Friday, January 17, 2014

Falling in Love… A Little Bit of My Story

I have seen several posts around Facebook and the blogging world regarding singleness, marriage, “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Married Before 23” and “A response to those 23 things by a married woman”, blah, blah, blah.

At 24, I’m a little over the age bracket, so if I didn’t accomplish everything on her list, then I guess I missed my window. And, I am also not married, so I guess I don’t qualify for that list either. Yet, the posts and comments after did inspire me to right my own response. However, I will not be criticizing or analyzing what other authors have said. I don't have the links here, but feel free to Google them if you're interested. 

Rather I will share my story. Why? Because if there is anything I have learned in my 24 unmarried years, it’s that our stories are formed by who we are, and you will understand my heart much better through my story than if I simply provide a bucket list or a counter critique. 

So this is part of my story, and maybe you can relate:

Being single at the age of 24 was never part of the plan. In my perfect world, I would have met someone in high school or college and received a wedding ring with my Bachelor’s degree. I grew up in a world of princesses and fairy tales, and I truly believed that one day my prince would come and sweep me off my feet, and that would be my happily ever after.

To be honest, sharing that, although I am sure most girls can relate, makes me feel a little dumb. It makes me feel like I lived in a dream world and needed a hard dose of reality. 

Which I did receive, by the way, pretty sure by the eighth grade when heart break first introduced itself.  

But something inside of me never gave up hoping and believing in love. After all, I witnessed friend after friend meet someone and fall in love and couldn’t help but wonder when it would be my turn.

Yet, as I watched friend after friend fall in love, I began to realize that my chances of getting married right after college was never going to be realized. That dream began to fade, and I would have to prepare myself for entering the real world alone. 

I remember realizing at some point during my time in college that I had two choices: I could sit around and wait for a man to enter my life and finally ask me on a date. I could even spend my time pursuing guys and making sure I was in the right places to be available. Or, I could embrace this time that I have as a single woman and do something else with my time. I didn’t want to be single. I wanted to be in love. But I made my choice.

 In the mean time, while I was waiting and hoping for love, I chose to live.

In high school, I caught the travel bug, and I have never been the same since. So I traveled… to Honduras, Peru, Seattle, New York City, Chicago, Dallas, the Philippines, Cambodia, and India.

And eventually, I did fall in love, but it wasn’t with a man. Rather, it was with the brown skin and dark eyes of Filipino children. It was with the bright saris and smiles of Indian women. It was over ice cream with a small handful of street children, and on a tuk tuk ride outside of a Buddhist temple. It was with a plate of deep dish pizza in a windy city, and a bus ride over the Brooklyn bridge.

And deep down, I think God knew that more than a love story with a man, this is what I needed. I have this burning desire to discover… to always discover something. Maybe that’s what comes with the territory of being an observer. I didn’t realize this about myself until this past year as my heart became filled more and more with the desire to explore.

I understand that for many people, travelling becomes more fun when you are married because you have a constant companion. I look forward to that one day.

But I think He knew that I needed to travel on my own. I needed to know that I can take care of myself. I needed to draw closer to Him, and there is no way I could have done that if I had been married.

If you are married, or you married young, that’s ok. And if you’re like me and still have your original name, that’s ok, too.

I’ve noticed in my own life when I spend too much time on Facebook or Pinterest looking at engagement pictures and someone else’s ideas for their wedding/home/baby/dinner then I start to feel discontented with who I am and the situation God has given me.

When I read these other blog posts about marriage and singleness, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the feelings of bitterness I felt in their words… bitterness over their position, someone else’s position, or someone else’s criticism. So often we forget that while we may not agree with someone’s opinion, it’s still her story. While I may not agree with what you say, I can disagree well and still respect your story, your life experiences.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be filled with bitterness. I want to be filled with joy. When a friend makes a commitment to a man for the rest of her life, I want to rejoice. And when my dear friend calls me with news that she is finally travelling to Africa, I rejoiced with her as well. Because when I am filled with joy over my own life, I can be filled with joy for someone else’s happiness.

At 21, 22, and 23, I was not ready for marriage. At 24, I still feel like I am not ready, and honestly, I am not sure if I will ever be, but that’s a blog post for another day.

I am so grateful though that I serve a God who knew, and still knows, the desire of my heart. Yet, He has given me the most precious gift in providing what I need, rather than what I want.

While I wanted to fall in love with a man, He knew my heart needed to learn unconditional love in a home full of children.

While I wanted to wear a white dress, He knew my heart needed time wrapped in a sari, feet covered in dirt, and a lot of days in jeans and t shirts before I could learn to be comfortable in my own skin.

While I wanted romantic kisses and moonlit strolls on the beach, He knew that my heart needed water from a fresh coconut, near-death experiences in jeepney rides, and little hands to hold.

While I wanted to dance to love songs, He knew I needed to teach a ballet class, and to fall in love with dance all over again.

While I wanted to have my own family, He knew I needed a bigger one that expanded two continents.  

While I wanted to give my heart to one man, He knew that I needed to learn my heart belongs to Him first.

Now there are days, and these days come more frequently than they used to, when I want to be in love and get married and begin a life of adventures with someone instead of by myself. Yet, there are so many days when I really love my life, and I love the position in which God has placed me.

I would not trade this life for anything. I have been learning contentment, to trust, to say yes even when it’s hard, to be grateful in all situations, and to be flexible, flexible, flexible.

So whether you are married or single, 19, 35, or 76, my prayer and my hope or you is that you will be able to say the same about your life… that you would not trade it for the world.

I think, therein rests the secret.

At 24, I can honestly say I am in love… with this life I have been given, and the God who knows the way to my heart. 

And that’s my story.