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.)

What we need in our moment of need.

Worry doesn’t work. Because just like we can’t anticipate what we really need, we also can’t anticipate the lavish grace that will meet us there.

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Where’s it going to come from?

The question hung in the humid air of the screened-in porch as I sat there, knees pulled tightly to my chest. Steam poured from my cup of tea, all sluggish and slow. Letting it out of that mug into the heavy air felt like pouring a Dixie cup of water into the ocean.

It didn’t really seem to go anywhere.

And neither did my questions.

Will I have the strength for that?

What will I say to them if that thing they’re dreading happens?

Where will the things I need come from if I decide to go that direction?

A bird sang.

I sat. Quiet.

The questions lingered like the steam.

And then suddenly, without warning, it was pouring. Deluge-style pouring. Split seconds ago, the air was heavy with moisture unseen, but now the clouds were ripped open at the seams and spilling their contents onto the back porch with ferocity. Rain made oceans on the concrete and gushed at full strength through the gutters.

And in rushed His Word.

“Look at the birds of the air: They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

I watched the rain splash against the screen, slapping against it and rolling in sheets over the porch out into the yard.

“God, I know you give us all things in the moment we need them.”

This past Sunday, our pastor Matt preached from Matthew 15, the story of Jesus feeding the 4,000. From just a few loaves of bread, everyone ate and had more than they could finish … and that was after three days of hanging out in the wilderness, wondering when they might eat again. Jesus tore that bread until there were seven extra baskets full of uneaten bread.

Why seven extra baskets? God knew exactly how much was needed. And there was no one else around to eat the leftovers.

“Those seven extra baskets are a picture of God’s lavish grace.”

Because God is so much more. So, so much more than anything we can ask or think.

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I remember a few years back when my friend Abbey’s dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. That thing had finally happened, the thing she wondered if she would know how to deal with if and when it happened.

What she said in that moment stuck with me. “I couldn’t have imagined the way it would hurt. But I also couldn’t have imagined the way God would give me grace in a way I had never experienced it before. It’s sweeter than anything I could’ve imagined.”

The sky ripped open.

Grace rushed down with ferocity.

And that’s why worry doesn’t work.

Because just like we can’t anticipate what we really need, we also can’t anticipate the lavish grace that will meet us there.

A lot of times we think of grace as “decaffeinated grace” that pats us on the hand and tells us everything’s going to be okay, Matt said, quoting Dane Ortlund’s “Defiant Grace.”

But that’s never what grace was meant to be.

What God rains down on us in our moment of need is the high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed.”

We get seven baskets extra.

We get God and all the peace, provision, joy and hope He has to offer.

And we get that by walking with Him willingly into the wilderness, following His voice, not knowing when the bread will come, but valuing His presence above what fills our stomachs.

He’s never failed us yet. We see that in His Word. We see it in our lives.

And we trust it for tomorrow.

*****

morevaluethanthey

Space.

Sometimes we need to stop, take a good, long look over our shoulder and remember who He’s been … and how that shapes where we’re headed.

dust

The wind rushed around the sleeper train, kicking up dust on both sides of the tracks.

I had a good view of the unnatural dust storm from where I lay on the third bunk, up in the nosebleed section. My feet dangled off the end of the too-short bed into the aisle, and I checked to see how close I was to kicking people in the face as they walked by.

Not close. Not close at all. I was miles above their heads. I’d never make foot-to-face contact from way up here. I wasn’t going to be Jackie Chan, not even accidentally, not even in my sleep.

It’s a long way down.

I scooted closer to the wall.

Two bunks below me, the lady across from Elizabeth was offering her some of the plastic bag of noodles she’d brought from home. In the few minutes since we’d boarded the train, Elizabeth had become besties with the noodle lady plus every baby on the train. Moms would come walking down the aisle looking for Elizabeth, babies in their arms, just so they could grab their little ones’ hands and make them wave and watch her wave back.

It’s instant community, whether you’re trying to sleep or not.

Which … Elizabeth was.

Looking down over the edge of my bunk, I saw her pop in her earphones. But here came another baby …

 I should see if she wants to trade at some point, I thought, even though she was getting a kick out of the toddler parade. We still had hours to go, and she might eventually want a real nap. It took some acrobatics to get up here, and sitting up wasn’t an option like it was on her bottom bunk – you had to kind of carefully thread yourself into the space between the bed and the ceiling in a horizontal position.

But up here above head level, above baby-waving level, it was like a pocket of space that no one could get to.

And that was kind of nice. Kind of quiet.

It gave me space to think.

As I lay there listening to the train rush along the tracks, all kinds of thoughts invaded my head and heart, as if the wind was stirring them up on the way by. The depth and breadth of the memories of the past several years exploded in my mind like a kaleidoscope.

God, we’ve covered a lot of miles since this journey started.

All kinds of emotions welled up. My first impulse was to hold everything down where it belonged, slapping my hands down on the memories like they were napkins on the table of a café on a windy day.

But as I lay there staring at the ceiling … I didn’t. I didn’t hold them down.

I let things fly.

This was the space to do that.

And it was a good thing.

Because God was in all of those things.

Sometimes we need to process what God has done, the places we’ve walked. Sometimes we need that space on the third bunk up, a place where the daily grind can fade away for a little while.

Sometimes we need to stop, take a good, long look over our shoulder and remember.

Because remembering takes the truth of who He is, who He’s been, who He will be and writes it on our hearts all over again.

Faithful. Loving. Good.

on the cliffs

The other day, I came across some things I’d jotted down about five years ago when I moved to England, back when I’d first put it all on the table and said God, whatever it takes to know You more. That’s what I want.

As I lay there on the third bunk, I thought about that girl who’d left Alabama with wide eyes and a wide-open heart. I tried to put myself back in her skin.

And I smiled.

That girl had no idea what was coming.

And that’s a really good thing.

I think I knew it would be incredible. I think I also knew it would be hard. But I don’t think I could’ve ever imagined just how incredible, or just how hard.

The list of things I couldn’t have predicted back then could go for days. Mountaintops. Miracles. Tragedies. Joy. Grief. Hope. Salvation.

He was in all of those things.

And in every moment, every day, He answered the prayer of that wide-eyed girl, even though she didn’t have a clue what she was really asking for. He gave more of Himself.

Through His Word, He reshaped the way I viewed Him, and that changed the way that experiences changed me. My life began to shape itself around who He is in a way that held its shape even in the moments when He felt farther away, when the really deep waters came.

I’m not the same shape I was five years ago when I was that wide-eyed girl.

And I won’t be the same shape five years from now either.

Because of who He is. Because of His faithfulness. And because of what happens when He invades the spaces of my life, my heart.

As I lay there on the train thinking about the things that did the molding, the places where His grace held me, the moments of pure joy that sent me to my knees in gratitude, I’m overwhelmed. It’s a big, big bag. Of deep, deep stuff.

What will the next five years bring? I can’t imagine.

But I want it. If it gives me more of You, I want it.

God, You are faithful. You have been. You will be. And because of that, I don’t want to stay the same.

Whatever that means.

I want Your story.

The one that leads me to You.

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The deeps.

(Traveling has been a good time to reflect on what God’s been teaching over the past couple of years. Here’s one such word.)

river

I lay there in a tangle of sheets, emotions tangling around my heart.

I could’ve never seen that coming.

Why? Why that? Why something so painful?

Why something so close to my heart?

I shoved my swollen eyes back into the pillow.

Out the boat’s bedroom window, the land began to fall farther away as we moved out from the dock into the deep center of the river.

I lay there, eyes burning with early morning, ears tingling with the banging of anchors being drawn up.

I’m not ready.

The deeps are no respecter of person. Ready or not, we’re moving.

This is out of my depth.

I don’t know how to navigate this.

A horn blast bounced in layers, rippling across the harbor, soaking into the river.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders.

His voice splits cedars. It shakes the wilderness. It strips the forests bare. (Psalm 29)

That’s the same voice that speaks into the quiet of my heart.

The one that strips.

I heard it two years ago as I lay face down, forehead pressed to the floor, tears soaking the carpet in matching circles.

I’d just lost my friend.

No. Too far. Too much.

When I said everything was on the table, I didn’t know how deeply that could cut.

It hurts.

But I trust You.

And in the quiet of my heart, I heard it. That stripping voice.

Grace, get ready. Know who I am. More deep waters are coming.

My heart stood stone still.

It’s the kind of word that would shake your soul if it didn’t come from the One you love, from the One who loves you with a fierce, heart-bursting love.

Who He is makes all the difference.

From Him, I heard the words like affection whispered in my ear in the middle of a lingering hug.

Be solid and confident in My love. Know who your anchor is. Because the water that’s coming — it’s deeper still.

The words lingered.

The embrace lingered more.

The voice that strips heals all the greater.

God, if it brings You glory … if it means I know You more … if I gain You at the end … then I want it.

I’ll be okay.

Because of who You are.

Because of Your love.

The deeps, they sit uncomfortably in my skin. Pain, discomfort, death, loneliness, hard conversations, loss … they hurt. They squirm in my soul.

With each year that passes, I face my own humanity, my own failings, in a new way.

I see the sting of death, the sting of sin’s poison in a new way.

The world seems more and more broken.

Sometimes I feel like it’s breaking me.

As deep water flows under the bridge day after day, my eyes widen. It rises past heart level, going deeper still.

I feel ill equipped to face it.

This is out of my depth.

I tremble all the more.

And yet His hand holds mine with more firmness than ever.

Stripping.

Healing.

Loving.

Soaked in comfort.

Breaking to rebuild.

It is well with my soul.

Because of who You are.

My heart cries out, hand tucked in His, chin poked above the surface. His love holds me tight in the current, in the water that threatens to pull me under, the river that’s bigger than life to me right here, right now.

The river that’s barely a teardrop to be wiped away by eternity.

It’s worth it, my soul whispers again.

And He pulls me further up and into His love.

Deeper still.