Wanting More

Once upon a time, I chaperoned a youth conference in which the main speaker delivered a message which I will never forget. After all, it’s hard to block the image of a grown man singing Disney music.

Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl—the girl who has everything? Look at this trove. Treasures untold. How many wonders can one cavern hold? Looking around here you’d think, “Sure. She’s got everything.” I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty. I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty! But who cares? No big deal. I want more…

“SELFISH BRAT!”

The whole room burst into laughter at his outburst. It was the perfect opening to a message about entitlement and the self-centered culture teens are living in today.

But you know what? I think the guy missed the mark when it came down to what was really taking place in Ariel’s heart.

Because it wasn’t more stuff she wanted.

What the entire song boils down to is that the trinkets weren’t enough to satisfy the true desires of her heart. The entirety of the ocean couldn’t fulfill the hungry depths of her soul. She wanted something more than what the sea had to offer.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard a lot of people use the story of the little mermaid as an example of what not to do.  I’ll admit it’s pretty easy to take Ariel’s story and preach contentment.  After all, the seaweed is not always greener in someone else’s lake. And, honestly, it’s a bad idea to sacrifice everything in hopes of winning a guy’s affection.

And yet, in order to use the story for that sort of sermon, you have to take the side of the antagonist. Which means you’ve missed the heart of the story entirely.

Hans Christian Andersen, author of the original fairytale, was known for writing stories of great spiritual meaning. So what if Ariel’s longing for the human world represents something deeper than childish discontent? What if the kingdom beyond the ocean waves was really worth sacrificing everything for?

Consider this quote by C.S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Ariel was made for another world. Deep in her heart, she knew that. It’s why she was so obsessed with gathering remnants of the human world. But eventually her broken trinkets weren’t enough.

I find myself identifying with her in this. The world doesn’t satisfy me in the ways I most long to be satisfied. When I look around at the things I’ve collected, I think, “Who cares? No big deal. I want more.”

I long for a world that lies beyond the surface of this place I call home. A world that holds all the magical things of which I can only dream.

Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun… wandering free. Wish I could be part of that world.

A Prayer
by Steven James

This world, stunning though it is,
doesn’t satisfy the part of me
that’s the most hungry…
I have a nagging thirst for more
than this world can provide.

Deepen it.

Know What You Want

She’s nine years old and already boy-crazy, staring after the director’s son as he walks out the door.

“Girl,” I say, shaking my head, “you concern me.”

Her head whips around, blonde hair slapping into her face as she plants her hands on her hips and says, “Girl, you  concern me. You’ve never even had a boyfriend!”

Touche, my young friend. Touche.

Because there’s really no way for me to come back from that, is there? No way to explain to anyone—let alone a nine-year-old—that I chose this. The singleness thing. How I wear the “never been dated” label like a crown. Tall and proud. No regrets.

It’s a fact that knocks the socks off of every nine-year-old girl I meet. (Sometimes I think that alone would make it all worthwhile, but I’ve got an ornery streak like that.)

I’m not ashamed of my relationship status; I just find it hard to explain at times. Because most people don’t think that being twenty-two years single is a thing to be proud of. In fact, I’d venture to say that most people, like a certain nine-year-old I know, would say that this actually concerns them to some extent.

Well, I’m sorry that you’re concerned, but I’m happy as I am, thank you very much. So, how have I managed all these years? I’m so glad you asked.

In my book, I talk a little about how I quickly decided that I didn’t want to spend my teen years in the business of broken hearts. I didn’t want to make the mistake of getting completely lost in a guy like some of my friends had done. But I’m realizing more and more every day that what ultimately kept me single was not what I didn’t  want, but what I did  want.

If you truly want to be happy and single, you’ve got to know what you want. (And what you want has got to be more than a husband and children and a cute little house with a white picket fence, if you know what I mean.)

This may sound ridiculous, but the real reason I avoided the dating world in high school is because I knew I was bound for the mission’s field. I wanted that little office nestled in the mountains of Virginia where people came together to further the Gospel throughout the world, and I knew that office was a long way from Ohio. And I knew my heart was never very good at holding things lightly. And I knew if I got too attached, I’d never pack up and go.

So I made a choice. And I kept making choices that led me to this place here and now. Because when it comes time to choose between a calling and a possibility, I’ll take the calling every time.

Because I know what I want. I know where God is leading me. And I know how easy it is to forget all that when my heart starts skipping three steps ahead.

I still believe there is someone out there who will come along and fulfill my dreams of marriage and family and cute little houses void of white picket fences because who needs a fence when the world is your playground. I still believe he will come and fit into all the other dreams like that piece of the jigsaw puzzle that finally makes sense because I’ve turned it the right way.

But I’ve never believed that God would give me two dreams only to make me choose one over the other. And while I believe in sacrifice, I’ve never believed in surrendering vital pieces of who I am in order to become a vital piece of someone else.

Because I choose to believe that there will one day be a relationship that I don’t have to force. And I know, I know, yes, I know that the only way I can be happy right now is by knowing that this is the path God has paved for me. This is the life I was made for living. And I find great comfort in the fact that I don’t have to chase down my Prince Charming; I just have to discern what God wants for my life right now and trust Him to take care of the rest.

All of Him and All of Me {The “Other Half” Fallacy}

“As a single woman, I thought there was something wrong with me,” she confessed. “While all my peers were out there looking for their ‘other half,’ I didn’t want that.”

It wasn’t the thought of having a relationship that scared her, it was the use of that phrase “other half.” Because if she had an “other half” out there somewhere, it meant she wasn’t complete without him. It meant that she, as a single woman, was somehow lacking.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be a whole person on your own,” she said.

And it was all I could do to stay in my seat and remain silent when those words slipped out of her mouth, because my heart was singing a resounding echo of, “Yes! Yes! Thank you so much for going there!”

Because I think too many girls obsess over the thought of their “other half.” And I think that whether we realize it or not, that choice of wording plays out in our hearts in powerful and painful ways. Because as long as your “other half” is somewhere out there waiting, you are not complete.

I think it would be a dreadful thing to be missing half of myself. I have a hard enough time figuring out who I am without having to imagine that there’s still a huge piece of myself that I haven’t even met yet.

I don’t want to be half a person. I don’t want a fractured, broken, vital-pieces-missing version of myself to be all I have to offer my husband. And I certainly don’t want that to be all he has to offer me.

I want all of him and all of me. And I want to somehow meld all that together one day. But I still want to be whole in myself. Complete without him. And I want him to be complete without me.

When people say you should marry someone you cannot live without, I don’t think they mean it in a literal sense. Because I don’t think it’s healthy to depend on another human being like you depend on the air that you breathe. Because even though your spouse should be the most important aspect of your life, there will always be life outside each other. And I think so many of us tend to forget that.

Because what if we do believe in the “other half”? And what if spend our single years believing we’re not good enough on our own? And what if we do get married, but then tragedy strikes? As my friend shared last night, “What happens if my husband dies tomorrow? Am I half a person? I certainly hope not.”

I don’t think anyone should have to spend their life in pieces.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be a whole person on your own.

And I don’t want to live a fractured life, trying to discover how the pieces are supposed to fit together.

So let’s all take a step toward becoming whole.

all of him and all of me

 

What a Fairy Tale Is

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve been championing fairy tales all my life. While I find the expression “Disney gave me unrealistic expectations of men/hair/whatever” to be somewhat humorous, I’m also upset that it becomes our focus and we miss the real point of the story. Because most of us don’t know what a fairy tale actually is.

Think of the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where Captain Jack is explaining to Elizabeth what a ship is. “There’s not just a keel and a haul and a deck and sails; that’s what a ship needs,” he says. “But what a ship is—what the Black Pearl really is—is freedom.”

And then Elizabeth changes the subject because she doesn’t get Jack’s philosophical answer. Poor Jack. I can relate, because that’s basically how I feel about fairy tales.

Once upon a time and happily ever after are what a fairy tale needs, but what a fairy tale is… Well, that’s different. And when I searched for other people who hold the same opinion, this is what I found:

“Fairy tales since the beginning of recorded time, or perhaps even earlier, have been a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor.” ~Jack Zipes

“The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.” ~Marina Warner

A means to conquer the terrors… Hope against the odds… That’s what a fairy tale really is. Not Prince Charming. Not happily ever after. It’s just that uplifting hope that life can be bigger and brighter and grander than it is right now.

Too many of us have lost sight of that hope. Too many of us have succumbed to the bitterness that blooms from seeds of disappointment. We’ve lost the ability to find joy amidst the sorrow and laughter among the tears. That’s the real tragedy in our world. Not that life doesn’t work out according to the fairy tales, but that we’ve stopped believing in the good of our world.

Because we need that joy and laughter and hope in the midst of impossible times. We need to see the good in every situation or our lives will be consumed by darkness. The fairy tale magic is something we cannot afford to lose.

So it’s time to conquer the terrors and hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.

It’s time you start believing in fairy tales again.

It's time you start believing in fairy tales again.

Keep Running {A Beyond Waiting Success Story}

It has been five years since my brother used a couple of pencils to explain his frustrations in searching for a wife. Five years since I watched those pencils dance across a counter as he described how easily distracted he is by his search for “the one.”

“The girl who is right for me,” he began, “is not the one who will cross in front of me, leading me off my path. When God brings the right girl, she will come and run alongside me.”

And even when I published those words last year, I had no idea how close he was to finding that one. I had no idea how soon he would glance over and realize that someone had been running alongside him all along.

If you’ve noticed a silence in this corner of the internet recently it’s because I spent the last two weeks in Europe where I witnessed the wedding of my precious brother Donald and his beautiful British bride.

You know, a lot of people have told me that I’ll have to write a sequel to Beyond Waiting  once I get married (and I just laugh like, “Sooo not happening”). While I’m not anywhere close to doing that, if you open that book to page 39, you’ll find the beginnings of a love story that promises to be absolutely beautiful: My Ugandan-born brother, his English wife, and a calling to reach the lost people in Mexico.

Only God could ordain that. Only God could bring those two together. Only God could make them realize they had been running the same path all along.

So I sit here and watch as God knits three nations together like some sort of beautiful patchwork quilt.

I sit here reminded that part of living the Beyond Waiting journey is to never slow down, but to make my prince catch up. Which reminds me that it is possible. He can  catch up. Somewhere in the world, there’s someone running the same path I run and we’re bound to find each other.

As I celebrated with my brother and new sister-in-law, I was so inspired by their story. By the way God slowly knit their hearts together. And I was reminded to keep running—just keep running—knowing that one day I’ll look up and find I’m not alone. Knowing that God is writing a story more beautiful than I can possibly imagine, just as He did for Donald and Becky.

So here’s some advice from my brother and his new bride:

Don’t. Slow. Down.

Don’t let yourself become distracted.

Just keep pressing on toward the dream God has given you until you realize you’re no longer alone. And when that day comes, keep on running—just keep on running. Because that makes for the most beautiful love story of all.

Donald and Becky

The Line of Compromise

If you ever want to render your mother speechless, ask her how she knew your dad was “the one.” Ask her how she knew—even realizing that he had habits and tendencies that would drive her absolutely crazy—that she could spend the rest of her life loving this flawed human being. Go ahead and ask her. If she’s anything like my mom, she’ll open her mouth at least a half dozen times before she finally forces out, “Well…”

But, you see, I had to know. I had to know because a few weeks ago, Cassi Clerget wrote the most beautiful letter to her future husband and, in light of her confession that she’s not ready to meet him yet—that she’s afraid of who she might become and what she might try to make him become—I had a startling realization of my own.

When I envision my future husband, I don’t picture him with flaws. It’s not like I don’t know he will have flaws, it’s just that I never really thought of what they might be. On those days that I sit down and dream about who my future husband might be, I tend to imagine that he looks something like James Garner (or Rock Hudson—I’d totally settle for Rock Hudson) and he’s patient and gentle and loving and… well, he’s perfect, actually. Nothing less than perfect.

And to be honest, that’s not really fair to him. Because no matter what he is in my fantasies, he’s human (just like I am) and he’s going to have flaws (just like I do). Or, as a friend of mine so eloquently stated when talking about his own dating relationship, “She’s got so many things going for her, and yet she likes Twilight.” Well, I’m not sure that’s a deal breaker (though another friend jokingly advised him to “dump her now”), but it does make me wonder about the line of compromise.

You’ve been told not to compromise in relationships? That’s funny, I grew up hearing the same thing. But when I look at it realistically, I find that there is going to be compromise. Let’s face it. They don’t make guys like James Garner anymore. Nobody’s perfect. And if I spend the rest of my life holding out for that flawless character I’ve created in my mind… well, I’ll spend the rest of my life holding out for that flawless character I’ve created in my mind.

So what I asked my mom on that infamous day she struggled for answers is, “How do you know? How do you know where to draw the line? At what point do you accept that a guy is flawed and human and at what point do you hold out for someone better?”

Because, thanks to Cassi and her beautiful, vulnerable heart, I’m left wondering if I’d force my guy to be something more than he was meant to be. I’m left hoping I’ll never settle for someone who is close to good enough only to live the rest of my life wondering if there was something better. I’m left pondering a question my mom couldn’t answer.

How will I know?
How will I keep from demanding too much or expecting too little?
And more importantly, how shall I live in the meantime?

love like this

be amazed

Best Romance Here!

So, when the girl who first started blogging about singleness and waiting and fairytales and the like hasn’t talked about relationships for months, you should probably see it coming. Also, you can blame it on the holidays and all those people who say that it sucks to be single this time of year. (Side Note: I have never and will never agree with that statement. It’s always great to be single. Except when you’re not.)

You read about relationships everywhere. I was on facebook the other day and saw an ad with the line, “You can’t leave. I will make you my bride.” The ad boasted “Best Romance Here!”

Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got? Because it sounds sort of creepy/stalker-ish to me.

But maybe I’m a skeptic. After all, I held onto the adage that “boys are icky” until the age of 13 16 21. I’m not the kind of girl to swoon at cliched movie lines. And maybe that’s not fair of me. After all, I’ve never been the recipient of one of those cliches (at least, not seriously). And since I’ve watched far more practical people fall prey to cupid’s arrows, it’s hard for me to assume that I would be immune to cheesy lines like that.

In fact, there was this one time that a friend—a friend!—whom I swapped states with over Christmas suggested that we could wave as we passed on the highway. I stared at the comment on my computer screen, teary-eyed, until my mom thought she was going to have to track down a thermometer. If the first three months of homesickness could do that to me, I hate to think what might happen when a guy shows up in my life.

Yes, I should probably stop laughing because, one day, Prince Cheesy is going to come along and sweep me off my feet with an endless barrage of cliches.

But mostly, it’s not the cliches that bother me. Sure, those are the lines at which I roll my eyes and say, “Oh, puh-leese,” but the lines that really get to me are the ones that are meant to be romantic and turn out to be more suggestive and degrading. Those are the ones that make me wonder if we’ve somehow cheapened love.

We’ve evolved past the “helpless heroines” of the fairytales and crafted stories better suited to our culture. And we call those love-at-first-sight one-night-stands romantic.

Sometimes I’ll watch a movie like Shall We Dance? and I’ll think that Hollywood finally got it right. When I hear Susan Sarandon talk about why people get married, I think, “Yes, yes, yes. That’s what I want. I want someone to care about the good things and the bad things and the mundane things, and I want to care about his mundane things, too.”

The problem with our world is that we’ve tried to make love all about us—what we want and need and feel. That’s why divorce is so prevalent in our culture. When the other person fails us, we give up, wondering what went wrong. I’ll tell you what went wrong. We’ve strayed from God’s command to selflessly love and have taught ourselves to love selfishly. We’ve made it so that it was never about the other person at all.

We feed each other lines and lyrics that are sprinkled with cliches, but hold back the one thing the other most desperately needs from us: Love. We clutch it with our fingertips and catch it on our tongues because the word seems almost foreign tumbling from our lips.

Love. The real kind. The genuine version. The one that revolves around the other person rather than me. That’s what I want to offer the world. And if it’s not too much to ask, that’s what I’d like to one day be returned to me.