The Beautifully Painful Path

There’s a video that recently went viral called A Pep Talk from Kid President to You. If you have not yet been “pep-talked,” you should stop reading this right now and go watch the video because it’s a great message and the speaker is totally adorable.

Anyway… There are a lot of great quotes crammed into that short video, but I find the one the resonates most with me today is where he quotes (or technically misquotes) Robert Frost.

“Two roads diverged in the woods… and I took the road less traveled.”

“AND IT HURT, MAN!”

I couldn’t help laughing at the dramatics as this child rants about rocks and thorns and glass. (“Not cool, Robert Frost.”) But at the same time I feel the weight of his declaration because I know… I know about those less traveled paths and how they hurt really bad. I know what it’s like to have those moments of doubt where I wonder if the other path would have been a better choice.

But then, I didn’t choose the less-traveled path; I was basically forced down it. So maybe a quote that resonates better with me is the words of the witty Maureen Johnson:

“There are times in life when only one path is presented to you. The path may be rocky, on fire, populated by poisonous cottonmouth snakes… but it’s your path.”

I’ll forgive her the redundant expression about poisonous cottonmouth snakes (duh), because I feel for her main character as I read those words. I know all about that dangerous path being the only one. And let me tell you… IT HURTS, MAN!

It has been exactly one year since I was officially declared a published author. One year since Beyond Waiting became a tangible object I could share with all of you. One year that feels like a lifetime. Because it has been so much longer than a year for me. It has, in fact, been three years. Three years of rocks and thorns and poisonous snakes.

All those months riddled with late night arguments where I explained to God that I am a novelist and will therefore never write anything other than a novel (Ha!).

All those stressful days of computer malfunctions and printer jams and last minute edits that wouldn’t save.

And then there was The Night. The Night I sat in a hotel corridor, waiting to be called in for a meeting with a publisher as my leg bounced frantically from a combination of nerves and the five glasses of sweet tea I was trying so hard to retain. The Night that woman (who has clearly never undergone the pains of presenting a book proposal) said to me in her thick, southern drawl, “It’s okay, honey. There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

I cried tears and lost sleep and threw my body all out of whack from the stress of this journey.

It hurt, man.
Really bad.

But you know something? Even if I could go back and choose a different path, I wouldn’t.

Because the journey was as beautiful as it was painful.

For every tear I cried, there were a dozen smiles. For every minute of sleep I lost, there was a moment when I was fully alive.

I argued with God and I danced with Him.

The computer malfunctioned, but the words never stopped spilling from my fingertips.

When the printer jammed, someone fixed it.

And on that very night I nearly died from a nervous breakdown and/or an overdose of sweet tea, Shannon Primicerio gave me a hug and promised me an endorsement.

I held a book in my hands. It had my name on the cover. I opened it up and buried my nose in its crisp, white pages. I handed it to a friend and watched him bury his nose in those crisp, white pages (because apparently we have the same, odd habit when it comes to books).

I watched a dream come true.

And there are people all around the world who thank me for the words I almost didn’t write.

Because I almost gave up and started paving my own path.

Almost.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

the road less traveled

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

Dating Isn’t the Issue; Waiting Is.

I knew when I wrote Beyond Waiting that it was going to brand me. Still I can’t help but sigh when I get certain feedback from people who hear I’ve written a book.

First, there are the people who get it all wrong and congratulate me on my commitment to celibacy. (Um, no.)

Then there are the people who think I should check out this story about some girls who are “living out my message,” and the next thing I know, I’m looking at the pictures of this t-shirt boasting the hashtag: #IWillWait. (If you know anything about Beyond Waiting,  you should understand why that slogan is a problem. Hello, we’re beyond waiting here.)

Then there are the people who tell me I should connect with so-and-so because we have “the same heartbeat.”

And that’s about the time I just want to shout, “You have no idea what my heartbeat is!”

Because most people don’t assume I had no desire to write Beyond Waiting.  Most people don’t understand that I never wanted to brand myself as the singleness guru.

So let’s get something straight, please, so I don’t have to smile and nod through all the singleness talks that everyone assumes I’m oh so interested in.

I don’t agree with all the relationship-rambling, purity-pushing, singleness storytellers out there. I didn’t write Beyond Waiting  because I wanted to join the bandwagon; I wrote it because I thought a vital piece of the story wasn’t being told. It felt to me like so many people were getting caught up in the so-called “rules” of dating that they were overlooking the problem altogether.

Dating isn’t the issue; waiting is.

The problem is that we’ve got our girls so wrapped up in the “Your Prince Will Come” mentality that they can’t see that there is more to life than happily ever after. The problem is that we’ve become so wrapped up in daydreams that we’ve forgotten to live the adventure that is waiting for us here and now—Prince Charming-less.

I don’t consider myself an expert on relationships. In fact, if you’re looking for someone who can speak from personal experience, I’m the last person you want to consult on that subject. That’s why I didn’t write Beyond Waiting  from the perspective that focuses on the someday guy.

Beyond Waiting  isn’t about relationships at all. It’s about you. And living your life now. And not waiting for someone to “complete you.”

And yeah, I’ve got opinions about dating and relationships, but they’re not the ones you’ll hear at those Christian conferences that talk about how true love waits. Mostly because they’re my own. Because I don’t believe there’s a formula to relationships so I’m not going to be the one to say you’re doing it wrong.

It’s not my job to convict you. It’s not my job to believe I know better than you.

But it is my job to encourage you to live each and every moment of your life. Because that’s how I would want you to encourage me.

Life is short. Each moment is a gift. The seconds are ticking away…
And no matter what our relationship status is, we’ve got to embrace them.

No, I Don’t Have a Boyfriend (But Thanks for Asking).

I was working with elementary aged kids last week when one of the kids made a reference to my boyfriend and I had to inform her that I don’t have one. This happens to me a lot, actually—kids assuming that I have a boyfriend and then appearing shocked when I tell them, “Sorry, this guy you’re referring to doesn’t exist.”

“Yeah, but you’ve had one before,” one girl said. (Another line I hear quite often.)

“Actually, I haven’t.”

The girl’s jaw dropped. “So, you’re telling me you’ve never had a boyfriend in like, your whole life?”

That pretty much summed it up, so I shrugged and told her, “Yeah.”

She studied my face as she let this sink in. Finally she told me, very matter of factly, “You need to wear make-up.” As if that would solve all my life problems…

Yeah.

I wondered if I should tell this girl that my problem was not getting a boyfriend; it was wanting a boyfriend. I thought about letting her know that if I hadn’t been in this whole “five years and forever” deal with God, I probably would have gone on my first date a couple years ago. And maybe I was just being defensive because my face was being criticized, but what I wanted to tell this girl was that if I had been a typical teenager, I would have spent my high school years bouncing in and out of romantic relationships. But the thing is…

I never wanted to be typical; I wanted to be exceptional. Like my favorite Disney heroine, I wanted adventure in the great, wide somewhere. I wanted it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand to have someone understand…

I am not opposed to dating, nor am I obsessed with it. I’m resting quite comfortably somewhere in the middle, trusting that the God who set the universe in motion can also handle the details of my life.

I chose singleness. It’s not some horrible fate I was forced into. It’s not some prison I’m desperate to escape.

I gave God five years. Willingly. No one told me I had to. Sure, someone who gave God five years (and survived) recommended it, but I walked in her footsteps because I wanted to, not because I felt that I had to. I followed her example because I saw the value of letting God shape and mold my heart during that season.

Just because I can date doesn’t mean I should date. Yes, my five years are over. I’m now free to date whomever I please, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go out with the first guy who asks me (unless, of course, he’s the kind of guy I can envision spending the rest of my life alongside, in which case I really have no reason to turn him down).

I’m not trying to be difficult. Honestly. In fact, I want to apologize to the amazing guys who have asked me out… and the amazing guys who have known better than to ask me out. It’s not you; it’s me. And I truly am sorry if my unusual approach to relationships has made things complicated for you. But, you see…

I’m not playing games with anyone’s heart—including my own. And while my lack of make-up may throw some people off, this is the real reason I’ve been single all my life.

But try telling that to a ten-year-old.

Two Whole Years…

Two years ago today, I started a blog because I was told it was one of the best things a writer can do.

Two years ago today, I really had no idea what direction my life was heading.

Two years ago today, I only dreamed of becoming a published author.

Two years ago today, I had no idea how close I was to making my dreams come true.

Two years ago today, if I could have seen two years into the future, my mind would be completely blown away. As it is right now.

I really cannot believe how far God has brought me in the last two years.

Today, I’m still blogging and loving it. I love the days where the words come easily and I’m thankful for the days where I learn to work to force them out.

Today, I still have no idea what direction my life is going, but I’m hanging on for the ride and letting God take care of the rest.

Today, I am a published author. And I just sent off a proposal for Book #2.

Today, I can say that I watched my wildest dream unfold before my eyes. And the dream just keeps getting better.

Today, I’m completely and totally in awe of how amazing God is, and I’m looking forward watching His hand at work in the next two years of my life.

The Day a Dream Comes True

I’m a published author. I have been for over a week now. And I’ve known I was going to be for a lot longer than that. But somehow I find myself having to look in the mirror and say it to myself over and over and over. Because it’s hard to believe in the day a dream comes true.

Since I was fifteen years old, I dreamed of writing something that someone other than my mother would read. Now I’m getting messages from young women I’ve never met, thanking me for writing the book that would help reshape their story. And I still can’t believe it’s happening. Can’t believe they’re thanking me – ME! – for something I did so reluctantly.

Because, you see, I didn’t want to write Beyond Waiting. If it had been entirely up to me, this book wouldn’t exist right now, those stories would not have been reshaped, and I would be someone else entirely. But thankfully, it wasn’t entirely up to me. Thankfully, I’m not quite as stubborn as I pretend to be. And thankfully, this unwilling vessel finally submitted to telling the story that God intended to tell with her life.

As a fifteen-year-old girl trying to envision my life as a writer, I didn’t imagine I’d one day be writing guest posts for Love and Grace Media and Start Marriage Right. And never in my wildest dreams was this the interview I would have with Misty Gatlin. Because I, too, have learned from Beyond Waiting. And perhaps what I’ve learned with most clarity is that there is often a difference between the story I want to tell and the story I need to tell. But I think I’m finally learning to tell the more important story – the story that needs to be told.

Because sometimes it’s the dreams we didn’t realize that were made for coming true.

Oh Happy Day! Beyond Waiting’s Official Release

Two years ago, I told God “no.” Told Him I wasn’t meant to write non-fiction (as if I know my purpose better than He does). But today… Today is the day I’m officially proven wrong. Today is the day my reluctant “yes” becomes something tangible.

Today is the official launch of Beyond Waiting! Oh happy day!

Those of you who have followed my writing journey for awhile now understand that I’ve been dying to write this post… well, since the day I started this blog. But if you’re just stumbling into this, Beyond Waiting is the book that will challenge you to live life to the fullest – even when you’re tempted to slow down and merely “wait” for Prince Charming. (You can read the complete blurb here.)

But many of you have been asking for quite some time now… “Where can I get this book?” So, I’m happy to say that you can find it right now on Amazon or Barnes and Noble… whichever you prefer. Just click on the links provided and order your copy today!