Party of One: A Book Review

Listen, we all know that singleness is my jam, so it should come as no surprise that I still collect books on this little fascination of mine. Honestly, most of them say the same old thing, which is why I’m popping in here to gush about finding a fresh perspective on the subject.

Party of One by Joy Beth Smith is not about providing more cliche answers, but about making room for the discussion the church is not having about sex and singleness. (And might I just add, it’s about dang time.) I did my fair share of blushing and cringing through a certain chapter, so I can confidently say that I don’t agree with every opinion voiced within these pages. Heck, I can’t say that the author agrees with every opinion she presented on behalf of her fellow single women, but at least we’re finally having the conversation.

While I’ve heard a whole lot of complaints over the years about purity culture and Joshua Harris’ infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I didn’t understand how these things were to be blamed for a broken view of sexuality… until Joy Beth broke down all the things I was taught in youth group and so graciously explained how these teachings may have been harmful to me. Guys, it hurts how right she was. By the time I put this book down, I was feeling absolutely liberated.

My favorite concept from this book, however—the one that will stick with me forever—was the perspective a twenty-eight year old woman shared with Joy Beth on her ongoing struggle with still being single.

“It’s not what I was prepped for,” she said. “It’s not what I envisioned.”

She goes on to say that her whole life she was taught to be a wife and mother, but no one ever taught her to be a woman.

“My biggest struggle is knowing what womanhood looks like, what identity and completion look like, apart from the goal of marriage.”

And that, my friends, is why I champion the cause of the single Christian woman. Because we’re all struggling to find value in ourselves when church culture has taught us to find our worth in marriage and motherhood. Because we deserve better than to spend our lives waiting for a husband who may never come. We deserve to be validated as a Party of One.


So You Think You Can’t Dance

“Do you dance?”

It was perhaps the first question he ever asked me. I answered with a nervous laugh and a shake of my head. “No.”

Before I knew it, he had taken my hand, pulled me close, and started twirling me in a too-small kitchen.

Well, hello. Nice to meet you, too.

“You can dance,” he chastised me after a moment had passed.

“I can follow,” I countered, because somehow it didn’t seem to count as dancing so long as someone else was doing all of the creative work. While I’ve always longed to move my body with all the grace and confidence my sister displays, I simply can’t.

I can’t.

Two simple words. Five little letters dotted with the apostrophe of finality.

I can’t.

It’s hard to imagine a phrase so small could have the power to undo you, but it does. Over and over again, those words have confined me, strapping me down to a small existence where new limits are not reached.

My word for 2018, I quickly realized, is Horizon. Really, it’s a phrase: Bring Me That Horizon. (What can I say? I’ve always been obsessed with the pirate’s life.)

While the horizon is most commonly known as the line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet, it also refers to the limit of a person’s mental perception, experience, or interest.

In other words, it’s the “I can’t” moments. I think I’m supposed to conquer them this year. So I’m trying to face them head on—all those moments I instinctively greet with a, “No way, Jose.”

As I’ve been intentional about catching these thoughts, I’ve grown discouraged by the sheer volume of them. I had no idea how often I shut myself down.

“Really bend your knee and push that blade into the ice,” Kim coaches.

“My legs are not strong enough to hold that position. I can’t.”

“You’ve got to commit,” Gabe says as he instructs me through a front flip on the trampoline.

“It’s hard to commit to breaking my neck. I can’t.”

“Loosen your hips and move with it, girl!” Caleb calls as I’m tossed about on a mechanical bull.

“That defies every instinct of self-preservation in my body. I can’t.”

As I am my own worst critic, I don’t think it’s an accident that this challenge has come on the tail end of my Year of Together. I’ve gathered some pretty fantastic people (see above) who often give me that little boost of encouragement I needed. I’ve learned to take them at their word even when my doubts want to tell me they’re wrong. I am not a backspin prodigy; I can barely get my left foot off the ice for one rotation.

But I’ve learned to trust those voices. I’ve learned to lean into them and let them give me the strength I didn’t know that I had.

And a funny thing has happened to me over the last few months. I’ve become brave enough to dance in public—even when there is no one to follow. Because, surprisingly enough, my hips know how to move entirely on their own. Suddenly, they feel beautiful and confident and maybe even a little bit graceful. (And, if Shakira is to be believed, hips don’t lie, so it must be true.)

It’s amazing what a world of possibilities opens up when we stop telling ourselves we can’t and instead start whispering that we’ve got this. That this new challenge is going to be difficult, but we are strong and capable of conquering it.

I hope you’ll be brave enough to tell yourself you can.

An Experiment in Together

When I moved home to Ohio in 2014, I didn’t intend to stay this long. I thought I needed six months or maybe a year to figure out where I was going next, but I certainly intended to go. I was going to move on, explore the world, and see things I had never seen. While I’ve had a few adventures during that time, I mostly feel like I have spent the last three years waiting for release and finding myself blocked at every turn.

“What would you do if I asked you to stay?” God whispered into my soul.

I’ll tell you what I did. I cringed. I squirmed. I raged against the very idea of staying in one place for too long. Why would He ask me to stay when I only ever wanted to go?

I have always worn the word Fearless like the anthem Taylor Swift once penned it to be—plunging headfirst into the storm, dancing in my best dress. This was the image I had of myself. This was the girl I wanted to be. But at the beginning of 2016, God redefined this word for me.

I was reading the conclusion to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. In this scene, Liraz—a most formidable warrior—watches over the two humans who stumbled into her world. She sneers at them because they are tiny and pathetic and out of place in a world at war.

Weak, she thought, still watching the human pair, but there was another word lurking, defying it. Fearless. They slept with their faces touching.”

And I felt God whisper into my heart again: “This is the kind of Fearless I want you to be. The kind of Fearless that is small and vulnerable and willing to come face to face with another human being.”

Well, I must have failed miserably at this missive because, at the beginning of 2017, He gave me another word: Together.

No word in the history of mankind has unsettled me quite so much as the word Together. At least Fearless was still my battle cry, even if I was meant to redefine exactly what that meant to me. Together was something else entirely. I do solo rather well, thank you very much, and there was nothing within me that even wanted to pursue the implications of this word… which was exactly my problem and most certainly why God stapled it to me.

So I attempted Together. Out of begrudging obligation, I made appointments and stuck with them even though I would have preferred to be elsewhere. Sure, there were exceptions. There were some really great moments with some truly wonderful people, but for the most part, I felt like I was colossally failing at Together.

And then I met the Ropers.

I’m still not entirely sure how this pack of brothers managed to fall into my life. All I know is that last summer they were just friends of a friend of a friend that my sister decided, for whatever reason, to reach out to on Snapchat. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Her phone became her constant companion. And how could it not when she had four brothers and three of their friends blowing it up 24/7?

I didn’t get it. Right up until the moment she got permission to bring some of her new friends on vacation with our family, I didn’t understand how, in such a short amount of time, these strangers she met on the internet could become her whole life.

But there I was, celebrating my family vacation with three extremely affectionate brothers and their spunky female cousin. And so, my vacation that was meant to provide an abundance of much-needed personal space became in experiment in Together. But for the first time possibly ever, that wasn’t a negative thing. For the first time since I can remember, I actually wanted to be with these people more than I wanted to be curled up in my room with a good book.

This is what people have in mind when they talk about Community, I thought. This is what Together is supposed to look like.

I think that alone would have been a catalyst into a new way of living, but God (who had certainly realized that I was finally grasping this concept and was perhaps concerned I would lose it if He didn’t act quick) let me keep the Ropers a little longer. After Dad offered them some work, they’ve been mostly living with my parents off and on since October.

The week Caleb first got to town, I curled right up on the couch next to him and laid my head on his shoulder. When he wrapped his arms around me and pressed his chin to my forehead, I recalled the words that have been singing on repeat in my mind these last two years:

Fearless. They slept with their faces touching.”

And I thought, I get it now. I think I’m finally there.

While I’m still the kind of Fearless that would dance in a storm in my best dress, I’ve realized that I’m not dancing alone anymore. There are other people out here in the storm with me and that is a beautiful, magical thing.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to crave Together like a flower craves sunlight, but here I am.

I have this friend—Katie. She’s nearly twenty and acts like the sassy little sister I never knew I wanted. She stayed at my apartment until 3:30am after a game night a few weeks ago and, as we were talking it dawned on me that I wanted those late night talks on a more consistent basis. I ended up asking her to move in with me. I guess it just seemed like the perfect culmination to my year of Together.

So now I have a roommate, and I know it’s still early, but I’m finding it perfect. I miss her when she’s not around, which feels a little pathetic, but also kind of beautiful.

I don’t know what this next year brings. I’m hoping for new horizons and the opportunity to travel more. But I know that whatever I do, I won’t be doing it alone anymore.

We live in a world with amazing technology at our fingertips. Home can be transient. Together can stretch across miles as long as you know how to do it right. I’m still learning, but I think I’ve learned enough that I can finally give it a try.

Here’s to Together.

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Heart vs. Will

The words “not my will” have been singing through my mind since my manager stated them so eloquently about a month ago. So it comes as no surprise that my most recent Bible Study book would lead me to the scene at the Garden of Gethsemane.

When faced with his own battle of “not my will,” author Gregory Hunt dissected the difference between willfulness and willingness.

“Without willfulness,” he states, “we would never get anything done. Willfulness is gumption, and gumption is good.”

But willfulness, he claims, only works until we get that that place where we can’t say for sure that there’s an alignment between our will and God’s. That is where willingness comes into play. Where willfulness may drive our lives, it is willingness that will give us the peace and rest our hearts so desperately crave.

As my rather unsettled heart skimmed over these pages, I realized that I have come to a point in my life where I’m trying to follow after God using willfulness rather than willingness. I find myself constantly striving to hold myself to a standard that used to come easily. While I am still all sorts of stubborn and determined enough to keep my feet on the right track, my heart has gone on hiatus.

My relationship with God these days reminds me, sadly, of that scene in First Knight after Arthur catches Guinevere with Lancelot.

“You love him!” Arthur accuses.

“I choose you,” Guinevere replies.

“Your will chooses me, but your heart chooses him.”


I find myself offering the same determined albeit feeble excuses as Guinevere about my will being stronger than my heart. (It is! It really is! Don’t you feel fortunate to be on the winning side of this battle?)

But God isn’t satisfied with my divided love. Or, as King Arthur would say, He doesn’t want me to love Him “in slices.” I may think my will is strong enough to hold this together, but when He asks me to look upon Him as I look upon my other loves… I can’t.

Because my will may be strong, but there are certain things only a heart can conjure.

So for the time being, I’ll be over here relearning how to fall in love will both my heart and my will.


Not My Will

If I were ever to introduce myself at any kind of Anonymous meeting, it would look something like this: “My name is Rebekah and I’m a control freak.” Although, I’m not sure they have support groups for people like me because it’s awfully hard to have a meeting where everyone is in charge.

My support group consists of individuals who speak truth into my life whether I welcome it or not. Take for instance my manager Kathy. She’s my sounding board for a lot of things because, while she loves me and is invested in my life, she’s also far enough removed from my personal situations to provide the completely objective third party opinion I so desperately need.

Our most recent dump-fest involved me pouring out my little heart and confessing that I didn’t know what to do with the mess I had created of things.

“Maybe that’s the point,” Kathy said.

I stood there quietly, waiting for the real advice, because that obscure statement was not about to cut it.

“You know, sometimes you just have to step back and say, ‘Not my will.’ Not Rebekah’s will. Rebekah wants to be the ******* dictator.”

(You know, for a completely objective third party observer, this just got profoundly personal.)


Not my will.

The words, as you may well know, were made famous by Jesus when He asked God for a different path to redemption. In that light, it makes me feel pretty pathetic for even complaining because my cup of suffering has nothing on what Jesus was walking through.

And yet, even before the cross, Jesus humbled Himself enough to surrender all control, confining Himself to a human body with all of its human limitations. (Okay, so maybe not ALL of the human limitations. Most of us can’t exactly walk on water.) The God who shaped the stars revealed Himself to the world in the form of a helpless newborn babe.

The ******* dictator in my cringes.

I’m still learning to surrender myself to the mercy of others. I’ve spent the last three years in Ohio learning how to be the staying kind of fearless. Striving to make the word Together sound like a desirable thing. I am on my way to becoming less independent, but moments like these remind me that I am not there yet.

I’m not the kind of fearless a small child can be. There aren’t many people I trust to keep me from falling when I throw myself into their arms.

I’d rather hold the whole world together on my own, thank you very much.

But I’m learning—-ever so slowly and stubbornly and all of that stuff—-that I can’t dictate every single detail of my life and that my will fails me more often than not because, no matter how desperately I try, I don’t actually control the cosmos.

But here I am, still standing even as everything crumbles around me. And I realize that I don’t have to hold the whole world together in the palms of my hands. I don’t have to be the ******* dictator.

And for the first time in a long time, I’m okay with that. For the first time in a long time, I can say, “Not my will” without fearing what the future holds.

And maybe that’s the point.


Righteous, Victorious, and Humble

“Rejoice, O people of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.” (Zechariah 9:9)

Righteous, victorious, and… humble?

It’s such an odd combination. Here You come—righteous and victorious—just chilling on the back of a young donkey. What kind of hero comes traipsing into town on anything less than a majestic steed?

You came to save the world. You came to conquer death. And during Your triumphal entry, You took a moment to consider a donkey. As You’ve done all throughout history, You overlooked the obvious choice and went with the one that would leave people scratching their heads for thousands of years to come.

Why a donkey, Lord?

It’s no wonder Your people were confused. Although they studied the prophecies, they didn’t know You meant the donkey thing literally. After all, that chapter also hints at a great battle. At liberation.

But given the hindsight, I cannot help but wonder… When you told Your people they would be drenched with blood, You didn’t mean the blood of their enemies, did You?

You said they would be drenched like the corners of the alter. That implies a sacrifice rather than a war.

You called Your people to a different kind of battle—a different way of life—while we remain too blinded by our own expectations to see that You’ve wanted bigger things for us than we have ever wanted for ourselves.

Remove the stars from our eyes so that we might finally see the constellations, the planets, the galaxies.


Worked Out

I don’t always cry at weddings. In fact, if the tears don’t come when the groom is watching his bride come down the aisle, it’s safe to assume my eyes will be dry the whole day through.

This last wedding, though, hit me at the most unexpected of times.

As I slipped into the reception hall, I saw a friend I had not seen in many years. Sue is a saint of the grandmotherly variety. Her face lit up upon seeing me and she quickly offered me the seat next to her. I, of course, could not refuse.

When she started inquiring about my life, I told her nothing I would not tell another acquaintance. The conversation merely brushed across the surface of my life and spoke nothing of the struggle within my soul. Perhaps that is why I was so surprised when, after I had returned from a much-needed moment of baby snuggling time, Sue picked the conversation back up in the most curious of places.

“I know you already know this,” she said, “but I feel impressed to tell you that God has your life worked out.”

That’s when the tears came, burning beneath the surface of my eyes. I blinked them back (so technically I still did not cry at that wedding), but they slipped into my heart alongside the conviction Sue’s words brought.

God may have my life worked out, but I’m not sure that I knew that. Or, at the very least, I’m not sure that I believed that. Because a quick look back on the last three years certainly suggested otherwise.

I have felt lost. I have felt abandoned. I have felt the furthest thing from worked out.

And yet… I felt the sting of truth in those words.

“God has your life worked out.”

I realize that I have been working in my own strength to pick up the pieces and sort this puzzle out. I’ve grown tired of waiting and elected to take matters into my own hands. And oh what a mess I have managed to make.

But here is the truth I have long forgotten how to claim: God has my life worked out.

He has not given up somewhere in the middle (as I often have). He is not sitting up in heaven debating hitting the backspace key on the last few chapters of my life (as I often wish that I could). He knows how this ends. He has it worked out. I am not floundering all alone in the dark.

Tomorrow I leave for Africa. The story of my getting there is quite the soap opera. It was not my first attempt to visit this continent. Every single mishap along the way has seemingly been in direct opposition of my going. I had my doubts right up until the visa actually arrived on my doorstep (and that hasn’t even been the end of my struggles). To be honest, I have my doubts about traveling tomorrow because when I fly everything seems to go wrong.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that God has my life worked out because I’m afraid it doesn’t look like the life I would choose for myself. Because sometimes He closes doors on opportunities I thought were perfect. Because sometimes He strands me in Ohio when I wanted the world.

But when it’s time, He throws those doors wide open so that I can walk through. And He tells me He had it worked out a year and a half ago when my plans fell through. Because this—chaotic and unnerving as it has been—is better than the trip I tried to line up for myself.

I’ve had my doubts… So many doubts…

But all along God had my life worked out.

Farewell for a couple of weeks, my friends. I’ll see you in April!