Celebrate All the Love

Valentine’s Day is nearly here, and, as I expected, it’s bringing up some Feelings for me. But, along with the usual tinges of sadness that my life has not turned out quite the way I had planned, there’s something new this year.

I’m kind of irritated with the way “love” gets pigeonholed, made out to be just one certain thing.

Because while romantic love is a fine thing to celebrate, this time of year it gets put on a pedestal as being The Best Thing, The Ultimate Thing, The One True Thing. And it’s just not.

There are so many kinds of love.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Greencolander, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Greencolander, Creative Commons

I still haven’t found the words to adequately express my love for my nieces and nephews. They bring so much wonder, so much light, so much joy to our family. Yet the love I feel for them is a different kind of love than I feel even for my parents, who raised me and my two older siblings so well and demonstrate the beauty of a love that lasts because it’s worked at. And my siblings and their spouses–a kind of love that has endured years of pestering and teasing as the baby of the family. Then there’s the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all claiming and bestowing a unique kind of love. It’s surrounded me, even when I have not appreciated or recognized it, from even before the day I was born.

Beyond the love that blood ties together, there are the friends, the fellow churchgoers, the co-workers–people who, now that I no longer live with family, get the majority of my days in some form or another. I think I’ve finally reached the point that I can say with a bit of confidence that at least some of my friendships will be around for the long haul. Friends that (annoyingly) push me to be better, friends that make me laugh, friends that make me sit up and take stock of the type of person I’m becoming and whether it’s who I really want to be.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

So this Valentine’s Day, I’m trying to not be blind. I may not have the exact kind of love I had hoped to find by this point, but my life is far from loveless.

In fact, if I had to pick just one–either romantic love or the myriad kinds in my life as it is right now–I’d take the kind of love I have. It is varied and frustrating and vibrant and maddening. It is real. It is alive. It is worthy to be noticed, to be celebrated. 

So I’ll celebrate all the love.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What kinds of love can you celebrate?

When Everyone’s Life Looks Good Except Your Own

Sometimes I get jealous of horses.

When they’re out and about, racing or pulling buggies, they get to wear blinders. According to Wikipedia, “Many racehorse trainers believe these keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds.”

I could use some blinders for life.

Photo Credit: Flickr User emilio labrador, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User emilio labrador, Creative Commons

It is frighteningly easy for me to lose focus of what’s in front of me, of the goodness and beauty and light in my life, and instead look to the side, getting distracted by the flashy, clamoring, noisy crowds all around me. Then I see what they have, their neat, shiny little lives full of the things I wanted and planned for my own life, while mine just looks…well, the way it does. A little flat, the polish wearing off, rough around the edges. Suddenly, everyone’s life looks good except my own.

This comparison, this nagging envy, is like an old friend–or enemy, rather. We are far from strangers, certainly. Though I have learned there are ways to head it off, by avoiding certain places or groups or books or movies, there is no way to perfectly avoid it every single time. It is an insidious creature, lurking in from back hallways and hidden doorways, just out of sight but there at a moment’s notice.

And when it shows up, whether in small ways or looming large, threatening to overtake me, I remind myself to be content. I could make lists of the things in my life I am thankful for (nieces and nephews and friends and church and job and books and music and dessert), and while they fill my life with so much wonderful, they cannot completely fill the spaces that are left from the things I want but do not have. Contentment is something single people in particular are reminded of a lot, but even the word itself is deceiving. It sounds so gentle and calm, bringing to mind a hammock swaying in the light breeze coming off a peaceful lake.

But the truth is, contentment is a battle. It is a constant struggle, a back and forth, a conscious decision time and time again to put on some blinders. I must continually keep turning my head away from all the noise that flashes what I don’t have. I know that most people don’t really have it together the way it looks, but oh, those looks can be appealing.

Except it doesn’t make my life, it doesn’t make me any better to be constantly looking around, getting distracted by everyone else’s lives. They are not mine. 

The only life I have is the one I’m living.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever needed to tell yourself to put on some blinders?

Top Posts of 2014

Every year I want to start my “Top Posts” post with some line about how I can’t believe another year has gone by already–because it seems like they all go by so quickly. Which is a very cliche thing to say, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

I’m finding that years as a full-time working adult feel much different than ones when I was in school. It’s easy to count accomplishments when they come in the form of papers with a letter grade, tests with a percentage, classes by credits earned. Adult life doesn’t provide me such measurable benchmarks, meaning I have to look at things that are of value in a different way–in terms of life experience, lessons learned, new ways of thinking.

One of the beautiful parts of having a blog is that it provides a way for me to chronicle some of those things as they occur. Interestingly, as I looked at the top posts of this past year, many of them centered around singleness. Apparently not only is it a topic that I have a lot of thoughts and feels about personally, but others seem to as well. So, in no particular order, here are my top 7 posts of 2014.

Singleness, Desire, and Buying the Mixer

So this is not how I planned on getting a mixer. It’s not how I wanted to get my mixer.

Because it’s not just a mixer. It feels like a symbol of how my life is going differently than I had planned or hoped. It’s one of those little things that has slapped me in the face and reminded me that I’m single but would prefer not to be.

It’s irrational, I know, to be tying my purchase of a mixer to the fact that I am single. My relationship status should not be connected to a kitchen appliance.

Dear College Graduate

Sometimes being a college graduate sucks, and it’s okay that you think it sucks. Feel what you feel. Maybe you thrive on the excitement of the unknown, or maybe uncertainty can leave you curled up in a ball, watching Netflix for hours on end. Neither of these feelings are inherently bad, they’re just different. It’s better to admit the way graduating is making you feel than try to act another way because you see someone else reacting differently. These are crazy times, and no two people will handle it in the exact same way.

5 Tips for Interacting with Single People at Holiday Parties

1) First, and perhaps most importantly, being single should not be seen as weird or unusual (even though it may be, particularly in some environments). This can be hard to believe, but it’s true: Single people roam among us. They are not mythical beings like unicorns, though they may be as awesome as unicorns. Being single is fine. Treat it as normal, because it is.

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.

All the Single Pastors?

As a single person, I find that church can sometimes be an isolating place. Many churches seem to be naturally oriented towards caring for families and married people, and although I don’t think any church would intentionally exclude single people, they may unintentionally do so.

You Are Not Disqualified

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. 

The Enduring Fight of Singleness

One of the most difficult parts of being single is that I feel like I’m always fighting.

Fighting to be content.

Fighting to remember my life is now, not if or when I walk down the aisle.

Fighting to not compare.

Fighting to know there is meaning and purpose in this, the here and now.

Fighting to not be mad at God.

As a bonus post, this was also the year that my piece There Is More to Life Than Marriage was published at RELEVANT Magazine, so that’s kind of fun as well.

And to you, whether you’ve ready every post on this blog this year or this is your very first–thank you. I’m glad you’re here.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you have any favorite posts from 2014, either from my blog or somewhere else?

5 Tips for Interacting with Single People at Holiday Parties

The holidays are approaching, and single people everywhere are likely cringing as they steel themselves for the awkward moments ahead. Holiday gatherings often involve seating charts, seeing people you haven’t seen in some time, a random assortment of games, and who knows what else–many of which can create uncomfortable situations for single folks. While not all single people are like me and would prefer to not be, here’s a few handy-dandy tips that may make holiday gatherings go more smoothly for all involved.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Seattle Municipal Archives, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Seattle Municipal Archives, Creative Commons

1) First, and perhaps most importantly, being single should not be seen as weird or unusual (even though it may be, particularly in some environments). This can be hard to believe, but it’s true: Single people roam among us. They are not mythical beings like unicorns, though they may be as awesome as unicorns. Being single is fine. Treat it as normal, because it is.

2) The person-you-formerly-knew-as-single may not be single anymore, or they may still be single. If their relationship status has changed, and you’re at the level of relationship with this person that you need to know about it, they’ll let you know. There’s really not a good reason to ask. It can very easily bring up hurt that doesn’t need to be touched on at holiday gatherings. I’ll go out on a limb here and say the same goes for asking people if they’re going to have/are expecting kids. If you need to know, they’ll let you know. (A few specific comments that are better left unsaid to single people can be found here.)

3) Single people may not be able to join in your conversations about house maintenance, the really great B&B you stayed at over the summer, or the new spa with a great couples’ massage that you can’t wait to try. It doesn’t mean those topics have to be completely avoided, just used in moderation. Typically it’s good social protocol to try to include all the people at the table/in your conversation circle/sitting in your living room in the conversation. (Which also means, single people, don’t spend the whole night talking about the string of cool people you’re meeting on Tinder/at the bookstore/in the artisan cheese aisle.)

4) Odd numbers are the new rage. Who needs even numbers to make your seating chart or team game strategy work out perfectly? You definitely don’t! You’re way cooler than that. So don’t huff over having to squeeze a 9th chair around the table or pick games that can only be played in pairs and then squeal over how it works out perfectly “Except for…” While you may be tempted to go to the other extreme and just not invite your single friends in case they might feel awkward, invite them anyway–give them the power to decide whether or not they’ll feel out of place.

5) Just because you know two single people does not mean they’re going to get married. Now, some single people (present company included), aren’t appalled at the idea of being set up with your spouse’s former roommate, but I’d wager most single people are open to this idea only if you actually think the two single people involved have some things in common and could potentially have an at least non-brain-numbingly-boring time on a date. If you don’t know either of the single people very well, it’s likely best to not even bring up the topic. I’ll also take this time to refer back to number 1 and emphasize that being single is fine. Even if it’s not someone’s preferred state, it’s still fine.

Let me wrap up by saying the burden is not all on couples. Fellow single people, I know holiday gatherings can be rough–to be honest, I often let the potential awkwardness rob me of some of the enjoyment I could be having. And that’s not cool either. So lighten up a bit, take in the twinkling lights and Christmas carols, and try to enjoy the people you’re with, even if you’d rather have someone special by your side.

And let’s all have happy holidays.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What tips would you add?

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?

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.

There’s More to Life Than Marriage (Today at Relevant)

Today, I’m honored to have another post appearing at Relevant Magazine. If you’re stopping by from there, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Feel free to take a look at the archives and share some thoughts.

There’s More to Life Than Marriage

This time of year, churches, banquet halls and barns get decked out in tulle and lights. Everyone seems to know someone who’s in a wedding, going to a wedding or having their own wedding.

And quietly, subtly, the chatter begins.

“They’re just so young. I mean, they’ll probably be OK, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

“It’s about time they got married. They’re not getting any younger.”

“So when’s your wedding going to be? Why don’t you have someone in your life yet?”

They’re common thoughts we’ve probably all had or even spoken. Yet between the words, it is easy to weave a gentle judgment; someone has done things differently than we have, and we think to ourselves that our way is slightly better, more correct and, perhaps, more godly.

Keep reading at Relevant.

Til next time…
~Brianna!~

Of Hammocks, Decisions, and Singleness

There’s something about seemingly significant purchases that make me feel All The Feels about being single. Last time, it was a mixer.

This time, it was a hammock.

This hammock, specifically.

This hammock, specifically.

 

I spotted it in a Groupon Goods email.

“It’s just a hammock,” I told myself.

But I’ve been dreaming of hammocks for a while, or perhaps, more accurately, of the lifestyle a hammock seems to represent. In my current house, the backyard doesn’t have the right trees for a hammock, and hammocks with stands cost more money. I didn’t know where I’d be living next, so I didn’t want to buy a hammock and not have somewhere to put it.
Recently, though, I decided where I’ll be living next, and not only is there space for a hammock outside, there’s space for it inside. In a spacious basement that’s just crying out for a hammock.

 

Yet, when I spotted the hammock (and stand!) for $100, it was not an immediate decision for me. Did I want it? Certainly. Did I have $100 to be throwing around on such frivolities as a hammock? Somewhat debatable.

And so my decision making began. Messages were typed and texted and sent to friends in a flurry, explaining the situation and asking their input. My semi-obsession with the Hammock Lifestyle is one I’ve told many people about, so their responses were mostly a resounding “YES.”

And still, I waffled. As I contemplated the purchase, I had the somewhat-overwhelming realization that, though I could get input from as many people as I liked, the decision was mine. Mine and mine alone. Which is both the awesomeness and the frustration of being single.

 

With something like a hammock, it was awesome. I didn’t have to consult another person about the state of “our” bank account, or try to justify the expenditure and explain how much enjoyment I would get out of the hammock and how long I’ve been wanting one and how it’s a good deal and the stand should last even beyond the hammock itself. I used all of these arguments to rationalize it to myself, but I didn’t have to present these to someone else. It was my decision.

I wanted the hammock, so I bought it. (It’s supposed to arrive Tuesday. I’m very excited.)

There are some decisions that are a little less freeing to have to make completely on my own, though. When trying to figure out where I should live next, I talked over my options with various people, but ultimately, the decision was mine. And it felt kind of big, and a little intimidating, to be the only one who had anything depending on the decision. I’m pleased with where I’ll be living and think it will be great, yet sometimes I still don’t feel old enough to be completely in charge of my own life. 

Sometimes it still startles me that I’m a person who has a full-time job and health insurance and makes decisions about where to live all on her own and buys mixers and hammocks. I know how old I am, of course, but I don’t always feel that old on the inside.

 

So, as often seems to happen with me, a hammock has become much more than a hammock, and turned into a complex examination of where I’m at in life and how I feel about it. I’m fearful of what I might discover as I begin to look at buying a car…

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you like making decisions all by yourself, or do you prefer to have someone to make the decision with?

All the Single Pastors? (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. This post, even more than most of mine, is one I feel strongly aboutYou might even say I get a little bit feisty when I talk about it. Because I think it matters. Here’s the first bit, and I hope you keep reading over here.

 

All the Single Pastors?

As a single person, I find that church can sometimes be an isolating place. Many churches seem to be naturally oriented towards caring for families and married people, and although I don’t think any church would intentionally exclude single people, they may unintentionally do so.

The more I thought about this, it occurred to me that If I were to make a list of the single pastors I know of, it would be quite a short one. Wondering if it was maybe just my own experience, I recently did an informal survey asking people a few questions about single pastors in the church. The results of my survey turned out to match my own experience quite closely. Less than 10 percent of people who replied have attended a church where a single (non-married, non-engaged) person was the primary preaching pastor. Just less than half (45.9%) have attended a church with a single person serving as another type of pastor.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

The Enduring Fight of Singleness

One of the most difficult parts of being single is that I feel like I’m always fighting.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Travis Modisette, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Travis Modisette, Creative Commons

Fighting to be content.

Fighting to remember my life is now, not if or when I walk down the aisle.

Fighting to not compare.

Fighting to know there is meaning and purpose in this, the here and now.

Fighting to not be mad at God.

 

It gets tiring, to be fighting all the time.

I want to hang up my boxing gloves, lie down on the mat, and just be. 

 

If I knew how to do that, I would’ve done it by now.

But even my attempts to stop fighting are, themselves, the source of the fight–the fight to be content, to remember my life is now, to not be mad at God.

 

That last one is the biggest problem, of course.

It’s not, objectively speaking, God’s fault I am single.

 

But I do believe God is all-powerful, listens to prayers, and hates to see his children hurt.

Which I struggle to make jive with my reality, in which I am single, it hurts, and God has the power to change it but hasn’t.

 

I trust God and that he has a plan for me, for each part of my life.

But I don’t think trusting him takes away pain or hardship.

 

So I don’t know exactly where all this leaves me.

I’ve tried to stop fighting, to just be, and yet getting there is its own kind of fight.

 

Singleness seems to be an enduring kind of fight.

A refining, lesson-riddled, challenging, sometimes freeing and rewarding fight.

But a fight all the same.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you ever feel like you’re fighting to be content with where you are?