Which Path Are You On?

A version of this appeared on Velvet Ashes last week as we explored the theme of expectations. It was titled Are You On The Path to Life or Death of Your Heart? A question to ask ourselves every now and again.

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Can we just dive in?

You know when you’re chatting with a friend and out of nowhere apparent a question is tossed out by one of you and w-h-o-o-s-h you’re off on a life giving talk about something significant. I think we’re there. We’re the kind of friends that talk about everything under the sun. So let’s dive in to expectations when it comes to singleness and marriage.

I have shared before I expected to get married at 27. I didn’t expect (or really want) to be a go-to person on singleness or the cautionary tale. While I said from a young age I’d be okay not being a mom, deep in the recesses of my being I assumed I would be … because that’s how many stories play out.

Many.

Not all.

Turns out, not mine.

If you signed up for the Velvet Ashes Retreat last weekend  you watched a recording made from the Velvet Ashes Live event in early February.  It was on the topic of expectations and release.  In the feedback, it was clear that, of course, what single ladies struggle with is the expectation to have a husband.

One of the tender, complicated areas for singles on the field is this tension between wanting to be faithful to the call, yet wondering if / how it conflicts with the potential to be married.

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We will return to that in a moment, but as conversations go, you know how something pops into your mind? As I’ve been thinking of how our expectations around marriage are formed when it comes to

  • who gets married and
  • what it says about you if you’re not married and
  • when is a good time in life to get married and
  • how do you decide what to look for in a mate and
  • red flags to watch for

I’ve been thinking about my nieces who are in their formative years. Unbeknownst to them and very age appropriate, expectations are being laid in their tender young hearts about marriage. They are 13, 11, 9, and 7 so “boys” are not yet part of daily conversations, but “when they get married” or “when they are a mom” is.

I think back to how my own expectations in this area and what formed and informed when it came to the expectations around marriage.

I see the fingerprints that come from a relatively stable, supportive, fun family. We had chaos, but most of it was from outside factors. (For instance, my dad got a rare blood disease in the early 80s and nearly died. It was a long road to health.) I wasn’t raised in fantasyland, but I was raised in safety, security, and privilege.

So, when a young woman leans in and says, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I don’t mind and I know where we are going: being single on the field for the long haul.

I do not want to be caviler or all stiff-upper-lip with you, as I’ve shared before, we all have limits. Whether you are single or married or have loads of children. None of us has everything. Each path comes with freedoms and limitations. In our chat today I’m filtering “limits” and “freedoms” through the lens of “expectation.”

The deepest expectation I’ve brought with me from childhood wasn’t to be married.

I expected to lead a significant life.

The path to significance, for me, could have gone through marriage and motherhood. But it didn’t depend on it. So, as life has played out differently than I expected in my early 20’s, I have (so far) no deep regrets. I am leading a significant and meaningful life. I am in relationships. I am loved and valued by children. I am helping people. I am having fun. I am a supportive family member and friend.

You might say, “That’s all rosy for you. But I want to be married. I expect to be married.” I affirm those are good desires! Cry out to God about them. Share with him. Let him know! Marriage is good and honorable and fun and meaningful. Go for it.

But.

But I also might gently ask you if marriage is an idol. What if you don’t get married? Can you find an expectation behind your expectation that leads to life for you? Can you live with a limp? Can you take that ache with you as you still engage life?

We’re the kind of friends who talk. We’re also the kind of friends who sit together. This week, let’s sit together before God and ask which of our expectations lead to life and which lead to death through the slow burn of resentment.

As you look back, what helped form and inform your expectations about marriage and singleness in adulthood?

Image Designed by Karen Huber

When You Don’t Get The Credit You Deserve

My name was finally going to be in print.

In a magazine, with a cover, and not just a hyperlink. Heather at OUTREACH Magazine contacted me asking if they could use some of my mother’s day writings. Sure, I said. She asked for my address so the magazine came out she’d send me three copies. Fun, fun!

You can picture the scene. Ripping open the envelope. Flipping through pages. Flipping some more because I was so excited I couldn’t find Amy Young.

Slow down, I told myself. Use the table of contents. I found the page of resources compiled by Heather Schnese and there was the Mother’s Day Blessing. Compiled by Heather Schnese. Surely Amy Young is somewhere.

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Nope. I was surprised.  Something seemed off. Heather made a concerted effort for me to get a copy of a magazine … that didn’t have my name on it.  Hmmmm.

The next day I looked OUTREACH up on the internet and found out they are in Colorado Springs and have a phone number. I decided to call because they don’t know me and an email saying, “Did I misunderstand?! Why did you steal from me? Especially when I freely offered it” might not have helped me get to the heart of what was going on. (Though in the short run, it’s what I wondered).

People, I am here to testify, when you wonder what’s going on, ASK. Don’t assume. I called OUTREACH and talked with Meredee since Heather wasn’t in the office. She was a gem. I’m sure it’s not every Friday afternoon near quitting time you get a call saying, “I’m Amy Young and I’m looking at page 82 and my name’s not there and I’m not mad, I’m just curious why. I’m Amy Young.” (As if saying my name clarified everything.)

She put me on hold and tracked down the answer. In the editing phase, the piece needed to be a bit shorter and along with lines that did need to be edited out for space, my name got cut too. They were embarrassed and sorry it had been overlooked.

What a relief. They’re not slimy. They are human and it was just a mistake. Since then I’ve been contacted by both head editor James Long and Heather Schense. They’ve corrected it online and apologized.

While it would have been nice to see my name in print, it’s nicer to know the feeling of someone saying they’re sorry when they made a mistake. And oddly, if my name had been in print, I would have looked at it, showed it friends and then moved on. This process slowed me down, gave me a chance to reach out for greater understanding, and then let them reciprocate towards me.

So, maybe I didn’t get the credit I deserved. But I got something better: an experience laced with the best of humanity.

If you haven’t heard of OUTREACH, take a few moments and poke around their website or buy a copy of their magazine. They are stand up people.

I don’t always handle situations right, but I’m thankful I put into practice slowing down long enough for my brain to kick in and make a helpful move. If you’ve got something going on where you feel all stirred up and want to rush. Slow down. Pray. Then make a gesture towards another.

When did not getting credit lead you to something better?

Release: Learning to Live Light and Free

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This is the name of the Velvet Ashes Retreat going on this weekend. The retreat is free and it’s not too late to sign up if you’re in need of a personal retreat. I love every word. Release. God wants to release us. Learning. While part of the releasing is God’s work in us, part of […]

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Would it help if life came with this sign?

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Is what’s helpful outside a restaurant helpful from God? Would it help if life came with this sign? I don’t remember the title, but when I was in High School there was a book that made the rounds about Knowing God’s Plan For Your Life. While it was backed up with scripture — or at least sprinkled […]

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I feel a tiny bit embarrassed to share

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Having talked about butt boils, you’re probably wondering what in the world would give me pause. And I said I wasn’t going to post again this week (Beyond The Surface newsletter will arrive in in-boxes tomorrow with the small announcement I said was coming.). But when a shocking kindness is extended, after getting over the shock, I […]

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Really? All Americans …

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I was grocery shopping with my sister Laura in Minnesota a few weeks ago and just had to capture this: I used to joke as an English teacher I’d never be out of a job in China as long as there were humorous sign translations. Apparently the same is true in America :). I also laugh at […]

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What If Your Scars Are a Source of Shame?

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The theme at Velvet Ashes this week is scars and the idea came from an interview I heard last fall with a pastor. She was asked what illustrations she uses in her preaching and said she preaches out of her scars, not her wounds. And this phrase stuck to my soul. There is a place […]

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The Importance of Being Well-Fed

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I had to whip out my camera at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and capture this life truth: Amen! I know I’m less aggressive when well-fed. This sign reminded me of one of my first posts entitled I don’t do all that well with tired.  I learned about HALT-B in some class. You can easily […]

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Small Announcement

Hello Friends, Before I started The Messy Middle, the only public writing I did was monthly (actually every 6 weeks) newsletter to prayer and financial supporters. I remember during my first year in China a second year teacher saying, “Oh, you’re so lucky you’re in your first year, you still have things to say.” Well, I […]

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Two Videos You Must Watch Right Now! {You’re Welcome}

It’s spring break in our neck of the woods. Though I don’t have spring break in the ways I did as a student and teacher, it’s part of my annual biological clock :)! Welcome to spring break of The Messy Middle and two commercials I’ve seen recently that I feel compelled to share with everyone I know because […]

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