The “Long” Walk

I exaggerate sometimes. In most cases, I exaggerate for the sake of telling a good story. I found that stories are far more engaging when they are repeated emphatically, with a stretch of the truth here and there. A story without these colorful embellishments is nothing more than a news story (depending on your view of the news).
I learned a good “Christian” trick from a professor that I loved in college. This lively professor told us incredible tales the way he wanted to tell them. After his story evoked our laughter, or horror, he would boldly say: “that was a lie.” I thought this was simply fantastic! I would always find such happiness in his fun stories. When he would correct his falsehood, I would only laugh. I never felt betrayed by his story. I learned that the reason for not feeling let down had to do with his careful choice of stories to embellish. He never stretched the truth when it was important.
I so badly want to share my story with you in an amusing way, with a conclusion of about 30 “just kidding”s. However, I think I would do more harm than good in this case. The trick that I learned from my professor may not be the best example to follow, but his timing WAS a great example. I’ve learned that I should never stretch the truth of stories that are important.
In the case of my “long” walk, I must be clear that I am only speaking about .7 miles. This is the distance between my apartment and the school that I teach at. That’s only .3 miles less than the distance between my house and my last place of employment, in the US. How many times did I walk to work then? Less than 5 times. I walk to and from work every day now and laugh about how dumb it was that I used to drive that short distance.
When I first arrived in Germany, this school year, I found this walk to be refreshing. I loved to take in the site of the small, beautiful town that I live in and breathe in the sweet German air, like the waft of fresh cooked bacon. After the first week, however, I began to miss the bike that I had last year. I was able to get to school in 3 minutes and return home in 5 minutes. It now takes me about 4 times that amount of time. During the first few weeks, I found myself arriving everywhere about 10 minute late. I was underestimating my travel time. After this experience, I started leaving my home much earlier. I learned to enjoy things like music and coffee on the way to school. Now I am back to arriving late to work. I rush out the door in the exact moment that I need to leave, in order to arrive for the first school bell. I open the door to the students who have been patiently waiting and brush the stress sweat from my brow. I start my day a little grumpy, from being rushed.
There have been, however, 6 exceptions on days when I have left my house late. 2 of these exceptions were times that people stopped to pick me and my roommate up on the way to school. I don’t believe that we were late, but the gesture was very kind nonetheless. The other 4 exceptions are what I have spent this entire time prefacing. On these 4 days, I had specifically prayed for a ride to school. My prayers were answered so specifically. I felt that my truthfully detailed story may be encouraging to others.
The first prayer for a ride came from a conversation with The Lord. As I walked away from my building, I realized that it was Gelbesack (recycling) day and that I had failed to put ours by the curb. I was torn. I knew that I should go back and put the bags out, since these bags are only picked up about once a month. Yet, I was late for school. I kept walking, until I felt too guilty to continue. I stopped on the sidewalk. It was then that I heard The Lord promise to provide a ride if I showed love to my roommate by going back to take care of this matter. Unsure, I turned and headed back to our building. Immediately, my friend Chris appeared and offered me a ride to school. God provided, as He promised that He would.
The second prayer for a ride did not come on a day that was late. It came on a day that I had a lot of bags to carry to school. This time, I quietly prayed for a ride. It was more like a small wish than a confident prayer. Again, Chris showed up. It is important to know that he does not live near me. My route is not on his way at all. I shared my answers to prayer with him and we rejoiced together.
The third time I prayed, I was most certainly running late. I prayed quite confidently. I felt sure that God would answer my prayer. It was in that thought that I turned and saw the car Chris drives, parked at the bakery. I thought to myself, “that’s not a real answer to prayer. I just saw his car. My prayer was probably prompted by that fact. That doesn’t count.” For some reason, I felt disappointed by the revealing of why Chris had been in my path the other two times. I still felt a reassurance that God would provide a ride, but I was no longer excited about the “answer to prayer.” It was at that moment that our school director and his wife turned the corner and asked me if I wanted a ride. I have NEVER seen them drive my way to school. Again, God provided.
Today God provided the fourth answer to my prayer for a ride. I admit that I prayed cautiously. Sometimes I treat prayer like a scratch off ticket. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. In the case of my grandmother, you are more often just glad to play. The experience is enough. Similarly, I prayed with the expectation that I probably wouldn’t get the answer that I wanted, since I had received a positive answer the three times before. Unlike my grandmother, I wasn’t in it for the experience. I wanted another positive answer, but I was afraid that I may break my “winning” streak. About a minute after my prayer, another co-worker showed up with the offer for a ride to school. This man is indeed on my route to school. However, he was on his way to running another errand before school. He dropped me off and went on his way. God provided.
These 4 situations are not significant answers to prayers. They probably don’t convince atheists around the world to believe in a god. I am merely taking the time to be thankful for these small, and even humorous, answers to prayer. I am sure I would repeat this story to you more emphatically, with hand gestures and fun facial expressions, in person. For now, I hope it just brings a smile to your face and encourages you to re-tell your own stories of God’s faithfulness. They are good enough to stand on their own, without exaggeration.

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Turning 18

About a year ago, this weekend, I got to know my friend Gracie. She lives in the dorm that I sub in Monday nights and one weekend a month. On Mondays, I sub for the RAs who have the night off. I eat dinner with the students, make sure they do their chores, check to see if they are on task during study hours, and bake goodies for the week. One year ago this weekend, I stayed at Storch for the weekend for my first time. The dorm parents had the weekend off, so I came to help out. During that weekend, Gracie slept on one of the couches in the living room where I was staying. We stayed up late telling jokes and talking about our families. It was during that time that I invented a funny, racist past of my little Korean friend. When I asked her what she did during the summers, Gracie said that she returned to Korea and that her time there was boring. I asked her if her parents made her work the rice fields. Gracie joined my lie and agreed that she did. She even added that she worked in the kiwi fields when she lived in New Zealand.
This lie about Gracie’s past has become a constant joke between the two of us. However, the truth is that I know very little about her life in Korea. In fact, I often forget our cultural differences. Yesterday, these differences became obvious again. Gracie turned 18. Upon asking her what her family did for her birthday, I realized that her missionary parents probably wouldn’t be providing her with a new car. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Gracie has never driven a car before. (She just informed me that she has driven once, but she did so illegally).
When I boldly asked her if she had received any presents from her family, she answered that her parents were going to be using their money to fund her college education. However, her parents had given her a few options for her future.
Gracie’s parents promised that they would pay for her undergrad education, if she wished to attend a university. Yet, they gave her two more options. Gracie could instead chose to receive some farm land or become the owner of a small business. These two other options may sound strange to the average American, but they actually make a lot of sense. If Gracie ran a farm or a small business, she would be able to pay her parents back in a short period of time. If she went to college, her parents would probably never see that money again.
Gracie would like to know what you think she should choose.

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Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving

I have avoided writing a blog about my singleness for many reasons. I have always believed that the number one reason for avoiding such a blog is due to the sheer number of similar blog posts that already exist in the world. What could I have to contribute to the discussion of singleness that has not already been said? Nothing. Truly. I am sure that I will have nothing new to say. Yet, I feel compelled to say it. It has recently become important that I make my decisions public for the purpose of confirming the promises I have made to God. I have shared my feelings about my singleness with many close friends and many curious young women that have been in my life. I say the same things. I repeat myself, because I believe what I have to say. However, I also repeat myself because I need to believe certain truths more completely. Therefore, I have forced myself to “pen” this post for the sake of being accountable for my thoughts, my choices, and for the messages that I have preached to younger generations.

Like most teenagers, I believed that my first boyfriend was the young man that I was going to marry. I remember praying that it would happen. It’s incredible how seriously I felt about this guy, considering the fact that I was only 12 years old. I just knew that things would work out! So you can imagine how crushed I was to find out, at the age of 13, that we were only friends and not in fact boyfriend and girlfriend. I’m not sure how I made that mistake, but that is what I was told after spending almost every free moment of 2 years with this guy. Luckily I was only 13. In my mind, I had plenty of time to get a new “serious” boyfriend before I graduated high school. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is what helped me get through the pain of rejection.

My parents got married when they were very young. If I had done things in their timeline, I would have: a husband, a 9 year old, and a 5 year old. Are you having trouble seeing that? My mom was engaged in high school. My dad was a young, handsome, military man. He had a mustache, a motorcycle, and the hots for my mom. They married shortly after my mother graduated from high school.

I think that I knew that my life would be different, but I still believed that I would be in a serious relationship before graduation. So, with that mindset, I jumped into 2 different relationships in high school that I should have handled quite differently. I was an emotional teenager, so I’m not really going to be too hard on myself here. I won’t spend the next few paragraphs discussing the issues with those relationships. One of those gentlemen still stalks my blog and is probably reading every word of this, wondering how I will portray him.

I never thought I would turn 20 years old without a serious relationship in my life. I figured that Bible college would be the perfect introduction to my Jesus loving, Prince Charming. Yet, I never really connected with any guys in college. It was strange. I was completely focussed on my education and my ministry. God protected me from relationships that would cause me pain, distract me, and ultimately waste my time. It wasn’t until my senior year that I even developed a crush on a fellow student. It didn’t take me too long to realize that the crush had only really developed for two reasons. First of all, my best friend had just died in a car accident and I was feeling very lonely and vulnerable. Second of all, I was nearing graduation without the hint of a significant other. It didn’t hurt too much to find out that my feelings weren’t reciprocated, because I realized that I didn’t actually feel strongly for this guy. I just liked that we had youth ministry, (playing) music, and our good looks in common.

High school graduation came and went. College graduation soon followed. I didn’t have much hope for finding a man in seminary, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t on the look out. It was in those years, as a seminary student and as a youth pastor, that I decided that I was going to live an adventurous life. I had seen all of the great things, like college, that my mom had missed out on when she married young. Expecting that I would one day remain with my husband until death do us part, I decided that I would chase my other dreams as a single woman. I wanted to do all of the things that were much easier to do as a single person while I could. At the age of 30, I am now sure that I have done them. I graduated from college, I (almost) finished seminary, I had a paid job as a youth pastor, I lived on a friends couch as a homeless person for a month, I lived alone in a beautiful townhouse, I lived through many different roommate situations, I got a “real” job and climbed the ranks, and now I live in Europe as a missionary. Now what?

On every birthday, after my 18th, I consoled myself by thinking about how I could know my future husband before my next birthday. Major birthdays passed by, with little to no hope for a future mate. I was too distracted at my 21st to worry about my singleness, but 23, 25, 27, and 30 were somewhat harder. (I don’t know what it is about the odd years!) Am I sad that I have reached this age without a husband? Students always want an answer to this question. My response usually involves all of the stories of my adventures, my happiness, and my better understanding of who I am. While these single young women felt a sense of encouragement for a moment, I know that their thought was: “I’m glad Lexi is happy, but I really don’t want to be single when I’m her age.” I know this was their thought because some of them have said it! At other times, I have seen it in their eyes and asked them if that is what they were thinking. I have never had a girl tell me “no.”

What is this issue of singleness about? It’s about loneliness vs happiness. Admit it. That’s what it’s about. However, most of us know that this isn’t what marriage should be about. Marriage is about holiness. Guess what! Singleness is also about holiness. A forthright student asked me if I was ever sad because I was single. This was my response to her: “Yes, sometimes I am sad because I am single. However, I know a lot of people who are unhappily married. I would rather be sad alone than to involve somebody else in my unhappiness.” I wasn’t making the point that I was going to be sad no matter what. I was merely expressing the fact that the grass is often greener on the other side. I do, however, know plenty of married couples who are extremely happy. Marriage is not the end of life, nor is it the beginning of it.

This issue of singleness brings Philippians 4 to mind. Paul, from prison, wrote “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” Do not be afraid. I will not now compare my singleness to being in prison. This verse comes to mind because Paul is speaking of contentment and about his purpose in life. My purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. I want to be obedient to that calling and to be content in all situations, no matter what.

Thirty, flirty, and thriving. Is this statement true of who I am? I would say that it is. I am indeed 30. I often fall to my selfish desires, and flirt with mental images and conversations that I shouldn’t be having. The Lord, and my accountability partner, know that I have certainly sought happiness in the wrong places repeatedly. Yet, I do feel that I’m thriving. This isn’t to say that I’m not ever lonely and that I have given up on the idea of marriage. In fact, I’ve been thinking that NOW would be perfect timing for that relationship to come about. It is, however, about the fact that I am trying to listen to the Lord and to work on my holiness as a single person.

I am currently faced with some hard decisions about the next chapter in my life. (See the last blog post). Like so many times before, I hear God asking me the same question when I pray. He says, “Which is more important to you? Is it more important for you to serve me wholeheartedly or for you to have what you want?” I hate that question!!! I always try to convince God that getting married would be so good for me. I know that I have a lot to learn about my selfishness. Isn’t a husband perfect for that lesson? What about sacrifice? I want to have children so badly. Can’t I learn these things without being alone? Most importantly… money. I loath worrying about my finances so much that I am starting to see the value of having a sugar daddy. So, how does this battle usually end with the Lord? It usually ends with my submission and a pile of kleenexes.

Of the three descriptors in the title of my post, I strive for thriving. I don’t think most people strive for 30, but anyway. I don’t know what the next chapter holds. Maybe it’s marriage (no, I don’t secretly have a boyfriend). Maybe I have a future at ANOTHER school with 0 single men my age. Haha. Maybe I am meant to stay put for a while. I am unsure. For now, I’m going to work on being content and pushing forward in this journey towards holiness.