To the college grad who doesn’t have a ring on her finger.

The life you’re walking into … it was never meant to be second best, like a waiting room until you get the things you really want. It was meant to be the story that brings you the most joy, sets you up to know God the best. God rigged it that way, not because He doesn’t love you … but because He does.

 

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I wouldn’t have called myself boy crazy in college. I had great friends, guys included. I dated a little, but for the most part, I wouldn’t say I was worried about it. I was just living my life.

But that lack of worry betrayed a very present reality – I always had a quiet, deep-set desire for marriage that I just assumed would work out by the time I got a diploma.

And when it didn’t, suddenly all of that delayed worry caught up with me. I felt like I had been thrown out into a big, blank future in which the plans I’d always had didn’t make a lot of sense anymore. Up until now, all the steps had pretty much been laid out, from kindergarten to a bachelor’s degree. I didn’t have a road map for a life that didn’t include the logical next thing – a husband and family.

I had coffee the other day with a new friend who’s graduating from college this month, and she said what I remember feeling in that season of life – that she never thought she’d be heading out into the wild blue yonder of adulthood alone. She thought she’d be engaged by now, and she was nowhere close, not even a prospect in sight.

So for all my sisters in that same spot, I wish I could offer you a chair, hand you a cup of coffee, give you a second to take a deep breath … and tell you a few truths to tuck in your heart as you walk off your campus and out into the world.

1. God hasn’t forgotten you.

When others around you are booking the campus chapel and you’re buying multiple bridesmaids dresses, it’s hard not to think that God might’ve missed a step somewhere along the way. But I promise you … He hasn’t. And the fact that He hasn’t brought you the same thing He’s brought some of your friends doesn’t mean He loves you less, or that you did anything wrong, or that you’re less than.

I remember after college thinking that the way I’d grown up viewing God didn’t add up in this new single space that soon stretched from days into years … I thought a life of obedience would naturally give way to the kind of life I had always expected.

What I’ve learned since is that God’s story isn’t a Southern culture formula, or a church culture formula, or even a “there’s a right person out there for everyone” formula.

It’s a giant, intricate story with billions of moving parts that are designed to be beautiful and messy and amazing and have only this goal – for you to know God as well as you possibly can, to share that with others in the best way possible and to spend eternity face to face with Him.

There are some things we as a culture say to each other, things like “the right person will come along when the time is right,” or “God’s timing is perfect, just keep waiting,” and they sound good in the moment. Most people who have a spouse, I’m sure they would say that they came along at the right time in their lives. And God’s timing is perfect – that we know. But nowhere in the Bible does He promise to bring you or me a spouse.

What He promises instead is that if we totally let go of the things we hold onto in this world – houses, lands, families, or dreams of all of the above – He would be everything we need and give us more and more of Himself, to the point that we can’t hold it all. That, friends, is the kindest thing He could give us, not a husband and kids.

For me, that meant reading His Word and praying to know Him for who He really was, not the God I always thought would be the means to the dreams I had for myself. It meant seeing who He was to the point I wanted to trade everything I had for the field with the treasure buried in it.

I wrestled a lot. It took some time to let all that go and let God start to replace it with Himself. But the story He wrote for me in that space was one of overflowing joy. An amazing sense of His presence. A desire to know Him more.

Some of you will get married at some point down the road. Some of you won’t. From day to day, we never know what might happen in God’s story, that great big narrative that we get to be a part of.

But I encourage you … let go of the desire to orchestrate things, or control them, or make decisions based on what you don’t have yet. In Christ, we have everything.

Don’t wait to let go. Don’t wait to chase God with abandon.

2. The life you’ve got isn’t a consolation prize.

The life you’re walking into … it was never meant to be second best, like a waiting room until you get the things you really want. It was meant to be the story that brings you the most joy, sets you up to know God the best. God rigged it that way, not because He doesn’t love you … but because He does.

So … dive into it. Don’t make yourself busy to try to fill the gaps in your heart, but ask God to guide you to the places where you can invest your life. Places where you can get to know people. Places where you can help others know God too.

I have friends who are foster moms. They don’t foster kids because they are trying to fill the “motherhood” desire themselves … they do it because they feel compelled to use their gifts with kids to care for the orphan. I have friends who are teachers, single missionaries, businesswomen, mentors and a hundred other things, and they feel like God put them there on purpose. Are there struggles? Sure. But can God be everything He says He is? Absolutely.

There are a thousand things you can do and be. Ask God to be your everything, and then in His leading, go find them and do them.

3. Know that it’s okay. Promise.

You’re not a unicorn.

There are so many women out there walking the same road. So many. I meet them all the time, by the dozens. Find them. Get together and share the struggles of broken dreams … but spend even more time talking about who God is and what He’s doing in your life that’s good. Spur each other on to know Him, to know the life He has for you.

Deep breaths, everybody.

God’s got you.

Now go and truly live.

*****

i dont wait anymore

Want to read more on this topic?

“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, now at a variety of retailers. Check it out here.

It’s the story of shaking off broken dreams and expectations to follow God to something better — to a far better story, to a life of knowing God as the prize worth our whole lives.

You want in? I’d love it if you’d come along.

(And if you’d like to read a free chapter, feel free to look here.)

3 ways to guard the single women in your life.

I can’t remember which pastor said it recently, but I remember the illustration, at least for the most part. It went something like this — if you board a plane in New York, and the pilot sets the plane to fly one degree off course, you might not notice it so much if you were going to New Jersey … the plane would probably still come pretty close to landing in the right place.

But if you’re flying from New York to California, you might end up in Mexico instead.

That’s big.

And it’s the same thing that happens if a truth gets pushed just a tiny bit off center in your soul.

Over time, your heart can end up in a place it never meant to go.

God never promised that

That’s what’s happening up here in the 20s, 30s, and beyond … a bunch of single girls and women flying for years on a flight plan that’s a tiny bit off, and now they’re wondering how in the world they got here. I wrote a blog post about it a few years back, about how for a lot of us the “just wait, God will bring the right person in His timing” and “when you least expect it, that’s when it will happen” proverbs passed down through the ages turned the rudder just a degree away from God’s truth back when we were younger.

They’re nice thoughts. And for some now-wives and mothers, that is their story, the way God worked that out in their individual lives. But the truth is, they aren’t God’s Word, nor His promises for the masses. They’re nice, easy things to say. But when you say them, even just as passing encouragement, girls grow up clinging to them.

And the farther that plane flies toward Mexico with no husband on the horizon, the more women question who God is.

Is He good if He’s given this to other people and not me? What does it say about Him if I’ve been waiting obediently and nothing has happened? People keep asking me why I’m not married yet and telling me to just wait for it … does that mean my life is sub-par until it happens?

And not just that — more and more girls grow up learning by observation that what we as believers really think is the prize of life is the life we expect to get from God one day, not the joy we find simply in following Him.

It’s a position we as women mentoring younger women, pastors preaching to parents, men raising daughters and churches raising the next generation can’t afford to take.

So what do we do?

It’s tricky, to turn back the habits of saying words that we (I know I have personally) have said dozens if not hundreds of times, ideas clung to culturally for so long that they’re practically cross-stitched on pillows in our house.

I don’t know all the answers. Sometimes I’ll remember in horror things I’ve said in the past, not thinking at the time how they might impact someone’s struggle to follow Jesus now and in the future, and wishing I could buy back those well-intended words and actions that didn’t help a thing.

We’re human.

But I’d like to offer a few things I’ve seen from my own life and the lives of people I’ve crossed paths with, things that can point girls and women toward Jesus and not toward something we want.

1. Affirm the place where God has her and the story He is writing with her life.

God knows the breath we’re taking right now, and the exact square foot of land we’re standing on when we breathe it. He knows our lives, and He knows the story that will help us know Him best, give Him the most glory and bring the most people to Him if we’ll just surrender everything … and love Him with every fiber of our being.

That is the best story.

It might include being a wife and mom, but it might also include being a teacher in the Middle East, or a foster mom, or a businesswoman who is living intentionally to bring her entire office to Jesus. It might be walking through cancer or a disability and giving God glory in the midst of it.

Our God is a creative God, and He loves without boundaries. He loves each woman, and He loves the people He’s going to reach through her unique life and story. The life we have was never meant to be a consolation prize, runner-up to the thing we wanted more. It’s meant to be God-infused right where it is with the fullness of knowing Him through His Word and chasing after Him with our entire life.

So as you sit in the row next to that single woman in your church, or you raise your daughters, or you mentor middle school girls, remember that. Finding a godly husband isn’t the best story.

Being exactly who God created them to be is the best story.

Don’t ask why they haven’t found somebody yet. Ask how God is working in their lives.

Then affirm that story in all its fullness without pointing to something it looks like they don’t have yet.

2. Remember that the struggle is real.

Even for the most content single woman, digging into Christ daily and finding satisfaction in Him is a conscious decision.

For a lot of people, not being married is a deep struggle — it’s not just a trip to Australia that you’re bummed hasn’t happened yet; it’s a lifelong desire that hasn’t come true, or may not come true at all. Laying that aside and reminding your heart that Christ is more fulfilling, more love-filled, more joy-filled than the marriages you see one friend after another getting is, like many things in life, a war against the flesh.

So that comment — “You’re such an amazing person, I don’t know why you haven’t been snatched up yet” — doesn’t reach into that war zone in our hearts and comfort it, even though it’s a compliment. It points away from Christ and to the thing the world says we’re missing, the thing the world says gives us worth and fulfillment.

The truth is — Christ is everything and worth everything. Chasing Him with our whole hearts is a beautiful thing. Affirm that.

I don’t know any single woman who would mind being thoughtfully introduced to someone you know, but think toward doing it in care, not because you’re on the hunt to “find her someone.”

And that woman who’s good with kids? Affirm her abilities, but maybe with a nod to “I can’t wait to see how God continues to use you and your gifts” rather than “you’ll make a great mom one day.”

3. Unless you’re talking about the moment when God sets everything right again one day, try to drop “yet” from your vocabulary.

Marriage hasn’t happened in some of our lives. It might one day.

But tacking “yet” on the end of that sentence only sets our eyes on the carrot strung just a little bit farther down the trail and moves our focus away from Christ, the One we chase right now.

We also know that nowhere in God’s Word does He promise us all a spouse, in return for obedience or otherwise. His promises are found with answers in Himself. The only thing we know for sure is that God was meant to be the end goal of our lives. He’s the “yet” we’re waiting for.

Easy fixes — like hanging hopes on “yet” when God never meant for us to — are like sticking a band-aid on a leaky pipe. Point the girls and women in your life to the place where life really comes from. We need to know how to function as a part of a family in the way that God wants, but that isn’t the goal of our lives. Teach them how to really dig into the Word. Show them how to look to Jesus for everything, for fulfillment in who He is, not what He gives. Let them see in your own life, no matter what stage of life you’re in, that your joy comes from following Christ, not from your circumstances.

Those are the things we need stitched on pillows … and buried deep in our hearts.

*****

i dont wait anymore

Want to read more on this topic?

“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.

It’s the story of shaking off broken dreams and expectations to follow God to something better — to a far better story, to a life of knowing God as the prize worth our whole lives.

You want in? I’d love it if you’d come along.

(And if you’d like to read a free chapter, feel free to look here.)

All I can see.

He was in seat 1A when I got on the plane – the very first person I saw – and he was smiling at me.

I knew him. He knew me. Kind of.

We’d been sitting beside each other on our flight here a couple of days ago.

“How was your trip?”

“Good, you?”

“All work.”

“Productive?”

“It was. Could’ve done with a little more sun, but you can’t have it all, right?”

Sometimes the world feels small, and it is. But in moments like this, the intensely detailed stroke that God’s giant paintbrush puts in our tiny little lives just makes me smile.

img_7535The day before I took that plane ride a couple of weeks ago, I got to speak to a group of girls at a college in California. It was great. (They had doughnuts that tasted like churros, and I felt like Elizabeth McCord from Madam Secretary – like for a minute there all I could see in the room was the doughnuts.)

We ate some, and we got to talking. And as we did, the words I heard spilling out of my heart were about how God’s attention to detail in our lives is so loving, so personal, so perfect … so divinely and intricately crafted to get us as close to Him as we can possibly get and for us to bring as many people as we can along with us.

It’s insane. And for a minute there, all I could see in the room was His insane love.

The seemingly mundane, the things that hurt, the choices we make that often seem like that don’t really matter all that much … God’s got all of it moving together in the giant story He’s penning, the one we get to be a part of.

Not just today.

Every single day.

A friend mentioned last night that she has to remind herself that sometimes big things happen in our lives, but a lot of the time the whole arc of God’s story is just the tiny piece that is our today stacking up to a billion other tiny pieces that God’s got moving in and around us. And like the guy in seat 1A, God’s smiling at us through every little piece that surprises us, that we don’t understand or that just seems normal until one day when we see the giant, beautiful whole.

Take heart, friends. He sees you. He loves you.

And today every stroke of the brush is on purpose.

Stories for your Sunday.

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It finally got cold in Alabama, and that drove everyone in the county through the doors of our coffeehouse yesterday morning. It drove me to put on sweatpants when I got off work. And it drove me to spend yesterday afternoon doing more adulting than I’m really capable of.

I tried to change the cord to a new dryer from a 4-prong to a 3-prong. YouTube said it was easy. Lowe’s said I could do it. A friend did theirs watching YouTube, and she said I could probably do it.

Y’all, I couldn’t do it. The dryer beat me.

I hooked it up just the way YouTube said, had a friend double check me, and when I plugged it in, it sounded like a dying cat was trapped inside.

So today … while I Google electricians … I’m going a little easier on the adulting. I’m sticking to what I know. I’m finishing up the last of Gilmore Girls season 7. I’m doing a little light reading. And I thought I would pass a few a la carte stories and other things your way …

*****

There’s a story I love to tell about how my friend Maurie and I ended up taking a pit stop at the wrong place and the wrong time in the middle of the desert a couple of years ago … and Radical was nice enough to let me tell it on their site recently. Let’s just say there was some heavy artillery involved. You can read more here if you’d like.

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If you’re single and doing missions or thinking about doing missions, do you ever feel like your life situation is a holding pattern, or even a consolation prize? It’s not … it’s really not. Read more here.

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I got to talk recently with Iryna … and her story is one I can’t stop thinking about. Is it possible to be trafficked and then be brokenhearted for your trafficker? She says, with God, yes. It’s miraculous forgiveness … and amazing insight into what it would take to stop trafficking at the root.

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In lieu of fixing the dryer, I made a Facebook page this weekend as a place to put all of the things (except dry laundry). It seemed easier and less likely to set anything on fire. If you’re a Facebook user, I’d love to bump into you over there.

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And I’d love to bump into you in real life, too. I’m starting this week to organize a road trip for 2017, and I’d love to stop by your church and say hey. Drop me a line at the contact form on this page if that’s a possibility.

Happy weekend, y’all. See you soon.