‘I Don’t Wait Anymore’ study outlines available.

Hi, y’all! Happy end of May. :) As our small group heads into the summer, we’re starting to walk through “I Don’t Wait Anymore” alongside some Scripture passages that go hand in hand with the themes of the chapters. Your group may already have a plan for the summer, but should you want to do something similar, I’m making our study outlines available for download here.

We’ll be talking about singleness, broken dreams, trusting God with our life plans and freeing our hearts up to follow Him as the prize worth our whole lives. My prayer for myself and for you, whatever corner of the world you’re in … is at the end of today, we know Him better than we did this morning, and at the end of the summer, we find Him even sweeter than we do right now.

See you again soon, friends. More to come.

A quiet season and a full heart.

This can’t be the plan. Can it?

I remember thinking that in the summer of 2014 as I dragged the mop through our dusty Middle Eastern apartment for the last time, shiny clean stripes crisscrossing the dusty tile. My roommate Abi had already left to go back to her home state, and that night I was going to lock up that iron door for the last time and start heading back to mine.

The click of the key felt final.

What do you do when you feel like God called you to something that you thought would last a long, long time – years of mopping desert dust, or shaking off English rain – and it only lasts a few months? What do you do when the door to the place you thought God was leading closes and He opens a very different one instead, one that makes you think … no way.

God, I was ready. I was ready for this crazy life overseas, whatever that meant. I was ready to try to plant my life somewhere for a long, long time.

I know I said anything. But I don’t know if I’m ready for this.

I remember promising God about a month before … if He would just open the door, whatever the door was, I’d walk through it, no matter what country it was. And now it looked like — in the face of a lot of closed doors for long-term visas to countries where I could live and serve, doors I’d knocked on repeatedly — the yawning, wide-open, undeniable door was to go back to America and write a book.

I’d said yes … but I wouldn’t say I was an instant fan.

“What are you afraid of?” I remember Abi asking me over breakfast.

Everything.

“I’m afraid of closing the door to the work I thought I was called to overseas. I’m afraid of losing this opportunity to share the depth of Christ’s love with people who haven’t experienced it yet and never getting that opportunity back. I’m afraid I’ll do a bad job at communicating who He is and what He’s doing in my life through a book. How do you even get all that in a book? What if I mess it up? And I’m afraid that somehow — because it’s based on my story — it will somehow become about my singleness and not about Jesus.”

Abi leaned back in her chair, fingers curled around her yellow Mackinac Island mug.

“What would you want it to look like?”

I thought for a minute.

I didn’t want it to be some sort of manual for living single. Who was I to try to tell anybody that? I’m a hot mess. All I knew was that Jesus had happened, He had happened in my life in a big way in the wasteland of my broken plans, and that anything good in me was Him. He had taken my broken pieces and was molding a brand new path. That was my story.

“I’d just want to try to communicate how Jesus is enough, how He’s the prize of our life. And I’d hope it could lead to some good conversations.”

He shows up … always

Packing up those bags in the Middle East was tough. Unpacking that garage in England and helping a friend set up house with the furniture I’d planned to use wasn’t easy. Turning in my resignation and leaving the people, places and work I loved was hard.

But I’d love to go back to 2014 and tell that Grace … you have no idea the conversations you’ll get to have, or how God is going to show Himself faithful.

In 2016, after a lot of prayer and days at the keyboard, “I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book showed up in print. I nearly hyperventilated. Blogs you can delete, but all that bound paper feels like a lot of yourself that you’ll never be able to get back.

But that book, the one I didn’t want to write, brought with it an outpouring of God’s grace that I never would’ve expected. He brought me to the table over and over with friends I never would’ve known otherwise. A precious church on the Oregon coast. A group of girls in Akron, Ohio. A dear new friend in Missouri. A girl I met for coffee on the front porch of a cafe in Dover, Delaware. Last year was spent tracing the U.S. and pulling up a chair, and I walked away with a full heart at the way God is pursuing people personally and creatively all over this world. Beautiful stories. A beautiful God.

And often our broken plans are the place where He chooses to meet us.

The past few years have held a lot of things, as adulthood apparently unavoidably does — seasons lost, seasons gained, tears, scars, adventure, laughter, hardship, joy. It’s been a quiet time with some deep valleys, and I tucked away for some of it, wrestling it out in the quiet of my house and heart with the Father. I’ve had moments where I dug back into God, asking Him to teach my heart all over again who He is and how to wander this road well.

But it’s been infused with joy and the fresh wind of new seasons.

And as I see His work in my own heart and in the hearts of others — His personal, loving and unrelenting pursuit — I’m grateful all over again.

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.

 

*****

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.)