When you're feeling "too old".

*I received a message on Instagram the other day that asked about singleness and waiting. I get these sometimes from the sweetest women who are just wondering how to wait and how to wait well. The following is my response to that message.*

In the summer of 2010, I signed a lease on a one bedroom apartment after moving out of the one I shared with my newly engaged sister. I use the word signed rather loosely because I felt like Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” when she signs her voice away to Ursula without looking at the paper.

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Like, “Ughhh I don’t want to do this but I don’t see any other options.” I was 25 and most of my friends were married and buying houses and having babies. That September my best friend got married one weekend and the very next weekend I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding – my younger sister, I might add, because if you’ve been in that position, you know that matters. (Isn’t the law of the universe that these kind of life events happen in birth order? Thank you.) So they were both putting together new homes with brand new wedding gifts, meanwhile my apartment was mostly empty and had mismatched furniture and hand-me-down dishes that weren’t even a complete set anymore. Devastated at my circumstances doesn’t really begin to cover it. Didn’t God know I wanted a husband? Didn’t he see me crying about this?

I grew up believing that I would be married at a young age because my mom was and my aunts were and my grandparents were and my sisters had no problem finding spouses so, duh, this was supposed to be a slam dunk. Except I turned 26 and 27 and 28 and 29 and still never had a steady boyfriend. I stood in the mirror on my 28th birthday and cried about my life, which is ridiculous now that I think about it, but at the time I felt alone. I think the holidays are especially difficult for single people or for people whose lives haven’t gone exactly as they dreamed. Christmas is a season of expectation and hope, but when your hopes have been dashed and you feel no reason to be expectant, it’s just another season to feel like God forgot about you because he’s busy blessing everyone else. Ouch.  

I know of a woman and have known her for a very long time. We’ll call her Karen. And from my very limited knowledge about her, Karen was never dating anyone and she was never married (that I know of). Well, turning into Karen was my worst nightmare. God forbid I turned 30 or 40 or 50 and was still single. I mean, that would just kill me, I was certain. I had no idea about Karen’s circumstances or if she chose to be single or anything like that. I just knew she wasn’t married and reaching the upper stages of her 40s and the color drained from my face at the thought of my story following that pattern. But at 29 and single, that’s the outcome I was starting to imagine.

One of the biggest lies I told myself in that season was that I was getting “too old.” I had a timetable I was on. If I didn’t get married in the next year, I wouldn’t be able to have all my kids by the time I was 30 and then I would be an old mom and my kid’s friends would probably confuse me for being his/her grandparent! And would my kids know their great grandparents like I knew mine? Not on this schedule, God! Come on!

We live in a culture that loves everything new and fresh – people, gadgets, relationships, etc. It’s like your engagement and wedding pictures getting 1,000 likes on Facebook but then the picture you post a few months after the wedding and everyone is over you like, “How many pictures do they need of each other? Ugh, we get it.” It’s like when you announce your first baby and everyone is so excited for you but by the time you announce the fourth people are like “Are they going for a Duggar situation or what?” It’s like 17 year olds modeling for a high-end line that absolutely no real life 17 year old children could afford to buy but then the 40 year olds who actually can afford it feel like they need to look like that 17 year old. If our culture loves anything it’s youthfulness. Magazines and movies and famous people (who apparently never age) tell us this, when in actuality they’re pumped full of Botox, and meanwhile make you feel like the three lines near your eyes are screaming that you’re 1,000 years old. Oh no! I’m aging! How dare I do that!

You know who loves to step into these lies about being “too old” and drop brilliant promises? God. He always uses the old and the weak and the outcast to accomplish his mission. He walks up to the ones thinking they’re “too old” and says, “You. Let’s do this.” To how many barren wombs did he give children? How many people did he raise from the dead? How many sick did he heal? How many outcasts did he pull from the dark fringes of society? How many situations did he enter where people were believing they were too old, too sick, too dead to be redeemed? The Bible is the story of redemption from lowly, unlikely places and with each new season we enter there is new mercy to endure and flourish and grow and learn. Culture would have us look back at our younger years but God asks us to keep our eyes fixed straight ahead to see the NEW thing he is going to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t use an eyecream here and there, but I’m not making an idol out of youthfulness either. God will step into the lies and speak promise, restoration, new life. He makes NEW where we think we’re old. He brings LIFE where we think there’s only death. There is absolutely no such thing as “too” anything for God to work together all the good he has for us.

It took a long time for me to understand all of this but God got a stranglehold on my heart one day when I was sitting on the floor in my very own kitchen. I wrote about the conversation one time. God came to me and asked why I was striving - why I wanted more than him. He offered me himself, pure, unconditional love and I was essentially saying no. I was saying it wasn’t enough. You’re not enough, God. I don’t want only you. I believed that having a husband meant my life would really start. I believed that having that prayer answered meant I would never long for anything again. The deepest longing in my soul was marriage, but in all that space of singleness God was teaching me that my desire should be for him above all else.

I realized after that conversation with God that even if I ended up to be Karen, if Karen loved Jesus with her whole heart and poured out her life to him alone, then I should be grateful for that opportunity. Even if I was 50 and alone, God would sustain me. He would be enough. He was writing my story. I finally believed that. A husband would not satisfy that longing in my soul. A house or a baby or any of my dreams fulfilled would not satisfy that place in my heart. I think it’s Jim Carrey who said one time, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” There’s only one who can fill that space.

I know that being single is hard when you have dreams of being married and starting a family. I know that it is. I’ve been there. I’m not going to give you a list of things to do or say or feel. Your singleness is entirely your own and feeling grateful will come in waves and lulls like it does for all of us, no matter what we’re waiting on. So I can’t tell you how to spend this season of singleness except that you might hold fast to God. Be as near to him as you possibly can, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you don’t feel it in your heart and you don’t feel him speaking or moving. Put him first. We always say, “Put those you love first,” well make him first! Spend time with him, get close to his heart, abide in him. That’s the best thing any of us can really do no matter our season of life. It’s the only place to find true rest, comfort, healing, hope. Stick close to the heart of Jesus and he will fill you, hold you, sustain you and continue to shape you into the woman he wants you to be. 

In the meantime, you will feel every single range of emotions - thankful for your singleness and anger about it, maybe even in the same day! You will probably feel sadness and you will feel a sense of freedom. You will feel hope and you will feel deep doubt. And you’re allowed to feel every single one of those things. But remember to dwell in the truth, not the doubt. Drink from the well of life, not the one of striving and hopelessness. Rest in his promises. He is faithful.

I signed the lease on my single-life apartment seven more times before God moved me on to a new season. And you know what I did when I had to turn in my notice? I CRIED. I cried about leaving that apartment. I was so sad to end the season that, when it started, I cried about starting! How fickle is my heart! We don’t even really know what it is we want because when we get it, we move on to the next thing we want! And we can always, at any point in our lives, get sucked into the lie that we are “too old” or “too” something. I fight against it even now as I think about wanting to be a mom. At this point, at my age, a pregnancy is nearly considered geriatric - and that’s not my word, that’s medical terminology. Translation: I’m going to be an “old mom”. Ah! My worst fear! But you know what? I know my Jesus well enough now to know that he has this all worked out. I’m not behind. I am not late to the party. I am perfectly where he has placed me in this moment. And I can rest! I can rest.

I want you to rest, too. You are not behind. You are not late. God did not forget about you. He has not missed that all your friends are now married and you feel like you’re the only single one left. Each time I felt like I was in that position, he swooped in and gave me sweet friends in my same season. And I mean every single time. Be grateful for those people. Be grateful for what he has given you rather than upset about the one thing he has not. God’s will for all of us, regardless of where we’re at in life, is just one thing, “REJOICE always, PRAY without ceasing, GIVE thanks in ALL circumstances, for THIS is the will of God in Christ Jesus for YOU.”

I know that right now he is positioning you and placing you and preparing you for exactly what he has for you. You are his. Stick close to him. He’ll lead you to a spacious place and grant you far more than you could ever ask or imagine. I believe it for you. I believe it for all of us.

New.

I wrote a whole post last week about being in a new city but didn’t feel peace about posting it, I guess because it felt a little complain-y - and that’s not even a word but I’m writing it anyway. I don’t want to be a complainer and I especially don’t want to publicly complain on my blog. So I’m starting fresh here and trying to let God speak new words to my fragile heart.

I don’t feel much like myself right now, and that’s the honest truth. I feel chaotic – like I’m trying to live someone else’s life, fumbling around and lost. I wrote on Instagram last week that it’s been a comedy of errors and if I really feel like it I could focus a whole lot on the errors – like how I messed up the self-checkout at the store and just ran away from it instead of get help, like how parking in Honolulu is a bit like musical chairs where there is always one less spot than there are cars, like how Safeway doesn’t have the things I liked at Trader Joe’s (RIP Trader Joe’s) and it’s all twice as expensive. Oh, see, here I go again complaining.

I don’t know if you’ve ever moved across the country, but it’s pretty hard. On top of that I just got married two and a half weeks ago and am learning how to be a wife and live with someone else for the first time, so I just feel like there’s an abnormally-sized portion of new on my plate and if you took anything from my last post, you know that new is not my forte. I know I’m not the first person to get married and move all at once - I’m just an ordinary girl doing an ordinary thing - but I feel kind of like Bambi on the ice trying to walk. The minute I feel a little confident, I get a snowball to the face, usually in the form of being in the wrong lane and ending up five streets from where I wanted to be. I know these occurrences will come less and less over time and I just need to give myself some time (and grace) to learn. They say you need at least six months in a new place to feel like anything feels normal so since it’s only been two weeks, maybe I can calm down. It’s just the perfectionist in me rearing its head and wanting to know how to do everything and how to get everywhere right away and stop making mistakes.

One thing I’ve had to diligently remind myself over the last two weeks is the verse in Lamentations about God’s mercies being new every morning. It’s fitting that the verse is found in that book of the Bible because I find myself easily lamenting lately. But God says his mercies are new each day – fresh and full and mine for the taking. I drew the verse in my journal the second day we were here in Hawaii. When I start to think about the fact that I won’t see my family and friends and Nebraska until December, I get a little panicky. When I start to think about how lost I feel in this new city, the lamentations start to roll off my tongue. But instead of focus on that very far away December date, I remember this verse and look at this one day in front of me and know that his mercy and grace is sufficient for today and tomorrow’s portion will be sufficient for tomorrow until all those portions string together to get me through. And when everything about me screams, “I’m new here!” at least I know his mercies are new so that no matter how often I screw up, I can start again and again until this new little life here starts to feel normal.

Speaking of normal, I went to the gym yesterday. It didn’t feel like my gym and the kettlebells smell a bit like bandaids and it’s pretty small and hot in there, but working out felt normal for me and I need that bit of routine in my life. I told Aaron I did prayer sprints at the gym and he said he had never heard of that and that’s because I made them up! All you do is set the treadmill at 10 mph and for ten minutes you sprint 30 seconds and rest 30 seconds but during the 30 second sprint, you pick one thing to pray about – just one thing. And during those 30 seconds you mentally pray every single thing you can think about regarding that one person or circumstance. And you don’t really get to choose what you pray about, you just have to pray whatever comes to your head, so that could be really any person or situation on your heart. It’s kind of like mentally shouting things out, but God doesn’t care how you come to him, he just cares that you come.

A lot of my sprints yesterday resulted in prayers about my heart and attitude, but also family and friends and finding a job. I went to a conference back in February and Beth Moore said that we have ground we’re supposed to take through prayer – we have things in our lives that we are to pray about and you don’t want to miss the blessings that will come through your prayer about something – so take that ground! Intercede for others. Maybe that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but there is one thing I know about prayer: it doesn’t change your circumstance immediately, but it can change your heart. So while I went to the gym yesterday with a bit of a bad attitude about the traffic situation on H1 west (like I actually texted Aaron, “How do people live here?”), I left with a new heart and better perspective.  And I remembered again that his mercies were new that day. Just like they are today.

Before I left Nebraska two weeks ago, my 5 year old niece asked me if I was scared to move to Hawaii. Children are so perceptive sometimes it’s a little frightening. I told her I was and she said, “Well, when I’m scared I just remember this verse, ‘Let the peace of Christ fill your heart.’” Ugh. I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING. How often God uses the small things to remind us of the truth and how often I’ve repeated that verse to myself over the last couple of weeks. Beth Moore also reminded us that we should be praying for supernatural things in our lives so I have prayed for supernatural peace that cannot be explained. And every time I start to feel a little scared or make another mistake or start to miss home, I remember Lux’s gentle reminder and her tiny voice reciting scripture.

The last two weeks I've found myself feeling a bit like the first half of these illustrations by Mari Andrew:

I trust that in a few more months, or by the end of our time here in Hawaii I’ll feel like the second half of each drawing. I won’t be making all the wrong turns and I’ll know the ins and outs of living here and I’ll find my favorites at Safeway like I did at Trader Joe’s. I know that new things just take time to get used to – that new rhythms and routines will come. And the thing is, every time I feel like Bambi on ice, I've got Aaron as my little Thumper, encouraging me and helping me see the fun in it all. He keeps the comedy in all my errors and straightens out my legs when I get wobbly.

So if you're feeling a little lost today - a little unsure or you feel like you keep making mistake after mistake, I guess I just want to remind you and me this morning with this short little post that his mercies are new every morning and when you’re feeling a little scared, "Let the peace of Christ fill your heart." He’s been faithful to show up each day.

Now I'm headed to Target. I think I'll have to prayer sprint the whole way. 

Never.

If you talk to anyone who has known me over the last ten years (or more!) they would tell you that they’ve heard me say some version of this rehearsed lie:

“Yeah, I’ll get married on the 1st of Never.”

Ha! It’s true. I have proof. This is a text exchange I just had recently with a friend of mine:

Her text actualIy made me laugh because I was already in the middle of writing this post. Clearly I was like a broken record when it came to dating and marriage. I basically told anyone who would listen: “I’m never getting married.” “I’ll probably never have a husband.” "Just waiting to find that blind, deaf guy who wants to date me."  I was constantly reminding myself and others that there was no guarantee this would happen for me - trying to make sure my hopes didn’t get up too high. Maybe you know someone like this. Maybe you are this person, repeating the same stale phrases. But, do you know what I was doing? Self-protecting. Shielding my heart because, you know, Proverbs says to, “Guard your heart,” and they told me to do that a lot growing up in youth group. What would it need protection from more than the devastating heartbreak I felt over being single?

I used to tell myself I wasn’t getting married because I was cushioning the blow to my own self. If I never did get married then at least people wouldn’t feel bad for me, they’d just say, “Well, she always knew she wouldn’t. I guess she was right.” Instead of something like, “I wonder why she’s not married?” “She must really suck for no one to want to date her.” “I can’t believe she’s still alone.” I didn’t want people to pity me and I didn’t want them to talk bad about me - especially my exes. Gosh, how quickly they all moved on with their lives and got married while there I was, still alone, feeling like a loser.

But the problem is, when you tell yourself something for too long, you start to believe it and you start to live it out in different, perhaps subconscious, ways. Like I started to embrace my "single forever" identity.  I convinced myself I wasn't worth dating, which caused me to never seek anyone out, even if I liked them. Then I scoffed at anyone who showed the slightest interest, because, see reason #1, I wasn't worth dating and I knew they'd figure that out soon enough. Super fun and helpful to your emotional well-being, right? I know.

Another way to deal with disappointment in one area of life is to find other areas you can control. Like you can work like crazy to have the perfect house. You can be the perfect friend. You can be the perfect daughter/sister/volunteer/employee because at least you can control that aspect of your life. That’s what I found myself doing. I would grip tightly to control some other area because I knew this one wasn’t happening for me and I felt so useless and rejected. Gosh, this smells an awful lot like pride.

Remember a couple of years ago when the book The Secret was a really big deal? (And by a couple of years, I mean 11 because I just looked it up, and by "a really big deal" I mean I think Oprah latched on to it, so whatever.) I never read it but from what I hear it talks about the law of attraction or “like attracts like.” According to the easiest of Wikipedia searches,

The Secret posits that the law of attraction is a natural law which determines the complete order of the universe and of our personal lives through the process of "like attracts like". The author claims that as we think and feel, a corresponding frequency is sent out into the universe which attracts back to us events and circumstances on that same frequency. For example, if a person thinks angry thoughts and feels angry, the author claims that said person will attract back events and circumstances that cause them to feel more anger. Conversely, if the person thinks and feels positively, they will attract back positive events and circumstances.

In this case, my negative attitude about dating was attracting negativity. It left me sitting in complacency and discontentment and actually embracing my identity as "single" even though I actively hated it. Have you ever heard that phrase, "Your vibe attracts your tribe"? Unhealthy people attract unhealthy people. Negativity attracts negativity. To be clear, I think this whole idea of sending frequencies into the universe leaves a glaring God-sized hole in what ultimately determines the path for your life, but I still believe there is some legitimacy to the thought. When I let go of my assertion that I would never get married, when I focused on other things, got involved in other areas, really focused on obedience to God in different areas of my life – my general attitude about life changed and I stopped focusing on what I didn’t have. And that’s precisely when Aaron walked into my life.

I’m not saying this is a magic bullet. I’m not saying that you’re going to find health, wealth and happiness if you just think positive thoughts as often as possible. If you’re positive every single day, bad, awful, wicked things might still happen in your life. And that is the result of living in a broken world. But I can tell you that positivity and a grateful heart will at least help the level of joy you experience in your day to day. I can tell you that finding other areas of your life to focus on - other ways you can serve and love and give back - will cause you to be less concerned with and have less time for self-protecting.

So if you find yourself saying, "I'm never getting married" or any other "never" phrase in an effort to self-protect, please stop. Even if you're joking. Don't say it. Stop yourself from rehearsing those lines. Focus on a better dream and tell yourself the stuff you WILL do. I will buy a house. I will have a baby. I will join that group. I will start that company. I will start working out. I will get married. I will finish school. I will ____.  That's a much better use of your time. I know it’s hard to hope in the midst of loneliness. I know it’s hard to get your hopes up only to have them come crashing to the ground over and over again. I know that it’s hard to pray for good things when it seems you’ve only been given a double helping of heartbreak. But find people who will hope for you. Find the people who will lift up your prayers when you can’t. 

I just don’t want you to grow weary. I know weary well. But I heard the verse again last week in a sermon I was listening to from Levi Lusko. Do not "grow weary in doing good..."  Don't grow weary in waiting for your dreams. Don’t grow weary. I read a quote from Elisabeth Elliott that said, “God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.” Yowza! I know I always felt like I knew what I needed and I knew how I felt and, “Come on, God! Don’t you think it’s my turn now?” But instead, we need to find some better dreams. Find some truths we can rehearse. Put them on sticky notes in your car, on your bathroom mirror if you need to – tell yourself the things you’re going to do instead the things you will never do. Tell your friends to help you remember.

I want to speak confidently of what I know my God can provide. I want to be sure of his faithfulness and speak it with conviction rather than shrink back in self-protection. I want to believe for certain that whatever comes will be exactly what I need and at the most perfect time. He knows all your dreams and desires and plans and wishes and hopes. He put them there as he carefully fashioned your very heart. So stop doubting and start declaring. Stop doubling down on what you’ll "never" have and start proclaiming the truth that he will provide ALL that you need. Not all that you want, but all that you need and I find that to be much more comforting than someone who gives me all that I want because my wants change by the hour.

I wish I would have shut up about never getting married because here I am about to get married.  And now I feel like my tantrums and cries over singleness were so silly. I know they weren’t – I know God doesn’t feel that way either. But they feel kind of dumb now in light of all that has happened in the last year. So I’m sorry if you heard me at any point in my life say, “I’m never getting married.” It was birthed out of a tightly-held insecurity that maybe I wasn’t worth marrying. And that was something I needed to deal with in my own heart. Maybe you do, too. What are you telling yourself you won’t do and why? What’s the reason for not believing he will provide at exactly the right time? How are you holding yourself back from all that God has for you?

He'll provide all you need. If you don't have it yet - you don't need it yet. Go boldly into the world today believing that truth over any lie.