September 17, 2020No Comments

How I Finally Made Progress in My Writing

A year and a half ago, I sat in my office watching a masterclass. It was 8 pm, long past the time I should have gone home. But there I was, listening to an author named Emily P. Freeman talk about “How to be a Working Writer Without Losing Your Mind.” A friend forwarded me an email that I’d already received after signing up for the hope*writers email list, suggesting I check it out. I’d bought Emily’s latest book, The Next Right Thing, which many of the Christian authors I followed on social media were raving about. It was also a fun bonus that she lived in the town where I went to grad school. 

I’d been in the writing game for over a year and still felt like I was floundering without a sense of who to ask for guidance, or even what I should be asking. Most of my days were marked by frustration and anxiety as I thought about the future of my writing career. So when I read the title of the webinar, it hit on a need I felt day after day toiling away on my own. I joined at the prescribed time and took notes as Emily went through the slides. It was encouraging, but I was ready for the hard sell I knew was coming. 

I knew the tactics, having attended many-a free webinar that ended with a pitch for a product or service. It’s how I ended up in B-School, Marie Forleo’s online business course. Because I’d stalled in module 4 (of 6 total modules), I was hesitant to sign up for yet another program. Why would this one be any different? My heart raced as I listened to the pitch. They were offering bonuses! They had a writing path that I could follow! There was a community of writers to engage with and learn from! But I was reluctant to get caught up in the moment.

I didn’t want it to be yet another thing I bought and didn’t use. Who were these people, anyway? I’d read one of Emily’s books in college before stumbling across The Next Right Thing, but the other founders? They were unknown. How did I know these people were truly interested in helping me? Could I trust them? I wasn’t sure. I closed out Chrome and shut down my computer before the masterclass finished. It wouldn’t be the last time membership opened and they offered special bonuses. I was content to wait and see. 

Over the next few months, I got regular emails from hope*writers with encouragement and practical tips. Sure enough, in a few months, hope*writers opened again. After a steady stream of emails, I was still on the fence. How did I know that they were genuine when they said they wanted to help me? Having heard so many entrepreneurs swear that they wanted to help me, yes me, I was skeptical. 

And yet, I needed what they were offering. I needed the structure of a weekly event that would help me learn. I needed the community. I needed the wisdom of authors who had been in my exact shoes and could speak to the specifics of being a working writer. And so, with much trepidation and on the last night of enrollment, I gave them my money and I was in. 

In the year and a half since I joined, I have come to know in my bones that hope*writers is the real deal. Through the Mastermind program, an intensive cohort they offered for 2020, I have worked with the cofounders personally, and I can tell you that they absolutely care and they absolutely know what they’re talking about. Not only have I learned practical skills, but my mindset has also shifted, and I’ve come to love the reality of the writing life, instead of being frustrated when it doesn’t live up to my romanticized version. 

Hope*writers teaches you about the craft of writing, but also the business of getting your words out into the world. And it’s not about becoming a cartoon version of yourself, like a greasy used car salesman. They taught me that it’s about serving a specific reader. This has helped me slowly let go of my perfectionistic tendencies and get out of my head. I still experience internal resistance and the self-doubt that used to paralyze me. In that first webinar I watched, I wrote down a quote that has continued to guide me. Emily said, “You can’t get rid of the fear, but it doesn’t get to drive.” 

If you’re struggling to make progress in your writing or struggling to just get started, check out hope*writers, the most encouraging place for writers on the internet. Enrollment is open through Friday, September 18th. Click here to learn more and sign up.*

Not totally sold? Check out this teaching from Holly Gerth for a peek behind the curtain.


*I am an affiliate for hope*writers, which means that if you sign up, I get a commission at no cost to you. This is the only thing for which I am an affiliate, and that is because it has made such a difference in my writing life.

August 27, 20202 Comments

5 Practices for When Your Friends Leave

Friendships can feel tenuous at the best of times. Someone gets a job and moves within a month. Someone starts a dating relationship and disappears into the ether. When things change and friendships shift, it can be challenging to talk about that kind of loss. But if we don’t do the work of feeling our feelings and moving through the grief, it can negatively affect how willing we are to invest in our friendships moving forward. 

Now that things are particularly uncertain in every area of life, our feeling of tenuousness has only grown. Perhaps you’ve had friends who have moved back home, or are not seeing other humans, or found a quarantine bae. With so many things up in the air, it’s important to be honest with ourselves, our people, and God about how we’re feeling. 

In order to help you with that, here are five practices for when your friends leave. 

Write them a letter, but don’t send it

It can be helpful to express your unfiltered thoughts and feelings in order to move through them. However, not all of those feelings need to be expressed directly to the person in question. It can be helpful to get them all on paper and out of your head. Then you can sort through them, present them to God, and see them more clearly and objectively. 

Ask, "What story am I believing in this experience?"

Writing through our thoughts and feelings can also give us insight into the deeper stories we might be projecting onto our friends. Sometimes, the stories match the situation. Other times, we are letting old thought patterns prevent us from seeing the situation clearly and generously. If, for example, a friend is leaving in order to follow where God is leading them, but you feel they are abandoning you, that’s probably got some roots that are worth exploring. 

Write down what you will miss about having that person nearby. 

Even if you and your friend commit to staying in touch, there’s something about proximity that no amount of FaceTime calls can replace. Your friendship will look different, and that’s ok. But name the specific things you’ll miss about being able to see each other in real life on a regular basis. 

Think of a few friends you want to spend more time with

People move out, but people also tend to move in. Is there a new person at work or in your Bible Study group who you could grab coffee with? Is there a peripheral friend who you’ve always wanted to spend more time with, but haven’t yet gotten the chance? Make a list and send them each a text asking if they want to hang out. 

Establish new rituals you’re excited about

If you and that friend used to meet for a walk every Friday, give yourself something else to look forward to. Maybe you and another friend can have a picnic in the park on Sunday afternoons. Maybe you can start having themed movie nights or a game night with a couple of friends every Saturday. Maybe you still go for a walk on Friday, but you listen to your favorite podcast instead. 

Once you’ve processed through some of these hard feelings, consider reaching out to a trusted friend or counselor. Plan to spend some time praying and reflecting as well. The loss of a friendship is still a loss, even if we are not so good at honoring that fact. I hope that these five practices serve you well. 


I am not a mental health professional, so this advice is not a substitute for what a trained, certified counselor can offer. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, please reach out and get some help. 

August 14, 2020No Comments

What Is a Single Christian Creative?

Perhaps you’ve never heard the term “single Christian creative” before, so you’re not exactly sure if it describes you. Let me break it down.

Single- a whole human person who happens to not be married

Christian- a person who follows Jesus

Creative- a person who makes things

If each of those things is true for you, then you are a single Christian creative. 

Back in March, I decided to tag the word “creative” onto the label of who I write for. Writing for “single Christians” seemed to imply that I write about dating. You should know up front that I do not, though we need to talk about it as a church, and there are people who are talking about it well. 

Simply put, it felt disingenuous to write something I wasn’t living. Though I have thoughts about dating best practices, your girl doesn’t date much, and so those are not practices that I’m living out. Not that writing about something means you have to do that thing perfectly. I’m saying that’s not my lane, and it might not be yours either. 

Maybe you’re a single Christian who, like me, doesn’t date much, but is really connected with your calling. That is a fulfilling thing in your life, whereas thinking about dating can send you into an anxiety spiral about all the things that you aren’t doing. Perhaps every once in a while you meet someone you’re interested in, and you think, Oh, right, flirting... how does one do that? But otherwise, you aren’t actively dating. Though you have moments of longing and loneliness, you’re doing your own thing for now. 

“Single” isn’t really a word you gravitate toward as a primary identifier, but it is one fact among many that describes your reality. Perhaps you know there can be negative connotations to that word, and all that baggage does not feel like a good place to hang your hat. But saying you’re single can feel like defining your life by a relationship you do not have. And there is a frustration in that feeling of being externally defined  by the person you’re standing next to (a spouse) or the empty space (single). And so owning the part of ourselves that is single can feel like seeing ourselves as less than whole, because we experience that to be the perception. 

Sometimes, you just want to be a person. 

I started to use this phrasing because in my own struggles and joys as someone who is single, I wanted my life to be about more than my relationship status. And yet I couldn’t completely abandon the moniker, because I saw in my own life and the lives of my friends and podcast guests that our relationship status doesn’t just affect the romantic relational part of our lives. Just like marriage will affect the way a person makes decisions and what decisions are made, being single affects our decisions in the same way-how we spend our money and time, how we set boundaries on our work, what food we are able to buy, who we spend our time with. 

And so, there is this tension that we live with. We might not like identifying with the word “single,” and yet it affects our reality in both positive and challenging ways, including the way we are viewed and the way we view ourselves. 

It felt like, as a non-married person in the church, I was on some alternate path from the ideal one. Adding being a creative on top of that, there was a similar feeling of displacement. Maybe you’ve felt that too, particularly if you don’t create what would be deemed “Christian work,” like praise music or Christian nonfiction. Maybe you’ve given up on the church altogether. 

I found myself drawn to the intersection of these two experiences that can be particularly lonely, and filled with rejection and uncertainty, and it lit a fire in me. Because when I thought about the people I know, have worked with, and interviewed, I also saw promise and potential. 

I started to believe that, with a well timed yes, some support and specific guidance, single Christian creatives have the potential to radically impact the church, culture, and the world. Not necessarily by doing big, dramatic things, but by faithfully saying yes to the next small step in front of them. I started to see that the beliefs many of us have internalized about ourselves and our role in the church and the world is built on a faulty foundation--that there is one right relationship status for a Christian. And I started figuring out what it would take for a human person to live a full life as a single Christian creative. 

Because I believe that everything Jesus did was on purpose, and one of those things was not getting married. I believe that those of us who are single live out the Gospel in a deeply compelling way, because our sufficiency has to come from Christ. I believe that the church was intended to be a place where our differences are valued as an essential part of understanding the breadth of God’s love. I believe that those of us who are passionate about making things are living out of the image of our intrinsically creative God, whether what we make is overtly Christian or not. I believe that being single doesn’t mean waiting in the wings until we are un-single and are granted the privileges of belonging and credibility that the marriage status would afford us. I believe that, just because we experience a specific type of unmet longing does not mean that is all we experience. I believe God has filled our lives with meaning and purpose. I believe that we singles and creatives uniquely live out of the reality of the right-now and not-yet Kingdom. 

While walking my own path, I have experienced the challenges of both the single life and the creative life. I’ve felt the deep need for community, but I didn’t know how to create it. In fact, just thinking about creating it was exhausting because we don’t have a model of what that support system would even look like. Our experience is so normal, it’s hard to picture a better way. 

So, if you’re a single Christian creative, you’re in the right place. This space was made for you, and I look forward to continuing to serve you. 



If you’re a single Christian creative interested in moving from overwhelmed to empowered in your calling, check out The Creative Refresh, a six week group coaching program designed to help with just that alongside a group of collaborators. Enrollment is open August 11-18.

July 30, 2020No Comments

How Do We Rest in a Pandemic?

I came back to myself after an hour and a half of workflow. Though I had the intention of working on titling my new group coaching program for forty-five minutes at the most, I got sucked in. Surely the perfect title would emerge if I thought about it long enough. I’d been asking myself the same questions in the hopes that I would land somewhere that felt right. What do the single Christian creatives I serve need most from a coaching program? What words do I use to ensure that when they read them, they will know the program was designed for them? 

Long past the forty-five minute mark, I told myself, I’ll stop when I find those words. I’ll rest once I’m done

The habit of only taking a break once the task was done had only gotten more pronounced in quarantine. Perhaps this mindset is a hangover from farm life, when a project such as mowing a pasture had a definitive start and end. I’d climb onto the tractor with my noise canceling headphones and a Gatorade. Then I began to cut an increasingly shrinking rectangle of unruly grass. When there was no more rectangle, I would leave the tractor where I found it and walk back to the house. 

“Done” is less straightforward these days, when the finished project is by nature incapable of perfection. Words can always be rearranged to make the intent clearer. And for almost all projects, I get to decide when it is done. I get to determine what is good enough and what needs more work. The decision is subjective, rarely presenting a clear right or wrong. 

After coming up with two pages of potential titles with nary a satisfactory option, I looked up from my computer. I felt hunger and the tension of clenching my shoulders, neck and jaw. It was day 8 of my two week isolation in anticipation of a trip to North Carolina. There was nowhere to go and no one to see. It felt like all I had was the work. And Ramon, the decorative metal deer head that hangs in my living room. 

I rose from my workspace, a 29”x29” Ikea table I moved into my bedroom during week 17 of the pandemic. My 450 square foot apartment is railroad style--one long, narrow rectangle split into a living room/kitchen, and a bedroom. The two outdoor-facing windows are in the bedroom. After 17 weeks of working in my windowless cave of a living room, I finally succumbed to the “rearrange the furniture” stage of quarantine. It was one of my many weekend projects, which included purging my wardrobe, trying new cookie recipes, meal-prepping for the week, deep cleaning my apartment, reorganizing the cabinet that is my pantry, and rearranging all the books in my apartment into sub-niches (then alphabetically by the author’s last name). 

Though I increasingly felt the pull to take some time off, I couldn’t see the point. What would I do, sit around my apartment all day? Even if I were to plan some sort of trip, where would I go? Could I ask friends to go with me, though we hadn’t been quarantining together? And yet, I was becoming increasingly dependent on productivity to stave off the boredom and frustration of living through a pandemic in a tiny apartment. The beauty of this crutch laid in the fact that when one is self-employed and lives alone, the work is never done. There’s an endless list of tasks that nobody is going to do for you. 

In a sermon on Sabbath, Abe Cho said that taking time to intentionally not be productive trains our minds and hearts to trust that God will continue to move and act without us. He said that resting works the truth of God’s provision into our bones.

It’s easy to get caught up in self-importance and obsess over all my work. There’s part of me that believes that, if I just work a little harder, I will be able to guarantee the outcome I want all on my own. If I just finish the next thing, then the next thing, then the next thing without stopping, maybe I will finally reach that last line of grass to cut. 

In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown writes, “For a type A personality, it is not hard to push oneself hard… The real challenge for the person who thrives on challenges is not to work hard.” The more I sit in this chair and write words, the more I know this to be true. And yet, the how of it all wrankles. 

How do we build in habits of rest when so many of our leisure activities are no longer available? How do the achievers among us, particularly those of us who are not quarantined with a spouse and/or children, establish and maintain our workday boundaries? And how do we plan rest-filled times that honor vulnerable neighbors and loved ones while still caring for our own mental health? 

That day, as I plowed through planning work for my up-coming group coaching program, I forced myself to stand up and pace the length of my apartment while breathing deeply. It was my substitute for the walks through Central Park I used to take to break up the day. I thought about how lovely the beach would be, how good it would be to see my friend who was to pick me up in just six days, and the call I scheduled with another friend for later that day. 

After a few minutes, I grabbed my lunch from the fridge and sat back down at my desk. I took a bite of my salad and mulled over my list of potential names. With my head cleared, a quote from Anne Lamott rose to the surface of my thoughts. “Almost anything will work if you unplug it for a few minutes, even you.” 

I put down my fork and searched for the source of the quote, a TED talk she gave called “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.” Anne Lamott is about the only person who can use a title that vague and still get almost 6 million views, I thought ruefully. As I listened to her wisdom and her quintessential humor and lyricism, I knew what my people needed. They need a refresh--the intentional time to take a step back, reconnect with their why, and to learn new, sustainable creative practices. They could use a coach who has cleared the way for them and a group of companions to walk with. 

I texted a friend my top 5 titles, and she replied that “The Creative Refresh” was her favorite. I thought it could be better, but it was good enough. Though I felt the temptation to continue noodling with it, I moved on. I worked for another hour, then shut down my laptop and climbed out onto my fire ledge for my end-of-day activity--laying on a towel and listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Though there are no longer big signals that the work day is finished, like leaving my coworking space and getting on the subway, or meeting up with friends for drinks, this little ritual has been sufficient. 

As I put in my headphones, I made a mental note of what I learned that day. Sometimes, the most productive thing we can do is stop being productive.


If you are interested in learning more about "The Creative Refresh," click here!

July 15, 2020No Comments

10 Things that Kept Me [Relatively] Sane in Isolation

In preparation for my vacation to North Carolina, I spent 14 days in isolation. If you plan on traveling, odds are there will be a recommended quarantine on one end or the other. So, for those of you looking down the barrel of fourteen days of making friends with the inanimate objects in your apartment, here are ten things that can help keep you [relatively] sane. 

Rituals

It’s vital to give yourself stuff to look forward to. On Mondays, I have therapy (praise be). Tuesdays, an anti-racism class through Brownicity. Wednesdays are for virtual community group (bible study). Thursdays are the days of a million calls. Friday, virtual movie night with my pals from grad school. Saturdays, deep cleaning and puzzlin. Sundays church. It’s like giving yourself somewhere to go without actually going anywhere. I also sprinkled in check-in calls with friends and friends offered to deliver various treats to my door so we could say hi from a distance. Figure out what you look forward to and pick a day that thing can happen each week. 

Full Focus Planner

I am aggressively Type A, so this quarterly planner has been a God-send. It’s helped me focus and pull out of my frantic “I -must-do-everything-now” mindset. It orients goals for the quarter, week, and day to help you keep your long term goals in mind as you plan your days and weeks. Heads up, there are tutorials that teach you how to use this. Like 45 minutes worth. You better believe I watched every second and took notes. The advice I got from my pastor when I got my first Full Focus Planner: “Don’t worry about filling every page. Just start where it’s helpful and build from there.” 

One Minute Pause

This app by John Eldredge helped with my workday boundaries. I chose to deal with the emotional difficulties of fourteen days by myself like the Enneagram 3 that I am. I worked. So, to help keep a healthier perspective on my work and my worth, I started implementing one minute pauses, courtesy of this app. It’s one minute of guided prayer and soothing music to help reorient your focus toward God. If you’re a control freak (like me) who likes to bury yourself in work (also like me), adding in pauses will be a game changer. 

These Pens

My sister got me one of these pens for Christmas and I almost immediately used all the ink. They’re awesome. Nice and inky, extra fine point, fun colors, and a good amount of resistance on the page. Fellow writers, if you know, you know. 

The Next Right Thing

There is nothing I don’t love about this podcast. It’s short (8-12 minutes). Emily P. Freeman’s voice is calming AF. It’s thoughtful and gently challenging. It’s the deep breath I need every Tuesday. The premise of the podcast is to help adults make decisions, but she explores so much more! It's not just me, btw. The podcast has 3,700+ reviews and its rating is still five stars. Get you some EPF in your life.  

The Blue Book

I am stoked this is for real published now. Back when I got mine, you had to know someone who knew someone who could get you a copy. This daily devotional has been with me since college, and it’s been fun to pick up again. Each week focuses on a specific topic and takes you through an opening prayer, a Psalm, a Scripture passage, supplemental reading, and focused reflection and prayer time. In these days of self-determined structure and no social outings, I’ll take structure anywhere I can get it.

For those interested in a practice outside the Evangelical framework, I love The Book of Common Prayer. It has prayer for everything, liturgy for worship, and Psalms. 

Back Massager

Now that I’m not walking around outside, posture and movement are a constant struggle. This heated massager is saving my life (aka my back) from the stiffness of sitting at my desk and lounging on my sofa. Mine requires an outlet, but the product makes up for the inconvenience.

Puzzles

I initially started doing puzzles in quarantine as a relaxing alternative to staring at my phone. But, I am excessively competitive and have no one to compete with. Except Ramon, the metal, decorative deer head that hangs on my wall, but he doesn’t like puzzles. The puzzles became a way to compete with myself. How quickly can I put this one together? I have tried various strategies for organizing the pieces from the chaos of the box. Because nothing says fun like organization and time pressure.  

I'm very picky about my puzzles. I prefer 1000 pieces, and there needs to be a decent amount or color variation in the picture, or I'm likely to rage quit. The linked puzzle isn't one I've tried, but my mom sent me a similar one of the Harry Potter book covers, and it was a lot of fun.

Making a Big Deal

As absolutely nothing was happening to me during the day, and I couldn’t have any true adventures, I started a daily series on my Instagram stories called “Isolation Adventure.” If I got mail, or a friend dropped something off, or I got oat milk instead of ice cream in my grocery delivery, that was an adventure. Another fun way to do this is to make a big deal about things that you ordinarily wouldn’t notice. Make your bed? Clean your oven? Cook dinner? Finish a season of a new show? Pat yourself on the back and tell the world. 

Books

Y’all knew it was coming. Books are a lifeline when access to the outside world is limited. I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks each evening (Jim Dale is simply the best). I’ve also been making my way through The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground by Ryan Romeo, Called to Business by Dallas Willard, and Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Maybe you want to learn something new, or get lost in a magical world. Books can take you there. 

Above all, remember that it is temporary. Keep your eyes on the horizon. And get as many steps as you can. I believe in you.

July 9, 2020No Comments

The Hidden Problem of Singleness

“People don’t know what to do with me.” 

I was already scribbling notes with a fury when she said this. While interviewing Kat Harris, who also writes for singles, I asked about particular challenges she’s experienced as a single woman in her creative work. The line struck me because it was one that I’d written in the latest iteration of my book introduction months prior. It was also in a piece from Relevant called "Why Are So Many Single Women Leaving the Church?", which a friend sent my way.

In those repeated words, I felt a nudge, an invitation to lean in. And as I considered them, a new question floated to the surface.

I thought about what drove me to write those words. They came out of me as I thought about my experiences as a single woman in both the church and in the broader culture, both in the South and after moving to New York. And this was the phrase that summed up the implicit and explicit, direct and indirect messages I received about myself. As a single woman who does not actively date, an ambitious woman, and a celibate woman, I don’t fully fit anywhere. 

Whether in the South or the city, there is something about that space next to me, the space that a spouse would fill, that seems to make people uncomfortable. In my time writing about singleness, I have noticed a myriad of unnamed assumptions that exist between married people and single people—assumptions that are as varied as the humans who hold them. We assume that single life is miserable, and romantic love is the ultimate cure for that misery. We assume that singles are selfish and immature. We assume that sex is the best and only way to truly experience intimacy and satisfaction. We assume the church as no interest in helping singles in an authentic, humanizing way. We assume that marriage should be the ultimate goal for every Christian. We assume that someone who remains single is defective in some fundamental way, and their single state is exclusively their fault. And we assume that everybody is on the same page as we are. 

And so, as a single Christian woman who lives with both satisfaction and longing, I defy that logic. 

Whether I am at a bar or at church, I don’t fall into anyone’s bucket about who I should be as a woman. I am not a wife or a mother. I am not sexually active. I am not sad that I am single. I am not anti-marriage. I am not a threat to the institution of marriage. I am not a stumbling block for men. I am not particularly girly. I do not exist to make those around me comfortable at all costs. And people don’t know what to do with that. 

The problem of singleness is, I think, that we want it to be one thing. When in reality it is a million things. The “single experience” is as nuanced as the humans living it, and so to talk about one is to talk about the other. They cannot be separated. There are commonalities and there are particularized challenges that arise from not having a romantic life partner. And yet, it might shock many of our married counterparts—as well as some singles—that our lives are filled with meaning and joy as well. 

If we approach the “problem” of singleness as one that must be addressed by making all singles un-single as quickly as possible, we have missed the point. If our solution is that singles need to cut themselves off from the painful parts of singleness with the pat answer that “Jesus is enough,” we have also missed something. 

What if the solution is simple without also being reductive? What if the solution is that you don’t need to “do” anything with us? What if the solution is the difficult, everyday work of unity? 

The work of unity is not to make everybody the same, but to see our differences as an imperative part of a whole body of Christ. Could it be that the married majority of Christians have something to learn from me about following Jesus, a man who was, lest we forget, also single? How can we expect this growing population to be valued when the vast majority of people making decisions in the vast majority of churches have no concept of the complexities of our lives because they are married? How can we single women in particular be seen and valued when our lack of a husband can, at worst, render us an ostensible “threat” to married, male leaders? 

How can those of us gifted with leadership lead, and the teachers teach, and the preachers preach, when marriedness is equated with spiritual maturity and singleness with spiritual deficiency? And how can we even have an honest conversation about these things when so many cannot be honest about their own blinddspots? In her article for Christianity Today, Holly Stallcup writes, “Christians cannot begin to learn to show up for the single people among them until they learn to see.” 

My friends, we are thinking about this “problem” all wrong. Singleness is not the problem. The problem is the number of singles who feel undervalued, underrepresented, and invisible in the church. It is not a problem that can be addressed by quick fixes and easy answers. Trustworthiness and steadfastness take time to demonstrate and cultivate. And the solution starts with each of us. 

Since moving to New York, and now attending a church that is roughly 50% single, I’m seeing this in action, and I’m seeing the work it takes on both ends. I have a tendency to expect people to read my mind and know what I want; couples and families can have a tendency to be insular. But I am also seeing how deeply beneficial it is to the health of the body when it is done well. 

But there is still room for growth. We’re talking about a cultural shift, and those are never easy, particularly within an institution. But the good news about culture is that we get to make it. We each get to buy in and determine what the culture will be. We have the guidance of Scripture. We have the Holy Spirit working in and through us to extend grace to one another as we are collectively, communally transformed from one degree of glory to another. 

For the singles having their dating app profiles ogled over by married friends like they are something alien, the ones who ultimately leave the church because it is clearly communicated that they have no place in it, the ones who have not been able to name their particular struggles, and the ones who cannot see the joy, we have to do better. If we want to build a church freed from the crushing idolatry of marriage, we have to start seeing singles as those who have already been made whole in Christ, as essential members of the body who have valuable gifts to contribute to the work of the Kingdom of God. 

If we feel a compulsion to make assumptions about each other based on generic labels like “single” and “married,” let’s choose to be curious and compassionate instead. If we want to ask, “Why are you single,” let’s instead ask, “Will you tell me one thing that’s hard about your life right now, and one thing that’s great?” Let’s treat each other with the enormous value we have been given in Christ, and as those who bear the image of God. Let’s be the church, as it was intended to be. 

July 1, 2020No Comments

Nine Books by Singles that I Love

This blog contains affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission on purchases made through those links at no cost to you. Click here to read more.

If you’ve been around the blog or the podcast for a hot minute, you know I am all about promoting the work of singles. Whether they are singers, composers, poets, or multi-passionate, there are singles out there creating authentic, beautiful work. The following books were written by people who are single, and mostly fall into the Christian non-fiction genre. A few of these authors have gotten married since writing these books, but to the best of my knowledge, they were single while they were working on and publishing these books. 

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years- Donald Miller

Donald Miller has gotten married in the recent past, but most of his memoirs were written while he was single. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years remains one of my favorite books. His style is approachable, but well-crafted. In this book, he wonders what it would mean to live a good story. Miller currently writes and teaches about business and marketing at Building a Story Brand

The Very Good Gospel- Lisa Sharon Harper

Lisa Sharon Harper is a writer, speaker, activist, and artist. I listened to her first appearance on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast a few years ago and she blew my mind. In The Very Good Gospel, Harper writes about the Biblical concept of “shalom,” and how that might look at all levels. She recently finished recording the audiobook, and her manner of speaking is powerful, so that is a good option. 

Remember God- Annie F. Downs

Annie F. Downs is an author, a podcaster, a speaker, and a boss. Her most recent book, Remember God, asks the question, “Is God kind?” and follows Annie’s journey to find the answer. 

A Woman’s Place- Katelyn Beaty

Katelyn Beaty has written for outlets like The New York Times, Christianity Today, and The New Yorker. She is currently acquisitions editor for Brazos Press and before that she was the youngest and first female managing editor of Christianity Today. In this book, Beaty uses her journalistic chops to chronicle the role of work in the life of women from a Biblical and personal perspective. 

Just Mercy- Bryan Stevenson

Hopefully you’ve already heard of Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (the book and/or the film), and the Equal Justice Initiative. My introduction to Stevenson was watching a talk he gave at my church that had been recorded maybe a year prior. It completely wrecked me. After that, I got my hands on this book and y’all. It’s so good. Devastating, illuminating, and hopeful. Chapter 15 will stick with me until the day I die. Get yourself a copy and donate to EJI. 

Learning to Speak God from Scratch- Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is an author, speaker, teacher… well, suffice to say this guy wears a LOT of hats. His work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times. I’ve gotten to hear Jonathan speak a couple of times, and let me tell you. This dude is legit. He’s working on a new book right now and I can’t wait until he drops some details on it. Learning to Speak God from Scratch is a look into the spiritual words that are vanishing from everyday language and how that can prevent us from the common vocabulary we rely on to have spiritual conversations. The first part digs into the linguistics, and the second part is a series of small chapters in which he chooses a select number of spiritual words, and writes about what they mean to him. 

Traveling Mercies- Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott. She is just the best. She got married recently, but most of her body of work was done during her single years. It says a lot that she can be a NYT best seller with a vague subtitle like "Some Thoughts on Faith." Her style blends humor and wisdom in a way that is approachable and profound. 

Kindred- Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler wrote science fiction--really good sci-fi, like won a MacArthur genius grant for it good sci-fi. Kindred isn’t the alien or magic variety of sci-fi, but falls into the genre because of her use of time travel. Here’s the synopsis, “The visionary author’s masterpiece pulls us—along with her Black female hero—through time to face the horrors of slavery and explore the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.” 

The Wisdom of Sundays- Oprah

The legend that is Oprah (actress, talk show host, writer, speaker, teacher… if you don’t know who she is what rock have you been living under?) collected these stories and nuggets of wisdom from her Super Soul Sunday guests, and it has been fascinating to dig into. The book itself is gorgeous, but the text is made up of answers she's gotten from guests to the question, "What is spirituality to you?"

*Point of Clarification: While Oprah is not married, she does have a long-term partner, so many would not consider her "single."

What are your favorite works by single creatives? Leave a comment and let me know! 

June 17, 2020No Comments

Three Things New Creatives Need to Know

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On June 5th, I turned 30 and ye olde blog turned two.

Though two years is a relatively short period of time to have been doing this work, it also feels like an eternity. Upon hearing this, more travel-worn creatives will perhaps look at me like Derek Zoolander’s father did when, after a day of mining, Derek coughs delicately and says, “I think I’ve got the black lung, Pop.” His father replies, “You’ve been down in that mine for one day. Talk to me in thirty years!” 

I am learning that what has felt like a herculean effort (sometimes sisyphean, while we’re referencing Greek myths) is more like dipping my feet in the ocean. But above all, I know now that a learning mindset is crucial to longevity in this work. 

And so, in that spirit, here are the top three things I’ve learned in two years as a full-time professional creative. 

There is no secret. There is no hack. There is only the work. 

When I looked at successful creatives, the ones getting book deals and posting regularly for their 87 million followers and landing speaking gigs, I thought there was some secret they knew that I didn’t. And if I just discovered that secret, all of my problems would vanish. I thought there was a perfect system to create or a hack to learn that, once implemented, I would never have to touch again. 

In all of my wheel-spinning and bandwidth expending, I was taking time and energy away from the one thing that would actually help me make progress. The everyday, unglamorous work.

I didn’t realize that my frantic effort to find the perfect plan for guaranteed success was mostly procrastination from the work that was either boring or uncomfortable. It was a seemingly productive way to avoid the things that would actually help me build my business. 

A couple of tools that have helped with this mindset shift?

This work takes time, and that is a gift. 

I entered into my current creative work with the naive assumption that the book idea that started this whole thing would be out in the world by now. L to the O to the L. In the earliest days, I worked with a few great editors (shout out to Tiffany Owens, Stephanie Nicolopolis, and Ashley Hong) who helped that version of Unsuitable translate into a manuscript proposal. I have, from day one, felt that the premise of the work to be deeply important and timely. I even believed I had the ability to be the one to do that work. The third leg of the stool, as they say in the publishing world, “platform,” has always been my biggest issue. 

I used to become irritated at the necessity of having an audience who will likely buy the book. But now, I appreciate the time that Unsuitable has had to marinate and shift. And the time I’ve had to improve as a writer and refine my ideas. In the upcoming quarter, I plan to revisit that same manuscript proposal with the expectation that it will continue to change throughout the process. And all of that time and shifting means that it will be the best it can possibly be for the sake of those it’s designed to help. That is a gift. 

Some words that have helped here:

Self-sufficiency is a death-knell to creative work. 

Another coach of mine, Brian Dixon, says, “You can’t read your own label.” While there are things only we can do, we cannot and should not do everything. If you’re like me, it’s difficult to ask for help. I think this is true for many people, but for those of us who spend a significant amount of time alone (i.e. singles and creatives) it can get extra tricky. There is the issue of not having someone we feel entitled to ask for help, and the fear of being perceived as needy. 

But the fact is, whether we like it or not, we need other people. We need another perspective. We need help sharpening our ideas and our skills. It is risky and vulnerable, and we can take feedback with a grain of salt. But with those established, trust-filled relationships, the fruit of collaboration can be great. 

Some books that have been helpful here:

Here’s to two years. And here’s to many more. Thanks for sticking around. While you’re here, leave a comment and let me know what you’ve learned in the past year.

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June 11, 20204 Comments

The Unseen Work of Creativity

In years when the solstice was just so, we planted corn in our family garden on Easter Sunday. Though I started the day in boots, I was barefooted before long. I reveled in the loose, warm dirt, feeling my feet sink in and small clumps of soil crumble over top. The day or weekend prior, my father drove the tractor down the pasture to the rectangle of land. First, he went over it with an attachment that unearthed the weeds and grass, then another that formed the tilled dirt into rows. Then, it was time to plant. 

We went to the local hardware store with its paint-chipped exterior and plywood-patched floor, where a man my brother and I called Dr. Seuss took us back into the warehouse to scoop fertilizer-dusted pink corn kernels into a paper bag. He always showed us the new chicks, which were kept in a large, raised wooden box. He lifted the worn, hinged lid to reveal peeping, the red glow of the heat lamp, and a dozen or so chicks scampering around. 

Back on the farm, my dad divided up the tasks. One person would drop the corn at measured intervals directly in the center of the row. Too close to the edge, and the stalk would fall over as it grew. Too close together, the corn wouldn’t be able to flourish. The next person, usually me, would come behind, pushing the corn into the ground. The part of my finger at which I was supposed to stop changed as I grew each year. At first, it was my full index finger. Today, it would be to the second knuckle of that same finger. I then covered the hole and moved on. Then someone would come behind and water. 

In ensuing years, to increase efficiency and accuracy, my dad took a small plank and drove nails partially through at the allotted intervals. Instead of pushing the corn into the ground, we used this board to make the holes first. The tasks altered--one person to drop the seed in the hole, and another to come behind and cover the hole. And the watering. 

Every day, there was watering, a task shared between me and my brother. Some years, raccoons or deer got into the crop, necessitating various methods of deterrence. A scarecrow, a boom box with the radio turned on at night, an electric fence. In spite of the persistence of these pests, at the end of the summer we ended up with a harvest of corn. 

Not all the corn was ready at once. We walked the path each evening over the course of two to three weeks, a slotted orange bucket bouncing between me and my brother, and looked for ripe ears. We learned to spot a particular dark color in the dried silk tufting out of the top, and then to squeeze the top. If there was still plenty of space between the top of the ear and the top of the husk, it wasn’t ready. 

Once the orange bucket was full, my brother and I each grabbed a handle and walked it back to the house. We then sat down on the porch and shucked. Pulling the husk off was easy-a matter of peeling down the leaves and snapping off the excess stalk. The silk was a menace. Our parents taught us to rub the corn between our hands to get the silk off. No matter how much we tried, silk remained in the grooved rows. Then, we took the husks and tossed them over the fence to the grateful cows. 

We ate fresh corn on the cob all harvest, but cut the majority off the cob and froze it. And we enjoyed fresh corn that we grew all winter. With a combination of diligent, everyday work and the magic of nature, the fruits of our labor were abundant most years. And even more so, the years we spent going through the process, gave us first hand experience of what could go wrong. We saw stalks growing sideways out of a row, trying to orient itself toward the sun as it grew, then giving up, the ears thin and kernels barely peeking out of the cob. And we learned. 

The stakes were low. Farming has always been more of a hobby than a money-making venture for us. But there was room to experiment. What happened when we planted zucchini? Green beans? Tomatoes? My father would determine when to plant what, then we would wait and water and watch. 

Sitting in my one bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side, these days, I’m planting seeds of a different sort. The creative life seems to be a series of seeds planted, then seeing what grows. The investment of time and behind-the-scenes labor involved are not evident to many. I live alone, and so nobody, save me and Jesus, have an accurate sense of what I do all day. Still being new, I don’t have a sense of which seeds will grow and which will come out sideways and which will be gobbled up by raccoons, etc. But I think, like farming, there is the planting and the watering and weeding and doing all we can to provide the right environment for the growth to happen. 

But there is also the waiting. 

There is no glamour or romance in the waiting. Perhaps there is a bit of magic that I will understand better in ten years. But the practice of leaving space, the art of when and what and how much to water, the not-knowing-if-you're-chosing-best-until-you-choose ambiguity I live with--these are the unsung and unseen heroes of the creative life, the ones I didn’t imagine in my years of school dreaming about the great things I might do and be. 

When I think of the stakes that I put onto my creative life, I wonder what it would take for my overwrought brain to calm down. I wonder how to approach the process with the attitude of experimentation, like we did in the garden. I wonder at the mental shift it will take to answer the question “What would happen if…” with “Why don’t we try and see?” 

Perhaps for today, remembering is enough. Recognizing that, though there isn’t another human here to see my efforts, they are not in vain, whether I get the harvest I expect or my harvest ends up being a long list of what not to do. Remembering that no matter how I strategize and plan and prepare, there is no substitute for walking to the field, taking off my shoes, and dropping some seeds. And perhaps if I remember enough times, that truth will work its way into my bones, and the process will involve less frustration and fear, and more exploration and delight. Perhaps, with time, I will learn. 

May 27, 2020No Comments

10 Reminders for Single Christian Creatives

Around 3 pm every day, my resolve starts to fade. Focus and motivation evaporate and the cloying self-doubt begins to creep in. But I'm so sucked into it, I don't notice until it seems too late. I get so far into my head that it can feel like I can't climb back out.

The creative and single life are each lonely even at the best of times. Add a quarantine on top of that and it's straight up isolating. If the pressure to self-motivate and regulate is getting to you, take a moment to stop, stand up, stretch, and breathe. Take one of these reminders and use it to focus your restless thoughts. If you choose a scripture reference, try using it as a breathe prayer. Pray the first half of the verse on your inhale, and the second half on your exhale.

  1. "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” -Zechariah 4:10, NLT
  2. "There is nothing that you are presently doing that you did not have to learn." -Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr Stewart Townsend
  3. "And he said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest'" -Exodus 33:14, ESV
  4. "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." -Thomas A. Edison
  5. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" -Isaiah 30:21, NIV
  6. "B minus work can change people’s lives. Work you don’t produce at all does nothing in the world." Brooke Castillo
  7. "You are only free when you realize that you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high, the reward is great." -Maya Angelou
  8. "There is no secret. There is no hack. There is only the work." -MaryB. Safrit
  9. "If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time." -Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  10. "There is no losing. There is only winning and learning." -Doonam Kim

Communicator. Creator. Coach.

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