a follow-up to “on being 29 and single.”

When a Christian single person mentions their desire to get married, it is not uncommon for him or her to be met with a concerned look and a slight rebuke. Something along the lines of: “Perhaps instead you should to work on being content with where God has you.”

(Am I right, or am I right?)

In other words, it is only when a single person completely eradicates their desire for marriage that God will offer it to them. Until then, wanting to get married is clearly an idol in their life.

I’d like to unpackage this idea, because I don’t think it’s true.

Let’s start by seeing what the Bible has to say.

When God creates everything in Genesis 1 we are told “God saw that it was good” three times.

In the next chapter, God sees something that is NOT good.

Adam, alone.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…”

Interesting.

So there’s Adam, chillin’ in the garden with all his furry friends, in pure unity with God, and God is the one who isn’t content with this.

Adam has everything! Yet it isn’t enough.

God doesn’t sit down with Adam, look him in the eye, and tell him to be more content.

Instead he creates a woman.

Wo-man.

Not another bro.

Isn’t that interesting? God could have created another man. They could have tromped around the garden, chasing bears and riding bulls and beating their chests.

But God didn’t do that.

God created woman. God created romance. God created marriage.

God did. Hollywood didn’t.

So when people have the desire to get married, they are craving something God created. It’s not wrong; it’s not a sin. It’s holy.

What if the next time you hear someone say they want to get married, you respond with, “REALLY? You want to experience this beautiful thing God created? That’s amazing!

Or maybe, “You want to submit and sacrifice and serve another person every day for the rest of your life? In order to represent the mystery of Christ? You want to forsake your independence for covenant? YOU GO GLEN COCO!”

I get that not everyone wants to get married for the right reasons. I understand that sometimes people are searching for love/intimacy/affirmation when the only true way to receive that is through our Heavenly Father. And yes, I understand that sometimes people romanticize marriage – thinking it’s rainbows and butterflies over plunging the toilet and working through conflict.

Even so, I think people could use a little less correction and a little more encouragement in this area. After all, who are we to judge?

Again, wanting to get married isn’t a bad thing. IT’S A GOOD THING. It’s aligning with God’s desire. It was his desire for man to not be alone. It’s his desire for people to get married, have sex and make babies. We need to remember that. We need to celebrate it, not condemn it.

A couple of years ago I really wrestled with the desire I had for marriage. I didn’t like it (the desire.) It felt like a burden, a weight I didn’t want to carry. I couldn’t control it or wish it away. It made me feel crazy. I cried to my counselor about it one day. She looked at me kindly and told me it was a natural thing, that biologically I was designed to desire husband/kids/nesting, especially during the stage of life I was in.

That has always stuck with me. The way she said it was so matter-of-fact, as if she was talking about my body’s desire for food and water. It’s natural. It’s normal.

I am grateful for my life; I am content with it. I also have a natural and spiritual desire for marriage.

Isn’t that awesome???:)

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on being 29 and single…

The other day I caught up with an old friend, Allie, over the phone. We met in college and I was in her wedding a few years ago.

We chatted for a while about our different jobs and what it takes to be a go-getter in the workplace (especially as a woman), and then she asked me how it was being 29 and single. “Are you stressed, frustrated, pissed, content?”

I laughed.

“I want to be married and I’m not,” I told her. “But I still have hope. Possibly more than ever.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately. Every January I write a blog on what it’s like to be whatever age I am and single. 26 and single, 27 and single, 28 and single… and now, 29 and single.

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I have many thoughts.

Firstly, no one will ever know what it’s like to be 29 and single unless they too have been 29 and single. I think it’s easy for people to believe if they have EVER been single they understand.

I politely disagree.

Similar to marriage, singleness takes on different shapes and forms the longer you are in it. There are new discoveries along the way.

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One discovery has been in my relationship with God.

My family lives in Ohio and my community in Georgia is flux; people come, people go. There’s always another “save the date” or baby being born. My job is often evolving and a few months ago I moved from one house to another. The world around me is spinning. God is my only constant.

Married people have each other to fall asleep next to; I have God. This morning I woke up, rolled over, and asked him how he was. (He was saddened over some things happening in the world, but also hopeful, in case you were wondering.)

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When I was talking to my friend Allie, I briefly hesitated when it came to sharing this idea. “I don’t want this to come off the wrong way,” I said. “But because I don’t have a husband, I have greater dependency on God, and therefore greater intimacy with Him. Like, I get what Paul means when he says a single person is devoted to the Lord in body and spirit, but a married person’s devotion is divided.”

I wasn’t sure how Allie was going to respond. I don’t typically share this with married people because I don’t want them to get offended.

“Hope,” she said. “You’re totally right.”

We went on to talk about the pros and cons of marriage and singleness.

Con: I had one of the hardest years of my life last year, and I faced it alone.
Pro: I am closer to God than ever before, because no one else was there to save me.

I don’t take this for granted. I am grateful for it.

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Another discovery I’ve made is I trust God more than ever when it comes to marriage.

You would think the opposite to be true, especially since I have been utterly convinced I would get married every year since 2013 (and I’m still going strong! 2016 is going to be IT!)

Despite all my disappointments, I don’t doubt I will get married, and I believe I will know in my spirit when God brings us together.

Do I believe in soulmates?

Yes.

And no.

I simultaneously believe in soulmates and the idea there is more than one person for me. I am okay with contradictions.

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I don’t believe in soulmates because of fairy tales, I believe in them because of reality.

I was in a wedding less than two months ago – the bride and groom met in line at the airport after their flight was canceled. I was there when two of my coworkers saw each other for the first time – she couldn’t stop staring, he couldn’t stop sweating. Last fall I stayed with a couple in Texas – they met when he accidentally called the wrong number and she picked up (back in the day before cell phones.) I have friends who were in the same kindergarten class in Florida, didn’t see each other for 20+ years, traveled the world separately, and both ended up in Gainesville, Georgia. They are now married.

This is real life. And I know it can happen for me too.

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There is risk in waiting. There is heartache. There is confusion and feeling crazy. But at the end of each day, I know that if God cares enough about the stupid things I pray about (and he does) then he cares about this serious thing I long for. He won’t leave me in the dark or out to dry. I know I am empowered to make my own decisions, but I also know God honors sacrifice. And I have made some sacrifices.

I rambled about these things and more to my friend Allie. When our conversation ended and I hung up the phone, the lady on the treadmill next to me looked at me and said, “I wasn’t eavesdropping.”

We both laughed, because clearly she had overheard my conversation.

“I got married 3 days before my 30th birthday,” she told me. “And what you say is right:  you will know.

She affirmed my idea that as a single person I have fewer distractions between me and God, and she went on to applaud pretty much everything else I said. He will come. The wait is worth it. You can’t mess it up. You will know. 

I’m convinced she was an angel.

(But really.)

We chatted for a few minutes, and when I left the gym I had an extra spring in my step.

Lately I’ve been telling people I would love to get married when I’m 30. I like the idea of starting a new decade with a hubby by my side. My 20s were for single adventures, my 30s are for married ones…

Until then (or whatever age I may be when I get married), I will continue to adventure with me, myself, and God.  I will not let my singleness define me, just as I won’t let my marriage define me.

I am so much more than that.

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2016 and feeling fine.

We are two and a half weeks into 2016 and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m being more intentional with my life, more proactive about my values. Last year I felt mostly reactive to everything around me – work, relationships, etcetera. This year is different.

I finally finished that book I started a few months ago – All the Light We Cannot See. SO GOOD. So so good. Everyone should read it.

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I also started listening to audiobooks when I workout (hello, Audible!) So far this year I’ve finished Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles and I’m nearly halfway through On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I like audiobooks when the author reads his or her own work. It feels more real, more intimate, between us.

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I’ve started doing 12 pushups in a row (instead of my meager 10 or 11.) My goal is 20 consecutive pushups and 3 consecutive pull-ups. I’ve never done a pull-up in my life, so we’ll see. (I got a team together for the Savage Race, so I have some inspiration.)

I’ve been cooking more. As a bachelorette, my go-to is eggs or yogurt for breakfast, salads or turkey sandwiches for lunch, and veggie burgers, chicken, or fish for dinner. It gets old.

So far this year I’ve cooked a mushroom & artichoke heart quiche, baked banana bread oatmeal, sweet potato and black bean enchiladas, and quinoa and cauliflower chowder. Not to brag or anything. (But maybe a little.)

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I dyed my hair purple on January 1. The most commonly asked questions when you dye your hair purple are “do you like it?” and “why did you do it?” The answers are simply yes and why not?

But really, it actually took 3 tries to get my hair the color I wanted (I paid a hair stylist to do it) and the reason is because my inner rockstar was clawing her way out. I had to release her. Also, I just like dying my hair to represent change. It’s a new year.

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3rd times a charm…

In general, I’ve been creating more space for myself. Going from 5 roommates and a baby to 2 roommates and no baby does that to you. I woke up yesterday (Saturday) to an empty house and thought, “now what?” I cleaned, wrote, and read. There even may have  been a nap in there. It felt scandalous.

I leave for Malaysia a week from tomorrow. It will be my 4th time. I’ve already started a pile in my room – things to bring out to the participants, but more importantly, snacks. So far I have baked kale chips, Boom Chicka Pop popcorn, and Annie’s Organic cheddar bunnies. Yeah, I go big.

When I come back it will be February, my least favorite month of the year. At least it’s the shortest month. Except it’s Leap Year, so there’s an extra day womp womp. (They already have Valentine’s Day candy out, in case you are wondering.)

Thankfully, new episodes of Jane the Virgin will be airing then. So I think I’ll make it through.

All in all, 2016 is cruising by and I don’t have much to complain about. Hollaaa!

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A breakup letter…

Dear 2015,

I’ll be honest, I’m not going to miss you. You turned out to be one of the hardest years of my life. You were ruthless, pushing me past my limits and making me cry more than I’d like to admit.

We first met in the driveway of some guy’s house in Costa Rica. I was standing around with my best friend, a handful of strangers, and a bottle of tequila when you approached us. I knew we were destined to meet, but this was unexpected and anticlimactic. I was supposed to be dancing!

The rest of our meet cute didn’t go as planned, so I should have known then we weren’t off to a good start.

Only you and God know everything we’ve been through. Other people have seen glimpses, or have heard about our complicated relationship in part, but no one will ever know the full picture.

The first 8 months of our relationship can be described in this text message I sent to my mentor in the spring:

Betsy… I’m dying. This job is drowning me (this job and the fact I’m working as a Squad Mentor at the same time.) I don’t know that I’ve gotten to this point in my life before, but I really just want to give up and stop caring, because no matter how hard I try I still feel like I’m drowning, dying, shriveling up, want to cry all the time. I seriously am at the end of myself. I keep trying to go to Jesus, but he’s not managing the Passport budget for me. I’m failing at so many things, so why keep trying? Why not just embrace the failure all together? This is my thought process these days and that scares me. I’m not a quitter. But *not* quitting feels like it’s going to kill me…

I didn’t quit. And I didn’t die, though at times I felt like death. If there’s one thing you taught me about myself, 2015, it’s that I’m both weaker and stronger than I thought.

When I look back on our relationship, I remember the tears. You treated me like a sponge you enjoyed wringing out, using force and circumstance to squeeze all my insides out. You couldn’t get enough of that salty water. You didn’t care about my pride or dignity, you clasped and twisted and squeezed no matter the time or day or place. 

I remember the first time I walked out of the office and into the woods to cry. It was in late January, after a meeting, and I tried to go outside without anyone seeing me. My tears were about to burst. Patrick saw me and all I could do was look at him and shake my head as if to say, “don’t even talk to me right now because the dam is about to break.” I walked past another person and choked “not now” as the tears began to fall. When I made it to the woods (finally) I cried and walked and wrestled with God. WHY was this happening?

That wasn’t the only tearful walk I had with God in those woods.

In February there was the plane ride from Bangkok to Dubai. All the lights were off and I used my headlamp to write in my diary. Tears fell from my face and soaked the pages. My heart was broken. Not over a boy, but over where God had me in life. I was grateful the person next to me was sleeping.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the time I sobbed to Betsy over the phone in the Target parking lot. It was the last Friday in March. This time it wasn’t about work; it was about relationships. I told her I felt like I was in the movie Mean Girls — and the joke was on me. Out of all the times I cried / sobbed / bawled this year, recalling this particular memory is the most painful one of all.

Summer was a blur – I didn’t have time to cry. That is, until everything caught up with me in July and I pretty much cried for two days nonstop. The pain of the previous 10 months had been triggered and came tumbling out relentlessly. I became aware of the depth and weight of pain I had been carrying.

It shocked me.

I knew God was performing triage on my heart. It was as if out of nowhere he dramatically pushed everyone and everything out of the way and said loudly, firmly: SHE HAS HAD ENOUGH. ENOUGH.

God saved me, and by the end of August I was crying tears of relief.

But you didn’t stop there, 2015.

Fall swirled in with all its vibrant colors and falling leaves, and I moved out of The House with the Yellow Door.

This move introduced a whole new era of pain.

I’ve been told our fears are never actually as bad as we think they will be. I politely disagree. Sometimes they are just as bad. Sometimes they are worse.

By moving out I faced my fear of being alone in this world. I tore down the veil of relational comfort and safety and security, and I stared rejection in the eye.

It stabbed me like a knife.

I ditched my diary and instead created a document on my computer called Pain (Slash Real Life) so my fingers could keep up with everything I needed to process.

“Everything inside me hurts, aches, longs. I feel so left out. My biggest fear come true,” I wrote in the opening paragraph.

There’s a kind of loneliness you feel in a crowded room, and there’s the kind of loneliness you feel in a crowded room of people you have history with.

I wrestled with God. I wept. I told him if I had known it would be this hard I wouldn’t have done it.

On December 5 I wrote, “I HATE this season of life. I want it to be OVER. Death is painful. Excruciating.” 

And then I gave up.

I stopped wrestling. I stopped whining. I let death win. I dove into the arms of my Best Friend instead.

2015, you know how the rest of the story goes. I found a settledness and a tranquility in my spirit. I let fear and worry wash away, I let hope and inspiration fill my soul.

So, 2015, you didn’t crush me in the end. Instead you taught me some hard lessons about priorities, boundaries, relationships, perseverance, leadership, and life – and for that I am grateful.

You revealed to me layers of pride, performance, control, and fear that coated my insides. You gave me opportunity to release these traits, and I did. (Though I’m sure there are more layers to be found…)

2015, I’m not going to miss you. But I do want to thank you. You broke my heart and my spirit, but you gave me so many treasurers along the way. I will take these nuggets of gold with me into 2016 and carry them closely, like a mother holding her baby against her chest.

I won’t forget what we’ve been through. I won’t forget all the hard times I mentioned above, and I won’t forget the good times either. When you whisked me away to Paris or when we saw those two wild lions in South Africa. When I flew a plane in Colorado and repelled down a waterfall in Ecuador. When I ate beignets in Louisiana and stood as a bridesmaid next to Tiffany, who I met through you. As much as you drove me crazy, 2015, you were also good to me.

But it’s over between us. You had your way with me and now I’m leaving you for another year.

Sure, 2016 might seem like a rebound. And yeah, I’ll admit, 2016 is bright and new and sexy. I was wearing a black dress when we met, and 2016 took my hand and danced with me. Unlike you.

But I want you to know I am committed to 2016. I know it won’t always be easy, I know more tears will be shed and my heart is bound to be broken again.

I also know 2016 is brimming with promise. I haven’t felt this inspired in a long time. I’m reading more, writing more (if you couldn’t already tell), dreaming more. I have a sense 2016 wants to bring out my best. I can tell we are going to share more laughter than tears.

Goodbye, 2015.

Love,
Hope.

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2015: a year in lists.

I’m one of those people who forgets most things. I’m not sure why – maybe it was that concussion I got when I was 18. Maybe it’s because I’m an ENFP (squirrel?!!?)

Whatever the case may be, I try to write things down so I can look back and remember them later. Hence why I journal. Hence why I blog. Hence why I make lists.

Here are a few lists that signify 2015…

Enjoy!

Concerts:
Iron & Wine / Damien Rice (Red Rocks Amphitheater)
George Ezra (Buckhead Theater)

CDs (yes, actual CDs):
1989 by Taylor Swift
X by Ed Sheeran
Talking is Hard by Walk the Moon
25 by Adele

Books:
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Scary Close by Donald Miller
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Started but didn’t finish: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Movies (seen in a theater):
Cinderella (by myself)
Insurgent
Jurassic World
Inside Out
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (by myself)
The Intern
Mockingjay: Part 2
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Brooklyn
Joy

States visited:
Ohio
Michigan
Colorado
Texas
Illinois
Louisiana
North Carolina

Countries visited:
Costa Rica
France
Cambodia
Zambia
Swaziland
South Africa
Ecuador
Guatemala

*I visited more countries than states!

Mountains hiked:
Lion’s Head (2,195 ft – Cape Town, South Africa)
Table Mountain (3,558 ft – Cape Town, South Africa)
Rabun Bald (4,696 ft – Georgia, USA)
Gray’s Peak (14,278 ft – Colorado, USA)
Torrey’s Peak (14,275 ft – Colorado, USA)

Coolest things I did (in chronological order):
Practiced yoga in Costa Rica
Walked around Paris in the rain
Bungee jumped on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe
Saw two wild lions in South Africa
Raced in the Warrior Dash
Dyed my hair blonde
Hiked a 14er in Colorado
Flew a plane in Colorado
Loped a horse in Colorado
Repelled down a waterfall in Ecuador
Sat on ‘The Swing at the End of the World’ in Ecuador
Booked my first official public speaking gig in a small Midwestern town
Ate beignets in Louisiana
Stood as a bridesmaid in two weddings

…and now I’m ready to start making my 2016 lists! xo.

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christmas eve photo shoot.

My younger brother Paul and I started this tradition nearly ten years ago. I almost forgot this year (!!!) but thankfully he reminded me…

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Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

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an update of sorts.

Yesterday I drove from Georgia to Ohio. Ten hours in the car, alone. I started by swerving through backcountry roads and singing Adele at the top of my lungs. Her song “Sweetest Devotion” is my jam. It will probably be the first dance song at my wedding. That, or “Shut Up and Dance.” (Clearly.)

After singing the same songs 13 times in a row, I replaced Adele with Mindy Kaling’s audiobook, Why Not Me. I’ve only listened to part of an audiobook once before in my life, during the summer of 2007 when I was driving to Michigan by myself. At that time I was in the process of re-reading the entire Harry Potter series in preparation for the release of book #7.

Those were the days.

Here’s my question: am I allowed to say I’ve read a book, when in reality I’ve only listened to it? It just seems suspicious to me. Like walking a mile and telling people I ran one. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE. One takes more effort.

I’m kind of a purist when it comes to books. I say kind of because I will admit to having read a handful of books on a Kindle when I was traveling in 2012. Gasp. In general, however, I will always choose pages over percentages. If you know what I mean. (And I think you do.)

I spent the rest of my road trip listening to Mindy, calling friends, and stopping for pee breaks.

Now that I’m at my parent’s house, I intend to spend as much time in my yoga pants as possible. I lose points every time I put on a real pair of pants. And yes, I’m fully aware I’m losing points in heaven each time I wear yoga paints. You win some, you lose some.

Also while I’m here I plan to finish the book I’ve been reading (I’ve been reading it for so long I had to return it to the library and buy it on Amazon), reflect on 2015, make goals for 2016 (one of them will be to read faster), see friends/family, make a bomb quiche for Christmas morning, and try not to gain 5 pounds. That last one is really flexible though. Because, yoga paints.

Okay well, it’s late and I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow. I’m going to a movie before noon. Gotta make sure I’m well rested for that.

Over and out.

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