It was 2016. A sweltering July afternoon whisked by the windows of my family’s van. The heaviness in the air intensified every color: the grass a screaming green, the cloudy sky a pensive shade of blue-gray. Tiny groups of raindrops formed on the windshield while we bumped down a messily-paved country road. I tried hard to breathe easy. I glanced at my mom in the driver’s seat, wanting her to say something. Her hands gripped the steering wheel, her unreadable gaze straight ahead. “No need to worry already,” she advised. “We’re still three hours away.”
“I knowwwww.” I dragged the word out, hanging onto the anticipation in my stomach.
This day felt unreal. I was about to meet my boyfriend. What had started as a “hello” on social media in February had quickly grown into a cross-country friendship. Through drawn-out phone and Skype calls, I realized Brian was unlike any guy I knew. He was witty and hilarious, and planned to become a youth pastor. He asked me the most random questions about myself and actually cared about my answers. All the things that made me stand out awkwardly in high school were suddenly being accepted, welcomed, and enjoyed. I was finally comfortable with telling the whole truth about myself. We found out we were similar in many ways: we liked the same music, desired to be serious about our faith, and loved laughing about bizarre made-up scenarios.
I collected every detail he shared about himself, building a mental picture of his life: his character and friends, his house, his past. Every night I would talk to him on the phone, lying on my bed and staring at my ceiling. We would go on for two to three hours at a time, never running out of things to ask and tell. I began to feel like I knew him better than some of my classmates.
The night before his high school graduation, we made it official. We were ‘dating,’ although not at all in the traditional sense. We were exclusive; that’s what it meant to me. I was giddy.
My parents were understandably skeptical, which put up frustrating roadblocks. We wanted to meet before August, when we’d both be starting college. Earlier summer plans hadn’t worked, but finally we figured it out: we’d meet at Sonshine music festival, an almost-halfway point between our Illinois and South Dakota homes. The only catch? It would be a family affair for both of us.
I glanced at the backseat, where my two-year-old brother and preteen sister sat, engrossed in their own worlds. Samuel with a book, Rachel with her MP3 player. I was more thankful than I’d admit that they were coming. This was the strangest thing I’d ever done. An anxious heaviness was settling in my stomach. This was about to become a whole lot more real.
The drive felt agonizingly long, my mom and I taking turns at the wheel. Finally, around 5 pm, I pulled the van into our hotel parking lot. A wave of nervousness convinced me I’d throw up, even though Brian wouldn’t be there for another half hour. I shifted into park, chattering excitedly about how nervous I was.
We checked in to our hotel room and re-parked near a side door, which we propped open with a rock. We loaded our arms with luggage and ushered Samuel up the steps to our second-floor room.
Then. . . we waited. Every few minutes I texted Brian the same question. “Where are you?” Closer. Closer. I busied myself in the bathroom mirror. I flipped my head upside down and sprayed my curls with hair spray. I touched up my makeup, adding mascara and dabbing foundation over my pimples. This was a long-awaited moment. I wanted to look perfect. I adjusted my tank top, tugged on my jean shorts. Maybe I should change--
“Anna! I see him!” Rachel’s words shot through me, exploding in my head. I bolted out of the bathroom and looked out the window where she was pointing. Sure enough, a tan car was pulling into the lot. My first real-life glimpse of Brian. I stared long and hard at his dark features and bright blue shirt, then jumped up and down with Rachel, squealing and freaking out and laughing for the fun of it. Within a few long minutes, he texted me.
“We’re in the second-floor hallway.”
I fluttered around the room, forgetting to breathe while I wrestled on my sandals. I hesitantly poked my head out the door, looking down the long hallway. There they were, ten doors down. With every step down that loudly carpeted hallway, I concentrated on not tripping over my sandals.
Holy moly, this is actually happening.
“Hi!” I forced the word out as I walked.
He was just standing there with his mom. He gave a quick, stiff wave and a sideways smile. He was taller than I’d thought. His bright blue t-shirt stood out against his tanned skin.
“Hi.” “Hi.” The uncertain word filled the room, first from his mom, then him.
We were just feet apart.
And then, in the very moment I’d dreamed of and played out in my mind for months: maybe flowers? Maybe a well-spoken declaration of love?
Nope. A side hug: intercepted by his mom, standing too close.
“That was awkward,” This was the first sentence that left his lips in my presence.
All expectations of this prized moment drained out of my mind as my family approached behind me.
“Hi.” “Hi!” The uncertain word filled the hallway again as everyone introduced themselves. Nervous, choppy laughs. We stood in a cringe-worthy half-circle, no one knowing what to say. Comments about the drive, the hotel, the weather. Everyone focused on Samuel, of course, and Brian’s mom gave him a fist bump, followed by more forced laughter.
I kept glancing at Brian, standing right beside me. He was fully distracted by the trivial conversation between our mothers. We hadn’t even talked to each other yet! Plans were made to meet at a Culvers across the street, then head to the music festival. I walked back to the hotel room feeling like a trick had just been played on me. How in the world would we get through the next three days together?
Fast forward to today and, surprisingly enough, we’ve been dating for two and a half years and taken 14 additional trips to spend time together. Brian is moving to my town this May, and we’re planning to get married next year!
You’ll be relieved to hear that the awkwardness wore off throughout that first evening. We slowly started having fun together; laughing and talking just like on the phone. It’s hard to describe what it felt like to get to know someone I already knew a ton about. It’s like a layer of unfamiliarity had to wear off, but afterwards it was the most natural thing to be together.
To this day I cringe when someone asks how I met Brian. I’ve gotten a wide range of reactions to the whole ‘online dating’ thing. But through the many times I’ve told the story, I’ve realized this: it doesn’t matter so much how you meet your loved one, but what you do with the knowledge that they exist. People put so much emphasis on that one moment, but what builds a relationship is everything that happens after it.
For Brian and me, it meant that two very real people met on social media and have been learning how to serve and love each other ever since. Our story is unique and weird and loads of awkward: just like us. I honestly can’t believe I’m posting this on my blog for everyone to read. It’s not the love story I ever thought I’d have, but it’s mine, and I am incredibly thankful for it. God’s plan is always the best, even when it’s unexpected or just plain unbelievable.
Next week I’ll be posting about what it’s like to be in a long-distance relationship, because that’s been my life for the past 2 ½ years! There are so many good and hard aspects to it, and I have so much to share. You’ll also learn more about the middle part of our relationship: between the most awkward day of my life and today. . . so that’s a bonus! Thanks so much for reading and keeping up with my life! 😊
I’ve been told that any situation in my life can bring God glory: even the most painful things. His glory is also one of the Bible’s main themes. In every storyline, no matter how brutal or joyful, his fame is a goal.
So, does this make him selfish? I’ve confronted this question multiple times. On one hand, I love that I get to bring him glory, because he truly deserves it. I love him so dearly, and I know that I need him.
But sometimes the phrase rubs me the wrong way, just a little bit. Instead of being filled with joy at the idea, I sometimes feel. . . annoyed?
Here’s an example: lately, I’ve been reading the book of Ezekiel. I honestly expected to snore through its 48 chapters, but it’s quite an exciting read! So please don’t start snoring just yet.
This book focuses on judgment and restoration, yet God’s glory is woven throughout the entire thing.
Judgment for God’s glory?
In the first chunk, God proclaims judgments on his people (the Israelites) for turning away from him. They have disobeyed him horribly and turned to the world’s way. Because of that, they’ve already been attacked by another nation and brought into exile. It is here that God also declares things like famine, violence, destruction, and desolation on them.
And even in these terrifying words, God’s glory consistently shows up. “And you will know that I am the Lord.” This phrase, in some form, appears 50 times in the book! Even this pain will help them see God for who he is.
Blessing for God’s glory
After the judgment, God speaks of restoration and renewal. He says he will become his peoples’ shepherd: bringing them back into their land and caring tenderly for them. He promises prosperity, strength, and peace.
And once again, it’s 100% for his glory. These verses really surprised me:
Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. -Ezekiel 36:22
Not for their sake
It's not for their sake? At first glance, that seems to take away the beauty of these blessings. The people have already suffered so much. Why couldn’t God just restore them for their good, because he loved them? Dare I say, it did seem selfish. . .
A few years ago, I head a short piece on the radio about this issue. The speaker told us to imagine God looking down on us. He sees all our problems, longings, and mess, and he knows that he is the only solution to it all. He knows that nothing else can fill us: not even good things! We need him far more than we need money, friends, security, education, comfort, or anything! He is the loving Creator. He is all-knowing. And he is the ultimate good.
So, how and why would he point us to anything but himself? That would be a cruel trick, simply a dead end.
A kind decision
It reminds me of the phrase “for God’s glory and my good.” That’s the concept here: that letting our lives bring God glory is the best thing for us. And he lets us know it. He’s not the friend who will agree with anything you say or do. Instead, he’s the Father who knows you best and points you to what you really need. . . in this case, himself!
So, when he restored the Israelites, it was for his glory, yes. But it was also for their good, and because he loved them! It’s a beautiful picture when we can see the whole thing.
Let’s also remember that God deserves all glory. He has created everything in this beautiful universe. He has shown us endless grace in sending Jesus to die for us. He is all-powerful. Everything good in life is from him! We really can’t do or be anything on our own. We are simply vessels of his glory.
He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
Am I okay with that?
So the question becomes, “am I okay with that?” Am I okay with God allowing both pain and blessing into my life for his own glory? Can I see past my pride enough to believe that this really is the best way?
I was trying to process this earlier today and ended up making a list. I asked, “How has God shown me that ‘He is the Lord’ through the good and painful in my life?”
Naturally, I made ‘good’ and ‘painful’ columns, and the list really grew. I thought of the biggest things and the smallest things that have comprised my life and have pointed me to Christ. Here are some examples:
I encourage you to make a similar list. This exercise filled me with such thankfulness! God has been standing beside me in every situation saying, “And you will know that I am the Lord.” I’ve come to know his character and his greatness through every part of my life. And now I realize that it’s all been a blessing. “Painful” doesn’t always mean “bad.” And the good isn’t just for my enjoyment.
Ultimately, God is my only hope. I see nothing else that could fulfil me, and I praise him for that. He has sacrificed greatly to have a relationship with us, and I praise him for that. He is so far beyond me, yet he invites me into his presence daily, and I praise him for that. He gives me every breath and every day of life, and I praise him for that.
He deserves all the glory, and I cannot wait to grow older and see it displayed in even more of my life.
People are tired of being busy. We’ve been worn down by the “do-it-all” mentality and have experienced its negative effects. In response, the self-care movement has put itself forward: inspiring us to rest, take care of ourselves, and enjoy the little things in life.
Take care of yo’ self!
I really took hold of these ideas last summer. While working at a youth mission trip camp, I learned a lot about my limits. I realized I try to be self-sufficient and would rather work my tail off than ask for help. I learned very quickly that I had to rest: for my own good and for everyone else’s good!
The experience taught me a simple truth: Humans have limits. I think that’s partly why we need sleep, food, and water: these routines remind us that we aren’t self-sufficient! Taking care of ourselves is crucial, and we’ll talk more about that in a minute.
But I’ve also experienced the other side of self-care: the side that quickly becomes selfishness and laziness.
When I’ve practiced self-care in an unhealthy way, I’ve adopted a “me-first” mindset. And it makes sense, because the world is constantly telling us to indulge! We’re told to get a manicure, buy an over-priced coffee, or watch a season of Netflix, to escape our complicated, real lives for a few minutes. It’s easy to take things like these too far.
The anthem becomes “put your well-being above anyone else’s, because you deserve it, for goodness sakes!” There’s an overwhelming pull towards selfishness.
And I think that’s why Christians feel like they must resist self-care. In the fear of appearing lazy, we idolize busyness and effectiveness: even looking down on people who do take care of themselves. How many times have you heard someone laugh at the idea of sleeping enough or having an evening to themselves?
So, we see, there are two sides to self-care.
Why would a Christian do that?
All this information might feel overwhelming. You’re saying, “Great! One more thing for me to balance in my life.” I get it. But there is a healthy and Godly way to practice self-care, and I think it’s worth learning.
First, let’s review the “why.” Why do we need self-care? We have limits, but sometimes we try to become super-human: running about the world caring for others, doing our jobs, and serving God while ignoring basic needs and joys. That’s not a sustainable way to live or even to serve God, so we have to decide it’s not an option!
Even Jesus took care of himself. He rested, withdrew from the crowds, and most importantly, spent a lot of time in prayer.
Now, let’s establish the goal. There are a few things self-care should work towards: (1) a thriving relationship with God, (2) the capacity to serve others sustainably, and (3) our own physical health.
Jesus commands us to ‘love your neighbor as yourselves,’ which stems from the assumption that we do love and take care of ourselves! In obeying this, we are also showing love towards God. Self-care can work for the good of all three: God, others, and ourselves! This challenges the worldly anthem to simply do things for yourself and put yourself first.
It’s more about stewardship than indulgence.
How to actually do this thing
Now it’s time to make a self-care plan! This is where people will vary based on personality, season of life, and preferences, and that’s ok!
Start by thinking on this question: What do your soul and body need? Spending time with God (prayer + Bible reading) is our biggest need, so I’d encourage you to put that on your list first. Then, think of other healthy practices you need to prioritize. I prioritize getting 8 ½ hours of sleep, which may sound impossible, but I am seriously delirious the next day if I don’t. I also try my best to eat energizing meals and relax in some way in the evenings.
Additionally, think of small things that add both joy and rest to your days. Some of these things for me are reading, talking to my friends, doing creative stuff, and listening to podcasts. These small things present themselves as you go throughout a day. All we have to do is seize the opportunities!
So, that’s it! I’m glad to have learned about the many faces of self-care, and I hope this post hasn’t been too confusing. Honestly, no one will ever strike the perfect balance. Maybe some days you’ll be exhausted and busy and legitimately won’t have time for these practices. And maybe some days you’ll be able to rest and recharge for hours. That’s all okay! The most important thing is to follow God’s lead each day and seek his will and his rest wherever he takes us.
A few blog posts that helped me write this one :)
I hate driving on snowy and icy roads. That’s the popular opinion, I know, but I think I hate it more than the average Minnesotan.
Last week, I was confronted head on by this fear.
A giant snowstorm was predicted to hit the Midwest in the days after Christmas. Estimates of snowfall ranged between 12 and 17 inches, and, as you may know, the foreboding rumors only build on each other. The storm was expected to start on Wednesday and go through Friday morning. The kicker is, my boyfriend Brian was planning to take a rental car on an eleven-hour drive to my college town on Friday. I would then drive there, pick him up, and bring him to my house.
When I first heard about the storm, I knew I had to pray and try not to worry. I knew God was giving me a lesson in trust, no matter how much I didn’t want it. So I prayed, a lot. But I was still anxious: even in the days before the storm hit. While I usually would have loved to curl up with a book while it snowed, the fear of all this dangerous driving was driving me mad!
When the storm came on Wednesday, I realized the predictions were spot-on. All I could see out the window was whirling, blowing, falling snow, and the trees closest to the house. It felt like my house was trapped in a snow globe. . .It was actually really pretty. I tried not to worry.
Early on Friday morning, Brian started his drive. He had shared his location with me on Google maps, so I checked it many times throughout the day, along with the weather and road conditions. I was not having much fun waiting. I dreaded my little hour-long drive, too. I literally worried myself sick.
In the end, Brian claims there was only a short stretch of icy road on his drive, and my drive to pick him up was safe as well. I fell asleep at home that night exhausted and incredibly thankful. God was so gracious to keep us both safe. The whole thing got me thinking, though.
Why it all matters
The day before I found out about the snowstorm, I had journaled about how I wanted to trust God in 2019. This new year holds a lot of exciting changes: things like Brian moving cross-country to live in the same city as me for the first time ever, getting engaged, finding a summer job, and applying to a tough graduate school program.
These changes are all giant blessings that I’m thankful for, but they also require a lot of trust. My attitude towards life too often resembles white-knuckled driving in the snow, and I want that to change. In writing that journal entry, I tried to prepare to trust God in finances, relationships, my future schooling, friendships, and my career.
And the very next day, this storm gave me the perfect practice opportunity. It’s like God was saying, “you’re not going to wait until 2019 to put this into action.” Isn’t he great?!
Helping each other
Something I really love about Brian is that he’s awesome at trusting God and refusing worry. He simply looks at the facts, prays, and makes decisions. While I was brooding about the snow, he was carefully driving through it, actively depending on God. I’m not demeaning myself or saying that I don’t trust God at all, but Brian is a strong example in my life of how to do it better every day.
It’s great to have people in our lives who can encourage us and build us up! This is a huge part of God’s purpose in believers growing close (1 Thess. 5:11). I’d encourage you to look for inspiring qualities in your friends, and look for ways you can spur them on, too!
Trust: a recurring topic
So, this post is really just a reminder to trust God, from a girl who has a lot of trouble doing it. I was recently skimming through all my old posts and realized that I’ve written quite a few with the theme of trust. I guess it’s something God is constantly trying to teach me, and I hope it’s nudging you to the same end as well!
This year I’m planning to simply write about whatever he is teaching me through my life. Our God is bigger than any situation, worry, or plan, and he is always faithful. I’m going to try and trust him with it all.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!