Thursday, October 18, 2018

Why the Church isn't for Singles over 30

I have been a part of church for my whole life.  I can't remember a time when I didn't go to church.  I always felt a part of church.  When I was in junior high and high school that was where I felt the most accepted.  I didn't start feeling like I didn't belong until the age of 30.  You see at 30 I was still single.  I didn't quite feel single in the way that you do when you are surrounded by all married people.  But it was at age 30 that I started noticing my singleness more. 

Young Adult groups at church were not quite the right fit, but it felt like after 30 there wasn't room for singles.  Either everyone was trying to set you up, or you were supposed to just take care of everyone else's kids.  I don't think it really actually started to be real to me until 33 or 34, because that is when a lot of my really close friends went from being single to being married, and started having kids.  It is easy to not feel left out when you are surrounded by people that are the same as you.  When you have single friends to do things with it makes community feel more accessible and closer. 

My 35th year is when I really started feeling the weight of singleness, especially in the church.  I felt like people looked at me and thought, why doesn't she find someone?  It's simple, just go on a dating site and find someone.  The thing that people don't realize is that dating has changed dramatically because of social media.  Especially dating over 30.  Especially Christian dating over 30.  More importantly what the Church doesn't realize is that everything in church is about families.  Singleness makes people uncomfortable.  Especially people that have never known singleness.  I'm sorry but if you got married at the age of 25 or younger, you are not going to be be able to relate to someone that is in their 30's and still single.  So, please stop yourself from saying that you understand, because you don't.  No, it isn't the same if your husband goes away to serve in the military and leaves you behind for months at a time.  Because you still have a HUSBAND or WIFE whatever the case may be. 

I am not here to have a pity party for all the singles in the church that are being ignored.  I am here to advocate for the fact that there ARE singles in the church being ignored.  You probably don't think you are ignoring them.  You probably think you are including them.  I mean why wouldn't they want to be around married couples?  They need to know what marriage is going to be like for the one day when they do find someone and get married, right?  When their life can actually start, right?    I'm going to tell you this very clearly.....   NOT EVERYONE GETS MARRIED! 

I'm not trying to be harsh at all.  I am just trying to help you understand that not everyone gets married, not everyone gets to be a mom or dad.  This is a fact of life.  Something that I struggle with almost on a daily basis to understand.  The best that I have had it explained to me was during a BSF discussion towards the end of last year when I was really struggling.  Someone explained it to me like this > "we were all meant to have someone, that is how we were created, but because of sin, the world is broken, thus there are going to be people that aren't able to find that person."  I don't like this answer at all.  In fact I hate it, but I understand it.  It also helps me understand my singleness in a different way.  I don't feel like I am single because there is something wrong with me, that is worse than anyone else.  I don't feel like I am single because I  am not pretty enough to get married.  My singleness is a result of this broken world.  Broken love.  It is a result of us seeing sex as the end all be all, and not understanding that true relationship is a two-way street. 

Does the church see it this way?  Or does the church see it as a problem that needs to be fixed?  We just need to plug all the single people in to small groups with married people so they know what marriage is like, and can then one day get married.  Right?  Then we have fixed the problem.  We put a happily married couple that has been married since they were both in their early 20's in charge of the singles group, and expect that to fix the problem.  The problem being singles over the age of 30 in the church.  I think that the first step is to understand that singles aren't a problem to be fixed. 

It isn't talked about.  We all know it, because when we think about our kids we don't want them to be single.  I know it, and you know it.  When you plan the future for your kids, you want them to grow up, get married and have babies.  I've had people say that.  Actually I have even been at a conference where that was spouted out by a very well known Christian leader that I love.  Her exact words were, "when my kids grow up and give me grandbabies."    That is the future that our culture has created as the norm.  So, when it doesn't happen for people we lump them in a category, and we kind of just forget about them.  We try to include them by creating singles "groups."  But when those don't work out, we just chop it up to their being something wrong with "them."  We say there just weren't enough people "invested."  If a marriage conference doesn't have as many couples register as we think there should be, do you stop having marriage conferences?  Or do you figure out how to attract more couples?  If kids aren't coming to your children's ministry, do you get rid of the ministry?  Or do you figure out ways that you can connect with kids to get them involved? 

The answer is that you figure out how to attract more couples or kids.  But you see that is the "norm."  That is what we are used to.  When you step into churches that is what the majority of the people are, happily (or not so happily) married with kids.  It is right for the church to minister to that group of people.  I might even add that they are the easiest to minister to.  Why?  Because most pastors are or have been married themselves.  Most pastors are parents.  They know what it is like to raise a family.   Most pastors have no idea what it is like to still be single at 35.  Most pastors have no idea what it is like to feel like an outsider when they step inside a church building.  Most pastors have never known judgement of being a single parent.  I don't look down on them for that.  But I am going to say this....  in order to minister to people it is best if you have gone through what they are going through.  Or at least care enough to take the time to actually listen to them. 

I wish that I wasn't still single at 37. I wish that I could be a mom, but that is not where I am at.  So, I am doing the best that I can.  I am living life, I am trying to help others, and I am reaching out to change what I can of this crazy, mixed-up world. 

If you are an important member of your church, or even if you are just a member of a church (that means you are important!)  Step back, and take an honest assessment of how many single people over the age of  30 you have in your church.  You don't think you have any?  Then that probably means that they aren't coming to church, because I guarantee they are out there.  I guarantee there are a lot more single people over the age of 30 than what you or I think.  But the thing is we have gotten used to hiding.  We hide from the married couples because we are tired of being babysitters, or stepping into a conversation only for it to be about how your husband is leaving you alone for a week, and you just can't deal with the "single life."  We are tired of hearing how you just can't seem to find time for yourself and "you are so lucky you are single, because you must have so much free time." 

Guess what?  I fill my schedule up, so that the loneliness of not having someone to share life with doesn't overwhelm me.  I also need the money!  Really though, can we stop making single people feel like they aren't good enough, or like they are being punished by God?  Can we stop lumping singles over the age of 30 in the same category as college students, and young professionals.  Can we start ministering to people where they are, in all walks of life?  Can we start teaching our kids that if they don't get married and become parents they are still worthy?  Can we change that conversation? 

Churches are pushing single people away.  Worth and value isn't determined by marriage or parenting.  Those roles aren't in everyone's stories.  Let's move towards communities that value people no matter what role they fill.  Let's move towards communities that minister to everyone where they are, and lead them into relationships with Jesus that transform them.  Let's move towards having pastors that have a heart for singles over 30, and have experienced it themselves.  Leaders that have been there, and know what it is like.  We don't have single, never-married people leading divorce-care do we?  Then why would you have married, never single leading a singles ministry.  I have seen it over and over again.  Or there is no ministry at all, or there was one, but it fizzled out because no one was willing to step up, or maybe we didn't let people step up when they wanted to. 

If I was a wife and a mom this issue wouldn't mean as much to me as it does right now. I know that, and I understand that some of you are going to read this and not understand what the big deal is because you maybe were never single.  Or you have forgotten what it was like when you were single longing for marriage/kids.   Because I'm in it, I'm living it, it means a whole heck of a lot to me.  I want to be heard, seen, and needed. I want to mean just as much to my church as someone that is married with 3 kids.  I want people to value me as a person, value my opinion, and value my service.  I don't just want to be an extra. 

I want that for my single friends too.  I want that for every person over the age of 30 that has ever been told that they should just find a husband/wife.  I want that for every person over the age of 30 that steps into church Sunday after Sunday and goes straight to the Kids' area because that is the only place they ever feel like they belong.  I want that for every person that goes to church and sits by themselves Sunday after Sunday without anyone ever saying a word to them.  I want that, for the church, because there is a place for everyone.  No matter what your marital status, or parenting status.  There is a place, because we are all a part of the community.  Let's change this culture.  Let's start seeing singles as more than a babysitting service for our kids, let's start making them part of our conversations.  Let's stop asking people after not seeing them for awhile if they are dating someone, like that is the end all be all.  Let's start figuring out how we can connect, how we can value singleness, just as much as we value marriage and parenting.  I'm afraid if we don't there's going to be a whole generation of people lost. 

Validation and Healing...

I would say that I have been on a solid journey of healing for about 3 years now.  The past 3 years have been filled with a lot of loss.  A lot of people that were once really important in my life, have walked away, or I have chosen to walk away from.  I don't like loss.  It is hard, it hurts, and it makes me feel like I am not enough.  But loss has to happen.  there are times when we have to say good-bye to people, jobs, even acquaintances that aren't impacting us in a positive way.  There has been a lot of that for me. 

Two years ago about this time actually I would begin one of the hardest journeys that I have ever taken.  It was my last year of teaching.  It was a journey that almost broke me.  I had things said to me that no teacher or human being should ever have said.  I let it change me.  I let it impact my view of self, and I let it steer me away from teaching.  It is interesting to me how God works and moves even in the midst of hurt and pain.  There was a point where I didn't think that my life was worth living.  There was a point in that journey where I felt like leaving the church, leaving my faith, and leaving this world.  Thankfully I didn't.  Thankfully I had good teammates, good friends, and good family that helped me. 

It has taken me the past year and a half to see that some of what happened was not because of me.  Some of what happened was because of other flawed humans.  I am not a perfect teacher, but I am a good one.  I love my students, I have high expectations for them, and I am worthy of being respected as that teacher.  Last night I was thankful to come full circle in my realization that maybe what happened wasn't necessarily about me.  Maybe it was actually not even supposed to happen like that, but because we are so self-focused, we don't always react the way we should.  I am not a parent, and I don't know what it is like to see my kid as perfect, but I know plenty of parents that think their kids never do anything wrong.  It is a sad world where we can't own up to what people tell us about our kids year after year.  But you know what?  That has nothing to do with me as a teacher.  It has taken me 2 years to realize this, but I finally realize it.  Even though it felt like a personal attack on me, the words that were said, and the actions that were taken against me, well they were more about that person than about me.  So I sit here thinking about this.  I also think about the parents that are the opposite.  The ones that see only the things that are wrong with their kids.  The ones that don't ever give a compliment, they just nag, nag, nag.  For instance my friend told me about her friend that is a parent.  Through the entire game that her child was playing, all the friend did was constantly  scream at her child everything that she was doing wrong. If we are constantly pointing out the flaws and trying to control the kids in our lives, stopping them from making every wrong decision, is this really teaching them?  Or just controlling them?   Now, like I said I am not trying to be an expert at parenting.  But I am an expert at someone that is hard enough on herself without needing to hear it every two seconds from everyone else. I honestly am a critique of myself without anyone else needing to be.   I kind of think we all are.  Especially in the social media age we live in.  Where we only see the perfect pics.  Kids have enough pressure, without us trying to control every decision they make, and aspect of their lives. 

Okay, so where am I going with this?  The past month has brought a lot of healing in my life.  People that I lost touch with, people that I on purpose lost touch with coming back into my life.  Things that were said or done to me, that others have apologized for.  Through all of it, I realize that  these last 3 years have been a journey of healing.  I still allow others to sometimes speak into my worth, but not near as much as I did three years ago.  I still struggle with singleness, but it is no longer the focus of what defines me.  I still struggle with loss, but I understand that sometimes people have to leave in order for healing and growth to happen. 

We don't always get to feel validated.  Sometimes it never happens.  Sometimes it takes a couple of years before we truly understand that the truths that other people see aren't necessarily the ones that God sees.  Sometimes in the quiet of going about our days, we realize that we are being transformed.  We realize that behind the hurt and pain there has been this beautiful bloom that has taken shape.  We realize that God has this amazing way of letting the bad change us for good. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Broken Heart

My heart is breaking day by day
Seeing the hate and mocking
Watching the way that we dismiss each other's stories
The way we put one gender on a pedestal over another

My heart is breaking day by day
Seeing the anger and violence
Not understanding why we don't open our eyes
We dismiss so easily the people that we don't agree with

My heart is breaking day by day
As I witness the hate against my fellow men and women
Hate because of differing political views
Hate because of differing skin color, and language

My heart is breaking day by day
As I search to understand how one side can claim Jesus,
yet be so hateful of the other side
I'm searching to understand, to grasp why it is okay to mock and put down
For my Jesus never did that

My Jesus wouldn't have been on that panel,
My Jesus wouldn't have laughed yesterday
My Jesus would have been for truth, real truth
Not one person against the other
My Jesus would be loving through the process

My heart is breaking day by day
I see people that don't want to love
They are satisfied with living their life in hate
I don't want to be a part of a group of people that only want to hate

That's not my belief
That's not who I am
I won't ever be for people that only want to judge, and diminish someone's story

My heart is breaking day by day
The pieces are crying out against all that tears them down
For I long to be a part of a world that is not broken
I long to be able to see a solution of unity, not division

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Two Sides to Every Story... Why I don't really care about your opinion....

A couple months ago I decided to stop posting political stuff because in my head I was like, "It's not really going to do any good."  Two months ago Tawnya was right.  We post and post, making comments, sometimes just reading the comments for fun... thinking that we are going to change someone's mind.  In reality most of the time when someone posts something, well at least in my case... I'm not actually interested in your opinion.  I know that is a crazy thing to say in this opinionated social media mixed-up world.  Most of the time when I post something, I genuinely believe in what I am posting, knowing full well that most of the people that I am "friends" with aren't going to agree with me. 

I'm completely fine when people don't agree with me.  In all reality when I stand before Jesus, the only person that I have to answer for is myself.  I am not going to answer for the President, or my next door neighbor, or even the person that posted the awful meme to my page that I don't even remotely agree with.  I don't account for any of those people.  I only account for myself.  Therefore you are allowed to think, and believe however you want. 

Here's the thing though, the minute you start name calling, degrading, or making fun of people for their opinion is the minute I lose all respect for you.  In my experience most of the people that are doing the name calling and degrading of others are the same people that claim to follow a God that loves everyone, and would NEVER stoop so low as to call someone a derogatory name based on their beliefs.  It is amazing to me how day after day I come across awful remarks that people have said to each other, and about one specific type of political party.  It amazes me how the same people preaching sacrificial love, are the  ones spewing hate for that same love. 

I'm not here to judge other people's lives, because honestly I have my own stuff that I need to deal with.  But I won't be party to people being rude, hateful, or derogatory.  Rape is never okay with me.  Hate is never okay with me. Making fun of someone that is disabled and using the R word is not okay with me.  These things aren't going to ever be okay with me.  But I know that not everyone sees these things as evil.  In fact a lot of people think that it is perfectly okay to rape someone when you are 17 because you are drunk, and never get held accountable for it.  Some people think that rape is just a part of life for women, and that every woman who cries "rape" is a liar.  Here's the thing, yes there are some women that have cried rape and it wasn't.  But you know what?  There are even more women that have been raped, and been too scared to tell anyone because they are afraid no one will believe them.  Better yet there are more women that have been raped, tried to tell someone and NO ONE believed them. 

But it is easier to just call the woman a liar, right?  It is easier to just believe the man, because after all men are the superior being, right?  It makes me sick to my stomach to think that there are girls out there being raped, molested, and abused that are too scared to go to their fathers, uncles, pastors because they are seeing what is going on in the news right now and questioning themselves.  Maybe they had been drinking, and he had been drinking, but she still said no, and he went ahead anyways and did what he wanted to do.  Then she turned on the news today, and saw where someone said that a 17 year old drunk male doesn't really know what he is doing, and therefore shouldn't be held accountable.  So, she stays quiet.  Because her Dad is on the church board, and has been a Republican his whole life, and she knows he won't understand.  She stays quiet because in her youth group last night the only thing people were talking about was what a liar this woman is and every woman for that matter, that rape if the girl is drunk means that she is partly to blame too because she got drunk in the first place.  So, she stays quiet, and doesn't  say a word.  Meanwhile the boy who raped her is sitting across from her in the same youth group.  He doesn't feel any remorse.  In fact he feels like he has just been given a green light.  It's okay what happened, because they were both drunk, and he didn't really know what he was doing.  He won't do it again.  Well at least not with her, next time it will be another girl, at another party, while his parents think he is at a friend's house studying for his upcoming exam. 

There are definitely two sides to every story.  The truth is that we hear the story that we want to hear.  We make excuses for those that we want to be in the right.  We put on blinders to those that we think are in the wrong.  In our society we automatically believe the white man first.  There is bias, whether you want to believe it or not.  We have grown up in such a way that our class and race does matter.  For me I want to take the time to understand the other side to the story.  Getting the facts, and looking them in the face.   When I have been able to see both sides without bias, and can make a decision based on that, then I have the right to voice my opinion against someone else's.  Meanwhile I really ought to keep my mouth shut. 

I also feel like there is this thing where people only comment when they have a problem with what you are posting.  Like oh.... I'm not going to like anything that you ever say, but how dare you post something that I don't agree with and then I am going to tell you that you are wrong.  Here's the thing....  get to know me.  Engage in conversation with me, and then we can talk about things.  But the minute you start just putting me down, and my opinions on something down without engaging in my life... well you aren't going to get very far.  You have a right to your opinion, but I also have the right to delete it, and not think about it again.  I listen more to people that actually take the time to get to know who I am as a person, not just pop in whenever they want to tell me that my opinion is wrong. 

This is why most of the time I am not going to care about your opinion, because most of the time when you are spouting off one insult after another you haven't take the time to actually do any research. Most of the time you are going off whatever little snipet you have just seen on social media that caught your eye.  The people I respect and want to engage in actual conversation with, are the ones that have actually taken the time to research and want to engage in a loving, kind way.. not just trying to make waves on FB. 

So, if you are still reading this, and you want to have an intelligent conversation about something that we disagree on, let me know... otherwise let's just keep doing what we do.... I won't interfere in your opinion and you don't interfere in mine. 

My Uncle and some other things....

I actually started this blog last month, and had to take a little break from it.  So here it is....

In August my Uncle passed away.  It was unexpected, and I still don't even know why it hit me as hard as it did, except for the fact that he was my last blood uncle left.  Also, my cousins (his kids) and I were only a year apart, one older than me and one younger than me.  Even though they moved to Michigan when we were all just kids, summer breaks, Christmas trips up to Michigan, and then later on Spring Break trips all made the distance not seem so far. 

Not every family is close, and probably there were years where I didn't really interact with him much at all or my cousins for that matter.   If FB and social media have been good for anything, it has helped in my opinion to bring people closer that live far apart.  FB allowed me a relationship with my Uncle that I wouldn't have had without it, I know that for sure.  Even though most of our interaction was based purely on politics, and him trying to rile me up by going against everything I agreed with, I am still super thankful for the interaction. 

This year my sisters and I along with my 2 cousins decided to have a cousin reunion.  The 5 of us make up the younger cousins on my Dad's side of the family.  We spent a lot of time together as kids.  As adults the time together has been defined by weddings, babies, and funerals.  Isn't that the case as we get older?  We don't take time out to just be with each other.  We only see each other on those special occasions. 

I'm so glad that we took the time to have our cousins reunion in Michigan this year.  I am even more glad that we took the time to go visit my Aunt and Uncle before our weekend adventure ended.  Those memories from that visit will be the ones that I hold deep in my heart.  Sitting at what used to be my Grandparent's table talking about various adventures.  Eating Little Caesar's pizza, and salad straight from the back deck and my Uncle's garden.  The moment when he wanted to start talking politics and my cousin told him we weren't doing that.  My only regret from that visit, is not getting a picture.  But here's the thing, I have the memory of his hug.  I have the memory of how he looked when he said good-bye.  Those things can't be caught in a picture.  The way his eyes lit up when he saw us, and we talked about old times. 

My Uncle was in a hunting accident about 23 years ago.  He fell out of a tree and became paralyzed from the waist down.  In the past 2 months I have learned a lot more about that accident than I ever knew before.  I was only in high school when he had the accident.  I didn't go up to Michigan to visit, my sisters and I stayed at home and another older cousin came to stay with us.  But I learned that my Uncle was only expected to live at the most another 10 years.  Most people that break their back don't live as long as he did.  Another thing I learned is that he never stopped helping people.  The reason he was loved by so many was because he was always wanting to help others.  He didn't know a stranger, and he was always willing to have anyone over at the drop of a hat.  He was an avid hunter and fisherman.  Probably one of the best.  Before my Grandparent's passed away he would come down to Missouri every hunting season.  I'm sure it wasn't an easy trip.  In fact it was probably pretty awful at times, but he made it anyways.  He made it because family and hunting were important to him.  He probably also did it, because my Grandma would wait on him hand and foot! 

My Uncle Randy could have given up on life.  He could have stopped hunting, and fishing.  He could have just sat around and let life pass him by.  In some ways I am sure he felt like he was doing that.  But to those of us looking in from the outside he wasn't at all the kind of man to just give up.  He kept going.  He did what he had to do to keep doing what he loved.  I am sure there were frustrating moments, you try not being able to walk for 20 plus years.  But you know what?  He never gave up.  I am sure as he was getting older it was harder and harder to be confined to a wheelchair.  I bet he would have given anything to get up and run around with his grandkids. 

We don't have any idea what tomorrow is going to bring.  We don't know where we are going to be or how long we have.  The best that we can do is make the most out of every second.  Our family and friends, don't always do things the way we wish they would.  In fact sometimes they do things quite opposite of what is expected.  But if I have learned anything at all from my Uncle, I have learned to never stop having adventures and doing the things that light up my life.  For me my greatest joys come from my faith, my friends, my family, and new adventures. 

In reflecting on the kind of man my Uncle was, I hope that I can take some of his adventure and compassion with me along the way.  I long to be a person that sees the good in everyone.  Someone that is able to help those around me, even when I have no energy left to be helpful.  I long to have faith that no matter what God is in control and has my BEST in mind. 

I hope this was a good tribute to him.  I know that I miss him like crazy, but I am so glad that I got to have him in my life for 37 years.  This world is a better place because of him.  Because of what he taught to others, what he gave the Missouri hunting community, and how he loved his family.  I'm thankful for an Uncle that showed me God's love and compassion for others.  May I always remember him, and what he brought to this world. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Loving the Life You Never Expected...

I'm at one of those crossroads that I often have where I am second guessing myself, my worth, and everything I've ever done with my life.  A Master's degree and I am working a job that doesn't even require a degree.  Sometimes it gets the best of me, the past two weeks have been one of those sometimes.  I have been feeling just so down on where I am at.  What I'm doing, and who I am impacting. 

Here's the thing.....  I know that my passion, what gets my heart going is not the work I am in right now.  My passion is teaching, kids, and being around them.  My passion is helping them to understand who they are, and what they are meant to be.  So, that makes me continue to question.  It makes me wonder how I got to this point.  How did I get so far in to a job that I am just willing to keep doing it because I need "a job." 

What does it mean to sacrifice?  What does it mean to let go of the toxic and just do what you need to do?  I have never not known what the next step was.  I have changed jobs a lot, yes.  But every time I have decided to switch jobs or careers I have had the next step lined up and knew exactly when and where my next check was coming from.  So, here I sit wondering if this time I need to just leap. 

It's not what I expected.  A few months ago I thought everything was lining up exactly the way I expected it to.  Apartment check, job check.  But the thing is that things don't always go as planned, right? 

I mean, heck I definitely thought by 37 I would be married and have kids.  So, do you press on in a place that is toxic and not allowing you to live life the way that you know you need to?  Or do you get out. 

I don't think that we were meant to be miserable.  I think that there is definitely things in our life that allow our heart to connect to those around us.  We have gifts and talents that we need to use.  Yes, we are called to be His hands and feet, but we aren't called to let others completely destroy us. 

So, here I am.  I'm leaving tomorrow to go celebrate the life of my Uncle.  It has been such a hard month.  He isn't commenting on any political posts that I share.  Everytime I share one, it breaks my heart a little more.  I miss his presence.  I miss his strength.  But mostly my heart breaks for my cousins and their kids because they lost such a huge piece of their everyday life. 

In this time of remembering I realize how lucky I am to even be able to go to a job.  I'm lucky that I can walk on two feet and go pretty much anywhere that I want to go.  Yet I continue to feel sorry for myself, put myself down, and seek fairness in a world that will never be fair. 

I'm going to love this life, no matter what happens next.  But I am also not going to just stay in a place that I don't feel wanted.  I am not into toxic relationships, or work environments.  So, I press on, knowing that this life, even if I don't expect it.... I will love it always! 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A week away from 37....

One week from today I will be at a Packers-Chiefs game ringing in the beginning of my 38th year.  Three years away from the BIG 40!  Yikes!  It seems crazy to think about how quickly life has flown by.  I will be celebrating my 20th year out of high school next June!  WHAT? 

I used to think people were crazy when they said that they didn't feel old.  Now I completely understand.  Despite the occasional achy joint, I don't feel like I am about to turn 40. 

I have thought a lot in the past few weeks about life, and what I want the next half of my life to look like.  I mean I would like to live till I'm 80, but the chances of that happening are pretty slim.  Just due to genetics, quality of life, and the fact that I put myself in crazy situations quite often!  Ha! 

The truth is that I have learned so much in the past 37 years, I have experienced so much, and I don't regret any of it!  I wish that things could be different in some ways, but I I'm also thankful for the experiences that have made me stronger....

I love lists and so I am creating two lists in honor of my 38th birthday.... 

My 37 most life changing events, and 37 things that I have been learning.... 

37 Life Changing Events/Memories  (in random order)

#1  My birth (ha!)

#2  The day I decided to follow Jesus

#3  Playing in our stock tank pool in our backyard in Mexico, MO

#4  Growing up with my two sisters, there are so many memories, I can't even describe them all

#5  The day I was baptized

#6  Deciding to take the job at Rawhide Ranch

#7 Stepping off the plane and onto California soil for the first time

#8  My first crush

#9  The first time a boy told me he liked me and meant it (if only I had known then, what I know now!) 

#10  My first kiss

#11  The first time I got rejected because I wasn't pretty enough

#12 Moving into Pulliam dorm at HLG (now HLGU)

#13  Summers at the pool in our neighborhood

#14  Spending time with cousins at Grandpa and Grandma's

#15  Driving to/from Michigan

#16 Deer Season (I still claim it was a holiday for our family, ha!)

#17  Hearing a missionary speak at camp for the first time

#18  Swimming in a pond for the first time

#19  Summers at Rawhide

#20  Getting my Master's degree

#21  My first roadtrip to Colorado

#22  Moving to Egypt

#23  The first time I felt threatened because of the color of my hair and skin

#24  Riding a camel up "Mt. Sinai." 

#25 Snorkeling in the Red Sea

#26  Seeing the Pyramids, and going inside them

#27  Seeing an Elephant walk down the street only 30 minutes after landing in Bangkok

#28  Teaching in Bangkok

#29  Visiting the Civil Rights Museum

#30  Going to The Crossing

#31  Learning Thai

#32  Living in Kuwait

#33  Seeing 12 year olds being used to earn money for their family through prostiution

#34  Moving back to the states

#35 Teaching at a private school

#37  Touring Anne Frank's House

37 Things I've Been Learning  (random order)

#1  Not everyone is going to like me (I keep re-learning this over and over!)

#2  God is bigger than my greatest fear.

#3  God's design for me is to love and show that love to the world.

#4  People don't always make us feel loved

#5  We are all just trying to make a difference in this world

#6  Friends aren't always there for our whole lives, some of them just need to be around for seasons

#7 It is okay to say no

#8  It is okay to cancel plans

#9  It is okay to not be perfect

#10  Loving people is the best way to give my life worth

#11  It's okay to have a sensitive empathetic heart

#12 Sometimes it isn't about being right or wrong, it is about listening

#13  Life is made up of small moments, that make a huge impact

#14  Sometimes you have to keep giving, even though you are getting nothing back in return

#15  People need handmade cards with quotes on them, it helps them feel encouraged

#16 Prayer works

#17  Perfection is not something that will ever be easily attained

#18  Hiking is sometimes the only way that I can have a quiet place to talk to God

#19  I will never be what everyone wants me  to be

#20  Sometimes it is okay to just do what I want, even if that means doing it alone

#21 My worth is not determined by the number of FB likes I get

#22  Solitude is worth a lot, taking time away in quiet needs to happen more

#23  God doesn't put people in my life by accident

#24 Some people are just meant to teach us something

#25  I need to put more time and effort into memories and people, not things

#26  Toxic people don't have to be a part of my life

#27  Boundaries are meant to help us grow and protect us

#28  It's okay to let someone go

#29  Time spent hearing other's stories is never a waste of time

#30 The more we understand about each other, the more we are going to be able to accomplish

#31  Not every Republican is racist, and not every Democrat agrees with abortion

#32  It is okay to sometimes say nothing at all

#33 Just because I have never been married and don't have kids, doesn't mean I am a failure at life

#34  There is evil in this world

#36  I was made for adventure

#37  My life is only lived well because I let love overflow out of me

I can't believe I am going to be 37!!!!