and push them towards each other. It means I remember that couples need time to be alone.  
You cannot have a healthy close relationship with someone who is married if you don’t respect their marriage.  

So Single friends, before we can really engage in deeper, meaningful relationships with our married friends, we need to look at ourselves and our feelings.  How are we dealing with our loneliness?  How are we finding contentment?  And how are we honoring our friends’ marriages?

We’ll wrap up this discussion for now, I may have more thoughts to flush out as feedback rolls in.  Let me know your thoughts, questions, comments or concerns as we continue to think through this!

What it’s like being single in the church: Part Two

This conversation has gotten some interest on here.  As I’ve watched my stats go up and as I’ve heard from people in my life, I’ve realized that we have a lot to talk about in this realm.  This is going to take more than the three parts I had planned out.  So I’m doing a little bit of reorganizing.

Here’s where we’re going to (try) to go with this conversation:
Part One is for the Church and those in leadership in the Church
Part Two is a bit of a Married Friends Gut Check
Part Three is going to be a bit of a Single Friends Gut Check
Part Four is going to be some practical steps forward.

We’ll see how this actually works out.  I’m going to try to do a part each week so we have time to digest and really thinking through these things.  My overall goal with these posts is to take a look at how we can deepen our community across the lines of relationship status.  Often times in the church singles feel separated out because they don’t have a spouse.  That seems like such an obvious statement but I also think that as we hope to deepen our communities and become more of a spiritual family, we need to say that out loud.

So here we go – Part Two – Married Friends Gut Check.

I often hear from single people that their married friends only want to hang out with other married friends.  And I often hear from married friends that they don’t want to make single people feel uncomfortable.  Or both sides of the equation are thinking the grass is greener on the other side.  Married people think that it must be nice to live so independently and single people think it must be nice to always have another person by your side.  And BOTH are true.  It is great to be fully independent – but it’s also lonely and ostracizing.  And it is great to have someone by your side until death do you part – but it’s also complicated and challenging.  But what we’re looking at here is a huge disconnect between our married friends and our single friends.

We need Emotionally Healthy Relationships.  Just like with any relationship or friendship – they function best when all parties are emotionally healthy.  One of the trickiest parts of relationships across the married/single divide is maintaining health and integrity.  We have to name that.  Married couples need to know what their boundaries are in relationships with others, I get that.  But here’s the thing married friends, your single friends do not want to threaten your marriage.  I know there are horror stories of affairs and predatory people and we have to be real that sin exists. But please don’t ostracize people out of your life because you’re afraid.

I want to give counsel that before you can really let single friends into your world, you probably need to have boundaries and conversations about how that’s going to work.  I’m a big fan of boundaries and conversations.  (So maybe you and your spouse should chat through that and if you’re both cool with having single friends.  We’ll still be here you when you get back from that convo.)

One of my biggest complaints about the church is when we marginalize single people out of fear that mixing them with married people automatically produces affairs.  I want us to assume the best in people.  Just because a person is single and hopeful they may have a spouse one day does not mean they want you or your spouse. 

Before we can even begin this conversation, we need to really assess what we think about single people around us.  If you are hoping to take some steps towards people who are single, here are some ways to move that forward.
Think about the single people in your community – first, can you identify them?  If not, that’s probably not a great sign.  They are all around you, single by choice, single by situation, single moms, single dads, widows, widowers, divorcees – they are there.  And if you don’t see them in your community it’s a good thing to ask yourself why.
Secondly, think about the last time you interacted with them, especially in spaces where you are already in community with them.  Did you engage them in conversation?  I cannot tell you how many times I have been serving alongside of men and women who seem to not know how to talk to me because I am 32 and still single.  It ranges from straight up leaving me out to not knowing how to engage my singleness outside of some platitude that really makes no one feel better (i.e. Jesus is your husband).

This second step might need some time.  Be aware of the spaces you are in with people who happen to be single.  Be aware of the conversation around the table/room/whatever.  Seek out their opinions, their stories, their interests – even across gender lines.

On some level, I understand the separation between married and single people.  We live in an overly sexualized culture that seems to send us the message that men and women are incapable of being friends.  But like I said before, I want us to assume the best of each other, and if we are Christ followers aiming to live lives of integrity, can’t we assume that two people in a can be talking a public setting without anything shady going on?  And remember that I’m talking about people already in your community – people you go to church with, sitting at a community lunch with you (and probably your spouse).  No one is talking about one on one dinners or hotel rooms.  I’m talking appropriate spaces to be friends with the opposite gender.  (okay- soapbox time is done).

Thirdly, while you’re interacting with the single people in your life, remember a few things – unless you are a good friend of theirs, their relationship status probably shouldn’t be your conversation topic.  You can literally talk about anything else – music, sports, food, family, jobs, the weather, politics – just please don’t start your conversations or interactions asking them why they are single, if they’ve gone on any dates recently or if they would like you to set them up.

Once you get to the point where they are firmly in community with you, those conversations may come up but that shouldn’t be the starting point.  No single person wants a stranger asking them what the deal is with their singleness.

The best thing to remember in community with people who aren’t like you is that you need to be humble in your approach.  In this case, remember that unless you were recently married, you may not remember what it’s like to be single.  Or you may have found your spouse in your younger years and so you haven’t experienced singleness in your late 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.   Either way, what it’s like to be single in today’s culture and world may be a foreign concept to you and that’s okay.  Us single people are not expecting you to 100% identify with what we’re going through; we simply want you to value our presence in your life.

My encouragement to you is to really take some time to think through this stuff.  Especially if you hope to have community with people who are single (if you are not).  Taking a few moments to gut check yourself and be aware of how you interact with single people around you could go a long way in moving forward towards Spiritual Family.

If you have further questions or comments on this topic, feel free to comment or reach out – I can give some specifics/anecdotes if you really want to hear the crazy things my friends and I have experienced in this conversation.

And single friends – our gut check is next, and I promise you it’s going to be just as challenging as this one is to our married friends.

What it’s like being single in the church: Part One

I’ve always looked towards others to be the voice of the single person in the church – well one other cause I only know one author/speaker who is single.  But I’ve realized lately what a tremendous pressure it is for her to speak on behalf of all of us.  So I thought it was time for me to put myself out there as well.

Let me start by saying this – I love the Church.  And not in a naïve way where I pretend we have no problems, but in a deep way where I just can’t quit it.  I am deeply committed to being a part of a church body, not just in leadership as a pastor but in the overall community of followers of God.

When it comes to Church I’m sitting across the table saying, “This thing we’re doing here – I’m in – I’m all in” ala Luke Danes in Gilmore Girls.

All that to say, at times, it’s really hard to be in the Church.  For a few different reasons but one big glaring one is because of the fact that I’m single.  I am not one half of a couple, in fact I’m nowhere near that stage of life yet and while that’s a battle between God and me, at times it’s a battle between the church and me.

So I’d love to start a conversation about what it’s like to be single in the church.  To really dig in deep and ask ourselves some hard questions about this divide between married/single people in the church.  I want us all to come to this internet table and talk it out, but it’s gonna take a few weeks to really do this well.

Here’s where we’re going to (try) to go with this conversation:
Part One is for the Church and those in leadership in the Church
Part Two is a bit of a Married Friends Gut Check
Part Three is a bit of a Single Friends Gut Check
Part Four is full of some practical steps forward.

My hope is to do a part each one, this is obviously part one, and I’ll link up each week so no one misses a part.

Here we go – Part One – for the Church and those in leadership in the Church:

I’ve watched many of my single friends struggle in various church settings.  I’ve seen them contemplate leaving the church all together – not walking away from their faith but walking away from the buildings where we meet together.

Even though I know there are many reasons, one big one reason I think that they leaving is because there is no room for them to be single.  It’s almost like the church doesn’t know what to do with single people – so they create a singles’ ministry which trust me when I say, that’s not what we’re looking for.

We’re looking to be seen as who we are right now – not who we could be with a spouse.  A lie that single people have to fight is that we are incomplete without someone in our lives.  So much of the Christian message in America is that you’ll be complete when you’re married – as if marriage is the magic cure-all for this disease of being single.  Everything will be better after you say your “I dos” and walk back up that aisle.

But we all know that’s not true.  So why are we continuing to perpetuate that message in our churches?

It’s in the language used from up front, in the division of small groups, in the way we interact with one another on Sundays mornings and outside of our gatherings.
It’s subtle in most cases and if I’m really honest with myself, I know it’s not overt.  But as one of my married colleagues shared with me recently, “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

The thing is, a lot of people that serve on church staffs or in church leadership are married.  They have beautiful and fulfilling marriages – and that is amazing.  This can also mean that it has been a long time since they have been a single person attending church alone.  Or it’s entirely possible that they have never been a single person attending church alone.

They don’t know how to relate to us.  And they definitely don’t know how to relate to us when dating looks so foreign to them, so different from how things “used to be.”
So fellow church staffers, let’s talk about what we can do to make it a little easier on our singles.

Let’s watch our language.  When we’re illustrating a point or giving an application in our sermons, let’s think about all stages of life.  Unless you are specifically sharing a message about marriage – anything you are preaching on can be related to a single person as well.  Using inclusive language can go a long way to making someone who is single feel comfortable.

Let’s value who they are as individuals.  Seek out a single person in your church and invite them out to lunch.  Listen to their stories and ask about their lives, not why they are single but what excites them about their work, their friends or their family.  Let’s include them in our small groups, on our worship teams and get to know who they are individually. And for that matter – let’s stop treating married couples as a whole, they are two individual people as well, let’s get to know them for who they are independent of their relationship status.

Let’s stop idolizing marriage as the end game. Marriage can be and is a beautiful thing.  I am in no way trying to negate it, I am just saying let’s be cautious about how we glorify it.  When we’re inviting people to participate in services, is it always a nuclear family?  Do we use language about “waiting for marriage” rather than talking about practicing healthy habits?  Do we assume that marriage is the end game for everyone?

Let’s stop asking them why they are single or what they are doing to not be single anymore.  These are intensely personal questions that should only be asked when a pre-existing relationship is present.  Just because we want to explain away someone’s singleness does not mean we get to.  The amount of times that single people have heard a question like this is countless and each time it can bring pain.  Even if we don’t mean to insinuate that something is wrong with the person across from us, that’s how this question is received.  If the single person desires to not be single anymore and they knew why that was the case – don’t you think they would have changed something by now?

I realize that in this realm, I speak from a place of privilege.  I am a pastor which means that the way that I interact with a congregation is much different than someone who is visiting or regularly attending.  I get invited into homes and families because I’m the friendly neighborhood youth pastor.  It’s an honor to serve churches in this capacity.  Most Sundays I walk into the church I serve and am warmly welcomed by the community around me.
And even still, I get the messages the Church is subtly sending that I would be better off if I had a husband.  That there is something missing within me because I am not married.  That there must be something God is still working out in me if I’m not married.

And all of those things are lies.

Single people are not somehow less than married people.  And I know we don’t believe that.  But let’s think about how we are communicating value to our singles.

What else have you seen that’s been helpful or harmful?

I've been trying to do it right

I’ve always had a secret dream to be the person who picks music for television or movies.  That person who finds obscure covers or indie bands whose songs will perfectly compliment the rise and falls of this or that character’s story line.  The perfect piano riff into the scratchy voice that will accompany the main character’s “aha moment.”  The fast violin line that will express the hurry of a man running to catch up to the love he’s about to lose.  I’m a sucker for that perfect song that accompanies a perfect cinematic moment. 

But because I do not get paid to discover music or orchestrate emotional moments in the lives of fictional characters – I am stuck doing it for myself and my own life.  I have (in my humble opinion) mastered the art of a perfect mix.  What started off as mix tapes and transitioned into mixed CDS and has now become playlists – I have spent an insane amount of time creating mixes to match a season of life. 

One genre of mix that I have become particularly good at has been the Relationship Mix.  A list of songs that sums up my relationships, more specifically, the romantic ones.  From first meeting to the bitter end, I end up stumbling upon the perfect song to describe each stage of each relationship I’ve ever been in.

I stock pile these mixes with descriptive names- The Demise of Alexander, The Patrick That Got Away, The Whatever Happened with Bill, and the “Darn” You Scuba Steve Mix.  (Names obviously changed because, well, this is the internet.)

Everyone once in a while, a song will play through the speakers and I am almost immediately transported back to that relationship.  I feel the feelings I had in that moment.  I see his face and I wonder if I made the right choices.  When I’m feeling extra vulnerable, I think about why it went the way it did.  Because I’m human – I’m a single female that sometimes gets lonely and wishes that I had someone – anyone – beside me at this event or that person’s birthday party.  I’m a normal thirty year old woman who sometimes hates being the third (or fifth) wheel. 

It’s in those moments when remembering the entirety of the mix is helpful.  Because I can mentally skip to the end of the playlist.  I can remind myself that there was a reason that it ended.  There was an incompatibility that existed.  The ever clear reminder that he wasn’t ready, or I wasn’t ready. 

It’s almost like therapy for me, mentally cataloging the ebbs and flows of these relationships. Because while I was still in the relationship or shortly afterwards, I’ve done the work of asking hard questions, of digging into what really happened.  I’ve created this mix in my mind that sums up my personal experiences so that later on, when I’m struggling, I can look back and remember.  I can learn from my mistakes and I can move forward instead of dwelling on the past. 

So here are a few tips to help you make you’re own lists:

Don’t force it: keep your ears open

Don’t go searching for the music to accompany your story.  Simply keep your ears open and your feelings honest.  When you hear a song that resonates – take note.  It’s the small subtle tug on your heart strings.  Especially when you least expect it and suddenly you are feeling all the feels.

Take artistic freedom

Sometimes you are the one singing but sometimes you are the one being sung to.  Once I was jamming to a Taylor Swift hit when I suddenly realized that no matter how badly I wanted to identify with the scorned Taylor, if I was being honest, I was the one who needed to be reminded it was time to let it go.  The songs don’t have to fit completely in they way they were intended, it’s okay to interpret a little for yourself.

An honest mix is a subjective mix

Once you finish your mix, don’t forget it’s only one side of the story.  Don’t try to share it – especially with your ex.  This is meant for you – to help you heal.  Others won’t fully understand the way you want them to.  You may be tempted because it may help them understand you better, but take it from someone who has had that go terribly wrong, just keep it to yourself.

I have faith that I won’t be alone forever.  That someday in the future I’ll have a mix that never ends, just keeps growing with new memories and experiences.  But for now, I have this list of mixes that help me to understand myself better.  That help me to see what has been good, what has been bad.  They help me remember what I want, what I’m looking for and help me to never settle for less than I deserve. It helps me to not feel alone in any particular moment.  In the ups and downs of all these relationships I have found someone who gets it – someone who has experienced that moment and has lived to write a song about it. 

our whispered words are louder than bombs

I have a very clear memory from a solitude retreat I took my second year of Seminary.  It comes back to me frequently, like a still voice from the Spirit reminding me to keep myself in check.
I was taking a walk through the neighborhood by the church I was currently attending (that I now work at).  I was walking past all of these cute houses with kids playing in the yard and I felt that feeling that most single girls of a certain age feel… I want that.  I don’t want to be stuck here in Seminary.  I want to be in my call.  I want to know where I’ll be spending the rest of my life (or just the first chapter).  I want to know who I will be spending it with.  I want to have the wrap around porch where I can sit with my friends and watch our kids play.  I don’t want this – I want that.
Then a line from the Shauna Niequist book I was reading at the time rang through my ears, “Don’t try to fast forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned.”  (From Bittersweet).
I didn’t know then that that neighborhood would be one I would drive through several times a week once I received my first call.  That neighborhood would be one I would take prayer walks in with our kids on our All Church Retreat.  That neighborhood would be canvased by me, alongside our leadership team and staff.
That moment floods back to me a lot.  When I see someone or some situation that I wish I had in my life, Shauna’s words continue to ring true in my ears.  It reminds me that I still have a great life to live right here right now.  All that stuff awaits me in the future – maybe, who knows?  I know there are things in life that I want to have, that I want to experience.  And I know that my God loves me and wants to give me the desires of my heart – in his way, in his timing.
I know someone who says that when we’re waiting it’s because God still has something left to teach us.  The immature person in me wants to tell God I’ve learned enough – I’m ready for my hearts’ desires.  But the mature person in me tells me that there are mountains of lessons to learn before I’m fully ready for that next step.  I’m still in process, as hard as it is to admit – it’s true.
Jesus tells us not to worry in the Sermon on the Mount (See Matthew 6).  He tells us to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, live righteously and he will give you everything you need.  Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Some days I need to repeat this to myself multiple times.  Some days I live it out without reminders.  And plenty of days fall in between the two extremes.  I just continuously remind myself that in a world where I’m told my worth is determined by whether or not I have a ring on that finger and kids in tow, those messages are not from God.  That is a future that I have not yet earned.  For now, I will seek the Kingdom of God above all else, try my hardest to live righteously and trust in the fact that He will give me what I need, when I need it.

nobody loves me quite like you love me

A few posts ago I wrote about a writing contest that I entered over at Hello Giggles.  It was a writing contest call “Tales from a Bestie” and I wrote a piece on my former Roomsmate and how we met.  It felt good to right it, to reflect on our first weeks and months of friendship.
I was not, however, chosen as one of the finalists.  Although I read the posts that were chosen and they were seriously good!
I did, however, get an e-mail back from them asking me to pitch some ideas for the website.  They said they liked my voice and thought I had an interesting point of view.  Which was cool to hear since I tend to think my point of view isn’t all that special.  But maybe because I see it everyday.
I’ve been trying to put myself out there more, in the writing world.  I’m trying new things and making myself put my ideas out there.  But it’s hard, friends.  It’s hard to look at the world around me and think so many thoughts but then to write them down in a way that others would be interested/challenged/whatever.  But I want to keep trying, so we’ll see.
I have other writing news that I’ll be sharing in the next couple of days, but for now, here’s the piece I wrote on the Rooms, for your reading enjoyment.

Relationships are full of moments.  Significant ones that change everything like a cannonball into the deep end and insignificant ones like a drop into an ocean.  Most of them go unnoticed in the real world.  There aren’t any orchestras following us around to swell and crash when something is happening that we should take notice of, like in the movies.
Imagine with me for a moment – picture a grad school orientation in a small room full of chairs and a podium, the walls lined with coffee, tea and assorted pastries.  It’s late August in Chicago which means you could cut the humidity with a knife, every window in the room is open but it doesn’t help the stale summer air circulate.   As I walk in, I instantly feel the social pressure of the situation.  A room full of mostly twenty somethings all wearing name tags and mingling.  Everyone is subtly eyeing everyone else – sizing each other up if we’re all being honest here.  I look around and across the room I spot a girl my age but much more put together.  She’s chatting with a group, laughing periodically and I feel a pull toward her.  I immediately know that this girl and I are going to have a story.  Either we are going to come out of this program as best friends or we are not going to get along.  Later when it’s time to break into groups, I end up in her group, where I learn her name – Hilary.
The next day there is a breakfast for the whole school and the professors.  I end up sitting with Hilary again and at the end of the introductions and announcements over eggs and coffee, I decide to through out an offer – “Wanna walk to get coffee before whatever’s next?”
“Sure, can we stop at my apartment first?”  To which I respond “Sure.”  And that was it.  The moment we became friends.  I’d later come to find out that Hilary hated coffee – everything about it.  So her agreeing to go with me was a bit of an anomaly.
Fast forward two months, Hilary comes over and tells me we need to talk.  We go into my room, close the door and she is grinning from ear to ear.  We had been petitioning our campus housing to let her move into the third bedroom of my apartment.  We had finally gotten a yes and we celebrated the moment we became roommates.
In a lot of ways, Hil and I could not be more different.  She is a pastor’s kid who moved from the south to the west coast before coming to Chicago.  I didn’t become a Christian until High School, moved from the east coast to Colorado before moving to Chicago.  She is up to date on fashion and trends while always being perfectly accessorized and before we moved in together I couldn’t even paint my nails efficiently.  She is a pop music queen and I have a tendency to be a bit more indie inspired.  She loves movies with car chases and lots of action where I could watch chick flicks everyday and never get bored.
But at the same time, we always found common ground in the strangest places.  We both knew all the words to every song on Robyn’s 1995 release Robyn is Here.  We both loved to dance it out when stressed.  Neither of us were morning people and need caffeine before we can even think about talking to each other.  We’re both into craft beer and love to find pubs or neighborhood bars to frequent.  She’s a planner and I’m a follower of plans.  We just tend to fit together in the oddest of ways.
There was this one moment that seems to sum up our interactions – we were driving home from church in my car.  As we listened to music and talked through what homework we needed to do that day I asked her to remind me to do something when we got home.  She pulled out her phone and added a reminder to remind me.  I laughed and said, “One of my favorite things about you is that you set reminders to help me remember stuff.”  And she looked at me in disbelief and said, “That’s one of your favorite things about me?”
But the truth of the matter is that yes, in that moment I realized that she was the type of friend who went above and beyond to help her friends.  This was just a small example of it.  She was constantly helping me become a better person, a better friend, a better pastor.  It was a moment when I realized just exactly how much I appreciated her in my life.  That mundane moment that really didn’t mean a lot was the moment when I realized she was the best kind of friend, one who cares deeply about you – not because what you could do for her but because she loved you.
I’ve heard that it’s hard to live with your friends but once again, Hilary and I were an anomaly.  Although I am positive we often got on each others nerves, we also had no qualms about just coming out and saying what was annoying us.  It’s not that we didn’t fight, it’s that we fought out of a place of mutual respect and aimed for compromise.  I remember a few tense conversations standing in our kitchen, each of us refusing to turn away until it was resolved.
One night in particular, I was in my room crying over some dumb guy.  We had been at a party and I came home early to wallow.  She stood in my doorway giving me that look that I knew meant she had something to say that I did not want to hear.  When I asked her opinion she gave it to me and I was right.  She essentially told me what I already knew – I was wasting my time on someone who could care less about me.  It was within that quiet moment that I realized she wasn’t ever going to sugar coat something that I needed to hear.  We didn’t need the sugar coating anymore – we were Besties – the fact that we loved each other unconditionally was all the coating we needed for the hard truths.
Our friendship has had hundreds of other moments.  Good moments – dinners out, birthdays celebrated, new crushes discovered.  Hard moments – hearing that she was moving away, new heartbreak, big life changes.  And all the in-between moments – runs to the store, car singing, texting about the latest bit of celebrity news.  Each of the moments are treasured.  She is one of the best people in my life and regardless of the fact that life has taken her to the west coast and kept me in the midwest, we continue to be the anomaly in each others’ lives.  She is one of the only people who can call me on my crap and keep me laughing while she does it.  She’s a beautiful friend and I hope we get a million more moments together.

band-aids don't fix bullet holes

A few weeks ago I talked about being in the rough.  About feeling like I was lost but at the same time mere feet from where I wanted to be, where I knew I needed to be.
Last weekend I went home, a quick little vacation to reconnect with myself.  This weekend I reconnected with those around me.
Last weekend my Friday night consisted of family dinner and bed time snuggles.  This weekend it was a warm dinner on a cold night alongside some great friends and catching up on our favorite shows.  A low key night for Halloween while texting with my family.
Last weekend my Saturday was a pumpkin patch with my nieces and goddaughter and one on one time with my mom.  This weekend it was a craft/nails/netflix day with a new friend who feels like an old friend.
I’ve always been really tentative with friends.  Letting people in has always been hard for me, but not letting people in is harder on me.  That’s why I’ve become pickier with who I choose to let in, who I allow to be in my inner circle.
I was once told that when Jesus compared us to sheep it wasn’t always a positive thing.  Often times sheep get packed in close together and end up biting one another.  The person sharing this wisdom told me that when sometimes as human we bite each other – we cause pain accidentally, because we are imperfect people.  We’re just sheep being sheep.
In relationships, we bite one another.  Sometimes accidentally, sometimes not so accidentally.  This is why relationships are so hard, sinful people hurt other sinful people.  We rely on the grace of God to fill in the gaps, to help us to forgive and try not to get hurt again.  We need God to help protect our hearts and to give us guidance along the way.
In ministry, it’s important to surround yourself with safe people.  People who you can be real with and who you can let in.  It’s for that reason that I’m so unbelievably thankful for my friends.  For those I spent this weekend with, for my Best Friend, for Roomsmate.  For My People in CO.  Thank you all for standing by me and for walking this path with me.  Thank you for being my circle of trust.

I promise you I will learn from my mistakes

Have you ever had a moment when you’re going along life, living well, seemingly got things together and all of the sudden you get hit with a realization that maybe, just maybe, a life situation wasn’t quite what you thought it was? Maybe it’s a conviction thing, maybe it’s a realization of joy somewhere you didn’t see it before, but it comes out of nowhere and you have this desire to get it out of your head? Ever feel that way?
Well I’m feeling that way, have been for a couple of days. I’m realizing that there was something that happened in my life a couple years ago that I never really processed. Yesterday I was driving home from another great meeting with my mentor, sitting in traffic on Foster and listening to a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You” when it hit me. The line I put as the title, “I promise you I will learn from my mistakes” … I felt this pull on my heart that is really hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. I felt like God was whispering to me, “Have you learned? You messed up there, that time with that person, you messed that up. Have you learned?”
It was a gentle nudging, not a harsh calling out. It was like I was finally in the place to hear that that situation was equally (if not more) my fault than the other person. But it left me thinking, that situation has long been boxed up and put on a shelf. We are (seemingly) fine now. But I keep having this overwhelming feeling that I owe this person an apology. But it was two years ago! How do I go backwards and say, “whoops, my bad, I know that was my fault now and I apologize.” Wouldn’t that be unbelievably awkward? Two years is a really long time!
Then I thought to myself of the times where I have felt like someone has wronged me and I was waiting for an apology. I may have forgiven them and moved on, I may even still be friends with them. But that never changed the fact that I was (am) still wondering if they knew how much that hurt and if they were sorry for it.
More times than not, we are wrong. More times than not we accidentally hurt someone because of where we are at at the time. I didn’t purposely hurt this person, I would never want to do that, but I did. Because of where I was at and my own person bents, I hurt this person. I am aware now (with the help of friends) to realize just how much so. And I can’t help but think that this person deserves to know that I am sorry.
The thing is, we don’t have a precedent for this. We can’t actually look at what Jesus did because, being diving and perfect, he never accidentally hurt someone because of his shortcomings. We can only ask ourselves what he said about how we treat other people. And he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The “golden rule” of our childhood. I would never want someone to treat me this way, so it’s time for me to suck it up – awkward as it may be – and apologize.
I wish I could come to these realizations earlier so I wouldn’t be in this type of situation, but I’m stubborn, I realize that. But I can promise, I will learn from my mistakes and be more self aware next time.