Stress and the Single Life

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Overeating.  Sleepless nights.  Too many drinks.  Sound familiar?

I am a Type A overachiever.  I want to reach every life goal set before me, and then crush it.  But when it came to finding a husband, no amount of effort on my part seemed to make a difference.

I created and updated several online profiles.  I joined co-ed meetup groups.  I purposefully joined a church with a large number of singles.  And yet the years passed without any sign of Mr. Right in sight.

As I watched Facebook friends get married, have kids, and post the many “Look at how successful I am!” photos, it became clear: I was falling behind.  I was not meeting my goals.  I was out of the life success race.

I just wanted to cry out to God: what am I doing wrong?  What else do you want me to do?  Why aren’t you answering my prayer?

I didn’t hear an answer—or at least, I didn’t hear the answer that I expected, in the form of a husband riding a white horse, a rose clenched between his teeth (just kidding – that would be weird).  And so I felt forgotten, overlooked, and left behind.

The physical effects on me were classic stress symptoms.  But that’s no way to live life.  As I looked at how I was handling the stress and the negative impact on my health, I realized I had to find rest.  Balance.  Peace.

It’s easier said than done, but the common mantras of “let go and let God” and “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” were on point.  I had to not just give lip service to, but actually accept, that there was nothing that I could do to change my circumstances and to trust that God had it in hand.  When it was the right time, He would bring the right person.

It wasn’t something that I could say just one time and boom!  Cured.  I had to remind myself over and over again.  After every bad date.  After every lonely night.  Dear Lord, I trust that you have my future in your hands.  I know that this time of waiting has nothing to do with me or my imperfections, but everything to do with your perfect plan.  I will not waste my time by stressing.  I will trust in you.

This message of trusting instead of stressing is just training for all of the circumstances in your life that don’t happy as quickly or easily as you want.  Right now, I am having to teach myself the same lesson in regard to waiting on a job.  Dear Lord, I will choose to trust in you rather than stress.  And it’s not easy.  My life feels chaotic, the path before me unknown.  I just want to do something to make a job happen.  I feel like I’ve waited long enough!  But it’s the same story – God has my life in His hands and I have to trust Him with my financial and professional future just as much as I had to trust Him with my romantic future.

And one day I will likely be having to teach myself again while waiting on a baby.  Dear Lord, I will choose to trust in you rather than stress.  There will unfortunately always be opportunities for the devil to use stress to bring us down, make us despair, and negatively impact our health.  It’s not a question of if, but when.  But we have the power in our own hands to defeat the devil, and it’s returning again and again to our faith in the Lord.

The waiting is never easy.  But it’s the lesson in how we wait that God truly wants us to learn.

Stay in the Game

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Sarah’s chubby fingers gripped the crooks of her folded arms. Her eyes became chocolate tongues of fire as she watched me collect the remaining cards.

In a 4-year-old aria, she sang, “I don’t want to play any more.”

Now, the game was her idea. She had bounced with excitement as I set up the board, arranged the cards, and gave her a game piece. But Sarah stomped her tiny sneakered feet in displeasure when she began to lose some of her gold tokens.

Something shifted when she realized that losing was a possibility.

We can feel the same way at times in life. A challenge to go on a blind date, a unique job offer or the opportunity to try anything new can be fun to entertain. But when these experiences hint at continuance, we can pause.

Because we know that floating can make you fall and injury to our person and our heart is imaginable. The risk gets real and we don’t want to play any more.

I felt this way when I began dating my now-husband. After a few months, it became clear that our connection was ordained. And that scared me. I remember thinking, “I need to do something to stop this.” The chance of heartbreak terrified me to the point where it felt easier to stay put in my stretched yet safe singlehood rather than step onto the new waters where the Lord was clearly calling me.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”– Joshua 1:9

Stopping the game can mean cutting a journey short, missing out on a lesson, and closing the door on an awaited answer.

See what’s next. Trust God, stay in the game, and keep playing.

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Jennifer Jennifer

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms:-)In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

I didn’t want him until I couldn’t have him.

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How many times have you heard some variation on this or thought it yourself??

Meet Tom.  I went on a first date with Tom.  He was an ER nurse practitioner, smart, tall, and we had a good conversation at a local diner.  There was something slightly off about him – okay, I’ll be honest, his voice was high pitched and he seemed, well, effeminate, which was a turn-off.  (Does that make me shallow??  Oh well, it’s the truth!)

I left the dinner pretty sure it was a no.  We just didn’t have the chemistry.  But I was also pretty sure that he would call me for a second date.  I mean, the conversation never lagged.  And I was dressed up and looking good!  I got in the car already thinking about the next date, even as I knew the relationship wouldn’t go anywhere.

But then, he didn’t call.  No call, no text.

After the first day, I figured he was busy.  He practically lived in the ER, of course.  I can wait.

After the second day, I thought, well, he’s probably REALLY busy.  But after the third passed, it dawned on me.  He really wasn’t going to call.  What was happening??

I mean, it was one thing for me to not want him.  It was a whole other thing for him to not want me!

I started replaying the date in my mind.  I looked good, right?  I was a good conversationalist, right?  I immediately started doubting myself.  I guess I just wasn’t that attractive.  I wasn’t as funny as I thought.

And the more that I thought about him, the more that I doubted my own analysis of him.  I mean, the man was a nurse practitioner in an ER, for goodness sake!  He had dedicated his life to a helping profession!  He was practically a saint!  Who cared if I wasn’t immediately attracted to him?

I spent the fourth day desperately hoping that he would call me.  I needed another chance!!  C’mon!!!

But he didn’t.  And by the end of the week I fell despondent.  I was rejected.  Again.  It felt like I was going to be rejected by every man on earth.  I was going to be single forever.

Just to recap: Because of a man in whom I wasn’t even interested after dinner, I became depressed and lost hope, my self-esteem cratered.  Yes.

You’re probably reading this thinking, whoa, this girl is crazy.  But am I?  It’s the allure of wanting what you can’t have.  And it’s a trap we all fall victim to.  For some reason, being rejected by someone makes us value them MORE, not less.

Before you fall into the trap, check yourself.  Did you even want that person?  If he didn’t want to be with you, then you can be pretty confident the answer is no, you wouldn’t have been the world’s greatest couple, even if you had gotten the second date.  In fact, you were probably spared a lot of heartache having it over sooner rather than later.

Trust your first instinct.

The Wall

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It’s hard to believe that we have reached the final month of 2016!

December, a time of festive events, sparkling lights, and warm magical feelings. And growing up, there was nothing more magical to me at Christmas time than a department store.

As soon as my mother’s fingers loosened on my wrist, I was off to explore this grand kingdom. The circular clothing racks would transform into miniature weeping willows. I’d part them to carefully settle into a hidden cave, a cozy and dark hideaway specially carved for me. My fantastical trek was always cut short when my mother’s voice reached through the colorful trees and beckoned me to the register.

Or as I’d call it, “The Wall.”

To a short 6-year-old, the register counter was a particularly annoying presence. Sullenly teasing me with its height, shrouding what was behind it in wallpapered mystery. Balancing on the tips of my Keds with ballerina concentration offered no real revelation. Just slivers. Flashes of dollar bills in metal drawers. Peeks of logoed paper bags. Views of glass merchandise on clear shelves.

I’d only catch drops of what was there before I crashed back on my heels,back into frustrating cluelessness.

For all the joy and beauty of this time of year, it can also bring crisp reflection. We replay the past 11 months and hope for or dread the next 12.

We wonder what’s around the corner. What’s going to happen next year? What awaits us in the next chapters of our lives? What. Is. Next?

But all remains hidden behind the wall of time and our limited understanding.

“I trusted in, relied on, and was confident in You, O Lord; I said, You are my God. My times are in Your hands. –Psalm 31:14-15a (AMP)

Our Heavenly Father cups our entire life in His great, good hands.

He sees and controls what lies behind and beyond the wall, beyond this month, beyond this year. He sees what we don’t. And we can trust Him.

What are you grateful for in 2016? What are you looking forward to in 2017?

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Jennifer Jennifer

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 31 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms:-)In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

With Confidence

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I wrote in my last post that my strong opinion is that dating many people is far better than staying home, at least when it comes to likely success in getting married.  It’s simply a matter of numbers.

But dating comes with difficulties.  I know from experience that the more that you date and don’t meet the right one, the easier it is to become discouraged and to doubt God’s love for you and good plans for your life.  Each failed relationship is also another opportunity to doubt yourself.

Dating many people also brings greater opportunity to fall into sin.  With each relationship that you think will last, there is the temptation to demonstrate your affection and commitment to that person. And each time the relationship ends, regret.  For those of us who are single into our thirties (and forties and fifties) who have dated, it is almost impossible to make it to marriage without having some regrets about past actions in past relationships.  If I had known it wasn’t going to work out from the beginning, we think, I would not have gone so far.

As time goes on, we can feel ashamed, dirty, and sinful.  We already feel bad about ourselves for not having found the right one, and now we feel doubly bad for our past.  Not only can these negative feelings be a further barrier to a new relationship, they can cause a separation in our relationship with God.  I have gone too far this time, God cannot forgive me.

But God understands who we are and what we have done.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:15-15 ESV)

No matter where you are, or what you have done in those relationships, you can still draw near to the throne of grace with confidence.  God loves you and is always ready to receive you back.

Rejecting I Kissed Dating Goodbye

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I don’t know where I’ve been but apparently Joshua Harris has been openly discussing that, shocker, he might not have been completely right in his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  Check out this article on Slate.

Like many evangelical Christians, I read and loved this book.  My girlfriends and I loved the concept of “courting” rather than dating (sounds so much more romantic, doesn’t it??).  We longed for a guy who had not dated every girl on the block but who had reserved his heart completely for us, just as we were reserving our hearts for him.

Only guess what – life doesn’t really work like that.  Maybe back in the day it worked when options were limited and everyone just paired up with people in their village to be married by their late teens.  These days, though, people have a lot more expectations for marriage and they want to marry someone who’s not just convenient but who’s actually right with mutual interests, shared values, common goals, a strong work ethic, etc.  And my opinion is that you only get to know some of those things by dating them!

And of course, it assumes you will just run into the person you are meant to be with.  As you know from my story, this would not have happened for me.  After college, the number of people who asked me out after meeting me in the regular world could be counted on two hands.  None of them were right.  If I hadn’t actively pursued online dating, I would still be single now!

As you can probably guess from reading any of my posts, I’m much more of a fan of Henry Cloud’s How To Get a Date Worth Keeping, which instead prescribes going on many dates and getting to know as many people as possible.  It may not be as romantic as Joshua Harris’ book, but it is far more realistic.

But that’s just my opinion!  How about you?  Any of you have a different take on the book?

The Lord Already Knew It Would Rain

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“The Lord already knew it would rain today.”

Those were the words of my pastor on Sunday, looking out at some dismal weather on the day of the church’s “Get in the Game” outdoor extravaganza.  Emphasis on “outdoor.”  Ministry leaders had come from all over the city and even another state to share service opportunities with my church.  As the service continued, however, the rain steadily grew stronger.

I was already feeling anxious, but for another reason.  Sunday was also the day of my wedding shower.  After weeks of no rain, we had invited friends and family to bring their lawn chairs and outdoor games.  My bridesmaids and best friends had spent hours yesterday preparing.  It wasn’t looking good.

The pastor shared the weeks of planning that had gone into the event.  The coordinator had had nightmares as she watched the looming forecast.  But even though the worst had happened and indeed, the rain had come, my pastor’s faith and confidence were not shaken.

“The Lord already knew it would rain today.”

The words resonated in me.  While I was feeling disappointed, the Lord was not.

The Lord was not sitting in heaven, thwarted in His plan.  While we may have seen the poor weather as a defeat, God did not.  He was still going to accomplish what He set out to accomplish.  Rain, a temporary weather pattern, was not going to stop the Lord’s work.  Perhaps He even had a greater plan for the rain; maybe it would sort out the wheat from the chaff and those who were only attending the ministry event for the pancakes would stay away, leaving space for connections to be made for the truly interested.

For those of you reading, many of you already know that I am in a season of rain, as my job search has taken longer than I thought.  Where I had stepped confidently before, always assured of my abilities, now I am uncertain.  But the Lord already knew that I would have this season.  He already knew what was going to happen in my life.  And what’s more, maybe He has a plan for it.

For many of you, your season of rain is not a job search, but singleness.  The forecast is gloomy, no ray of sunshine in sight.  You don’t know how long the rain will last.

But God knows.

He already knew of your rainy season, had even foreordained it in many cases.  He knew when it would start and when it would end.  He knew of the rainbow that would follow – He had created it.

While it is not easy to wait out the rain, we know that it is not going to last forever.  We can have faith that God is still King of all our circumstances.  He is not surprised and He still has good plans in store for us.

The Lord already knew it would rain.