Let’s Assess What We’re Telling Young Women About Motherhood

It’s the time of year when college students across America are waking up on the floor, faces in books, crumbs of some sort of food stuck to our cheeks, and cold cups of half-finished coffee somewhere nearby. When the alarms go off, we are so, so confused, because first of all, where are we, and how did we get there? And if we don’t know where we are, how are we supposed to find our phones to shut off the alarms?

And then it’s a mad dash to manage to get oneself fully clothed. Dry shampoo and a ponytail, makeup if a girl is lucky, and a freshly brewed cup of coffee to go with us to last classes and exams. (Did you remember to turn off the coffee pot? It’d be just like you to forget that and end up burning down the whole dorm…)

So, in honor of this unique time of year, I posted a little photo that made me giggle.

effort

And then I got a comment: “Haha, wait until you’re a mom.”

…Ok?

This is hardly the first time I’ve gotten that kind of comment. Anytime I post something about fatigue and/or yoga pants I get the same response.

“Wait until you have kids.”

“Wait until you have two kids under two.” (I would prefer not to…)

“Sounds like pregnancy to me lol.”

Most of my girl friends have been married for at least a year or two, so baby fever runs rampant through my Facebook feed. Pregnancy announcements. Gender reveals. Baby showers and baby pictures. And do I resent it? No. Everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Bliss. Good for them.

So why all the negative comments about motherhood?

I’m not quite 22. I’m in grad school. I’m single. I’m not really thinking about having kids right now. And while it’s a good thing, I guess, that I won’t be horribly shocked if my turn comes, I really don’t want to hear about anyone’s delivery. No seriously, please spare me.

I don’t want to hear about all the odd places in your house where your toddler smeared feces. I don’t want to hear anything about your child’s bowel movements, as a matter of fact.

I don’t want to hear about their sleep habits and how hard it’s been for you to adjust to sleeping when the baby sleeps. I don’t want to hear you complain about how you’ll never have a clean house again.

Furthermore, I really don’t want to listen to you go on and on complaining about the difficulties of motherhood, followed by, “Oh, but it’s wonderful! I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”

Really?! Is it?! Wouldn’t you?! I mean, seriously, you went on for 30 minutes being completely negative, and now you want me to believe that motherhood is the best thing ever? Actually, it sounds to me like you found marriage and family life to be seriously overrated.

So I say, “Wow, ok. So based on what you just said, I should probably never have kids. Because it sounds like I would completely hate child rearing.”

“Oh! Oh, no! It’s wonderful! It’s different when it’s your own kid! You can’t just not have kids! That’s so selfish!”

…Ok…is it though? Who am I being selfish toward, exactly? The husband I don’t have? The children that do not exist? My parents? (They just adopted a child under two, so I kinda feel like the pressure to give them grandkids is off for a while. And besides, they have other kids. My parents will be fine.) And how is it selfish to avoid having children if I don’t want them? It seems to me that it would be much more selfish to have kids I didn’t want. I seriously do not follow this logic at all.

My generation is getting married later and later. Having kids later and later. And, thus, obviously, having fewer kids. And is it any wonder? I mean, everyone has made marriage and kids just look and sound so amazing.

One of my closest friends has a one-year-old and another little one on the way. Obviously, motherhood is not all sunshine, and rainbows, and baby kisses. She is pretty open and honest about reality. But she isn’t gross about it. And she loves being a mom–it’s not just something she says. The way she goes about daily mom life makes it clear. Sure, she has rough days like anyone else, but I’ve never felt like she dwells on the negatives. I can’t remember a single “Wait until you’re a mom” comment from her. Which means she’s still an awesome person to hang out with.  And there are several other mom friends of mine from whom I don’t think I’ve seen a single negative post–just pictures of their cute kids.

In actuality, I’m not opposed to the idea of having kids someday. (You can all breathe a sigh of relief now.) I don’t care how people approach family planning or child rearing–that’s none of my business. Seriously, I do not want to know. And if it’s ever my turn, I’ll expect you to keep your nose out of my business as well.

All I’m trying to say is this: if you find motherhood wonderful and rewarding, don’t bring up every single negative (or just plain gross) aspect of motherhood in front of a younger woman, especially if she’s not made it to that stage of life yet. And don’t stop with “Oh, but motherhood is wonderful!” Tell us–show us–why.

 

 

 

Feelings on Foster Care: the Sequel

We don’t always get a happy ending. Not in this life, anyway. As a matter of fact, sometimes it feels like I spend an awful lot of time kneeling on the floor, hands outstretched, tears pouring down my face, crying out to God:

“WHY?!” 

It’s a combination of hurt and anger.

I am stubborn. So stubborn. I always have been. As a grownup, one of the things I’ve had to work on is to not be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. As a kid, I got in more trouble than I can even describe for the rebellion that tends to shoot right out of my eyes. I don’t like to be wrong. I will pound my fist on every closed door. And I don’t do things by halves. I am an all-or-nothing person. With that insight into my personality, I can now tell you something about the thoughts that are swirling through my head right now.

I’ve posted before about my youngest sister–how having her in my life has opened my heart to the idea of foster care and adoption. How I begged my parents not to pursue foster care and how my perspective radically changed. I posted just over a month ago about finalizing the adoption process for Gracie and the emotions that overflowed out of my heart.

And now the emotions are overflowing out of my heart again, but for a much less positive reason.

For the past seven months, we have fostered Gracie’s biological sister. And that’s only because God gave my mom (my seriously amazing mom) the courage to speak up for this baby girl’s life. And because my mom doesn’t do things by halves either, there was no stopping to think, no saying “Let me talk to my husband about this,” nothing like that. There was only “We will adopt the baby.” There was no time to do anything else. She told my dad later that day. And in that situation, there could not have been a more appropriate response.

“We will adopt the baby.”

And they took the baby straight from the hospital. But things did not play out the way we expected.

Who can blame a mother for fighting for her child? And yet, we worry. Babygirl leaves our care this week.

I find myself looking out the window at the Greenville rain–my goodness, what appropriate weather–and asking God why.

It is not a screaming, crying, angry why. I no longer have the energy for that. It is a why that feels weary and defeated. A why that is tired. Worn out. A why that feels like it has been over-used in the last year.

If there’s one thing that frustrates me most in this life, it’s the fact that we don’t always get to see why. We don’t always get to see the way the story ends. And all things are supposed to work out for our good, right? The trouble is, it doesn’t always feel good.

I want to know why God would put my mom in the position to advocate for this precious baby girl, place her into our care for seven months, and then have her taken away. I want to know why we have to watch Gracie try to process this before age two when it’s something that we grownups can’t even process–and it’s clear that Gracie is going to miss her baby sister. That’s what hurts me the most. That’s what makes me the most angry.

17918048_1519828808061162_5767980942325967490_o

I hate that we live in a fallen world where kids have to suffer because of the choices that adults make. I hate that the foster care system is so broken. I know I act like I don’t care about anything, but I actually care about…everything. Especially when it comes to my family. I would move mountains for the people I care about. I hate being in a situation where I can do literally nothing that will help.

So here I am, hands outstretched, begging God for answers. I know He has them, whether He chooses to reveal them in my lifetime or not. He has a plan for this darling baby girl. I believe that. I really do. I have to.

And as much as it hurts, there’s something beautiful and wonderful about clinging to God’s sovereignty and love–not for myself, but for someone I love.

Leave Her Alone

I know that I have a few loyal guys who follow this blog. They have noted that I seem to write primarily for 20-something women, and that’s true. I know how to write for 20-something women because I am one. I don’t know how to write for guys because I don’t understand them. At all. But guys–in my clumsy, I-don’t-get-you way–I’m writing this post to you. From a female perspective, though, because that’s all I know.

The amount of miscommunication that happens between girls and guys is absolutely astounding, isn’t it? You asked her to artist series last week, and now she wants to know whether the wedding invitations should be peach dream or silken blush (I totally made up those colors, by the way…). You say you don’t want to get involved in a relationship right now, and so she sends your favorite cookies through nightmail with a note drenched in perfume, and the guys on your hall won’t stop kidding you about it. What didn’t she get about the word “no,” am I right? I’m not about to deny that women can make themselves obnoxious at times. But I guess everyone can have that weakness when they like someone who doesn’t feel the same way.

Yeah. You guys do the same thing.

“She didn’t say no!” you protest. She probably did, if you were listening. She made an excuse, said she was busy, thanked you politely for the invitation, ect., didn’t she? Could it be she was actually just busy? Yes…unless she’s turned you down multiple times. Then she’s trying to spare your feelings. Personally, if I get busy but would have liked to accept, I’ll come up with a rain-check plan (but I can’t speak for how other girls operate on this point). Take a lesson from The Princess and the Frog here:

not ever

But you don’t like the subtleties, right? You want us to just come right out and say no?

I sat across from a guy friend once. He was having girl troubles. And, for any ladies reading this, rest assured. Apparently girls are not the only ones who spend a good deal of time analyzing texts from members of the opposite gender. Suffice it to say, he had asked this girl out. She had turned him down. I handed his phone back to him.

“So? What do you think?”

“There’s nothing to think about. There’s no thinking. She turned you down, plain and simple.”

And she had! She flat out said no and was gracious enough to explain her reasons. There was no room for misinterpretation. There was no opening to try again. It was a flat refusal, which she had every right to give. But he told me he was going to try again. I advised against it. He told me he was going to do it anyway.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why “no” doesn’t mean no. I don’t understand how “no” can be misinterpreted.

I write this at the risk of sounding like I’m just doing it to yell at a bunch of guys. I risk sounding heartless or like I’m a man-hater. Maybe condescending. So let me clarify–I don’t hate men. I am grateful for my guy friends. I’m not yelling. I’m not trying to be condescending. I’m writing this as your friend who genuinely doesn’t understand. And so that you understand.

No means no.

I have gotten late-night weepy phone calls. I have had my phone be swamped with text messages. I have had awkward in-person conversations and even more awkward emails.

I have been stalked. Legitimately followed all over campus. I have had guys wait for me outside the restroom, follow me to class as I made small talk on the phone with my mom, and then follow me into my class and sit down. I have had to get my dad to make a phone call to threaten a guy with a restraining order. I’m not kidding.

This is why it’s so important to me that you guys understand.

No means no.

So the next time a girl turns you down, I understand, you’re going to feel bad about it. And you really like her. Or maybe you weren’t even interested like that and were just asking her out to be nice. But when she says no, please, I’m begging you…

Leave her alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Adoption Day!

I love my family. Fiercely. They are more important to me than just about everything else. I love my family, and I love…sameness. What can I say? I’m a stubborn New England girl. You take care of you and yours. And change is always bad.

I was the oldest of 3 for almost 20 years. My siblings were my first friends. They are also my best friends…even though we don’t always get along. No one has ever been allowed to pick on them besides me. I will descend upon you, and you will feel the full force of my wrath. I’m not kidding.

At Boston-Logan, seeing me off for junior year. This is the last time I saw my family for nearly 11 months and the last sibling picture where there would be only 3 of us.

Life was fairly orderly from year to year. And we all started to grow up. Which, you know, produced changes, which, of course, was not good. But. I was dealing. Things were pretty fun by the time all three of us were in our teen years. We all quoted the same movies, had the same inside jokes. Mom and Dad are fantastic humans who generally join right in. And we had finally hit a time when family outings were kind of fun, because there was less poking each other for no reason in the car. And there was less whining while we were out. This was the time period of day-long trips to the beach, hiking, that time we all biked the 7-mile loop around Mackinac Island…

Awkward family photos for the win!!!

Unfortunately, adulting happens. I spent Christmas of 2014 in Michigan with my dad’s parents because I needed money for the next semester’s textbooks, and they had offered to pay me to deep-clean their house over Christmas break. So I did the hard thing. The grownup thing. And I spent my first Christmas away from home. And then I elected to spend my first full summer away from home as well, because Greenville is an easier place to find a summer job. *Sigh*

It was mid-June 2015. I was within just a few weeks of vacationing at home–the first time I would see my family in almost 11 months–when the call came. My parents were going to foster a newborn baby girl. And thus, my calm world was interrupted. And I was not ok with it. (Read this for more about my feelings on foster care)

The first picture I ever saw of her.

And then I finally got home. And then I held her.

She was tiny and helpless. And I was helpless as I watched her go through withdrawals. As she tensed up. As she started to tremble–her little arms shaking uncontrollably–and scream. There was nothing to do but hold her a little tighter.

Time passed. She overcame her struggles. And I adjusted to there being 4 of us kiddos.

It’s been almost 21 months since then. She is an incredibly active toddler who is entirely too smart for her own good. And I almost can’t remember what it was like before she was a part of our lives. After nearly 2 years of waiting, she is finally, officially ours.

17156295_10210007260632334_2949598108414442232_n

My little Gracie-girl

I must admit, it feels a little strange to me, having a sibling who is 20 years younger than I. Mostly because I haven’t been there for anything–her first words, first steps… I’m likely to miss most of her birthdays. Us older three kids are spread out over only five years, and we’re all fairly close. It’s odd to me that Gracie won’t remember a time when Nate and I lived at home. That she may or may not remember Alana living there. I wish she could know what it’s like to have your siblings right there with you all the time. I want her to get the same inside jokes and experience the same things we did growing up. So I guess we’ll have to get creative somehow. I can’t wait to see her again this summer. And I wish more than anything that I could have been there today.

Oh, Gracie-girl. I’m so glad God gave you to us! I don’t think I can ever find enough words to tell you how much your biggest sissy loves you.

My name is Layla Zizzy. And there’s no one else I’d rather be.

 

Some Thoughts on International Women’s Day

I am pro-women’s rights. Why wouldn’t I be?

I love my right to vote and run for office. I exercise my voting rights proudly, always remembering the women before me and all that they went through to ensure that their descendants would have that right. It hasn’t even been a full century since the fight for that right was won.

I am grateful that my employment is protected–that I can’t be laid off if I choose to get married and that I can’t be laid off due to pregnancy. Because (hopefully) there will come a time when those protections will apply to me, and they haven’t always existed.

Along the same line, I am grateful that I have had equal access to education. There is no one limiting the educational level I can achieve, and I don’t have to go to an all-women’s college. Look back at history. That’s huge.

In my senior year, I spent the better part of a semester researching the Battered Women’s Movement. Which means that I spent the better part of a semester alternately crying and angrily tossing my notebook onto library tables, floors, my bed, desks… because how on earth could society have okayed the things that went on? How could there actually have been legislation that allowed men to abuse their wives? Do you realize that legislation protecting women from spousal abuse didn’t start to appear until the late 1960s? That legislation allowing women to divorce abusive husbands didn’t start appearing until the 1970s? That a lot of these measures were not actively enforced until the 1980s? And the systems of protection are still incredibly broken. Some of the measures meant for protection have actually done more harm than good. But I digress.

I’m grateful that I live in a country that guarantees me the freedom to be a dissenting voice. But I do my utmost to be respectful toward those with whom I disagree. I am conservative politically, and I hold pro-life views. There are those who would argue that due to those opinions, I cannot be pro-women. I exercise my right to respectfully disagree.

I’m relatively happy with the state of women’s rights in the USA. That doesn’t mean I think that things are perfect. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can be improved. For those things, I will write and place calls to my representatives in government. Nothing strikes me as being terrible enough to go marching through the streets, certainly not waving linguistically explicit signs, and definitely not wearing a…hat…on my head. You know what hats I’m talking about. But I respectfully recognize the right of other women to come to the conclusion that things are bad enough to march, and they have the freedom to wave their signs and wear their hats. We have all made personal decisions and come to different conclusions.

I do not feel the need to disparage men in my quest for equity and independence. It frustrates me greatly when women complain that chivalry is dead, then turn around and beat down the men in their lives. Or the random man on the street who was just trying to be polite. That is counterintuitive. You ought not complain about the death of chivalry if your words and actions are killing it.

I do not feel the need to disparage other women who choose to be stay-at-home moms. The whole point of women’s rights is the ability to make the choice. Some women choose to be professional moms. I was raised by one. She made the choice to make her family her career, and I am grateful.

Me with my mama after she surprised me for my performance of Handel’s Messiah

Other women maintain a balance between full or part-time careers and raising a family. Other women elect to pursue careers rather than starting a family. I don’t feel the need to look down on women who make choices that I wouldn’t. God gives different people different strengths and places people in different positions.

And that brings me to a few ways the church can work on supporting women.

It has been my experience that churches are some of the most judgmental places on the planet. This saddens me, because we have every reason to show love and joy!

I know, I know. You don’t want to put your “ok stamp” on sin. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about putting a stamp of approval on things that are clearly wrong. You don’t need to (and biblically, should not) support the use of illegal drugs, extra-marital sex, or homosexuality. But you do need to be kind. You don’t need to have a “come as you are, stay as you are” mentality, but you do need to be kind. You don’t need to excuse the sins of other believers (or your own sin), but you do need to be kind. You don’t need to avoid the truth. But you do need to be kind.

I’m going to say this one more time to make sure we get this. You need to be kind. You know, speaking the truth in love. Like the Bible says.

Christian, you say you’re pro-life, but are you willing to open your heart and home to an unwanted child?

Me with my littlest sister, whose adoption will be finalized this Friday. It’s been a long two years. I’ll write more about this on Friday.

How do you treat single moms? No, seriously, if a single mother walked into your church on Sunday morning, would your first instinct be to walk over, introduce yourself and get to know her like a normal human being? Or would she be greeted by cold stares and awkward silence? Would you invite her to take a seat next to you, or would she be left on her own, sitting in the back of the church? Is it any wonder that women feel so compelled to argue, fight, and protest in graphic ways for their reproductive rights?

I do not like, nor have I ever liked, the way stay-at-home moms look down on working moms, or how working moms look down on stay-at-home moms. Yes, it is a two-way street. Stay-at-home moms look down on working moms for not focusing on their family, exchange knowing glances when the working mom shows up to Bible study with ketchup stains on her shirt, dragging a whiny, messy-faced toddler by the hand. “If she would just quit work and focus on her family, maybe she could finally get it together.” And the working moms judge stay-at-home moms for giving up their careers, not advancing their personal goals. “It’s like those women don’t even know what century we live in, like they actively choose to be ignorant and have nothing to do but dress their children in perfect little outfits, cook Pinterest-worthy dinners, and gossip about me being a hot mess.” Don’t act like this isn’t going on. I’ve been watching and listening to it for years, and the meanspiritedness of it makes me want to avoid women’s ministries like the plague. Think about that the next time you go through the fruits of the Spirit or Proverbs 31.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Jesus Himself summed it up best. Love God and love others. Women are human beings created in the image of God. It’s time we remembered that. It’s time that we stopped tearing down the women in our congregations, and it’s time we showed actual love and actually ministered to the women outside our congregations.

 

 

 

It Just Got Real, People!

Six months into a master’s degree. I am roughly 3/8ths of the way done. And I thought undergrad went by quickly. Life currently consists of writing papers about other peoples’ papers. And making arguments based on said papers in order to get approval for research of my own so that I can write a paper of my own so that future generations of grad students will (hopefully) cite my paper. This is the cycle of American academia.

Six months in, and I barely have time to notice that time is passing. And suddenly everything is due. And suddenly, we’re talking about comps and IRB approval. No wonder none of this has felt real–I haven’t actually noticed anything since August.

My social life is a shambles. I have no idea what year in school anyone is, or who’s graduating when. If you changed your major, I promise I never heard about it. I have no idea who is dating whom anymore, or who is getting married when. Last week was Bible Conference, so there were no classes, and in-between services and hours of work, I ran into people I had completely forgotten about. I am a terrible friend and an even worse acquaintance.

“You didn’t know so-and-so and what’s-their-name were a thing? Please, everyone saw that coming!”

No, I didn’t, because I’m at work, or in classes, or I have my nose stuck to my computer screen in order to read somebody’s dissertation. They’ll most likely be broken up by August anyway.

Or there’s this conversation:

“Hey, stranger, haven’t seen you in forever!”

“Oh hey, yeah, I know, I’m always at work or in class. How’s the engineering life?”

“Well, I changed my major to humanities…”

“Oh…”

 

I’m beyond grateful for my classmates. These people who are in the same boat with me. Who joke about the same things. Who have to accomplish the same things in the same amount of time.

Yeah, we’re probably only hilarious to ourselves. That’s ok.

lolz

 

Grad life is better with these people around.

comm

 

My thesis project committee chair has just been assigned. I found out in an email on Thursday.

I might have involuntarily emitted a high-pitched squeak of surprise and terror. I’M NOT READY!!!!!

In that moment, I realized–maybe for the first time–that I really am doing this thing. Time really is passing, stuff really is getting done, and I really am earning an M.A. Wow. Just how exactly did I get here?!

I have a research proposal ready to go. In the next week, it will be joined by an interview guide and consent form, then sent off to the IRB so that I can get approval to use my research from this semester’s project in my actual thesis. Oh, and if it goes through, my thesis research will already be halfway done before the end of this semester. Still not sure how I got here.

It’s actually happening. What began as a passing thought in sophomore Mikayla’s brain has become current Mikayla’s life. Time is passing, things are getting done, and I am 3/8ths of the way through.

It’s getting real, people.

 

Someday You’ll Learn

I’m no expert, and I certainly don’t claim to be. On anything–life, love, faith, people…

I panic when my grad professors call me a co-professional. Co-nothing. I’m 21, I’m here to learn (from them), and I currently know nothing. I’m not ready to be a co-professional. That’s why I signed up for this.

Anytime I start thinking I’ve got it all together, life makes it clear that I, in fact, do not. That’s called eating humble pie. It’s an unpleasant but extremely healthy part of the human experience.

So the number of subjects I’m an expert on is exactly zero. Have we sufficiently established this? Good.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a moment to appreciate how far I’ve come, though.

I’m a big people watcher. I always have been. Call me a stereotypical introvert, but seldom will you find me at the center of whatever is going on (unless I’m SUPER comfortable with the people around me). Instead, you’ll find me on the fringes of the action, sitting quietly, watching, thinking. And especially when I’m watching people younger than I am, I find myself smiling a little. Because they remind me of…me. And I find myself thinking, “Someday you’ll learn.”

Not in a condescending way. Because we all have to learn. I still have to learn.

Oh, sweet girl.

Someday you’ll learn that you can’t be with your boyfriend every waking minute of the day, and it’s a good thing, not a crisis.

Someday you’ll learn that what happens in your relationship when you’re apart might tell you more than what happens when you’re together.

Someday you’ll learn that being in a committed relationship doesn’t mean you have to be rude to everyone else.

Someday you’ll learn that attention is not the same thing as love.

Someday you’ll learn that there is so much more to the college experience than boys.

Someday you’ll learn that it’s ok to stop dumbing yourself down. It’s ok to be good at what you do.

Someday you’ll learn that having a few truly loyal friends is better than being the most popular girl in the room.

Oh, guys.

Someday you’ll learn that there’s so much more to a girl than what she looks like and how well she can cook.

Someday you’ll learn that you don’t have to be the most macho guy in the room. Or the smartest. Or the most anything.

Someday you’ll learn, as one of my best guy friends recently put it, that there’s so much more to life than “gains and baes.”

Oh, people.

Someday you’ll learn that life is easier if you can laugh at yourself. I’m still learning this.

Someday you’ll learn that God really is in control. I’m still learning this.

Someday you’ll learn that you can’t always expect a round of applause for a job well done. I’m still learning this.

Someday you’ll learn that you can’t do it all yourself. I’m still learning this.

Someday you’ll learn that being a follower of Christ means making the conscious decision to follow Him and trust Him. Every. Single. Day. I’m still learning this.

Someday you’ll learn that serving others makes you happier than sitting around stewing in your own personal problems. I definitely have a long way to go on this.

Someday you’ll learn that there’s a great big world outside the campus gates. There are days when I still forget this.

I’m not perfect. I’m not trying to be condescending. I’m not trying to stereotype freshmen, or sophomores, or girls, or guys, or…. I’m just sharing a few things that my friends and I have learned over the last 4-5 years.

Life happens on a learning curve.

A lot of learning comes from past mistakes.

Last night, I had to remind myself that being gracious to other people is better than having the wittiest comeback. Because I wasn’t being gracious.

Ah, Mikayla. Someday you’ll learn.

 

 

 

A Wild Night (In)

No one ever warned me about what happens to your social life after college. Most of my friends are now scattered across various and sundry parts of the world. A lot of them decided to get married for some reason. And of those, a few are having kids. Already.

Now, don’t get me wrong–my friends are great people. I love them. I’m happy for them. And those that are still in the area are pretty cool about inviting me to events, or even just to their place for a cup of coffee and a chat. But, I have come to realize that I am the single friend who is beginning to relate to everyone else a little less every day. They’re looking up recipes for dinner, worried that their husbands will think that they spent too much on the groceries, etc. And me…well, I’m still worried about papers and presentations. We are concerned about fundamentally different things.

I love my friends, and I enjoy spending time with them, no matter how it happens. I will ooh and ah over their wedding china, pots and pans, new sofa, vacuum… I will be as excited as they are. I am invited fairly regularly. Sometimes, due to the craziness of a grad school schedule, I even have to turn down several invitations. Which is another difference–when you’re still a student, you still have stuff to do after 5pm.

So there are times when I actually get crazy lonely. Because it’s not the same. There’s no more saying, “Bring your homework and crash in my room. I’ll make coffee.” There’s no more army of girlfriends at lunch telling you that six months post-breakup is past time to pull yourself together. There are no more artist series plans based on the understanding that anyone who gets asked by a guy may bail.

And so, after a fairly lonely 2016, I decided it was time for a change.

I’ve always kinda scoffed at the whole “date yourself” thing. Yeah, yeah, love yourself, blah, blah, blah. How narcissistic can a person be? And then I started reading through the ideas.

I’ve gone to plays and concerts by myself before. I’ve taken myself out for coffee before. I’ve gone to the library by myself before. I’ve actually done a lot of things by myself for a while, because I’m an introvert, and so that’s how I naturally roll. So now, I just have to remember that I enjoy it.

Snow came this weekend, and very few people are back from Christmas break, so I got bored out of my mind today. And so I began to look at “date yourself” ideas thinking that I would follow through next weekend. But then I had an idea.

The past few months, I’ve struggled to get out of bed in time to make myself look decent, mostly because I’m constantly exhausted, but also because why should I wake up earlier to do my hair? Who am I trying to impress? And so, last semester, I set a new personal record–ten days straight of having my hair in a ponytail, despite hearing my mother’s voice in my head asking if I was wearing my hair up every day and telling me to cut it out. And this quote from Mean Girls: 

mean-girls-quote

So today, I got dressed up and did my hair and makeup (even looked up makeup tutorials) for no reason other than because I felt like it.

15780811_1403578703019507_2521683935962994053_n15966007_1403626046348106_6674973544777816751_n

And then I decided to make myself a fancy dinner.

15966326_1403626083014769_8022285633032507531_n

Ok, so it was Velveeta shells and cheese with a barbecue chip crumble and a dash of cayenne pepper. And iced tea. And two squares of chocolate for desert. (Don’t ask me why I have a champagne flute. It’s a long story, but I swear it has nothing to do with me consuming alcohol.) So I can’t light the candle? So the flowers are some dried baby’s breath from the last bouquet I received (last April, but who’s counting?) and a bunch of random decor shoved in a glass Coke bottle? Hey, this is my date, I can do what I want!

I turned on some ambient lighting,

15871729_1403626116348099_5347929211712075872_n

And then I found a Frank Sinatra playlist on YouTube. And I sat down to eat. And for a few peaceful moments, I thought about…nothing. Absolutely nothing. And then I got very weirded out by what I was doing and began to think that I should probably not be left alone for long periods of time.

Oh, well. It worked for a few minutes.

I then tried to teach myself how to do the Charleston via some YouTube tutorials. This was a largely unsuccessful experience, because I was raised a good fundamental Baptist girl, which means I cannot dance. At all. But I tried.

Next up: whatever movie I feel like.

Not a bad first date with me.

 

 

 

This Messy Life

There is a term I have run into since moving to the South. It is the term “hot mess,” and it gets thrown around quite a bit. Usually by women. Usually referring to themselves.

According to Wiktionary.org, a hot mess is “a situation or object in a state of extreme disarray” or “a disheveled or unbalanced person, particularly one who is nevertheless — or therefore — attractive.” Southern slang for the win, am I right? I can’t even think of a way to put that into the New England dialect.

I do not even achieve “hot mess” status. Never one to do things by halves, when I’m messy, I go all the way. I am an awkward mess. A 5’1″ concentration of awkward who looks like she maybe should still have adult supervision. There are scars on my knees and right elbow from a tumble on the sidewalk a few weeks ago. My phone screen is cracked. Everything I own has had coffee spilled on it at least once. I try to dress well and look…decent. But the closer the end of the semester gets, the less that actually happens.

Today, I looked in the mirror. My eyebrows are in serious need of an appointment with a pair of tweezers. My hair is in a ponytail…again. Well, this is as good as it’s going to get, and I have about a 30-second window determining whether I’m on time or late for class at this point. I throw my coat over my shoulders–no time to button it. The belt is hanging at a disproportionate length on either side. A quick tug on one side confirms that it’s also twisted. My bag is on my shoulder, coffee is in one hand, phone is in the other. I carefully close the door to my room, then start speedwalking out of the building. Trip over my own feet, but remain upright, which is better than crashing to the ground. And now there is coffee down my coat sleeve. Ah, well. Just keep smiling.

You see, I’m guilty of it too. I heavily edit what appears on Facebook and Instagram. Only the truly worthy photo gets posted (which is why my Instagram is so neglected…). And I can’t take a decent selfie, so I just don’t bother. Besides, I’ve seen how long it takes to get a decent one, and I just don’t have that kind of time.

Comparison is the thief of joy. It always has been. It always will be. But social media, I think, has made it a constant part of our lives. And it lets us edit what people see so heavily that only the pretty parts of life are out there. But most of life isn’t pretty, is it?

Most of life looks like coffee spilled down your sleeve. Most of life looks like showing up to class without eye makeup and praying that no one asks you if you’re sick. Most of life looks like when you’re getting lunch, and that cute guy says hi to you, so you drop your silverware on the floor. Most of life looks like failing to check the weather before choosing your outfit, then stepping outside into the windiest day of the year wearing your flowiest skirt. And everyone looks like a troll when they wake up in the morning. Everyone.

Most of life never makes Instagram.

Most of life is messy. So aren’t the messy moments the ones that tell us the most about who we are? Isn’t it easier to embrace the mess?

It’s when I’m at my messiest that I’m forced to lean on God the most. If I weren’t messy–if I had it all together–I wouldn’t need God. But I am a mess. All the time. And that’s a good thing, because my messiness forces me to get out of the way and let God work.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of makeup. I love clothes and shoes. I appreciate a good hair day as much as anyone else. But there’s so much more to life than appearances. What if you used the three minutes you spent trying to get a good selfie for your Instagram feed and spent the three minutes with God instead? What if you spent an extra three minutes praying that people see beyond your “on fleek” eyebrows and see Christ through you instead?

In 20 or 30 years, what we posted on our Instagram feeds won’t matter. Most of us will have gained a few pounds. We’ll have at least a few glitter strands running through our hair, and crows feet around our eyes. The thing about physical beauty–it fades. Quickly.

har-d-and-holy-things

You know what sticks around? A relationship with God.

Prov. 31:30–Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

 

 

 

 

For the Woman Who’s Intimidating

It’s one thing to graduate from college. It’s one thing to have life goals. Apparently having actual life goals is intimidating enough. But grad school? I had no idea that something as simple as continuing my education would turn me into one of the most feared individuals in the Christian circles in which I run. Knowing that wouldn’t have changed my decision, but I would have liked to have a heads-up so that I could mentally prepare myself.

I know a lot of people–men and women–have been drawing attention to the amount of pressure that 20-something Christians are under to “just get married.” But do you understand how that pressure feels? Do you get it? 20-somethings get thrown under the bus in the church all the time. This is just the tip of the iceberg… but I’ll save the rest for another time.

So our parents, youth leaders, and Christian school teachers added a bunch of rules to dating that made it close to impossible to date–nearly impossible to really get to know anyone of the opposite gender. If we “just get married” we’re jumping into a lifelong commitment too soon, but if we wait, try to grow up a little, try to be a little more financially secure, try to get a little more education…try to actually date…the older generation criticizes and pities us. Tries desperately to match-make–to set us up with someone. Anyone. But don’t settle, because marriage is a lifelong commitment. Solemn. A covenant between two people and God.

I, for one, am extremely confused. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than marry the wrong person. I would rather spend the rest of my life sitting in church listening to the hens cluck about my lifetime “gift of singleness” than settle. Even though the idea of hearing about my singleness for ages on end sounds incredibly irritating. Even though I hope and pray it doesn’t come to that, it still sounds better than getting married just to get married. So, to my friends who are more advanced in adulthood, I respectfully remind you that clucking at/around the young people in your church about their relationship status isn’t helping them pursue God’s will for their lives. It’s making it much, much harder to be content.

Now, I’ve digressed a bit, but I think I needed to make that point one more time. Back to the topic at hand.

Flying solo is nice sometimes, but not really my first choice for how to spend life. Frankly, I like men. I am a strong, independent woman, but I’m not a man hater. So I date. Ish. As much as the current Christian dating culture allows. I mean, it’s pretty hard to date when a completely platonic cup of coffee with a friend of the opposite gender hits the campus rumor mill within the hour. When doing that twice in the same week with two different guys makes me a shallow flirt, and twice in the same week with the same guy signifies that we’re “talking,” whatever that means… When sitting next to someone of the opposite gender at a silly play or concert is the closest thing to being in a relationship. We joke about it, but every joke contains a grain of brutally honest truth, doesn’t it? And the saddest part is, when I post this, I’m probably going to get a lot of “likes” and positive comments. And then we’re all going to go on with our lives and continue contributing to this messed up dating culture. Which is fine. I don’t expect a blog post to change the world. I just wish we’d do a little less “liking” on Facebook and a little more real-world action.

I just digressed again…

All that to say, I attempt to date. It doesn’t go well. Because, dating culture issues aside, I’m apparently an incredibly intimidating woman. I have been told this by male friends. Boyfriends. My brother. Random male classmates. And no matter how many times I hear it, I’m always surprised. And then I ask why. Some offer no more than a shrug in response. The most concrete response I’ve ever gotten: “You seem like you know what you want out of life.”

Really? That’s it? That’s all that makes me scary?

And then I’ll do some soul-searching. Am I coming across too harshly? Am I being too hard on the guys I come into contact with? Do I have realistic expectations? Am I displaying too much pride, or am I trying to display humility? I’ll try to be a little quieter. I know pride v. humility is something I always struggle with, so I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in working on that. I’m trying to do my part to be a nice, sweet human being. But if knowing what I want out of life is the problem…I can’t do much about that.

If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am. Full disclosure. When you’re a young Christian woman, marriage is held up as the pinnacle of all life goals. But dating is so hard. And what am I supposed to do during the “waiting season”? Sit around and twiddle my thumbs? Move back in with my parents and work on my cooking skills? No, that would be foolish. I need to be able to support myself. So I need to be in school. I need to have goals. Because if Prince Charming never shows up, Rapunzel can’t just sit in the ivory tower.

Who am I kidding? I am not Rapunzel. I AM A MIGHTY WARRIOR PRINCESS!!!

Sorry…too much? Maybe that’s why I’m intimidating…but seriously, men, do you not have goals? Are you allowed to have them but not me? That’s silly. If meeting a woman who has goals is all it takes to freak you out, I’ll wish you a nice life. And if you don’t have goals… get some.

In the last few months, I have literally had guys asking me why I would even consider getting a master’s. Asking me what the point is supposed to be. Or my personal favorite: “Why would anyone need a master’s in that field?” And these questions are not being asked in a way that challenges my intellect or genuinely just wants to know my thoughts. These questions are coming in a condescending, scoffing tone.

ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. You just made yourself sound like a really big jerk. Do you think I would jump into two more years of school for no good reason? If I didn’t think I needed a master’s in my field, I wouldn’t be pursuing one. That would be a colossal waste of time, effort, and money. And for the last time, I’m not sticking around BJU because I didn’t find a husband within the first four years! I’m completely willing to give you my reasons, lay out my five-year plan, and explain the complexities of the communication field until you hold up a hand and beg me to stop talking. But if you want to know, you have to ask me nicely, as though I might possess some degree of intelligence. Because I can think for myself. And I’m not about to waste my time proving it. I shouldn’t have to.

I’m ok with being an intimidating woman. I’m not going to dumb myself down. I’m not going to act completely clueless. God gave me brains and a work ethic, and I think He expects me to use them. Is that intimidating to you? Stay out of my way.

If marriage is about one person controlling the other, getting to call all the shots, and treating the other person like a moron, I want no part of it. Let the hens cluck all they please. But if marriage is about two people discussing issues together, respecting each other, and kneeling together to ask for God’s wisdom–ah, that sounds worth the wait. And until then, I’m ok with being an intimidating woman.