The Vocabulary of Singleness: From Shame to Messy Celebration

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I really don’t want to be known as the girl who always writes about singleness. Like if there was a list of ways to make yourself un-dateable, talking about how single you are all the time is probably towards the top of that list. However, it is probably a step below becoming a foster parent at 21, which is another thing I’ve considered, so I think I’ll embrace the possibility of accidentally becoming the poster child for singleness.

Singleness is a topic that is not super fun to talk about and even harder (and weirder) to do while you are still currently single. When you’re in the thick of it all, it can feel daunting and embarrassing and like talking about it means that you hate your life, are codependent, or have no dreams outside of relationships. Lies. Lies. A whole lot of lies.

Shame is what convinces us to stay silent – to not be willing to get messy and vulnerable and honest. Shame is about hiding. It’s about feeling fake and that if you let people in, they aren’t going to like what they see. Singleness is a topic that we’ve covered, coated, and sprinkled in shame.

There’s this presumption that if you talk candidly about singleness you are angry or depressed or needy or not dependent on God. Honestly, I’m none of those things. I am incredibly happy and love my life. Being a somewhat “hip” twenty-something surrounded by creatives and world changers with adventures around every turn is so freaking fun. I don’t view relationships as the beginning or the end of fully living life – just getting to sharing it with another person.

In Christian culture, there seems to be so many mixed signals of definitive statements and honestly, it’s both frustrating and confusing. We push being content in your singleness while at the same time praising marriage as the end-all-be-all. We tend to project this idea that marriage is a prize – a spouse is something you achieve if you do everything right, are blissfully content, and sprinkle some magic fairy dust in your bedtime prayers. Life is so much more messy and complex than that.

For example: please, do not tell me one more time to focus on becoming a better gift.

The reason I am single is not because I’m not a good enough gift.

Lies. Shame. No.

That’s implying that I am not enough. And that if you are in a relationship, it makes you more “enough” than I am. It implies you’re a better gift, potential spouse, and human than I am. I’m not going to believe that lie. Aint nobody got time for that sort of comparison and condemnation. Now if you use that phrase, there’s grace and I’ve said stuff along those lines before too. We get to move past that to tweaking how we talk.

That’s why I write about singleness – to extend the conversation and hopefully figure out how to change the vocabulary to allow people the freedom they need to live their lives without condemnation or shame. I don’t pretend to be an expert, I’m still working through lies and mental patterns that are destructive. This is what I am learning though as I seek the mind of Christ and critically examine this season of my own life.

The biggest lie I’ve identified is that of “enough-ness.” That because I am single, I am somehow less-than. That I need to do or be something more in order to be good enough for a relationship or for a guy to choose me. Getting really real here, this is a list of my own lies that I’ve believed:

  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because I haven’t traveled the world.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I can cook a mean crockpot soup.”
  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because of my family past and baggage.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I’m doing cool things with my life like starting a photography business and running a strip club outreach.”
  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because I struggle to keep my bedroom clean.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I have certain talents, giftings, or callings.”

No. This stems from a view that our worth is wrapped up in what we do. It’s performance mentality. It’s striving. It’s bondage. It’s religion. It sucks.

Identity is the core. I am hidden in Christ. I am seated in heavenly places. I have been crucified and raised.freaking.again. I am a kid and coheir in the Kingdom. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am redeemed, restored, and set free. I am enough because Jesus gives me His “enough-ness.” Do we really get this? Like truly? My life’s worth is unchanging. So is yours.

Is it sometimes easier to work on our junk while being single? For some people, yes.

Are there some areas in our lives that may need some serious growing or adaptation when we get into a relationship or get married? Yeah, life is full of processes.

Do some people take longer until they want to be in a committed relationship? Definitely.

Is it always the best idea to get into a relationship if you’re going through a big crisis, have a current addiction, or are emotionally unhealthy? Probs not.

What I am saying is that I am no more and no less enough in my singleness than my awesome married friends are. Marriage isn’t a Mecca or a state of enlightenment. They didn’t do something right that earned them their relationship, it was just that the life tapestry that God is weaving for them happened to include a spouse earlier on than mine. My engaged roommate is amazing at not giving off the vibe that she is better because of her relationship status – in fact, she’s one of the coolest, humblest, accepting, and validating people ever.

Now, I know that no one is trying to give off a bad vibe. No one intentionally is out to get single people. It just creeps into out attitude and is worth taking a look at in order to do some self-examining. That’s really all I ask for – let’s be willing to ask questions and see if the way we talk about singleness, relationships, and marriage is promoting lies about identity and worth.

I just want to live in the fullness of freedom and see others do the same. I want us to just admit that we don’t have cut and dry answers as to why some people get married earlier than others. It’s not a formula. There’s no “get married quick” scheme that will result in a perfect life. People are individuals and we all are living unique stories with twisty, messy plot lines. It’s part of the beauty. Let’s not let that beauty be under attack by over-glorifying any particular plot lines or plot points. Let’s make room for messy – for honesty and individuality.

Above all, can we just celebrate each other more? More high fives, hugs, dance parties, cake, and presents all around no matter what your life looks like. For that result, I’d gladly become the poster child of singleness.


Wrestling with Words:Writing, Dreaming, and Comparison

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I know that I must consistently write. I must do it not because I’m trying to become successful. I must do it because I am becoming someone. In this process of becoming, I must grapple for words and throw them back out at the universe. Whether I like it or not. Whether anyone reads it or not. Whatever.

I just have to do it. I have to keep crafting and keep learning to tell stories. Even if the stories feel like a 5 year old’s gibberish when they come out, they still must come out. I’m believing in faith that every time I choose to express myself and choose to tell a story, Holy Spirit is working on me. He’s putting words to what’s going on inside. He’s maybe healing other hearts and saying something to someone else.

For me, writing is an act of faith.

I grew up with a whole lot of comparison in the writing department. My whole family loves words and creating and stories. My brother, five years older than me, was (and is) the fiction and song writer. We both have stories in our bones, but they come out differently. He tends to bring them out in the dramatic – in the theatrical, the magical, and the sometimes absurd. I tend to love reality. It’s why I’m a photographer, because I love capturing what’s directly in front of me in any given moment. I love blogging and memoirs and sharing personal experiences. When I write, I look to put reason to all that I feel. When he writes, he seems to look to put feelings to all that he reasons. It’s beautiful and I’ve come to celebrate his gifts rather than compare them to my own.

I’ve held dreams for writing my whole life, but they always were carried under the shadow of not being alone in those dreams. My parents were always talking about book ideas – ideas that have not yet become reality. My brother was always chasing dreams of writing novels and songs that change generations and poems with power and screenplays for innovative arenas. Dreams became a bit competitive. Accidentally, but it happened.

When I started blogging at the age of 13, I thought that I would be like Alex and Brett Harris and would be an overnight hit sensation. This was back in 2008, when the blogosphere was booming and launching so many names into authorship and conference speaking. As a naive young girl with a history of dreaming too big, I secretly hoped that would be my fate as well.

It wasn’t.

My writing from that era is a bit painful to reflect upon, but in the end, I’m glad that I did it. I’m glad that I started cultivating gifts and communities and dreams within myself without seeing any of the success that I dreamed of. If I was to be extremely honest with you, those dreams of writing books and speaking at conferences are still in my heart.

It’s hard because I know that those same dreams are still in my mom’s heart and she has not yet seen them fulfilled. I know my brother is still dreaming of writing crazy stage productions. I know my dad has a book buried in his heart under heaps and heaps of burnout. I feel almost guilty to believe in the fulfillment of my own dreams.

But that guilt is not only misplaced, it’s a bold faced lie. It’s believing the lie that dreams are competitive; that one person’s success hinders another’s and there is only enough room on the platform for a few. Yet I see a much more beautiful reality play out before me. I see that dreams inspire more dreaming. We help each other accomplish their dreams by being faithful to our own. We pave the way as we walk ahead.

My mom told me the other day on the phone that she’s been inspired by seeing me pursue my dreams of starting a strip club outreach. She whispered to me a long time dream and that it seems like it may be the right time to start moving ahead toward making it reality. WHAT? I’m inspiring my mother? That’s crazy to me, this concept that my steps of faith can inspire others to take the same steps of faith in their own dreams. Not knowing, plowing ahead, and reliance on God – it’s not selfish. It’s powerful. It’s worthwhile.

Hannah Brencher wrote this post in December about her blog turning 5 and I can’t get it out of my head. She says that, “Blogging—to me—is not a trend. It’s exercise. It’s discipline. It’s a way to develop a voice and developing said is absolutely crucial if you want to write on bigger platforms one day.” Okay then, Hannah. I suppose I’ll blog.

Despite the fact that consistency has been a beast to me, I know that it’s a beast worth battling. I’m not blogging to build an audience or a platform. I’m not blogging to save the world. I’m blogging to build – to hone my skills and find my voice and strengthen my writing muscles. It may not be pretty, but hey, you never know what it may be setting me up for in the future.

Yes, I do have some crazy dreams that I can’t believe I’m confessing to the internet because I barely have confessed them to my best friends. I would love to write a book. Or ten. I would love to speak at conferences. Actually, I would love (like x1000000) to preach. I would love to be a part of inspiring, training, and teaching a generation of big-dreaming revivalists. Those are the dreams that I barely dare to say, but I’m learning to be braver.

Because bravery inspires more bravery.

Faith inspires more faith.

Dreams inspires more dreaming.

So I’ll write. Because it’s part of a dream. It’s preparing for the future while processing my present. It’s my little acts of bravery and faith. Maybe it will release you to write more or to dream more. Whatever happens, obedience is success. So every time I write, if it’s an act of obedience, it’s successful. No results or competition or guilt required.

My Destiny is Not my Identity


I think every home should have a prayer room.

During my time at YWAM Las Vegas this summer, I spent some time in the prayer room. Not a ridiculous amount, though I’ll confess to intentionally sleeping in there on my last night in Vegas because an empty base is creepy as all get out. But the time I did spend in that prayer room was life changing. I had no clue how much God spoke to me in that little white room with a soft rug and cozy blankets until I kept finding myself telling people stories of what I learned or prayed in that place.

There, God reworked and rewired fundamental areas of my heart and life. He showed me His Father heart. He spoke to me of my identity. He held my hand as I surrendered all my dreams and hopes and fears.

I went to Vegas thinking that it’d bring me clarity to my dreams and life plans. I left so much more confused. Yet in that messy process, I learned something valuable that maybe you need to hear today:

My destiny is not my identity.

I am not defined by my calling or my dreams.

I love reading what common people said about the Apostles in Acts. There were these strong reactions to those who completely changed the world. From mass crowds deciding to follow Jesus, to throwing them in jail, to more humorous comments about thinking they were drunk – they always caused a stir. My favorite description of all is when people noticed that these were uneducated, common men – but they had been with Jesus. And that changed everything about them.

I vividly remember thinking about those words as some spontaneous Bethel song played and I asked God, “could I be known for knowing you?”

See, I had spent much of my life being “the anti trafficking girl.” Seriously. For about 8 years, that’s what I’ve been known for – as someone passionate about anti trafficking causes. It’s not a bad thing to be known for. I’m not ashamed of my involvement in these issues. I started to ask what it would look like for people to look at my life and go, “dannnnng, that girl is on familiar terms with God.” Maybe that’s all they see. Not education or expertise or beauty or intelligence or personality – just a whole lot of Jesus. How crazy would that be?

I realized this:

I don’t want my life to be about a cause.

I want my life to be about Jesus.

It’s not that I didn’t want my life to be about Jesus before, but He’s leading me into a deeper, purer, more intimate place in my walk with Him. He’s leading me into my identity; my identity as a daughter and not as a servant. That I am loved, beautiful, worthy, enough, and free – not because of anything I do, but because of the radical grace that leads the Creator of the universe to call me these things. It’s wild, but it’s true.

My identity was the same on the day when God created me in my mother’s womb and it will be the same on the day when He calls me home. It’s not optional. It’s not conditional. It’s not up to me. It’s truth. It’s reality. It’s grace.

The Bible speaks to who we are – to who God made us and how Christ has restored us to our original design. We are called forgiven. We are seated in heavenly places. We are redeemed. We are victorious and led forth in triumph. We are children – coheirs with Jesus (best brother ever) and adopted into the family of God.

The callings that we have as individuals – our destinies and our dreams – they are beautiful. God has given them to us. We rejoice and celebrate them. We chase them. But they do not define us. They do not dictate our “enough-ness.” They may not always turn out how we expect them to and we may be led to seasons of surrender, but our identity is truth that can be clung to.

That’s what I started grasping this summer – that fullness of identity. The journey led me to a season of rest and letting go of dreams. It led me back to a season of crazy dreaming and seeing lifelong dreams play out before my eyes.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that part of my calling, destiny, and dream is to work with women in crisis. God has confirmed that time and time and time again. No matter how many times I’ve tried to do other things with my life, I keep coming back to this anti trafficking arena. So I’ll embrace that. I’ll work with nonprofits and read books and watch documentaries and go to trainings. I’ll start my own strip club outreach in my city. I’ll follow opportunities that arise in the future. I’ll hone my craft and become an expert. Those are all good things.

But that’s not my identity and not really even what I want to be known for. I want to be seen as one who has been with Jesus – because I know that my place of completion is in His presence. My identity is wrapped up in the unshakable promises of Love. But even if people choose to see me differently, it doesn’t change how God sees me.

He sees me as His daughter. Loved. Chosen. Beautiful.

Nothing changes that.