Is your life exactly how you imagined it would be?
For me, my life looks very different than how I envisioned it. My dream of becoming a teacher came true, but nothing else has gone according to my plan. Growing up, I thought I would get a job teaching in Northeast Ohio, live close to my family, and be married with a few kids by my late 20’s.
What does my life actually look like? I teach on the opposite side of the state and all of my family lives hundreds of miles away. At the age of 36, I’ve never been married, and I don’t have any kids. In fact, I’ve experienced years of singleness. I’ve heard some people say that singleness is a gift, but many times, it honestly has felt more like a struggle. (Check out my blog series called The Single Life.)
In Annie F. Downs' latest book, Remember God, Annie says, “I struggle so much when my expectations of God don’t meet the reality of my current experience with life.”
Annie then goes on to explore the question, “Is God kind even when my circumstances don’t seem to reflect that?”
One of my favorite things to do is to read, and when I find a book that I love, I want to tell others about it. So, below are some of my favorite non-fiction books that I’ve read this past year. What’s a book that you’d recommend?
Some people are morning people. They love the quietness of the early morning hours and have already exercised and had breakfast before the sunrises. I, however, love my snooze button, exercise in the evenings, and enjoy a great sunset.
While I’ve never been a morning person, one thing I do look forward to each morning is having a cup of coffee. I started drinking coffee when I became a teacher, as I quickly realized that caffeine was a necessity in order to keep up with a room full of energized elementary kids.
During the school year, my mornings are rushed, and my coffee is often cold before I have a chance to finish it (as I’m often busy helping my students). During the summer, though, life slows down, and I find great comfort in being able to sit and enjoy a cup of hot coffee.
As a single adult without any kids, my house can be very quiet. I know some of you would crave to have a quiet house for even a few hours. For me, silence has always been hard, and so I often have the TV or music on in the background. Recently, though, I have been more intentional about embracing the silence.
I have found myself turning off my TV or music and using that time to read, pray, or write. As I drink my coffee each morning, I have been reading Coffee For Your Heart: 40 Mornings of Life-Changing Encouragement by Holley Gerth. (*This devotional was previously published as God’s Heart for You.)
Although I love to encourage people, encouragers also need encouragement. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s hard for me to look in the mirror. I don’t always like what I see. While it’s easy to focus on outward appearances and to compare ourselves to one another, God has used the Coffee For Your Heart devotional to remind me what He sees.
I may look in the mirror and see someone who is not tall enough or thin enough or who feels alone and forgotten. God sees someone who is wonderfully made, beautiful, and is known and chosen.
I may look in the mirror and see my struggles and past mistakes. God sees someone who is forgiven, redeemed, and loved.
When I look in the mirror, I want to see what God sees. Some days I do, and other days I need reminders. Those are the days that I’m especially thankful for this devotional. In each chapter (which only takes about 5-15 minutes to complete), Holley Gerth shares a personal story, a scripture passage, a truth about who we are in Christ, 3 reflection questions, a prayer, and some encouraging words.
Through these daily devotional times and being more intentional about turning off the “noise” around me, I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with the silence. Maybe it’s because the silence allows me to hear the One voice that matters the most.
His voice is always comforting….just like a hot cup of coffee.
*** This blog originally appeared on the Motherless Daughters Ministry website.
There are certain moments in time that change our lives forever. For me, one of those moments was when I learned my mom had passed away.
It was eight years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember waking up at 12:40 a.m. to my phone ringing and talking to one of my sisters. I listened as she told me about our mom’s final moments. I remember hanging up the phone and laying in bed for hours…going between moments of shock (did I just imagine that phone call?), moments of anger (why didn’t God allow me to be there?), and moments of feeling completely devastated.
My mom had battled breast cancer for 9 years, and while deep down I knew her time on earth was coming to an end, in that moment I learned that the thought of losing someone is very different than actually losing someone.
At the age of 26, I became a motherless daughter.
Motherless daughters share a special bond. Recently, I was reading the book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, by Lisa-Jo Baker, and within the first few pages she shared that she became a motherless daughter at the age of 18.
While her book focuses on how to create and keep lasting friendships, Lisa-Jo Baker also shares how her friends supported her after her mother’s death. I saw myself in part of her story.
Lisa-Jo’s first phone call after her mom passed away was to a friend. My first phone call was also to a friend.
A few weeks before my mom passed away, one of my closest friends told me to call her whenever I got “the call.” She didn’t want me to drive myself back home alone. She said she would drive. She wanted to go with me.
My friend followed through on her offer. After I called her, she dropped everything for me. She left work, packed her bags, and before I knew it, she was at my apartment, with food in hand, and her adorable dog. We had a quick lunch, and then she drove me to my hometown, which was 4.5 hours away, so that I could be with my family.
It was the longest car ride of my life, and even though my heart was broken, I felt incredibly loved by my friend (and her adorable dog who sat on my lap the whole time).
In Never Unfriended, Lisa-Jo Baker says, “Maybe the most intimate, radical thing we can do for our friends is to show up.”
Losing my mom helped me understand the truth in this statement.
I felt loved when my friend showed up to drive me home. I felt loved when my former teaching mentor (who I hadn’t seen in years), showed up at my mom’s visitation. She drove an hour just to give me a hug. I felt loved when 7 of my friends/co-workers showed up at my mom’s funeral. Most of them had never met my mom, yet they drove 4.5 hours to comfort me.
In the midst of my grief, God revealed His love for me through my friends.
I learned that friends make sacrifices.
Friends put others’ needs in front of their own.
Friends are willing to share your grief so you don’t have to walk through the darkness alone.
The hardest phone call of my life allowed me to experience the beautiful gift of friendship.
I’m so thankful my friends showed up for me. Who will you show up for today?
About thirteen years ago, I moved to the Cincinnati area to begin my teaching career. I didn’t know a single person in Cincinnati, yet I felt called to move here….4.5 hours away from my family and friends. Pursuing your dreams sometimes will require you to do things you never expected.
For the first time, I was living on my own, in an unfamiliar place, and I didn’t know anyone. It was scary, but it was also exciting. I had a chance to make a fresh start. Being the new girl isn’t easy, though, especially when you’re an introvert like me. The more I took initiative, stepped outside my comfort zone and introduced myself to someone new, the easier it became. Before long, I quickly made many new friends.
But I soon realized that making friends is different than being a friend.
Social media wants us to believe that friendship is just a click away. With one click, we can become friends (which feels great), but just as easily, we can unfriend someone (which feels not so great).
We are led to believe that our worth is linked to the number of friends/followers/likes we have.
We have hundreds or thousands of online friends and multiple social media accounts, yet struggle with loneliness. Why is this?
In her new book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, Lisa-Jo Baker reminds us,
“You are necessary. You are not invisible. You are named and seen, and please don’t erase your relevance because you think you’re not relevant to the people you pass by on a screen.” (p.32-33)
The truth is, we were created for deep relationships. Our online interactions must be balanced with real-life connections.
You might quickly make a friend, but being a friend is intentional. It takes time. And it involves risk….especially if you’ve been hurt by a friend before (In her book, Lisa-Jo Baker shares about overcoming Friendship PTSD).
Never Unfriended is a guide about how to create lasting friendships:
“So, what can you do to find safe, loving, engaged friends whom you can trust never to unfriend you? Become radically invested in the people around you. Take the initiative and become that kind of friend first.” (p.82-83)
I love this advice, and have found it to be true in my own life.
Lisa-Jo Baker shares that a lasting friend: encourages, forgives, assumes the best, celebrates, helps carry sadness, is trustworthy, and is willing to let others see his/her real self (including the messy moments). Most importantly, a lasting friend shows up….in the good times and the tough times.
She also talks about the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries and reminds us that no human will fill the craving our soul has for connection…only God can do that.
If you’re looking for practical ways to develop deeper friendships, I would encourage you to read Never Unfriended.
Friendship is a valuable gift. Be a friend to someone today.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.