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I like to say that I am “as single as they come.” I am a 26-year-old woman who has never had a traditional Valentine, but I have always had a strong sense that this day was just as much for me as it was for the gushiest of lovebirds. So when the New Year comes and the reds and greens turn into reds and pinks in grocery store aisles, my heart swells with joy and excitement for Valentine’s Day.

I have showered the people in my life with loving letters, hearts, flowers, candy, and mixed CDs to show them their great value to me. This desire to see the people in my life happy and loved has led me to become a bit of a matchmaker in my adulthood- already pairing and marrying off several couples!

Needless to say, even as a perpetually single lady, I am a true romantic.

A quick Google search defines romance as: a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.

I have never needed a Valentine to feel that life is full of mystery and excitement! You could chalk it up to my personality, but I think this quality that I have possessed most of my life goes a little deeper.

At the core of my being, I have always felt like I deserved to be loved on a grandiose level- one that I did not think the world could offer. I imagined that the most romantic scenario would be if a man declared that he would rather die than live without me.

I know. That’s so dramatic, but I would venture to say that we all resonate with that sentiment on some level, which is probably why February 14th is such a sensitive day for so many out there.

And trust me, friends, I get it. Singleness is a struggle bus.

This past weekend, I got the most “likes” I’ve ever received on a Facebook status about my mom creating a Christian Mingle account for me. I let my friends know that if they somehow saw this profile online, that they would be actually falling in love with my 60 year-old-mother and not me.

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While I appreciate the hilarity of the whole situation and the desire that hundreds of people in my network have for me to find a special someone, there’s a major point that I don’t want people to miss this Valentine’s Day.

 

About a half hour before my mom took my love life into her own hands, we were having a classic mother-daughter heart-to-heart in which I admitted to her that lately I have been struggling with feeling alone. For me, this loneliness does not stem from my lack of a male counterpart, however; it is simply a side effect of the transient nature of my adult life.

So often, the world tells us, we tell each other, and we tell ourselves that romantic love from another person is the fix to the deep longing in our souls. I’m afraid that too often we use it as a Band-Aid so as to not go deeper into those vulnerable places, just as I attempted to with my mother. Although her motives were kind, she missed out on a great opportunity to go deeper with me.

Even in Church culture, romantic love can be distorted and idolized as something that will meet a great need inside of us.

A verse that deeply resonates with me is one that is so often stripped of its beauty in the face of romantic love.

Song of Solomon 3:4b says, “I found him whom my soul loves.”

Painted on pillows and calligraphy-penned posters, this verse is taken out of context and applied to the romantic notion that we are to be connected with one person who will perfectly complete us for all time.

And we are not wrong- but it’s not a husband or wife we should be looking to for wholeness.

It’s Jesus!

Growing up, I loved Valentine’s Day because I don’t think I ever actually had to fight for this giant notion of romance that I so desired. I never had to reconcile that deep longing for a sacrificial “I-JUST-CAN’T-LIVE-WITHOUT-YOU” type of love because it had been fulfilled all along!

I love love because I know love!

I always knew that God wanted my love enough that he would die before having to lose me forever. Jesus’ death on the cross is that romantic gesture that my heart has always longed for, because in one fell swoop, he claimed me as his own. Death stood in between us, but he was willing to go to battle so that we could be together forever.

Jesus would rather die than be without us! He is the most heroic love in the history of the world!

I have found the one whom my soul loves in Christ.

And when I truly know how loved I am, it is so easy to love the day dedicated to love.

Don’t miss that point this Valentine’s Day, friends! The most romantic day of the year is for you because the Gospel is for you! The Gospel is the most exciting and mysterious truth of this life! The Gospel is for everyone- single, dating, married.

To my single friends, please, take advantage of Valentine’s Day! Buy yourself some flowers and chocolate. Take in the sweet taste and aroma of love to remember how much sweeter the Lord’s love is for you.

To my lovebirds, when your single friends admit to feeling alone, to desiring a spouse, or worrying about finding someone compatible for them, please don’t shame them and don’t jump to signing them up for a dating website.

Preach the Gospel to them.

That’s the most romantic thing you could ever do.

Being Alone

I guess the question I have for myself today is: who really am I when everything is stripped away?

There’s the Sunday school answer, which is that I am a Child of God. But I’ve been flirting with the depths of my soul lately, and before I take the plunge, I think I’ve realized that I am afraid of finding out the true answer to that question. Because yes, I am God’s daughter, but who does He see me as?

My life consists of a lot of people in a lot of places, a handful of jobs, and a pretty constant schedule. When I have any free time for myself, I spend it watching TV and movies. Occasionally I will read and write and practice my ukulele, but not often enough. Recently I lingered on that thought: why do I spend too much of my free time watching another person’s story, something entertaining, or even just brain numbing shows? While I do like to laugh and be entertained, the answer finally occurred to me today.

I don’t want to be alone with myself. I don’t want to sit in my own thoughts for too long. You know how I know?

Because today, I took the afternoon off. I said to myself, “Bridget, you need rest and you need to not do work. No IV,  no subbing, no cleaning. Nothing social. Nada.” I haven’t given myself time like this in…I don’t know how long. So I got back from my lunch meeting and just lazed around for a couple hours. No big deal. I felt like being alone, but I scrolled through this and that feed, and put on some shows that kept me entertained. But there was this pressing voice in the back of my mind, “Bridget, what would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?” My answer: probably napping. “If you weren’t napping?” And I didn’t know what to answer. Everything I thought of was somehow work related. I feel like I can’t do things unless I’m useful to someone else or accomplishing something productive for myself. I am unable to let go and allow myself to just simply be.  I also don’t want to work on myself. I am afraid to take that plunge into the depths of my soul. So I watch TV. Because at least 45 minutes pass and I’ve learned a new story, or laughed a few laughs.

This is called coping.

I’m avoiding the pain that comes with the shame I feel about myself. I am awful to myself, guys. I have spent such a long time trying to be good enough that I still haven’t broken the habit of setting really high expectations for myself- expectations that I never meet.

So I’m writing this blog because I know this scary truth: I hate being alone with myself when everything else is stripped away. I’m not even allowing myself to do that now! I’m writing a blog instead! And while this is nice for processing, it’s still me avoiding solitude.

Something needs to happen. This is unhealthy. I’m toying with some ideas on how to say yes to the desert place, and aloneness with God. It seems scary.

But I’m brave. That’s something I do know about being a Child of the Most High King.

Prayers please?

I Know Nothing

2014 has been a really weird year.

I’d like to say that I’m glad there’s more of it left, but I am sort of ready for it to be over. I need to see New Life. (I sometimes capitalize things when I believe they come from God.)

This isn’t really a post about ministry, it’s a post about life. It’s just that as a person whose primary mode of living is to pour into others, love on people, listen well, and speak truth, I’m always running into the craziest stories.

People have crazy experiences. Ways they grew up, abuse, hard relationships, death in their families, etc.
A few years ago, if you had told me of all the tragedies I would witness/hear of, darkness I would encounter, and the burdens I would see people bearing, I would’ve run in the other direction.

The older I get, the less I am blinded to this world’s brokenness.

It’s just that 2014 had too much death. Too much violence. Too many struggles. Too much bad news. Not even on a personal level, it was just closer to home than ever before.

I have been a little worn down by all of it. Not because “woe is me, I’ve seen bad things,” but because I have little power to help. So many of my tears have been on behalf of others. I can’t even imagine what these people I love are feeling. I don’t know what to pray or say or do in the face of all of this loss and destruction.

And all the time, students open up their insides to me and I can do…nothing. I am helpless. I am small. I cannot heal or rescue, or save.

I am not God.

And sometimes He doesn’t even do those things in the way we ask Him to.

And I don’t know how to explain that. I don’t have any words of wisdom in the face of depression or injustice. And I won’t use clichés.

I know nothing.

But what I know I can do is just be there, pray, cry out, ask, question, seek, and gently share the Gospel. So, in my limitedness, in my inability to fix the brokenness and unfair things in this world, I will rely on a God who is bigger, whose ways are not my own, who I don’t understand, but I trust.

I guess I know do one thing, and one thing only.

Jesus is enough for me.

Meeting Great Needs

As I have been reflecting this month on my ministry, there’s one main reason that I think InterVarsity ministry is worth giving to.

Not because it pays my bills. That’s the last thing on my mind.

Not because it increases my time on campus. God is bigger than the time I give.

Not because I’m an amazing minister of the faith. I’m not always.

The main reason I believe any InterVarsity staff is worth giving to is because their presence meets great needs.

Think about what college students go through- a quick transition from child to adult, dependence to independence. They move away from home (whatever their home looks like) to being surrounded by peers. They are offered good and bad opportunities, and completely new ways of functioning and thinking. It’s culture shock. Other than from busy professors, college students don’t get a whole lot of attention and care on a weekly basis.

In my short 2+ years on staff, I have already faced students with an endless variety of backgrounds and baggage. Pressures to graduate and figure out their careers in just 4 years aren’t the only things students deal with. Some students come into college with depression or mental health issues, or develop them along the way. Sometimes, students are sent into emotional shock because they realize how different their past and upbringing was from others.

Not only do we want to see students become world changers, but we also want to cover them in love, run to Jesus for healing, and be a support system they wouldn’t have otherwise. The university is a great and wonderful place, but it is also a very dark culture, where people are lonely, hurt, and ashamed. The university is a place where people need Jesus.

And that’s what I do. I get to bring Jesus to the campus. I get to offer students the opportunity to spend some time with the Lord of lords. I get to offer healing, new life, and a genuine community. In InterVarsity, we don’t ignore the problems, issues, and fights that people are dealing with. We sit in them, we pray, and we strive to love each other sacrificially.

So when I ask for financial support, I am really asking people to invest in the lives of students, so that they won’t be alone, so that they will be loved. When you give to InterVarsity, you’re investing in healing, in lives being transformed, and ministry, much like Jesus sent his disciples out to do.

It’s worth every penny.

Last week, I wrote a blog about “tent-making.”

In it, I explained that right now I have to work some side jobs in order to pay my bills. I don’t get to do full-time ministry until I raise a full budget. While I was trying to communicate that, I think rather than my passion totally coming through, my weariness did instead.

Because I am weary.

Currently, I have been called to a life I never would have imagined for myself- and I mean that in the best way, and the truest way. I love working for InterVarsity (can you tell yet? Haha), but the thing about following Jesus is that sometimes you have to follow him to places that you didn’t imagine for yourself. I’m trying really hard to say that I don’t want to be here in Flagstaff. Because right now, I do. And honestly, it’s a beautiful place. Most of all though, it’s a place that needs Jesus. So I am happy to be here and bring the Kingdom of God near to people. And I’ve been learning to do that whether it’s with college students, children, my friends, or the elderly. I know that I carry God with me wherever I go and whatever I do, so I gladly go.

However, being in a relationship with Jesus is hard! Did anyone know that? I’m constantly battling between my own desires and saying yes to Jesus. He constantly teaches me so much about humility, his people, and myself. At the same time, I fight the weariness in my heart trying to be some kind of perfect adult.

So when I decided to do this fundraising month in October, I thought that if I could reach my goals, I would feel like a worthy adult. I had it in my mind that raising my deficit and getting to 85% would help me have control over my own fate.
But we all know that’s not true.
Jesus wants me to come to him and take his yoke and burden, for his is easy and light. He promises rest.

The problem is, I dance between running to Jesus and trying my hardest to be the best Bridget I can be, so that everyone will be proud of me, and if I am poor no one will blame me because I tried my hardest.

But God reminded me the other day that I do try my hardest. And that I am an adult. And that he loves me.

Just as I am.

Weary. Strong. A mess. All together.

He loves me.

And he’s also taking care of me. He’s keeping me safe. He’s teaching me, and opening up opportunities, and introducing me to new people all the time. He’s giving me little gifts here and there, and challenging me to rethink my perspective about myself and my life.

With all of that has come much freedom. So I want to say that when I finally realized I was weary, I felt free to admit it. Right now, I am weary. But God is good. And he wants to lift my burdens.

So, if by the end of October I have no deficit and I’m at 85%, I will know it was all God’s doing, not mine.

Right now in my life, I am a tent-maker.

No, I don’t literally make tents, but Paul did, as a side-job during his time as a missionary in Corinth.

At the beginning of my time with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the first summer that I was fundraising, my mother told me that maybe I was called to be a tent maker like Paul. She wasn’t making any claim about fundraising being unBiblical, she just thought that if I felt called to ministry, but was unable to raise a full-time budget, maybe that meant I was a tent-maker too.

And, I agree with her to a point. For the last 2 years, I have held one or more side jobs on top of doing part-time ministry. Those jobs include:
– working at a salad shop
– freelance writing (I always try to do this on the side)
– Substitute teaching
– working at a church nursery (but not going to church)
– scrubbing toilets at an old folk’s home

In fact, this morning, while squatting next to a toilet, I thought to myself, I am a tent-maker. Or toilet cleaner. Or a writer. Or a teacher. I work hard to pay my bills! Because like Paul says to Timothy in 1 Tim 6:8-“but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” I would be content to simply pay my bills and provide for myself, but I have a hard time doing just that!

I think the thing that people don’t understand about Paul’s tent-making is that he did it when it was good for his ministry. In Acts 18, he joined Aquila and Priscilla in tent-making because it was something they had in common. It was a way for him to provide for himself and have an “in” in Corinth. Paul’s #1 priority was always to share the Gospel. He wasn’t concerned about money. But he knew that unless he had provisions, he couldn’t travel new places where the Gospel hadn’t gone yet. So sometimes, he made goat-skin tents, and repaired them. And sometimes, churches sent him money when he couldn’t get it himself. The church in Philippi in particular, believed in him so much that they sent him sizable gifts to sustain his ministry.

So again, let’s talk about my tent-making. I currently sub at a Montessori school, ages infant-12 years old. Although it is an interesting learning experience (I’m glad I didn’t become a teacher like I had planned as a kid, I’m not cut out for it), in reality subbing is just glorified babysitting. Then, a couple times a week, I go over to an elderly care facility and clean their 4 bathrooms and all the floors in the house. Children and the elderly. Sometimes, we talk about Jesus (with both age groups, it’s fun). But really, while I tell the kids to do their work, or scrub poop stains off the bathroom floors, I think about the college students, and when I can get out of there and do the work that I LOVE and feel called to!

I need to make a disclaimer: I fully believe that some people are totally called to teaching and cleaning. And that they serve in ways that make this world work and run and it really helps. I have a lot more respect for teachers and cleaners now. I don’t think the teachers that I sub for are glorified babysitters, I just mean that when I am there, that is basically what they ask of me. And all this is not to say that God isn’t revealing so much of himself to me during this tent-making time. I just don’t want you to get me wrong. I think everything can be a calling and nothing is a more worthy a calling than anything else. It’s just that right now I’m not able to 100% live out my own calling.

I have said this a million times and I will say it again, I long to work for InterVarsity full-time. I long to have more time to meet with students, disciple them, start new things, and be out on campus sharing the Gospel. I long to gather stories of how God has been transforming the lives of students and renewing the college campus. And I do have some of those stories. But I could have more! I could invest my time in a way that I believe is more worthwhile for me than task managing children and cleaning bathrooms. Right now, the only benefit my “tent-making” has is helping me attempt to pay my bills (if I’m lucky- the work isn’t consistent enough). I don’t want to do jobs that I resent. I also don’t want to work 3+ jobs.

Will you help me? Will you help me make my schedule one that is fully committed to Gospel of Christ on campus? Will you help me invest my time in a way that feels like I am 100% living out the calling of Jesus in my life? Will you help me pay my bills, so I can be content in my necessities, and then run to campus to share Jesus?

Here is the link to give:
https://donate.intervarsity.org/donate#16484
I am looking for big one-time gifts, and monthly donations. Help me be funded by the new year! Help me be at 85% by October 31st!

Trust

I’m learning to exercise trust these days.

A lot of my issues, annoyances, frustrations, anxieties, and struggles come down to the fact that I have a hard time trusting God. Look at the world we live in! It tells you to fight for yourself, become something large. My western world holds independence up like a trophy. Grow up. Be an adult. Pay all your bills. Get a “real” job. Own all your own things. The list goes on, I’d rather not continue it.

Honestly, I don’t seek to have my ducks in a row for the world’s sake, but for my own. My mindset growing up made me believe I had to perform well in order to succeed. And that makes sense considering the school grading system and all. It’s just that, me thinking that I can build my own success or become something of value is a total lie. And a really bad goal.

It just means that I lack faith in my limitless Creator to be enough for me. When I strive to have everything together or make something happen, I am using my limited resources, power, and abilities. WHY? Why do I do that?! It causes me more stress. Striving=strife. 

I’ll give an example. Right now in life, I’m in an in-between place financially. I am still raising funds to do full-time ministry with InterVarsity, but I am being paid part time. And I do not have consistent supplemental income to pay the rest of my bills. Some days, I am FREAKING OUT. Like, scouring craigslist, applying for any job, telling myself that I will commit to things that I probably shouldn’t, just to make end’s meet. I think that I can make it work, figure it out, move things around… sell my soul to the devil? That surely will pay my student loans…

Strife.

The lack of trust that God has it all under control even seeps into parts of my life that I just wish it didn’t touch. Like when I start to distrust that God will work in the lives of my students. Well, that’s just rude! And it gets messy. 

When all my plans fail, I automatically revert to thinking that it means I too, am a failure. I believe that I don’t deserve good things. In my low moments I think that I don’t deserve people to support me. I think it means I must be a bad campus missionary. I must be a bad person. I must be totally failing at this adult thing. I don’t deserve anything good.

But, that’s whack.

I know what the Word says. The Spirit says the opposite of my broken, scarred psyche.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

So I’ve started to do a new thing: when I see myself getting anxious, I stop and say aloud, “God is good ALL THE TIME!” And ask God, simply to provide for me. Because, even though I sometimes put more trust in myself, I believe above all else that He is the biggest and best. And knowing that God wants to take care of me and provide for me, calms me down. So I also practice letting go of things I could easily get done on my own and hand them off to students. I take a risk in letting them do it their way, with perhaps a humble hand of guidance from me, but not a grip of distrust. And you know what? Beautiful things come out of it. My students come up with better ideas than mine! They grow in ways that they wouldn’t by just watching me. I learn things from them that I can’t learn on my own.

Wow. Trust does beautiful things.

I don’t have a good story—YET— about how God is providing in the most perfect way for my funding (and bills for that matter), but I’m going to keep trusting that He has not just provision for me, but a BLESSING. Because when I trust him with other things, I am really blessed to see them learn and grow closer to Jesus.

I guess right now I am trying to submit to him in all my ways. Because I like the sound of God making my paths straight! Don’t you? Sounds like freedom from this strife!