Soapbox Series: Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Damage?

I went on a short-term mission trip during the summer of my junior year back in college. It was within the US, specifically to an inner city with high rates of poverty, crime, and horrifically low school retention and graduation rates. I taught summer school to a class of twenty-something 2nd and 3rd graders, who were the most precious group of kids I’ve ever had the privilege to teach the art of spelling and grammar, and about how much Jesus loves them (which even I couldn’t fathom). They had no reason to trust me or love me, but it only took a few days before they were sitting on my lap and drawing me pictures and telling me that they loved me.

I learned two huge lessons that summer. First, I learned grace in its purest form. On our first day of training, we were told that the kids would push us to our limits every single day, and sometimes, we just weren’t going to like them. Yet we were to treat each child every morning like the drama and grievances of yesterday weren’t a factor. Each day was a brand new day, and the love was to be poured out afresh. I didn’t think I was capable of that kind of grace, but I learned it because those kids gave it right back to me. The second thing I learned that summer? I don’t think I believe in short-term mission trips.

The minute I fell in love with my kids, I wanted to go back to Colorado and somehow erase that experience for all parties involved. The minute I knew they loved me, I started grieving the fact that I was nothing more than a transient on their property, never settling in and never to be seen once I left. I felt like a sham every single day of those three months. Because how do you love someone short-term? How do you love only when it’s convenient for you, when the most sacrifice you made was sending out uncomfortable letters asking for money for the trip and agreeing to not drink alcohol for 3 months while there? How do you tell a child who’s been through more trauma than anyone should experience that Jesus will always be there for her, when you – his hands and feet – walk away two weeks or two months later? I was just another face that claimed to love them and eventually left them. And it killed me.

Here’s a thought: instead of calling them mission trips let’s just call them what they are. Trips. Adventures. Soul-expanding journeys. Because all those things are worthwhile. You should travel – whether to the next state or across the Atlantic – to expand your perspective on life, and people, and love, and God. It is impossible to return unaltered after experiencing a different way of life.  But let’s be honest about the purpose of those trips. I’d sooner give money to someone who simply asked for help to go on a journey because they were desirous to see the world, than to someone who asked for money for a mission trip. Not because I think the desire to spread the gospel to distant lands is wrong, but because I think a lot of people sadly advertise and exploit mission trips as one good way to go to that place you’ve always wanted to visit without paying a dime. I think if more people had to pay out of their own pockets for the trips they take, we’d have less people piling on the mission trip bandwagon for the coolness factor, and more people giving serious thought to the purpose of traveling anywhere in the name of God.

My rationale is simple: if you “have a heart” for orphans, for example, then that heart should break in your city the same way it breaks in Romania. There should neither be an on/off switch for your empathy or passion, nor an exclusive group worthy of your attention. I believe that we are all on a mission. We are all missionaries, right where we are. If my heart doesn’t break for the family of the little boy I nanny who needs Jesus so badly, then I am failing the mission. If I travel to Cambodia for two weeks and weep with rescued sex workers, yet come home and ignore the man holding up a sign asking for any kind of help because he just lost his job, I am failing the mission. If I’m willing to stand on a boardwalk all afternoon handing out surveys to strangers, yet I’m not willing to skip drinks with my friends just so I can afford to buy that lady on 16th St a sandwich and listen to her story, please question the state of my heart and who I’m truly serving.

I fear that mission trips are an ego-boosting, self-serving excursion disguised as ministry. Look what I did this summer. Look how much I gave up to go “love on” poor people for two weeks. Look at how long I went without a shower or a curling iron. Look at the number of people who made a decision for Christ. Look at me, look at me, look at me. At the end of the day, is it about the number of African kids that hugged you daily, or is about carrying out the mission of Christ? Because the latter can be done in simple, less glorified, everyday ways. Travel is good, the mission to share the love of God is good, but those two things do not need each other in order to work. Be a missionary while you’re at home and while you’re abroad. Sacrificial love shouldn’t only exist every summer. Save money and go see the world. But while you’re saving, serve the people who are right in front of you. If you’re only a social activist and a defender of the cause of the forgotten when someone else is paying for you to be, then forgive me if I don’t believe that your motives are pure.

Stretch Marks

I’m covered in scars, mostly up and down my legs, but truthfully, I’m covered in scars everywhere. I wasn’t the most coordinated child or adolescent and I frequently walked into windows or caught my knees on sharp nails sticking out of terribly designed classroom tables. I clearly remember catching the same spot above my right knee three times in one week on the same nail. Or that one time I felt so joyful, an uncharacteristic emotion for my 8-year-old self, that I decided to twirl through the long hallway in my favorite childhood home and slashed my left elbow on a window pane. Somehow, my brain and arms miscommunicated when I was supposed to be reaching up to catch a key thrown in my direction, and it landed right in the center of my forehead and knocked me out. The scar’s so tiny now, but I could point it out to you within a few minutes.

Oh, and the chicken pox. I mean, I was pretty responsible and didn’t go to town on my face or any other typically visible parts. But the parts that offered me reprieve have a multitude of scars to tell the story. And then there are the trillions of mosquito bites that I simply couldn’t resist inflicting equal torment on, some of them leading to malaria, most of them filed under the “Annoying Bug Bite” category. I learned the banana peel trick, and gained some self-control eventually, but I am certain that my blood type is especially attractive to mosquitoes.

Then there was the appendectomy when I was 14 and the tiny little gash it left on the right side of my abdomen, a constant reminder that I am without an appendix. And there’s the tiny scar above my left eyebrow from when I rolled a 4-wheeler on a little farm in Kansas and had to go to the ER. And the odd scar on my left hip from slipping on a sheet of ice and scraping my side while trying to hurry into the hot tub. I still got into the hot tub, bloody wound and all. Yikes.

And that’s not nearly all of them. I’m a walking museum of stories and scars, and it took a million trips and falls and oddly-placed nails for me to get to this place I’m at. This place where I fondly reminisce about each story and laugh about the strange child I was. It’s not a perfect body by any means, but it has so much character and depth because of all it’s been through. And I love it so much more because I know of the stories it carries, of its pains externally and internally inflicted.

And then I think about my heart, and the scars it has collected. Its elasticity and durability constantly surprise me, and with each passing year, I fall in love with my heart a little more. These days, I have become increasingly more hopeful about the concept of successful, happy marriages. Thanks to grad school, I’m learning a lot about relationships and how they work, and the more I learn, the more I think, “Maybe I can actually do this.”

To me, marriage is an expansion of the soul. There is a stretching, a widening, a creation of room for another to live in what used to be your space. It isn’t always comfortable or easy, but the work it does within you is incredibly beautiful and lasting. You don’t believe you can stretch any wider or love any deeper, and then your soul expands just a tiny bit more and you – and the world – are better for it.

I’m finally excited for that process of enlargement, after spending my whole life terrified of it. In the same way the scars on my body are a treasure map to all my stories and secrets, I want the stretch marks on my heart to tell the stories of the times I let my life be less about me and more about other people. Or the times when I danced for joy with someone I love even when the very thing we were celebrating had the potential to make me cry. Or the times when I saw the higher road and took it. I don’t want just a few stretch marks, spread out and easy to miss. In the words of Andrea Gibson, “In the end I want my heart to be covered in stretch marks.” I guess these days I’m just feeling especially honored and grateful for the opportunity I might one day be given to rearrange the furniture within my sacred internal space, in order to make room for someone else to stay.

Boys & Girls: Lovers or Friends?

I’m feeling really grateful for men these days. Particularly, the intelligent, attractive, wonderful ones that I’m privileged to call friends. Yes, friends. As if there aren’t enough things to debate – like whether or not I still want to be a therapist after learning how many ways it is possible for me to get thrown in jail  – we have found ourselves debating recently whether men and women can be friends.

Maybe you’ve seen this video, with its brilliantly researched findings that cover a large span of the human population and their opinions on the matter (read: an afternoon’s worth of stalking people on the Utah State campus). According to this painstaking research, girls always think that they’re friends with the guys while the guys all firmly state that such strictly platonic relationships are impossible to be had. I don’t know, maybe that’s a nice thing to hear if you like to believe that every guy you interact with has a secret crush on you. If that’s you, feel free to disagree with me.

I’m only one person, and my opinion is obviously not law, but I think there are some pretty logical reasons for why this way of thinking is both confusing and nonsensical.

  1. If this were true, then we’re just creating an army of little narcissists – ladies who are walking around thinking that every.single.man they are “friends” with is secretly jonesing for them. I mean, come on. I’m all for self-confidence and embracing your beauty and wit, but I happen to believe that I can be appreciated for the person I am without that immediately leading to romantic attraction. In fact, I regularly describe my guy friends as the most attractive, eligible guys I know. Does this mean I want to date them all? For goodness sake, no.
  2. This automatically makes all men liars. If you really don’t just think of me as a friend, why do you pretend to be my friend? Why don’t you just hold my hand and play with my hair so I know we’re more than just friends? Just kidding, please never touch a black woman’s hair. In any case, I’d rather not think that all my guy friends are pathological liars, and that when they treat me as a friend or as a sister, they actually mean it.
  3. I once was told by a guy that he couldn’t be friends with me because he found me too attractive for our relationship to remain simply platonic. He said he could definitely be friends with a woman as long as she’s unattractive. That’s all fine and dandy – and wierdly complimentary? – but what does the fact that I have a fair number of guy friends today say about me? I refuse to believe that my looks have significantly deteriorated to the point where I’m easy to be friends with because ain’t nobody wanna look at that. No sir.

Friendships with people whose emotions do not follow a monthly cycle are the best. I’ve always appreciated the constancy, and the different perspective they bring. But I also appreciate that they care about me, affirm me, get drinks with me, and give me giant bear hugs without it changing the ease and comfort of our relationships. Sure, I used to do the thing where every compliment from a guy had to mean something other than the words spoken. But most of the time, “You look really pretty today” means quite simply, you look really pretty today. I’ve learned to curtsy and say thank ye kindly and move the heck on with a smile on my face.

The process of me learning to not crush on every single guy I know coincides really nicely with the process of me discovering my worth and value. The more I came to understand that I am good enough and worthy of love and affection as a whole and not just because of my feminine body parts, I started to appreciate what others had been seeing all along. I am a whole, complete individual – not just a face, or breasts, or a small waist and an average butt. In the same way, a guy has become more than just a potential cure for a lonely season, but a whole person deserving of love and affection just like I am.

The other side of this argument is the fact that I’ve routinely been called the most oblivious woman alive by my female friends. Maybe it’s true; maybe my literal [almost legal] blindness has infected my relational eyesight as well. If that’s the case – if ALL of my guy friends actually want to recite love poetry, perhaps from Song of Songs, to me – then I will stand corrected. But until then, I refuse to be a narcissist, and I refuse to make them liars.

I guess this is an ode to my menfolk. Thanks for helping me disprove the myth that girls and guys can’t be friends. You’re the tops.

Tongue Biting & Name Calling

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: it’s fun to be mean and degrading. Giving people nicknames you’d never repeat in front of them, making jokes about a person’s mannerisms or appearance, talking smack about the people you don’t like – all of that makes for entertaining, hilarious conversations. And boy, am I good at it. I mean, really good.

Then the other day, I was listening to someone talk about how lust is simply the act of dehumanizing a person, making them into an object without seeing the value of their entirety. And I thought, holy hell, I do that all the time with my name calling. It’s not any different, you see. A person who is a brother, a son, a friend, an uncle, a grandson, a child of God becomes [insert derogatory nickname here]. That’s all I see when I look at them or encounter them. Pretty quickly, that’s all they become to me. My words dehumanize them without them even knowing it, and their worth is reduced to the singular thing that made me mad or the mannerism that irks me.

Most of the time, the name calling starts because I have expectations of people that don’t get met. I expect that super attractive guy I’m flirting with to eventually ask me out, and when he doesn’t he becomes an asshole. Or I expect that other person to be aware of the fact that laundry shouldn’t be done only once every couple months, so when they don’t grasp that concept, they become the dirty asshole. Eventually, I can’t speak of this person with respect. I can’t look them in the eye and value who they are because all I see are my unmet expectations. Like a two-year-old, I throw a tantrum when people don’t give me what I want but it’s cleverly disguised under the adult variant of sarcasm and disrespectful humor.

How am I that different from that guy who only sees a body to mentally disrobe when he looks at me? I get furious when the conversations of lust and shame and who’s to blame come up. I have strong opinions, and I’m not ashamed of them. But what makes his dehumanization of me worse than my dehumanization of him? We’re reducing each other’s humanity to fragments either way, but my method of choice just happens to be more socially acceptable.

I think a lot about the woman I want to be – the kind of wife or mom or friend I aspire to become. Her beauty shines from the inside out, and you come away from any time with her feeling valued, loved, and at peace. That woman will not miraculously appear as soon as someone puts a ring on my finger. Her beauty is cultivated now  – in my words, and speech, and thoughts today. If today, I become mean and degrading as soon as my expectations are not met, how much more when I’m faced with someone else’s humanity in my heart and in my bed till death do us part?

I want to learn to celebrate a person’s humanity and imperfections even when it’s uncomfortable and everything in me wants to berate them. I want to love selflessly, not just the people I’m friends with, but everyone I encounter. I want to be like my mom, with her quiet dignity and gracious words about the people who did her the most harm. So I’m starting by keeping my mouth shut and my eyes open to see and appreciate the value of the whole person. After all, we’re all more than the sum of our broken parts.

“Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” – Colossians 4:6.

A Single White Tree

I want to write because it’s been so long since my last post. I want to write consistently because it’s what good bloggers do. I want to be honest and raw, authentic and vulnerable. But I also want you to think of me in a particular way, to put me in the box where your other smart, strong, capable friends and bloggers go.

Except I feel weary. Silly. Needy. And that, other than the incessant demands of grad school, is why it’s taken weeks for me to compose a post. Because I don’t want to be honest about where my head has been or the places my heart has traveled. I don’t want you to think any less of me. I’m clearly doing an excellent job giving up perfectionism.

It only took four weeks of classes for me to arrive at the nervous breakdown station. It will be the first of many, I’m sure. But while I walked around my apartment crying so hysterically that I stopped to laugh at myself a few times, (for a good laugh, picture me softly banging my head against the window and wailing at the falling snow), I wasn’t thinking about how I’d pushed myself too hard or held myself to unattainable standards. The thoughts playing in my head were I’m not smart enough for this and I just want to be held by a man who isn’t a stranger.

It’s the tension that ruins me. I love having my own space to retreat and rejuvenate, but I ache to share it and care for someone within it. So I end up feeding my [very gracious] neighbor roasted pears with goat cheese and zucchini pasta and tiramisu cupcakes because the person I want to share my kitchen and my groceries with isn’t here. I love being independent and autonomous, but sometimes I just want to breathe and break and let someone else take care of me. I’m embarrassingly selfish, yet a part of my soul aches to be given the chance to love sacrificially. I’m still nowhere near ready for the mere idea of marriage, let alone the real thing, but I’m wholeheartedly ready for someone to be sure of me. I’m ready for the ambiguity and indecisiveness and noncommittal behavior that has characterized most of my opposite-sex interactions to be eradicated from my life once and for all. And I’m altogether irritated by the fact that even though the knowledge I’m acquiring here is intoxicating, it is not enough. I hate the wanting, the desiring, the needing; not because it is uncomfortable, but because I fear it will never be satisfied.

And that’s the part I didn’t want you to see – that I’m not as perfectly content as I thought I’d be with the acquisition of knowledge and pursuit of my dreams. And that I sometimes have nervous breakdowns that begin with the stressful demands of school and end in wanting love to find me. I’m learning and growing a little more each day, but no matter how busy I make myself and no matter how excited I am to become a therapist, I can’t escape the desire to be seen and to be intentionally chosen. At least it makes for great songwriting sessions.

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I want to be seen
With a fresh pair of eyes
A single white tree
In a black hood of disguise
– Brooke Waggoner, Fresh Pair of Eyes

Stinky Poop & True Love: A Different Kind of Fairytale

Is it just me or has the process of getting older and wiser become synonymous with a slight aversion to marriage and kids? When I was at the incredibly mature age of fifteen, I made a life map for myself that included me being married and pregnant at twenty-four. I mean, I understand that twenty-four seems like a lifetime away to a fifteen-year-old, but dear heavens, no. That life map also included me becoming a self-made millionaire by thirty and retiring by forty. I’m failing my fifteen-year-old self hardcore.

I’ll be twenty-four in less than two months, and while everywhere I look there’s a newly engaged or newly married couple, I don’t find myself wanting what they have right now. I’m not the bitter friend who has to pretend she’s happy for her friends who are finding the loves of their lives. I really am genuinely happy for the people I love, and I feel lucky to have a front row seat to witness selfless, sometimes messy, mostly beautiful, love. I love the sanctity of the marriage covenant, and all it symbolizes. Marriage is beautiful, weddings are beautiful, and I – like many other women – have daydreamed about my own special day.

But do I want to be planning a wedding anytime soon? Listen, I like my space. I like sprawling out in my bed without concern for someone else’s sleep cycle. I like eating when I’m hungry (which is all day, most days), and not at some appointed hour that works for two people. I thoroughly enjoy talking to myself alone in my apartment. I like the fact that my apartment has a “Clothing is optional” policy, and I’d love to keep it that way. I like making decisions on my own. I also really like knowing that when I feel like I’m triple my size and begin to wonder if there’s a karate club renting a meeting space inside my uterus, it’ll all be over in a mere five days – instead of a consistent, gradual, explosion fondly referred to as pregnancy. And those cute little buggers who are just so stinkin’ adorable even as they suck all the nutrients and sleep and normalcy from your life? Man, I just really like the fact that they don’t exist in my world quite yet. So no, I don’t want to be planning a wedding anytime soon.

The problem is that I feel weird admitting that, like I’m committing a sin against the twenty-somethings of my generation. Most of us want to be romanced and we want it now. Although, I’ve noticed that the numerous conversations about wanting to find the right guy and settle down are no longer as frequent or as earnest as they used to be a few years ago. Maybe I’m not the only one feeling this way? I’m all for finding the right guy, and then dating him for a good, loooong while.

Maybe it’s because I’m less of an idealist than I used to be. Wanting a husband and kids was easy when the picture in my head was of marrying the epitome of perfection complete with a year-round beard, and sassy little geniuses who came out of the womb potty trained and already hard at work on their next children’s book series. Who wouldn’t want to be married and pregnant given that scenario?

But the thing I’ve come to realize is this: I’m going to spend the rest of my life living with just a regular guy. He’ll have stinky poop, and will leave traces of toothpaste in the sink, and will get mad at me for very good reasons, and won’t always say the right thing, and won’t always let me warm my cold feet with his body heat, and won’t always be gracious or patient, and may forget my birthday, and won’t always think my body’s the most beautiful he’s ever seen (especially after what those future babies will do to it), and won’t always know when to hold me and when to give me space. His love won’t fix me – I’ll still be me in all my annoying quirks and flaws. Except all my flaws will be right there in the center of our living room, up for debate. I won’t suddenly become perfect as soon as I say, “I do”. In fact, I’ve heard it said that marriage doesn’t exist to make you happy as much as it exists to help you grow. And growth is a beautifully difficult process.

I grew up dreaming about a guy who would always know what I was thinking, and would know just what to say and how to say it. But in reality, I’ll probably have to tell him what I’m thinking. And sometimes, I’ll have to ask him to hold me. And that’s okay, because he’s just a regular guy. Besides, that takes more courage than living in la-la-land where everything is handed to you and you never have to find the guts to ask for what you really want.

Picture two messy people who love each other like their lives depended on it, but who are also unequivocally human. It’s like being regular roommates on crack – the crack being sex (and hopefully lots of it), and making every.single.decision together, and eventually, little tots in diapers. Forgive me, but I’d like to spend a few more years reveling in the beauty of my autonomy, the glory of first dates, and my clean bathroom sink.

There’s Room For You Here

I moved into my new apartment earlier this week with the help of a few good people, and four days later, I’m still marveling at the place I’ve been given. It is the answer to many whispered prayers long forgotten. I halfheartedly stated a year ago that I didn’t want to live with another roommate until I got married, and that I never wanted to live in a garden-level or underneath anyone else in an apartment again.

And here I am, sitting in my apartment on the third floor, watching the snow fall while I drink a cup of tea and write this post. I wouldn’t have complained about having another roommate or living on the ground floor. I wouldn’t have complained about a room the size of a closet. I didn’t even know He was listening when I said those things. But I am again convinced that He is more concerned with the littlest desires of our hearts than we let ourselves be. If there’s anything the last few months taught me, it is that.

I spent the week between my old lease and my new lease at an old friend’s house. There are six people who live there, four of whom are married couples. For the introvert who has fantasized about living alone her entire life, that just sounded like the worst situation. Yet where I expected chaos, I was met with peace. Where I expected clutter, I found a comfortable orderliness. Where I expected to feel caged and overwhelmed, I found myself breathing easy. I found room to breathe, to replenish what was depleted, to rest, to be.

I fell in love with the Remington Family House.
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When I envision myself as a woman well advanced in years, I see myself as that house. Spacious, welcoming, light. I see a woman at peace at her very core, one in whose presence you find yourself breathing deeply and resting easy. There’s no comparison or striving; no derision or judgment. You’re given permission to be who you are, and you’re loved where you are. You’re free to break and mend, to laugh and mourn, to feel all your feelings and think all your thoughts.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have this space of my own – to stretch out, to breathe, to be me in every single room. It is a gift of which I feel undeserving, and so I’m giving it away in the same measure. I want this place – already lovingly dubbed “The Breathing Space” – to mirror the Remington Family House, and the woman I’m becoming. I want it to be a place of light and joy, of intentional relationships and unrestrained love, of hope and peace. I am a steward of the gift; I refuse to hoard it. So if you’re ever in need of a place to stay around the Denver area, my home is yours (within the boundaries of good sense and safety, of course).

Come breathe a while – there’s room for you here.

To Exhale

The media has sold us on this idea of the made-just-for-you person who will love you for exactly who you are right now, flaws and all. We’ve been taught to wait for this person – to hold out for the magic. Butterflies, incoherent speech, and irregular heart rhythms are all indicators of this person’s arrival. Once you’ve found each other, you’ll live happily ever after.

I don’t subscribe to this way of thinking.

I’m a hopeless romantic, yet I do not believe in “the one”. I’ve found that believing in “the one” tends to make a person lazy. There’s no motivation to grow, to evolve, to change, to blossom. Because we are fed this idea that someday a man will find all the unrefined parts of us beautiful, we tend to fold our hands – instead of leaning into the discomfort when people point out the distasteful parts of our character, we write them off. Though I’m well aware that no one will ever reach perfection while clothed in a body of flesh, I believe it is a worthwhile endeavor to become the best version of yourself you could possibly be. It is far healthier to become a well-rounded person who is compatible with many different people, instead of a person who shuns growth under the guise of awaiting the “right person” to love all of her flaws. And life seems much fuller when you aren’t living like you’re waiting for someone, but embracing all that’s given to you in the present.

Despite that view, I find that I still believe in the idea of soul mates. And in that, I believe in the multiplicity of soul mates. At various points in my journey through life, I’ve come across a person who feels like a giant exhale, my lungs collapsing with the release of breath they weren’t aware they were holding. It’s the immediate knowing that this person will be important to you for a while. It’s the instant trust, the unspoken, “There you are. I didn’t know I’d been looking for you until you were right here in front of me.” 

I’ve found two of my soul mates already, lucky me. And they both – almost instantly – became two of my best friends. I don’t believe that soul mates are reserved solely for the romantic world. In believing in the multiplicity of soul mates, I believe that they can be lovers, or good friends, or siblings, or whatever else. They are the ones your heart instantly chooses with or without your consent. And they might only be in your life for a season, but the length of their stay does nothing to change the level of their importance to you.

I’m fascinated with the idea that I can be deeply known by not just one person, but a handful of precious souls in whose presence my heart slows its pace and swells with love. Maybe someday, one of my giant exhales will be with a beautiful soul encased in the body of a gloriously flawed man. Until then, I’m breathing easy in the company of my soul mates, and leaning into the discomfort that will make me a better person for the man I choose to love someday.

“We were never strangers. Our souls were well acquainted with each other far before our eyes became acquainted with one another.”

I Love You For Free

I fear that the truth of love has been lost on my generation. Love has become more of a security blanket and less like a wild adventure. Love has become all about me and what I can get and how good someone can make me feel.

If love is to be selfless, then can we call this constant preoccupation with ourselves in the company of another “love”? It’s about whether they’ll love us back, or how vulnerable we’re willing to be without getting hurt or losing our fierce independence and pride. Isn’t love supposed to be reckless? Shouldn’t we love because we have love to give, not simply to ensure that we are loved in return? Shouldn’t love be free – no strings attached? Shouldn’t a selfless love leave room for the loved one to walk away, to choose someone else, to not reciprocate without it diminishing the affections of the lover? Isn’t that how He loves us?

Oh, for the courage to love fearlessly and find ultimate satisfaction in the act of loving alone. Oh, for the reciprocation of love to be a blessing, and not a requirement. Oh, for love to once again be selfless.

Nostalgic for the Future

I’m a twenty-three-year-old woman who’s never had a real boyfriend. Whose hands have never been held in the hands of a lover while on a leisurely stroll. Whose lips are supple, soft, and un-kissed. Whose heart is large, intricately beautiful, and unclaimed.

Most days, that’s just fine. Life’s fullness isn’t narrowed down to belonging to a significant other – there are many, many things that expand my heart and bring me joy. I belong to people – to friends who are more like sisters, to the One my heart adores, to a family of impossibly difficult people, to this place right now.

But then there are nights like tonight when I can’t distract my heart from missing him. Him whom I’m yet to meet. Him who will hold my hand, and kiss my lips, and claim my heart.

It used to be a bitter thing, wondering where he was and why he was taking so long. Or more precisely, wondering what was wrong with me. It’s not a bitter thing anymore. And while I wouldn’t have chosen this story for myself, I’m glad that all I’ve been able to do for two decades is miss him. It’s given me plenty of time to learn to ferociously love the person I am without him. And it’s shown me how important it is to me that he’s extraordinary. That we are extraordinary. I want to change the world with this man. I want to love hard and live free. I want to raise the most beautiful, selfless, confidently humble children with him. I want to learn generosity, kindness, patience, and joyfulness with him.

I don’t plan to live an ordinary life. Therefore, I’m not settling for an ordinary love. Tonight, I’m eagerly anticipating falling in love with a man who will change the world and make history with me.