The 5 Minutes I Was Thankful to Be Single

It hasn’t been a literal 5 minutes, but I do feel like this time of thankfulness will be fleeting. So I have to get these words out now, or else I fear this season of gratefulness will pass before I’ve recognized it for what it is and taken a moment to pause and relish it.

For me, most of the time being single is difficult—sometimes exceedingly so. It feels like an enduring fight, of trying to be content, to not compare, and so many other things.

Mixed in with it all, there are moments of appreciation for the reasons being single rocks and of recognizing the lessons I’m learning, but truthfully, not a ton of thankfulness. Dashes, here and there, but not bucket loads.

Lately, though, I’ve felt some of it. Thankfulness for time to really think through what the point of the kind of marriage I want is—not just two people who happen to love each other a lot, but two people who, because they are together, help one another to better love, serve, and glorify God than they would be able to do if they were apart. Thankfulness for time to read and pray about the way I think a wife and husband should interact and treat each other in marriage. Thankfulness for time to discover who I am and what it is that makes me uniquely me, on my own, without the influence of a significant other.

These are lessons that many people learn while they’re in relationships, but I’m not sure I would have been able to—or certainly not in the way that I have. And I’m sure I have much more to learn about all of these and many, many more. But, for at least a brief period of time, I’ve been able to identify specific reasons I am thankful I am single. Which in itself feels like kind of a gift.

It doesn’t mean I love being single, because most of the time I don’t. This is still not the way I would have planned for my life to go. But singleness has been my reality for a long time, and looks like it may be for a good while yet. Already it feels like this season of singleness may be changing to a more difficult one, and that the thankfulness may be slipping through my fingers. Even as it does though, I can say that it existed at least once. And maybe I’ll be able to get it back and keep it for longer another time.

Say, 10 minutes.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Are you, or have you been, thankful to be single? Why?

Say It Again (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. My latest post in that space is as much a reminder for me as it is a message I think others need to hear as well–and also somewhat explains why my posts have been less frequent of late.

 

Say It Again

These days, it’s fairly easy to find Christian messages. We open a browser or app, and are presented with an array of articles and blogs we can read or sermons and podcasts to listen to. They can encourage us in our faith, challenge us to pray more, and help us look at a Bible passage in a different light. Many of these messages are good, worth paying attention to and learning from.

Yet it can easily become overwhelming. These resources, tailored specifically to our own age demographic, writing style preference, and theological affiliation of choice, are available quickly and from any number of places. And, in the midst of it all, it can be easy to wonder if our own message has any worth at all.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

The Value of Simple Things

One of the awesome things about my generation is that we grew up being told we could go anywhere, be anything, and do it all.

And one of the awful things about my generation is that we grew up being told we could go anywhere, be anything, and do it all.

Because sometimes when you’re told you can do something, it starts to feel like you have to.

There are so many countries to visit, so many academic programs to choose from, so many opportunities to start something, create something, make something of yourself.

In all of the striving to go, be, and do, I wonder if we lose the steadfast value of the simple and the everyday.

 

Last week I had dinner with my grandparents, and the conversation turned to Bible studies. I asked how long they had been in theirs.

Over twenty years, they said.

And the one before that, eighteen years.

A combined total of close to forty years of studying the Bible with a group of people, but also forty years of bringing meals, of showing up when someone is sick or has had surgery, of talking through difficulties in faith and parenting or grandparenting and marriage and work.

 

That is a kind of simple, steadfast dedication I know very little of. It has nothing to do with going, being, and doing it all, and everything to do with staying. Showing up, month after month, year after year, even when you’d probably rather quit when things get messy and hard and wearisome.

 

There is very little, if any, flash or sparkle to sticking with something. Movies don’t get made about people who invest in the small good work of showing up at their manufacturing job each day for twenty seven years, or who bring meal after meal to people celebrating new babies, or who live in the same neighborhood for their entire adult life and build relationships with each neighbor as they come and wave goodbye as they go.

These are not big, or glamorous, or grandiose actions.

 

But they still matter.

 

Sometimes I get down on myself when I hear of what other people my age are doing. They’re saving women from being trafficked, starting organizations to bring people water, making movies and writing books and winning contests and being called “Ones to Watch.”

I don’t do any of those things.

But I’m fighting to believe that the small, simple acts of showing up, of sticking with people and things when they get difficult, matter anyway.

Maybe these simple things are not shaking the foundations of the earth, but they are still building something good.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Will you share a story of someone you know who does small things that matter?

When Prayer Feels Pointless (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every other week, I write a post for my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on Sunday’s message. Our message series has been on prayer, which has had led me to have the not-entirely-uncommon (for me, anyway) feeling that my pastor is, in fact, and annoyingly, talking directly to me. Which has also helped validate my suspicion that I am not the only one who struggles with prayer.

 

When Prayer Feels Pointless

As someone who grew up in Christianity-saturated community, I’ve been told all of the “correct” answers for when we feel like God isn’t listening to our prayers.

“His ways aren’t like ours.”

“He answers prayer, just not always in the timeline we’d like him to.”

“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” (Okay, that one might have come from The Sound of Music, but I’m sure someone has said it at some point too.)

At least for me, prayer is one of the most difficult parts of following Jesus. I’d be willing to guess that unanswered prayers have been a catalyst for more than a few people to walk away from faith entirely. For those of us who have ever prayed, even if only a handful of times, at some point we’ve probably all wondered what the point is. We’ve probably wondered if God is actually paying attention, or if our words just fall to the floor, empty and meaningless. Maybe we’ve prayed the same thing for weeks, months, or years, and though we’ve been told that God answers prayers, even if it’s sometimes with a “No,” it seems that he has completely overlooked ours.

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

 

You Are Not Disqualified

I almost didn’t publish my last two posts.

 

After all, I’m a Christian. I work at a Christian company and am heavily involved at my church, including being a youth leader. There’s a Bible passage stating, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned…”

 

Giving God a Piece of My Mind” and “I Stopped Reading My Bible” are not exactly “good little Christian” titles.

 

As I sat in our first youth gathering of the school year, I wondered a bit if I should have published them. If maybe spewing my insecurities and doubts and issues with God onto the Internet was not a wise move for a youth leader, or even just as a Christian.

It crossed my mind that maybe they were words I should have kept to myself, because maybe putting them out there made me a bad example, a bad youth leader, a bad Christian. Maybe they disqualified me, and maybe I should have waved goodbye to those high school and middle schoolers and walked out the door.

 

Then I wondered if it would’ve been, in some way, worse for me to not have published them. Nothing I wrote, of  not really knowing what the deal is with God and having mostly stopped reading my Bible right now, was untrue.

Which is exactly why I decided to publish them anyway.

I chose to put the messy, ugliness of what I’ve been thinking and feeling into a public space, but doing so wasn’t what caused me to think and feel that way. It was simply putting words to what already was.

 

But would it really have been the publishing of those words that disqualified me? Or the thinking and feeling and them?

 

As I sat there, it hit me: I am not disqualified. 

Those messy thoughts and feelings and questions I have about God and following him do not disqualify me from serving him. They don’t disqualify me from hanging out with high school and middle schoolers, they don’t disqualify me from greeting people at church, they don’t disqualify me from being a Christian. 

 

And here’s the thing:

YOU are not disqualified either. 

 

I don’t know what your messy thoughts and feelings about God and Jesus and prayer and the Bible are, I don’t know what you’re arguing with God over right now, I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve read your Bible. But I do know those struggles do not disqualify you from serving him and being used by him.

If they did, there would be no pastors, no seminary professors, no Christian conference speakers. No one who follows Jesus has it all figured out, all the time.

God is in the business of using imperfect people. They’re the only kind he ever has.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever felt disqualified from being used by God? How were you reminded that you’re not?

I Stopped Reading My Bible

For the most part, right now, I have stopped reading my Bible.

It is a petty, passive aggressive way to handle what feels like God’s silence, and it is not the response I’d exactly recommend.

It is, however, my present truth.

Photo Credit: Flickr User net_efekt, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User net_efekt, Creative Commons

 

This seems like one of the things I’m not supposed to say out loud, not supposed to admit to people, much less put out there on the Internet.

But I can’t help thinking I must not be the only one.

 

I can’t be the only one who, while still believing the words, has stopped reading them for a time.

Not because of some tragedy that’s left you staggering and doubting, but because a gentle weariness has set in, and it feels too much to keep repeating the same thing over and over when it seems that nothing changes.

Because even when you believe in the words, their meaning can go missing. Not lost in a broad sense, but misplaced, at least by you, at least for a time.

 

Eventually I’ll read those pages again, as I always seem to, but I am done beating myself up for setting them aside for a time. While giving up on reading my Bible entirely might be cause for alarm, I am not ready to admit that, by failing to regularly read my Bible for a stretch of time, I have fallen short in any way greater than I do each day as it is.

 

I’ll make my way back, just maybe not today.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever stopped reading the Bible?

Giving God a Piece of My Mind

Oh, God, where are you now?

It feels almost wrong for me to be the one asking that question. On the list of true tragedies, I’ve suffered none of the big ones. Yet, not being able to see you kind of feels like one, in a way.

So I’m writing, because good relationships have good communication, and it’s probably past time for me to tell you how I feel.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  kevin dooley, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User kevin dooley, Creative Commons

This silence has gone on for long enough, don’t you think?

I thought maybe you’d show up on the mission trip; I saw a flicker of you, but not a flame. Maybe it was my own skepticism getting in the way.

It’s not that I don’t believe in you or that I don’t think you’re entitled to do what you want (you are God, after all), but everything feels rather messy. God, there’s so much Broken here. The fighting and the uncertainty and the illnesses and the doubting and the death.

There’s an ache here, in the world, but also in me.

They tell me you cry when we cry, that you’re near to the brokenhearted, and I believe that about you—it’s one of the things bringing me back, time and time again—but it really doesn’t always feel that way. Because even though I know the textbook answers of why you don’t always step in to fix the Broken, they don’t always make sense in the here, the now, in the dust and the ugly.

 

It’s not just the big questions that bother me, either.

 

For one so big, you have mastered the silence.

 

I know this is part of faith, the times where you are so near it is breathtaking and the times when you so distant it is maddening. I am not the first, or the last, to experience and to question this. To question you.

And I am questioning you. Not whether you exist, because I am quite certain, even in the silence, you hold me so tightly and tenderly that I can’t ever truly walk away. But I do question your ways.

 

I don’t think you’ll strike me down for writing this; nor do I think that, because I’m being honest, putting this all out there, airing my grievances, you will “reward” me by showing up in some way I’ve been hoping you would for quite some time. You are no genie, waiting to be summoned from a lamp.

Because if you were, you would have showed up by now. I’ve tried everything but rubbing lamps to get you to appear.

It frustrates me that you show up so readily for other people, who seem to know you and feel your leading in ways I just don’t. Maybe it’s a faith thing, and I don’t have enough, or maybe it’s because we’re different people and simply bound to experience you in different ways, but I can’t help but wonder why you can’t give me a dose of what they get.

 

You’re kind of a shifty fellow who’s hard to figure out, because you don’t work the way I want you to work.

 

And maybe that is what the silence is about—teaching me that you work here, in the silence, as well as in the noise. You might be standing right off the edge of the stage, waiting, quietly, patiently, to make your appearance, because the time hasn’t come yet.

But I’m hoping it’ll come soon.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. What do you do when God seems silent?

Growing Up is (Still) Hard to Do

For a while now, I’ve been thinking of making some changes to this blog. “Musings of a Recent College Graduate” seems less fitting now, considering I graduated over two years ago.

And yet, whenever I try to think of a new name for this grouping of writings, nothing jumps out at me. I am still getting used to this phase of life not having a set ending, of not being able to section it off nicely with an end and a beginning. Before, it was always beginning of a grade, end of a grade, on to the next level of school, and so on.

Here, it is an ever-stretching land, with no concrete beginnings or endings I can clearly see, called Adult.

I still don’t even know for sure what the word “adult” means.

I think it’s how I’m supposed to describe myself now, but when I try it on, it still doesn’t seem to fit quite right. The sleeves are a little long, the shoulders a little too boxy, and the hem hangs a little crooked.

And there’s something about “Musings of an Adult” that just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.

Two years ago almost to the day, I wrote about having an Identity Trial.

Graduating from college and attempting to enter “the big kid world” has brought about significant changes in many aspects of my life (some of which I mentioned here). I’ve lost my familiar rhythms of life, the frustrations and joys of schoolwork, and perhaps one I’m struggling with the most, the label of “college student.” So although for most of my life I had a fairly strong sense of who I am, right now my identity is…a bit in flux. Not quite an identity crisis.

An identity trial, if you will.

At my core I still know who I am; my belief in God is firmly intact, and I have a sense that I would like to do something with my life that is bigger than me, but not FOR me. I still know my likes and dislikes, things I am good at and not good at, things that make me laugh and those that make me cringe.

Though my circumstances have changed—I’ve been at my “big kid” job for a year and a half and out of my parents’ house for over a year—a surprising amount of those words still feel true. When I look back at old pictures or am reminded of college in other ways, it still feels so recent, so important, and still not something I’m entirely ready to completely let go of. There’s still so much I’m trying to figure out about how to be an adult well, about how to find and create meaning and goodness in whatever stage of life I’m in.

And a still a blog name that no longer seems to fit, but that I can’t quite bring myself to replace just yet.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s hardest for you about growing up?

When Home Isn’t Where the Heart Is

Last Saturday, I moved. If you’ve been around this space for a while, you probably know that change is not my favorite thing. But the lease was up, the roommate was getting married, and it was time to go. So nearly my entire family (including a five-year-old and two three-year-olds) descended on my house at 8:30 a.m., and by 11, we were done.

Done in the physical sense, at least.

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

But just because your stuff moves from one place to another doesn’t mean that all of you does.

It’s nothing against my new abode (it’s lovely, close to Target, has space for my hammock inside during the winter months, and comes with a rockin’ roommate), but, even after almost a week, I still feel like I haven’t fully detached from the other house and gotten comfortable in the new one. Which feels especially absurd, considering I only lived there a year.

At the root of it though, I think my issue is that I don’t know what home is for me, right now. I’ve been skimming through a book  full of beautiful pictures and inspiration for imperfect decorating in order to truly make a house (or apartment or condo) a home. But when she gets down to giving some sort of definition of home, she loses me.

I realized that no matter what happened or where we went, it would be okay because we would be together. Wherever we were, that was home. Home was us. 

And therein lies the disconnect. It’s a common refrain, to say that home is where the heart is and where your people are, but if true home is people, mine is only very partially in this dwelling I sit in right now.

If “Home is where the heart is,” then my home must be scattered in pieces across the city, state, country, and world, because my heart is scattered in all those places too.

As much as I want to make this new place a home by decorating it and throwing parties in it and spending lots of time in it (and I certainly will do all of those things), I think it will always feel a little like something is missing. Part of it is connected to being single, I’m sure, but it’s deeper, too. It’s a sense of being unmoored, slightly adrift. It’s a very twentysomething thing for me to feel, I suppose.

Last year around this time I wrote, “Maybe ‘home’ is about creating enough of a sense of it within me that I can carry it with me wherever I go.” I’ve had year to work on it, and I’m not sure I’m any closer to figuring out what that looks like.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you define home?

The Singles in Your Sanctuary (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. My latest post there is some further thoughts on singleness and Church. I know, I keep writing about it, but I keep writing because I think it matters. Here’s the first bit, and I hope you keep reading over here.

 

The Singles in Your Sanctuary

In my last post in this space, I presented the results of a survey about single pastors in the church. While my survey focused on pastors, it became apparent that a scarcity of single church leaders is only the beginning of the problem. Based on my own experience, conversations with others, and reading about the experience of many other single people, it is not uncommon for single people to feel marginalized in the Church. As I wrote last time, many churches focus heavily on marriage and families, which can result in not understanding how to embrace singles and their good, but different, experiences.

I think the topic of how churches enfold singles into the community is of particular importance for the Church right now. It has been widely documented that Millennials are getting married later than previous generations did, and also that they are less likely to continue or to begin involvement in a church. As more Millennials remain single for longer periods of time, the Church must be willing to meet these people where they are at and to intentionally seek to be an environment where all people are valued for who they are and not because of their relationship status.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.