Help us give a HUGE welcome to our first guest blogger today, Jennifer Redman. Jen is an amazing friend, a beautiful writer, and a lover of Jesus and people. Today, she encourages us to live life with abundance, even when it hasn’t turned out exactly as we planned. We love you Jen!
A letter to those tired of catching bouquets:
Do you ever think back on what your younger self envisioned for your life? Where you would be, what you would be doing, who you would be with, and most importantly, who you would be. For me, 29 looks very different than I imagined it would when I was 5. In fact, it looks a lot different than I imagined at 25. Any sisters out there feel me on this one?
At 5 years old when I thought about growing up I thought I would be a doctor and I would be married with babies by the time I was 25. I imagined a big Cinderella wedding gown with a bouquet of yellow flowers and dancing all night with the love of my life. At that point I thought it would be Chipper Jones or Leo DiCaprio. Things change. I learned I have no business dealing with anything involved in the math and science world and I started imagining Tim Tebow as the groom instead of Chipper, though I still have not out grown my crush on Leo. That one will live on forever, unlike Rose’s love for Jack in Titanic, because clearly there was room for two people on that door! But I digress.
Growing up I loved everything fairytale. Disney princesses were my life, and I would ask to watch Beauty and the Beast over and over again every single day only taking a break from it to watch Robin Hood or The Lion King. I wanted to be the girl who found the boy, fell in love, got married, had tons of babies and lived happily ever after. That was what we were supposed to do, right? Be the pretty girl who finds the handsome boy and that’s your life. Living most of my life in the South I learned very early on that it’s not just princess movies that can create this version of reality, but it was expected from most of Southern society. Reaching 25 as a single woman with no romantic partner on the horizon ignited more “oh bless her heart” expressions on people’s faces than statements of, “hey girl, you don’t need a man to define you!” Now, I must say, my parents never once were the “bless your heart” people. They were, are, and have always been the “baby girl, embrace your path, discover uncharted territory, let The Lord lead you, be kind, chase adventure, never ever settle, find yourself, hold your standards high, be fearless, be a force to be reckoned with, when you find the man for you that is great, but it is only on your and God’s timeline no one else’s” people. Not everyone is like my parents. Many people in the South expect you to marry your high school sweetheart or at the very least find your husband in college, get married after graduation and have a baby on the way before your third anniversary; and then of course name that baby after one if not two grandparents. There is not one single thing wrong with that version of life and love. However, that is not reality for every woman, and the women who find themselves knocking on 30 and are single are the ones I want to speak to today.
Maybe you are recently single, recently divorced, not so recently divorced, perhaps you lost your spouse and you now carry a hole that you fear will never be completely refilled, or maybe you have never had a relationship and you worry you never will or maybe you are terrified to put your heart out there because the idea of rejection is too great to bear. We all have our own stories, paths, heartaches and breaks. We all have scars that no amount of ice cream or concealer can fix. We all have expectations that people in our lives placed on us in the relationship department. We all just have “stuff.” I have been in love twice in my life. Once when I was young and once recently. Those two men are polar opposites in every single way, but both relationships taught me a lot about love and about life. The first love taught me that I have to stand up for myself, keep my standards high, never be afraid to embrace my inner strength, and know that settling should never be an option. The second love taught me that love can be as beautiful, gracious, kind, and life giving as I had always dreamed. It also taught me that sometimes stepping away from love is the hardest thing you will ever do, especially when that love is still alive and well, but you are trying your very best to follow what The Lord is whispering to you. It taught me that there are men in this world who are pure sunshine, grace, and strength, with kindness that is limitless. I do not claim to be an expert in this department, but I do have a message for those sisters of mine who are in the same season of life as me.
You are not alone. You are seen. You are worthy. You, my dear girl, are whole just as you are. You are a daughter of The King, and your life holds such a huge purpose. It is okay to want a relationship, to long for marriage, companionship, and children. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to be sick and tired of people telling you that “it is okay” and “God’s timing is perfect.” It is okay to wish you could stomp on all of the bouquets you have ever caught at a wedding because clearly they do not work. You are not alone in any of those emotions because I have felt every one of them. I have felt that inner rage that bubbles up as someone who is married complains to you about how annoying their husband is for leaving socks around the house when you would gladly celebrate socks being on the floor because that meant you had someone to come home to. I know the balance of celebrating the girls you love most in life on their special days feeling nothing but absolute joy for them, while you stuff down the slight tinge of pain and fear that you may never have that day. I have walked the road of your closet looking more and more like Katherine Heigel’s from 27 Dresses by the minute. I understand the moments when the clock strikes midnight as a new year is ushered in by kisses all around except for you standing there admiring your shoes until the moment passes. I know the feeling on the days that you just sit and cry your eyes out because you have no idea what else to do. I know the anxiety of first dates and the point you reach when you have lost all hope that it will even be fun, but you agree to go because he seems nice and you just want an excuse to dress up. I have been there. All of those scenarios I have experienced more than once.
So here’s my thought. If I have felt them, and you have felt them, that means there are more out there like us. More women who have had these feelings, are feeling them right now, and are dreading feeling them again. We are not alone. More than anything though, what I want to say to you is that is it okay to feel all of these things because these feelings do not define you. Your worth is not found in your relationship status or how you feel about that status. Your personhood is not dependent upon who you kissed on New Year’s or how many bridesmaid dresses you have purchased. Who you are with is not what defines you, you are defined by who you are. So who are you? Have you truly found yourself yet? Do you know the woman you are meant to be? If not, I would encourage you to focus on that journey. As the great philosopher of our time, Dolly Parton, once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Remember that The Lord has plans for your life and He is there for you. You can find yourself and your calling in Him. You are so much more than your relationship, your job, your role in your family or friend group. You are an individual filled with love, light, fire, and passion. Delve into those parts of yourself, refine them, strengthen them, and let them shine. There will be people who want to define you by your relationship status. That may not change. However, you do not have to let it get to you. Let that inner light shine so brightly that it is all people can see. Then if and when you do find that love meant for you, make sure their light is shining just as brightly as yours because, darling you deserve it. Take this time of your life and find what makes you happy, what allows you to give back to your community, who makes your laugh, who supports you, what challenges you, what excites you. Fill your life and your heart with those things and those people, and know that you are so very loved. That is who you are.
You can follow more of Jen’s journey on www.JenniferRedman.blogspot.com