What’s Next?

Doesn’t it seem like every year goes by faster than the last? 2019 is encroaching upon us and I can hardly remember what went on in the last eleven months. The most memorable part of this year for me was the beginning. At midnight on January 1st of 2018, I was in the shower. I got out, fell asleep on the couch and I swear, it feels like I’m just now waking up.

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Seriously, where did the time go? I remember opting out of making any resolutions because I didn’t want to look failure in the face when (due to lack of effort) my “life goals” didn’t materialize. I figured I’d just do my best to be better. But if I’m being honest, I could’ve tried harder. Nonetheless, here I am.

That being said, if you’re reading this: congratulations, you’re still here too! We’ve still got time. How much, I can’t be certain, but carpe diem! I think sometimes we get too involved in our long-term goals. Truth is, we don’t know if we will ever get to kiss the brow of what we hope will one day be. Lately, death feels imminent. The axiom tomorrow isn’t promised has become more real than ever. There used to be a time when I couldn’t imagine death happening to me but those days have drifted away like a sweet aroma carried by the breeze.

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Normally, a topic so morbid would evoke a sense of sadness, but in this season of my life, it has awakened an urgency: an awareness, that my purpose can’t wait. It simply does not have the time. Every part of me recognizes the fragility of life and more than I fear not being successful in the eyes of the world (or myself), I panic at the thought of not completing the earthly assignment given to me by God.

This panic has prompted me to make a true effort to put my wants and dreams in perspective. I have to ask myself, do the things I want most align with the purpose God has given me? Not always. I’m currently fixated on moving out at the beginning of next year. The search for somewhere to live consumes a good portion of my day and when I’m not searching for places to stay, I’m busy making photo collages of home decor. It’s pretty bad. All the while, I’ve been given an assignment that I’ve been steadily neglecting.

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Next year, I’ll be making one resolution: Everyday make a conscious choice to take the next step toward my purpose. Whether it’s something as simple as a prayer, reading a novel, or writing the first sentence of my book, I want to step into my future, not leap. There’s invaluable worth in the baby steps. We get so caught up in dreaming “big” that we forget big was once small. So chill.

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In no way am I encouraging small aspirations. We serve a God who is not limited by any human notion and he has great plans for each of us. I just don’t want us to forget that great doesn’t necessarily mean big or famous, or wealthy, or a partner. It simply means surrendering to God’s plan for our lives and taking whatever step is next to fulfill it. That’s greatness. I think we’ll find that if we do this, we’ll gain more than we could’ve ever attained on our own.

So let’s forget about New Year’s resolutions: what can we do right now (and before the year is up) that would be a step in the direction of our God-given purpose?

I’ll go first. For me, it’s writing this entry. I didn’t feel like it and I’m not confident that it’s any good, but I’m going to post it anyway. Beside me are two notebooks, which contain outline drafts for my book, “90 Days of Reign.” I want to open them and work on my story but I can’t promise. Though it is, in fact, my next step and I don’t have forever…

 

 

 

 

 

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Rescued by the Storm

I’m awake. Thankful as I am for another day, I had every intention of being asleep at this early hour. It’s a cool fifty-four-degree morning here in Calgary, Canada and the sun is in its final moments of rest. Us humans, however, are already up and at it, scrambling toward productivity. I can hear the grumbling acceleration of car engines dragging along the black road just outside my window. Headlights peek through the small opening in the sheer hotel curtains, and some undecipherable fluorescent green sign across the street is pulling my focus away from the task at hand.

I snoozed my alarm at 6 a.m. but couldn’t fall back asleep. I figured a little reading would help ease me back into unconsciousness so I opened the Bible. The Old Testament. I ended up in the first chapter of the book of Jonah. I’ve heard the story of the man who was swallowed by an enormous fish a million times, but I’m embarrassed to say that this morning may have been the first time I read it for myself.

As I read along, my eyes lingered on one word in chapter 1, verse 17:

Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Provided?

I reread the verse trying to understand the use of a word meaning provision when Jonah’s situation couldn’t have seemed more hopeless. God made arrangements for Jonah to be swallowed by a sea creature? I needed clarity, so I continued my reading into chapter two.

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Our prayers to God generally include pleas for him to keep us away from ill-intentioned people and harmful circumstances, but not often enough do we pray for God to save us from ourselves. I love that I’m about to quote Whitney Houston, but something she said in an interview truly comes to mind. When asked what form of substance abuse was her biggest devil, she responded:

That would be me. It’s my deciding, it’s my heart, it’s what I want. And what I don’t want. Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision. So the biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy. And that’s how I have to deal with it.

Love you Whitney.

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She was right, and although there is a very real enemy plotting against us, most of our problems are self-created through stubbornness and disobedience, just as it was with Jonah. God had given him a message to deliver to the people of Nineveh and he refused. He ran away from the will of the Lord and thus found himself tossed overboard a ship in a raging storm.

What I realize is that God’s idea of saving doesn’t always look like what we envision. God saved Jonah by sending a deadly storm and putting him in the belly of a sea creature. Personally, that’s not my idea of a life saver, but hey, I don’t make the rules. I’m sure Jonah would’ve appreciated dry land as a form of rescue.

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But the question is would he have responded to the call of God had God simply placed him on dry land? Sadly, I think not.

Jonah 2:1 says that “From inside the fish Jonah prayed…” That storm was Jonah’s opportunity for rescue, his moment to regain sight of his purpose. And in it, he cried out to God.

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Out of fear, we sometimes run from God’s plan for our lives. Decisions made in anxiety will always lead to disobedience. That rebellion is the catalyst to many of our storms. But what I love about God, is that he uses even our worst experiences to strengthen our relationship with him. Nothing we endure is wasted. He is a resourceful God, who uses the ugliest and most shameful parts of our lives to teach us and refine our faith in him. Because he is a merciful God, he provides a rescue in our storms. More amazingly, the storm itself is often the rescue.

Many times, it’s not until we hit our lowest point that we begin to heed God’s guidance. Most of my spiritual breakthroughs have come in the form of storms I thought I could weather. Whenever they proved to be too much for me, God has always been there, waiting to embrace me with open arms. And it’s in his presence that I was given the strength and faith to trust and obey his will.

The next time you’re in a storm, consider the possibility that you are also in the midst of your salvation. You must choose not to focus on your circumstance, but the God who has the power to pull you out. Trust that through the bad weather, God is realigning you to his will for your life. Remember that the Lord commanded the sea creature to vomit Jonah up. When it did Jonah had found the strength and courage to deliver God’s message to the city of Nineveh.

Know that when God allows your storm to spit you out, you won’t come out empty hearted. He will have prepared you for whatever challenge lies ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling Light

 

In March, I spent two days at Newark Liberty International Airport completing recurrent training: a dreaded but necessary requalification course required annually by all flight attendants. Never a fan of school, I huffed and puffed all the way there on that first day, but by the time class was over I realized how light I felt— literally.

 A normal workday would find me weaving in and out of the ever-crowded Newark airport, my forty pound luggage dragging behind me like a fractious child. But because I wasn’t actually flying anywhere, all I’d brought to training was a backpack to house my wallet, a notebook, some snacks, and a blanket.

Eager to soak up the rest of the day away from work, I galloped down the escalator and hurried to meet my uber driver at arrivals. I shrugged my bookbag off as I slid into the car. Leaning back, I sunk into the worn seat as the driver eased on the gas and the airport faded out of view. Wow, that was seamless.

My temporary dismemberment from my suitcase had given me the freedom to walk and maneuver as I willed without having to factor in their extra weight. On the ride home, I couldn’t help wishing I had access to the science used in the movie, “Honey, I shrunk the Kids.” Of course in my case, the kids would be my annoying luggage. How much easier my life would be if my bags weighed less than a pound and fit in my pocket.

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Putting aside silly notions, I thought of more realistic ways to lighten my load. As I began taking a mental inventory of the items in my suitcase, I found my thoughts drifting off to the less obvious baggage I tote around daily: the unecessary bulk I carry in my spirit.

We spend so much of our lives internalizing weight that was never ours to carry. Our spirits weren’t created to support life’s burdens, yet we bathe ourselves in the worries and trials of this world expecting to be cleansed.

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Hard as it may be to grasp, we don’t possess the antidote to not even a single of life’s troubles. Blinded, we sometimes think we have a responsibility to carry the load on our own, but that couldn’t be farther from what the word of God says.

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Anger, unforgiveness, and abandonment are a few of the more recognizable poisons we hold onto, but it’s the worries we think are natural and harmless that mature into beasts over time. Constantly stressing over money and bills, the future, health, our kids, marriages, and employment— all these normal worries carry heft as well. With time they ossify our spirits and we begin to block the blessings God wants to bestow upon us. Philippians 4:8 instructs us on what our thoughts should be consumed by.

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Giving our lives to God means trusting him entirely. Not only with the big things, but with the minutia of our lives. We cleverly disguise our pain, making sure to evenly distribute it throughout ourselves so that no one will notice the extra weight. We can’t hide from God. He formed and knew each of us before the foundation of the earth. He has purposed each of our lives for his glory. God is not perplexed or intimidated by our pain. However, we must make the choice of whether we want our struggles to be barriers or breakthroughs.

I see so many Flight Attendants hobbling through the airport with their luggage. It’s usually the ones who have been lugging around three and four pieces of baggage for twenty-five years. The weight and strain catches up. The baggage, if we let it, will attach itself to us like barnacles. Thank God though, our pain doesn’t have to be irreparable. We can opt to surrender our excess weight to God and let him deal with it. Trust him to deal with it. Know that He is more than capable of giving us the peace that we need to released our baggage.

 

 

 

 

Running to God, not from Him

As a child, one of my first lessons in morality was honesty. My mother put an unusual emphasis on telling the truth. I know it’s standard for any half-way decent parent to instill veracity in their children, but my mother really hammered it into her four kids. She’d tell us, “There’s nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you.” To further drive her point, she’d give us these insane scenarios in which her love would abide: “If you killed twenty people, you could tell me and I would still love you.”

So growing up (and even now) it was rare that I lied to my mother. When I did, the guilt would gnaw away at me until I ran to her confessing, “Mommy I’m sorry! It was me who drank your root beer!” Of course, swiping a soda was a minor offense, but I was always astonished by how easily she forgave me. My apologies usually ended with my mother enclosing me in her arms or gently grasping my face in her hands and looking into my tear filled eyes to remind me…nothing.

That seed of unmitigated love ingrained in me as a child was the blueprint I stumbled around trying to comprehend God’s infinite love for me. Even now, as a somewhat seasoned Christian, I still find myself tripping over God’s love. An ineffable love so overwhelming, that at times I flee from it. I feel guilty for being on the receiving end of such a limitless affection.

It seems like my relationship with God is constantly on the rocks. There’s always something to fix or improve. I hardly ever feel satisfied with my contribution to the union. When I take too many steps in the wrong direction I think Oh no, I’ve done it this time and hide my face in shame. There I stay for days, sometimes weeks or months, until God coaxes me out of my hiding place and back into his presence.

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  Recently, God placed a pause in my heart: anchored it in order that we might have a conversation about my distorted idea of his love.

God’s love for us far exceeds the potential of any human affection we could ever hope to receive. There’s no shame in his love and it abounds in grace and forgiveness. There’s nothing we can do, no sin we can commit that would diminish his love for us.

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It’s much easier to read those words than to walk in them. When we give in to sin, it’s sometimes easier to stay there than to confess that we messed up- again. But it’s in those moments that we should be running into the arms of God, not from them. God knows our sinful nature and he knows that we are not capable of resisting on our own. He invites us into his arms when we feel burdened and overcome by sin. His hand is gentle and yearns to correct us with the love of a father.

There is no better feeling of relief than knowing that we can disclose all the messy, ugly, and sinful parts of ourselves to a God who will transform our faults into his glory. Trust him. Trust that God can paint our pain with his love. When we feel most vulnerable, most confused, most tempted, most carnal, God is inviting us to hide in him and let him fight our battles. Our hearts cannot be hidden from God and there’s no hope of refuge in running from him, only to him.

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Note to self.

 

We’re a lot like Snow

Another winter storm is racking the northeast with high winds and heavy snow. Concerned for our safety, the company released us from training early. Most flights to and from Newark have been canceled. Luckily, I made it back to the crashpad just in time to avoid getting stranded by the inclement weather. Before settling into the rocking chair with a missing arm cushion, I drew back the curtains and made myself a hot breakfast. Now satiated, and entranced by the budding storm, I’m finding it difficult to write. These are prime conditions for both, streaming creativity and sleeping. With only one other person here, the apartment is quiet. Tucked into the deepest crevice of the couch, my roommate could easily be mistaken for a crumpled blanket. Strays of orange hair and a messy top bun ornamenting the crown of the cover are the only indicators of her company. I too, am fighting the urge to lose myself in a blanket and watch anything involving Meryl Streep.

Somewhere in the recesses of my uterus, my cramps are producing just enough of that stabbing sensation to keep me awake. A good thing for the sake of productivity I suppose. Three years of being based in Newark and I’m still hopelessly fascinated by the snow. Today, especially. A decaying brick accent wall is home to the only window in the living room. Ordinarily, the view is a mere reflection of our brick apartment building, but today it’s a backdrop to a spectacular show. The diminishing browns and oranges of the brick wall make the snow look 3D. It’s sort of…poetic. I feel like a stranger who’s stumbled into the delivery room of something extraordinary: the sky giving birth to a little peace of heaven.

Meteorologically, this is considered a storm, but it feels like anything else. I never knew snow could dance. Without adherence to any form or technicality, it gracefully moves. Beautifully wild, it flows. Some snowflakes are falling rapidly in a race to the ground, while others take their time, slowly drifting to their destination. Some sections are falling straight down, while others are descending at a slant. Then, there are the snowflakes that are simply riding on the wings of the wind. Some are stuck together and some are traveling alone. Some are falling to the east and some are headed west. Somehow though, regardless of direction or form, they’re all in sync. Each doing their own dance, yet fully aware that they’re part of a grand ensemble.

We’re a lot like snow. Multilayered beings, composed of various facets, all contributing to one single source. Sometimes, we put too much focus on one aspect of our lives. We spotlight the areas that need work or aren’t panning out the way we hoped. I’m learning to give those areas of my life grace. I don’t want to lambast them into a place of hiddenness and shame. I want to be encouraging and provide a positive environment to recalibrate those areas.

When we admire a place blanketed in fresh snow, we don’t analyze its beauty by each particle. Instead, we acknowledge it as one body of snow comprised of many snowflakes. Together, each snowflake creates one breathtaking body of natural art. We are each, a wonderous expression of art formed by our creator. God doesn’t look at our rough edges, jagged lines, and the pieces of us that aren’t quite falling right, with ridicule. If we commit every aspect of our lives into the hands of God and trust him to mold us into something extraordinary, he will. He can transform all of our mess and chaos, into splendid portrayals of his love.

Am I Doing This Right? (Part II)

 

Now what?

Still dealing with the compunction of having signed up for something so ridiculous, I decided that my going to this singles mixer” would be a covert venture. As January 13th drew closer, I became more and more uncertain. What am I doing? I contemplated not going, but I knew that in order to resolve my suspicions, I had to find out for myself if I was missing out after all.

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 After a few days, it became unbearable to keep quiet about the event. My thoughts had taken a turn for the dramatic and I was in desperate need of sound advice. I casually mentioned the event over phone conversations with a few of my best girls. Much to my surprise, they were on board with me going to this singles mixer. Their optimism gave me permission to be, at the very least, cautiously hopeful.

How didn’t I know about this place? I thought as the host led me to the back of the restaurant. We slipped through an obscure door that immediately exposed a narrow stairway. Two flights of stairs later, we arrived on the third floor. The host pointed out the restrooms and stretched his arm toward the back of the room. “They’re in the back,” he said plainly as he dismissed himself. I looked around, surprised at how big the space was. The dim lighting and classical decor made the room seem smaller, more intimate. As I headed back, I was grateful that I had chosen to wear flat boots, instead of heels. My entrance would be less noticed.

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“Hi! Welcome! My name is Leah. The name tags at the bar have different colors. Pick one and write your name on it!” Leah was nice. Bubbly. The way I would’ve been had I not been brimming with apprehension. Aside from our lovely entertainer Leah and myself, there was one other woman and one man. The woman (shall we call her Tracy?) was lively and chatty.  She didn’t seem nervous at all. I don’t remember exactly, but she made a joke that suggested that (let’s call him…) Brooks would be the only man to show up and all the women would have to fight over him. “Like the Bachelor,” she joked. I choked out a  laugh and made a beeline to the bar to fill out my name tag.

Slowly (and late), others started to arrive. And when I say others, I do mean women. “More men were supposed to come,” Leah promised. Some of them had to cancel for work and others just didn’t show up. The final tally was twelve women and one man. I was a little letdown, but not at all surprised. I had predicted and mentally prepared for this turnout.

The event commenced with Leah giving each person five flashcards that matched the color of our name tags: it was Q and A time. The questions ranged from, What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? to What character in the Bible do you want your partner to be like and why? It was overwhelming. All the women were so focused on not being desperate that we sort of ignored Brooks and instead, got to know one another. Though, at some point, I checked out. The questions were too involved and some people spoke for twenty minutes straight. I ate my shrimp orecchiette in silence, while I faded in and out of the conversation. Although I was proud of how successful and independent this group of women was, I hadn’t known them long enough to care to delve into the intimate details of their wants and desires over lunch. It felt artificial. Forced. But the food was good.

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I left just before the event was over because I had booked an early evening flight back to Newark. I gave my sincerest thanks and wished everyone well as I headed out. What should’ve been a disappointment, left me feeling revived. As I galloped down the stairs, I felt my happy, effervescent self returning. The cool air welcomed me as I walked out of the restaurant. The wind whipped my face as I ran across the street eager to seek refuge from the cold. As I approached the other side, I almost bumped into some man. I said sorry and proceeded to my car, but he stopped me. “Excuse me, your shoe is untied.” I bent down to tie it, but he beat me to it. “Let me get that for you.”

“You really don’t have to do that,” I blushed. “I can tie it.” But he insisted, so I stood there while he bent down and tied my shoe. After he finished, he walked away and told me to take care. I was completely taken aback by such a random act of kindness.

Then, it occurred to me. Remember that wink or nudge I told you guys I had been praying for God to give me in Part I? In the simplest, kindest, and most unexpected way, God had answered my prayer in a way he knew I’d understand. On my drive home, I kept hearing in my spirit, That’s how it will be- a beautiful surprise. I was reassured that when the time comes, my delight in what God has planned for me in a partner will far exceed anything I could’ve hoped or created for myself. My soul rested in this undeniable truth.

However naive or close-minded it may seem, I trust God with choosing someone for me. He’s never let me down before, so why start doubting his ability now? The desires of my heart were embedded in me by my creator and I fully believe that in the most impeccable timing, he will bless me with those desires.

So to answer my question: yes, I am doing this right. 

 

 

Am I Doing this right? (Part I)

“Are You Putting Yourself Out There?” was almost the title of this post. Mainly because I’m tired of being asked that question. I’ve never understood how to answer it. And with the current dating trends, I’m not sure I want to be part of the putting myself out there gang.

It’s weird, other people seem to be more concerned with my singleness than I am. This wasn’t always true. Up until my early twenties, marriage was my mission. While friends and acquaintances worried over which I said yes photo to share on facebook, I panicked. I was falling behind. They were starting families and I’d never even had a boyfriend. I was beginning to wonder if there wasn’t something wrong with me.

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It took time but I eventually moved past the stage of feeling like a defect. The truth is, I don’t mind being by myself. I’m more weary of the prying “why are you single?” questions I can never seem to adequately answer. Unintentionally, others try to convince me that the absence of a man in my life is an indication that something is wrong or that I’m abnormal, but I don’t feel that way anymore. I cherish dearly this opportunity of discovering who I am through my own eyes.

My desire for marriage has never been to fill an internal void. I recognize it as a gift from God meant to be an earthly expression of his unfailing love. A union that serves to magnify our understanding of the depth of that love. It’s not something I’m willing to forfeit for the sake of a warm body and sweet nothings. I’d much rather wait on God to send me someone of value than put myself through the horror that is- very loosely called– dating.

Although I’m pretty stable in my season of waiting, I still have moments when I need reassurance. A nudge or a wink, something to assure me that I’m on the right path. I find myself praying to God, I’m totally cool with waiting, but I just wanna make sure- Am I doing this right?

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I had a bout of doubting debbie a few weeks ago. An impromptu girls night at my crashpad in Newark led to the overwrought topic of boys. The evening lasted well into the next morning as the other two girls gushed about their complicated love lives. I was exhausted just listening. One of them had been trying to figure out if she was actually in a relationship with some guy she’d been talking to, while the other spilled about how she’d rejected going back to her guy friend’s place after dinner in the city that night. Then there was me. Single as a dollar bill. No stories of one night stands or swiping left for love. As quickly as I could, I blurted out the riveting details of my love life-  “I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’m a virgin. I’m trusting God to find someone for me.” I waited for their reactions.

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 Initially, they were all, “That’s great, there’s nothing wrong with that!” But as the conversation continued, I talked myself into a box. A close-minded Christian girl who’s just going to stand idly by and wait for God to send her someone. Those words were all but plastered across their foreheads. One of them in particular. She asked me, “Well, do you put yourself out there?” I rolled my eyes in exacerbation. When I told her, “not really” she returned the gesture. “I hate it when people think that trusting God to do something means sitting on your butt and doing nothing!” She was annoyed by my small thinking. I explained my perspective. If I was striving to be a lawyer, I wouldn’t pray to God to make my law degree appear while I sat on the sofa binge-watching Law and Order: SVU. There is a clear process in what must be done to attain a law degree. Relationships are different. Unless I missed it, there’s no certain equation that leads people to lasting love and marriage. I’d much rather let God do the weeding out. In the meantime, my focus is my relationship with God and learning to enjoy that journey.

I hadn’t wanted to admit it, but my roommate had gotten to me. Her words rang in my head for days and I began to question myself. Am I doing this right? Maybe I am too close-minded. Maybe I should try to find out what it means to put myself out there.

So I did.

Although I had no plans, I’d decided to take off from work for New Year’s Eve. For a change, I wanted to celebrate! I browsed the internet for Christian parties or anything remotely wholesome to attend. Nothing. I didn’t want to go to church because I’d gone that morning and I wanted to do something more festive. I didn’t want to watch fireworks downtown by myself because it seemed a bit pathetic- even for me. I opened my meetup app hoping to find some last minute get together. Nothing. Just as I had come to terms with having a quiet New Years Eve, I came across an event: New Years Single Mixer for Christians on January 13th.

Still hung up on girls night, the meetup event seemed fateful. Is this a sign? I bookmarked the event but didn’t register. It was at a nice restaurant and cost $23, which made me feel better. Yet, the idea of a “singles mixers,” made me nervous. I felt awkward and angsty at envisioning what it’d be like. And as if I’m not enough of a girl scout, I felt like I’d be doing something wrong by attending the mixer. I know, I’m ridiculous. But every time I chickened out, my roommate’s words reignited my insecurities. After a few days of teeter-tottering, I finally committed to the event.

I had something to prove. Although to whom, I still can’t be sure. I don’t know if I was more fixated on proving to my roommate or to myself that I don’t live in a box. Either way, for three hours on January 13th, I put myself out there.

To be continued…

Oh and by the way,  if you’re wondering how I ended up spending my New Years Eve: I showered and went to sleep.