December 29, 2020No Comments

20 Things I Learned in 2020

If you’re like me, this is the time of year when I generally reflect and look ahead to the coming year. Though 2020 has been abnormal, to put it mildly, some traditions help to steady the ship. Here are 20 things I learned in 2020. 

  1. Given the choice between doing it alone and inviting someone in, 8 times out of 10 it’s better to invite someone in. 
  2. Community is hard to maintain, especially when you can’t go places or do things. But it’s worth it
  3. I am terrible at resting, but rest is integral to success. 
  4. A pro mindset means embracing the need to pivot. 
  5. Time can be a gift, especially when I want things to happen instantly. 
  6. I’m really into planting metaphors. 
  7. I need to meet people where they are, not where I’d like them to be. 
  8. Saying no to more is not as scary as I thought. 
  9. Busy work is where my creativity goes to die. 
  10. Saying yes to the next small, faithful step adds up to real, sustainable progress. 
  11. Nothing is wasted. 
  12. Failure is just successfully learning what doesn’t work. 
  13. People can’t read my mind. I have to ask for what I need. 
  14. My needs are worth considering. 
  15. There is no secret. There is no hack. There is only the work. 
  16. Being single is both hard and great. 
  17. Empowering singles to see their intrinsic worth and step into what God is calling them to in their current context is the best job a person could have. 
  18. Some days you need to lay on the floor and feel sad, then watch Jeopardy and take a nap. 
  19. God is gentle and kind. Even when it’s hard for me to believe. 
  20. I need more accountability than I think I do. 

What did you learn this year? Drop a comment below and let me know! 

Thank you for continuing to walk with me this year. I have some exciting things in the pipeline for 2021. Join me email list below to stay up to date! 

October 29, 2020No Comments

7 Small Ways to Practice Asking for Help

I heard a story recently about an older woman who lived alone. She fell in the middle of the night and couldn’t get up. Instead of calling for help immediately, she waited for hours until she knew people would be awake. “She said that she didn’t want to bother anybody,” the story-teller said, shaking his head. 

Looking at it from the outside, it’s easy to think that is ridiculous. Surely anybody, not least of which the EMTs, would have been happy to come help. But as I sat and thought about it, I realized I understood. 

I thought about the time I drove myself to the hospital at 3 am with severe abdominal pain from an ovarian cyst. I thought about the time I moved my giant, temperamental dresser by myself. Sure, there are certain things I can do myself and things I genuinely want to learn how to do, hang a shelf using a toggle bolt for example. But there are also situations in which asking for help is the most reasonable thing we can do. 

It’s hard, though. To ask for help is to admit we need it, to let people peek behind the curtain of our self-sufficiency. It can feel like an intrusion, a bother, and it’s not fun to have to rely on others who might (let’s be real) not come through. 

I’ve found it helpful to give myself small opportunities to practice asking for help. As with anything, laying a foundation when things are semi-fine sets us up well for when things are very not fine. Not only that, but it has the potential to deepen trust between you and your friends.

To practice this in small ways, you can ask a friend to...

Hang onto your spare keys. 

You probably have a friend who is responsible enough to put your keys in a safe place in case you ever lock yourself out of your apartment. If this feels weird, you could offer to hang onto theirs as well. A bit of mutually assured destruction can go a long way. Or you could call it a mutually beneficial arrangement, depending on how you see the proverbial glass.  

Help you figure out how to hang a shelf, etc.

Choose a household activity that neither of you knows how to do and learn how to do it together. Whether it’s putting together an Ikea bookshelf or changing a tire, invite someone over, watch a YouTube video and get to work. You can always call in an expert if things go totally off the rails. 

Show you how to make [insert baking trend you saw on their Insta].

Odds are that you have a friend who learned to make babka or sourdough during quarantine. Invite them over and ask them to show you their expert secrets. This also gives you someone to share the delicious treat with, because the quarantine fifteen is real. 

Use their washer/dryer while you watch their kids.  

Ok, maybe this isn’t the best trade-off. I rarely babysit, but they presumably nap at some point or have homework or something during which you could do your laundry. Mayhaps you live in an apartment that has a washer and dryer in unit and you don’t have to pay $5 in quarters to use the triple loader. It doesn’t have to be laundry, it could be their dope kitchen or piano or spare room. That might feel like a big ask, hence the trade-off of watching the children.  

Pick up something you forgot at the store. 

I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the store and actually made it out with everything I need. Even if I use a list. Chances are you have a friend going to the store in the near future who would be willing to snag that thing for you. And because Venmo is a thing, it’s really just a matter of picking that thing up and hitting a button to reimburse them. 

Give you a hug. 

If you’re like me, this whole isolation thing that’s been going on for the past seven months has meant some serious touch depravity. I’m not even a hugger, going ten weeks straight without touching another person is enough to mess anyone up. Be safe, wear your mask, and all that jazz. But every once in a while, as you are both comfortable, ask a friend if they’d be willing to exchange a hug. 

Help you plan your next celebration. 

Whether it’s a birthday, a lease signing, a promotion, or whatever, ask a friend to help you mark the moment. It can be as big or small as seems reasonable to you. You could meet up for ice cream and go for a walk, or you could plan to meet a group of friends at a local bar, or you could all attend a live event (assuming that is a thing we will be able to do in the near future). 

Don’t do all of these things at once. Mayhaps just start with one thing per week or month. You might get some rejections, but you will probably get some positive responses as well. 

Try it and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below!

October 21, 2020No Comments

Internal vs. External Pressure–and the One Question that Reframes It

In my time auditioning for musicals and operas as a professional singer, I got exactly one call back. Auditioning success, as with much creative work, is a combination of the practice of resiliency, a numbers game, knowing people, and what can feel like dumb luck. And also, being in the union. 

The audition in question was for a production of The Phantom of the Opera, but not the Lloyd Webber version. It was one of the few open calls I attended that actually heard non-union singers. I arrived just thirty minutes after 8 AM, the time at which we could sign up. 

I was number 186. There were exactly two female roles available. 

We were told to arrive back at 10 AM for typing. Typing is a fun thing where auditioners walk into a room, ten at a time in this case. The casting director had a stack of our headshots with performance resumes glued to the back in the same order as our line. He looked down at our resume, up at us, down at our resume, and placed it in one pile or another. After he made his way through the ten of us, he read off the names in one pile and instructed those who made the cut to see the assistant for our time slot. 

I was in the favorable pile, which meant I got to come back and sing. Sixteen bless-ed bars of carefully selected music to demonstrate that my abilities lined up with their casting need. A few hours later, I walked back into the building and took the elevator to the crowded floor that held auditioners and “the room where it happens,” if you will. At the appointed time, I entered the studio, handed my music to the pianist, and exchanged pleasant banter with the director. I sang my thirty seconds of music, hitting the final high note with dramatic flair. He asked me to pick up particular copies of the script and music. I’d be coming back in a week to sing and read for Carlotta. Sure, I was too young to play the aging diva, but I would be considered for her understudy and the ensemble. 

My parents visited that week, a trip that had been planned around the Hamilton tickets we purchased ten months prior. And yet, I needed to prepare. This felt like my shot. I scheduled a vocal coaching session and a private acting coaching. I wanted to have the piece and my lines memorized. So, while I was able to hang out with them a bit, I spent most of their trip running around the city and rehearsing (read: fretting) in my apartment. 

In the end, I didn’t get the role. I didn’t even get a follow-up email letting me know I hadn’t gotten the role until I reached out months later. 

Throughout the day of the initial audition, I remained relatively calm. I had no expectation of even being heard. Every step of the way, I was surprised I made it to the next step. The week between that day and the callback, however, I was riddled with anxiety, crippled by the amount of pressure I felt. 

There was the external pressure of being in such a competitive field with people who were just as (or more) talented than I was. But most of what I experienced was internal pressure, that is, the significance and meaning I attributed to the situation. This audition had a certain amount of weight, but the pressure I put on myself as a human person in that situation was a whole other hill of beans. 

Maybe you’ve never been to a callback, but maybe you know the feeling. The moments before your first date with someone from your friend group. A big review meeting at work for a mistake you made. A difficult conversation with family after the election. We want it to go well--not just well, but perfectly (as we define “perfect”). The anxiety is normal, and I think it can be a message to us that we care about the situation. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be afraid of what might go wrong. 

When my ability to adequately prepare or even be open to what might go right is impaired by internal pressure, I have learned to ask myself this one question. 

What is at stake here and why do the stakes feel so big? 

This question helps me see what is in my control and what isn’t. It also helps me honor the message that my anxiety is sending me--that I am in danger--and also move through that information. It was not realistic for me to hope to completely banish my nerves about the callback. But it was helpful to be able to put it into perspective. 

What was at stake? A professional opportunity that meant spending January in Wisconsin. Why did they feel so big? I had been in NYC for ten months and this was my first callback, so it felt like this one audition had the potential to legitimize my decision to move to the city. Did this audition actually hold that level of significance? Probably not, but I believed that it did. Framing this one audition in those terms couldn't possibly help me achieve my goal.

Naming the particular weight we put on a pressurized situation can help us reframe it. What seems like a make-it-or-break-it moment can become just one more step on a long path.

What do you think? When was the last time you had to move through a pressurized situation? What was at stake? 

October 1, 2020No Comments

3 Tips for Living Engaged in Overwhelming Times

It is an overwhelming time to be a person. Wildfires, persistent and systemic racial injustice, a pandemic, the upcoming election. On top of the psychological and emotional taxation of these realities, we have our own personal lives to live. We continue to work or look for work, live in prolonged isolation, cook and clean and move our bodies, engage with loved ones who see the external crises from a confusing, or even hurtful, perspective. 

It’s a lot. 

While we might feel pressure to take dramatic action in reaction to each crisis, we are overwhelmed by a deep understanding of our limitations. Instead of focusing on intense spurts of reactive effort, we can think about steady, sustainable engagement that can build over time. Spending the bulk of our bandwidth on the former leads to burn out. But the latter creates a foundation to draw from when the crises happen. We are able to commit with integrity and a long-term perspective. 

If you earnestly desire to live an engaged life, but don’t know where to start, here are three tips. 

Start with one or two.

This doesn’t mean you only care about one or two things, and this doesn’t mean that you put on blinders to everything else. But if you want to be an active participant in the restoration of our world, it’s helpful to start by looking around and paying attention. It can be easier to rant on social media than to engage with the person experiencing homelessness you pass by on the street every day or attend a town council meeting. We have all been sent to particular places among particular people with particular gifting. Start where you are. 

Start small. 

Don’t make your one thing “singlehandedly reform the infrastructure of Manhattan.” When I started working as a writer, I had the dream of publishing a best-selling book. I still have that dream, but my first step wasn’t to sit down and write 50,000 words to put into the hands of the masses. My first step was to start having conversations with people about my idea. This helped me learn and gave me a better idea of the stepping stones to getting the book into the world. Consider, instead, a couple of small habits you can implement daily, weekly, or monthly that will build on each other. 

Invite someone along. 

This is the secret sauce. Just because you don’t have a built-in partner does not mean you have to do the thing alone. And, even if you were married, that wouldn’t guarantee that your spouse would have the same goals and passions as you. Maybe you know someone who is also an initiative taker who would be interested in exploring where they might be called to engage. Ask them if they would be interested in joining you in your one small thing. 

We don’t have to do a whole big thing and we don’t have to wait. Let's start where we are with what we have. Let's take small faithful steps toward that thing. And then let's build from there.

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. 


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.


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. 


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 blindspots? 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. 

Communicator. Creator. Coach.

© 2020 Mary B Safrit LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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