Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday | Blog Comments + the Google Apocalypse

1. Bippity-Bloggity-Boo

So far, it seems to be true. Even bloglovin' is giving us far warning now. Google Friends and Google Reader is soon to be extinct, just a faint and happy memory in the pensive of our minds.

As this Google apocalypse is rapidly approaching (estimated date of destruction: Monday!), I just want to frantically shout and wave and point your towards the bloglovin' link over on the sidebar. You see, I love you guys. You're my friends. Ah, yes, group hug. No, but really. I don't like calling all you wonderful people my "followers" because that seems so posh and conceited. No, you're my friends, we've been doing life together for awhile and I really don't want to lose touch with you.

So, this is just a reminder that if you're not bored from hanging around me, please hop over to bloglovin' and add me to your list. Or if you don't do bloglovin' (I wouldn't be unless forced into it) you could sign up to get an email notification (assuming that still works post-Monday) by filling out the email widget also over on the sidebar somewhere. If none of those options work for you, at least scribble my blog address down on some local scratch paper. And for the record...I'm really, really, really going to miss seeing all your happy faces in my sidebar.

You can keep in touch with me on bloglovin' by clicking here, here or here.

Just kidding, those links all go to the same place. I know, I crack myself up.

2. Comments are Conversations

I've said it before and it says it on my sidebar, but I just want to throw it out there that I reply to every comment. Every single one. And wow, there have been SO many awesome responses to some of the posts on here lately that I'm so genuinely encouraged. All the thought-filled words of encouragement and wisdom that have been left down there in the comment section have seriously blown my mind.

So know that I adhere to a strict "you talk, I talk" policy on this blog. Because that's what friends do, after all. Anytime you leave any comment, there will be a reply. You guys aren't my trophies and each one of you stands out as an individual to me. When I open up the comment section, I don't see "x amount of comments" - I see "<your name here> has talked to me."And that blesses me so much.

So, wanted you all to know that! And seriously? THANK YOU. Like, really - thank you. I have no earthly idea how that number over on the {soon-to-be-extinct) sidebar gadget went from 0 to 100 over the past few years. It leaves me speechless. But so, so blessed.

Thanks for doing life with me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday | Break-Ups: They Don't Break You

It's been quite a while since I've talked about my history and shared my heart on the topic of break-ups. You know I talk a lot about being single. But see, I also know what it’s like to almost get married. Yah, I know, crazy, huh? Me almost getting married. But I bring that up because I know what it's like to go through a serious break-up and trust me, they're not romantic like they look in books and movies.

As you can imagine, that ended relationship four years ago did not fit in with my life plan. I was that girl who grew up idealistic, staunchly believing in fairy-tales (still sorta-maybe do) and the formula that says if you do it all right it'll always work out the first time. I read the books, got the counsel and heard the sermons on purity, both physical and emotional purity. The one that says be careful where you give you heart, because you'll never ever fully get it back. I soaked up, believed in and then turned around and taught that analogy often used when talking about relationships - where our heart is like a gift-wrapped package and every time we give away our heart to the wrong person, it's like putting a tear in the present's wrapping paper, leaving us with less and less to give to our future husband.

But on this side of happily-never-after and a whole lot of time to re-think a lot of my idealistic beliefs, I want to just say how misguiding this sort of teaching can be. It originates in truth (please note that there's still value to be found in it!), and protecting our hearts is something to definitely strive for, because the heart does get hurt and hurt does alter the heart.

But where this teaching starts going wrong is the implications that if your relationship fails, you're now just damaged goods, someone who now has only broken pieces left. Believing that the heart is like an unwrapped gift, once-given-never-fully-gotten-back, is a breeding ground for crippling shame for those of us who have to experience failed relationships. 

I’ve found myself in that place where I was left holding just empty, broken dreams and nursing an overflowing, hurting heart. In those months and years following that very serious break-up, I felt broken and ugly, damaged. I believed that because I’d given my heart away so fully (only a few months away from the big I Do's), that I had less to give to the right guy.  I was a less-than forever. I felt so much shame and regret and it was a heavy burden to bear. And trust me, the last thing someone who's reeling with the anguish, confusion and chaos of a broken heart needs is the shame that they can never be "whole" again.

But I know differently now and it breaks my heart that such a well-meant message can go so wrong. Yes, it’s best to guard your heart and keep it safe…but if you give it and then that love ends, you’re not irreparable. Because guess what, there is a God and He can fix anything. Have we forgotten just who God is?? He's our great Jehovah Rapha, our Healer. He heals the heart and when He heals, He makes new again.

Break-ups are never marks against us in God's eyes. A child of the Almighty God is never less than anybody else. Never ever are they "damaged goods," irreparably broken or deficient in any way. Life happens, break-ups happen. But we are His children, a holy nation, His own special people, whom He guards over, protects and always completes. Besides, our hearts aren't made of glass, unable to be fixed when broken. Break-ups may leave us with some scars, but when have scars been bad? Scars show where there has been healing.

And speaking from personal experience, the things I've learned through my break-ups have crafted me so much more into a woman better suited for marriage. It redefined my faith, re-shaped my character, forced me to see so much immaturity in my life, drew back the veil on a lot of ugly in my heart and build up in me a force of strength that before I never had. I'm no longer ashamed of my past broken hearts nor do I regret the failed relationship. I'm a stronger, better woman because of it.

See, break-ups don’t leave you with less to offer. They leave you with more to give.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday Two | Summer Bucket List Link-Up

So, I’m breaking my steadfast cardinal rule of never posting more than once a day…but see, Kiki at In It’s Time is hosting a really, really fun link-up and well, I just have to be a part of it. The things I’ll do for you, Kiki. ;) So go check it out; it’s the cool thing to do today, okay?

Today's topic? Summer Bucket List. Yes, my heart rate went up with excitement at the word list. I love lists. Not being a die-hard adventurer (even though in my head I like to think I am), my summer bucket list probably isn’t all that cool or wow-inducing. So no hating, okay? Without further ado, here’s my summer bucket list. Prepare to be amazed.

Go to the beach. Seriously, who’s bucket list is this not on? It’s been way too long since this pacific-coaster found her way to her favorite beach, and there’s nothing like the sun setting over the water. Best thing ever.

Host a chocolate party. Girls only. :)

Buy a bed. See, I told you my list was amazing, right? Right now I’m still sleeping on just a mattress on the floor (a mattress that technically needs to be taken back to Home) and I’m getting really ready to be up off the floor again. Three spiders in my bed is three spiders too many.

Get gel nails. Definitely a worthy aspiration, amiright? But nails are sort of my thing, so I want to give it a try.

Learn to ride a unicycle. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Go camping in the redwoods. Basically an annual family tradition that’s become hit-or-miss the past few years. I love hot cocoa around the fire on a cold morning, reading in a hammock in the afternoon and sitting around the fire with my family after dark, playing instruments (well, they play instruments), singing old hymns and just being together. I also like the part where the raccoons and skunks come wondering into camp.

Have a Disney Princess marathon. You know me and my Disney! Who wants to join me? Bonus: who's your favorite Disney princess?

Wednesday | Buy One Get One Free (Plus Some Cool Shoes!)

We're finally at the home stretch before Scott and Karis come home (flying in Saturday night!) and wow, I can't believe their four weeks away is already almost over. In that time, we've somehow managed to live without them and also managed to get in a few extra fun activities to help fill in the gap left by their absence. We've had "dinner parties" at Home, a movie night at my house (Rise of the Guardians, yep, I love that movie!), Stuart and I went to a candy factory, and I bought Stuart a unicycle, from which I'm sure is the start of his budding circus career. ;)

And then last night, we went bowling. With buy-one-get-one-free coupons, we spent a couple hours at our local bowling ally where we found out that none of us are instant bowling celebrities. :) After our games were up, we stopped to grab milkshakes and fries, Katheryn bought food for a homeless family and I left my camera there. Yup, I did.  Ten points from Gryffindor. Walked out of that place, leaving my camera bag in all it's pricey glory on the table. Excuse me why I grab an inhaler just thinking about it. After a drive home, a frantic search of the car and an even more frantic (and perhaps slightly maniacal but don't judge) drive back, I was miraculously reunited with my camera. Thank God (no, really, thank God) for honest people who see expensive camera equipment just sitting at an empty table and actually turn it in to lost & found.

So our fun evening ended well after all.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday | Summer Surprise + Photos to Prove It

I think the weather confused us with someone else, because it rained. Yes, people, it rained in the middle of the summer. Some of you are probably thinking "huh?" right now because you get rain pretty much any day all year long (pretty sure it rains every Monday in Michigan, just sayin'). But here in my corner of paradise? Yah, no, not so much. But it was wonderful and I loved it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday | Clarifying My Singleness Gig + Why I Blog

Hello, my friends!

I ask myself often the question "why do I blog." As I'm sure most bloggers do. You see, I'm several things. I'm a self-supportive woman. I'm sort of a photographer, although I don't like to call myself one. I like to make people smile. I'm something of a writer, you can agree or disagree. I'm a 26 year old single woman. And I'm open and transparent about the things that go through the head of a single woman.

But I'm also a Christian. And as a Christian, God always comes first. There should be no question about that. As you know if you've been reading around here for awhile, I off and on will blog about my life as a single woman. Specifically, the emotions, struggles and self-worth issues of a single woman.

You know my mantra: "I'm most encouraged through the honesty and transparency of others." Because you'll agree that the more honest someone is, the more powerfully their words can hit home and make a difference in our lives. And so, I really want to be that person. That person who lets you see what's really going on. And as a single woman, the issues I struggle through these days are often issues that revolve around not having a husband, feeling like a less-than, loneliness and discouragement. So I write about it on this blog.

But my greatest fear while doing that is that my honest writing will come across as whining and complaining to you. Oh, believe me, I can be that person, too. As Jane Austen so puts it, "those who do not complain are never pitied." (just a bonus quote, no extra charge.) But that's not who I want to be, that's not who I'm supposed to be, as a Christian. Yah, things get rough and things get dirty (it's called life), but the point of everything (literally, everything), is to draw us nearer to Christ. Even singleness. Shoot, even marriage is supposed to do that. But I'm a single, so singleness if my pulley towards Christ.

But it's hard sometimes. Okay, sometimes it's hard a lot of the time. And I know I'm not the only one who faces the issues that come hand-in-hand with singleness, getting older and other never-thought-I'd-be-here types of things. And so here we are, back to my mantra. I'm most encouraged through honesty and transparency of others. That's why I blog. For the sake of community, for the sake of transparency, for the sake of all the hundreds of other single woman, like me, who's Prince Charming either was never born or is waylaid by a seriously flat tire.

But I run the risk of annoying other people who aren't where I'm at, and as I said, sounding whining and complaining about my life. And that big ugly one - being that girl who always only ever thinks about marriage and refuses to be content without a guy. And friends, I don't want to be that girl. I'm not that girl. I love my life and I love being single and I love the Lord.

But I will be transparent. I will blog with honesty about the times when being single is hard and I will let you see some of the different emotions and feelings that single girls have. Because they are valid feelings.

But I have to be careful to, even in the midst of saying it like it is, to always point back to Christ. Whether it's in my life personally or whether it's when I'm writing about it on my blog for all of you to see. Because He's the answer. The only answer. And He's who I want you to see. I blog because I want you to find Christ closer and dearer and more able in your life, specifically to other single girls. And honestly? It can be a hard balance to be honest about how I feel and point back to Christ. Because there are days when God doesn't feel close, I question what God is up to and I'm just plain out-and-out discouraged. But sometimes it's those days that need to be talked about the most.

As a friend of mine commented on my last blog post (thank you, Dani!), "Countless times I had to stop and talk to God. Pray for the feelings to pass. Feel a bit more miserable, shed a few tears and then climb out of my hole to continue on until the next pothole." Pretty good definition of life, eh? But that's just it - life does have potholes. We do a bit of crying and questioning when we find ourselves crash-landing into one. But we pray, look to Jesus, crawl out and keep right on going. Because He's a keep-on-going kind of God.

So this is me, friends. This is me telling you up front that here at this blog that I call Nothing Less (read why here), you're going to read sometimes about those hard days. You'll see me putting myself out there in all my ugly for you to see. But I do it because I want you to know that it's okay to have ugly days and that you're not doing it alone. And most of all, so that you can be encouraged and reminded that in all trials, struggles and emotions...that Jesus Christ is your only answer. So go to Him.

So, whether you a new friend or an old friend here on this blog...welcome to my blog, where we say it like it is, question our sanity, it's okay to have a sad-moment, cry about it a little...and then always take it all back to Jesus, find our joy and gladness and remember that it's really all about Him anyway.

Okay? Okay.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday | Just Another Open-Hearted Post on Moments Felt as a Single

There must be love coming on with this summer heat. Because in the space of about 25 seconds online, I found out that four people I know now have significant others. Bam, bam, bam, bam. Just like that. Summer lovin’.

And I felt it. Surprisingly not the pain of being twenty-six and still single. But rather…the embarrassment that I’m twenty-six and still single. Because with four new people in relationships, that’s four more people who might look at me and subconsciously pity me for still being single in the face of their new happiness. And I don’t want to be pitied. But I know how it works – when someone finds their happily ever after, they start seeing their single friends through sad eyes, because out of the goodness of their hearts, they want us singles to find that same happiness. And there's sometimes mixed in with that that subconscious feeling of pity. Because the true story is (even if it’s wrong), singles often get viewed as incomplete. Incomplete and lacking that important ingredient that was needed to gain a spouse.

 I don't want to feel like a less-than. But as a rapidly-getting-older-single, I sometimes just do.

So it would be a lie for me to say that, when I learned of the four new budding romances, that I didn’t feel a little last-one-there's-a-rotten-egg-ish. It’s a convoluted mess, to be happy for someone and at the same time feel slighted by it. To love being single (really, I do!) and terrified of someone actually showing interest…and also wanting that very thing to happen. I must be mental. Point me towards St. Mungo's.

But that’s not my point. My point is that it’s easy to be embarrassed and feel shame over the fact that your still single. To feel like God’s putting you up on a stage in front of a jeering crowd when you have nothing prepared. As hard as it is for me to set aside any self-preserving "tough girl" image I might cultivate in order to preserve my singleness dignity, I'll go ahead and admit it: it can be just plain old embarrassing being single when just about everyone else has someone’s love and adoration validating the space they take up.

Well, the good news and the bad news is that there's really only one remedy for this.

And so, I put my head in my hands, elbows resting on my desk, rubbing at the spot between my eyes where my daily headaches have been coming, hoping nobody would walk by my office while I dealt with the silly, yet still-real emotions in my head. And heart. And prayed that open prayer I often pray:

“Lord, I know you have plans for me. I know what you’re doing in my life is good. I know that you’re not trying to embarrass me here. You’re plan is NOT to shame me in front of my friends and family. So, help me be okay with being one of the lasts. You’re bigger than what I can see and you’re not making a fool out of me. So, thanks being my God and my Champion.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday | Adventures of Self-Supportive Living: the Siren Call of Wifi

It’s now been just over two months since I first moved out. Wow, two months? Seems  so strange that after months of praying and questioning the wisdom in moving, here I am - not only moved out, but two months into the adventure that’s now turning into just normal, every-day life, which includes unexciting things like going to the grocery tonight on my way home from work because I have nothing for dinner tonight.

There’s been a lot of changes. I’m busier, I’ve been eating out for lunch more than I should (courtesy of that empty fridge), I have to buy everything for myself (who knew laundry soap was so pricey? Thanks, mom, for buying it for us all these years!), I’m the one who’s solely responsible for my messy room and I spent most of my day all by myself.

But the biggest change for me has surprisingly been…the presence of wifi. Home (capital “H”), while it has pretty decent speeds on the family desktop, had only a limited amount of data (thank you, country living) and we didn't have wifi. So, evenings at Home often found me either reading a book, watching something with my siblings, or just kicking my heels back out on the porch swing, just being. And lots of time just hanging out with my family, who are indeed my greatest obsession. 

But now, it’s just me.  Me, my wifi, and my laptop, equipped with lovely things like Netflix, Hulu Plus, my email, online yard sales, etc. At first, having constant wifi anytime I wanted it was like a dream come true, but now? I’ll be honest with you, friends. I miss not having it. Because it’s a siren's call that, even when I’m making dinner or reading a book, is always calling me, urging me to check my email again, browse through my Amazon wishlist, add more potential shows to my Netflix instant queue, or to watch just an episode or two of whatever show I’m watching. Too many times lately I've found myself abandoning my plans for a quiet sit out in the backyard or a stroll through town and instead, I'm cocooning myself up on my bed in front of my laptop and tv.

It’s my instant go-to when I’m bored. Don’t know what to do? Check my email. None of the roomies are home? Okay, let’s marathon.  Feel lonely? Check the blog again. I realize one hundred glaring percent that I alone am responsible for how I choose to occupy my time, but for me, in some ways, having wifi is like a woman’s version of the biblical “strange woman.” It calls to me, saying it’ll satisfy, urging me away from the simple things, the important things (like my Sunday School lesson prep), and has me clocking out on time with my family earlier than I normally would. It’s just there. Beckoning. This is starting to sound slightly creepy. Sorry. *cute twilight zone theme*

And as I see our society becoming blind to simple life around them because their smartphone screens block the view, I’m seeing how I, too, am falling for this. I think it’s one of the reasons that I’ve felt so busy, because there’s always something that I could be doing online. You know what I mean?

I don’t want to be that woman who has more time for her online pursuits than for her family or friends.

I don’t want to that girl who defaults to online browsing when she’s board.

I don’t want to be that person who’s always rushing around or always looking for what's next instead of what's now.

I don't want to be that Christian girl who always cuts her time with God short because she sees her laptop sitting across the room and it reminds her of something else to do.

I want to live simple. And in my book, simple is lots of time with family, evenings spent with a book (or two), slow walks through town and meals that I actually make myself instead of thawing from a package or take-out. And of course my favorite - just sitting outside quietly enjoying a summer evening with no schedule or agenda. Just me and my west-coast sunset.

That's what my dream-come-true wifi has become - my task-master, instead of just a blessing to have when I need it or want a little extra splurge (since I still love my shows and marathons, but all things in moderation, right?).

So, yah, time-management and wifi-management. Two things I've definitely been learning about while on the Adventure of Self-Supportive Living. Take it from me - it's trickier than it looks sometimes.

"...and aspire to live quietly...
as we instructed you."
1 Thessalonians 4:11