Prone to go: Welcome to colorful Colorado!

Winter Park, ColoradoToday marks one week that I’ve been in Colorado. It’s an admission that’s both surreal and oddly familiar. Someone asked recently whether it had “hit me” yet that I’m living in Colorado. Honestly, I’m not sure it has, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

There have been so many things that I wanted to write about and share since my last blog post “announcing” this move, but this protracted season of transition has left little time or mental margin to sit down and think some thoughts and write them out. Now that I finally feel like I’m coming up for air after packing, saying good-byes, moving, unpacking, and generally living life like an extrovert for more weeks than I can count, I’m starting to put coherent thoughts together once again. Yay!

As I’ve been unpacking here in Colorado, I’ve found a few thoughtful notes wishing me well (and wishing that I would return) tucked away in boxes from two friends who helped me pack up my kitchen. Jonathan and Lyndsey helped me pack up on one of my last nights at my house. And it’s a good thing, too, since I had severely underestimated the time required to pack my kitchen. I’d likely still be packing were it not for them.

Their notes got me thinking back several weeks to the time I was packing up the boxes that I’m now unloading 1800 miles from home.

It was a surreal experience to see the place I’ve lived for 5 years completely empty. It was the first home that I owned, and I’m incredibly grateful for and proud of that experience. The last day in town, the day before I closed on the sale, I was moving out a few final things and decided to take a little walk around the place.

I walked through the empty rooms, remembering things in each one: the meals shared around the kitchen table, the parties hosted in the living room, the video we filmed, the dogs that stayed there a few times, the roommates in the front bedroom, the friends who helped me paint the office, the ONE TIME I used the fire pit on the patio in the span of 5 years.

When I bought the townhouse, I prayed that if God was blessing me with a home, then it would be a blessing to other people. I hope that’s been true. But more than that, I know it’s been a place that has grown me and shaped me, not because of the structure or the walls or the doors, but because of the people there, the conversations shared, and the memories made over the years.

I wrote a note to the new owner, telling her how excited I was that she had purchased my home, and how much it had meant to me. I told her that it had been a space of laughter and fun, and I hoped the same would be true for her and her family.

Then I turned around, setting sail for new adventures, and left the place that will always and never be home.

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Prone to rant: 4 confessions of a 30 something single Christian

I had an “interesting” and mercifully brief conversation over the weekend with a stranger who warned me about my childless state and my ticking biological clock on the happy occasion of Father’s Day. In the moment, I could think of nothing logical or humorous with which to flip a very awkward interaction, so I did what any sane person would do these days and posted the synopsis on Facebook.

The post generated far more feedback than I anticipated, which led me to believe that this was a topic ripe for discussion. So in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve complied this helpful list of four confessions of a 30-something single Christian.

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Editor’s note: I feel as though I need to add the “Christian” disclaimer because I find that the situations which elicit these confessions to be more prevalent in, though not exclusive to, Christian circles, so take that for what it’s worth. Additionally, I can only speak from my perspective and the interactions I have with close single friends. This isn’t meant to paint a wide, stereotypical brush for all single people; it’s just real and personal observations…

1. Many (though not all) single people desire to be married or in relationship. That desire often falls on a spectrum, ranging anywhere from despair that love will never find you to near-delight at the notion that you have absolutely no one to dictate your time, money, or interests (like taking a week-long vacation to visit friends in Brazil just because you can). Rarely is anyone static for long on one spot of that spectrum, so don’t assume that someone is at one extreme or the other.

2. Even if a single person has wondered, legitimately, whether they have Paul’s “gift of singleness”, it’s rarely up to you to ask or assume this (if this Christian colloquialism is confusing, check out 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 for Paul’s own explanation on his state of singleness). I can count on two hands the number of people with the relational capital between the two of us to ask or imply any sort of question this deep. If we’re not close enough to discuss, say, what medications you’re on, we’re probably not close enough for any serious conversation about relationships and singleness issues beyond the Christian-ese pleasantries.

3. Honestly, sometimes Paul’s “gift of singleness” truly feels like a gift. I’ll admit it: there’s a big selfish part of me that looks at the sacrifices and compromises required of a good, God-honoring marriage, and I wonder whether I’m up for it (sorry, mom and dad*). I recognize this is a quasi-heretical statement to some people, even some single friends, but hear me out. I’m in a season of life where I have wide latitude to serve God in a lot of different ways, and LOTS of single people I know recognize this as a gift and serve God faithfully in lots of ministries. But that also means I can book tickets to Seattle to visit a friend without a second thought. I can arrange my budget how I like. I get to pick the movies I watch. And a lot of the times, this freedom is fantastic. (But not all of the time; see #1 above.)

4. People are single for lots of different reasons. For the most part, I’m around people who simply haven’t found the right person yet. But I know plenty of people recovering from divorce, broken hearts, broken marriages, or the death of a spouse. Unless you know someone’s story, it’s a bit dangerous to assume anything about it. To the (again, well-meaning) woman who warned about the fading hours of my child-producing years: what if I had lost a child? What if I had health issues that made biological kids impossible? While I have little problem discussing these things with people interested in real conversation, not everyone shares this level of vulnerability (see #2 above). Be careful that you’re not pouring salt on a wound.

I’d love for relationship and family to be in my future, but since they haven’t happened yet, I’m content in this space and time and place right now. And I’m absolutely OK with that. But based on personal experience (and about 40 comments on that original Facebook thread), the most helpful thing for me and my tribe (stay strong, fellow singles) probably isn’t to warn us of impending infertility or ask “why the heck aren’t you married yet?!” Because if I could answer that question, I probably wouldn’t be single.

If I haven’t alienated every blessed reader yet: what about you? What do you wish more people knew about singleness? What were some of your best or worst memories of singleness if you’ve moved out of that season of life? What do you wish you had done while you were single that would be hard or impossible to do now? This is a safe space, friend, so comment away…

*–For the record, I don’t count myself among the people that are truly and honestly OK w/ life-long singleness, in case anyone was confused (read: mom and dad).

Prone to grieve: Hope comes in the mourning

I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish tonight. This blog post wasn’t on it, but still I had to write.

Of all the promises we can take from the Bible, there’s one that I come back to more often than not. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s my favorite, but it’s certainly the one that seems to be the most consistent one I hold on to. As believers, we have hope in the midst of grief.

I know that some of you reading this blog may not be believers and would not consider yourselves Christians. That’s OK. You’ll have to excuse today’s post. I normally try to keep the Jesus talk in healthy measures. But this post doesn’t do that. This post is full-on Jesus talk, and I can’t apologize for that. My goal here is not to offend, but to process the honest things that are on my heart. If you stick with it, my prayer, truly, is that it’s an encouragement to you. We’re no different in the situations we face. The difference is in how we face them.

Today we said good-bye to one of the kindest, most godly women I have ever met. Elise was truly a ray of sunshine, and today that sun has set. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone so committed to prayer. Her prayers on my behalf were humbling, weighty. Whether it was work issues or traveling safety, her prayers were like a direct line to the Throne. The kind of prayers you were sure Jesus heard because she and Jesus were tight. 

And now she’s gone, never more to suffer the pains of cancer. Never again to hear bad news from the doctor. Never to worry about leaving her family and loved ones behind.

Today, heaven claims another saint. Another child hears the words of the Father, “Welcome home. And well done.”

But another family mourns. Another son misses his mom. Another friend cries.

We grieve.

To say that believers do not mourn is insensitive and inhuman and unbiblical. Nothing in Scripture points to an absence of grief when people die. Even when those loved ones put their hope in Christ like we do. Jesus himself wept at the news of Lazarus’s death. Its a separation. Often a painful one. To discount that pain is wrong.

But we grieve with hope.

Paul doesn’t tell us not to grieve in his letter to the Thessalonians. He says that we don’t grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

We grieve with hope in the promise that death is not the final answer for those who are in Christ.

One day, we will see them again. One day, we will be in a place of no more pain. No more tears. No more cancer. One day, we will be together again and together at last to worship The One for whom all worship is due.

And oh, what a glorious day that will be!

Until then, we grieve with hope. Grieving for those who have gone. Hoping for the moment spent with them again.

Jesus, come quickly.

Prone to rant: 12 Christmas Confessions

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They say confession is good for the soul. But sometimes, it’s hard to confess things, particularly when they’re about “the most wonderful time of the year,” and you fear alienating friends and family by criticizing an aspect of Christmas that their great grandmother might have passed down to them on her deathbed. (People are so touchy about Christmas, right?)

 
But now that we’re past this “glorious” season, all bets are off! Lest you fashion me a Scrooge, you should know that I really do like Christmas. But as with all things, there are some aspects of this winter wonderland of tradition that I just can’t abide.
 
Inspired by author and speaker (and all-around cool guy) Jon Acuff, here are my 12 Christmas confessions, in no particular order…
  1. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” should be played on repeat starting the day after Thanksgiving. It’s my jam.
  2. I find the process of purchasing gifts arduous and stressful. “Gifts” is not high on my list of love languages, which is the opposite of at least one member of my immediate family, so the pressure is on. With that said, I get arrogant and proud when I pick out and buy a really good, well-appreciated gift for someone. Mirror, mirror, on the wall…
  3. OF COURSE Mary knew all those things mentioned in that ridiculous melodramatic song. THE ANGEL TOLD HER! Can we move on from that now, please? (“The Acuff,” as my friend and I call him, share this confession. Bless him.)
  4. I adore the movie Elf. I’m not sure we can be friends if you don’t share the same affinity for elf culture.
  5. Nothing makes me change the radio station faster than “Christmas Shoes,” not even the 41st arrangement of “Mary Did You Know?” (see #3 above).
  6. I think about what I’m going to wear on Christmas (and Christmas Eve) almost like I used to prepare for school picture day. (Doesn’t the Bible say something about vanity? One can never be sure…)
  7. I try to avoid listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. This is hard when we start preparing for my church’s Christmas program in August. (No joke.)
  8. I’ve never seen the entirety of It’s a Wonderful Life, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a wonderful movie.
  9. Along those lines, this might be a good place to mention that I’ve never watched The Sound of Music. This has nothing to do with Christmas, but I need to get this one off my chest.
  10. As far as religious Christmas songs go, I will judge you if you start singing “We Three Kings” or “Little Drummer Boy.” Few things make me as irritated as campy, non-Biblical “sacred” Christmas tunes.
  11. I wish I would have been the brains behind Elf on the Shelf. Those folks have to be set for life with as many pictures I’ve seen of this ridiculous, mischievous, and somewhat creepy creature.
  12. “Behold the Lamb of God” is one of my all-time favorite albums AND my all-time favorite Christmas album. It’s worth listening to year-round, and it doesn’t break my rule mentioned in #4, because it’s not explicitly “Christmas” music. Get yourself acquainted with this great collection of music if you aren’t already a fan.
What about you? Are there things about this special season that drive you crazy? Let it out. Confession is healthy. Then be thankful we don’t have to face another “We Three Kings” sing-along for a year!

Prone to ramble: An unintended hiatus

My last blog post of any measurable substance was back on September 19. This is rather unacceptable. (For the record, I don’t count the post on October 14, since it was largely a ploy to get people to “like” my Facebook page, just like I’m doing with this link…)

Surprisingly, this lack of blogging was not due to a lack of feedback, since several gracious people have shared that they enjoy my rambling, somewhat coherent thoughts and observations on life. It was really more a lack of priority.

I won’t say that I’ve been busy, but I will say that other things have been competing for time. And that’s ok. For a while, I operated under the assumption that everything had to have the same level of priority and attention. But this is unrealistic.

Sure, some things command a large and consistent amount of our mental energy and effort–many of our relationships, our job, etc. But I’m becoming more OK with the notion that some things are meant for a season–people move away, interests change, or you start dating someone. (For the record, this last one is not the reason I’ve been absent from the blog. Sorry to get your hopes up, mom and dad.)

For me, the important part is not equal priority all the time, but equal intention. More often than not, I find myself asking “Why am I doing this? What’s the purpose of getting this done? Am I enriching myself or someone else, or is this ultimately draining? Am I deepening a relationship by committing to this activity, or am I doing this out of an unreasonable sense of obligation? Why am I spending finite time doing this thing?”

One of my goals for 2014 is to be more intentional about the things I do and the things I don’t do, and to use that as a filter for my commitments. Another goal for the new year is to blog more–hopefully at least one post a week–and to be intentional about why I’m writing and what I’m writing about.

The end of a year is always an interesting, introspective time for me (I know that’s shocking for many of you), and I’m still processing what to make of 2013 and what to plan for and think about for 2014. I haven’t yet journaled about my 2014 goals, which is the ultimate form of processing, in my opinion. I can’t really say that this one is set in stone, but you have my word that I’m going to try and do better keeping up with this thing. Let’s see how this goes.

What about you? What’s on your mind as we end another year and look ahead to the next one?