3 Things from 2015 I’m Taking Into 2016

For several years now, I’ve written in a notebook almost every single day. Many times it’s an account of what I did that day along with thoughts and feelings about those events. Other times they’re deep spiritual thoughts, or frustration over a relationship that feels difficult, or angst over a life situation. Bits and pieces of my life, recounted on some sheets of paper bound together.2016

Looking back at this past year, it’s tempting for me to get stuck in the past few months, which haven’t been the easiest time of my life. Except to let those be the ones to color my perception of the entire year would be inaccurate, and, in a way, unfair. As I looked back through my daily writings from 2015, I saw difficulty, certainly—sadness over changing relationships, frustration over uncertainty, dismay over things gone awry—but I also saw so many moments of delight, good memories made, and perhaps most importantly, how even the unexpected pieces of life can have positive aspects to them. As I head into 2016, while there are things from 2015 I am glad to leave behind me, there are at least three I’d like to take with me as well.

  • The people we surround ourselves with have incredible power to shape our lives, in ways good, bad, ugly, and otherwise. This past year has brought new people into my life and added new depth, and sometimes complexity, to many of my existing relationships. For the most part, I’ve managed to find truly wonderful people that add so much to my life. As much as I’d love to cling to all these good people and keep them in my lives for as long as possible, I also recognize there’s a measure of impossibility to that, so I have to simply be grateful for the time we do have in each other’s lives. I don’t think I will ever be good at this part, but I am trying to be better at the thankfulness part.
  • Asking for help is hard, but okay. Just as people are in our lives to add joy, richness, and knowledge, they are also available to lend support. I like to think of myself a somewhat self-sufficient person, and I never want my family or friends to feel like I’m using them or don’t appreciate them, so asking for help does not come naturally to me. No one is capable of going through life completely on their own, all the time though, so sometimes the wisest thing we can do is know when it’s time to ask for help. This is something I’m only just beginning to see, and it will take me into 2016 and likely far beyond to fully grasp its importance.
  • “Never” and “Always” statements are quite often dangerous. To say we’ll always do this or never do that is often a refusal to acknowledge change. Life happens, often in very unpredictable ways. Sometimes rules have to be rewritten based on new information. We usually can’t see the future when we make a decision, so we make the best decision we can in that moment, with the information we have, and sometimes that decision lands us in a spot that we couldn’t have known about before. There are moral “always” and “nevers” I think are good to cling to, but many others that need to be tossed.

If it wasn’t for my habit of writing every day, I’m not sure I’d be able to sort through the haze of these past few months to identify these tangible takeaways that have threaded themselves through the entire year. While 2015 Brianna may not have enjoyed every moment of it, 2016 Brianna can learn from these insights and take them into the new year and beyond.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What have you learned in 2015 that you’ll take into 2016?

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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?

Top Posts of 2013

Another year is almost over, and again I’m wondering exactly how that happened. I’m not really all that old, but sometimes the way the years slip by makes me feel like I am. 2013 contained a decent amount of blogging from me, though not as much as perhaps I originally intended–so these things go. My piece Giving Up the White Dress appeared on Prodigal Magazine this year, which was one of my blogging highlights. And here, in no particular order, are 7 top posts from 2013.

 

“I Love Jesus, But I Hate You.”

I would have liked to listen to her, to hear her stories of Christians who had hurt her, and maybe cry with her and tell her that I am so, so sorry that anyone, but especially those who claim the label of Christian, treated her that way.

And after I listened, I would have liked to apologize, for the ways and the days that I still proclaim Jesus as my Savior but act very little like him.

 5 Reasons Being Single Rocks

1)      You get to go where you want, when you want, with who you want.

No arguments because one of you wants to go out for pizza and the other wants Chinese, no phone calls checking in to see if your significant other is okay with you hanging out with a friend after work, no trying to make excuses for not wanting to hang out with your significant other’s friends that you find irritating for no explainable reason. You go where you want, my single friend. When you want, with who you want.

5 Reasons Being Single Sucks

5) The not knowing if being single is a season, or forever.

I’ve said that if I could know for sure that I will get married at some point in the future, I could handle it a lot better. But there are no guarantees. For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being single. Statistcally speaking, most people do get married at some point in their lifetime–but not all. I’ve never been one to handle uncertainty well, and not knowing if I’ll ever get married is one of the scariest uncertainties of all.

The Beauty of Church

But some really, awesome, beautiful things can happen when you hang out with his people. I’m not saying they happy every day, every month, or even every year—but they do happen. And in those moments you see and feel the way that God is moving in Church and in those broken, messy people, and you count it all grace and mercy and love and you wonder how a feeling like that can possibly stay contained in your human body, because it just feels so out of this world because itis.

A Valentine’s Day Plea

And I ask of you, the world at large, please don’t tell me how to feel.

Not just me, but everyone around you.

Please don’t tell them to turn their frown upside down.

Please don’t negate their feelings of sadness or loneliness.

Please don’t remind them of things they have heard over and and over again with sayings that minimize honest feelings.

Would Jesus Tweet About Gay Marriage?

The next time something controversial is happening in the world, I would love to see an empty news feed. Not because people don’t care about what’s going on in the world, but because they’re out listening, engaging in face-to-face conversations, which will always tell us more than words on a screen. All the CAPITAL LETTERS, bold font, and italics in the world can’t convey as much as facial expressions and tone of voice.

How To Be Alone

The truth is, most people are too busy with their own lives to notice someone sitting at a table without anyone else. I may have been the only person in the restaurant that night, besides the server, who even noticed the woman and thought anything of her.

There is nothing wrong with being alone. Instead, there is a type of goodness I have yet to fully understand, the type that is attentive to the food, the drink, and perhaps the words, and nothing else.

 

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll write more about 2013, all the changes and goodness and messes and people and places that have colored the past year. It seems a difficult year to encapsulate in a few words, so perhaps these highlights will suffice.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What has been your favorite blog post (here or elsewhere) of 2013?

One Year Later: Reflections of a College Graduate

It’s been a little over a year since I graduated from college, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while.

Except, I couldn’t. I thought about it–a lot. Even started formulating what I’d write.

But I couldn’t actually do it.

So I looked back at my posts from a year ago–things I wouldn’t miss about not being in school anymore, a reminder to myself that the years I put into school were not in vain, how much I would miss my college, my frustration at the seeming silence on how much of a change graduated life would be, the mantras I repeated in attempts to calm my nervousness, and my 20,002 feelings about not seeming to have any piece of my life together. Skimming those, it started to make a lot more sense why I haven’t been able to write about it.

Because this post I wanted to write of reflection and wisdom has been a year in the making, but many of the words I wrote a year ago are still true.

 

There are still moments when I am awash in nostalgia for my college days and the community there, and would give almost anything to go back.

When I look at the student loans I still have to pay off, I have to actively remind myself that there are lessons I couldn’t have learned in any other way, and that I would not be where I am today had I gone a different route.

Sometimes I still get frustrated that, though my education was a good one, there are parts of being an “adult” (I use that term loosely) I’ve felt unprepared for, because there are things that can’t be taught in classrooms.

My life still routinely feels a bit of a mess, like only a very small section of my “life pie” is figured out.

A year has gone by, but it sometimes seems I haven’t moved much at all.

 

Which is, I think, why I haven’t been able to write this post sooner. I’m a year older, but I don’t know that I’m a year wiser–at least not in the ways I may have expected to be.

There is no magic formula for learning to grow up with absolute grace and skill.

So I guess I am learning to be okay in that. To be okay that life is in the bumbling, the stalling, the frustrating, the ungraceful, the messy; and that there is goodness in those things too.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

2012: This Was The Year

2012.

This was the year I…

  • Interned at the place I’d been wanting to intern at since, oh, ever (or at least high school). And then they liked me, so they kept me part time after that. January 24 will be a year since it all began.
  • Graduated from college, with rather mixed emotions. Homework I was glad to be done with, but much of the rest of my college experience I was sad to leave behind.
  • Went on a trip. I fell in love with London, Oxford, and Edinburgh. I met some great people, saw gorgeous buildings and views, toured a castle, and had some mishaps along the way (such as throwing up in the South Kensington tube station, spending my time walking around Westminster Abbey fighting the urge to lay down on a tombstone because I felt so ill, and having nearly every single flight on my way home get cancelled or delayed). It was fun, it was fascinating, it was…illuminating.
  • Ran a 5k. Then, a few months later, I ran another 5k. For someone who has been known to say, “I only run when I’m being chased, and even then it has to be by something big enough and scary enough,” this was an accomplishment.
  • Rediscovered Twitter, and tweeted my 1000th tweet (and very nearly my 2000th).
  • Moved back home with my parents, and also shared that same house with my sister, brother-in-law, 2 young nieces, and their dog. Though it was nice to be greeted by my nieces running across the house when I got home, it was certainly…an interesting experience.
  • Graded papers (lots of them) and became even more of a grammar stickler.
  • Said “Yes” to at least 2 things I didn’t feel qualified for. Even as I continue to do them, I can’t say with total confidence I do them well all the time, or even some of the time. Perhaps it’s the way of some endeavors.
  • Posted a blog every day for a month. It was exhausting, but good.
  • Grappled with, and attempted to begin to embrace, the uncertainty that has been weaved in with nearly everything I’ve done in 2012, and will continue, in varying degrees, for the rest of my life.

And in all, and through all, God. Even when it didn’t feel like it, even when I didn’t take the time to notice, even when I doubted his plan for me and the way he is working things out in ways I cannot see. There was God, there is God, and there he will always be.

Today I found this meditation from St. Teresa of Avila in a book I’m reading. It is fitting for a year ending, for a year beginning, and for everywhere in between.

Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.

Happy New Year, and til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What has this past year brought for you? What have you learned or done?

Top Posts of 2012

Oh 2012. It’s been an interesting year, one that’s included a lot more writing and blog posts than I may have planned at the beginning of the year. So if you’re reading this, and if you’ve read anything else this year, thank you for taking the time to read these words. Truly.

In September, I had the privilege of having my piece Facebook Envy published on Relevant Magazine. It was unexpected (I found out about it as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, and when I saw the title was instantly dismayed that someone had written about the exact same thing I did–until I clicked on it and realized it was mine) and thrilling.

So today, I offer my top 7 posts of 2012. Why 7? Because 10 seems like a lot, but I’m too attached to some posts to do 5. In no particular order, my top 7:

 

“Single,” Not “Incomplete”: “Why is there often a subtle implication that we are incomplete until we can answer the question, ‘How did you meet your spouse?'”

Me and Maslow: Thoughts of a Recent College Graduate: “Though in general I consider myself a fairly happy, well-adjusted, confident individual, I’m just not solid enough in my place in level 3 to concentrate too much on levels 4 and 5.”

My Student Loans Are Teaching Me About Jesus: “Jesus will not be paying off my loans, but he has paid off something much greater than money.”

Dear Me: “Even when things suck, God is at work. You might not always see it, but I’ve seen things you won’t know when you’re in the thick of a mess.”

I Listen to Mumford and Sons (And This is Why): “I listen to Mumford and Sons because they sing what my soul cannot.”

Shoving Strangers at Starbucks: “I wanted to shove her off her stool. Because my current reality is vastly different from hers.”

Deleting Home: “‘Home’ is not a number in my cell phone; I know that.”

 

And a few I just happen to quite like…

My One Direction Confession: “Listening to One Direction doesn’t cancel out the 4 years I spent getting a degree in Bible and Theology, something I take seriously and intend to continue to study, even if only ever outside the classroom, for the rest of my life.”

Inadequate: “But if I have learned anything from Bible stories, my own story, and the stories of those around me, it is that God uses broken people. People who feel inadequate, overwhelmed, and like there is no possible way they could ever do what God has asked them to.”

Unchanging: “I think it’s one of the parts of Christianity that appeals to me–these are not new teachings, created by someone in my lifetime or not much before it.”

Okay With Cliché: “And I’m not sorry for being a little sad. I’m not sorry for being a little cliché, in that I will probably eat chocolate, maybe watch a chick flick, and yes, possibly cry a bit.”

 

Again, thanks for reading.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What were some of your favorite posts you’ve read around the Internet this year?