Ready for Love

Last year I decided that I’m ready for love.

That to me, sounds like the craziest/boldest statement I’ve ever made. And if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking.. Ok wow Steff, hold the crazy – tell us what you really think. I’ve never been one to be particularly publicly honest about being single but if you can’t be honest about love on Valentine’s Day, then when can you?

I couldn’t tell you the exact moment when everything changed, but it did, and I’m ready.

I don’t really mean this in the way you might think I do. I’m still not actively looking for a boyfriend, I still battle everyday trying to decide if it’s even worth wearing makeup or doing my hair and I’m actually still really content being single, but something changed, inside, and I think it’s worth talking about.

Having been consistently single (yeah points for consistency right?) for a really long time gives me a certain level of authority to say that everyone’s advice about being single kinda stinks. I know they mean well and to some degree, there’s a level of truth to what they’re saying, but unless you’re actually there, you don’t really know what it’s like to be single in today’s day and age. Just like I don’t know what it’s like to be married and my marriage advice probably rebounds in a very similar way. One of the best and worst pieces of advice floating around for Christian singles is this;

Stop wanting and desiring a boyfriend or girlfriend. As soon as you stop, it’ll happen. As soon as you stop caring, that’s when love arrives. Or something to that effect.

I am totally on board with what I think the heart sentiment behind this advice is, but the notion or the premise of it, is total bullocks. And I don’t mean any offence to anyone who has ever given this advice as I’m pretty sure I’ve dished it out also. It is absolutely so essential to strive to be content with being single but it is also okay to want to eventually be with someone one day. Finding the balance is what is tricky. Telling someone to try and stop the desire for love, but then all of a sudden switch it back on when love arrives is like asking someone to hold their breath indefinitely. It works initially, but eventually your body aches and forces you to take an almighty gasp for air. Your body wasn’t made to do that – It’s unnatural.

But I don’t know, somehow I managed it.

At some point I stopped telling myself I was okay with being single and I actually started believing it. It became a heart thing rather than just a head thing. You can tell yourself something over and over and eventually it does work its way into your brain and things travel smoothly until your brain and your heart start to fight, and that’s when it’s critical that you’ve made a heart decision and not just a head one. I actually truly believed deep down, that I was content on my own. I actually was, I actually am.

That was until recently.

I actually don’t think anything drastic has happened externally. I still don’t feel like it’s worth doing my hair, I still don’t really notice new “hot” guys, I’m still rocking up to coffee solo and enjoying the crazy freedom that comes with being your own person but something internally shifted.

It was like a couple of years ago God came and flipped a switch. I was struggling, trying to force down those emotions because I knew if I wanted a boyfriend, I had to stop wanting a boyfriend and I couldn’t make sense of it, let alone actually do it. It was unnatural. I felt a certain way and I couldn’t seem to stop feeling that way. Eventually God came and did what I naturally couldn’t.

I know my heart needed work. It was a mighty mess of tangles and knots inside and sometimes God, as chief architect of my life, makes an executive decision to shut off the power while critical maintenance occurs. I now know the risk was probably too great for me to be “emotionally active” while repairs were made. Perhaps in this instance, God is more like a Project Manager than an architect. I like the idea of God being an architect because it sounds more beautiful to me, and sometimes it’s like that, but often it’s just messy and hard work. That’s life.

The amazing thing is that now that God has flipped the switch back on – I feel, just right. I don’t feel the striving or the turbulence of being ruled by my emotions anymore but I’m also acutely aware that if the right thing presented itself, that I’d be ready. As ready as I could be. That’s a scary and ultimately beautiful place to stand with God in.

So what does all this honesty mean to you?

Well I’m just hoping that if you’re single like me on Valentine’s Day, that maybe you’ll decide to do a little heart check/heart maintenance. If you find yourself a little sad on Valentine’s Day, spend a bit of time praying and thanking God for this season that you’re in, asking Him to give you wisdom and insight about yourself that you wouldn’t normally notice. If you’re exceptionally sad this Valentine’s Day, take that as a blinking warning light on your heart. It might be time to let God take the reins and get inside and do some repair work.

Don’t be afraid of pain. God has it all monitored and he knows what you can and can’t work through – he knows when it’s time to cut the power and work out the kinks. Trust me, He knows your heart best. Trust Him, he knows you best.

[maximum]

Generally speaking, I haven’t changed much in my life.
Perhaps my constantly changing life (a house move to equivalent to each year I’ve been alive, 5 schools and over 10 jobs) has caused me to be a relatively stable person due to all the change going on around me. I’m sure there are many little things that have made up larger overall changes in life, but they seem spread out over such a range of time that I barely notice them. Sometimes that frustrates me. I wish I changed more and perhaps analysing myself would become a little bit more interesting. Perhaps I should have studied psychology rather than communications. However over the last year I have noticed a change, or at least realised something about myself that I hadn’t before.

I am a maximiser. I don’t know if I can simply describe this attribute by saying that I like to live life to the max, although that at times, does describe my life. But I like to maximize the most out of my life.

If I’m going to watch TV, you had bet I’ll be painting my nails at the same time. I almost always add an extra annual leave day onto the end of a long weekend to make it a four day weekend, maximizing the gift that public holidays are. I almost never fall asleep before midnight. I’d prefer to buy 5 cheap tops over 1 amazing top for the same price. To me a successful day is work, lunch dates, university, friend time, exercise, cleaning and a movie to finish it off (while painting my nails of course).

I think it’s more than just wanting my life to be full.

It’s more than just over committing to things.

It’s more than just being a night person or wanting to feel productive.

I can only describe it as the intense need to maximize the life I am given.

Perhaps that’s because time is short. Perhaps that’s because I want to make a difference. Whatever it is, it’s my driving force. I can’t tell if I was always like this, but as time wears on I feel the growing need to make an impact with my life, with my days, with my gifts.

Do you find this feeling growing as you get older? I find instead of shrinking back from life with age and weariness, I push harder at life. I want more from it. I expect more from life. I expect more from my friends, from my job, from my faith. I need more.

Somehow I think that’s how God designed this life. Big, expansive. I think He put that feeling inside of me and as time wore on and I became more and more dissatisfied with the mundane-ness of life, He kept revealing to me a different way to live. It means I stop sleeping in. It means I stop putting off that book (or two) I’ve been saying ill write. It means listening to people when I’m with them. Living big means living small.

I can’t really tell if that’s immature or naive of me to think that there is more to life. How is it possible that after 25 years here, I could still have missed it? I don’t want to miss another second of it. I want to maximise the time God has given me.

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Happy Talk

Who says you can’t be happy all the time? I know, but I’m still going to try. Lifehouse Family.

Replacing a dead pair of shoes with a brand new pair and the feeling of kicking off a pair of new shoes you are wearing in. Happy.

Texts, letters, postcards, emails – any form of written encouragement. Happy.

Catchy riffs and carefully constructed lyrics. There’s something about the power of a beautifully written song that sends me to my happy place.

Ticking things off lists, feeling productive. Happy.

An equally balanced friendship. It sounds mathematical but knowing you are appreciated in a friendship and feeling so grateful for the other person – knowing the other person is in the exact same place is actually rather wonderful and it makes me happy.

The presence of God. The inexplicable presence. Happy.

Small pleasures like lipstick stains on a coffee cup, the quick squeeze in a long embrace, wearing socks to bed only to kick them off under the covers and hitting snooze on Saturdays. That’s happiness.

Christmas time. I love carols, presents and sleeping on Christmas afternoon – it’s the only time I like to nap. Happy Happy Happy Christmas.

Losing your stomach in a fast car. Driving fast, being driven fast. Fast cars.

People have the love language ‘gifts’ all wrong. We don’t just want things and more things and perferably more expensive things. The very fact that you thought of me and then took any time or any amount of money at all is enough. It makes me happy when someone understands that and then does there best to show me love this way.

The look in someone’s eyes when God speaks to them and they just get it.

The rare opportunities I get to spend with my whole family. Happy Steffany.

Impersonations and accents. Deliveries in the post. Nailing a rap.

It makes me happy when someone understands that the Steffany the world sees is a myth and it makes me even happier when someone tries to discover what’s beyond that.

Writing makes me happy. I love to sit and write about nothing and everything. Sometimes when I have nothing to say – I just rewrite lyrics or poems. Just putting a pen to paper makes me happy.

Finding that comfy position. Whether it’s with a book in an amazing couch, that illusive sleeping position or the perfect fit within someone’s arms. There’s nothing quite like it.

Acting. Creating something from nothing.

Alliteration. Books. An empty house. Getting ready at my own pace. Answering questions – either about myself or on behalf of other people.

Helping other people. Sharing my mistakes in order to help someone else grow. It makes me happy to know that my pain wasn’t for naught.

My best friends. People who know me and who I switch off with. I love feeling free. I love not wearing “makeup” with them. I love that people are as honest with me as I am with them. I love that I live in a country, grew up in a family and am surrounded by friends who have encouraged me to be exactly who I am.

That, makes me extremely happy.

Drawing blanks.

Lately I’ve been drawing an overall blank about what to say here. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, in fact I think I almost have too much to say. However I find myself sitting in front of an empty word document/piece of paper and drawing blanks. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a process or a journey, anything that comes out is a bit risky. You might be in a great place today, but tomorrow is undecided. You’re still working through whatever it is you want to write about.

I love that while I can’t currently articulate what it is I’m thinking or feeling, there is still someone who understands. I love that while words evade me completely – I can rely on someone else’s wisdom. I love that God is big enough to handle all of it.

 
“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.”
— Elisabeth Elliot

Copeland.

I pride myself on coping. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do. When life gets tough, I’m pretty good at managing it. I’m self aware, so I can normally sense what is happening as it happens. I’m not stupid, so I can piece together why I feel the way I do and I can normally make sense of situations. I’m a talker and a big thinker, so I process til the cows come home and then I’m normally okay. I think it’s a good thing to posses the above skills. Life isn’t perfect and it will inevitably have day to day problems and so honing the above skills probably wouldn’t go astray. However I think there is definitely a risk to becoming a pro coper.

Are you at all like me? I thought perhaps I was the most unique person in the world, and for sure, I am a bit weird and there’s definitely parts of me which are unlike anyone else (for example, I’m not remotely afraid of robbers of thiefs when I live alone – what girl is like that?) but I’m coming to realise more and more that people can identify with things I thought I was alone in. Are you an over-thinker and an under-feeler? I cringe at how bad the english is in that statement but still.

Sometimes, when life calls for it, I take a moment to sit somewhere, preferably a nice mix between sunshine and shade and I allow myself to feel. Whatever the feeling is, good or bad, I allow myself to feel it. Sometimes I write.. thoughts or feelings I never knew or really understood somehow form on the pages. Sometimes I sit and listen to some worship, and God speaks to me about hidden things. Sometimes.. I just kick off my shoes and curl up on a park bench and wait. Feel and wait. Wait and feel.

The problem with shutting yourself off to feelings isn’t actually that you shut yourself off to pain, it’s that you shut yourself off to beauty. By avoiding the painful emotions, you inevitably shun joy.

Life is a curious mix of heart aches and heart warming moments. Learn to love and live through both of them. To me, the highs in life are when you feel God leaning down on you and blowing you a sweet little kiss that seems to say ‘See how wonderful life can be’. The lows in life are when you feel God leaning down and almost literally embracing you saying ‘See how wonderful you are to me’. Both are extremely critical moments in life.

Please please please, give yourself permission to feel. Coping is a ridiculous notion. Don’t become good at coping. What a stupid skill.

“I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom.” Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Thoughts from the road.

This weekend I checked two things off my ‘The Last Single Girl’ list.

13. Go on a vacation by myself.

21. Go on a road trip.

This weekend I went on a road trip by myself.

Honestly it was one of best ideas/decisions/things I’ve had/made/done. I’d been feeling a little bit ‘bleh’ and decided just to do something a little bit spontaneous. I decided last Friday to go. Booked that night and the following Saturday morning I was off! I wasn’t too worried about having only myself for company, however I thought a one night trip would be a good starting place.

I stopped off for coffee at Blaine & Tegan’s before I left. Caffeine is critical for long drives but it also makes me happy. It also felt a bit like I had a cute little send off.

I drove to Byron Bay, which I’d actually never been to before. I drove up to the lighthouse.. walked around. Drove down to the beach. Sat on the beach and contempated life.

I had lunch and coffee at Bayleaf. Felt a bit judged with my slick hair and Prada handbag but got over it enough to enjoy the experience. And then I drove the last and longer leg of my journey on to Coffs Harbour. I stopped only once more to take a few photos and arrived in Coffs Harbour at 5pm.

When I road trip, I road trip in style. No backpackers or seedy motels. Resort luxury baby! Private access to the beach, a room that didn’t need to be that big. Pools, grassy lawns, sneaking a peak at a wedding they had that night. Yes, I think I’d make the right choice.

I wandered down to the jetty.. basked in the delightfully pink sunset. Picked up some dinner and settled in for some election updates which was all that was really on tv that night. I snuck a midnight (actually 8.30pm) swim and froze to death. Used every towel they provided me (6 in total). Took 2 showers and a bath and just generally enjoyed doing nothing.

Upon a recommendation from a local (B Ward represent) I went to Urban for breakfast, LOVED it. Stopped in at the beach again and then headed home.

Important lessons to be learnt from road trips.

  1. You are not invincible. My calves are aching today. I feel ridiculously tired, not relaxed. Whoops.
  2. Take a car with cruise control. Ouch. Seriously, my calves are SO sore.
  3. Go luxury. It’s worth it.
  4. Take photos. Lots of them.
  5. If you feel the need to talk to yourself, do it. I didn’t talk to myself, but I certainly did laugh out loud. Quite a lot. I laughed when I got to my room and realised how big it was. I laughed when I thought I’d take a shortcut back to my car from the beach and walked directly into a caravan park.
  6. Still talk to people. I think complete isolation is a bad idea when you travel alone.
  7. The whole point of being alone is that you can do things on your own timeframe. Eat dinner at 5pm, or 9pm if you wish. Stay up late, go to bed early, sleep in. Do whatEVER you want. WhenEVER you want.
  8. Get an amazing playlist. A mix between new songs and classics you love.
  9. Use a GPS. Not maps. I downloaded TomTom for my iPhone. Works a treat.. yells out directions to you and even if you have your headphones in, it will dim your music and let you know amazing things like ‘Keep going on Pacific Hwy for 76 km’. Ok great. Like I had other options.
  10. Snacks. That’s what I sort of forgot about. I should have gotten really into it and planned a little esky situation. Nope. Whoops.
  11. Look up places you want to go before hand. Research your coffee joints.
  12. Remember that there’s a time difference between the states. I got home way earlier than I needed to be due to a little thing we call Day Light Savings. Darn.

So many times I would sit/stand somewhere beautiful and think ‘Boy, I’m having such a good time’. And I would want to tell someone, but there was no one, and realising that was the main reason I was having such a good time was such a liberating experience. There’s something very important and necessary about open roads, relying on a map, street names you aren’t familiar with and a tiny bit of risk.

I’m sorry if you never see me on the weekends anymore, I will be adding more oil to my car (whoops again) and be road tripping all around our great country. Happy travels.

Weatherly advice

The other day I was driving home from work on a reasonably rainy afternoon. My car’s air conditioning stopped working about 6 months ago and I have just been making do without it. When I notice it most, is quite obviously, on 35 degree days or when it’s raining. The other day was a perfect combination of both. It was hot and my windows were getting foggy so it was necessary to have the windows down.

At a certain point the rain became quite heavy. I was annoyed. How frustrating to be in this situation. What a classic example of a first world problem. I soon realised that the rain was in fact cold and rather refreshing, if you just embraced it. So I wound my window all the way down and let the rain in.

It was amazing.

I can think of other such examples of times where you unexpectedly find yourself enjoying nature. When someone pushes you into water fully clothed. As long as you are sans mobile phone, it’s actually fairly amazing. You weren’t expecting the water, so it’s kind of awesome. You get caught in the rain and for reason you just can’t stop laughing while you try and escape. Being caught off guard can really catch you by surprise. Sometimes – feeling nature in it’s most natural state is so refreshing.

I think God loves to suprise us. I wasn’t expecting to experience the Lord because of my busted air conditioning. But the cool wind on my face and the rain drops on my cheeks (or let’s be honest, sometimes in my eyes) actually brought me closer to God.

So, let’s get crazy. Jump into a lake with your clothes on! Ditch the umbrella and go for a run in the rain! Turn off your A/C and let the wind rip through your hair! Let your feet get dirty as you feel soft grass between your toes!

Learn to learn a little from nature.

Headphones

Back before my job got really out of hand, I used to really enjoy Thursdays & Friday’s. They were the quiet days in the office. Some of the staff worked part time, so we were down on staff and down on phone calls. To be honest, I really loved it. It meant I could get work done and it meant that I could get away with listening to music throughout the day. Of course not through speakers, but through my headphones. Normally just used to use my iPhone, but on days were I was really prepared, I would even bring in my iPod.m (Much wider selection of music). Of course I still only ever had one ear in and I would have to yank that ear out whenever the phone rang or someone tried to talk to me. Still – in this particular industry (the admin industry – it’s a thing!) – you take what little enjoyments you can.

The other day God was speaking to me about headphones. Well perhaps he wasn’t exactly speaking about headphones. But he was speaking about living in constant communication with the Holy Spirit. God is so far beyond what I can even comprehend or imagine – so if God tried to talk to me about all the things he was actually thinking about – I would explode. So he talks to me in pictures and analogies. In this particular case, God was speaking to me about headphone and the Holy Spirit.

I think that God thinks, living in direct and constant communication with the Holy Spirit is like listening to music with one headphone in. Sometimes it’s very necessary to have both ears in and to really blast that music (HS time) really loud and all intense. But most of the time, life is one ear in and one ear out. You need to have one ear open, ready to hear what the world is saying and what the world needs. You need to be aware of what people are saying around you. Keep your feet on the ground. But the other ear, should have a constant flow of the Holy Spirit. He’s always speaking, and we should always be listening. If you aren’t listening at all – how can you know what to say and how to act.

God never meant us to be crazy woo hoo’s who can only every sprout scripture and thus sayeth’s to everyone we meet – but he definitely never meant for us to fully engage with the world to such an extent that when God speaks (which he ALWAYS does) we can’t even hear what he’s saying.

Try wearing one ear in and one ear out. In real life. I think it will fully sink in for you when you actually try it. Learn how to listen to what’s being playing in your ear (scripture, worship, teaching, prayer) while still engaging with the noise of the world around you (people, needs, hurts, LIFE!).

Ah.. been holding those thoughts in for months waiting for the right chance to share – feels good to get them out.

Request: ABC

A-Z Advice from Steffany

A – Always make things right before you go to sleep. Life is too short.

Bwww.bookdepository.co.uk – free shipping!

C – Don’t always reject a compliment. Graciously say thanks and follow up with a story, related or otherwise. Always coming back with a return compliment can come off as fake!

D – Denier. The higher the denier the thicker the stocking! Also can I just say that tops are not dresses! Even if you are wearing tights!

E – Express yourself. Start a blog. Write a song. Draw a picture. None of us were made as mundane as we act.

F – Frozen peas! Greatest snack in the world. So cheap, so easy. Best if you drink them from a cup!

G – Google Reader. If you’ve got a gmail account, and you’re a blog reader. Get into google reader!

H – Handle challenges with grace. I could almost write an A-Z list on how to handle challenges with grace.

I – Independance in an amazing thing. It’s hard and challenging but oh so good. Move out. Do it.

J – Jump! “To succeed, jump as quickly into opportunities as you do at conclusions” Benjamin Franklin

K – Know who you are. If you think Joe Jonas is a babe. Stick to it and don’t let people give you a hard time.

L – Love languages. Find out what your love language is, find out what other’s are! Makes a whole lot of different to all your relationships.

M – I’m the worst saver in the world. Manage your money, don’t let it manage you.

N – Never let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game. I always love a bit of wisdom from Cinderella Story.

O – Don’t be realistic. Be optimistic! Sure you might get let down once or twice, but chances are you’ll notice more good and be less concerned about the bad.

P – Photo document everything! Sometimes I feel a bit like I might be missing out on a party or a wedding because I’m busy taking so many photos. But my photos last a lifetime and I never regret it.

Q – Question almost everything. Don’t walk blindly into life.

R – Read a book – at least once a year. Maybe you think once a year doesn’t sound like much. But for some people it is. Even if you don’t like reading, you should read at least one book a year. The bible doesn’t count.

S – Stash twenty dollars somewhere random. That pocket you never check, a hidden compartment in your phone. For that time you forget your wallet, or your bank card just stops working.

T – Tupperware.

U – Understand God is like men who try to understand women. Just get to know us and love us – you’ll end up loving the fact that you don’t understand everything.

V – Vent, find an appropriate medium and vent. Also – if it’s a blog, make it a private one.

W – Write a love letter. Maybe to your Mum, or me. It’ll do you almost as much good as the person who receives the letter. It’s important to acknowledge how great the people in your life are.

X – xoxo – be a good hugger!

Y – Almost no one can pull off the colour yellow.

Z – Zippers! I love a good zipper! On shoes, dresses, tops, bangles! They aren’t just for doing things up!

As requested by Laura Fraser.

Stop

Have you ever stopped and just listened?

Right now. Stop. Listen.

For me it’s the clittity clattery sound of fingers moving across a keyboard. A car driving past on the main road outside. Footsteps. Someone flipping a page. Bangles clinking together. Air Conditioning. It’s quite amazing what you can hear when you really listen. All I can normally hear is the phone ringing, voices chatting in the next office, the photo-copier jamming. I wasn’t even taking notice of all those sounds until I stopped, and listened. And now  – it’s actually all I can hear.

I think the voice of God is EXACTLY like that. The voice is always there, always speaking, always making noise. But life is making a little bit too much excess noise. I think thought – the more times you stop & listen. The more obvious God’s voice is. The more you hear that over the top of the noise.

I’ll never truly block out the noise.. we live on an earthly world.. and have earthly jobs and earthly relationships – but I can turn up the volume so to speak on the spiritual background noise.