God Talks, Singleness

Bouquet Tosses & the God Who Sees Me

“Here we go,” I muttered to myself as I clutched the long skirt of my plum dress in my manicured hand. I walked toward one of my best friends in all the world. She was a stunning bride – her hair curled, her eyes shining, her joy contagious. It was truly an honor to stand by her side as a bridesmaid.

She held a pale purple bouquet over her head and posed for a mini photo shoot with the photographer, while those of us who had never had a wedding of our own – the maid of honor, the flower girl, a few other female guests, and me – gathered behind her.

Earlier, I’d offered her money if she would just turn around and hand me the bouquet. Figured it could go into the honeymoon fund. She’d just laughed.

Though I’ve jokingly offered bribes to brides over the years, I’ve never actually caught the bouquet. It doesn’t matter that I’m tall or that I can have laser-focus when needed. It’s just never happened for me. It’s part of wedding reception tradition: the girl who catches the bouquet is said to be the next one to get married.

Of course, that’s not how life works. God doesn’t glance up from disc-jockeying some tectonic plates or something and say, “Oh, she’s next. Alexa, remind me to start working on that.”

It’s all in good fun. But at the same time, in some small way, it matters to me.

[This is the part where we pull some folding chairs into the vulnerability circle and get real]

I have my share of date stories. I’ve been taken out for a nice dinner, given gifts, and treated with admiration, but none of those kind, generous guys have been The One. And that’s fine with me. I don’t regret any of it.

Yet weddings do a really good job of pointing out what I don’t have. That unfulfilled dream, that hope deferred, that birthday candle wish. That middle-of-the-night whispered prayer.

That little bouquet seems to mock me every time: “You’re all alone. No guy loves you. You’ll never know this kind of happiness.”

In those moments (usually with Beyoncé singing for all the single ladies to put their hands up) when I’m surrounded by little girls who believe in Prince Charming and happily-ever-after, and when I’m standing next to girls with boyfriends waiting back at the table, I’m most susceptible to those lies.

And my heart always hums this prayer: Do you see me down here, God?

Every time the bouquet sails in a direction that is not in the direction of where I stand with a smile plastered on my face like a piece of duct tape hiding my real feelings, I feel my heart sink toward my stomach.

Then the catcher of that clump of flowers – the lucky winner – poses with the bride. She most likely imagines the coming day when she’ll be the one tossing the flowers over her shoulder to all the single ladies who put their hands up.

In case this realness makes me sound like a cynic, please know I’m not. I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. I love weddings and all the special details surrounding them. I get teary-eyed watching the groom watch his bride walk toward him down the aisle.

I love sweetness and tenderness, the white dress and unity candle, the dream come true and the start of forever.

It’s just that pesky bouquet toss.

But back to my friend’s wedding…

There I stood with the other single girls, waiting on the bouquet. Not bribing the bride, but just letting things happen.

The photographer snapped that picture. The bouquet sailed through the air. I reached out, and…

Dear reader, I caught the bouquet.

It landed in my hands, the bride turned around, and we threw ourselves at each other in a hold-on-tight hug.

We laughed and grinned and the photographer snapped pictures of the hoopla. The bride glanced over at me and said one of those best friend things  that only the two of us would understand, and it made tears spring into my eyes. There was the picture with the guy who caught the garter and then I carried that bouquet back to the wedding party table where a taco was waiting for me.

I know catching that bouquet doesn’t mean I’ll get married next. But as I drove home that night with my makeup melting off my face and my hair rebelling against the bobby pins, I whispered, “Thank you, God, for seeing me.”

It was just a wedding tradition. Just a little detail. But I’m a big believer that God does everything with intention, and that He wants to show us how much He loves us in those little details He designs.

So when I caught the bouquet, I heard God speak. It was more of a deep-down knowing, but I heard Him as clearly as if He’d stood in front of me and said, “I love you, kid.”

I heard Him whisper to my heart, “You’re mine. I haven’t forgotten about you. I care about your dreams, and I see you.

That last part is actually one of God’s names in the Bible: The God Who Sees Me. Or, El Roi in Hebrew.

This name is spoken by a lonely woman named Hagar, who we read about in Genesis 16. God had promised a man named Abram and his wife Sarai a son, but as they got older, they got impatient. Sarai told Abram to sleep with Hagar, Sarai’s maid, and have a son that way. Hagar got pregnant, and bad blood brewed between the two women. Sarai treated Hagar so badly that she ran away and camped out in the wilderness by a spring.

She was pregnant and alone, with no way to support herself or her unborn child. She had nowhere to go.

But then the angel of the Lord showed up right in front of her, told her to go fix things with Sarai, and gave her some promises about the baby she carried.

Hagar called out to God and said: “You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me.”

She called God El Roi. The God Who Sees Me.

In the middle of her loneliness, God let her know He hadn’t forgotten her. What a tender, sacred moment when God spoke through the details of her life.

My situation at the wedding was very different from Hagar’s, but like Hagar, I saw God  at work in the details of my situation. How unbelievably kind of Him to remind me He’s near and that He cares for me.

When I got home, I placed the bouquet in a cup on my desk. Not as a reminder to make a Pinterest wedding board since my prince is on his way, but as a reminder that God cares about even the smallest details of my life.

Because He is El Roi. He is the God Who Sees Me.

And He sees you, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas, God Talks

Even Now

This past May, I sent out resumes by the handful as I raced toward seminary graduation. I networked, made calls, and sent emails, but didn’t get any responses. A month before graduation, I had to submit a move-out notice for my apartment, since I lived in campus housing. My on-campus job was going to end the last week of the semester, and at the same time, I would age off of my parents’ health insurance policy. Life was about to get really expensive really quickly, so I made the decision to move in with my parents back home while I continued to send out my resume.

I asked the women in my small group to pray for me – that I would handle this situation in the opposite way I usually do. Rather than stressing out and trying to fix everything on my own, I desperately wanted to trust that God was working behind the scenes.

Though I had zero proof that God was working, I somehow had a peace in my heart that He wouldn’t decide He’d had enough and abandon me.

The week before graduation – my birthday week – my brother-in-law told me about a job opportunity on campus. I mentioned it to a staff member on campus whom I greatly respect. I asked if she thought I’d be a good fit for the position, even though I knew next to nothing about it. The next day, she told me she’d submitted my resume.

I didn’t hear anything else.

Then my sister who works on campus happened to run into the woman in charge of interviews.

In the bathroom, of all places.

My sister called me as I was walking into a doctor’s appointment (I was stacking appointments like crazy before I rolled off that insurance plan), and asked if I’d heard back about the job. I told her no. She told me I should’ve received an email and I needed to reach out as soon as possible.

So I made a phone call right there in the doctor’s office parking lot.

I didn’t have days to pray about whether or not I was making the right decision. Everything had to happen super quickly. So I prayed in a way I don’t do too often. I told God if I was offered the job, I’d take it as a sign that I was supposed to accept it. And if I wasn’t offered the job, I would know I was supposed to move home.

I didn’t have time to think or process or weigh pros and cons. I was just trying to survive finals and graduation and saying goodbye to the place and people I’d come to love.

Mom texted me one day and asked how I was doing, and in reply, I sent a picture of my bedroom floor, completely covered by about a foot of laundry.

I was running on empty and emotionally maxed-out.

Through a crazy series of events where just the right people were in just the right places at just the right times, I applied for the job. A couple of days later, exactly one week before graduation, I interviewed for the position. Later that same afternoon, I interviewed again.

Then nothing. I didn’t hear anything at all. I was so overwhelmed with everything else going on in my life that I didn’t let myself worry. I poured my focus into studying, taking final exams, and steaming my graduation robe. I collected boxes to pack my stuff, my parents rented a U-Haul, and I invited my friends over to celebrate my birthday and to tell them goodbye.

On May 9, 2018, I walked across the chapel stage and received my Master of Arts in Ministry to Women. Still jobless. Still moving back to my parents’ house the next day.

I left the chapel and met up with my family for pictures. Then a member of faculty and his wife stepped over to congratulate me on my graduation. And to offer me the job.

Right there in the middle of graduation excitement, while I was still riding the did-I-really-just-get-my-Masters?! adrenaline high and clutching my degree in my clammy hands, I was offered the job.

I pulled my mom over and said, “Dr. L, this is my mom. Mom, Dr. L just offered me the job.”

I cried, my mom cried. It was a whole lot of emotion all at once.

When we left campus for lunch, I had about an hour before the housing office closed for the weekend. So I quickly called Housing and asked if I could retract my move out notice. I prayed they hadn’t already filled my spot.

Guess what? They hadn’t. I got to stay. Which, admittedly, was super convenient because I hadn’t even had time to start packing yet. I think my sisters were the most excited about not attending my packing party later that night.

All of that happened on Friday. On Monday, I started training. I’m now seven months into my full-time job.

photo credit: Alexa Mahan

One of the pieces of the Christmas story that strikes me every year is the waiting. Not just the generations of Israelites longing for the promised Rescuer to come. Not just the four hundred years of silence between the prophets of old and the second half of the Bible.

But the time between Gabriel appearing to Mary and the birth of Jesus.

Can you imagine? What was it like for Mary to have the angel’s announcement still ringing in her ears, yet no proof that she was pregnant? Those early weeks before any signs of a new life inside her began. She believed everything had changed, but she couldn’t tell yet. She just had to wait and trust that God was even now knitting Redemption together in her womb.

I get emotional whenever I think about the song of praise Mary sang to God as soon as the angel left. She praised God for all He was going to do, even though she hadn’t seen any of it happen yet. Morning sickness hadn’t set in, little feet hadn’t kicked, and her arms hadn’t cradled a baby. Yet she believed.

And nine months later, she wrapped the Promised One in swaddling clothes and looked into the face of God Himself.

All of those childhood years of hearing a Savior would come. All of those weeks of waiting without any sign. All of those months of carrying this child, now answered in the Word made Flesh resting in her arms.

Even when she couldn’t see God working, He was. His plan was unfolding behind the scenes and, at just the right time, the Light of the World entered the darkness.

Everyone’s story doesn’t happen like mine. Believe me, I don’t take the craziness of it all for granted. And our stories certainly don’t look like Mary’s. But all of us, in one way or another, are aching for something. Many of us are begging God to intervene in our situation. Many of us just want a sign – some hope to cling to.

What is your heart longing for this Christmas? A job? A mended relationship? A husband? A baby? A friend?

I don’t know what God has planned for your life or mine, but I know He is already carrying out those plans. Though we aren’t promised everything we want, we’re promised everything we need: His Presence. And the assurance that everything will ultimately work together for our good and His glory.

Trust Him this Christmas. Trust that He is working behind the scenes, even when you don’t feel Him, hear Him, or see Him.

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“The Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name.”
– from Mary’s Song, Luke 1:49

All of This, God Talks, Writing

What’s Your Cover Copy?

I’m writing theIMG_5369 back cover copy for my newest book. Basically, that’s the little description you find on a book when you flip it over. It’s like a mini synopsis of the story, but it doesn’t give away all of the details…it gives readers just enough information to make them want them to read the whole thing.

It’s tricky because you have a little bit of space to work with. You have to decide which plot points and characters need to be mentioned, and which ones need to stay hidden. You have to show the voice/personality of the story, while also keeping it polished.

Here’s the back cover copy of All of This

Sadie Franklin is all about independence, but when one of her popular parties gets too crazy, her usually uninvolved dad sends her across the country to spend the summer with relatives.

Living in small-town Pecan Creek, Georgia, is culture shock for a girl from Seattle, and it doesn’t help that Sadie’s aunt and uncle are total church people. Sunday school? No, thanks.

Add a houseful of little cousins, an accidental friendship with the preacher’s daughter of all people, and the attention of a guy who might actually understand her murky past, and it’s enough to cue an identity crisis.

When life-altering news rocks Sadie’s world and reveals messy family secrets, she’s forced to face the God she’s avoided since her mom’s death eight years ago. Sadie is surrounded by people who say God loves her and has great plans for her life, but if God is really good, why does He let Sadie’s life unravel? Could there really be a purpose in all of this?

See how Sadie is the only character who’s actually named? There are several other people in the book, but it’s her show. Also, see how some things are mentioned but not completely explained? Like, who is the “guy who might actually understand her murky past?” If you’ve read the book, you’ll know. But if you dive into it for the first time, that’s something you figure out as you go.

The back cover copy also shows the theme of the book. Look at that question at the end of the last paragraph: “Could there really be a purpose in all of this?”

And finally, the back cover copy lets you know the character’s journey isn’t going to be easy. There will be conflict in the pages – with uncontrollable circumstances, with other people, and within the main character herself.

So that’s what I’m working on with this next book. No, it’s not getting shopped around for publication yet, but making the back cover copy is part of the process. Sadie will be the focus again, but I have to decide what parts of the story to share with people. I have to ask myself: What other characters do I mention? Which plot points do I include? How do I incorporate the theme?

To sum it up, the back cover copy is a quick glance at a much deeper story.

Fun fact: This post isn’t actually about writing. As I was thinking through the back cover copy for my project, it made me wonder: how would I honestly sum up my own life? If I were to write a back cover copy for The Life of Anna Schaeffer (still working on a title for my pretend memoir), what would I include? Who would I include? Which details of my life story would I mention? What gets to the heart of who I really am?

Naturally, I’d put my faith on there. But if I were being honest about the conflict in my life, how would that look on the copy? Would it say I don’t always pray like I should? Would it say I love Jesus, but sometimes I struggle to step out of my comfort zone?

What about my relationships with others? Would it say I’m a loyal friend, a daughter who honors her parents, a good sister?

What would be the theme of my story? The thread woven throughout the pages of my journey?

It’s a lot to think through, I know. But I think it’s good for us to evaluate our life like that – to take an honest look at what others see when they interact with us.

I pray the back cover copy of my life story points to Jesus. I pray it reads that no, I don’t have it all together, but Jesus holds me together. My hope is that others see grace as that theme woven throughout my story. And I pray that snapshot of my life and His grace makes others want to learn more about the theme.

What about you? What would be in the back cover copy of your life?

God Talks

Remember This

As I write to you, I’m sitting criss-cross applesauce (is there another word for this for people who aren’t five anymore? I’m not sure) in the middle of my bed. I’m eating leftover squash straight out of a glass serving bowl wrapped in a dish rag (because glass gets hot when you microwave it, man). And it’s 10:30pm. If I can keep my eyes open long enough to head back to the kitchen, the second course might be chips and salsa.

Usually when you read one of my blog posts, it’s written in advance. Sometimes I schedule them out a couple of weeks ahead of time, or I at least write them then let them sit for a day or two.

But this one’s getting scheduled as soon as I finish typing, and it’ll go live at the usual 6:00am, which means you’ll probably read it before I see it again.

From that first paragraph about my fancy dining habits, you might be able to tell I’ve been a little frazzled recently. Not in a bad way, though.  Most of the things I have going on are good: Work, Bible study, time with friends, editing.

So. much. editing, you guys. This book draft and I need some healthier boundaries.

But as I sit here and think through how tomorrow’s schedule is just as full, I also think about this:

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget some incredible truths.

Maybe you’re having a lot of fun being a person these days, your friends are amazing, your family’s getting along, and you have the best tan of your life (I imagine that would be fun), but at the end of the day, you need a reminder.

Or maybe life has knocked you down lately. Maybe you messed up again, you let someone down, you feel like you’re dog-paddling while you try to figure out what in the world you’re supposed to do in this world. And at the end of the day, you need a reminder.

Maybe praying is hard, or God didn’t do something you thought he would. Maybe your closest friend betrayed your trust or you’re feeling a little lonely at the end of the day. You need a reminder, too.

No matter how you’ll feel when you crawl into bed tonight with your journal or Netflix or leftover squash, the reminder is the same.

But just because it’s the same, that doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful or true. In fact, I think that makes it more significant:

You are seen. You are seen by the One who loves you. Everything you do, everything you feel, everything you are is not hidden from God.

You are heard by the God who gave you a mouth to speak and a mind to think. Every sigh, every question, every thought is heard by your Father in heaven.

You are known. From the number of hairs on your head to the freckles across your nose. From the circumstances that make you cry yourself to sleep to the tv shows that make you laugh uncontrollably.

To sum it all up?

You are loved. 

You are loved by the One who made your beating heart and your amazing brain. You are loved by the God who picked out your personality and where you live and what you’re passionate about.

So remember this when you click off your lamp tonight. Remind yourself of it when you open your eyes tomorrow morning. Tell it to a friend who could really use some good news, because it’s every bit as true for her, too.

And if you have some doubts about it all, reach out to me. I’d love to listen to your thoughts and share with you how I know this is all for real.

I’m reminding myself of this as I schedule this post and brush my teeth: I am seen, heard,  known, and loved.

And so are you.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 8:38-39

God Talks

4 Ways to Integrate Singles in the Local Church

Happy Tuesday, friends! Just stopping by to let you know I had an article posted on Intersect.org last week!

My friends and I have talked about singleness on the blog before, but I also enjoy talking about what that looks like in a local church setting. Click the image below if you want to check it out!
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God Talks

The Journey

Friends! Hello! How are you? It’s been a thousand years four months since we’ve hung out together on the blog.

Things have been a little wild in my corner of the world recently – mainly because I haven’t spent much time in my corner of the world. But also because something small happened a few Fridays ago:

I graduated from seminary with a Masters Degree in Ministry to Women.

 

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Photo credit: Alexa Mahan

Of course I’m joking when I say that was a small thing because it’s really huge. Not because of anything I did, but because of who God is. Because of His faithfulness and His plan. Because of His presence over the past three years of reading and research and exams and some very difficult days.

In April, I made a video walking through the past few years of seminary (a school that helps equip you to share the Good News of Jesus wherever God takes you). In it, I read excerpts from my journal. If you’ve been a blog reader for a while, you’ll know that’s a huge deal. Schaeffer doesn’t share her journal.

But I did because I wanted to encourage you to trust in the Lord with all of your heart. And I wanted to encourage myself to keep doing that, too.

When I made this video, I had no idea what was next for me. Graduation was a month away and I didn’t have a job lined up. I was set to move out of my tiny room with the cute little nook in the apartment I shared with two wonderful friends, but I didn’t know where I was going.

This video doesn’t tell you what happened next. But I’m glad I recorded this before I knew my next step because it’s honest. It’s my heart.

And I cry throughout it, so ignore that.

And while I’ll fill you in later on the details of the events only God could orchestrate, I’ll go ahead and tell you this: 30 minutes after I crossed the stage and received my degree, while I was still wearing the master’s robe with the funny sleeves (perfect for snack storage – keep that in mind), while I was standing outside of the chapel taking pictures with friends, family, and professors…I was offered a job. And now I’m living in the “what’s next” I was wondering about just a few weeks before.

In case you missed the video on Facebook, I’ll share it below.

Tell me: Are you in a season of waiting or wondering what’s next? Are you asking God for answers, but only seem to be getting static?

He’s listening, friends. Believe me, He’s listening. And He’s working behind the scenes even now.

God Talks

Only One

When I was younger, I wanted to change the world. Make a difference. Do something big for God.

But from my preteen point of view, the odds were totally against me.

I lived in a small, Southern town.

Nobody really knew me.

Social anxiety was my closest (and, at times, it felt like my only) friend.

I was timid and awkward and stuck.

And also, I was homeschooled. Not going to include any commentary on that one.

If you’ve heard my story, you know God did some really cool things in my life and I no longer struggle with many of the issues that plagued me as a kid.

I’m still so far from perfect, but I also still have that burn to set the world on fire. I so badly desire for God to use my one little life for His great glory.

But sometimes, the odds still seem stacked against me. The enemy still likes to cause discouragement and, although I’m terrible at sports, I’m pretty good at catching the lies he throws at me.

Who am I really?

I’m too messed up to advance God’s Kingdom on earth.

Why would anyone even listen to me?

I’m nowhere near as good at speaking/writing/teaching/leading/encouraging/praying/__________ as _______________.

And on and on and on ad nauseam.

My blog stats don’t tell me exactly who is reading this post, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess you’ve entertained these thoughts before, too. You feel like there’s an ongoing wrestling match between your heart desiring to truly live for Jesus and your head telling you you’re not enough.

Well, sister (you may actually be a brother, but the majority of you are female, so we’ll roll with it), you’re not alone.

A few mornings ago, I sat in bed with a cup of coffee and my Bible. I’m working my way through a study by Beth Moore called The Quest: An Excursion Toward Intimacy with God.

I was reading about how God told Abraham and Sarah they would have a son. Abraham and Sarah both took their turn laughing at the impossibility of it. They were both older – way past the season of life where people have kids.

And yet, here comes Isaac, whose name actually means he laughs.

Laughter at the impossibility of a situation turns into laughter bubbling out of joy.

A little farther into the study, Beth says a quote I’ve put on repeat in my mind, like a song on Spotify that keeps hitting me like it’s the first time I’ve heard it:

“The improbable is no harder for God to accomplish than the probable” (The Quest p. 69).

Huh. I’ve reread that so many times, but I just had to go back and look at what I typed again.

It’s so true, but it’s also so easy to dismiss God’s power because something feels impossible.

Then the study pointed me to Isaiah 51. Here, God is comforting His people, encouraging them to continue to stay close to Him. In verse 2, He says,

“Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave birth to you. When I called him, he was only one; I blessed him and made him many.”

“When I called him, he was only one…”

 Only one…”

 I made him many.”  

Years earlier, God pointed Abraham’s gaze to the countless stars in the sky and told him he would have even more descendants than that. He told him this when he and Sarah were already too old to be parents.

But Isaac was born. And Isaac fathered Jacob, who became known as Israel. And Israel had 12 sons who spread out into tribes and became a nation. And on and on and on.

So what’s my point in this? I’m not talking about dreaming big or taking risks or doing big things for God. That’s a whole other topic for another day and a stronger cup of coffee.

My point is this, and I say it with so much love: Don’t you dare let the enemy convince you that God can’t use you. Don’t spend one more second believing it’s impossible for God to work in your life and show His glory to the world.

Don’t even give it a thought.

“The improbable is no harder for God to accomplish than the probable.”

Think about it: How much more of God’s glory is on display in Abraham’s story because God did the impossible? What if Abraham and Sarah had a few kids while they were in their mid-twenties, and those kids grew up to have kids and grandkids and great-grandkids and that’s how God created His people?

Yeah, it’d work, but we wouldn’t feel a sense of awe at God’s power every time we read the story.

The Maker of our hearts makes impossible things possible.

So offer your one, unique life – the one with God’s fingerprints all over it – to Him and say, “Please use my life for your glory.” It may not look like you think it should. It may not happen when or how you think it should. It may seem to take forever, and you may not even see how it’s all working together right now. But you can trust it’s happening.

Abraham was just one person when God called him.

But through his one, faithful life, God changed the world.