I need you to do something for me. Imagine we’re meeting up for coffee in a cozy, homey coffee shop, sipping on some iced black coffee (because praise God for this weather) or lavender lattes or cappuccinos the size of our faces, whatever you prefer, and sharing pieces of our hearts. Because that’s the only way we can do this. That’s the feeling I need you to have when I pour my heart out to you. Here we go.
In less than 24 hours, I finished Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs (and if you haven’t read this book, I HIGHLY recommend it). 1) I don’t think my boss knew what she was doing when she put this book in my hands less than a week ago. Heck, I didn’t know what would happen when I poured over these pages and laid my heart out at God’s feet. 2) I barely have the words to tell you how much God used this book to speak into my life. Holy crap. I wish I could perfectly articulate how much God spoke into my life in the last 24 hours. It’s exhausting and exhilarating and it’s like when you eat too much Chinese food because you think it sounds like a good idea but you eat it too fast and go into a food coma. That was probably the wrong comparison, but I read this book so fast that it’s been hard to digest, but me writing this to you is my way of trying to process more of it. (Also, I’m not saying these types of books are substitutions for Scripture, but think of it as the foot in the door God used to actually get me to recognize His presence in ways I wasn’t yet familiar with).
There was a part in the book where she was basically like, “You should ask God what living a life of courage looks like today.” And I was like, Oh, well courage has been my word for a little over two months now, so I’ve got this down pat. Hey God, what does living a life of courage look like today (even though I feel like I haven’t heard from You or felt Your presence in a month and a half)? And He said, “Being single.”
I’m sorry, what?
No, I heard You, but can You change the answer? I don’t struggle with being single.
Yes, you do.
*Ignores God and continues reading pages about letting go and holding on and a breakup that sounded WEIRDLY similar to the one I’d just experienced*
Okay, hey God, I’m back. So what about being single? I don’t think I struggle with it. I’m independent. I’m calm, cool and collected. Or chaotic, hot and all over the place all the time. So what? I don’t struggle with being single.
You do though, J.
No God, I like being single and independent and all the good things that come with the singleness. Maybe there are some things I don’t like about it, but mostly I’m totally cool with it.
*God chuckles and smiles and does that thing where I feel like He’s staring at me from across a table and speaking no words because that silence will leave me to think about some things I’ve been needing to think about on my own*
Okay, cool, God.
“God asked me to open my hands, and he gave me the world.“
Before reading this book and actually starting to know God, I would’ve told you that I thought I let go that Sunday afternoon on our 9 month anniversary where we realized we didn’t want the same things. Then I would’ve told you that I thought I let go in the rocking chairs with warm tears running all over my face when he told me he didn’t love me and he never did. Then I would’ve told you that I really thought I let go when I found out he’d been dating his best friend for quite a while (but honestly that made me cling tighter). Then I would’ve told you that I thought I let go the day I unfriended and unfollowed and deleted all of our pictures like he never stepped foot into my life and grabbed onto my heart in the beautiful way that he did. But I know, and I’m sure by now you know, deep down I still haven’t let go. And I don’t know when I will. But the beautiful thing is that God is like, “Hey J, give yourself grace. Show mercy. Let yourself mourn the loss of something you thought was going to last for a very long time.”
I think it was a short time, 9 months, so I wasn’t allowed to be sad and I definitely wasn’t allowed to be sad because I knew that we weren’t supposed to be together. And then I came across this quote: “The dreams you thought would come true in a certain time frame never did. You saw a life for yourself that you will never have. You can mourn that loss.” I needed that permission. Thanks, God.
I keep moving not only because I don’t want to hurt and feel too many feelings but I’m afraid that when I slow down I’m going to realize God isn’t here and He hasn’t been here or He isn’t real or He’s given up. And now that that thought is in my head, I’m really starting to turn it over and look at it from every angle. (Obviously now, we know this isn’t the case. The truth is He is here always, even when I try to convince myself of the lie that He isn’t present in hurt or pain or whatever crap we’re working through).
I take pride in how busy my days are. In fact, I’m super prideful about it. I find my worth in my days.
I actually want to learn what it means to lay expectations down at Jesus’ feet, because it sure does sound like a pretty prayer to pray but it’s a whole lot more beautiful when we decide to follow through. Here’s the deal, I’m a chronic expectation setter. It’s sad, but it’s so real. I have the wedding board on Pinterest, the little pangs of jealousy of other people’s Instagram feeds, and the mental list of traits I want in a future partner (and yes, this is where you should feel sorry for whoever that poor soul is). I know I’m nowhere near ready to be with someone because honestly they would cripple under my control and my expectations. But how nice would it be to get rid of all of that? I know we do it, mostly subconsciously, but once you get a grip on setting those expectations, it’s like you’ve decided to take the reigns and take control because you know what you want better than God knows what you want. It generally goes a little something like this: I wake up, I contemplate a run, I shame myself into a run, and I tell myself that if I don’t go on that run that this day will have been for nothing and I might as well get back into bed and try again tomorrow. You know, what is grace? And that’s only a small example.
I’m not saying expectations are a bad thing. We should have them. It’s sort of how we set goals and goals are good. But our goal should be pleasing to God. We should wake up every day and ask God, “How can I better serve You today? What’s going to bring Your Kingdom here?” Not, “Is that guy my future husband? What’s my time frame look like for my life? Can you give me a road map?” because all of those questions throw our dependency on God right out the door.
I started up on the second book again. I don’t really know if I can call it that yet; it’s more just a bunch of stories that will somehow piece the last 3 years together. I’m hoping God decides to use this to make sense of a bunch of things, but we shall see. I’m grateful that He’s given me the words to describe some of these stories, but I am even more grateful of the reminders that He was the One to actually set these stories into motion, the greatest Author I’ve ever known. I mean seriously, J.K. Rowling and Elizabeth Gilbert still pale in comparison to Him.
But back to my unrealistic expectations: it sort of has gotten to the point where it makes me uncomfortable to think about what my life would be like if I didn’t have Pinterest or Instagram to base it off of. And how ridiculous does that sound? But it’s a real thing. Think about it: when was the last time you went a full day without getting on social media and comparing or wanting what someone else had? Can you drink a cup of coffee anymore without wondering what it would look like just a little bit sharpened here and a little bit faded there from an aerial shot? I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t. And I also will say I love a good, aesthetically pleasing picture, so there’s no shame in that. But when the focus shifts from what God is going to work in the midst of this conversation to how many likes you could get and how affirmed you could feel from posting this on social media, then we’ve hit a bit of a speed bump. I know this isn’t the first time I’ve gone on about social media. And I’ll be honest with you: I want to spend the rest of my life managing social media and the images of companies and other people, so it is very difficult to not use this as a platform to make my own image and also depend on these things for my worth and value because they are so deeply connected to my image.
There’s something about my OCD, Type A side that LOVES aesthetically pleasing pictures. I want to take them. I want to look at them. I want to live them. I want everything about them. I think, if my life can look like this all the time, laughs and white bed sheets and black cups of coffee and perfectly cut flowers, then I will be happy. There’s so much pressure in that.
I think it’s in those places where we feel the most vulnerable and uncomfortable where God can work the greatest change. And up until now I would say that I was comfortable with God coming into any place in my life, but that’s totally a lie. Take the singleness for example. I thought, Oh hell yeah, I can rock a single girl life. I’m going to make this space comfortable for myself. Make a pot of coffee, buy some new throw pillows and a cute pair of heels, and make this place home. Hey God, yeah, I don’t need You to use up any of your energy on this part of my life because I. Got. This. And here I am, humbled once again, asking God to please come back and work in the darkest parts of my heart, and He responds: “Hey J, I never left.”
I’ll say it again. He. Never. Left.
How encouraging is that? He’s here to turn our mourning into dancing. He wants us to partner with Him in furthering His Kingdom. WHAT. A. GIFT. He’s asking us to be a part of freeing people and celebrating and recognizing Him and telling people who He is. He has freed us from any of the chains we continue to put on ourselves. He wants to celebrate with us in the season we find ourselves in because there is purpose in what He is doing and where He has us.
“There is a season for wildness and there is a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.” // Shauna Niequist
Also, these are the first of MANY thoughts on courage and a whole mess of stuff, so keep an eye out on Collective M6:8 (because we have some fire-starting, kick-ass (sorry, I had to) writers on this blog. Basically, I work with some of the coolest people in the world) and also on here, because I am absolutely certain God’s not done with courage. In fact, I believe He’s just starting something. But then again, He never left.