Before I explain the title, I believe I must explain what led a 22 year old girl to dedicate one year of her life to singleness and soberness.
In the fall of 2017 God used an incredibly painful breakup to call me back to Him. Looking back on that relationship I can clearly see that I idolized the idea of being fulfilled by a person, willing to overlook red flags for the sake of attention. During the healing process God introduced me to a group of Christians my age on fire for Jesus. They spoke truth lovingly into my life and taught me more about the scriptures in a way I had never heard God’s word before. Eventually they encouraged me to join them on a mission trip to El Salvador in April of 2019 with King’s Castle Ministries.
It was there that God wrecked me.
We were praying in the ministry’s prayer palace and something just clicked... I found myself truly repenting for sins that I had forgotten about. I surrendered every dark corner of my heart to Him and instead of feeling shame, I felt His presence flood every inch of me, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and peace. The next morning I asked my friend Carly to baptize me with water as a symbol of repentance of my sins. Now, I was baptized as a baby and I understand that there really wasn’t a need for another baptism. However, I was moved to somehow publicly declare God’s grace, the vow I was making to turn from sin, and recklessly follow Jesus for the rest of my life, and water baptism made the most sense to me. It was a beautiful moment that I will cherish forever.
Coming home I knew that I couldn’t go back to the ways I was living before, jumping from relationship to relationship, and drinking heavily to numb the hurt in my heart that I didn’t want to address. I found myself devoted to reading scripture and came across an incredibly convicting verse, 1 Peter 5:8-10, “Be sober-minded and alert! Your enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith... And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
This passage led me to make dedicate 1 year of my life to being single and sober starting May 1, 2019. These two factors were the heaviest hinderances in my race to Christ. Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” I confided in this decision with close friends, family and made a blog post about it, in hopes to keep me accountable during this time.
If marriage is something that I wanted someday, I must be fully prepared to give the best of myself just as I would expect the same from my future husband. But in order to receive that blessing, I first needed to have “heart surgery” to deal with the hurt I had been avoiding for far too long. Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained by it.”
If you know me well, you’ve probably heard me mention the sermon series called “Relationship Goals” by Pastor Mike Todd. I have now listened to it 4 times and each time I learn something new. I wish I had heard this when I was younger! He speaks God’s truth without hesitation and pulls it all directly from scripture. (If you are a parent reading this with kids as young as middle school, I highly recommend that the whole family hears this together!) In the first sermon, “Before the Person”, he looks to Genesis 2 to demonstrate how God originally wanted relationship to be intended for us. Based on Genesis 2:8, 15, 18, he said that before you have a person, (before you get into relationship with someone), you need to first ask God to help make sense of your place, purpose, provision, identity, and parameters.
The first order of business for me was to figure out my place. Was that in Thiensville at my parents’ business? Was it continuing school at UWM? Was is worship leading at a large church in Germantown? Or could it be drop everything and pursue photography full time? Small decisions such as going back to school to finish the last two years of my undergrad at UWM, attend a Lutheran church with my best friend, and moving to a new apartment in Milwaukee, all led me to realize that my place was in the city of Milwaukee.
After place, next is purpose.
At my new church, St. Marcus Lutheran, there was a buzzing between a few musicians that I had experience with leading worship at different church. One of the drummers, named Matt (remember his name, it’s important), invited me to join him and a few others in a jam session to see if I would be a good fit to the team. A few months later that led to a job offer from Pastor Hein for me to lead worship and coordinate musicians for the Saturday evening services. I came to know my purpose is to be a worship leader, photographer, and student all in one. I know, it seems like a lot. But if you know me, you know that I really enjoy staying busy and keeping life exciting! This may not be my full time purpose for the rest of my life, but for the time being as a single 20-something woman this was perfect for me.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “God only funds his own ideas” ? Well, by discovering purpose that meant I had to truly step away from my parents’ business for good. At first, that idea seemed painful because it would mean hurting some of my family, but also I wasn’t sure if I could make finances work by not working at glaze. I buckled down and worked to discipline my spending. I knew money was going to be tight, but I trusted that God was calling me to do this and that He would provide everything I needed. I’m so grateful that He has done just that.
I believe over this entire year the devil saw that he was quickly losing control of me. I was less susceptible to his ways as I immersed myself in God’s word. He often whispered lies to me and tempted me to sin in sneaky ways, leading me to question my worth and feeling lonelier than ever. But God knew to send the right people into my life to remind me that the devil is a liar! Those people are my best friends Jess, Daniel, and Matt, a few other friends, my parents, grandparents, as well as spiritual leaders like my Pastor and members of St. Marcus. When you surround yourself with strong believers it makes it much harder for the devil to bring you down. God said so himself in the beginning, “It is not good for man to be alone” Genesis 2:18 He even said “When two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” Matthew 18:20. The presence of God is much stronger when you are not alone!
Pastor Mike Todd said, “If you don’t have a standard before you get into relationship, the relationship will create the standard you live by.” As a people pleaser and someone who likes to chase after exciting things, it’s sometimes hard for me to say “no.” Whether that be for work, a friendship, or relationship. During this time I’ve had to discipline myself to learn when to confidently say “no” to certain opportunities in order to stay focused on purpose and manage my gifts well. Most importantly though, I’ve learned to be honest with myself about parameters in relationships with others. I’ll admit I have brought hurt upon myself and others many times because I couldn’t seem to uphold my standards. Why? Most of the time I was lonely and willing to compromise with the hope that the other person’s attention would fulfill me. But when I look to scripture, in the Garden of Eden God still had to give Adam and Eve parameters even though everything there was perfect. God created us, He is our good father, of course He knows what is and isn’t good for us.
He not only gives us parameters for relationship, but as for things that bring us pleasure in this world as well. 1 Corinthians 10:23, “You say, ‘I’m allowed to do anything’ — but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ — but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”
These parameters are not meant to make our lives miserable or boring, in fact quite the opposite. They are there to protect our hearts. If my relationship with our Savior, Jesus is the most important to me, wouldn’t I do anything and everything possible to protect it? If I allow one standard to be overlooked, that tells people that I’m willing to cave on other standards in the future, leading to myself getting hurt over and over again. I strived to use this time to strengthen my discernment and integrity so that when the time came for me to say no and walk away I could do so with confidence knowing my true worth in God’s eyes. I believe that God wants abundant life for me and every believer. John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” I learned to have full confidence that God knew the desires of my heart, would send me a husband that met every standard without compromise, and would send him when He knew my heart was ready. This man, whoever he may turn out to be, will do everything in his power to live up to those standards because he loves God more than me and sees my true worth in Christ.
Having these guidelines or checkpoints really helped keep me grounded in my decision to not date or drink. By removing those hinderances, I was sober minded and alert, fully able to think and sit in the present, not anxious about the future or ashamed of the past. God brought amazing people into my life to grow in friendship with, gain wisdom from, and even to share my testimony and give encouragement to. As great as this sounds, the process was not always easy. God definitely allowed unexpected trials and past hurt to resurface. But like I said earlier concerning the identity factor, He still sent good people in my life that were able to see me struggling and challenge me to not be afraid. I disciplined myself to sit in the tension and willingly listen to what God had to say about it. I’m amazed at how different my thought process is now compared to a year ago. I can look back at every trial God allowed and see that He used for my good.
About 8 months into this journey (January 2020) I found myself fairly comfortable. I had a great group of friends, consistency in school and work, and felt overall at ease with being single. There was no searching, no looking back, just acceptance and being present. I remember thinking “Wow, this has become surprisingly easy. I like living life alone right now. I think it’s actually going to be a challenge if I start dating again, because then that means I would have to be vulnerable and willing to share every part of my life with someone.” A friend of mine who was recently married shared with me her faith journey as she got ready for marriage and put it this way, “I was so comfortable in my relationship with just me and God. When one day I felt a tug at my heart saying that maybe it’s time to open up this relationship to also include a husband.” She was reluctant at first, but a few months later she found herself saying “yes” to her then fiancé, now husband!
I left that conversation wondering if that was what God was asking me to do as well, but I told God, “Are you really asking me to think about this? But I said I’d be single until May 1st. There’s 4 more months left!”
Later that month, another friend whispered in my ear that my good friend Matt REALLY liked me (remember the drummer?). My response was hesitant and a little shocked! I mean, I knew he had a crush on me but I didn’t think it was anything more than that. Turns out, from this credible source, that his feelings for me were much stronger than I had thought.
I immediately panicked, wondering how I should let him down gently. I didn’t want to lose his friendship. Together we had been active in the same friend group, Bible studies, and played music almost every weekend in church together! It could turn into an awkward situation if I didn’t handle this right.
As I was preparing to tell Matt that “there was no chance of us happening”, suddenly every little thing he did spoke volumes to me.
For example, at Bible study he shared some really encouraging insights on some of our scripture readings. He would speak truth to me and teach me a thing or two about the Bible or give really good advice on a problem I was having. I wondered “Has Matt always been like this? Had I not seen this all along?” Another example is one time I mentioned that I needed help setting up a new light fixture in my room. He was there the next morning with his tools and set it all up for me. One snowy evening after we saw a movie I casually said goodnight and went into my apartment. However, he stayed behind and scraped all the snow off my car. I went outside the next morning to see that my car completely scraped clean! My #1 love language is acts of service so it really meant a lot to me that he was so willing to help me like that. I found myself replaying all of our times together over the last year just as friends, usually in groups, and was really surprised at the conclusion my heart came to: I think I might have feelings for him too.
We met after church and I told him the situation my heart was in. I explained that I knew he liked me, and I’m realizing that I might like him too... however I said I needed to be single until May 1st and I can’t entertain this idea until then. But before I could even finish speaking, he stopped me and said, “Nope! We are not opening this envelope until May 1st. You made this commitment, I want to respect you and only be your friend until then.”
I WAS SPEECHLESS.
Because when I first started this 1 year commitment my mom said “Well, what if you’re not dating and you meet the one?” I told her, “if he’s the one, he will respect and know that I’m worth the wait until my year is up.”
I knew right there that Matt was the one.
As soon as I said goodbye to Matt, I called my dad and told him. “Dad, I’m going to marry Matt someday.”
We continued being only friends, seeing each other working out at the gym, at Bible studies, music, church, and friend groups. Once in a while we would get a chance for the two of us to catch up on life and talk. I found myself craving those moments more and more. The more days that went by the harder it was to not crave the chance spent time with him. He had become one of my best friends.
Fast forward to early March, panicked headlines concerning COVID-19 hits the United States. I mentally prepared to start stocking up on groceries for myself, when Matt called me and asked if I wanted to go grocery shopping with him. So we did that together and we cooked dinner at my place afterwards. The rest of the week consisted of great quality time cooking dinners, recording a worship song for our church’s social media, watching movies, dancing in the kitchen, and having very deep and honest conversations. (Side note: We made sure that if we wanted to see each other that we restricted who else we saw to be sure we were practicing social distancing in a safe, healthy way). Halfway through the week I knew that I loved him, the crazy part is that I hadn’t even held hand or never kissed him yet! Knowing that I loved him without all the hormones in the way confirmed in my heart that I could truly love him in a sacrificial way someday.
Realizing this brought about a recollection of a journal entry I wrote on November 10th, 2017. It went like this:
“I want to be in awe of the man I’m with someday.
I want to be inspired by his love for Jesus and his passions in life.
I want him to take it slow —
To first steal my heart,
Then my soul,
Then my hand,
Then my time,
Then my life,
Then my body.”
I realized that Matt was fitting this description I wrote 3 years ago, and the way our friendship was progressing he was on his way to complete that list.
I prayed long and hard for God to give me permission to start a relationship with him! I didn’t think I could wait until May 1st.
Because the thing is, that the whole point of this year was to get closer to God without those hinderances. And being with Matt wasn’t a hinderance, if anything he pushed me even more to God than I did on my own!
Once I realized that, I knew it was the right decision to end this commitment and move forward in relationship with Matt.
We officially started dating on March 21st... however we both realized quickly that we wanted this to be more than dating and that we were ready for marriage! Before impulsively jumping to this step, we talked about every pro and con, looked over our finances, making sure that we were in agreement about every major part in a marriage, and looked for counsel in our close friends and mentors who are married. The numbers lined up, our friends and mentors all approved... The last thing needed was for Matt to get my Dad’s permission.
Due to COVID19 and social distancing, Matt decided to call my Dad on March 25th and received his blessing over the phone. After the phone call, Matt couldn’t wait for the actual engagement ring to be purchased, so he stoped at his parents house and picked a ring from his mom’s assortment of jewelry, drove to my apartment, texted me to come outside... I walked outside to find him down on one knee, and he asked me to marry him! Overflowing with joy said, “Yes!”
I ended my 1 year of singleness a little earlier than planned, but I did so with full confidence that all along God had planned for this to be.
Looking back I can see through every act of service, word of encouragement, laugh, and time spent together that Matt truly loved me all along without ever having to say the words. His patience and love for me reflects God’s love, selfless and sacrificial. He is the answer to my many, many prayers.
And yes, our families and friends were surprised at how fast this is happening! But we have their full support and couldn’t be more grateful for that. Remember the phrase, “God only funds His ideas”? He’s clearly showing us in every step so far in our journey together that this was His plan all along. Matt and I are couldn’t be more excited to spend the rest of our lives together!! Our prayer is that us becoming husband and wife glorifies God all the more. It’s all because of His amazing grace.
“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Songs 3:4
“My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Song of Songs 2:16
To my family and friends that supported me in this journey and are reading this, I’m sorry that you didn’t hear all the details about this sooner. I wanted to explain why I ended this year of singleness, as well as our unique story in a way that you can clearly see God in the process of it all. I have to say that the COVID19 has really impacted the way most people would normally share their good news of an engagement and introduction of a fiancé with those they love. I pray you understand and hope that you can pray for us during this engagement period. Details about our wedding and later reception will be announced soon!