Why It’s Important to Push Each Other

It’s almost a year since I moved to this new city. Quite a crazy idea – moving during the school year when your head is definitely not in the game of making new friends and settling in somewhere. Well, sometimes work forces you to do crazy things.

A lot has happened in this almost year. 
I now know more than the way to work and the grocery store. I actually stumbled across some real beauty in my own neighborhood.
I have survived my first year of teaching and just started my second one. And I still like it. (Good because otherwise I might have a problem with my career choice…)
I have written a book which was launched two weeks ago. This is still a whirlwind of emotions and I’m enjoying every minute of this ride.

I have found people who support me.

Colleagues who have welcomed me in and made me feel part of the team. Some of them have already become friends.
Creative minds who cheered for me when I signed the book contract and encouraged me to be brave with my words.
Dear friends from near and far who have overwhelmed me with their pictures about the book, cheerful posts and warm words.
Faithful souls who have prayed and believed for me when I couldn’t.

There’s no material value in support, no visible product in the end. 
But our support can mean the world to someone else. 
A word of encouragement in tough times.
A hug.
A celebration for each other’s accomplishments.
An hour of your time.
It’s like the wind in our sails that pushes us forward on this ocean of life. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
And sorry for being absent these last few weeks. I had a book to launch… 🙂

On Relationships (From a Single’s Perspective)

We were out of bread, so I ran down to the store to get some. I walked past a large pile of flowers in all kinds of shapes and colors. I quickly wondered, “Why do they have so many flowers in the store in the middle of February?”

It instantly dawned on me.
It’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday. The day of happy couples, flower bouquets, over-prized dinners and jewellery gifts.
Why do you need a special day to celebrate love? I hope you show your love for your partner on the other 364 days as well, otherwise you might have a bigger problem than what color of flower to pick, but that’s a different conversation.

A day dreaded by so many singles around the world because it screams in their faces how alone they truly are and how much happier everyone else is simply because they found “The One”.

A day full of sadness and disappointment because another year has passed with unfulfilled desires and an aching heart. Maybe even a sense of failure because you haven’t managed to fulfill the ONE goal in life: to find a partner and start a family.

A day often accompanied by well-meant comments of married friends. Do the following phrases sound familiar to you?
“Being married is the best thing in the world – I really hope you’ll find someone soon.”
“I’m sure God has someone really special for you, just wait for him.”
“This waiting time prepares your character and heart for the person God has for you.”
“Just pray and wait and the Right One will show up.”
“Use your time well and prepare yourself, so you’ll be ready when Mr Right shows up.”
I am sure you have a ton more of these phrases. And if we met up for a couple of beers, you’d probably have even more stories of crushed hopes and dreams, of expectations and desires and failure.

Don’t get me wrong: I might be slightly sarcastic over here (this is just my nature), but I am perfectly acquainted with that ache for someone in my life.
Yes, I believe that marriage is a special bond and a pretty great invention.
Yes, I hope to be married someday.
Yes, I could imagine having a family.

But the older I get and the more relationships I have observed and friends I have counseled over the years, the more respect I have for this whole marriage thing. It is a damn hard piece of work, and romantic notions won’t get us anywhere but disillusionment. 
Obviously I can only speak from a girl’s perspective, but I am very interested in comments and additions! So here are my two cents on what is wrong with relationships in our (Christian) society today.

If you’re single you’re missing out.
In the last two years I have been to more than ten weddings. I have rejoiced with the happy couples and enjoyed being part of their journey. I am really glad they found each other. As I said, marriage is a good thing.
What often happens, though, is the ‘Great Disappearance’. Some couples just drop off the face of the earth as soon as they found each other. It’s impossible to meet up with a friend for coffee or plan something because “sorry, I am married now”. It’s a real challenge striking up a conversation which does not permanently involve the husband, the kids, the married life.
It’s as if they have moved on to a higher level, a better world, and left you behind here in this bleak, lonely, single world.

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Yes, there are things that can only be enjoyed in a relationship.
Yes, it is a blessing to have a special someone in your life who’ll be closer to you than any friend ever can.
But is it always better?

Of course I have lonely evenings and wish someone was there to comfort me.
Of course I enjoy great things in life and wish someone was there to share them with me.
Of course I’m afraid at times and wish someone was there to hear my unprocessed thoughts.

No matter how many days of loneliness there are, there are far more happy days.
Days when I am glad that it’s just me (and my roommate) in the apartment.
Days when I can sleep in because no one demands my time or attention.
Days when I can do whatever I want whenever I want because I don’t have to check with anyone.
Days when I can travel, move, be spontaneous because I don’t have to fight with anyone over space, money or time.
Being single offers you a lot of opportunities and you should seize them as long as you can.


If you’re single your life is on hold.

I have talked to many single (Christian) girls, read a lot of ‘dating books’ and sat in on quite a few ‘special youth meetings’ – you know the ones where they separate girls and boys for the night to talk about relationships, sex, and stuff.
I don’t know what the guys were told, but the message ringing in my ears from the girls’ meetings was: Save yourself for marriage. Obviously, this was mostly in the sexual context, but included a much larger message.
Life, real life, only starts in marriage, so don’t waste it beforehand. Everything will work itself out in marriage.

And you see, this is where the lie comes in. If real life starts only when you’re married – what is life then before marriage? Un-Life?
People living with this kind of understanding seem to put their life on hold because… marriage. They don’t invest in real intimate relationships because…marriage. They don’t practice honest communication because…marriage. They don’t take risks because…marriage.

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Yes, certain things can only be practiced in marriage. You can’t predict how you’ll act as soon as feelings dominate your behavior.
But don’t fool yourself: Your marriage won’t be easy from the start, I can guarantee you that. Your happy clappy dream bubble might burst pretty quickly, and if you’re not ready for that you’ll be left disillusioned and disappointed.
Marriage is a hard piece of work, including a lot of investment and communication skills. These skills don’t come naturally, just because you love someone. So why not use the time you’ve been given now to practice real communication, real investment, real relationships?
Your life is NOW, no matter your relationship status. Go and live it to the fullest.


If you’re single you’re not complete yet.

Along with the lie that singles need to put their lives on hold comes an even greater twist: You cannot live your life to the fullest as a single because you’re still waiting for that special someone. Just listen to love songs in the radio or girls talking.

He’s perfect for me. He has everything I ever wanted. He completes me.

And so girls write their lists of how their Mr Right should look and be like.
They wait and hope that he shows up soon.
They dream of a perfect future with a perfect marriage with a perfect someone.

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And so somehow this lie settles in our minds that we need that special someone to make us complete. That without him we are not perfect.
The more I think about it the more confused I am. Sunday after Sunday we sing “Jesus, you alone are enough for me” or “Lord, you’re all I need” in church. And yet when it comes to marriage we believe that we need something, or rather, someone else.
We believe in a God who created a perfect heaven and earth. And then he created man and called them perfect. Yes, there’s this thing called sin. But in Jesus we have the chance to be restored and healed. In Jesus we are perfect, pure, and holy. In Him, we are complete.

We can’t predict what life will bring. No list and prayer in the world can guarantee that Mr Right will show up. I for one don’t think there’s only this ONE person in the world who’s right for you, anyway, but that’s a different conversation. But you’ll never be truly content with yourself and your life, if you continue to believe that you’re not 100% you, no matter your relationship status.
You are made perfect and complete. The partner is just God’s surprise gift for you on top of everything.


If you’re single you’re doing something wrong.

These are probably the comments that annoy me the most. “What? You’re single? How’s that possible, such a pretty girl like you?”
Yes, really, how could I? Basically it’s my fault that I am (still) alone.
Maybe I need to go out more to meet more people.
Maybe I need to be more active in my search.
Maybe I need to ‘advertise’ myself more.
Maybe I need to work on myself more so that I am more attractive to others.
Maybe I need to pray more that God will already send Mr Right along.
Maybe I need to wait more intently and patiently.

Of course, you can’t expect anything to happen when you hide in a closet. And yes, sometimes you need to take some of the above steps.
But if we begin to understand that our value and life does not depend on whether or not we have a partner, we might finally start to relax a bit more.
Life is not just about finding a partner. If you’re single you’re not a failure.
Sometimes life is about living in the moment, enjoying what you have right now and learning as much as you can. Be grateful for what and who you have in your life.
If a great guy (or girl) comes along, then take a risk and embark on this adventure called marriage. And if not, then enjoy life to the fullest and discover the many treasures ahead of you.

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A quick note to our married friends
I am glad for the many people I have in my life who lead all different kinds of lifestyles. Singles, Couples, Families, Seniors…Life is so diverse and we can learn something from all kinds of people.
What can married people do to encourage their single friends?

Get out of your ‘Couple Bubble’ once in a while and see what life is like on the outside. It might be nice to spend a night out with the girls or have a guy’s thing sometimes. We value the time we can spend together, more than you know.

Talk to us. Don’t stay on the surface or on the ‘my boyfriend, my wife, my kids’ toys’ level. Share something about YOURSELF and show real interest in us. You might appreciate an adult friend and listener more than you’d expect.

Singleness is no disease and we don’t suffer from a permanent identity crisis. So don’t pity us or overwhelm us with rushed comments and assumptions.

As much as we singles enjoy spending time with your kids or observe your marriages we desire your interest in us. No, we are not left behind or not as good as you. We are just in a different phase of life and we have something to give. So invite us into your lives and be willing to learn from us.
Life is a big journey. Some of it we walk together, some we might have to walk alone. Let’s embrace the people and situations around us and discover the many surprises and treasures God has prepared for us.