29 and oh-so fine.

I turned 29 a few days ago.

When I turned 25 I decided I was going to embrace aging. Instead of complaining about it I would celebrate it.

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That worked out well for 25, 26, 27 and 28… but a few weeks before turning 29 I was like OMG. 29 is practically 30. I started thinking about wrinkles. And cats. And how young 20’s-somethings will scrunch their nose and think, “she’s thirty?” when they find out. Just like I used to do.

28 felt sexy… 29 sounded scary.

But then I realized a few things. 1) My friends are aging with me – aka nobody is getting any younger! 2) I’m still me. 29 doesn’t make me any less cool. Nothing can stop that!

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So 29 it was. But how would I celebrate?

Last year I had an epic birthday. I was worried this year wouldn’t compare – especially since I had to work most of the day (it was a Saturday but I had training camp.)

Thankfully, I had the night off.

At first I thought about doing a small-ish dinner party, similar to what I did last year. Or did I want a big birthday blowout?

Birthday blowout, hands down.

I asked my girl Kelly (pictured above) to plan it for me. And then I shamelessly put flyers all over the office… on bathroom doors, in bathroom stalls, the usual. There was a Facebook invite as well as an update in our Gainesville Facebook group.

The day of my birthday one of my friends jokingly posted the following:

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Har har.

Before I jump to the party, I need to tell you how my day started!

I woke up and opened my door to this…

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…is that not the best way to start off your birthday? My roommate Brian was the mastermind.

THEN I walked outside to this…

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My friend / coworker Tiffany did this one. (Shoutout to Katelyn for the photo!)

Needless to say, there was confetti falling out of my hair / shirt / shorts the rest of the day.

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The morning consisted of Tiffany asking me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding! Followed by breakfast at a local restaurant on the square.

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Goat cheese veggie omelette? Yes pleaseeeee.

After breakfast Tiffany and I trained our trip leaders from 9-5. We had a picnic lunch – the weather was perfect!

Before dropping me off at my house, Tiff treated me to a green tea frappe. My favorite.

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Kelly and her party planning team came over to get the house ready for the evening festivities. Ribbon! Flowers! Sparklers! Snacks!

I got ready (dress, hair, makeup, etc) – Kate curled my hair while my roommate Miles cooked me steak.

Then: THE PARTY.

I love people. Especially people I know… even if only a little bit.

I love people from different groups coming together.

So many people came together at my party!

My heart was so full.

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It was a night of food and music and friends. Oh and everyone dressed up. Just the way I like it.

My goal was to stay up til 1am… I ended up crashing at 12:30. Hey, I’m 29 now. Need mah sleep.

The funny thing is this: most people thought I was turning 30! I received so many cards that said something about 3o and new decades and yadda yadda yadda. Even one of my closer friends was like, “so how does it feel to be 30 now?” (Jeremy Cearbaugh cough cough.)

Not sure where people got that crazy idea. When I turn 30 I’m going to throw more than just a party. (Destination birthday, anyone?)

In the meantime, 29 is where it’s at. Yes, I’m single. No, I don’t know where I’m living come September. Sure, things are up in the air with relationships and work.

However. 

I’m alive and loved. What more can a girl ask for?

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photo cred: johnfrank.

 

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Confessions of a traveler….

I’m sitting in the Qatar airport and I’m FREEZING. Seriously, why do airports always have to be so cold? I’m wearing a hoody and yoga pants and socks. IT’S NOT ENOUGH. I should have brought my down comforter.

I have a sleep mask around my forehead (like a gangsta) and I’m surrounded by a dozen women in hijabs. Sometimes we smile at each other.

I landed at 5pm Qatar time, 10am Atlanta time. My biggest dilemma was trying to decide if I should eat breakfast or dinner. I wandered around the food court, too tired to make a decision. Instead I ate a Lara bar and Cheddar Bunnies (kinda like Cheez-Its… but they’re bunnies. And made with organic wheat flour, so obvs they’re good for you.)

When I was dropped off at the Atlanta airport over 24 hours ago, I felt like a sexy traveler, ready to take on the world. 2 flights and 24 hours later, my hair is a mess, my makeup is rubbed off and my ankles are triple the size they usually are.

Cankles, they’re a serious problem.

The first thing I did when I connected to WiFi here in Qatar was order a pair of compression socks. They’re being shipped to my house, aka they won’t help me at all on this trip… but I couldn’t just stare at my fat ankles and do nothing. They hurt!!

I have 7 1/2 more hours before my next flight… and I’ve already been here for five. I’m too cold to sleep. I’m too tired to read or work. My computer is dying. I already ate half the bag of Cheddar Bunnies.

My only options are to do yoga in the corner and maybe some pushups to warm myself up. Not sure what to do about the cankles besides cry about ’em.

Here’s the thing – travel is amazing. And I’m blessed to have it as part of my lifestyle. But everyone needs to know about the in between moments. If I posted a selfie at the airport 24 hours ago people would’ve been like, “aw. she has a plane ticket and passport in hand. that’s so fun!” If I posted one right now people would be like GAHHHHHH MAKE IT STOP. Sometimes travel is sexy, sometimes it’s ugly. Right now I’m cold and bored and tired and hungry for breakfast or dinner, I still don’t know.

That’s all I have to say about that. It’s time to do some pushups…

Over and out.

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an honest update.

It’s Sunday night – clothes are in the dryer, food for the week is in the fridge, room is mostly clean. Candle is lit and Brandi Carlile is singing to me.

Lately life has been full of sunny days. Warrior Dash, Ultimate Frisbee, sand volleyball, Braves games. Outdoor weddings and birthday parties. Frozen yogurt.

All I want is to be outside… all the time. It makes me feel like a kid during summer. Carefree and alive.

I’m on the tail end of a very overwhelming 7 months – the worst of which were January, February and March. I came to the very end of myself in every way. Work, relationships, etc. I’ve been through seasons of grief, depression, disappointment, loneliness, and brokenness… but none of them compare to this season. All I can say about this season is I came to the end of myself.

Everything felt out of control. All I could do was show up… and then cry about it later. Like most people, I don’t like crying in public. I go to movies by myself so I can be alone and cry. Welp, when you come to the end of yourself you just don’t care anymore.

One day at the end of March I called Betsy (my friend/family/mentor/hero) from the Target parking lot and sobbed to her for an hour. Then I went into Target. Naturally.

Also that week I cried in a restaurant. And Kroger.

Here’s the thing about coming to the end of yourself: you don’t have any energy to pretend things are different than what they are. You’re just trying to not drown. Pride and performance (aka your friends who help make you look better than you actually are) ditch you, leaving you vulnerable and exposed. You’re a hot mess and people know it.

I was really proud my boss had never seen me cry. Then I cried in his office… twice. I also called him crying after work one day. He saw me cry at other times as well. Basically, the joke’s on me now.

It’s humbling, coming to the end of yourself. But it’s also exciting. You know when they thought the world was flat, but later discovered it kept going? That’s how I felt during these months. I was discovering things about myself I didn’t know existed. I stumbled upon uncharted territories.

When I cried to Betsy in the Target parking lot she told me it sounded like a shift was going to happen soon. I agreed with her. There was so much pressure, so much friction in my life that something had to change, give way, be born.

Two weeks later, something shifted. I didn’t do anything. God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Learning that, and allowing him to have his way in my life is one of the most mature ideas I’ve accepted in my faith. God does what he wants. I don’t always understand (most of the time I don’t), but I will always align with Him.

The last 4 weeks have been the calm after the storm. Or in my case, the fun after the storm.

I have a lot to process from the season I just came out of, and there is still a lot of uncertainty in many areas of my life, but I no longer feel like I’m drowning. Instead of being taken out by the waves, I’m playing in them.

I’m expectant for the future, the summer, the coming season. I have a feeling it’s only going to get better.

Until next time…

(that one time I was in Costa Rica...)

(that one time I was in Costa Rica…)

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bungee jumping for god.

I’ve never been interested in bungee jumping. I don’t like heights or the idea of dangling upside down… call me crazy.

I’d rather sit on the couch and read a Jane Austen novel.

Yet less than two weeks ago I found myself on the top of this bridge, ready to jump.

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Let me explain.

Lately I’ve been in a fragile state. God has been bringing me into some new territory with him, some new depths, and it’s left me feeling quite vulnerable. When taking me into deeper places of intimacy God usually requires a broken heart, or so I’ve learned.

I’m not talking about boys. My heart has been broken over so many other things.

The last few weeks I was traveling all around the world for work. On March 5th I woke up in a hostel in Zambia and wrote the following in my diary:

God, what are you going to do with my broken heart? It’s breaking breaking breaking. I suppose these newfound cracks will make room for more of your love. But right now I don’t feel that. Five years ago my heart was breaking over giving up that one boy, and now it’s breaking again over what you’re calling me into. More trust in you. 

In that moment, I didn’t trust myself to hear God’s voice (because my feelings were so involved), but I was so desperate that I went for it anyway and wrote down what I thought he was saying.

What followed was possibly the longest and most intimate prose The Lord has ever said to me (or at least that I’ve written down.) My face was drenched with tears and there was so much snot I had to go to the bathroom for toilet paper.

He said so many things, one of them being about how I am in the middle right now, and the middle is always messy. But it’s not the end. There is light at the end of the tunnel, whether I see it or not. “I will not leave you in the middle of the storm,” he said to me. “I will take you through it, hand in hand.”

Ever since God asked me to give up that boy 5 years ago, I’ve followed Him to the left or to the right. Many times with a broken heart and a ton of fear, because I’d rather go the other way. But I will always follow, because we are one and I don’t want to be torn in half.

I’m a big believer in demonstrating in the physical what’s going on in the spiritual, so a week before this tearful morning in Zambia I started thinking about bungee jumping, because I knew it was going to be an option while I was there.

Bungee jumping: the ultimate leap of faith.

The thought terrified me. But if I was living out of a place of risk, faith and trust in spiritual, I should be able to do it in the physical too.

On that day, March 5, I was still kind of back and forth about it until I found out the bungee jump took place on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe… aka the middle of two places.

Sign me up.

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Zambia on the left, Zimbabwe on the right…

I told God I was doing this to prove my trust in him.

He said that’s cute… but actually that’s not what this bungee jump is about. You’re not going to prove yourself to me, I’m going to prove myself to you.

That brought me a lot of peace.

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I believe in order to do difficult things in life you need to go somewhere else in your mind. You can’t focus on your fear or the obstacle in front of you or else you’ll freak out or freeze (at least if you’re anything like me.)

I was doing a pretty good job of staying somewhere else in my mind, but after being on top of that bridge for a few minutes I started to feel my heart pound.

Deep breath.

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With my feet tied together and a heart full of fear hope, I hopped to the edge of the bridge. My toes dangled 365 feet in the air. The view was stunning. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

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They counted down: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Tapping into that somewhere else spot in my mind, I bent my knees and flung myself off the bridge toward the rushing water below me.

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(Yes, those are bath towels wrapped around my feet…)

As soon as I jumped I remember feeling surprised because my view was super shaky, like I was on one of those Universal Studio rides that makes you feel like you’re in a spaceship flying around the world (or whatever) but actually you’re just strapped to a seat and the screen in front of you is doing all the work.

Except this time there was no screen.

The second feeling I experienced was a complete lack of control. I was falling, bouncing back up and falling again. It was terrifying but mostly freeing. I couldn’t do anything but enjoy the ride… and the view (it wasn’t as shaky anymore.) It was even more beautiful than from the top of the bridge. I was in the view now.

I hung upside down for a minute or two, taking deep breaths and staring at the beauty around me.

There was a rainbow.

A rainbow. 

I had already seen a few rainbows that day, but I knew this one was mine. It was a declaration of God’s promise to me: I will not leave you in the middle of the storm. I will take you through it, hand in hand. 

He was proving himself to me indeed.

A man came down and helped me back up to the bridge. I came up on the Zimbabwe side and had to walk back over to the Zambia side. While I was walking from the end of one country to the beginning of another, I thought I might burst into tears. This time not from fear and heartbreak, but from pride and accomplishment.

I was so proud of myself.

I can only imagine how proud God is of me.

For the next few days all I could think about was my bungee jump. I would watch the video of me jumping and feel that same rush of fear, excitement and adrenaline like I was doing it all over again.

Now, less than two weeks removed from my leap of faith, I am starting to see glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel. My broken heart hurts less.

He will always catch me when I fall.

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P.S. Not sure why he didn’t catch this girl when she jumped off the same bridge… but at least she was saved from the crocodiles!

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god, work, cheesecake… all the things.

It’s been a crazy last few weeks.

A week ago work was overwhelming drowning me – I couldn’t keep up. I sat on the couch in my living room and asked my roommates for prayer. As they prayed tears dripped down my cheeks.

With each passing day work became manageable again. Praise the Lawrd, because Training Camp started on Thursday.

It was a good camp. Long days.

This morning 60 participants + 14 leaders took off to the nations. I came home and took a bath.

Then I crawled into bed and spent some time with the Lord. He’s been so sweet to me lately. He’s used people all around me to take care of me. Hannah, Bethany and Talia had a care package waiting for me when I came home last night – InStyle magazine, Starbucks gift card and fancy ice cream. What more could a girl ask for?

When I found out I needed to get a forgotten passport to the airport this afternoon, Hannah drove two and a half hours so I could stay back and rest (aka take my bath.)

Tonight Carly took me out to dinner. Bread, pasta, cheesecake… we were so full we practically had to crawl to the car.

And this is just the last 24 hours.

Sometimes I forget how incredible people are. Really, truly incredible.

God is doing some things in my life right now. He’s stirring and shaking and waking me up. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always comfortable. But I know I’m going to be okay.

A week ago I was on the couch with wet cheeks and a heavy heart. Tonight I’m in bed with a full belly and a sigh of relief, ready to take on the rest of this week…

Bring it on.

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dating tips from yours truly.

Sometimes I find myself feeling like Charlotte in Sex and the City: “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted. Where is he?”

But the truth is… I’ve only been dating since I was 25. I was a late bloomer. I blame home schooling and my thirst for adventure. Back in the day I wasn’t interested in husbands. I was interested in planes, trains and automobiles… anything that could take me somewhere new.

25 rolled around and suddenly I was like I FEEL SO ALONE and all I wanted was someone to sit next to me on those plane rides so I could rest my head on his shoulder. (Turns out strangers aren’t too keen on that.)

At that age, I was under the impression my husband would fall into my lap. I was finally ready, so he could go ahead and ride up on that white horse in all his glory.

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am i right??

Newsflash: husband did not fall in my lap. This actually surprised me.

I discovered I had to succumb to that thing most other people do… aka dating.

I wasn’t very good at it, to say the least. I freaked out and took a shot of vodka minutes before one guy picked me up. During that date I pulled a Cameron Diaz (circa The Holiday) and said something along the lines of, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to fall in love with you anytime soon…” I wanted to let him know I wasn’t clingy and obsessive. On the contrary, I was uptight and closed off.

It took more than two months of talking/dating/whatever it really was before I let another guy hold my hand. When he asked about kissing, I said I wasn’t ready.

In general, I put waaaaaaay too much pressure on trying to figure out if this guy or that was “the one” over appetizers.

My mentor told me I needed to make out with the first guy I mentioned. I practically spit out the water I was drinking when she said that. “Aren’t you supposed to tell me to not do that?” I said, bewildered.

I never made out with that guy.

We didn’t end up together.

But now, a few years later, I know what my mentor was saying. She was telling me to calm down and chill out about dating. To not make it as big of a deal as I was making it. To jump in and have fun and see where it goes.

I get it now. During that season of dating I was still struggling to accept the idea that the first person I dated… or even the second… might not necessarily be the person I’d spend the rest of my life with. My sister married the first man she seriously dated, so I figured the same would happen for me.

I was so cute back then.

All this to say, I’ve learned a thing or two about dating over the years. And now I want to share my nuggets with anyone who might need a little help in this area.

Without further ado…

The Six Commandments of Dating.

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1) A date is just a date (don’t overanalyze.)

Marriage is a big deal, dating is not. I’m going to say it again… marriage is a big deal, dating is not.

When you get married it’s for the rest of your life, when you go on a first date all you’re trying to figure out is if you want to go on a second one. And after the second one, do you want to go out on a third?

I recently told my guy friend he should ask this one girl out. “But I don’t know if I like her,” he said. “That’s the whole point,” I replied. “To find out if you like her.”

I know a lot of people who won’t go on a date unless they are certain they like the other person first. I think it should be the other way around – go on a date and then determine whether or not you like that person.

Sure, there should be some level of interest and attraction up front, but beyond that I think people should just go for it.

Here’s a great way for guys to ask girls out: “Hey, I’ve seen you around and you seem pretty cool. I’d love to take you on a date and see if there’s anything there. What do you think?”

It’s casual, it’s cool. It lets the girl know it’s not a big deal. It’s just a date.

Also, if there’s a kiss at the end of the first date, it doesn’t mean the marriage is consummated. I NEVER thought I was someone who would kiss at the end of a first date, but then I did. It was simple, it was sweet. I would do it again.

2) Don’t wait around (put yourself out there.)

Get online, go on a blind date, ask someone to set you up. Don’t just sit around in a dark corner waiting for something to happen (…and then complain about being single.)

Coffee Meets Bagel, people. My roommate Greg is madly in love with a girl from it. One of my friends is in a serious relationship with someone she met through it. My friend’s sister is getting married because of it.

Online dating is cultural. It’s not a bad thing. Embrace it.

God cares more about the person we marry than the way we meet them.

A friend from college started this dating challenge a few months ago. After years of not putting herself out there, she’s practically starring in her own chick flick.

Putting yourself out there means you’ll probably get rejected more. But rejection isn’t such a bad thing, I’ve come to learn. Rejection makes you stronger. And when you’re stronger you’re more attractive. Win-win, right?

3) Clarify (aka guard your own dang heart.)

One time I realllllly liked this one guy, and I thought he liked me too. But he was traveling. So I waited. When he finally came back I found out he was kissing another girl… I was crushed.

So now, when I like a guy and I wonder if he might like me too… I ask. Point blank. My results so far: 2 times no, 1 time yes.

Even though it hurt when those two guys said no, it was also a huge relief. I didn’t have to wonder or wait around anymore. I knew the truth. And the truth will set you freeee.

The one time the guy said yes? Bliss.

4) Communicate (all day, e’ery day.) 

Games are for kids. Communication is sexy.

As you date, let the other person know where you are / how you feel – even if it’s scary.
Men can handle it. Women can handle it. It’s respectful, it’s honoring, it’s mature.

I ALWAYS tell people I date: “I don’t want either of us to be surprised where this ends up.” Aka no one is going to feel like the rug was ripped out if this doesn’t work out.

Sometimes this means having uncomfortable conversations that make me squirm in my seat. But I do it because I value the other person, and they deserve to know what I’m thinking/how I’m feeling along the way.

5) Be who you are (small bladder and all.)

I’ve learned to be up front about who I am and what my quirks are instead of trying to pretend I’m cooler than I actually am. “I pee a lot. Like, a lot.” I’ll tell a guy on a first date. “And I’ll always say yes to dessert.” Always.

When I was younger and someone I liked asked, “Do you like this obscure band or book?” I would respond with, “uhhhh yeah, duh.”

I’m so over that now. Aint no body got time for that. Either someone likes me, or they don’t.

6) Allow yourself to be surprised (give people a chance.)

The other night in the kitchen some of my guy friends were SHOCKED at who I said I would go on a date with…

This goes back to the first point: a date is just a date! I wasn’t saying I liked those guys romantically, I was just saying I’d give it a chance.

I’ve learned to throw away “the list” and embrace someone I might not expect. This doesn’t mean I lower my standards. I have high standards. But I’m not picky.

Being picky is not dating someone because of their clothes, their quirks, their hair color, their height. 

As a wise woman in my life once said, “You can change a person’s clothes, but you can’t change their character.” (Thanks, Rozy.)

When people ask what my type is, I can’t really respond because I let that go. Sure, it used to be a flannel-wearing, bearded musician who liked camping and classic literature.

But, in a way… that’s me (minus the beard.) I wanted to date myself.

There’s a great line from 500 Days of Summer that says,“Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn’t mean she’s your soul mate.”

Yup. Preach. I know some great couples who ended up together because they let themselves be surprised.

(Also…Married at First Sight, anyone?)

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I’ve gone from being a girl who hated dating to one who embraces it. And while I still may be single, I have more hope than ever.

I’d love to hear any dating tips you’ve picked up over the years! Or at least a dating horror story (unfortunately, I don’t really have one of those…yet.)

In the meantime, go get yo’self a date!!

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on being 28 and single…

Two years ago I wrote a post about being 26 and single. According to my WordPress stats, it’s the most viewed post on my blog. One year later I wrote a post about being 27 and single. (That one is in my top ten most viewed.)

Now that I’m 28 and single… I figured I might as well continue the tradition. Woot.

So. Most people my age have been married five years and are on their second kid. Or at least married and purposely not having kids. Or so it seems.

I was invited to 17 weddings last year.

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never a bride, always a….

I only made it to four of those weddings, but I spent hundreds of dollars mailing gifts to some of the newlyweds, as well as a chunk of money on the wedding I was privileged to stand in.

I’m happy to celebrate with those who are walking down the aisle or welcoming their first (….or second) child.

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At the same time, these milestones tend to remind me of what I don’t have (hubby & baby.) Imagine that.

I’m not someone who wanted to be a mom yesterday, but a husband would be nice. Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder, “wait, did I do something wrong? How did THAT person get married before me?”

If you’re 28+ and single, you know what I’m talking about.

Life isn’t fair. So we date and hope for the best.

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At 28, I’ve learned that LOTS of people have opinions about my dating life. The most popular opinions seem to be either “you know” or “you choose.”

Let me explain.

This time last year I cried to my counselor about boys, dating, marriage, the where-are-you-God-and-why-have-you-forgotten-me feeling… aka the works. I had dated two guys in 2013 – two great guys. But I was never sure with them. I wondered if I was just supposed to pick one and make it work, because love in a choice.

Clearly love is about cleaning the bathtub, not butterflies in your stomach.

I asked my counselor what she thought. Did I just need to suck it up and marry the next great guy that came along, even if I wasn’t excited about it?

My counselor shook her head. “You’ll know,” she said. “You’ll know when it’s him. And you’ll be elated.”

“I want to believe you,” I said. “But I don’t. Fairy tales aren’t real.”

Didn’t she know marriage was about holiness, not happiness?

Some people believe that somewhere along the way, you get an unexplainable feeling in your gut that tells you this is it, this is the one. You know that you know.

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Other people think that’s silly and basing too much on a feeling. They believe you can make anything work if you try. So why are you waiting around? Just choose someone and the love will follow. Attraction will grow.

Every time I date someone, I hear both sides. Every. Time. And people are very passionate about which side they believe in.

Hold out for someone! Stop being so picky! The right guy will come and you’ll know! The right guy is whoever you choose!

I’ve learned to stop asking for so much advice. It’s not helpful. It’s stressful. Besides, at this point I already know who the “knowers” and the “choosers” are, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the stories/all the arguments. This person fell in love at first sight, this person fought for love through years of marriage counseling.

There are always two sides.

I don’t have it all figured out.

This much I do know: I’m 28 and single and sometimes weddings remind me of what I don’t have, but I’m also hopeful for what’s in store. Maybe I’ll know, maybe I’ll choose, maybe it will be a little bit of both.

I also know this: people are going to be fist pumping like mad at my wedding.

Here’s to not having to write on being 29 and single next year…

fingers crossed.

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